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


FBI Probing Contacts Between GOP Members And Capitol Rioters

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

America watched the events of the January riot and insurgency occur in real time. They saw Trump supporters pushing down police lines to swarm the Capitol grounds. Then watched as those Trump supporters swarmed up the Capitol steps. Watched them smash through the doors and windows. Watched them surge into the halls of Congress carrying zip ties and weapons. Watched them raid congressional offices and stroll the floors of both House and Senate while calling for the murder of Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi.

As more evidence about events of that day appears, what's clear is that America didn't come close to seeing all the violence and destruction brought on by those trying to roll back the revolution and crown Trump as America's king. New testimony from those present on that day, video not previously seen by the public, and evidence developed by investigation is revealing a situation that was even more violent, more destructive, and more threatening to the nation than was obvious from the jaw-dropping scenes that appeared on television screens.

And in addition to evidence of destructive violence, there is also increasing evidence of involvement from Republican officials. That includes both a State Department official now wanted for taking an active role in the violence, and increasing signs of coordination between those breaking into Congress and the Republican legislators inside.

As the Associated Press reports, emails, photos, and other documents collected from those present around the Capitol on January 6 is painting a more complete image of the actions of the pro-Trump insurgents. Taken as a whole, these documents show just how overwhelmed the Capitol Police were in the first moments of the assault, and how Metro D.C. Police and others who rushed in to help only ended up as part of a disorganized patchwork response as communications and control broke down.

Included in this material is the story of a pair of Arlington firefighters who came to the Capitol on January 6, and stuck around to assist the Capitol Police during what was expected to be a large protest. Instead, the two found themselves the only medics on the scene while operating right under the feet—and flagpoles—of an angry mob. Lost in the confusion and hemmed in by thousands of screaming Trumpists, the firefighters attempted to triage dozens of officers who had been injured, but had no way to get them to safety.

Meanwhile, police were trying to respond to dozens of different threats that seemed to be breaking out everywhere at once. Not only were violent extremists grappling with police and bashing their way into buildings, there were threats of potential snipers in trees, a report that the Proud Boys intended to destroy the local water supply, the pipe bombs at both the RNC and DNC headquarters, and reports of still more armed militia groups incoming. Police were unable to concentrate forces at the Capitol steps, because chaos seemed to be happening everywhere.

This explosion of violence may have appeared chaotic and overwhelming to the police, but it clearly did not happen without planning. And as CNNreports, some of that planning may have been coordinated by the people who police were literally dying to protect. During the investigations of Jan. 6 that have been launched in Congress, a number of Republicans—most notably senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz—have repeatedly expressed concern about the idea of the FBI looking into phone records of those in Congress. Hawley in particular has fumed about this "violation of privacy" in multiple hearings.

He may have good reason to be concerned. Because it appears that investigators are, in fact, checking out communications between members of Congress and some of the 300 people who have already been charged with crimes related to the insurgency. Some of this seems to be records showing that criminal insurgents claimed to be working in coordination with members of Congress. Which isn't surprising, considering that two of those arrested had this conversation on the Senate floor as they dug through senator's desk and ripped pages from reports.

Man 1: "There's gotta be something in here we can fucking use against these scumbags. This is a good one, him and Hawley or whatever. Hawley, Cruz."
Man 2: "Hawley, Cruz? I think Cruz would want us to do this... So I think we're good."

Investigators are not just looking at communications that took place on January 6, but contacts between officials and the attackers over the period leading up to the insurgency. That might finally produce some information about the large tour that Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) gave in the days just before the assault.

Those investigators might also want to take a look at the 2,000 page report compiled by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D_CA) that looks at the social media of her Republican colleagues over the weeks leading up to January 6.

"This review lists public social media posts from Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who were sworn-in to office in January 2021 and who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election."

Lofgren's report includes not just social media comments that seem to be inviting violence, but those that encourage the Big Lie about "election fraud," as well as other elements, such as conspiracy claims related to QAnon. As Lofgren says, the report is "representative, but not exhaustive." Still, it is a handy reference to the lies, incitement, and more lies being pushed onto social media by Republicans in Congress. Also included in Lofgren's review are a number of statements from Republicans, particularly those in the House, that continue to support the Big Lie even after the assault on the Capitol.

Investigators are also looking into the funding of the extremists who attacked the Capitol. While Republicans frequently make false claims about "antifa buses" and Black protesters being sent to locations by a Jewish billionaire, the truth is that numerous militia groups really did meet up at a series of locations and coordinate their arrival in D.C. And it seems entirely possible that those operations were funded by Republican donors, just as the tea party protests were a decade earlier.

However, there's at least one Republican official whose role in the Jan. 6 attack doesn't require digging through phone records or social media. AsThe Washington Post reports, Federico Klein, a former State Department aide appointed by Donald Trump, was arrested Thursday on multiple felony charges. On January 6, Klein joined the insurgents confronting police in a tunnel beneath the Capitol. There he wrenched a riot shield away from one officer and used it to beat others. He also used that shield to hold open a door so that more insurgents could enter the building. At the time, Klein was an active employee at the State Department and enjoyed a Top Secret clearance. His appointment to the State Department followed a paid position in the Trump campaign.

Ron Johnson will not explain how Klein was actually a member of an antifa sleeper cell.

Republicans Want No Independent Probe Of Jan. 6 Insurrection

Despite all the lamentations over the Republican Party –- the respectable party that supposedly existed before you-know-who ruined everything – it would be more honest to admit that the grand old party wasn't so grand even back when.

To take one timely example, Republicans have always resisted investigation of their leadership failures, even when the security of the nation was at stake.

At this moment, the constitutional imperative is to investigate, reveal, and respond to the forces behind the violent seizure of the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Dealing with the threat that horrendous incident now symbolizes ought to be a vital interest of both major political parties -- whose legislators were nearly lynched by a ravening mob -- as well as anyone who hopes to bequeath a democratic republic to our heirs. That is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed a bipartisan national commission modeled on the panel that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

But after the 9/11 attack occurred on George W. Bush's watch, despite many warnings that aroused no action by him and his appointees, both Bush and Congressional Republicans felt an overwhelming urge to cover up. They tried to shut down the 9/11 Commission before Congress even passed the enabling legislation. They tried to rig the investigation by putting that old reprobate Henry Kissinger in charge. (He stepped aside because he didn't want to disclose his unsavory business affairs.) They tried to withhold information and then they tried to suppress the report's contents. Ultimately none of those manipulations succeeded, and a semblance of the truth emerged.

Fortunately, the president responsible for the January 6 disaster is no longer in office and cannot control the multiple probes that will embarrass and perhaps ruin him. But Republicans still wield power in Congress, especially the Senate, and they again appear determined to obstruct an independent investigation, with subpoena power and all other necessary resources, that must be mounted to protect us from another attack from within.

It's bad enough that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who has publicly articulated his clear understanding of what happened – is undermining Pelosi's effort with his usual partisan shenanigans. If McConnell wants to do his duty, he can raise any objections in private discussion with the Speaker and work out a deal. His public posturing is unhelpful.

Worse than McConnell are the House and Senate Republicans who insist on pretending that the attack didn't really happen, or that some mythical entity was responsible – or, in the most insulting version, that Pelosi is to blame for lax security at the Capitol. Never mind that she was almost assassinated by Trumpist thugs, and that McConnell was equally responsible for overseeing the Capitol Police and Sergeants at Arms.

Such absurd assertions, uttered by the likes of Jim Jordan and Ron Johnson, only show that these Republicans, just like their Bush administration forebears, are mostly interested in concealing the culpability of the Dear Leader. Although Donald Trump is gone from the White House, he resides in the cowardly hearts of almost all the Republicans on Capitol Hill – and they know the last thing he wants is an honest bipartisan investigation. As Harold Meyerson noted in The American Prospect, it is hard to imagine that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is keen to testify about the angry conversation between him and Trump on January 6 – when the president gloated over the assault on the Capitol after McCarthy begged him for help.

There lies the real difference between Republicans then and now. Back in 2001, and on earlier occasions when Republican presidents were implicated in national security scandals, there was a plausible assumption that most Republican representatives and senators would do what was necessary, however reluctantly and unhappily, to uphold their constitutional oath. They would, at long last, put country over party.

For these Republicans, however, party comes first -- and party means nothing more than Trump, who can humiliate them and betray the country as he wishes. ("America First" is just another big lie, perhaps the biggest.)

If Democrats want a real investigation of January 6, they cannot rely on Republican good faith.

Police Official Testifies Right-Wing 'Militias' Want To ‘Blow Up’ U.S. Capitol

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman revealed disturbing details about multiple right-wing militias that participated in U.S. Capitol riots on January 6. Not only were they contemplating harming lawmakers but, according to Pittman, intelligence indicates that there were also plans to "blow up" the U.S. Capitol amid the State of the Union.

On Thursday, February 25, Pittman delivered her testimony during a hearing with a House Appropriations subcommittee. "We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6 have stated their desire that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible, with a direct nexus to the State of the Union," Pittman said during her testimony.

She added, "Based on that information, we think it's prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced security posture until we address those issues going forward."

According to Pittman, the reports detailing potential threats to the Capitol have influenced the increased presence of law enforcement at the federal building. However, she also noted, "that existing intelligence has failed to highlight the fact that rioters who stormed the Capitol were not exclusively targeting politicians and officers, further stressing the need for heightened security in Washington D.C."

Pittman told the committee, "They wanted to send a symbolic message to the nation as to who was in charge of that legislative process."

She also tried to deflect criticism aim at the Capitol Police over its failure to anticipate the January 6 attack.

"The department was not ignorant of intelligence indicating an attack of the size and scale we encountered on the 6th," Pittman explained. "There was no such intelligence. Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the U.S. Capitol, nor did the intelligence received from the FBI, or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat."

However, other reports have suggested there were significant warnings about the coming insurrection. The Washington Post reported on an FBI bulletin prior to the attack and obtained the report:

"As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to 'unlawful lockdowns' to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington, D.C.," the document says. "An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating 'Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal."

Congress Debates Bipartisan Commission To Investigate Capitol Attack

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A bipartisan Senate inquiry into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is underway, but it's unlikely to be the only major investigation. Congressional leaders are also talking about a bipartisan commission like the 9/11 Commission, though there's disagreement on what that would look like.

Democrats are reportedly drafting a bill to set up a commission with 11 members: two chosen by each of the top congressional leaders in the two parties (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) and three chosen by President Biden, with one of Biden's choices serving as chair. McConnell, however, is unhappy with that plan, describing it as a "bizarre partisan construct."

A competing Republican bill would have each of the top four congressional leaders appoint two members, Biden appoint a chair, and McConnell appoint a vice chair. (So McConnell would get the most choices? Hmmm.)

The 9/11 Commission was evenly balanced between Democrats and Republicans, but while it was successful at getting its recommendations passed and is now being cited as an uncontroversial model, its original chair and vice chair both stepped down and there were a series of conflicts over its work. Let's not allow the pretense that any such major investigation can happen free from disagreement or politics.

Jordan Tama, an associate professor at American University's School of International Service, has studied independent commissions going well beyond the 9/11 Commission. At Just Security, he writes that two factors are key to a successful commission: its credibility, and a carefully defined scope for investigation. Too narrow a scope, and the investigation doesn't get to the root causes of its subject. Too broad, and it can lose focus.

In this case, Tama argues, the scope of the investigation "should include examining how the attack was planned and carried out; the roles and motivations of extremist groups that were involved in it; the use of social media and other digital communications to facilitate it; how and to what extent political leaders inspired or contributed to it; whether foreign governments contributed to it; and what federal, state, and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies knew, did, and failed to do."

Similarly, writing at Lawfare, Herb Lin and Amy Zegart argued in January for a commission tasked with 10 major areas of inquiry, including law enforcement planning, intelligence warnings, a timeline of the events of January 6, the involvement of U.S. governmental actors and foreign actors, and, finally, "What changes in law, rules, regulation or policy for both the executive and legislative branches are necessary to reduce the likelihood of future violent attacks for political purposes against American democratic institutions, facilities and leaders? What would be the impact of such changes on privacy and civil liberties in the United States?"

The composition of the commission will be critical to its credibility, Tama further argues. He supports an evenly divided commission, but beyond that, "commissions are more likely to conduct their work in a bipartisan manner and reach consensus on their findings and recommendations when their members are not holding public office or engaged in other political roles during their tenure." Two out of three commissions he's researched have issued a unanimous report, and those that haven't have seen fewer of their recommendations adopted.

But even in the course of an argument for an evenly divided commission, Tama acknowledges the challenge: "Assuming they are both given some appointment power, will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy name commissioners who will be willing to follow the facts and support corrective measures even when Trump and his supporters deny or denounce those facts and proposals?"

That's the problem, isn't it? Choosing Republican former officials—people not worried about a primary challenge—would certainly open up the likelihood of a Republican who was willing to follow the facts. After all, a stream of Republicans have retired from Congress because they couldn't or wouldn't hack it in Trump's party, and still more former officials in Republican administrations have spoken out in recent months. There are plenty of longtime professional Republicans who are going to be willing to do an investigation that at least has a chance of implicating Donald Trump. But those are unlikely to be the people that Kevin McCarthy would choose, and McConnell, too, is questionable on that front. We're unlikely to be talking about a commission that includes former Rep. Justin Amash, former Gov. John Kasich, or former Sen. Jeff Flake. Or even Trump's own former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, for that matter. (Unless Democrats choose them in a fit of nonpartisanship or McConnell decides he's not going to be around to try for Senate majority leader again in 2023 and he really, really wants his obituaries to characterize him as a statesman.)

That leaves a very tricky balance between, on the one hand, a commission that Republicans will relentlessly demonize as a partisan Democratic operation and, on the other hand, a commission that can never succeed because its Republican members are dedicated to protecting the leader of their party. We'll see how it goes.