Tuesday Reads: The News Is Surreal
Posted: October 19, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Bill Cassidy, Capitol insurrection, Colin Powell, Donald Trump, January 6 Committee, rape, Steve Bannon, surrealism, violence against women
Bridget Bate Tichenor, Untitled
Today the House January 6 Committee will vote to find Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and Trump has of course filed a lawsuit to prevent them getting documents related to his attempted coup. The Washington Post reports:
A House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is moving swiftly Tuesday to hold at least one of Donald Trump’s allies in contempt as the former president is pushing back on the probe in a new lawsuit.
Trump is aggressively trying to block the committee’s work by directing former White House aide Steve Bannon not to answer questions in the probe while also suing the panel to try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents. But lawmakers on the House committee say they will not back down as they gather facts and testimony about the attack involving Trump’s supporters that left dozens of police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
“The former president’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice chairwoman, in a joint statement late Monday.
They added: “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.” [….]
The legal challenge came a day before the panel is scheduled to vote to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance of the committee’s demands for documents and testimony. In a resolution released Monday, and scheduled to be voted out of the panel on Tuesday, the committee asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to rebuff the committee — even as Trump’s lawyer has argued that Bannon should not disclose information because it is protected by the privilege of the former president’s office.
On the Bannon contempt vote:
Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack, the committee said, and Trump has not asserted any such executive privilege claims to the panel itself.
Koga Harue Umi, The Sea, 1929
“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of January 6th, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the committee wrote in the resolution.
The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the leadup to the insurrection, including reports that he encouraged Trump to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.
Once the committee votes on the Bannon contempt measure, it will go to the full House for a vote and then on to the Justice Department, which would decide whether to prosecute.
Trump has also found time to weigh in on Colin Powell’s death. The Hill: Trump criticizes media for treating Powell ‘beautifully’ in death.
Former President Trump lambasted the media on Tuesday for what he said was too-favorable coverage of former Secretary of State Colin Powell after his death on Monday.
“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday,” Trump said in a statement.
Trump called Powell “a classic RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only.”
“He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!” Trump added.
Trump also attacked Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. The Hill: Trump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn’t support him for president in 2024.
Former President Trump blasted Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Monday after the senator said in an interview he would not vote for the real estate mogul if he ran for president again in 2024.
Cassidy during an interview that aired Sunday on “Axios on HBO” said that he did not believe Trump would be the GOP presidential nominee again.
“President Trump is the first president, in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning,” Cassidy told Axios’s Mike Allen….
In a statement on Monday, Trump called Cassidy a “RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only,” and reiterated a notion he had hoisted on other Republicans that Cassidy had “begged” for his endorsement in 2020 “and used it all over the place to win re-election.”
Eugenio Granell The Pi Birds Night Flight
“Now, Wacky Bill Cassidy can’t walk down the street in Louisiana, a State I won by almost 20 points,” the Trump statement read. “He could not even be elected dog catcher today, the great people curse him.”
Trump did defeat President Biden by nearly 20 points in 2020 in Louisiana, winning about 58.5 percent of the vote. Cassidy did even better, winning 59.3 percent of the vote.
“Wacky Bill is a totally ineffective Senator, but Louisiana does have a great Senator in John Kennedy,” Trump said, referring to the state’s other GOP senator, whom he endorsed over the summer soon after Kennedy indicated he would run for reelection.
Cassidy was among the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, though Trump was ultimately acquitted after leaving office later that month.
It’s still very difficult for me to believe that this moron was actually president.
According to historians Thomas Lecaque and J.L. Tomlin at The Bulwark, Bannon is setting the stage for another insurrection: Steve Bannon Out in the Open. The erstwhile Trump adviser is refusing to talk to the Jan. 6 committee, but most of his energetic anti-democratic activities are in plain sight.
…Bannon’s troubling activities did not stop after January 6. Far from it. He is still out in the streets, at rallies, on conference calls, and on his podcast trumpeting it to the heavens: The insurrection isn’t over, it’s only just begun.
On September 22, the day before the committee issued its subpoena, Bannon more or less confirmed his involvement with January 6th. He has continued to push the idea that the Biden administration is illegitimate—“We told you from the very beginning, just expose it, just expose it, never back down, never give up and this thing will implode”—and said that he wanted to help “kill this [Biden] administration in the crib.”
Bannon is neither hiding nor defensively trying to justify his past actions. Rather, he is continuing to push the Big Lie and all of its permutations, tying together a web of far-right ideas and allies. Like most good propagandists, he knows that the veil between fact and belief is very thin in a highly partisan political environment. What pushes an overt lie into semi-gospel is sometimes merely it’s repetition. Bannon’s podcast, “War Room,” continues to promote conspiracy theories about the 2020 election—the day after his subpoena running a segment titled “50k Illegal Ballots in One County Alone.” His guests have included Trumpist members of Congress, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene; conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Lindell; anti-vaxers; and other subpoenaed Trump administration figures. Topics run the gamut from the border to the debt ceiling to “how schools are indoctrinating kids” to “the battle of Lepanto” (sure to appeal to far-right Crusade-cosplaying insurrectionists and mass murderers alike). Perhaps most provokingly given his subpoena defiance, an episode on October 13 was entitled “The Continued Search for the Truth of January 6th.”
f Bannon were only a podcaster, were only pushing his ideas on one of the many far-right channels that have popped up in the last half-decade, that would be bad enough. But Bannon is incredibly active in person as well—a natural organizer and demagogue. It’s worth taking a look at just three of the events at which he has recently spoken.
Read all the details at the link.
Skunder Boghossian, Night Flight of Dread and Delight
At the Washington Post, authoritarianism expert Brian Klaas wrote about the history of election audits: Opinion: Republican ‘election audits’ have been used before — by dictators.
Donald Trump continues to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election, and his supporters in the Republican Party are continuing with kangaroo “audits” in swing states that Trump lost. For Americans, this is a bizarre sideshow. But for those who have had the misfortune of living in an authoritarian country, the GOP’s “audit” charade follows an all-too-familiar script.
Five years ago, Gambia’s dictator unexpectedly lost an election. Yahya Jammeh, who had pledged to rule that little sliver of West Africa for “1 billion years,” had to face facts. His people had rejected him. His opponent had won. But then he had an idea. Perhaps he could stay in power if he performed a careful “audit” of the election results.
Jammeh alleged widespread fraud without evidence to support it. He submitted a formal petition, saying that the electoral commission had “failed to properly collate the results.” He refused to leave power. Similar tactics have recently been tried elsewhere, from Guyana to Zambia.
Dictators around the world know how it’s done. Never accept defeat. Fight the results, no matter what the evidence says. After all, the electoral commissioner in these countries is often a pliant crony from the same party who might cave to the pressure. (I once interviewed a senior election official in Madagascar who opened an envelope hand-delivered to her home address. Instead of a note, it contained three bullets).
If despots lose power despite their bluster and threats, they are always sure to continue alleging fraud to delegitimize their successor in the eyes of their supporters. It’s a final poisoned parting gift, one last opportunity to damage and divide the country.
Trump’s Republican Party seems to have been taking notes.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
TRIGGER WARNING I’m going to end with a surreal story about violence against women. You’ve probably heard about this horrific case, but its even worse than first reported. AP via Yahoo News: Train riders held up phones as woman was raped, police say.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man charged with raping a woman on a commuter train just outside of Philadelphia harassed her for more than 40 minutes while multiple people held up their phones to seemingly record the assault without intervening, authorities said.
More than two dozen train stops passed as the man harassed, groped and eventually raped the woman, the police chief for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said at a news conference Monday.
Police do not believe a single witness on the train dialed 911. They are investigating whether some bystanders filmed the assault.
Both the man and woman got on the train at the same stop Wednesday night in North Philadelphia. Officers pulled the man off of the woman at the last stop. They responded within about three minutes of a 911 call from a transportation authority employee, authorities said.
“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said at the news conference.
Arrest records show Fiston Ngoy, 35, was charged with rape and related offenses.
The affidavit of arrest for Ngoy detailed times of the assault, including that during those 40 minutes the woman appears to repeatedly push Ngoy away.
Nestel would not give an approximate number of witnesses and it was unclear from the affidavit how many passengers were present for those 40 minutes. Authorities have not released the surveillance video.
“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” he said.
Police said that anyone who recorded the attack on video could possibly be charged. More details on what happened at the link.
It feels as if this country has gone crazy. As always, this is an open thread.