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The Trump impeachment trial isn't just about what happened on January 6

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during a \"Make America Great Again\" rally at Total Sports Park,
President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Total Sports Park Nov. 1, 2020, in Washington, Mich.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The build-up to Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, which begins Tuesday, has focused on the former president’s words on Jan. 6, as well as whether it’s constitutional to impeach and try a former officeholder.

But those discussions so far have overshadowed a more central question to the trial: Did Trump use his platform — and powers — as president to try to overturn an election he clearly lost?

Consider these Trump actions in the days and weeks after news organizations declared Joe Biden the winner:

  • He praised — and even called — the GOP members of Michigan’s Wayne County Canvassing Board who refused to certify the county's election results; they later reversed course.
  • He phoned into a Pennsylvania state Senate meeting trying to overturn the results in that state: "We have to turn the election over, because there's no doubt we have all the evidence, we have all the affidavits, we have everything," Trump said.
  • His allies were behind the Texas lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; the court rejected the lawsuit.
  • He begged Georgia’s secretary of state to find him additional votes to overturn the election result there: “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said.
  • And then finally, on Jan. 6, he exhorted his assembled supporters as Congress was set to certify the Electoral College results.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them,” Trump said.

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated.”

Much of the story of the two months after the election was about state officials and the courts not following through with want Trump wanted.

What turned out to be different about Jan. 6 was that some people finally followed through.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

56 percent: The share of Americans who say former president Trump should be convicted in the Senate, per a new ABC-Ipsos poll.

27,115,843: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 328,572 more than Friday morning.)

465,576: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 7,849 more than Friday morning.)

81,439: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus in the United States.

323.8 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

80: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

100: The age of former secretary of state George Shultz, who died over the weekend.

Tweet of the day

Talking Policy with Benjy

You’ve probably heard a lot about the Green New Deal. But if one of its prime goals — a rapid transition to electric vehicles — comes to pass, it won’t be AOC who’s the face of it, but billions of dollars in corporate marketing.

That’s the upshot of Sunday’s eye-catching General Motors ad, which featured Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson, and Awkwafina racing electric cars to Norway, where over half of new car sales are electric. GM announced last month it will phase out all fossil fuel-burning vehicles by 2035. Auto companies are betting they’re near a tipping point in price, driving range, and charging technology after which EVs will become both cheaper and more convenient than their gas-powered rivals.

So where does policy come in if the private sector is already doing the heavy lifting? Pushing up the timeline. President Biden’s infrastructure plan from his 2020 campaign includes building 500,000 charging stations and his tax plan called for expanded credits for EVs to make them more competitive pricewise with the average consumer. And some states have taken a more blunt approach: California is mandating all new car sales be EV’s by 2035.

All of this explains how Norway ended up in a Super Bowl ad. They’ve also provided tax advantages to EV manufacturers and early seed money for public charging stations with a goal of moving to all-electric sales even faster, by 2025.

Multitasking Watch

This week could be a crucial test of the Senate’s ability to walk and chew gum at the same time.

The Senate will begin impeachment hearings against former President Trump on Tuesday. But at the same time the Senate will be able to consider two more of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees who cleared their committee votes last week.

U.N. ambassador nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by an 18-4 vote last week, and HUD nominee Marcia Fudge passed through the Senate Banking Committee by a 17-7 vote. Plus, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, will receive her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday morning.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken (confirmed)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (confirmed)

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg (confirmed)

Energy: Jennifer Granholm

Interior: Deb Haaland

Education: Miguel Cardona

Commerce: Gina Raimondo

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Trump’s Senate impeachment trial begins this week. Here’s what you need to know.

Who are Trump’s (latest) lawyers?

Liz Cheney is doubling down, saying that the GOP must stop “embracing” Trump.

Biden says the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic was “even more dire than we thought.”

Biden’s team plans a major sales push around its relief bill, hoping to avoid the mistakes of the Obama era.

Here’s what the leader of the American Federation of Teachers says about reopening.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has resumed.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is launching his Senate bid.

Could California actually elect a Republican as governor? The former mayor of San Diego thinks so.

What’s up with the Georgia Republican Party?

Dennis Kucinich may be gearing up to run for mayor in Cleveland.