On today's BradCast: Impeachment may be broken, but accountability is still coming. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]
But, first up: Record low temperatures continued to batter dozens of states and knock out power to millions of customers in several of them. But it is residents of the great state of Texas who are paying the highest price for their government's utter failure to keep the lights...and the heat...and the water on...throughout this foreseeable and deadly cold snap. No, it's not the renewable energy sources like wind power that has failed --- as Fox "News" is frantically misinforming their viewers today --- it's the fossil fuel industry and the state's disastrously unregulated and privatized power infrastructure that has helped create the mess in Texas. Our own Desi Doyen explains.
Then, in a refreshing bit of encouraging news today, Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has filed a civil federal lawsuit against Donald Trump in response to the deadly attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, incited by the disgraced former President. The suit, filed on Thompson's behalf by the NAACP on Tuesday, also names Rudy Giuliani and the rightwing extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as defendants. It seeks both punitive and compensatory damages for the assault on Thompson's place of work that left the 72-year old Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee hiding on the floor of the U.S. House for hours and in dangerously close contact with colleagues, two of whom tested positive for COVID in the days that followed. The complaint is believed likely just the first of a potential wave of similar litigation in response to the unprecedented attack on the Capitol which killed at least five people, and which a bipartisan 57-43 majority of U.S. Senators over the weekend at his Impeachment Trial found Trump guilty of having incited.
But guilty or not, the Impeachment process, for a second time in the Trump Presidency, ultimately fell short of the high Constitutional bar of a two-thirds vote needed for conviction, begging the question as to whether the founders misjudged what might be needed by Congress to hold a scofflaw President to account.
We're joined today once again by Constitutional legal scholar JOHN BONIFAZ, Co-Founder and President of the non-partisan governmental accountability group Free Speech for People, and co-author of the 2018 book The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.
Our wide-ranging conversation on various paths towards accountability for the 45th President includes discussion of Rep. Thompson's lawsuit; Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and how it might be invoked to prevent Trump from running for future office; and as well as criminal statutes which could be invoked against Trump under the leadership of Joe Biden's Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland. On the day after the January 6 insurrection, FSFP joined a coalition of groups calling for Garland to stand up a task force upon his confirmation to pull together all of the disparate investigations into the matter.
Central to any such accountability, however, Bonifaz argues today, is the need for an important reform in the U.S. Senate and accountability for members who serve both there and in the U.S. House. He argues that the failure to convict Trump at his second Impeachment Trial "demonstrates that those who are sworn to take the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution in the U.S. Senate are not up to the task --- at least for the 43 members of the Sedition Caucus, who are every bit as guilty as Donald Trump for voting to acquit him despite the overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump incited this insurrection and was guilty as charged."
He faults "those in power who are not abiding by their oaths" who have allowed Presidents to "assume the powers of a king". To begin reform of Congress, Bonifaz explains, we must start with reform of our electoral system as Democrats have proposed in their critical H.R.1. and S1 bills called the "For the People Act". But to see that through Congress --- and so many other necessary reforms --- we will have to do away with the legislative filibuster, he says.
"The filibuster, as we know, requires a 60 percent majority in the U.S. Senate for anything to pass, and that's contrary to any basic principle of small-d democracy," Bonifaz tells me. "That's a first order of business for those in the U.S. Senate and, frankly, those in the White House who are pledging to protect and defend our democracy. We need to eliminate the filibuster, and we need get on to the business of responding to these voter suppression efforts throughout the country that we now see in state legislatures to try to roll us back and disenfranchise millions of voters."
Of course, Democrats could do that without Republicans at all, with their newly-won Senate majority, but for Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona who have each pledged to protect the filibuster. Even those obstacles however, as Bonifaz explains, are not insurmountable if pressure is applied by Democratic leadership in the Senate and the White House...and if pressure is applied by we, the people on them to do so.
With the "Jim Crow relic" filibuster out of the way, says Bonifaz, the Senate would also be able to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to prevent Trump from being allowed to hold federal office in the future. The post-Civil War Amendment blocks those who have engaged in rebellion or insurrection against the U.S. Government from becoming candidates for public office. "This is a critical next step needed to ensure that this lawless ex-President is disqualified from running for office again," Bonifaz asserts, detailing how the provision would work with a simple resolution adopted by both the Senate and House.
I hope you tune in for this important conversation today as the quest for accountability continues to continue on The BradCast!
Finally, we close somewhere near where we began, with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report focused on the winter storm now battering dozens of U.S. states and the utter failure of Texas lawmakers (and those in other states) to properly harden our critical infrastructure for a 21st century climate changed world...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)