COUNSEL OF ALTERNATIVE REALITY — DONALD TRUMP’S attorneys are kicking off their defense of the former president on a highly partisan note — and with some, um, “alternative facts.” His attorneys began by arguing that Trump wasn’t responsible for provoking the Jan. 6 insurrection, as expected.
But then attorney MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN (note: not BRUCE CASTOR) said the former president encouraged his supporters to respect the Electoral College count. He also said the first rioter arrested was an antifa leader, not a Trump backer. Both are false.
Van der Veen argued that Trump’s quote — “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” — was “ordinary political rhetoric” that has been used by politicians for “hundreds of years.” The Trump team later played a video showing various Democrats using the word “fight” in speeches and interviews.
He also falsely said that Trump’s first tweets after the protesters descended on the Capitol called for protesters to “stay peaceful with no violence.” In reality, Trump’s first tweet was: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
Van der Veen also mispronounced the names of: VP KAMALA HARRIS (Kuh-ma-la), Speaker NANCY PELOSI (Pelozi) and Rep. AYANNA PRESSLEY (Anya).
He characterized the whole impeachment trial as “constitutional cancel culture.” The latest from Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio
— President JOE BIDEN is continuing to tread very lightly on impeachment, but he offered up one more nudge this morning: “I’m just anxious to see what my Republican friends do,” he told reporters, “if they stand up.” More from Quint Forgey
WHERE’S MIKE? — “Impeachment trial shows him under attack — but Pence remains loyal to Trump,” WaPo: “[A]fter four years of obedience as vice president, Pence has no plans to condemn Trump or to speak out during the Senate impeachment trial, people close to the former vice president said. He is still operating from a playbook of obsequiousness that has become second nature — never airing grievances publicly, and delivering his often rose-colored counsel to Trump only in private, one-on-one settings.
“The two men have spoken several times since the Jan. 6 attack, including one conversation since Joe Biden was inaugurated.”
PRESSURE ON THE GOP — “199 legal experts say Senate must not acquit Trump over constitutionality issue,” WaPo: “[A] new letter from hundreds of legal scholars, including several prominent conservative ones, argues that GOP senators now have a duty to evaluate the actual evidence. Because the Senate voted that it has jurisdiction, they argue, senators’ oath of office requires that they decide the case on the merits — i.e. Trump’s actions.” The letter, including signers Charles Fried, Stu Gerson, Paul Rosenzweig and Peter Keisler
Press secretary JEN PSAKI announced that her deputy TJ DUCKLO would be placed on a one-week suspension without pay. That’s in response to a Vanity Fair story this morning about Ducklo’s treatment of a POLITICO reporter during her reporting for a recent Playbook item.
LINCOLN PROJECT LATEST … YASHAR ALI: “Scoop: FBI Investigating Allegations Against John Weaver, Sources Say”: “The FBI is investigating allegations against longtime GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver, according to two sources who said they were contacted by FBI agents. Those sources told me the agents inquired whether Weaver ever touched them inappropriately or sent or requested sexually explicit material when they were underage.
“The FBI asking potential witnesses about allegations of illegal conduct does not necessarily mean that someone is the subject or a target of a federal investigation. It’s also unclear what the scope of the FBI’s inquiry is; the sources who spoke to me said the questions they were asked were narrow in scope.”
— More from @yashar: “Twitter spox tells me that the Lincoln Project tweet thread containing DM’s from @NHJennifer’s account (which she says were obtained without consent) do NOT violate Twitter rules. I’m also told by Twitter that the tweets are NOT a violation of their hacked materials policy.”
BALLOON POPPED — “Biden Team Cool to Preflight Virus Tests Raised by Buttigieg,” Bloomberg: “President Joe Biden’s administration isn’t seriously considering an imminent coronavirus testing requirement for domestic U.S. flights, people familiar with the matter said.”
IMMIGRATION FILES — “Biden administration to allow 25,000 asylum-seekers into U.S.,” AP: “The Biden administration on Friday announced plans for tens of thousands of asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico for their next immigration court hearings to be allowed into the United States while their cases proceed.
“The first of an estimated 25,000 asylum-seekers in Mexico with active cases will be allowed in the United States on Feb. 19, authorities said. They plan to start slowly with two border crossings each processing up to 300 people a day and a third crossing taking fewer. Administration officials declined to name them out of fear they may encourage a rush of people to those locations.”
— “Without citizenship, many Latinos in this Atlanta suburb stay silent,” WaPo: “[N]early 8 in 10 Latino adults living in Doraville are not U.S. citizens — and cannot vote, receive federal stimulus payments, apply for driver’s licenses or run for elective office. Many are also hesitant to speak up or get involved with anything political, even the policing of where they park.
“President Biden has proposed a broad citizenship bill that, if passed by Congress, could flip that dynamic in communities such as Doraville by allowing about 11 million undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship and making it easier for 9 million legal residents to take the test to become citizens.”
THE DELUSIONS RUN DEEP … “Most Capitol Riot Suspects Have No Far-Right Group Ties, a Challenge in Fight Against Extremism,” WSJ: “According to the Journal’s review, just 14% of the 186 defendants charged in federal cases had a known affiliation with right-wing militias or other groups that espouse violence before the riot. … The mix of organized groups and unaffiliated individuals shows the challenges of crafting policy on domestic extremism …
“[T]hose arrested come from both Republican and Democratic strongholds. Many worked in industries vulnerable to pandemic shutdowns, such as moving, construction and restaurants. About a hundred have public defenders or other court-appointed attorneys, the Journal found.”
… AND SO DO THE SCARS: “Two officers who helped fight the Capitol mob died of suicide. Many more are hurting,” WaPo: “In the days that followed [Jan. 6], Erin [Smith] said, her husband seemed in constant pain, unable to turn his head. He did not leave the house, even to walk their dog. He refused to talk to other people or watch television. She sometimes woke during the night to find him sitting up in bed or pacing. [Jeffrey] Smith returned to the police clinic for a follow-up appointment Jan. 14 and was ordered back to work, a decision his wife now questions. … On his way to the District, Smith shot himself in the head. …
“Now, families of both Smith and [Howard] Liebengood — who were buried in private ceremonies lacking the pageantry that accompanied [Brian] Sicknick’s memorial service in the Capitol Rotunda — want the deaths of their loved ones recognized as ‘line of duty’ deaths.”
CLIMATE FILES — BIG WEEK FOR THE RASKINS … “Yellen Is Creating a New Senior Treasury Post for Climate Czar,” WSJ: “Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to wield the department’s broad powers to tackle potential risks to the financial system posed by climate change while pushing tax incentives to reduce carbon emissions. Ms. Yellen is looking to a veteran of the Obama administration, Sarah Bloom Raskin, as the leading candidate for a new senior position that would head a new Treasury climate ‘hub.’”
ENTITLEMENT REFORM — “Donors Fume: ‘It’s Bull—-’ Biden Hasn’t Called About Ambassadorships,” The Daily Beast: “Although Biden has not made any nominations to ambassadorial posts beyond career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to the United Nations, he is still on pace with former President Barack Obama, who did not name his first ambassadorial nominee until March 2009.
“But in interviews with half a dozen deep-pocketed bundlers who helped Biden’s campaign shatter fundraising records, as well as two former ambassadors, The Daily Beast found that this explanation — and the lack of any communication from the White House about whether potential nominees might want to begin preparing financial disclosures or start brushing up on their French — is wearing thin.”
COURT WATCH — “DC Circuit Judge David Tatel to Take Senior Status, Handing Biden Second Vacancy,” The National Law Journal
USEFUL BREAKDOWN — “Here’s How COVID Vaccines Are Made — And Why We Can’t Just Start Making A Lot More Of Them,” BuzzFeed: “Quick fixes by the White House, or any government, to drive up vaccine production right now may mean fewer shots if those interventions interfere with the supply chain. Accelerating production could also cause shortages of other vital medicines if factories are retooled to produce vaccines.
“The problem is that vaccines are biological products, not tires or beer bottles that can be made by switching out molds on an assembly line. Making most vaccines requires first growing viruses, typically in cells or chicken eggs, and then harvesting them. The newer approaches used to create Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines require specialized machines that aren’t found in every factory, even for large, established manufacturers. As a result, competitors can’t be much help until the FDA authorizes vaccines that can be more easily produced.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “White House tiptoes around governors relaxing coronavirus rules,” by Rachel Roubein, Brianna Ehley and Sarah Owermohle: “[O]fficials leading the administration’s pandemic response have shied away from criticizing specific states. And behind the scenes, the White House’s weekly calls with governors have largely focused on vaccine distribution …
“Biden campaigned on promises he’d take strong action to bring the pandemic under control — and touted his skills as a negotiator. Now, public health experts say that the administration’s reticence to pressure states that are easing restrictions could jeopardize the fragile progress in reducing the rate of cases and deaths.”
BIG IN ALBANY — “Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa admits they hid nursing home data so feds wouldn’t find out,” N.Y. Post
VALLEY TALK — “Inside the Making of Facebook’s Supreme Court,” The New Yorker: “In early May, shortly after the board members were announced, Trump personally called Zuckerberg to say that he was unhappy with the makeup of the board. He was especially angry about the selection of Pamela Karlan, a Stanford Law professor who had testified against him during his first impeachment. … Despite the pressure from Trump, Facebook did not change the composition of the board. …
“Board members found out that they were getting the [Trump] case only a half hour before the public did. Members eagerly watched the board’s internal Web site to see if they had been selected for the panel. They will now have two more months to deliberate it.”
— “Board that will decide Trump case rules against Facebook in yet another speech dispute,” by Mark Scott: “A group of outside experts on Friday ordered Facebook to reinstate an online post that had called French President Emmanuel Macron the devil and had urged Muslims to potentially carry out acts of violence.”
STAFFING UP — “The Pentagon is taking a major step to deal with its diversity problems,” Vox: “Bishop Garrison, assuming a newly created role, will directly advise Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on diversity and inclusion issues.”
TRANSITIONS — Precision Strategies is adding Roselyn Igbani as creative director and Tim Rice as a director in strategic comms. Igbani previously was at DDC Public Affairs, and Rice previously was an EVP and managing director at Burson Cohn & Wolfe.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Kate Schulman, senior comms manager for the Universal Access Project at the U.N. Foundation, and Sam Schulman, manager for government and public sector at Deloitte, on Monday morning welcomed Archer “Archie” Wayne Schulman, who came in at 7 lbs, 8 oz and 20 inches.
BONUS BIRTHDAY: Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser