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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Alex Jones suggested last month on his radio show that “something’s being covered up” at the restaurant that’s been falsely accused in the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory and “it needs to be investigated.” Days later an Alex Jones listener attempted to “self-investigate” Comet Ping Pong and ended up firing his gun inside the restaurant. After the shooting — and after media began reporting that the shooter is a fan of Jones — Jones deleted the YouTube video.

Jones is a radio host who has pushed the conspiracy theories that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon. Jones has also repeatedly accused the Clintons of murder. He has been elevated from the fringes to the mainstream by President-elect Donald Trump, who appeared on his show in December 2015 and praised his “amazing” reputation. Trump adviser Roger Stone is also a regular Jones guest and contributor.

Jones and his Infowars website have promoted the false conspiracy theory dubbed “Pizzagate,” which alleges that top Clinton associates such as campaign chairman John Podesta are trafficking children through the Comet Ping Pong restaurant.

On his November 27 program, Jones spent roughly half an hour pushing Pizzagate conspiracy theories and told his audience that they “have to go investigate it for yourself,” claiming, “Something’s going on. Something’s being covered up. It needs to be investigated.” From that program:

ALEX JONES: Now I want to be clear. Not everybody in the WikiLeaks is involved in this. Clearly. You have to go investigate it for yourself. But I will warn you, this story that’s been the biggest thing on the internet for several weeks, Pizzagate as it’s called, is a rabbit hole that is horrifying to go down…

Let’s go ahead and go to the report, “Pizzagate Is Real.” The question is: How real is it? What is it? Something’s going on. Something’s being covered up. It needs to be investigated. To just call it fake news — these are real WikiLeaks. This is real stuff going on. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 11/27/16

Jones then aired a previously taped video titled “Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What?” During that video, Infowars producer Jon Bowne stated that Clinton allies were “using a code to communicate child sex trafficking as casually as ordering a pizza.” The video then claimed that Comet Ping Pong “may be competing for the lucrative Washington, D.C., pedophile market right out in the open.”

Jones also suggested that he himself would be “getting on a plane” to visit Comet Ping Pong. He stated: “I couldn’t sleep last night and you know, people may look into it. I may take off a week and just only research this and actually go to where these places are and stuff. In fact I’m looking at getting on a plane — it’s just like Bohemian Grove and stuff, I can’t just say something and not see it for myself. They go to these pizza places, there’s like satanic art everywhere.” 

Later in the program, Jones backtracked and said that he “can’t go out there and investigate it myself. We’ve had reporters on that have been there. They say it’s really creepy because — I don’t have the self-control to be around these type of people. So you want us to cover Pizzagate, we have covered it. We are covering it. And all I know is God help us, we’re in the hands of pure evil.”

Days later an Alex Jones fan decided to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory at Comet Ping Pong. On December 4, Edgar Maddison Welch entered the pizzeria and, during his attempt to uncover the supposed sex ring, fired an assault rifle inside while scaring patrons and staff.

Welch also told The New York Times that he listens to Jones, and he reportedly “liked Infowars on Facebook. The FBI said that Welch shared a separate video headlined “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture on YouTube” with a friend. “Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” is the headline Infowars used for a December 1 article — still online — promoting a video from Infowars producer Jon Bowne that also pushes the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

Jones has been scrubbing his Pizzagate content from the Internet following the shooting. The November 27 report that called for people to “investigate” pizzagate was originally uploaded to Jones’ YouTube channel under the headline “Down The #Pizzagate Rabbit Hole – Warning! Soul Sucking Info.”

He has since removed the video. According to the Internet Archive, the “Down The #Pizzagate Rabbit Hole” video was online as of December 6 but “removed by the user” by December 7. A tweet by Jones promoting the video is still online; it captures roughly 10 minutes of the video and links to the removed YouTube page. Non-Jones YouTube accounts have re-uploaded the “Down The #Pizzagate Rabbit Hole – Warning! Soul Sucking Info.” The video is roughly 30 minutes long.

Jones also removed the Jon Bowne video that Jones played during his November 27 program. On November 23, Jones’ YouTube channel posted the video with the headline “Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What?” The video was removed “by the user” shortly after the shootingaccording to the Internet Archive.

Jones posted a December 15 video in which he lied about his prior promotions of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He claimed that he actually said there’s “probably nothing going on there” and his lawyers reviewed his coverage and found that he’s been the “most restrained of all the coverage” in the alternative media.

Jones also said in the recent video that that he warned his staff that Pizzagate was “probably a setup” and that unnamed adversaries are “probably going to shoot that place up or something” and then blame Jones. He then claimed that they were setting him up so they can ban “free speech” and have him “taken off the airwaves.”

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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