The Fools on the Hill

Troubling new details about a Trump "shout out" emerge. Plus: "Fleabag" meets "Atlanta"--also Marvin Gaye, Brandi Carlile does Orbison, and what you may not know about Otis, Aretha and "Respect."

Some last-minute revelations about Trump’s behavior on January 6 emerge, but will the Senate—now the world’s Greatest Diminutive Body—still let him off the hook? Can I get a witness? Meanwhile, the White House press office and the Lincoln Project face scandal charges. And Peter Gabriel remembers “Biko.” Then please consider subscribing—it’s free!


News & Politics

Stephen Colbert now calls the increasingly doughy Lindsey Graham, prime defender of Trump, the “Pillsbury Proud Boy.” But has he ever been “baked”?

CNN last night with report that touched off demands that Dems call witnesses. Later in the night, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) confirmed the McCarthy-Trump shouting match and called on other officials who were present to speak out. Update: Senate just voted 55-45 to maybe call witnesses. Then Dems decided not to.

In an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack, then-President Donald Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did. "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.

McCarthy insisted that the rioters were Trump's supporters and begged Trump to call them off.

Trump's comment set off what Republican lawmakers familiar with the call described as a shouting match between the two men. A furious McCarthy told the President the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows, and asked Trump, "Who the f--k do you think you are talking to?" according to a Republican lawmaker familiar with the call.

And then there’s this: “A source close to Pence said Trump's legal team was not telling the truth when attorney Michael van der Veen said at the trial that ‘at no point’ did the then-President know his vice president was in danger. Asked whether van der Veen was lying, the source said, ‘Yes.’"

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: “One way to clear it up? Suspend trial to depose McCarthy and Tuberville under oath and get facts. Ask Secret Service to produce for review comms back to White House re: VP Pence safety during siege. What did Trump know, and when did he know it?”

Marvin Gaye asked the newly-relevant question, below from the legendary TAMI show, and here in even stronger version on Shindig (Righteous Brothers singing backup in rear):

So little has emerged on the three police officers who committed suicide after the insurrection. Today a heartbreaking Washington Post piece on two of them. Many others have turned in their sidearms, afraid of self-harm.

Keith Olbermann with op-ed wonders if he can stop hating Trump now.

Ultimately, if this latest spasm in the greatest-ever threat to democracy doesn’t ease the hate, it will not be because we who loathe Mr. Trump are exhausted or traumatized or healing. It may be because even if 17 Republican senators were now to shock the world, there’s really nothing they can do to Donald Trump that we would feel would suffice. The only thing we actually want to watch is the criminal trials. In which case, the worldwide popcorn shortage might be an extinction-level event.

Even Maureen Dowd says today: If Senate won’t convict, “bring on the handcuffs.”

Steve Schmidt, the co-founder of the Lincoln Project that has battled Donald Trump, has resigned his board position (but not his executive spot) amid allegations against John Weaver, another co-founder, of sexual harassment and worse. Schmidt also revealed he was molested as a boy. “But while Mr. Schmidt reiterated his claim that he had not known of Mr. Weaver’s behavior until last month, a former Lincoln Project employee told The New York Times that Mr. Schmidt had known by October 2020 at the latest. The former employee described being in the room when Mr. Schmidt spoke about it.”

Were They Ready for Some Football?

On Wednesday, when the House prosecutors in the Trump trial aired never before seen security footage of Mike Pence fleeing for his life, very few noted—as I did, immediately—that the omnipresent man carrying the “nuclear football” with the launch codes was spotted lugging the bag behind him. Now The Guardian has done a belated full piece. Another detailed take here.

“If the mob had seized Pence’s nuclear football, they may not have been able to order an actual launch but the public may not have known that,” Tom Collina, director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund disarmament advocacy group, said. “Parading the nuclear button around would have caused widespread panic and chaos as authorities scrambled to respond.”

The secret service bodyguards around Pence would most likely have defended the suitcase with deadly force, but if the pro-Trump mob had managed to seize it, they would have come away, not just with the codes used to identify the vice-president and authenticate his orders, but also the encrypted communications equipment used to make the call to the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon.

Most damaging of all, they would have all the nuclear attack options instantly available around the clock to the US commander-in-chief. That list of options used to be in a weighty handbook, but according to Fred Kaplan, author of The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, it has been condensed over the decades into a series of laminated cards, “like a menu at Wendy’s”, as one officer put it to Kaplan.

Not only would disclosure of that menu represent one of the worst security breaches imaginable, the encrypted communication equipment would tell an adversary a lot of how the US would respond to a major attack. “They could glean all sorts of information about its structure and technology so it’s very significant,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists.


Peter Gabriel re-recorded his 1980 protest anthem “Biko” with artists from around the world (yes, that’s Yo Yo Ma).

Fifty-four years ago tomorrow—Valentine’s Day—Aretha cut “Respect,” often listed among the ten greatest singles of all time, and it made her a superstar. Many do not know that Otis Redding recorded it almost two years earlier (produced by Steve Cropper) with more male-oriented lyrics, later changed by Aretha (produced by Jerry Wexler) into her proto-feminist declaration. Plus: “Sock it to me!” which Aretha later claimed was “not sexual.” Controversy remains over who wrote it. Redding took credit but clearly, according to experts, he simply changed some lyrics to an original ballad (!) by one Speedo Sims and promised to credit him, which he did not. Sims did not protest much because it’s likely he had grabbed it from someone else. Anyway, a collaborative classic.

Here is Otis singing most of it on a Cleveland television. It is Dec. 9, 1967. Haunting, because he would die in a plane crash the very next day in Wisconsin. A month later his biggest hit, “Dock of the Bay,” would be released.

New album to benefit the Music Health Alliance featuring stripped down performances by Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Jeff Tweedy and more.

A veteran New Jersey DWI attorney goes over the Springsteen case for Billboard—raising doubts about any conviction.


Yowza. Fleabag meets Atlanta. News has just emerged today that Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Donald Glove are joining up to create and star in a new Amazon series for 2022 based on the (weak) Angelina-Brad movie of a few years back, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.


A White House press aide has been suspended but many think he should be fired.

White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo was suspended for one week without pay on Friday, the administration said, after a report surfaced detailing allegations that he verbally harassed and threatened a female reporter from Politico in January.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Ducklo's suspension following a report from Vanity Fair that said Ducklo had threatened the reporter after he learned that Politico was planning to publish an article on his relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond.

We’ve long warned that the press would eventually expose our Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s slow early response to the pandemic and mass dumping of the infected into nursing homes. And now it’s happening.

Song Pick of the Day

We’ll consider this as a send off for Trump, even if he wins the impeachment vote. Here’s Brandi Carlile, a perfect vocalizing choice in doing a classic by Roy Orbison, who I got to hang out with in 1974 for a profile that helped bring him back to prominence, caught the attention of Springsteen, and inspired him to ask me to write some liner notes for his next album.

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Greg Mitchell is the author of a dozen books, including the bestseller The Tunnels (on escapes under the Berlin Wall), the current The Beginning or the End (on MGM’s wild atomic bomb movie), and The Campaign of the Century (on Upton Sinclair’s left-wing race for governor of California), which was recently picked by the Wall St. Journal as one of five greatest books ever about an election. For nearly all of the 1970s he was the #2 editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. Later he served as longtime editor of Editor & Publisher magazine. He recently co-produced a film about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and now has written and directed his first feature, Atomic Cover-up, which will have its American premiere at a festival this spring.