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Poll: Most Republicans believe Trump bears no responsibility for Capitol attacks
Trump flags fly as supporters of President Donald Trump occupy the steps of the US Capitol. | Shay Horse/NurPhoto/Getty Images A new poll finds a nation united on opposing the Capitol attacks but divided on who is to blame. An overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, but most Republicans say President Donald Trump bears no responsibility for the assault — and nearly half say Republican lawmakers didn’t go far enough in supporting the president’s efforts to overturn the election’s results, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The poll — which surveys 1,002 US adults, and was taken from January 10 to 13 — paints a striking picture, and finds a national consensus on the impropriety of what transpired at the Capitol, while revealing familiar divisions on who is to blame for the episode. The poll found that almost 9 in 10 Americans oppose the storming of the Capitol, and that 80 percent strongly oppose the attack. But when asked about who is to blame — and what, if any, repercussions Trump should face for promoting a “wild” rally that eventually overran the country’s legislature and resulted in the deaths of five people — there is nothing approaching consensus. While majorities of the public disapprove of the president’s behavior, Trump still retains a large degree of support from Republicans, as does his disinformation campaign to discredit the 2020 election results. The poll found 56 percent of Americans believe that Congress should remove Trump from office and prevent him from holding elected office in the future. But among Republicans, 89 percent oppose such a course of action. The reason for that appears to be straightforward: The pollsters found most Republicans don’t think he did anything wrong. While 66 percent of Americans believe Trump has acted irresponsibly in his statements and actions since the election, 66 percent of Republicans think he acted responsibly, according to the poll. While 57 percent of Americans believe Trump bears a great deal or good amount of responsibility for the violent attack, 56 percent of Republicans say Trump bears no responsibility — and another 22 percent say he bears some. As The Post’s Greg Sargent puts it in his analysis of the poll’s results, among Republicans, that means 78 percent of Republicans at least partially exonerate the president. A large percentage of Republicans also feel GOP leaders should in fact have gone further in their efforts to back Trump’s bid to overturn the election results. While 52 percent of Americans believe GOP leaders went too far in supporting Trump’s (false) claims about the election results, 48 percent of Republicans said they did not go far enough. A similar divide is also apparent in the poll’s results on whether Trump should be held legally liable for the attack. Most Americans think he should be criminally charged for his role; only 1 in 8 Republicans agree. These findings of Republicans as reluctant to assign blame to Trump match trends in other surveys. As Vox’s Sean Collins wrote in an analysis of polling conducted immediately after the Capitol Hill attack, considerable portions of Republicans are inclined to believe that the riot was not only not Trump’s fault, but actually something Democrats should be blamed for. “Instead of placing the insurrection at Trump’s feet, 52 percent of Republicans told YouGov that it was actually Biden’s fault; 42 percent of Republicans told Morning Consult the same — and 48 percent of Republicans told Morning Consult that Democrats in Congress were also to blame,” Collins wrote last week. Trump’s support appears to be faltering — not collapsing There are, however, signs that a significant set of Republicans are skeptical that Trump is the right leader for their party going forward. According the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, fewer than 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say party leaders should follow Trump’s lead in the future, while 35 percent say they should move away from Trump — “a sentiment that has roughly doubled from 18 percent in 2018.” Conservatives’ lingering commitment to Trump poses significant dilemmas for Republicans after Trump leaves office. Of late, Trump has taken a somewhat adversarial stance against certain segments of his party, threatening to back the primary opponents of lawmakers he does not like. Establishment Republicans are worried that a Trump-fueled split in the party could damage their prospects as they prepare for midterm elections. And some Republican lawmakers find Trump’s political style unpredictable, overly transgressive of political norms, and a distraction from their policy agenda. This is reportedly part of why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is said to be contemplating voting to convict Trump in a Senate impeachment trial and why some Republicans are already working to defeat Trump-style candidates in the 2022 elections. But, as this poll demonstrates, Trump still has the enthusiastic support of many in the GOP. Regardless of how top lawmakers in the party may view him, they could risk alienating their own base if they try to move too far away from him, or sanction him.
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Capitol Police arrested an armed man at a DC security checkpoint
The American flag flies at half mast in honor of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, in Washington, DC. | Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images A man with an unauthorized inauguration credential — and a handgun — was arrested by Capitol Police. A man was arrested by US Capitol Police on Friday after officers found an unregistered gun and ammunition in his vehicle when he attempted to present an unauthorized inauguration credential at a security checkpoint, according to CNN. The man who was arrested — a Virginian named Wesley Beeler — was stopped at a security checkpoint, roughly half a mile away from the Capitol area. Beeler reportedly attempted to pass through the checkpoint using an “unauthorized inauguration credential” and when officers checked a list of those allowed to be in the area, he wasn’t on it. After police stopped him, they searched his car and found a handgun, as well as 509 rounds of handgun ammunition and 21 shotgun shells. The New York Times and CNN report that Beeler was asked whether he had a weapon in the vehicle, and that he told police he had a loaded Glock pistol in the truck’s center console. His truck also reportedly had multiple gun-related bumper decals. “Beeler is charged with carrying a concealed weapon, possessing an unregistered firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device,” NBC Washington reports. The gun Beeler had was not registered in DC, according to NBC Washington; in the District, possession of an unregistered firearm is illegal and subject to penalty. It’s not yet clear why Beeler was attempting to enter the area. Beeler’s father, however, has told the Times that his son was working on security with Capitol Police. An anonymous federal law enforcement official said that he was a contractor and that his credential was not fake, according to the paper. Beeler was authorized to have a firearm for his security work, but the gun was not registered in Washington, DC, the Times reported. This arrest comes as security in Washington, DC, ramps up in anticipation for the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. That security has been even more robust than usual in the wake of the violent attack of the Capitol on January 6. As Vox’s Alex Ward reported, as many as 25,000 National Guard members will be stationed in Washington for the event, in addition to thousands of police and Secret Service members. The Secret Service has also worked with local officials to facilitate a large number of street closures, according to the Washington Post, dividing the area around the White House, National Mall, and the Capitol into “red” and “green” zones. In the red zones, which encircle federal buildings and national monuments, traffic is limited to authorized vehicles; in the green zones surrounding these red zones, resident and business traffic is allowed. Law enforcement officers have been on high alert for additional violence after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in a mob attack on the building that led to five deaths. The FBI has also raised warnings about potential demonstrations at state capitols — and the US Capitol — leading up to Inauguration Day next Wednesday. Officials are looking back as well: Four House committees have now opened an investigation into why security failed to block rioters from breaking into the Capitol, as Vox’s Aaron Rupar reported. Through the checkpoints and troop presence, law enforcement hopes to prevent a similar attack from happening again.
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QAnon Is Destroying the GOP From Within
Eugene Goodman is an American hero. At a pivotal moment on January 6, the veteran United States Capitol Police officer single-handedly prevented untold bloodshed. Staring down an angry, advancing mob, he retreated up a marble staircase, calmly wielding his baton to delay his pursuers while calling out their position to his fellow officers. At the top of the steps, still alone and standing just a few yards from the chamber where senators and Vice President Mike Pence had been certifying the Electoral College’s vote, Goodman strategically lured dozens of the mayhem-minded away from an unguarded door to the Senate floor.The leader of that flank of the mob, later identified by the FBI as Douglas Jensen, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a red-white-and-blue Q—the insignia of the delusional QAnon conspiracy theory. Its supporters believe that a righteous Donald Trump is leading them in a historic quest to expose the U.S. government’s capture by a global network of cannibalistic pedophiles: not just “deep state” actors in the intelligence community, but Chief Justice John Roberts and a dozen-plus senators, including me. Now Trump’s own vice president is supposedly in on it, too. According to the FBI, Jensen “wanted to have his T-shirt seen on video so that ‘Q’ could ‘get the credit.’”[From the June 2020 issue: The prophecies of Q]January 6 is a new red-letter day in U.S. history, not just because it was the first time that the Capitol had been ransacked since the War of 1812, but because a subset of the invaders apparently were attempting to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of the Congress, kidnap the vice president, and somehow force him to declare Trump the victor in an election he lost. En route, the mob ultimately injured scores of law-enforcement officers. The attack led to the deaths of two officers and four other Americans. But the toll could have been much worse: Police located pipe bombs at the headquarters of both the Republican and Democratic National Committees. Investigators discovered a vehicle fully loaded with weaponry and what prosecutors are calling “homemade napalm bombs.”The violence that Americans witnessed—and that might recur in the coming days—is not a protest gone awry or the work of “a few bad apples.” It is the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice. When Trump leaves office, my party faces a choice: We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories, cable-news fantasies, and the ruin that comes with them. We can be the party of Eisenhower, or the party of the conspiracist Alex Jones. We can applaud Officer Goodman or side with the mob he outwitted. We cannot do both.If and when the House sends its article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, I will be a juror in his trial, and thus what I can say in advance is limited. But no matter what happens in that trial, the Republican Party faces a separate reckoning. Until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon. They can’t. The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about.The newly elected Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. She once ranted that “there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.” During her campaign, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a choice: disavow her campaign and potentially lose a Republican seat, or welcome her into his caucus and try to keep a lid on her ludicrous ideas. McCarthy failed the leadership test and sat on the sidelines. Now in Congress, Greene isn’t going to just back McCarthy as leader and stay quiet. She’s already announced plans to try to impeach Joe Biden on his first full day as president. She’ll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents, and the Republican Party.[Read: The conspiracy theories that fueled the Civil War]If the GOP is to have a future outside the fever dreams of internet trolls, we have to call out falsehoods and conspiracy theories unequivocally. We have to repudiate people who peddle those lies.We also have to show a healthier path forward. The frustrations that caused so many people to turn in desperate directions for a political voice are not going away when Trump leaves the White House for Mar-a-Lago, because deception and demagoguery are the inevitable consequences of a politics that is profoundly, systemically dysfunctional. We must begin by asking how we got to such a discontented place, where we are mired in lies, rage, and now violence. In this essay, I am focusing on the maladies of the right, but Americans across the political spectrum are falling prey to the siren song of conspiracism. Here are three reasons.America’s junk-food media dietThe way Americans are consuming and producing news—or what passes for it these days—is driving us mad. This has been said many times, but the problem has worsened in the past five years. On the supply side, media outlets have discovered that dialing up the rhetoric increases clicks, eyeballs, and revenue. On the demand side, readers and viewers like to see their opinions affirmed, rather than challenged. When everybody’s outraged, everybody wins—at least in the short term.This is not a problem only on the right or only on obscure blogs. The underlying economics that drive Fox News and upstarts such as One America News to cultivate and serve ideologically distinct audiences also drive MSNBC, CNN, and The New York Times. More and more fiercely, media outlets rally their audience behind the latest cause du jour, whether it’s battling supposed election fraud or abolishing local police departments.The conservative swaths of this media landscape were primed for Trump’s “Stop the steal” lie, which lit the fuse for the January 6 riot. For nine weeks, the president consistently lied that he had “won in a landslide.” Despite the fact that his lawyers and allies were laughed out of court more than 60 times, he spread one conspiracy theory after another across television, radio, and the web. For anyone who wanted to hear that Trump won, a machine of grifters was turning clicks into cash by telling their audiences what they wanted to hear. The liars got rich, their marks got angry, and things got out of control.America’s institutional collapseTraditional media outlets are only some of the longstanding institutions collapsing as the digital revolution erodes geographic communities in favor of placeless ones. Many people who yell at strangers on Twitter don’t know their own local officials or even their neighbors across the street. The loss of rootedness and institutional authority has created an opening for populists on the right and the left. It’s not a coincidence that in 2016, millions of Republicans threw in their lot behind a man who for almost all of his life had been a Democratic voter and donor, and millions of Democrats wanted as their nominee a senator who staunchly refused to join their party. On both sides, conventional politicians were being told they had lost the thread.The anger being directed today at major internet platforms—Twitter, Facebook, and Google, especially—is, in part, a consequence of the fading of traditional political authority. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently, Americans have outsourced key parts of political life to Silicon Valley behemoths that were not designed to, and are not competent to, execute functions traditionally in the province of the government. The failure of our traditional political institutions and our traditional media to function as spaces for genuine political conversation has created a vacuum now filled by the social-media giants—who are even worse at the job.[Read: QAnon is winning]Civic authority has ebbed in other ways. Political incompetence and malpractice around the COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened suspicions that some politicians will never let a crisis go to waste. The decisions in California to keep churches closed but to keep open strip clubs and marijuana dispensaries baffle Main Street. Similarly, the jolting juxtaposition of a media-addict mayor breaking up Hasidic funerals while marching in Black Lives Matter protests not only deepens the cynicism of many Americans, but it indisputably undermined institutions of public health that should have been cautiously protecting their standing.America’s loss of meaningOur political sickness has a third cause. At least since World War II, sociologists and political scientists have been tracing the erosion of the institutions and habits that joined neighbors together in bonds of friendship and mutual responsibility. Little Leagues were not just pastimes; soup kitchens were not just service organizations; they were also venues in which people found shared purpose. Today, in many places, those bonds have been severed.In 1922, G. K. Chesterton called America “a nation with the soul of a church.” But according to a recent study of dozens of countries, none has ditched religious belief faster since 2007 than the U.S. Without going into the causes, we can at least acknowledge one cost: For generations, most Americans understood themselves as children of a loving God, and all had a role to play in loving their neighbors. But today, many Americans have no role in any common story.Conspiracy theories are a substitute. Support Donald Trump and you are not merely participating in a mundane political process—that’s boring. Rather, you are waging war on a global sex-trafficking conspiracy! No one should be surprised that QAnon has found a partner in the empty, hypocritical, made-for-TV deviant strain of evangelicalism that runs on dopey apocalypse-mongering. (I still consider myself an evangelical, even though so many of my nominal co-religionists have emptied the term of all historic and theological meaning.) A conspiracy theory offers its devotees a way of inserting themselves into a cosmic battle pitting good against evil. This sense of vocation that makes it dangerous is also precisely what makes it attractive in our era of isolated, alienated consumerism.Whatever the Republican Party does, it faces an ugly fight. The fracture that so many politicians on the right have been trying desperately to avoid may soon happen. But if the party has any hope of playing a constructive, rather than destructive, part in America’s future, it must do two things.First, Republicans must repudiate the nonsense that has set our party on fire. Putting it out will take courage—and I don’t mean merely political courage. This week, after realizing that some Capitol insurrectionists wanted to capture the vice president, several Republican House members said privately that they believed a vote to impeach the president would put their lives, or the lives of their families, at risk. That is not the “constituent engagement” that elected officials are duty-bound to deal with on a daily basis. That is simply tyranny, just from the bottom up, instead of the top down. When arsonists are inside our house, can we just stand by and hope that they’ll depart quietly?[Zeynep Tufekci: Most House Republicans did what the rioters wanted]Second, the party has to rebuild itself. It must offer a genuine answer to the frustrations of the past decade. Other than by indulging Trump’s fantasies about building iPhones in America, Republicans have not figured out how to address Americans’ anger about community erosion, massive dislocations in the labor force, or Big Tech’s historically unprecedented role in governing de facto public squares.Sensing a chance at tribal expansion, some on the left are thrilled by the chaos on the right, and they’re eager to seize the moment to banish from polite society not just those who participated and encouraged violence, but anyone with an R next to his or her name. Already on Twitter, a conservative position as longstanding as opposition to abortion has been recast as “domestic terrorism.” An MSNBC host talked about the “de-Baathification” of the GOP, comparing rank-and-file Republicans to supporters of Saddam Hussein. In an exchange on CNN, a host accused Republican voters of making common cause with Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the exploitative overreaction by the left should not allow an underreaction by the right.The past four years have wounded our country in grievous, long-lasting ways. The mob that rushed the Capitol had been fed a steady diet of lies and conspiracy theories. It is very possible that the QAnon devotee Douglas Jensen believed the junk he’d been sold—that he was a valued foot soldier in Trump’s war against shadowy forces of darkness. So, according to the FBI, he put on his Q T-shirt and acted like a foot soldier. Right up until he ran into Officer Goodman.In a standoff between the Constitution and madness, both men picked a side. It’s the GOP’s turn to do the same.
Florida middle school teacher fired after blaming Antifa for Capitol riots in class
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Man with loaded gun, fake inauguration pass arrested at DC checkpoint
A Virginia man packing a handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition was arrested when he tried to get through a Washington, D.C. checkpoint with phony inauguration credentials. Wesley Allen Beeler, 31, of Front Royal, Va., was stopped in his white Ford F-150 at the checkpoint near the U.S. Capitol around 6:30 p.m. Friday,...
The Trump administration’s execution of Dustin Higgs, explained
The federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana where Dustin Higgs was executed. | Michael Conroy/AP Higgs was the 13th federal prisoner executed since July 2020. In the early hours of Saturday morning, the Trump administration executed Dustin Higgs for taking part in a triple murder in Maryland in 1996, a crime of which he claimed to be innocent, including with his final words. Higgs’ execution marked the the 13th, and final, federal execution carried out by the Trump administration over the course of six months, a run which has broken starkly with modern precedent both in terms of speed and intensity: The administration has carried out more federal executions since last summer than presidents have in the last 67 years combined. The Trump administration has argued that the executions were conducted as a matter of law, noting that all of those executed were found guilty at trial. “If you ask juries to impose and juries impose it, then it should be carried out,” former Trump administration attorney general Bill Barr, told the Associated Press days before his resignation in December. But many criminal justice advocates — and some members of the Supreme Court — have argued that the schedule has been rushed in a way that neglected appropriate deliberation of the legality of the killings, and that they unfairly targeted people of color, as well as, people suffering from severe trauma. And many legal analysts note that Higgs’ execution was greenlit by the Supreme Court through a maneuver that they describe as an unprecedented and a transparent bid to facilitate Trump’s agenda. Higgs was found guilty in 2000 of first-degree premeditated murder, three counts of first-degree felony murder, and three counts of kidnapping resulting in death. The Justice Department said that in 1996 Higgs traveled with two male friends and three women to a Maryland wildlife refuge, and ordered one of his friends to shoot the three women, one of whom had allegedly rebuffed an advance by him. Higgs has said he is innocent of the crime, and that he gave no order for a killing. His friend who fired the shots who is serving a life sentence, Willis Haynes, has disputed the prosecutions’ argument that Higgs coerced him into the act in a signed affidavit, saying, “The prosecution’s theory of our case was bullshit. Dustin didn’t threaten me. I was not scared of him. Dustin didn’t make me do anything that night or ever.” Higgs reportedly claimed innocence again in his final words. “I’d like to say I am an innocent man. ... I am not responsible for the deaths,” he said, while mentioning the names of the victims. “I did not order the murders.” Higgs was diagnosed with Covid-19 before the execution, and his attorney had attempted to delay the execution on the basis that it was cruel, because of concerns that the virus that the effects of the virus on his lungs might intensify the lethal injection of pentobarbitol. Also at issue was whether Higgs could be executed in Indiana, where he was being held, after being sentenced in Maryland using a death penalty law that no longer exists. The execution went forward anyway. Higgs was given a lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, and pronounced dead at 1:23 a.m. on Saturday morning. The Supreme Court appears to have acted extraordinarily to back Trump A number of legal analysts have described the Supreme Court’s handling of Higgs’ execution as “unprecedented” and “beyond extraordinary.” Slate’s legal writer Mark Joseph Stern explained that with Higgs, the high court ended up circumventing the traditional appeals process in order to swiftly provide legal backing to Trump’s order to proceed with the execution despite questions about Higgs’ sentencing before he left office: Federal law requires a federal death sentence to be implemented “in the manner prescribed” by the state in which it was imposed. But Higgs was sentenced by a federal court in Maryland, which abolished capital punishment in 2013, so there is no “manner prescribed” for Higgs’ execution. An appeals court upheld the district court’s stay, setting oral arguments for Jan. 27. On Jan. 11, Trump’s Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to clear away these roadblocks. In a stunning move, the court agreed: It issued a summary decision on the merits of the case, short-circuiting the traditional appeals process. The Supreme Court’s 6-3 vote, in which the liberal wing of the court voted against the decision to clear the way for the execution, was accompanied by a blistering dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “This is not justice,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, arguing that the high court was not fulfilling its duty to deliberative process in green-lighting the act — and that it had similarly failed to do so with respect to the 12 executions prior to Higgs’. “After waiting almost two decades to resume federal executions, the government should have proceeded with some measure of restraint to ensure it did so lawfully. When it did not, this court should have. It has not.” Justice Stephen Breyer, argued that the Court had been negligent in considering the constitutionality of the executions, and that it had particularly failed in its duty to unusual issues, such as how the pandemic might affect the legality of executions. In his dissent, he asked, “How just is a legal system that would execute an individual without consideration of a novel or significant legal question that he has raised?” Overall, Jaime Santos, a partner at Goodwin Procter’s appellate litigation practice, described the ruling as “a political decision, not a doctrinal one and not one that is in any way consistent with the norms and precedents governing Supreme Court practice.” It is decisions such as these that have led observers like Vox’s Ian Millhiser to describe a conservative majority court as an “anti-democratic threat.”And Santos’ comments underscore concerns that the Supreme Court has become an overly partisan institution which values political goals over traditional process. Trump’s capital punishment agenda Higgs’ death marks the end of a remarkably focused program of conducting federal executions that critics of capital punishment have deemed “a killing spree.” Strikingly, the federal executions were conducted amid a pandemic that drastically shrunk the number of executions carried out on the state level, and in the wake of a racial justice movement critical of an overly punitive criminal justice system. Experts say Trump’s emphasis on capital punishment in his final half year in office marked a sharp departure from federal government norms, a trend which stands out all the more because support for the death penalty is at the lowest its been in decades. “No one has conducted this number of federal civilian executions in this short period of time in American history,” Robert Dunham, executive director of Death Penalty Information Center, told Vox in December. The uptick in federal executions also stood out in a year where capital punishment was used less than it had been in decades at the state level, largely due to pandemic-related slowdowns and shutdowns of the criminal justice system. “The fact that we’re having a record-high number of federal executions, at the same time that we’re near a record low in state executions, in the middle of a pandemic, shows how much the Trump administration is either out of touch or that it cannot resist gratuitous acts of cruelty,” Dunham told Vox in December. The Trump administration has routinely defended its use of capital punishment. For instance, Barr described the Trump administration’s commitment to the death penalty as carrying out the punishment against “the worst criminals.” But as the ACLU points out, many of those executed don’t tick off the conventional boxes for “worst criminals”: Our federal government killed two Black men for crimes they committed 20 years ago as teenagers; it killed a woman who was a victim of unthinkable sexual violence and torture; it killed two Black men who didn’t kill anyone; and a man with an intellectual disability so severe that it’s impossible to ignore in his final words. The Supreme Court paved the way for many of these executions to go forward despite lower court findings that the executions were unconstitutional or barred by federal law. Beyond seeking to revive and expedite the use of capital punishment, the Trump administration also expanded the way that it can be carried out. Last year the Justice Department created and finalized a rule that allows the government to use more ways to kill prisoners, including electrocution and firing squad. But while the revival of federal capital punishment has been a signature feature of Trump’s political and policy agenda, it is not clear to what extent it will be part of his legacy. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will work to abolish the federal death penalty, and Senate Democrats recently put out legislation that would abolish it.
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