Tag Archives: Capitol invasion

What Do You Call a Collection of Traitors & Cowards?

There is a gaggle of geese (also a press gaggle and, generically, any group)… a coven of witches, pride of lions (definitely not lions), herd of giraffes (also cattle) … getting warmer.

Not that important, I suppose, to have a name for the mob of people who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop the election of Joe Biden and replace him with the dictator Donald Trump. I was inspired to think about this when I found this site https://bit.ly/3xRc2QA which the FBI’s display of 1,175 photos of people they are still seeking to arrest for their role in the January 6 insurrection (a very few since arrested). The list bears this note:

If you have any information on the individuals pictured above, please call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. Please reference the photo number, including the AFO or AOM if applicable, when calling or submitting information online.

Aside from the outrageous nature of the attack itself, the shocking thing about these photos is that many of them are very clear, full face shots that could be identified readily by any number of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers or customers. Still, however, these people are at large. I’m sure most people who read this blog will not know any of these charmers, but just in case, I am writing this post in the hope that readers will review the photos and report anyone they know.

I understand the idea that “ratting out” someone is frowned upon, even by upstanding people of strong religious and patriotic values. But these people were trying to overthrow the democracy on which your freedoms depend. Don’t think for a moment that if they had succeeded in installing Trump for a second term, despite his election loss, everything would just have continued as before. Recall that Trump himself spoke on multiple occasions about a third term, to rousing applause from his rally acolytes. It was no joke then and certainly no joke after January 6. So, please review the photos and see if you recognize anyone. If you do, report them to the FBI.

And don’t miss the list of arrest announcements at the bottom of the pages of photos. Each is linked to a press release with details of the person’s involvement in the January 6 attack. Makes interesting reading.

While I’m on this subject, I want to make a few comments about some of the “defenses” that I have heard made by January 6 defendants who have been arrested.

One is the “pure of heart” defense, which goes something like, “I was there because I truly believed what Trump had said and I thought I was patriotically defending my country…blah, blah.” Nonsense, you don’t get passing grades in school even if you convince yourself that Martians ate your homework. Belief is a choice you make and every person who claims they believed Trump had access to information that would have shown he was lying about the election. No defense.

Then there is the “I didn’t know it was illegal” defense, based on the idea that the Capitol is a “public building” and therefore the public has the right to go there any time and under any circumstances the public chooses. No, actually, untrue and any person with a functioning mind would know, from personal experience and casual observation, that “public” buildings are normally guarded now-a-days and access is strictly controlled. Moreover, and it pains me to have to add this, there were Capitol police on site who were obviously indicating that access to the building was not open, and no normal person would think it’s just fine to ignore their presence and their resistance to entry.

Finally, there is the “I just got caught up in the crowd” argument. Well, that could possibly be true for a few of the people who walked to the Capitol from Trump’s incendiary speech, but … once there, it should have been clear, again to anyone with a functioning mind, that the crowd had turned into a violent mob and that it was better to skedaddle than to just go along to get along. This “defense” is nonsense and, in my view, even if factually accurate in a handful of cases, it is no excuse. It reads a lot like “yeah, I knew my friends were going to rob the store, but I drove the get-away car anyway because, you know, they were my friends.”

Rant over. Please look at the FBI photos and see your fellow Americans at play. If you recognize anyone, turn him/her in to the FBI. You will feel better for it.

 

The Law-Respecting, Country-Loving People Who Attacked the Capitol

The FBI has put out another call for public help in “identifying individuals who made unlawful entry into the U.S. Capitol building and committed various other alleged criminal violations, such as destruction of property, assaulting law enforcement personnel, targeting members of the media for assault, and other unlawful conduct, on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.” https://bit.ly/3c10cLE The videos are extremely violent and difficult to watch, but if you think you can identify someone in that mob, you should suck it up and watch them.

These are the same people that Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin described this way:

I knew those were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn’t concerned.

Johnson is now so offended that Americans objected to his blatant gaslighting about the January 6 insurrection that attempted to overturn the 2020 election that he has started a campaign to cast doubt on the events that have been thoroughly exposed through video taken by the proud, law-abiding, country-loving members of the mob.

He has posted a long list of tweets in which he purports to pose questions about January 6, suggesting that (1) the Capitol invaders were not armed (many were and he knows it), (2) the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick somehow had nothing to do with the attack (he knows otherwise even though the precise cause of death has not been determined), (3) the damage was minimal (videos show otherwise and he knows it; in any case, even minimal damage would not be an excuse), (4) details of the violence are unknown (videos show it clearly, as he knows), (5) the exact extent to which the police were outnumbered and inadequately equipped (disclosed in detail already and he knows it).

His tweet list ends with “Still so many unanswered questions about January 6.”

Even for a Republican sycophant of such Trumpian commitment as Ron Johnson, this degree of gaslighting and what-about-ism is Herculean-level.

The blowback was, of course, fierce, in part because Johnson’s statements compared how he says he would have felt if the crowd had been composed of antifa and Black Lives Matter adherents. Many people took the comparison to be racist. Many people – everyone who’s not a racist understood Johnson’s racism.

Not satisfied with gold medal gaslighting, Johnson published a Commentary in the Wall Street Journal on March 15, claiming that “the left” had “twisted what I said.” The “left,” Johnson claimed, manipulated his words to deflect attention from the riots that broke out around the country in protest of the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, suggesting that they are equivalent to or worse than what happened in Washington on January 6. He posted videos that appear to show almost entirely young white people engaged in violent assaults on other white people and on buildings in Portland and elsewhere.

If you think those attacks, which I condemn unequivocally, are the same as the attempt to overturn the election for the office of President of the United States, you should stop reading now. The problems in Portland and elsewhere were indeed terrible and caused much damage to people who did not deserve it. Of course, there remain open questions about the role of police in stimulating those events and who was perpetrating most of the violence [studies indicate police actions were responsible for much of the violence; see, e.g., https://bit.ly/3r4FMWs] but set that aside for now. Those events were clearly inspired by the murder of George Floyd, and the many murders of unarmed Black and Brown people before him, by police. The rioting was not constructive, but it was emotionally reactive to undeniable events that the entire world saw and to which hundreds of thousands of people reacted in horror. We are fortunate, as someone observed, that Black people only want equal treatment by the law and by white people.

On the other hand the “evidence” of election fraud that animated the Capitol attack was entirely fictional. Even Trump’s own Department of Justice found no evidence of election-changing fraud and many of his devotees in Republican leadership agreed. But not all. The point is that the “excuse” for the Capitol attack is a complete fabrication, sold  by Trump and bought hook-line-and-sinker by the mob that Senator Johnson continues to extol.

I reject categorically Senator Johnson’s version of Make America Great Again. His list of grievances reads just like the Donald Trump playbook. Why wouldn’t it? Johnson is trying to appeal to the same white supremacist, racist segment of the population that, driven by ignorance and fear, devoted itself to Donald Trump and was primed and ready to accept whatever fantasy of grievance he manufactured for them.

Note, for example, how Johnson’s Wall Street Journal piece tries to minimize the January 6 attack: “Only about 800 people illegally entered the Capitol. Still fewer engaged in violent acts.” He justifies his resistance to “the left” on the grounds that they implied that all of the attackers were ““armed insurrectionists” determined to overthrow the government.”

If that was not their purpose, why were they there? What is the basis for the “only 800” entered the Capitol?

Johnson argues that the “rioters who burned Kenosha weren’t of any one ethnicity; they were united by their radical leftism” that he claims they also share with a “taste for violence.” Johnson is apparently unaware, or cynically indifferent, to the use of such claims as grounds for discrimination against Black people since long before the Civil War.

Then, in a bizarre act of twisted logic, Johnson attributes the boarding up of windows in major cities as based on fear of Biden’s supporters if he lost the election. The exact opposite is actually true, but Johnson wastes no time with evidence as he pivots quickly to a classic Trump-style attack on the media, whining about the  “censorship of conservative perspectives in today’s cancel culture” being  “antithetical to freedom.”

Here then is the nub: Republicans, led by people like Senators Johnson, Hawley, Cruz, Graham and others, claim that the phantasmagorical beliefs of Americans who have accepted the demonstrably false claims of election fraud as true are entitled to equal consideration. validation and acceptance simply because so many people believe them. But that is not how thinking and reasoning works. It is not the job of the media to simply accept massive gaslighting about important matters like elections just because a large number of people believe it.

If we accepted Ron Johnson’s concept of truth, i.e., a lot of people believe something, how would we deal with some of the most popular conspiracy theories among the general population. An Insider poll, https://bit.ly/3s2l6zJ, found that the two most popular conspiracy theories, each believed by 20% of respondents, were that extraterrestrials have come to earth, and an advanced technological society existed prior to the modern era. If the poll’s results are extrapolated to represent all of America, approximately 50 million adults would believe that aliens have made landfall on our planet. Another poll, reported in Scientific American, indicates that only 66 percent of millennials are clear that Earth is round (meaning a sphere, actually) and not flat. https://bit.ly/3sb9hY5 According to Ron Johnson, that would, by itself, validate those beliefs.

Meanwhile, also on Planet Earth, a dozen Republicans in Congress found multiple excuses to vote against the award of Congressional Gold Medals to the Capitol Police and D.C. police who defended them on January 6. https://wapo.st/316G9oR One such “excuse” was the reference to “insurrectionists” in the resolution. One said that the reference to “temple of our American democracy” in the resolution was “a little too sacrilegious for me.” Apparently that Congressman has never heard of Temple University. Other excuses were that the resolution was “politically convenient” for House Speaker Pelosi and was a “politically charged publicity stunt.” This from the party of law and order. While claiming to applaud the Capitol Police, the Republicans’ primary interest was in preventing adoption of a resolution that condemned the attack on the Capitol for what it plainly was.

With one exception (Massie), these twelve Republicans were among those who voted to overturn the election results on January 6. See Congressional Hall of Dishonor—Updated at https://bit.ly/3sby4uN

In short, these Republicans, with the silent approval of their party colleagues, will stop at nothing, even disrespecting the police who defended them, to gaslight the country about what happened on January 6. At the head of the pack is Senator Ron Johnson. Wisconsin, surely you can do better than this.

TASK FORCE 1-6: Capitol Security Review

The Task Force led by Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, USA (Retired), working at the direction of the Speaker of the House, has published its draft report on Capitol Security Review (March 5, 2021). The work was inspired by the violent assault on the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 by supporters of Donald Trump. The report describes it mandate as “to review and provide recommendations in the following areas: Capitol security operations, infrastructure physical security, and Member security in their Congressional districts, their residences, and during travel.” https://bit.ly/3ldcjbG

As I write, the Capitol Building and adjacent federal properties such as the United States Botanic Garden, are surrounded by tall metal fencing topped with razor wire and guarded by members of the National Guard. This spectacle of failure represents the supreme irony that Trump, the main proponent of a wall across the southern border, is responsible for the construction of a kind of “wall” around the U.S. Capitol to protect it from his supporters. The situation is so fraught that a session of the House of Representatives set for March 4 was canceled based on a “possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group.” https://bit.ly/3qG6og2

That means that plotting is continuing even as the government goes after the January 6 insurrectionists. More than 300 have been arrested and “more than 900 search warrants have been executed in almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” according to federal prosecutors. https://reut.rs/38B5CL7 Investigators are processing more than 15,000 hours of video from surveillance and body-worn cameras during the assault. Still, the “militia groups” are apparently not yet deterred.

One thing not mentioned in the extensive Task Force recommendations is the question, “under what circumstances is the use of deadly force by defenders of the Capitol authorized?” As I use the terms, “deadly force” refers to the type of response, not necessarily its use for the deliberate purpose of killing. Somewhere in the “orders” applicable to the Capitol Police and others involved in federal security there is almost certainly some specification of the conditions under which deadly force may be used. The policy is not, however, set out in the USCP Department Strategic Plan for 2021.

It’s a question that has received little public attention because, overwhelmingly, citizens and others approaching the Capitol have understood that the Capitol Police guarding the building meant business and that disobeying their instructions could lead to serious consequences. The Capitol has, therefore, been relatively safe as a workplace and monument to American democracy.

Until January 6, 2021.

Some people believe that had deadly force been promptly brought to bear that day, the invasion of the Capitol would have ended quickly. It’s true, of course, that deadly force was used against one insurrectionist as she attempted to force her way into the House Chamber. She died. But the assault continued because the attackers were already inside the Capitol in very large numbers and scattered throughout the building as they hunted for the Speaker of the House, the Vice President and likely any other Member they perceived as on the other side of the claim (utterly false) that the election had been stolen. Most of the assaulting force was therefore unaware that a member of their group had been killed. [One macabre observation about that incident is that it did not lead to the immediate retreat of the invaders at the scene, almost as if they expected worse and still were determined to carry out their mission. Or, perhaps, they simply didn’t care.]

In any case, we can only speculate about what would have happened if the defending force had used deadly force early in the struggle. A thoughtful treatment by someone with training and experience in the field of the responsibility faced by each officer in that situation can be read at https://wapo.st/3csLWu7 The article is clear that the existing training for Capitol Police simply did not cover the situation that existed on January 6.

This is a sensitive subject, but it needs to be considered. The draft report notes that, “communicated threats against Members [are] tracking at nearly four times last year’s level ….” That is an astonishing reality and likely is traceable to the constant haranguing by Donald Trump and his enablers, even before the election and continuously thereafter, that the process was rigged against him, rife with fraud and that the election would be/was stolen.

But whatever the cause, the effect is reason for alarm, which is reflected in the urgency that Task Force 1-6 urged upon the various powers-that-be to move swiftly to address the concerns in the report. While the language is, not unexpectedly, a bit dry and matter-of-fact, the realities of threat, risk and security shortfalls that it reveals are far from mundane or routine.

The question I am raising is whether the published policy of the security apparatus for the Capitol should make explicit that any further attempted breach of the building may be met with deadly force at any time. It would, and should, also state that, in bringing deadly force to bear, efforts will be made to avoid loss of life, but anyone contemplating an attack on the Capitol, or any other federal building, for that matter, should understand the risks that gunfire directed at, for example, the legs could well inflict mortal wounds.

We are talking about a true combat situation. Members of the January 6 assault force were carrying weapons and presumably some were prepared to use them. The insurrectionists were responsible for the death of one police officer on the scene as well as severe injuries to others. The combat was hand-to-hand for hours and it is, frankly, miraculous that no more lives were lost. Video of the events clearly showed prolonged assaults with, among other things, a flagpole holding an American flag. It seems that the Capitol Police and others sent, belatedly, to help them were not operating under clear instructions regarding the use of their weapons. The shooting of one invader occurred as a last resort to stop her from forcing her way into the House Chamber where she almost certainly would have been followed by others.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection force has a 117-page manual entitled Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook. https://bit.ly/3ld3kqC The relevant policy text on use of deadly force states:

D. Use of Deadly Force

    1. Deadly force is force that is likely to cause serious physical injury or death.
    2. The Department of Homeland Security Policy on the Use of Deadly Force governs the use of deadly force by all DHS employees.
    3. Authorized Officers/Agents may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer/agent has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of serious physical injury or death to the officer/agent or to another person.
      1. Serious Physical Injury – Injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ or structure or involves serious concussive impact to the head.

The people putting their health and lives on the line to protect the Capitol should have clear policy to follow regarding when deadly force can be used to repel an attack, and the assurance that the department will support them. Citizens considering such an assault should have no illusions about what might happen to them the next time. Clarity will be beneficial for everyone involved.

That is not to say that the use of deadly force is a simple and always clear-in-the-circumstances situation. Plainly, it is not. But the complexity and uncertainty surrounding the use of deadly force is not made better by having no standards at all. Before another attack on the government occurs, the force established to repel it should be given the best tools available for dealing with it.

Then take the damn fences and razor wire down.

 

 

Indict & Arrest Trump — Charge with Sedition & Felony Murder

Not surprisingly, Republican senators have already decided they have no interest in addressing the January 6 Trump-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to steal the election from Joe Biden. Most of them have voted that it is unconstitutional to entertain impeachment since Trump has left office. The English translation of this is that “impeachment ceases to be available unless it can be brought and tried before the president leaves office so anything he does, no matter how serious, in the closing weeks of his presidency, is immune.” More on that in a moment.

The Supreme Court appears to have added its imprimatur, without explanation or noted dissent, to the extraordinary proposition that violations of the emoluments clauses are also unavailable after a presidency ends even if suits were initiated during the presidency.

If all that is correct and it is also not lawful to indict the president for crimes during the presidency, as the Department of Justice has twice opined (wrongly, in my view), we have effectively overturned the balance of power created by the constitutional framers when they created the three branches of the federal government with separate counterbalancing powers. The imperial presidency, as declared by Trump (“I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president”) has arrived.

If so, the country is in the most dangerous place since the period just before the Civil War. This raises the question of what the United States government should do if Trump’s supporters, emboldened by what they believe was a victory at the Capitol, return to attack the government again. I address this specifically at the end.

But first, as I write, the Republican leadership of the House and Senate are meeting with Trump in Mar-a-Lago. No one will ever know what they are discussing, but, given recent events and the continued obeisance of Republican legislators to Trump’s dominance, it is not outlandish to suggest that they are considering further steps to overthrow the government. Trump representatives, enablers and acolytes meanwhile are aggressively promoting false narratives that the violence on January 6 was led by “antifa” and other infiltrators and, despite overwhelming video and other evidence, Trump and his people are faultless.

Let’s begin with a short lesson in the applicable law.

“Sedition,” or more fully, “seditious conspiracy,” means,

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to ,,, oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both. [18 USC 2384] [bolding mine]

As with most legal matters of import, this is more complicated than it first appears. As noted in https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/sedition.html,

Simply advocating for the use of force … in most cases is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. For example, two or more people who give public speeches suggesting the need for a total revolution “by any means necessary” have not necessarily conspired to overthrow the government. Rather, they’re just sharing their opinions, however unsavory. But actively planning such an action (distributing guns, working out the logistics of an attack, actively opposing lawful authority, etc.) could be considered a seditious conspiracy. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent threats against the United States while protecting individuals’ First Amendment rights, which isn’t always such a clear distinction.

Of course, there are lawyers who will argue that nothing that happened at the January 6 Trump rally was outside the protection of the First Amendment. There are others who strongly disagree, me included. See https://bit.ly/39vCK80

The critical point here, in my view, is this: Donald Trump was not just another angry man voicing his grievances to a like-minded audience. If he were just that, the First Amendment would likely protect him. But, no,  Trump was President of the United States and still subject to the oath of office he took in 2017 to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump therefore had an affirmative duty to act to prevent and defend against any action that would interfere with the execution of Congress’s official constitutionally-mandated duty to validate and count the Electoral College votes. He also had an affirmative duty to protect federal property. He did not so act, and for that reason alone should lose any protection that might arguably arise from the First Amendment for his speech that preceded, for the most part, the January 6 attack. I say “preceded for the most part” because there is evidence that some of the assaulting force was already at the Capitol when Trump began speaking at noon.

Continuing with our over-brief summary of the law, “conspiracy” is also complicated but not terribly so:

A criminal conspiracy exists when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act, then take some action toward its completion. The action taken need not itself be a crime, but it must indicate that those involved in the conspiracy knew of the plan and intended to break the law. A person may be convicted of conspiracy even if the actual crime was never committed ….

… an agreement may be implied from the circumstances…. [such as attending a meeting to plan the crime]

… individuals in the conspiracy must intend to agree, and all must intend to achieve the outcome.

… at least one co-conspirator [but only one] must take some concrete step in furtherance of the plan.

Finally, “felony murder” is chargeable when in the commission of a felony (which breaching the Capitol & attacking Capitol Police were) someone is killed, all of the felons are guilty of felony murder even if they had no specific role in the killing. Illustration: you and your buddy rob a bank. He goes in, you merely wait for him and drive the get-a-way car, he shoots and kills a bank teller. You are guilty of felony-murder.

Now to the known facts.

As reported at https://bit.ly/3rdBtJ,1 and elsewhere, the night before the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a private meeting assembled in Trump’s private residence at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Reporting indicates that the following people attended the meeting:

Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of the president

Eric Trump, second-eldest son of the president

Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to the president

Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President, among other things

Corey Lewandowski, 2016 Trump campaign manager

David Bossie, 2016 Trump deputy campaign manager

Adam Piper, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association

Tommy Tuberville, United States senator from the State of Alabama

Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to the President of the United States

Kimberly Guilfoyle, girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr

Michael Lindell, Trump donor and MyPillow CEO

Charles W. Herbster, National Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee for the Trump administration

The meeting was confirmed in an attendee’s Facebook post late on January 5 that ends with “TRUMP WILL RETAIN THE PRESIDENCY!!!”

Senator Tuberville claims he was not at the Trump Hotel on January 5, but an Instagram photo of him at the hotel with two other people indicates otherwise. We can only wonder why the Senator would mislead about his presence.

To be clear, there is no report thus far that Donald Trump attended the meeting in person or by phone. Trump’s whereabouts that night would almost certainly have been noted by the White House media if he had been driven to his hotel. It beggars the imagination, however, to believe that this cast of characters was working independently of the president, given all the circumstances and what occurred the next day.

The primary report notes:

Not only does this meeting appear to confirm that Trump’s team helped orchestrate the events of January 6, but that it participated in the calibration of those events to exert maximum “pressure” on members of Congress in the midst of them executing a grave constitutional duty. Moreover, it participated in that calibration in the presence of a member of the United States Senate, who was therefore—we can now conclude, from the reporting of the Omaha World Herald—working in private with the president’s team to advise Trump on how to generate that maximum pressure on his Senate peers….

While we cannot know if these co-conspirators discussed the possibility of violence on January 6, that they contemplated the crime that most of the January 6 insurrectionists have now been charged with—Unlawfully Entering a Restricted Building—is all but certain, as is the fact that the purpose of such entries was to put improper pressure on government officials to reverse course on a government action.

In simpler terms, the purpose of the January 5 meeting at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. was arguably seditious conspiracy—as it appears to have been intended to promote and incite criminal acts by a mob whose purpose was to intimidate federal officials engaged in the certification of a democratically elected branch of government.

Much of the article cited above is speculation, but what seems clear is that many of Trump’s closest confidantes, including his attorney Giuliani, attended a meeting away from the White House for the apparent purpose of discussing how to pressure Congress in a last-ditch attempt to stop the election certification and award it to Trump. One attendee reportedly claims they were just there to watch the election returns come in from the Georgia senate runoffs. Believe what you wish about this.

The New York Times reported that the day before the rally,

“If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism,” a member of the Red-State Secession group on Facebook posted …

Beneath it, dozens of people posted comments that included photographs of the weaponry — including assault rifles — that they said they planned to bring to the rally. There were also comments referring to “occupying” the Capitol and forcing Congress to overturn the November election that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won — and Mr. Trump had lost. [https://nyti.ms/3r4ZAJy]

Still earlier in January,

the extreme fringes of Trump supporters — including the Proud Boys and other groups known to incite violence, as well as conspiracy groups like QAnon — were exploring what they might do on Jan. 6 in Washington. On dedicated chats in Gab they discussed logistics of where to gather and what streets they would take to the Capitol. The Red-State Secession Facebook page even encouraged its 8,000 followers to share the addresses of “enemies,” including those for federal judges, members of Congress and well-known progressives.

At the rally on January 6, Donald Jr, preceding his father, flatly stated that the Republican Party was now “Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” the kind of claim that a banana-republic dictator would make, the meaning of which is “if Trump tells you to do something, you will do it.” The speech was replete with grievances against the Democratic leadership but also against “establishment Republicans” who were portrayed as weak and essentially traitors to the cause of “America First” and Trump’s own set of grievances.

The further events of January 6 are well-known. Video shows Trump urging the crowd to walk to the Capitol where he contended Congress was about to confirm the election he said was stolen. Among other remarks, Trump said:

“We will never give up,” he said. “We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He went so far as to say he would be with the crowd at the Capitol, but that was a lie. In any case, the crowd walked the mile-plus to the Capitol, confronted the grossly under-prepared Capitol Police, stormed the building through smashed windows and doors, screaming in rage that they could not find the members of Congress who had been moved to safe-rooms. The building was vandalized, a police officer was killed, and many were injured in a multi-hour battle against the vastly larger force of invaders. Others also died as a direct or indirect result of the attack. The Pentagon leadership working under Trump failed to send timely help.

Those events have inspired House Democrats to impeach Trump a second time. It’s the only “remedy” over which they have any real influence. Republicans, of course, overwhelmingly leapt to Trump’s defense, voting that the impeachment of a president after he leaves office is somehow unconstitutional. https://wapo.st/2YkPW9x Having refused to even hear evidence and witnesses at Trump’s first impeachment, the Republican Party completed its obeisance to Trump by essentially declaring that whatever he may have done, no sanction is justified. As a result, Democrats now are also considering a censure, a fallback proposed by Sen. Kaine of Virginia, because an impeachment trial will delay consideration of critical elements of President Biden’s plan to combat the COVID crisis.

A censure, even if adopted over Republican opposition that is certain to occur, will be nothing more than a slap on the wrist for a man who believes he is immune from the law. Republicans have every incentive to drag out the trial because, in addition to supporting Trump’s every act, they want to  impede Biden’s efforts to boost the economy and restore the health of the country.

I don’t doubt Senator Kaine’s sincerity in arguing that a censure resolution is “a potentially more politically palatable alternative to convicting Trump and barring him from future office” while also arguing that “his resolution would have much the same effect as a conviction, by condemning the former president and laying the foundation to keep him from returning to the presidency under the terms of the 14th Amendment.” Kaine argues further that “It’s more than just a censure, saying, ‘Hey, you did wrong’ ….It makes a factual finding under the precise language of the 14th Amendment that would likely put an obstacle in Donald Trump’s path if he were to run for office again.”

Kaine’s further argument is that “Just as the question of impeachment after you’ve left office is not ironclad one way or the other, this one is not ironclad, It leaves the door open for folks to make arguments down the road,”

That is, I think, plainly wrong because its premise is wrong.

The argument accepts that there is a legitimate constitutional objection to impeaching a president after he leaves office. The “immune after exit” position leaves open the possibility that in the closing days of a presidency, the president could engage in blatantly unlawful criminal activities and escape being called to account by impeachment. He could still be indicted and tried, but as a matter of principle, the position of no impeachment after office seems inconsistent with the framework established  by the Constitution — just stall long enough and escape an otherwise justified political accountability.

Impeachment, in any case, whether during or after the presidency, is insufficient to address the magnitude of the January 6 insurrection. While Republicans like John Cornyn of Texas are all so happy to “just move on” and “not live in the past,” claiming that impeachment now is “retroactively” punishing ex-officeholders,” even moderate Sen. Manchin of West Virginia understands the gravity of this situation which has no precedent in modern times. And, by the way, to Sen. Cornyn and others who subscribe to his view: all punishments, whether political like impeachment or criminal, are about past behavior. The notion that impeachment now is somehow wrong because it refers to past conduct is beyond moronic. And you can quote me on that.

So, where do we go from here? Political stalemate seems certain in Congress’ attempts to call Trump to account. The evidence of seditious conspiracy is, however, overwhelming. Do we let Trump skate? Do we ignore a blatant attempt to overturn the election and, in effect, declare Trump dictator? I think not.

Republican leadership in the House and Senate is now running away as fast as possible from early statements indicating grave concerns about Trump’s role in the insurrection at the Capitol. https://wapo.st/3a4Qd5G Both of them have rushed to Mar-a-Lago to meet privately with Trump. Why do you suppose they’re coordinating with him now? Why is House Minority Leader McCarthy now trying to place blame for January 6 on “all Americans” and other similar nonsense rhetoric? Why is McCarthy handing out choice committee assignments to QAnon conspiracy advocates like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has previously endorsed violence against Democratic leaders and who has claimed that the Parkland/Sandy Hook school massacres were staged along with the 9/11 attack and the January 6 assault as well? As noted in the article cited above,

For party leadership and top election strategists, video of protesters pummeling Capitol Police officers or chanting for the death of Vice President Mike Pence has proved less germane to current considerations than the potential to quickly return to power. They have been calling for more party comity, even with those holding extremist views.

Operating from Florida, Trump’s advisers have been encouraging party leaders to move on from impeachment and refrain from further criticism of the former president, even as they plot retribution against Republicans who opposed Trump’s final effort to overturn the election. Trump campaign advisers have commissioned and circulated to GOP lawmakers polling that shows him as still formidable in their states and made clear that he would seek revenge for votes against him.

The political reality is that the Senate is evenly divided between the parties, House Democrats have a small majority, and, despite Trump’s overwhelming defeat, Republicans gained governorships and control more than 60 percent of state legislatures. At least two Democratic senators are uncertain allies to aggressive positioning by their party.

WAPO reports that polling shows a staggering 79 percent of Republicans still approve of Trump’s conduct of the presidency and 57 percent saying the Republican Party should follow his leadership even after the attack on the Capitol. Some GOP party groups are embracing the fantasy claim that the January 6 attack was actually staged by Trump’s enemies. Some Republican Party strategists refer to the attack as “extremely unfortunate” and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel claimed that it was Democrats who were trying to “sow division and obstruct” while “Republicans will keep fighting for the American people.” If this were a TV show, it would be the Twilight Zone, but it’s the reality of where America now sits. The Republican Party really does belong to Trump and no longer adheres to fundamental democratic principles.

If you think I’m overstating it, WAPO reports that there is “speculation that the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, might run for the open North Carolina seat or that the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump might mount a primary challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).” A few Republican voices in the wilderness remain – Mitt Romney flat out said Trump “incited the insurrection” on January 6, — but their influence against the Trump Red Tide is limited at best.

While the Republicans continue to focus only on their political prospects going forward and how to align themselves with Trump’s base, evidence continues to mount that the January 6 attack was not just a spontaneous response to Trump’s words. The Washington Post, for example, reports that so-called militias in three states beginning planning to challenge the election by force in November. https://wapo.st/39pblEB US prosecutors have asserted,

Three self-styled militia members charged in the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol began soliciting recruits for potential violence within days of the 2020 presidential election, later training in Ohio and North Carolina and organizing travel to Washington with a busload of comrades and a truck of weapons….

The report is quite detailed with communications among the parties charged as conspirators. Many other reports show that multiple January 6 participants are being charged with federal crimes of varying severity, depending on what the preliminary evidence shows they actually did at the scene of the invasion. It is reasonable to expect many more arrests as prosecutors work through the videos, recordings and social media posts of participants. The New York Times published an article with multiple videos revealing parts of the fight between police and the insurrectionists screaming “I will f*cking kill you!” https://nyti.ms/3ahHP2P That is what the Republican Party is defending.

The Acting Chief of Capitol Police is so concerned about the continuing threat to the Capitol that she is recommending permanent emplacement of unscalable fencing, possibly topped with barbed wire, around the perimeter. Mayor Bowser, thankfully, is opposed but consider what this means for the state of the nation’s politics.

So, where do we go from here?

After long reflection, my view is that nothing short of the indictment and arrest of Donald Trump can adequately begin to redress the harm done to the country. We are on the precipice of the collapse of the rule of law. Washington, DC remains an armed camp protected by thousands of National Guard due to reports of further armed attacks on the government. Failing to bring real and serious criminal charges against Trump will be seen by his acolytes as further proof that he was the victim of multiple hoaxes and a fraudulent election, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Postponing the day of reckoning while Trump reorganizes his political forces is a recipe for catastrophe from which the country may not recover. The time to deal with this is now, when the evidence is fresh and the focus is clear.

There can be no rational doubt that Trump summoned the mob to come to DC for the pre-insurrection rally, that his words called for the mob to go to the Capitol for the purpose of stopping the Electoral College vote count, that there was almost certainly planning activity in advance, not only by mob participants but by members of Trump’s inner circle of family and other advisors. People died during the attack, an outcome entirely foreseeable. The case for seditious conspiracy and felony murder is compelling.

Political accountability through impeachment will accomplish nothing of substance. Criminal liability, on the other hand, while facing a higher standard of proof, will  bring the evidence before a carefully selected jury of Americans. If they decide that Trump is not guilty, so be it. There will, at least, be no basis for complaint that political vendettas were being accomplished. The far greater likelihood is that a properly presented case against Trump will lead to his conviction.

If it were up to me, I would include in the indictment charges related to Trump’s obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation, including perjury, and likely also the incident in which Trump attempted to leverage Ukraine’s president to interfere in the U.S. election. It is time, in other words, to call the question on Trump’s claim that he is above the law. If this fails, our democracy may well be doomed, as conspiracy theorists like MJ Greene, Lauren Boebert and other Republican fantasists remain in power in subservience to Donald Trump who, elected or not, will become de facto dictator as long as he lives.

No doubt, the bringing of criminal charges will further enrage Trump’s already deranged supporters. If they decide to attack the Capitol, no amount of fencing and barbed wire will stop them. The government must be prepared to make the most aggressive response, including overwhelming deadly force against those who seek to bring down the government by violent assault. This conflict cannot be resolved by negotiation, and it is virtually certain Trump will continue to assert his false grievances to a willing audience of true believers. If so, the nation has no choice, in fact has a solemn duty, to defend itself and its democracy with every means at its disposal.

 

 

 

What to My Wondering Eyes Did Appear …

You likely recognize my slight modification of the iconic line from the poem, The Night Before Christmas, a/k/a, A Visit From St. Nicholas. It came instantly and unbidden to mind upon reading today’s Washington Post report entitled, Justice Department, FBI debate not charging some of the Capitol rioters. https://wapo.st/2KGv2hM

No, I am not making this up. The story was written by two highly accomplished reporters: Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu. As astounding and gut-wrenching as the story is, I take it for true.

The prosecutors’ discussions are assertedly based on a number of key ideas:

  1. About 800 people (+/- 100) entered the Capitol unlawfully; bringing so many cases could overload the local court;

Objection: The message from such nonsense is: “if you’re going to be part of an illegal mob action, be sure it’s a big one.” Is that really the message the FBI/DOJ want to send here?

  1. Some insurrectionists may only be guilty of “unlawful entry,” not having engaged in “violent, threatening or destructive behavior” – they merely went along with the crowd;

Objection: The perpetrators were not mere bystanders to a large-scale criminal event. They were active participants. “I just went along with the crowd that killed people and stole property” has never been a defense; why now? How do you discourage such conduct in the future if you decide to look the other way for most of the people involved?

  1. “The primary objective for authorities is to determine which individuals, if any, planned, orchestrated or directed the violence” – people who “planned and carried out violence aimed at the government” may face charges of seditious conspiracy, carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison;

Hint for FBI/DOJ: good; go big with the charges for the planners; by the way, there is substantial provable evidence that the individual who orchestrated the violence was the president, Donald J Trump. Indict him.

  1. “…investigators are still gathering evidence, and agents could easily turn up additional photos or online postings that show a person they initially believed was harmless had, in fact, encouraged or engaged in other crimes.”

Another Hint for FBI/DOJ: What?? Harmless??? It is impossible to conclude rationally that any person who entered the Capitol with the mob on Jan. 6 was “harmless.” The harm began with the attack on the defending police force and continued unabated for hours. Those who entered knew they weren’t supposed to be there, saw the violence directed at the small police contingent in place to defend the Capitol and, based on extensive video, did nothing to try to stop the entry/violence that was perpetrated by the mob of which they were a part, even if they did not all directly engage in violence against the police, the building or its contents. Sacking the Capitol cannot be harmless.

  1. Some people may have done nothing but enter, look around and leave. If the only charge is unlawful entry, prosecutors might lose some cases. The exact quote in the story was: ““If an old man says all he did was walk in and no one tried to stop him, and he walked out and no one tried to stop him, and that’s all we know about what he did, that’s a case we may not win,”

Objection: So what? Irrelevant. Prosecutors are seriously concerning themselves with the remote possibility that a handful of the invaders said “whoopsie, this has gotten out of hand; think I’ll just wander on outside and watch the fun from there?” Every prosecutor, every trial lawyer, has lost some cases. It’s not a shame; happens to the best of them once in a while. Losing should be the last thing FBI/DOJ are concerned about here.

  6.  Most of the arrestees have no prior criminal records;

Objection: Utterly irrelevant; for every criminal, there is a first time. A first-time murderer is no less a murderer because he’s not murdered before. If this has any bearing, it’s at sentencing, but surely is not a factor in deciding whether to prosecute. Surely.

  1. “…defense lawyers … are contemplating something akin to a “Trump defense” — that the president or other authority figures gave them permission or invited them to commit an otherwise illegal act.”

Yet Another Hint to FBI/DOJ: this “defense” gets a good grade for clever and bold, but it’s wrong and thus no cigar. This is the point at which I seriously consider screaming obscenities. The president lacked authority to give anyone legally effective permission to force their way into the Capitol to interfere with the scheduled work of Congress. Being delusional may get you a reduced sentence, maybe, but it cannot and should not insulate you from self-evidently unlawful conduct. Believing the unbelievable (the election was stolen –Trump said so) is no excuse.

  1. In a remarkable double/triple entendre, or something, the argument is noted that Trump’s impending impeachment trial will “raise questions about the culpability of followers for the misinformation spread by leaders around bogus election-fraud claims rejected by courts and state voting officials.” Further,

It’s not a like a bunch of people gathered on their own and decided to do this, it’s not like a mob. It’s people who were asked to come by the president, encouraged to come by the president, and encouraged to do what they did by the president and a number of others,” said one attorney representing defendants charged in the breach who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal strategy.”

Objection: – this is the “I was too stupid to know how stupid I was…” defense. Or the “my president made me do it” defense. It speaks for itself, which is what lawyers say when they don’t know what to say. Defense lawyers may try this, which is their right, but this is not the basis for prosecutorial deference. If anything, it should inspire more aggression on the part of prosecutors.

  1. “For rioters with no previous criminal records or convictions and whose known behavior inside the Capitol was not violent or destructive, the government could enter into deferred plea agreements, a diversion program akin to pretrial probation in which prosecutors agree to drop charges if a defendant commits no offenses over a certain time period.”

Another Note: the article says this tactic “has been used before in some cases involving individuals with a history of mental illness who were arrested for jumping the White House fence. Criminal defense attorneys note there may be further distinctions between individuals who may have witnessed illegal activity or otherwise had reason to know they were entering a restricted area, and those for whom prosecutors can’t show such awareness.”

Objection: This is just a variant of “I didn’t know breaking into the Capitol with a raging, screaming mob breaking windows and attacking police was illegal.” It is, I suggest, preposterous even for Trump true-believers. It’s like the “Martians made me do it” defense deeply felt perhaps but just plain wrong. We cannot have a society in which people get away with crimes because they say they’re too ignorant to know what is right and wrong. Plead insanity if you think you can establish it, but this, again, is not a ground for prosecutors to lay off.

I close this part of the post with this final quote from the story:

“There is absolute resolve from the Department of Justice to hold all who intentionally engaged in criminal acts at the Capitol accountable,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in an email. “We have consistently made clear that we will follow the facts and evidence and charge individuals accordingly. We remain confident that the U.S. District Court for Washington, DC can appropriately handle the docket related to any resulting charges.”

We must certainly hope that Mr. Raimondi’s declaration is correct. This may be the most appalling story I have read about the justice system — ever.

I cannot get my mind around the idea that (1) the president of the United States calls a mob of supporters to Washington and, along with some family members and attorneys, urges the crowd to “walk down to the Capitol” (lying about his intention to join them), (2) for the avowed purpose of preventing final Congressional certification of the presidential election the president clearly lost AND (3) the people who follow his suggestion take the walk (over a mile, plenty of time to think about what they’re doing), (4) assault the Capitol police, (5)  join the mob forcing its way into the building through smashed windows/doors, (6) are present during multiple melees throughout the building including attacks on police, and (7) are allowed to simply walk out without impediment — are being considered for leniency by prosecutors.

Have we lost our collective minds? Is this the lingering product of Trump’s undermining of the Department of Justice? Let these people walk and they will just go home, laughing all the way. What happened to respect for law, never mind “law and order?” This was an insurrection against the government of the United States. People died. A police officer attacked by the mob died. Why aren’t “felony murder” charges appropriate (participation in the commission of a felony, where a death occurs during that felony, even if the defendant wasn’t the one who killed the victim)? Why isn’t felony murder being discussed? What is going on here?

America Under Siege

Take a long look at the image above. This is the Capitol of the United States four days after the siege of Trump supporters on January 6. The entire area around the Capitol, like that surrounding the White House and the Executive Office Building, is cordoned off by 7-foot high fencing. No one is permitted to enter Lafayette Park across from the White House, The closest you can get now is on foot and you are still at an extreme distance. The White House is all but invisible. The images below were taken with a long lens and do not accurately reflect how far away we were kept by the police stationed around the perimeter.

By now everyone is aware that the sitting president of the United States, having overwhelmingly lost the 2020 election, has, along with his Republican co-conspirators in Congress and at the White House, undertaken a campaign of false claims that the election was “stolen” by a country-wide cabal of liberal Democrats aided by certain Republicans in battleground states. Unwilling to accept the overwhelming evidence, including the judgment of some of his closest enablers like the just-former Attorney General William Barr, Trump decided to force the issue by disrupting the final Congressional process of counting, verifying and accepting the states’ certification of their Electoral College votes. He summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6, the day Congress would meet, gave an incendiary speech and directed the throng of screaming Trumpists to go to the Capitol where the Congress was meeting “to steal the election” from him. He said he would be with them, but that, of course, was just another Trump lie. The rest is history, labeled by many as one of the darkest days the country has ever seen.

Trump’s “army” assaulted the Capitol, inadequately defended by the Capitol Police, many of whom appeared on video to welcome the intruders. The attack was responsible for the death of one police officer, led to the death of one mob member on the verge of forcing her way into the room immediately outside the House chamber, and came close to reaching the members of Congress deliberating there. Three mob members died of medical problems in the heat of the attack.

So it has come to pass that the nation’s Capitol resembles a country being attacked by foreign armies. Members of the National Guard are stationed at various locations around the Capitol to guard the congressional office buildings. Trump has encouraged the mob to return and disrupt the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The various chat boards favored by right-wing conspiracy nuts are alive with phantasmagorical claims and assertions of intention to effectively take over the government on Trump’s behalf.

This may seem comical and absurd to some, but I assure you it is deadly serious. The mob that assaulted the Capitol were laughing and high-fiving each other after what they regarded as an easy and overwhelming victory. Man of them are now being arrested around the country and face serious federal criminal charges. Like some gang members, the prospect of “doing time” in support of Trump is seen as a badge of honor in their delusional imaginations.

Trump’s claims are preposterous — unsupported by evidence, rejected by multiple courts — yet, right after the Capitol invasion Republican Party officials had a party at Amelia Island to celebrate Trump and their accomplishments. There is no reason to think Trump is ready to face reality. He believes he is immune from accountability, as he has been throughout his life. Trump has turned the national capital into a dark place, fencing off the People’s House and now the citadel of freedom that the Capitol Building signifies to the world. The time to put a stop to Donald Trump’s presidency is at hand, It would be a grave mistake to underestimate his willingness to destroy the country to avoid the reckoning he rightly fears.

These images illustrate the extent and appearance of the fencing that seals off the White House, Supreme Court, Executive Office Building and Capitol.

Black Lives Matter Plaza is one of the closest approaches that can now be made to the White House. It is the site of a peace vigil and other elements.

The National Guard on the job and it is likely that many more are stationed close by but out of sight; I am not prepared to believe that the federal government will let itself be surprised and understaffed a second time:

Finally, do not despair. The republic will survive this challenge as it has others led by more serious foes than Donald Trump. These still fly outside the fencing:

Long may it wave.