Monday Reads: The Boys from Brazil and Florida

The Sunny Orange Grove, Constancia Nery

Good Day Sky Dancers!

The United States Policy in South and Central American countries haunts us again. Two distinct events point to the actions of the past.  We’ve never really been held to account for “the Banana Wars” of the early 20th Century, US Imperialism in the 1890s to the 1930s, and the resulting territories we took after the Spanish-American War.

Don’t even get me started on states like Texas, California, etc., that were clearly not US entities until they were taken by war. Our failed drug policies and the egregious, illegal actions of the Reagan administration poisoned the well.

We were active in ‘regime’ change by continuing to back right-wing juntas against leftist regimes like those of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and Niagara.  The JFK and LBJ administrations backed actions that led to the 1964 Brazilian Coup. This weekend’s news resembles a lot of our activity in Brazil then.  Vincent Bevins is a scholar on the US policy of toppling regimes. He considers the topping of João Goulart In Brazil to be a significant victory for the U.S. during the Cold War. It established a military dictatorship in Brazil. Brazil is the fifth most populous nation in the world. Bevins writes in his 2020 book The Jakarta  Method that this action “played a crucial role in pushing the rest of South America into the pro-Washington, anticommunist group of nations.”

He also had an Op-Ed published in the New York Times in May 2020 expressing the opinion that “The ‘Liberal World Order’ Was Built With Blood. As the United States reckons with its decline, it should understand where its power came from in the first place.” 

If you read the commentary coming out of New York and Washington, or speak with elites in Western Europe, it’s easy to find people panicking about the loss of “American leadership.” From Joe Biden’s campaign pledges to trans-Atlantic think tanks, exhortations to revive American supremacy and contain China are everywhere.

They have reason to be worried: This moment is shaking the foundations of America’s hegemony. It is painfully clear that the United States is ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which does not play to American strengths (we can’t shoot it, after all). President Trump has for years been dismissing allies and antagonizing international institutions. And China is seemingly laying the groundwork for its arrival as a great power. American officials are now talking openly about a “new Cold War” to confront Beijing, and China now seems such a threat that Hal Brands of the American Enterprise Institute wonders whether the United States should get back in the business of covertly toppling unfriendly governments.

It’s unsurprising that establishment pundits, American policymakers and their allies would be alarmed about American decline. The United States and Western Europe have been the winners of the process that created this globalized world, the main beneficiaries of Washington’s triumph at the end of the Cold War. But a lot of people feel very differently.

Morro da favela, Tarsila do Amaral, 1924

I remember the Reagan years as a continuation of regime change policies, which meant installing right-wing and military dictatorships in places like Nicaragua as long as they weren’t communist and accepted American Economic expansion. The Reagan administration’s actions were against the law established to stop the Banana Wars.  Once again, we have U.S. interests stoking a junta in Brazil.  From the BBC: “How Trump’s allies stoked Brazil Congress attack.”

The scenes in Brasilia looked eerily similar to events at the US Capitol on 6 January two years ago – and there are deeper connections as well.

“The whole thing smells,” said a guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast, one day after the first round of voting in the Brazilian election in October last year.

The race was heading towards a run-off and the final result was not even close to being known. Yet Mr Bannon, as he had been doing for weeks, spread baseless rumours about election fraud.

Across several episodes of his podcast and in social media posts, he and his guests stoked up allegations of a “stolen election” and shadowy forces. He promoted the hashtag #BrazilianSpring, and continued to encourage opposition even after Mr Bolsonaro himself appeared to accept the results.

Mr Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was just one of several key allies of Donald Trump who followed the same strategy used to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 US presidential election.

And like what happened in Washington on 6 January 2021, those false reports and unproven rumours helped fuel a mob that smashed windows and stormed government buildings in an attempt to further their cause.

The day before the Capitol riot, Mr Bannon told his podcast listeners: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” He has been sentenced to four months in prison for refusing to comply with an order to testify in front of a Congressional committee that investigated the attack but is free pending an appeal.

Along with other prominent Trump advisers who spread fraud rumours, Mr Bannon was unrepentant on Sunday, even as footage emerged of widespread destruction in Brazil.

“Lula stole the Election… Brazilians know this,” he wrote repeatedly on the social media site Gettr. He called the people who stormed the buildings “Freedom Fighters”.

Ali Alexander, a fringe activist who emerged after the 2020 election as one of the leaders of the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement, encouraged the crowds, writing “Do whatever is necessary!” and claiming to have contacts inside the country.

La rentrée, Anita Malfatti, 1927

The hubris of Trump allies is unbelievable. Bolsanaro is sitting in Florida. Terrence McCoy writes this in today’s Washington Post. How Bolsonaro’s rhetoric — then his silence — stoked Brazil assault”

For more than four years, the most fundamental of questions has loomed over Brazil: Would its young democracy survive the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro?

Latin America’s largest country embarked on what amounted to a test of its democratic strength in 2018 when it elected the former army captain who openly lamented the collapse of the country’s military dictatorship, once threatened to reinstall its rule on the first day of his presidency and sought at every turn to sow doubt in elections.

During his time in office, he did little to soften his bellicosity. He warned of a government “rupture” like the military coup of 1964. If he were to lose his reelection bid, he said, it could only be through fraud, and Brazil would “have worse problems” than the United States did on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters assaulted the U.S. Capitol.

His son Eduardo, a federal congressman, once warned that “there will arrive a moment when the situation will be the same as it was in the 1960s.”

For many Brazilians, Sunday afternoon was the arrival of such a moment, when Bolsonaro supporters laid siege to the three pillars of the federal government — the presidential palace, the supreme court and the congress — bringing democracy here to a sudden standstill. The scenes of smoke and violence were at once both shocking and predictable, the tragic realization of a prophecy Bolsonaro has repeatedly uttered to mobilize his base and terrify his adversaries.

If I’m removed from power, he often hinted, violence will follow.

The Guardian has this to say. “‘Trump of the tropics’ Bolsonaro and backers follow his friend Donald’s playbook once again. The links between Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump stretch back to well before the violence in Brasilia. Now, writes World Affairs Editor Kim Sengupta, the supporters of Brazil’s former leader are following their American counterparts with an attack on democracy.”

Bolsanaro remains out of the country having broken precedent by refusing to attend his successor’s inauguration. Some reports claimed that he had fled to escape possible criminal charges over a range of alleged offences while in power. The former president turned up in Florida where, according to reports, he is due to meet Donald Trump at his home, Mar-a-Lago.

There have been immediate and predictable comparisons between what happened in Brasilia and the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters two years ago. The images from both assaults were similar: flag-draped intruders lounging on office chairs, ransacking and stealing property, assaulting guards.

Both sets of protesters were following authoritarian populist leaders who claimed they had been victims of electoral fraud. In Brazil, as in the US, the discontent has been fuelled by conspiracy theories in the social media.

As the Brasilia attack unfolded, well-known Trump supporters egged on the rioters, with Steve Bannon lauding them as “freedom fighters” who knew “criminal, atheistic, Marxist Lula stole the election”. Ali Alexander, a fringe activist who became prominent in Trump’s “ stop the steal” movement, exhorted: “Do whatever is necessary.”

The links between the camps of Trump and Bolsanaro, who revelled in his “Trump of the Tropics” moniker, began long before the Brazilian election and its aftermath, with Bannon one of the main conduits.

During the Brazilian election campaign, Trump wrote on his social platform: “President Jair Bolsonaro and I have become great friends over the past few years for the people of the United States… He is a wonderful man and has my complete and total endorsement

Members of the Democratic Party are asking President Biden to expel Bolsanaro from the US.

 

President Biden is headed to the border to signal his intention to ensure his immigration and asylum initiatives are fully implemented. Once again, Republicans are trying to equate the Asylum process with crossing the border illegally.  Notice Caveman Kevin’s latest crusade.  This is from Politico. “Migration issues cast long shadow over Biden’s visit to ‘3 Amigos’ summit.  U.S.-Mexico border tension looms over trade, environment and other issues on the table for Biden, AMLO and Trudeau.”

Joe Biden has no shortage of topics to tackle in his first presidential trip to Mexico.

There’s the major shift in border policy that came just days before the trip. There’s the arrest of an alleged drug trafficker in Mexico long sought by U.S. authorities. And there’s the border itself, which Biden visited for the first time as president when he made a stop in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday evening.

All that casts a shadow over the president, who arrived in Mexico City hours after the El Paso swing. Biden’s Monday and Tuesday schedule at the North American Leaders’ Summit is packed: One-on-one discussions, trilateral meetings, working lunches, dinners and, of course, photo opportunities.

“We have a big agenda that ranges from the climate crisis to economic development and other issues. But one important part of that agenda is strengthening our border between our nations,” Biden said during a speech Thursday on border security at the White House.

Biden will be the first U.S. president to visit Mexico since Barack Obama in 2014. For decades, presidents traditionally made their first overseas trip to either Mexico or Canada as a sign of solidarity among the trio of leaders. Often, the “Three Amigos” would pledge to be a (mostly) unified North American front. But that informal tradition ended in 2017 when President Donald Trump opted to make Saudi Arabia his first international destination. And then, with the globe in the grasp of the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden delayed his first foreign trip for nearly five months before traveling to the United Kingdom to meet with G-7 leaders in June 2021.

Since then, Biden has crisscrossed the globe to several world summits. But he had yet to make the trip south of the border. And while Biden has met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeatedly, he’s spent far less time with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which has only added to the feeling in Latin America of being snubbed by the United States.

That has added another layer of pressure to this week’s long-awaited gathering, as the three leaders prepare to discuss key issues including border security, trade and economic development, and climate and energy.

The Biden administration rolled out several new policies to curb illegal migration last week, some of which rely on Mexico’s cooperation. Immigration will be atop the president’s agenda, but stopping the flow of fentanyl from Mexico will also be a priority as the drug and other lab-produced synthetic opioids now drive an overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen. It’s a pressure point that Biden may be forced to address even as drug control advocates and experts say an anti-drug policy that relies on tighter border security is far from certain to work.

Adriana Varejão, Untitled, 1985

It’s easier for Republicans to scream lies and conspiracy theories than actually engage in policy. This is why they cannot govern. Zachary B. Wolf writes this for CNN.  “The speaker fight is over but the chaos is just beginning.”

This week Republicans must try to coalesce around the concessions McCarthy made and pass a package of rules to govern the House for the next two years. It’s an open question whether the party’s moderates, such as they are, will all buy in to the cut, cut, cut mentality McCarthy has agreed to.

Unlike the Senate, which has standing rules that carry over from year to year, the House adopts a new rules package for each Congress. This year, in particular, as they take over from Democratic control, Republicans want to make their mark in the rules package. The Rules Committee has posted a text and summary of the proposed rule changes.

Some of the new elements include things that amount to framing – replacing “pay as you go” language for budget matters with “cut as you go.”

Other elements could have more concrete consequences, like forcing specific votes to raise the debt ceiling and enacting spending cuts before the debt ceiling is raised. That debate will come to a head in the coming months as the government runs out of authority to add to the $31 trillion national debt.

On Sunday, Republicans all said they would try to avoid cutting defense and Medicare spending, which leaves a relatively small portion of the federal budget – think the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory arms of the government – from which to carve out spending.

The other way, besides spending cuts, for the government to cut down on deficit spending, is to raise taxes. The proposed rules reinstate a requirement that a House supermajority of 3/5, rather than a simple majority, sign off on any tax increases.

Read more at the link.  The last read I offer today is news from Georgia. This is reported by Holly Bailey at the Washington Post. “Georgia grand jury investigating Trump election interference completes probe.”

An Atlanta-area grand jury investigating efforts by former president Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia has concluded its investigation, according to the judge overseeing the panel.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney issued a court order Monday morning saying the special grand jury had completed a final report on its investigation. He said the report was accepted by a majority of the county’s judicial bench and that the 26-member panel was being officially dissolved.

The grand jury’s recommendations were not made public, including whether criminal charges should be filed. McBurney scheduled a Jan. 24 hearing to determine whether to release the report. His order noted the grand jury had “voted to recommend that its report be published” and appeared to make its release “mandatory” — though the judge said he would hear “argument” on the issue.

Fingers Crossed.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Good Day, Sky Dancers!!

I’m not a fan of royalty, but it does seem significant that Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain may be dying. She took the throne on February 6, 1952 and is the “longest reigning monarch in world history.”  She is 96 years old. The queen is in Scotland and she did not return to London for the appointment of the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. Her family members are either with her at Balmoral Castle or on their way there.

UPDATE: Queen Elizabeth II has died.

The Washington Post: Queen Elizabeth II under medical supervision as family gathers at Balmoral.

Queen Elizabeth II is under medical care at Balmoral Castle after doctors became concerned about her health, Buckingham Palace said Thursday. Her family is traveling to Scotland to be by her side.

“Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral,” the palace statement said.

All of the queen’s children, including her heir, Prince Charles, were either at her bedside or en route. The others are Edward, Andrew and Anne, who was already in Scotland for some events there this week.

Prince Harry and Meghan are en route to Balmoral, a spokesperson for the couple said. Prince William was also on his way to Balmoral. His wife, Catherine, remained in Windsor as their children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, are on their first full day at their new school, Kensington Palace said.

The statement comes a day after Buckingham Palace said Wednesday that the queen, who is 96, had canceled a virtual meeting with the Privy Council on doctor’s advice to rest.

The statements may have been vague on details, but the fact that they were issued at all speaks volumes. The palace typically provides minimal information about the queen’s health.

Also notable: The BBC has suspended programming for today in order to provide updates on the queen’s health.

This morning the deaths of two renowned journalists were announced.

CNN announced: CNN anchor Bernard Shaw dead at 82.

Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw died Wednesday of pneumonia unrelated to Covid-19, Shaw’s family announced in a statement Thursday. Shaw was 82.

Shaw was CNN’s first chief anchor and was with the network when it launched on June 1, 1980. He retired from CNN after more than 20 years on February 28, 2001.

During his storied career, Shaw reported on some of the biggest stories of that time — including the student revolt in Tiananmen Square in May 1989, the First Gulf war live from Baghdad in 1991, and the 2000 presidential election.

“CNN’s beloved anchor and colleague, Bernard Shaw, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Chris Licht, CNN.

Chairman and CEO, said in a statement Thursday. “He was our lead anchor for the next twenty years from anchoring coverage of presidential elections to his iconic coverage of the First Gulf War live from Baghdad in 1991. Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context about historic events as recently as last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”

And from NPR: Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, dies at 71.

Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, died on Wednesday of lung cancer. She was 71 years old.

At NPR, Garrels was known as a passionate reporter willing to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice if the story required it. She was also a warm and generous friend to many.

When she arrived at NPR in 1988, she already had a lot of experience under her belt — including 10 years in television news at ABC, where she was bureau chief in both Moscow and Central America.

Garrels made a strong impression on NPR’s Deborah Amos. “She was this glamorous television reporter who came here,” she said. “She didn’t dress like the rest of us in the beginning. And she’d has this long and remarkable career before she landed here … She was always braver than me, and I always understood that she was braver than me.”

That bravery led Garrels into many war zones. And when it came to covering a war, she was there at the beginning, in the middle of the battle, and at the peace table. She was the kind of reporter who would drive alone across a war zone if that’s what it took to get the story.

Read more at NPR.

This morning Steve Bannon surrendered to prosecutors in New York on state charges similar to the federal ones for which Trump pardoned him.

The Washington Post: Bannon charged with fraud, money laundering, conspiracy in ‘We Build the Wall.’

Stephen K. Bannon has been charged with money laundering, fraud and conspiracy in connection with the “We Build the Wall” fundraising scheme, for which he received a federal pardon during Donald Trump’s final days in the White House.

Bannon, 68, was convicted this summer of contempt of Congress and is awaiting sentencing in that matter. He surrendered to prosecutors in Manhattan Thursday morning on the charges outlined in a newly unsealed state indictment and is expected to appear in court in the afternoon.

Arriving at the Manhattan district attorney’s office in a black SUV shortly after 9 a.m., Bannon stopped to shake hands with his attorneys before speaking briefly to a horde of journalists. In his remarks, he echoed past declarations that he was being prosecuted for political reasons, including in an effort to influence November’s upcoming midterm congressional elections.

“This is all about 60 days until the day!” he said, before being escorted into the building.

Bannon’s case will be handled in New York Supreme Court by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

In a statement issued after the indictment was unsealed, Bragg said Bannon “acted as the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country – including hundreds of Manhattan residents.”

Bannon “took advantage of his donors’ political views to secure millions of dollars which he then misappropriated,” James said in her own prepared remarks. “Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends.”

In August 2020, Bannon was yanked off a yacht by law enforcement agents to face his indictment in the federal “We Build the Wall” case. In that indictment, he was accused of personally pocketing $1 million from “We Build the Wall,” a Trump-aligned cash collection drive that Bannon helped to orchestrate starting in December 2018.

I was hoping for news from the DOJ on whether they will appeal the insane decision by Judge Aileen Cannon to appoint a special master to examine the government documents that Trump stole. But the only news I’ve seen is that they are proposing to unseal more of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, perhaps to use in their response to Judge Cannon.

There is plenty more Trump legal news though:

From ABC News:

A federal grand jury investigating the activities leading up the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the push by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the result of the 2020 election has expanded its probe to include seeking information about Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News.

The interest in the fundraising arm came to light as part of grand jury subpoenas seeking documents, records and testimony from potential witnesses, the sources said.

The subpoenas, sent to several individuals in recent weeks, are specifically seeking to understand the timeline of Save America’s formation, the organization’s fundraising activities, and how money is both received and spent by the Trump-aligned PAC….

Trump and his allies have consistently pushed supporters to donate to the PAC, often using false claims about the 2020 election and soliciting donations to rebuke the multiple investigations into the former president, his business dealings, and his actions on Jan. 6.

After the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month, Save America PAC sent out a fundraising email in which Trump urged supporters to “rush in a donation IMMEDIATELY to publicly stand with me against this NEVERENDING WITCH HUNT.”

More from The New York Times: Trump’s Post-Election Fund-Raising Comes Under Scrutiny by Justice Dept.

A federal grand jury in Washington is examining the formation of — and spending by — a PAC created by Donald J. Trump after his loss in the 2020 election as he was raising millions of dollars by baselessly asserting that the results had been marred by widespread voting fraud.

According to subpoenas issued by the grand jury, the contents of which were described to The New York Times, the Justice Department is interested in the inner workings of Save America PAC, Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising vehicle after the election. Several similar subpoenas were sent on Wednesday to junior and midlevel aides who worked in the White House and for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Among the roughly half-dozen current and former Trump aides in the White House and the 2020 presidential campaign who are said to have received subpoenas this week were Beau Harrison, an aide to Mr. Trump in the White House and in his post-presidency, and William S. Russell, who similarly worked in the West Wing and now for Mr. Trump’s personal office, according to several people familiar with the events….

The fact that federal prosecutors are seeking information about Save America PAC is a significant new turn in an already sprawling investigation of the roles that Mr. Trump and some of his allies played in trying to overturn the election, an array of efforts that culminated with the violent mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Another Trump aide was subpoenaed in connection with planning for the January 6 coup attempt.

From the article:

Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to a personal aide to former President Donald J. Trump as part of the investigation into the events leading up to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, people familiar with the matter said.

The move suggests that investigators have expanded the pool of people from whom they are seeking information in the wide-ranging criminal investigation into efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to reverse his loss in the 2020 election and that agents are reaching into the former president’s direct orbit.

This week, F.B.I. agents in Florida tried to approach William S. Russell, a 31-year-old aide to Mr. Trump who served as a special assistant and the deputy director of presidential advance operations in the White House. He continued to work for Mr. Trump as a personal aide after he left office, one of a small group of officials who did so.

It was not immediately clear what the F.B.I. agents wanted from Mr. Russell; people familiar with the Justice Department’s inquiry said he has not yet been interviewed. But a person with knowledge of the F.B.I.’s interest said that it related to the grand jury investigation into events that led to the Capitol attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters.

That investigation is said to have focused extensively on the attempts by some of Mr. Trump’s advisers and lawyers to create slates of fake electors from swing states. Mr. Trump and his allies wanted Vice President Mike Pence to block or delay certification of the Electoral College results during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 to allow consideration of Trump electors whose votes could have changed the outcome.

At Rolling Stone, Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng offer a possible motive for at least some of Trump’s document pilfering: Trump Told White House Team He Needed to Protect ‘Russiagate’ Documents.

IN HIS FINAL days in the White House, Donald Trump told top advisers he needed to preserve certain Russia-related documents to keep his enemies from destroying them.

The documents related to the federal investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion with Trump’s campaign. At the end of his presidency, Trump and his team pushed to declassify these so-called “Russiagate” documents, believing they would expose a “Deep State” plot against him.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the situation and another source briefed on the matter, Trump told several people working in and outside the White House that he was concerned Joe Biden’s incoming administration — or the “Deep State” — would supposedly “shred,” bury, or destroy “the evidence” that Trump was somehow wronged.

Trump’s concern about preserving the Russia-related material is newly relevant after an FBI search turned up a trove of government documents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

Since the search, Trump has refused to say which classified government papers and top-secret documents he had at Mar-a-Lago and what was the FBI had seized. (Trump considers the documents “mine” and has directed his lawyers to make that widely-panned argument in court.) The feds have publicly released little about the search and its results.It’s unclear if any of the materials in Trump’s document trove are related to Russia or the election interference investigation. A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

I have a few more articles to share, but I’ll do it in the comment thread. Sorry this post is so late; my internet keeps going in and out.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Reading Sociology, by Kurt Solmssen

Reading Sociology, by Kurt Solmssen

Good Morning!!

I know this isn’t breaking news to any Sky Dancers, but it’s still the best news in a long time. Steve Bannon has been indicted for contempt of Congress. More good news: it appears that Merrick Garland actually is taking the insurrection seriously. From the DOJ statement issued yesterday:

Stephen K. Bannon was indicted today by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress stemming from his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Bannon, 67, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. An arraignment date has not yet been set in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry.

A Justice Department spokesman said Mr. Bannon was expected to turn himself in to authorities on Monday, and make his first appearance in Federal District Court in Washington later that day.

A lawyer for Mr. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies as the House seeks to develop a fuller picture of the actions of the former president and his aides and advisers before and during the attack on the Capitol.

At a time of deep political polarization, the Biden Justice Department now finds itself prosecuting a top adviser to the previous president of another party in relation to an extraordinary attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters on a fundamental element of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power….

After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and a person familiar with the deliberations said they received the full support of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

White cat at an open window’, 1855 - Jacobus van Looy

White cat at an open window’, 1855 – Jacobus van Looy

The indictment of Bannon serves as a warning to other Trump goons who have refused to testify before the House January 6 committee.

The charges against Mr. Bannon come as the committee is considering criminal contempt referrals against two other allies of Mr. Trump who have refused to comply with its subpoenas: Mr. Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who participated in Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the select committee or try to stonewall our investigation: No one is above the law,” the leaders of the panel, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”

Earlier they had released another blistering statement after Mr. Meadows failed to appear to answer questions at a scheduled deposition. Mr. Meadows’s lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, informed the committee that his client felt “duty bound” to follow Mr. Trump’s instructions to defy the committee, citing executive privilege.

“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said.

They said Mr. Meadows refused to answer even basic questions, such as whether he was using a private cellphone to communicate on Jan. 6, and the location of his text messages from that day.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The big warning signal Stephen Bannon’s indictment sends.

For more than two years, the Democratic-controlled House struggled to obtain crucial testimony from Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn in its Russia investigation. When he declined to submit to a subpoena, they fought it out in court. By the time an agreement was reached for McGahn to testify this year, Donald Trump was no longer in the White House, and the Russia issue had faded in both import and memories. McGahn said frequently in his testimony that he no longer fully recalled important episodes….

This time, though, the House and its select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob took a very different tack. And it resulted in both a legally and practically significant result.

Rather than try to get a court to make former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon testify, the Jan. 6 committee instead moved quickly to recommend he be held in contempt of Congress. That put the decision into the hands of the Justice Department, which would need to decide whether to file criminal charges. But it would at least be quicker.

On Friday, this approach — an extraordinary gambit necessitated by an extraordinary effort to stymie investigators for most of the past five years — led to an extraordinary outcome: Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury, making him the first person charged with contempt of Congress since 1983.

Black cat on the front porch, by Bonnie Mason

Black cat on the front porch, by Bonnie Mason

While an indictment is significant — it’s actually the second time Bannon has been indicted in fewer than 15 months, with the first earning a preemptive Trump pardon — the move is less punitive than it is precedent-setting.

Other witnesses, including former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are also resisting cooperation with the inquiry, now have to contend with the prospect of potential criminal charges….an indictment is a bell that can’t be un-rung. Those like Meadows might defy the subpoenas in the hope of some kind of accommodation — perhaps allowing them to withhold a certain part of their testimony or documents that have been requested. Bannon’s indictment serves notice that the Jan. 6 committee can threaten to play hardball, with plenty to back it up….

Bannon and Meadows are among the first against whom this could even be deployed. Theirs were among the first batch of subpoenas, along with White House communications aide Dan Scavino and national security aide Kashyap Patel. In other words, plenty of others will now have very important decisions to make. Another big one will be Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who spearheaded the effort to get his department to legitimize Trump’s false stolen-election claims.

Down in Georgia, Fulton County DA may be gearing up to impanel a Grand Jury to investigate Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn election results in the state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fulton DA mulling rarely used special grand jury for Trump probe.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of former President Donald Trump, a move that could aid prosecutors in what’s expected to be a complicated and drawn-out investigative process.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed the development to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the move could be imminent.

Some legal observers viewed the news, first reported by the New York Times, as a sign that the probe is entering a new phase.

“My interpretation is that she’s gotten as far as she can interviewing witnesses and dealing with people who are cooperating by producing documents voluntarily,” former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said of Willis. “She needs the muscle. She needs the subpoena power.”

Deborah Dewit, Birdwatching

Deborah Dewit, Birdwatching

Special grand juries are rarely used but could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the unprecedented step of investigating the conduct of a former president while he was in office.

Her probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November. The veteran prosecutor previously told Gov. Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and other state officials that her office would be probing potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.

The investigation could also include Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who promoted lies about election fraud in a state legislative hearing; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was accused by Raffensperger of urging him to toss mail-in ballots in certain counties. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

In other news, another Congressional committee is investigating efforts by the Trump administration to downplay the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post: Messonnier, Birx detail political interference in last year’s coronavirus response.

The Trump administration repeatedly interfered with efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year to issue warnings and guidance about the evolving coronavirus pandemic, six current and former health officials told congressional investigators in recent interviews.

One of those officials, former CDC senior health expert Nancy Messonnier, warned in a Feb. 25, 2020, news briefing that the virus’s spread in the United States was inevitable — a statement that prompted anger from President Donald Trump and led to the agency’s media appearances being curtailed, according to interview excerpts and other documents released Friday by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.

The new information, including statements from former White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, confirms prior reporting and offers additional detail on how the pandemic response unfolded at the highest levels of government.

“Our intention was certainly to get the public’s attention about the likelihood … that it was going to spread and that we thought that there was a high risk that it would be disruptive,” Messonnier told the panel in an Oct. 8 interview. But her public warning led to private reprimands, including from then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, she said….

Anne Schuchat, who served as the CDC’s No. 2 official before retiring this year, also depicted chaotic efforts to control the government’s messages in those early months, telling the panel that Trump officials scrambled to schedule a briefing several hours after Messonnier’s public warning, even though “there was nothing new to report.”

Cat's Siesta, Ksenia Yarovaya

Cat’s Siesta, Ksenia Yarovaya

Schuchat joined Trump and other officials for a briefing the very next day,where Trump insisted that the pandemic’s spreadto the United States was not “inevitable,” even as Schuchat tried to warn Americans to prepare for “more cases.” [….]

Other officials detailed why the CDC held no news briefings between March 9 and May 29, 2020, in the earliest days of the pandemic, effectively muzzling the scientific agency as the coronavirus spread rapidly across the United States.

Kate Galatas, a senior CDC communications official, told the panel that the White House repeatedly blocked the agency’s media requests, including a planned April 2020 briefing that she said would have addressed the importance of wearing face coverings to contain the virus’s spread.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I’ll end with this article at The New York Times addresses the alarming number of violent threats against public figures we are seeing in U.S.: Menace Enters the Republican Mainstream.

At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man stepped up to a microphone to ask when he could start killing Democrats.

“When do we get to use the guns?” he said as the audience applauded. “How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” The local state representative, a Republican, later called it a “fair” question.

In Ohio, the leading candidate in the Republican primary for Senate blasted out a video urging Republicans to resist the “tyranny” of a federal government that pushed them to wear masks and take F.D.A.-authorized vaccines.

“When the Gestapo show up at your front door,” the candidate, Josh Mandel, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, said in the video in September, “you know what to do.”

And in Congress, violent threats against lawmakers are on track to double this year. Republicans who break party ranks and defy former President Donald J. Trump have come to expect insults, invective and death threats — often stoked by their own colleagues and conservative activists, who have denounced them as traitors.

From congressional offices to community meeting rooms, threats of violence are becoming commonplace among a significant segment of the Republican Party. Ten months after rioters attacked the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, and after four years of a president who often spoke in violent terms about his adversaries, right-wing Republicans are talking more openly and frequently about the use of force as justifiable in opposition to those who dislodged him from power.

Click the link to read the rest.

What do you think? What stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Investigating The January 6 Insurrection and Trump’s Attempted Coup

5-Mädchen-mit-Katze-1956-Otto-Dix

Mädchen mit Katze, 1956, by Otto-Dix

Good Morning!!

There is a great deal of news today about the January 6 Capitol insurrection and the House committee’s investigation of what happened. 

First up: if you didn’t think Trump and his gang were trying to organize a serious coup attempt, you need to read this stunning article at The Washington Post: Ahead of Jan. 6, Willard hotel in downtown D.C. was a Trump team ‘command center’ for effort to deny Biden the presidency

They called it the “command center,” a set of rooms and suites in the posh Willard hotel a block from the White House where some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenants were working day and night with one goal in mind: overturning the results of the 2020 election.

The Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse and the ensuing attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob would draw the world’s attention to the quest to physically block Congress from affirming Joe Biden’s victory. But the activities at the Willard that week add to an emerging picture of a less visible effort, mapped out in memos by a conservative pro-Trump legal scholar and pursued by a team of presidential advisers and lawyers seeking to pull off what they claim was a legal strategy to reinstate Trump for a second term.

They were led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. Former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon was an occasional presence as the effort’s senior political adviser. Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik was there as an investigator. Also present was John Eastman, the scholar, who outlined scenarios for denying Biden the presidency in an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4 with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

They sought to make the case to Pence and ramp up pressure on him to take actions on Jan. 6 that Eastman suggested were within his powers, three people familiar with the operation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Their activities included finding and publicizing alleged evidence of fraud, urging members of state legislatures to challenge Biden’s victory and calling on the Trump-supporting public to press Republican officials in key states.

The effort underscores the extent to which Trump and a handful of true believers were working until the last possible moment to subvert the will of the voters, seeking to pressure Pence to delay or even block certification of the election, leveraging any possible constitutional loophole to test the boundaries of American democracy.

Here’s what these coup-organizers were doing:

Kaate Diehn-Bitt, Peter Paul Diehn with cat

Kaate Diehn-Bitt, Peter Paul Diehn with cat

The three people familiar with the operation described intense work in the days and hours leading up to and even extending beyond 1 p.m. on Jan 6, when Congress convened for the counting of electoral votes.

In those first days in January, from the command center, Trump allies were calling members of Republican-dominated legislatures in swing states that Eastman had spotlighted in his memos, including Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, encouraging them to convene special sessions to investigate fraud and to reassign electoral college votes from Biden to Trump, two of the people familiar with the operation said.

On Jan. 2, Trump, Giuliani and Eastman spoke to 300 state legislators via a conference call meant to arm them with purported evidence of fraud and galvanize them to take action to “decertify” their election results. “You are the real power,” Trump told the state lawmakers, according to a Washington Examiner report. “You’re the ones that are going to make the decision.”

The goal was to convince these state lawmakers to work to decertify the election results in their states and to try to convince Mike Pence to delay certification of the electoral college results to give these insurrectionist legislators time to convince their colleagues to overthrow the election results. And Bannon was involved in these efforts.

Also on Jan. 2, Eastman, Giuliani and Epshteyn appeared on Bannon’s podcast to make the case directly to Bannon’s pro-Trump listeners. They discussed what Bannon called that day’s “all-hands meeting with state . . . legislators that the Trump campaign and also others are putting on.” The comments were first highlighted by Proof.

They argued that state lawmakers were legally bound to reexamine their election results. “It’s the duty of these legislatures to fix this, this egregious conduct, and make sure that we’re not putting in the White House some guy that didn’t get elected,” Eastman said. He contended that Congress could itself decide on Jan. 6 to select Trump electors in contested states, but that “it would certainly be helped immensely if the legislatures in the states looked at what happened in their own states and weigh in.”

I hope you’ll go read the rest. Every sentence in the article is important.

Will Bannon pay a price for his involvement in the coup attempt? That will be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland. Former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman writes: Don’t be too sure about the Justice Department’s ‘duty’ to indict Bannon.

Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland has a far more complicated decision coming his way than people realize.

The Department of Justice, in the person of the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, has received a referral from the House of Representatives to bring criminal contempt charges against Stephen K. Bannon, who has refused to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.

Two Cats, Franz Marc

Two Cats, by Franz Marc

The righteousness of the referral is not in doubt. There is every reason to think Bannon has important first-hand information about the planning of the Capitol attack. After all, he crowed the night before on his podcast: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow…. Strap in.”

In addition, as the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), emphasized Tuesday, there is strong reason to think Bannon knows if and how Trump was “personally involved” in the Jan. 6 attack. No matter is more important for Congress to probe or for the American public to understand.

As for Bannon’s thumbing his nose at a subpoena, it could not be a more flagrant or a more contemptuous violation of the law.

Enforcing the subpoena “should be a slam dunk,” Littman writes, “But it isn’t.” According to Littman, there are several Office of Legal Counsel memos that will impact Garland’s actions. One decision is that the DOJ is not required to enforce subpoenas on members of the executive branch–the AG makes the decision. Other OLC memos address the issue of White House officials and executive privilege. I’m not sure I understand this, because Bannon was not a White House official when all this was happening–even when he was in the White House, he was only a political adviser. Furthermore, Trump is no longer president and how can he invoke executive privilege over planning for a coup? Littman writes:

There is a way for Garland to square the circle. The Office of Legal Counsel’s memo that has precluded pursuit of criminal contempt charges was based on cases in which the department issued legal opinions that the assertions of privilege were proper.

Bannon’s suggestion that the subpoenaed documents and communications are properly covered by executive privilege is spurious at best. First, there’s the fact that Trump hasn’t actually asserted the privilege. On top of that, the select committee’s subpoena involves events that happened years after Bannon left the executive branch; it’s ridiculous to say the relevant testimony and documents must be kept secret to ensure that presidents can freely do the country’s business.

Finally, even if Bannon had a sound claim to executive privilege, Congress’ and the public’s need to know the information covered by the subpoena is paramount, and that factor should prevail. (Likewise, public interest trumped Nixon’s claim to privacy in the 1977 Supreme Court case, which was about the disposition of the disgraced president’s papers.)

More January 6 committee news:

CNN: Former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who pushed baseless election fraud claims, expected to testify before January 6 committee.

The House select committee investigating the US Capitol insurrection is planning for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to testify next Friday — teeing him up to be the first Trump administration official to comply with a subpoena for an interview with the panel, two sources familiar with the committee’s inquiry told CNN.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Girl with Cat

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Girl with Cat

Clark’s testimony could be a major step forward for Democrats as they attempt to determine what former President Donald Trump, Republican members of Congress and his advisers did and said behind closed doors about overturning the results of the 2020 election before January 6.

CNN has also learned that Alyssa Farah, former director of strategic communications in the Trump White House and assistant to the president, has voluntarily met with Republicans on the House select committee and provided information in several meetings, according sources familiar with the matter. There are two Republicans on the committee — Vice Chair Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

The panel has been talking to an ever-widening circle of witnesses as part of its sprawling investigation — and testimony from Farah in addition to Clark would give the panel a crucial new level of insight into Trump’s thinking after the election….

After the deadly January 6 insurrection, Farah told CNN that Trump lied to the American people about the 2020 presidential election results and said that he should “seriously consider” resigning from office.

Clark emerged in the last week of 2020 as a central player in Trump’s two-month-long effort to overturn the vote in key states — and as one of the officials who was in direct contact with Trump.

While serving as the acting head of civil cases at the Justice Department at the end of the Trump presidency, Clark floated plans to give Georgia’s legislature and other states backing to undermine the popular vote results. He gave credence to unfounded conspiracy theories of voter fraud, according to documents from the Justice Department, and communicated with Trump about becoming the attorney general, a Senate investigation found this month.

The extent of Clark’s talks with Trump in the days before January 6 aren’t yet publicly known. The committee subpoenaed Clark for testimony and documents last week.

Did Clark decide to testify because he feared being referred for criminal contempt along with Bannon?

Also from CNN: House investigators target the money trail behind January 6 rally.

The House select committee is setting its sights on the financing behind events and people associated with January 6, CNN has learned, including money that funded pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rallies that preceded the attack on the Capitol that day, in an effort to determine whether any election law violations or financial crimes took place.

Franz Marc, Girl with Cat, 1910

Franz Marc, Girl with Cat, 1910

The Democratic-led panel is focused in part on understanding how event organizers and vendors were paid, and how the two rallies were funded, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, including some who have been interviewed by the committee. Investigators also want to know if any funding came from domestic extremists or foreign sources, sources say.

As the committee moves forward with its sweeping probe of January 6, among the many new details CNN has learned is that the committee has divided its work into at least five investigative teams, each with their own color designation.

The ‘green’ team, for example, is tasked with tracking money, including the funding behind the rallies, as well as untangling the complex web of financial ties between rally organizers and entities affiliated with former President Donald Trump or his campaign, according to multiple sources.

Some of the other teams such as the “red” “blue” and “gold” teams are examining everything from the motivation of participants, whether there was coordination between groups, and whether Trump used his executive authority to pressure lawmakers, former Vice President Mike Pence and the Justice Department, according to the sources familiar with the committee’s work.

“As Rep. Liz Cheney said the other night, it’s very likely that Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6 and these money trails can help adduce additional proof of that,” CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen said. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, is vice chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.

I’ll post more interesting links in the comment thread. Have a nice weekend, Sky Dancers!!


Tuesday Reads: The News Is Surreal

ridget Bate Tichenor, Untitled

Bridget Bate Tichenor, Untitled

Good Morning!!

Today the House January 6 Committee will vote to find Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and Trump has of course filed a lawsuit to prevent them getting documents related to his attempted coup. The Washington Post reports:

A House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is moving swiftly Tuesday to hold at least one of Donald Trump’s allies in contempt as the former president is pushing back on the probe in a new lawsuit.

Trump is aggressively trying to block the committee’s work by directing former White House aide Steve Bannon not to answer questions in the probe while also suing the panel to try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents. But lawmakers on the House committee say they will not back down as they gather facts and testimony about the attack involving Trump’s supporters that left dozens of police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

“The former president’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice chairwoman, in a joint statement late Monday.

They added: “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.” [….]

The legal challenge came a day before the panel is scheduled to vote to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance of the committee’s demands for documents and testimony. In a resolution released Monday, and scheduled to be voted out of the panel on Tuesday, the committee asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to rebuff the committee — even as Trump’s lawyer has argued that Bannon should not disclose information because it is protected by the privilege of the former president’s office.

On the Bannon contempt vote:

Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack, the committee said, and Trump has not asserted any such executive privilege claims to the panel itself.

Koga-Harue-Umi-The-Sea, 1929

Koga Harue Umi, The Sea, 1929

“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of January 6th, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the committee wrote in the resolution.

The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the leadup to the insurrection, including reports that he encouraged Trump to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.

Once the committee votes on the Bannon contempt measure, it will go to the full House for a vote and then on to the Justice Department, which would decide whether to prosecute.

Trump has also found time to weigh in on Colin Powell’s death. The Hill: Trump criticizes media for treating Powell ‘beautifully’ in death.

Former President Trump lambasted the media on Tuesday for what he said was too-favorable coverage of former Secretary of State Colin Powell after his death on Monday.

“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump called Powell “a classic RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only.”

“He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!” Trump added.

Classy.

Trump also attacked Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. The Hill: Trump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn’t support him for president in 2024.

Former President Trump blasted Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Monday after the senator said in an interview he would not vote for the real estate mogul if he ran for president again in 2024.

Cassidy during an interview that aired Sunday on “Axios on HBO” said that he did not believe Trump would be the GOP presidential nominee again.

“President Trump is the first president, in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning,” Cassidy told Axios’s Mike Allen….

In a statement on Monday, Trump called Cassidy a “RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only,” and reiterated a notion he had hoisted on other Republicans that Cassidy had “begged” for his endorsement in 2020 “and used it all over the place to win re-election.”

Eugenio-Granell-El-vuelo-nocturno-del-pajaro-Pi-The-Pi-Birds-Night-Flight

Eugenio Granell The Pi Birds Night Flight

“Now, Wacky Bill Cassidy can’t walk down the street in Louisiana, a State I won by almost 20 points,” the Trump statement read. “He could not even be elected dog catcher today, the great people curse him.”

Trump did defeat President Biden by nearly 20 points in 2020 in Louisiana, winning about 58.5 percent of the vote. Cassidy did even better, winning 59.3 percent of the vote.

“Wacky Bill is a totally ineffective Senator, but Louisiana does have a great Senator in John Kennedy,” Trump said, referring to the state’s other GOP senator, whom he endorsed over the summer soon after Kennedy indicated he would run for reelection.

Cassidy was among the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, though Trump was ultimately acquitted after leaving office later that month.

It’s still very difficult for me to believe that this moron was actually president.

According to historians Thomas Lecaque and J.L. Tomlin at The Bulwark, Bannon is setting the stage for another insurrection: Steve Bannon Out in the Open. The erstwhile Trump adviser is refusing to talk to the Jan. 6 committee, but most of his energetic anti-democratic activities are in plain sight.

…Bannon’s troubling activities did not stop after January 6. Far from it. He is still out in the streets, at rallies, on conference calls, and on his podcast trumpeting it to the heavens: The insurrection isn’t over, it’s only just begun.

On September 22, the day before the committee issued its subpoena, Bannon more or less confirmed his involvement with January 6th. He has continued to push the idea that the Biden administration is illegitimate—“We told you from the very beginning, just expose it, just expose it, never back down, never give up and this thing will implode”—and said that he wanted to help “kill this [Biden] administration in the crib.”

Bannon is neither hiding nor defensively trying to justify his past actions. Rather, he is continuing to push the Big Lie and all of its permutations, tying together a web of far-right ideas and allies. Like most good propagandists, he knows that the veil between fact and belief is very thin in a highly partisan political environment. What pushes an overt lie into semi-gospel is sometimes merely it’s repetition. Bannon’s podcast, “War Room,” continues to promote conspiracy theories about the 2020 election—the day after his subpoena running a segment titled “50k Illegal Ballots in One County Alone.” His guests have included Trumpist members of Congress, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene; conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Lindell; anti-vaxers; and other subpoenaed Trump administration figures. Topics run the gamut from the border to the debt ceiling to “how schools are indoctrinating kids” to “the battle of Lepanto” (sure to appeal to far-right Crusade-cosplaying insurrectionists and mass murderers alike). Perhaps most provokingly given his subpoena defiance, an episode on October 13 was entitled “The Continued Search for the Truth of January 6th.”

f Bannon were only a podcaster, were only pushing his ideas on one of the many far-right channels that have popped up in the last half-decade, that would be bad enough. But Bannon is incredibly active in person as well—a natural organizer and demagogue. It’s worth taking a look at just three of the events at which he has recently spoken.

Read all the details at the link.

Skunder-Boghossian-Night-Flight-of-Dread-and-Delight

Skunder Boghossian, Night Flight of Dread and Delight

At the Washington Post, authoritarianism expert Brian Klaas wrote about the history of election audits: Opinion: Republican ‘election audits’ have been used before — by dictators.

Donald Trump continues to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election, and his supporters in the Republican Party are continuing with kangaroo “audits” in swing states that Trump lost. For Americans, this is a bizarre sideshow. But for those who have had the misfortune of living in an authoritarian country, the GOP’s “audit” charade follows an all-too-familiar script.

Five years ago, Gambia’s dictator unexpectedly lost an election. Yahya Jammeh, who had pledged to rule that little sliver of West Africa for “1 billion years,” had to face facts. His people had rejected him. His opponent had won. But then he had an idea. Perhaps he could stay in power if he performed a careful “audit” of the election results.

Jammeh alleged widespread fraud without evidence to support it. He submitted a formal petition, saying that the electoral commission had “failed to properly collate the results.” He refused to leave power. Similar tactics have recently been tried elsewhere, from Guyana to Zambia.

Dictators around the world know how it’s done. Never accept defeat. Fight the results, no matter what the evidence says. After all, the electoral commissioner in these countries is often a pliant crony from the same party who might cave to the pressure. (I once interviewed a senior election official in Madagascar who opened an envelope hand-delivered to her home address. Instead of a note, it contained three bullets).

If despots lose power despite their bluster and threats, they are always sure to continue alleging fraud to delegitimize their successor in the eyes of their supporters. It’s a final poisoned parting gift, one last opportunity to damage and divide the country.

Trump’s Republican Party seems to have been taking notes.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

TRIGGER WARNING I’m going to end with a surreal story about violence against women. You’ve probably heard about this horrific case, but its even worse than first reported. AP via Yahoo News: Train riders held up phones as woman was raped, police say.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man charged with raping a woman on a commuter train just outside of Philadelphia harassed her for more than 40 minutes while multiple people held up their phones to seemingly record the assault without intervening, authorities said.

More than two dozen train stops passed as the man harassed, groped and eventually raped the woman, the police chief for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said at a news conference Monday.

Police do not believe a single witness on the train dialed 911. They are investigating whether some bystanders filmed the assault.

Both the man and woman got on the train at the same stop Wednesday night in North Philadelphia. Officers pulled the man off of the woman at the last stop. They responded within about three minutes of a 911 call from a transportation authority employee, authorities said.

“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said at the news conference.

Arrest records show Fiston Ngoy, 35, was charged with rape and related offenses.

The affidavit of arrest for Ngoy detailed times of the assault, including that during those 40 minutes the woman appears to repeatedly push Ngoy away.

Nestel would not give an approximate number of witnesses and it was unclear from the affidavit how many passengers were present for those 40 minutes. Authorities have not released the surveillance video.

“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” he said.

Police said that anyone who recorded the attack on video could possibly be charged. More details on what happened at the link.

It feels as if this country has gone crazy. As always, this is an open thread.