I wish I could stop reading and writing about Donald Trump; but I can’t, because he continues to be a serious threat to U.S. Democracy. Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the Capitol insurrection that Trump incited. Republicans are pretending it was no big deal, and Trump is moving toward celebrating it as a patriotic exercise.
Over the weekend, Trump began demanding the name of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt and defending her actions on January 6. From Philip Bump at The Washington Post:
The man who shot Babbitt has become a target of fury as Babbitt has increasingly been cast as something of a martyr for the day’s cause. Because that cause was Trumpism, Trump himself has spoken of Babbitt more and more often.
At a rally in Florida over the weekend, he demanded to make public the name of the person who had fired the bullet.
“People know the name. People know where he came from,” he said. “Now if that were on the other side” — meaning, not on Trump’s side — “the person who did the shooting would be strung up and hung.”
He reiterated the theme at a news conference on Wednesday.
“The person that shot Ashli Babbitt — boom, right through the head,” Trump said. “Just, boom. … They’ve already written it off. They said that case is closed. If that were the opposite, that case would be going on for years and years, and it would not be pretty.”
(Babbitt was not shot in the head. She was shot in the neck.)
Importantly, Trump also said that there was “no reason” for Babbitt’s having been shot. When protesters were outside the White House in May 2020, crossing the fence would have meant being mauled by dogs or otherwise being “really badly hurt, at least.” But a member of a huge, violent mob surging into a secure area of the Capitol that tried to press forward toward evacuating legislators? No reason for law enforcement to use deadly force.
This, at its heart, is Trump’s view of justice. Those on his side are exempt from accountability for their actions. Those on the other side, however, most be dealt with harshly — more harshly than the law allows.
Trump also demanded to know why people who participated in the insurrection are still in jail. It’s obvious that he is trying to recast the attack on the Capitol as a patriotic effort to save democracy, and many Republicans will follow his lead. It’s already happening in Florida. Raw Story: Florida GOP rally will call for release of ‘political prisoners’ charged in Capitol insurrection.
One week after former president Donald Trump visited Florida and questioned why so many accused Capitol rioters are still in jail, his supporters in the Sunshine State will gather on Saturday to call for the release of “political prisoners” charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Florida has more people charged in the insurrection than any other state, including the most defendants connected to right-wing groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, according to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
Saturday’s “Free Our Patriots Rally in Tally” outside the state Capitol will call on Republican Gov. Ron Desantis “to demand immediate release of the incarcerated patriots and to use all the power and leverage at his disposal to make this happen.”
The event is being organized in part by Luis Miguel, a far-right candidate who is challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP primary.
“Folks, The patriots who have been hunted down by the corrupt, communist FBI are suffering,” Miguel wrote on Twitter. “Many of them are veterans who fought for this nation. Let’s do our part to ensure they’re liberated. We can’t allow this in America. Be there at the Florida Capitol July 10.”
Another organizer of the rally is Angel Harrelson, the wife of former Army Sgt. Kenneth Troy Harrelson, an admitted member of the Oath Keepers who remains behind bars after being charged in the insurrection.
Angel Harrelson told a YouTube radio program this week that among other things, she plans to play a recording of her husband and other alleged insurrectionists singing the national anthem over the phone from jail.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Chilling Message of Trump’s Embrace of Ashli Babbitt Martyrdom.
Babbitt’s death, while tragic, occurred for a very good reason. The Air Force veteran, who had been fully converted into the most dangerous and fantastical pro-Trump conspiracy theories, had joined the aggressive vanguard of the January 6 insurrection. Babbitt died trying to squeeze through the smashed window of a barricaded door that led to the inner sanctum where members of Congress were hiding from the mob.
Talia Lavin’s profile of Babbitt, in the current issue of the magazine, notes her emergence as a martyr on the far right. As Lavin points out, Babbitt is not the only Trump supporter who lost her life during the insurrection. Rosanne Boyland also died, but the manner of her death — trampling by the mob — does not serve the same propagandistic purpose. The whole point of Babbitt’s centrality is that she was leading the mob violently forward toward its goal of threatening or killing officials who refused to cooperate with their objective of overturning the election result.
It is revealing that Trump has only taken up Babbitt’s cause now, six months after the insurrection. In the immediate aftermath of the riot, Republicans were briefly furious enough to contemplate writing Trump out of the party and even voting to impeach him. Then they decided not to expunge him, and to hope the ugly events simply faded from memory. A few months later, they decided to purge Liz Cheney, allegedly because she refused to let go of the insurrection. Shortly after that, the party voted to block a bipartisan investigation of the insurrection.
All the political momentum is on Trump’s side. He has slowly turned January 6 from a black mark that threatened to expunge him from Republican politics, to a regrettable episode that his allies preferred to leave behind, to a glorious uprising behind which he could rally his adherents….
By throwing himself behind this message, Trump is endorsing the most radical interpretation of his presidency. January 6 was not a minor misstep after a successful era, as fans like Mike Pence and Lindsey Graham now say. It was the heroic culmination of a righteous uprising.
Wajahat Ali at The Daily Beast: Why Trump Is Anointing Ashli Babbitt as MAGA’s First Martyr.
We’ve all heard the old adage that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
With Ashli Babbitt, Donald Trump and the GOP have found a perfect martyr to rationalize their perpetual victimhood and inspire future “freedom fighters” to assist in their full-scale assault on democracy.
Babbitt was one of thousands of Trump supporters who decided to join the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and overrun the U.S. Capitol in hopes of canceling a free and fair election. She was shot by a Capitol police officer while climbing through a broken window on a door that led to the Speaker’s Lobby. She died while wearing a Trump flag as a cape.
The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs.
In April, the police officer who fatally shot Babbitt was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. His identity has not been released due to death threats that inevitably increased after Trump released a one-line statement last week asking “Who Shot Ashli Babbit?” That echoed Rep. Paul Gosar, an ally of avowed white supremacists, who accused the police officer of supposedly “lying in wait” to “execute” Babbitt….
The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs….
The goal is to keep enraging and confusing their base, convince them of a far-reaching “Deep State” conspiracy committed to depriving them of power and glory and “replacing” them, and deflect from the Jan. 6 investigations that will further document the extremist elements embedded within the GOP and conservative movement.
Ali argues that Babbitt is the perfect martyr for Trump’s and the GOP’s purposes.
Babbitt—a woman, a wife, an Air Force veteran, and a true believer for Trump who, according to them, was “assassinated” by the “Deep State”—is an ideal character to glorify in death for a conservative movement that has turned into a racket and cult, a “victim” who can no longer speak for herself and can thus embody whatever fiction and grievance they want to promote.
On right-wing social media platforms she is being called “the first victim of the second Civil War” and a “freedom fighter.” Until last week, Sears and Kmart were selling “Ashli Babbitt American Patriot” T-shirts on their websites. Even Vladimir Putin is getting in on the action to deflect from his own abuses of power. When asked by NBC News’ Keir Simmons if he ordered the assassination of political dissident Alexei Navalny, Putin hit back, “Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?”
How comforting to know that Putin shares the same script and talking points as Trump, Gosar, and right-wing media personalities.
Ultimately, the purpose of anointing Ashli Babbitt, and demonizing the officer who shot her in the process, is to justify the GOP’s goal of attacking our democratic institutions to ensure minority rule. If the base believes that they are being prosecuted, oppressed and even “assassinated” like Babbitt, then they will justify any and all means to reject Democratic rule and future elections that deprive them of power.
There’s no doubt that U.S. democracy is in danger as long as Republicans remain in thrall to Trump. I’ll end with this piece from NBC News: What’s keeping democracy experts up most at night? An overturned election.
There’s no legal avenue for Trump to reverse the 2020 results. But a half-dozen scholars who study democracy and election laws told NBC News they are increasingly worried that 2024 could be a repeat of 2020, only with a party further remade in the former president’s image and better equipped to sow disorder during the process and even potentially overturn the results.
“Obviously the insurrection was horrific in its violence and assault on democracy, but it didn’t disrupt the true winner of the election,” said Edward B. Foley, a professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University who researches election law. “What you don’t want is it to have been a rehearsal.”
Nightmare scenarios include local or state officials refusing to certify votes, governors and state legislatures submitting electoral votes that disagree with each other or overrule the apparent vote counts, fights over the legitimacy of judges overseeing the process and the House and Senate disagreeing on the winner. A chaotic transition could create an opening for further violence, either from extremists attempting to disrupt the process again or mass unrest if the winner is viewed as illegitimate.
“We should not pretend these dangers are fantastical or that these are absurd hypotheticals,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Given what we saw Trump actually do in 2020, these things are now within the realm of possibility and need to be legislated against and organized against so we have a fair election process going forward.”
A bit more:
New and proposed laws in states like Georgia and Arizona have sought to wrest power from state and local election officials, some of whom played a role in resisting the former president’s demands last election.
Republicans face significant pressure from their base to make these types of systemic changes — and potentially go much further. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America foundation, released survey data last month that found 46 percent of Republicans supported empowering state legislatures to overturn election results in states President Joe Biden won, as Trump demanded they do in 2020….
Some observers worry the party’s increased willingness to even entertain these scenarios could create perverse incentives in which state or local officials try to boost the odds of a poorly administered election that would give partisan leaders more flexibility to intervene….
In 2020, every governor and state legislature accepted the election results, but the midterms could reshuffle the landscape. Trump has sought to punish Republican incumbents like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with primary challenges. Trump has also lashed out at otherwise supportive Republican legislators in states like Wisconsin and Michigan who have affirmed the results.
“The fact that it held in 2020 doesn’t guarantee it will hold in 2024,” Omar Wasow, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, said. “You need ethical people in these jobs, and we’re seeing a lot of ethical people leaving in part because they’ve been threatened or attacked by partisans or because the level of vitriol they’ve been subject to is not worth the effort.”
The whole article is well worth reading.
That’s it for me today. Please let me know what you think. As always, this is an open thread.
Yesterday the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Democrats tried to address the facts, and Republicans attempted to sell blatant lies and fantasies about what happened that day. Fromthe Associated Press:
Republicans sought to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 insurrection during a rancorous congressional hearing Wednesday, painting the Trump supporters who attacked the building as mostly peaceful patriots and downplaying repeatedly the violence of the day.
Democrats, meanwhile, clashed with Donald Trump’s former Pentagon chief about the unprepared government response to a riot that began when hundreds of Trump loyalists bent on overturning the election broke through police barriers, smashed windows and laid siege to the building.
The colliding lines of questioning, and a failure to settle on a universally agreed-upon set of facts, underscored the challenges Congress faces as it sets out to investigate the violence and government missteps. The House Oversight Committee hearing unfolded just after Republicans in the chamber voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post for rebuking Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in inciting the attack.
Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, testifying publicly for the first time about Jan. 6, defended their agencies’ responses to the chaos. But the hearing almost immediately devolved into partisan bickering about how that day unfolded, with at least one Republican brazenly stating there wasn’t an insurrection at all….
Some fantastical claims by Republicans:
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona played video footage of violence outside the federal courthouse in Portland last summer. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia said that while “there were some rioters” on Jan. 6, it was a “bold-faced lie” to call it an insurrection and likened it in some ways to a “normal tourist visit.”
In ways that fundamentally rewrote the facts of the day and the investigations that resulted, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said the Justice Department was “harassing peaceful patriots.” He described Ashli Babbit, a California woman who was fatally shot by an officer during the insurrection after climbing through the broken part of a door, as having been “executed,” even though prosecutors have said the officer won’t be prosecuted because the shooting did not break the law.
“It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” said Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, downplaying the violent tactics used by loyalists to the president, including spraying officers with pepper and bear spray.
Raw Story on Paul Gosar of Arizona, who actually helped organize the January 6 rally: Trump-loving congressman Paul Gosar rants about MAGA rioter Ashli Babbitt being ‘executed’ by Capitol cops.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) on Wednesday delivered a rant in which he declared that Capitol police “executed” pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt.
During a hearing on the January 6th Capitol riots before the House Oversight Committee, Gosar angrily charged that opponents of former President Donald Trump were using “propaganda” to make the MAGA rioters seem worse than they really were.
He also accused Capitol police of using unnecessary force when one of them fatally shot Babbitt, who during the riots was trying to breach a set of doors that were just outside the House chamber where lawmakers were hiding in shelter on January 6th after the breach of the Capitol building.
Here’s a different take on the Ashli Babbitt story at Law and Crime: Capitol Rioter Wanted to Lynch Black Officer He Believed Shot Ashli Babbitt, Prosecutors Say.
A U.S. Capitol rioter from Texas who said that he brought a rope with him to Congress on Jan. 6 threatened days later to lynch a Black police officer that he believed fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, federal prosecutors wrote in a legal brief on Monday. The startling allegation surfaced in court papers against 34-year-old Garret Miller, whom prosecutors want to keep behind bars pending trial.
Babbitt was fatally shot when she and the other rioters tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby, where lawmakers had taken cover.
According to prosecutors, Miller referred to Babbitt as his “sister in battle” and began to see himself as her avenger.
“He became consumed with her death and circulated photographs on Facebook of an African-American police officer that he believed was responsible for her death,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth C. Kelley wrote in a 16-page legal brief on Monday. “Miller threatened to kill that officer, stating that he wanted to ‘hug his neck with a nice rope’ and that ‘he will swing.’ He also said that the officer deserved to die and that ‘it’s huntin season.’”
“His fixation with hunting down and hanging a USCP officer is extremely concerning,” prosecutors added of Miller.
Now facing a 12-count indictment, Miller has been charged with assaulting police officers, threatening to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and several charges related to U.S. Capitol insurrection. Prosecutors say that Miller’s remarks were especially chilling in light of what authorities found in his house.
But Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde claimed the rioters looked like normal tourists. NBC News:
During a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 riot, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said the House floor was not breached and that the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol behaved “in an orderly fashion.” [….]
“As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol, and on the House floor, who with other Republican colleagues helped barricade the door until almost 3 p.m. from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. This is the truth,” Clyde claimed….
“There was an undisciplined mob. There were some rioters, and some who committed acts of vandalism. But let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection in my opinion, is a bold faced lie. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol, and walk through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures, you know,” he continued.
“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said.
Tell that to police officer Michael Fanone who was beaten by rioters and now suffers from PTSD. The Washington Post: Body-cam footage shows Capitol rioter celebrating as D.C. cop is beaten and Tasered: ‘I got one!’
Those don’t look like normal tourists to me.
Yesterday Republicans also excommunicated far right conservative Liz Cheney for telling the truth about what happened on January 6, including Trump’s culpability for the riot.
The ongoing battle between truth and lies, and the continued fallout from the January 6 insurrection, played out Wednesday on Capitol Hill with critical oversight hearings and a landmark vote among the House Republicans to oust Liz Cheney from their leadership ranks.
The extraordinary day saw Cheney removed by voice vote in a 20-minute session that featured her fellow lawmakers booing her remarks about former President Donald Trump’s falsehoods about election fraud and then having members mock her on social media.
A House Oversight Committee hearing about “unexplained delays and unanswered questions” from January 6, featured Republican lawmakers attempt to deny basic facts about the insurrection and saw former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen resisting efforts to shed more light on Trump’s response to the riot. The Senate also held a hearing on domestic extremism that shed light on homegrown threats….
Rosen revealed that he met with Trump on January 3, just three days before the insurrection. He said they didn’t talk about the security planning for January 6, but he repeatedly refused to answer questions from House Oversight Committee Democrats about what he discussed with Trump at that meeting.
“I cannot tell you, consistent with my obligations today, about private conversations with the President, one way or the other,” Rosen said, later saying he “tried to be as forthcoming as I can” but that there are “ground rules” set by the Justice Department that he must “abide by.” Rosen did not elaborate on the alleged “ground rules” and passed on opportunities to shed more light on the insurrection.
This left Democrats stunned, including Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who pointed out that nobody invoked executive privilege before the hearing, and Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, who asked Rosen if Trump ever talked to him about overturning the results of the 2020 election.
Read more details from the hearing at the link.
Hayes Brown at MSNBC: GOP lies about Jan. 6 are getting bolder — and more dangerous.
Four months ago, the U.S. Capitol was overrun. Lawmakers fled their chambers as the mob surged past police lines. Many feared for their lives as former President Donald Trump did nothing to halt the rioters’ march through the building in his name.
Since then, we’ve seen a shift in tone from Republicans who were there that day. I’ve argued that the GOP is taking advantage of Trump’s social media silencing to work undistracted on making the next election easier to overturn.
But it’s becoming clear to me that it’s worse than that. Some members of Congress are getting bolder in their defense of Trump’s actions before and after the election. They aren’t just denying that Trump incited a mob as they rewrite election laws: They’re denying that the mob was ever a threat at all, justifying the violence of that day.
A hearing on Wednesday in the House Oversight and Reform Committee was meant to get some answers to the many questions about what was going on inside the Trump administration on Jan. 6 as the mob tried to stop the count of electoral votes. Unfortunately, the star witnesses of the day, former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, were less informative than hoped. Miller in particular walked back his written testimony during his opening statement, refusing to say Trump had incited the protesters that day.
That wasn’t the worst rewrite of history at the hearing, though. That dubious honor goes to Republicans on the panel. In their telling, what happened on Jan. 6 was just some Trump supporters taking an unscheduled walk through the halls of Congress and the Capitol Police overreacting.
One more from Richard Wolffe at The Guardian: The point of the Republican party? To stroke the ego of Trump.
What is the point of the Republican party?
This isn’t a flip question. It’s one prompted by the last four months of grappling with the fallout of the bloody insurrection on Capitol Hill, and by the last four years of grappling with the fallout of installing a fascist in the White House.
So, for real: what does the GOP stand for? Apart from trying to seize back power, what does it want to do?
The answer, as Liz Cheney has learned, is to pander to the ego of a single Florida resident who has no obvious or coherent political purpose.
This might just explain why the party has been struggling so hard to respond to the last four months of the most tenuous Democratic control in Washington.
The Biden team has not commanded the nation’s capital from a position of strength because of LBJ-like powers of persuasion, Democratic unity or structural majorities. They have succeeded because Republicans sorely lack – as George HW Bush used to put it – the vision thing….
There was a time, not so long ago, when the GOP stood for small government, or big business, or at least big churches, or sometimes the little guy. They were for standing up to foreign enemies and domestic taxes….
After four years of Donald Trump, that is no longer the world we’re living in. To be fair, three decades’ worth of upheaval – the colossal failures of the war on terror, the financial crisis, a historic pandemic, the climate crisis and a technological revolution – may have made matters worse.
But here we are nonetheless at a point where the Grand Old Party has shrunk into a small old cult of personality, willing to twist and turn to the whims of its sociopathic former leader.
Consistency meant nothing inside the cult. More billions of spending on a nonsensical border wall? The deficit hawks said no problem. More bullying business leaders by presidential tweet? The capitalist caucus said bring it on. More cozying up to the leaders of Russia, China and even North Korea? The defense hawks thought that sounded fine. Paying off porn stars with campaign dollars? The party of family values barely blushed.
Each one of these big and small sellouts brought the party to the point where it fired Liz Cheney from the House leadership on Tuesday for stating the obvious: Trump lost the election last year and stoked an insurrection to save face.
The only solution to this battle between reality and fantasy is an independent commission to investigation the insurrection writes Kate Brannen at Just Security: Getting to the Bottom of Jan. 6 Is Proving Too Difficult for Congress.
If Wednesday’s House hearing on “unanswered questions” about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was good for anything, it showed why an independent commission is needed to investigate what happened that day.
It was the first time that former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified about the decisions and actions they took. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee also testified, but his actions are under far less scrutiny because his police officers responded immediately and essentially saved the day. He had also already testified about these matters in the Senate.
Despite this opportunity to question Miller and Rosen (and the important questions they could have been asked), members of the House Oversight Committee elicited little new information. Instead, precious time was wasted with grandstanding and aggressive posturing on both sides. Whether it’s Democrats admonishing the witnesses before they have a chance to speak or, worse yet, Republicans flooding the zone with disinformation, it’s increasingly clear that Congress is not up to the task of investigating the events of that day.
That’s a shame, because when it comes to Jan. 6, there are essentially two security failures that demand accountability (not to mention the role played by former President Donald Trump): the failure to prepare and understand the signals of what was coming and a failure to quickly get federal forces to respond once it was underway. The Department of Justice and the FBI bear some responsibility for the first failure, which left the U.S. government flat-footed when the attack began. The Defense Department, which Miller oversaw, was responsible for fielding requests for support from the D.C. National Guard and then authorizing its deployment, and so, is at the center of responsibility for the second failure.
Click the link to read the rest.
Is there any way to get past the GOP lies and obfuscation? Is an independent investigation possible? I hope so.
As always, this is an open thread.