The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: capitol riot

Select Panel Hearing Will Probe Trump Push To Overturn 2020 Results In States

One day after Arizona’s 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump’s supporters, including armed protesters, converged on Maricopa County’s ballot counting center. That morning, a local congressman, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) had amplified Trump’s stolen election claims. He tweeted that Trump votes were uncounted in his state’s most populous county because many voters had used sharpie pens, which bled through the paper and spoiled their ballots.

Although the rumor, dubbed “Sharpie-gate,” was false, Gosar made a beeline for the protest. Rather than urging those present to accept disappointing results, he validated their fears. Gosar was not alone. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, another ambitious Republican – now running for the U.S. Senate as a “true conservative” – announced an investigation. These reactions, abusing their office’s prestige and authority, were not unique.

Trump called Maricopa County’s top elected Republican to pressure him to stop counting votes. The Arizona Republican Party, like the GOP in many battleground states, filed baseless lawsuits. Later that month, Trump’s Washington-based lawyers, who knew that Joe Biden won, flew into Phoenix. They met with GOP legislators, who let them use Arizona’s statehouse as a stage for making more false claims. In December, loyalists from state party officials to legislators, forged and signed a fake Electoral College certificate saying that Trump had won. Then they lobbied the vice president to count their fraudulent and illegal votes on January 6.

The fourth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol will focus on how Trump’s team pressured local and state government officials to overturn Biden’s victory. Tuesday’s witnesses include two Republican election officials from Georgia and a state legislator from Arizona who resisted Trump’s pressure and received numerous threats from Trump supporters that have continued into 2022’s elections.

The events in Arizona followed a template also seen in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, according to the panel’s disclosures and other reporting compiled by States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections.

“The same lies and conspiracy theories that fueled the January 6 attack contributed to threatening and violent messages aimed at election officials,” its Arizona update said. “These threats were launched over email, voicemails, texts, letters, social media, and in-person events, including gathering outside election officials’ homes.”

As the hearings continue, there are not only questions of what accountability will ensue for participants in Trump’s failed 2020 coup, but what can be done about a Republicans who still embrace the stolen election lie. This past weekend, for example, the Texas Republican Party adopted these claims in its party platform. That action follows scores of election-denying candidates running for state and federal office in 2022 and winning their primaries.

“These candidates and their successful primary campaigns are a stark reminder that the insurrection—and the lies that sparked it—did not end on January 6, 2021 or when former President Trump left office,” wrote States United’s leadership team, Noman Eisen, Joanna Lydgate, and Christine Todd Whitman (New Jersey’s ex-governor and a Republican) in Slate. “And they are proof that the kindling for the attack—and the continued stoking of the fire—is alive and well in the states.”

The trio contend that local accountability would have the greatest chance of stopping the cynical and dangerous stolen election claims. They suggest disbarring the “bad lawyers” who perpetuated the evidence-free falsehoods, which means ending their legal careers. They said that “district and county attorneys can bring criminal charges” against the coup’s participants and cited the investigation in Georgia’s Fulton County, where Trump tried to get Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to reverse Biden’s victory. (Raffensperger and his deputy are witnesses on Tuesday.)

They further suggested that local prosecutors go after militias like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for confrontations with police, citing a lawsuit by the District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine. They also suggested that state attorneys general go after Trump’s post-election fundraising where false claims were used to dupe donors, citing a Michigan inquiry that’s underway and a possible New York State investigation.

“Democracy cannot exist without the rule of law,” they wrote. “Seeking accountability for those who step outside those bounds is critical to stopping the ongoing insurrection before it’s too late. If we want to prevent an election hijack in 2022 and 2024, it’s going to take a full-speed-ahead approach to accountability. And just like with our elections, we believe those [accountability efforts] will be run and led by the states.”

Tuesday’s disclosures may suggest which legal venues would be best for seeking accountability.

But there is another aspect of accountability that involves understanding and confronting the dysfunctional political psychologies that enabled this crisis. Pro-Trump politicians, candidates,and campaigners seem to share a mindset where they valued obtaining power above other personal, public, and professional considerations. It’s one thing to be a loyal and ambitious politician. It’s another to mimic party leaders who lie, show indifference to facts, embrace chaos and violence, bilk supporters, and say such actions were patriotic — and still are.

The hearings are revealing how far people who admired or envied Trump were willing to go. As new details surface so too are suggestions for how and where to hold participants accountable. But what has not yet been revealed is what might excise the dynamic in political life that allows such self-serving people to advance, and, as just seen in Texas, to keep lying.

GOP, Trump Political Operation Paid Millions To January 6 Organizers

Political operations tied to former President Trump and the Republican Party paid millions to the organizers of the January 6, 2021, rally that preceded the now-infamous assault on the Capitol to thwart the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, according to Open Secrets.

A non-partisan and non-profit group tracking money in U.S. politics, Open Secrets found that Trump’s political operation and other GOP committees have paid over $12.6 million to the January 6 rally’s organizers since the start of the 2020 election cycle.

The “full extent” of the aforementioned payments remains a mystery, said Open Secrets, because the Trump campaign and a horde of GOP groups funneled payments through American Made Media Consultants LLC, a vendor created by the Trump campaign to “act as a clearinghouse for its spending."

The Trump campaign has routed over $771 million through the vendor thus far, and the details of these transactions — including recipients’ identities and how much they received — remain hidden.

The politically divided Federal Election Commission couldn’t decide on whether to look into allegations that the former president’s campaign funneled money through American Made Media Consultants LLC so that it could hide key details of its spending in the 2020 elections.

During the second Capitol attack hearing, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a member of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, blasted the Trump campaign, saying it “misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for.”

The campaign finance watchdog found several groups in Trump’s political operations that have paid organizers of the January 6 rally, including the Save America PAC that Trump created after the 2020 elections, which, according to the New York Times, “has become the primary hub of his ongoing political operations.”

Intricate Money-Funneling Operation

Political groups linked to Trump and his campaign have paid $6.9 million to the firm Event Strategies since election day 2020 — $4.5 million of which was paid in the first four months of 2022. Event Strategies obtained the permit for Trump’s January 6 rally at Eclipse Park in Washington, D.C., USA Today reported.

At the helm of Event Strategies are Trump campaign aides Tim Unes and Justin Caporale. Both aides were listed on permit records as stage and production managers for Trump’s January 6 rally.

According to the Open Secrets report, Event Strategies received $3.2 million for its “political works” in 2022 from Save America PAC and Make America Great Again, Again! Inc., both of which are part of Trump’s political operations.

Event Strategies has also been paid by the Trump campaign; the Republican National Committee; America First Works, a dark money group aligned with Trump; and Republican party committees.

Altogether, Open Secrets said, groups linked to Trump and the GOP doled out $12. 6 million to Event Strategies since the start of the 2016 elections.

Trump’s operations also funneled millions into BlueBonnet Fundraising, a firm founded by Caroline Wren, a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign. Wren was listed as a “VIP Advisor” on the permit issued for the January 6 rally at Eclipse Park.

Wren “boasted” of having raised $3 million to support Trump’s January 6 rally. She also “parked” unspecified amounts of money at several Republican-tied groups to “add a layer of confidentiality for the donor,” according to a report by ProPublica last October.

Wren has since denied the allegations of wrongdoing. An attorney for Wren told the Washington Post that Wren “in her role as an event planner, assisted many others in providing and arranging for a professionally produced and completely peaceful event at the White House Ellipse with hundreds of thousands of Americans who were in D.C. to lawfully exercise their first amendment rights.”

Election Defense Fund

On Monday, the select committee, in its second of a series of public hearings, revealed that Trump and his team had conned supporters to the tune of $250 million on the false premise of combatting election fraud.

Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the committee, said Trump had been “so successful” in his scam that “nearly $100 million in the first week after the election.”

The Election Defense Fund didn’t exist, the select committee said, and the pool of donations was shared among a group of individuals and business entities tied to Trump, including the Save America PAC and, of course, Event Strategies.

Lofgren hit at Trump and his allies for the heist, saying, “So not only was there the big lie, there was the big rip-off. Donors deserve to know where their funds are really going."

Right-Wing Commissioners In New Mexico Rehearse Theft Of Future Elections

Otero County, New Mexico, home to 66,000 residents, is the scene of an election battle that could portend dark consequences for the future of American elections.

Earlier this week, the three-person county commission refused to certify the results of the June 7 primary. The commission is controlled by three Republicans, and their decision has triggered a crisis at the county level with an emergency meeting held on Friday.

At the time of the emergency meeting, the most high-profile commissioner, Couy Griffin, was in Washington D.C. facing his sentencing for participating in the January 6 riots. Griffin is known as the founder of Cowboys for Trump, and he was found guilty of entering a restricted area and acquitted on a disorderly conduct charge.

He has indicated that he has not changed his mind on the vote and will not vote to certify the election, but it is unknown whether he can phone in his vote.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the commission had to certify the results of the county’s election, but Griffin has publicly called on his fellow commissioners to stand firm and vote against certification.

Vague 'Concerns'

The three county commissioners have been somewhat vague about why exactly they refuse to certify election results. But just like on the national stage, election fraud has been a major talking point for Otero County since the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion voting machines have drawn the ire of conservatives across the country, and one county commissioner said she does not trust the machines during a public meeting last Monday. They did not cite specific irregularities and fell back on a general distrust of the voting machines.

“I don’t have specific examples that I can point to other than the recent audit and the canvass and the uncertainty of what that produced,” said Griffin during the meeting.

But election officials and other watchdogs have pointed out that the voting machines are available to the public to view prior to an election to see how the certification process works.

Mario Jimenez, a member of the progressive watchdog group Common Cause New Mexico, said, “they have no basis — other than ‘we just don’t trust the machine’ — for not certifying the election.”

Nonetheless, the county commission has received plenty of attention as an example of conservative strongholds refusing to allow votes to be counted properly.

New Mexico’s secretary of state called the situation “a canary in the coal mine.”

Election Unrest

The January 6 riots have a clear through line to election unease heading into the 2022 midterms. Ever since Trump and his allies claimed election fraud as the culprit behind his loss, conservative groups on the ground in heavily red areas have been laying the groundwork to contest election results going forward.

In some cases, it manifests in harmless sore losers like Joey Gilbert, who lost Nevada’s Republican gubernatorial primary and insisted election fraud was the reason for the loss.

But in other cases, like Otero County, Republican officials loyal to Trump have put in work to get into positions of power to hold up voting certification, almost as a proof of concept for future elections.

In all likelihood, the Otero County primary election results will be certified and be recognized as legitimate results.

However, Griffin and his fellow commissioners have successfully proven that you can contest election results by simply seizing power of the county commission.

While Congress attempts to bring details about the January 6 riots to light, conservatives across the country are working at the local level to increase their stranglehold on power in rural, red communities.

How Mike Pence Fanned The Flames Of The Capitol Riot

The third hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol celebrated Vice President Mike Pence for his refusal to buckle to weeks of private and public bullying by Donald Trump, who pushed Pence to abuse his power as the presiding officer at Congress’s ratification of 2020’s Electoral College vote on January 6 -- and turn Trump’s defeat into a second term.

Before installing Pence into the pantheon of constitutional heroes or naming him the exemplar of conservatives who defeated Trump’s coup (which is the Wall Street Journal editorial board’s take, because Republicans, not Democrats, “foiled” the seditious president), let’s recall what Pence said at a Georgia rally two days before January 6.

“I know we all, we all got our doubts about the last election,” Pence said, speaking in Milner, Georgia, before two U.S. Senate runoff elections the next day. “And I want to assure you I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the objections. We’ll hear the evidence. But tomorrow is Georgia’s day!”

Pence, unlike the stream of Republicans now speaking truth to the January 6 committee because they are not in power, did not say what he apparently knew at that time. He knew, as the hearings showed, that Trump’s claims about the 2020 election being stolen were a big lie. Yet Pence led Trump supporters on, suggesting there were irregularities that led to Joe Biden’s victory, and, that he would somehow be addressing those problems when Congress convened on January 6.

“This [speech] contributed to the expectations of Trump supporters that something could be done at the January 6 joint session, and thus helped set the stage for the “‘wild’ chaos” that Trump and his supporters, including apparently some of his team’s lawyers, wanted to foment,” wrote Ned Foley, an Ohio State University professor specializing in election law and the transfer of presidential power, on ElectionLawblog.org, where he is a contributing editor.

Foley wasn’t the only observer to note that Pence’s comments, or, rather, his failure to speak the truth from the beginning, is troubling. Pence is still avoiding a public confrontation over Trump's lies. As Tim Miller wrote on Thursday in The Bulwark, an anti-Trump Republican news and opinion website, “Now don’t get me wrong, the former vice president does deserve recognition for his actions on January 6… [but] what reason is there for his absence [at the hearings]—besides rank politics?”

“Shouldn’t the man of the hour have been in the building?” Miller said. “Shouldn’t he testify, under oath, about the events of January 6? Don’t we deserve to hear from Pence what his conversations with Trump were like in the lead-up to that day? Shouldn’t he tell us the ways in which the president abdicated his responsibility to help protect the Capitol and everyone within it as the mob descended? Shouldn’t he be asked whether the president was on the side of America and the Constitution or the insurrectionists who were trying to tear it down?”

Perhaps the answer to these questions is that politics, like life, is complicated. Pence may have faced bullying and degrading treatment from Trump for not playing a unique role in seizing a second term for Trump (and himself). But, as Foley said, Pence fanned false expectations that something could be done on January 6.

Worse, Foley said that Pence’s remarks at the January 4 rally in Georgia were misleading, because, neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Electoral Count Act of 1887 gave Pence any leeway to alter the 2020 Electoral College vote count.

“Those expectations were altogether inappropriate because under the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act, the only role for the joint session of Congress is to accept as ‘conclusive’ electoral votes from states that comply with the conditions set forth in 3 U.S.C. 5,” Foley continued. “Any claims of ‘irregularities’ – there was no procedure for ‘evidence’ to be presented in the joint session – would have been contrary to this congressional obligation, and thus it was wrong for Pence on January 4 to say that the January 6 joint session was entitled to ‘hear’ such claims.”

While Pence deserves credit for not pushing the country into an unprecedented constitutional abyss, the testimony of another conservative to the committee on Thursday, retired federal appeals court judge J. Michael Luttig, highlighted the need to clarify the ambiguities in federal law that Trump sought to exploit.

“Our democracy has never been tested like it was on that day and it will never be tested again as it was then if we learn the lessons of that fateful day,” said Luttig in prepared remarks submitted to the committee. “On the other hand, if we fail to learn the lessons that are there to be learned, or worse, deny even that there are lessons there to be learned, we will consign ourselves to another January 6 in the not-too-distant future, and another after that, and another after that.”

Yes, Pence played a historic and ultimately courageous role on January 6. He did his duty in the face of real danger. But two days before, he fanned the flames that erupted on January 6, even though he knew, as his staff repeatedly told the committee, the limits of his legal authority. Historic, yes. But heroic?

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Five Mastriano Supporters Indicted On Capitol Riot Charges

At least five supporters of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, are facing federal charges for their participation in the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. At least one of the five traveled to Washington on a bus chartered by Mastriano.

Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel whose political career began with his election to the Pennsylvania Senate in 2019, is a supporter of Trump's election lies and a Christian nationalist who supports a total ban on abortion. He led the effort in Pennsylvania to award Trump the state's 20 electoral votes in spite of the actual election results, even attending a White House meeting with Trump to strategize about how to retroactively deny Biden victory in the Keystone State.

Mastriano attended and was tentatively scheduled to speak at the "Stop the Steal" rally held just prior to the insurrection at the Capitol, according to permitting documents for the event. In a statement issued by his office on January 6, Mastriano condemned the violence and said, "When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area and made our way out of the area. At no point did we enter the Capitol building, walk on the Capitol steps or go beyond police lines."

However, footage posted online is reported to show Mastriano crossing abandoned police barricades alongside his wife.

Sandra Weyer of Mechanicsburg, who traveled to Washington on a bus chartered by Mastriano and who donated $500 to his campaign for the Pennsylvania Senate, was one of the more than 2,000 pro-Trump protestors who invaded the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the 2020 presidential election. She was arrested on a felony charge of obstructing Congress and on four misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing after she allegedly recorded and encouraged an assault on a New York Times photographer.

William Blauser Jr., who attended the "Stop the Steal" rally, entered the Capitol with the mob holding a sign bearing Mastriano's gubernatorial campaign slogan, "Walk as Free People." Blauser was charged with three misdemeanors and entered a guilty plea to the charge of "parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building."

Blauser traveled to the Capitol with Pauline Bauer, a McKean County pizza shop owner who can be heard in body camera footage taken inside the Capitol rotunda saying, "Bring [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi out here now. We want to hang that fucking bitch" and "Bring them out, they’re criminals … they need to hang." A photo included with FBI case documents shows Bauer wearing a Mastriano shirt on January 5.

Bauer, who has been indicted on five counts and whose trial is scheduled for next month, has been jailed since September 17, 2021. Her requests for pretrial release were denied after she claimed she was "not a person" and not subject to federal law and cited the Bible in an argument with the Trump-appointed judge presiding over her case, rhetoric experts say is used among adherents of the so-called sovereign citizen movement, who believe they are not subject to state or federal law, based on a series of conspiracy theories about the U.S. government.

Donald Smith, a Lindenwold UPS worker, is facing up to a year in prison for entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Officials said Smith, who was arrested after co-workers reported him to the FBI for boasting about breaking into Pelosi's office and calling the insurrection "the best day of his life," had previously donated $1,000 to Mastriano's state Senate campaign.

Samuel Lazar, who was arrested in July 2021, has posed for photographs with Mastriano at least a half-dozen times, including for several taken after January 6. Lazar, who said of his actions, "I was right at the front, on the tip of the spear, brother. That's where you gotta be," was accused of spraying a chemical irritant at Capitol Police officers and has been charged with assaulting and obstructing law enforcement. Mastriano said he did not know Lazar personally, a claim Lazar's siblings dispute as a politically motivated attempt by Mastriano to create distance from potentially controversial supporters.

"Why would you assume that every politician who takes a picture with someone at an event automatically knows who they are or agree [sic] with what they believe?" Mastriano said in a statement provided to HuffPost.

Mastriano has agreed to testify before the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol over his role in the coordinated Republican effort overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The Pennsylvania general election for governor will be held on November 8. Mastriano will face Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

The Dilemma Confronting Merrick Garland Is Worse Than You Think

None of us wants to live in the kind of country where losing an election means going to prison. Russia, for example, or the proverbial Banana Republic. Anywhere the powerful can have their freedom taken away, many fear that theirs too is in danger.

Even more oppressive, however, are regimes where the powerful enjoy absolute impunity. Equality under the law is the one right upon which all the others depend.

It follows, then, that Attorney General Merrick Garland faces the toughest of choices. Politically speaking, the only thing worse than failing to indict Donald Trump for his role in the January 6 mob assault upon the U.S. Capitol would be to charge the crazy SOB and fail to convict him.

Conspiracy charges are notoriously hard to prove.

Trump’s trial would be a legal spectacle like none before it. Jury selection alone would be a nightmare, mob violence a strong likelihood.

Too bad former Vice President Mike Pence, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and other cabinet members who talked about using the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office after the insurrection failed to follow through.

A majority vote of Trump’s cabinet signifying that he was non compos mentis on the subject of the 2020 presidential election might have given pause to all but the most delusional members of the Trump cult before their suspicions hardened into dogma.

Non compos mentis as in crazy as a loon, crazier than the proverbial outhouse rat, crazier than a bag of cats, etc. During his videotaped testimony to the committee, Trump's former Attorney General William P. Barr said, “I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, boy … he has become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.”

When he would try to explain how bizarre some of the voter fraud allegations pushed by cranks like Rudy Giuliani and the My Pillow Guy were, Barr added, “there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”

Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told the committee that following the election, the former president’s immediate circle separated into “Team Crazy” vs. “Team Normal” and that the president had no use for the normal ones.

Mere reality, you see, has never meant much to Trump when compared to the intensity of his needs. That’s how he managed to go bankrupt running a casino; an airline, a make-believe “university,” etc. If the numbers don’t add up, he invents his own numbers, declares bankruptcy, and then cons somebody into lending him some more.

Anybody want to buy a used golf course?

In the present instance, the House Select Committee has learned that the Trump campaign solicited political donations for an “Official Election Defense Fund,” which happened not to exist.

Instead, Trump put the cash to other uses.

Same as it ever was.

So what are his needs? Well, the diagnostic criteria for “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” are as follows:

“A. Grandiose sense of self-importance or uniqueness, e.g. exaggeration of achievements and talents….

B. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance….

C. Exhibitionism: the person requires constant attention and admiration.

D. Cool indifference or marked feelings of rage, inferiority, shame, humiliation or emptiness in response to criticism…or defeat.”

Also, “entitlement,” “interpersonal exploitativeness,” and “lack of empathy.”

Sound like anybody we all know?

According to his niece, Mary L. Trump, a clinical psychologist and author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, Uncle Donald is essentially a textbook case.

Like his cruel, bullying father before him.

Years ago, I wrote a book called Widow’s Web about an Arkansas murderer who turned the state upside down with the help of a showboating elected sheriff and a gullible, sensationalizing news media. Best thing I’ve ever done. Anyway, for a couple of years, the exploits and bizarre alibis of Mary Lee Orsini were all anybody here talked about; another textbook case.

Here’s how I summed her up:

“Criminal psychopaths live as permanent impostors. They know right from wrong; they just don’t give a damn. Their world divides into user and used; morality consists of fear of getting caught. And whatever happens, somebody else is always to blame. To the question: Are psychopaths sick or are they evil? There is just one answer: They are both…. ‘Moral imbeciles’ was the nineteenth-century term. The prisons are full of them.”

Could Trump himself end up in prison? Frankly, I can’t imagine that happening. There’s just no telling what mad acts he and his more enraptured followers would be capable of to prevent that happening. Remember, whatever happens, somebody else is always to blame.

As the evidence accumulates of the former president’s complicity in raising a mob to prevent Congress from certifying the presidential election, Merrick Garland’s dilemma deepens. He’s no rookie, having prosecuted both “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski and Oklahoma City terror bomber Timothy McVeigh. But he’s walking into a snake’s nest now.

When Will Congress Call Domestic Terrorism By Its True Name?

I can’t imagine how Garnell Whitfield Jr. did it, how he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to demand some sort of action from the country’s leaders on gun violence and on the domestic terrorism wrought by white supremacy. But as I was riveted by his testimony, I realized the strength and courage he must have drawn from the memory of the mother he will never stop grieving.

Ruth Whitfield, at 86, was the oldest victim in a shooting at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 people, all African Americans, dead. It was May 14, not even a month ago. Yet there have been so many shootings since, it sometimes seems as if the rest of the world has forgotten. An 18-year-old white man is accused of carrying out the racist attack, accused of driving hours to hunt and murder as many Black people as possible.

“I would ask every senator to imagine the faces of your mothers as you look at the face of my mother, Mrs. Ruth Whitfield,” Garnell Whitfield testified on Tuesday.

Would they be able to do that?

“Ask yourself,” he said, “is there nothing we can do?”

The track record isn’t great.

I’m not sure what Whitfield was expecting from lawmakers who have a hard time even naming what happened. How, then, could they put themselves in his shoes?

Garnell Whitfield is far ahead of our elected representatives, many of whom want, have always wanted, to distract and downplay, to accuse others of bad intentions, to look everywhere but into the eyes and the broken heart of a man whose life has been forever changed.

Whitfield’s plainspoken speech must have startled those reluctant to call out “domestic terrorism” and “white supremacy” for the dangers they are, despite the warnings from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s March 2021 testimony before the same committee about the connection between the January 6 attack on the Capitol and right-wing “domestic terrorism.”

They would rather, as Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have done and continue to do, point to acts of violence by those on the left and accuse Democrats of using any effort to counter domestic threats as an excuse to go after political opponents.

This is the same Cruz who walked back his comments earlier this year describing January 6 as a “terrorist attack,” a sign of how dishonestly hearings by the House Select Committee are going to be received in some partisan quarters.

In Buffalo, the intent was clear. Did the shooter want to terrorize more than the people he is charged with gunning down? Were Black people enjoying weekend shopping human beings in the shooter's eyes? Or were they merely players in his racist conspiracy theories about nonwhites in America usurping the white majority’s rightful place at the top? It is a hateful theory that is taking root, even in the rhetoric of some tasked with governing an increasingly diverse country.

“Be very afraid,” was the clear message in Buffalo to all African Americans. That’s the point of any hate crime, to target a group, especially when the hate is spelled out, chapter and verse.

It was the message of those who murdered Black Americans exercising the right to vote not that many years ago, or in the case of World War II veteran Medgar Evers in 1963, murdering an American hero just for daring to register fellow citizens, for insisting on being treated equally in the country he fought for.

Yet, despite a history with more cases of intimidation and violence than can fit in one or 1,000 columns — a history our leaders in Washington could view at the city’s museums open to all, if truth were the goal — Senate Republicans recently blocked a bill that would have the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI establish offices focused on domestic terrorism. This comes as five members of the far-right Proud Boys have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role on January 6, with televised hearings promising much more.

Just as any gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was prohibited for more than two long decades because of an amendment to a bill that prevented using federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” a 2009 effort by the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration to report on increasingly radicalized and violent right-wing groups was ended before it began.

Republican members of Congress and right-wing media outlets led the charge then and now to reframe any such attention as an attempt to smear police and the military and shift attention away from the perceived more urgent threat of foreign actors. Echoes of that could be heard in GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky’s recent remarks about the 2022 proposal. “It would be the Democrat plan to name our police as white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” he said. Former President Donald Trump, the man who found “fine people” on both sides in Charlottesville, Va., moved the government away from any investigation of white supremacist groups during his time in office.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical. How do you distinguish between hate speech and free speech? I understand the reluctance, and am reluctant myself, of too many investigations, too much surveillance, and how easily that can turn into the monitoring of “certain” groups. Past federal crackdowns to stop hate too often have been subverted to instead persecute and spy on those fighting for justice.

But there is definitely both smoke and fire when so many law enforcement officers and military veterans were caught attacking the very government they were sworn to protect on January 6, when shooters bond online over lies and hate.

America has a white supremacy problem, despite the reluctance of members of Congress to admit it, with support across the political spectrum for “threatening or acting violently against perceived political opponents,” according to a recent poll from the Southern Poverty Law Center that spares no one.

In that context, Garnell Whitfield doesn’t seem to be asking too much when he tells the senators that his mother’s life mattered, and asks: “Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?”

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

House Select Committee Releases Riot Footage Never Seen Before (VIDEO)

The House Select Committee promised never-before-seen footage in its first public hearing Thursday night, and it delivered. In addition to interviews with members of Donald Trump’s inner circle (Hi, Ivanka!), the committee showed a powerful video that included not just footage of the mob breaking into the U.S. Capitol, but stitched together a narrative of January 6, 2021 that shows cause and effect.

The video demonstrates part of how Trump incited the attack, cutting from his rally speech that day to the mob following through on his extremely unsubtle encouragement. It shows a group of Proud Boys marching on the Capitol as he spoke, and the dawning realization on the part of the police of what they were facing. It shows those notorious chants of “Hang Mike Pence,” counterposed against Trump’s ranting against Pence.

It shows a stack of Oath Keepers making its way through the crowd into theThe Jan. 6 committee promised never-before-seen footage in its first public hearing Thursday night, and it delivered. In addition to interviews with members of Donald Trump’s inner circle (Hi, Ivanka!), the committee showed a powerful video that included not just footage of the mob breaking into the U.S. Capitol, but stitched together a narrative of the day that shows cause and effect.

The video demonstrates part of how Trump incited the attack, cutting from his rally speech that day to the mob following through on his extremely unsubtle encouragement. It shows a group of Proud Boys marching on the Capitol as he spoke, and the dawning realization on the part of the police of what they were facing. It shows those notorious chants of “Hang Mike Pence,” counterposed against Trump’s ranting against Pence. It shows a stack of Oath Keepers making its way through the crowd into the Capitol.





It’s a must-watch for understanding how the day played out.