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When Matt Gaetz Met Up With White Nationalists At CPAC

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trumpist Republican politicians like Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz appear to be mimicking their role model's ability to send comforting signals out to white nationalists while managing to keep them at arm's length for the sake of plausible deniability. He showed how it's done this past weekend at the Conservative Political Action Committee's annual convention in Orlando.

A cluster of young white nationalists attending the simultaneous America First Political Action Committee convention—organized by notorious "Groyper Army" leader Nicholas Fuentes—invaded the CPAC gathering, where Fuentes has been banned, on Saturday. They managed to find Gaetz, who took photos with one of the group's leaders—an outspoken neo-Nazi who uses the nom de plume "Speckzo"—and briefly conversed with them, apparently acknowledging his familiarity with Fuentes.

The video of the interaction shows one of the Groypers asking Gaetz if he was familiar with Fuentes. Gaetz made an indistinct reply while walking away with an aide, pointing a raised index finger in the direction of the young men.

Gaetz has a history of such dalliances with far-right extremists. In 2018, he invited notorious white nationalist Chuck Johnson to the State of the Union address, giving Johnson one of his tickets to the event. Gaetz claimed disingenuously that Johnson had just happened to drop by his office the day before to discuss their mutual political interests—which Johnson claimed were marijuana, bitcoin, Trump, and animal welfare—and a spare ticket had become available.

In 2019, Gaetz hired a white nationalist named Darren Beattie to work in his office as a speechwriter. Beattie had been previously fired from the Trump administration after his connections to white-nationalist organizations was exposed. Beattie later was appointed by Trump to an international commission that oversees preservation of Holocaust-related historical sites, much to the dismay of the Anti-Defamation League. Gaetz later ran into trouble with House ethics rules for using taxpayer funds for Beattie's salary.

Fuentes himself had attempted to enter the CPAC convention hall last Saturday with a group of fellow "Groypers," but was turned away by organizers and security. "CPAC sucks. It's gay," Fuentes told the people who had gathered to watch the confrontation. "We made our point. Masks don't work. CPAC is gay. They're not conservative."

As Twitter user Sarlacc Attack posted afterward, a number of the Groypers posted photos and videos from their excursion on Telegram. One of the most prolific of these is the man who uses the "Speckzo" pseudonym, who posted photos of himself with both Gaetz and Fuentes.

"Speckzo," whose identity is currently unknown but who has boasted on social media that he lives in New York and makes $100,000 annually from his online video rants, is noteworthy for openly embracing Nazism, denying the Holocaust, and expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler. He also has said he considers electoral democracy a failure, blaming women's suffrage and allowing poor people to vote, adding that he considers monarchy the best political system. In one of his online rants, he also defended the enslavement of Black people, claiming they were better off under the system of slavery.

"Speckzo" also managed to get a selfie portrait with Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who addressed the America First crowd on Saturday, a day after sharing a panel at CPAC.

Fuentes' "Groyper Army" has been intimately involved in the extremist right's efforts to keep Trump in the presidency. Fuentes—who vowed to "destroy the GOP" if it failed to defend Trump adequately—spoke at both pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" rallies in Washington, D.C., on November 14 and on December 12, accompanied by his followers, and was present on January 6 at the pro-Trump rally preceding the attack on the U.S. Capitol. A member of the "Groyper Army," 22-year-old Riley Williams of Pennsylvania, faces multiple charges for her role in the January 6 insurrection, and is believed to have stolen a laptop computer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

Gaetz no doubt will claim he had no idea who he was posing with on Saturday and brush off the association. But the problematic aspect of the selfies he took is less who he associates with, but instead the kind of people who seek out his approval.

Capitol Rioter Who Allegedly Stole Pelosi Laptop Is Neo-Nazi Activist

Earlier this week, as part of his campaign to gaslight the public about the Capitol insurrection, Tucker Carlson tried to claim on his Fox News program that "there's no evidence white supremacists were responsible for what happened on January 6. That's a lie." Of course, the claim was immediately debunked, but that hasn't prevented Republicans from continuing to lie and mislead the public into believing up is down about the event and its meaning, and for online trolls to continue repeating Carlson's claim.

Multiple examples abound to prove Carlson a baldfaced liar, but the most striking was revealed this week: An investigation by Bellingcat's Robert Evans found that Riley Williams, the 22-year-old woman from Pennsylvania who faces multiple charges in the Capitol siege and is suspected of having stolen Nancy Pelosi's laptop, is the same person who posed in neo-Nazi gear in an online video and made Nazi salutes, all while posting on social media as a white nationalist "Groyper" and participating in a popular neo-Nazi Telegram channel.

The criminal complaint against Williams charges her with obstructing an official proceeding, violent entry on Capitol grounds, and other counts related to her entry into the Capitol and Pelosi's offices on January 6. Investigators stated her ex-boyfriend showed them videos taken from Williams' livestream that day appearing to show her examining an HP laptop and taking it, but say they are still investigating the matter. They noted the witness told them Williams intended to sell the laptop to a Russian agent, but the deal had fallen through. The laptop has not been located.

Williams' attorney has adamantly denied she stole the computer, and has complained she has been vilified, and the accusations against her are "overstated."

The Bellingcat report, however, made clear Williams was not just a Trump fan who got "carried away," as her mother tried to tell an interviewer. In the process of identifying her as the woman with her face concealed in the Nazi-salute video, it followed a long trail of evidence of her avid participation in far-right "accelerationist" online spaces, including on Parler and Telegram.

Williams also was a fan of white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes, the youthful leader of "America First" and the so-called "Groyper Army" who was present in the crowd outside the Capitol on January 6. Fuentes had helped lead a "Stop the Steal" protest in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12, and Williams had taken a fan shot with him that day, posting it on Twitter: "Thank you Nick!!" she wrote, adding a laughing emoji. "King of America!"

As Evans explains, Williams was particularly active on the Telegram channel of a Texas neo-Nazi named Christopher Pohlhaus, who specializes in accelerationist rhetoric under the nom de plume "The Hammer." Much of the gear she wore in the Nazi salute video appears to have come from his online store, including the "skull mask" and a ball cap adorned with a Nazi occultist "Sonnenrad" symbol.

Pohlhaus specializes in recruiting young people to the fascist cause. Nazi stickers he sells were used in late 2020 to vandalize the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise, Idaho.

Of course, Williams is far from the only white supremacist to have been involved in the insurrection. Alt-right troll Tim "Baked Alaska" Gionet, arrested in January for his role in the siege, helped lead Williams and others in vandalizing Pelosi's office. The ADL found that among the 212 people charged as of February 17, ten of them were white nationalist "Groypers," and another 17 were members of the proto-fascist Proud Boys organization.

Numerous far-right organizations, including an array of white nationalists, were involved in the planning of the insurrection. There were dozens of white supremacist banners and symbols being waved by the crowd that day, including a Confederate flag that was paraded around inside the Capitol, as well as various alt-right flags and other white nationalist symbols. One man, Robert Packer, was seen in a "Camp Auschwitz" T-shirt, a reference to the wartime Nazi death camps.

"White supremacists and rebranded alt-right rioters were assuredly there, but there was also a wide variety of other insurrectionists present who share a set of unifying grievances with hardened bigots, who do not necessarily buy into full-blown white supremacy," Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told the Poynter Institute.

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 and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

FBI Arrests Woman Accused Of Stealing Pelosi Laptop During Riot

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Joining the increasing number of Trump supporters arrested after storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, a Pennsylvania woman who allegedly took a laptop belonging to Speaker Nancy Pelosi was arrested Monday. The woman, identified as 22-year-old Riley June Williams, is charged with intentionally entering into a restricted building without lawful authority in addition to disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. While Williams has not yet been charged with theft, the FBI is investigating the matter and what her intentions were.

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