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Black 'American' Flags Hoisted By Far Right Signal ‘No Quarter’ For Liberals

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Far-right extremists over the years have adopted a number of flag designs as their representative banners. First it was the yellow "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden flag flown by the Patriot movement and tea party. The alt-right came up with its Naziesque "Kekistan" banner. In the past few years, the prominent use of flags by belligerent far-right Trump fans, particularly those in "Trump Trains" or participating in right-wing invasions of urban liberal centers, has ranged from basic Trump or MAGA banners to "Blue Lives Matter" flags to their most recent "Fuck Biden" iterations.

Now, amid far-right protests against COVID-related vaccine and mask mandates, far-right extremists are unfurling their latest symbol: An all-black American flag, with stars and stripes mainly visible through variations in material and shading. "No quarter shall be given" is the black flag's traditional message—and in the context of the building drumbeat of right-wing "civil war" talk, a deeply ominous one. People flying them are essentially signaling that they're prepared to kill their liberal neighbors.


The black flags have been showing up at various right-wing protests, such as last weekend's "Health Freedom Rally" in Spokane, Washington—really a low-turnout affair mainly comprised of anti-vaccination protesters standing on a street corner, waving flags. One of these was a black American flag. Another one turned up when the protest moved to Riverfront Park.

The same flags have been showing up on people's home flag displays as well, as Michelle Davis of Living Blue Texas observed in a post headlined, "Are Your Republican Neighbors Planning On Killing You?" Primarily, videos of people erecting these flags on the fronts of their homes are being widely shared on social media, particularly TikTok and Facebook; Davis reported finding hundreds of them.

Black flags have a particular historical meaning for Americans: They first appeared on Civil War battlegrounds, carried by some Confederate Army units, and symbolizing the intent of the soldiers to neither seek any quarter nor give any—essentially, the opposite of the white flag of surrender, signifying that enemy combatants are to be killed rather than taken prisoner. It's a vow to massacre their enemies.

Its use in the Civil War primarily appears to have been featured in some of the heinous massacres of Black Union soldiers in the war, notably at the Battle of the Crater and at Fort Pillow. Both battles are considered Confederate atrocities.

The people posting the "black flag" videos on TikTok appear primarily to use two different pieces of music as accompaniment: The first, "Raise the Colors," is a gloomy sea shanty from Pirates of the Caribbean 2; the second, the song God We Need You Now by country rapper Struggle Jennings and cowriter Caitlynne Curtis, features QAnon-derived lyrics that threaten retribution for the people who "desecrate" the "values of our country and our God":

We've been dancing with the devil way too long
I know it's fun but get ready to pay your dues
Oh God, come back home
This crazy world is filled with liars and abusers
We need you now before we're too far gone
I hope one day they finally see the truth
God, we need you now

Davis noted that the same right-wing channels where the black flag-raisings are being posted are similarly rife with "patriots" advising their cohorts to prepare for a civil war. "Who are their enemies? Pretty much any non-Conservative. You know, Democrats, Liberals, LGBTQ, BIPOC, and the vaccinated," she notes. "So, we're the enemy, and they're openly professing to want to execute us."

Their primary grievance appears currently to revolve around COVID restrictions, with a number of military members talking about their imminent discharges for refusing to be vaccinated.

"The biggest message they have been sending out is, 'it's time' or 'the time is now'," Davis notes. "They primarily use Tik Tok as a recruiting tool and let others know their willingness to commit violence. Then they tell people to message them or where to find them on Telegram."

Some of the people posting videos of black flag hangings appear to be police officers, including one from Pea Ridge, Arkansas, who takes pains to carefully fold and unfold both his ordinary American flag and his all-black version. Several "black flag" groups have already formed on Facebook, and some Twitter accounts, such as the Michigan-based "Great Lakes Black Flag Coalition" ("Our mission is to unite Liberty minded organizations, communities and individuals for the purpose of promoting and restoring Freedom") specifically reference the symbol.

American far-right extremists have fantasized about embarking on a "second civil war" for several decades now, but the idea began building in intensity during the tea party years, when militia groups like the "Three Percenters"—whose name references its members' desire to embark on a "second American Revolution"—began attracting significant numbers of participants. It began gaining real traction during Donald Trump's tenure as president, mainly through the growth of such phenomena as the "Boogaloo" movement, which is specifically focused on preparing for a civil war.

Trump himself encouraged this narrative by threatening to unleash a civil war if Congress dared to impeach him, which sparked a wave of fevered preparations among his "patriot" fans in the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters and similar far-right groups. When it became apparent late in the 2020 campaign that he was likely headed for defeat at the polls, the civil-war discussions became intense, particularly among militia groups and white nationalists who were engaged in street-brawling protests, and "Boogaloo" activists tried leveraging street protests as opportunities for violence. Terrorism experts warned even then that fanatical Trump supporters were likely to engage in acts of mass violence.

This same, faux-patriotic worldview is what eventually inspired the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which was the apotheosis of the GOP's two-decades-and-longer descent into right-wing authoritarianism, fueled by eliminationist hate talk, reality-bereft conspiracist sedition, anti-democratic rhetoric and politics, and the full-throated embrace under Trump of the politics of intimidation and thuggery. There was a reason the insurrectionists believed they were all partaking of a "1776 moment": they envisioned themselves as heroic patriots saving America from the commies.

If anyone believes the radicalized American right's drive to push the nation into bloody civil strife was somehow expiated or exhausted that day, they only need check the presence of black American flags the next time there is a right-wing protest in their town. Or maybe they can just check the front porches in their neighborhoods.

Oath Keepers Showed 'Preparation And Structure' Before January 6 Assault

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Members of the Oath Keepers — along with QAnon and the Proud Boys — were among the far-right extremists who, according to the FBI, were involved in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. The role that the Oath Keepers played in the Capitol insurrection is the focus of a report by PolitiFact's Samantha Putterman, who examines their activities before and during the attack.

"Of approximately 40 people facing conspiracy charges as of early September, 19 were associated with the far-right Oath Keepers militia, according to PolitiFact's review of court files," Putterman explains. "Another 17 were affiliated with the Proud Boys extremist group. As part of PolitiFact's ongoing look at how misinformation fueled the events of January 6, we examined the case files of defendants associated with Oath Keepers and found they tell a story of preparation, communication and structure."

Putterman reports that on November 9, following the 2020 election, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes "called on members to go to Washington, D.C."

Rhodes told them, "We're going to defend the president, the duly elected president, and we call on him to do what needs to be done to save our country. Because if you don't, guys, you're going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war, and a bloody — you can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war or fight."

According to Putterman, "Rhodes warned his followers during that November 9 meeting to come prepared to fight Antifa, a left-wing, anti-fascist movement, according to court documents that show he asked some to come fully armed."Court filings show that Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, was also preparing for violent confrontations with Antifa. On December 19, Meggs visited Facebook and wrote, "We will come in behind Antifa and beat the hell out of them."

By December 31, Putterman reports, "Meggs and others had joined an invitation-only encrypted group on the messaging app Signal, court documents show. They titled their group 'DC OP: Jan 6 21.' They participated in online meetings and used that channel as well as other encrypted communications to coordinate their plans. One man pledged in the encrypted chat that he would bring an assault rifle and a backpack full of ammunition if 's--t truly' hit the fan."

Trump-Friendly Prosecutor Signals Potential Trouble For Insurrection Cases

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The federal government's prosecution of the January 6 Capitol insurrectionists continues to roll along with hardly any change in direction or pace: Participants in the attack continue to be arrested as investigators accumulate more evidence, while judges continue to keep major players, particularly members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, under lock and key.

However, one bright red flag was raised by Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel—who has assiduously tracked and reported on the imposingly complex prosecutions from January 6—this week in the conspiracy case being assembled by prosecutors against the Proud Boys: It now emerges that one of the lead prosecutors in that case is Jocelyn Ballantine, the same DOJ prosecutor who engaged in dubious behavior around former Trump official Michael Flynn's prosecution, such as submitting altered documents. Could a botch job be around the corner?

Ballantine, as Wheeler details, engaged in a pattern of misconduct in handling the Flynn case that could easily result in a federal judge dismissing the case. And as the Proud Boys' attorneys made clear in their filings this week demanding that key players in the insurrection, including leaders Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, be granted pretrial release, their primary strategy appears to be aimed at obtaining exactly that kind of summary dismissal of the charges.

Wheeler points to three specific acts by Ballantine in the Flynn matter that raise concerns:

  • On Sept. 23, she provided three documents that were altered to Sidney Powell, one of which Trump used six days later in a packaged debate attack on Joe Biden.
  • On Sept. 24, she submitted an FBI interview report that redacted information—references to Brandon Van Grack—that was material to the proceedings before Judge Emmet Sullivan.
  • On Oct. 26, she claimed that lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe had checked their clients' notes to confirm there were no other alterations to documents submitted to the docket; both lawyers refused to review the documents.

Having a prosecutor on the Proud Boys prosecution team (let alone overseeing it) with a dubious conduct history poses serious risks for their success, and indeed for the broader prosecution: "Given Ballantine's past actions, it risks sabotaging the entire January 6 investigation," Wheeler observes.

The possibility of a bungled federal prosecution in the Proud Boys case raises the specter of a similar botch job in a major case involving right-wing extremists: Namely in 2018, when prosecutorial misconduct involving evidence sharing forced the federal judge overseeing the case against rancher Cliven Bundy for his 2014 armed standoff with federal authorities to order all charges dismissed—one of several cases of misconduct involving that U.S. Attorney's office. That dismissal, with prejudice, was upheld on appeal.

The attorneys for Biggs and Nordean, meanwhile, made a fresh appeal for their clients' pretrial release to home confinement, claiming the men posed neither a serious flight risk nor any threat to public safety in the interim. The attorneys presented clips from a video shot on January 6 in Washington, D..C., by fellow Proud Boys member Eddie Block, claiming they demonstrated that the group actually intended to hold their "big event" afterward at The Ellipse, not at the Capitol.

"There's no conspiracy," defense attorney John Hull said. "… So, [with] no conspiracy, about 80% of the whole case falls apart."

Prosecutors noted that Block's statements in the clips are contravened by the men's demonstrated actions that day, which included Nordean and Biggs tearing down a police barrier. They also reminded the judge of encrypted texts the men shared that day preparing for insurrection on January 6.

Prosecutors warned that the defendants' release would mean "there's no way to police" any other potential planning the men might participate in with other Proud Boys members: "That's a significant, prospective danger to the community," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said.

In other January 6-related developments:

  • Accountability arrived for the Capitol Police officers who behaved as congenial hosts to the insurrectionists on January 6. The agency announced it had taken disciplinary action against six officers following an internal investigation.

There were 38 internal investigations involving officer behavior on January 6, with 26 different officers identified, Capitol Police reported. There was no wrongdoing found in 20 of the cases.

Three of the six officers were disciplined for "conduct unbecoming;" another for improper remarks; one for improper dissemination of information; and one for "failure to comply with directives."

"The six sustained cases should not diminish the heroic efforts of the United States Capitol Police officers. On January 6, the bravery and courage exhibited by the vast majority of our employees was inspiring," the release said.

  • FBI agents arrested a woman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who had filled her social-media pages with QAnon conspiracy theories and demands for an "Army of Patriots" to seize control of the government, prior to invading the Capitol with other right-wing extremists on January 6.

Prosecutors detailed Kelly O'Brien's prolific rants on social media leading up to January 6. One dated November 26, 2020, asserted: "We do not riot. We fight. We are an Army of Patriots. You will know us when you see us. There will be no ambiguity. Prepare yourself."

On Dec. 19, 2020, O'Brien posted: "WE ARE IN A BATTLE between GOOD and evil. Make no mistake about that. Elders are cheering us on and believe that WE ARE GOING TO BE THE GREATEST GENERATION in their lifetime. And they lived through WWII. Are you going to fight or are you weak. Let us know now. WE NEED PATRIOTS! WE NEED FREEDOM FIGHTERS! Now!"

The day after Christmas, another used posted: "You can vote your way into socialism but you have to shoot your way out of it!" O'Brien responded: "We might have to."

After the insurrection, on January 8, amid a discussion of Trump's refusal to concede to Joe Biden, O'Brien asserted that "Everything is happening according to Q plan. So scared."

  • A former FBI special agent remarked on MSNBC that the insurrectionists' targets were chosen not by movement leaders or members, but rather by elected politicians like Donald Trump and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.

"It's our political leaders that are doing this more than domestic extremists," Clint Watts, a Joint Terrorism Task Force veteran, said. "What you see right there President Trump told them they were going to the Capitol that day. They didn't pick the Capitol, he said it, his organizers they promoted it, his fellow congressmen in the GOP, they promoted it.

"It was Josh Hawley out there fist-bumping the crowd, right? Before it went in," he added. "That's the thing we look for to see, hey, where are they tipping to. For the most part, the groups aren't picking the targets. It's the elected leaders."

FBI Warrant Reveals Jan. 6 ‘Seditious Conspiracy’ Probe Of Oath Keepers

Reprinted with permission from Daily KosCon

The right-wing gaslighting emanating from Tucker Carlson's realm and Congressional Republicans about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has suggested that because federal prosecutors haven't yet charged any of the 600-plus people arrested with terrorism or insurrection, those terms don't describe the attack on Congress. But that claim now sounds hollow, after a search warrant this week revealed the FBI is currently pursuing a "seditious conspiracy" investigation against the insurrection's key players.

The investigation's direction was revealed when the FBI seized the phone of an attorney who serves as general counsel for the Oath Keepers—a "Patriot" organization that played a leading role in the Capitol siege—and their founder/president, Stewart Rhodes, around whom investigators have been circling for months. The Oath Keepers attorney, Kellye SoRelle of Texas, told HuffPost's Ryan Reilly that her phone was "kind of a repository of truth." Via email she told Reilly, "I have so much information in there, [it's] nuts."

The FBI's warrant, according to Mother Jones, sought evidence related to potential violations of nine criminal statutes, including "seditious conspiracy." The other violations are all crimes for which the January 6 defendants have already been charged, including destruction of government property, trespassing, destruction of evidence, false statements, and obstruction of Congress.

As Marcy Wheeler has pointed out repeatedly at her blog Emptywheel, the latter charge has been federal prosecutors' chief means of charging the insurrectionists because a conviction carries the same 20-year federal prison sentence as sedition, which is a harder charge to prove. Moreover, it carries a terrorism enhancement that can be applied at sentencing, just as sedition does.

If you don't mention obstruction — and your sources don't explain that obstruction will get you to precisely where you'd get with a sedition charge, but with a lot more flexibility to distinguish between defendants and a far lower bar of proof (unless and until judges decide it has been misapplied) — then your sources are not describing what is going on with the investigation.

This is why the insistence that the January 6 siege was not "terrorism" or an "insurrection" because the words don't appear in charging documents utterly misapprehends how the federal government prosecutes crimes of domestic terrorism.

Eric Halladay and Racheal Hanna explained how this works at Lawfare Blog: "Because there is no specific crime of domestic terrorism, federal prosecutors may use an array of charges when pursuing domestic terrorists," they write.

These include some 57 different offenses that can be charged as terrorism, including a number of which the insurrectionists have been accused, such as malicious destruction of property and willful depredation of federal property. But the primary tool that prosecutors use is a terrorism enhancement that can be applied during sentencing:

The enhancement can be applied to federal crimes of terrorism … but, importantly, it can also be applied to non-terrorism offenses where the offense was intended to influence government conduct by intimidation or coercion or was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism with the intention of intimidating or coercing a civilian population.

As Wheeler notes, "charging January 6 rioters with obstruction provides DOJ a really elegant way of holding people accountable, while providing the flexibility to distinguish between different levels of seriousness (until such time as some judge overturns this application of 18 USC 1512)."

The federal judges overseeing the case, in fact, have recently raised the issue of whether obstruction of Congress is the right charge in these cases. During this week's hearing before District Judge Amit Mehta for charges against the Oath Keepers, the judge questioned prosecutors about the applicability of that particular law in this case, as New York Times legal correspondent Alan Feuer reported on Twitter.

Mehta pointed out that the law, 18 USC 1512, was originally passed as part of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was primarily corporate reform legislation. The law, he said, seemed primarily designed to stop obstructive acts like document shredding and witness tampering. Prosecutors replied that the statute's use of the word "corruptly" fits the actions of the insurrectionists. Eventually, Mehta appeared to agree, though the issue of appropriateness remains in the air.

As Feuer observed: "Judge Mehta is now the second federal judge to wonder if the [government's] 1512 obstruction charge, designed to punish crimes like witness tampering [and] document destruction, is a good fit for the [January 6] riot. Judge Randolph Moss had very similar concerns at a hearing last month."

Wheeler observes that this may be why investigators are now examining potential "seditious conspiracy" charges in the Oath Keepers case: "I've said that if DOJ's use of 1512 fails, they'll charge the most serious culprits with seditious conspiracy. This may be the first sign of that," she tweeted.

SoRelle complained about the FBI's seizure of her phone to reporters. "[T]hey have all my clients and my comms," she told Mother Jones. "[It's] unethical as shit on their part."

On Twitter, SoRelle has claimed that she's under attack by the "deep state" because of her involvement with Mike Lindell.

As Mother Jones notes, the reference to sedition charges in the SoRelle warrant does not mean anyone will face sedition charges, but it is an official acknowledgment that the FBI is investigating the possibility that sedition was committed. And as Reilly notes: "Executing a search warrant against a lawyer triggers protocols within the Justice Department, and the move to seize SoRelle's phone would have required approval from high-ranking officials at the DOJ."

SoRelle messaged Reilly that she had met with two law enforcement officials at her home and then went to a "Krogers/Starbucks," where they chatted for several hours.

"I have so much stuff in there," she wrote. "They either think I am the mastermind, or they wanted a free dig through everything―either way, it is unethical."

Bannon Recruits QAnon Supporters As GOP Precinct Chairs

Reporting by Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon, and Anjeanette Damon

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump's supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. "We're on the point of attack," Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. "All hell will break loose tomorrow." The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: "It's them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?"

When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his "War Room" podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. "This is your call to action," Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges.

The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. "It's going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don't have an option," Bannon said on his show in May. "We're going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct."

Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.

After Bannon's endorsement, the "precinct strategy" rocketed across far-right media. Viral posts promoting the plan racked up millions of views on pro-Trump websites, talk radio, fringe social networks and message boards, and programs aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers. They showed up in states Trump won and in states he lost, in deep-red rural areas, in swing-voting suburbs and in populous cities.

In Wisconsin, for instance, new GOP recruits are becoming poll workers. County clerks who run elections in the state are required to hire parties' nominees. The parties once passed on suggesting names, but now hardline Republican county chairs are moving to use those powers.

"We're signing up election inspectors like crazy right now," said Outagamie County party chair Matt Albert, using the state's formal term for poll workers. Albert, who held a "Stop the Steal" rally during Wisconsin's November recount, said Bannon's podcast had played a role in the burst of enthusiasm.

ProPublica contacted GOP leaders in 65 key counties, and 41 reported an unusual increase in signups since Bannon's campaign began. At least 8,500 new Republican precinct officers (or equivalent lowest-level officials) joined those county parties. We also looked at equivalent Democratic posts and found no similar surge.

"I've never seen anything like this, people are coming out of the woodwork," said J.C. Martin, the GOP chairman in Polk County, Florida, who has added 50 new committee members since January. Martin had wanted congressional Republicans to overturn the election on Jan. 6, and he welcomed this wave of like-minded newcomers. "The most recent time we saw this type of thing was the tea party, and this is way beyond it."

Bannon, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

Tracking a Wave of New GOP Officers

Note: Hover over the pins for details on the increase or for information about other GOP activism there.

While party officials largely credited Bannon's podcast with driving the surge of new precinct officers, it's impossible to know the motivations of each new recruit. Precinct officers are not centrally tracked anywhere, and it was not possible to examine all 3,000 counties nationwide. ProPublica focused on politically competitive places that were discussed as targets in far-right media.

The tea party backlash to former President Barack Obama's election foreshadowed Republican gains in the 2010 midterm. Presidential losses often energize party activists, and it would not be the first time that a candidate's faction tried to consolidate control over the party apparatus with the aim of winning the next election.

What's different this time is an uncompromising focus on elections themselves. The new movement is built entirely around Trump's insistence that the electoral system failed in 2020 and that Republicans can't let it happen again. The result is a nationwide groundswell of party activists whose central goal is not merely to win elections but to reshape their machinery.

"They feel President Trump was rightfully elected president and it was taken from him," said Michael Barnett, the GOP chairman in Palm Beach County, Florida, who has enthusiastically added 90 executive committee members this year. "They feel their involvement in upcoming elections will prevent something like that from happening again."

It has only been a few months — too soon to say whether the wave of newcomers will ultimately succeed in reshaping the GOP or how they will affect Republican prospects in upcoming elections. But what's already clear is that these up-and-coming party officers have notched early wins.

In Michigan, one of the main organizers recruiting new precinct officers pushed for the ouster of the state party's executive director, who contradicted Trump's claim that the election was stolen and who later resigned. In Las Vegas, a handful of Proud Boys, part of the extremist group whose members have been charged in attacking the Capitol, supported a bid to topple moderates controlling the county party — a dispute that's now in court.

In Phoenix, new precinct officers petitioned to unseat county officials who refused to cooperate with the state Senate Republicans' "forensic audit" of 2020 ballots. Similar audits are now being pursued by new precinct officers in Michigan and the Carolinas. Outside Atlanta, new local party leaders helped elect a state lawmaker who championed Georgia's sweeping new voting restrictions.

And precinct organizers are hoping to advance candidates such as Matthew DePerno, a Michigan attorney general hopeful who Republican state senators said in a report had spread "misleading and irresponsible" misinformation about the election, and Mark Finchem, a member of the Oath Keepers militia who marched to the Capitol on January 6 and is now running to be Arizona's top elections official. DePerno did not respond to requests for comment, and Finchem asked for questions to be sent by email and then did not respond. Finchem has said he did not enter the Capitol or have anything to do with the violence. He has also said the Oath Keepers are not anti-government.

When Bannon interviewed Finchem on an April podcast, he wrapped up a segment about Arizona Republicans' efforts to reexamine the 2020 results by asking Finchem how listeners could help. Finchem answered by promoting the precinct strategy. "The only way you're going to see to it this doesn't happen again is if you get involved," Finchem said. "Become a precinct committeeman."

Some of the new precinct officers were in the crowd that marched to the Capitol on January 6, according to interviews and social media posts; one Texas precinct chair was arrested for assaulting police in Washington. He pleaded not guilty. Many of the new activists have said publicly that they support QAnon, the online conspiracy theory that believes Trump was working to root out a global child sex trafficking ring. Organizers of the movement have encouraged supporters to bring weapons to demonstrations. In Las Vegas and Savannah, Georgia, newcomers were so disruptive that they shut down leadership elections.

"They're not going to be welcomed with open arms," Bannon said, addressing the altercations on an April podcast. "But hey, was it nasty at Lexington?" he said, citing the opening battle of the American Revolution. "Was it nasty at Concord? Was it nasty at Bunker Hill?"

Arizona activist Daniel J. Schultz, who developed the precinct strategy, appears on Steve Bannon's podcast and weekly conference calls with organizers around the country. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Bannon's War Room/YouTube; Network America/YouTube

Bannon plucked the precinct strategy out of obscurity. For more than a decade, a little-known Arizona tea party activist named Daniel J. Schultz has been preaching the plan. Schultz failed to gain traction, despite winning a $5,000 prize from conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie in 2013 and making a 2015 pitch on Bannon's far-right website, Breitbart. Schultz did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In December, Schultz appeared on Bannon's podcast to argue that Republican-controlled state legislatures should nullify the election results and throw their state's Electoral College votes to Trump. If lawmakers failed to do that, Bannon asked, would it be the end of the Republican Party? Not if Trump supporters took over the party by seizing precinct posts, Schultz answered, beginning to explain his plan. Bannon cut him off, offering to return to the idea another time.

That time came in February. Schultz returned to Bannon's podcast, immediately preceding Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who spouts baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

"We can take over the party if we invade it," Schultz said. "I can't guarantee you that we'll save the republic, but I can guarantee you this: We'll lose it if we conservatives don't take over the Republican Party."

Bannon endorsed Schultz's plan, telling "all the unwashed masses in the MAGA movement, the deplorables" to take up this cause. Bannon said he had more than 400,000 listeners, a count that could not be independently verified.

Bannon brought Schultz back on the show at least eight more times, alongside guests such as embattled Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, a leading defender of people jailed on Capitol riot charges.

The exposure launched Schultz into a full-blown far-right media tour. In February, Schultz spoke on a podcast with Tracy "Beanz" Diaz, a leading popularizer of QAnon. In an episode titled "THIS Is How We Win," Diaz said of Schultz, "I was waiting, I was wishing and hoping for the universe to deliver someone like him."

Schultz himself calls QAnon "a joke." Nevertheless, he promoted his precinct strategy on at least three more QAnon programs in recent months, according to Media Matters, a Democratic-aligned group tracking right-wing content. "I want to see many of you going and doing this," host Zak Paine said on one of the shows in May.

Schultz's strategy also got a boost from another prominent QAnon promoter: former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who urged Trump to impose martial law and "rerun" the election. On a May online talk show, Flynn told listeners to fill "thousands of positions that are vacant at the local level."

Precinct recruitment is now "the forefront of our mission" for Turning Point Action, according to the right-wing organization's website. The group's parent organization bused Trump supporters to Washington for January 6, including at least one person who was later charged with assaulting police. He pleaded not guilty. In July, Turning Point brought Trump to speak in Phoenix, where he called the 2020 election "the greatest crime in history." Outside, red-capped volunteers signed people up to become precinct chairs.

Organizers from around the country started huddling with Schultz for weekly Zoom meetings. The meetings' host, far-right blogger Jim Condit Jr. of Cincinnati, kicked off a July call by describing the precinct strategy as the last alternative to violence. "It's the only idea," Condit said, "unless you want to pick up guns like the Founding Fathers did in 1776 and start to try to take back our country by the Second Amendment, which none of us want to do."

By the next week, though, Schultz suggested the new precinct officials might not stay peaceful. Schultz belonged to a mailing list for a group of military, law enforcement and intelligence veterans called the " 1st Amendment Praetorian" that organizes security for Flynn and other pro-Trump figures. Back in the 1990s, Schultz wrote an article defending armed anti-government militias like those involved in that decade's deadly clashes with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.

"Make sure everybody's got a baseball bat," Schultz said on the July strategy conference call, which was posted on YouTube. "I'm serious about this. Make sure you've got people who are armed."

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., speaks to the Macon County GOP while holding an autographed shotgun that was being raffled off. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Video: Macon County Republican Party/Facebook

The sudden demand for low-profile precinct positions baffled some party leaders. In Fort Worth, county chair Rick Barnes said numerous callers asked about becoming a "precinct committeeman," quoting the term used on Bannon's podcast. That suggested that out-of-state encouragement played a role in prompting the calls, since Texas's term for the position is "precinct chair." Tarrant County has added 61 precinct chairs this year, about a 24% increase since February. "Those podcasts actually paid off," Barnes said.

For weeks, about five people a day called to become precinct chairs in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, southwest of Green Bay. Albert, the county party chair, said he would explain that Wisconsin has no precinct chairs, but newcomers could join the county party — and then become poll workers. "We're trying to make sure that our voice is now being reinserted into the process," Albert said.

Similarly, the GOP in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, is fielding a surge of volunteers for precinct committee members, but also for election judges or inspectors, which are party-affiliated elected positions in that state. "Who knows what happened on Election Day for real," county chair Lou Capozzi said in an interview. The county GOP sent two busloads of people to Washington for Jan. 6 and Capozzi said they stayed peaceful. "People want to make sure elections remain honest."

Elsewhere, activists inspired by the precinct strategy have targeted local election boards. In DeKalb County, east of Atlanta, the GOP censured a long-serving Republican board member who rejected claims of widespread fraud in 2020. To replace him, new party chair Marci McCarthy tapped a far-right activist known for false, offensive statements. The party nominees to the election board have to be approved by a judge, and the judge in this case rejected McCarthy's pick, citing an "extraordinary" public outcry. McCarthy defended her choice but ultimately settled for someone less controversial.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, more than 1,000 people attended the county GOP convention in March, up from the typical 300 to 400. The chair they elected, Alan Swain, swiftly formed an "election integrity committee" that's lobbying lawmakers to restrict voting and audit the 2020 results. "We're all about voter and election integrity," Swain said in an interview.

In the rural western part of the state, too, a wave of people who heard Bannon's podcast or were furious about perceived election fraud swept into county parties, according to the new district chair, Michele Woodhouse. The district's member of Congress, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, addressed a crowd at one county headquarters on August 29, at an event that included a raffle for a shotgun.

"If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, it's going to lead to one place, and it's bloodshed," Cawthorn said, in remarks livestreamed on Facebook, shortly after holding the prize shotgun, which he autographed. "That's right," the audience cheered. Cawthorn went on, "As much as I'm willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there's nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American, and the way we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states."

After Cawthorn referred to people arrested on January 6 charges as "political hostages," someone asked, "When are you going to call us to Washington again?" The crowd laughed and clapped as Cawthorn answered, "We are actively working on that one."

Arizona lawmaker Mark Finchem speaks on Bannon's podcast, and former President Donald Trump speaks at a July rally in Phoenix. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Bannon's War Room/Rumble; CSPAN

Schultz has offered his own state of Arizona as a proof of concept for how precinct officers can reshape the party. The result, Schultz has said, is actions like the state Senate Republicans' "forensic audit" of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots. The "audit," conducted by a private firm with no experience in elections and whose CEO has spread conspiracy theories, has included efforts to identify fraudulent ballots from Asia by searching for traces of bamboo. Schultz has urged activists demanding similar audits in other states to start by becoming precinct officers.

The Number of Republican Precinct Committee Members in Maricopa County Surged After Steve Bannon's Call to Action

"Because we've got the audit, there's very heightened and intense public interest in the last campaign, and of course making sure election laws are tightened," said Sandra Dowling, a district chair in northwest Maricopa and northern Yuma County whose precinct roster grew by 63% in less than six months. Though Dowling says some other district chairs screen their applicants, she doesn't. "I don't care," she said.

One chair who does screen applicants is Kathy Petsas, a lifelong Republican whose district spans Phoenix and Paradise Valley. She also saw applications explode earlier this year. Many told her that Schultz had recruited them, and some said they believed in QAnon. "Being motivated by conspiracy theories is no way to go through life, and no way for us to build a high-functioning party," Petsas said. "That attitude can't prevail."

As waves of new precinct officers flooded into the county party, Petsas was dismayed to see some petitioning to recall their own Republican county supervisors for refusing to cooperate with the Senate GOP's audit.

"It is not helpful to our democracy when you have people who stand up and do the right thing and are honest communicators about what's going on, and they get lambasted by our own party," Petsas said. "That's a problem."

Far-right lawyer Lin Wood faces off with South Carolina GOP chair Drew McKissick. An operative involved in Wood's campaign tackles a protester at a speech by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in Greenville. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: MyrtleBeachSC News/YouTube; Breaking Video/YouTube

This spring, a team of disaffected Republican operatives put Schultz's precinct strategy into action in South Carolina, a state that plays an outsize role in choosing presidents because of its early primaries. The operatives' goal was to secure enough delegates to the party's state convention to elect a new chair: far-right celebrity lawyer Lin Wood.

Wood was involved with some of the lawsuits to overturn the presidential election that courts repeatedly ruled meritless, or even sanctionable. After the election, Wood said on Bannon's podcast, "I think the audience has to do what the people that were our Founding Fathers did in 1776." On Twitter, Wood called for executing Vice President Mike Pence by firing squad. Wood later said it was "rhetorical hyperbole," but that and other incendiary language got him banned from mainstream social media. He switched to Telegram, an encrypted messaging app favored by deplatformed right-wing influencers, amassing roughly 830,000 followers while repeatedly promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Asked for comment about his political efforts, Wood responded, "Most of your 'facts' are either false or misrepresent the truth." He declined to cite specifics.

Typically, precinct meetings were "a yawner," according to Mike Connett, a longtime party member in Horry County, best known for its popular beach towns. But in April, Connett and other establishment Republicans were caught off guard when 369 people, many of them newcomers, showed up for the county convention in North Myrtle Beach. Connett lost a race for a leadership role to Diaz, the prominent QAnon supporter, and Wood's faction captured the county's other executive positions plus 35 of 48 delegate slots, enabling them to cast most of the county's votes for Wood at the state convention. "It seemed like a pretty clean takeover," Connett told ProPublica.

In Greenville, the state's most populous county, Wood campaign organizers Jeff Davis and Pressley Stutts mobilized a surge of supporters at the county convention — about 1,400 delegates, up from roughly 550 in 2019 — and swept almost all of the 79 delegate positions. That gave Wood's faction the vast majority of the votes in two of South Carolina's biggest delegations.

Across the state, the precinct strategy was contributing to an unprecedented surge in local party participation, according to data provided by a state GOP spokeswoman. In 2019, 4,296 people participated. This year, 8,524 did.

"It's a prairie fire down there in Greenville, South Carolina, brought on by the MAGA posse," Bannon said on his podcast.

Establishment party leaders realized they had to take Wood's challenge seriously. The incumbent chair, Drew McKissick, had Trump's endorsement three times over — including twice after Wood entered the race. But Wood fought back by repeatedly implying that McKissick and other prominent state Republicans were corrupt and involved in various conspiracies that seemed related to QAnon. The race became heated enough that after one event, Wood and McKissick exchanged angry words face-to-face.

Wood's rallies were raucous affairs packed with hundreds of people, energized by right-wing celebrities like Flynn and Lindell. In interviews, many attendees described the events as their first foray into politics, sometimes referencing Schultz and always citing Trump's stolen election myth. Some said they'd resort to violence if they felt an election was stolen again.

Wood's campaign wobbled in counties that the precinct strategy had not yet reached. At the state convention in May, Wood won about 30% of the delegates, commanding Horry, Greenville and some surrounding counties, but faltering elsewhere. A triumphant McKissick called Wood's supporters "a fringe, rogue group" and vowed to turn them into a "leper colony" by building parallel Republican organizations in their territory.

But Wood and his partisans did not act defeated. The chairmanship election, they argued, was as rigged as the 2020 presidential race. Wood threw a lavish party at his roughly 2,000-acre low-country estate, secured by armed guards and surveillance cameras. From a stage fit for a rock concert on the lawn of one of his three mansions, Wood promised the fight would continue.

Diaz and her allies in Horry County voted to censure McKissick. The county's longtime Republicans tried, but failed, to oust Diaz and her cohort after one of the people involved in drafting Wood tackled a protester at a Flynn speech in Greenville. (This incident, the details of which are disputed, prompted Schultz to encourage precinct strategy activists to arm themselves.) Wood continued promoting the precinct strategy to his Telegram followers, and scores replied that they were signing up.

In late July, Stutts and Davis forced out Greenville County GOP's few remaining establishment leaders, claiming that they had cheated in the first election. Then Stutts, Davis and an ally won a new election to fill those vacant seats. "They sound like Democrats, right?" Bannon asked Stutts in a podcast interview. Stutts replied, "They taught the Democrats how to cheat, Steve."

Stutts' group quickly pushed for an investigation of the 2020 presidential election, planning a rally featuring Davis and Wood at the end of August, and began campaigning against vaccine and school mask mandates. "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery," Stutts had previously posted on Facebook, quoting Thomas Jefferson. Stutts continued posting messages skeptical of vaccine and mask mandates even after he entered the hospital with a severe case of COVID-19. He died on Aug. 19.

Salleigh Grubbs alleges 2020 election fraud while testifying to state lawmakers. She was elected the Cobb County party chair, and she dedicated her first meeting to "the battle for freedom that Americans have before them today." Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: DogEars/YouTube; Cobb County Republican Party/Facebook

The hubbub got so loud inside the Cobb County, Georgia, Republican headquarters that it took several shouts and whistles to get everyone's attention. It was a full house for Salleigh Grubbs' first meeting as the county's party chair. Grubbs ran on a vow to "clean house" in the election system, highlighting her December testimony to state lawmakers in which she raised unsubstantiated fraud allegations. Supporters praised Grubbs' courage for following a truck she suspected of being used in a plot to shred evidence. She attended Trump's Jan. 6 rally as a VIP. She won the chairmanship decisively at an April county convention packed with an estimated 50% first-time participants.

In May, Grubbs opened her first meeting by asking everyone munching on bacon and eggs to listen to her recite the Gettysburg Address. "Think of the battle for freedom that Americans have before them today," Grubbs said. "Those people fought and died so that you could be the precinct chair." After the reading, first-time precinct officers stood for applause and cheers.

Their work would start right away: putting up signs, making calls and knocking on doors for a special election for the state House. The district had long leaned Republican, but after the GOP's devastating losses up and down the ballot in 2020, they didn't know what to expect.

"There's so many people out there that are scared, they feel like their vote doesn't count," Cooper Guyon, a 17-year-old right-wing podcaster from the Atlanta area who speaks to county parties around the state, told the Cobb Republicans in July. The activists, he said, need to "get out in these communities and tell them that we are fighting to make your vote count by passing the Senate bill, the election-reform bills that are saving our elections in Georgia."

Of the field's two Republicans, Devan Seabaugh took the strongest stance in favor of Georgia's new law restricting ways to vote and giving the Republican-controlled Legislature more power over running elections. "The only people who may be inconvenienced by Senate Bill 202 are those intent on committing fraud," he wrote in response to a local newspaper's candidate questionnaire.

Seabaugh led the June special election and won a July runoff. Grubbs cheered the win as a turning point. "We are awake. We are preparing," she wrote on Facebook. "The conservative citizens of Cobb County are ready to defend our ballots and our county."

Newcomers did not meet such quick success everywhere. In Savannah, a faction crashed the Chatham County convention with their own microphone, inspired by Bannon's podcast to try to depose the incumbent party leaders who they accused of betraying Trump. Party officers blocked the newcomers' candidacies, saying they weren't officially nominated. Shouting erupted, and the meeting adjourned without a vote. Then the party canceled its districtwide convention.

The state party ultimately sided with the incumbent leaders. District chair Carl Smith said the uprising is bound to fail because the insurgents are mistaken in believing that he and other local leaders didn't fight hard enough for Trump.

"You can't build a movement on a lie," Smith said.

The Hillsdale County Republican Party's new leaders organized sending buses of people to the Trump rally on Jan. 6. Now, activists dedicated to the stolen election myth are recruiting precinct delegates at regular events. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Jon Smith/Facebook; Debra Ell/Facebook

In Michigan, activists who identify with a larger movement working against Republicans willing to accept Trump's loss have captured the party leadership in about a dozen counties. They're directly challenging state party leaders, who are trying to harness the grassroots energy without indulging demands to keep fighting over the last election.

Some of the takeovers happened before the rise of the precinct strategy. But the activists are now organizing under the banner "Precinct First" and holding regular events, complete with notaries, to sign people up to run for precinct delegate positions.

"We are reclaiming our party," Debra Ell, one of the organizers, told ProPublica. "We're building an 'America First' army."

Under normal rules, the wave of new precinct delegates could force the party to nominate far-right candidates for key state offices. That's because in Michigan, party nominees for attorney general, secretary of state and lieutenant governor are chosen directly by party delegates rather than in public primaries. But the state party recently voted to hold a special convention earlier next year, which should effectively lock in candidates before the new, more radical delegates are seated.

Activist-led county parties including rural Hillsdale and Detroit-area Macomb are also censuring Republican state legislators for issuing a June report on the 2020 election that found no evidence of systemic fraud and no need for a reexamination of the results like the one in Arizona. (The censures have no enforceable impact beyond being a public rebuke of the politicians.) At the same time, county party leaders in Hillsdale and elsewhere are working on a ballot initiative to force an Arizona-style election review.

Establishment Republicans have their own idea for a ballot initiative — one that could tighten rules for voter ID and provisional ballots while sidestepping the Democratic governor's veto. If the initiative collects hundreds of thousands of valid signatures, it would be put to a vote by the Republican-controlled state Legislature. Under a provision of the state constitution, the state Legislature can adopt the measure and it can't be vetoed.

State party leaders recently reached out to the activists rallying around the rejection of the presidential election results, including Hillsdale Republican Party Secretary Jon Smith, for help. Smith, Ell and others agreed to join the effort, the two activists said.

"This empowers them," Jason Roe, the state party executive director whose ouster the activists demanded because he said Trump was responsible for his own loss, told ProPublica. Roe resigned in July, citing unrelated reasons. "It's important to get them focused on change that can actually impact" future elections, he said, "instead of keeping their feet mired in the conspiracy theories of 2020."

A crowd tries to push back cops guarding the back door to a high school theater where the Clark County GOP tried to hold a leadership election. At least one Proud Boy was riling up the crowd. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Veterans in Politics/YouTube; Paul Bodine/YouTube

Jesse Law, who ran the Trump campaign's Election Day operations in Nevada, sued the Democratic electors, seeking to declare Trump the winner or annul the results. The judge threw out the case, saying Law's evidence did not meet "any standard of proof," and the Nevada Supreme Court agreed. When the Electoral College met in December, Law stood outside the state capitol to publicly cast mock votes for Trump.

This year, Law set his sights on taking over the Republican Party in the state's largest county, Clark, which encompasses Las Vegas. He campaigned on the precinct strategy, promising 1,000 new recruits. His path to winning the county chairmanship — just like Stutts' team in South Carolina, and Grubbs in Cobb County, Georgia — relied on turning out droves of newcomers to flood the county party and vote for him.

In Law's case, many of those newcomers came through the Proud Boys, the all-male gang affiliated with more than two dozen people charged in the Capitol riot. The Las Vegas chapter boasted about signing up 500 new party members (not all of them belonging to the Proud Boys) to ensure their takeover of the county party. After briefly advancing their own slate of candidates to lead the Clark GOP, the Proud Boys threw their support to Law. They also helped lead a state party censure of Nevada's Republican secretary of state, who rejected the Trump campaign's baseless claims of fraudulent ballots.

Law, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, has declined to distance himself from the Las Vegas Proud Boys, citing Trump's "stand back and stand by" remark at the September 2020 presidential debate. "When the president was asked if he would disavow, he said no," Law told an independent Nevada journalist in July. "If the president is OK with that, I'm going to take the presidential stance."

The outgoing county chair, David Sajdak, canceled the first planned vote for his successor. He said he was worried the Proud Boys would resort to violence if their newly recruited members, who Sajdak considered illegitimate, weren't allowed to vote.

Sajdak tried again to hold a leadership vote in July, with a meeting in a Las Vegas high school theater, secured by police. But the crowd inside descended into shouting, while more people tried to storm past the cops guarding the back entrance, leading to scuffles. "Let us in! Let us in!" some chanted. Riling them up was at least one Proud Boy, according to multiple videos of the meeting.

At the microphone, Sajdak was running out of patience. "I'm done covering for you awful people," he bellowed. Unable to restore order, Sajdak ended the meeting without a vote and resigned a few hours later. He'd had enough.

"They want to create mayhem," Sajdak said.

Soon after, Law's faction held their own meeting at a hotel-casino and overwhelmingly voted for Law as county chairman. Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, a longtime ally of Law who helped lead Trump's futile effort to overturn the Nevada results, recognized Law as the new county chair and promoted a fundraiser to celebrate. The existing county leaders sued, seeking a court order to block Law's "fraudulent, rogue election." The judge preliminarily sided with the moderates, but told them to hold off on their own election until a court hearing in September.

To Sajdak, agonizing over 2020 is pointless because "there's no mechanism for overturning an election." Asked if Law's allies are determined to create one, Sajdak said: "It's a scary thought, isn't it."

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.

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

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

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

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

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

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

Read the entire report here.

Oath Keepers Seek Plea Deals In Jan. 6 Insurrection Conspiracy

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The conspiracy case that federal prosecutors appear to be building around the behavior of two key groups involved in the January 6 Capitol insurrection—namely, the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys—ratcheted another notch tighter this week when one of the men involved in the Oath Keepers' "stack" formation that day entered a guilty plea as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

One Proud Boys leader, erstwhile national chairman Enrique Tarrio, also pleaded guilty to the charge on which he had been arrested prior to Jan. 6—namely, setting a Black Lives Matter banner afire during a December 12 "Stop the Steal" event—and also has struck a deal with prosecutors, though it's unclear whether he is providing evidence in the January 6 prosecutions. Meanwhile, the first of the insurrectionists who pleaded guilty, Paul Hodgkins, was given an eight-month sentence Monday by a federal judge who warned that the seemingly light term should not be considered a harbinger of future sentences in other cases.

Tuesday's plea deal for Oath Keeper Caleb Berry is the third such piece to fall into place for prosecutors. Earlier this month, two insurrectionists cut plea deals: Mark Grods, a 54-year-old Oath Keeper from Alabama, and Graydon Young, 55, another Oath Keeper from Florida. Both men are believed to be providing evidence in the conspiracy case against the 15 other Oath Keepers charged in the riot, one that prosecutors have been gradually building and may eventually encompass the group's founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes.

Charging documents in Berry's case indicate that he will admit to dropping off weapons at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, as part of creating a "quick reaction force" the Oath Keepers planned to deploy in Washington, D.C., should things take a violent turn. Oath Keepers leaders have insisted the weapons were only intended for use if antifascists showed up to stop them.

Berry also acknowledges that he participated in a tactical "stack" formation comprised of Oath Keepers that played a key role in the mob's ability to penetrate security barriers at the Capitol on January 6. Prosecutors are likely to be asking him for information about pre-planning and surveillance by the Oath Keepers near the Capitol before the insurrection, since Berry also "traveled to and then observed the restricted Capitol grounds" on January 5, one day beforehand, according to the affidavit.

Tarrio's guilty plea for burning the BLM banner also included misdemeanor charges that he was carrying high-capacity ammunition magazines in his luggage when arrested. He is scheduled to be sentenced in late August.

He told Senior Judge Harold L. Cushenberry Jr. that he was unaware the banner had been taken from a nearby African-American church.

"If I'd have known that banner came from a church, it would not have been burned," said Tarrio, who also said he had no regrets about burning a BLM banner because he thinks the movement "has terrorized the citizens of this country."

The prosecutor overseeing Tarrio's case noted to Cushenberry "for the record" that "nothing in the agreement is intended to prevent the government from bringing different or additional charges" against him in the future "based on his conduct on January 6th, 2021, or any other time." Tarrio, who had been barred from D.C. on January 6, has said he was not involved in any of the planning around the event, despite the key role played by Proud Boys in the insurrection.

Hodgkins was the first of the insurrectionists to be sentenced, after the 38-year-old from Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding by entering the Capitol on January 6 with the mob. The eight-month sentence was less than half the 18 months sought by prosecutors, but District Judge Randolph Moss was more lenient because he had not participated in violence and had a clean criminal record.

"It is essential to send a message that this type of conduct is utterly unacceptable and that grave damage was done to our country that day," Moss said. "At the same time, I do not believe that Mr. Hodgkins—other than having made some very bad decisions that day and done some really bad things that day that did some real damage to the country—that he is a threat or that he is inherently an evil person."

Moss, however, was also clear that he did not buy defense arguments that the January 6 riot was not an insurrection: "Although Mr. Hodgkins was only one member of a larger mob, he actively and intentionally participated in an event that threatened not only the security of the Capitol but democracy itself," he said. "That is chilling, for many reasons."

Unlike other defendants, Hodgkins also was openly repentant: "I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly remorseful and regretful for my actions in Washington," he told the judge. "This was a foolish decision on my part that I take full responsibility for it."

Other Jan. 6 defendants have been openly defiant. One such indictee—Pauline Bauer of Kane, Pennsylvania—has declared herself a sovereign citizen and filed court documents based on that far-right movement's pseudo-legal mumbo jumbo in her case. During her court hearing on Monday, she repeatedly interrupted the judge and declared herself immune from American laws, according to NBC4's Scott MacFarlane.

"Every man is independent of all laws, except those of nature," declared Bauer, who decided to represent herself in court. She added: "I think the American people will be shocked to find out who owns the Capitol building right now."

Bauer, who is representing herself, had previously filed documents in her case declaring herself a "Living Soul, Creation of God" who was a separate entity from the "Vessel" charged with the crime. She told the judge she won't let pretrial services come into her home and won't turn over her passport, calling the search of her home "illegal."

According to court documents, Bauer had organized buses full of people to attend the January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally, and had been a particularly bloodthirsty participant in the Capitol siege.

"This is where we find Nancy Pelosi," Bauer can be heard saying inside the Capitol in a body-camera recording placed in evidence by prosecutors. "Bring that fucking bitch out here now. Bring her out here. We're coming in if you don't bring her out."

At a June appearance, Bauer had addressed the court with undiluted sovereign-citizen lingo: "I am a free soul, I am not part of your corporation, I am making a special Divine appearance."

At Monday's hearing, District Judge Zia Faruqui attempted to persuade Bauer to let her appoint an attorney in her case. She refused.

Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League told The Daily Beast that sovereign citizens like Bauer have been gulled by a conspiracist belief system that has little attachment to reality.

"Their filings and documents, to the layperson, have the look and feel of being actual legal filings, but they're actually flights of fancy, magical thinking," Pitcavage said. "As a result, all their arguments fail. Some judges will take the time to address them issue by issue. Some will more abruptly or harshly dismiss them as gobbledegook."