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New Study Reveals Startling Economic Profile Of Capitol Rioters

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

More than 200 people are facing federal criminal charges for their alleged roles in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. And according to Washington Post reporter Todd C. Frankel, many of them have something in common: a history of financial problems.

"Nearly 60 percent of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes over the past two decades, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records for 125 defendants with sufficient information to detail their financial histories," Frankel reports. "The group's bankruptcy rate, 18 percent, was nearly twice as high as that of the American public, the Post found. A quarter of them had been sued for money owed to a creditor. And one in five of them faced losing their home at one point, according to court filings."

On January 6, a violent mob of far-right extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in the hope of preventing Congress from certifying the Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. But the certification was only delayed, not prevented. And two weeks later, on January 20, Biden was sworn in as president of the United States — and former Sen. Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president.

Although President Biden and Vice President Harris are centrist Democrats, they are more liberal on economic issues than Trump — who fought aggressively to abolish the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, and favored corporate tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest Americans but did precious little for the United States' working class. And yet, the January 6 insurrectionists were willing to resort to violence in the hope of keeping them out of the White House. Trump ran on a pseudo-populist platform, insisting that he was the working class' greatest friend and ally — and his MAGA base bought into it.

According to Frankel, the "financial problems" of so many January 6 rioters "are revealing because they offer potential clues for understanding why so many Trump supporters — many with professional careers and few with violent criminal histories — were willing to participate in an attack egged on by the president's rhetoric painting him and his supporters as undeserving victims."

Frankel explains, "While no single factor explains why someone decided to join in, experts say, Donald Trump and his brand of grievance politics tapped into something that resonated with the hundreds of people who descended on the Capitol in a historic burst of violence."

The Post discussed its findings with Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a political science professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

"I think what you're finding is more than just economic insecurity, but a deep-seated feeling of precarity about their personal situation," Miller-Idriss told the Post. "And that precarity — combined with a sense of betrayal or anger that someone is taking something away — mobilized a lot of people that day."

Frankel notes that the January 6 rioters include not only people who presently have financial problems, but also, those who did in the past.

"The financial missteps by defendants in the attempted insurrection ranged from small debts of a few thousand dollars more than a decade ago to unpaid tax bills of $400,000 and homes facing foreclosure in recent years," Frankel notes. "Some of these people seemed to have regained their financial footing, but many of them once stood close to the edge."

One such person, according to Frankel, is 50-year-old Jenna Ryan, a Texas-based real estate agent who filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and was still paying off a $37,000 lien for unpaid federal taxes when she was arrested in connection with the January 6 riot. Ryan, who is now facing federal charges, told the Post, "I bought into a lie, and the lie is the lie — and it's embarrassing. I regret everything."

Ryan, Frankel notes, "had nearly lost everything, and the stakes seemed similarly high to her when she came to Washington in early January. She fully believed Trump's false claims that the election was stolen and that he was going to save the country."

The Post also interviewed Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas. Haider-Markel told the Post, "It's hard to ignore, with a Trump presidency, that message that 'the America you knew and loved is going away, and I'm going to protect it.' They feel, at a minimum, that they're under threat."

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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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