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Tag: trump coup

Far-right Oath Keepers Charged With Seditious Conspiracy In Capitol Attack

By Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. prosecutors on Thursday charged the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, and 10 alleged members of the group with seditious conspiracy for their role in the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

They said Rhodes had warned his group to prepare for a "bloody and desperate fight" in the days leading up to the assault, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to stop Congress from certifying his election defeat.

This is the first time alleged participants in the attack have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which is defined as attempting "to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States."

"We are going to have a fight," prosecutors said Rhodes told his allies on the messaging app Signal. "That can't be avoided."

The Oath Keepers are a loosely organized group of activists who believe that the federal government is encroaching on their rights, and focus on recruiting current and former police, emergency services and military members.

Nine of the eleven charged with seditious conspiracy were already facing other charges relating to the Capitol attack. Members of the far-right Proud Boys and Three Percenters have also been charged with taking part in the attack.

The indictment says Rhodes started sending messages to his followers in November 2020, the month of Trump's election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, encouraging them to "oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power."

After his defeat, Trump repeatedly made false claims that his loss was a result of widespread fraud. He repeated those claims in a fiery speech near the White House before thousands of his followers stormed the Capitol in the worst attack on the seat of Congress since the War of 1812.

Prosecutors said that beginning in late December 2020, Rhodes used private encrypted communications to plan to travel to Washington on January 6. He and others planned to bring weapons to help support the operation, prosecutors said.

While some of the Oath Keeper members rushed inside the building wearing tactical gear, others remained outside in what they deemed "quick-response force" teams, which were prepared to rapidly transport arms into the city, prosecutors said.

Jon Moseley, an attorney for Rhodes, told Reuters he was on the phone with Rhodes to discuss his planned appearance before the House Select Committee on January 6 when the FBI called.

"He patched me in on the call and I identified myself as his lawyer," Moseley said in an e-mail. The agent then told him they were outside Rhodes' home in Granbury, Texas, and were there to arrest him.

The indictment alleges that Thomas Caldwell, who was previously charged, and Edward Vallejo of Arizona, a new defendant, were in charge of coordinating the quick-response force teams.

Seditious conspiracy is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week vowed to hold accountable anyone involved in the attack on the Capitol. The department has charged more than 725 people with crimes arising from the attack. Of those people, about 165 have pleaded guilty and at least 70 have been sentenced. Garland said the Justice Department would "follow the facts wherever they lead."

On the day of the attack, four people died. One of them, Ashli Babbitt, was shot dead by Capitol Police while trying to break into the Speaker's Gallery. Three others died of natural causes.

The following day, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died. Although he had been sprayed with a chemical irritant the day of the attack, it was later determined he died of natural causes. Around 140 police officers were injured, and four police officers later died by suicide.

The Justice Department has previously obtained seditious conspiracy convictions against Puerto Rican nationalists and alleged Islamist militants including Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the radical Islamic clergyman known as the "Blind Sheikh."

Seditious conspiracy charges featured prominently in a case federal authorities brought in 1987 against leaders and members of a neo-Nazi group known as The Order. Fourteen alleged members or supporters were indicted, with 10 facing seditious conspiracy counts.

After a two-month trial, a jury acquitted all defendants.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Daniel Wallis)

Feds Might Already Have Arrested Senior Trump Officials

Attorney General Merrick Garland has received harsh criticism for apparently not having indicted any top Trump associates for the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But one national security expert argued on Sunday that we might not know if arrests have occurred.

One of Garland's prominent critics is the man who taught him constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

"Merrick Garland will be one of the greatest Attorneys General in American history, bar none. As my brilliant con law student, a principled prosecutor, and later a superb DC Circuit judge, he has displayed integrity, courage, fair-mindedness, and humanity," Laurence Tribe tweeted hours before the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In the year since, Tribe has grown frustrated with Garland's public performance.

Security researcher Marcy Wheeler, who posts online under the handle "emptywheel," suggested that the timeline of the Mueller investigation shows the Department of Justice may not be moving any more slowly in the investigation of January 6.

"A lot of people like to claim WE'D (sic) know if DOJ had taken actions to investigate Trump and say that DOJ is moving too slowly as compared with the lightning (sic) fast Mueller investigation." she wrote, referring to ex-Trump aide George Papadopoulos.

She noted we did not learn Manafort had been busted until even later in the investigation.

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

House Select Committee Defers To White House On Delay Of Some Documents

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol has agreed to delay or withdraw a portion of its requests for former President Donald Trump’s White House records, specifically deferring their demand for documents that do not appear to have any bearing on the White House’s preparations for or response to efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The announcement was made public by White House Counsel Dana Remus. President Joe Biden maintains his initial position that the public’s interest outweighs Trump’s interest in shielding the documents. The only change now is the concern that records unrelated to the Jan. 6 investigation, if divulged publicly, could jeopardize national security.

Incidentally, the maneuver is also legally beneficial for the committee’s probe: If they narrow the request for documents, it becomes harder for the former president and his attorneys to fortify claims of overreach on the executive branch in court.

In a letter detailing the deferral agreement, Deputy Counsel for the White House Jonathan Su explained that the committee is interesting in pursuing its investigation while also “preserving important Executive Branch prerogatives,” but the panel also highlighted that it could, if necessary down the line, assert privilege over the deferred documents.

Among some 511 pages remitted to the select committee were records deemed unrelated to the insurrection probe, or they were documents regarding deliberations by the National Security Council.

This latest agreement between the White House and the committee does not mean that the committee has stopped its probe.

“The Select Committee welcomes President Biden’s decision to clear the way for the production of another set of records. The committee has agreed to defer action on certain records as part of the accommodations process, as was the case with an earlier tranche of records,” a committee spokesman said in a statement Tuesday. “The Select Committee has not withdrawn its request for these records and will continue to engage with the executive branch to ensure the committee gets access to all the information relevant to our probe."

So far President Biden has agreed to release over 700 pages of Trump’s records to the committee, including things like visitor and call logs, memos, and emails. There are also speech drafts and several pages of handwritten notes from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Investigators argue that these records are critical to understanding what unfolded inside the White House during the attack on the Capitol and will provide clarity on the administration’s overarching attempt to overturn the U.S. election.

Trump has already lost two legal attempts to shroud those records. What happens next will be integral to the committee’s investigation.

A lower court in Washington already ordered the records released, but the D.C. Court of Appeals agreed to keep the documents under wraps until Dec. 30 so Trump could lodge his appeal to the Supreme Court.

Last week, as expected, Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar the disclosure from the National Archives and Records Administration. In an appeal spanning nearly 200 pages, the former president derided the committee as unconstitutional and a threat to the separation of powers.

In response, the Jan. 6 committee urged the Supreme Court to respond to Trump’s appeal quickly, saying that both sides could have all their briefs filed by Dec. 30. Investigators suggested both parties be given two weeks, or until Jan. 14, to have their cases heard. This would give the committee time to strategize its response to whatever Trump files.

The pressure to get this legal fight with Trump behind the committee is on as the 2022 midterms loom. The committee is eager to craft legislation that would prevent a rogue president from usurping power and without a majority in the House or Senate, those prospects dwindle drastically.

“Delay would inflict a serious injury on the Select Committee and the public by interfering with this mandate. The Select Committee needs the requested documents now to help shape the direction of the investigation and allow the Select Committee to timely recommend remedial legislation,” the committee said in its eight-page response.

If Trump loses this fight, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, recently reconfirmed to reporters that the panel is after Trump’s Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 White House call records.

Trump reportedly made several phone calls from the White House that day to his advisers—some official, some not—and lawyers including John Eastman, Steve Bannon, Boris Epshteyn, and Rudy Giuliani. Many of those calls, investigators allege, could involve discussions about a vast pressure campaign on then-Vice President Mike Pence. Trump wanted Pence to stop the certification process, something that was baldly unconstitutional.

Behind 2020 Election Fraud Claims, An Elaborate Grift Operation

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The past squatter in the Oval Office spent months and months sowing seeds of distrust in our election system, trying to make sure that he had laid the groundwork to challenge the election—or have an insurrection if the legal route to challenging it failed. He was open to anything, as were some of his well-heeled supporters. The Daily Beast has reports on the fundraising campaign that one of those groups, the Liberty Center for God and Country (LCGC), ran ahead of the election and what they did with that money.

Remember the former police captain who ran an innocent air conditioner technician off the road and held him at gunpoint, convinced that the man was transporting 750,000 fraudulent ballots? Mark Aguirre, that former cop, was indicted last week for aggravated assault in that attack. It was that attack and the subsequent criminal charges that outed the LCGC, which paid Aguirre more than $200,000 to investigate voter fraud. Newly released documents show the depth of LCGC’s planning and the money they raised to fight the election in the event of a Trump loss.

Aguirre started a GoFundMe campaign in September 2020, launched the day after he signed an affidavit in a lawsuit brought by Texas Republican activist Steven Hotze declaring he had knowledge of a vast Houston Democrats voter fraud scheme. “We are private investigators in the State of Texas who have uncovered an illegal ballot harvesting operation in Harris County,” Aguirre said on his new fundraising site. “Our team is spearheaded by Mark A. Aguirre retired Captain of the Houston Police Department Lic.#C14256. We have collected evidence from 2018 displaying the massive absentee mail in voting fraud. We are currently in the process of collecting more evidence and information that will directly impact the upcoming 2020 election.”

The “we” included Aguirre and Hotze, who had formed the LCGC in August 2020, supposedly to provide spiritual support to Trump. The group launched its web presence by calling for Trump to declare a period of three days “for national repentance, fasting, and prayer.” Hotze is a long-standing anti-LGBT activist in Texas Republican politics who went full-on conspiracy theory in the months before the election. “The Socialist Democrats know that Harris County, where Houston is located, is ground zero for the upcoming general election in Texas and nationwide,” he wrote in a Facebook post that was shared by the LCGC. His LCGC raised about $70,000 in the fall of 2020.

Some of that money seems to have been poured into creating a post-election website called Every Legal Vote, which manufactured “evidence” of Trump’s supposed win. The Daily Beast uncovered its now-deleted “about us” page, where it claimed “Our Founding Sponsors: The Economic WarRoom, Allied Security Operations Group, Liberty Center for God and Country are building a coalition concerned with protecting our sacred elections from tampering and fraud.”

The Allied Security Operations Group (ASOG) is financially tied to LCGC as proved by a fundraiser it ran on an election denial website this year. “ASOG urgently needs your help to continue their vitally important research,” the group pleaded, but asked donors to write the checks they were sending in to LCGC, saying ASOG “will get them to LCGC and insure your donation receipt.” You might remember ASOG for its founder, Russell Ramsland Jr., who filed an affidavit in a Lin Wood lawsuit claiming fraud in Michigan using data from towns in Minnesota.

That mistake kept ASOG from being chosen to conduct the election “audit” for Maricopa County, Arizona. However, the Daily Beast reports, “Texts from officials involved in the Maricopa County audit reveal that ASOG was also working with Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel credited with distributing a now-infamous PowerPoint presentation on how lawmakers could invalidate the 2020 election and install Trump as president.”

LCGC is a registered nonprofit, giving it all the dark cover it needs to exploit—and generate—election denial through Every Legal Vote and any other grift machine. It’s just all one big, interconnected, conspiracy theory-loving bunch of crooks.

Which is one more reason why it is essential that Senate Democrats restore and protect our elections by ending the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts. These bills would go a long way toward protecting the integrity of our elections and grift-proofing them.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trump Asks Supreme Court To Help Him Hide January 6 Documents

Two weeks ago, Donald Trump was denied in his attempt to keep documents related to January 6 from being released to the House select committee when a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. rejected his appeal. However, in that ruling, the judges delayed implementation of the ruling for two weeks in order to give Trump the opportunity to take his case before the Supreme Court. As expected, Trump played out the clock before finally making that appeal Thursday morning.

As The Washington Post reports, Trump has quite a hill to climb. His appeal is asking the Court to set aside a unanimous ruling at the appeals court level. That ruling only confirmed a ruling from the district court. The appeals court panel was particularly blunt in their evaluation of Trump’s claim that he enjoyed the privilege to protect his communications, even though he was no longer in office, and even though the document related directly to a violent insurgency.

“The events of January 6th exposed the fragility of those democratic institutions and traditions that we had perhaps come to take for granted. In response, the President of the United States and Congress have each made the judgment that access to this subset of presidential communication records is necessary to address a matter of great constitutional moment for the Republic,” wrote the three appeals court judges.

In most circumstances, a case that’s been rejected at both district and appeals levels has little chance of even being heard by the Supreme Court. However, this is far from a normal case.

Trump made extraordinarily broad claims of executive privilege while in office. Acting on Trump’s orders, members of Trump’s White House staff, members of his campaign team, and even low-level workers at agencies whose conversations were many stages removed from Trump refused to provide testimony to Congress. On multiple occasions, members of the executive branch under Trump refused to provide information to Congress on the basis that Trump might, at some point in the future, decide that the information was privileged. This included information that had been, in the past, regularly provided to Congress.

When the House Select Committee issued a request for both documents and testimony, Trump attempted yet another expansion of privilege, claiming that, as a past executive, he still holds the ability to restrict access to communications he conducted. That includes communications with White House staff, members of the Justice Department, campaign workers, outside advisers … everyone. In addition, multiple members of Trump’s staff or campaign—including former chief of staff Mark Meadows and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone—have cited Trump’s claim in refusing to testify to the committee.

In recent cases where there were investigations of actions taken under a former president’s authority—such as Iran-Contra under Reagan, or the documents that proceeded the 9/11 attacks under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—no claims of privilege have been raised.

Both the district and appeals court made it clear that, as the sitting executive, only President Joe Biden determines what documents enjoy privileged protection. And, with both Biden and the committee has determined that these documents are vital to determining the truth about events on January 6, Trump has no authority to block their release.

There is the possibility that the Supreme Court will simply refuse to take up the case. However, it seems likely that the Court’s conservative majority may want an opportunity to redefine executive privilege in a way that benefits Trump. The court could agree with Trump outright or could rule that the request from the select committee is “too broad,” or provide a basis for Trump to return to a lower court and restart his appeal process.

Even though the Supreme Court set definite limits over the use of executive privilege during Watergate, the evident lack of concern about precedent by the current Court may mean this is a time where those rulings get revised. Or obliterated.

A likely outcome may be one similar to that of when Trump sought to refuse Congress access to his tax documents. Trump lost that case at the district court, before a single judge at the appeals court, before the full appeals court, and before the Supreme Court. However, a year and a half after losing that case at the top court, the documents are still not available to Congress.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Retired Generals Warn Against Divided Military And Potential Coup In 2024

Three retired United States generals are issuing a chilling warning about the possibility of yet another attempted coup in 2024. In an op-ed published by The Washington Post, former Army Major Gen. Paul Eaton, former Brigadier Gen. Steven Anderson, and former Army Major Gen. Antonio Taguba expressed concern about what the future holds for America's fragile democracy.

"We — all of us former senior military officials — are increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk," the generals wrote.

The generals laid out a hypothetical scenario that could lead to a divide within the armed forces if there is a repeat of what happened following the 2020 presidential election.

"Imagine competing commanders in chief — a newly reelected Biden giving orders, versus Trump (or another Trumpian figure) issuing orders as the head of a shadow government," they wrote. Worse, imagine politicians at the state and federal levels illegally installing a losing candidate as president."

If the next election is also contested, there could be a divide when it comes to service members deciding where their loyalty lies. Although they've taken a vow to protect the U.S. Constitution, there could be debates about what that means if a presidential election outcome is fiercely challenged.

"All service members take an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution. But in a contested election, with loyalties split, some might follow orders from the rightful commander in chief, while others might follow the Trumpian loser. Arms might not be secured depending on who was overseeing them. Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war."

The generals warned that a divided military would leave the United States vulnerable in regard to national security. "In this context, with our military hobbled and divided, U.S. security would be crippled," they wrote. "Any one of our enemies could take advantage by launching an all-out assault on our assets or our allies."

Although the 2020 presidential election is behind us, the generals warned that now is the time to prepare for the future due to the ongoing division that still exists across the country. They later added, "With the country still as divided as ever, we must take steps to prepare for the worst."

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet