Posts tagged with "Politico"

How the January 6 panel’s star witness drew a roadmap for Trump’s culpability

CasJune 30, 2022

Cassidy Hutchinson wasn’t a household name before her testimony at the January 6 select committee’s hearing on Tuesday, June 28, but it seems unlikely she’ll remain in obscurity now, reports Politico.

With what may prove the most damning testimony about a sitting president’s actions in American history, the former right hand of ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stitched together every element of the panel’s case against former President Donald Trump, Politico says.

The Capitol riot committee has painted the former president’s potential criminal culpability for his effort to overturn the election in stark hues: investigators have portrayed Trump fuming atop an increasingly conspiracy-addled West Wing and working to corrupt the peaceful transfer of power at any cost.

Yet it was their sixth hearing that most clearly cast Trump as a uniquely pernicious force, thanks to a soft-spoken but bell-clear witness.

“I was disgusted,” Hutchinson said of Trump’s behavior on January 6, particularly after he tweeted an attack on Mike Pence as the then-vice president was fleeing rioters who’d called for his execution. “It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

And, while Trump and his allies rejected her assertions as “hearsay”—or, in Trump’s case, simply false—the former president’s allies have offered limited pushback so far to any of the specific evidence and recollections she presented. In fact, much of what she described has been corroborated by others.

Among her recollections, part of a succession of shocking details from inside the White House:

  • Trump was informed that members of the crowd during the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021, carried weapons. He asked the Secret Service to dismantle metal detectors to let them into the Ellipse,  so that his audience would appear larger on TV. Those rallygoers would later march to the Capitol and mount a violent siege aimed at disrupting Congress’ certification of Trump’s loss.
  • Trump lunged at the steering wheel of his presidential vehicle after he was informed that the Secret Service would not permit him to travel to the Capitol following his speech at that Ellipse rally.
  • Trump told aides that he agreed with those who had stormed the Capitol and thought they were “right” to call for Pence’s hanging.
  • Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani sought pardons from the then-president for their actions on that date related to challenging the election.

Hutchinson shared her sworn narrative just as federal prosecutors appear to be closing in on several of Trump’s top supporters/aides in his effort to stay in power. FBI agents last week seized the cell phone of attorney John Eastman, who devised a January 6 strategy to pressure Pence to overturn the election; they also searched the Lorton, Virginia, residence of Jeffery Clark, a former Justice Department official whom Trump nearly appointed acting attorney general to aid his election subversion push.

Meanwhile, Trump was also watching. The former president uncorked an 11-post tirade against Hutchinson on the Truth Social platform he created after getting booted from Twitter post-Capitol riot. He called her a “third-rate social climber,” denying her accounts of his comments about Pence as well as his apparent physical confrontation with his Secret Service leader—and even suggested her handwriting was indicative of a “whacko.”

Some Trump allies sought to puncture Hutchinson’s credibility by casting doubt on the notion that Trump could have lunged at the wheel of his car, given the layout of the presidential limousine known as “The Beast.” However, he was not riding in the beast; but in an SUV he often used.

Former security aide Tony Ornato relayed to her the details of what took place in Trump’s Secret Service vehicle, as she explained to the select panel.

Yet Hutchinson laid out a road map for the committee to test her own credibility. She showed that, time and again, she was a go-to for Trump backers looking to connect with Meadows and, ultimately, the former president himself.

McCarthy called her to vent about Trump’s rally speech on January 6, she recalled. Cipollone complained to her that White House aides could be on the hook for crimes if Trump traveled to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she said. And former national intelligence director John Ratcliffe told Hutchinson he was concerned about Trump’s effort to overturn the election, she testified.

Even when Hutchinson wasn’t dropping bombshells, she was helping paint a granular picture of Trump’s West Wing and how it operated. She described top officials as falling into three camps during the riot: those who pleaded with Trump to call off the rioters; those who stayed “neutral,” knowing that Trump didn’t want to act; and those who wanted to “deflect” blame for the violence away from Trump supporters.

Hutchinson described the layout of the West Wing, the way information flowed among officials in Trump’s chaotic offices, and the way Meadows was the connective tissue for Trump among a slew of disparate factions within his orbit.

Where the select committee goes from here is a bigger question now, Politico notes. Its chair, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), floated the possibility of calling then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in for a transcribed hearing. The former top Trump White House lawyer already has met informally with the panel but has not sat for the type of on-camera interview that many other former aides have.

The panel also plans to highlight the nexus between Trump’s orbit and the domestic extremist groups that seeded the Capitol riot—including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. And there’s likely to be a further public effort to reconstruct Trump’s movements on January 6, as he watched the violence unfold on TV, but took no actions to help quell the mob.

Research contact: @politico

Testimony to January 6 panel: Mark Meadows burned papers after WH meeting with Scott Perry

May 31, 2022

Weeks after Election Day 2020, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge Joe Biden’s win, according to testimony that the January 6 select committee has heard from one of Meadows’ former aides, reports Politico.

Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked for Meadows at that time, told the panel investigating the Capitol attack that she saw Meadows incinerate documents after a meeting in his office with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania). A person familiar with the testimony described it on condition of anonymity.

The Meadows-Perry meeting came in the weeks after Election Day 2020, as Trump and his allies searched for ways to reverse the election results.

It’s unclear whether Hutchinson told the committee which specific papers were burnt, and if federal records laws required the materials’ preservation. Meadows’ destruction of papers is a key focus for the select committee, and the person familiar with the testimony said investigators pressed Hutchinson for details about the issue for more than 90 minutes during a recent deposition.

Politico could not independently confirm that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Perry.

A lawyer for Meadows declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for the January 6 committee. A lawyer for Hutchinson did not respond to requests for comment, and neither did a spokesperson for Perry.

Before the 2020 election, Perry—who represents the Harrisburg, Pennyslvania, region — had a relatively low national profile. But testimony and documents obtained by congressional investigators show he was the first person to connect Trump with Jeffrey Clark, a top Justice Department official who sympathized with the then-president’s efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.

Senior Trump DOJ officials have testified that the former president came close to appointing Clark as acting attorney general in order to use the department’s extraordinary powers to sow doubt about the election results and urge state legislatures to consider overriding Biden’s victory.

Perry, now chair of the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, spent weeks pressing Meadows to implement the plan.

Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down,” Perry texted Meadows on December 26, 2020, according to messages released by the select panel. “11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!”

But the effort didn’t come to fruition. Instead, in an Oval Office meeting, the rest of DOJ leadership threatened to quit if Trump made Clark attorney general.

The select committee has also revealed that Meadows and Perry took steps to conceal some of their communications after the election. For example, in a December 2020 text message exchange the committee included in an April court filing, Perry told Meadows he had “just sent you something on Signal,” referring to the encrypted messaging app popular with journalists and government officials.

An investigation by Democrats on the  Senate Judiciary Committee  last year delved further into Perry’s involvement in the attempt to overturn the election and urged the January. 6 select panel to look into the Pennsylvanian further.

The New York Times first reported that the committee heard testimony indicating that Meadows had  burned White House papers. The Trump White House’s unorthodox approach to document management has drawn significant media scrutiny in recent weeks—and has also caught the attention of DOJ.

During his presidency, Trump was known to tear up papers and throw them in the trash. Aides would scurry to reassemble those papers for archiving, as federal record-keeping laws require.

After leaving the White House, Trump had 15 boxes of documents shipped to Mar-a-Lago. Some of those boxes were marked as classified, according to The Washington Post, and the Justice Department is now investigating the matter. Mishandling classified material is illegal.

Research contact: @politico

New York’s new congressional maps would place five pairs of incumbents in the same districts

May 20, 2022

A new set of draft maps for New York’s congressional districts were released on May 16—upending several potential races and sending candidates scurrying to reset their campaigns or reconsider their plans to run, reports Politico.

The maps for New York’s 26 congressional districts will play an instrumental role in whether Democrats can retain control of the House in the midterm elections—and the latest maps, drawn by a special master after a successful court case by Republicans, would pit several Democrats against one another.

 The maps would create five districts that contain the homes of multiple incumbents, potentially setting the stage for several high-profile battles for August and November. Those include a battle for parts of Manhattan between Democratic veteran Representatives Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney.

 Nadler ripped the proposed lines, but added that “provided that they become permanent, I very much look forward to running in and representing the people of the newly created 12th District of New York.”

 

Indeed, the draft lines create a lot more competition than what had previously been expected. Maps drawn by Democrats in February would have made their party the favorite in 22 of the state’s 26 seats, with only a small handful of the seats having even the potential for upsets. Those were thrown out by New York’s top court last month, and the mapmaking process has since been handed to Steuben County Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister and special master Jonathan Cervas, a fellow at Carnegie Mellon. 
The maps proposed by Cervas would lead to 21 districts where Democrats would have an edge based on their performance in past elections. But that edge is extremely slim in at least five of these seats, leading to multiple races that will likely be considered toss-ups. In a couple of others, a Republican upset is far from implausible.
Cervas’ plans are not final. There is now a brief public comment period before he releases binding maps on Friday, May 20. 
If the maps stand, even when incumbents were drawn into the same seats, they could very well opt against running against each other. Members of Congress do not need to reside in the districts they represent, so there could well be a few members who decide to stay put, but run for office a couple of miles down the road. 
But unless the plans released Friday contain major overhauls, it’s clear that there will be numerous free-for-alls in New York in the coming months, featuring several seats that had been on few peoples’ radars into hotly competitive races.

 Research contact: @politico

New Hampshire governor says out loud what many Republicans think about Donald Trump

April 5, 2022

Over the weekend, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, spoke at the Gridiron dinner, an annual gathering of Washington media and political types. And he let ‘er rip on Donald Trump, reports CNN.

“He’s f—ing crazy!” Sununu saidaccording to Politico. “The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And I’ll say it this way: I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out!”

Now, the Gridiron is a roast of sorts—a usually polite send-up of Washington’s political culture. So, yes, Sununu was “joking,” notes CNN. But like all good humor, there’s a kernel of truth in what he had to say.

Time after time over the last several years, when the topic of Trump comes up, influential Republicans—including some former elected officials—raise questions about what motivates the former President and, well, what exactly he is thinking when it comes to what he says and does.

Chatter about Trump’s mental state has, in fact, been an ongoing component of his time at the top of the Republican Party.

“Peril,” Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s book about the final months of the Trump presidency, is larded with questions about Trump’s mental state.

The following excerpt from the book refers to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, who was the highest ranking general in the administration, about the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol: “[He] was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies,” Woodward and Costa write.

The book also cites this from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in a call to Trump on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration: “I don’t know what’s happened to you in the last two months. … You’re not the same as you were for the last four years.”

If anything, CNN notes, the intervening months have seen Trump go deeper into his election fraud fantasies—growing more and more disconnected from actual facts. Just last week, Trump urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to release negative information he may have about Hunter Biden, the son of the current president.

This is not an academic discussion. Trump is, without question, the frontrunner to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. We should all be worried about what it means for the country going forward.

Research contact: @CNN

Ukraine launches NFT sale to fund fight against Russia

March 28, 2022

Ukraine is selling nonfungible tokens (NFTs) inspired by Russia’s invasion, with the proceeds going toward the support of the nation’s army and civilians, Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov  announced on Friday, March 25, reports Forbes.

The project, part of the Meta Museum History of War, aims to memorialize the invasion, “spread truthful information” online and to collect donations for Ukraine, according to the website.

The 54 NFTs that make up the collection so far explore the events of the Russian invasion chronologically, with pieces inspired by landmarks in the conflict—starting with the February 24 announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin of what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Buyers will be able to purchase the NFTs with ether, and all proceeds will go directly to the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation.

The sale’s format and prices will be announced in the coming days, a representative told Forbes, saying they hope the project raises millions of dollars for Ukraine.

More NFTs are in the works, the representative told Forbes, and the museum plans to create digital collectibles to “continue depicting … history until this awful war will end.”

To date, Ukraine has received $65.9 million in cryptocurrency to help fund its war efforts. Earlier this month, an NFT of the Ukrainian flag sold for roughly $6.75 million, with proceeds going to Come Back Alive, a group that supports the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Ukraine, which in 2019 established its Ministry of Digital Transformation, has used the internet and crypto to help wage a “digital battle” against Russia. Federov has used his Twitter account to shame companies still operating in Russia, as many choose to suspend business there amid the invasion.

The ministry also has  directed  hackers—who are volunteers and not officially affiliated with the Ukrainian government—to temporarily take down websites for the Moscow Exchange and other Russian institutions.

“We are the first in the world to introduce this new warfare. And it’s powerful, yet simple at the same time,” Oleksandr Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation, told Politico earlier this month. “It’s impossible to disrupt it or break it down.”

Research contact: @Forbes

Former AG Bill Barr has spoken to January 6 Committee, chairman says

January 25, 2022

The chair of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol said on Sunday, January 23, that former Attorney General Bill Barr  already has spoken with investigators—a major revelation that at least some former Trump Administration officials are cooperating with the probe into the deadly insurrection, reports HuffPost.

“To be honest with you, we’ve had conversations with the former attorney general already,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) said on CBS-TV’s’ Face the Nation. “We’ve talked to Department of Defense individuals. We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false.”

Thompson’s remarks came amid questioning over recent reports that Trump was presented with a draft executive order that would have directed the Pentagon to seize voting machines in battleground states after he lost the 2020 election. Politico first reported last week that the document is among several records Trump’s attorneys were trying to shield from January 6 investigators.

The Supreme Court ruled this month, however, that the National Archives should turn the documents over, and the select committee said just hours later that it had already begun to receive the records.

Thompson told CBS News host Margaret Brennan that the plan was only a draft and never became operational—but said that lawmakers remained concerned about the reports and would let the public know if it found evidence of any “individual who [were] participating in trying to stop the election.”

“If you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines, even though it’s a discussion, the public needs to know. We’ve never had that before,” Thompson said Sunday.

It’s unclear what Barr discussed with the panel, or if he spoke about the draft order on voting machines, but the fact that he spoke with lawmakers is significant. Several top Trump officials have refused to do so, even as the select committee has ramped up its issuance of subpoenas.

The Washington Post reported that the committee’s conversations with Barr were “informal,” citing a committee staffer familiar with the discussions. The outlet added that lawmakers also have already interviewed Barr’s successor, Jeffrey Rosen.

Barr was closely allied with Trump throughout his tenure at the Justice Department, but he resigned in December 2020 after he refused to back up the then-president’s false claims about election fraud.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Biden extends pause on student loan repayment through May 1

December 23, 2021

President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday, December 22, that he is extending the pause on student loan payments until May 1, reports CNN.

The payments—which had been set to restart on February 1—have been paused since the beginning of the pandemic. Biden pointed to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the country as the reason for the extension.

“Given these considerations, today my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days—through May 1, 2022 —as we manage the ongoing pandemic and further strengthen our economic recovery,” Biden said in a statement, adding, “Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation.”

The reversal comes less than two weeks after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had indicated that the Administration still was planning to restart federal student loan payments in February—resisting pressure from some fellow Democrats who have been calling for an extension of coronavirus pandemic relief benefits.

The possible extension was first reported by Politico.

Borrower balances have effectively been frozen for nearly two years, with no payments required on most federal student loans since March 2020. During this time, interest has stopped adding up and collections on defaulted debt have been on hold.

Both Biden and former President Donald Trump took actions to extend the pause. Most recently, Biden moved the payment restart date from September 30, 2021, to January 31, 2022, but the Administration made clear at the time that this would be the final extension.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, as well as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ayanna Pressley, both of Massachusetts, have been pressuring Biden to extend the student loan repayment pause and applauded the extension announcement.

“Extending the pause will help millions of Americans make ends meet, especially as we overcome the Omicron variant,” Schumer, Warren, and Pressley said in a statement.

But they continued to urge Biden to take further action and cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower.

Biden said during the presidential campaign that he would support canceling $10,000 per borrower—but to date, had not taken action to do so, beyond directing federal agencies to conduct reviews on whether he has the authority.

When asked earlier this month about that campaign pledge, Psaki said the executive authority regarding student loan forgiveness is still under review and added that the President supports congressional action on the matter.

“If Congress sends him a bill, he’s happy to sign it. They haven’t sent him a bill on that yet,” she said.

Biden has repeatedly resisted pressure to cancel up to $50,000 per borrower since taking office—making it very clear during a CNN town hall early in the year that he did not support the idea.

Separately, since taking office, Biden’s Department of Education has made it easier for people who were defrauded by for-profit colleges to seek debt relief. It has also temporarily expanded the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that cancels outstanding debt for qualifying public service workers after they have made payments for ten years.

“As we prepare for the return to repayment in May, we will continue to provide tools and supports to borrowers so they can enter into the repayment plan that is responsive to their financial situation, such as an income-driven repayment plan,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement Wednesday.

Borrowers will receive a billing statement or other notice at least 21 days before their payment is due, according to the Department of Education. Those who had set up auto payments may need to notify their loan servicing company they want those to continue.

If federal student loan borrowers can no longer afford their monthly payments, they may be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan. Under those plans, which are based on income and family size, a monthly payment can be as low as $0 a month. The Department of Education has more information online about the payment restart.

Research contact: @CNN

Scott Perry says he will not cooperate with the January 6 panel

December 22, 2021

Representative Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania), a central figure in Donald Trump’s effort to weaponize the Justice Department in support of his false election fraud claims, is refusing to cooperate with the House’s January 6 select committee, reports Politico’s Congress Minutes.

Perry rejected an interview request from the panel on Tuesday, December 21—a day after the committee asked him to appear voluntarily.

In a statement, Perry said: “I decline this entity’s request and will continue to fight the failures of the radical Left who desperately seek distraction from their abject failures of crushing inflation, a humiliating surrender in Afghanistan, and the horrendous crisis they created at our border.”

His refusal sets up a potentially unprecedented confrontation between the committee and a fellow member of the House.

The select panel sent Perry— the recently elected chair of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus—a letter on Monday evening asking for an interview, as well as documents related to its inquiry into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Trump’s efforts to pressure the Department of Justice to intervene in the 2020 election.

Panel Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) said in a letter to Perry that they had uncovered evidence linking the Pennsylvania Republican to the meddling at the Department of Justice as well as texts and communications—including over the encrypted app Signa —with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

The panel also said it had evidence of Perry’s communications with the White House and others involved with conspiracy theories about voting machines made by Dominion.

Despite legal challenges to the committee’s legitimacy, federal courts have repeatedly found the panel to be duly authorized and pursuing a legitimate legislative goal.

A spokesperson for the committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Research contact: @politico

White House lights into Manchin after he crushes Biden’s megabill

December 21, 2021

Senator Joe Manchin struck a decisive blow to President Joe Biden’s sweeping social and climate spending bill on Sunday, December 19—igniting a bitter clash with his own party’s White House, reports Politico.

Biden left negotiations with Manchin this week thinking the two men could cut a deal next year on his sweeping agenda. Then the West Virginia Democrat bluntly said he is a “no” on the $1.7 trillion in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

“If I can’t go home and explain to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin said. “This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”

Those comments prompted an immediate war with the White House, which took personal aim at Manchin for what officials saw as a breach of trust.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released an unusually blunt statement saying that Manchin’s comments “are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances.”

In announcing his opposition, Manchin raised the same concerns about the bill that he’s had all along: inflation, rising debt, and a mismatch between the package’s ten-year funding and its shorter-term programs, Politico noted. But until Sunday, Manchin had never taken a hard line on the legislation. In the past week, he’s spoken directly to Biden several times, with the president and other Democrats furiously lobbying him to support the bill.

With an evenly split Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) needs every Democrat to go along with the legislation, which only requires a simple majority vote. That dynamic gives Manchin enormous leverage over Biden’s agenda—allowing him to single-handedly sink a priority that Democrats have spent much of the year working on, Politico says.

Manchin’s rollout on Fox News infuriated Democrats Sunday morning. Psaki said that the senator had brought Biden an outline of a bill similar in size and scope that “could lead to a compromise acceptable to all.”

“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the president and the senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” Psaki said. “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”

And while the centrist senator’s staff informed White House and Democratic aides about his forthcoming blow to Biden’s agenda, some Democrats were steamed that Manchin himself hadn’t called Biden or Schumer.

“Manchin didn’t have the courage to call the White House or Democratic leadership himself ahead of time,” fumed one Democrat familiar with internal conversations.

While tempers flared on Sunday, the White House began privately and hastily exploring ways to keep the legislative initiative alive. A White House official told Politico that he believes there are critical elements of the social spending bill that must get done. They plan to continue talking with Manchin and to urge him to honor his previous commitments.

The official added that now may be an opportunity to revisit a concept of the bill that included fewer programs but was paid for over more years — an option that moderate House Democrats and party leaders such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) had pushed for previously.

Centrist New Democrat Coalition Chair Representative Suzan DelBene (D-Washington) said in a statement Sunday that including fewer programs in the legislation but for longer durations “could open a potential path forward for this legislation.”

Research contact: @politico

Biden plans forceful push for voting rights

December 17, 2021

The White House wants to mark the new year with a forceful push for voting rights—portraying the protection of the ballot as a battle for democracy itself. But despite a renewed emphasis from an increasingly impatient and frustrated base, prospects for legislative success still look grim, reports Politico.

West Wing aides believe that fresh federal efforts to defend the ballot and install safeguards ahead of the midterm elections are likely to be dashed by some Democrats’ resistance to changing the Senate filibuster—a reluctance that has been spearheaded for months by Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

The White House has been considering connecting the voting rights drive with the upcoming first anniversary of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, making the case that the most sacred tenant of America’s democracy remains under siege one year after the insurrection fueled by the election fraud lies told by former President Donald Trump.

To strongly make that case, the president and his team had been hoping to clear the legislative deck by the January 6 anniversary. But the president’s social spending bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, appears stalled for the foreseeable future in the Senate, with Manchin’s refusal to commit to the $1.75 trillion legislation seemingly certain to push the measure into early 2022.

According to Politico, Biden signaled on Wednesday, December 14, that he’d be fine with prioritizing election reform for the time being, saying: “If we can get the congressional voting rights done, we should do it. … There’s nothing domestically more important than voting rights.” But, previously, White House aides had consistently signaled that they wanted the social spending bill first and voting rights second.

That sequencing has irked some of the president’s most fervent supporters, who fear he may get neither.

“The time is now. The urgency could not be more palpable than it is now,” said the  Reverand Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and a Biden confidant, who, like others, argued that voting rights should have been the Administration’s top priority in the wake of the moves by nearly 20 Republican-led legislatures to tighten state election laws.

“An inaction at this point would lead to an inaction of Black voters. People are saying, ‘If they don’t do this, I’m not voting,’” the civil rights leader said. “People are saying they feel betrayed.”

Echoing the sentiment of a growing number of Democrats who feel that Biden has simply not placed the defense of voting rights and elections at the center of his presidency, Sharpton said activists are now targeting Martin Luther King Jr. Day  on January 18 as an unofficial deadline for at least showing some real progress on voting rights. He and other activists plan to ramp up their criticisms of Democrats—with potential threats to refrain from campaigning ahead of the midterms—if action is not taken.

“I don’t want to become too dramatic,” said Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri), “but voting rights may be the only thing we have to at least halt the trek away from democracy.”

While the full scale of what the White House is planning remains unclear, Biden is expected to deliver a speech connecting the day to the defense of the ballot, aides said.

But aides also recognize that a full-court press on voting rights—even if good politics—would be doomed to fail without a change to the filibuster. And they are skeptical that they can bring reluctant Democrats on board for such changes.

While Manchin has said he is open to reforming the chamber’s rules in a bipartisan manner, he does not support nuking the legislative filibuster.

Other Democrats are losing patience, however. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) delivered a passionate speech from the Senate floor this week pushing Democrats to act on voting rights—noting that the Senate just scrapped a 60-vote threshold to pass a debt ceiling hike. Represenhtative Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), who has been in touch with Warnock, said he believes Democrats are “in a good place with the voting rights bill,” though it’s “not the timeline that I would want.”

“I don’t want it to be constrained by trying to do it before the end of the year. I don’t know that you have to do it before the end of the year,” Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House and a close Biden ally, said in an interview. “I just want us to get a bill done that will help preserve this democracy because if we don’t, I think we’ve lost this democracy.”

Research contact: @politico