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Tag: capitol riot

Follow The Money: How Trump's Campaign Financed Jan. 6 Pre-Riot Rally

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

"Follow the money" is a handy bit of kit in a lot of situations. When it comes to looking at the events of January 6, it's good advice. Because, as OpenSecrets.org has revealed, Donald Trump's various campaign funds paid out over $4.3 million to the people who organized the insurgency warm-up rally on January 6. In fact, running down the list of people, there seems to be considerable overlap in the "staff" for Trump and the supposedly grassroots protest. That includes Trump's campaign director of operations, his national finance consultant, and at least half a dozen other people on the payroll of Trump's various campaign PACs.

In fact, the web of connections between Trump's campaign and the rally where he stepped up to urge the crowd's assault on Congress seems so entangled that the whole thing can be read as just another front stretched over Trump's campaign of self-enrichment. Not all of the names on the overlapping list of Trump and January 6 rally organizers have been targeted by the House Select Committee's latest requests for documents, but they ought to be.

It's past time for someone to turn on the lights and reveal just where the "dark money" that funded Women for America First, the "nonprofit group" that secured a permit and locked down a handy launchpad for insurrection.

Last week, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurgency sent out a long list of requests for documents. That list included documents related to almost every adult member of Trump's family (excluding Tiffany), several long-time campaign advisors including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, and a long list of others involved in planning or executing events on that day. Several of those who worked for both Trump's campaign staff and the various organizations that put together the "Stop the Steal" event were included on that list, but far from all.

This only shows that, as sweeping as the committee's requests were, they're still insufficient to come close to capturing the full scope of individuals and organizations involved, which should be no surprise. After all, the Republican Party has spent decades setting up a seemingly infinite number of "institutes" and "foundations" and "think tanks" through which a handful of extremely wealthy donors can turn their money into action. Add to this a Citizen's United-fueled PAC infrastructure and the kind of morass of entangled power and money that people visualize when talking about "the swamp" absolutely exists—on the right.

Now introduce to this Donald Trump, a man whose 100 percent one-man-owned "empire" consists of over 500 companies and corporations created expressly to disguise his own real worth, moving money around without visibility, and creating the illusion of actions necessary to generate tax breaks. Trump really was out to drain the swamp … right into his personal swamp.

From the look of the connections on January 6, he succeeded.

That document request wasn't, and won't be, the last. As The Washington Post reported, the committee has already followed up with a request to tech companies that could generate even more pages of text. On that document, it may not be the exact list of names that's drawing the biggest attention, but the request for communications records related to "any Member of Congress or congressional staff" who put in a call to Trump or the White House on that day.

That request has made GOP leader Kevin McCarthy very upset. For good reason. After all, the news has already come out about how Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz phoned Trump from the Capitol and begged him to call off his goons. Again and again, it seems that Republicans understood two things very well on January 6: The people who were attacking the Capitol and threatening their lives were working for Trump, and Trump had the ability to tell them to stand down. But beyond showing how Republicans in Congress understood who was pulling the strings, the committee's review should also show how many were directly involved in planning or executing the assault on the Capitol.

The actions of the Select Committee won't drain the Republican swamp. It's been dredged out over decades, and exploring its labyrinthine bayous of purposeful obfuscation is work that might never be complete. But this much is clear just from the outset:

  • The Trump campaign and the supposedly separate entities that not only planned the January 6 rally but also conducted attacks on democracy across the country were connected by both money and people.
  • Trump's team created a media company to supposedly pay consultants, then lined up to take checks for themselves.
  • Trump's campaign and PACs put out at least $4.3 million to pay those who set up the Washington, D.C. rally.
  • Behind all of this was "dark money" whose sources have not been revealed, hiding behind the farce of nonprofit groups.
  • The members of Congress who are now defending Trump understood—and understand—that he was behind the assault and that the mob and their organizers answer to him.
  • As members of Congress, none of them can hide behind executive privilege, even in attempting to protect their conversations with Trump.
  • Kevin McCarthy is a wiener.

That last part may seem unconnected, but it's always worth noting. Especially since McCarthy's taking the Fifth rather than admitting that he was one of those begging Trump to call off his mob is likely to be one of the highlights of the Select Committee's work.

New Report Details Rep. Jordan Contacts With Trump On Jan. 6

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A new report in Politico's Playbook offered fresh details about former President Donald Trump's communications during the January 6 attack, which may be of interest to the investigators on the House committee examining the day's events.

Trump's role in organizing, encouraging, and supporting the rioters' aims of preventing Congress from recognizing Joe Biden's win in the 2020 election is already well-known, but some are hoping to find additional evidence of his conduct that day that could potentially shed more light on his knowledge of the events and his culpability in any crimes or wrongdoing.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a close ally of the former president, has already admitted that he spoke to Trump on the day of the attack. But he has strained to avoid answering questions on the topic directly, suggesting that he has something to hide about the conversation. He has declined to divulge details about the content of the conversation or when it took place.

The new report from reporter Tara Palmeri revealed that, in fact, Jordan had multiple conversations with Trump during the day:

We know that DONALD TRUMP and Rep. JIM JORDAN spoke once on the day of the Capitol riot, but the Ohio Republican has said he doesn't remember when their conversation took place. We have some new details that could help clear up that timeframe — including confirmation of at least one more phone conversation between Jordan and the then-president during the siege.
After a group of lawmakers were evacuated from the House chamber to a safe room on Jan. 6, Jordan was joined by Rep. MATT GAETZ (R-Fla.) for a call during which they implored Trump to tell his supporters to stand down, per a source with knowledge of that call. The source declined to say how Trump responded to this request.
Jordan, when asked about whether Gaetz participated, said he'd "have to think about it," citing many conversations he had during the frenetic attack. He also said phone calls to Trump happened more than once on that deadly day.
"Look, I definitely spoke to the president that day. I don't recall — I know it was more than once, I just don't recall the times," Jordan told our Olivia Beavers. He later said that "I'm sure" one of the Trump-involved calls took place in the safe room "because we were in that room forever." (For safety reasons, we are not disclosing the specific room where members were evacuated to, but that is the room Jordan is referencing.) Jordan would not get into the specifics of what he discussed with the president, though he said that like everyone, he wanted the National Guard to get involved.

There are several important details here. First, it's clear that in addition to being cagey about speaking with Trump on Jan. 6, Jordan has been actively concealing further details about the talks. He didn't mention that one of them took place during attack itself while lawmakers were in hiding, and that there were other witnesses to the calls — even when he has said he's had trouble remembering the events. If he has trouble with his memory, he could consult other witnesses to the events. (As the piece is written, it's not clear if the word "he" in the last sentence refers to Jordan or Trump wanting to get the National Guard involved. But there's no credible indication that Trump had a role in deploying the Guard that day.)

But what's most important is that Jordan doesn't seem interested in recalling or sharing these details at all. It's difficult to believe they weren't memorable. That strongly suggests that the conversations would reflect quite poorly on Trump. If Trump said something exonerating during the conversations, such as indicating that he was shocked and horrified that his supporters were attacking the Capitol, and he was trying to get them out. Of course, none of his other actions that day suggest this was his attitude. And if Trump had said something exonerating, presumably Jordan would have brought it up during the impeachment hearings that charged him with inciting an insurrection.

Separate reports have indicated that Trump had a conversation with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the attack. Trump reportedly told McCarthy of the attackers: "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." McCarthy hasn't denied these reports but has declined to talk about them further.

The new report also reflects poorly on Gaetz, who through a spokesman refused to deny the claims. They suggest Gaetz was well aware that the rioters were acting out Trump's desires. But hours later, on the House floor, Gaetz would cite a later-debunked media report to suggest that "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."

House Select Panel On Jan. 6 Attack ‘Is Going After Trump Now’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A former New York state prosecutor says the bipartisan House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack is definitely targeting Donald Trump, the disgraced former U.S. president.

Tristan Snell, who served as assistant attorney general for New York state and helped lead the prosecution against Trump University that resulted in a $25 million settlement says the Select Committee's work this week makes "crystal clear" what it's objectives are.

"A robust, comprehensive, no-stone-unturned subpoena effort is the foundation of any real investigation," Snell explains. "And they're going after Trump himself. That is crystal clear now."

House Panel Dramatically Expands Jan. 6 Investigation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Just two days after demanding a massive trove of records from the federal government, the bipartisan House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack is indicating it is expanding its investigation even further. On Friday Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) sent letters to 15 social media companies requesting a massive amount of data on disinformation, extremism, and foreign influence.

The letter details a list of 14 topics to be included, including data and documents on "Misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation relating to the 2020 election"; efforts to overturn the certification of the election; "Domestic violent extremists"; and "foreign malign influence," among many other topics, according to Forbes' Andrew Solender.

Among the 15 companies or platforms are Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Reddit, Snapchat, Telegram, Tik-Tok, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube, Solender adds. Also included are message boards 4chan and 8kun that have been popular with QAnon cultists and other conspiracy theorists, and thedonald.win, a pro-Trump message board that has since been scrubbed of its content. And Zello, a walkie-talkie app which "hosted far-right groups who stormed Capitol," The Guardian reported earlier this year.

Solender posted the letter. Click on each of the four images to expand:

Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump Over Jan. 6 ‘Acts Of Terrorism’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump is being sued by a group of seven Capitol Police officers for his role in the January 6 insurrection in what is being called the "most expansive civil effort to date" to hold the former president and his associates and allies accountable.

The lawsuit accuses Trump "and nearly 20 members of far-right extremist groups and political organizations of a plot to disrupt the peaceful transition of power during the Capitol riot on January 6," and implicates "members of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers militia and Trump associates like Roger J. Stone Jr.," The New York Times reports.

Five of the seven officers are Black, the Times notes, reporting that the lawsuit "contends that Mr. Trump and his co-defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 statute that includes protections against violent conspiracies that interfere with Congress's constitutional duties. It also accuses the defendants of committing 'bias-motivated acts of terrorism' in violation of District of Columbia law."

The Times also calls it the first lawsuit "to allege that Mr. Trump worked in concert with both far-right extremists and political organizers promoting his baseless lies that the presidential election was marred by fraud."

Read the entire report here.

Ex-Trump Staffer To Lead Protest Against Prosecution Of Capitol Rioters

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Matt Braynard, who served as data chief for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, has announced that he will host a rally on September 18 in support of people charged with crimes in connection with the rioting by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

In 2017, Braynard founded a nonprofit organization called Look Ahead America, which says on its website that its mission is to "register, educate, and enfranchise" the "rural and blue-collar patriotic Americans who are disaffected and disenfranchised from the nation's corridors of power."

He had announced on Steve Bannon's podcast in late July that he was organizing a "huge" rally to "push back on the phony narrative that there was an insurrection."

In a video posted to YouTube on Aug. 9, Braynard said that the event, which he is calling the "#JusticeforJ6 Rally," would be co-hosted by Cara Castronuova, a celebrity fitness trainer, conservative commentator, and co-founder of a nonprofit organization called Citizens Against Political Persecution.

Braynard teased a lineup of speakers that he said would be announced in the coming days. "These are people that you are going to be very excited to hear are joining their voices with ours and are going to be at the rally as part of our effort to raise awareness of this tragedy, of this grave violation of civil rights of hundreds of our fellow Americans," he said.

Braynard says that he has obtained a permit for the rally, which is to be held on the West Lawn of the Capitol, and a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department told the Huffington Post that the permit was approved. A spokesperson for the Capitol Police confirmed to WUSA9 that they're aware of the rally.

More than 500 people have been charged with crimes by the Department of Justice for actions taken during the riot at the Capitol, as a result of which five people died. Since January 6, four Capitol Police officers who responded to the riot have died by suicide.

Braynard told Bannon in July that the protest was "largely peaceful" and that any violence happened in instances where protesters were "egged on in many cases by the Capitol Police."

Braynard kept a relatively low profile throughout the Trump presidency but reemerged in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when he began independently collecting voting data and, in collaboration with the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal organization with ties to Trump's legal team, claimed it proved there had been massive fraud.

Braynard's voting data was cited in multiple failed lawsuits filed by Trump lawyers and supporters in an attempt to overturn the election results.

In the months since January 6, Braynard has also been one of the leading conservative voices trying to reframe the narrative of the insurrection. He's been holding rallies in support of people arrested for their actions on January 6 all summer, including one at the D.C. Central Detention Facility on July 17 that drew about 100 people.

Braynard asked in his announcement on YouTube that attendees at the rally "be respectful and kind to all law enforcement officers who may be present. ... And if they ask you to do something, please do so."

Meanwhile, intelligence communities have warned that there remains a serious threat of violence from right-wing extremist groups. On August 6, ABC News shared a Department of Homeland Security bulletin that warned of "an increasing but modest level of activity online" by 2020 election, noting, "Some conspiracy theories associated with reinstating former President Trump have included calls for violence if desired outcomes are not realized."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Rosen Testifies About Trump Coup Attempt At Justice Department

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The full scope of the Trump administration's efforts to nullify an American presidential election is just beginning to come into view. Trump and his top allies engaged in an orchestrated, three-pronged plan to use federal officials to cast illegitimate doubts on the integrity of the election, explicitly pressure state officials to "find" votes or otherwise alter vote totals, and counter the official congressional acknowledgement of the election's results with an organized mob assembled specifically to "march" to the Capitol and intimidate the lawmakers carrying out that constitutionally mandated process. It was an attempted coup by Trump and his deputies, one that Trump himself continued to press even after that coup had exploded into violence.

The New York Times reported that Trump's acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, gave closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday. The subject of the testimony was the interactions between Rosen and Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark as Clark attempted, on Trump's behalf, to press the Justice Department into issuing false claims suggesting that they were investigating election "fraud" of the sort that Trump's propagandists were claiming as the reason for Trump's loss. It was untrue, and the top two Justice officials rejected Clark's repeated proposals.

Transparently, it was an attempt by Clark and other Trump allies to throw the nation into chaos by claiming the election was so flawed that its results must be overturned—a claim which Trump's hard-right team believed would force the assembling Congress to erase the election's counted votes and, somehow, reinstall Trump as quasilegal national leader.

All three elements of the plan came perilously close to succeeding. All three were thwarted only because individuals remained in place who believed the plan to be insanity, sedition, or both. It is the efforts by Trump-aligned officials within the federal government, using the tools granted to them by government, that elevate the events culminating in violence on January 6 from insurrection to attempted coup.

In a pivotal decision, Rosen rejected Clark's attempt, leading to yet another internal administration crisis as Trump mulled whether to fire him and install Clark in his position so that the plan could be carried out.

In a Sunday CNN appearance, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dick Durbin said Rosen had described Trump as being directly involved in Clark's actions. "It was real, very real, and it was very specific."

Significantly, the Times reports that Rosen scheduled his testimony "quickly" so as to allow them to go forward "before any players could ask the courts to block the proceedings." That may be a self-serving interpretation of events. As emptywheel notes, Clark's efforts to overturn the election and Trump's aborted move to fire Rosen and install Clark as acting attorney general was the subject of news reporting in January, even before Trump's second impeachment trial took place. The Senate Judiciary began their requests for documents pertaining to the plan near-immediately, and have been battling the Department of Justice for testimony ever since.

A half-year delay in gaining testimony about a "very real" and "very specific" attempt to overthrow the duly elected next administration by coup does not make it sound like anyone involved is attempting to provide evidence "quickly."

Most significantly of all, perhaps, is that the United States Senate could have investigated the Trump team's plot during the impeachment trial meant to gather evidence and come to judgment on Trump's behavior. For the second time, it did not do so. It avoided examining the evidence, rushing through the trial to again get to the inevitable close of having nearly all Republican lawmakers back Trump's actions, even after they had resulted in violence.

The job now falls to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection: The moves that Clark, Meadows, and other Trump officials made to falsely discredit the election results were intended to provide the backing by which willing insurrectionists could justify their demands that the Constitution be tossed aside for the sake of Trump's reinstallation. The job also falls to federal investigators who now need to examine—swiftly—the criminality of the schemes.

It was not, however, a "Trump" coup. Donald Trump, a known liar and semi-delusional blowhard, had few government powers that would allow him to singlehandedly erase state election counts or make official his declarations that he had lost, after a disastrous single term, only through "fraud" concocted against him. It required the cooperation of top Republican allies, of Republican Party officials, of lawmakers, and others that would press the false claims and work both within and outside of government to give them false legitimacy.

It was a Republican coup, an act of sedition backed with specific acts from Mark Meadows, from Jeffrey Clark, from senators such as Josh Hawley, from state Republican officials who eagerly seized on the conspiracy claims specifically so that they could be used to overturn elections they had lost, and from everyday Republican supporters who decided that the zero-evidence nationalist propaganda they were swallowing up was justification enough to storm the U.S. Capitol by force in an overt attempt to erase a democratic election.

Here we sit, waiting with bated breath as evidence dribbles out describing the full scope of what the entire world saw in realtime, from last November to January: top Republican officials spreading knowingly false, propagandistic claims intended to undermine the integrity of our democratic elections so as to justify simply changing that election's results and declaring themselves the victors. It was a fascist act. It continues in the states, as state Republican lawmakers use the same brazenly false claims peddled by Clark to impose new hurdles to voting meant to keep at least some fraction of the Americans who voted against the party last time from being able to vote at all the next time.

A bit more urgency is required, here.

The Sedition Caucus, Under Oath

It is an indisputable fact that House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, were at the very heart of former President Donald Trump's coup plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election. While more than hints and clues have pointed to their involvement ever since the January 6 insurrection, their central role emerged this past week when notes of a December 27, 2020, conversation between Trump and the acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen were disclosed.

Informed by Rosen that the Department of Justice could not and would not reverse President Joe Biden's election victory, Trump urged him to "just say the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me and the [Republican] congressmen." Moments later, Trump referred specifically to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, founder of the Freedom Caucus and close associate of Mark Meadows, the former Freedom Caucus chair who left Congress to become Trump's White House chief of staff.

Jordan is so far unwilling to say whether he will testify about the insurrection if he is summoned, just as he refused years ago to assist official inquiries into hundreds of sexual assaults on the Ohio State wrestling team in which he was suspected of complicity or worse. But this time, if the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol requests his appearance, either voluntarily or by subpoena, he will have to show up or face legal consequences. So will several other members of the Capitol Hill "sedition caucus" who sought to invalidate Biden's election, including McCarthy and Arizona Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, to name a few of the most prominent.

And so will their longtime confederate Meadows, who has already been subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee in the Rosen matter and "may face significant criminal exposure," according to the Just Security website published by New York University School of Law.

Each of these Republican myrmidons has serious questions to answer. Brooks, donning a flak jacket when he addressed the pre-riot Trumpist rally at the Ellipse on January 6 calling for "kicking ass," has claimed immunity, a justification denied by the DOJ. Boebert allegedly gave a tour through the Capitol with unknown persons later identified as insurrectionists in December and January. "Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander boasted of concocting a plan to intimidate Congress from certifying the election with Gosar, Biggs, and Brooks.

Jordan was implicated in the coup effort very early, even before Election Day, when he publicly accused Democrats of planning to corrupt the balloting. In the weeks leading up to the insurrection, he plotted with Meadows and Trump at the White House; in the days afterward, he was given the Medal of Freedom by Trump in a closed ceremony there. It is undoubtedly the first time that high honor has been awarded for seditious conspiracy against the Republic.

As the Lincoln historian and former presidential adviser Sidney Blumenthal pointed out in a recent Guardian column, members of Congress possess no immunity against a subpoena from a House investigating committee. Moreover, as Blumenthal also noted, there is richly ironic precedent to summon all of these characters, voluntarily or otherwise, in the official Senate probe of John Brown's infamous Harpers Ferry raid on the eve of the Civil War. Leading that investigation was none other than Mississippi Sen. Jefferson Davis, the traitor who later served as president of the Confederacy (whose battle flag soiled the Capitol hallways on January 6.)

Harper's Ferry was the last domestic insurrection to come under congressional scrutiny — until now. Among the witnesses called to testify about the events leading up to Brown's attack were two antislavery Republican senators suspected by Davis of knowing or aiding him. And it is safe to say that Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, and other Democrats on the committee are aware of that precedent.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans named to the committee by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has suggested that Jordan and McCarthy, both of whom spoke with Trump on January 6, should be called — and a very large and rapt television audience awaits her questioning of them.

Meadows, who spent that day and the days preceding the insurrection with Trump in the White House and knows what the former president did and didn't do, will have to face the music. It will not be the last time he's been caught in a coup. In January 2013, when he conspired with Jordan to overthrow Republican House Speaker John Boehner, he was exposed in the failed attempt. He later came to the speaker's office, according to Boehner, got down on his knees, and pleaded, "Will you please forgive me?" Meadows will undoubtedly have another opportunity to get on his knees soon.

These ultra-right Republicans are the face of an authoritarian and frankly nihilist insurgency that began its takeover of the Grand Old Party back when their model Newt Gingrich rose to power as speaker. It is no surprise that this miscreant crew now surrounds their would-be dictator Trump like a praetorian guard, or that they spearheaded his attempt to destroy democracy. But the time is rapidly approaching when they will have to answer for those actions under oath. Of course, Jordan and Meadows and Brooks and Boebert and the other members of the gang can always plead the Fifth Amendment.

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