Tuesday Reads

 

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday, Talking Points Memo released a large trove of Mark Meadows’ text messages. It’s not clear how they obtained them, but the main author of the series of articles is Hunter Walker, who collaborated with Denver Riggleman on the book The Breach, which described Riggleman’s work for the January 6 Committee. Riggleman led the project to identify the senders of text messages that were turned over to the committee. The articles are not behind the usual TPM paywall.

Hunter Walker introduces the series at TPM: A Plot To Overturn An American Election.

TPM has obtained the 2,319 text messages that Mark Meadows, who was President Trump’s last White House chief of staff, turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Today, we are publishing The Meadows Texts, a series based on an in-depth analysis of these extraordinary — and disturbing — communications. 

The vast majority of Meadows’ texts described in this series are being made public for the very first time. They show the senior-most official in the Trump White House communicating with members of Congress, state-level politicians, and far-right activists as they work feverishly to overturn Trump’s loss in the 2020 election. The Meadows texts illustrate in moment-to-moment detail an authoritarian effort to undermine the will of the people and upend the American democratic system as we know it. 

The text messages, obtained from multiple sources, offer new insights into how the assault on the election was rooted in deranged internet paranoia and undemocratic ideology. They show Meadows and other high-level Trump allies reveling in wild conspiracy theories, violent rhetoric, and crackpot legal strategies for refusing to certify Joe Biden’s victory. They expose the previously unknown roles of some members of Congress, local politicians, activists and others in the plot to overturn the election. Now, for the first time, many of those figures will be named and their roles will be described — in their own words.

Meadows turned over the text messages during a brief period of cooperation with the committee before he filed a December 2021 lawsuit arguing that its subpoenas seeking testimony and his phone records were “overly broad” and violations of executive privilege. The committee did not respond to a request for comment on this story. Since then, Meadows has faced losses in his efforts to challenge the subpoena in court. However, that legal battle is ongoing and is unlikely to conclude before next month, when the incoming Republican House majority is widely expected to shutter the committee’s investigation. Earlier this year, Meadows reportedly turned over the same material he gave the select committee to the Justice Department in response to another subpoena. These messages are key evidence in the two major investigations into the Jan. 6 attack. With this series, the American people will be able to evaluate the most important texts for themselves.  

This one is the real shocker. Hunter Walker, Josh Kovensky, and Emine Yücel at TPM: Mark Meadows Exchanged Texts With 34 Members Of Congress About Plans To Overturn The 2020 Election.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows exchanged text messages with at least 34 Republican members of Congress as they plotted to overturn President Trump’s loss in the 2020 election….

Meadows’ exchanges shed new light on the extent of congressional involvement in Trump’s efforts to spread baseless conspiracy theories about his defeat and his attempts to reverse it. The messages document the role members played in the campaign to subvert the election as it was conceived, built, and reached its violent climax on Jan. 6, 2021. The texts are rife with links to far-right websites, questionable legal theories, violent rhetoric, and advocacy for authoritarian power grabs.

Dan Crowley+-+A+Jester's+Toast

A Jester’s Toast, Dan Crowley

One message identified as coming from Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) to Meadows on January 17, 2021, three days before Joe Biden was set to take office, is a raw distillation of the various themes in the congressional correspondence. In the text, despite a typo, Norman seemed to be proposing a dramatic last ditch plan: having Trump impose martial law during his final hours in office. 

“Mark, in seeing what’s happening so quickly, and reading about the Dominion law suits attempting to stop any meaningful investigation we are at a point of � no return � in saving our Republic !! Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!”

The text, which has not previously been reported, is a particularly vivid example of how congressional opposition to Biden’s election was underpinned by paranoid and debunked conspiracy theories like those about Dominion voting machines. Norman’s text also showed the potentially violent lengths to which some congressional Republicans were willing to go in order to keep Trump in power. The log Meadows provided to the select committee does not include a response to Norman’s message. 

Reached via cell phone on Monday morning, Norman asked TPM for a chance to review his messages before commenting. 

“It’s been two years,” Norman said. “Send that text to me and I’ll take a look at it.”

TPM forwarded Norman a copy of the message calling for “Marshall Law!!” We did not receive any further response from the congressman.  

Read the rest at TPM.

Two more pieces in the series:

Hunter Walker and Josh Kovensky at TPM: Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry’s Work To Overturn 2020 Election Included A ‘Cyber Team’ And An Italian Job.

Kate Riga and Hunter Walker: As The 2020 Election Slipped Away, Andy Biggs And Mark Meadows Schemed To Reverse The Vote In Arizona.

So you can check those out at TPM. It’s quite a scoop for Josh Marshall’s blog.

Here’s another shocker from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP): Hundreds of Members of Extremist Group Oath Keepers Worked for U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Leaked Roster Shows.

More than 300 people identifying themselves as current or former employees of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or affiliated agencies appeared on an internal roster of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing anti-government group whose leader has been convicted of sedition.

Among them is a man identifying himself as a “20 year Special Agent” with the U.S. Secret Service who worked security for two presidents, a person who said he was a “Current Supervisory Border Patrol Agent,” and one who described himself as an IT employee at the headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration.

The Oath Keepers roster analyzed by OCCRP and its reporting partner, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), shows that 306 dues-paying Oath Keepers members listed themselves as affiliated with DHS, including 21 who said they were working for the agency at the time their names were added.

Clara Ledesma - SIN TITULO - Coleccion Nader 2

Sin Titulo, Clara Ledesma

One hundred eighty-four identified themselves as having served in the Coast Guard, 67 as having worked in DHS itself, 40 at Customs and Border Protection or the Border Patrol, 11 at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and seven at the U.S. Secret Service, the agency charged with protecting the president, vice president, and visiting heads of state.

The new revelations are troubling, said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democratic congressman who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.

“Extremism within our government is always alarming, but even more so in a department with a law enforcement and national security nexus like DHS,” said Thompson, who is also heading the U.S. House’s investigation into the January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol….

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-racism group, the Oath Keepers claim to have recruited tens of thousands of current and former U.S. military and law enforcement employees. The Oath Keepers’ top leader, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, wrote in a 2009 blog post that “men like this on the inside … can and do provide information to expose what is going on,” adding that “we are hearing from more and more federal officers all the time.”

Click the link to read more.

Elon Musk continues his pathetic cries for attention from the right wing mob. I’m sure you’ve heard that he attacked Anthony Fauci on Twitter. From The Independent: Dr Fauci hits back at Musk claims he should be prosecuted: ‘Cesspool of misinformation.’

Dr Anthony Fauci, the outgoing director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who helped steer the country through the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, brushed off criticism from Twitter’s Elon Musk on Monday.

On Sunday, Mr Musk, who has increasingly broadcast far right views in recent months, tweeted: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.”

Dr Fauci, who has faced hostility from conservatives for years due to his support of public health measures to limit the spread and severity of Covid, told reporter Max Kozlov of the science magazine Nature that he was not bothered by Mr Musk’s attack.

“I don’t pay attention to that, Max, and I don’t even feel I need to respond,” Dr Fauci told Kozlov. “A lot of that stuff is just a cesspool of misinformation, and I don’t waste a minute worrying about it.”

Kozlov tweeted that a full interview with Dr Fauci is forthcoming.

Mr Musk, who was an early skeptic of Covid public health measures and remote work, at one point tweeted that there would likely be no new US cases of Covid by April of 2020. His lack of public health credentials notwithstanding, Mr Musk’s tweet was amplified by critics of Dr Fauci like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Mr Musk’s tweet also mocked the increasingly common practice of people explicitly stating their preferred gender pronouns, a practice aimed at ensuring that people are not misgendered.

Yesterday,  I learned that there could be some personal psychological reasons for Musk’s right-wing radicalization. One of his children, who identifies as a trans woman, has publicly disowned him and changed her surname. She legally changed her name from Xavier Musk to Vivian Jenna Wilson (he mother’s maiden name).

Mercury News: Elon Musk says he lost transgender daughter because of ‘neo-Marxists.’

Elon Musk doesn’t seem to believe he played any role in alienating his 18-year-old transgender daughter, who made the legal move this year to no longer be related to her controversial billionaire father “in any way, shape or form.”

Instead, the Tesla CEO told the Financial Times in an interview published Friday that his child’s decision to distance herself from him was caused by “neo-Marxists” at educational institutions, Page Six reported.

Musk didn’t specify what institutions had worked their influence on his daughter, but he said, “It’s full-on communism and a general sentiment that if you’re rich, you’re evil.”

hell_methlab, Andrew Brandau

Hell Methlab, Andrew Brandau

Musk apparently sees no connection between his child’s disenchantment with him and his polarizing comments about gender identity issues. The young woman’s mother, Musk’s first wife, Justine Wilson, has characterized the CEO as a difficult, controlling and patriarchal man to live with.

Musk, who has revived his effort to buy Twitter, first came under fire for his views on pronouns in July 2020, when he tweeted that “pronouns suck.” His partner at the time, the singer Grimes, was outraged, saying, “I cannot support hate. Please stop this. I know this isn’t your heart.” Grimes also told him to get off his phone: “I love you but please turn off ur phone.”

Months later, Musk was criticized again for sharing a meme, since deleted, that seemingly mocked people who put their pronouns in their online bios. In response to criticism to that tweet, Musk wrote on Twitter: “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare.” [….]

In June, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge officially approved two requests from Musk’s daughter to be legally recognized as a woman. In petitioning for the name change, the daughter also expressed the desire to no longer be related to her famous father. The judge signed documents that said that a new birth certificate would be issued to the young woman, which reflects the change in name and gender.

A bit more about Musk from his former wife:

In a scathing essay Wilson wrote for Marie Claire about their marriage, which ended in 2008, she said that Musk grew up in the male-dominated culture of South Africa.

“The will to compete and dominate that made him so successful in business did not magically shut off when he came home,” Wilson wrote. “This, and the vast economic imbalance between us, meant that in the months following our wedding, a certain dynamic began to take hold.

“Elon’s judgment overruled mine, and he was constantly remarking on the ways he found me lacking. ‘I am your wife,’ I told him repeatedly, ‘not your employee.’ ‘If you were my employee,’ he said just as often, ‘I would fire you.’”

After their daughter’s decision to sever ties with her father were made public, Wilson expressed support for her, tweeting, “I’m very proud of you!”

You can read the October 7 interview by Roula Khalaf at the Financial Times if you sign up for a free account. Here are some relevant bits: Elon Musk: “Aren’t you entertained?”

Why does a serious guy with serious ideas indulge in silly Twitter games that could also cost his followers dearly? “Aren’t you entertained?” Musk roars with laughter. “I play the fool on Twitter and often shoot myself in the foot and cause myself all sorts of trouble . . . I don’t know, I find it vaguely therapeutic to express myself on Twitter. It’s a way to get messages out to the public.”

It is fair to say that Musk is obsessed with Twitter, so much so that he’s been embroiled in an epic on/off buyout of the platform that has captivated Wall Street and the tech industry for months….

I had asked over dinner whether his original offer had been a bad joke. “Twitter is certainly an invitation to increase your pain level,” he says. “I guess I must be a masochist . . . ” But he makes no secret that his interest in the company has never been primarily financial: “I’m not doing Twitter for the money. It’s not like I’m trying to buy some yacht and I can’t afford it. I don’t own any boats. But I think it’s important that people have a maximally trusted and inclusive means of exchanging ideas and that it should be as trusted and transparent as possible.” The alternative, he says, is a splintering of debate into different social-media bubbles, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s Truth Social network. “It [Truth Social] is essentially a rightwing echo chamber. It might as well be called Trumpet.”

1_ln_theexplosionofdreamreality_300 Gary Baseman

In the explosion of dream reality, Gary Baseman

Now it’s clear that Musk is turning Twitter into Truth Social or something even worse. This is interesting:

We turn to his views on government and politics and the Twitter Musk appears, the more emotional, unrestrained persona that comes across in his frenetic posts. He is lauding billionaires as the most efficient stewards of capital, best placed to decide on the allocation of social benefits. “If the alternative steward of capital is the government, that is actually not going to be to the benefit of the people,” says Musk. 

He is railing against Joe Biden for being in thrall to the unions but also daring to snub him. “He [Biden] had an electric vehicle summit at the White House and deliberately didn’t invite Tesla last year. Then to follow it up, to add insult to injury, at a big event he said that GM was leading the electric car revolution, in the same quarter that GM shipped 26 electric cars and we shipped 300,000. Does that seem fair to you?” [….]

Musk has a dystopian view of the left’s influence on America, which helps explain his wild pursuit of Twitter to liberate free speech. He blames the fact that his teenage daughter no longer wants to be associated with him on the supposed takeover of elite schools and universities by neo-Marxists. “It’s full-on communism . . . and a general sentiment that if you’re rich, you’re evil,” says Musk. “It [the relationship] may change, but I have very good relationships with all the others [children]. Can’t win them all.”

Musk was abused by his father as a child, and his response has been to become a bully.

He also has a dim view of regulators, whom he sees as bureaucrats justifying their jobs by going after high-profile targets like him. He seems to be in a constant feud with one regulator or another, whether it’s over his own pronouncements or over the treatment of staff. Musk is unabashed about driving his employees hard. He was bullied as a child (and has also spoken of emotional abuse by his father) but is now sometimes accused of bullying others. He shoots back: if anyone is unhappy working for him, they should work elsewhere because “they’re not chained to the company, it’s voluntary.

That explains a lot. Read more at Financial Times if you’re interested. I’m beginning to find Musk even more annoying and repulsive than Trump. And here’s the October 2001 Marie Claire essay by Justine Musk: “I Was a Starter Wife”: Inside America’s Messiest Divorce.”

More Twitter News:

Kayla Gogarty at Media Matters: Anti-LGBTQ hate has increased on Twitter since Elon Musk officially acquired the company.

A new report from Media Matters and GLAAD shows that since Elon Musk took over as Twitter CEO and plunged the company into chaos with erratic decisions, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has increased on the platform, despite his claims and actions to the contrary, including disbanding Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council. Media Matters has found that retweets of right-wing figures’ tweets that included the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur increased substantially, as did mentions of right-wing figures in tweets containing the slur.

Key findings include:

  • Anti-LGBTQ accounts that saw substantial increases in both retweets of and mentions in tweets with the slur included Tim Pool, Jack Posobiec, Jake Shield, Gays Against Groomers, Blaire White, Allie Beth Stuckey, Andy Ngo, Seth Dillon, and Mike Cernovich. 
  • Collectively, these 9 accounts saw an over 1,200% increase in retweets of tweets with the slur, going from nearly 3,600 to over 48,000, and they saw an over 1,100% increase in mentions in tweets with the slur, going from over 5,300 to more than 65,000.
  • Other right-wing accounts also saw substantial increases of mentions in tweets containing the slur. For instance, Libs of TikTok saw more than a 600% increase in its mentions, going from nearly 2,000 to nearly 14,000, while Rep. Mayra Flores (R-TX) saw a nearly 6,000% increase, going from nearly 70 mentions to over 4,000. 
  • Anti-LGBTQ figure James Lindsay and right-wing satire site Babylon Bee have earned thousands of retweets on posts perpetuating the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur and have been mentioned in thousands of tweets referencing the slur since their accounts were reinstated by Musk. 
  • Mentions of prominent LGBTQ accounts in tweets with the “groomer” slur also increased during the time frame, with one account seeing an increase of over 225,000% after Musk officially acquired the platform.

Read more at Media Matters.

mask-still-life- David Lynch

Mask Still Life, David Lynch

The Washington Post: Twitter dissolves Trust and Safety Council.

Twitter on Monday night abruptly dissolved its Trust and Safety Council, the latest sign that Elon Musk is unraveling years of work and institutions created to make the social network safer and more civil.

Members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council received an email with the subject line, “Thank You,” that informed them the council was no longer “the best structure” to bring “external insights into our product and policy development work.”

The email dissolution arrived less than an hour before members of the council were expecting to meet with Twitter executives via Zoom to discuss recent developments, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.

Dozens of civil rights leaders, academics and advocates from around the world had volunteered their time for years to help improve safety on the platform.

“We are grateful for your engagement, advice and collaboration in recent years and wish you every success in the future,” said the email, which was simply signed “Twitter.”

In less than two months, Musk has undone years of investments in trust and safety at Twitter — dismissing key parts of the workforce and bringing back accounts that previously had been suspended. As the body unravels, Musk is tightening his grip on decisions about the future of content moderation at Twitter, with less input from outside experts.

The move is just throwing away “years of institutional memory that we on the council have brought” to the company, said one council member who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about harassment on the platform. “Getting external experts and advocates looking at your services makes you smarter.”

Read more at the WaPo.

I’ll end there and turn it over to you. What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Two Sisters, William Bowyer

Two Sisters, by William Bowyer, British painter

Today is my 75th birthday. It seems like a big deal, but at the same time it’s really no big deal. I’m OK with being an old woman; I’m happy to be alive, sober, and generally healthy. I can’t remember proper names very well, but that’s been going on for years. I sometimes have trouble finding the names of things, but I find that if I give myself a minute or two those words will come to me. I still have a very good memory for facts and events.

My Mom is 97 now and has dementia. It’s almost as if she has already left us. She seems to know who I am, but I’m not absolutely sure. I miss the way we used to talk about everything. When I called her on Thanksgiving, she didn’t even seem to understand what that day means. It’s very sad, but I’m grateful for all the years we had–she was really my best friend in many ways.

I miss my Dad too. He has been gone now for 11 years. I miss talking to him about books and language. I miss his sense of humor, even his dad jokes. That’s what it’s like to be old, I guess–losing people. But they are still with you in your memories.

I hope I don’t sound too maudlin. It doesn’t feel that way to me, because I accept being old and I even enjoy it in a way. I have time now to think and to read as much as I want to. I’ve always had an irrational fear of running out of things to read; and so I’ve bought way too many books over the years. Now I’m afraid I won’t have time for all the books I want to read.

Anyway, enough of that, let’s get to some news and comment.

The George Senate runoff election is coming up next Tuesday, Dec. 6. It’s difficult to believe, the the race between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker is very close, despite all the scandals surrounding Walker, the fact that he can’t form a coherent sentence, and his admission that he lives in Texas. Here’s the latest:

Roger Sollenberger at The Daily Beast: Herschel Walker Ex Comes Forward: He Attacked Me in a Rage.

A former longtime girlfriend of Republican senatorial candidate Herschel Walker has come forward to detail a violent episode with the football star, who she believes is “unstable” and has “little to no control” over his mental state when he is not in treatment.

The woman, Dallas resident Cheryl Parsa, described an intimate and tumultuous five-year relationship with Walker in the 2000s, beginning shortly after his divorce and continuing for a year after the publication of his 2008 memoir about his struggle with dissociative identity disorder (DID), once known as multiple personality disorder.

Parsa, who has composed a book-length manuscript about her relationship with Walker, says she is speaking out because she is disturbed by Walker’s behavior on the campaign trail, which she claims exhibits telltale flare-ups of the disorder she tried to help him manage for half a decade.

amer-ice-cream-richard-wallich

Amer Ice Cream, by Richard Wallich

“He’s a pathological liar. Absolutely. But it’s more than that,” Parsa, who last had regular contact with Walker in 2019, told The Daily Beast. “He knows how to manipulate his disease, in order to manipulate people, while at times being simultaneously completely out of control.” She said that when she was with Walker, he used his diagnosis as an “alibi” to “justify lying, cheating, and ultimately destroying families.”

Parsa provided a detailed account of a 2005 incident that turned violent after she caught Walker with another woman at his Dallas condo. She said Walker grew enraged, put his hands on her chest and neck, and swung his fist at her. “I thought he was going to beat me,” she recalled, and fled in fear.

Parsa is one of five women who were romantically involved with Walker who spoke to The Daily Beast for this article. All of them described a habit of lying and infidelity—including one woman who claimed she had an affair with Walker while he was married in the 1990s. All five women said they were willing to speak to expose the behavior of the man they now see running for Senate.

Maya King at The New York Times: In Georgia, Walker’s Pace in the Finish Worries Republican Allies.

Herschel Walker was being swamped by negative television ads. His Democratic opponents were preparing to flood the polls for early voting as soon as doors opened. After being hit by fresh allegations of carpetbagging, he was left with just over a week to make his final appeals to voters in the runoff for Georgia’s Senate seat.

But for five days, Mr. Walker was off the campaign trail.

The decision to skip campaigning over the crucial Thanksgiving holiday weekend has Mr. Walker’s Republican allies airing frustrations and concerns about his campaign strategy in the final stretch of the overtime election against Senator Raphael Warnock.

“We almost need a little bit more time for Herschel’s campaign to get everything off the ground,” said Jason Shepherd, the former chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party, pointing to the transition from a general election campaign to a runoff sprint. Notably, the runoff campaign was cut from nine weeks to four by a Republican-backed law passed last year….

Mr. Shepherd said Mr. Walker’s decision not to campaign during Thanksgiving was just one troubling choice. He also pointed to a series of mailers sent by the Georgia Republican Party encouraging voters to find their polling places that contained broken QR codes as examples of poor organizing. And he raised concern about the steady stream of advertisements supporting Warnock, a first-term senator and pastor, on conservative talk radio and contemporary Christian stations.

Gregory Frank Harris, 1953

By Gregory Frank Harris, 1953

That all sounds like good news for Democrats. It’s hilarious that in making it harder to vote, Republicans have ended up hurting themselves–just as they did in the runoff elections in 2020. But King notes that the race is still close despite all the scandals.

His campaign has been one of the most turbulent in recent memory: Mr. Walker was found to have lied or exaggerated details about his educationhis business, his charitable giving and his work in law enforcement. He acknowledged a history of violent and erratic behavior, tied to a mental illness, and did not dispute an ex-wife’s accusation of assault. Two women claimed that he had urged them to have abortions, although he ran as a staunchly anti-abortion candidate. He denied their accounts. He regularly delivered rambling speeches, which Democrats widely circulated with glee.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Herschel Walker might be the most flawed Republican nominee in the nation this year,” said Rick Dent, a media consultant who has worked for candidates from both parties and plans to vote for Mr. Warnock.

Sahil Kapur at NBC News: Georgia Senate runoff tests the staying power of abortion in American elections.

The high-stakes Senate runoff in Georgia next week will be the first major test of abortion politics since the 2022 general election, when a backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision galvanized proponents of abortion rights and boosted Democrats.

Abortion was a major issue on Election Day in Georgia, when Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock finished about 1 point ahead of Republican rival Herschel Walker, though narrowly missing the 50% he needed to win outright. The 26% of Georgians who ranked abortion as their top issue backed Warnock by a margin of 77% to 21%, NBC News exit polls showed.

Now, Democrats see an opening to weaponize it to finish the job against Walker in the Dec. 6 runoff, when a victory would give their party a 51st Senate seat.

“On December 6th, our rights are on the ballot. Herschel Walker wants a total ban on abortion nationwide,” says a TV ad by the Democratic group Georgia Honor, playing footage of Walker calling for a “no-exception” ban. “Raphael Warnock is fighting to protect our right to make our own health care decisions,” a narrator says.

Meanwhile, Walker sits at the center of a clash within the Republican Party about how to handle the issue in the new era. While some like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have sought to minimize abortion and pivot to other issues, leading anti-abortion advocates insist that’s a losing strategy and want Republicans to lean in and paint Democrats as the real extremists.

Walker is taking the approach preferred by the anti-abortion advocates, embracing their rhetoric equating abortion to infanticide and attacking Warnock for supporting legislation that would protect the right to terminate a pregnancy without legal restrictions.

The problem with that is that Walker has urged at least 2 women to get abortions and paid for them.

remembering-the-good-times-sam-sidders

Remembering the Good Times, by Sam Sidders

The New York Times also has a piece by Rick Rojas on another important issue in Georgia–the high cost of insulin: A Resonant Topic in Georgia’s Senate Runoff: Insulin Prices.

…[O]ne campaign issue relevant to many voters has little to do with the highly partisan horse race. Rather, it involves one of the most common chronic diseases in America, diabetes, and the soaring cost of the medicine used to treat it, insulin. In both the general and runoff campaigns, Senator Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, has made much of his efforts in Congress to cap the price of insulin at $35 a month, talking them up in ads, debates and speeches.

“It has resonated with just about everyone,” said Dr. Kris Ellis, a physician who also owns the Bearfoot Tavern in Macon, where Mr. Warnock made a recent campaign stop. “If you don’t have diabetes, you know someone with diabetes.”

He was describing an unsettling reality in Georgia, as in much of the South, where diabetes rates are staggeringly high and the escalating cost of insulin over the years has led to painful choices and, for some, catastrophic consequences.

As campaign issues go, the price of insulin is nowhere near as contentious as just about everything else raised in the four-week runoff between Mr. Warnock and Herschel Walker, the former football star who is his Republican challenger. Even so, interviews with Dr. Ellis and a number of other voters suggested it had broken through the noise of the high-decibel contest, which Georgia requires because neither candidate won a majority of the vote in the general election.

Of course, the candidate who has tried to deal with this issue is Sen. Warnock.

Mr. Warnock has focused on lowering insulin prices since arriving in the Senate nearly two years ago, motivated in part by hundreds of letters that have poured into his office, pleading with him to do something. He has also described seeing the ravaging impacts of diabetes, including losing limbs and eyesight, on congregants at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he is the senior pastor.

“This isn’t an ideological matter, it’s a practical one — and it has broad support across the political spectrum,” Mr. Warnock wrote last spring in an opinion essay published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

I sure hope he wins. If he does, the Democrats will have a true majority in the Senate. I can’t wait for the results to come in on Tuesday night.

In other news, yesterday the House Ways and Means Committee finally received six years of Trump’s tax returns.

Katlyn Polantz at CNN: House committee receives Donald Trump’s federal tax returns from IRS.

The House Ways and Means Committee now has six years of Donald Trump’s federal tax returns, ending a yearslong pursuit by Democrats to dig into one of the former president’s most closely guarded personal details.

“Treasury has complied with last week’s court decision,” a Treasury spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday.

The spokesperson did not provide any additional information. Federal courts had decided the House could request six years of Trump’s returns, after the committee had requested them in 2019 and again in 2021, according to public court records.

The handover had been on hold, until the Supreme Court declined last week to intervene. Several judges, including Republican appointees, have found the House had power to request the returns from the IRS….

The committee, led by Democratic Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, had sought six years of Trump’s tax records, primarily from the time he served as president. That included records about both Trump personally and several of his corporate entities.

The panel is planning to meet Thursday to get briefed on the legal ramifications of the section of the tax law that Neal used to request Trump’s tax returns, according to a Neal aide.

Democrats are not expected to review the tax returns at this session, and the documents are not expected to be immediately released to the public.

only-the-body-withers-lucie-bilodeau

Only the Body Withers, by Lucie Bilodeau

Then what is going to happen when Republicans take over control of the the committee? We don’t know yet. I think the Democrats should get busy look at the returns before that happens, but what do I know?

Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland held a press conference at which he discussed the guilty verdicts in the Oath Keepers trial as well as the DOJ’s oversight of the water crisis in Jackson, MS. The Washington Post: Garland praises Oath Keepers verdict, won’t say where Jan. 6 probe goes.

A day after a federal jury convicted two far-right extremists of leading a plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that his Justice Department would continue to “work tirelessly” to hold accountable those responsible for efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors highlighted the defendants’ links to key allies of President Donald Trump, such as Roger Stone, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

But Garland declined to say Wednesday if he expected prosecutors to eventually file charges against them or any other people who did not physically participate in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I don’t want to speculate on other investigations or parts of other investigations,” Garland told reporters at a briefing where he also touted Justice Department efforts to establish federal oversight of the water supply system in Jackson, Miss….

Tuesday’s verdicts upheld a key Justice Department argument laid out in the seven-week-long trial: that the breach of the Capitol was not an isolated event, but rather a culmination or component of wider plotting by extremists who wanted to stop the transfer of power from Trump to Biden. In this case, the jury found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and a top deputy, Kelly Meggs, at least partially responsible for staging firearms and preparing to forcibly oppose federal authority. Both were convicted of “seditious conspiracy,” a rarely used charge that is among the most serious levied so far in the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation.

Justice Department officials had been eyeing the Oath Keepers verdict to help decide whether to file criminal charges against other high-profile, pro-Trump figures who had roles in the buildup to the violence, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

Garland also said he hopes to get access to the interviews conducted by the House January 6 Committee.

At the briefing with reporters Tuesday, Garland also said that he has asked the House Jan. 6 committee — which has been pursuing a separate investigation into the attack — for all interview transcripts and evidence that it has collected. That’s long been a point of tension between the Justice Department and Congress, with the committee yet to hand over all the materials.

“We would like to have all the transcripts and all the other evidence collected by the committee so that we can use it in the ordinary course of our investigation,” Garland said.

Old lady having a tea Gaitano Bellai

Old lady having a tea, by Gaitano Bellai

From Raw Story, a report of an MSNBC interview with Bob Woodward: Bob Woodward: Oath Keepers convictions puts new pressure on DOJ to indict Trump.

The convictions of two Oath Keepers leaders on seditious conspiracy charges puts new pressure on the Department of Justice to indict Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to veteran journalist Bob Woodward.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and his lieutenant Kelly Meggs were found guilty this week for their roles in the U.S. Capitol assault, and other militia members were convicted on other charges, and Woodward told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” those cases would weigh on attorney general Merrick Garland and newly appointed special counsel Jack Smith.

“It gives them a strong basis,” Woodward said. “I think we are now at this point that the Justice Department, the new special counsel is going to have to indict Trump or explain why they are not indicting him. Now, that’s certainly possible that they won’t — prosecutors have discretion, but the case of the violation — I’m sorry, it’s technical 18 U.S.C. 371 — conspiring, working to subvert a lawful function of government is right there in plain sight.”

Garland responded to the Oath Keepers convictions by pledging to hold others accountable for trying to overturn the 2020 election, and the House Select Committee will decide soon whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department against the former president.

“In a way, they’re interesting fodder for us to discuss,” Woodward said, “but I really think if you get, you know, Garland is there talking about the dedication and efforts that people have made in doing this investigation. Dedication and effort is wonderful. What is most wonderful is evidence, and they have compelling evidence.”

Watch the video at the Raw Story link.

Just a few months ago, I knew nothing about Elon Musk. Now he’s everywhere. Here’s the latest crazy Musk story:

The Daily Beast: Elon Musk Claims Neuralink Will Put Brain Chips in Humans in 6 Months.

Neuralink, the neurotech startup spearheaded by Chief Twit Elon Musk, held their much-ballyhooed and oft-delayed tech demo on Wednesday night—promising a lot while showing little in the way of progress towards their lofty promises.

Musk was joined on stage by numerous Neuralink engineers and researchers to explain the technology they’ve been working on for the past few years. This included the N1 link, the company’s wireless brain-computer interface (BCI); and the R1, a robot that the company said would be able to implant an N1 in a human brain. The bot was present at the event conducting a simulated surgery on a dummy while presentations occurred.

The team also announced that the N1 chip was capable of being wirelessly charged, which would be a massive improvement in most current BCI technology which typically requires the devices to be tethered.

Jantina Peperkamp.

Painting by Jantina Peperkamp.

“I could have a Neuralink device implanted right now and you wouldn’t even know,” Musk joked, later adding, “In one of these demos I will.”

However, Musk announced that it would still be at least half a year until Neuralink would be able to begin human trials. “We’ve submitted most of our paperwork to the FDA. In about six months, we should be able to have our first Neuralink in humans,” he said.

The demo was initially slated for Oct. 31 but was delayed by Musk just eight days before it was set to launch. He did not give a reason for the schedule push. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the event itself was also delayed by more than half an hour before it started. Musk then took to the stage and stumbled through an awkward, meandering monologue where he touched on topics from AI, to how BCIs work, to something about how humans are all cyborgs.

WTF? I have no idea what these people are talking about. Maybe Quixote knows what this is all about?

“The overarching goal of Neuralink is to create a whole brain interface,” Musk explained, later using a photo of the character Rick Sanchez from the TV show Rick and Morty to illustrate his point. “So a generalized input-output device that in the long term that could interface with every aspect of your brain, and in the short term can interface with any section of your brain and solve things that cause debilitating issues for people.”

Musk also made a number of very lofty promises that should be taken with a Cybertruck-sized grain of salt if his history of overpromising and under delivering is any indication. This included the idea that the Neuralink will be able to restore vision even to those who were born blind, and also that it could restore mobility back to those who have had their spinal cord severed.

He mentioned that the N1 would allow patients to use it wirelessly and remotely in most any setting outside of a lab—which would be groundbreaking if it, you know, actually ever happens. Rajesh Rao, Hwang professor and director of the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington, told The Daily Beast that this would represent a significant leap forward for BCI technologies—and showcase something that has truly never been done before.

OK, now I’m starting to get it. Read more at the Daily Beast link. I just wish Musk would hurry up and go to Mars and leave us alone.

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Elon Musk claims Neuralink is about ‘six months’ away from first human trial

Elon Musk claims Neuralink is about ‘six months’ away from first human trial

Elon Musk claims Neuralink is about ‘six months’ away from first human trial

Elon Musk claims Neuralink is about ‘six months’ away from first human trial


Tuesday Reads

Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows Inga Moore

Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows, illustration by Inga Moore

Good Afternoon!!

My posts are getting later and later. I look around at what’s happening in the world on my blogging days and somehow it takes me a long time to get going. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old, or maybe it’s because I’m traumatized by seven years of reading about Trump and the horrors he has inflicted on our country–or maybe both. I don’t know why I ever thought he would go away once he was out of office. Back when he was ranting on Twitter all the time, I used to wish he would go away and leave us alone. Now I realize he will never go away until he dies, and even then we’ll be reading about the damage he has done–if we survive as a country with freedom of speech and press, that is.

The latest on Trump’s legal problems and crimes

The Washington Post: Trump’s lawyer refused his request in February to say all documents returned.

Former president Donald Trump asked one of his lawyers to tell the National Archives and Records Administration in early 2022 that Trump had returned all materials requested by the agency, but the lawyer declined because he was not sure the statement was true, according to people familiar with the matter.

As it turned out, thousands more government documents — including some highly classified secrets — remained at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club….

Alex Cannon, an attorney for Trump, had facilitated the January transfer of 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives, after archives officials agitated for more than a year to get “all original presidential records” back, which they are required by law to do. Following months of stonewalling by Trump’s representatives, archives officials threatened to get the Justice Department or Congress involved.

Trump himself eventually packed the boxes that were returned in January, people familiar with the matter said. The former president seemed determined in February to declare that all material sought by the archives had been handed over, said the people, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

Around the same time The Washington Post reported that the archives had retrieved documents from Mar-a-Lago, the people said, Trump asked his team to release a statement he had dictated. The statement said Trump had returned “everything” the archives had requested. Trump asked Cannon to send a similar message to archives officials, the people said. In addition, the former president told his aides that the documents in the boxes were “newspaper clippings” and not relevant to the archives, two of these people said, and complained that the agency charged with tracking government records was being persnickety about securing the materials from his Florida club.

But Cannon, a former Trump Organization lawyer who worked for the campaign and for Trump after the presidency, told Trump he could not tell the archives all the requested material had been returned. He told others he was not sure if other documents were still at the club and would be uncomfortable making such a claim, the people familiar with the matter said. Other Trump advisers also encouraged Cannon not to make such a definitive statement, people familiar with the matter said.

The Feb. 7 statement Trump dictated was never released over concerns by some of his team that it was not accurate, people familiar with the matter said. A different statement issued three days later said Trump had given boxes of materials to the archives in a “friendly” manner. It did not say that all of the materials were handed over.

So Cannon will be another witness against Trump if he’s ever brought to trial. There’s much more at the WaPo link.

bilbo_comes_to_the_huts_of_the_raft-elves__the_tolkien_estate_limited_1937

Bilbo comes to the huts of the raft elves, by JRR Tolkien

From J. Michael Luttig at The Atlantic on the upcoming SCOTUS case based on Trump’s efforts to get Republican state legislators to create fake sets of electors in order to overturn his 2020 election loss: There Is Absolutely Nothing to Support the ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory.

The Supreme Court will decide before next summer the most important case for American democracy in the almost two and a half centuries since America’s founding.

In Moore v. Harper, the Court will finally resolve whether there is a doctrine of constitutional interpretation known as the “independent state legislature.” If the Court concludes that there is such a doctrine, it would confer on state legislatures plenary, exclusive, and judicially unreviewable power both to redraw congressional districts for federal elections and to appoint state electors who quadrennially cast the votes for president and vice president on behalf of the voters of the states. It would mean that the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts by state legislatures would not be reviewable by the state courts—including the states’ highest court—under their state constitutions.

The independent-state-legislature theory gained traction as the centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In the Supreme Court, allies of the former president argued that the theory, as applied to the electors clause, enabled the state legislatures to appoint electors who would cast their votes for the former president, even though the lawfully certified electors were bound by state law to cast their votes for Joe Biden because he won the popular vote in those states. The Supreme Court declined to decide the question in December 2020. The former president and his allies continued thereafter to urge the state legislatures, and even self-appointed Trump supporters, to transmit to Congress alternative, uncertified electoral slates to be counted by Congress on January 6.

That as many as six justices on the Supreme Court have flirted with the independent-state-legislature theory over the past 20 years is baffling. There is literally no support in the Constitution, the pre-ratification debates, or the history from the time of our nation’s founding or the Constitution’s framing for a theory of an independent state legislature that would foreclose state judicial review of state legislatures’ redistricting decisions. Indeed, there is overwhelming evidence that the Constitution contemplates and provides for such judicial review.

To the extent that advocates of the independent-state-legislature theory have any evidence at all to support the theory, it is exceedingly thin. Their textual argument is that the total disempowerment of state courts necessarily follows from the fact that the elections clause empowers the state legislatures to prescribe the “manner” of holding congressional elections.

But there is neither more nor less significance to the fact that the Constitution assigns this quintessential legislative power to the state legislatures than that the Constitution assigns federal lawmaking to Congress, rather than to the executive or the judiciary. And yet, the Constitution provides for judicial review of the actions of both.

It’s long, of course, so read the rest at The Atlantic if you’re so inclined.

And then there’s Trump’s mentor, Putin. Will he ever go away?

This is by Walter Russell Mead at The Wall Street Journal–I didn’t encounter a paywall: Putin’s Nuclear Threat Is Real. The conflict isn’t only about Ukraine. He’s waging a global war on the U.S.-led order.

Even as poorly trained, poorly led and poorly supplied Russian forces retreat on the battlefield, the danger that the war in Ukraine will erupt into a wider conflict continues to grow. Vladimir Putin has responded to the weakening of his military position by “annexing” four contested regions inside Ukraine, declaring that the conflict in Ukraine is a war for the survival of Russia, and raising the specter of a nuclear strike. The West is taking note of these moves and the sabotage of Baltic pipelines connecting European consumers to Russian gas. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has warned Russia that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic consequences for Russian forces, and Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, repeated that message Sunday morning.

Inga Moore, The Secret Garden

Inga Moore, The Secret Garden

As the Biden administration scrambles to manage the most dangerous international confrontation since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, it must see the world through Mr. Putin’s eyes. Only then can officials know how seriously to take the nuclear saber-rattling and develop an appropriate response.

While American presidents going back to George W. Bush have failed to appreciate the depth and passion of Mr. Putin’s hostility to the U.S., the Russian president isn’t that hard to read. Like a movie supervillain who can’t resist sharing the details of his plans for world conquest with the captured hero, Mr. Putin makes no secret of his agenda. At Friday’s ceremony marking Russia’s illegal and invalid “annexation” of four Ukrainian regions, he laid out his worldview and ambitions in a chilling and extraordinary speech that every American policy maker should read.

Mr. Putin sees global politics today as a struggle between a rapacious and domineering West and the rest of the world bent on resisting our arrogance and exploitation. The West is cynical and hypocritical, and its professed devotion to “liberal values” is a sham. The West is not a coalition of equals; it represents the domination of the “evil Anglo-Saxons” over the Europeans and Japan. Mr. Putin sees this American-led world system as the successor to the British Empire, and he blames the Anglo-Saxon or English-speaking powers for a host of evils, from the Atlantic slave trade to European imperialism to the use of nuclear weapons in World War II.

This attack on “Anglo-Saxon” greed, brutality and hypocrisy is not original to Mr. Putin. He is reading from a script developed by opponents of British and American liberal capitalism and geopolitical power over hundreds of years. Napoleon could have delivered large swathes of this speech. Very different figures such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler as well as Joseph Stalin, Imperial Japanese leaders like Hideki Tojo, Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden shared much of Mr. Putin’s critique. One can hear versions of it on many college campuses, and it plays a significant role in the intellectual and cultural life of many postcolonial countries and movements around the world.

Again, this is a long read, so I hope you will also be able to do so without hitting a paywall. If it helps, I clicked on a link from Memeorandum.

The latest Ukraine news from The Washington Post: Ukraine hammers Russian forces into retreat on east and south fronts.

Ukrainian troops on Tuesday accelerated their military advances on two fronts, pushing Russian forces into retreat in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the east and Kherson region to the south.

The gains showed Kyiv continuing to recapture occupied territory on the same day that President Vladimir Putin and his rubber-stamp parliament sought to formalize their increasingly far-fetched annexation claims of four Ukrainian regions.

“The Ukrainian armed forces commanders in the south and east are throwing problems at the Russian chain of command faster than the Russians can effectively respond,” said a Western official who requested anonymity to brief reporters about sensitive security information. “And this is compounding the existing dysfunction within the Russian invasion force.”

Ukraine has been pushing to take back as much of its occupied territory as it can before Russia potentially sends hundreds of thousands of reinforcements to the battlefield, following a recent mobilization effort.

the-story-of-doctor-dolittle, illustrated by Angel Dominguezr

The Story of Dr. Dolittle, illustrated by Angel Dominguez

The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which had moved far more slowly in the south compared to the lightning push through the northeast Kharkiv region in September, has suddenly picked up speed, with Russian units retreating in recent days from a large swath of territory along the west bank of the Dnieper River.

Ukrainian forces pushed ahead dozens of miles into the southern Kherson region, liberating towns and villages and recreating scenes from mid-September when they swept into Kharkiv and were greeted by joyful residents who had spent many months under Russian occupation.

On Monday, the spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged that “superior tank units” of Ukraine had “wedged in the depth of our defense line” near the villages of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka in the Kherson region.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Yesterday was day one of the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial:

CNN: Takeaways from the dramatic first day and opening statements of the Oath Keepers trial.

With the historic case that they had brought against Oath Keepers accused of plotting to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, prosecutors framed up how the jury should think about the allegations with an hour-plus opening statement that kicked off the trial in earnest.

Five alleged members of the far-right militia, including its leader Stewart Rhodes, are on trial in Washington DC’s federal courthouse. They have pleaded not guilty to the charge of seditious conspiracy, a charge rarely brought by the Justice Department, and other charges.

The Justice Department’s opening statement featured messages and other communications among the defendants that prosecutors say show the Oath Keepers’ unlawful plotting to disrupt Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral win. As the prosecutors sought to use the words of the defendants against them, they also played video capturing the Oath Keepers’ actions in the Capitol and displayed maps and charts to help the jury follow along. Each juror has their own screen to see evidence.

“They said out loud and in writing what they planned to do,” Jeffrey Nestler, an assistant US Attorney, told the jury. “When the opportunity finally presented itself … they sprang into action.”

A lawyer for Rhodes, the first defense attorney to deliver an opening statement told the jurors that they will see evidence that will show that the defendants “had no part in the bulk” of the violence that occurred on January 6.

“You may not like what you see and hear our defendants did,” attorney Phillip Linder said, “but the evidence will show that they didn’t do anything illegal that day.”

That’s the introduction to the story. Read the takeaways at CNN. Again, it’s a long read.

The Washington Post: U.S.: Oath Keepers, Rhodes attacked ‘bedrock of democracy’ on Jan. 6.

Members of the extremist group Oath Keepers led by Stewart Rhodes planned for an armed rebellion “to shatter a bedrock of American democracy” — the peaceful transfer of presidential power — culminating in their role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, a prosecutor told a jury Monday in the firstseditious conspiracy trialof the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation.

Rhodes and four co-defendants that day staged an “arsenal” of firearms in nearby Virginia and several forcibly breached the Capitol with a mob to prevent Congress from confirming President Biden’s 2020 election victory, thwarting the will of U.S. voters and elected representatives, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said during opening statements in federal court.

where-the-wild-things-are Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

“That was their goal — to stop by whatever means necessary the lawful transfer of presidential power, including by taking up arms against the United States government,” Nestler said. Descending on Washington “to attack not just the Capitol, not just Congress, not just our government — but our country itself.”

Rhodes’s defense decried the prosecution as “government mischaracterization and government overreach.” Oath Keepers came to Washington as “peacekeeping” security guards who “had no part in the bulk of the violence that occurred on January 6th,” attorney Phillip Linder said, believing that President Donald Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize private militias, put down riots and remain in power.

“That is why he did what he did,” Linder said, adding that Rhodes would testify in his own defense. “You’re going to hear from Stewart Rhodes himself about who he is, about the Oath Keepers, what their role is and what their role was on January 6th.”

The clashing views of democracy, patriotism and violence at the seat of the U.S. government during the handoff from Trump to Biden played out in the most-anticipated trial to arise from the Jan. 6. 2021, Capitol siege. Held at a federal courthouse blocks from the Capitol where events unfolded 21 months ago, the trial of Rhodes — a former Army paratrooper and Yale Law graduate who has become one of the most visible figures of the far-right anti-government movement — poses a major legal and political test of the Biden administration’s pledge to combat domestic terrorism, as well as the law and the courts.

Read more at the WaPo.

Yes, there’s a lot going on and I haven’t even touched on the reporting on the midterm races. What are your thoughts, and what stories are of most interest to you today?


Tuesday Reads: January 6 Committee Hearing #7

Capitol Breach Subpoenas

Good Morning!!

The January 6 Committee will hold a hearing today beginning at 1PM. There won’t be a hearing on Thursday night, but at least one is planned for next week. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the hearing is expected to focus on ties between Trump and militia groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, and how Trump used tweets to communicate with them and urge his followers to converge on Washington DC to interfere with the certification of electoral votes on January 6, 2021.

Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Jan. 6 panel zeroes in on Trump’s ‘clarion call’ to extremists.

The Jan. 6 select committee plans to make its most complex case yet at its public hearing Tuesday: that Donald Trump’s words and actions influenced extremists and brought them to the steps of the Capitol.

“Be there. Will be wild,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19, 2020, barely two weeks before a mob seeded with members of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers besieged the Capitol and threatened the transfer of power to Joe Biden. That tweet will be the focal point of the Jan. 6 panel’s seventh public hearing, as House investigators aim to show that the former president’s most extreme supporters were intently listening — and quickly began preparing for potential violence in support of Trump’s goal to stay in power.

ErIIDkbWMAEYESHThe tweet was a “clarion call” to the groups, said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who is leading Tuesday’s hearing along with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

Tuesday’s hearing will require investigators to delve into the sordid world of internet extremism and specifically lay out how Trump’s words rippled through its corners.

Former Oath Keepers spokesperson Jason Van Tatenhove is expected to be one of the witnesses Tuesday afternoon, according to a person familiar with the situation. Van Tatenhove has described himself as a former “propagandist” for the Oath Keepers, and left the group several years ago, he told local television station KDVR. The select panel has cited concerns about harassment and security of the witnesses, mostly declining to name them before the hearings begin.

A bit more detail:

The panel intends to highlight how adherents to the antisemitic, fringe conspiracy theories of QAnon latched onto Trump’s stolen-election claims, as well as how the extremist Proud Boys and Oath Keepers used Trump’s crusade to fundraise for a violent effort to keep Biden from office. Committee members will also get into how the White House pushed forward with plans for a march on the Capitol — one witnesses say Trump desperately tried to join — even as warnings about the likelihood of brutality grew.

Jason Van Tatenhove

Jason Van Tatenhove, former spokesperson for the Oathkeepers

The role of social media platforms in extremists’ mobilization will also play a role in Tuesday’s hearing, Murphy said. The select panel subpoenaed companies like Alphabet, the parent company of Google; Meta, Facebook’s parent company; and Twitter earlier this year for records related to the attack. The committee has scrutinized the companies’ roles in spreading misinformation and providing breeding grounds for extremism….

Committee aides previewing the hearing said it would also touch on members of Congress who helped fan the flames of the false election fraud claims and how that effort helped drive forward the pressure campaign against then-Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the Jan. 6 session of Congress to count electoral votes.

Another preview of the hearing from Scott Wong at NBC News: Ties between Trump allies and extremist groups to be focus of Jan. 6 panel hearing.

The Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday plans to demonstrate how right-wing militia groups that led the assault on the U.S. Capitol were connected to key Trump allies, including Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, who were at the center of the plot to overturn the 2020 election.

“We’ll show how some of these right-wing extremist groups who came to D.C. and led the attack on the Capitol had ties to Trump associates, including Roger Stone and General Flynn,” a committee aide said Monday on a conference call with reporters.

“And we know that both members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys have been charged with seditious conspiracy by the DOJ in relation to their actions on Jan. 6.” [….]

In linking the domestic extremist groups and the Trump inner circle that was aggressively working to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, the committee is making the case that actions by President Donald Trump and his allies resulted in the violence at the Capitol, which claimed the lives of both police officers and Trump supporters.

Aides said the hearing will also reveal ties between some Trump associates and the QAnon movement, which subscribes to a set of bizarre, sometimes antisemitic conspiracy theories in which Trump is viewed as a savior fighting the evil forces of the deep state.

ABC News Reports another expected witness: Accused Jan. 6 rioter who warned of possible ‘civil war’ expected to testify to House committee Tuesday.

An Ohio man who accused Joe Biden, other Democrats, and the mainstream media of “treason” is set to testify in a public hearing Tuesday before the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The hearing is expected to focus on the rise of radical extremism in the United States, and the source said one of the key witnesses will be Stephen Ayres of Warren, Ohio, who recently admitted to illegally entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021….

In court documents filed last month, Ayres acknowledged that the day before the riot, he drove to Washington, D.C., to protest Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

Stephen-Michael-Ayres-J6-blue-background

Stephen Michael Ayres

On Facebook, Ayres had spotlighted then-President Donald Trump’s call for supporters to descend on Washington on Jan. 6, which Trump said will “be wild” in a Tweet he posted on Dec. 19, 2020….

Two days before he left for the nation’s capital, Ayres posted a message on Facebook saying, “Mainstream media, social media, Democrat party, FISA courts, Chief Justice John Roberts, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, etc….all have committed TREASON against a sitting U.S. president!!! All are now put on notice by ‘We The People!'”

In the week before that, Ayres said in social media posts that it was “time for us to start standing up to tyranny!” and he warned that “If the [deep state] robs president Trump!!! Civil War will ensue!” according to the FBI.

Ayres joined the mob outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, then entered the building that afternoon, court documents say.

The Committee is also expected to show clips of testimony from Pat Cipillone, Trump’s White House Counsel. NBC News: Cipollone corroborated virtually everything from Hutchinson, Jan. 6 panel member says.

Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone corroborated virtually all of the revelations from previous witnesses, including former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, in lengthy testimony before the panel last week, a top Jan. 6 committee member told NBC News.

“Cipollone has corroborated almost everything that we’ve learned from the prior hearings,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said in an exclusive interview just hours before the next hearing. “I certainly did not hear him contradict Cassidy Hutchinson. … He had the opportunity to say whatever he wanted to say, so I didn’t see any contradiction there.”

It was unclear if Cipollone was directly asked by investigators about the specifics of some of the more explosive aspects of Hutchinson’s testimony — including that they would be charged with “every crime imaginable” if Trump went to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Raskin added this additional preview of the hearing:

Raskin said the hearing will include new details about what committee members have been told was “the craziest meeting in the Trump presidency,” on Dec. 18, 2020, describing it as “hot-blooded, contentious, deranged” when the president met with outside and internal legal advisers for a “Hail Mary desperation ploy” to subvert an election they had lost, including possibly seizing state election machines and appointing Trump ally Sidney Powell as a special counsel.

More January 6 Committee news from CNN’s Jamie Gangel: Exclusive: Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne to meet with January 6 investigators.

Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, an ally of former President Donald Trump, is expected to meet Friday with the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Patrick Byrne

Patrick Byrne

There have been no ground rules or topics defined, according to one of the sources. The meeting will be behind closed doors….

Byrne played an active role supporting efforts to question and push baseless claims about the 2020 election, including attending a meeting in mid-December at the White House to discuss strategies to overturn the election. That meeting with Trump also included former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his lawyer Sidney Powell, as well as some White House staff. It focused on ideas to block Joe Biden’s certification as president and discussed the prospect of seizing voting machines. White House officials in the meeting pushed back at the ideas in heated exchanges, CNN previously reported.

CNN reported earlier Monday that former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone had been asked about the December 18, 2020, meeting in his interview with the committee last week….

Two sources familiar with Cipollone’s testimony told CNN that he was asked extensively about his role in that meeting where Trump welcomed the group of extreme election deniers to the West Wing and what was discussed. One source familiar with Cipollone’s testimony told CNN that he described to the committee his view of how insane the meeting was.

The session, which, according to two people familiar with the matter, began as an impromptu gathering, devolved and eventually broke out into screaming matches at certain points as some of Trump’s aides pushed back on Powell and Flynn’s more outrageous suggestions about overturning the election.

The day after this meeting, Gangel notes, Trump sent his infamous “will be wild” tweet.

Finally, The New York Times’ Luke Broadwater has a profile of Rep. Jamie Raskin: Raskin Brings Expertise on Right-Wing Extremism to Jan. 6 Inquiry.

When Representative Jamie Raskin enters a Capitol Hill hearing room on Tuesday to lay out what the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has uncovered about the role of domestic extremists in the riot, it will be his latest — and potentially most important — step in a five-year effort to crush a dangerous movement.

Long before the Jan. 6, 2021, assault, Mr. Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, had thrown himself into stamping out the rise of white nationalism and domestic extremism in America. He trained his focus on the issue after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., five years ago. Since then, he has held teach-ins, led a multipart House investigation that exposed the lackluster federal effort to confront the threat, released intelligence assessments indicating that white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement and strategized about ways to crack down on paramilitary groups.

Now, with millions of Americans expected to tune in, Mr. Raskin — along with Representative Stephanie Murphy, Democrat of Florida — is set to take a leading role in a hearing that promises to dig deeply into how far-right groups helped to orchestrate and carry out the Jan. 6 assault at the Capitol — and how they were brought together, incited and empowered by President Donald J. Trump.

“Charlottesville was a rude awakening for the country,” Mr. Raskin, 59, said in an interview, rattling off a list of deadly hate crimes that had taken place in the years before the siege on the Capitol. “There is a real pattern of young, white men getting hyped up on racist provocation and incitement.”

Tuesday’s session, set for 1 p.m., is expected to document how, after Mr. Trump’s many efforts to overturn the 2020 election had failed, he and his allies turned to violent far-right extremist groups whose support Mr. Trump had long cultivated, who in turn began assembling a mob to pressure Congress to reject the will of the voters.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Have a great Tuesday everyone! If you’re watching the hearings, I hope you’ll share your reactions with us.


Thursday Reads: Jan. 6 Hearings Begin Tonight

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The House January 6 Committee

Good Morning!!

Day one of the January 6 committee hearings has finally arrived. At 8:00 tonight, we’ll begin to learn what the committee has discovered about the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and Trump’s culpability for the attack on the Capitol building last year. We’ll be live-blogging the hearings, so please check in tonight and share your reactions. We can use this post or, if necessary, we’ll post another thread tonight.

Rep. Jamie Raskin has promised that the findings will “blow the roof off” the House. Ed Pilkington at The Guardian: Congress’s January hearings aim to be TV spectacular that ‘blows the roof off.’

When the US House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection opens its hearings on Thursday evening, it will do so in prime time and with primetime production values. The seven Democrats and two Republicans – shunned by their own party – who sit on the panel are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to seize the public’s attention.

They have brought onboard a former president of ABC News, James Goldston, a veteran of Good Morning America and other mass-market TV programmes, to tightly choreograph the six public hearings into movie-length episodes ranging from 90 minutes to two and a half hours. His task: to fulfill the prediction of one of the Democratic committee members, Jamie Raskin, that the hearings “will tell a story that will really blow the roof off the House”….

Reports suggest that one ratings-boosting tactic under consideration would be to show clips from the committee’s interviews with Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. They were witness to many of Donald Trump’s rantings in the buildup to January 6, and highlights of their quizzing could command a large audience.

As a counterpoint to the glamorous couple, the committee is also likely to focus during the opening session on the activities of far-right groups including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. This week, the justice department charged the national chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, and four of the group’s other leaders with seditious conspiracy.

The indictments will act as backdrop to two of the committee’s main ambitions for the hearings. First, to show in dramatic and previously unseen footage – edited for maximum effect on TV and social media alike – the harrowing violence and brutal destruction that was unleashed during the storming of the Capitol, in which the vice-president was forced to flee rioters shouting: “Hang Mike Pence.”

The second ambition is to convey to the American people that the maelstrom of rage was not random and unprompted, but rather the opposite – instigated, organised, meticulously planned and conceived by an array of conscious actors.

William Vailliancourt at Rolling Stone: ‘More Than Incitement’: Jamie Raskin Teases Trump Revelations Ahead of Jan. 6 Hearings.

Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Monday offered a glimps of what’s to come.

“The select committee has found evidence about a lot more than incitement here,” he said during a Washington Post interview on Monday after noting that majorities in both the House and Senate found former President Trump guilty of inciting the attack on the Capitol. “We’re gonna be laying out the evidence about all of the actors who were pivotal to what took place on Jan. 6,” he continued.

Raskin added that the committee has evidence of “concerted planning and premeditated activity” — in other words, “a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block the transfer of power.”

When asked whether Trump himself led this effort, Raskin acknowledged that “people are going to have to make judgments themselves about the relative role that different people played.” But, he added, “I think that Donald Trump and the White House were at the center of these events. That’s the only way really of making sense of them all.”

Committee Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) described efforts to overturn the election similarly, telling CBS on Sunday that the attack on the Capitol was one facet of an “extremely well-organized” conspiracy….

“No president has ever come close to doing what happened here in terms of trying to organize an inside coup to overthrow an election and bypass the constitutional order,” Raskin said at a Georgetown University event in April. “And then also use a violent insurrection made up of domestic violent extremist groups, white nationalist and racist, fascist groups in order to support the coup.”

Marshall Cohen at CNN: January 6 panel eyes Trump’s culpability as hearings begin.

With public hearings kicking off this week, the House select committee investigating January 6 is zeroing in on former President Donald Trump, and is preparing to use its platform to argue that he was responsible for grave abuses of power that nearly upended US democracy.

The committee’s central mission has been to uncover the full scope of Trump’s unprecedented attempt to stop the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. This includes Trump’s attempts to overturn his 2020 defeat by pressuring state and federal officials, and what committee members say was his “dereliction of duty” on January 6 while his supporters ransacked the US Capitol.

Lawmakers will try to convict Trump in the court of public opinion – which is all they can do, because it’s not within their powers to actually indict Trump. But they have an emerging legal foundation to claim that Trump broke the law, thanks to a landmark court ruling from a federal judge who said it was “more likely than not” that Trump committed crimes regarding January 6.

These highly choreographed hearings will be the panel’s first opportunity to show the public what they’ve learned from more than 1,000 witness interviews and 135,000 documents. An avalanche of new information about January 6 has come to light since Trump’s impeachment trial in February 2021, where he was acquitted of one count of “incitement of insurrection.”

“We are going to tell the story of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block the transfer of power,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who serves on the committee, told the Washington Post earlier this week, adding that the committee “has found evidence of concerted planning and premediated activity” related to the events of January 6.

Cohen then wraps up the piece by summarizing what is known so far about “Trump’s leadership role in the anti-democratic scheme, and how it all fits into the ongoing criminal investigations.”

Andrew Feinberg at The Independent: ‘Trump will lose his mind’: The 6 Jan hearings vow to ‘change history’. Here’s what to expect.

When the House 6 January select committee convenes its first hearing to examine the worst attack on the US Capitol since 1814, the nine-member panel and the two witnesses who will testify Thursday will be the highest-profile occupants of the ornate Cannon House Office Building Caucus Room since the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee used it for hearings in the mid-20th century.

Seventy-four years after Hollywood luminaries like acclaimed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo were blacklisted after failing to answer that committee’s questions about whether they had “now or … ever been” members of the Communist Party, one of the film industry’s finest will once again be a star witness in the exact same room.

The select committee on Tuesday announced that one of the first two witnesses to testify in what is expected to be a series of at least eight hearings will be Nick Quested, the award-winning documentarian who earned an Oscar nomination for his film Restrepo in 2010. The other will be Caroline Edwards, a US Capitol Police officer who was one of the first to be on the receiving end of blows delivered by the pro-Trump mob who stormed the Capitol in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Both witnesses will testify during the second hour of the two-hour hearing, following opening presentations by the select committee’s chairman – Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi – and Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice-chair.

The Independent has learned that the panel’s aim in putting Ms Edwards and Mr Quested in the spotlight for the first prime time hearing on the 6 January insurrection is to highlight the role played by the pro-Trump extremist groups in starting and escalating the violence.

Mr Quested, who spent the days leading up to the riot embedded with leaders of the Proud Boys gang as part of a documentary project, has already provided US authorities with footage of a 5 January 2021 meeting between then-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Elmer Stewart Rhodes, founder and leader of the Oath Keepers.

The footage of Mr Tarrio and Mr Rhodes meeting on the eve of the insurrection appears to have figured prominently in grand jury proceedings which led to last week’s unsealing of an indictment against Mr Tarrio and four other Proud Boys members for seditious conspiracy.

The press has learned so much about what will happen tonight. I hope the committee will still have a few surprises for us.

Two more relevant reads:

Brian J. Karem at Salon: Jan. 6 committee finally takes the spotlight — hey, it’s only America’s future at stake. Karem argues that the Republicans’ focus on guns is designed to draw public interest away from the January 6 hearings and it’s vitally important that the hearings get the full attention of the public.

The House select committee on the Jan. 6 attack is finally beginning its televised hearings, and the Democratic faithful are hoping for a political punch in the nose to detractors — and a wakeup call to those who still don’t understand what actually happened during the insurrection.

“These hearings are important to accelerate awareness,” Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, explained to me. It remains to be seen if they can actually be the “punch in the nose” to Donald Trump that so many hope for.

Trump’s alleged activities on or before Jan. 6 include a conspiracy to obstruct a lawful function of the federal government. These hearings must energize the pursuit of justice, or they will be pointless – just more high wind in the trees.

Face it. Trump was impeached not once, but twice. We know what a grifter he is. We know he doesn’t care. Most of us believe him to be a crook. We have seen it all before. Can the hearings really shock the nation into a zeitgeist that leads us to a newfound respect for each other — and to a settling of accounts that holds Trump responsible for one of the worst days in the modern history of our country? Probably not.

Trump openly led the insurrection. Congress can’t prosecute him, but the DOJ can.

The nation needs indictments. You cannot have closure before you indict and prosecute every single person involved in the insurrection. You cannot stand over the dead corpse of democracy and declare we should move on.

In short, the hearings in Congress must make it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that there should be a prosecution of Trump and all of the others in his close-knit circle who were involved. Should the hearings provide a roadmap to indictment, Attorney General Merrick Garland must not fail to act….

What’s the worst-case scenario for these hearings? No needle movement. No charges. The entire issue fades into the mist like a bad case of COVID: You survive, but the cough persists.

Make no mistake, democracy is still in the balance and it has been since Trump slithered down that golden escalator and began his campaign for president.

We’re still in the moment, as Eisen would say. These are uncertain times and we must act. These hearings are important — easily as important as the hearings that helped bring down Nixon and perhaps even more. Today the entire government hangs in the balance.

Jose Pagiliary at The Daily Beast: The Jan. 6 Committee Can’t Convict Trump—but It Could Help Bankrupt Him.

While it’s doubtful the hearings will meet the sky-high expectations of those who believed the committee would expose open-and-shut wrongdoing from some of the nation’s top officials, the prime-time hearings will deliver one thing: evidence for many of the lawsuits seeking to make former President Donald Trump and other election denialists actually pay for the violence.

“What the committee can’t do is hold people accountable. But that’s where criminal prosecutions and civil litigation comes in,” said Edward G. Caspar, an attorney representing injured and traumatized Capitol Police officers who are suing Trump after the violence insurrection….

one of the big challenges for the panel’s investigation—with its contentious lawsuits, secret interviews, and promises to expose the truth—is that it ultimately has no power to punish those who are responsible for last year’s attack on the Capitol.

So far, legal scholars and progressive activists have focused their exasperated calls for action on the Department of Justice. But the real action could come from lawsuits like the one Conrad Smith and seven fellow Capitol Police officers filed in August against Trump, his campaign, Stop the Steal election denial movement organizers like Ali Alexander and Roger Stone, and enforcer gangs like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers militia.

“The committee is playing a critical role here for America,” Caspar said. “If you think of the three means of seeking accountability for those responsible for the attack—congressional hearings, criminal prosecution, civil litigation—they’re like a three-legged stool. The committee can shine a very bright light on the evidence and present it to the public. That’s something the others can’t do.”

A lot is riding on the hearing tonight. If the committee can really “blow the roof off,” people who haven’t been paying close attention will continue to tune in upcoming hearings. Here’s hoping they can meet the challenge.

Please share your thoughts on all this, and I hope you’ll also check back tonight to help us live blog.