Finally Friday Reads: Republicans Breaking Bad Edition

The Steer (The Bull), Franz Marc, 1911

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There is so much abnormality to the behavior of the Republican Party these days that it’s difficult to characterize the news that comes to light about them.  We keep getting headlines that are shocking but not surprising.  They all are off in the deep end. Take this headline from The Guardian: “US justice department says Trump didn’t turn over all documents.  Investigators are skeptical Trump has been fully cooperative in efforts to recover documents, reports says, which will force difficult choice on next steps.”  BB has covered the story in detail, and every day there’s something new.

The US Department of Justice has told lawyers for Donald Trump it thinks he has not handed back all the documents he took from the White House, the New York Times reported.

The paper said Jay Bratt, the DoJ head of counterintelligence operations, communicated with lawyers for Trump “in recent weeks”.

The news, the Times said, is “the most concrete indication yet that investigators remain skeptical that Mr Trump has been fully cooperative in their efforts to recover documents … supposed to have [been] turned over to the National Archives at the end of his term”.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, said the news “looks like a major step toward an indictment of Trump by DoJ for obstruction of justice”.

Head of a Dog, Edvard Munch, 1930

The Herschel Walker stories just get juicier by the day.  This is accompanied by the characteristic hypocrisy of White Evangelicals who simply do not care about his obvious brain damage, moral deficiencies, and lack of intellect.  This is from The Washington Post: “GOP crisis in Herschel Walker race was nearly two years in the making. In Georgia, Republicans are stuck with a problematic Senate candidate they saw coming but decided they couldn’t stop”

In early 2021, as football star Herschel Walker considered running for Senate, he approached some of Georgia’s top Republican operatives about advising his campaign. The operatives were warned about political vulnerabilities in Walker’s past — including allegations of violence against women — that were openly discussed in the state’s political circles, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Walker’s reaction to being confronted with the allegations was also troubling, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. When the consultants would ask the candidate about incidents even in the public record, he would often get simultaneously defensive and aggressive, accusing the questioner of being a Democratic plant or ally of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader.

Those consultants passed on working with Walker, but he pressed ahead with his campaign. After all, Walker’s overwhelming name recognition in Georgia as a Heisman Trophy-winning football star and backing from former president Donald Trump instantly made him so formidable that state and national Republican leaders didn’t mount a serious challenge in the primary, despite concerns about Walker’s baggage.

Now, less than five weeks before the midterm elections, they’re stuck with him as those liabilities threaten to dominate the news and derail his campaign in a state widely viewed as a must-win for Republicans to retake the Senate.

This is a party that no longer has a platform. Their only agenda appears to be power at any cost to ensure anyone who is not a white male christianist is disenfranchised from their constitutional rights and standing.  The other is ensuring taxes are only paid by poor people.  They’re empowered by dark money and now a weird cult of brown-shirt militias ready and willing to commit violence to the cause of White Nationalism and patriarchy. The Oath Keepers Trial is just surreal.  I’m not sure the press quite knows how to report it.

I am looking forward to Rachel Maddow’s latest podcast, “Ultra” which outlines the last time we had to deal with NAZIs in our midst.

Sitting members of Congress aiding and abetting a plot to overthrow the government. Insurrectionists criminally charged with plotting to end American democracy for good. Justice Department prosecutors under crushing political pressure. Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra is the all-but-forgotten true story of good, old-fashioned American extremism getting supercharged by proximity to power. When extremist elected officials get caught plotting against America with the violent ultra right, this is the story of the lengths they will go to… to cover their tracks. Follow now and join Rachel Maddow for the first two episodes on October 10th.

You may read the interview with her at Rolling Stone.  “The MSNBC host’s eight-part series explores what the prosecution of American fascists in the WW II era can teach us about accountability for Jan. 6”.  So, I’m hoping that puts all this into perspective.  The article is from Maddow Blog.

As part of the proceedings, federal prosecutors revealed a recording in which Rhodes said just days after the Jan. 6 attack that his “only regret” about that day is that members of his pro-Trump paramilitary group didn’t bring rifles.

In other words, the assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to the Oath Keepers founder, wasn’t quite violent enough.

Part of what makes these developments striking is the seriousness of the details. Prosecutors have alleged that Rhodes and his confederates conspired to use force to stop the peaceful transfer of power. To that end, they not only breached the Capitol, they also stashed a significant number of weapons, including grenades, just outside of D.C. in preparation for an escalated offensive.

Federal law enforcement has also alleged that it believes Oath Keepers members intended to launch a second armed attack intended to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.

But as Rachel noted on last night’s show, there’s also a historical dimension to this: Rhodes’ case is the largest sedition trial in the United States since World War II. Charges like these are incredibly uncommon — Americans rarely try to overthrow their own government — and hard to prove.

That said, as a New York Times report explained, “Because of the nature of the Oath Keepers’ defense — and because of the government’s wealth of evidence — the trial is less likely to focus on disputes over what the group did in the days and weeks leading up to Jan. 6 than it is to hinge on the question of why they did it.”

The White Cat, Pierre Bonnard, 1894

It is difficult for me to understand the thirst for violence, insurrection, and overall destruction of our American Democracy.  It just keeps popping up. There are some already arguing that we’re in a second civil war.   This is from the New York Times: “After Mar-a-Lago Search, Talk of ‘Civil War’ Is Flaring Online.”  How stupid are these people?

Soon after the F.B.I. searched Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida for classified documents, online researchers zeroed in on a worrying trend.

Posts on Twitter that mentioned “civil war” had soared nearly 3,000 percent in just a few hours as Mr. Trump’s supporters blasted the action as a provocation. Similar spikes followed, including on Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Parler, Gab and Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s social media platform. Mentions of the phrase more than doubled on radio programs and podcasts, as measured by Critical Mention, a media-tracking firm.

Posts mentioning “civil war” jumped again a few weeks later, after President Biden branded Mr. Trump and “MAGA Republicans” a threat to “the very foundations of our republic” in a speech on democracy in Philadelphia.

Now experts are bracing for renewed discussions of civil war, as the Nov. 8 midterm elections approach and political talk grows more urgent and heated.

More than a century and a half after the actual Civil War, the deadliest war in U.S. history, “civil war” references have become increasingly commonplace on the right. While in many cases the term is used only loosely — shorthand for the nation’s intensifying partisan divisions — observers note that the phrase, for some, is far more than a metaphor.

Polling, social media studies and a rise in threats suggest that a growing number of Americans are anticipating, or even welcoming, the possibility of sustained political violence, researchers studying extremism say. What was once the subject of serious discussion only on the political periphery has migrated closer to the mainstream.

But while that trend is clear, there is far less agreement among experts about what it means.

Some elements of the far right view it literally: a call for an organized battle for control of the government. Others envision something akin to a drawn-out insurgency, punctuated with eruptions of political violence, such as the attack on the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati field office in August. A third group describes the country as entering a “cold” civil war, manifested by intractable polarization and mistrust, rather than a “hot” war with conflict.

Given the idiots we see coming to politics as Trumpists, I think it’s a literal call to battle.  Let’s not forget the case against the Proud Boys.

These groups go after the military, veterans, and police officers.  This is from Empty Wheel.

While the Oath Keepers, like the Proud Boys, intentionally recruit law enforcement, the Proud Boys have been better at co-opting cops. Around five of the charged Proud Boys were former or still cops when charged. Tarrio had been a formal informant during a prior criminal prosecution. And several other members of the Proud Boys, including Joe Biggs, provided information to the FBI about what they claimed were Antifa.

Biggs described his own relationship with the FBI this way:

By late 2018, Biggs also started to get “cautionary” phone calls from FBI agents located in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach inquiring about what Biggs meant by something politically or culturally provocative he had said on the air or on social media concerning a national issue, political parties, the Proud Boys, Antifa or other groups. Biggs regularly satisfied FBI personnel with his answers. He also stayed in touch with a number of FBI agents in and out of Florida. In late July 2020, an FBI Special Agent out of the Daytona Beach area telephoned Biggs and asked Biggs to meet with him and another FBI agent at a local restaurant. Biggs agreed. Biggs learned after he travelled to the restaurant that the purpose of the meeting was to determine if Biggs could share information about Antifa networks operating in Florida and elsewhere. They wanted to know what Biggs was “seeing on the ground.” Biggs did have information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks in other parts of the United States. He agreed to share the information. The three met for approximately two hours. After the meeting, Biggs stayed in touch with the agent who had called him originally to set up the meeting. He answered follow-up questions in a series of several phone calls over the next few weeks. They spoke often.

This is the same office where an FBI Agent, in August, refused to participate in the arrest of militia-associated men who planned to bring weapons to January 6. The agent then ran to Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, bitching, after his clearance was suspended because he didn’t like the way FBI was running domestic terrorism investigations.

The single FBI informant known to have been present on January 6 appears not to have told his handlers about a meeting he was at the night before where using violence was discussed. And so DOJ has given two members of the Kansas City Proud Boy cell who were with him — Ryan Ashlock and Louis Colon — unbelievably sweet plea deals, I suspect to sustain the rest of the cases against the Proud Boys.

Both Tarrio and Biggs have made specific requests for their own communications with law enforcement — in Tarrio’s case, he claims it is Brady material. That is, they plan to argue they couldn’t be guilty of plotting against the government because they’ve been so chummy with often right wing authoritarian cops in the past.

Notice one of the rogue FBI agents ran to two Republican congressmen.  We haven’t even begun to hear about the complicity of Republican elected officials in the January 6th insurrection, the fake electors scheme, and their relationships to militias and other kook cults.

The Tabby, Henri Rousseau
Original Title: Le Chat Tigre

Let’s dive into the Politico story.  These guys do scare me because think of how many angry white men basically decide to take out innocent women and children when they finally explode.  Elmer’s wife and kids have a right to be frightened.

Bertino, who previously testified to the Jan. 6 select committee, was involved in key conversations and chats with other members of the group, including national chair Enrique Tarrio and other leaders facing seditious conspiracy charges in the weeks before Jan. 6.

Tarrio is set to go on trial in December, along with Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola, who was the first member of the Jan. 6 mob to breach the Capitol when he shattered a Senate-wing window with a police riot shield.

Prosecutors say Tarrio and his allies developed a plan to besiege the Capitol, relying on — and in fact organizing and spurring on — members of the mob to help break through police lines and get inside the Capitol. It was part of an effort that prosecutors say was intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Kelly accepted Bertino’s plea after asking Bertino a series of standard questions to ensure, under oath, that Bertino entered it voluntarily and without being threatened or coerced.

The seditious conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys leaders are the gravest leveled by the Justice Department against any of the more than 850 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Bertino was briefly featured during video testimony aired by the Jan. 6 select committee during its first public hearing in June. He described a surge in Proud Boys membership after then-President Donald Trump urged the group to “stand back and stand by” during a debate against Joe Biden.

“Would you say that Proud Boys numbers increased after the stand back, stand by comment?” an investigator asked.

“Exponentially. I’d say tripled probably,” Bertino replied.

Several leaders of the far-right Oath Keepers, including founder Stewart Rhodes, are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy as well, just down the hall from where Bertino entered his plea. Prosecutors say they spent the weeks after Election Day fomenting an “armed rebellion” against the government and seizing on the opportunity created by the Jan. 6 mob to disrupt the transfer of power.

Head of a Dog, Edouard Manet,1876

These cases are very interesting.  As I said, I’m looking forward to listening to Maddow’s podcast.  I was a history major at university, and I’d never heard this story.  I hope we can get some insight into what happens as we move deeper into holding Trump and his droogies accountable.

Don’t forget!  Trump asked the Supreme Court to intervene in his documents case, which is sitting on Uncle Clarence Thomas’ desk.  What do you want to bet Ginnie’s fingerprints are all over it now?  Is it a Trump stall play?  A Hail Mary? All I know is the Supreme Court and Judge Loose Cannon have gone to the dogs now.

What’s on your reading and blogging list 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

https___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_220605115209-01-january-6-committee-file-restricted

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.