Jan 6, 2022

The Jan. 6 anniversary.

The Jan. 6 anniversary.

What is important from that day?

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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No podcast today.

Hey guys! Unfortunately, I am traveling today, so there will not be a podcast reading of the newsletter. But we are releasing our interview with Andrew Yang tomorrow, so keep an eye our on our podcast page here to check it out. 

Today's read: 14 minutes.

We're covering the anniversary of the January 6th riots, I get on my soapbox, answer a reader question, and explain why we are waiting to publish an issue on gerrymandering. Also, a very dumb correction.

Photo: Tyler Merbler


I've said for years that corrections are like turnovers in sports: they always come in bunches. My theory has struck true once again. In yesterday's Quick hits section, I said "California investigators told prosecutors they believe a PG&E power line hit by a truck was responsible for last year’s nearly million-acre Dixie fire." I am so certain this is what the initial news article I read said about this case that I was totally baffled to see all the reports now saying it was a tree, not a truck.

Unfortunately, the first news report I read now says tree, too, and does not have any correction issued. So either they're covering their tracks or I got it wrong. Either way, it counts.

This is the 50th Tangle correction in its 128-week history, and the first correction since... yesterday. I track corrections and place them at the top of the newsletter in an effort to maximize transparency with readers.


Tomorrow marks the return of one of my favorite Tangle editions: I'm going to be looking back on some of my writing from the year, and grading how I did. This edition is for subscribers only, so if you want to receive it — and get our Friday editions going forward — you can subscribe with the button below. If you're already a subscriber, be sure to check it out and feel free to pass it along to friends!

Quick hits.

  1. Officials at the Fed think forces fueling inflation could last beyond 2022, indicating interest rates may rise sooner rather than later. (The news)
  2. The Grammys have been indefinitely postponed due to Omicron, and Sundance canceled its in-person film festival. (The changes)
  3. The CDC endorsed Pfizer Covid-19 booster shots for 12 to 15-year-olds yesterday. (The endorsement)
  4. Australia denied entry to tennis star Novak Djokovic and revoked his visa on arrival over a dispute about a medical exemption to bypass vaccine requirements. Djokovic is hoping to play in the Australian Open. (The dispute)
  5. Dozens of people have died during civil unrest in Kazakhstan that was sparked by a spike in fuel prices and turned into a widespread anti-government movement. (The unrest)

Today's topic.

January 6th. In our survey, gerrymandering was far and away the most requested topic this week. We had an edition queued but, on Tuesday, a new report was released with a fresh breakdown of the state of 2022 gerrymandering that has given us a lot more to chew on — so we're going to give that edition some extra care and push it into next week.

Results from the Tangle survey.
Results from the Tangle survey.

Instead, today, we're going to go with the topic that is dominating the front pages of the major newspapers, television stations and partisan commentary sections: the anniversary of the January 6th attacks at the Capitol.

We covered the state of the investigation on December 22nd.

One year after the events of January 6th, more than 700 people have been arrested for crimes committed that day, with several multi-year sentences handed down. 225 have been accused of attacking or interfering with police, 275 charged with obstructing Congress's duty to certify the 2020 presidential vote count, and 300 people charged with petty crimes of trespassing or disorderly conduct. More than 160 people have pleaded guilty, and trials are expected to begin next month.

The federal government estimates that as many as 2,500 people who took part in the events that day could be arrested for federal crimes. Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to hold all those responsible for the Jan. 6 riot accountable, saying the government was methodically building complex cases and that more action was coming.

Ahead of today's anniversary of the events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planned a slate of events to commemorate the day. "These events are intended as an observance of reflection, remembrance and recommitment, in a spirit of unity, patriotism and prayerfulness," Pelosi said in a letter to her Democratic colleagues. This morning, President Joe Biden addressed the nation. Former President Donald Trump was planning his own press conference from Mar-a-Lago in Florida, where he was expected to defend the rioters and reaffirm his claims that the election was stolen, but decided to cancel the event earlier this week. Many Republican members of Congress will be in Atlanta today for the funeral of former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who died on December 19th, 2021.

Meanwhile, Democrats are pushing to ease filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation that would make Election Day a holiday, ban partisan gerrymandering and allow more people to vote by mail, while Republicans are entertaining the idea of reforming the Electoral Count Act, the 1887 statute that many Trump supporters thought could be used to prevent the election from being certified (Amber Phillips from The Washington Post has a good explainer on the law).

Below, we'll take a look at some reactions to the anniversary from the right and left, then my take.

What the right is saying.

  • The media continues to overplay the events of January 6th.
  • There are legitimate questions about how the 2020 election was administered that Democrats still aren't addressing.
  • We should reform the Electoral Count Act to prevent something like January 6th from happening again.

In The Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro said to stop calling January 6th an "insurrection."

"These are important criminal charges that shouldn’t go unaddressed," he wrote. "But of the hundreds of 'Capitol Breach Cases' listed at the Justice Department’s prosecution page, not one defendant is charged with insurrection under 18 U.S.C. 2383. That’s because insurrection is a legal term with specific elements. No prosecutor would dare mislabel negligent homicide or manslaughter a murder, because they are totally distinct crimes. The media has no legal or moral basis to do otherwise.

"The events of Jan. 6 also fail to meet the dictionary definition of insurrection, which Merriam-Webster defines as 'an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.' A usage note adds that the term implies 'an armed uprising that quickly fails or succeeds,'" Shapiro said. "The demonstrators who unlawfully entered the Capitol during the Electoral College count were unarmed and had no intention of overthrowing the U.S. constitutional system or engaging in a conspiracy 'against the United States, or to defraud the United States.' On the contrary, many of them believed — however erroneously —that the U.S. constitutional system was in jeopardy from voter fraud, and they desperately lashed out in a dangerous, reckless hysteria to protect that system."

In The Federalist, Mollie Hemingway said January 6th is being used by Democrats to avoid responsibility for "rigging" the 2020 election.

"Hundreds of laws and processes were changed in the months leading up to the election, sometimes legally and sometimes not, creating chaos, confusion, and uncertainty," she wrote. "Tech oligarch Mark Zuckerberg, one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful men, spent $419 million — nearly as much as the federal government itself — to interfere in the government’s management of the election in key states. Powerful tech oligarchs and corrupt propaganda press conspired to keep indisputably important news stories, such as allegations of corruption regarding the Biden family business, hidden from voters in the weeks prior to voting.

"Information operations were routinely manufactured about President Trump in the closing months of the campaign, including the false claim that Russians paid bounties for dead American soldiers and Trump didn’t care, and that Trump had called dead American soldiers losers. Both were disputed by dozens of on-the-record sources," she wrote. "It’s not surprising that polls show most Republicans are deeply concerned about the integrity of such an election. If anything, it’s surprising that all of them aren’t screaming from the rooftops about it."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board said "We agree the riot was disgraceful, but then why not rewrite the law that encouraged Donald Trump’s supporters to think Congress could overturn the 2020 election?"

"We’re referring to the Electoral Count Act, the ambiguous 19th-century statute that purports to allow for a majority of Congress to disqualify a state’s electors after the Electoral College has voted," they wrote. "Congress’s certification of presidential election results should be a technicality, but Mr. Trump misled supporters into believing Vice President Mike Pence and Congress could overturn Joe Biden’s victory, leading to the Jan. 6 march on the Capitol.

"The effort wasn’t close to succeeding, with only eight Senators objecting to the results in any states, though 139 Republicans did in the House," the board said. "No Senators voted to object to enough states to deprive President Biden of the 270 electoral votes he needed to win. Presiding over the Senate, Mr. Pence properly understood his limited constitutional role and resisted Mr. Trump’s pressure to intervene. He was one of the heroes of that day... Still, Jan. 6 was the most significant abuse of the law to date and part of a growing trend. A smaller number of congressional Democrats used the Electoral Count Act to object to both of George W. Bush’s victories as well as Donald Trump’s in 2016."

What the left is saying.

  • January 6th was the beginning, now Republicans are executing an insurrection at the state level.
  • The Capitol rioters should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
  • Democrats need to move quickly to ensure democracy can continue to function.

The New York Times editorial board said "every day is January 6 now."

"It is regular citizens who threaten election officials and other public servants, who ask, ‘When can we use the guns?’ and who vow to murder politicians who dare to vote their conscience,” the board said. “It is Republican lawmakers scrambling to make it harder for people to vote and easier to subvert their will if they do. It is Donald Trump who continues to stoke the flames of conflict with his rampant lies and limitless resentments and whose twisted version of reality still dominates one of the nation’s two major political parties.

"In short, the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends," the board said. "No self-governing society can survive such a threat by denying that it exists. Rather, survival depends on looking back and forward at the same time... We know now that the violence and mayhem broadcast live around the world was only the most visible and visceral part of the effort to overturn the election. The effort extended all the way into the Oval Office, where Mr. Trump and his allies plotted a constitutional self-coup."

The Washington Post editorial board said it's been one year since the violence came home.

"One year ago, President Donald Trump incited a violent mob of his supporters to desecrate the U.S. Capitol," the board wrote. "Their goal: to prevent Congress from counting electoral votes and declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election. It appeared possible that Mr. Trump’s campaign to advance his personal interests at the expense of the country’s had finally reached a turning point. So shocking was the disregard for the democratic process that even senior Republicans might understand the peril they had invited by bowing to Mr. Trump.

"But Mr. Trump quickly regained hold of the Republican Party," the board wrote. "Three weeks after Jan. 6, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made a penitential pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago. He and his fellow Republicans rejected efforts to create a bipartisan panel to investigate the insurrection; some even defended the rioters. They booted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) out of their leadership for refusing to go along with Mr. Trump’s lies. Republican state legislatures passed anti-voting measures and conducted bogus vote audits designed not to reconfirm the integrity of what experts declared to be a safe and secure election but to provide fodder for conspiracy theorists."

Former president Jimmy Carter penned an opinion piece saying he feared for our democracy.

"Politicians in my home state of Georgia, as well as in others, such as Texas and Florida, have leveraged the distrust they have created to enact laws that empower partisan legislatures to intervene in election processes," he wrote. "They seek to win by any means, and many Americans are being persuaded to think and act likewise, threatening to collapse the foundations of our security and democracy with breathtaking speed. I now fear that what we have fought so hard to achieve globally — the right to free, fair elections, unhindered by strongman politicians who seek nothing more than to grow their own power — has become dangerously fragile at home.

"Citizens should be able to participate easily in transparent, safe and secure electoral processes," he added. “Claims of election irregularities should be submitted in good faith for adjudication by the courts, with all participants agreeing to accept the findings. And the election process should be conducted peacefully, free of intimidation and violence... we must push for reforms that ensure the security and accessibility of our elections and ensure public confidence in the accuracy of results. Phony claims of illegal voting and pointless multiple audits only detract from democratic ideals."

My take.

As I said before the Christmas break, I relate to much of what the right feels about the riots on January 6th: "coup" or "insurrection" are terms that don't fit. Democrats are obviously interested in squeezing the most political leverage out of the day as possible, and their voting reforms are not about January 6th so much as they are about long-sought voting legislation Democrats want to pass. Many in the corporate media have harkened back to the day every single day since for clicks, ratings and all the other bad motivators that are eating the media industry alive from the inside out.

But it's also true that some of the polling around the issue can be misleading, or at least context-free. Yes, 58% of Republicans don't think Joe Biden was elected legitimately. But 67% of Democrats didn't think Trump was elected legitimately in 2017, either because of “Russia” or his popular vote loss. According to the same pollster, more people refused to accept the 2016 election than the 2020 election. Again: This stuff is good to keep in mind.

However, I'll emphasize again what I said about the January 6th investigations: The scariest thing that happened around that day was not the riots (of course, I wasn't locked inside the Capitol while hundreds of people were kicking down doors and someone was being shot). The rioters are being prosecuted, some seriously and others with minor charges or probation. Many have expressed remorse and regret in court about what they did, and some are having the book thrown at them in ways anti-incarceration progressives would typically object to.

All this aside, the scariest thing for me is and remains what we've learned about Trump and his team's efforts to stay in power.

Just this week, Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro — who has become a hero in the "Stop the Steal" movement — told Rolling Stone there were over 100 members of Congress "lined up to execute" a plan the administration came up with to try to contest certification of the election, deprive both candidates of 270 Electoral College votes, and throw the election to the House of Representatives where Trump would have had an advantage because of an archaic rule that each state’s House delegation gets only one vote in contested elections.

Navarro shared this information as a way of bragging, but he should be ashamed. It's embarrassing — horrifying, really — and would have caused a Constitutional crisis that likely would have led to mass violence in the streets and something akin to a Civil War. And, eventually, Trump would have lost anyway, because we now know with 100% certainty that he had no legal standing to object to the results of the election, since no state secretaries had legitimate objections about the results they were submitting, because there was no widespread fraud, and none has been proven since.

This is no longer a matter of opinion or speculation as it was a year ago, even though I was fairly certain of it then, too. Numerous statewide audits, even those led by unqualified, non-governmental, pro-Trump outfits, have returned results that affirmed Biden's win or, in especially embarrassing cases, even added to his margin of victory despite making dozens of obvious mistakes. As in all elections, this one had smatterings of voter fraud across the country. But one year later, the claims of election fraud, widespread vote rigging, stolen ballots, rigged voting machines, illegal voters, dead voters — none of them have held up in any substantial way. No state boards, private tech gurus or courtrooms have legitimized those claims. They are lies.

Many of the people who spread the lies, importantly, have made an unthinkable amount of money doing so. Leaders of the movement claiming the election was rigged have raised millions of dollars for failed court challenges where they spent a fraction of that money on making their cases. Some have simply set up GoFundMe's or PayPal accounts and raked in thousands of dollars from supporters. Others have set up websites, or curried the favor of far-right news outlets, and together juiced their traffic and video views to make it rain money. The obvious motivations, somehow, seem lost on many of the people who are giving these grifters money though some donors have been smart or angry enough to ask for their money back.

Of course, I know a lot of my readers and social media followers believe the election was stolen. I've engaged hundreds — if not thousands — of them directly. I'm proud to say I've actually changed some minds. I'm also willing to concede that many of them have legitimate gripes: Mark Zuckerberg's $400 million to fund elections was incredibly sketchy and has been under-covered by mainstream news outlets (though some have shared valuable context). Twitter also erroneously and egregiously censored news stories that were damaging for Biden. And, even though I thought it was necessary, the 2020 elections saw unprecedented numbers of laws changed or amended in order to facilitate the vote during a pandemic. There was a lot of confusion and some understandable suspicion in an election that was so divisive.

But the votes? Those were real. And they've been counted, re-counted, spun around and checked for shreds of bamboo. And the results keep coming out the same: Biden won. At the end of the day, gripes about Twitter censorship are just like Hillary Clinton's sour grapes about Comey announcing an investigation on the eve of the election into her emails or Russia’s troll farms spreading misinformation. I’m sure they had an impact, and they exposed things we need to fix, but they don’t make it a stolen election.

At the end of the day, this belief that the election was stolen is at the heart of January 6th. It’s why thousands showed up for the rally, why they gleefully tore through the Capitol, and why some of them seemed intent on violently halting the Electoral College process. It’s why they thought they were protecting the country and not hurting it.

There isn’t a single silver bullet to fix the things at the crux of that, and it’s worth remembering there were tens of millions of Trump voters who didn’t show up in D.C. that day and have never supported the actions of those rioters. The January 6 investigation, which I scoffed at in the beginning, has brought a lot of new and important information to light. I’ll be watching it closely going forward. Reforms to the Electoral Count Act would be a nice bipartisan step for Congress to take, and could help tamp down the idea an election could be overturned once it is certified by the state who administers it.

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Your questions, answered.

Q: Why do you and other "growth above all" folks refuse to even talk about putting a limit to the number of children our taxes subsidize?  Overpopulation is destroying the planet. Your insistence that subsidizing large families NOT be discussed seems inconsistent with most basic principles of sustainability. A sane policy would be to increase the subsidy for the first child at all income levels to $400,000 and then half for the second child and absolutely NO support for additional children. For those earning over 100K it would be reasonable to decrease the subsidy for more than 2 kids. It is not fair that working mothers of small families are forced to have their tax dollars subsidize large families, particularly affluent people with large families.

— BJ, Houston, Texas

Tangle: I'm not sure where you get the idea that I'm "growth above all," but I'm not. I actually wrote a whole edition about whether we should be concerned about declining population growth, including this bit:

The optimist in me would love to look at declining birth rates and celebrate. The most obvious reason being that we are no longer living in some archaic, male-dominated society that views women as little more than children producers. That, and the fact population strain is a real thing. It’s clear our planet’s resources are both finite and dwindling. Water, food, and habitable areas to live are in increasingly high demand, all while cities are overflowing and sprawling, and there is an easy way to reframe this discussion where the slowing population growth is a good reflection of a maturing society, good for the planet and good for those of us who are already here.

I ended up not really taking a firm position on the threat of declining population growth, as both sides of the argument make really compelling points. But I wouldn't at all be opposed to the proposal you laid out — in fact, I think it's a perfectly reasonable way to keep the cost down and to make having children more affordable for Americans!

Want to ask a question? You can reply to this email and write in (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

A story that matters.

Epidemiologists at the CDC have said one of the most important ways to slow the pandemic is to use rapid tests before gathering. But in the U.S., the tests remain prohibitively expensive for many. Thanks to a deal with the Biden administration, the tests were being sold "at-cost" by Walmart, Amazon and Kroger for around $14. But that deal expired, and on Tuesday the price of some testing kits went up to $19.88 — then $23.99 at Kroger for a box containing two tests. Now, emerging evidence suggests rapid test nasal swabs may be returning false negatives — and saliva samples may be better for detecting Omicron. Axios has the story.


  • 23%. The percentage of Democrats who say it is sometimes justified for citizens to take violent action against the government.
  • 40%. The percentage of Republicans who say it is sometimes justified for citizens to take violent action against the government.
  • 60%. The percentage of U.S. adults who say Trump bears a "great deal" or a "good amount" of responsibility for the January 6th attacks at the Capitol.
  • 92%. The percentage of Democrats who say Trump bears a "great deal" or a "good amount" of responsibility for the January 6th attacks at the Capitol.
  • 27%. The percentage of Republicans who say Trump bears a "great deal" or a "good amount" of responsibility for the January 6th attacks at the Capitol.

Have a nice day.

I'll let the BBC just tell this story in a single sentence: "A Chinese man who was abducted over 30 years ago has been reunited with his biological mother after drawing a map of his childhood village from memory." Li Jingwei was four years old when he was taken from his family and lost in a child trafficking ring. In an attempt to find his childhood home, he used the app Douyin to share a hand-drawn map of what he remembered, which other users recognized and identified. Police matched the map to a small village where a woman’s son had disappeared many years before, and after submitting DNA tests he was reunited with his mother. BBC has the remarkable tale.

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