(WTVF) — MAYHEM AND CHAOS AT THE CAPITOL LEAD TO CALLS FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP’S REMOVAL FROM OFFICE; ANOTHER SHIFT OF POWER IN WASHINGTON; INSIDE POLITICS TAKES A CLOSER LOOK WITH SCRIPPS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER JOE ST. GEORGE; WAS 2020 THE WORST YEAR EVER? THE COVID STILL RAGES WHILE THE VACCINE ROLLOUT STUMBLES
As I begin my 19th year of producing this weekly Capitol View column, this may be the toughest one I have eve written.
Normally, when I take off during the holidays, not much happens in political news. That sure has not been the case over this past holiday season. I guess blame it on 2020 along with its hangover extending into 2021.
I can’t remember a two- week-plus period at the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one, with more significant developments on the national, state and local levels. I will try and describe that significance and do so as concisely as I can. Then I hope, what I have been hoping for the last couple of years. This is that the news gets a little less weird and ominous.
I am living for what is called “a slow news day” (or week). 2020 sure did not have many of those and 2021 is starting out the same way.
BREAKING: Based on this still-developing story Friday morning regarding an FBI raid and a warrant search of Tennessee GOP lawmakers (including former House Speaker Glen Casada), it sure doesn’t look like things will slow down next week or anytime soon!
Thanks for reading!
MAYHEM AND CHAOS AT THE CAPITOL LEADS TO CALLS FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP’S REMOVAL FROM OFFICE
After thousands of die-hard supporters of President Donald Trump on Wednesday stormed Capitol Hill in Washington and occupied the U.S. Capitol, wrongly thinking the lawful election of Democrat Joe Biden could be overturned, the depths of the political divide in this country are on full display to the world.
It is not a pretty sight, as a nation, that has longed prided itself on the peaceful transfer of power after our elections, now looks more like some banana republic. World leaders seem to agree!
The riot at the Capitol directly followed remarks by the President, and some of his other top supporters, urging a march to the Hill. Remember in inviting supporters on Washington, the President promised it would be “wild.”
Such a wanton effort to encourage insurrection and sedition, has some elected officials on both sides of the aisle (and even some business groups) urging President Trump be removed from office under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution or be impeached.
Given the very short time period left in President Trump’s term (it ends at high noon EST on January 20), I have my doubts he will be removed by the 25th Amendment., especially since Vice President Mike Pence does not seem ready to trigger the process, and some Cabinet members, who might have voted to remove Mr. Trump, have resigned instead.
As for impeachment, that effort seems to have some life. With both Democratic congressional leaders now endorsing impeachment and the removal of Mr. Trump, the likelihood of some action seems possible, if still unlikely to be successful. There is talk the House could vote on impeachment articles next week.
Would the Senate have time to hold a trial? What about impeaching and removing Mr. Trump after he leaves office? The legal precedents appear murky based on the impeachment of a War Secretary under President Grant after he resigned. Like so many things these days we are in unprecedented political and legal waters. One reason a late move to impeach and remove this President might have political appeal even to Republican lawmakers. Anyone impeached and convicted would no longer be able to run for any federal office) again.
The key remains GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. Would he support impeachment and removal (it would need 66 votes in the Senate to convict)? With the Democrats soon to control the chamber, they have more votes (50) than last time, and at least two GOP Senators (Romney & Sasse) seem poised to vote to convict. But that is still not close to 66 especially without McConnell’s support. He has so far not commented. Does the resignation in protest of the Capitol riot by Leader McConnell’s wife (Elaine Chao) as Trump’s Transportation Secretary indicate how the GOP Leader feels about Trump and his removal? Stay tuned.
All these developments show how deeply moved our elected leaders and the country is about what happened at the Capitol with 5 dead, many wounded, dozens arrested, the halls, chambers and offices of Congress (the People’s House) ransacked and vandalized. Even more ominously, authorities found some rioters brought Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs, guns, and other means of violence to Washington, obviously showing some had planned their mayhem in advance.
For months President Trump has lied, spreading the false story that the election was fixed and stolen by the Democrats. Even some Republican lawmakers (including both Tennessee U.S. Senators and almost all our Republican congressmen) aided and abetted this lie, saying they planned to object to the Congress counting and certifying the Electoral College vote that President Biden won in a free and fair election with 306 electoral votes and by a margin of more than 7 million popular votes nationwide.
What happened in D.C. on Wednesday found those officials seeking to challenge the election, shaken. In in a sign of unity, the Congress resumed its Electoral Vote review within hours after the riot, and overwhelmingly approved the Biden victory, resoundingly rejecting the only two challenges (Arizona and Pennsylvania) that remained after several others were dropped due to lack of Senate support.
Our Tennessee Senators (Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty) were among those who changed their minds and voted to approve the Electoral Vote outcome. So much for following the courage of their convictions. Both did rightly join with almost every part of the American political spectrum in condemning the violence. Our seven Tennessee Republican Congressmen, by the way, voted in favor of both Election Vote challenges.
Everyone immediately condemned the violence at the Capitol, except for President Trump. No doubt under rising pressure to act, he finally issued a video Thursday night more or less conceding the election for the first time, and condemning the violence he helped encourage.
Early on Thursday morning, the President said through a written statement sent out by an aide, that he would now “pledge his support to a peaceful transition of power.” It is something he should have said months ago, and some still likely won’t believe he means it until his future actions prove it. Social media outlets seem to doubt it. Several have banned him on their sites until at least the swearing of President- elect Biden on January 20.
As for Tennessee Senators, Bill Hagerty is in his first days in Washington and these are also his first days as an elected official at any level of government. Maybe he didn’t fully appreciate the impact of lending his support to the lies being spread by the President. Senator Blackburn should have known better, about how egging on angry protestors can get out of hand. In 2002, as a Tennessee state representative, she was a leader in successfully opposing an income tax in Tennessee. At that time, especially through the use of talk radio shows, she supported protesters who circled the Tennessee State Capitol, opposing the tax in their cars and pickup trucks, by blowing their horns.
But then things got out of hand, as several of the “horn honkers” left their vehicles behind, stormed and occupied the Capitol, engaging in some of the same vandalism and other activities we saw in Washington on Wednesday.
In the wake of this dark day in American history, those who broke the law need to be identified and punished. It appears an FBI man hunt is underway to find the ringleaders and others who entered the U.S. Capitol, while there are also reports some prosecutors may review President Trump’s role in encouraging what happened.
NEWSCHANNEL 5 INVESTIGATES is also looking into the local people who seem to have been involved in the Capitol riot.
Another fallout from all this is a widening investigation into how Capitol Police could be so unprepared to deal with the rioters. Resignations are already being demanded and offered ,while tragically the latest loss of life from the melee is a Capitol Police officer trying to do his job.
President-elect Biden is also increasing his criticism of the rioters and making comparisons between the police response Wednesday versus the law enforcement reaction during the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington last summer.
I say it is time for Americans to come together and focus on what we agree on and less on what divides us. January 6 in many Christian faiths is the feast of the Epiphany. The feast celebrates the coming of the Magi to worship the baby Jesus. But the meaning of the word epiphany itself is defined as “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”
So let this day going forward be a political epiphany to bring us together to understand the essence of our democracy and seek to build it back. If we don’t do that, what happened on January 6, 2021 could be a harbinger of even worse days for our democracy in the months and years to come.
ANOTHER SHIFT OF POWER IN WASHINGTON
January 6, 2021 will also go down in history as the day it became evident another shift in power is imminent in Washington.
By winning both runoff races held January 5 in Georgia (by candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock), Democrats will control the U.S. Senate, adding to their slim majority in the U.S. House, and on January 20, the party’s successful presidential candidate Joe Biden taking over the White House.
The Senate control by the Democrats should not be overestimated. They will split the 100 seats in the upper chamber, having control because the new Democratic Vice President, former Senator Kamala Harris, can break any ties to pass legislation or (importantly in the early days of the new Biden administration) cabinet and other confirmations.
That will be very helpful to the new President. However, assuming the Senate will still operate under the remaining filibuster rules, it will take 60 votes to get legislation to a final vote on the Senate floor. Therefore, there will remain the need to reach across the aisle and seek compromises to pass more controversial bills.
For some measures, such as the Green New Deal that House Democrats are pushing, that seems unlikely. However, under the Senate rules bills involving funding (virus relief, taxes come to mind) are not bound by the 60 vote requirement, just the simple 51 vote majority.
Democrats will now also hold the chairmanships and majorities on all committees, meaning their bills will pass out and be scheduled for action. It means as well Democrats will be able to schedule for votes, House passed bills that have been blocked in recent years by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who after just being re-elected will continue his long Senate career as Minority Leader, switching places with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer who will become Majority Leader.
As mentioned above, the ability to now bring up House passed bills might make an immediate impact of another virus relief bill including the additional $2,000 stimulus checks which appear to have some GOP support. More virus relief is a priority for the new President.
There are also questions being raised about the unity of the Senate Republican Caucus in the wake of the chaos surrounding the Electoral Vote certification. Despite opposition and warnings of danger to our democracy from Leader McConnell, more than a dozen GOP Senators lined up to challenge the election. As mentioned before, most stood down after the riot, but will they be united with McConnell and much of the old guard Republican Senators who opposed trying to stop the Electoral Vote certification?
INSIDE POLITICS TAKES A CLOSER LOOK WITH SCRIPPS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER JOE ST. GEORGE
The calendar may say it is 2021.
But America’s government and its politics this past week, was still dominated with many of the controversies and chaos of 2020, maybe even more so.
As mentioned, which national political party controls the U.S. Senate was up for grabs in two runoff contests in Georgia, while outgoing President Donald Trump and his diehard supporters made one last disastrous effort to overturn the November election. The effort led to an angry mob storming and vandalizing the Capitol. These are scenes are ones no one thought we would ever see in this nation, and hope we never see again.
Oh, and there is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic still raging, with a likely fresh spike of cases on the way following the Christmas holidays, and a new more contagious version of the virus spreading worldwide and here in this country. Meanwhile two COVID-19 vaccines, the potential light at the end of the tunnel to end the pandemic, are off to a very slow, disorganized start across the country to get these life-saving serums into people’s arms.
To talk about all of that, we’ve invited Scripps national political reporter Joe St. George to join us again this week here on INSIDE POLITICS. We appreciate him joining us to give an in person account about being on Capitol Hill in Washington when the riot broke out.
INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:
7:00 p.m. Friday.
5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.
THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. We are also back on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.
One option for those who cannot see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.
This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted early in the week after the program airs.
Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my Facebook page as soon as it is available, usually on Monday or Tuesday.
IS 2020 THE WORST YEAR EVER?
It is very slowly receding in our rearview mirrors, but was 2020 the worst year ever?
Perhaps surprisingly to many, historians say no.
And what about Nashville? The pandemic certainly has been devastating as well as the economic downturn the virus has created. There was also a devastating and deadly tornado in March, followed by a derecho in May that created the largest power blackout in the city’s history. We also saw our historic courthouse and downtown businesses vandalized and set on fire during a riot that followed a peaceful racial justice demonstration. But then came the topper early Christmas morning when a massive bomb exploded on historic 2nd Avenue in the heart of the city’s tourism and hospitality district.
In the two weeks since it happened the culprit responsible for the bomb has been identified as the lone fatality of the senseless act. While at first federal, state and Metro authorities claimed the bomber was not on their radar screens, that has embarrassingly proven not be true for Metro Police, whose new chief, first strongly defended his department, only to now say more needs to investigated in the wake of a series of internal communications snafus.
A battle may also be brewing over whether the bomber’s former girlfriend should get the tens of thousands of dollars in reward money that has been raised. Meanwhile the community has shown its deep appreciation to all the police and other emergency responders who assisted at the bomb site, especially the six police officers who first arrived on the scene minutes before the blast and evacuated several residents and others in the area saving lives.
While no motive for the blast has been identified, the local media has uncovered and reported some bizarre stories about the bomber’s activities.
Questions continue over whether the bombing was a terrorist related act. It a determination that could impact how much financial help business and building owners may need if their insurance doesn’t cover it. Once again, the Nashville community has been stepping up to help.
Most concerning has been the slow response of the federal government to provide disaster assistance. Governor Bill Lee, backed by Tennessee’s entire congressional delegation asked the White House for the emergency designation the day after the bombing on December 26. It was not approved until Tuesday of this week (January 5) almost 10 days later. By comparison the same request followed by the March tornado was approved within two days!
Here is a look at how the funds might be used.
With the need for help immediate, and not waiting for disaster aid, Catholic Charities of Tennessee secured $2 million in other federal monies to help those in distress, while other non-profits stepped up as well.
The more complicated effort to rebuild 2nd Avenue will take time and money but already preservation groups are stepping in to help. From a Facebook post:
“The District Nashville and Metro Historical Commission Foundation have joined forces to create a fund to help restore the vitally important historic district of 2nd Avenue which was severely damaged in the Christmas Day bombing. The funds will be used to help support structural assessments of and facade repairs to the irreplaceable historic buildings impacted by the explosion.
Please help by donating to this important fund to help save the identity of this historic downtown district.
While it has been a very difficult year for our city, one thing has remained consistent. Nashvillians respond to help one another and others in time of crisis and we have done so throughout our history.
Mayor John Cooper says he is committed to the likely long process of restoring 2nd Avenue. It is one of a seemingly never- ending list of community crisis situations he has had to grapple with since he took office in just over a year ago in October 2019. He knew what the job was when he ran, but now he is also in quarantine after his wife tested positive for COVID-19 this week. I wish them both all the best to recover and stay healthy.
There was some good news in Nashville this week.
Amazon, one of city’s newest public citizens is including our city along with two others to share in up to $2 billion dollars for affordable housing.
And there are now more government funds coming to Nashville to help us with our transportation needs. Within three weeks after convincing a somewhat dubious Metro Council we needed a transportation plan to attract more federal funding, that is exactly what seems to have happened for a major project along Charlotte Avenue between downtown and West Nashville.
THE COVID STILL RAGES WHILE THE VACCINE ROLLOUT STUMBLES
The virus doesn’t carry about the holidays, about bombings or even riots at the U.S Capitol (although some experts say it may have been a major super spreader event.
In the meantime, COVID-19 may continue to spike after a holiday season when millions traveled across the country despite pleas by health officials not to congregate. There is a new strain of the virus that seems to be more highly contagious, which could further spike the Covid case load. The new strain has already shut down the United Kingdom to try and stop the spread. The death toll in the U.S. has set records this week.
The virus numbers in Nashville and across Tennessee continue to be among the worst of the pandemic. The state reported 9,000 new cases alone on Thursday and Nashville recorded its 500th death this week. Our positivity rate in Metro is above 20% (much like the state). with hospitalizations at a record high and ICU capacity in the Mid-State at just 4%.
What was once the shining light just ahead to end of the pandemic, has dimmed in the recent weeks, with the “warp speed” rollout of two new vaccines slowing to a crawl. It is in some ways, a familiar refrain when it comes to previous efforts by the federal government to deal with the outbreak. The Trump administration has always over promised and under delivered whether it has been testing, PPE, ventilators and now the vaccine The administration touted 20 million would get vaccinated by the end of December, the final number was only a few million.
The vaccine rollout nationally has been haunted by shorter than expected supplies of the serums and a lack of a federal plan or direction. Instead, much as occurred in earlier virus outreach efforts, the work has been left to the 50 states, and now in many cases such as Tennessee, it is up to each individual county Tennessee has 95 counties). That will all remain a problem as vaccines remain in short supply.
Believe it or not, Tennessee is doing better than many other states in its vaccine outreach according to this report from Bloomberg News.
Metro Nashville along with Memphis/ Shelby County have been running behind. That is because both counties did not get enough vaccines doses despite being regional health care centers, along with having many more first responders and other front -line personnel. Therefore Nashville is among the last counties in the state to begin vaccine outreach to seniors (over 75) beginning this weekend.
With President-elect Biden promising to ramp up vaccinations to 100 million within his first 100 days in office, can he reach that goal? Or will this be another example during this pandemic of the federal government over promising then under delivering?
The President-elect is already taking steps to do things differently.
Finally, it appears more and more the latest Covid relief bill, finally passed by Congress during the holiday season, is woefully inadequate to even stabilize, much less re-energize the economy. That’s based on the latest job numbers released Friday morning. The U.S. actually lost the jobs for the first time since April.
2021 may be a better year long term, but in some many ways, it remains a struggle for now.