Severe winter weather swept across the nation this week, wiping out power for millions, threatening drinking water systems, and leading to dozens of deaths.
Texas — where freezing temperatures wreaked havoc on energy production (with most of the losses coming from natural gas and coal, not, as conservative politicians asserted, renewables) — was particularly hard hit. On Thursday, days after the storm first wiped out power, hundreds of thousands of Texans were still without energy as they contended with frigid temperatures, struggling to find food, gas, and the means to stay warm or charge medical devices. Even hospitals are facing dire conditions. Here’s more on the failure of Texas’ electric grid, which is separate from the rest of the country.
Of course, the other big story from the past week was the Senate’s acquittal of former President Donald Trump, who was impeached for inciting the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Trump has since lashed out at Sen. Mitch McConnell, who condemned the former president for being “practically and morally responsible” for the riot (without, it’s worth noting, voting to convict).
Trump’s invective against someone who didn’t unquestionably support his authoritarianism is obviously nothing new. But his indignation at being unable to overturn a democratic election has been alarmingly echoed among state and local Republicans, who have attacked and even formally censured conservative politicians who broke with Trump. “The … forces in the party pushing its growing radical and antidemocratic tendencies are often not national Republicans, but those at the local and state levels,” wrote FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. in an analysis of the state and county Republican organizations that censured prominent Republicans who criticized Trump.
As we’ve been writing about, dozens of state and local officials were among the attendees of the Jan. 6 rally. That radicalization represents a grave threat to our democracy, especially as several states unleash a wave of measures meant to make voting harder, and as the upcoming redistricting fight threatens to tilt the political playing field even more unfairly. Here are some related stories from around the country:
Election Integrity Commission, Take 2
After the 2016 election, Trump repeatedly claimed voter fraud had cost him the popular vote (it didn’t) and formed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI), which tried to dig up evidence to support voting restrictions. (It also didn’t.) Now, just three years later, the Republican National Committee announced that it is forming another nakedly partisan “election integrity” commission.
American Oversight represented Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in his lawsuit for access to PACEI’s work, from which he and other Democratic commission members had been excluded. PACEI was shut down after a judge ruled it must share documents with Dunlap, and when Dunlap ultimately obtained and released 8,000 pages of records, they revealed that the group had uncovered no new evidence of widespread voter fraud.
But that wasn’t the end of it: Last year, multiple states began setting up their own voter fraud task forces. We sued Georgia for records of its task force, and the state released thousands of pages that contained no substantive information to suggest the group had found any fraud to investigate. Other records we obtained from two Georgia counties confirmed the group had met only once and that mail-in voting was safe.
Trump’s First Impeachment
We obtained more records from the Justice Department regarding Trump’s corrupt Ukraine scheme, in which he held up congressionally approved aid to Ukraine in an effort to pressure the country to announce an investigation into Joe Biden. The records contain a December 2019 email thread in which a Justice Department official described a “package” sent by Ukrainian legislators that alleged U.S. grant money to fight corruption was being mismanaged.
Enclosed in the package was a similar letter to then-White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that also referenced a letter sent to Sen. Lindsey Graham. The records we obtained also include email communications from the night before the release of the partial transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Biden signals he’s flexible on immigration overhaul (New York Times)
For Black aides on Capitol Hill, Jan. 6 brought particular trauma (New York Times)
Pandemic cut U.S. life expectancy by a year during the first half of 2020 (Washington Post)
Capitol Police investigate 2 GOP lawmakers over House metal detector incidents (HuffPost)
Promotions for female generals were delayed over fears of Trump’s reaction (New York Times)
New radio and video footage from Capitol riot shows a coordinated attack and officers’ restraint (CNN)
S.D. Gov. Kristi Noem under scrutiny for using state plane to fly to NRA, Turning Points meet-ups (Daily Beast)
As attacks against Asian Americans spike, advocates call for action to protect communities (CNN)
Nearly 5,000 National Guard troops to stay in DC over concerns of potential violence in March (The Hill)
Department of Homeland Security confirms neo-Nazi leader used to work for it (Vice)
‘I don’t trust the people above me’: Riot squad cops open up about disastrous response to Capitol insurrection (ProPublica)
Immigration hard-liner files reveal 40-year bid behind Trump’s census obsession (NPR)
South Carolina governor signs abortion ban, prompting immediate lawsuit (NBC News)
Part of Investigation: