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Tag: law and order

Ex-Cop Who Stormed Capitol Goes On Trial

The trial for Thomas “TJ” Robertson, a former cop and U.S. Army veteran who prosecutors say stormed the U.S. Capitol with tactical gear and gas masks in hopes of obstructing the certification of the 2020 election, begins this week.

Jury selection kicks off the proceedings for the third trial mounted from the Justice Department’s massive investigation of the January 6 attack incited by former President Donald Trump.

Robertson has a steep hill to climb: He has entered a not guilty plea to six counts after violating the terms of his release earlier this year, and his alleged cohort—another police officer, Jacob Fracker, who has already pleaded guilty—is expected to testify against him.

Robertson’s trial could last for the duration of this week and according to NBC4 Washington, presiding U.S. District Judge Christopher Moore told attorneys Monday he anticipated the trial could pour over into next week.

According to his indictment, Robertson traveled from just outside Roanoke, Virginia to the Capitol with fellow Rocky Mount Police Department officer Jacob Fracker on January 6. Both men were fired after being arrested in the immediate weeks after the riot.

Robertson, a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, allegedly brought a large wooden stick with him to the Capitol on January 6. Prosecutors say he used it to beat back Metropolitan Police Department officers defending the complex alongside U.S. Capitol Police in the melee.

He also brought three gas masks with him that day. According to Fracker’s admission last month when entering his guilty plea, Robertson gave Fracker and another person the masks as they marched into a restricted zone near the west terrace of the Capitol.

Fracker faces up to five years in prison and will be sentenced on Apr. 28, potentially just after the jury issues its verdict for Robertson. Fracker has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s sweeping probe in exchange for leniency, and he could receive just 15 to 21 months.

At trial, in addition to key testimony from Fracker, U.S. attorneys will present a variety of exhibits to make the case against Robertson.

The former Rocky Mount police sergeant has made some of that work easy: He took a selfie with Fracker in the crypt of the Capitol after breaching it and then sent it to other officers at the department.

The men posed before a bust of John Stark, a decorated major general of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Robertson is seen making an obscene gesture there.

He posted the selfie with Fracker to his own social media account after it was leaked online.

“Here’s the picture in question and I am fucking PROUD of it,” he wrote. It shows 2 men willing to actually put skin in the game and stand up for their rights. If you are too much of a coward to risk arrest, being fired and actual gunfire to secure your rights, you have no words to speak I value.”

Instagram exchange

He also wrote online about how he “took the fucking Capitol” and how he “attacked the government” on January 6.

All of this evidence cuts against his defense that he was actually escorted into the Capitol by police and milled about peacefully. Robertson denies reveling in or participating in any violence, and his attorney has emphasized how Robertson was only inside the Capitol for 10 minutes.

Jurors will also see timestamped video footage provided by U.S. Capitol Police as well as bodycam footage from the Metropolitan Police Department, security footage from the Senate and House, and a bevy of Robertson’s disturbing Facebook posts and other social media messages.

Two days after the attack, he unloaded on Facebook, prosecutors say. In one post, Robertson railed that “being nice [and] polite, writing letters and sending emails hasn’t worked.”

An FBI lab report from last July noted Robertson had a metal pipe with two metal end caps, a fuse and a piece of a fuse.Robertson was outraged, writing:

Robertson was outraged, writing:

“All thats left is violence and YOU and your ‘Friends on the other side of the isle have pushed Americans into that corner. The picture of Senators cowering on the floor with genuine fear on their faces is the most American thing I have seen in my life.” : [Punctuation, spelling, emphasis original]:

Jurors may also see records tied to Robertson’s account for an online assault rifle “discussion and resources” forum, his bank statements, information found on his cell phone, and photographs of items found at his home two weeks after the Capitol breach.

Robertson was initially on pretrial release following his arrest but was thrown back into detention when officers with a search warrant found an M4 Rifle, over 50 cans of gunpowder and the makings of a pipe bomb at his Ferrum, Virginia home. Officers also turned up four silencers. The weapons and materials violated an order from the court that he not have access to firearms or destructive devices.

Prosecutors fought to keep him in jail as well because Robertson ordered ammunition and some 37 firearms after he was indicted. He spent nearly $50,000 on the haul and had the guns and ammo sent to a federally licensed firearm dealer in Roanoke, Virginia.



He claimed the rifle found in his bedroom belonged to his son. His attorneys argued the materials were part of his training equipment for a law enforcement rapid response training program. The mass of guns he ordered he chalked up to being part of his growing collection of World War II memorabilia. Court records show Roberts tried to obscure the purchase on Venmo, at one point labeling a more than $3,000 purchase as “Wedding Photos.”

Judge Cooper told Robertson he likely committed a felony by having the weapons shipped on his behalf.

Robertson appeared flagrantly remorseless about his conduct on the online gun forum, too.

At one point, he posted a screenshot of his charges to the gun broker site, adding that he was “sure as fuck” proud of his charges.

“I’ve said it before. They are trying to teach us a lesson,” Robertson wrote on Jun. 10. “They have. But not the intended lesson. I have learned that if you peacefully protest than you will be arrested, fired, be put on a no fly list, have your name smeared and your address released by the FBI so every loon in the U.S. can send you hate mail.”

He continued:

“I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon… cross it. Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles,” he wrote online six months after Jan. 6.

Robertson insists he is innocent and told ABC13 last year Capitol police invited him inside and offered him water.

U.S. Capitol Police did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos on Monday.

Robertson maintains “there was absolutely no indication” he or Fracker were “anything but welcome to check out certain places” and he insists he “did not participate in any violence or property damage.”

Prosecutors allege Fracker, Robertson, and an unidentified neighbor drove to Washington early on the morning of January 6 and started the day listening to speeches near the Washington Monument. Before they arrived, Robertson was raging on Facebook that the 2020 election had been stolen, echoing false claims by then-President Trump.

Published by permission of Daily Kos.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Demand Justice, But Stand Up For Law And Order Too

The conversation started on a long Uber ride. The driver, originally from Colombia, said he knows a lot of Colombians living in the U.S. "without papers." He argued that they are good people paying taxes and should be left alone. I responded that I believe they are good people paying taxes but our immigration laws should be respected.

He then said, to my surprise, "I kind of like Donald Trump." Why, I asked. He went on heatedly about the riots that followed the killing of George Floyd. He thought Trump was more serious about restoring order.

The public really dislikes civic chaos. Democrats, you need to address this more forthrightly.

It matters not that only 6 percent of the racial justice rallies from May through October of last year saw violence. Nor is the intention to downplay troubling cases of police brutality. And let's not forget that the most outrageous incident of savage lawlessness, the Jan. 6 rampage on the Capitol, was staged by the Republican right wing.

It's just that the right talks a big game on maintaining law and order while some on the left leave the impression that Democrats don't care so much. The liberal media tend to give these radical voices outsized attention, which the right-wing media happily scoops up.

Thus, we hear stupid calls to "Abolish ICE" (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the agency tasked with stopping cross-border crime and illegal entry. And there are demands to "defund police," which President Joe Biden and the vast majority of Democrats totally oppose.

I recently had dinner with progressive friends who were angry over the violent demonstrations in the liberal strongholds of Portland and Seattle. They complained that the rioters' destructive behavior — and the apparent toleration of it by cowardly local officials — was helping elect Republicans opposed to their progressive values. And they were right.

The recurring mayhem in Portland has become a sport for punks. Though they may invoke the usual woke causes, they are performers out for thuggish "fun." And though they often riff on "identity politics," the few who get arrested are almost all young and white.

Earlier this month, May Day demonstrations brought another fresh round of havoc to Portland. Buildings were damaged and windows smashed. Garbage piling in the streets prompted The Oregonian to rename the city "Dumptown."

Seattle is still recovering from the fallout of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, several blocks that city leaders astonishingly made off-limits to police last year. Early on, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan naively told CNN, "We could have the summer of love." Not quite. The area was tormented by rapes, assaults, burglaries, vandalism and shootings.

The Economist recently pointed to a study strongly suggesting that last year's civic disorder cost Democrats support in November. Biden's share of the vote, it noted, was lower in and around Kenosha, Wisconsin, than in similar places in the state. The apparent reason were the ugly riots that followed the Kenosha police shooting of a black man.

A poll of New York City voters has crime as the No. 1 issue. More than 60 percent of those responding said they wanted to raise the New York City Police Department's budget and hire more cops. The top-polling mayoral candidate is Eric Adams, a former police officer and the current Brooklyn borough president. When his chief rival, Andrew Yang, bashed the movement to defund police, Adams countered that he himself had bashed the movement first.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Mayor Eric Garcetti recently swatted down the noisy activists, saying, "If you want to abolish the police, you're talking to the wrong mayor."

This is how people in America's liberal cities feel. It's time the rest of America knew it.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

New Poll Shows Trump’s ‘Law And Order’ Campaign Sputtering

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump is hoping that his "law and order" message and statements vilifying anti-racism protesters will help him win this year's presidential election just as it worked for Richard Nixon in 1968. But according to a newly released ABC News/Ipsos poll, more than half of Americans believe that Trump's inflammatory anti-protester rhetoric is only making things worse.

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Neither Law Nor Order, But Bloody Chaos

On the eve of her departure from the White House, after the arrest of a 17-year-old "militia" gunman for a double homicide, Kellyanne Conway blurted a gloating observation: "The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order."

To anyone familiar with the methods of fascism, the Trump adviser's ugly boast was telling. Authoritarian parties and regimes, dating from the era of the Reichstag fire and Kristallnacht, have always covertly encouraged violent disorders to justify their own repressive acts. Beneath President Donald Trump's rhetoric of "law and order" lies not only the notorious lawlessness of the president and his cronies but also his incessant instigation of crime and brutality on the far right. He is assuredly not the choice of anyone who hopes to improve the nation's security.

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‘Law And Order’ Is Trump’s Only Play

The Queen of Soul sang it clearly. The "Respect" Aretha Franklin was craving — yes, demanding — in that classic is still in short supply for black Americans. More protesters have been arrested than police officers involved in the death of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man who died after now-former officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on the handcuffed man's neck for nearly nine minutes while three fellow officers stood by or assisted.

Would there have been protests across the country and the world if Chauvin and his fellow officers had been charged immediately? There is no way to know for sure. But it is clear that the anguished reaction has been about much more than the death of one man, and has been generations in the making.

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Why Did Rudy Giuliani Say Milwaukee Rioting Proves Trump Right On ‘Law And Order’?

In an appearance on Fox and Friends Monday morning, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said that the protests and rioting currently talking place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — which began after police used deadly force against Sylville K. Smith, 23 — proved that Trump was correct to pivot his campaign towards a “law and order” message two months ago, after the attack that left five Dallas police officers dead. Giuliani laid the riots in Milwaukee at the feet of the Black Lives Matter movement.

But what does “law and oder” mean? The Trump campaign, which Giuliani frequently represents as a surrogate, has used the phrase in reference to “radical Islamic terrorism,” illegal immigration, crime rates in cities, the status of law enforcement in American culture, and one-off events like the murder of five Dallas police offices. Sometimes, Trump mixes them all up.

Trump has only been a “law and order” candidate for two months. And it started innocently enough: After the murder of five police officers in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas, Trump said in a written statement, “This is a time, perhaps more than ever, for strong leadership, love and compassion. We will pull through these tragedies.” He mentioned the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police as evidence of “how much work we have to do in order to make every American feel that their safety is protected,” in a video the same day.

But by the following Monday, Trump declared himself “The Law and Order candidate,” and over the next week he began tweeting about crimes rates in “inner cities,” apropos of nothing.

By July 13, five days after the Dallas attack, Factcheck.org was compelled to publish “Dueling Claims on Crime Trend,” in response to Trump’s shift in tone:

President Barack Obama said there have been “huge drops in the murder rates” in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said “violent crime has increased in cities across America.” Which is it? We’ll score this one for Obama.

Obama has in the past correctly pointed to trends that show that crime rates, and murder rates specifically, have dropped to historic lows. Trump also referred to a factual claim: In many cities, murder rates were higher in 2015 than they were in 2014. In Dallas, for example, there were 112 murders in 2014 versus 124 in 2015.

But as Factcheck.org noted, according to the Dallas Morning News, despite the slight increase, 2015 saw “the city’s fourth-lowest since Dallas police started counting in 1930.” Cities across the country have experienced similar decades-low crime numbers in recent years.

For historians and many political leaders, Trump was clearly calling back to the same kind of “law and order” that made that message so popular with supporters of Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater: It harkens a crackdown on civil rights unrest and rioting in black neighborhoods in major cities in the ’60s.

“It reminds me of another period. You cannot bring the country together by speaking of ‘law and order,'” said civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis to The Hill in response to Trump, shortly after the Dallas attack.

In his speech accepting the Republican nomination, 15 days after the attack, Trump said that the party’s convention “occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life.”

Milwaukee Country Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. spoke at the same convention about the danger of any “anarchy” that disregards the supremacy of the rule of law, referring to Black Lives Matter. Clarke has called the Black Lives Matter movement “thinly veiled anarchy” on other occasions, including during the ongoing protests and rioting in Milwaukee — despite members and leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement repeatedly expressing support for the rule of law and denunciation of violence. 

In October of last year, Clarke let his 96,000 Twitter followers know what the real threat was:

Claiming Black Lives Matter has terrorist sympathies is a well-worn trope by now. The goal is to paint the movement as an enemy of the state; of “law and order” themselves.

In January, reporting on an recruiting video allegedly published by the terrorist group Al Shabaab which featured rhetoric about racial disparities in America, Lee Stranahan of the the conservative site Breitbart posited that “Ultimately, it should come as no surprise that Islamist jihadists would adopt the messaging of a far-left group like Black Livers Matter. … [B]oth Islamists and Leftists have a deep hatred of the West in general, America specifically and a deeply nihilistic contempt for human life itself… Both Islamists and Leftist actively use deception as a tactic.”

Two days before the Dallas shootings, a petition was created calling on the White House to “Formally recognize Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization.” After the attack, Rush Limbaugh called the group a terrorist organization, and within days, most major conservative outlets picked up the petition story (Daily Caller, Washington Times, Breitbart, InfoWars, et cetera).

The Dallas shooter, though he reportedly said he wanted to kill white police officers, did not identify himself as a member of any particular protest movement.

That didn’t stop opponents’ of the civil rights group attempts to pin the attack on Black Lives Matter’s activism. Nor has it stopped commentators of all stripes from referring to any group of black people on camera as “Black Lives Matter,” including in reference to the Milwaukee riots.

Is it any wonder Trump’s “law and order” — and his surrogates’ application of the term to every racial issue in his agenda — has blanketed this election cycle? Trump’s betting that his supporters will react to coded racial language. Next time he calls for law and order, though, we should ask: For whom?

Matt Shuham is the associate editor of The National Memo. Find him on twitter at @mattshuham.

Photo: Rudy Giuliani appears on Fox News. Via Media Matters.

More Playwrights Satisfying TV’s Hunger For Talent

By Linda Winer, Newsday (TNS)

It’s hardly news that many New York actors support their theater lives by moonlighting — make that daylighting — in lucrative TV series. For years, the “Law & Order” franchise practically functioned as a foundation grant for actors working for spare change in nonprofit theaters. In recent years, as “L&O” whittled from five shows to just “Special Victims Unit (SVU),” others such as “The Good Wife” have been offering quality roles that, among other benefits, keep theater actors off the unemployment rolls.

There is a related headline, however, and it gets bigger every time I realize I’ve been watching far too much TV. The news — and it mostly seems to be good news — is about American playwrights. You remember playwrights, the artists who, if they are lucky, snag a spot on an Off-Broadway schedule, but mostly watch audiences flock to limited Broadway runs with movie stars or big-event imports from London.

Well, people enjoying their favorites on high-end cable, Netflix, Amazon.com, and increasingly ambitious networks may not notice the names that blip by on the credits. What viewers must notice is how good these shows are, how gripping the dialogue is, and how dangerously addictive the story lines can be.

Today’s TV — with its rapidly multiplying demand for prestige hit shows and New York locations — is suddenly hungry for playwrights. What a concept. As Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America East, sees it, “Playwrights are so good at crafting characters and structuring dramas that it’s a natural fit.”

This is not without precedent. Aaron Sorkin was a playwright before “The West Wing” and “The Newsroom.” Warren Leight won a Tony for “Side Man” before he morphed into the guiding voice at the institution that is “Law & Order.” And Theresa Rebeck wrote for “NYPD Blue” before double lives for playwrights became a topic of discussion.

But look behind the screen at “House of Cards,” the Netflix political satire starring Kevin Spacey. The series, which just finished streaming its third season, is the baby of Beau Willimon, whose appreciation for backroom politics was already clear in “Farragut North,” which ran Off-Broadway in 2008.

He also appreciates — which means he hires — other playwrights. One in his writers’ room is Melissa James Gibson, whose “Placebo” just finished its Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons. Gibson was a writer on another of my favorites, “The Americans” on FX, and moved last year to “House of Cards.” “Beau has a lot of respect for the theater,” Gibson told me in a recent interview, “and Netflix puts a lot of faith in the artists.” (Laura Eason, also a writer on the show, is having her play “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now” produced by the Women’s Project.)

I asked Gibson how writing for TV is different from stage work. She said, for one thing, that the collaboration is “less lonely. It’s fun to be in the process. We start in a group, talking through the shape of the season, then individual episodes are assigned to individual writers.” What about the effect of that process on her own work? “There’s no time to have a precious thought. You throw so many ideas around that you can’t get attached to your darlings. I find it liberating, sort of Zen, working always forward….There’s a rigor to that.”

And then there’s the money, which Gibson said “is a ton compared with theater.” In accord with the Writers Guild contract, playwrights also get pension and health benefits — practically unknown in nonprofit theater.

Peterson says pay rates are a little different, depending on whether writers work, for example, on a prime-time network show or what he calls “high budget basic cable.” Both guarantee $3,910 a week for a full season. If writers create an entire 60-minute prime-time network episode, they get an additional $37,500. For high-budget basic cable, a 60-minute episode is about $27,000. Rates go up if you are a producer as well as a writer. Residuals vary depending on network and time of rerun.

“The starving artist is not a career model,” he says with admirable certainty.

As Tracey Scott Wilson puts it, “It’s really nice to be able to take care of yourself as an adult.” Wilson, whose “Buzzer” is having its premiere at the Public Theater, is going into her third year as a writer on “The Americans.” She doesn’t find writing for both media that different, because, ultimately, she finds both so collaborative.

“TV writing is so dialogue-heavy and theater is all about the language,” she told me in a recent interview. “And I’m lucky I’m on a show where the words matter.” She also appreciates that working on a TV series has “made me a faster rewriter.”

Wilson is black and a woman, which makes her depressingly unusual in the TV business. “I don’t know what the statistics are,” she said, “but there definitely are not as many black women writing on TV.” She’s hoping that the “unbelievable success” of Fox’s “Empire” will “get more minority voices out.”

Although all of the playwrights I interviewed are women, it may just be coincidence. All agree that we cannot make optimistic assumptions about gender parity strides on TV, though Peterson mentions that “there is more attempt to diversify the rooms” both on TV and films.

Other cautionary — or at least more measured — notes are heard from Bathsheba Doran, whose rich and smart “The Mystery of Love & Sex” is an Off-Broadway hit at Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Doran, who began as a TV sketch writer in London, started her double life before the current boom. She says she was the only woman writer during her years at “Boardwalk Empire.” She recently stopped writing for “Masters of Sex” because she didn’t want to live in Los Angeles, where the show is based.

She affirms that TV “worked the story muscle. I got much more practice aggressively creating story lines…very useful work on the skill set” And a gift for dialogue is “absolutely vital” for both stage and TV.

Doran is working on two HBO projects, including one of her own, but feels strongly that TV denies writers “one very important element of creativity — making the final decision.”

She agrees that the idea of “selling out” to Hollywood seems very quaint these days, that TV offers different satisfactions than theater does and tat “it is a very nice feeling to be able to support your family.”

But she also thinks the money can be a danger. I asked whether TV is helping theater by supporting playwrights or killing the theater by robbing its talent. She turned the question a bit and answered “No, the love of money will kill playwrights.”

She sounds skeptical when playwrights say they can write on the set. “Maybe some can, but I need the time and space away.” A challenge is being able to turn down a big TV paycheck in order to “take a risk on a blank sheet of paper.” Still she agreed, it’s very nice to have the option.

Photo: Blondinrikard Fröberg via Flickr