“the first seditious conspiracy charges in the investigation so far, and the first the Justice Department has brought in more than a decade. Seditious conspiracy isn’t the same as treason, but it’s also not terribly far off; as former federal prosecutor Laurence Tribe wrote for NBC News on Saturday, the “crime is, in effect, treason’s sibling.”
Specifically, seditious conspiracy occurs when two or more people work together to plan to overthrow the government or prevent the execution of its laws.
In the case against Rhodes and his alleged co-conspirators, the government presented evidence in the charging documents that shortly after the November 3, 2020, election, Rhodes told his followers, “Prepare your mind, body, and spirit” because, “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war.” In December, Rhodes promised a “bloody, massively bloody revolution” should a peaceful transfer of power occur, and in the lead-up to the Capitol riot purchased thousands of dollars’ worth of weapons, ammunition, and related tactical gear.
Other defendants in the case are alleged to have set up paramilitary training groups and created private Signal groups to discuss their operations, including procuring weapons and establishing a quick reaction force outside the DC area to bring in additional insurrectionists and weapons.”
“”That’s insurrection against the United States of America,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough declared after an angry mob overran the U.S. Capitol. “If Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump are not arrested today for insurrection and taken to jail and booked—and if the Capitol Hill police do not go through every video and look at the face of every person that invaded our Capitol and if they are not arrested and brought to justice today—then we are no longer a nation of laws and we only tell people they can do this again.”
Scarborough isn’t the only one thinking along those lines. The airwaves have been filled with calls for charging not just the people directly involved in the riot but the people who spoke at the rally beforehand. The word sedition is getting thrown around a lot. Merriam-Webster reports that searches for the word spiked an amazing 1,500 percent on January 6, the day of the violence.”
“The history of sedition prosecutions is rife with injustices, and the precedent, once established, becomes a grotesque Frankenstein monster. In many cases, the same people demanding prosecutions end up, when political fashions change, facing prosecution for the same offense.
World War II provides two classic examples. President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration initiated two mass sedition trials under the 1940 Smith Act, formally known as the Alien Registration Act, which made it illegal to “advocate, abet, advise or teach” the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.
The first prosecution was against 23 members of the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group, for conspiring to overthrow the government by force. As is typical of these cases, the government never provided any evidence that the defendants had specific plans to do this, focusing instead on the potential that their abstract Marxist boilerplate condemning “capitalist wars” or playing up wartime injustices, such as police brutality, might incite insurrection.
Later in the war, the federal government hauled up 32 anti-Semites and other right-wing extremists in the largest mass trial in Washington, D.C., history. Most of them didn’t even know each other before the indictment. The evidence was just as tenuous as the evidence against thr Socialist Workers Party. According to prosecutors, the defendants’ writings against Roosevelt’s foreign policy may have had an injurious influence on some members of the armed forces, undermining U.S. security. This, it was argued, was reason enough to send them to prison.
In these trials, the administration had support from members of the Communist Party. Only two years after the war ended, the government began prosecuting Communists under the same statute.
Those who want a new round of sedition prosecutions make the same argument: that inflammatory language—no more heated than in countless other rallies and demonstrations held every year—should be punishable because others may be moved to act.
None of the people now being singled out for political or legal retribution explicitly advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, or even the violent occupation of the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors, therefore, should concentrate on those who actually breached the building.”
“Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric may well be worthy of impeachment and removal. In my opinion it is. But, in and of itself, it was not a crime worthy of jail time. Not unless we want to go down the ugly road of criminalizing strong or misguided opinions on a mass scale.”