Skip to content
The Morning Dispatch: Biden Decries Trump’s ‘Web of Lies’
Go to my account

The Morning Dispatch: Biden Decries Trump’s ‘Web of Lies’

Plus: Violent protests in Kazakhstan.

Happy Friday! Sen. Ted Cruz is very, very, very sorry that he referred to January 6 as a “violent terrorist attack” earlier this week. Please forgive him, 2024 presidential primary voters, he’ll never do it again.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • North Korean state media claimed on Thursday that the test missile the country launched earlier this week was hypersonic—not ballistic as Japanese and South Korean officials reported—and that it hit its target 700 kilometers away. If true, it would be the country’s second test of hypersonic technology, which renders missiles much more difficult to detect and intercept. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the launch on Wednesday in a call with Japan’s foreign minister, Hayashi Yoshimasa.

  • According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, U.S. mortgage rates reached their highest levels since May 2020 this week. “With higher inflation, promising economic growth and a tight labor market, we expect rates will continue to rise,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

  • Chicago Public School classes are canceled for a third consecutive day today as the district’s teachers union continues to urge its members to stay home from work due to concerns about the Omicron variant. CPS administrators and city officials continue to maintain that in-person instruction is both safe and necessary, and that only the roughly 10 percent of teachers who have shown up at schools the past two days will be paid.

  • The New York Times announced Thursday it had reached an agreement to acquire The Athletic—a digital sports media outlet—for $550 million, with the transaction likely to be completed in the first quarter of 2022.

  • Initial jobless claims increased by 7,000 week-over-week to 207,000 last week according to the Labor Department, remaining near record lows.

President Biden Goes After ‘The Former Guy’

(Photograph by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images.)

Since he was sworn into office last year, President Joe Biden really hasn’t talked about Donald Trump that much. His allies in Congress and the media certainly do—and Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin thanks them for it—but Biden mentioned Trump sparingly in 2021, often referring to him only as “the former guy” or “his predecessor” when doing so. 

Asked about the Republican standard-bearer last month, Biden brusquely responded that he “[doesn’t] think about the former president.”

All that changed Thursday, as Biden tore into Trump in a blistering speech marking the first anniversary of the January 6 riots. “The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said, standing in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. “He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.”

Speaking for about 25 minutes, Biden expressed gratitude for the law enforcement officers who heroically defended the Capitol a year earlier, and asked viewers to picture in their minds some of the horrifying images from that day. He defended the results of the 2020 election—the most “closely scrutinized” one in American history—and described the strain democracy is currently under worldwide.

“[Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin] have actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing, complicated world,” he said. “They’re betting America will become more like them and less like us. They’re betting that America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strongman. I do not believe that. That is not who we are. That is not who we have ever been. And that is not who we should ever, ever be.”

Biden was at his most fiery when discussing Trump, whom he described as having “held a dagger at the throat” of American democracy. “He has done what no president in American history—the history of this country—has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election, and the will of the American people,” Biden said. “He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham described the speech as “brazen politicization of January 6,” and, in a way, he was correct: Any discussion of what happened that day is going to be political, because more than half the Republican congressional delegation stood behind the lies that led to the riot, and people like Graham are actively rooting for the man most responsible for the tragedy to return to the White House. Still, Biden in his remarks yesterday attempted to differentiate Republicans who aren’t willing to grapple with Trump’s authoritarianism from the vanishingly few who are.

“Whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible,” he said. “If we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible.”

Two such Republicans—Rep. Liz Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney—were the only members of their party present in the House chamber on Thursday to reflect on the attacks. (Several lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were in Atlanta for the late Sen. Johnny Isakson’s funeral.) “I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation,” the elder Cheney said.  

Among Republicans, the most common response to yesterday’s anniversary was no response at all. But those who did issue statements made heavy use of the passive voice.

“It should have never happened,” said Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of failing to take responsibility for protecting the Capitol grounds. He did not address why the Capitol grounds needed protecting.

Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona condemned “the violence and destruction that occurred” before pivoting to what she described as the “most important question” about January 6: “Why was the U.S. Capitol left so vulnerable and unprepared?”

Even McConnell—who last February said the January 6 rioters engaged in terrorism “because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerfal man on Earth”—made no mention yesterday of the forces that contributed to the attack. 

“January 6th, 2021 was a dark day for Congress and our country. The United States Capitol, the seat of the first branch of our federal government, was stormed by criminals who brutalized police officers and used force to try to stop Congress from doing its job,” he said, describing the scene as “antithetical” to the rule of law. “It has been stunning to see some Washington Democrats try to exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event.”

Many Democratic leaders have indeed sought to capitalize on the GOP’s embarrassment—preventing a repeat of January 6 does not require eliminating the legislative filibuster, for example—and plenty on the left have used over-the-top rhetoric in describing the events of that day. As bad as January 6 was, comparing it to 9/11 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor—as Vice President Kamala Harris did yesterday—diminishes the truly catastrophic death tolls of the latter two.

But Republicans rely on these whataboutist rhetorical sleights-of-hand because it’s far easier than confronting the uncomfortable truth: The leader of their party bought into an insane legal theory that the vice president of the United States could singlehandedly overrule nearly 160 million votes in a presidential election, and he assembled and unleashed an angry and violent mob to pressure Mike Pence to do so.

Aside from Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, few elected Republicans are actively defending that. But in refusing to vocally acknowledge that that is indeed what transpired—and arguing that the media’s and/or the Democratsreaction to January 6 is more significant than January 6 itself—GOP officials are effectively laying the kindling for it to happen again. Because Trump—whom 74 percent of Republican voters want to run one more time in 2024, up from 65 percent in late 2020—is not going gently into that good night.

“​​They’re the ones who tried to stop the peaceful transfer with a rigged election. Just look at the numbers,” he said yesterday, describing Election Day as “the real insurrection” in his emailed statement. “Never forget the crime of the 2020 Presidential Election. Never give up!”

Chaos in Kazakhstan

What began as internal demonstrations in Kazakhstan opposing increased fuel prices has swelled into a geopolitical crisis after unrest spread and the country’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, appealed to a Russia-led military alliance to deploy troops in response. Fighting between security forces and protesters transformed the snow-cloaked city of Almaty into a virtual warzone as explosions, gunfire, and burning cars and buildings filled the main square. The United States has bolstered security forces around its embassy, and officials reportedly contemplated evacuating American diplomats and citizens from the country.

As of early Friday morning, Kazakhstan’s interior ministry reported that 18 police officers and 26 protesters had been killed in the clashes. More than 3,000 others have been arrested. 

“Calls to attack premises of civilian and military agencies are absolutely illegal. This is a crime and legal punishment may follow,” Tokayev said in a speech delivered on Wednesday. “I appeal to young people: do not ruin your life path and [the lives] of your loved ones. All your legitimate requests and demands will be carefully taken into account, appropriate decisions will be made.”

Overnight, Tokayev delivered a far more ominous address, announcing that he’d authorized law enforcement to “fire without warning” and shoot to kill the “terrorists” participating in the unrest. “Those who don’t surrender will be eliminated,” he said. “What negotiations can be held with criminals, murderers?”

Protests initially broke out in the Mangistau region on Sunday, after the government lifted a price cap on heavily subsidized liquefied petroleum gas. The fuel—on which many, particularly in Kazakhstan’s west, are reliant—more than doubled in price overnight. The government has since reversed its decision to lift the cap, but dissent had already gripped other areas of the former Soviet republic, culminating in a nationwide call for greater political freedom.

The bulk of the protesters’ ire has been directed at Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s leader for nearly three decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Despite stepping down as president in 2019 in favor of a hand-picked successor, the former Communist Party leader had remained steeped in Kazakhstan’s governance as chair of the Security Council. Demonstrators chanted “Shal, ket!”—Kazakh for “Old man out!”—in opposition to Nazarbayev’s decades of dictatorial rule. 

 

In an effort to placate the gatherings, Tokayev dismissed Nazarbayev and other government officials and declared a two-week state of emergency. Several military vehicles and troops deployed to Almaty, where protesters had stormed the presidential palace and police headquarters and reportedly occupied the airport. Kazakhstan’s state-run channel, Khabar 24, broadcast that two police officers had been decapitated in what it described as “direct proof of the rioting groups’ terrorist and extremist nature.” 

A nationwide blackout cut off Kazakhstanis’ access to the internet beginning Thursday morning, NetBlocks reported. Almost immediately thereafter, Bitcoin began to tank as the shutdown cut off the cryptocurrency’s second-largest mining hub.

According to John E. Herbst, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the scale and velocity of the upheaval caught many analysts by surprise. “Kazakhstan is an authoritarian regime. We know that there’s been unhappiness with coerced and falsified elections, and we know there’s been unhappiness among the Kazakhstani people with corruption,” he told The Dispatch. “What we didn’t know, of course, is that this general unhappiness would lead to the sudden eruption of unrest.”  

Some onlookers have drawn comparisons to another former Soviet state, Belarus, which experienced mass protests in opposition to Alexander Lukashenko’s 25-year plus rule in 2020. Once dubbed “Europe’s last dictator,” Lukashenko put down the protests through a brutal crackdown, mass arrests, and Russian support. 

Tokayev hopes help from the Kremlin can do the same in Kazakhstan. In a speech denouncing the country’s demonstrators as “terrorist gangs” that had “undergone serious training abroad,” the president called on an intervention by the Collective Security Treaty Organization—a Russian-led defensive alliance including Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. Russian paratroopers reportedly arrived in Almaty on Thursday, reigniting fighting in the city streets.

“[Russian President Vladimir Putin] responded to my appeal very promptly and, most importantly, warmly, in a friendly way,” Tokayev said Friday, claiming order had been “mainly restored” since Russian forces arrived.

In a statement on the operation, the Russian foreign ministry hinted at what Russian media had been reporting—overtly and covertly—since the outbreak of unrest: The West was responsible for instigating the demonstrations, if not outright orchestrating them. “We view the recent developments in this friendly country as externally provoked attempts at disrupting the security and integrity of the state through violent means, including trained and organized armed groups,” it said.

The United States, for its part, denied having had any involvement. “There are some crazy Russian claims about the U.S. being behind this,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing Wednesday, “so let me just use this opportunity to convey that as absolutely false and clearly a part of the standard Russian disinformation playbook we’ve seen a lot of in past years.”

In a call Thursday with his Kazakhstani counterpart, Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken “reiterated the United States’ full support for Kazakhstan’s constitutional institutions and media freedom and advocated for a peaceful, rights-respecting resolution to the crisis,” according to a readout. “The Secretary also raised the priority of promoting stability in Europe, including support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to Russian aggression.”

Some analysts have wondered whether the unrest may forestall a potential Russian re-invasion of Ukraine, as Putin could decide that restoring order in Kazakhstan is worth redirecting Russian troops from the Ukraine border. “Kazakhstan has been one of Russia’s closest associates or allies,” Herbst explained. “And the notion that a crowd could chase out a Kremlin-approved government and replace it with who-knows-what—Putin saw that as a danger to his position, as well as another bad example for the Russian people about how to treat dictators.” 

In addition to its Bitcoin mining, Kazakhstan is also Central Asia’s leading oil producer, accounting for about 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. “The instability in Kazakhstan will add a factor of insecurity to an already edgy global oil market already suffering from the loss of production in Libya, and put additional upward pressure on an already ascending oil price,” Brenda Shaffer, senior adviser for energy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Dispatch. “Kazakhstan was counted on to be a source of increased global oil production to meet rising global oil demand. While it’s likely the new production will make it to markets, the current situation raises some questions about global energy security in the upcoming year or two.”

Worth Your Time

  • Earlier this week, Jon Ward—Yahoo News’ chief national correspondent who previously worked for Tucker Carlson at The Daily Caller—published a systematic and thorough assessment of the various claims his former boss makes in his Patriot Purge documentary about the January 6 riots. “That examination shows Carlson makes alarming claims that are built on flimsy or inaccurate evidence, or does not consider information that contradicts his narrative,” he concludes. “Ultimately, he uses legitimate concerns—about FBI abuses of power in the past, about the ability of the government to conduct digital surveillance, and about treatment of prisoners—to weave a story about Jan. 6 that ends up making claims that aren’t supported by facts.” To get ahead of the story, Carlson attacked Ward on his show, claiming the reporter had “edited the transcript” of the documentary. This is false, as Ward explains in a subsequent post that includes his text message correspondence with Carlson. “In reality, I was texting him portions of my notes to fact-check a piece which had not yet been published, to make sure that our piece was accurate when it was published,” he writes. “Tucker called this ‘an example of media dishonesty.’ It was in fact the opposite: it was an example of basic journalism 101, preventing partial or incorrect information from going into the public square. The irony is that Tucker’s ‘Patriot Purge’ special is chock full of partial information, along with outright inaccuracies.”

  • GOP Rep. John Katko of upstate New York voted to impeach former President Trump, voted to censure Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, worked to negotiate a bipartisan January 6 commission, voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and voted for the bipartisan infrastructure package. He’s still a strong favorite to hold onto his seat next year. In a piece for Politico, Michael Kruse tries to figure out why. “There’s a level of independence there that I think is attractive to a moderate district,” said Ryan McMahon, a Republican Onondaga County executive. “And it drives the far right and the far left nuts.” Katko, thus far, has two Republican primary challengers—but neither are viewed as particularly serious. “It’s a year after the Capitol insurrection. It’s a year after John Katko voted for impeachment. Where, [Onondaga GOP chair Benedicte] Doran wondered at the Panera, is the person who’s going to punish him by beating him in a primary?” Kruse writes. “Where is Donald Trump’s endorsement? ‘Nobody wants to back a guy who’s not going to win,’ she told me. ‘My opinion is nobody has come forward and they’re making excuses because they know they can’t beat him.’”

  • We wrote to you on Tuesday about Omicron driving K-12 schools back into remote learning, but it isn’t just younger kids who are losing access to in-person instruction again—Yale, UCLA, Duke, Stanford, Michigan State, and many other colleges and universities have shifted their plans as well. For The Atlantic, Brown University economist Emily Oster argues this is a mistake. “I don’t know if universities were right to go largely or fully remote in 2020. The world before vaccines was a different one, and the choices were difficult,” she writes. “I am certain, though, that moving to remote instruction is the wrong choice now. … Universities also have a responsibility to their students. And this is not just a minor responsibility; it is their core responsibility. Parents entrust their children to universities. Many professors—myself included—have looked those parents in the eye and told them a version of I will watch out for your child. We have a responsibility to follow through on this now. We can do it very simply: by letting them go to school.”

Presented Without Comment 

Presented Without Comment 

Presented Without Comment 

Toeing the Company Line

  • Stirewaltisms is here! In the first installment of his new political newsletter, Chris dives into Nancy Pelosi’s potential retirement, the increasingly bizarre Ohio GOP senate primary, Ted Cruz’s preemptive impeachment talk, Larry Hogan laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign, and the first anniversary of January 6. “We’re the ones who get to decide whether January 6 was the start of something or the end of something,” he writes.

  • On Thursday’s Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah previewed the vaccine mandate oral arguments set to take place at the Supreme Court in a few hours, and examined the potential Electoral Count Act reforms that have become all the rage in recent weeks. Can Congress save America from further electoral chaos?

  • On the site today, David J. Kramer writes that the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is real, but that, contrary to what some experts have said, Vladimir Putin has not backed himself into a corner.

  • Weifeng Zhong notes that Xi Jinping is cracking down on private investment in Chinese media companies, giving more power to state-run outlets. He says that it’s time for the U.S. to up its game on open-source intelligence.

Let Us Know

Is it possible to address what happened on January 6 without being “partisan”?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@lawsonreports), Audrey Fahlberg (@AudreyFahlberg), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).