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President Joe Biden’s doctor says the president’s symptoms from Covid have “almost completely resolved.” The president spoke to two different groups today, virtually, and those two speeches indicated both that the January 6 hearings have weakened Trump and that Biden continues to try to rebuild the American middle class.
First, in a speech to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Biden called out Trump directly for his inaction on January 6 as “brave law enforcement officers” dealt with “medieval hell for three hours, dripping in blood, surrounded by carnage, face to face with a crazed mob that believed the lies of the defeated president.” “You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-cop,” Biden told them. “You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-American.”
There are signs that the public hearings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol have weakened the former president, and it appears that Biden is reminding law enforcement, which has been blaringly quiet about condemning the attacks on officers on January 6, on which side real Americans should stand. At least 19 current or former officers have been charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol.
While all the public hearings have been damning, last Thursday’s look at Trump’s actions on January 6 seems to have turned some of his former enablers into deer in the headlights. One of the shocking pieces of that evidence was Trump’s changes to the speech prepared for him on January 7. Today Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA) provided an image of those edits, showing that Trump cut out the words: “I am directing the Department of Justice to ensure all lawbreakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must send a clear message—not with mercy but with JUSTICE. Legal consequences must be swift and firm.” He also cut out the line directed at the rioters: “I want to be very clear you do not represent me. You do not represent our movement.”
What was left was a speech that could have been sympathetically interpreted as an attack on the “Antifa” fighters on whom Trump tried to pin the insurrection, especially when Trump refused to say the election was over. Legal analyst Joyce White Vance noted that the video of Trump editing the speech as he tried to deliver it didn’t “sound like someone who truly believes he won the election. Trump is calmly making deliberate, strategic choices about what to say & what not to say. And prosecutors can ask jurors to draw that inference.”
That brazenness appears to have shocked those who had previously tried to look away. “No matter your views of the Jan. 6 special committee, the facts it is laying out in hearings are sobering,” wrote the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal on Friday. “The most horrifying to date came Thursday in a hearing on President Trump’s conduct as the riot raged and he sat watching TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send help.”
Trump’s star appears to be dimming, and there are more clouds on the horizon. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice chair of the January 6 committee, said yesterday that the committee is hoping to talk with Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, who has been associated with the attempt to overturn the election. And today we learned that Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, testified last week before the federal grand jury investigating the attack. Short told ABC News that “if the mob had gotten closer to the Vice President… there would have been a massacre in the Capitol that day.”
Americans are sliding away from Trump, as well as from the extremism of the Republican Party, creating a problem for the Republican lawmakers who want to continue to appeal to their extremist base while also seeming to stay within the bounds of normal politics.
In Florida, Republican lawmakers stood adamant against Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and yet now are claiming credit for the money it has brought to the state. In Ohio, news broke today that Republican candidate for the Senate J.D. Vance last September told an audience at a Christian high school that people nowadays get divorced too easily—although divorce rates are actually at a 50-year low—and that they should stay in bad marriages, even violent ones, for the sake of the children. As gun safety advocate Shannon Watts pointed out, this theory is at odds with the reality that “[e]ach month, 70 women are fatally shot by intimate partners in the US, and 1 million women alive today have been shot or shot at by intimate partners.”
And news broke today that Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA), who voted last week against the Respect for Marriage Act protecting gay marriage, this weekend attended his son’s wedding to another man. His spokesperson said the congressman and his wife were “thrilled to attend and celebrate their son’s marriage.”
With Trump and his allies weakening, it appears former supporters are looking for other candidates to take his place before 2024. The Wall Street Journal editorial board praised then–vice president Mike Pence’s behavior on January 6. Pence was set to speak in Washington, D.C., tonight at the Heritage Foundation a day before Trump returns to the city to give what his allies insist is a policy speech. (Trump’s team has hinted that that policy focuses on “law and order,” which is fully in keeping with his authoritarian messaging in the past, and which Biden just undercut.) But storms kept Pence out of Washington, and his speech will be rescheduled, giving him the last word after the former president.
Meanwhile, the Fox and Friends show on the Fox News Channel highlighted today that Florida governor Ron DeSantis is polling higher than the former president in all age groupings, earning them an angry rebuke from Trump. On his social media network, he insisted that the hosts had botched his poll numbers on purpose, and accused the show of having gone to the “dark side.”
In his other speech today, to business CEOs and labor leaders, President Biden talked about the importance of passing the new Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, a bill that would spend $52 billion to encourage the manufacture of semiconductor chips in the U.S. Chips are imperative to many of the products we use, including cars, medical equipment, and computers, and bringing their manufacture back home would help rebuild the domestic economy and fix supply chains. It would also help America stand against other nations, especially China, in the race for new technologies. The CHIPS measure has bipartisan support and appears to have a chance of passing the Senate, giving Biden another victory in his attempt to move the country forward into a new era.
Heather Cox Richardson is a Professor of History at Boston College. This post originally appeared on her Substack, Letters from an American.