In a special election today, voters reelected Tennessee state representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, whom the Republican supermajority in the state house voted on April 6 to expel for their participation in a demonstration in favor of gun safety. "Well, Mr. Speaker, the People have spoken," Jones tweeted. The Tennessee legislature will convene on August 21 for a special session.
Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tweeted: "Congratulations [Brother Jones] on your decisive victory and return to the Tennessee legislature! So pleased that the voters have sent you back where you belong—pursuing justice and opportunity For The People."
At the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, in the same courtroom where a number of defendants charged with crimes associated with the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have been tried, the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, was arraigned. He is charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.
He is also charged with conspiring to take away "the free exercise and enjoyment of a right and privilege secured…by the Constitution and laws of the United States…the right to vote, and to have one's vote counted," as he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election and install himself in office over the wishes of the American people.
After Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya read the counts against him, Trump entered a plea of not guilty on all four charges. The judge warned him that one of the conditions of his release was that he must not commit new crimes. Then she added to that standard warning an unusual one, warning him that any attempts to influence a juror would be a crime.
The lead prosecutor for the United States, Thomas Windom, asked the judge for a speedy trial; Trump's attorneys refused to agree, saying it would take a long time to review the huge amount of evidence. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan will hash out this difference when she presides over the case. The first hearing is scheduled for August 28.
And so, according to the U.S. attorney's office for Washington, D.C., Trump became the 1,078th person charged with federal crimes in connection with the events of January 6, 2021.
Trump and his loyalists insist that the case against Trump attacks his right to free speech, although the grand jury's indictment agrees that Trump had the right to lie about the election and charges him instead with illegal attempts to overturn its results.
Yale history professor Timothy Snyder noted: "That Trump will be tried for his coup attempt is not a violation of his rights. It is a fulfillment of his rights. It is the grace of the American republic. In other systems, when your coup attempt fails, what follows is not a trial." While Trump has tried to whip up his supporters to fight for him, only a few turned out today to protest the proceedings, likely in part because the prosecutions of January 6 rioters have shown there are serious consequences for such actions.
Forty Democratic representatives today asked the Judicial Conference to authorize cameras in the courtroom during Trump's trial. "It is imperative the Conference ensures timely access to accurate and reliable information surrounding these cases and all of their proceedings, given the extraordinary national importance to our democratic institutions and the need for transparency," they wrote. "If the public is to fully accept the outcome, it will be vitally important for it to witness, as directly as possible, how the trials are conducted, the strength of the evidence adduced and the credibility of witnesses."
Also today, while all eyes were on the former president's arraignment, House Republicans on the Oversight Committee released the transcript of their July 31 interview with Devon Archer, former business associate of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden's 53-year-old son. Democrats on the committee had protested the Republicans' spin on the closed-door interview and had been clamoring for the release of the transcript.
Archer was supposed to be a key witness for the Republicans' allegations, but in fact the transcript supported the Democrats: Archer testified that he had never seen Hunter Biden involve his father in business discussions and that he had no evidence that then–vice president Biden changed U.S. policy to help Hunter. He said he knew nothing about the $5 million bribe to each Biden Republicans have been alleging.
He testified that he had no knowledge of wrongdoing by Biden senior, who was not involved with the Ukrainian company Burisma on whose board Hunter sat, and that he believed it was important to Hunter Biden to follow the law.
What emerged from the interview was a very different picture than Trump Republicans have been alleging in the media: Biden was calling his son every day around the time of his other son Beau's death, just to check in, and the younger Biden sometimes put the call on speakerphone. Archer said: "Hunter spoke to his dad every day…[a]nd so in certain circumstances…if his dad calls him at dinner and he picks up the phone, then there's a conversation. And…you know, the conversation is generally about the weather and, you know, what it's like in Norway or Paris or wherever he may be."
The transcript also revealed complaints by Democrats on the committee that the Republicans have kept information and documents about their investigation into Hunter Biden from Democratic committee members, forcing the Democrats to get their information "mainly from press statements…and leaks to press outlets." The Republicans claim to have "a hard drive in their possession that they have refused to date to provide to committee Democrats." They also limited the ability of Democrats to ask questions of Archer. "This obviously raises strong concerns that committee Republicans are once again attempting to cherry-pick facts, which has been an ongoing issue in this probe."
Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said: "The transcript released today shows the extent to which Congressional Republicans are willing to distort, twist, and manipulate the facts presented by their own witness just to keep fueling the far-right media's obsession with fabricating wrongdoing by President Biden in a desperate effort to distract from Donald Trump's third indictment and the overwhelming evidence of his persistent efforts to undermine American democracy."
In contrast, on Newsmax tonight, Trump lawyer John Lauro appeared to confirm his client's guilt when he tried to defend Trump's attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election by saying that "at the end, he asked Mr. Pence to pause the voting for 10 days, allow the state legislatures to weigh in and then they could make a determination to audit or reaudit or recertify. But what he didn't do is, you know, send in the tanks…." Legal analyst and former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance tweeted: "Sounds like a coup to me."
Meanwhile, this afternoon the Fulton County Sheriff's Office announced a series of road closures beginning on August 7 in downtown Atlanta near the Superior Court of Fulton County and the Fulton County Government Center. At the end of July, the sheriff's office put up security barricades around the courthouse.
The extra security measures might indicate that Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis is about to announce the results of the grand jury's investigation into Trump's attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia: "I took an oath, and…the oath requires that I follow the law," Willis said today. "And…if someone broke the law in Fulton County, Georgia,...I have a duty to prosecute, and that's exactly what I plan to do."
Q. What is the difference between a law-abiding gun owner and a criminal?
A. The .2 of a second that it takes to pull a trigger.