The GOP’s masculinity panic

“That’s not just Twitter trolling. It’s not just posturing online anymore. It’s the logic of a movement centered around aggression divorced from virtue that indulges in apocalyptic rhetoric. It’s heading exactly where such movements head, and everyone who in 2015 or 2016 was dismissing the alt-right and Trump’s Twitter trolls says, “Oh, that’s just Twitter. That’s just Twitter.” There was an inexorable moral logic that was going to lead to action in the streets.

I’ve been a pessimist about this for some time. I’ve been warning about violence for some time. In December, I was jumping up and down on The Dispatch saying violence is a real threat. Even as a pessimist, I didn’t imagine the capital being overrun on January 6.

To argue that, “Well, that was a one-time thing. Everybody got carried away” — no. No, no, no. That was the result of rhetoric and conduct that put a specific group of people together on January 6 to provide cover for an attempted coup. Many of the architects of that exact plan are still some of the most revered figures in Republican life right now.

So when you tell people their country is at stake, when you tell people the other side hates them, wants to see you dead, hates you, puts you in camps, then some people are going to believe that, and act accordingly.”

The Bar for Charging Trump with Obstructing Congress Is Higher Than Many Realize

“Text messages to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows indicate that Trump allies in Congress such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) pushed plans to set aside the election results and subvert the democratic process before Jan. 6. And when the insurrection started, the messages also reveal that members of Congress, Trump’s media allies and his own son pleaded unsuccessfully with Meadows to get the president to call off his supporters.

That evidence — not to mention the earlier revelation of a PowerPoint presentation circulating in the Trump White House about how to block the electoral vote certification — led members of the committee to question whether the president might be in legal jeopardy. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the committee, gained particular attention for a question she posed that went so far as to paraphrase the language of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, which makes it a felony to attempt to “corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede any official proceeding.”
But while the committee may ultimately uncover sufficient evidence to indict Trump, it does not appear that they have done so thus far. Rather than using the exact language of the statute, she inserted four words that reveal the scope of the committee’s investigation but also suggest that the committee knows it might fall short of the bar for criminal prosecution. “Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction [emphasis added], corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceeding to count electoral votes?” Cheney asked as she urged colleagues to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusing to be deposed.

The key word used by Cheney is “inaction.” Thus far the evidence made public by the committee indicates that in the face of a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, Trump did nothing. Cheney and others argue that Trump violated his oath of office, in which he swore to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” which requires him to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” There can be little dispute that Trump failed to do so. But a president violating his oath of office, in itself, does not constitute a federal crime.

In fact, our criminal laws rarely punish people for not taking action, and with good reason. Our criminal laws were designed to punish people who knowingly engage in wrongdoing, not to punish people who showed mere indifference or inadvertence when others were engaged in wrongdoing.”

January 6 texts from Fox hosts reveal the lie at the heart of the conservative movement

“As the Capitol riot unfolded on January 6, Fox News hosts knew exactly how bad things were.

“The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” Laura Ingraham texted to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “Please, get him on TV — [the riot is] destroying everything you accomplished,” Brian Kilmeade wrote to Meadows. “Can he make a statement, ask people to leave the Capitol?” wrote Sean Hannity in yet another Meadows text.

The texts, revealed during a Monday hearing of the House January 6 Commission, were at odds with the hosts’ on-air comments on the night of the attack. Ingraham suggested that “antifa supporters” may have been responsible for the violence. Kilmeade took a similar line: “I do not know Trump supporters that have ever demonstrated violence that I know of in a big situation.” Hannity, for his part, asserted that “the majority of them were peaceful.”

This is tangible proof that some of Fox’s marquee personalities knowingly lied to their audience about January. The lying began basically immediately, in the direct aftermath of a national tragedy.

This isn’t the only issue on which Fox’s dishonesty has been exposed. On one of the fundamental policy topics of the day, the pandemic, the right’s most influential news network is saying one thing to its audience and doing another in private.

Fox News’s programming on vaccines and vaccine mandates has been relentlessly hostile. Yet more than 90 percent of Fox News employees are fully vaccinated, and the company has a vaccine mandate that’s actually stricter than the one President Joe Biden has proposed for large corporations. Hosts tend not to mention this on air and, on the rare occasions that they do, they mislead their audience about it.

They are lying to their audience, and anyone paying close attention can see it.

These incidents speak to a deep pattern in modern conservatism, a parasitic relationship in which a super-wealthy elite preys on the fears of the conservative base for profit.”

Jan. 6 investigators’ new challenge: Trump allies pleading the Fifth

“three witnesses with ties to Donald Trump have signaled they intend to invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination.”

“Their assertions are the latest, and perhaps stiffest, test for the Jan. 6 committee as it seeks to penetrate the former president’s inner circle and piece together his actions during the chaotic closing weeks of his term. Eastman, Clark and Stone are among those who were closest to Trump as he sought to overturn the 2020 election, with some physically just blocks away as a mob of supporters overran Capitol Police and threatened the peaceful transfer of power.

Legal experts say the committee has few options once a witness pleads the Fifth — and the choices they do have are risky or impractical. ”

“For now, the committee has been content to emphasize Trump allies’ extraordinary acknowledgment, by asserting their right against self-incrimination, that some of their actions related to the 2020 election may have crossed the line into criminality — even if it carries no legal weight.”

“The committee’s options for circumventing a Fifth Amendment assertion are extremely limited. One path would involve offering a form of immunity that would prevent a witness’ testimony from being used by prosecutors in any future criminal proceeding. Thompson said Monday that immunity was among the tools the committee could consider to compel another former Trump aide, Mark Meadows, to provide information to the panel.
Legal experts say this is an unlikely path, though, since offering immunity could derail any investigation into criminal activity that the committee reveals.”

“Another option for the Jan. 6 panel is to file a civil contempt lawsuit and seek a judge’s review of the witness’ claim, but that could be a protracted effort at a time the committee is racing against a dwindling calendar. And it might not work.

“Courts will be reluctant to order witnesses to testify … if there is any potential for prosecution,” McQuade said.

A third option that some committee members — and other House Democrats — have floated is the concept of “inherent contempt.” That’s a process by which Congress bypasses the Justice Department and simply arrests or fines any recalcitrant witness. But House General Counsel Douglas Letter has made clear for years that this option is not realistic to pursue. It hasn’t been deployed in a century and it could lend itself to dangerous abuses in a body that is inherently political.”

‘This call never happened’: Ex-D.C. Guard leaders push back as internal Army report on Jan. 6 emerges

“The Army report, obtained by POLITICO, lays the foundation for the Pentagon’s defense against criticism that it took too long to approve the Guard’s response to the Capitol attack. The March 18 report says Guard members weren’t prepared to respond quickly to the riot and describes multiple communications between top Army officials and the D.C. Guard’s commander, then-Maj. Gen. William Walker.

But Walker, now sergeant at arms in the House, says some of those communications the Army describes in the report never actually happened. He and a former top lawyer for the D.C. Guard, Col. Earl Matthews, also say the Guard members were ready to be deployed to the Capitol.

“It’s whole fiction,” said Matthews, who has accused two Army generals of lying to Congress about their role in the Jan. 6 response. Matthews was on a call with leaders from the Capitol Police and the Army during the siege.”

“Matthews alleges that the report is a secretive attempt to whitewash the Army’s record on Jan. 6 and shift blame to the Capitol Police and Guard leaders, thus taking the focus off the Army’s own missteps.

Army spokesperson Mike Brady says the Jan. 6 report was designed for internal staff use as part of routine procedure and drafted with information from the Guard.”

““One side or the other is lying,” said Sol Wisenberg, a white collar defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. “One side or the other has committed perjury or obstructed a congressional inquiry concerning a topic of paramount importance. The Department of Justice should unquestionably be investigating this matter for possible perjury and/or obstruction charges. Something this serious cannot be left to Congress alone.””

Hundreds of law enforcement officials were prepped early for potential Jan. 6 violence

“it raises more questions about why the U.S. Capitol Police weren’t ready for chaos on Jan. 6.

“The intelligence was there in blinking neon lights, yet Capitol Police leadership went willfully blind,” Shapiro said in a statement. “The question is why. Why did Capitol Police leadership ignore the clear threat”

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.”

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.””