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Tag: capitol insurrection

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.

Gaetz Complaint: Feds Treat Jan. 6 Rioters As ‘Threat’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

In an interview on Tuesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) complained that the pro-Trump rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were being treated like a "threat" by the federal government, continuing a months-long campaign to defend those arrested for crimes related to the event.

On Tuesday, in an appearance on Newsmax TV's The Chris Salcedo Show, Gaetz claimed, "The Department of Justice has to maintain this theory that the January 6 detainees maintain an ongoing threat to the government of the United States so that they are able to take the national security apparatus and turn it against our people."

Gaetz has repeatedly offered excuses for Capitol attackers, who made threats of violence against members of Congress and former Vice President Mike Pence during their attempt to prevent the certification of the presidential election. Hundreds of arrests have been made since the incident.

He has previously promoted a conspiracy theory that the FBI "organized" the attack, and along with other far-right members of the House, has accused the Justice Department of 'harassment and persecution of Trump supporters' for investigating the events on Jan. 6. Gaetz also complained about efforts to secure the Capitol after the riot.

Over 500 people have been arrested and charged with federal crimes relating to the riot, which followed former President Donald Trump's speech at a rally promoting election conspiracy theories.

Evidence shows members of the rioting mob chanting for the death of Pence and attempting to break down the doors of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's offices.

Pence and other lawmakers were evacuated from the building by Capitol Police in response to the threats made against them, and one rioter was shot and killedby a police officer while trying to break down a door leading to an area where members of Congress were being evacuated.

At the July 19 sentencing hearing for Paul Hodgkins, a rioter convicted after he walked onto the Senate floor during the attack, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss made clear that the attack was a serious criminal offense.

"Because of the actions of Mr. Hodgkins and others that day, members of U.S. Congress were forced to flee their respective chambers," Moss said.

"I think it's worth pausing for a moment to think about that — that is an extraordinary event under any circumstances that the members of the United States Congress are forced to flee the building fearing for their physical safety."

Moss noted that the damage from the attack "will persist in this country for several decades."

Hodgkins pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding and received a sentence of eight months in federal prison and two years of supervised release.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Saturday’s Far-Right Rally In Washington Expected To Flop

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The security fencing around the U.S. Capitol building has gone back up, and members of Congress have sounded off about their fears of potential violence, all in anticipation of Saturday's far-right "Justice for J6" protest in Washington, D.C., ostensibly a march to support the several hundred people currently facing federal prosecution for their roles in the insurrection.

However, the likelihood of any kind of significant outburst by Donald Trump's most ardent followers is so low this time around that residents have relatively little to fear. In contrast to January 6, there has been no promotion of the protest by Trump or his circle, and no congressional Republicans appear likely to attend—so consequently, there is very little buzz about it in right-wing circles. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects only 700 or so people to attend, in contrast to the tens of thousands who showed up the first week of January.

Nonetheless, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department will activate its entire force for that day, and specialized riot officers have been placed on standby. MPD officers will have "an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety," according to a spokesperson.

Capitol Police said Monday they had issued an emergency declaration that will go into effect at the start of the rally, one that allows Capitol Police leaders to deputize outside law enforcement officers. The agency also has obtained additional equipment and created an incident response plan.

The event creating all this upheaval is the brainchild of a former Trump campaign official named Matt Braynard, who has declared that 700 or so people charged in the January 6 insurrection are "political prisoners."

Braynard announced the event on the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, saying: "We're going back to the Capitol, right where it started. And it's going to be huge … We're going to push back on the phony narrative that there was an insurrection."

His organization, Look Ahead America, is discouraging would-be rallygoers from signs related to the election or any candidate, or wearing "MAGA gear."

"This rally is about protesting the treatment of these political prisoners. That has nothing to do with any candidate, nothing to do with the election," Braynard said. "It's not a pro-Trump rally, an anti-Trump rally. It's not a pro or anti-Biden rally. It's not political in that way and we don't anything to distract from that."

DHS spokesperson Melissa Smislova told NBC News that the agency has learned via social media that in addition to the Washington rally, similar protests are planned in other cities across the country. She said that in comparison to the "tens of thousands" who came out for the January 6 "Stop the Steal" event, DHS expects a much smaller turnout this weekend. She said the agency has been tracking publicly available information on protesters, U.S. Park Police permit applications for large gatherings, and hotel reservations across the U.S. in order to gauge the response.

Some members of Congress have spoken out. "Given the violent tendencies of the right-wing extremists who plan to attend, it is obvious that this rally poses a threat to the Capitol, those who work here, and the law enforcement officers charged with protecting our democracy," Democrats Tim Ryan of Ohio and Rosa DeLaura said in a joint statement. "We are pleased that the Capitol Police, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, appear to have developed a clear plan—based on careful intelligence analysis—to maintain order and protect public safety."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was even more scathing: "And now these people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill, out to kill members of Congress, successfully causing the deaths—'successfully' is not the word, but that's the word, because it's what they set out to do—of our law enforcement," Pelosi told reporters Wednesday morning.

When a reporter asked Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy whether any GOP members would be making speeches on Saturday, as they did at the January 6 rallies, he responded: "I don't think anyone is."

One of the chief lingering concerns among intelligence experts and law enforcement officials is the fact that the person who placed two pipe bombs in the vicinity of the Capitol the night of January 5 has never been identified. Most leads have so far some up dry, and investigators working on the case reportedly have been unable to ascertain whether the suspect is a man or a woman.

Last week, the FBI released grainy surveillance video of the person they believe left the bombs in the hope of attracting new leads and information. The agency says the person wore a backpack over a gray hooded sweatshirt and had a face mask, as well as distinctive Nike Air Max Speed Turf sneakers in yellow, black, and gray.

The bombs—each about 1 foot long with end caps and wiring that appeared to be attached to a timer—were placed outside the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic national committees between 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM on the night before the insurrection. They were not located by law enforcement until the next day, at about the same time the Capitol came under siege by the mob.

The September 18 event could attract a lone-wolf actor along similar lines. But it's also certain that it will not create the kind of mob scene that engendered the January violence. Extremism analyst Mike Rothschild, who monitors far-right groups' activities online, notes that this time around, "the chatter isn't there. Influencers who egged on the MAGA faithful then are waving them off now. People will show up, and it bears watching - but this isn't going to be Insurrection 2.0."

As terrorism analyst Jared Holt observes, the rhetoric around the event is largely hyperbolic, and it is expected to draw neither a large nor a violent crowd capable of another Capitol siege. However, it could be significant in the way that "it lays patchwork or groundwork for those kinds of events to happen in the future in D.C., or maybe in state capitols going forward."

One of the ways it can set a foundation is by providing openings for similar forms of insurrectionist violence elsewhere, such as at state Capitol buildings, as DHS' assessment warned. Clint Watts, a former Joint Terrorism Task Force member, told MSNBC that he was far more concerned about the spread of these events to state-level venues than with the Sept. 18 rally itself.

"There will be, I'm sure, some who show up there, but I don't think it will be a Jan. 6 moment. What I'm much more worried about, though, is state Capitols and local municipal buildings," he said.

"They're much less defended, and in some discussion spaces you hear—it may be just a small number of people, but you hear people talking about going to rallies closer to home, in up to 10 different states. Those could be particularly troubling for those with smaller law enforcement, and don't have the resources like we have at the nation's capital."

Trump-Friendly Prosecutor Signals Potential Trouble For Insurrection Cases

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The federal government's prosecution of the January 6 Capitol insurrectionists continues to roll along with hardly any change in direction or pace: Participants in the attack continue to be arrested as investigators accumulate more evidence, while judges continue to keep major players, particularly members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, under lock and key.

However, one bright red flag was raised by Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel—who has assiduously tracked and reported on the imposingly complex prosecutions from January 6—this week in the conspiracy case being assembled by prosecutors against the Proud Boys: It now emerges that one of the lead prosecutors in that case is Jocelyn Ballantine, the same DOJ prosecutor who engaged in dubious behavior around former Trump official Michael Flynn's prosecution, such as submitting altered documents. Could a botch job be around the corner?

Ballantine, as Wheeler details, engaged in a pattern of misconduct in handling the Flynn case that could easily result in a federal judge dismissing the case. And as the Proud Boys' attorneys made clear in their filings this week demanding that key players in the insurrection, including leaders Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, be granted pretrial release, their primary strategy appears to be aimed at obtaining exactly that kind of summary dismissal of the charges.

Wheeler points to three specific acts by Ballantine in the Flynn matter that raise concerns:

  • On Sept. 23, she provided three documents that were altered to Sidney Powell, one of which Trump used six days later in a packaged debate attack on Joe Biden.
  • On Sept. 24, she submitted an FBI interview report that redacted information—references to Brandon Van Grack—that was material to the proceedings before Judge Emmet Sullivan.
  • On Oct. 26, she claimed that lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe had checked their clients' notes to confirm there were no other alterations to documents submitted to the docket; both lawyers refused to review the documents.

Having a prosecutor on the Proud Boys prosecution team (let alone overseeing it) with a dubious conduct history poses serious risks for their success, and indeed for the broader prosecution: "Given Ballantine's past actions, it risks sabotaging the entire January 6 investigation," Wheeler observes.

The possibility of a bungled federal prosecution in the Proud Boys case raises the specter of a similar botch job in a major case involving right-wing extremists: Namely in 2018, when prosecutorial misconduct involving evidence sharing forced the federal judge overseeing the case against rancher Cliven Bundy for his 2014 armed standoff with federal authorities to order all charges dismissed—one of several cases of misconduct involving that U.S. Attorney's office. That dismissal, with prejudice, was upheld on appeal.

The attorneys for Biggs and Nordean, meanwhile, made a fresh appeal for their clients' pretrial release to home confinement, claiming the men posed neither a serious flight risk nor any threat to public safety in the interim. The attorneys presented clips from a video shot on January 6 in Washington, D..C., by fellow Proud Boys member Eddie Block, claiming they demonstrated that the group actually intended to hold their "big event" afterward at The Ellipse, not at the Capitol.

"There's no conspiracy," defense attorney John Hull said. "… So, [with] no conspiracy, about 80% of the whole case falls apart."

Prosecutors noted that Block's statements in the clips are contravened by the men's demonstrated actions that day, which included Nordean and Biggs tearing down a police barrier. They also reminded the judge of encrypted texts the men shared that day preparing for insurrection on January 6.

Prosecutors warned that the defendants' release would mean "there's no way to police" any other potential planning the men might participate in with other Proud Boys members: "That's a significant, prospective danger to the community," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said.

In other January 6-related developments:

  • Accountability arrived for the Capitol Police officers who behaved as congenial hosts to the insurrectionists on January 6. The agency announced it had taken disciplinary action against six officers following an internal investigation.

There were 38 internal investigations involving officer behavior on January 6, with 26 different officers identified, Capitol Police reported. There was no wrongdoing found in 20 of the cases.

Three of the six officers were disciplined for "conduct unbecoming;" another for improper remarks; one for improper dissemination of information; and one for "failure to comply with directives."

"The six sustained cases should not diminish the heroic efforts of the United States Capitol Police officers. On January 6, the bravery and courage exhibited by the vast majority of our employees was inspiring," the release said.

  • FBI agents arrested a woman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who had filled her social-media pages with QAnon conspiracy theories and demands for an "Army of Patriots" to seize control of the government, prior to invading the Capitol with other right-wing extremists on January 6.

Prosecutors detailed Kelly O'Brien's prolific rants on social media leading up to January 6. One dated November 26, 2020, asserted: "We do not riot. We fight. We are an Army of Patriots. You will know us when you see us. There will be no ambiguity. Prepare yourself."

On Dec. 19, 2020, O'Brien posted: "WE ARE IN A BATTLE between GOOD and evil. Make no mistake about that. Elders are cheering us on and believe that WE ARE GOING TO BE THE GREATEST GENERATION in their lifetime. And they lived through WWII. Are you going to fight or are you weak. Let us know now. WE NEED PATRIOTS! WE NEED FREEDOM FIGHTERS! Now!"

The day after Christmas, another used posted: "You can vote your way into socialism but you have to shoot your way out of it!" O'Brien responded: "We might have to."

After the insurrection, on January 8, amid a discussion of Trump's refusal to concede to Joe Biden, O'Brien asserted that "Everything is happening according to Q plan. So scared."

  • A former FBI special agent remarked on MSNBC that the insurrectionists' targets were chosen not by movement leaders or members, but rather by elected politicians like Donald Trump and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.

"It's our political leaders that are doing this more than domestic extremists," Clint Watts, a Joint Terrorism Task Force veteran, said. "What you see right there President Trump told them they were going to the Capitol that day. They didn't pick the Capitol, he said it, his organizers they promoted it, his fellow congressmen in the GOP, they promoted it.

"It was Josh Hawley out there fist-bumping the crowd, right? Before it went in," he added. "That's the thing we look for to see, hey, where are they tipping to. For the most part, the groups aren't picking the targets. It's the elected leaders."

Gen. Milley Secretly Swore Officers To Ignore Nuke Order From Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

General Mark Milley, President Donald Trump's top military adviser and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assembled senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center two days after the January 6 insurrection, telling them they were not to take orders from Trump if he were to launch a nuclear attack unless Milley was involved in the decision-making procedure.

The revelation comes in the new book, Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, according to CNN.

Milley was "deeply shaken" by the January 6 insurrection, CNN reports, and "'was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.'"

"You never know what a president's trigger point is," Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.

On January 8, Milley secretly assembled the top Pentagon officials.

"No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I'm part of that procedure," Milley told the officers, according to the book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, and asked them to verbally confirm they understood.

"Got it?" Milley asked, according to the book.

"Yes, sir."

'Milley considered it an oath,' the authors write.

Read the entire report at CNN.

White Supremacist Arrested With Bayonet And Machete Outside DNC Building

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Capitol Police on Monday announced they arrested a 44-year-old Californian man outside the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in Washington, D.C., after he was found to be in possession of a machete and bayonet — both of which are illegal to possess in the District of Columbia.

Capitol Police pulled over Donald Craighead after noticing his vehicle did not have a license plate, but instead had a picture of an American flag where the license plate should be. It was then that they observed the bayonet and machete and subsequently arrested him for possession of prohibited weapons.

Craighead's car was decorated with white supremacist imagery — including a swastika — and he espoused white supremacist views as he responded to police officers.

This is the latest incident to occur near the Capitol following the January 6 insurrection, during which a mob of Donald Trump supporters violently broke into the building to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

In August, a man was arrested across the street from the Capitol after he threatened to blow up the building unless Biden resigned, parroting lies from Trump and other Republicans that the 2020 election was stolen.

The latest arrest comes as the Capitol and surrounding area are on high alert, with supporters of the insurrectionists arrested on January 6 planning a rally on September 18.

CNN reported that law enforcement officials are bracing for violence at the so-called "Justice for J6" rally, which is organized by former Trump campaign aide Matt Braynard.

The DNC headquarters is steps away from House office buildings on the Capitol complex.

The building was targeted on the day of the January 6 insurrection, as was the Republican National Committee's headquarters, which is even closer to the House-side office buildings. Police found pipe bombs near both buildings.

Police have still not found the suspect behind the placement of those explosive devices. The FBI released footage last week of someone they think is the person who planted the explosive devices.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.