Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Amanda Flower's New Series Featuring Emily Dickinson Bound to be Must-Read for Dickinson Fans Plus Mystery Fans!


Because I could not stop for Death— 

He kindly stopped for me— 

The Carriage held but just Ourselves— 

And Immortality. 

—Emily Dickinson

“Mr. Allen, the party is not dead,” Mr. Dickinson said."Am I not still a Whig in the eyes of Congress?”
“But for how long? I tell you the Whigs are all but gone, and it’s over slavery. The nation is being ripped in two because of it. Those who are left standing in the middle are the ones who will be torn to bits when this all blows up,” a red-faced man said from the other end of the table. Perspiration gathered on his forehead as he spoke. 
Mr. Dickinson set his wineglass back on the table. “There are other issues that my party is more concerned with. Economic stability is at the forefront.” 
“How can the economy or any of these other so-called issues be more important than this one?” Mr. Allen wanted to know. 
“All topics of the law are given their due,” Mr. Dickinson said. “I agree that this issue of slavery seems to be coming to a head. Every time a new state or territory is added to the Union we have to ask if this new addition will be slave or free. It’s a ridiculous question to ask. What we should be asking is how this new territory will increase the wealth and power of the United States of America.” 
“When you do that,” a second young man spoke up, “you are displacing the Indians who live in those places.” 
“Let’s not get into that,” the red-faced man harped. The young man looked like he wanted to argue more but pressed his lips into a thin line. “Where are the Indians going to go if we continue to push them west?” 
Emily chimed in. “Will we push them into the ocean?” “This is not a discussion to be had at the dinner table in mixed company,” Mr. Dickinson said. “Politics is men’s work.” 
“Men’s work, women’s work. I can scream the number of times I have heard that. What if my interests are supposed to be reserved for men? What am I supposed to do with those?” Emily wanted to know. 
“They can’t be your interests,” the young and bearded Mr. Allen said. 
“How can you tell me how I can and cannot feel?” Emily asked. “If you stub your toe and experience pain, what should I say to you? Well, as a man you should be stronger than that. That should not hurt you. I don’t think you would like that.” 
“That is not the point I’m making.” 
“I see, but it is the point that I’m making, which is the difference,” Emily said archly. 
“Mr. Allen, it seems that you have met your match in Miss Dickinson here,” a man with sandy-colored hair that was going gray at the temples said. 
“Westward expansion is not the main concern,” Mr. Johnson spoke up in his gruff voice. “Our country is being torn in two over the issue of slavery as Mr. Allen said.” 
Everyone at the table looked at the stable owner. “And what is your view on it?” Emily asked, holding her glass in the air. 
“My view is of no importance,” he practically growled. Emily set her empty glass on the table. “I think your view is very important, Mr. Johnson. Is it not true that a young man was killed in your stables a few weeks ago? There are murmurings in Amherst that he was in some way involved in the Underground Railroad. Is that not true?” 
I froze in my spot against the wall. How could Emily just come out and say that? She had to know that it would send Mr. Johnson over the edge. 
Mr. Johnson glared at her. “I had a stable hand that was killed by a horse because the stable hand was careless. That’s all there is to it. When people are around horses they forget that they are large and powerful animals. That’s what my employee did and now he is dead. It’s no one’s fault but his own.” 
I gave a quick intake of breath. When I did I grabbed the attention of Matthew. His head turned in my direction, and his eyes went wide as if he realized that it had been me standing there the whole time. In the hotel uniform, I had been overlooked by everyone at the dinner table, including Matthew. It was far too easy to see servants as fixtures in a room instead of the real people that they were. 
“You seem to be very determined to blame young Henry for his own death,” Emily said. Mr. Johnson’s jaw twitched, but he didn’t say anything back. “Emily,” Mr. Dickinson spoke up. “That is enough.” Emily frowned but did not argue with her father. She knew that she had pushed the conversation as far as it would go. 
Mrs. Dickinson cleared her throat. “Mr. Campbell,” she addressed the balding man who had been speaking to Matthew when I first came into the room. “Have you had an opportunity to speak to Mr. Milner? He’s our postmaster in Amherst.” She gestured at Mr. Milner who was sitting across the table from her next to Matthew. Mrs. Dickinson smiled at Mr. Milner. “I’m sure you already know that Mr. John Campbell is the postmaster general for the nation.” 
Mr. Milner pulled on his collar. “I do.” 
“Oh!” Mr. Campbell said in a friendly voice. “How nice to meet one of our postmasters from a small town. Every member of the postal service is important. We are making so many vast improvements because of the hard work of the men on the front lines of delivering the mail.” 
Mr. Milner’s face turned red. “Thank you, sir. We all try to deliver the mail in a precise and timely fashion.” 
Mr. Campbell nodded. “I know this very well.” 
“Mr. Milner told my sister and me that he was in Washington for a postal conference this week. 
Were you at that conference as well, Mr. Campbell?”
Emily asked. 
The postmaster general wrinkled his brow. “I don’t know anything about a postal conference happening this week in Washington. Usually, I’m notified about such events. I do hope that my secretary did not make a mistake and leave this off my calendar for the week.” 
“No, sir.” Mr. Milner took a sip from his wineglass and then set it back on the table. “The conference was a small regional affair. As much as we would have been honored to have you be a part of it, sir, we know your duties are far too demanding for our small gathering.” 
“Yes, that must be it,” Mr. Campbell said absently. 
“If it was a regional meeting,” Emily said, “it does not make much sense that you meet so far from home. There are many big cities in New England to meet.” “Emily,” Mr. Dickinson said in a measured tone. 
Mr. Campbell opened his mouth as if he wanted to say more on the matter, but Mr. Johnson stood up from the table. 
“Thank you for the kind invitation this evening, but it is time for me to leave. I have pressing business that I must attend to.” 
Mr. Dickinson’s face turned red. “Please stay, Mr. Johnson. I hope my daughter speaking out of turn has not caused you to leave.” 
“It hasn’t,” Mr. Johnson said, but I believed that everyone knew that it had. 
I noticed then that Mr. Milner stared at the table and his arms were pressed closely to his sides. It was almost as if he was trying to make himself as small as possible. 
“Good evening.” Mr. Johnson stomped out of the room. When he was gone, Mr. Milner looked up and seemed to visibly relax. 
Mr. Dickinson cleared his throat. “I want to apologize for my guest’s behavior. I was hesitant to invite him here tonight with so many esteemed guests at my table, but he is a businessman from Amherst. I invited him out of duty. I regret that decision now.”
“Yes, that was quite rude to leave the dinner party like that,” Emily said. 
Mr. Dickinson glared at her. I would say that Emily was in a whole heap of trouble as far as her father was concerned. 
Without taking the time to think about it, I went through the door after Mr. Johnson. By the time I made it to the lobby, he had his coat and hat in hand and was striding out of the hotel. I hesitated. What did I do now? Follow him? By myself? Was I crazy for even thinking it? Outside of the hotel I watched as Mr. Johnson climbed into a carriage and a moment later the carriage was underway down the busy street. “Miss Willa, you look like you’re lost.” 
I turned and found Buford standing on the sidewalk. “That man who just came out of the hotel. I—I think he’s up to something.”
 “I do too. That’s why we need to follow him.” 
I looked over my shoulder to find Emily standing in the middle of the sidewalk in her ball gown. Buford began to untether his horse from the hitching post. “Then we better go before we lose sight of him.” Emily ushered me to the carriage. 
I climbed inside and she came in after me. The wide hoops of her skirt took up most of the space between us. Buford called to Betty Sue, the horse, and the carriage rolled into traffic. I stared at Emily. 
“How?” I couldn’t even think of the best way to ask the question. 
“How did I get here?” she asked with a smile. 
“Yes, did you walk out of your father’s dinner party too?” My eyes were wide. She looked out the window of the carriage. 
“Not exactly. I said I had a headache and needed to lie down. I’m sure my father is using that right now to explain my behavior to all of his guests. I helped him by leaving. He will say something to the effect that women don’t know what they are saying when they have a headache or some such nonsense. The key to the nonsense that men say about women is to use it to our advantage as I did in this case.” She opened the window and stuck her head out. 
“Buford is good at following. He is keeping a delivery wagon between our carriage and that of Mr. Johnson’s. I’m sure Mr. Johnson has no idea we are behind him.” 
I folded my hands in my lap. I was alone with Emily in the carriage. I went along with her like I always did, but how could I trust her when I knew either she or her sister stole my brother’s diary? I considered saying something about it, but it seemed the more pressing issue at hand was the fact that we were following Mr. Johnson. I asked, “And what are we going to do when we catch up with him?” 
“I haven’t settled on that part yet.” 
I bit the inside of my lip. She had better settle on it soon, because I had a feeling that Mr. Johnson would not like it if we showed up unannounced. The small window between the driver’s seat and the carriage opened, and we heard Buford’s voice. “It looks to me like he’s stopping at the Washington Monument. You want me to follow him?” 
Emily’s skirts made a ruffling sound as she scooted closer to the window to be heard. “Yes, don’t lose him!” 
The wagon jerked as Buford snapped his switch in the air to encourage Betty Sue to trot faster. A moment later, the carriage rocked to a stop. 
I peered out the window and saw the foot of the Washington Monument twenty or so yards away. I could only make it out because of the gas lampposts throughout the public grounds. The sun had long set. “What do we do?” I asked in a hoarse whisper. 
She opened the carriage door. “We get out, of course.” Without waiting for Buford to help her, she hopped out of the carriage. 
Even with my trust in Emily waning, I groaned and followed her.

Flower's first novel featuring the character, Emily Dickinson, is interesting inasmuch as the Point of View is by a maid that had recently been hired into the Dickinson household. The period is pre-Civil War and Emily's father is at the close of his congressional seat in Washington.

There is talk of slavery being an important issue in upcoming elections. Indeed, the Underground railroad is already underway. Still, there are Black men who have already been freed and living in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the family homestead is still located... 

“There is always a reason to write,” 
-“Words fall differently on the page 
than they do from the lips. 
There is more control, more thought,
 and more possibility.”

The story starts as Willa, a young orphan who has been working for 8 years in domestic work, comes to apply for the position at the Dickinsons. She meets with the Housekeeper and after being interviewed, was about to leave, when Emily, came into the room and declared that they had found the maid that they needed. The Housekeeper was hesitant and asked, "Are you sure, Miss Dickinson?" And Emily confirmed that Willa was to stay...

Right away we wonder what had led Emily to make a decision on hiring. Something that was delegated to staff and, with few exceptions, "the help" would be seen but rarely involved with other than their work. Perhaps, I wondered, whether Emily had seen a kindred spirit in this young woman, who, when forced to work, had started early and had already moved from job to job to improve her living conditions.

Or, was it merely a part of the plot that was needed by the author, so that she could have a new member of the staff describe everything there, including Emily, to the readers? Well, if so, then that was certainly a grand idea because I found myself thoroughly enjoying meeting the renowned poet through the eyes of a maid who would be living with her and the family for many years... 

Perhaps a combination of the two? For, almost immediately, Willa's brother is killed in what was to be called an accident, but that, in Willa's mind could not have been. Henry was Willa's younger brother and she had been taking care of his since their mother had died. Henry, somehow had found his way into the new bedroom where Willa was staying and spent time with her talking about what he'd been doing and that, in fact, he had a new and wonderful opportunity which would provide sufficient funds for both of them to begin to live different lives.

Time quickly passed and Henry was killed by a horse, kicked to death. I must stop, here, and ponder the apparent possibility of that type of death being common in early years... For, it was that same type of accident that had killed my father before I was born...

But Willa refused to believe it. Of course nobody else knew that he had come to visit her. But she also knew that Henry had a true gift of working with horses and other animals and that there was no way that one would turn on him...

Miss O'Brien, the Housekeeper, immediately gave her a little time to go to her bedroom, but indicated she would have to realize that it would be required that she continue her work. And grieving would have to be done on her own time...

Once again, Emily intervened not only about giving Willa time to grieve, but she also listened to what Willa said about her belief that it was not an accident. And made a commitment to Willa that the two of them would work to discover exactly what happened!

Emily and Willa first went to "the scene of the crime" where they met a good friend of Henry. Jeremiah was a freed Black man who saw Henry as his best friend. They slept together in a horse stall covered with hay and spent each night there with the horses. Jeremiah, too, felt that Henry's death was no accident...

At the same time, Jeremiah was not there when the accident occurred and could not, or would not, explain where he was. Nevertheless, he showed the burns on the horse's body and where it was that Henry was pushed against the wall. Something would have had to occur to make the horse react...and it wasn't Henry who did it! The three agreed on that!

The story soon takes readers to Washington, D.C., where Willa (who was named as ladies' maid to the two sisters to permit her involvement) and Emily started to investigate... For there were a number of men in Amherst who they felt were suspicious. And two were also scheduled to be in Washington! Additionally, rumors had been going around Amherst that a slave catcher had been seen and was paying for the return of slaves who had escaped in the south and were on the run to the north...

I enjoyed the outspoken brave words that often poured out of Emily's mouth. One in particular must have been a puzzle to those in the conversation...
 ...Did you enjoy this morning’s services? My father did a fine job, did he not?” Miss Dickinson looked at him down her petite nose, which was quite an accomplishment seeing how she was a foot shorter than the twins. “I did not go to church. I am not a member of this church as you well know. Carlo and I were just out for a morning walk. That’s our means of worship.” The twins looked at each other. “Surely, that is just an oversight,” Urschel said. “You have not taken the time to finish your membership. Our father would be happy to welcome another member of the Dickinson family into his flock.” 
“You are assuming that I intend to. My god is not there.” She pointed at the white meetinghouse with its peaked steeple. The twins were confused. “If he is not there, where is he?” “If you must ask, you will not understand the answer. Therefore, there is no purpose in answering a question that does not need to be asked.” She looked to me. “Willa, Carlo and I have finished our walk. We will accompany you home. Since you ran into me on the way home, it will explain the delay to Miss O’Brien.” I nodded and started to follow Miss Dickinson.

Let me close by sharing directly from Amanda Flower about her dream... This literary masterpiece has been created as a result of the fascination of the author for this Writer... What a Tribute! I loved it and You Will Too!

To write this book is an actual dream come true. I have been a fan of Emily Dickinson since I was fifteen and was assigned the poem “I heard a Fly buzz - when I died” to memorize in high school. Ever since I have been fascinated with the poet and her work, and considering the content of the poem, it’s not surprising I was destined to write mysteries. Emily has inspired me as a writer, but as a mystery novelist, not a poet. The unanswered mysteries of Emily’s work and life are what I find more interesting. The first novel I wrote inspired by Emily was a contemporary cozy mystery, Crime and Poetry, where the sleuth interprets Emily’s poems to solve the crime. Because I Could Not Stop for Death is the first time I have written Emily as a character, which has been exciting and challenging. So first and foremost, I want to thank Emily Dickinson for her life and work, without which this novel would not exist. I would also like to thank the countless Dickinson scholars who helped me with this work by making their analysis and research available in books and articles. I read so many accounts of Dickinson’s life for this one novel. It would be impossible to share them all. However, most noticeably I would like to thank the following: Richard B. Sewall, the author of The Life of Emily Dickinson, and Aífe Murray, the author of Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

For Every Love: Three Romances by Nadine C. Keels - With... Soundtrack Featuring Classical Jazz!


Wow! I've just binge-read all three books in the trilogy, For Every Love. Actually, I read each book and immediately wanted to download the next one...and the next... But I wanted to spotlight that these three novels have also been captured in a set! Your Choice!

Soundtrack, If You Will

I’m not the only author who often has a theme song or two that accompanies my writing. The music for each one of my stories is usually an original composition, heard exclusively via my remarkable humming (please hold your applause). But for Love Unfeigned, I, full of nostalgia, reached back for the smooth sounds of some standard and classic jazz I became familiar with during my childhood. Here are the songs that most inspired the romance between Lorraine and Isaiah. Taking a listen definitely brings the mood(s) of the story to another degree of life…

“Sweet Lorraine”

“Dancing on the Ceiling”

Admittedly made me a little teary–twice–as I wrote about Lorraine’s “Boy.” Performed by the legendary Ella Fitzgerald.

Girls mostly played with girls, and boys mostly played with boys. Even being as girly as I was, with my dolls and flowery tea sets at home, I wasn’t one you would usually find in a big group of other girls during recess at school. However, I did play with a girl in my third grade class, Sara, more than I did with anyone else. Auburn-haired, heavily-freckled, faithful Sara could be trusted for jump rope, for plenty of laughter, and for the trading of a fair share of secrets. I regarded her as my best friend, and whenever one of us did happen to be found in a larger bunch of girls on the playground, the other was sure to be there. Unless, of course, she or I was absent from school that day. Nevertheless, I wasn’t opposed to playing with boys every so often. They proved to be the best competition for me at wall ball. I was hailed as the best girl Wall Baller in all of third grade, and when I started running out of boys my age to beat, a classmate suggested that I should try to play with some of the bigger kids. I considered it, looking to Sara to see if she thought it was a good idea. When she only shrugged, I told her, “I’ll do it tomorrow, if you come with me.” I was nervous the first time Sara and I went to get in a different wall ball line with fourth and fifth graders. Earl, my fourth grade virtual twin, poked his kinkily-curled raven head out of the front of the line to smile at me. “What’re you doing over here, Raindrop?” he called down the line. “I’m here to play, Early,” I called back. “And I’m here to watch,” Sara piped up, eager to justify her young presence in this older crowd. A boy I recognized to be from Earl’s class shook his head. “She can’t play with us. We’ll kill her.” He pointed back at me with his thumb. “Earl, man, get your sister.” “Nobody’s gonna kill her,” my brother asserted. “If she wants to play, she can play. She’s pretty good, anyway.” “Psh.” The boy looked back at me with a mischievous grin, which was gleaming with braces on his teeth. “Maybe pretty good for an itty-bitty.” I judged that I wasn’t much smaller than the boy talking, and I obviously wasn’t much younger, but I felt disproportionately embarrassed because I thought the boy was cute. I had a thing for braces. I wasn’t sure which side of chance I was on when I actually got the opportunity to contend against him at the wall, but I played what might have been my scrappiest round of wall ball up to that point in my playground career, the bright beads on my many, swinging black braids clicking soundly together as I ran, jumped, and pounded at that bouncy yellow sphere with a resolute fist. I didn’t defeat every kid I faced that day, but I did win the respect of the entire line by beating Braces Boy. “Well, Lori, you shut him up, at least,” Sara congratulated me once I was out of the game, when I’d been trumped by my last opponent. I looked over to see that Braces Boy had abandoned the wall ball line to go join a group of kids over at one of the tetherball rings. I felt vindicated, silently agreeing with Sara as I got back in line, but it wasn’t many days later that I found out Sara and I hadn’t been completely right. That Friday after school, I was out along the side of the driveway of my house, squatting in a patch of soil, rocks, and plants to watch the activity of my favorite colony of ants there when Earl arrived back home from a neighborhood trip he’d taken on his bike. Pulling into the driveway with him, also on a bike, was Braces Boy. “Hey, Itty-Bitty,” Braces greeted me. “What’re you doing over there in the dirt?” “She’s babysitting her ants,” Earl told him as they dismounted their bikes to lean them against the driveway fence. I rose from my squatting position. “I’m not ‘in’ the dirt,” I informed Braces Boy. I was ridiculously glad to see him and was just as determined not to show him so. “And don’t call me Itty-Bitty.” Braces grinned. “Touchy. Mad that I let you win in wall ball at school?” “You didn’t let me win, I hammered you,” I said, wiping my hands across my jeans and stepping out of the soil patch. “Hammered me, my foot,” Braces guffawed, his hands going into the pockets of his own jeans. “I wouldn’t be caught dead trying hard against a lil’ third grade chick. What do I look like?” What did he look like? I wasn’t about to tell him that he looked like the very glory of boyhood, standing there: dark brown hair that avoided being a mess but didn’t appear to care more than it had to, with a shock of it falling over his forehead; skin, somewhere between the colors of almond butter and cinnamon, that was thoroughly acquainted with the sun’s rays; thick, dark eyebrows; and that irresistible sparkle of metal in his mouth, impishly flaunting itself now, for my benefit. That is, I wasn’t about to tell him how cute he looked. I shrugged. “Well. If trying looks stupider than losing, then it is a good thing you lost.” Earl broke out laughing at that. “I didn’t lose,” Braces argued the point. “I let you win.” “Aw, give it up,” Earl chided his buddy, giving Braces a push on the shoulder. “You said you were thirsty. Let’s get some juice and get out of here.” Earl and Braces turned and headed into the house, and I was again squatting by the ant colony...

With these latest reads by Nadine C. Keels, she is now  proclaimed to be on my favorite author list! With all the chaos going on these days, I've needed to turn to Christian fiction to regain strength and belief in God's love for all of us. Keels has done it well with this trilogy that includes tragedy, rejection, renewal, and just plain fun to close out the trilogy.

Love Unfeigned begins in the early years of our two main characters. In my past readings, there has not been too many books that begins the narrative in their childhoods. Whether the author remembered her early life--or whether or not I have forgotten most of mine, or because of my life with a single parent, I had no relationships to those drawn by this prolific, caring author. For me, coming from a small town where there were not so many students in our schools, I enjoyed the experience of watching the relationships at that early age.

Lorraine and Isiah are the two main characters who begin and continue some type of relationship into higher grades in school and then ultimately are physically split due to their choices for higher ed. I was "wondering" through most of the book as each chapter was titled "Me." I immediately started wondering...why... And then, my anticipation began for something to happen. I must say that I need to just stop at this point. I've already said too much, but readers will discover a mystery within this book. One that can only be solved by one person. And it's not the reader!

Proceeding on to the next book will start with the relationship between Lorraine and another high school classmate...

“With You on My Mind”

It’s amazing how we can sing such songs with a smile, but, alas, we do. *Sigh.* More Nat King Cole and oh-so-needful tenor saxophones to help, well, tell it right.

The sound of a human body banging into a row of lockers and the resulting barrage of laughter somewhere down the hall from the school commons made me grimace. With fleeting annoyance, I rehearsed to myself how stupid the whole concept of Freshman Day was. The stupidity would only compound when its participants would carry on in the school’s central areas, where faculty members were more likely to see it all and break it up. Still, my annoyance disappeared as my focus was absorbed back into the book in my hands. Midmorning break between classes gave a guy like me just enough time to get a meaningful portion of a chapter in, and I’d rather not waste that limited time minding other guys’ business. Even now, as a high school sophomore, the first Friday of the school year wasn’t any special day for me, aside from how I would Thank God It was Friday as much as anybody would. The fact that it was designated as the first Freshman Day of the year by tradition didn’t change my life any, except for the additional noise the day brought along with it. There wasn’t one freshman or another I was interested in hunting down and beating up any more than any sophomores last year had been interested in hunting me down. Freshman Day was a time for popular ninth grade males and incoming frosh athletes to run away scared from popular and athletic males in tenth grade (and from a few semi-popular and unexceptional athletes in the junior class who didn’t quite understand that they should’ve retired from Freshman Day involvement and looked that much cornier still chasing down youngbloods to roughen up). No sophomore idols or jocks on the prowl for younger meat would’ve cared anything about a skinny-ish, baby-faced, ultra studious-type dude whom nobody who was anybody had heard much of. Names like mine and those of my friends weren’t really heard until they were announced at the school’s quarterly academic awards assemblies. While most students found those assemblies boring, some of the folks who hadn’t cared before would take note of the names and/or faces of classmates walking up to the stage in the auditorium to accept their awards. Those names and/or faces would be duly filed away in the minds of students who wanted to know which people might have the best homework assignments to copy from. Not that I resented it when classmates who hadn’t finished their work asked to copy off of mine. It didn’t exactly do my ego damage to know when other people knew there was something I was good at, and the cooler a guy truly was, the cooler he took it when I’d turn down his request to see my work before the start of class. So, no, Freshman Day didn’t entail special activity for me or for the others with me in our row of three guys and three girls lining one wall of the commons during break, using the time for extra reading or studying. We would save our talking for lunchtime, and besides the jotting of notes or the flipping of pages, the only real movement that would happen along our row in the commons would be the passing down of a communal bag of potato chips or crackers or something. It went without saying that at least one of us always brought along a snack to share with the group. On this first Friday of my sophomore year, I barely looked up to receive an open bag of cheese puffs from Dennis, who’d been my main sidekick since he and I met each other back in middle school. I wouldn’t have looked up again after the Freshman Day commotion that went tearing in and out of the commons at that moment if the noise hadn’t been accompanied by the muffled sound of a female yelp. My eyes jumped upward to peer into the crowd of students milling around, some of them apparently laughing about the stampede that had flown past, others just talking and laughing in general. Scanning toward the direction I thought I’d heard the yelp from, it took me a minute to identify who must’ve been its issuer: a girl standing alone, pushing herself away from the wall she’d likely been shoved against. She had an open cup of chocolate pudding in her hand, and some pudding was smeared over her mouth and cheek. I sucked my teeth. “Idiots,” I muttered, handing the cheese puffs back to Dennis. “What?” Dennis inquired, adjusting the glasses on his face as he looked up from his own reading. “They pushed her” was the only explanation I gave as I shut my book, hoisted my backpack by the straps over my shoulders, and made my way through the throng over to the girl in the pudding predicament. “Good morning. I’m sorry,” I greeted her with an apology to get her attention, and her eyes widened when she turned and realized I was talking to her. “I’m sorry.” Her eyes whipped up and down over me, perhaps to determine if I’d been a part of the passing commotion or not. “Sorry for what?” she asked. I recognized her, a girl new to the school who was the only other sophomore in my chemistry class, a class that was otherwise full of juniors. “Sorry they ran into you like that,” I clarified, briefly bending to the floor to pick up the plastic spoon I assumed she’d been about to use. “Folks need to watch where they’re going.” She held up her cup of pudding with an embarrassed but droll look. “My fault for trying to lick the lid. Wasn’t paying attention,” she declared, the lid in question sticking straight up where it was still partially attached to the cup. “Here,” I said, stowing my book under my arm and digging into a pocket of my jeans, finding it empty, and then digging into the opposite pocket. I pulled out a folded handkerchief, extending it to her. She gazed down at the handkerchief before looking back up at me. “Guys really carry those things around?” One of my shoulders rose and dropped. “I do.” She appeared skeptical, her eyes narrowing in thought. “I know I’ve seen you somewhere.” “Third period chemistry. I’m Arthur Simmons. You’ll have to remind me of your name, Miss…?” Her skepticism clearly deepened. “Miss?” I nodded. “Certainly not ‘Mrs.’ already,” I answered, then stopped to check, “Are you?” After blinking in disbelief at me, she finally replied, “Alexis. Alexis Prescott.” “Oh, right. Miss Alexis. Yeah, we’re in the same chemistry class. Here,” I repeated, jiggling the handkerchief. She slowly shook her head, releasing a nervous giggle without a smile as she waved my offer away with her free hand. “Oh, that’s all right. I don’t want to get it dirty. I’ll go clean up in the restroom.” It was my turn for my eyes to whip up and down over her, noting the light brown skin of her plump face; her kinky chestnut curls wrangled into a frizzy puff of a low ponytail; and the dull, shapeless dress curtained over her pudgy body. They weren’t things I’d say about her, but I knew plenty of other kids around here would start asking each other if anyone else saw “the frumpy fat girl with food all over her face” if she didn’t hurry up and resolve this. I would know. I’d been taking both good-natured ribbing and enough mean-spirited guff from other kids about my looks ever since my adolescent arms and feet had first lengthened out way before the rest of my body had gotten the memo about a growth spurt. Even now, two weeks away from turning sixteen, not all of my lanky self had caught up with the rest of me yet. I took a step closer to Alexis, lowering my voice. “Well, sure, you can go rinse off the stickiness after, but you don’t have to walk all the way there like…” I slid the handkerchief into her hand. “Hang on to it if you want. I’ve got more.” She stared at me a second longer, and then she threw her shoulders back, making her backpack bounce behind her. “Hm.” She handed me her cup of pudding, saying, “Well. If you wouldn’t mind holding that for me then, sir,” and with a dramatic flourish, she flung my proffered square of cloth open and began dabbing it daintily over her mouth. “I thank thee, Mr. Arthur, for the lending of thy blessed kerchief to this damsel in distress.”


During the first book, although Lorraine and Isaiah had become close friends as a response to Isaiah and Lorraine's brother, Earl, being close. Isaiah had even started going to church with the family. When it came time for college decisions, since Earl and Isaiah were both a year ahead of Lorraine, Lorraine realized that there would also be a big change for her own life. After all, both boys were her only close friends, other than Sara, her best female friend. 
But while Lorraine was involved during that time (the first book), one young man had become so attracted to Lorraine that he could only see her as somebody he wanted in his life--even then as a life partner... So, while the first book is written from the point of view of Lorraine, the second is from the point of view of Arthur Simmons... Who is somewhat of a nerd, or, more a male student who is not involved in sports... You know him. I know him. He is one of those you come to know when he starts receiving academic awards... He's a nice guy who, on the first day back to school, sees a young girl who looks lost and stops to help her and make sure she begins to feel comfortable in her first time in a new location.

But while he was busy getting back into the routine, he was also listening for anybody who mentioned Lorraine--or maybe even catch a glimpse of her in the halls or at lunch. And when he'd gained enough courage, he began to ask Lorraine if he could call her... For a long time, she would never exactly say 'no" but just not at that time, mentioning she had just come out of an ongoing relationship.

This book mainly focuses on a group of students, all of who were readers, good at something and had grown up together from grade school. More specifically, Arthur was a major part of this group, but his limited interaction with Lorraine was separate and apart of how this group functioned, mostly going to events as a group, as opposed to individual dating... But because of interests and his first contact with Alexis, the lost freshman who he invited to sit with his group for lunch, Arthur began to spend time studying and interacting with Alexis more than the other girls in the group. So, even though there were insinuations by some of his friends, he still held out hope for getting with Lorraine... 

“Too Young”

Hey…there’s the proverbial “they” who tell you this and that about love–but, this time, really, who are “they”? Even more Nat King Cole, folks.

“Welp. We might as well, ’Telle.” With that suggestion directed her way and the accompanying hand held out to her, Chantelle Jackson let her gaze move from the proffered hand and up into the eyes of Dennis Lawson. Those brown eyes sparkled down at her from behind a pair of black-framed glasses. Eyes that were full of life and so much…fun. Chantelle resisted the niggling urge to let a sigh loose. Fun. Here she was, the maid of honor sitting at the now nearly empty head table at the Saturday evening wedding reception of two of her best friends. The halter neck, garnet red gown she had on was one of the most elegant garments that had ever graced her wide-shouldered, gently curved form, the flow of fabric accommodating her few extra pounds in such a way that she’d had no need for extra shapewear or the extra effort to avoid breathing all day. She’d recently forgone her usual abundance of long braids to wear only her thick, natural hair for a while, and today she wore a flower above her ear, adding a burst of color to her dark billow of hair. It was the closest she would come to wearing a tiara on this occasion, since she wasn’t the bride, but the blossom in her hair still made her feel queenly. That is, she’d felt queenly for most of the day. Queenly and vibrant and full of anticipation, going about her bridesmaid duties with a light step in her fine dress, on the lookout for the potential moment when she’d know that Dennis had taken notice. There he was, the best man at the wedding reception of two of their best friends, the jacket of his black tuxedo presently missing as he stood there in a garnet cummerbund and matching bowtie that flashed in red against the white of his shirt. His black hair was styled in a fresh buzz cut with a hint of waves on top. He looked smart and snazzy, the essence of his usual swagger there. Swagger he wore like no other geek-at-heart on the planet could. Chantelle had wanted this swaggering and smart geek-at-heart to take notice of her today, in a way he apparently hadn’t in any of the previous years of their decade-long friendship. Perhaps Chantelle had put too much trust in her hopeless yet hopeful romanticism, imagining that, regardless of the fact that Dennis had seen her all dressed up before, the special love in the air at the nuptials of Alexis Prescott—now Alexis Simmons—and Arthur Simmons would influence Dennis and finally give him ideas. Ideas that would lead to something more intimate than the fun in his eyes. But, nope. Couples had joined the bride and groom out on the floor to dance to the jazzy Christmas music from the live band playing in the reception hall, led by Arthur’s older brother, a vocalist who also played the guitar. (Leave it to Alexis and Arthur to choose a Yuletide theme for their spring wedding, a choice that only those two lovebirds fully understood. Yes, the new Mr. and Mrs. were their own kind of geeks too, bless their hearts.) Chantelle had done most of her hostessing, Dennis had delivered the main reception speech and proposed the toast, and the two of them were now free to join the others out on the floor, but there was no humble and gentlemanly “May I have this dance?” from Dennis. There wasn’t a dashing request tinged with longing, a “Would you do me the honor?” to the maid of honor. Instead, Dennis suggested that Chantelle dance with him because they were here, there was music, and other people were dancing, so, welp, the two of them might as well. At that moment, Chantelle no longer felt so queenly. She felt comfortable, like the effortless, trouble-free, comfortable choice to be Dennis’s dance partner at a party. Granted, her twinge of disappointment wasn’t a particularly comfortable one, but that wasn’t anyone’s business but her own. No use letting on. Chantelle remained seated at the table and smiled a mild challenge up at Dennis until she meant both the challenge and the smile. “Don’t know if I can manage it, best man. Been a long day. My puppies are yipping.” Dennis didn’t back away. “One hundred percent your fault.” He dropped his outstretched hand and surprised Chantelle by getting down, kneeling near her chair. Gasp! Dennis was getting down on one knee on an evening when so much love was in the air. As Chantelle certainly hadn’t imagined quite this far, she could hardly control the spinning of her wits for a second. But it was only a second, as the outdated language that scrambled through her imagination involved a gentleman asking for a lady’s hand, not a gentleman asking for a lady’s foot. Or, as Dennis ordered her more so than he asked her: “Gimme your foot.” Chantelle shifted her sitting position, scooting her yipping puppies away from him. “Beg your pardon?” “Your foot. Give it here. And give the other one here too, while you’re at it. Chop-chop.” Chantelle didn’t chop-chop. She took her time before scooting back in Dennis’s direction, and he waited until she tugged her skirt to lift the hem of her gown above her ankle and curiously lifted one of her feet a degree from the floor. Belying his brash bossiness, Dennis’s touch was tender as he began to remove one of Chantelle’s high-heeled shoes. “If you would opt for less torturous ways to decorate your feet than all of these restrictive straps attached to stilts that wreak havoc on your arches,” Dennis scolded, grinning as he did so, “your precious pups wouldn’t yip so much.” Chantelle wiggled her toes with the relief of it all once she was free from the painful prettiness of her shoes, and after Dennis stowed the heels away under the table, he stood back up, holding his hand out to Chantelle. She accepted it this time, staring down at their fingers coming together, Dennis’s skin a deeper brown than hers, although the sun would slow-toast her into a darker tone as spring moved into summer. “Humph. ‘We might as well,’” Chantelle repeated with a shake of her head once she and Dennis were out on the dance floor, gliding and swaying to the spirit of Christmas. “Sometimes I wonder if you’ve got a single romantic cell in that brain of yours.” “No need to wonder about my brain cells. I’ve got romance coming out of my ears.” Dennis nodded toward the newlyweds, over there in the center of the floor. “Those two wouldn’t have jumped the broom today if it wasn’t for me. You know I’m the one who told Arthur to go for it in the first place, last year. He would’ve let Lexi get away otherwise.” “Beg your pardon again, but I was the first one who said something about Arthur and Alexis getting together, back in high school. Remember? He resisted it then because he thought it was weird, the idea of dating a friend.” Chantelle’s voice slowly lowered as the end of her commentary slipped from her mouth. Dating a friend. “He wouldn’t have thought it was weird if he hadn’t been distracted by that other what’s-her-name at the time,” Dennis scoffed, as if he couldn’t very well recall what’s-her-name’s name. “Folks who date should be friends, if they can help it.” Chantelle’s eyebrows flew up. “You think so?” she blurted before her voice was ready, giving her words a wobble. If Dennis heard the wobble, he didn’t show it. “Absolutely.” He shrugged a nonchalant shoulder. “I mean, who’d want to date an enemy? It’s already a hassle going out with somebody you like. Why make it even harder on yourself by going out with somebody you can’t stand?” In spite of herself, Chantelle laughed. “Enemies become lovers all the time. Opposites attract, and all that. Besides, from where I’m standing, dating has never looked like much of a hassle for you, Romeo.” “Ah. That’s the mark of a master, Chantelephone. Masters of an art make it look easy to folks on the outside looking in.” Dennis pulled her nearer to him, until they were virtually cheek to cheek. “And don’t call me Romeo. He only got—like, what?—two seconds of bliss with his Juliet before everything tumbled downhill and crashed. That won’t be me.” “Oh, no, never you. Never the master.” A chortle bounced in Chantelle’s throat. “Now, I would pick apart what your deluded definition of ‘master’ must be in this case, but I prefer to save my breath about rational stuff for people with sense.” “Yeah? Well, if you’ve been saving your breath with me all these years, you’ve sure been doing a yakety-yak-yakkin’ job of it.” “Says you. But you’ve no idea how much breath I’ve saved, Jawbone.” Chantelle might have come up with more of a reply than that, but the feel of Dennis’s chin barely grazing her temple quieted her for a few heartbeats. She didn’t even flinch at the trace of stubble that had crept onto his clean-shaven face over the course of the day, as her increasing relaxation left no room for flinching. And regarding relaxation… “I’ve gotta say, though,” Chantelle spoke up, “you did quite a job today, keeping Arthur relaxed. Weddings look so dreamy in movies, but whenever I’m at the real thing, the bride floats and cries and/or smiles her way down the aisle, caught up in the happiest day of her life, while the groom is up there clenching his hands and sweating buckets, looking a nanosecond away from passing out. Arthur looked great, though. You must have fed him a steady stream of your bad jokes in the hours beforehand to keep him laughing—at you.” Dennis chuckled. “I can neither confirm nor deny that. But I think only a single guy knows just how daunting the prospect of taking on a whole, entire, real-life wife can be. So I reminded Arthur how careful a planner he is, that he wouldn’t have asked for Alexis if he wasn’t ready to take care of her. I told him not to forget that she’ll be taking care of him just as much.” He paused to spin Chantelle to the music before he gathered her back to him. “I’m sure you had a lot of encouraging yakety-yak for Lexi.” Chantelle smiled at that. “Any encouragement might have drifted right on past her. She was already in raptures, mostly just needed someone to keep her from sailing off on a glorious cloud with her veil on backwards.” That brought another chuckle from Dennis before he sent Chantelle into a second spin and then tucked her in close. Chantelle’s insides leapt. Oh, goodness. This man hadn’t any business being such a rhythmic and soulful dance companion for her if none of the romance coming out of his ears had anything to do with her. Chantelle’s eyelids lowered as she melted into the music and her dance companion’s familiarity, breathing in the scent of aquatic cologne blended with living Dennis. She’d partnered with him enough times since high school to be aware of how he’d subtly changed over the years. His transition from adolescence to manhood hadn’t turned him into a hulking mountain of muscle, but Chantelle was fine with not feeling like she was tucked against something that had been chiseled from a block of granite. Dennis was warm and emanating with verve. He wasn’t too wide for her to get her hold a good ways around him whenever they hugged, but the strength about him didn’t have to come in bulk for her to feel it, for her to know good and well that she was in the arms of a man. This man. The problem was, at some point after their high school days had ended to give way to their college days and beyond, moments like these and plenty of others Chantelle shared with Dennis had been contributing to her ever-intensifying notion that this man might be the only one for her. After high school, the two of them attended the same university in a big city an hour away from their hometown. Chantelle went out with her share of guys, and Dennis did his own dating around, but even while that was happening, Chantelle’s friendship with Dennis deepened in college. Chantelle liked to think that she and Dennis became a new “home” for each other during that phase of their lives. Sure, the two of them still poked and joked and jabbed at each other as much as they ever had, but there was far more to what had grown between them, only growing stronger after they’d graduated and come back to town, reuniting with people they knew and loved, people like Alexis and Arthur. Chantelle lifted her eyelids to peer thoughtfully over Dennis’s shoulder, through other dancing wedding guests and party members, and over at the bride and groom. Alexis and Arthur had officially become a couple a year ago, after their friendship had survived a period of separation. The hopeless and hopeful romantic in Chantelle had been hoping for those two friends of hers even at times when she hadn’t been at liberty to say so, and she’d been rooting aloud for them ever since they’d announced they were an item. The way they overcame serious personal obstacles to be together made them such an inspiration to Chantelle. This time, when the niggling urge came to her, she did let a sigh loose, though not too heavily, not wanting Dennis to ask what was the matter. Would Chantelle still be entertaining what she’d come to feel for Dennis if she hadn’t been watching Alexis and Arthur’s journey? Had something impressionable in Chantelle gotten the inclination to copy what was working out beautifully for two lovebirds who were close to her, even though Dennis had given no indication of a desire to pursue anything further than friendship with her? Dear Lord. Help. “Are your puppies all right?” Jarred out of her reflections, Chantelle couldn’t process Dennis’s question near her ear right away. She stalled. “What?” “I heard that sigh.” Dennis’s hand at her back gave her a reassuring pat. “We can go sit back down if this is painful.” A delicate smile tugged at Chantelle’s lips. Yes, this could indeed be painful. Talking and swaying with Dennis in an atmosphere of matrimonial celebration, springtime’s promise, and jazzy Yuletide warmth could be downright agonizing if she thought about it too hard. So she wasn’t going to think about it too hard. At least, she’d stop it for now and save the hard thinking for whenever she’d chronicle this night in her journal. “Hey,” she said. “You told me we might as well, didn’t you? Yes? Great. So you’re stuck with this.” She went so far as to snicker. “You’re in dawdle mode. Such wonderful live music in here, and you haven’t even dipped me yet.” Drawing back a little to look up into the sparkling eyes behind those black-framed glasses, Chantelle tightened her hold on her dance companion’s hand and shoulder, issuing a soft and saucy order. “Chop-chop, best man.” To his credit, Dennis didn’t challenge her or take his time. With an indulgent grin at her, he chop-chopped, and Chantelle basked in being so securely held and smoothly dipped into the spirit of Christmas. 


The final book in the trilogy updates readers on the interaction of the group of Arthur's friends, minus Lorraine. (She was not a member of the small group of friends routinely interacting) As the two books end, the third begins with the time period when all of them have reached high school graduation or college. A number of those friends had moved away, got married or were now involved with new activities. 

Arthur had found his partner and there were only two individuals remaining... I'm glad they were kept for the closing book. It is fun. it is frustrating. And it is a perfect example of friends becoming more than...

Chantelle and Dennis had always seemed to be the last chosen...for bowling, for dancing... They were the last two who would normally wind up dancing with each other... Now the pairing was even more visible. Arthur and Alexis were already dating and everybody else had left the area or were in committed relationships. 

Dennis had always played the "ladies man" so that Chantelle had no reason to assume he cared for And Dennis had some problems with self-confidence, even though he played the clown and was often dating a lot, but the girls loved his company and none had ever seemed to go further... Perhaps it was because Dennis wasn't really trying... until now... And both Chantelle and Dennis realized that something just had to be done to move their lives forward... 

Each of these books can be read separately. But I promise you that you, the reader, will not experience the full impact of the overall story being told by this excellent writer/author. Nadine has the capacity to consider the ramifications of all things related to the Christian life of her characters. And she makes it a part of the narrative.

As the cast of characters are growing up, they are in church, they are studying scripture and having assignments for youth study... So that, when each was considering their lives, the faith component was very much a part of everything. So, than, when tragedy strikes in book 1, everything that happened thereafter seems to flow from that story of Lorraine and Isiah. 

And when Lorraine and Arthur had made their own analysis of their friendship, it allowed both to begin to consider their own options... Seriously, I figured that this was going to be a series of each being separated and moving on to find true love. But, even then, the author understands that isn't really how life is, is it? Friends in school? Sometimes they make it through into adult life. Most don't. And that's ok. Because we must all follow our own path...

But for teens, in particular, it is a very tough time. And it may be even worse these days as "texting" is the chosen method of communication. How, I wonder, do our children ever get to really know who and what their friends really are, related to, even, basic moral issues... Keels' choice to start the various relationships early in life allows her characters to learn about their, for instance, involvement in church as well as learning personal interests of each other and allowing each to share and receive important feedback on what their futures may encompass.

Me? I like this writer on a personal level. I've gotten to know her on line... But, it is through her books that I have formed a closer awareness of the writer. Nadine Keets talks the talk and writes the words, based upon her Christian faith and attention to how that affects all other parts of her, and others', lives. In doing so, she is fulfilling her desire to share what she knows and instill encouragement, courage, and love, even when joy is not a daily occurrence, or even an ongoing emotion. 

Share her words with your teenagers. And read them yourself as parents so you may also understand what things may be affecting your children's lives! The Trilogy is Highly recommended...

In addition to the jazz, I must include some Georg Friedrich Händel, in honor of the Northwestern Philharmonic’s wonderful holiday performance at Larkspur Hall. (Were you there?) Ladies and gentlemen: the “Overture” of Handel’s Messiah.


Friday, January 20, 2023

The January 6 Report Foreword On the Coup Conspiracy by Ari Melber, MSNBC Host, Lawyer and Legal Analyst

You may recall that I indicated by I had pre-ordered the official report by The House January 7 Committee, but that I would not be reviewing it, given the public televised activities of that bi-partisan group which were available for all to see. However, I did want to have a copy for my library. And I chose the copy that had the Foreword by Ari Melber, a lawyer, legal analyst and host on MSNBC. He is one of the favorites on that station for me...



They attempted a coup. That is the most important fact about what happened. Donald Trump led an effort to overthrow the lawful government of the United States. He lost an election, exhausted the legal options to challenge it, and then tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power to the incoming administration of the president-elect. The goal was illicit: stealing an election. Trump’s chosen methods were unlawful: trying to overcome his loss with fraud, obstruction, election meddling, abuse of power by government officials, and even plans to have the military intercede. 

Trump himself did not always act. He often demanded other people break the law. Sometimes that worked, and he got people to commit crimes. Sometimes they refused. Indeed, many of the most brazen, gruesome, and well-known crimes were committed by the supporters Trump summoned to Washington—not by Trump himself. He did not personally go storm the Capitol (though he tried). He did not attack police offlicers with his hands. He did not physically obstruct and delay the January 6 certification. He did not sign documents created to commit elector fraud. Those distinctions are based on the factual evidence, but they do not resolve Trump’s actual and legal culpability. 

Criminal organizations typically shield the boss, sparing him from most dirty work, let alone actual combat. So how should the United States fairly determine potential accountability for Donald Trump, who encouraged and sought to benefit from an attempted coup, and an actual (but failed) insurrection? There are legal and technical aspects to this process. The fundamental questions, however, are actually straightforward: 

Did Trump intentionally lead the plots to stage an insurrection and coup? 

Did he lead a coup conspiracy? 

The United States, both as a nation and a government, face these questions. (The nation votes; the government administers justice.) In a democracy, voters regularly evaluate both the ideas and venality of candidates. 

People tend to be pragmatic about what they can really get from politicians. Some lies, hypocrisy, and even corruption is expected in the aggregate. The January 6 insurrection went way beyond that. So the question matters for the nation. 

Before Americans consider questions about prosecuting or jailing a former leader, there’s the lower bar of assessing whether that leader is an authoritarian—willing to rule by coup and violence. Theoretically, that is an apolitical and empirical question, though some people use politics to pick their “facts.” If the people determine a politician is an actual, proven authoritarian voting that person into office can be a path to never voting again. 

For the law, prosecutors determine if the evidence proves that Trump deliberately, corruptly led this conspiracy. That means taking deliberate action to corruptly stage the insurrection or coup. That does not mean musing about crimes out loud, or screaming at meetings, or lying to the public about the election. Those things don’t cut it and are typically legal. If there is overwhelming evidence of a conspiracy, however, hatched and pursued at the highest levels of the government, then prosecutors have a duty to prosecute the conspirators and their leader. 

So, the United States, as a nation and government, is facing a test. It can assess the evidence that Trump led this conspiracy—or turn away. It can reach conclusions and confront them in public, to redress an authoritarian, anarchic attack on democracy with the best attempt at truth and justice—or it can devolve into a muddle of competing claims. 


The government has led much of the fact-finding about the insurrection. When federal officials began this process, in those first days after the attack, they began with some mistakes. The government’s task is much broader than determining accountability for what happened on one day. Yet the insurrection was initially viewed—by both its opponents and its “soft” allies in the Republican Party—as largely a single-day event, a one-day attack. The conventional premise was that this was a gathering where insurrectionists went to a rally in the morning, then marched and stormed the Capitol in the afternoon, violently attacking police, obstructing the vote counting, and searching for lawmakers to murder—with the perpetrators mostly home by nightfall. 

This was also the initial view of the Democratic Congress. The news moves fast. It may be easy to forget now that Congress impeached then President Trump for one thing: “incitement of insurrection” on January 6. To be fair, that impeachment trial did serve several functions. It swiftly laid down a marker against the attack, compelled Congress to go on record, made Trump the only twice-impeached president in history, and secured the most bi-partisan coalition to convict a president in the last century. The trial’s entire thrust, however, was stuck in a flawed framework of limiting its perspective to events that unfolded on a single day. The Senate jurors were basically asked: Legally, did Trump’s speech that morning incite the attack in the afternoon? As one Democratic impeachment manager summarized the case in the pivotal closing argument: When Trump “took the stage on January 6, he knew exactly how combustible the situation was,” with a crowd ready to “engage in violence,” and “he aimed them straight here.” 

The summation literally boiled down to: Convict Trump because he went on stage, gave a speech, and exhorted people to storm the Capitol. Less than two years later, that prosecutorial argument is so cramped, it almost sounds like someone downplaying Trump’s actions and guilt. The 2021 Article of Impeachment did not mention, let alone charge, plots for elector fraud, state election meddling, military intervention, DOJ interference, seizing voting machines, or the long-running lies that recruited so many people to travel to Washington. During the impeachment and Senate debate, it often seemed like Trump was on trial for a speech. The law makes it hard to pin an insurrection on one speech—as it should. True freedom of speech sets a very high bar for convicting any politician, in the Senate or in court, for words in a speech. 


The Congress of January 2021, which impeached Trump, was not very different from the Congress of July 2021, which formed a Select Committee to investigate. The House created this special committee “to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol,” as its authorizing resolution states. The conception, goals, and very name are about January 6. The authorizing resolution states the probe has three “purposes”: “investigate” the January 6 “terrorist attack”; “evaluate evidence” from the government about the “terrorist attack”; and “build” on any other investigations while “avoiding unnecessary duplication.” In other words: Investigate what went down that day. 

That assignment quickly proved too narrow, however, for the range of plots and crimes revealed—and sometimes confessed—in the ensuing months. It would be like trying to investigate state-sponsored racism in the Jim Crow Era by probing only the May 7, 1965, attack on Selma protesters. The attack is significant, but it cannot be accurately, substantively split from the long path leading up to it. At the same time, evidence for this wider view of the threat—a long-running plot against democracy, not one terrible day—emerged from the committee’s work. 

That is a credit to its fact-finding. A competent investigation follows leads, sources, and facts. It adapts to new information, rather than sticking to an initial perception formed before new evidence, witnesses, and facts are gathered and tested. 

Here’s why this matters: The results of the Select Committee’s work suggest a threat greater than the physical insurrection of January 6. The committee initially devoted to investigating that terrible day helped reveal truths that go far beyond it. The Select Committee is a part of Congress. There is a co-equal branch of government, the Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces the law. The federal prosecutors working the case have focused on the storming of the Capitol. As the 117th Congress prepares to release its report, the DOJ is mostly prosecuting insurrectionists who physically trespassed on January 6. The DOJ has indicted more than 900 people in this probe; every single charge is for people who stormed the Capitol that day or those who helped them do it. 

Some later subpoenas turned to gathering evidence and testimony from Trump aides, however, the Justice Department’s indictments overwhelmingly prioritized the one-day framework. More than 320 defendants have been convicted. It is an open probe, and the scope could certainly change as prosecutors move up the line. In January 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland stressed the “purposeful” way that “in complex cases” like this probe, “initial charges are often less severe than later charged offenses . . . as investigators methodically collect and sift through more evidence.” 

A CONSPIRACY, NOT A RIOT The attempted coup, and the road to the insurrection, transpired over several months. The January 6 Committee’s dense hearings and evidence, plus other independent reporting, show the plots to overthrow the election were broader and more organized than some one-day crime spree. The attack was one of several plots pursuing the same goal. The evidence shows it was not a spontaneous riot or burst of aimless anger. It had a purpose: prevent or delay certifying the election results to reinforce a much wider coup operation. 

That truth is at odds with Trump defenders’ main arguments, which boil any offense down to a day of violence, then pin it on the people who stormed the Capitol. (These are the main defenses of Trump allies, including some implicated in the coup; they are distinct from Trump’s rhetoric defending some insurrectionists or talking about pardoning them.) 

The evidence shows the people at the Capitol were mostly pawns, not leaders who worked with Trump or for his administration. They responded to Trump publicly summoning them. They went to a rally organized and funded by MAGA leaders and Trump aides. Their role—to hijack the certification on January 6—was to execute one prong of a wider conspiracy strategy hatched and written down by Trump lawyers. It is important to confront the plots in that conspiracy alongside the detailed testimony and evidence in the Select Committee’s Report. 

LOSE AND DECLARE VICTORY Some of the earliest damning evidence on Trump’s criminal intent comes from Trump himself. He intended to overthrow the election before it even occurred. To state the obvious: Politicians don’t challenge elections that they won. Trump saw signs he could lose before Election Day and began plotting to overthrow the results. Speaking to reporters at the White House on September 23—as early voting was already underway—Trump said that if he lost, he would not follow “a peaceful transfer of power after the election.” Instead, he vowed to continue in office no matter what. “There won’t be a transfer, frankly,” he said, “there will be a continuation.” The ensuing headlines were stark. They could apply to an incumbent authoritarian in any “Banana Republic”: “Trump Won’t Commit to ‘Peaceful’ Post-Election Transfer of Power” (New York Times) “Trump declines to commit to a peaceful transition of power after election” (Politico) “Trump won’t commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses.” (CNBC) 

That was a first for the United States. It shattered another convention. It put violence on the table. When the person in charge of the military and the nukes publicly says there won’t be a peaceful transfer of power, the country is already in a bad spot. Trump’s brazen vow stoked expectations and created the criminal playbook that his followers would later use. Trump reaffirmed the same blatant challenge to a peaceful transfer of power at the first 2020 Presidential Debate, as 73 million Americans watched live. Taken alone, Trump’s disturbing vow was not a crime. The law matters here. Claiming that you will commit a future crime in one scenario is rarely a crime itself. A person who says, “I would steal food if my family were starving,” has not stolen anything—and may never. The same goes for most threats, although there are some exceptions. A politician could make the same vow as Trump, then lawfully win, and stay in office, without testing the peaceful transfer of power. 

For Trump, however, those words are now criminal evidence because of his later actions. They form part of the criminal intent for plots that began even before he officially lost. As Trump bluntly announced his plan for a “continuation” of his reign—no matter what—some of his most aggressive advisers went to work on it. 

Before the election, Steve Bannon, who led Trump’s 2016 campaign and became the first Trump aide convicted for defying the January 6 Committee, explained the “declare victory” plan. “What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory,” Bannon privately told Trump allies on October 31, 2020. Bannon spelled out the plot was to seize power illegally, even if Trump lost. “That doesn’t mean he’s the winner—he’s just gonna say he’s the winner,” Bannon said (in a recording later published by Mother Jones and cited by the Committee). Like Trump, Bannon sometimes confesses his infractions. The move draws on a law of power, where a leader who brazenly transgresses, and gets away with it, tries to enhance an aura of invincibility. (Since joining Trump, Bannon has been indicted three times and convicted once, so it’s not working for him. For Trump, time will tell.) 

In the early morning hours of Election Night, Trump was trailing in the Electoral College and total vote. The election had not been called. Trump came out and did exactly what Bannon outlined, falsely claiming, “We did win this election,” and “we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court.” In case there was any doubt that he knew counting all votes would lock in his loss, he added, “We want all voting to stop.” That was all public. Privately, Trump knew he had not won. The January 6 Committee exposed that some of Trump’s most senior and loyal aides, and family members, told him the truth: he was trailing, on a path to lose, and they opposed lying about the outcome. 

Take campaign manager Bill Stepien and Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Both testified that they advised Trump to say the votes were “still being counted.” Stephen Miller, one of the only Trump aides who lasted in Trump’s chaotic White House for all four years, broke with the Bannon plan. “I was saying that we should not go and ‘declare victory,’” he testified. Trump plowed forward anyway. 

The voting was over. No winner had been declared yet. And Trump began executing the plan to declare victory. That is incriminating, because it shows the outcome never mattered to Trump. (That undercuts a defense Trump allies proposed later: that he genuinely believed he won or that he had somehow been cheated. It is impossible to genuinely believe anything before the results are in.) 

In those early morning hours after Election Day, Trump began executing one of the plots to stay in power, regardless of the outcome. Taking that step, regardless of the facts and his advisers’ warnings, was not a crime. There is no law against candidates lying. There isn’t even a legal requirement that losing candidates verbally concede—only that when their term expires, they physically leave the office that they no longer hold. That same night, a split emerged within Trump’s camp. One aide later told the Select Committee about a rift between Team Normal and everyone else. 

But it’s quite a euphemism to say the people trying to overthrow the election were simply not normal. The evidence suggests something more sinister—Team Lawful versus Team Coup. The split raises a theme visible in the report and within the current Republican Party. The Trump aides who followed the law and declined to join coup plots did the bare minimum in a highly scrutinized arena. Breaking the law could ruin their careers or lives. Their refusal to participate, however, did complicate Trump’s efforts. He was not dissuaded, instead mounting an exhaustive, sometimes desperate search to find government employees and lawyers willing to join Team Coup. (The search for violent insurrectionists on January 6 proved easier, since no expertise was required, and Trump recruited from tens of millions of supporters.) 

From that point, the coup plot leaned on the assorted characters willing to advance Trump’s strategy. That’s an important human aspect of the story, because some of the people Trump found may seem extreme, odd, or unserious, yet it is clear the authorities must take them seriously. 

These were the elites willing to join a modern coup. Some went all the way, while others reached their own limits of expediency, or self-interest, by the time the insurrection was complete. Turning to the plotters, it was just two days after Election Day when Donald Trump Jr. sent a private text that he apparently believed would never be revealed. He routinely texted with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as a conduit to his father, and wrote, “We have multiple paths. We control them all.” 

It’s clear from the Select Committee’s evidence and independent reporting that Trump and his allies crafted at least eight distinct plans to overturn a loss. They did not execute all of them. Some of the plans began as extreme but arguably legal plans, which later turned unlawful as votes were finalized and certified. By January, however, as a legal matter: Seven of the plans were unconstitutional or illegal. 


This brings up a legal point that is relevant to this analysis—and for reading the Committee’s official report. Unconstitutional and illegal are not synonyms here. They are distinct legal categories. Some of Trump’s plans were unconstitutional, meaning they violated the U.S. Constitution. A court can swiftly block and stop unconstitutional action. Such efforts are invalid but short-lived; courts stop them, and they do not carry prison time. For example: A president orders DHS to ban Muslim immigrants, and a court blocks the plan as unconstitutional. The order is canceled. No one is indicted or goes to jail. The courts simply have the last word, halting action that the government would otherwise carry out. 

Some of Trump’s other plans were illegal, meaning they involved crimes. A prosecutor indicts a person for a past criminal act. For example: A person shoots someone and gets indicted for it. Prosecutors may also indict a person for an attempted crime (trying and failing to shoot someone), or for a conspiracy to commit a crime (two people agree on a plot to have someone shot). Bottom line: For those involved, crimes are more serious and risky than unconstitutional acts. It also takes the government much longer to respond to crimes than unconstitutional acts, because the process and implications of indicting someone are different than blocking government action. 

Here are the eight plots Trump pursued: After lawsuits, all the remaining plots were unconstitutional or illegal by January. That is incriminating for Trump and other implicated parties. 

As a matter of organization, naturally, the plots could be counted in more than one way. For example, at the state level, Trump tried to get both state election officials and state legislators to overturn votes for Biden. This list categorizes those attempts under one larger plot to demand states overturn votes, rather than two distinct plots aimed at different government officials in the same state. 


The first two plots began as legal: filing lawsuits to challenge the results (showing Trump trailing and then losing); and efforts to recruit and install Trump electors in states that Biden won. Lawsuits are legal. Every case has a loser, and the courts are basically open for even weak or fact-free lawsuits, with a process for dispatching those cases quickly. Judges can sanction frivolous lawsuits, but the act of filing them is still legal. Trump filed a cascade of weak, losing, and sometimes frivolous suits trying to challenge or overturn his loss. By the glacial standards of a court case, most were “immediately” shut down—fifty of his roughly fifty-seven suits were rejected within a month. None were ever deemed credible enough to get a single argument at the Supreme Court (let alone a victory). 

That shoddy record says a lot about Trump’s clear-cut loss. A wide range of judges agreed there was literally nothing to debate, unlike, say, in Bush v Gore. However, this record does not say much about criminal culpability. The election was called on November 7. The people had spoken, firing Trump as president. As the month wore on, the judges had spoken, too. Trump’s Election Night vow about “going to the U.S. Supreme Court” had failed. For all the bluster and lying, Trump saw that reality. The court doors were closing on Trump’s lawsuits. There was no road to changing the election results that way, lawfully. 

Trump’s team quickly turned to plots to steal the election in states Biden won. One of the earliest gambits sounds far-fetched. Each state submits electors to the Electoral College, reflecting the winning presidential candidate. The idea was to recruit Trump supporters to falsely claim they were the actual electors in states that Biden won and somehow install those fraudulent electors in Biden states. The scheme was floated among Trump allies as early as the day after the election. (Again, not a scheme you need if you think you won.) 

That is when former Trump Cabinet member Rick Perry suggested, in a text, that Republicans could “send their own electors to vote” for Trump in Biden states. Within eleven days after Biden’s victory, Trump lawyers were trying to operationalize that plot. They wrote up plans to arrange for “electors pledged to Trump” to conduct a kind of shadow Electoral College, where they would “meet on December 14” and falsely claim they represented the voters who had actually backed Biden. This didn’t get far. On December 14, the actual Electoral College met. It formalized Biden’s victory. There was no great showing by a shadow Electoral College, which would have been pretty ridiculous. 

Now, this is where the timing comes in: The key to who gets charged for this scheme may turn on the calendar. Before that December 14 meeting, people involved in the plot have a defense: they can argue they were pushing hypothetical electors in the event that somehow a last-minute court ruling changed the lawful outcome. (There is some precedent for that, in races that were closer and contested, and that’s where the term “alternate elector” can apply.) After the actual Electoral College voted, however, people claiming to be Trump electors from states where voters had elected Biden were engaging in blatant fraud against the Electoral College vote. It’s easy to underestimate the threat of this plot because it all sounds, frankly, delusional. A few random people standing around committing fraud, claiming to be the real electors, does not seem like a viable path to overturning an election. Can anyone imagine a court tossing an entire publicly confirmed election, and its government-supervised certification, because some guys in a parking lot claim to be the “real electors”? 

However, these people claiming to be electors didn’t plan on being legitimately counted. They were responding to a top-down plot to contrive a pretext to cancel out the real electors. This conspiracy’s endgame was a power grab, not a legitimate victory or lawsuit. So, confronting these plots requires a mix of objective legal analysis and a feel for the lies and conspiracy theories used—sometimes to great effect—in the world of MAGA politics. Trump aides began trying to launder and normalize the elector fraud in public, at that time. White House aide Stephen Miller did TV interviews touting how an “alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote, and we’re going to send those results up to Congress,” while White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany declared, “there has been an alternate slate of electors voted upon, that Congress will decide in January.” 

Notice her clarity about the endgame in January. The idea was not to win over judges in some fact-driven proceeding. It was to offer another pretense—a lie—to Congress in a bid to steal the election. Here’s the playbook: Cite the dueling slates of electors, imply everything is “contested,” throw out the results from Biden states, then “declare” Trump the winner. There was even an arguable path to claim Trump was the winner (which arises later). 

The last possible time for this longshot would be, as the nation has now learned, on January 6. Had the plot worked, it would leave under two weeks for the courts or the public to do something to “stop the steal,” as it were. 

A REVOLT BY THE STATES Elector fraud was one road toward January 6. Another was trying to get state officials, rather than a handful of Trump supporters, to sow doubt about Biden’s win as a pretense for overthrowing it. Several of these plots deploy the same mechanism: Get politicians to override the voters. This is where Trump’s relentless effort can be clearly seen as an election conspiracy. Getting incumbent politicians to overthrow the vote is literally the simplest version of a coup. It does not require legal theories, the military, or any violent insurrection. It is what despots have done throughout history. That is why the Founders set up so many different roadblocks to prevent it (judicial review, local elections, federalism, an independent military, a lengthy maze of certifications, a prohibition on politicians adjudicating their own races, etc.). 

A government override of voters is the preferred mechanism of most modern authoritarians, like Vladimir Putin. Today in Russia, the government purports to hold “elections,” people participate in a supposed “vote,” but the incumbent controls the outcome. Trump and his aides tried this mechanism at most conceivable checkpoints. To reverse Biden’s win, that included demands on local elections officials, state elections officials, elected state lawmakers, elected lawmakers in Congress and, perhaps most absurdly, Vice President Mike Pence. (If the incumbent vice president actually had the lawful power to cancel elections and stay in office, we would have noticed by now. For instance, Vice President Gore certified his own loss in 2000, because he lost the Electoral College in the Supreme Court–supervised results.) 

Given the intense support for Trump in the Republican Party, and the fealty Republican politicians have shown him on so many topics, it is worth considering why this particular request was rejected most of the time (with the partial exception of some in Congress, which comes into play later). The answer is the same as why most Trump aides avoided Team Coup and why the Founders got this challenge right: For most officials, the legal and political incentives run strongly against joining a coup. Elections officials who commit voter fraud can get indicted. Under federalism, they are subject to local and state prosecutors. That means they can be indicted regardless of who is president, and separate from national political pressures, which have been moving pro-coup within the GOP. 

Perhaps more immediately, state lawmakers who try to toss their own constituents’ votes may find themselves fired in the very next election. (For those wondering, “What if they use similar tactics to insulate themselves from a vote?,” the state officials have a role in overseeing their state’s presidential vote, but none in overseeing their own election results.) The vice president had every informed reason to expect courts to reject any Hail Mary claim that he could personally steal the election. That would leave him as the loser of the election, and the losing leader of a failed plot, with legal exposure. 

That is the context and recent history for these three plots. As The January 6 Report went to press, there were no federal indictments of Trump aides for the coup conspiracy. Still, it is notable that the top lawyers who pushed this satchel of plots face a range of legal consequences. Rudy Giuliani has been named as a target for state indictment in Georgia; John Eastman had his phone seized in a federal search; and the highest-ranking DOJ supporter of pushing a state to override its vote, Jeffrey Clark, had his home searched in the investigation. 

The plots to get politicians to overthrow the election results began a bit later. By December 7, top White House staff were messaging about a “path” to stealing the election, if they could compel Republican state legislatures to toss their own constituents’ votes for Biden. Prosecutors try to date the inception of premeditated crimes when possible. Trump’s top aide, Meadows, made that easy: He privately texted an ally on December 7 that he had been “working on” the legislature plot “as of yesterday.” (A federal judge has since determined this plot was “fully formed” by that day, citing Meadows’ incriminating admission.) Eastman, a former clerk to the most radical member of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, pushed a plan to have Republican state legislatures “override” their constituents’ votes for Biden. Meadows privately wrote that he loved the idea. Trump administration witnesses later recounted Eastman admitted, at the time, that his plans were unlawful, violating the Electoral Count Act. As this plan cohered in secret, Giuliani was holding bizarre press conferences and giving winding briefings to state legislatures. At the time, it may have looked like another stunt, or publicity-driven act of misdirection. Giuliani didn’t have much evidence and didn’t seem to care. 

But the Select Committee’s investigation puts that seeming shortcoming in a different light. In court, a lawyer tries to persuade with facts and logic. In a fraud, the criminal just needs to trick people. This plot was not to “prove” a case, but to get state officials to join in the fraud conspiracy. Trump tried to recruit state officials to overturn the votes, and he had direct contact with people in Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia, where he infamously demanded the top elections official join him in voter fraud. These efforts demanding states overthrow their own votes were extensive but thwarted. Trump would ask Republicans to help steal the election after the fact, and they largely refused. Those failures add context to why Trump and his allies desperately searched for other ways to pressure officials, or to “legitimize” tossing the results with claims of fraud. 

That is how Trump landed on a new bank shot, demanding the DOJ interfere in how states count their results. 


Those plots are the context for Trump trying to get the Justice Department to join his corrupt state plot. No state legislatures were taking action. So, Trump pushed the Justice Department to push the states. The idea was either that this public Trump administration move would add political pressure, or the Justice Department’s involvement would add credibility, or a pretext, for states to overthrow their own constituents’ votes while claiming fraud or other rationales. Trump’s own top DOJ appointees were adamantly opposed. The DOJ has strict protocols for any election-related activity, let alone a losing incumbent trying to abuse power to stage a coup. A mid-level DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark, supported a scheme where the DOJ would, for the first time ever, try to order a state to override its own voters’ presidential choice. The idea was for the DOJ to release a letter telling Georgia’s legislators they should come back into session and override their citizens’ votes for Biden. The proposed strategy here was legally absurd and politically clumsy. A public letter would draw attention to the legislature, possibly provoking more pushback. It would mark any later effort to change Georgia’s results as a push coming from out of state—a corrupt association, and anathema in politics. Trump mulled overriding DOJ leadership by promoting Clark to attorney general, and he discussed the plan with his own DOJ appointees. That is when he learned that the plot could trigger a wave of resignations similar to the Saturday Night Massacre under Richard Nixon. (At one point, White House logs identified Clark as the new acting attorney general, a Trumpian act that was apparently retracted within hours.) As Trump’s DOJ appointees later testified, they vowed to resign, along with possibly “hundreds” of colleagues, if Trump acted on this. This clash came in late December and would probably have hindered Trump’s plans for January 6. The appointees also warned him the ensuing scandal would contradict the message of any DOJ letter, undercutting any supposed pressure on Georgia to actually convene a session to override the vote. According to those Trump appointees’ testimony, what moved Trump the most was the warning that the plan was bad PR and would fail to move the legislature. The plot fizzled out as a bust. THE PENTAGON AND ORANGE JUMPSUITS In countries that hold elections, the simplest type of coup occurs when the government overrides them in a “bloodless coup,” only resorting to force if there’s a popular uprising. Election results are ignored or replaced. Yet the most infamous type of coup, across all forms of government, is the military coup. The military’s dominant and severe force makes it a natural temptation for authoritarians. A leader recruits the military to take or hold power. In countries with weak governance, the very real prospect of (another) military coup is so normalized, it hangs over the political system as a kind of check—politicians court the generals, and they have the last word on an administration. Trump has long admired autocrats who rule through the military, from Putin to Erdogan. It was not a giant leap that he explored how to get the U.S. military to help his coup. This is one of the plots that was quickly thwarted. He was stopped by the apparent realization it would not work—not by law or ethics. In late December, Trump could see most of his active plots were failing. The lawsuits were basically over; the fraudulent electors did not budge the real Electoral College vote; not a single Biden state took public action to alter its election outcome. Those failures matter because they set the stage for more desperate action. Some people caricature Trump as reckless and sloppy. His brushes with the law, however, show a methodical posture toward risk—he did not start with the military plot in November, let alone with the January 6 plan. He turned to the riskier plots when his options were running out. At this point, Team Coup was thin. Even some of Trump’s top loyalists were blanching at where his plots were headed. Trump turned to a lawyer who would give him the answers he wanted, Sidney Powell. She was part of a group of outsiders who were so extreme, Meadows barred them from the White House. But on December 18, a young aide to White House adviser Peter Navarro snuck in Powell and retired General Mike Flynn for a last-ditch shot at the military plan. (The aide lost his credentials privileges for the infraction.) Essentially, the idea was Trump would use his authority to appoint Powell as a special prosecutor (technically legal) and use that post as a bridge to have the military seize voting machines (illegal). The military does not report to the Justice Department, and military leaders have a duty to refuse to carry out a clearly unlawful order. The discussion over that plan is the most intense, unruly, and bizarre meeting in the documented history of the Trump White House. The sheer emotion of it drew attention in the Select Committee’s hearings, but unlike some Washington scandals, the emotion functioned largely in proportion to the gravity of the situation. Government lawyers testified it was a nutty screaming match that stretched across several hours, as participants grasped that the idea was to try to conscript the military into a coup, seizing voting machines in a plot to prevent the incoming administration from taking office. The plot remained largely secret, only later to be exposed by the Select Committee and investigative reporters. But some of its architects vaguely talked up parts of the plot in public. White House aide Peter Navarro went on TV to suggest “a special counsel that we put in place before Inauguration Day,” adding, “I think we need to seize a lot of these voting machines.” At one point in the meeting, Trump said he was taking the action of appointing Powell as special prosecutor. She never took any documented steps toward taking the position. By the end of the night, Trump scrapped the plan, apparently convinced it was both futile and legally risky. Even Rudy Giuliani, who crossed so many lines as Trump’s lawyer that he had his law license suspended and was named a target for indictment in Georgia, warned Trump the military plan was a death wish. Giuliani told Trump that “we would all end up in prison” if he tried it, according to one of the meeting participants, Patrick Boyde, who spoke to the New York Times. So Trump apparently dropped that plot. There is no public evidence that he or Powell attempted to actually issue the military order. But Trump did not stop there. The failure of that plan led Trump to the most fateful act in his entire coup conspiracy. On that same late night, Trump made his first public push to summon followers to sabotage the certification on January 6. This is one of the most damning pieces of evidence exposed by the Select Committee. It informs Trump’s ongoing criminal intent: to overturn the election. It shows that when Trump did back down or abandon plots it was not because of any adherence to the law. It was due to self-interest. He kept his dogged focus on plots that he believed could overturn the election. That suggests a criminal intent spanning months—a long way from the legalistic fixation on Trump’s specific intent at one speech on January 6. Team Coup continued to thin; Giuliani had turned from an enabler to a putative voice of reason on certain plots. So, Trump turned to a plot pushed by the most extreme, loyal coup plotters—John Eastman, Peter Navarro, and Steve Bannon. This was the unprecedented, seemingly bizarre fixation on turning something pro forma—the Congressional certification of Electoral College votes—into a battle royale to cancel a national election. For the first announcement of such a crucial plan, one might expect a speech, media appearance, or Internet post during waking hours. But in a sign of Trump’s personal and intense commitment, the evidence shows he went directly from the coup meeting to the Eastman–Navarro plot, tweeting in that same early morning: “Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump. Big Protest in DC on January 6 . . . will be wild!” That message marks the first time Trump ever told his supporters where to go to join the fight. At the time, it was not widely interpreted as a call to arms. If anything, political analysts treated it as one last bid to sow confusion about the results or stoke the perception that Trump went down fighting. That dangerously underestimated the objective. It was actually part of an organized plot that was far from “dead on arrival.” Indeed, it could have worked. The evidence shows that Trump’s team had the intent to sabotage the January 6 certification of then President-Elect Biden’s win in at least three ways: Revive the elector fraud plot on the Senate floor. Compel Mike Pence to claim he had the authority to delay or override the certification. Deploy violence to delay or override the certification. A vice president claiming authority he does not have is unconstitutional. Elector fraud and violently storming the Capitol are illegal. All three plans evinced illicit intent, and the two illegal ones had criminal intent. Unlike some of the plots that fizzled, Trump’s team took concrete actions to get those things done: as late as January 6, Republican allies were pushing to present fraudulent elector slates on the Senate floor; Trump privately and publicly ordered Pence to interfere in the certification; and, of course, his supporters responded to Trump’s address by unleashing a violent crime spree of trespassing, assault, battery, battery with deadly weapons, threatened assassination, and other attacks to delay the certification, which they achieved. A CERTIFICATION OR A COUP Some legal issues are debatable. Trump’s plot for Pence on January 6 was not one of them. It was unconstitutional, and bananas, to claim that an incumbent administration can steal the election by having the losing vice president magically reject the results in his ceremonial role presiding over the Senate. Trump’s White House lawyers rejected the plan, as did Pence’s lawyers. Trump’s coup lawyer, John Eastman, tried to provide cover by writing up his unconstitutional opinion that Pence could take up a new role, “not to just open the votes, but to count them,” making him the “ultimate arbiter” of who won. Trump demanded Pence exploit the ceremonial role to try to steal the election. Trump spoke with Pence about it as late as January 4. Pence has not testified or said much about the details of their discussions. It’s unclear if Trump attempted to issue an order, which Pence would then formally resist as unlawful, or if in private, he continued the tone of his public speeches and tweets, which largely pushed and prodded Pence to act. There is zero precedent, law, or logic supporting a vice president having powers to alter the ceremonial certification on January 6. But had Pence made any claim to that power, or made a surprise announcement in the Senate that the certification must be delayed, the January 6 session would have likely been thrown into chaos. If there was no resolution that day, Trump’s claim that the election was still contested would be strengthened. The courts might stay out of calls to resolve a political dispute about how Congress governs itself. So while Pence did the bare legal minimum, it also took the resistance of Trump’s handpicked ally, opposing a coup that would have kept him in power, to avert that kind of crisis. As Pence and others pushed back, Trump relied more on his most extreme and desperate enablers. Throughout Trump’s presidency, John Eastman was an obscure figure. He had never held a top job for Trump. He only appeared on the radar after Trump lost the election. In Washington, that put him in the uninteresting category of lame-duck staff, people who might eke out their fifteen minutes in the last days of a term. As Trump pushed Pence, Eastman went on Steve Bannon’s show—popular with Trump’s most rabid supporters—pushing the January 6 plot by declaring that a second Trump term hinged on the “courage and spine” of Pence. On January 6, one senator was still trying to hand Pence materials about fraudulent electors on the Senate floor, as the Select Committee uncovered. It may seem odd, but it makes sense within these larger plots. The idea was to give Pence one final pretext to claim he had just received competing slates of electors, so the vote could not be certified. Pence’s aide texted the senator’s staffer, “Do not give him that,” just twenty minutes before Pence came into the Senate. (More than 130 Republicans later voted to object to the certification, with eight Republican senators.) The thwarted plot shared the goal of the insurrectionists—sabotage the certification—but operated separately. It could have been much more chaotic, perhaps even effective, had the defeated vice president taken different action—or had Trump picked a different vice president. BLOODLESS COUP The insurrection was a violent attack on the peaceful transfer of power. The rightful scrutiny of that violence, and the sheer danger, panic, and drama of the mayhem, can divert focus from the illegal, nonviolent attacks on the peaceful transfer of power. Several of these plots targeting January 6 were designed to work together: Upend, delay, or override the certification of Biden’s win via Pence or Congress; or get Pence or Congress to cite “contested” results as the reason, pointing to the fraudulent electors or dissenting state officials that would also be organized by the Trump plotters. None of those plots required storming the Capitol. Indeed, it is vital to understand those coup plots would be wrong, and likely illegal, even if the insurrection never occurred. Most of the evidence of those plots emerged after they failed and Trump left office. Peter Navarro, the indicted White House aide whom Trump cited in his first announcement of a January 6 rally, has publicly made the same distinction about force—that their plot was to overthrow Biden’s victory peacefully. Navarro coordinated with Bannon, who was later convicted for defying the Select Committee, and touted their congressional plot as a “Green Bay Sweep” (a nod to the football play). Like Bannon, Navarro admits key parts of the plot. The plan was to hijack the January 6 certification and “remand those [Biden] votes back to the six battleground states,” Navarro told me in an interview, with “over 100 congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill ready to implement the sweep.” He received his first subpoena from the Select Committee after that interview, and he was later indicted for defying it. (At the time of the report’s publication, he awaits trial.) On January 2, Trump took a final stab at the plot to get states to overturn the votes. He spoke to hundreds of state legislators on January 2, telling them they still had the “real power” to decide the election by overriding their citizens’ votes for Biden. It was too late for states to take any legal action, but the apparent idea was to get them to voice support for the idea that Congress could still reject votes from certain states. It was actually on that same day that Trump made his incriminating call to the top elections official in Georgia—which sparked a state criminal probe—demanding they “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” Trump and his aides also floated vague, unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud. It didn’t move those states or state officials. Republican members of Congress, however, proved more receptive, regardless of the evidence. Rudy Giuliani has admitted that he briefed Republican lawmakers about the plan, naming some (Representatives Jordan and Gaetz). Bannon, who was still pursuing a pardon for an unrelated indictment at the time, said he expected the support of leading senators (naming Cruz, Graham, and Cotton). Trump didn’t need all those plots to succeed. He needed to thwart or delay the January 6 certification. If Biden’s victory was not certified on, say, January 7—even if prevented by illegal means—then as a Constitutional matter, there would be a wrinkle for President-Elect Biden. It could be fixed—by completing the certification—or it could grow into an allegedly constitutional question. Here’s why that matters: Under the rules, there are ways the Trump plot could have gone further, or even led to the constitutional crisis of two dueling presidents elect. Most people are not constitutional scholars, so most people have not dug into that danger. It is vital to understand, especially for preventing similar plots in the future. ENDGAME There is a great deal of information about January 6. Videos. Pictures. Testimony. Articles. Hearings. And now this exhaustive report. For all that information, however, it is rare to hear the endgame explained. The hardcore coup plotters wanted more than chaos or a last stand. The objective was to sabotage the certification in order to keep Trump in power. If the certification was merely delayed or prevented, under law, President-Elect Biden would be on track to assume office. If the issue reached the courts, they would likely rule that a logistical certification problem does not reverse the election. (One can imagine hypotheticals, like a surprise attack in war, where Congress is unable to meet to certify before the transfer of power on January 20.) So, the coup required more. The idea was to try to exploit a rule where if a presidential race is genuinely contested, and neither candidate has a majority, then before anything reaches the courts, the House of Representatives resolves the contested race with its own unusual vote. This is supposed to be the last resort for genuine toss-ups. That House vote is tallied by one vote per state, under the arcane rules. Republicans controlled twenty-seven state delegations in the House. A straight party-line vote would go to Trump. If that happened, Biden could sue, asking the Supreme Court to reject the House interference as a fraud used to falsely claim a “contested” race. The Court could take the case on an emergency basis and determine the true winner in the few remaining days before the transfer of power. Or it could simply decline, leaving the House’s rearguard action for Trump as the now-legal result. The U.S. did not reach that point in 2021. It may still sound outlandish to some observers. It is, however, precisely why Trump’s coup plotters picked January 6. It is why Trump seized on that day when the military plot failed. It is why Mark Meadows and Trump’s son were discussing “multiple paths” they intended to “control” for staying in power despite losing. It is the outcome Trump’s plotters sought, which is relevant both to their culpability and how the United States tries to defend elections going forward. A VIOLENT INSURRECTION Then there was the violence. Trump summoned his supporters to Washington and planned to send them from his rally to the Capitol, where he intended to join them—and he continued with that plot knowing many were armed. “They aren’t here to hurt me,” he said, according to his aides’ testimony. That morning, Trump knew his other seven plots were thwarted. He knew that Pence and House Republicans and the elector fraud had not forged anything like a path to holding power, just as he knew he needed something beyond the aborted military plot when he first sent out the call to turn January 6 into a “wild” gathering in D.C. Trump pushed, welcomed, and encouraged the attack on the Capitol. It was his plan. He did not take action to stop it as president, and he commended the attackers afterward. After leaving office, he vowed pardons for them. Where other plots failed, the Trump fans’ violence did achieve a key illicit goal: Their crimes prevented Congress from certifying the vote on the legally required date of January 6. It was actually 3:40 a.m. on January 7 when the vote was finally certified. In an even larger attack, one with grenades or bombs, the delay would be longer. (The police initially told Congressional leaders they needed “days” to secure the Capitol on January 6.) In a larger attack, Americans would wake up on January 7 with no certified winner. There would be thirteen days until the transfer of power at the inauguration—with an incumbent president claiming the power to stay in office. JUSTICE The prosecution of the insurrection has fixated on the people who came to Washington to storm the Capitol, not the people who sent them there. That may eventually change. The investigations of the other plots have scrutinized some of the leaders who plotted to overthrow the election, but no Trump figures have been indicted on those election crimes. That, too, may eventually change. What would justice look like? Beyond the fundamentals—an objective, nonpartisan probe; due process; the presumption of innocence at trial—a just probe must face the powerful with the same vigor it bears down on the pawns. It must evaluate the alleged crime—not the person accused—with no fear or favor for people who may run for office or gain power again. Across the eight plots of the coup conspiracy, some efforts may not rise to the standard for indictable crimes. The lawsuits were lawful, even when packed with professionally sanctionable lies. (More than one Trump lawyer is barred from practicing law for that reason.) The electors plot began as arguably lawful, because election law provides for a period of time to contest even seemingly decisive results. The actions of elected lawmakers, in Congress or state legislatures, are presumptively lawful within their official capacities—barring some external fraud or crime. 

So if a state legislature tried to vote to change the 2020 results, or more members of Congress voted against certifying them, those legislative actions are not typically prosecutable. (The Supreme Court would likely find them unconstitutional and halt them.) 

Under current law, a disturbing amount of conduct designed to steal elections is not indictable. These coordinated Trump plots, however, went far beyond lawsuits and legislative debates. They involved a criminal coup conspiracy. One plank is the now-convicted sedition conspiracy in the violent January 6 attack—one of the gravest federal crimes—while other planks stretch across the assorted plots to overturn and steal state election results, or fraudulently advance efforts to have Congress overturn the results. 

Justice would mean prosecutors pursue people who attempted or completed conspiracies to defraud the United States; commit sedition and related violence; hinder the counting or certification of votes and election results; submit fraudulent votes or electors; corruptly use government powers to oversee elections or prosecutions; or violate other federal or state laws safeguarding elections, the transfer of power, and government integrity. 

Justice would mean facing the overwhelming evidence that the leader and beneficiary of the coup conspiracy, Donald Trump, be held accountable for his criminal intent and direct actions. In the U.S. system of criminal justice, the decision to indict a person is up to prosecutors—not subject to some vote or public lobbying. Each defendant’s ultimate guilt is decided by an impartial jury, not people bringing their preconceptions for a preordained result. The public’s principles and civic culture can also shape legal priorities—some prosecutors are elected; laws are written by elected politicians—and the nation clearly needs a public willing to stand for democracy over coups right now. 


January 6, 2021 is far more than a day. It’s more than a shorthand for an event and its related issues, like some historical dates in the public mindset. And January 6 turned out to be more than one violent attack. January 6, 2021 marks the criminal culmination of an organized conspiracy led out of the White House. The evidence of criminal intent runs across weeks and sometimes months. Several plotters were warned their plans were unlawful or criminal, and they repeatedly pressed on. Most of the plotters never took the physical step of storming the Capitol or engaging in combat. Some even opposed that particular tactic, while pushing other illegal plots pursuing the exact same result. 

The people at the Capitol that day—many now convicts—formed the criminal muscle backing one plot among several. They did not operate in isolation. To Team Trump, those people were clearly pawns. The more senior planners, aides, and lawyers—the ones who knew the certification date, and how the Electoral Count Act might be exploited, and the rules for an endgame where a delayed certification might actually keep Trump in office—none of them have been indicted. 

That’s why the date matters. If this were a one-day riot, that might be the right outcome. If it is a coup conspiracy, and the powerful people—in White House meetings guarded by agents with guns, wielding the powers of prosecution, force, and even the military—get away with their attempted coup, then what? 

The consequences go beyond justice. The consequences cut to the public’s safety and the future of American democracy. Doug Porter, a political writer, put it simply: “If Trump’s coup attempt goes unpunished, it will become a training exercise.”

 That’s where we are now. The full, objective reality of what happened, and what we do about it, can decide whether the United States acts to make this an aberration of the current era, or a public training for the next coup. Democracy may now turn on facing the facts—in this report and in independent accounts of these plots—and whether the U.S. government acts on them.


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The January 6 Select Committee. The January 6 Report (pp. V-i). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.