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Tag: antifa

Trump Used Secret Terrorism Unit To Harass Lawyers And Journalists At Border

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Taylor Levy couldn't understand why she'd been held for hours by Customs and Border Protection officials when crossing back into El Paso, Texas, after getting dinner with friends in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in January 2019. And she didn't know why she was being questioned by an agent who'd introduced himself as a counterterrorism specialist.

Levy was part of the legal team representing the father of a girl who'd died the previous month in the custody of the Border Patrol, which is part of CBP. "There was so much hate for immigration lawyers at that time," she recalled. "I thought that somebody had put in an anonymous tip that I was a terrorist."

The truth was more troubling. Newly released records show that Levy was swept up as part of a broader than previously known push by the administration of President Donald Trump to use the federal government's expansive powers at the border to stop and question journalists, lawyers and activists.

An email shows agents being instructed to flag lawyers Taylor Levy and Héctor Ruiz coming through U.S. ports of entry, noting "subjects are suspected of providing assistance" to the caravan. Credit: Obtained by ProPublica via Santa Fe Dreamers Project

The records reveal that Levy and attorney Héctor Ruiz were interrogated by members of CBP's secretive Tactical Terrorism Response Team. The lawyers were suspected of "providing assistance" to the migrant caravan that was then the focus of significant attention by the administration and right-wing media. Officials speculated in later reports that immigration lawyers were seeking to profit by moving migrants through Mexico, and that "Antifa" may have been involved.

The records were provided to ProPublica by the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a public interest law firm and advocacy group that received them after filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about the stops of Levy and Ruiz at the border in El Paso.

Following revelations two years ago by NBC 7 San Diego that some journalists and others were targeted for questioning when crossing from Tijuana, Mexico, the Trump administration maintained that the incidents were limited to San Diego and a handful of U.S. citizens. But the new documents prove the operation went further — and raise questions about how many others were targeted.

While the records are heavily redacted, they provide a window into exactly how the targeting worked. They also show that the push was based in part on claims that were simply wrong — for example, that Levy met with members of the caravan in Mexico while they were traveling towards the border.

"This whole thing is COINTELPRO for dummies," said Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, referring to a notorious domestic spying program from decades ago. Tajsar is representing some of the San Diego activists who were stopped. An "intel-gathering apparatus was shared and deployed through a number of different agencies and resulted in a dragnet that ensnared a whole bunch of people."

A page on Levy from a Customs and Border Protection database with a handwritten note made about an officer called to her interrogation. Credit: Obtained by ProPublica via Santa Fe Dreamers Project

Responding to questions from ProPublica, a CBP spokesperson said in a statement: "In response to incidents in November 2018 and January 2019, which included assaults against Border Patrol Agents, CBP identified individuals who may have information relating to the instigators and/or organizers of these attacks. Efforts to gather this type of information are a standard law enforcement practice." The statement does not address the targeting of Levy and Ruiz or what role investigators suspected two lawyers in El Paso of playing in attacks on federal agents that were in San Diego.

The administration of President Joe Biden is continuing to fight several lawsuits filed against the Trump administration over the operation. The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general promised to investigate the allegations in 2019, as the CBP spokesperson noted to ProPublica, but it has not published its findings. The current head of U.S. Border Patrol is a career agent who was in charge of the San Diego sector when agents there were helping lead the surveillance effort.

Neither Levy nor Ruiz were told why they were being questioned. What they were asked about didn't give them many clues. Both were questioned about their activities in Mexico — specifically, if they had been to Tijuana recently. They were questioned about their jobs and educational backgrounds; Ruiz was asked about the funding of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, where they work as an attorney.

Both lawyers also recall being asked about their beliefs. Levy remembers an agent asking her why she worked for a Catholic aid organization if she didn't believe in God, while Ruiz told ProPublica they were asked about their opinions of the Trump administration and the economy. Government notes of their interviews provided as part of the suit don't reference those questions, but they do cite comments from both Levy and Ruiz criticizing Trump's border policies.

Ruiz ultimately agreed to a phone search, despite their concerns about agents reading privileged attorney-client communications, which is exactly what the agents did. The records note the use of WhatsApp to communicate with people described as "foreign national" — Ruiz's clients.

Ruiz didn't tell anyone about their late-night interrogation for weeks after it happened. When they learned the same thing had happened to Levy, and when the NBC 7 story appeared two months later showing that similar episodes in San Diego had been part of a deliberate targeting effort, the El Paso lawyers sought to find out if they had been on the same watchlist. So Ruiz's then-colleague Allegra Love filed a Freedom of Information Act request followed by a lawsuit.

This spring, they finally got a complete-enough set of documents to piece the truth together.

In late November 2018, writing up an interview with a migrant who'd traveled with the "caravan," San Diego-area border agents identified Levy and Ruiz as two of "three attorneys/legal assistants that most likely traveled to meet with the caravan." The redacted notes leave it unclear whether the migrant identified the two by name, or whether agents made the connection on their own. Either way, by the time that email was forwarded to San Diego's Border Intelligence Center, the two were identified as "ASSOCIATED TO THE MIGRANT CARAVAN DEC 2018."

In fact, Levy had not only never met with people in the caravan, colleagues recall she'd vocally criticized the caravan at the time. Ruiz had conducted some legal workshops for caravan migrants weeks before their arrival in Tijuana, when they'd been staying in a soccer stadium in Mexico City. Ruiz and Love told ProPublica they had encouraged migrants with tenuous asylum claims not to attempt to come to the U.S. and didn't have any further involvement with the group.

According to emails obtained in the lawsuit, agents were instructed to flag Levy and Ruiz (as well as three others whose information is redacted) in the system for screening people coming through U.S. ports of entry.

When Ruiz came back to El Paso after a night out in Ciudad Juarez in December, and when Levy returned from that January dinner, the port officer checking their passports saw an alert that they should be interrogated by a member of CBP's Tactical Terrorism Response Team.

The team's stated mission is to stop suspected foreign terrorists from entering the country. But the government has expanded powers at the border that allow it to stop and question civilians entering the U.S. Records produced in an ongoing ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about the unit have shown that its members frequently question American citizens. (CBP did not respond to questions about the role of the terrorism teams.)

What exactly the interrogations of Levy and Ruiz were trying to uncover still isn't clear. Levy and Ruiz both got the impression that they were being accused of "coaching" asylum-seekers to lie to border agents. The newly disclosed records don't include anything about that, at least not in the unredacted text, but they do say that Ruiz "admitted to facilitating the migrant caravan by providing legal guidance free of charge and educate the migrant's with the Asylum process."

The accusation that telling asylum-seekers about how U.S. law works is "facilitating" their entry reflected a broader suspicion that asylum-seekers were trying to subvert U.S. law rather than accessing a legal right. One Border Patrol email from the San Diego side of the targeting operation, obtained in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by NBC 7 and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and shared with ProPublica, referred to crossing the border to claim asylum as exploiting "a loophole."

A Border Patrolintelligence reportfrom El Paso, written several months after Levy and Ruiz were interrogated and included in the newly released documents, cast further aspersions on asylum lawyers. The report states, "Mass migration from South America into the United States is said to be coordinated at some level by non profit organizations who wish to line their pockets with proceeds deriving from migrants transportation fees up to the U.S Mexico border, and ultimately proceeds deriving from the migrants paying for their asylum case lawyers once they have arrived to the United States." It goes on to associate this effort with "other groups such as Antifa."

The report also asserts, inaccurately, that Levy and Ruiz were "seen in Tijuana assisting with the migrant caravan."

Now that the lawyers know more about why they were stopped — and by whom — they are all the more concerned it could happen again. Levy has since moved to California but told ProPublica she fears retaliation for this article.

Ruiz still crosses the border multiple times a week for work. "I'm still super fearful," they told ProPublica. "I don't know if this is the day they're going to detain me again." The caravans and Trump are both gone, but "I'm still doing this work. And I don't know what sort of false accusations they can throw going forward."

Exclusive: Before Jan. 6, FBI Got Information From At Least Four Proud Boys

By Aram Roston WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Among the far-right groups whose members are suspected of planning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are the Proud Boys. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s director told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he “absolutely” wished the agency had penetrated the group beforehand, or knew its plans. “I do not consider what happened on January 6th to be an acceptable result,” Director Christopher Wray said. “We are focused very, very hard on how can we get better sources, better information, better analysis.” The FBI had deeper insight into the ...

Report: Right-Wing Terror Attacks Skyrocketed During 2020

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Analysis published by the Washington Post on Monday shows that in 2020, Donald Trump's last year in the White House, the number of far-right domestic terrorism incidents in the United States hit a 26-year high.

The Post analysis, based on data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that in 2020, there were 73 incidents carried out by extremists on the far right, the most since the center began keeping statistics on domestic terrorism in 1994.

The report also noted a new high in the number of left-wing attacks, but said that attacks from the right were "still the much larger group." Over the last quarter-century, the study shows, right-wing attacks and plots were far more frequent than attacks from the left and caused many more deaths.

The center reported 25 left-wing attacks in 2020.

While in the White House, Trump ignored the threat of right-wing terrorism and spent his time demonizing the movement of left-wing opposition to white supremacy and fascism known as antifa.

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has released and expanded grants from the Department of Homeland Security to state and local law enforcement to investigate and prevent domestic terrorism, funds that had been held up or redirected by Trump's team.

The center released a report on Monday titled The Military, Police, and the Rise of Terrorism in the United States, stating, "The data indicate that U.S. military personnel have been involved in a growing number of domestic terrorist plots and attacks."

After the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, among whom were many active-duty and retired military service members, the report notes:

In response to these developments, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III pledged to intensify the DoD's effort to combat extremism in the military, remarking, "It concerns me to think that anyone wearing the uniform of a soldier, or a sailor, an airman, Marine, or Guardian or Coast Guardsman would espouse these [extremist] sorts of beliefs, let alone act on them. But they do. Some of them still do." Secretary Austin also signed a memo directing commanding officers and supervisors to conduct a one-day "stand-down" to discuss extremism in the ranks with their personnel. In addition, the DoD launched an investigation in January 2021 to determine the extent to which the department and military have implemented policies and procedures that prohibit advocacy and participation related to white supremacist, extremist, and criminal gang activity by active-duty personnel.

Republicans in Congress and conservative commentators have criticized the initiative, saying that those who support conservative politics will be swept up in the campaign.

The conservative movement, however, has tied itself to these extremist views.

The Washington Post analysis says:

Right-wing extremism began gathering fresh momentum after the election of Barack Obama, the nation's first Black president, according to an April 2009 Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment. "Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda," the assessment said.

After Obama took office, it was none other than Trump who became the most prominent face of the "birther" movement, falsely alleging that Obama was not a natural-born American citizen. Embracing the debunked conspiracy theory did not disqualify Trump from seeking and eventually obtaining the Republican presidential nomination.

After taking office, Trump regularly used his platform to play to right-wing extremists, bashing migrants, demonizing Muslims, blaming Asians for the novel coronavirus, and embracing antisemitism.

These actions generated little criticism from his fellow Republicans.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, ignoring law enforcement warnings about the threat from extremist right-wing conspiracy theories, Trump praised QAnon conspiracy theorists.

As he debated Biden in September 2020, Trump told the white supremacist militia group Proud Boys to "stand by."

That same month, Biden was asked whether he condemned aggressive tactics by members of the antifa movement.

"Yes I do — violence no matter who it is," Biden replied.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

How Police Inertia And Cronyism Promoted Proud Boys Violence

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A veteran officer on the Fresno, California, city police force was placed on leave over the weekend when it emerged that he had joined a group of Proud Boys in counterprotesting local citizens who oppose turning over a local theater to an anti-LGBTQ church. But it also turned out that this was nothing new: The officer, a veteran of over a decade named Rick Fitzgerald, had been marching with the hate group for over three years.

It went unnoticed largely because modern police culture, over the past four years, developed an extremely tolerant and often benign approach to dealing with far-right street brawlers like the Proud Boys. As The New York Times explored in depth this weekend, it took their prominent role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol for law enforcement to recognize that these proto-fascist organizations are a public menace, and the involvement of law enforcement officers both in the groups themselves, and in enabling their violence—often by turning a blind eye to it, while charging their victims with crimes—is a serious problem that police agencies around the country must confront.

From the very outset—beginning with their first public event, in April 2017 in Berkeley, California—the Proud Boys' entire brand has revolved around generating extraordinary street violence. Yet even as its track record for extremism mounted with each "free speech" and "pro-Trump" event held in a targeted liberal urban center—particularly in Portland, Oregon, and other West Coast cities—the kid-gloves treatment they received from police forces dealing with them became a documented trend.

In spite of that, the FBI and most police forces, as the Times reports, "had often seen the Proud Boys as they chose to portray themselves, according to more than a half-dozen current and former federal officials: as mere street brawlers who lacked the organization or ambition of typical bureau targets like neo-Nazis, international terrorists and Mexican drug cartels."

"There was a sense that, yes, their ideology is of concern, and, yes, they are known to have committed acts of violence that would be by definition terrorism, but we don't worry about them," Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary for threat prevention in the Department of Homeland Security, told the Times. "The Proud Boys are just the guys-that-drink-too much-after-the-football-game-and-tend-to-get-into-bar-fights type of people — people that never looked organized enough to cause serious national security threats."

Fitzgerald is hardly the first police officer to face scrutiny for involvement with the Proud Boys:

  • A female deputy officer from Clark County, Washington, was fired after posing for a photograph wearing a Proud Boys sweatshirt, as well as appearing in a photo shared on a Proud Boys Twitter account accompanied by her contact information in order to purchase "Proud Boys' Girls" merchandise.
  • A former Connecticut cop admitted in 2019 that he had belonged to a local chapter for eight months, but was told his membership didn't violate department policy; he retired anyway.
  • In Chicago, a three-year veteran named Robert Bakker was caught organizing Proud Boys meetups in online chat rooms by local antifascists; Bakker was particularly active in a Telegram channel titled "Fuck Antifa," where he bragged about working in law enforcement. Bakker denied that he was ever a member and remains on the Chicago Police Department force.

Fitzgerald's involvement was exposed when a Twitter user, @Borwin10, published photos of the officer—wearing a mask, but exposing his tattoos and wearing a "Sheepdog" name tag—at both the weekend's protests over Fresno's historic Tower Theater and at a Sacramento Proud Boys march in November. In another photo, the same man can be seen stealing a rainbow-colored flag from a counterprotester. It also emerged that Fitzgerald was one of eight Fresno officers involved in the 2010 killing of a 23-year-old Fresno State student.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama promptly announced Fitzgerald's suspension. Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer confirmed that the man in the photos is a Fresno police officer.

"As I said in my release yesterday, we take matters such as this very very seriously," Dyer told reporters. "I can tell you as the mayor of this city we will not tolerate any city employee that belongs to or affiliates with — associates with an organization that promotes supremacy, promotes criminal activity or promotes racism."

If local authorities are indeed now taking involvement with the Proud Boys by their police officers seriously, that would mark a significant sea change. There is a long history of city officials dismissing those concerns.

Investigative journalist Will Carless—who last year cowrote for Reveal News a piece exposing how police officers around the United States participate in extremist Facebook pages, and how their departments permit it—observed on Twitter that in the course of reporting that piece, his team had contacted several internal affairs departments about these officers' activities, and "as far as we know, they did nothing."

"After we published our stories, I got calls from several internal affairs departments asking me who the Proud Boys were," Carless added. "Investigating officers told me again and again they weren't concerned about affiliation with the group."

As the Times' law enforcement sources noted, a "blind spot in the culture of law enforcement," even more than the Trump administration's antipathy to any focus on far-right groups, produced this failure. "If the Proud Boys was not a white male chauvinist club but a Black male chauvinist club, I think that, sadly, we would have seen a different policing posture," said Neumann.

"They committed violence in public, used videos of that violence to promote themselves for other rallies and then traveled across the country to engage in violence again," Mike German of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University remarked. "How that didn't attract FBI attention is hard for me to understand."

The cases of the Proud Boys indicted in the Capitol insurrection—particularly Ethan Nordean, one of the group's primary leaders on Jan. 6—provide a clear illustration of how the police's biased handling of the organization helped feed these men's beliefs that their violent tactics had the tacit support of law enforcement and other authorities, as the Times piece explores in detail. Nordean and his cohorts, it notes, had been let off the hook by local police in Portland and Seattle on numerous occasions.

The most notorious of these was a late-June 2018 riot in Portland during which Nordean flattened an antifascist with whom he was brawling, the video of which then went viral, making him a kind of celebrity in far-right circles. Police in fact arrested Nordean that day—but then released him 30 minutes later. He was never charged; instead, prosecutors charged his victim, who suffered a "severe concussion," with assault. The next week, he was named "Proud Boy of the Week" on the group's Facebook pages and made an appearance on Alex Jones' InfoWars broadcast, which he used to recruit new members.

This was part of a consistent and ongoing pattern, particularly with the Portland Police Bureau: Proud Boys would bus in men armed for street combatfrom out of town, sometimes even driving their pickup trucks through the downtown and shooting pedestrians with paintball guns, while police stood by and did nothing. When a man hurled a pipe bombat Black Lives Matter demonstrators last summer and he was identified on social media, police chose not to investigate because no witnesses came forward to place the man there.

This was in fact a concrete far-right strategy that evolved between April 2017 and January 2021. A Washington Post feature about the man who organized a "Cruise for Trump" rally in Portland described in clear detail how this all works: A nonresident of a liberal urban center organizes a protest ostensibly around the right-wing cause du jour, which then attracts a horde of other nonresidents, whose supposed purpose is to come tell people who live in those cities how terrible their politics are—but whose underlying purpose, betrayed by the weapons and defensive gear they bring along with an attitude of eagerness to punch "leftists," is to engage in violence.

The Proud Boys and their cohorts were adept at adopting mainstream right-wing talking points as the ostensible purpose of their rallies. Their earliest events were about "free speech" and defending Donald Trump from leftist critics. Soon enough, the purpose for these events began to vary widely, signaling clearly what had already become obvious to observers: Namely, the designated cause was just a beard for right-wing outsiders to wear while planning street violence in the urban centers they loathed.

  • A May 2018 rally in downtown Seattle was officially a protest endorsing "open carry" firearms laws, after the city had attempted to pass an ordinance disallowing firearms in city parks and other public spaces.
  • A June 2018 rally in Portland—previewed by a vow from a Proud Boys leader to "cleanse the streets" of the city—was organized to protest the city's pro-immigrant "sanctuary city" status. This protest eventually broke down into extraordinary violence by members of the Proud Boys.
  • A November 2018 event in downtown Portland was dubbed "HimToo"—a reference to the anti-sexual-assault #MeToo hashtag, but in this case turned on its head into a rally in favor of men's rights, held shortly after the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in which allegations of sexual assault played a major role.
  • And sometimes, the Patriot Prayer/Proud Boys contingent would simply organize "flash marches" in downtown Portland with no official purpose, other than to create opportunities for violence—as one such rally in October 2018 did.
  • Finally, the marches became causes unto themselves, such as when hundreds of out-of-town Proud Boys gathered in Portland in August 2019 and paraded through the town, sometimes with a full police escort—while more than a dozen counterprotesters were arrested by police.

The Proud Boys themselves never made much of an attempt to disguise their violent intentions on social media, however. Prior to that last 2019 rally, Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs (also currently under indictment for his role in the Jan. 6 attack) openly encouraged would-be participants to embrace the violence.

Biggs urged his Twitter followers: "Get a gun. Get ammo. Get your gun license. Get training. Practice as much as you can and be ready because the left isn't playing anymore and neither should we." He followed that with a "Death to Antifa" meme featuring an image of a corpse in a plastic body bag.

Supporters chimed in with memes depicting ISIS-style beheadings of antifascists with large knives, along with comments expressing their unquenched desire to "exterminate" far-left activists. "I fully expect [an] armed conflict to break out on Aug. 17," one commenter said. "People may die this is the real deal."

Police provided some of the Proud Boys marchers that day with an escort. Towards the end, they turned their attention to antifascist demonstrators in downtown Portland and arrested 13 of them. A September 2020 Proud Boys rally in Portland had essentially the same outcome, though with many fewer demonstrators involved.

Law enforcement's cozy relationship with the Proud Boys now appears over—at least on the official level. Rooting it out of the broader police culture—clearly an important component of the task now facing law enforcement in rooting far-right extremists out of their own ranks in order to adequately combat the violent ideologies behind the Capitol siege—will no doubt prove a much harder hill to climb.

Republicans Conceal Fascist Terror Threat -- By Blaming BLM And Antifa

Republicans rolled out their narrative response to Democrats who were intent to see a law enforcement crackdown on the far-right extremist elements who assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 during Wednesday's hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee on "The Rise of Domestic Terrorism in America." It resembled a team version of the "let's throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" strategy, but beneath it all was a thread: Blame everything on Black Lives Matter and left-wing antifascists.

The presence of right-wing pseudo-journalist Andy Ngo—whose entire body of work has portrayed left-wing and anarchist political protests as terrorism—as the Republicans' only witness was emblematic of the approach. Florida Congressman Greg Steube encapsulated the narrative by showing a video of anti-police brutality protests from the summer and then demanding that the Democratic witnesses label it terrorism.

Ngo's testimony was indistinguishable from one of his talks promoting his "wildly dishonest" book, in which he depicts "antifa" as an existential threat to America. He repeatedly described last summer's 120 day-long string of protests against police brutality in Portland—none of which he actually attended, but instead relied on others' reports for his coverage—as "riots," and insisted that this was terrorism and fundamentally no different than the Jan. 6 insurrection in nature:

For more than 120 recurring days, Antifa carried out nightly riots targeting federal, county, and private property. They developed a riot apparatus that included streams of funding for accommodation, travel, riot gear and weapons. This resulted in murder, hundreds of arson attacks, mass injuries, and mass property destruction. To put that into context for those here today, similar actions that occurred at the Capitol Hill riot on January 6, 2021, were repeated every night months on end in the Pacific Northwest.

This remained his thesis when questioned by Republican committee members, notably Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, one of the key planners of the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" event that became the insurrection. Biggs asked him: "If we don't talk about antifa, is antifa going away?"

Ngo, true to his running thesis, replied that antifa wasn't going away, and actually it's dedicated to the destruction of American democracy and willing to use terrorism to achieve that. He then described multiple instances of the summer protest violence as fitting the legal description of terrorism.

In reality, domestic terrorism is an entirely different phenomenon from protest violence, which has never been included in any terrorism database. Protest violence is usually—as it was last summer—an outcome of interactions between protesters exercising their free speech and police forces using aggressive tactics against them; this summer's protests were acutely so because the police themselves were the primary object of the protests, particularly in Portland.

Terrorism, in contrast, comprises preplanned acts of violence directed at political targets with the intention of striking fear into the larger populace. Both protest violence and terrorism are political in nature, but their core nature is fundamentally very different, particularly when it comes to intent.

Steube, a former Judge Advocate General officer who represents the Sarasota area, either didn't grasp this distinction or was intent on obliterating the committee's ability to do so. After setting out a self-servingly incomplete definition of domestic terrorism, he played a video showing scenes from the summer protests—focusing at one point on a bonfire set by protesters in Portland that in fact was not any kind of arson—and then proceeded to harangue the Democrats' witnesses, which included national security expert Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice, MSNBC intelligence expert Malcolm Nance, and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Steube demanded of each of them: "Do you believe that what you saw on that video meets the definition of domestic terrorism?" He also insisted on a yes or no reply.

Nance was blunt: "No, it's civil disobedience. We have codes for that."

Steube pounced on this, pointing to his exculpatory conclusion: "So that's civil disobedience, burning down—creating $80 billion worth of damage across our country, but what occurred here on January 6 was domestic terrorism."

Steube, of course, ignored that the motive for whatever violence occurred this summer was anger at police brutality and a demand for change in American policing, while the motive for the Jan. 6 insurrection was to overturn the outcome the 2020 presidential election by stopping American democratic processes from occurring. In defining terrorism, motivation and intent are the determinative factors. (Also worth noting: Steube outrageously inflated the costs of the summer's civil disturbances, which are estimated in the $1-2 billion range.)

Texas congressman Louie Gohmert—who in fact advocated insurrection and mass protest to overturn the election during a Nov. 14 "Stop the Steal" rally—was now adamant that the people who invaded the Capitol were criminals and should face consequences, but then he tried flinging a different turd at the wall: The whole incursion inside the Capitol was actually the fault of a single antifa/Black Lives Matter activist named John H. Sullivan—a theory that was referenced by other Republicans at the hearing as well.

There's just one problem with this claim: It's been thoroughly debunked. Sullivan, as The Washington Post reported in detail, is a man who initially attempted to organize BLM protests in Utah outside of the existing African American protest community. In short order, a person was shot during one of his events and then Proud Boys began showing up to support his protests. Among BLM activists, he was widely regarded as a duplicitous "double agent." His last organized protest of the summer was a pro-gun rights rally featuring large numbers of far-right militiamen, including Oath Keepers.

The constant comparisons of BLM activists and antifascists to white nationalist terrorists wore down the patience of everyone else involved in the hearing. After all, a 2020 domestic terrorism database found that between 2017 and 2019, right-wing extremists committed a total of 49 acts of terror that resulted in 145 deaths. Antifascists, in contrast, were responsible for exactly one case of domestic terrorism, and the only death that resulted from that case was the perpetrator's. Black Lives Matter activists were connected to zero cases of domestic terrorism.

As Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen noted: "It's like comparing a forest fire to someone with a match."

The most pointed retort came from Missouri congressman Cori Bush, who was appalled by the constant comparisons of white supremacists to BLM protesters. She ripped into her Republican colleagues at the hearing.

"Equating a righteous movement for justice with hateful and racist white nationalism is outright ignorant and disingenuous on your part," she said. "But for white supremacy, in which you benefit, we would not be in the streets demanding to be heard."

Trump Defense Falsely Blames ‘Antifa’ For Capitol Riot

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

One of Donald Trump's attorneys on Friday falsely blamed antifa for the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, one of the numerous lies and distortions that made up the first minutes of Trump's defense.

"According to publicly available reporting, it is apparent that extremists of various different stripes and political persuasions preplanned and premeditated an attack on the Capitol," Michael T. van der Veen, one of Trump's lawyers, said. "One of the first people arrested was the leader of antifa. Sadly, he was also among the first to be released."

It's unclear who van der Veen was referencing.

However, reporters think it may be John Sullivan, a man who was in the Capitol during the insurrection and incorrectly identified as member of "antifa" and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Fact-checkers have asserted that antifa was not behind the insurrection at the Capitol.

Right-wing media and some GOP lawmakers tried to push this baseless lie in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

However, it's become increasingly clear with each arrest made following the Jan. 6 events that the insurrectionists were Trump supporters, many of whom said they engaged in the insurrection at Trump's request.

That was a point driven home by the Democratic impeachment managers during Trump's impeachment trial.

"They were doing what he wanted them to do," Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), one of the impeachment managers, said on Wednesday of the insurrectionists, showing a video of some of the arrested rioters saying they were just following Trump's orders.

Republicans Blame ‘Antifa’ For Capitol Assault By Trumpists

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A number of Republican lawmakers and right-wing media personalities are blaming "antifa" for the violent attack by supporters of Donald Trump on the Capitol on Wednesday that led to at least four deaths, ignoring their own responsibility in helping foment the rage underlying the attack.

Some GOP lawmakers did call out Trump and members of their own party for the lies about voter fraud and a stolen election that culminated in Wednesday's failed coup, placing the blame at their feet.

"What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor after the body reconvened to certify President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.

"You have some senators who, for political advantage, were giving false hope to their supporters. These senators, as insurrectionists literally stormed the Capitol, were sending out fundraising emails," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said on Fox News.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had quite literally sent a fundraising text as the Trump-supporting mob ransacked the Capitol.

Some repetitions of the lie that the attack was carried out by so-called antifa and not Trump supporters came from top GOP leadership. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made the suggestion Wednesday night in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

"People came here to do some damage. I don't know who they were with," McCarthy said of the group, which wore Trump hats, Trump shirts, and carried Trump flags. His comment was followed by a suggestion from Ingraham that "Antifa was in there."

Two other House Republicans, some of the most vocal supporters of Trump's coup, have also falsely blamed antifa for the attacks.

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, a leader in the failed effort to block the certification of Biden's win, has tweeted numerous times that the attack was a false-flag operation.

"Please, don't be like #FakeNewsMedia, don't rush to judgment on assault on Capitol. Wait for investigation. All may not be (and likely is not) what appears. Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics," Brooks tweeted, a baseless lie that seeks to absolve Trump supporters of the violence.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has previously said his sole purpose in Congress is to support Trump, issued the same lie from the House floor during the debate over certification.

"Some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact were members of the violent terrorist group antifa," Gaetz said.

Other right-wing figures, such as Fox News' Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential nominee, also tried to absolve Trump supporters of guilt by falsely pinning the attack on antifa.

Trump knew that the rioters were his own supporters, treating the terrorists with kid gloves in tweets, as members of his current and former staff implored him to send a message to end the attack.

"We love you. You're very special. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil but go home and go home in peace," Trump said.

Antifa has been the go-to boogeyman for Republicans over the 2020 presidential cycle. They blamed the group for violent protests across the country.

Trump himself demanded his administration designate antifa as a domestic terror organization on Tuesday night. Experts say antifa cannot be deemed a domestic terror organization because it is not an organization at all, but rather a loosely organized movement.

Analysis continues to show that right-wing white supremacist groups and not antifa represent the biggest domestic terror threat the country currently faces.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Militia Leader Says His ’Troops’ Will Appear Armed At Polling Places, Ready For ‘Civil War’

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Oath Keepers militia leader Stewart Rhodes said members of his militia will be at polling locations on Election Day to "protect" Trump voters during an appearance on far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' program.

After making that claim, Rhodes made a number of unhinged statements, including saying Oath Keepers would follow directives from President Donald Trump to take members of the "deep state" into custody and "do what we have to do," that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act before the election, that Oath Keepers will "be in range" of Washington D.C., to stop a "Benghazi-style" attack on the White House on election night, and that a war will have to be fought against Democrats on the West Coast who are "bought" by the Chinese government. Rhodes also hyped the possibility of a second civil war where his "battle-hardened" supporters kill the "street soldiers" and "command and control" of "the radical left." He later claimed the United States is already in a civil war because "you have sitting politicians who are part of the enemy's ranks."

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