Thursday Reads: The Party of Lies

Good Morning!!

The Luncheon, Claude Monet

The Luncheon, Claude Monet

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.”

Apres le Dejunier, Berthe Morisot

Apres le Dejunier, Berthe Morisot

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.

Drinking tea in the garden by Edit B. Toth

Drinking tea in the garden by Edit B. Toth

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.

Paul Wonner, The Newspaper, 1960

Paul Wonner, The Newspaper, 1960

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!’

Surrounded by rioters who had dragged him down the U.S. Capitol steps, beaten him and Tasered him, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone screamed in pain.

“I got one!” one of the rioters yelled triumphantly.

As the crowd pushed in, grabbing at his head, Fanone screamed again and then pleaded for help. “I got kids!” he yelled.

The intense scene plays out in body-camera footage of the attack broadcast by CNN on Wednesday evening, casting new light on Fanone’s struggle to escape a clash he later described as “the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life.” Fanone suffered a mild heart attack and a concussion in the melee.

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.

CNN: Takeaways from a day of congressional Republicans embracing Trump and downplaying the US Capitol 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….

At the garden table, Auguste Macke

At the garden table, Auguste Macke

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.

Lunch in the Garden, Henri Lebasque

Lunch in the Garden, Henri Lebasque

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.

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse, 1919

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse, 1919

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.