Conservatives Are Asking You To Disbelieve Your Own Eyes

“The numbskulls who stormed the Capitol, some of whom are facing modest prison sentences for their role in the clownish putsch, didn’t show up by happenstance. “All of them—all of them were telling us, ‘Trump sent us,'” according to recent testimony at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing by a U.S. Capitol police officer who fought back the insurgents.

Not every participant in the day’s sordid events engaged in violence or vandalism, of course, and whatever punishments the courts mete out should fit the particular crime. But this was no tourist visit gone awry. Not every person who joined in left-wing attacks in Portland committed crimes, either, but I don’t suppose Trump supporters would cut those folks slack.

The Trumpsters’ silliest argument is that Antifa, the fascistic “anti-fascists” who turned portions of U.S. cities into rubble, were behind the Capitol event. Conservatives touted that narrative immediately after January 6. Apparently, that loose-knit movement runs so meticulously that it recruited thousands of volunteers who acted exactly like Trump supporters.

Why believe your own eyes? Sure, a few lefties might have infiltrated the pro-Trump mob. That doesn’t make it an Antifa riot. The Portland scene wasn’t a right-wing event because a few right-wing infiltrators may have joined in the action. I’ve attended many protests and guarantee that they attract all sorts of nut jobs. It’s not hard for anyone to gain admission.

Despite GOP efforts to rewrite history, my eyes confirm the conclusion drawn by conservative writer David Frum: “The January 6 attack was incited by the head of the American government, the man who had sworn to protect and defend that government. It was the thing most feared by the authors of the U.S. Constitution: a betrayal of the highest office by the holder of that office.”

Here’s the problem. It portends dangers for the future if so many conservatives refuse to cop to the obvious truths of that day. If we can’t all agree on basic, obvious facts about an event that unfolded before our eyes, then we’re headed toward a well-trod path of internecine struggles where we just pick a side and fight to the bitter end.”

“My problem is with the political right’s movement toward, well, authoritarianism, exemplified by its refusal to embrace facts that don’t conform to their alternative reality—and their unwavering support for a man rather than a set of ideas. It’s ironic that the man they’ve chosen to follow seems to embody moral characteristics they’ve long railed against, but go figure.

Even GOP leaders who know better and occasionally speak out against Trump’s disinformation—House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.)—always end up toeing the party line. They dare not defy Trump or his base voters.”

Airstrikes Against U.S. Troops in Iraq Highlight Dangers of Our Presence in the Middle East

“rockets struck Ayn al-Asad air base, a military facility in Iraq that hosts American troops. U.S. Army Colonel Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, tweeted that the attack did not result in casualties. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the action.

Even without human loss, Monday’s hostilities highlight the risks associated with a continued U.S. troop presence and ongoing military engagement in the Middle East. The attack came just one week after President Joe Biden’s June 27 airstrikes on facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, which prompted rocket attacks against U.S. troops in Syria the very next day. There have been many tit-for-tat exchanges between the U.S. and Iran-linked parties since former President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020. Though it’s unclear who ordered the Monday attack, it is clear that U.S. strikes and troops have failed to deter further antagonism from hostile parties in the region.

While Biden has made the Afghanistan troop withdrawal a centerpiece of his presidential agenda, his plans for the U.S. presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East are far vaguer. Following the Soleimani assassination on Iraqi soil, the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution to expel U.S. troops from the country. No timetable for that withdrawal has emerged during bilateral negotiations, however, leaving the fate of the roughly 3,500 remaining U.S. troops in Iraq unsettled. Roughly 900 are still in Syria and their future is similarly murky.”

The Geophysicist Who Stormed the Capitol

“Sabol’s actions on January 6 and the days afterward have left many in his life confused and grappling for answers. How did a highly educated, middle-aged man with so much to lose participate in what FBI director Christopher Wray called “domestic terrorism,” and then try to kill himself? How did someone with strong views about government overreach, but also plenty of friends and neighbors outside his political bubble, end up on the steps of the Capitol, in attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results?

In some ways, Sabol’s radicalization mirrors that of other insurrectionists, a group that collectively has put a new face on American extremism. While many of those arrested for political terrorism in recent decades have been young, underemployed and socially isolated, the majority of the 465 (and counting) defendants in the Capitol attack are much like Sabol—older individuals, mostly white men, with well-established careers.”

“Understanding Jeffrey Sabol’s transformation reveals how radicalization can happen under the radar, while offering lessons for those who want to combat it going forward: about how personal challenges can collide with political messages, and how a person’s job, education level, community and even their social media profile aren’t reliable predictors of extremist behavior. Thousands of people descended on the Capitol terrace, with thousands of individual routes taken to get there.”

“Over the past decade, several parts of Sabol’s life unraveled, according to interviews and court records. In 2011, Strotz filed for divorce. In an interview, she said Sabol began drinking heavily and acting “strange.” Then, in 2014, Sabol’s older brother died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving him devastated. “I believe at this point Jeff lost his bearing and allowed himself to be led by others that steered him down a negative path,” his sister wrote in her character letter filed with the court. She didn’t specify who the people leading her brother astray were, and she did not return phone calls or respond to emails.”

“Sabol found a large measure of stability with a woman he met while back home in Waterville one summer with his kids, according to the character letters. A neighbor to his parents, she and Sabol immediately connected. After a year of dating, she quit her job at a nursing home to re-locate to Colorado, moving into Sabol’s modest, split-level, four-bedroom rental in Kittredge.

By this point, Sabol’s strong political views were already well established. According to Strotz, they took root after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. She denies race had anything to do with it: “It was Obama as a person. He would freak out. He hated that Obama became president, and he hated Democrats. He became obsessed.” Strotz, herself a registered Republican, says Sabol, a registered independent, wrote multiple emails to the Obama White House, though she doesn’t know what they said. Around this time, John Bergman, Sabol’s friend and former co-worker, remembers Sabol attaching a “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker to his old blue Ford pickup truck and running an American flag off the back.

Strotz says when she and Sabol were together, she witnessed what she refers to as his “bad side”—an angry streak and moods that would change quickly. She suggested that Sabol might want to talk to someone about this, but “there was nothing wrong with him in his mind,” she says. In 2016, according to county court records, Sabol was charged with misdemeanor child abuse; Strotz says Sabol had injured their then-15-year-old son. The charge was dismissed after Sabol paid fines and completed probation, a mental health evaluation and counseling. In 2018, he decided to give up custody of his son to Strotz, she says: “Jeff stood in my home and told my fiancé and I that he could no longer continue to do his 50 percent of parenting time with his son, or he would end up in jail.” Sabol did, however, consistently pay child support for his son, according to Strotz.

Whatever was triggering Sabol’s anger at home didn’t appear to carry over into other circles. Bergman says he didn’t experience his friend’s mood swings, though he describes an unusual intensity Sabol brought to his work at ECC. “I would leave the office at 5 p.m., and the next morning he’d still be there when I got in at 8 a.m. Sometimes he’d be there for two nights. He’d get into something and then just go.”

In 2020, Sabol’s fervor found new political outlets. As a geophysicist working on government contracts, Sabol had long been troubled by what he saw as the unchecked power and waste of military spending, or the “military industrial complex,” according to Kerbs. “Because of his work, he saw the other side, how corrupt it is,” Kerbs says of Sabol’s job cleaning up unused or discarded U.S. taxpayer-funded military weaponry and explosives. After the 2020 election, Sabol grew focused on another perceived abuse of government power, this one perpetrated by groups Sabol already harbored mistrust of: A strong supporter of President Donald Trump, Sabol believed the then-president’s claims that liberals and Democrats had “rigged” the election, according to prosecutors, and flew to Washington in December to attend political rallies.”

“he spoke openly to investigators about his views while recovering at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, after his arrest, telling agents, “There was no question” the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from Trump. He had seen videos of ballots being mishandled, he said, and knew voting machines had been tampered with, even though more than 100 judges around the country have determined that no credible evidence of fraud exists. He said he was a “patriot warrior” who had answered “the call to battle” and was “fighting tyranny in the D.C. capital.””

Why Would Republicans Want a Credible, Nonpartisan Investigation of the Capitol Riot?

“While McConnell initially seemed genuinely outraged by the riot and the presidential “lies” that “provoked” it, he pretty quickly abandoned any thought of trying to separate the Republican Party from the Trump personality cult.

“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said after voting to acquit him (based on the position that former presidents cannot be tried in the Senate). “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6th….It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe—the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-president.”

But McConnell eventually decided that Trump’s domination of the GOP was inescapable, which meant there was no political advantage to be gained by dwelling on the former president’s reckless conspiracy mongering or the violence it inspired. Based on that assumption, it’s better for the party if any further interest in those subjects can be easily dismissed as blatantly partisan.”

The GOP whitewash of the Capitol attack shows the need for a January 6 commission

“As CNN and other outlets have reported previously — and pro-impeachment Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) confirmed in a statement in February — McCarthy spoke with Trump while the riots were still ongoing and pleaded with Trump to call his supporters off.

According to Herrera Beutler, Trump “initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol” on the call with McCarthy.

Subsequently, Herrera Beutler said in her February statement, “McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

Other Republicans have corroborated Trump’s state of mind as the attack was unfolding. According to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), “Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building.”

If McCarthy is called upon to substantiate Herrera Beutler’s account of the McCarthy-Trump call for the commission, however, it would likely also put McCarthy in an awkward position politically.

That’s because McCarthy’s call with Trump — which reportedly took place as rioters were attempting to break through the minority leader’s office windows — is a reminder of the true severity of the January 6 attacks, and of Trump’s support for the mob, who he described as “very special” in a video later the same day. It’s also increasingly out of step with a Republican conference eager to downplay the insurrection and a former president who is hypersensitive to criticism — and it’s hard to imagine McCarthy looking forward to giving a faithful retelling of January 6 to a potential commission.”

Democrats barely passed a bill to increase security at the US Capitol

“A $1.9 billion emergency funding bill to boost security at the US Capitol in the wake of the January 6 insurrection barely passed the House on Thursday. The measure, which would also provide additional personal security for lawmakers facing an intensifying wave of threats and harassment in Washington and their home districts, received no Republican support, and exposed fissures within the Democratic Party over the issue of increasing funding for any police force.

The bill ultimately passed on Thursday, following last-minute negotiations led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with 213 votes for the bill and 212 against.

Every voting Republican voted no on the bill, claiming that it cost too much money and that there was no guarantee the funding would be properly spent enhancing security. Those votes followed recent statements from Republicans that downplayed or outright fabricated facts about the violence that transpired at the Capitol on January 6.

More strikingly, Democrats were not unified among themselves. Left-wing members of the House, including the members of the so-called Squad, broke from the party out of what could be described as a defund-the-police rationale.”

Leniency for defendants in Portland clashes could affect Capitol riot cases

“Federal prosecutors’ show of leniency for some defendants charged in the long-running unrest in the streets of Portland could have an impact on similar criminal cases stemming from the Capitol riot, lawyers say.

In recent weeks, prosecutors have approved deals in at least half a dozen federal felony cases arising from clashes between protesters and law enforcement in Oregon last summer. The arrangements — known as deferred resolution agreements — will leave the defendants with a clean criminal record if they stay out of trouble for a period of time and complete a modest amount of community service, according to defense attorneys and court records.”

“prosecutors in D.C. can argue that what happened there is more serious even if the physical actions of the defendants were comparable.

“Attacking the Capitol is sui generis — it’s in a category of its own,” Levenson said. “One is the seat of government and the other is not.””

There’s a Big Gap in Our Cyber Defenses. Here’s How to Close It.

“The foreign hackers behind the massive cybersecurity failures dominating recent headlines had one critical strategy in common — they leased computers in the United States to burrow into their victim’s networks. Because U.S. cybersecurity systems don’t regard domestic connections as inherently suspect, the attackers were able to hide in plain sight. Like secretive investors deploying a series of shell companies and trusts to mask true ownership, Russia, China and other sophisticated nations effect cyber-maliciousness through a series of intermediary, innocuous-looking internet servers.”

“No government agency — even our powerful spy agencies — currently has a sufficiently agile legal authority to catch foreign cyber malefactors in the act of co-opting U.S. computer networks. The National Security Agency is allowed to surveil only foreign actors; pursuing them on the home front is the job of the FBI. But by the time the NSA notices suspicious foreign activity and hands the case off to the FBI, it’s often too late. The foreign malware might well have been injected into American networks, and the FBI investigation simply confirms that now-dormant internet servers in the U.S. were used by foreigners to stage their attacks.”

“The difficulty lies in resolving deeply felt concerns over any increase in government surveillance authority, no matter how important the purpose. We are also paralyzed by a sense of fatalism that cyber vulnerabilities are simply the price we pay for being online, and an erroneous belief that the Constitution stands in the way of any solution.
Most cybersecurity experts agree an effective public-private cyber information-sharing system is essential in stopping foreign cyber maliciousness before it causes too much damage. But information sharing isn’t enough; it would be hamstrung from the start if the government cannot seamlessly and quickly track malicious cyber activity from its foreign source to its intended domestic victims. If some government agency had that legal power, then it could, for example, quickly check out a domestic IP address after an alert from the NSA that the address was communicating with a suspicious overseas server. If that IP address showed questionable activity, the government and the private sector jointly could take steps to reconfigure firewalls or otherwise curtail the hack. Admittedly, this wouldn’t prevent hacks and attacks that were based on previously unknown software bugs (so called zero-day exploits). But the reality is that most large-scale hacks by foreign countries rely on already known software imperfections and hardware deficiencies.”

Why progressives are lining up against new criminal penalties for domestic terrorism

“There are existing federal laws that criminalize domestic terrorism. The Patriot Act, which was enacted in the wake of 9/11, defined domestic terrorism as criminal acts that are “dangerous to human life” and are “intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion” or “to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.” Experts say that the storming of the Capitol fits that definition.

But no existing laws make domestic terrorism a “chargeable offense on its own” with attached criminal penalties, as the Congressional Research Service recently noted. It can, however, be an element of other federal crimes, such as assault and firearms offenses, and result in an enhanced sentence.

Some have argued that’s not enough to effectively prosecute domestic terrorism. Richard Zabel, a former deputy US attorney overseeing terrorism prosecutions in New York, wrote in the Washington Post that current law “limits our societal condemnation of the defendants and their dangerous ideologies.” The threat of domestic terrorism — which was not prioritized by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly refused to denounce white nationalists and told those who stormed the Capitol, “We love you” — would be taken more seriously if it were easier for prosecutors to charge people as domestic terrorists, Zabel and others have argued.

But civil rights groups, including the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, are raising concerns that the harms of enacting those legal authorities outweigh the benefits: They argue it would enable law enforcement to target political dissidents, and those in marginalized communities who are frequently the victims of domestic terrorism, in violation of their constitutional rights.

“Such a law is not needed given the broad reach of existing criminal statutes,” Mara Rudman, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement. “It will not solve the problem of domestic extremism and is likely to lead to unintended harms. … As lawmakers explore options for cracking down on these lawless and hateful acts, they should take care to ensure that the solutions do not create new risks for the communities they are trying to protect.””