GOP senators demand impeachment trial as government shutdown looms

With a government shutdown looming, 13 Republican senators, led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Texas’ pretend cowboy Sen. Ted Cruz, released a letter they said they sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding he make a big stink about holding an impeachment trial for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Lee even posted a copy of the letter with some vaguely legible signatures to his X (formerly Twitter) account. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to dismiss the bogus bit of political theater.

The Republican-led House was able to impeach Mayorkas after one embarrassing failure of an attempt, making it the first time a Cabinet official has been impeached in 150 years. The Senate GOP members making hay out of the impeachment process continue to remind the public how Democratic officials proved (and Republican officials admitted) the entire exercise was disingenuous.

The letter, which was signed by Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Eric Schmitt, Rick Scott, Ron Johnson, J.D. Vance, Roger Marshall, Josh Hawley, Mike Braun, Tommy Tuberville, Ted Budd, Cynthia Lummis, and Marsha Blackburn, contains a lot of what we have come to expect from the do-nothing Republican Party. The general pantomime of the GOP around the impeachment of Mayorkas involves an imaginary belief that the GOP is strong on border security. It is fitting that conservative senators like Lee, who voted against the bipartisan border security deal, would also spend their time trying to create a political theater production of impeachment instead of making the hard compromises and decisions needed to get things done.

Senators like Cruz have used their party’s disarray to take shots at current leaders like McConnell. On Sunday, Cruz told Fox News that “if Republican leadership in the Senate doesn’t like the criticism, here’s an opportunity to demonstrate some backbone.” Cruz and Lee are joined by self-promoters like Sen. Josh Hawley, who has had his own public spats with Republican leadership in recent months.

The government is set to shut down on March 1. House Republicans seem unable to chew gum and … chew gum. Senate Republicans who spent many decades in lockstep with McConnell’s leadership seem to have lost the ability to tie their shoes. The Senate is coming off of an 11-day recess. McConnell has not responded to inquiries from media outlets for his response to the letter as of the writing of this story.

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Ohhhhh yeah! Democrats kicked ass and then some in Tuesday's special election in New York, so of course we're talking all about it on this week's episode of "The Downballot." Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard explain how Tom Suozzi's win affects the math for Democrats' plan to take back the House, then dive into the seemingly bottomless list of excuses Republicans have been making to handwave their defeat away. The bottom line: Suozzi effectively neutralized attacks on immigration—and abortion is still a huge loser for the GOP.

Tense—or typical?—moment in House as MTG calls Boebert a ‘bitch’

It seems like only yesterday that Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert were sharing the single incoherent view that they should be the only two lawmakers to vote against the Bone Marrow Bill. Since then, like the rest of the circular firing squad that is the Republican Party, Boebert and Greene’s relationship has deteriorated.

It’s being reported that the two right-wing extremists got into a fight on the House floor Wednesday, with sources telling The Daily Beast Greene was angry at Boebert for stealing her impeach Biden thunder. One source said they got into it, with Greene calling the Colorado gun-toting Republican a “bitch.” Another source said the phrase used by Greene was “a little bitch.” Potato, potahto …

The fight between the two is triangulated under Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who is reportedly none too happy with Boebert’s use of a privileged resolution for this bogus impeachment vote. Unlike Greene’s flotilla of impeachment articles against everybody, Boebert’s use of this procedural maneuver bypasses McCarthy’s authority. Instead it forces a vote within two days. Now the clock is ticking and the Yakety Sax music is playing.

RELATED STORY: McCarthy isn't happy with Boebert's impeachment shenanigans

Earlier this year, reports came out that the two congresswomen got into some kind of bathroom brawl connected to Boebert’s unwillingness to support McCarthy as speaker of the House. This kerfuffle came less than a month after Boebert told Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk she wasn’t aligned with everything Greene thought, such as “Russian space lasers, Jewish space lasers, and all of this.” Here was some of the discussion, captured by C SPAN cameras, on Wednesday.

Saw this conversation… not sure if it was a friendly one

— Acyn (@Acyn) June 21, 2023

When asked to comment on the story, Greene told reporters, “I will not confirm or deny.” Boebert took a few seconds to try and be diplomatic before relenting and saying, “Yeah, I’m not in middle school.” In Boebert’s defense, her entire political party seems to act like it is.

The two congresswomen, who have made a career of sticking their feet in their mouths while attempting to attack others, fighting amongst themselves makes some kind of cosmic sense. It is just one small and tragically hilarious example of what the Republican Party now represents.


The stink behind the bathroom brawl between Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert

Obnoxious congresswoman from Georgia in public catfight with gun-toting rep from Colorado

Lauren Boebert tries to own the libs and ends up embarrassing herself

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's committee debut was exactly as disgraceful as expected

Such an abuse’: Bill Barr delivers obvious facts to Fox News about Mar-a-Lago stash of documents

By now, you’ve probably heard that the disgraced former president, Donald Trump, seems to be something of a criminal. No, I’m not talking about his racist landlord violations from the 1970s. No, not his dubious interactions with contractors throughout the 1980s and 1990s. No, not his shady personal bankruptcies of the 1990s and 2000s. No, not even his two impeachments and the fact that there are numerous campaign violations that many believe need more criminal investigations. Trump seems to have broken a slew of laws surrounding the handling, hoarding, and possible treason of taking classified documents to keep at his private golf club and residence at Mar-a-Lago.

The Republican Party, sans a few neocons, is struggling to regain primacy in the toilet bowl that is the Republican Party circling the sewer of fascism. On Friday, former Trump attorney general Bill Barr went on Fox News and took a ginormous rain on the right wing’s parade by making the case—not once, but twice in a two-minute span—that Donald Trump had earned and deserved the search and seizure of government documents from Mar-a-Lago.

Yes, the guy who just a few months ago said he would still vote for Donald Trump were he to run in 2024, the guy who allowed Donald Trump to skate past clear recommendations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he should be investigated more thoroughly for breaking federal laws. That Bill Barr. And yes, that Fox News.

RELATED STORY: All you need to read from the memo Barr claimed cleared Trump on obstruction is a single footnote

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Let me premise this by saying that I personally believe Fox News is hedging its bets here. Murdoch and the brain trust at Fox News have already lost favor with Trump after being the news outlet to call Arizona for Biden in 2020. They have had to walk back their full-on dismissal of Trump, as the current GOP leadership didn’t have the backbone to stand up to Trump and offer their base a worthwhile alternative.* Letting Bill Barr come on and slam Trump while vapid hosts made faces and threw softball defenses up is a way for Fox News to have clips if and when Donald Trump ends up in an orange jumpsuit.

On Friday, Barr spoke to two vacuous Fox News mouthpieces and began by pointing out that the idea that Trump could or would make a blanket declassification was ridiculous, and that even if he did, it wouldn’t be much of a defense against any real legal challenges. Barr said he was “skeptical” of that claim in the first place, “because frankly, I think it’s highly improbable; and second, if in fact he sort of stood over scores of boxes, not really knowing what was in them, and said ‘I hereby declassify everything in here,’ that would be such an abuse, show such recklessness, that it is almost worse than taking the documents.”

One Fox deplorable decided the best tactic here was to ask Barr about how the FBI went to Donald Trump’s private residence to get said folders and files. You know, the old GOP chestnut: How could a rich, conservative white guy possibly break the law? Barr did a good job of pointing out that it seemed pretty clear the FBI had a very good idea that there were a lot of very serious documents in a very not-secure location, and Trump wasn’t willingly giving them back.

He then gave a very simple answer that maybe some of the people watching from their MyPillow recliners could maybe understand:

"People say the search was unprecedented. Well, it’s also unprecedented for a president to take classified information and put them in a county club. How long is the government going to try to get that back, you know? They jawbone for a year. They were deceived on the voluntary actions taken. They then went and got a subpoena. They were deceived on that—they feel. And the records are starting to show that they were being jerked around."

"People say this was unprecedented. Well, it's also unprecedented for a POTUS to take all this classified information & put 'em in a country club, ok? And how long is the govt going to try to get that back?" -- Bill Barr bodies Trump on Fox News even as anchors try to defend him

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 2, 2022

*In the GOP leadership’s defense, they have no meaningful alternative to Trump. Trump is worth 1,000 Ted Cruzes or Josh Hawleys because Trump will unashamedly lie about giving conservative voters everything they want (lower health insurance costs, more and better jobs, all the oil they can guzzle). Most Republicans have spent the last few decades attempting to pretend they had policies that might do that in the face of failure after failure.

RELATED STORY: The classified documents in that DOJ photo were all found in Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago office

Trump’s fanatical supporters ready to ‘lock and load’ for ‘civil war’ after Mar-a-Lago searched

America’s right-wing extremists have been hankering for a civil war for a long time now, and in particular have been eager to start using their guns in defense of Donald Trump ever since he came onto the political scene. They tried to start a civil war on Trump’s behalf after he lost on Jan. 6, 2021.

So to no one’s great surprise, they’re currently flooding social media and right-wing media bandwidth with vows to begin a civil war on Trump’s behalf after the FBI executed a search warrant at the ex-president’s Florida waterfront estate, Mar-a-Lago, and seized evidence in a yet-unspecified investigation. The rhetoric is mostly a mixture of over-the-top hysteria and dark threats, and it’s being wielded by everyone from congressional Republicans to anonymous militiamen.

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Back when Trump was facing his first impeachment, he tweeted out a hint that the proceedings might unleash a civil war—which did unleash a deluge of militiamen and Trump supporters vowing to do exactly that. The sentiments they voiced then were remarkably similar to the threats of violence directly preceding the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Right after news of the Mar-a-Lago search broke, mentions of “civil war” on Twitter suddenly spiked, as Donie O’Sullivan reported.

The most prominent elected Republican to weigh in on the matter was Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose tweets became increasingly militant as the day progressed. They started out in typically unhinged fashion:

The FBI is raiding President Trump’s home in Maralago!

This is the rogue behavior of communist countries, NOT the United States of America!!!

These are the type of things that happen in countries during civil war.

The political persecution MUST STOP!!!

Later in the day, Greene’s tone became threatening: “What is happening will NOT be tolerated!!!” she wrote. “We are coming.”

A Florida Republican legislator running for Congress, Anthony Sabatini, wants the Florida state government to get involved and protect Trump from the evil federal government:

It’s time for us in the Florida Legislature to call an emergency legislative session & amend our laws regarding federal agencies

Sever all ties with DOJ immediately

Any FBI agent conducting law enforcement functions outside the purview of our State should be arrested upon sight.

Right-wing activist Laura Loomer, who is also running for Congress in Florida, was even more incendiary:

Time to take the gloves off. It’s been time. If you’re a freedom loving American, you must remove the words decorum and civility from your vocabulary. This is a WAR!

And it’s time to obliterate these communists. Tonight they attacked President Trump. If you sit on the sidelines and refuse to act, they will attack you and your family next.

What will you choose? Will you be a fighter? Or will you be a victim of the Deep State?

Arizona’s far-right Republican nominee for the governor’s seat, Kari Lake, posted a statement warning of the nation’s imminent demise:

This is one of the darkest days in American history: the day our Government, originally created by the people, turned against us. This illegitimate, corrupt Regime hates America and has weaponized the entirety of the Federal Government to take down President Donald Trump.

Our Government is rotten to the core. These Tyrants will stop at nothing to silence the Patriots who are working hard to save America. This is an incredibly horrendous abuse of power. If we accept it, America is dead.

We will not accept it. The 10th Amendment can and will save our Republic and the road to stripping the Feds of power travels right through Arizona.

We must fire the Federal Government. As Governor, I will fight these Tyrants with every fiber of my being. America—dark days lie ahead for us. May God protect us and save our Country.

Trump-loving right-wing pundits were similarly running around with their hair on fire, urging their audiences to prepare for war—and not just the metaphorical kind.

Jesse Kelly—the right-wing radio talk-show host who believes fascism is an inevitability for the American right, and is good with that—gave a shout-out to the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” who have threatened to get involved in the nation’s election apparatus in defense of Trump. “Do you have a county sheriff who will stand between you and a federal agent trying to violate your rights? If you don’t, you better get one. Or better yet, BECOME one,” Kelly tweeted.

He later tweeted out a quote with threatening implications: “Do not quote laws to men with swords.’ -Pompey Magnus,” Kelly tweeted.

Far-right pundit Candace Owens had a regular meltdown on Twitter:

The FBI must be legally and formally dissolved.

What happened to President Trump is positively stunning and a mark of unchecked government power.

I no longer recognize the country I live in. Left or right, we must all come together to fight this evil.

Meanwhile, longtime Fox News host Monica Crowley decided it was time to throw down the gauntlet: “This is it,” she tweeted. “This is the hill to die on.”

White nationalist pundit Jack Posobiec, who now hosts a daily show for the right-wing campus organization Turning Point USA, posted a series of tweets that essentially urged his audience to gird their loins for a real shooting war:

Are you ready.

The federal security state has declared war on Donald J Trump and his supporters.

The country you grew up in no longer exists.

We are living through the times our forefathers warned of.

Preemptive coup.

Welcome to the end game.

Longtime conspiracy theorist Steven Crowder’s unhinged tweet was shorter and more succinct: “Tomorrow is war,” he wrote. “Sleep well.”

The ominous suggestions that the base become engaged in violence could be heard on Fox News as well thanks to host Jesse Waters, who told his guest, Dan Bongino:

I think there is going to be some more action you are going to see out on the streets from the base after they see this break tonight... They've had it with what this corrupt government and what the FBI has done.

Another Fox News host, Mark Levin, claimed that investigating Trump was an attack on the nation itself:

This is the worst attack on this republic in modern history. Period. And it’s not just an attack on Donald Trump. It’s an attack on everybody who supports him. It’s an attack on anybody who dares to raise serious questions about Washington, D.C., and the establishment in both parties. I haven’t heard a damn thing from the Republican leadership in the Senate! Have you? Not one of those guys has put out a statement. Because they’re weak. That’s why.

Onetime Trump aide Sebastian Gorka tweeted: “This is the real insurrection.”

On Trump’s social media site Truth Social, radio host Wayne Root, Trump’s longtime fan and supporter, wrote: “This is now officially Nazi Germany Gestapo meets Soviet Union KGB.”

Trumpist pundit Carmine Sabia also penned a series of increasingly unhinged tweets to his 80,000-plus followers:

It is time for a #NationalDivorce before there is a Civil War. We cannot be a part of the same nation anymore.

And if I haven’t been direct enough let me say it again. If you are not for Donald Trump you are my enemy. I did not believe that four hours ago. But I believe it now. This was a gigantic fucking mistake Democrats.

This is war. Pick a side. There is no gray area.

The America that you knew and loved as a kid is gone. It’s gone and it’s never coming back.

These same sentiments could be found throughout right-wing social media, being voiced by ordinary randos and trolls at large and often at high volume.

  • “The Dems are starting a civil war.”
  • “Is this the first shot of a civil war? Is this the tyranny mentioned in the 2nd Amendment? The Founding Fathers would have started shooting a long time ago!”
  • “It’s time for a civil war. The deep state has proven they are real, they are corrupt, they are dictators.”
  • “Civil war! Pick up arms people!”
  • “The fbi just declared war on the republic. Treat them accordingly.”
  • “A civil war is coming after what the DOJ did today.”
  • “August 8, 2022 will be remembered forever. The start of Civil War II.”
  • “Our government is pushing for a civil war. Americans are only going to take so much.”
  • “I already bought my ammo”
  • “Civil War 2.0 just kicked off.”
  • “Let’s do the war.”
  • “One step closer to a kinetic civil war.”
  • “Lock and load”
  • “Let history show that Biden and his DOJ drew first blood with this raid on Mar-a-Lago.”
  • “FBI is headed by Jews. I warned you about these demons.”
  • “We’re at war.”
  • “It’s going to be wonderful to see FBI agents get killed in the future!”

“Prior to the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, we saw unprecedented plans online to conduct real-world violence,” observed Advance Democracy president Daniel J. Jones, a former Senate Intelligence Committee staff member, in a statement to NBC News. "The online outrage was based on false allegations of voter fraud and bizarre theories of coordinated government corruption. The raid by the FBI has provoked similar violent rhetoric online—including from at least one individual charged in relation to the insurrection on January 6th.”

Jones added: “The promotion of broad government conspiracy theories by political leaders, elected officials, and political entertainers continues to undermine our democracy—and will likely lead to additional political violence.”

Trump and his followers proved on Jan. 6 how dangerously close they came to overturning our democracy. Help cancel Republican voter suppression with the power of your pen by clicking here and signing up to volunteer with Vote Forward, writing personalized letters to targeted voters urging them to exercise their right to vote this year.

‘I don’t want to eat our own’: Senate Republicans fret over Trump-McConnell schism ahead of 2022

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell first saw Donald Trump's pointed screed skewering him as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” he laughed, according to CNN

That's certainly the image McConnell's allies want to project, as they assure reporters in multiple stories the the Minority Leader is moving on from Trump, likely won't ever speak to him again, and remains laser-focused on one thing only: retaking control of the Senate in 2022. In essence, Trump is riffraff and canny McConnell doesn't have time for it.

What is undoubtedly true in all that projection is the fact that McConnell's every waking moment is devoted to reclaiming power over the upper chamber. Power is everything to McConnell and it's only fitting that it's the legacy issue he cares about most. "Mr. McConnell needs to be returned to his top role after the 2022 elections to become the longest-serving Senate leader in history in 2023, a goal the legacy-minded Kentuckian would no doubt like to achieve," writes The New York Times. The Times also reports that one GOP senator said McConnell might have triggered a rebellion if he had voted to convict—which is exactly why he didn't. But think about that—McConnell, worshipper of raw power, didn't have the political juice to lead his caucus and so he once again fumbled the opportunity to navigate a way out of Trump's wilderness. 

Whatever McConnell wants everyone to believe about his cool, cunning strategery, 42 members of his caucus voted to acquit Trump and several of them are openly losing their minds about the Trump-McConnell schism. 

Trump's chief sycophant, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is beside himself trying to find enough adjectives to convey how invaluable Dear not-Leader remains to the party. Since the acquittal vote, Graham has cast Trump as the most "vibrant," "consequential," and "potent force" of the Republican party in various interviews. Oh, and don't forget, daughter-in-law Lara Trump is "the future of the Republican Party." (Talk about single-handedly killing your own credibility.)

Anyway, Graham fretted about the internecine warfare Tuesday on Fox News, saying, “I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been ... I don’t want to eat our own.” Graham said that if McConnell didn't understand how essential Trump is, "he's missing a lot."

Trump ally Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has been a little more menacing in his denunciations of McConnell. “I think he needs to be a little careful," Johnson said in a radio interview earlier this week on The Ross Kaminsky Show. "When the leader of the Senate conference speaks, he has to understand what he says reflects on all of us. And I didn’t appreciate his comments, let’s put it that way.”

Johnson told the Times that McConnell could kill GOP chances with pro-Trump voters. “You are not going to be able to have them on your side if you are ripping the person they have a great deal of sympathy for in what he has done for this country and the personal toll President Trump has shouldered,” he said.

Poor Trump. The murderous riot he inspired has really taken a toll on him and his cultists. 

But Johnson isn't wrong about the Trump-McConnell feud being a vote killer—he's just over-representing one side of it. Sure, pro-Trumpers have already proven they're not particularly jazzed about turning out in support of Senate Republicans if Trump isn't on the ticket. But on the other side of the equation, a whole bunch of once-dedicated GOP voters are abandoning the party over Trump's post-election rampage against a free and fair contest that he quite simply lost. Trump's months-long campaign to overturn those results, underwritten by the vast majority of congressional Republicans, has done incalculable damage to the party.

So however steely McConnell's resolve, Trump is still the noxious blow torch McConnell has repeatedly failed to neutralize. 

Trump is back, he’s rabid as ever, and the GOP is sure to be collateral damage

Fresh off his Senate GOP acquittal, Donald Trump reinserted himself into the national political arena with none other than a 625-word screed lashing out at GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack." 

Credit where credit's due—the assessment isn't entirely off the mark. But it was the second portion of that sentence that cued up the 2022 fight to the death between Trump and McConnell. "If Republican Senators are going to stay with him," Trump said of McConnell, "they will not win again." He also accused McConnell of getting played “like a fiddle” by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and declared McConnell’s “Beltway First agenda” a loser compared to his own America First agenda. Trump’s broadside was entirely predictable after McConnell tried to absolve his own acquittal vote by declaring Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the lethal Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Overall, Trump's statement, issued through the pro-Trump PAC Save America, was a lesson in revisionist history. He took credit for the victories of House GOP candidates last November despite the fact that a decisive number of ticket-splitting voters rejected him personally at the ballot box. He 100% scapegoated McConnell and Georgia's GOP officials for the Senate runoff losses in which Trump helped thoroughly muddle the message of the GOP senators. And he claimed credit for McConnell's own reelection, writing, "Without my endorsement, McConnell would have lost, and lost badly." Oh, Trump also generously threw in a non sequitur about McConnell's "substantial Chinese business holdings," a swipe at both McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao, who has family business ties to China and resigned from Trump's Cabinet following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

But the lasting impact of Trump's first opportunity to refill the political air with his noxious fumes was his declaration of war on whatever is left of the McConnell wing of the party (frankly, not much, which I plan to write about over the weekend).

"I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First," Trump pledged. In other words, the price of admission in Trump's tent is ultimate loyalty—the surest way to boost the party's most dismal sycophants to any number of Republican primary victories.  

McConnell, on the other hand, has been perfectly clear that his sole criteria for candidates is their ability win a general election. “I personally don’t care what kind of Republican they are, what kind of lane they consider themselves in,” McConnell told The Wall Street Journal. “What I care about is electability.” McConnell added, "That may or may not involve trying to affect the outcome of the primaries.”

But the 2022 Senate map virtually ensures that Trump and McConnell are on a collision course. A total of 34 seats are up in 2022, 20 of which are held by the GOP. With key races for control of the chamber taking place in swingy states like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, McConnell will almost surely favor different candidates than Trump for some of those races. And even in races where they manage to agree, Trump's massive overcompensation for his flagging ego all but guarantees he'll manage to muck up the message for Republican candidates—witness Georgia.

McConnell declined to issue a response to Trump’s outburst, but he deployed his braintrust of former aides to channel his inner monologue. 

“It seems an odd choice for someone who claims they want to lead the G.O.P. to attack a man who has been unanimously elected to lead Senate Republicans a history-making eight times,” Billy Piper, a former McConnell aide, told The New York Times. “But we have come to expect these temper tantrums when he feels threatened — just ask any of his former chiefs of staff or even his vice president.”

It’s on.

Assassination, secession, insurrection: The crimes of John Wilkes Booth, Jefferson Davis, and Trump

Donald Trump broke new ground as the first president—the first American, period—to be impeached twice. However, thinking of him solely in those terms fails by a long shot to capture how truly historic his crimes were. Forget the number of impeachments—and certainly don’t be distracted by pathetic, partisan scoundrels voting to acquit—The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote (Twice) is the only president to incite a violent insurrection aimed at overthrowing our democracy—and get away with it.

But reading those words doesn’t fully and accurately describe the vile nature of what Trump wrought on Jan. 6. In this case, to paraphrase the woman who should’ve been the 45th president, it takes a video.

Senate Republicans acquitted Donald Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors twice. So make them pay: Donate $1 right now to each of the Democratic nominee funds targeting vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2022.

Although it’s difficult, I encourage anyone who hasn’t yet done so to watch the compilation of footage the House managers presented on the first day of the impeachment trial. It left me shaking with rage. Those thugs wanted not just to defile a building, but to defile our Constitution. They sought to overturn an election in which many hadn’t even bothered themselves to vote.

What was their purpose? In their own words, as they screamed while storming the Capitol: “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” Those were the exact same words they had chanted shortly beforehand during the speech their leader gave at the Ellipse. He told them to fight for him, and they told him they would. And then they did.

“These defendants themselves told you exactly why they were here”

— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) February 10, 2021

Many of those fighting for Trump were motivated by a white Christian nationalist ideology of hate—hatred of liberals, Jews, African Americans, and other people of color. Most of that Trumpist mob stands diametrically opposed to the ideals that really do make America great—particularly the simple notion laid down in the Declaration of Independence that, after nearly 250 years, we’ve still yet to fully realize: All of us are created equal. The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was but another battle in our country’s long-running race war.

As Rev. William Barber explained just a few days ago: “White supremacy, though it may be targeted at Black people, is ultimately against democracy itself.” He added: “This kind of mob violence, in reaction to Black, brown and white people coming together and voting to move the nation forward in progressive ways, has always been the backlash.”

Barber is right on all counts. White supremacy’s centuries-long opposition to true democracy in America is also the through-line that connects what Trump has done since Election Day and on Jan. 6 to his true historical forebears in our history. Not the other impeached presidents, whose crimes—some more serious than others—differed from those of Trump not merely by a matter of degree, but in their very nature. Even Richard Nixon, as dangerous to the rule of law as his actions were, didn’t encourage a violent coup. That’s how execrable Trump is; Tricky Dick comes out ahead by comparison.

Instead, Trump’s true forebears are the violent white supremacists who rejected our democracy to preserve their perverted racial hierarchy: the Southern Confederates. It’s no coincidence that on Jan. 6 we saw a good number of Confederate flags unfurled at the Capitol on behalf of the Insurrectionist-in-Chief. As many, including Penn State history professor emeritus William Blair, have noted: “The Confederate flag made it deeper into Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, than it did during the Civil War.“

As for that blood-soaked, intra-American conflict—after Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, 11 Southern states refused to accept the results because they feared it would lead to the end of slavery. They seceded from the Union and backed that action with violence. Led by their president, Jefferson Davis, they aimed to achieve through the shedding of blood what they could not at the ballot box: to protect their vision of a white-dominated society in which African Americans were nothing more than property.

Some, of course, will insist the Civil War began for other reasons, like “states’ rights,” choosing to skip right past the words uttered, just after President Lincoln’s inauguration, by Alexander Stephens, who would soon be elected vice president of the Confederacy. Stephens described the government created by secessionists thusly: “Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

In the speech he gave at his 1861 inauguration, Lincoln accurately diagnosed secession as standing in direct opposition to democracy.

Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

Davis, Stephens, and the rest of the Confederates spent four long years in rebellion against democracy and racial equality. In 1865, Lincoln was sworn in for a second term. On the ballot the previous year had been his vision, laid out at Gettysburg, of a war fought so that our country might become what it had long claimed to be, namely a nation built on the promise of liberty and equality for every American. Lincoln’s vision won the election. He planned to lead the Union to final victory and, hopefully, bring that vision to life. Instead, John Wilkes Booth shot the 16th president to death.

Why did Booth commit that violent act, one that sought to remove a democratically elected president? Look at his own written words: “This country was formed for the white, not for the black man. And looking upon African Slavery from the same stand-point held by the noble framers of our constitution. I for one, have ever considered (it) one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us,) that God has ever bestowed upon a favored nation.”

As author and Washington College historian Adam Goodheart explains, Booth was “motivated by politics and he was especially motivated by racism, by Lincoln’s actions to emancipate the slaves and, more immediately, by some of Lincoln’s statements that he took as meaning African Americans would get full citizenship.” When Booth opened fire, his gun was aimed at not just one man, but at the notion of a multiracial, egalitarian democracy itself.

Trump may not have pulled a trigger, bashed a window, or attacked any police officers while wearing a flag cape, but he shares the same ideology, motive, and mindset as his anti-democratic, white supremacist forebears. They didn’t like the result of an election, and were ready and willing to use violence to undo it. Secession, assassination, insurrection. These are three sides of a single triangle.

I hope, for the sake of our country and the world, we never have another president like Donald Trump. I hope we as a people—or at least enough of us—have learned that we cannot elect an unprincipled demagogue as our leader.

A person without principle will never respect, let alone cherish, the Constitution or the democratic process. A person without principle can only see those things as a means to gain or maintain a hold on power. A person without principle believes the end always justifies the means.

That’s who Trump is: a person without principle. That’s why he lied for two months after Election Day, why he called for his MAGA minions to come to Washington on the day Joe Biden’s victory was to be formally certified in Congress, and why he incited an insurrection on that day to prevent that certification from taking place. His forces sought nothing less than the destruction of American democracy.

For those crimes, Trump was impeached, yes. But those crimes are far worse than those committed by any other president. Regardless of the verdict, those crimes will appear in the first sentence of his obituary. They are what he will be remembered for, despite the cowardice of his GOP enablers. Forever.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Terrorism experts fear outbreak of violence by pro-Trump ‘Boogaloo’ fans around 2020 election

It’s not a secret that Donald Trump has been winking and nudging his True Believers with the suggestion that maybe they should start using their guns and other kinds of violence to defend his presidency. So it probably is no surprise that terrorism experts believe some of those same people are indeed preparing to engage in domestic terrorism around the 2020 election.

“Both the anti-quarantine protests that the far-right orchestrated in April and May and the recent civil unrest have accelerated the potential for more violence,” Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security terrorism analyst, told Judy Thomas of the Associated Press. “I think it will pick up over the summer and especially into the fall as we head into the election.”

According to Johnson, much of the violence emanating from the radical right is being fueled by fears frequently promoted in right-wing media: of civil unrest, black protesters and left-wing radicals, the novel coronavirus, stay-at-home orders, and job losses.

“The fear is just feeding this radicalization and recruitment,” he said. “And that’s why they’re booming.”

Trump himself has been fanning those flames. An April 17 tweet directed at the anti-stay-at-home protesters to encourage them suggested a broader agenda: "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!; LIBERATE MINNESOTA!; LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!" he wrote.

LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

That also was a reference to a January gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, attended by thousands of gun-toting “Patriots” protesting looming gun-control legislation in the state, and vows to revolt violently if the laws are enforced. Trump and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam have feuded on Twitter over the laws.

Trump has a history of rhetoric like this. In 2019, as impeachment proceedings were being discussed, he warned in an interview that thuggish elements might swing into action on his behalf: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump—I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad," Trump said.

The American far right in fact has within its ideology an embedded mythos about a civil war or race war, dating back to at least the 1980s, and in recent years has been taking such rhetoric seriously, especially when it comes to defending Trump. Cesar Sayoc, the “MAGABomber” who targeted a list of Trump critics with pipe bombs that failed, was the apotheosis of this trend.  

So was Christopher Hasson, the Coast Guardsman who planned and prepared for a series of terrorist attacks against similar targets, expecting to be triggered to action in the event of a Trump impeachment.

Indeed, as impeachment approached, Trump himself again encouraged the talk by tweeting about a “civil war” if he should be removed from office. At the Twitter account of the far-right Patriot group Oath Keepers, founder Stewart Rhodes posted a long thread in support of Trump’s tweet: “We ARE on the verge of a HOT civil war. Like in 1859. That’s where we are.”

Again, when impeachment itself happened, the talk among right-wing extremists became extraordinarily violent. “Lock N Load, PATRIOTS, the demonrats just told us what they want for Christmas: #CivilWar2,” wrote one. “Let’s make the demon rats live on the streets of their own districts!”

Since then, these extremists have coalesced around the concept of a civil war under the online moniker of “Boogaloo,” often merging ideologies—radical white nationalists and less extreme Patriot militiamen alike—under the Hawaiian-shirted body armor and igloo-icon banner of the so-called movement. And as the protests against COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have progressed, their efforts to make their shared violent fantasy into a reality kept spiraling upward.

The anti-police protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May have provided opportunities for the “Boogaloo” to become manifest: Vehicle rammings at protests, massive turnouts of armed militiamen responding to hoax claims of “antifa buses” arriving in small towns, “Boogaloo Bois” driving to a Floyd protest in Las Vegas with a full complement of Molotov cocktails. In Oakland, a pair of Boogaloo Bois assassinated a federal officer at a Floyd protest and wounded his partner; two days later, the same gunman killed a Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputy.

Daryl Johnson considers the spiraling rhetoric and behavior not merely ominous, but positively dangerous in the context of the November election. He urges Americans to take action to prepare for such terrorism.

“We should all be on guard and vigilant, reporting suspicious activity, contacting legislators and forming or joining citizens organizations against hate,” he told Thomas. “This is all hands on deck.”

‘Boogaloo’ civil war talk takes on a life of its own as far-right extremists coalesce

The myths and conspiracy theories that fuel the radical right often take on lives of their own: Think of how the QAnon phenomenon began as a handful of conspiracy theorists making groundless claims and predictions about a coming “Storm” that metastasized first into a wildly popular body of “Patriot”/militia conspiracism, and finally into a massive submovement operating within the framework of the Trump presidency—while producing a growing record of lethal violence by its unhinged believers.

Something similar appears to be coalescing around the “boogaloo”—the vision of members of the far right of a coming civil war, which they claim is being forced upon them by liberals who want to take their guns away as the first step toward their incarceration and enslavement. In reality, of course, a number of sectors of the far right have ginned up this kind of rhetoric for decades—but now, a systematic study of its spread through social media has found that it appears to be massing into a movement of its own.

The study, conducted by the independent Network Contagion Research Institute, explores, according to its subtitle, “how domestic militants organize on memes to incite violent insurrection and terror against government and law enforcement.” It focused on the “boogaloo” in large part due its increasing popularity—particularly as a hashtag (#Boogaloo or #Boogaloo2020)—on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as the extreme and often callous expressions of violent intent that form the essence of the chatter.

YouTube Video

In its initial forms, the “civil war” talk was generated in different sectors of the radical right in different ways. Among neo-Nazis, it generally has focused on a “race war”—i.e., a genocidal conflict between whites and nonwhites—dating back to the 1980s and the classic white-supremacist blueprint, The Turner Diaries. This vein of rhetoric has produced a long record of lethal domestic terrorism, including the 1984 neo-Nazi criminal gang The Order; the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing; and more recently, the 2011 attack in Norway that killed 87 people and the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand that killed 51.

Among the “Patriot” movement believers who form militias in resistance to “the New World Order,” most of the rhetoric has focused on using arms against law enforcement, particularly the federal kind, as well as the mythic “blue-helmeted” United Nations soldiers about to descend on them from black helicopters. In its more recent iterations among far-right Oath Keepers and “III Percent” militiamen, the “boogaloo” talk has mostly revolved around resistance to liberal gun-control legislation.

This reached its apotheosis in January when thousands of armed “Patriots” from around the United States descended on Richmond, Virginia, to protest imminent gun safety legislation making its way through the state’s General Assembly. Before the rally, FBI agents arrested a trio of neo-Nazis who were preparing to open fire on law enforcement at the event.

However, one of the results of the broad emergence of popular “boogaloo” rhetoric has been a blurring of the lines between the anti-government extremists who foresee conflict with federal forces and the more extreme white supremacists who lust for a bloody conflict between the white and nonwhite races. While many of the latter also eagerly participate in the anti-government talk, many of the former appear to be warming up to the race-war talk.

The NCRI study found not only that the discussion of the “boogaloo” on social media had surged, but that discrete groups were coalescing around the discussion and creating the nascent forms of a movement. The “boogaloo” “topic network” produces “a coherent, multi-component and detailed conspiracy to launch an inevitable, violent, sudden, and apocalyptic war across the homeland,” it said, adding that the models created by researchers “show that the meme acts as a meaningful vector to organize seditious sentiment at large.”

The conspiracy, replete with suggestions to stockpile ammunition, may itself set the stage for massive real-world violence and sensitize enthusiasts to mobilize in mass for confrontations or charged political events. Furthermore, the meme’s emphasis on military language and culture poses a specific risk to military communities due to the similar thematic structure, fraternal organization, and reward incentives.

One of the “Boogaloo Boys” memes.

One of the “boogaloo” groups featured in the study, calling itself “Patriot Wave,” illustrated perfectly how the lines between militia “Patriots” and alt-right white nationalists were completely blurred and submerged in the larger project of fomenting a violent civil war. Its members wore alt-right “Pepe the Frog” patches with the title “Boogaloo Boys,” while others wore the skull balaclava generally associated with members of the fascist Atomwaffen Division.  

The study also pointed to a particular area of concern: namely, the ability of these extremists to simply blend into existing power structures, including law enforcement and the military. One “boogaloo” enthusiast, Coast Guardsman Christopher Hasson, was arrested with a full arms cache and a plan to assassinate liberal political leaders. A Patriot Wave member is quoted in the study: “Some of the guys we were with aren’t exactly out of the military yet, so they had to keep their faces covered.”

The spread of the “boogaloo” organizing on social media has been facilitated with the use of hashtags #Boogaloo and #Boogaloo2020, which are then accompanied by associated hashtags such as #2A, #CivilWar2, and #2ndAmendment, as well as hashtags such as #BigIgloo, intended to elude filters.

This kind of informational conflict—or what the study calls “memetic warfare”—has evolved, the study says, “from mere lone-wolf threats to the threat of an entire meme-based insurgency.”

The NCRI report was sent to members of Congress and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice, among others. Paul Goldenberg, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, told NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny that the report was "a wake-up call."

"When you have people talking about and planning sedition and violence against minorities, police and public officials, we need to take their words seriously," said Goldenberg.