Kai Wright: This is the United States of Anxiety, a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future.
Jamie Raskin: January 6th was a culmination of the president's actions, not an aberration.
Diana DeGette: The attack was done for Donald Trump at his instructions, and to fulfill his wishes.
Donald Trump: We fight like hell. If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
[crowd chants “Fight for Trump! Hang Mike Pence!”]
Joaquin Castro: Every foreign adversary considering attacking this building, got to watch a dress rehearsal.
Pramila Jayapal: It was almost like I was in those halls all over again, reliving it.
Corey Booker: This is a moral moment. What happened in our country will be talked about for generations to come. If we do nothing, we invite this horror back on our country again.
Jamie Raskin: Good luck in your deliberations.
Kai: Welcome to the show. I'm Kai Wright. If there is one theme we've hit over and over and over again on this show, it's the idea that we can't just act like the worst of American history never happened and move on. We have to confront the demons we share as a country. We have to face the anti-democratic and white nationalist elements that were so strikingly on display at the Capitol building on January 6th. We got to take them in as part of our national story and we got to do something about them.
All of which is fine and good for me to say, but what is the something we're supposed to do about it all? I do not have the answer to that question. I really and truly don't, at least not in a concrete or programmatic way. For a lot of people, a big part of the answer had been to impeach the former president and bar him from pursuing office again. Over the past week, the Senate put Donald Trump on trial. It was a bizarre experience in that the conclusion was all but certain before it even began, but still, did it serve some purpose? Was there something, anything necessary or cathartic, or useful about this impeachment?
That's the question I'm going to have for all of you and we'll be opening the phones in a bit to talk about it, but first, I do want to look to history for some lessons. Back in November, I had a conversation here with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, David Blight. It was right after the election. We talked about the similarities between the Confederacy and the modern Republican Party, and particularly the myth Donald Trump had begun building about his campaign as a new lost cause. I've asked David Blight to return now and check in on that mythmaking. David, thanks for joining us again.
David Blight: Thank you, Kai. Good to be back.
Kai: Can we pick up where we left off in November? At the time, we were really just guessing about whether and how Trump would succeed at creating a lost cause mythology around his campaign. It has been a busy few months in that regard. What do you think we stand now? Importantly, how does it compare to the Confederacy's success at creating its own lost cause story?
David: We don't know just yet because it takes time to forge a genuine lost cause in ideology. However, since we last talked to right after the election, that Confederate flag that marched inside the US Capitol and is now captured in that photograph that virtually everyone has seen, shows us that there is a lost cause argument, there's a lost cause narrative rooted in what everyone knows calling the big lie of a stolen election, that Trump really won, that he says by a big landslide. Millions of people believe this.
Now, for this to become a genuine lost cause ideology that can stick and might even get passed to a next generation, it needs yet more potency. It needs a story to attach all of these beliefs to. Now, it could happen. It needs probably martyrs, most lost causes have martyrs. It does have a racial ideology. The racial component, the white nationalist component of Trumpism is surely there. It has a home, this whatever we want to call them, the Trumpians. They have a home in the Republican Party. They have a home inside of power, which is something that Confederate Lost Cause did not have, at least at first, they did later.
Kai: Meaning that they're in a better position, in some ways?
David: In some ways, yes. Let's face it here. I would prefer to speak about these people, by that I mean the Trumpians, especially the far right, and then the far right of the Republican Party, I really think we should be calling them disunionist. They really do not want to be part of this union, this government with most of the rest of us. One of the things that came up in the trial, one of the many things in the trial that I caught on was Jamie Raskin's use of the term "union". Do people remember that? He used it over and over and over. He referred to the United States as The Union.
He was arguing it isn't just our democracy, which is always a bit of a vague term. He said, "It's the union that is at stake here. The president attacked the existence of our union and how we pass it on from election to election. The crowd was screaming and hollering and attacking the Capitol to create that disunion." Now, the consequences for the disunionist, of course, in the Civil War were what they were. They went to war, massive war. We don't want that to happen. We do not want that to happen.
They did take the consequences. It remains to be seen, whether Trump can fashion a lost cause and whether it even needs him or not. He could flare out and fade from history and become just a fundraiser, but the ideas he has stoked about how your country's been taken away from you, that the country was somehow better back in whenever, the 1950s, what Trumpism has going for it, if it ever becomes this kind of lost cause is that they know what they hate. They hate the two coasts, they hate forms of feminism, they hate immigrants, they don't like this massive pluralism that has become America. They want to return us to something vaguely what we call white nationalism.
Above all, they really hate government. They don't like government. They know what they're against. They know what they hate. They have some of the ingredients of a lost cause, but it's going to take time and it's really, going to depend on how much traction Trumpism continues to hold within the Republican Party.
Kai: Speaking of the impeachment itself, in watching it, it sounds like you watched closely.
David: Yes. I'm a junkie.
Kai: I struggled. I'll be honest, I struggled to take it in. It's my full-time job and I really struggled to stay on it.
David: I quit on it on Saturday. I'd had enough.
Kai: By that point, I feel like we were going through the motions about it anyway. In watching it, was there anything that you saw that struck you as an improvement upon our history on reckoning with these things or at least a contrast to what's happened in the past?
David: Oh, there's a lot of contrast. In the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868, what fell apart in the Johnson impeachment, and let's remember, this was the original Republicans or the Radical Republicans trying to impeach Andrew Johnson, and finally, get him out of the way for all of his obstructions to reconstruction, but that trial went on so long in the late spring 1868, that it began to bump up into the 1868 presidential election. A lot of Republicans decided, oh, my God, they didn't want to be the party of impeachment and removing a president.
By the way, the man who would have replaced Johnson, since there was no vice president, was a Radical Republican, Ben Wade of Ohio. Also, they got afraid of the awesome power of impeachment and removal. They decided only to try to make the conviction on an actual violation of law instead of Johnson's much broader abuse of power. They shied away, they almost got afraid of the very power they were using.
That's the opposite here. The Democrats went for it and they actually did it brilliantly. What an amazing performance by those congressmen and their staffs, we must say, who prepared this case and gave to the American people and to the world forever an amazing body of evidence of the guilt of the president.
Kai: Do you think that's going to matter? Because we're going to be talking about this the rest of the hour about that, how people took that in. You said that was an amazing job, do you feel like it really landed and it would shift the conversation in any way?
David: I don't know that it's going to shift votes. We're pretty boiled in on that, but there it was. I found myself again shocked by some of that video and some of it was new video as everyone has said. It is astonishing evidence. I think, mostly, of the sheer violence of that mob. To do what they did getting into the Capitol if they had gotten their hands on some congressmen or Nancy Pelosi or on a Mike Pence, they probably would have killed them. I think only through that demonstration, does one really get a sense of that.
So I do think laying down this evidence is important and I'll say one other quick thing, there's been a lot of books on the Johnson impeachment. There was a wonderful book on it many years ago, it could be 25 to 30 years ago now, by Michael Les Benedict, a very good constitutional historian. His books showed that the Republicans shied away as I just argued, shied away from the very power they were exercising, and he made a concerted case for why Andrew Johnson should have been convicted. It's a very logical, a very persuasive argument.
I can see now with this body of evidence and a great deal more, that will come out if indeed, they create and investigate the commission, like the 911 Commission, there will be many books for those who want to read them some probably by journalists, some by historians, that will show this man was guilty, not just of January 6th, and inciting a mob to attack the government, he was guilty of many, many, many other things along the way, and that both impeachments were honorable uses of that awesome power in the Constitution.
Kai: Before we let you go, I want to ask about the modern GOP in general. You're talking about this Trumpian movement but you've also described the Republican Party as "secessionist from within", these disunionists. Can you just quickly repeat what you mean by that phrase, and then explain the impeachment within that context?
David: They are unionists when they win but they're not really unionists when they lose. Just look at this election. They do not believe most of them, not all of them, now. I'm not putting all of the Republicans in the same basket. By and large, their governing philosophy is to use government as little as possible except for a few key interests, which for them are corporate power, tax reduction, and anti-abortion.
It used to be a foreign policy of strength in the world. Now that all got thrown to the wind, under Trump. They don't really believe in using federal power. They don't really believe in governing and in that sense, I think they are to it, to an extent secessionist from within. Just listen to Ted Cruz, just listen to this Hawley from Missouri, and just listen to a few others. They really don't want the federal government to exist except for three or four narrow kinds of uses of power, and they're willing to try to control it in order to do that. I think at the end of the day, we've got to realize that we're not just polarized, that's an overused term now, we really are two political tribes.
We're a tribe that believes in governing and we're a tribe that really doesn't believe in the uses of governments. How we bridge that, how we find unity around that remains to be seen in the first two years of Biden's presidency because my own view is only through some successful policies that at least some percentage of Americans can look at and realize and see, "oh, my goodness, government helps me. I need government, I need this COVID relief check. I need this unemployment insurance. I need this possibility of a job. I need my public schools open. I need better streets and sewage systems and infrastructure to live here," If the Biden presidency can show how governing can work, they might draw 5% of those Trumpians back. it's possible. That's the kind of hope I try to take from this moment. We are terribly divided, there's no question.
Kai: David Blight is a historian at Yale University. He's written widely about the Confederacy and his biography of Frederick Douglass called Profit of Freedom, won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. If you missed the conversation David and I had just after the election, I hope you'll go check that out too. You can find it at wnyc.org/anxiety or in your podcast feeds. It's called MAGA, the New Confederate Lost Cause. Coming up, I'll turn to all of you, WNYC's Brian Lehrer will join me as we take your calls.
Welcome back, I'm Kai Wright. This is the United States of Anxiety. On the show, over and over again for really four years now, we've been talking about the need to truly reckon with the worst of our political culture, that we can't just have an election and move on without really collectively confronting the internal demons that the Trump era has revealed to many.
That kind of reckoning is easier said than accomplished, but for many, this impeachment trial was supposed to be one big step forward. Was it? After all, is said and done, was there anything, something necessary or cathartic or useful about it for you, or your family, or your community? I'm going to open the phones for the rest of the show, 646-435-7280. I want to challenge you to really think about these questions in the first person, like for yourself. Did you learn something new, maybe? Or was there a moment that stuck with you as crucial? Did it feel like it prepared us, prepared you to actually reckon with what happened on January 6th?
646-435-7280, or as always, you can tweet using the #USofAnxiety. I am thrilled to say that as we take your calls, I'm going to be joined by none other than Brian Lehrer. Hey, Brian?
Brian Lehrer: Hello, Kai. So nice to be with you.
Kai: Brian, I feel a little silly introducing you to our audience here in New York, at least. I can't imagine anyone listening locally doesn't know already that Brian hosts our daily call-in show on WNYC 10:00 AM weekdays, as he has done for decades. Maybe some of our national listeners don't know the show, I don't know. You can also catch Brian every Thursday night at eight Eastern on public radio stations around the country. He's taking calls and thinking about the first 100 days of the Biden administration. I'll be joining him for some of those convenings.
Brian, as a result of all of this work, you've had just a unique vantage on this whole Trump era, really talking to listeners around the country, interviewing many of the political players involved both in and out of government. That makes you an ideal person to help us figure out what we've been through here and whether it's meaningful. Can we just start with the house manager's case against the former president?
David Blight just told us that he thinks it went great. I felt like it was never actually about convicting them, but something else altogether, maybe like a public accounting. What did you get a sense of? What do you think they were trying to accomplish? Did they accomplish that?
Brian: Yes, I agree with you that it probably wasn't about convicting him. In a way, we have to be able to hold two somewhat contradictory thoughts in our heads at the same time. On the narrow definition of conviction or acquittal, obviously, Trump was acquitted, but I'm guessing that the trial was effective at establishing a clear narrative, for many Americans, at least of the long arc of his lies about the electoral system, and encouragement of violence on his behalf.
For example, Kai, you remember this, more people than before know about the time when a group of pro-Trump thugs in cars ran a Biden-Harris campaign bus off the road, physically dangerous, but Trump publicly cheered the thugs on. I thought the new stuff that emerged about his behavior during the insurrection was breathtakingly damning and built on that narrative about the bus and everything else.
He took the writer's side when congressman Kevin McCarthy tried to get Trump to call them off. That account came from a Republican congressman. That story was out there in her district because she had spoken about it before on tape to a local group but it got amplified. My best guess is, at very least, it will now be harder for Trump personally, to get reelected in 2024 than if the trial had not been held.
Kai: Because there's at least more of this record coming out. Let's see. Let's go right to the phones and start seeing how people took all this in. Stephen in South Amboy, New Jersey. Stephen, welcome to the show.
Stephen: Yes. How are you doing?
Kai: Very well. How did you take this into? Did you learn anything new? Did it feel like it prepared you to start reckoning with what we've been going through as a country? How did you take it in?
Stephen: In my opinion, it really didn't have too much impact on me. I understand there are checks and balances that need to be done for a president. Also, I think that they should be more concerned about relief and how much time they spend on that, as opposed to this where I believe he said, “we already knew it was going to come to acquittal,” somehow reinforces Trump to me.
Kai: You would have rather them not do this in the first place and just focused on COVID relief?
Stephen: To an average person, a lot of people were thinking more about their household, to me. People ask me with, they may touch on the whole Trump thing, but more people are worried about their households, to me. I would rather them use their powers more effectively.
Kai: Thank you for that, Stephen. Brian, what about that? Are you hearing that at all from callers, from the folks you've been talking to, that this is something we could have skipped?
Brian: That was personally my own belief. I wanted the Biden folks to get to it, do COVID relief, do racial justice and do other big things that need to be done for our country, have a 911 style commission and shush this all out that perhaps would have humiliated Trump just as much as this trial did. I was wondering if the callers to my weekday show would have the same feeling and they wouldn't be that many callers. Kai, the phones were popping, and everybody wanted to talk about it.
What I can say about the callers and of course, this is an unscientific sample of people who are motivated enough to call into a talk show in 80%, blue, New York. They sounded this week like they've sounded the last four years. I will break it down somewhat by race. A lot of white collars, expressing horrified disbelief that so many Americans could support Trump in his "stop the steal" lie and even after January 6th, just as they've expressed horrified disbelief for the past five and a half years since Trump first shot to the top of Republican America through his explicit anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim racism, and then winning despite the Access Hollywood tape at the end, even among white women.
So many white callers to my show, continuing to express that chronic, horrified disbelief about that. At the same time, many Black and brown callers horrified of course, but not that surprised, saying, "Here we still are. Here we go again," most of white America willing to embrace any crazy, even violent, racist thing to keep them down out of whatever mix of hate and fear for the umpteenth time in our history.
Kai: The question then becomes whether or not this, whether this moment this impeachment is helping move past that. I'm really going to be curious to hear what some of the callers have to say about that question. Let's go to Judy in Port Washington, Long Island. Judy, welcome to the show.
Judy: Hi, thank you. I thought that the case the House managers made was invaluable for all time to document just how bad this was, just how serious and just what a great degree of danger, the House of the Representatives and the senators were in and Mike Pence. Therefore, how much heroism the Capitol Hill police force showed saving these people's lives. I keep being struck by the oath that a senator takes which is longer than the one the president takes to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. These guys just let Trump off the hook.
I don't know if I were a Capitol Hill police officer or a relative of one how would I go to my job knowing these guys weren't even willing to lose their jobs when I have to put my life on the line for them?
Kai: Judy, can I ask you before you go? You said that you thought the videos, in particular, were gripping. Did you see stuff you hadn't seen before? Was it news?
Judy: Absolutely. Absolutely. First of all, the surveillance photos. I've been glued to my TV and I saw many things that I didn't see before, and even the things I had seen before sunk in. It wasn't just a lark. It wasn't, "Oh, we'll take a selfie and go home." No, no, no, it was much, much worse.
Kai: Thank you, Judy. Let's go to Penny in Mercer County, New Jersey. Penny, welcome to the show.
Penny: Thank you. I agree 100% with the previous caller, as far as putting it out there so that the American people could see, the world can see the level of violence and the risk of and how close to injury and death were all those in the Capitol at that time who were just doing their constitutional duty. Two big takeaways for me are how the level of imperviousness to truth and facts were those who had already previously made up their mind. So many out there I speak within the community, that they're just impervious to truth and facts, and seeing things through a completely different lens and don't even consider facts and truth.
Along with that is how we cannot be complacent to those who just say, "That's just the way it is. That's just the way it is." We must every moment just stand up and defend this fragile, fragile democracy. Yes, we have a democracy if we can keep it. We must forever be vigilant to protect our democracy.
Kai: Thank you.
Brian: Hey, Kai.
Kai: Thank you for that. Yes. Go ahead, Brian.
Brian: Can I weigh in on your basic question to the callers about whether we think that this move the country forward in a meaningful way? I take it you mean beyond Donald Trump?
Kai: I do.
Brian: I wish I could say I see the trial as a meaningful step toward reckoning with white supremacy but I don't see it. I didn't see it. I was disappointed not to see it because the focus was so narrowly on whether Trump incited the insurrection by his big lie about the election being stolen, but I don't think they centered the idea that they were focusing the lie on people's behavior in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit with what that means and the echoes of history from that.
Imagine if instead Trump had said there was massive fraud in the suburbs, where so many white college-educated voters moved away from Trump in the last two years and he had said the ballot dumping was taking place there. Would it have gotten as many Republicans to believe him then? I doubt it. They didn't talk about it. I think the trial distracts from the fact that at least the way I see it and I'm curious if you think I'm on the right track or wrong track, Kai, but I think about two kinds of white supremacy that we talk about. One is the explicit, Klan and Nazi and Proud Boys actually proclaiming their superiority.
The other is all the structural stuff that you talk about all the time baked into who has wealth and income and access to higher education and good housing, health care, freedom from criminalization, everything, that at this point is not so much about a conscious attempt to elevate one race over another, but will take a massive shift in policy and politics, commitment to uncomfortable choices by white liberals, and events like January 6th, then pro-Trump violent white supremacy in general, while maybe not representative of most people, and then the democrats focus on it in the trial, keep us looking away from that harder foundational, anti-racist work.
Kai: It's an interesting point. In the trial itself, I just didn't see a lot of focus on white nationalism period, and the fact that that was a big part of it. One of the things I hadn't realized that I learned in the trial was that one of the first people at least in that surveillance video, one of the first people to enter the building was the one carrying the Confederate flag. I didn't realize that was literally the tip of the spear and there wasn't that much conversation about it.
Let me bring in another person on this very subject. I asked Elie Mystal to join us as well, Brian. Elie is the justice correspondent for The Nation magazine. He's been on your show many times. He's joined us here in the United States of Anxiety as well. Elie, welcome.
Elie Mystal: Hi, guys. What a terrible weekend in this country.
Kai: Well, indeed, so okay, I'm going to take that to mean that you did not in fact, think that something useful happened in the course of this impeachment hearing.
Elie: I want to jump in right, where Brian left off, with this question of why the focus wasn't so much on white supremacy. I think one of the key things that we saw during the trial, which, as a person with legal training, I could not have enjoyed the House managers' presentation more. It was a legally extremely strong case, if you thought you were in a court of law, which we clearly weren't.
When you put on the more political hat, the thing that always strikes me is that Democrats insist on fighting these battles inside the paper bag that is the Republican psyche. They insist on doing things that they think will or won't convince republicans and not doing things based on whether or not they will or won't convince Republicans as opposed to accepting the truth and the reality that the Republicans are lost. They are gone. They are never coming back.
The point is not to convince Republicans, the point is to expose Republicans and inspire other people to go out and defeat them at the polls. That argument would have been served by Brian's point of highlighting the white supremacy aspect some more. It wouldn't have helped convince Lindsey Graham. You saw when Stacy Plaskett actually brought up the racism of the Trump lawyer presentation, Twitter lit up with white people across the country being like, "Using a race card." Of course, if they had gone harder into white supremacy, Lindsey Graham, and maybe even Mitt Romney would have been like, "Whoa, gosh, that just wasn't necessary."
You only care about that if you will live in a world where Republican's views and opinions matter. If you accept that they don't then yes, talking about white supremacy would actually make the emerging majority in this country feel like the Democrats were fighting for them and fighting for their views and saw them for who they are.
Kai: Let me ask you about the politics of all this though. In your most recent piece on this on The Nation, you wrote, "Asking people like Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, and Ted Cruz to convict Trump is a little bit like asking Robert E. Lee to convict Jefferson Davis for treason. They're all part of the same insurrection." I use that quote not just to be incendiary because this is an interesting difference you're making here. You're not saying that their votes are about political vulnerability. You're saying it's something more than that.
Elie: Yes. I'm saying that they're part of the same riot. Brian again, while I was on hold brought up the Biden-Harris van that they ran off the road. Yes, Trump supported that or encouraged that and they made a big deal of that during the impeachment trial. You know who else supported that? Marco Rubio.
Marco Rubio did a rally the Monday after that attempted attack on the bus and he said, "Did you see what they did out there in Texas with all those calls on the road? We love when they do that." Marco Rubio, alleged centrist, water-drinking, little Marco did that. When you look at the kinds of things that the Republicans have signed up for during the Trump administration, it's not just all about political cowardice, it's not all about three-dimensional test triangulating into their own self-interest, they like this. They want this. They are complicit in the white supremacist takeover of their own party and our country.
Kai: Before we go to break, let's get one more call in. Let's go to Renae in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Renae, welcome to the show.
Renae: Thank you very much for having me. Thank you for having this show. I wanted to say an answer to your question, was this cathartic? It was extremely cathartic for me and I think for maybe a lot of women who have suffered some PTSD and been triggered under the five years that Trump has been here and the election, and then as president, because it triggered the sense of coercion and domestic abuse.
As a survivor of domestic abuse who never told anyone what was happening and I was lucky to have survived when the man tried to kill me, I found that listening to the trial, I allowed myself to let it be the trial that never happened for me. Though I knew what the outcome would be for the Republicans not voting, I allowed myself to say, "Yes, it happened. People believe me. It was wrong. People know it was wrong and people saw it. I have been seen."
I have to say I went through more healing in the past week than I have in so long and I want to thank Jamie Raskin personally because I was so inspired by him and all of the House managers. They did a wonderful thing. Whether or not it changes other things personally, for so many women I know they gave us something we never got in a court of law.
Kai: Renae, thank you so much for adding that point. I'm sorry that you went through what you went through. I'm glad that you got some catharsis out of it. We're going to take a short break and when we come back, we'll talk more with Brian Lehrer and Elie Mystal of The Nation, and we will continue taking your calls.
Hey everybody, I want to ask your help with something. A huge part of what we're doing with this show is building a community, a community of people who want to share the joy and the work of creating and living in a healthy plural society. That's why we've started taking calls on the live show and soliciting your tweets and your voicemails here.
Michael: Hey, this is Michael from Raleigh, North Carolina.
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Kai: It's all part of building a community, and you can do two things to help build our community. First off, just invite somebody to join you in it. Maybe even start listening together on Sunday evenings, but however, you do it, invite other people in. Second, you can leave a review on whatever app you're using to listen right now. You can give us a rating there. That's nice but also leave a comment. Why do you listen? Why should others join you in listening? Again, think of it as making an invitation. It's how community works. Thanks in advance for doing either or both of those things. Even if you can't do either of them, thanks for being part of our community.
Welcome back. I'm Kai Wright. This is the United States of Anxiety. I'm talking with WNYC's Brian Lehrer and Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation magazine about the impeachment trial and whether or not it represented some kind of reckoning, whether it's set us on the path to some kind of reckoning. We're taking your calls. I want to know how it felt for you. How'd you take it in? Did it move you forward in any way? 646-435-7280.
Brian, can I ask you to respond to what Renae said right before we went to break? She talked about that it was in fact so cathartic for her because it was almost like she got to have the hearing she never got. I wonder if you've heard things like that previously from other callers on your show, or if you've encountered that. It was such a powerful idea to me.
Brian: I haven't heard it explicitly expressed like that. Wow. I think that in effect that's what I heard. That's what the demand on the phones over the past week has been. So many people wanted to reflect on their emotional experience of the presentation of the House managers with all the evidence that they marshaled the new videos and audios and photos and everything. People were having a cathartic experience and reflecting it, even if they didn't put it as explicitly, and that was incredibly beautiful and powerful from that caller.
Kai: This idea that it's like, "Okay, I'm not crazy." There's so much about the past four years for so many of us that has felt like we overuse this term, "gaslighting". It's an opportunity to say, "No, there is a really a record here." Quickly, Elie, similarly, I want to put it to you in terms of the making of a record piece of it. I know you agreed with Brian that this is exactly the record you would have made, but do you think there was a record made here that thinking about racial justice, thinking about all of the crimes that people have been upset about?
Elie: I do. To pick up on Renae's point, I think that one of the core Republican arguments was essentially an argument made by domestic abusers like, "Don't hold me accountable because then I might just get more violent, then it really will make me angry." People have heard that. People of domestic abuse, survivors of child abuse, they've heard that before.
Part of what happened was the refutation of such arguments during this past week and I think that was an important part of the overall record that was established. Look, I thought impeachment was worth it. I still think it was worth it. I would have done more. I would have done it slightly differently, but again, this is part of my legal background. It's always worth it to try to hold people accountable and if anything, one of the things that I'm trying to do is try to remind people, I wrote about this even before impeachment, let's not the rest of these people get away with it.
According to reports, 800 people stormed the Capitol that day only around 200 have been arrested. That means 600 of these white domestic terrorists are at large. Let's go get them. So far that is a failure of Chris Wray and the FBI, but hopefully once Merrick Garland is installed, whenever the Republicans and their infinite wisdom decide to let that man have a hearing, hopefully once that happens his justice department will go back and get these other 600 people who attacked us.
Kai: I think Merrick Garland would urge you to not say anything that might change his opportunity to finally get a hearing.
Let's go Tia in Westchester. Tia, welcome to the show.
Tia: Hi, thank you. I agree with everything that the other person has said thus far. I also feel that I would have taken more time, I would have called as many witnesses as possible. I would have called Republican senators who have been a part of this the whole time, expose them. Even if they didn't vote, they were working with the team. Even if we knew they weren't going to vote that, expose every single person. Make them get up there on the stand and lie to everyone, on record. It's not as though we can go back and listen to what they said before.
Also, I was telling him that when I was in 1st grade, I used to get in trouble because I would say the Pledge of Allegiance, and the last words is what I would get in trouble for because I would always say, "-and justice for some." I said, I am 41 years old, and still to this day, I feel compelled to say those words, and I still do. I have not yet been able to say, "Justice for all," because people like him don't get justice. They don't go to jail.
Kai: Thank you, Tia. Let's go to Calvin in Memphis, Tennessee. Calvin, welcome to the show.
Calvin: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. I was telling someone a short time ago, that this is important as far as exposing the record. I digest a lot more politics, than there may be some. I follow Mr. Mystal, glad to be on the same channel with him, at least for a few seconds.
Elie: What's up, Cal?
Calvin: It was important to have this in the open. White supremacy insurgency is what it has always been for 400 years plus. It is important for a lot of people who don't follow everything, all the minutiae of politics, that maybe they didn't see. Some will ignore it, but it's important to put it out there, more witnesses might have been great, it would not have mattered one iota. It would not have made a difference. The vote was going to be what it was. I'm glad that it's out there. 45 is who he is, and will always be and will try to be again, but we needed to see it. It needs to be exposed. The House presenters were magnificent. I'm proud of every one of them.
Kai: Calvin, thank you for that. Elie, two people there talking about how long it should have gone on, you have been amongst the people who argue strenuously, they should have in fact called witnesses, even though that would have led to all of the Republican threats about how long this would go on and how it would prevent turning to COVID relief. Why do you think it should have kept going? What do you think they should have called witnesses?
Elie: A couple of things, Kai. First of all, let's go back to my earlier statement. I don't care about Republican threats. I don't care. I don't believe them. I think they might have been bluffing. If they hadn't been bluffing, let's not forget that the only way they can obstruct everything is if they use the powers given to them under the filibuster. If they wanted to obstruct anything and Democrats didn't like that they could kill the filibuster, which is something that Democrats need to do anyway.
Having a moral opportunity to do so as opposed to a procedural need to do so might have actually been a better fight. I would have rather had that fight. We have to kill the filibuster because McConnell is blocking COVID relief because he doesn't want to listen to Kevin McCarthy tell the truth. I would have rather had that fight right now, as opposed to, "We're going to have it six months from now." That's number one, in terms of just my lack of care about Republican threats.
Two, the Senate isn't doing anything this week. They're home. They're on vacation. Chris Coons had to get home for Valentine's Day. Chris "Casanova" Coons said that. We could have had witnesses this week, ain't nothing else to do. Number three, I do think, and Dan Goldman has made this point, former counsel for the House Judiciary Committee. I respect him greatly and I respect his legal acumen greatly. He makes a really good point, that if you're going to call witnesses, you need to depose them. You don't put a witness on the stand who you haven't prepped.
I think that's a fair point, that would have taken a little bit more time. The people who are saying like, "Oh, well, it would have been subpoenas, and blah, blah," no, no, no, there were witnesses who were willing to testify. Fine, you can't do the subpoena thing to try to get unwilling witnesses. As they pointed out, we're still waiting for Dom again. There were witnesses. There were staffers. There were cops. They clapped and they gave Eugene Goodman a medal. Why don't you put Eugene Goodman on the stand, have him tell you what they were calling him?
Every person who's ever been in the legal profession knows that the most valuable thing in a trial is live testimony. There are zero prosecutors who would take a written deposition or video over the live statement of a victim of a crime. Zero.
Kai: Of course, it was a political calculation. Brian, in your unscientific polling, what do you think? Has there been an appetite for them to go on? I think the calculation here was that people didn't have an appetite to keep going.
Brian: I don't know. I think my callers would have been mixed but that doesn't prove anything. I know House Manager Stacy Plaskett said on television this morning, that witnesses wouldn't have changed anything. I'm paraphrasing here from memory, but that Kevin McCarthy watered down his story already from what it was originally, about Trump contributing to the riot. Mike Pence hasn't even said anything yet about Trump leaving him to potentially be killed.
Kai: Total silence.
Brian: Et cetera. That doesn't make Elie wrong.
Kai: All right. Let's try to squeeze in some calls here before we have to wrap up. Let's go to Sherry, in East Village. Sherry, welcome to the show.
Sherry: Hi, thank you. This is a really good show. I feel that I hope the investigation that follows the trial, they'll probably be more than one, but I want them to focus on finding the higher-ups that were involved in keeping the Capitol Police so outnumbered for so many hours, either in a planned way or by neglect. To me, they should be shown. They never go after the higher-ups usually or if they do, they talk about it, and then nothing ever comes of it.
Whether it was the Department of Defense or the Pentagon, the mayor of Washington had to call repeatedly and got no help, and then finally called the governors of Maryland and Virginia and they sent their national guard. In early January, I thought of the movie Seven Days in May. Do you guys know it?
Kai: I don't know the movie, Sherry, I'm sorry.
Sherry: There was a novel about an attempted coup, but it was by a Pentagon general. The staffer who found out about it went to the president. I don't think anyone ever thought about if the president as the head of the executive branch literally attacked the legislative branch, that that could even happen in this country.
Kai: I'm going to have to let you go, Sherry. Thank you for that. Peter in Tampa, Florida. Peter, we got about 30 seconds or so here for you. How did you take it in?
Peter: All right, because so much of history, we say, "What does the high crime misdemeanor mean?" We look into the past. In other words, so much of what goes on with law is precedent. What we did last week is say, future generations will look back and think, "This was aligned. This went too far, to this degree." We didn't look the other way. Then future generations will say, "Is this a high crime misdemeanor? Is this impeachable?" They'll say, "Look what they did in the year 2021." It's necessary to keep drawing the line and saying, "This is intolerable."
Kai: Peter, you will get the last word for now. I've been talking with Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for The Nation magazine. Elie, thanks for calling in.
Elie: Thanks for having me.
Kai: WNYC's own Brian Lehrer, in addition to Brian's daily morning show on WNYC, you can catch him every Thursday night at 8:00 PM on public radio stations around the country. He'll be taking calls about the first 100 days of the Biden administration. Brian, thanks for chiming in.
Brian: My pleasure, Kai.
Kai: United States of Anxiety is a production of WNYC Studios. Jared Paul mixed the podcast version. Kevin Bristow and Matthew Marando were at the boards for the live show. A special thanks this week to Carl Boisrond for help answering the phones and getting callers onto the radio. Our team also includes Carolyn Adams, Emily Botein, Jenny Casas, Marianne McCune, Christopher Werth, and Veralyn Williams.
Our theme music was written by Hannis Brown and performed by the Outer Borough Brass Band. Karen Frillmann is our executive producer and I'm Kai Wright. You can keep up with me on Twitter @kai_wright and join us always for the live show next Sunday, 6:00 PM Eastern. You can stream it at wnyc.org or just tell your smart speaker, "Play WNYC." Till then, thanks for listening. Thanks for talking to us. Take care of yourselves.
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