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Tag: capitol insurrection

Jury Selection Advances In Bannon's Contempt Trial

Jury selection in the criminal contempt trial of Steve Bannon, a one-time adviser and strategist to former President Trump, which began Monday, is set to extend into a second day as attorneys round up the tedious process of selecting non-biased jurors.

Bannon was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for his ten-month-long defiance of a subpoena issued by the bipartisan House panel probing the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol for his records and testimony.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols oversaw the selection of 22 tentative jurors — 12 men and 10 women — from an initial pool of 60 D.C.residents. The trial, which is expected to breeze through the court, will resume Tuesday morning, and lawyers for Bannon and the Justice Department will downsize the list to 14 jurors, two of which are alternates.

The often-laborious process of potential juror questioning unveiled stark assessments of the polarizing, Trump-allied defendant who vowed to make the criminal case a “misdemeanor from hell.”

Evan Corcoran, Bannon’s lawyer, pressed the juror candidates on their knowledge of his client, particularly whether they’ve written or said anything about Bannon and if they had opinions of the House Select Committee and its work. Many of the potential jurors admitted they’d heard little about the case, and some said they’d “taken in at least some of the select committee’s public hearings,” per CNN.

A juror candidate told Nichols that he’d find it “a challenge” to remain impartial. "I have formed an opinion about the case," the man said, looking towards Bannon. "The opinion is that Bannon is guilty." The acknowledgment saw the candidate promptly disqualified.

Another candidate was dismissed after deriding Bannon's pre-trial promise to “go full medieval” at the trial. “I felt that was a purely preposterous statement,” the male candidate said. “Pray for our enemies, because we’re going medieval on these people. We’re going to savage our enemies,” Bannon had declared on his “War Room” podcast Last Tuesday.

Although Bannon’s legal team had argued for a delay in the case at the pre-trial, citing the high coverage of the January 6 hearings, most of the would-be jurors said they hadn’t formed an opinion or knew little about the case.

Bannon attended the voir dire session mainly wearing black, but he never said a word in court, according to the Washington Post. It is also unclear whether the indefatigable Trump ally will testify in his own defense. Bannon lashed out at the select committees outside the courthouse, calling its hearings “a show trial.”

The committee presented evidence last week that Bannon and Trump spoke at least twice on January 5, 2021, the day before the Capitol assault. The committee also played a clip of Bannon saying on January 5 that "all hell is going to break loose tomorrow," remarks that the committee said he made after his first call with Trump.

Opening arguments in the trial are scheduled to begin Tuesday — soon after the number of jurors selected on Monday is whittled down to 14.

Bannon’s trial will go far in ascertaining Congress’ leverage when witnesses flout its subpoenas, as several Trump allies, including the former president himself, have done.

The select committee will hold its next prime-time hearing on Thursday night, and it is expected to hone in on Trump’s dereliction of duty on January 6.

House Homeland Security Committee Reaches Bipartisan Deal On Jan. 6 Commission

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Members of Congress have reached a deal on a commission that will probe the violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol 128 days after a mob of Donald Trump supporters carried out the attack. The deal, reached by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and ranking member John Katko (R-NY), was announced by Thompson.

The House is expected to vote on a bill that would establish the commission in the coming weeks, according to a report from CNBC.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday morning that he wanted the commission to look beyond the Capitol insurrection: "I know Nancy Pelosi played politics with this for a number of months, and you got to look at the buildup before, and what went on afterward, otherwise the commission is not worth it," he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Congress has held multiple hearings on the events of the January 6 insurrection, when Trump supporters broke into the Capitol to demand lawmakers block certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the 2020 presidential election. Five people died as a result, and roughly 140 law enforcement officers were injured with everything from head trauma to burns.

However, the so-called National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex will not be made up of members of Congress or any currently serving government officials.

Instead, it will have ten members, five each appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, who will be experts in key fields such as law enforcement, intelligence, counterterrorism, law, and civil rights.

The commission will have the power to subpoena documents and testimony related to the attack from relevant figures and government departments.

Thompson said in a statement announcing the deal on the commission:

Inaction — or just moving on — is simply not an option. The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol. After all, the Capitol is not just a historic landmark; it is where our constituents come to see their democracy in action. As such, we owe it to the Capitol Police and all who enter our citadel of democracy to investigate the attack. The timing of this action is particularly poignant with this being National Police Week, when we honor those who gave their lives to protect us.

Democrats have been pushing for a commission for months.

However, Republican leaders were blocking a deal by demanding it also look into Black Lives Matter protests and antifa, which had nothing to do with the January 6 attack.

The GOP lost that battle: The deal reached by Thompson and Katko does not include BLM or antifa in the commission's charge.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said Republicans were blocking the commission because some GOP lawmakers may be implicated in the findings of the review.

McCarthy did not commit to voting for it. He reportedly said Friday that he wants to see the details and that he wants the commission to focus on more than just the events of January 6.

The commission is mandated to submit a final report to the president and Congress by the end of 2021.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Capitol Rioter Who Brought Gun On January 6 Said He Was Hunting Pelosi

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham and others on the far-right have been accusing Democrats of exaggerating the violence that occurred when Donald Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. And they have dismissed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's January 6 select committee as overblown political theater. But according to Politico, 56-year-old Indiana resident Mark Mazza — one of the defendants charged with bringing a gun to the Capitol that day — has implied to investigators that he would have committed violence against Pelosi had he been able to get to her.

Politico's Kyle Cheney reports, "An Indiana man charged with carrying a loaded firearm to the Capitol on January 6 told investigators that if he had found Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 'you'd be here for another reason,' according to court documents posted over the weekend. Mark Mazza, 56, is the latest of about half a dozen January 6 defendants charged with bringing a gun to the Capitol. In this case, Mazza allegedly carried a Taurus revolver known as 'The Judge,' which is capable of firing shotgun shells — two of which were in the chamber, along with three hollow-point bullets. A Capitol Police sergeant obtained the weapon after allegedly fending off an assault from Mazza."

On March 29, according to Cheney, two investigators from the Capitol Police went to Mazza's home in Shelbyville, Indiana, where he told them, "I thought Nan and I would hit it off. I was glad I didn't because you'd be here for another reason. And I told my kids that if they show up, I'm surrendering. Nope, they can have me, because I may go down a hero."

Former President Trump has tried to paint the Capitol rioters as largely nonviolent, but Cheney points out that in fact, a variety of things were used as weapons on January 6.

"The mounting evidence has undercut claims by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the mob attacking the Capitol was unarmed," Cheney notes. "In addition to the growing number of firearms authorities suspect were carried onto Capitol grounds, rioters brought knives, axes, batons, tasers, bats, poles and even a crutch and hockey stick. Others stole police shields and used metal barricades and furniture as makeshift weapons. But Mazza's case is the most clear-cut yet of a loaded firearm on Capitol grounds that day."

Cheney continues, "Prosecutors obtained the gun from the alleged assailant himself and used its serial number to trace it back to him. They located Mazza after learning that on January 8, Mazza himself reported the gun stolen to local authorities. He told the Shelbyville police that it was taken from his car on January 5 while he was driving through Ohio. Mazza's report was entered into a national database, which Capitol Police accessed as they attempted to find the gun's owner."

FBI Releases New Video Showing Extreme Violence At January 6 Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Nine months after one of the most violent days in the history of our country, investigations are still ongoing as more than 670 people have been charged with involvement in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence depicting the violence of the day, some officials are continuing to play dumb and ignore the brutality that occurred.
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Proud Boy's Prosecution Proves January 6 Was Terrorist Sedition

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The next time that right-wing gaslighters—whether Tucker Carlson or other far-right pundits, or Republican congressmen—try to valorize the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by depicting them as harmless protesters, it might be helpful for everyone to review the case of Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, assault, and multiple other felonies.

The bearded Pezzola, a 44-year-old Rochester, New York, man, is a familiar figure in photos from January 6 as the man who stole a police riot shield and used it to break windows on the south side of the Capitol. He was in court again this week in an attempt to win pretrial release from the D.C. Detention Center, and evidence released in that hearing demonstrate once again how violent and dangerous the insurrectionists were in reality.According to a memorandum filed by prosecutors in the detention hearing this week, among the evidence in his case was a USB thumb drive containing instructions on building homemade bombs, as well as guns and poisons, The Daily Beast reports.

Pezzola was one of the leaders in the Proud Boys' assault on the Capitol, prosecutors allege, along with fellow indictees Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs, who have made similar legal attempts to obtain pretrial release. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge alone.

FBI agents searching Pezzola's home found the thumb drive there, and discovered "hundreds" of PDF files with instructions on building terrorist devices at home. "A sample of titles includes, but is not limited to: multiple serials of a series entitled 'Advanced Improvised Explosives,' those serials including 'Explosive Dusts' and 'Incendiaries'; 'The Box Tube MAC-11,' with subtitle, 'The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol;' 'Ragnar's Big Book of Homemade Weapons;' 'The Advanced Anarchist's Arsenal: Recipes For Improvised Incendiaries And Explosives.'"

Prosecutors allege Pezzola confronted Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman outside the Senate Chamber as part of a mob. "Where they meeting at?" Pezzola said, referring to the members of Congress voting to certify Joe Biden's win. "Where they counting the votes?"

In an earlier document filed in August, prosecutors claimed that Pezzola explicitly proclaimed in a video shot inside the Capitol that his intent was to interrupt the count:

Pezzola uploaded a victory speech to social media. Smoking a cigar, he exclaimed: "Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is fucking awesome. I knew we could take this motherfucker over [if we] just tried hard enough." Pezzola concedes that he smoked the victory cigar because "he considered the objective achieved, stopping the certification of the election pursuant to the instructions of the then President."

Pezzola's previous attorney had written in court filings that he believed a so-called "cooperating witness" was sharing information about the Proud Boys. An earlier filing by prosecutors had revealed that this witness heard Proud Boys members claim that "anyone they got their hands on they would have killed," including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and that they would have also killed then-Vice President Mike Pence "if given the chance." The men—who all had firearms or access to them—also talked about returning to Washington for Inauguration Day, and that "they plan to kill every single 'm-fer' they can." That witness, prosecutors noted, has not been charged with a crime.

His previous attempts at winning release on bond denied by two different federal judges, Pezzola hired a new legal team to make a third attempt. Those attorneys, Marty Tankleff and Steven Metcalf, argued in court this week that the restrictions the D.C. Jail places on his access to the voluminous evidence in the case violate his constitutional rights.

However, they seem not to have persuaded the judge: "Even if defense were to be able to show a Constitutional violation in the way he's being detained, the remedy wouldn't be to release him, the remedy would be to remedy the Constitutional violations," Federal Judge Timothy Kelly said.

"Pezzola poses both a serious danger to the community and a serious risk of flight," prosecutors argued.

Just a reminder, once again, that there's a reason prosecutors are considering charges of "seditionist conspiracy" against some of these conspirators—and why "insurrection" is precisely the right term to describe what they attempted that day.

January 6 Probe Advancing As House Panel Readies Subpoenas

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

On Monday, Rep. Bennie Thompson made it clear that the House Select Committee investigating events related to the January 6 insurgency could begin issuing subpoenas within the next few days. Back on August 25, the committee sent a request for documents to a long list of recipients. While some recipients have turned over the requested information, a large number have not. As CNN reports, Thompson will skip right past the farce of sending any of these people or groups reminders or asking them politely to show up at the House. Instead, the committee will move straight to the subpoena phase and let the courts tell them how much executive privilege does not apply to this case.

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Hands Off General Milley — He Did Nothing Wrong

What Gen. Mark Milley has learned during his most recent years of service is what most Americans have now come to understand about former President Donald Trump. He was always a highly dysfunctional and dangerous leader, or as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi succinctly told the general, "crazy." Treating him as a "normal" president would involve unacceptable risk.

That knowledge had to be a stunning realization for a military leader raised in our country's traditions of strict civilian control of the armed services. When the civilian in control has lost control of himself — and struck many around him as unstable from the beginning — then the burden of averting disaster inevitably falls heavily on flag officers at the pinnacle of the command structure. As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appointed by Trump himself, Milley confronted the conundrum in the frenzied final days of Trump's misrule.

Anyone who judges what the JCS chairman did must take into account the ominous context of his actions.

According to Peril, the aptly titled new book by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, tensions with China increasingly spooked top officials in the Pentagon as Election Day approached in the fall of 2020. Intelligence suggested that the Chinese military feared a U.S. military strike, ordered by Trump, who was screaming about "kung flu," which could erupt into a catastrophic conflict. Not only Milley but also then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper sent calming messages to their Chinese counterparts, urging them not to "over-read" Trump's belligerent threats during the presidential campaign.

It isn't clear whether Esper or Milley told the irrational Trump about those contacts. Milley has described the calls as "routine" and "perfectly within the duties" of his job.

The effects of their soothing outreach dissipated in the election's aftermath, when Trump's mad and bad behavior attempted the ultimate destabilization of the American order, climaxing in the attempted coup of January 6. Observing the potentially lethal mischief of a deranged president, the Chinese government went on red alert.

Woodward and Costa report that on January 8, as the full dimensions of Trump's assault on our political system emerged, Milley reached out to the Chinese leadership again. He offered assurances that Trump would not attack China and therefore China need not contemplate the launch of any preemptive or defensive attack on the U.S. The Post reporters write that Milley promised to deliver a secret warning to the Chinese if any such attack was imminent — although Axios reports a slightly different version, in which the JCS chairman says, "We'll both know if we're going to war ... there's not gonna be some surprise attack and there's no reason for you to do a preemptive strike."

At the same time, Milley sought to reinforce the safeguards within the U.S. chain of command, which are designed to prevent a nuclear strike by a crazed president who attempts to act unilaterally. Milley reiterated to top generals and admirals that they were not to undertake any military action outside those protocols that he feared Trump might attempt, perhaps through a lower-ranking officer.

Unsurprisingly, Trump is enraged by the revelation of his top general's profound sense of responsibility, which has put on public display again the utter disrespect and mistrust he engendered in every experienced official he appointed. They all knew firsthand that he was absurdly unqualified to be president, his incapacity exceeded only by his frightening arrogance. Beyond the forced displays of toadying by his Cabinet, not one person who observed him close-up thought he was competent or rational.

In Trump's cartoon presidency there were endlessly embarrassing and outrageous moments — and then there were other moments when an unstable narcissist with access to the nuclear codes could have become a threat to the world. If Trump had turned into such a menace, Milley's choices were very narrow indeed.

Milley upheld his oath out of patriotism to the highest degree, contrary to the right-wing banana republic chorus that ludicrously claims he committed "treason." Milley aimed to preserve stability and avoid crisis by following all the protocols. He retains the full confidence of President Joe Biden, for good reason.

Our flag officers are not about to follow the impulses of a real traitor like former Gen. Michael Flynn, the convicted criminal pardoned by Trump, who urged that Trump institute martial law. Gen. Mark Milley did his duty and performed under pressure with composure and honor. He is owed thanks, not insults.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Judge Puts Screaming 'Sovereign' Jan. 6 Defendant Behind Bars

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Pennsylvania resident and pizzeria owner Pauline Bauer, one of the many far-right Donald Trump supporters facing charges in connection with the January 6 insurrection, has been resorting to over-the-top antics ever since her arrest. And this week, journalist Scott MacFarlane reports in a Twitter thread, a judge became fed up with Bauer and "ordered U.S. Marshals" to take her "into custody."

Bauer, who was arrested by the FBI in rural Kane, Pennsylvania on May 19, is facing charges that include violent entry, disruptive conduct and obstruction of Congress. Prosecutors, journalist Kelly Weill reported in the Daily Beast on July 11, allege that when Bauer broke into the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, she threatened violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and said, "Bring Nancy Pelosi out here now…. We want to hang that fucking bitch."

Nonetheless, Bauer has stayed out of jail — until now. This week, MacFarlane reports, Bauer was "screaming" when the frustrated judge ordered that she be taken into custody. The judge said, "The problem is she's not going to do what I direct her to do…. Ms. Bauer is now going to be incarcerated."

In the courtroom, MacFarlane notes, Bauer refused to surrender her U.S. passport while awaiting trial. The pizzeria owner told the judge, "I have (a) right to my self-determination" and insisted that she was not subject to the court's supervision.

According to MacFarlane, Bauer told the judge, "(The) FBI has been watching me ever since Day One.... They know where I'm at 24 hours a day.... I'm not a danger to society.... I am an asset to my community."

Bauer, MacFarlane explained, will be jailed in Washington, D.C. And because she will be behind bars, she will not be unable to attend the "Justice for January 6" demonstration that is scheduled to take place in D.C. this weekend. Organizers of the demonstration are claiming that the January 6 insurrectionists did nothing wrong when they stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in a failed attempt to prevent Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden's victory over Trump in the 2020 election.

Bauer has insisted on representing herself in court and refused to work with an attorney. During a June 11 proceeding held online via Zoom, she told the court, "I do not stand under the law. Under Genesis 1, God gave man dominion over the law."

McFarlane said that Bauer had previously claimed to be a "sovereign citizen," part of an ideological movement of people who believe they are not subject to U.S. laws. But on Friday, he reported, she claimed to have never said she was a sovereign citizen.