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Tag: capitol rioters

Armed Militia Member Who Led Capitol Rioters Gets 87 Months

Guy Reffitt, a member of the extremist militia known as the Three Percenters and the very first person to stand trial for crimes connected to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced to 87 months or just over seven years in prison on Monday.

He will be under supervision for three years following his eventual release.

Although he did not physically enter the Capitol itself, the armed Wylie, Texas, man breached police barriers and advanced against officers even as they tried desperately to repel him with dozens of pepper balls. Reffitt was found guilty this spring of multiple felony charges following a four-day jury trial. His charges included transporting a firearm, obstruction of an official proceeding, being in a restricted area unlawfully while armed, interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder, and obstructing justice.

The last charge stemmed from Reffitt’s violent intimidation of his own family members, including his son Jackson and daughter Peyton, after he returned to Texas from Washington, D.C., last year. Jackson Reffitt was visibly anguished in court as he told jurors how his father warned him if he ratted him out to the police, he would be a “traitor.”

“And traitors get shot,” he recalled his father saying.


At his trial in Washington, jurors watched video Reffitt shot on January 6, where, courtesy of a camera mounted to his helmet-clad head, he is heard excitedly vowing to drag lawmakers out of the Capitol by their hair.

“I’m not here to play games,” Reffitt said in one clip. “I just want to see [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi’s head hit every fucking stair on the way out—and Mitch McConnell, too.”

Reffitt was also heard saying, “We have the numbers to make it happen,” and was confident the mob could overcome police without “firing a single shot.”

His attorney, F. Clinton Broden—who did not represent Reffitt at trial but signed onto the case later—sought a much lighter sentence than the 15 years initially requested by the Department of Justice. Reffitt was originally represented by William Welch.

Prosecutors argued that Reffitt was a catalyst-type figure on January 6 and urged the court to view him as the “match that started the fire,” since he was one of the very first people to breach police barriers and wave others on.

Reffitt, at the time, would seem to agree. At trial, prosecutors unearthed a Telegram message sent by Reffitt that bragged: “I was the first person to light the fire on the Capitol steps.”

Broden said despite the rhetoric, the suggestion that he started the riot was off-base. According to WUSA9, Broden told the judge Monday that the mob “would have gone up those stairs regardless, without Mr. Reffitt, I think we all know that.”

He argued his client was unlike other January 6 defendants—who had physically assaulted police, too—and therefore deserved no more than two years in prison.

Prosecutors sought what is known as an “upward departure” from the recommended federal sentencing guidelines of 9 to 11 years. Instead, they asked Reffitt to serve 15 years. His conduct warranted enhancements because of his extended planning in the run-up to January 6 and his agitation of the crowd when he started waving to people to come up the Capitol steps, prosecutors said.

In a presentencing report, prosecutors defined the 49-year-old recruiter for the Three Percenters as a “quintessential example of an intent to both influence and retaliate against government conduct through intimidation or coercion,”

Reffitt traveled more than a thousand miles from Texas to attend former President Donald Trump’s “wild” rally at the Ellipse with fellow Three Percenter Rocky Hardie. They came toting weapons, including two AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles, and Reffitt carried a .40 caliber handgun. The handgun stayed holstered at his hip when he was at the Capitol. Hardie and Reffitt left the assault rifles at their hotel in downtown D.C., but when Reffitt marched on the Capitol, he donned the .40 caliber gun, body armor, a tactical helmet, and carried flexicuffs.

The sentence enhancement was necessary for numerous reasons but was especially important because it would serve as a significant deterrent, prosecutors said.

“The need to deter others is especially strong because Reffitt engaged in acts of violence that were intended to influence the government through intimidation or coercion—acts that have been defined, by statute, as domestic terrorism,” assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Nestler wrote this month to presiding U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump-appointee. “Moreover, the violence at the Capitol on January 6 was calculated to interfere, and did interfere, with one of the most important democratic processes we have: the peaceful transfer of power.”

In court Monday, Nestler reiterated this point, noting the history of Reffit’s violent remarks and, in particular, his bringing flexicuffs to the Capitol. Reffitt, he said, intended to detain lawmakers.

“He was trying to take over our government. He wasn’t just trying to stop the vote,” Nestler said.

Friedrich was not inclined to uphold the recommended sentencing enhancements for “advanced planning” or for Reffit’s role in “aggravating” events on January 6. Nor was she willing to uphold the domestic terror enhancement. Politico reported Monday that Friedrich felt it would be unfair and would prompt an “unwarranted sentencing disparity” among other Jan. 6 defendants.

Unlike several other January 6 defendants, Reffitt failed to enter into any sort of cooperation agreement with prosecutors. Regardless of who the defendant is, cooperation almost always translates to a more lenient sentence.

Friedrich said in court Monday that she worried about Reffitt receiving a “dramatically different sentence” because he opted to go to trial instead of striking a plea deal.

The Trump-appointed judge raised comparisons between Reffitt and other January 6 defendants like Lonnie Coffman of Alabama. Coffman, she noted, pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered firearm, but prosecutors did not seek to increase his sentence for that.

When authorities arrested Coffman as he was walking to his vehicle on January 6, they discovered almost a dozen Molotov cocktails in his car, a rifle, shotgun, machetes, a 9mm handgun, a crossbow, and other tactical gear, like smoke bombs. On his person, he had yet another 9mm handgun and a revolver. He was sentenced in April to 46 months or a little under four years.

Nestler reminded Judge Friedrich Monday that Coffman also did not receive the upward departure because he did not go to the Capitol on January 6. Reffitt did.

Friedrich also raised the case of Mark Ponder, a 56-year-old D.C. resident charged with a single felony of assaulting police with a deadly weapon. Ponder, who had a criminal background prior to January 6, assaulted no less than three cops during the Capitol attack, including U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell.

In court last week before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, Gonell offered a victim impact statement describing that life-altering day. Ponder used a thin metal pole to strike down at Gonell’s riot shield, cracking it. That pole became damaged, so Ponder picked up another thicker pole just nearby to strike at Gonell again. This one was colored red, white, and blue, The Washington Post reported. Gonell, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, suffered severe and sustained physical and mental injuries as a result of January 6 and has taken early retirement.

Ponder was sentenced to five years in prison, just below a recommended six-year sentence. This leniency was the product of his cooperation, Judge Chutkan said.

As for Reffitt, Judge Friedrich said she did not support the proposed enhancements to his sentencing though told prosecutors it was a “close call.”

Were Reffitt joined at the Capitol steps by his fellow Three-Percenter Rocky Hardie on January 6, that would have made the decision to add the enhancements a “slam dunk.”

Hardie, of Round Rock, Texas, testified against Reffitt at trial in exchange for immunity and did not face any charges. Hardie and Reffitt drove to Washington, D.C. together, a trip that took over 20 hours.

Hardie disclosed how he and Reffitt joked gleefully about the sound Pelosi’s head would make thudding downstairs as she was dragged out of the Capitol during the Joint Session.

After Reffitt was found guilty, Hardie told CBS they did not really believe they would harm lawmakers because they did not think it would be possible to actually access them. Hardie defended bringing weapons to Washington, too, saying they were for “self-defense” purposes. When he saw Reffitt carrying the zip ties on January 6, he told CBS that was a precautionary measure. Reffitt told him they would need them “just in case” there was anyone around that needed to be detained.

In an interview last December with ABC, Reffitt said he regretted his actions because they tore his family apart. His son was not at sentencing on Monday.

Last month, Reffitt’s wife and daughter advocated on his behalf. His son did not. Reffitt himself has said before that their relationship was strained because his son leaned more left than he did.

Writing to Judge Friedrich in hopes that she would grant a more lenient sentence, Reffitt’s wife Jodi said tensions in their family were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Guy had lost his job as an oil rig manager, and their children’s schooling was disrupted. Stress levels were high. It didn’t help matters either, she said, that her husband’s brash personality stemmed from a rough upbringing where he had been “on his own since 15.”

Jodi Reffitt begged Judge Friedrich for leniency because, she said, being together would be the only way for their family to “fully heal.”

Reffit’s daughter Peyton defended her father’s behavior and said he fell down a “rabbit hole of political news and online banter.”

In her estimation, it seemed like her father believed Trump was talking right to him and his grievances. Social media just kept “radicalizing” him, she added.

Prosecutors asked the judge not to give this too much credence, pointing to at least two incidents in which Guy allegedly put a gun to his wife’s head. On one of those occasions, he fired the gun near her head. An illegal silencer was also found on Reffitt’s property.

Judge Friedrich acknowledged Reffitt’s behavior was “unhinged at times,” but according to CBS, the judge also “couched her concern saying Reffitt ‘clearly’ loves his wife.”

Peyton Reffitt was originally meant to testify against her father at trial along with her brother Jackson, but she did not. When Reffitt returned from D.C. after the insurrection, Peyton told prosecutors her father had become increasingly paranoid. Once, he told her if she was recording him with her cell phone, he would “put a bullet” through it.

This and the “traitors get shot” comment deeply disturbed her brother. But Peyton said she didn’t see this as a threat to her life, just more of her father’s overheated rhetoric.

In court Monday, she put the blame for her father’s actions squarely on Trump’s shoulders without calling Trump by name.

“My father’s name wasn’t on all the flags,” she said Monday. “It was another man’s name. He was not the leader.”

At his trial, prosecutors shared video footage of Reffitt. In one clip, he is seen taking chemical irritants head-on, rubbing his eye. He had only barely slowed his advance because of this, and even still, he is seen waving more rioters up the stairs. The glint of his gun in his holster was visible in this footage too.

In other footage, a portion of a Zoom call Reffitt participated in with fellow Three Percenters, jurors heard Guy Reffitt boldly gloat.

“Nobody was moving forward until I climbed up that banister. I couldn’t even see, but I kept screaming, ‘Take the House,’” he said.

At sentencing, the former U.S. Capitol Police officer who testified against Reffitt, Shauni Kerkhoff, called for a harsher sentence.

Kerkhoff agreed with U.S. Attorney Nestler, who said Reffitt was more domestic terrorist than so-called patriot.

The former police officer recalled “watching in horror” as Reffitt kept advancing towards her at the Capitol, encouraging others around him to push past barriers and other police. Kerkhoff recalled how he assaulted her and other officers as he tried to push his way past them.

Reffitt has been held in a D.C. jail for more than a year already.

In a jailhouse letter first published this May by ProPublica, Reffitt defended the violence of January 6 and the activities of the extremist Three Percenters militia. The letter was signed “The 1/6ers,” but ProPublica was able to determine through interviews with members of Reffitt’s family that he wrote the screed.

“January 6th was nothing short of a satirical way to overthrow a government,” the letter stated. “If overthrow was the quest, it would have no doubt been overthrown. Ask the Capitol police for their opinion of how it could have been. They are grateful it wasn’t a real insurrection complete with mind, body, and soul.”

Before he was sentenced Monday, Judge Friedrich expressed concern about this letter and noted that it did not disavow January 6 but drew troubling comparisons between January 6 and 1776.

Reffitt offered a statement of his own before he was sentenced. According to WUSA9, Reffitt said he wanted to offer “multiple apologies.”

“I was, to put it colorfully, a fucking idiot,” he said.

The 49-year-old also vowed not to have “anything to do with militia groups or any stupid shit like that.”

He apologized to U.S. Capitol Police and members of Congress as well as the court.

Reffitt then told the judge that his family would be unable to support themselves financially while he was jailed if he “didn’t say something to garner money for them.”

When the judge asked him if it was true that everything he had said at trial was to raise money for his family, including his outward statements about rebelling against tyrannical governments, Reffitt said it was.

He also claimed that his previous attorney, William Welch, did not show him a plea bargain and instructed him that a trial was the only viable path forward.

Welch did not return an immediate request for comment on Monday. In court, Nestler said prosecutors offered Reffitt a 50-month sentence if he would cooperate, but Welch rejected the deal.

Judge Friedrich appeared skeptical at Reffitt’s remarks, pushing back against the notion that his attorney did not offer him insights on how a plea deal might change his fate. Reffitt’s own sense of self-importance may have clouded his judgment, she said: He wanted to be the first to go to trial.

Prosecutors rejected Reffitt’s last-minute mea culpa, noting how he still described January 6 as if it were a false flag event during an interview in The New Yorker this June.

In the end, Friedrich found Reffitt’s pleas unconvincing, telling him his actions posed a “direct threat” to democracy and an equal punishment was warranted.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Marjorie Greene Cares More About Jail Conditions For Capitol Rioters Than Juvenile Offenders

Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump said that if he were somehow able to become president in 2024 (prison is more like it), he would hand out pardons to all the January 6 Capitol rioters. He took that boast up a notch -- clearly learning nothing from the first insurrection -- by encouraging his violent cult to mount similar "protests" should he actually be held accountable for his coup attempt.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who vacillates between being an ordinary horrible person to being a flat-out Trump footstool, decided to play the former when he called Trump's remarks very inappropriate. Further, Graham said, “No, I don't want to send any signal that it was OK to defile the Capitol."

Little does Graham know that classiness and respect for the rule of law are big no-nos in today's fascistic GOP clown show.

Enter Marjorie Taylor Greene

In response to Graham's completely normal comments that one would expect from a Congressman in years past, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene went on Telegram (her far-right-insanity got her booted from Twitter) and accused Graham of not caring enough about pretending the election was stolen or doing anything to thwart the will of the people in the most legit election in our lifetime.

He didn’t care about election fraud in the 2020 election, even though thousands of Americans signed affidavits risking jail if they perjure themselves in court saying they witnessed election fraud.

He refused to object on J6 to Joe Biden’s electoral college votes.

He doesn’t care about our justice system being completely violated by Democrats in their political war against Republicans and President Trump.

Worse yet, the conspiracy-humping nut-bag went on a rant about how terribly the January 6 rioters are being treated and how Graham doesn't care. Incredibly enough, Greene seems to care more for a bunch of violent MAGA cultists than juvenile offenders in prison for far less serious crimes.

Pretrial J6 defendants are Americans who are being held in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day while rotting away in prison and they haven’t even seen a day in court.

For example, Green's name is nowhere to be found on a bill introduced by Texas Democratic Sen. Sheila Jackson Lee that limits the use of solitary confinement on juvenile offenders. But that shouldn't stop her from using the darkest hour in our democratic republic to score more brownie points with the MAGA crowd.

Of course, leave it to Greene to do anything and everything to perpetuate the insanity of Donald Trump.

Michael Hayne is a comedian, writer, voice artist, podcaster, and impressionist. Follow his work on Facebook and TikTok

‘Justice For J6’ Rally Distracts From Attacks On Democracy By GOP At State Level

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

More than eight months after a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol building while the 2020 presidential election was being ratified, some media outlets hyped a follow-up rally at the Capitol. But in fact, the real action is happening elsewhere.

Some mainstream media outlets focused attention on Saturday's scheduled "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., organized by a former Trump 2016 campaign strategist who has resurfaced to contend that people being held in pre-trial detention for their role in the January 6 assault on the Capitol are "political prisoners." But in doing so, the media unduly magnified an event that was a sparsely attended bust — and overlooked a more insidious development in the ongoing attempts to spread further lies about the 2020 election.

Another story developed in Pennsylvania this week, where a committee in the Republican-controlled state Senate has taken a major step in advancing the far-right push for "forensic audits" of the 2020 election results throughout the country.

The state Senate's Intergovernmental Affairs and Operations Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to issue a subpoena for detailed personal records of every registered voter in the state, including normally non-public information such as driver's license numbers and the last four digits of people's Social Security numbers. In addition to the clear dangers for identity theft if such information were to leak into the wrong hands, these tactics are similar to efforts by Arizona Republicans and could lead to voter intimidation.

"There have been questions regarding the validity of people … who have voted, whether or not they exist," state Republican Sen. Cris Dush, who is also the committee chair, had said in a committee hearing. These statements are similar to former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's discredited claims from last year that great numbers of votes had been cast under dead people's names in the swing state as it was won by Joe Biden. (There have been just a small handful of cases in Pennsylvania in which votes were cast under dead people's names — in acts committed by registered Republicans, who now regret having believed Trump's propaganda about election fraud.)

An analysis by Media Matters found that in cable news coverage since Tuesday, when Pennsylvania Republicans first announced they would be seeking all this private data, CNN has mentioned the rally in at least 69 segments, while MSNBC has included the story in at least 35 segments. (Fox News, by contrast, has given the rally almost no political oxygen, mentioning it only three times during the same time frame.)

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania story has received only a fraction of the coverage, having been mentioned in at least 13 segments on CNN and at least seven on MSNBC, according to the same analysis. (Fox News has not mentioned the Pennsylvania subpoena at all.)

Atlantic Council fellow Jared Holt, who monitors online extremism, wrote last week that the media have largely overblown the rally in their coverage. (Emphasis in original.)

Take it from me, a guy who spends 40+ hrs a week staring into the extremist abyss: What you're seeing at this point is largely speculation. To be perfectly honest, I'm a frustrated at what I've seen so far from the nation's leading publishers of journalism. It feels they have learned nothing about covering this space.
This is not to say that the event will not carry an inherent risk of attracting extreme believers, or even some with a violent disposition. For that, the event is worth monitoring and keeping tabs on. I'd also strongly advise people stay away from the rally, given that possibility. But suggestions that organized extremist groups are mobilizing at any major scale around this event are unsupported by current analysis.

The media coverage from the two networks looks even worse for CNN when examining the content itself. The network interviewed the rally's lead organizer Matt Braynard, and has aired clips from the interview multiple times, where CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider debunked Braynard's assertions that the people being held in detention were nonviolent protesters. One segment from Erin Burnett OutFront contained only a brief mention that Holt said the rally was expected to fail.

By contrast, MSNBC has done a much better job of explaining in detail that the event was expected to be a dud. (Though at the same time, this also means the network has given too much attention to a story that amounts to nothing.)

On Friday's edition of Morning Joe, NBC News senior reporter Brandy Zadrozny bluntly explained that far-right groups were actually discouraging their members from going to this event, that Braynard has been engaged in a "money-making enterprise" surrounding MAGA causes, and that "all of this media attention really helps him to do just that."

WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST): You've been keeping tabs online, on these online forums where these groups who planned and plotted January 6 also organized. What are you seeing this week, what are you seeing this morning, in terms of tomorrow's planned rally?

BRANDY ZADROZNY (NBC NEWS SENIOR REPORTER): Well, it's some good news, you know. We're not seeing any signs that we might usually see before a large, national-scale political rally, MAGA rally, extremist rally. We're seeing basically, really underwhelming posts, really limited to people nearby. People who are talking about this rally that you'd usually find in these circles — Proud Boys, QAnon, MAGA, anti-vaxxers — actually they're saying to stay away. There's a conspiracy theory that this is actually a honeypot or some sort of plot by the feds to entrap people to commit crimes. There's really barely a whimper out there for the real target audience.

I talked to Jared Holt from the Atlantic Council's DFR lab, and he's just saying really, the local energy is already preoccupied with community issues like in Portland or anti-mask vaccine rallies. So people are just too busy. And it's really important to note that unlike the January 6 Capitol attack, where it was really a bunch of different factions all sort of coming together under the umbrella of voter fraud, of the stolen election conspiracy theory — and really asked to be there by President Trump — no one is really doing this.

This event is actually just planned by this guy. His name is Matt Braynard, he works for this organization that he founded called Look Ahead America. And you know, he's a former Trump campaign operative. He's sort of a C-list player who jumps from MAGA cause to MAGA cause. He raised $650,000 last year to investigate the stolen election. So this is a money-making enterprise, and it's really important to remember that. And all of this media attention really helps him to do just that.

One major difference between the events of January 6 and Saturday's rally was that last time, the rioters sincerely believed that they were acting on behalf of the sitting president of the United States — and seemingly confirming their belief, Trump refused to immediately deploy the National Guard to defend Congress. No such incentive structure exists anymore, now that Joe Biden is actually in the White House, and any backup support would be sent to the Capitol if it is needed. Furthermore, Congress will not even be in session until next week. Those facts all seriously narrow down the range of people who might show up with violence in mind — though as we have also learned, such individuals could potentially show up on any other day.

To be clear, it is completely appropriate for security officials to prepare for violence just in case, and those preparations can themselves have a deterrent effect on any violence even occurring. But media hyping of the event is only serving to puff up its visibility and the public profiles of its organizers in a way that does not appear to be warranted.

Not only that, the time could be better spent shining a light on how the spirit of the insurrection has continued in state legislatures.

Methodology

Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) for segments that analysts determined to include mention of either the September 18 Justice for J6 rally or the subpoenas for personal information in the Pennsylvania State audit of the 2020 U.S. presidential election from 6 a.m. September 14 through 12 p.m. September 17, 2021.

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."

Have Trump Republicans Lost Control Of Their Paramilitary Thugs?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Recently, an exclusive Reuters report claimed the FBI has little evidence of a single overarching plot to overturn the election on January 6. The headline: "FBI finds scant evidence US Capitol attack was coordinated — sources." The story kicked off a self-serving game of telephone by right-wingers spinning an already threadbare dispatch into ever-more exculpatory narratives. Steve Bannon pronounced it a "massive win" while Republican Senate hopeful JD Vance tweeted, "Another narrative collapses." These strained readings of the report culminated in the bizarre Washington Examiner headline: "FBI confirms there was no insurrection."

In fact, the government has already uncovered far-reaching conspiracies to attack the Capitol and stop the certification of the election. It alleges that three major paramilitary groups — the Oath Keepers, The Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters — conspired within their own ranks to commit violence to keep Donald Trump in power. In addition to plotting within their own ranks, these groups reportedly coordinated with each other. The point that Reuters' anonymous sources were making was that there is as-yet little evidence these paramilitary operations were part of a single overarching plot orchestrated by a "civilian" leader, like Trump confidante and self-proclaimed dirty trickster Roger Stone. Maybe the paramilitaries acted on their own. This is a truly terrifying possibility given it would indicate the civilian wing of the Republican Party has finally lost control of the party's paramilitary wing.

Members and associates of the Oath Keepers militia have already pleaded guilty to conspiring to disrupt the certification of the election, and many others are working their way through the courts on similar charges. The government alleges extensive coordination among the Oath Keepers in the run-up to January 6 and ongoing communication with their leader while they stormed the Capitol. Multiple Proud Boys have also been charged with conspiracy and other serious offenses stemming from the assault on the Capitol. The government alleges, and independent media reports confirm, that teams of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys were in the vanguard of the assault on the Capitol.

Moreover, all three paramilitary groups were an integral part of the Trumpist "Stop the Steal" movement that staged a series of violent protests to intimidate election officials in swing states, cement the myth of voter fraud, legitimize the Trump team's frivolous legal challenges and radicalize supporters. "Stop the Steal" had an established M.O. by January 6: besiege public officials and attempt to bully them into certifying the contest for Trump based on wild allegations of voter fraud and the ever-present threat of violence.

There's no question that the civilian architects of "Stop the Steal" wanted to intimidate the lawmakers certifying the election. Organizer Ali Alexander explained his plan was to put "maximum pressure" on the lawmakers in a bid to coerce the GOP representatives they had not been able to lobby to join their cause. "If they [certify the election], everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building," Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. "1776 is *always* an option""

"I want to hear a huge shout-out for Enrique and the Proud Boys right now," "Stop the Steal" organizer Cindy Chafian commanded the crowd gathered in Washington on January 5 on the eve of the certification of the election. Chafian went on to thank the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and other paramilitary groups as unsung heroes. "I'm tired of the left telling us we can't talk about them," Chafian said.

Chafian was referring to Enrique Tarrio, the supreme leader of the Proud Boys, who had been scheduled to speak at the gathering, but found himself unable to attend because he'd been arrested two days earlier for burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a previous "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington. Chafian's fellow speaker, Cordie Williams thundered that, "Enrique is in jail right now for burning a flag that bastardizes everything we stand for, it makes me sick."

The "Stop the Steal" slogan was coined by Stone in 2016 and revived by his protegé Ali Alexander to transmute lies about election fraud into incandescent rage that it hoped to harness to keep Donald Trump in power. "'Stop the Steal' is a highly coordinated partisan political operation intent on bringing together conspiracy theorists, militias, hate groups, and Trump supporters to attack the integrity of our election," Ben Decker, the CEO and founder of Memetica, a digital investigations consultancy, told CNN in November of 2020.

As the votes were being counted, Alexander organized a series of armed, violent protests in swing states geared at intimidating state election officials. The Oath Keepers provided security for "Stop the Steal" organizers, including Stone. The Proud Boys turned out in force to brutalize counter-protesters and even organized their own protest at the home of United States Senator Marco Rubio to pressure him not to certify. Stone addressed the crowd by speaker phone.

Tarrio and other high-ranking Proud Boys were so close to Stone they were allowed to post to his social media accounts. Stone was even kicked off instagram for his ties to the Proud Boys. Stone was so accustomed to surrounding himself with Proud Boys that The Daily Beast proclaimed the neo-fascist street brawlers "Roger Stone's Personal Army" in 2019.

Stone and Alexander's longstanding relationships with the paramilitaries are tantalizing circumstantial evidence, but hard proof that they or any "civilian" ordered shock troops to attack the Capitol remains elusive.

Stone and Alexander like to cast themselves as skilled operatives very much in control, even as they deny responsibility for the violence swirling around them. But if Reuters' sources are correct, they paint a very different picture: That Stone, Alexander and all their Republican allies and enablers are ineffectual dupes who have lost control of the toxic forces they sought to command.

Lawyer For Jan. 6 Defendants Reportedly Hospitalized On Ventilator With Covid

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

John Pierce is the attorney tasked with defending 17 suspected January 6 insurrectionists. Pierce was already working on alleged murderer Kyle Rittenhouse's defense when he added the 17 defendants facing federal charges for storming the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to his client roster. Before that, Pierce was a staunch MAGA supporter who had previously represented Rudolph Giuliani and Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Pierce's Twitter account, which was very active up until August 20, is filled with the kinds of right-wing retweets from Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump Jr., and Mike Cernovich one would expect in this day and age. It also includes a lot of anti-vaxx, anti-mask retweets. After missing a series of court appearances, news has leaked out that the attorney may have tested positive for COVID-19, and may be intubated in an ICU somewhere right now.

Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler reported on her emptywheel blog that the question of Pierce's whereabouts came up during a status hearing for Jan. 6 defendant Shane Jenkins. Jenkins would be insurrectionist defendant No. 18 for Pierce. According to Wheeler, when Judge Amit Mehta asked the attorneys present where Pierce was (in order to clarify issues of representation), Pierce's colleague Ryan Marshall told the judge that "Mr. Pierce is in the hospital, we believe, with COVID-19, on a ventilator, non-responsive."

Whether or not Pierce has received a COVID-19 vaccine is not known, but on August 17, just days before he may have gotten ill with the virus, he replied to someone on Twitter, writing "Not sure actually. All I know is the entire 82nd Airborne couldn't make me get an experimental government vaccine stuck in my arm. #1stCAV."

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On Monday, the Department of Justice filed this "NOTICE REGARDING DEFENSE COUNSEL JOHN PIERCE, ESQ." In it, the DOJ accuses Pierce's associate Ryan Marshall, the man who said Pierce is on a ventilator with COVID-19, of not being "a licensed attorney." As a result, while Pierce's whereabouts are unclear, "Mr. Marshall cannot ethically or legally represent Mr. Pierce's clients." The filing hopes to inform these various courts that Marshall is not a legitimate stand-in for an absent Pierce. According to the government, the last interaction that the courts or the DOJ had with Pierce was during a hearing Monday, Aug. 23. In the past week, up until telling Judge Mehta that Pierce was on a ventilator, Marshall said all kinds of things:

Since that time, the U.S. Attorney's Office has heard conflicting information about Mr. Pierce's health and whereabouts. The morning of Tuesday, August 24, Mr. Pierce was scheduled to appear before Judge Friedman for a status hearing in United States v. Nathaniel DeGrave, No. 21-cr-90. Mr. Pierce was not present at the hearing. Instead, Ryan Marshall—an associate from Mr. Pierce's law firm who is not a licensed attorney—appeared in Mr. Pierce's place and represented to the court that Mr. Pierce's absence was due to a conflict. A few hours later, Mr. Marshall attended a reverse-proffer session with a different defendant represented by Mr. Pierce, telling the Assistant U.S. Attorney that he had just gotten word that Mr. Pierce had been in an accident and was on his way to the hospital. Mr. Marshall then proceeded with the reverse-proffer session in Mr. Pierce's absence.

According to the government's filing, Marshall then said that he had heard both that Pierce had COVID-19 and was in the hospital, and that he didn't have COVID-19. Pierce's colleague, Brody Womack, would not confirm or deny that Pierce was on a ventilator to Business Insider. But he did write that Pierce had been hospitalized on Monday "due to symptoms that he believed might have been related to COVID-19." In an email, Womack wrote:

"John appears to have been suffering from dehydration and exhaustion in relation to his tireless work on behalf of his clients, including the many defendants he represents in connection with the January 6, 2021 protest at the Capitol. John, a former Army tank platoon leader, is a natural-born fighter – both in and out of the courtroom. While John remains under the care of his doctors, we expect him to make a full recovery. John and his family thank everyone for their concern."

In February, after fights with the Rittenhouse family over what was being done with all the money being collected during Kyle's white supremacist publicity tour by Pierce and Kraken-krank Lin Wood in Rittenhouse's name, the Rittenhouses fired Pierce. The Daily Beast reported just weeks before Pierce's disappearance that the Proud Boy-representing attorney seemed to be out of his depth in trying to defend more than a dozen January 6 insurrectionists. They also pointed out that Pierce had a history of running up very large tax debts, dealing with "substance abuse issues," and allegations of domestic violence threats.

Whether or not Pierce is on a ventilator remains to be seen. He is clearly unable to appear in court and the people he is defending at this time should be worried, as his judgment is just as suspect as their own.