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.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

For the past few days, *Massachusetts* has been trending on Twitter. The reason for that is the state’s tough gun laws.

From The Boston Globe: ‘Massachusetts gun laws have been proven to work.’ Amid spate of mass shootings, policymakers tout Bay State as blueprint.

After 26 students and teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, Massachusetts expanded its already far-reaching gun safety law. Following a mass shooting in Las Vegas — the deadliest in US history — it was the first state to ban bump stocks. And when a teenager killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school, lawmakers here embraced their own “red flag” statute.

Tragedy has regularly proved to be an accelerant for change in Massachusetts, pushing state policymakers to tighten their already strict gun laws at a time when major federal changes have regularly stalled and Republican legislators in other states loosened theirs.

Now, in the wake of horrific gun violence in Buffalo, Uvalde, Texas, and elsewhere, activists and state officials are pointing to Massachusetts as a model, arguing that its rules weaving together background check mandates, far-reaching prohibitions, and local licensing standards should be a guide — if not for Congress, then other states.

“Massachusetts gun laws have been proven to work,” Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican who has backed gun safety measures, said Monday, adding that the firearm death rate in this state “justifies thinking about what has been done here in the larger context of the nation.”

“I’ve talked to governors in other states and basically have said to them that they really ought to take a look at Massachusetts laws and make some decisions of their own,” Baker said. “I think it’s undeniable that the laws we have here have worked pretty well.”

Only Hawaii had a lower firearm mortality rate than Massachusetts in 2020; the year before — and in 2016 and 2015, as well — no state did, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And while gun violence has permeated other urban centers, Boston actually saw a drop in homicides and shootings in 2021 and has experienced even fewer so far this year, according to police data.

Yesterday, Massachusetts legislators prepared a letter to encourage leaders in other states to consider using the our state’s gun laws as a model. Some information about Massachusetts gun laws from the Globe article linked above:

Massachusetts passed an assault weapons ban in 1998 and made it permanent in 2004, when the federal ban expired. It also limits ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and requires that any first-time applicant for a six-year firearm license undergo a gun safety course.

All license applicants are also subject to background checks, either for a Firearm Identification Card — which allows people to own and use some rifles or shotguns — or a license to carry, the state’s most popular gun license.

Known as a Class A license, it allows people to own and use handguns and certain other firearms, but also comes with an additional layer of scrutiny. Local police chiefs, who serve as the state’s licensing authority, can deny an applicant they deem to be unsuitable, allowing them the discretion to factor in considerations beyond someone’s criminal record.

That could include whether police have been called to their home, for example, or if they had been the subject of domestic violence incidents that didn’t result in arrests or charges.

Acting after the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the Legislature tightened its laws further. That 2014 law now allows police chiefs who want to deny, suspend, or revoke a shotgun or rifle license to file a petition in court.

It also mandated the state join a national database for criminal and mental health background checks and required that Massachusetts create an online portal for conducting the required background checks for private gun transfers.

I’ve quoted a lot, because the Globe article is behind a paywall. It also discusses some problems that have cropped up, e.g. the red flag law has seldom been used, and the laws have gotten complex and difficult for enforcement officials to navigate. Nevertheless, there has not been a mass shooting here for 22 years and we have fewer gun deaths than every state except Hawaii.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court may soon make it much more difficult for local lawmakers to keep their states and cities safe.

From the NYT article:

Already this year, the New York Police Department has recovered more than 3,000 guns, and such arrests have hit a 28-year high. But across the city and state, authorities are bracing for a ruling, expected from the United States Supreme Court this month, which could strike down a century-old New York State law that places strict limits on the carrying of handguns.

Overturning the law could make it far easier to legally carry a handgun in the state, which officials say may have violent consequences for cities already struggling to tamp down a spike in gun crime that began two years ago.

“A lot more people are going to now want to go out and get guns. And for all the wrong reasons,” said Richard Aborn, the president of the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission. “I have people telling me they decided to get a gun that I never dreamed would go out and get a gun. They’re not going to use it illegally but they’re feeling this need to arm themselves in a way that I’ve not seen before.”

And if more New Yorkers are armed, he said, what would otherwise have been minor confrontations could turn deadly.

When the Supreme Court heard arguments over the law in November, a number of justices appeared predisposed against it, leading experts to believe that the law is likely to be struck down. If that happens, the ramifications could reach beyond New York: A handful of other states, including California, Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts, have similar laws that could also be invalidated.

New York State requires anyone who wants to purchase a handgun to apply for a state license. But there is an additional level of scrutiny for people who want a license that allows them to carry their gun outside their home. The two petitioners before the Supreme Court, both upstate New Yorkers, are challenging the laws governing the carrying of handguns, though gun control advocates in the state worry that the rules for acquiring handguns will be next….

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul has said that she would consider calling a special session of the State Legislature if the law were overturned. And after a shooting in Buffalo last month in which a teenager motivated by racism killed 10 Black people at a grocery store, she brought up the law unprompted, saying that her administration was “preparing our state for what could be a Supreme Court decision that allows people to carry concealed weapons. We’re ready.”

I imagine Massachusetts lawmakers are also preparing.

With the January 6 hearings coming up on Thursday night, is it possible Trump could eventually get his comeuppance? I sure hope so.

From Dennis Aftergut at Slate:

May was a bad month for former President Donald Trump. And there are darkening clouds on his horizon. On June 9, the Jan. 6 House select committee will hold public hearings as part of its ongoing investigation into the storming of the Capitol last year. In short order, the set of six scheduled televised sessions this month are likely to build momentum toward making the case that the president was directly involved in attempts to undermine the peaceful transition of power. And as the steady dropping of shocking findings from the committee over the course of the past months suggests, the sessions will likely have many viewers on the edge of their seats.

June’s hearings follow a series of escalations in Trump’s ongoing legal battles stemming from his attempts to undermine the 2020 election. May’s legal developments and the looming hearings suggest increasing pressures and prospects that Trump will face criminal charges.

Why was May so bad for Trump? It’s not just a matter of investigators closing in. Georgia’s primary on May 24 delivered a blow to Trump. Three men the former president loves to hate—Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Attorney General Chris Carr—all defeated Trump’s candidates in the Republican primary. Trump is already trying to cast doubt on their election results, raising questions about Kemp’s 50-point win over David Perdue. Georgia voters, however, signaled they are ready to move on from the Big Lie.

Meanwhile, two parallel criminal investigations are heating up—one from the Justice Department and another from District Attorney Fani Willis in Atlanta. Willis is independently investigating Trump’s phone call with Raffensperger in which he shamelessly asked Raffensperger “to find 11,780 votes,” one more than needed to reverse Joe Biden’s Georgia victory. She is also looking into Trump’s pre–Jan. 6 conduct for violation of the state’s criminal prohibition on soliciting election fraud. Last week, we learned that she has subpoenaed 50 witnesses, including Raffensperger, who testified on June 2 for five hours before a grand jury. She has also subpoenaed Chris Carr for June 21.

As for the Justice Department, it is reportedly ramping up its inquiry into Trump’s circle and the fake elector scheme that Rudy Giuliani allegedly led for the Trump campaign. On May 31, the Guardian reported that DOJ’s May 26 subpoena to former Trump aide Peter Navarro specifically refers to Trump and seeks communications with him, hinting at tightening scrutiny for the former president. (On June 2, the DOJ indicted Navarro on two counts of contempt for defying the committee’s subpoena to testify and provide documents.)

There’s more at the Slate link.

A couple of previews of what we might learn from Thursday’s hearing:

From Politico:

Nick Quested, a British documentarian who was embedded with the Proud Boys in the period around Jan. 6, will be one of the witnesses Thursday when the Jan. 6 select committee presents its findings of the violent attack that threatened the transition of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

Quested captured some of the most harrowing and vivid footage from the front lines of the violence that day, including key moments of confrontation between members of the mob and Capitol Police just before rioters stormed the barricades. His crew was also present for key conversations among Proud Boys leaders, as well as a garage meeting between the group’s national chairman, Enrique Tarrio, and Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, whose group also played a central role in the January 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The inclusion of Quested among the witnesses suggests the first hearing will focus substantially on the role of the Proud Boys in the attack. That focus dovetails with a decision by the Justice Department on Monday to escalate its case against the leaders of the group, charging Tarrio and four others with seditious conspiracy for their alleged plans to stop the transition of power by force….

The select committee and DOJ have come to view the Proud Boys as key instigators of the Jan. 6 violence. Though members of the group itself were not charged with assaulting police, the charges against them describe their actions as drivers of the most pivotal moments during the riot. Prosecutors have indicated that the Proud Boys strategy included activating non-Proud-Boys members of the crowd — who they referred to as “normies” — to help push past police. The Justice Department has also described the Proud Boys as “directing” and “mobilizing” the crowd to both march to the Capitol, breach its grounds and enter the building itself.

For example, prosecutors have noted that Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs briefly huddled with Ryan Samsel, another charged defendant, just before Samsel charged at a police barricade. Samsel’s push resulted in the first barricades being toppled, causing the first rush of rioters to the food of the Capitol.

An hour later, Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, one of the other defendants in the case, used a stolen police riot shield to smash a Senate-wing window, the first breach of the Capitol building itself. A fellow Proud Boy who helped Pezzola carry the shield, Charles Donohoe, recently pleaded guilty to his involvement in the group’s efforts.

From the article:

A staffer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign instructed Republicans planning to cast electoral college votes for Trump in Georgia despite Joe Biden’s victory to operate in “complete secrecy,” an email obtained by The Washington Post shows.

“I must ask for your complete discretion in this process,” wrote Robert Sinners, the campaign’s election operations director for Georgia, the day before the 16 Republicans gathered at the Georgia Capitol to sign certificates declaring themselves duly elected. “Your duties are imperative to ensure the end result — a win in Georgia for President Trump — but will be hampered unless we have complete secrecy and discretion.”

The Dec. 13, 2020, email went on to instruct the electors to tell security guards at the building that they had an appointment with one of two state senators. “Please, at no point should you mention anything to do with Presidential Electors or speak to the media,” Sinners continued in bold.

The admonishments suggest that those who carried out the fake elector planwere concerned that, had the gathering become public before Republicans could follow through on casting their votes, the effort could have been disrupted. Georgia law requires that electors fulfill their duties at the State Capitol. On Dec. 14, 2020, protesters for and against the two presidential candidates had gathered on the Capitol grounds.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which begins public hearings on Thursday, is likely to highlight the scheme to appoint fake electors and explore whether top Trump campaign officials initiated the strategy as part of a larger effort to overturn the democratic election.

I’ve also heard that the committee will play video from testimony by Ivanka and Jared. It should be an interesting night. I can’t wait!

What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories have caught your attention today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Kitty on the Fence, photo by Andy Sewell

Kitty on the Fence, photo by Andy Sewell

Some big Trump criminality news broke yesterday, and today there’s more news on stories we’ve been following over the past week.  Here’s the latest:

This one was posted late last night at The New York Times: Trump Officials Failed to Provide Accounting of Foreign Gifts.

The Trump administration left office without providing the State Department with an accounting of the gifts former President Donald J. Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials received from foreign governments in 2020, the department disclosed late Friday.

The department said that as a result, it could not fully account for the gifts officials received, the latest example to emerge in recent months of how the Trump administration’s flouting of laws and norms about the day-to-day operations of government now makes it harder to determine whether anything improper took place.

“It’s flagrant and it looks terrible,” said Richard W. Painter, the former top ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s administration. “Either it was really stupid or really corrupt.”

Under federal law, each government department and agency is legally required to submit a list to the State Department of gifts over $415 its officials received from foreign governments. The measure is intended to ensure that foreign governments do not gain undue influence over American officials.

LOL We already know that the Trumps were under “undue influence” from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and likely more countries.

The department said it had tried to collect the information about the gifts Trump White House officials had received but had failed to come up with an accounting.

“As a result, the data required to fully compile a complete listing for 2020 is unavailable,” the State Department said in a footnote to its list of gifts government officials received that year….

Country Cats, Rosemary Margaret Daunis

Country Cats, Rosemary Margaret Daunis

In February, it was revealed that classified documents and gifts from the White House had been improperly taken to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, a matter federal authorities are now in the preliminary stages of investigating. Around that time, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol learned that significant chunks of time were missing from White House call records from the day of the attack….

The State Department’s inspector general reported in November that tens of thousands of dollars in gifts given to Trump administration officials were missing. They included a 30-year-old Suntory Hibiki bottle of Japanese whiskey given to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, worth $5,800, and a 22-karat-gold commemorative coin valued at $560 given to another State Department official.

Many more items are missing–read about the rest at the NYT link.

Three interesting follow-up stories on the fake DHS guys who were busted for bribing Secret Service agents. 

CNN: Many questions remain in impersonation plot that duped federal agents, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors told a judge Friday that they still don’t know a motive for two men charged with impersonating federal agents, whether they are connected to any foreign government or whether they received anything from the federal agents they allegedly duped.

“This investigation is less than two weeks old, and every day it gets worse and worse as more and more evidence comes forward, and more and more witnesses come forward,” prosecutor Josh Rothstein told a federal judge on Friday.

The Justice Department is arguing that Haider Ali and Arian Taherzadeh should stay behind bars while the investigation continues. Judge Michael Harvey peppered prosecutors with questions, many of which they couldn’t answer.

The hearing will continue Monday, and the two men will remain behind bars over the weekend. Neither Taherzadeh nor Ali has entered a formal plea.

Cat and kittens, photo by Janet Tunget

Cat and kittens, photo by Janet Tunget

The two men spent more than two years impersonating Homeland Security agents, currying favor with federal law enforcement officers, some of whom lived in a swanky DC complex where they had apartments, and amassing a small arsenal of weapons and surveillance equipment, according to court documents.

Federal investigators are trying to unravel how the men paid for five apartments in a high-rent Washington neighborhood, as well as weapons and other equipment, a US law enforcement official said.

Among the questions for investigators is whether the money could have come from a foreign government, though they have noted that the effort didn’t appear to have the sophistication expected of trained foreign intelligence services.

Rothstein noted that one of the men, Ali, has citizenship status in Pakistan while also being a naturalized US citizen. Ali had traveled to Iran in the months before the scheme began, Rothstein said, and took five other trips abroad, including to Iraq and Pakistan.

(Highlighting added by me)

The Daily Mail: Stash of assault rifles, body armor, passports with multiple visas, and sham uniforms found in penthouse of ‘fake’ Homeland agents – including one with ‘links to Pakistani intelligence.’

A motion for detention of the two men who were arrested Wednesday for impersonating federal agents includes a slew of damning evidence, including images showing several different passports, visas and IDs.

The prosecutors are requesting Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Sher-Ali, 35, be detained due to a slew of evidence found in a raid of their units in a luxury apartment building in southeast Washington, D.C….

Taherzadeh told law enforcement in an interview after being taken into custody on Wednesday that Ali was the one funding their lavish lifestyle and seemingly endless stream of gifts, but claimed he wasn’t aware where the money was coming from.

best-spring-day-country-girl-cat-farm-landscape-debbie-criswell

Debbie Criswell, Best spring day

The question remains, however, on what Ali and Taherzadeh’s motives were in getting close to people with White House access by impersonating government agents.

Secret Service agents assigned to details for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence are among those being investigated for accepting lavish gifts and partying with Taherzadeh and Ali, who alleged they were agents with the Department of Homeland Security.

At least one of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) agents receiving free rent from Taherzadehand Ali was assigned to the detail protecting Harris’ residence at Number One Observatory Circle at the Naval Observatory, sources at the building told DailyMail.com.

Another, sources claim, was on the presidential protective detail and regularly traveled with President Biden on Air Force One.

The new information comes after an affidavit released Wednesday revealed that one of the witnesses in the case is a secret service agent that worked on First Lady Jill Biden’s protective detail.

Again, the added highlighting is mine. There’s much more at the link, including photos of the defendants and the evidence.

Justin Rohrlich of The Daily Beast interviewed a “former friend” of one of the imposters: Homeland Security Conman’s Arrest Is ‘Karma,’ Says Former Friend.

A man arrested this week for allegedly posing as a phony Homeland Security agent in a years-long ruse that fooled at least four members of the Secret Service—one of them on first lady Jill Biden’s security detail—has been busted for passing bad checks, allegedly created a fake company to win a city contract, and stiffed a close friend and business partner before skipping town, according to state court records and interviews with two former associates.

Arian Taherzadeh, 40, was arrested by the feds at his Washington, D.C., apartment complex on Wednesday….

Barn cats in Spring

Barn cats in Spring

In an interview with investigators following his arrest, prosecutors say Taherzadeh admitted to posing as a DHS agent and said he also falsely told others that he was an ex-Army Ranger. However, he put much of the onus on Ali, telling the feds that “Ali was the individual that funded most of their day-to-day operation but Taherzadeh did not know the source of the funds.”

“You could call it karma,” a former friend and business partner in Kansas City who started a now-defunct IT consultancy with Taherzadeh told The Daily Beast. “I got burned a couple of different times and I finally walked away.”

The friend said he’s extremely curious to know what Taherzadeh’s end-game was.

“Part of me just wants to tell you, it’s because he could,” he said.

The tale of the con is a long story. You can read it at the Daily Beast link.

January 6 investigation news

I know you’ve probably heard about this bombshell story from CNN yesterday: CNN Exclusive: ‘We control them all’: Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows ideas for overturning 2020 election before it was called.

Two days after the 2020 presidential election, as votes were still being tallied, Donald Trump’s eldest son texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that “we have operational control” to ensure his father would get a second term, with Republican majorities in the US Senate and swing state legislatures, CNN has learned.

In the text, which has not been previously reported, Donald Trump Jr. lays out ideas for keeping his father in power by subverting the Electoral College process, according to the message reviewed by CNN. The text is among records obtained by the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021.

“It’s very simple,” Trump Jr. texted to Meadows on November 5, adding later in the same missive: “We have multiple paths We control them all.” [….]

Illustration by Erika Klein, 1964

Illustration by Erika Klein, 1964

Immediately before his text to Meadows describing multiple paths for challenging the election, Trump Jr. texted Meadows the following: “This is what we need to do please read it and please get it to everyone that needs to see it because I’m not sure we’re doing it.”

The November 5 text message outlines a strategy that is nearly identical to what allies of the former President attempted to carry out in the months that followed. Trump Jr. makes specific reference to filing lawsuits and advocating recounts to prevent certain swing states from certifying their results, as well as having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake “Trump electors.”

If all that failed, according to the Trump Jr. text, GOP lawmakers in Congress could simply vote to reinstall Trump as President on January 6.

“We have operational control Total leverage,” the message reads. “Moral High Ground POTUS must start 2nd term now.”

Lock him up. Please.

The New York Times: Pro-Trump Rally Planner Is Cooperating in Justice Dept.’s Jan. 6 Inquiry.

Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer of pro-Trump events after the 2020 election, has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation of the attack on the Capitol last year, the first high-profile political figure known to have offered assistance to the government’s newly expanded criminal inquiry.

Speaking through a lawyer, Mr. Alexander said on Friday that he had recently received a subpoena from a federal grand jury that is seeking information on several broad categories of people connected to pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington after the election.

In a statement from the lawyer, Mr. Alexander said he was taking “a cooperative posture” with the Justice Department’s investigation but did not know what useful information he could give. He also disavowed anyone who took part in or planned violence on Jan. 6.

While it remains unclear what Mr. Alexander might tell the grand jury, he was intimately involved in the sprawling effort to mount political protests challenging the results of the election, and had contacts with other organizers, extremist groups, members of Congress and, according to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, White House officials during the period after Election Day.

CAT-COUNTRY Rosemary Margaret Daunis

Cat Country by Rosemary Margaret Daunis

I actually think the NYT is underplaying the important of this development, but here’s a bit more from the article:

The grand jury subpoena Mr. Alexander received suggests that prosecutors have greatly widened the scope of their inquiry to include not only people who were at the Capitol, but also those who organized and spoke at pro-Trump events in November and December 2020 and on Jan. 6, 2021.

In an indication that the inquiry could reach into the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, the subpoena also seeks information about members of the executive and legislative branches who were involved in the events or who may have helped to obstruct the certification of the 2020 election….

Mr. Alexander took part in two so-called Stop the Steal rallies in Washington that preceded the former president’s event at the Ellipse, near the White House, on Jan. 6 — one on Nov. 14, 2020, and the other a few weeks later on Dec. 12 — as well as events in the key swing state of Georgia in December.

In the run-up to those gatherings, Mr. Alexander came into contact with a host of rally organizers and with right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers militia and the 1st Amendment Praetorian that provided both public and personal security at the events. 

The Washington Post on the plea deal with Proud Boy Charles Donohoe: Proud Boys leader admits plan to storm Capitol, will testify against others.

A North Carolina man who was one of the leaders of the far-right Proud Boys as they assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, pleaded guilty Friday to two felony counts with a minimum sentence of nearly six years in prison, but agreed to cooperate against his co-defendants in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Court records filed Friday show he has already provided numerous insights into the group’s plans and their intention to disrupt the congressional electoral vote confirmation….

Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, N.C., admitted to conspiring to help organize an attack on Congress by angry supporters of then-president Donald Trump and to assaulting law enforcement officers. Donohoe is the first among six of the charged Proud Boys’ leaders, including longtime chairman Enrique Tarrio, to admit to both organizing an attack on Congress and assaulting law enforcement officers.

By Warren Kimble

By Warren Kimble

On the plans for and carrying out of the assault on the Capitol:

As early as Jan. 4, prosecutors said, “Donohoe was aware that members of MOSD leadership were discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol. Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power. Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.”

On the morning of Jan. 6, the Proud Boys marched away from the Ellipse before President Donald Trump began his speech, and did not return. Instead, they went to the Capitol shortly after 10 a.m., the statement of offense says, and Donohoe posted that his group numbered “200-300 PBs.” Co-defendants Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs mustered the group, the statement says, and “Donohoe understood that Nordean and Biggs were searching for an opportunity to storm the Capitol.”

By 1 p.m., the Proud Boys were being instructed in messages to “Push inside!” Donohoe reposted the message to other group leaders. Donohoe admitted throwing two water bottles at police trying to prevent the mob’s advance. At 1:37 p.m., Donohoe took a picture of co-defendant Dominic Pezzola holding a riot shield that had been snatched from police.

Donohoe then found another Proud Boy who “initiated an altercation at the front of the crowd,” the statement says. “Donohoe pushed forward to advance up the concrete stairs toward the Capitol. The crowd overwhelmed law enforcement who were attempting to stop their advance.”

Despite all the whining from Twitter lawyers, it sure looks like the DOJ is conducting a serious investigation that could reach all the way to Trump.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! Spring is on the way.


Lazy Caturday Reads

dona i gat_Myrtille Henrion-Picco

Dona i gat, Myrtille Henrion-Pico

Good Morning!!

It looks like the Covid relief bill could finally pass the Senate after an all-nighter in which Biden himself was finally brought in to get Joe Manchin on board. 

Politico: Senate reaches unemployment benefits deal, ending logjam on Covid aid bill.

Senate Democrats clinched a deal on Friday night over unemployment benefits that will smooth the upper chamber’s passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this weekend.

After about a nine-hour delay following Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) resistance to an earlier agreement on jobless payments, party leaders announced a new accord with Manchin. The latest deal would provide $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits through Sept. 6, and up to $10,200 in tax relief for unemployed workers.

Democratic leaders also agreed to limit eligibility for that tax relief, restricting the tax-free status of the benefits to households with incomes under $150,000 a year.

Ophelia Redpath, 1965

By Ophelia Redpath, 1965

The White House quickly announced its support after endorsing the earlier compromise.

“The President supports the compromise agreement, and is grateful to all the senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday night.

With Manchin’s objections eased, Democrats plowed forward with a marathon “vote-a-rama” — an all-night ordeal in which any senator can offer an amendment to Biden’s bill. The Senate is now on track to pass the package on Saturday….

After Senate passage, the bill will go back to the House, where lawmakers must approve the changes before it reaches Biden’s desk.

At The New York Times, Glenn Thrush reports:  More Democrats join the effort to kill the filibuster as a way of saving Biden’s agenda.

A growing number of Senate Democrats are warming to the idea of eliminating the filibuster as they encounter Republican resistance to President Biden’s legislative agenda, forcing the White House to cut deals on issues like the minimum wage and pandemic relief payments.

If the founders envisioned the upper chamber as a “cooling bowl” to moderate more extreme bills passed by the House, the filibuster has often been a deep freezer, infamously deployed by Southern racists to quash reforms during the civil rights era….

Two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they will oppose any effort to do away with the rule, making any rollback a long shot. Mr. Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, have been noncommittal about eliminating the filibuster.

Two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they will oppose any effort to do away with the rule, making any rollback a long shot. Mr. Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, have been noncommittal about eliminating the filibuster….

Tatyana Struchkova

By Tatyana Struchkova

On Thursday, Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota took to Twitter to declare her support for ending the filibuster. “The Senate needs to abolish the filibuster. It’s undemocratic,” she wrote, adding, “We need to move this country forward.”

A day earlier, Senator Amy Klobuchar, the state’s senior senator and a standard-bearer for her party’s moderate wing in 2020, said the likely demise in the Senate of a House voting rights bill had flipped her from a “maybe” to a “yes.” [….]

Another centrist, Jon Tester of Montana, has taken a wait-and-see approach, but signaled recently that he too might be open to killing the rule.

The investigations into the January 6 insurrection continue. Recent news:

The New York Times: F.B.I. Finds Contact Between Proud Boys Member and Trump Associate Before Riot.

A member of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys was in communication with a person associated with the White House in the days just before the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

Location, cellular and call record data revealed a call tying a Proud Boys member to the Trump White House, the official said. The F.B.I. has not determined what they discussed, and the official would not reveal the names of either party.

The connection revealed by the communications data comes as the F.B.I. intensifies its investigation of contacts among far-right extremists, Trump White House associates and conservative members of Congress in the days before the attack….

Christilla Germain

By Christilla Germain

Separately, Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys, told The New York Times on Friday that he called Roger J. Stone Jr., a close associate of former President Donald J. Trump’s, while at a protest in front of the home of Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. During the protest, which occurred in the days before the Capitol assault, he put Mr. Stone on speaker phone to address the gathering.

A law enforcement official said that it was not Mr. Tarrio’s communication with Mr. Stone that was being scrutinized, and that the call made in front of Mr. Rubio’s home was a different matter. That two members of the group were in communication with people associated with the White House underscores the access that violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys had to the White House and to people close to the former president.

In response to this story, attorney Luppe B. Luppen (@Southpaw on Twitter) was reminded of an interesting January 6 tweet by CNN’s Jim Acosta:

This is interesting, from CNN: Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren quietly releases massive social media report on GOP colleagues who voted to overturn the election.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren has quietly posted a nearly 2,000-page report documenting social media posts by her Republican colleagues who voted against certifying results of the presidential election on January 6. The information compiled isn’t secret, but the report is another sign of the deep distrust that has settled into the US Capitol in the weeks since the insurrection.

The report chronicles the social media activity of members on public forums immediately before the November election and right after the January 6 riot. The report has been online for a week.

CNN reported earlier Thursday that federal investigators are examining records of communications between members of Congress and the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol, as the investigation moves closer to exploring whether lawmakers wittingly or unwittingly helped the insurrectionists….

Catriona Millar2

By Catriona Millar

“Any appropriate disciplinary action is a matter not only of the Constitution and law, but also of fact,” the California Democrat wrote. “Many of former President Trump’s false statements were made in very public settings. Had Members made similar public statements in the weeks and months before the January 6th attack? Statements which are readily available in the public arena may be part of any consideration of Congress’ constitutional prerogatives and responsibilities.” [….]

“Like former President Trump, any elected Member of Congress who aided and abetted the insurrection or incited the attack seriously threatened our democratic government. They would have betrayed their oath of office and would be implicated in the same constitutional provision cited in the Article of Impeachment,” Lofgren wrote in her foreword to the report. “That provision prohibits any person who has previously taken an oath as a member of Congress to support the Constitution but subsequently engaged in insurrection or rebellion from serving in Congress.”

Communications from Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona are heavily represented in the report:

The report features a collection of social media posts and tweets that span dozens of pages from Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar where he urges supporters to “hold the line,” days before what would become the Capitol insurrection. In another social media post included in the report, Gosar wrote that “sedition and treason for stealing votes is appropriate.”

The report also captures numerous tweets where Gosar invoked @ali on Twitter, which was formerly the account used by Ali Alexander, a leader of the “Stop the Steal” group, who said in several Periscope livestream videos that he planned the rally that preceded the riot in conjunction with Gosar and two other congressional Republicans, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Andy Biggs of Arizona.

HuffPost reports that the FBI still haven’t arrested this guy who attacked police with a fire extinguisher: Revealed: The Star-Spangled Trumper Filmed Attacking Cops At The Capitol.

With bright red and white stripes across his body and stars down his sleeves, the man in the American flag jacket and “FLORIDA FOR TRUMP” hat wielded a fire extinguisher while charging the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6. He shoved his way through the crowd of rioters to the police line, then sprayed officers at close range before chucking the emptied canister at them. By nightfall he himself had been lightly harmed, apparently by a police crowd control munition. He held up his shirt to show off his bruised gut during an interview with a female journalist filming him live as cops pushed the mob back from Capitol grounds. Then he looked straight into her livestreaming device and identified himself as Robert Palmer from Clearwater, Florida.

Adrie Martens

By Andrie Martens

At this point, the man had not only assaulted federal officers before a sea of smartphones while wearing highly distinctive attire, he’d also willingly revealed his own name and hometown on video at the scene of the crime — while still in the same outfit.

This isn’t your typical “Florida Man” story, despite its absurdity. This is the story of a violent insurrectionist who’s still at large — nearly two months later — and one woman who joined the online sleuthing communities crowdsourcing their efforts to bring a Capitol attacker to justice.

Robert Scott Palmer is a white 53-year-old husband and father who runs Son Bright Systems, a cleaning and restoration business. His criminal record includes being sentenced on charges of battery and felony fraud.

HuffPost verified his identity through a search of public records and social media accounts associated with Palmer, after receiving a tip from Amy, a woman living in a rural area out west who in her free time joined the #SeditionHunters network, an online sleuthing community seeking to identify the hundreds of Trump supporters who rioted at the Capitol. (Amy is a pseudonym she chose to protect her privacy.)

Reached by phone late Thursday afternoon, Palmer confirmed he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and gave the livestream interview. He claimed that he’d done nothing to justify being struck with the police munition, and that the Biden administration was trying to “vilify the patriots” who were involved in the riot. 

Read more about Palmer at the HuffPo link. I wonder why he’s still at large?

More stories to check out today:

Sandra Bierman-yin-yang

Sandra Bierman, Yin Yang

Politico: Prominent retired generals aided Honoré review of Capitol security.

Raw Story: WATCH: QAnon-loving Capitol rioter thought JFK Jr would be ‘sworn in’ as Trump’s vice president on Jan 6

NBC News: Federico Klein, former Trump appointee charged in Capitol riot, wants jail cell without cockroaches.

Politico: Capitol riot shaman’s TV interview irks judge.

Newsweek: Rachel Powell, Capitol Rioter Known as ‘Bullhorn Lady,’ Indicted by Grand Jury.

The New York Times: Cuomo Is Told to Preserve Records at Issue in Sexual Harassment Inquiry.

CBS Evening News: Cuomo accuser alleges a staffer took sexual harassment training for the governor.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: How Never Trumpers Are Becoming Pro-Democracy Republicans.

Madison.com: Ron Johnson: No decision on 2022 run, but leaving office is ‘probably my preference now.’

The New York Times: Democrats Want a Stronger Edge in the Senate. Ohio Could Be Crucial.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!! This is an open thread.


Monday Reads: The Midterms are coming

Not in here Magats per “The Bank Street Bar”

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I usually go down to the Quarter to see the Krewe of Boo this time of year.  I had grades to do and there were some unwelcome visitors there this weekend. I can’t take any more of the Magats so I stayed home.

We got a visit from the hate group “Proud Boys” who seemed to stage a deliberate breakdown of their vehicle in front of Jackson Square so they could set up a really offensive float called “The Trump Bridge.”  Of course, they did not have the appropriate paperwork, even selling those terrible red Magat hats illegally from the truck bed. All activities were without licenses so quite illegal. The NOPD watched them but did nothing.

With the exception of a few lone bars that I really didn’t know existed down there anyway, they were refused service and forced to drink in the streets.  All in all, the entire city did a great job of ignoring them.

Several “watchers” from progressive groups spent time documenting and following them in the hopes of catching any of their usual hateful antics.  We do have a local chapter of them and recently, a Plaquemines Parish Deputy Sheriff lost his job for his association with them

The Proud Boys say they’re not a hate group and that they’re not a part of the alt-right, the catch-all euphemism for various groups of Nazis, white nationalists and white supremacists. The founder of the Proud Boys criticized the eruption of violence in Charlottesville, but a prominent member of that organization had organized the “Unite the Right” rally and later tweeted that “Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist. Communists killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the founder of the Proud Boys says he expelled the writer of that tweet from his group “once his racist views became known.” To hear that founder tell it, the Proud Boys is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic group of Western chauvinists who part ways with the alt-right on “the JQ,” that is, “the Jewish question.”

In its website’s HateWatch feature, the SPLC notes that the founder of the Proud Boys “denies any connection between his group and the far right, dismissing the fact that they show up to the same events, take fashion cues from each other, read the same books, sympathize with each other’s viewpoints — including, at times, anti-Semitism — and joust in the shadows of the same windmills.”

Green, the Plaquemines deputy, scrubbed his Facebook feed of his Proud Boys posts, but not before they’d been screen shot and sent to his employer.  His Facebook profile described him as “Deputy Sheriff, Father, Proud Boy.” His profile photo showed him in his law enforcement uniform with the words “The West Is The Best” superimposed on the picture.

Also in his Facebook feed, there had been posted a video in which Green appears to recite the Proud Boys oath, “I’m Brian Green and I’m a proud western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world.”

There is nothing positive about chauvinism of any kind. Furthermore, it’s safe to say that nobody reciting the Proud Boys oath had anything to do with the creation of this modern world.  That oath makes as much sense as me refusing to apologize for having created blues music, jazz and rock-and-roll when all those things were here when I was born.

I do have a few reports from friends that I will put up here just so you have some first hand accounts as well as they pictures and videos taken.   I’m going to leave their names off because I don’t want to accidentally dox them to the wrong people.

So can we talk about the fact that the NOLA Proudboys (an SPLC-recognized violent white supremacist hate group) managed to have the “Trump Unity Bridge” (basically a giant mobile hate-campaign) ‘break down’ conveniently right in front of Jackson Square before the Krewe of Boo parade this evening– a halloween parade largely attended by families and kids. The police didn’t even tow that junk off of Decatur, and instead let them set up shop right along the parade route where they (illegally) sold MAGA hats to the crowd, yelled racial slurs at kids and passers by, threatened a few people who took their picture, tried to provoke violence, paraded around in blackface masks, oh and I’m told finally punched a woman and beat somebody with a flagpole shortly after I left. If you find that state of affairs as disappointing as I do, please call or write the Mayor’s office and tell her that you expect better in the so-called “city of yes” . . . that oughtn’t to mean ‘yes’ to every kind of white supremacist intimidation and depravity, especially anywhere that children are concerned. 504-658-4900, mayor@nola.gov

Here’s the link to the SPLC site that gives you more information about them.

As you know, a number of them were arrested in New York for a brawl which is basically what they always go looking for.

The founder of the far-right group the Proud Boys said on Friday that he was arranging the surrender of several members whom the police are seeking in connection with a violent brawl outside a Republican club in Manhattan last weekend.

At the same time, a senior official said the police had opened a broad criminal inquiry into the group’s activities.

Gavin McInnes, 48, a polemical far-right speaker who started the Proud Boys in 2016, said several suspects would turn themselves in. By late Friday afternoon, two of the nine men sought by the police had been arrested. A police official said a lawyer representing at least four of the suspects had called the 19th Precinct on Friday to work out the details of their surrender.

Though it was unclear how many might face charges, Mr. McInnes said the rest would soon be in custody. “They are going to be in the Tombs,” he said.

The Proud Boys are a fraternal organization of so-called Western chauvinists that Mr. McInnes has sometimes referred to as a gang. The group has clashed with anarchists and left-wing protesters at political events across the country several times in recent years.

They fought with anti-fascist demonstrators on Oct. 12 shortly after Mr. McInnes gave a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club, a bastion of establishment conservatism on the Upper East Side.

There’s some national news about the midterms and other things we should discuss.  This headline is startling.  From Time: “Trump Plans to Tear Up a 31-Year-Old Nuclear Weapons Treaty. Now What?”.

President Donald Trump revealed Saturday the United States intends to withdraw from a 31-year-old nuclear weapons agreement with Russia, delivering a severe blow to the arms control regime that helped preserve peace since the Cold War.

“We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters after a rally in Elko, Nevada, without indicating what the next steps might be.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, first signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987, was the first and only nuclear arms control agreement that ever eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. The treaty forced the superpowers to scrap more than 2,600 missiles with ranges 310 to 3,420 miles — weapons considered destabilizing to the European continent because of their capability to launch a nuclear strike from anywhere without early warning.

Gorbachev has called the move ‘Not the Work of a Great Mind’.

President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia drew sharp criticism Sunday from one of the men who signed it, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who called the decision reckless and not the work of “a great mind.”

In making his announcement Saturday, Mr. Trump cited Russian violations of the pact, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed in Washington in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev.

Mr. Gorbachev, who is now 87 years old, cast Mr. Trump’s decision as a threat to peace.

In an interview with the Interfax news agency, Mr. Gorbachev called Mr. Trump’s rollback of the disarmament agreement “very strange.” He added: “Do they really not understand in Washington what this can lead to?”

The last Soviet leader, who is perceived more warmly in the West than inside Russia, has already watched his domestic reform agendas supporting democracy and greater freedom of the press unravel in recent years. Nuclear disarmament also defined his legacy.

Eric Levitz opines this for New York Magazine today: Tribalism Isn’t Our Democracy’s Main Problem. The Conservative Movement Is.

In the middle of the 20th century, America was home to liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. The most important fault-lines in Congress weren’t partisan but regional; on many issues, southern Democrats and western Republicans united in battle against northern (and typically, liberal and/or labor-aligned) members of their respective caucuses. On economics, the two parties’ agendas were distinct, but far less disparate than they are today. On civil rights and immigration, the divisions within each side of the aisle were more important than those between them.

This utter dearth of partisan polarization undermined democratic accountability. A liberal could vote for Democratic candidates in New York, and unwittingly empower arch-segregationists in the Senate; many voters had no clear heuristic telling them which party would best represent their interests and ideological goals, nor which one was to blame for Congress’s failure to advance such aims.

In response, the American Political Science Association (APSA) released a report in 1950 that called on Republicans and Democrats to heighten their contradictions, arguing that “popular government in a nation of 150 million people requires political parties which provide the electorate with a proper range of choices between alternatives of action.”

Sixty-eight years later, we’ve done just as the APSA advised.

Today’s party system offers voters a wide — and clearly labeled — range of alternatives. While myriad policy debates remain stifled by bipartisan consensus (the proper size and role of the U.S. military, for example), it is nevertheless the case that Democrats and Republicans now provide the electorate with stark choices on health care, taxation, social spending, immigration, racial justice, abortion, environmental regulation, labor rights, and myriad other issues. It has rarely, if ever, been more clear what — and whom — each party in the U.S. stands for.

And rarely, if ever, has “popular government” been a worse misnomer for what transpires in our nation’s state and federal capitals.

In 2018, polarization still looms large in the discourse on our democracy’s failings. But these days, it’s seen less as an elixir than a cancer. In fact, some pundits and political scientists regard it as the root of all the Trump era’s evils. In this new telling, our republic may be suffering from a variety of disfiguring illnesses, but all trace back to the damage that hyperpartisanship did to its immune system: Our president may be a kleptocratic conspiracy theorist who oozes contempt for America’s highest ideals (and ignorance of high-school civics) — but only because conservative voters came to despise the Democratic Party more than they loathe self-proclaimed pussy-grabbers. Congress might be barely able to fund its own paychecks, let alone find consensus solutions to policy challenges — but voters only tolerate such gridlock because they’ve come to see compromise as a synonym for their side’s defeat. And Americans might be losing confidence in public institutions, the integrity of their nation’s elections, and the value of democracy itself — but this is largely because so many of them have decided that one of their nation’s two political parties poses an existential threat to their bedrock ideals.

I was happy to see Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum pull ahead in the polls.  Evidently, the group of old white fogies at The Villages fear him.  Being an old fogie myself, I wonder why they hate their Medicare and Social Security so much, but then, I don’t think in terms of black people taking things away from me.  I think in terms of Republicans doing that.

President Donald Trump’s loyalists here at Florida’s premier retirement community fear Andrew Gillum.

It has nothing to do with his race, they insist, when asked about the 39-year-old Democrat who could become the state’s first African-American governor. Instead, The Villages’ deeply conservative residents are convinced a Gillum victory would trigger an era of high crime, higher taxes and moral failing.

“He’ll kill everything that’s good about Florida,” says Talmadge Strickland, a 66-year-old retired firefighter wearing a “Trump 2020″ baseball cap at a rally for Gillum’s opponent. “He will hurt us; he will physically hurt us with his socialist mentality.”

In an era defined by deep political partisanship, there’s perhaps no state where the divide runs deeper than Florida, which is in the grip of a fierce culture clash over guns, race, climate change and the president. Gillum sits at the center of the melee, his campaign a proxy for the larger fight between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s GOP.

Gillum’s fate is inexorably linked to fellow Democrats whose success could determine control of Congress. That’s especially true for three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who could benefit from Gillum’s appeal among young voters and minorities.

As early voting begins in Florida this week, that link is tenuous.

“New voters and infrequent voters are everything to us winning,” Gillum told The Associated Press when asked about his impact on Nelson’s race. “I think they will vote for both of us, and that will be to his benefit.”

Young people and minorities are traditionally among the least reliable voters, particularly in midterm elections. Meanwhile, white voters in place like The Villages are lining up behind his opponent, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The electorate in Florida this year is especially unpredictable due to an unusual collision of events: a massive hurricane, the nation’s deadliest high school shooting and Gillum’s historic candidacy.

Those of us that have had anything to hear from or do with a Trump voter know exactly how angry and ugly they are.  But, be prepared for ads from the RNC that basically say that Dems are the angry mob. We may be angry, but our protests are hardly mob like and Greg Sargent of WAPO’s Plum line explains why we’re angry right back at them.

President Trump and Republicans have adopted a closing electoral strategy that depicts the Democratic Party and “angry” leftist protests against Trumpian rule as the only real reigning threat to our country’s civic fabric and the rule of law. A new Republican National Committee video juxtaposes footage of leading mainstream Democratic figures with that of angry protesters, while decrying “the left” as an “unhinged mob.”

As absurd as this conflation is on its face, it has smuggled itself into the mainstream debate, where it is getting a quasi-respectful hearing, in the form of a public argument over whether Democrats are “going low,” or tacitly egging on their voters to violence, or, by adopting the smashmouth media tactics of Michael Avenatti, succumbing to “Avenatti-ism.”

But much of the resulting debate over all this is hollow, because it is not putting these basic realities front and center: Trump, more than any leading U.S. figure in recent memory, has actively tried to stoke civil conflict on as many fronts as possible. He has concertedly subverted the rule of law, not just to shield himself from accountability, but, more to the point for present purposes, with the deliberate purpose of exciting his minority base — and enraging millions on the other side of the cultural divide — in a manner that is thoroughly corrupt to its core.

Here in New Orleans we like our food, our parades, our holidays, and our music.  Most of us like our beer and bongs and whatever libations that goes along with watching the Saints or celebrating 300 years here.  Yet, every time we have one of those celebrations we get angry white people doing disrespectful things.  We get Westborough Baptist during our Southern Decadence celebration of the GLBT community here.  We get big ol’ sign carrying christians telling us that we’re all about as sinful as you can get during Carnivale.  Now, we get the Proud Boys and their ugly little float during Mardi Gras and our annual celebration of Halloween.  None of them are loving of people or fun.  They are here to buzz saw any one that isn’t like them.

We used to have to endure them during small little windows of time, but now, they assault us daily on all forms of media and in every walk of life. I get weary of all that resentment, hate, and privilege rattling.

Why do they come here to piss on other people’s celebrations?  Why do they have to have laws that cause other people to live their lives according to some other person’s idea of how life needs to be.

We have a few more weeks of these awful rallies and the even worse pictures and words of these poor excuses for human beings.  I’m not sure where the 20 million voters that never show up are, but please, please, please, get rid of these Ugly Americans. Get them back under their rocks and out of our lives and sight.

I want to go back to a January article by Rebbecca Solnit at the Literary Hub. ” 20 MILLION MISSING PEOPLE COULD SAVE AMERICA. ON LIFE IN THE DARK TIMELINE, AND THE MORAL CAUSE OF OUR MOMENT”.

But who is missing? It’s not only the women directors, the black screenwriters, the not-so-misogynist lead journalists in the mainstream.

It’s voters.

Voting is a form of speech, a way you say who you believe in, what kind of world you want to see. Having a voice doesn’t just mean literally being able to say things; it means having a role, having agency, being able to say things that have an impact whether it’s I witnessed this police brutality, or no I don’t want to have sex with you, or this is my vision of society.

As far as I can estimate, about 20 million voters were disenfranchised in the last election. Voter ID laws, the cross-check system, purging voter rolls, the undermining of the Voting Rights Act, making sure there were not enough polling stations or cutting back polling hours, harassing people when they showed up at those stations, taking the vote away from ex-felons—the means are many, and the consequences are that a lot of people have been denied their rights, so much so that it’s the other new Jim Crow. (There is no clear tally of how many voters are missing, and it’s also complicated by the fact that some populations—more than six million Americans with felony convictions, for example—are prevented outright from voting, some face obstacles and harassment—via voter ID laws, for example—that thin out their numbers.)

Politics is how we tell the stories we live by, how we decide if we value the health and well-being of children or not, the autonomy of women’s bodies and equality of our lives, or not, if we protect the Dreamers who came here as small children, or not, if we act on climate change, or not. Voting is far from the only way, but is a key way we decide on what story to base our actions on. We choose a story about who and what matters; we act on that story to rearrange the world around it—and then there are tax cuts to billionaires and children kicked off healthcare, or there are climate agreements and millions of acres of federal land protected and support for universities. We live inside what, during postmodernism’s heyday, we’d call master narratives—so there’s always a question of who’s telling the story, who is in charge of the narrative, and what happens if that changes.

Sometimes when journalists like Ari Berman at Mother Jones—the best voice on this issue—write about the suppression of the votes, people assume they’re saying Hillary Clinton should have won the last presidential election. If you changed who had access to the ballot in 2016, that might be the outcome, but the story is so much bigger than that, and the potential outcomes are so much more radical than that. The Republican Party has maintained a toehold on national power by systematically, strategically, increasingly suppressing the votes of people of color over decades. They are a minority party. They could never win a fair election nationally with their current platform of white grievance and misogyny and favors for the one percent, so they’ve set about to have unfair elections. (And they have also gerrymandered the daylights out of a lot of states to hang onto majorities at the state and national level; in 2012, they took the majority of seats in the lower house of Congress with a minority of overall votes.)

Imagine that those 20 million votes were not suppressed. The Republican Party would be defunct or be unrecognizably different from what it is today. But the Democratic Party would be different too. Imagine that the Democratic Party had to answer to more young people, more poor people, more nonwhite people, more people who believe in strengthening human rights and social service safety nets, economic justice, stronger action on climate change. Imagine a country where Democrats weren’t competing for moderate-to-conservative voters because the electorate was far more progressive—as it would be if all those people who lost their voting rights actually had them (and yeah, more younger people showed up). It wouldn’t change something as small as the outcome of the 2016 election. It would mean different political parties with different platforms and different candidates, different news coverage, different outcomes. It would change the story. It would change who gets to tell the story.

By voting, we can remove the tyranny of the shrinking minority before they completely set the game up so that we never can.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?