Latest arrest puts a big Jan. 6 conspiracy to rest. Who will they blame now?

On Tuesday, former Marine, former wedding venue operator, and current hermit Ray Epps was indicted for his actions during the Jan. 6 riot. This single charge should lay to rest an elaborate conspiracy theory that originated with online supporters of Donald Trump and spread across right-wing media. It should … if conspiracy theories were affected by facts.

Epps, a 61-year-old former president of the Arizona branch of the Oath Keepers militia and adamant supporter of Trump, flew from Arizona to Washington, D.C., in response to Trump’s call for a ‘wild’ time. Videos of Epps on Jan. 5 show him shouting for Trump supporters to take the Capitol. On Jan. 6, he marched toward Congress, urging others to do the same.

When the FBI created a website where it posted photos of individuals being sought for their involvement in the insurgency, Epps’ face was one of the first to appear. But when Epps’ photo was taken down and no charges immediately followed, claims emerged that Epps was secretly a government agent who had infiltrated Trump supporters to entice them into breaking the law. Those claims spread from QAnon to right-wing media and may have reached a peak when Sen. Ted Cruz and then-host Tucker Carlson parroted the claim on Fox News.

Carlson’s embrace of the theory, which he repeated on multiple occasions, was enough to generate waves of harassment against Epps from his fellow Trump supporters. He and his wife were forced to sell their wedding-venue business in Arizona and live “in hiding” at a trailer somewhere in Utah. In an interview with People, Epps’ attorney said the couple “received a number of credible and serious death threats, which become worse each time someone on Fox or Tucker Carlson talk about Ray.”

Epps became such a fixture of the right-wing conspiracy landscape that Republican politicians weren’t just mentioning him on Carlson’s show. They were yelling about him in a House hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray.

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“I want to turn my attention now to this fella, this character, Mr. Ray Epps,” said Texas Republican Rep. Troy Nehls. “We’ve all heard of him. We’ve heard of Mr. Ray Epps. He was number 16 on your FBI most-wanted list. He was encouraging people the night prior and the day to go into the Capitol. And Mr. Ray Epps can be seen at the first breach of Capitol grounds at approximately 12:50 p.m.”

Epps was never on the FBI’s most-wanted list. When it comes to the FBI’s Jan. 6 website, Epps’ photo was removed because he reached out and turned himself in after seeing that the FBI was looking for him. Following that first contact, Epps was told he would likely face charges.

But when Wray refused to say that Epps would be arrested, Nehls responded angrily. “It appears to me you are protecting this guy! I strongly recommend you get your house back in order!”

In July, Epps filed a lawsuit against Fox News and Carlson accusing them of defamation. The lawsuit was filed in the same Delaware court where Fox News ended a lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems by reaching a last-minute agreement to pay a $787.5 million settlement. Not long after that settlement, Fox News fired Carlson. But that move didn’t come in time to avoid another $12 million that Fox paid in June to settle a hostile workplace lawsuit by a former employee on Carlson’s show.

Carlson is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

In August, Fox News moved to dismiss Epps’ lawsuit, with a claim that Carlson painting Epps at the center of a fantastical conspiracy theory was “exactly what the First Amendment protects.” According to the Fox News motion, Carlson’s statements were “protected opinions, not assertions of fact.” That motion has not yet been decided. Fox News attorneys asked for a hearing on the motion in a court appearance on Monday afternoon.

While it’s safe to say that statements of fact were hard to find on Carlson’s show—and remain so on the programs of other Fox News pundits—it’s hard to see how viewers were supposed to get that just-an-opinion vibe from Carlson bringing up Epps in nearly 20 different episodes, in which he told his audience there was “no rational explanation” for the failure to charge Epps other than him being a federal agent.

In the indictment filed on Monday, Epps faces a single charge of engaging in “disorderly and disruptive conduct” in a restricted area with “intent to impede and disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business.” He is not known to have entered the Capitol, and no evidence has emerged that he assaulted the police or of any act of vandalism. He was one of several people photographed holding a very large Trump sign which was thrust toward the police line, but he hasn’t been charged with an offense connected to that action. One other man who was charged for being one of those holding the sign was found guilty on nine other counts, but acquitted for his part in holding the sign.

The method in which Epps was charged suggested he had already reached an agreement for a plea. NBC News has reported that Epps will enter his plea over a Zoom call on Wednesday afternoon.

The charges against Epps make him one of just a handful of people to be charged in relation to the insurgency who did not enter the Capitol or engage violently with the police. His wait for this charge is far from exceptional. Over 200 defendants have been charged in the past year, with 42 sentenced since July. There are still many more cases to come. The FBI seems to have simply prioritized those who entered the Capitol, assaulted the police, and engaged in violent conspiracies.

But don’t expect any of that to make it safe for Epps to leave his trailer. Conspiracy theories can always adapt to ignore facts. And don’t be surprised if Republicans in Congress continue to use Epps in their tirades. Unlike Fox News, the speech and debate clause of the Constitution is always there so they can defame and endanger anyone—as the founders intended.

Epps’ actions on Jan. 5 and 6, his ardent support for Trump, and most of all his involvement with the Oath Keepers show that he is anything but a model citizen. And maybe it’s only fitting that the MAGA crowd should turn on one of their own. But in the end, the conspiracy against Epps isn’t about Epps, or even the FBI. It’s about what’s most important to Trump supporters: avoiding any responsibility for their own actions.

Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.

Republicans shocked to find that refusing to be on Jan. 6 committee means not being on committee

On Wednesday, multiple Republicans, including Donald Trump, expressed their dissatisfaction with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy over how he has handled the House select committee on Jan. 6. On Thursday, as the committee prepares to air its next hearing, the “blame McCarthy” message seems to just keep expanding. One thing is absolutely clear: Republicans can see that the series of public hearings are devastatingly effective.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed McCarthy that she would not seat either Rep. Jim Jordan or Rep. Jim Banks on the committee because both were likely to be sought as witnesses because of their involvement in the Jan. 6 conspiracy, McCarthy made an immediate response. Rather than appoint replacements, McCarthy reacted by withdrawing his three other nominees to the committee and refusing to cooperate. The intention from McCarthy was to create the impression that the select committee was, as Trump repeatedly claims, “a partisan witch hunt.” However, McCarthy could not stop Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from participating.

In spite of the continuing cries on the right that the committee is “partisan” and “slanted,” it’s obvious Republicans can see the effect the public hearings are having. Day by day, the committee has reminded the public of the violence committed on Jan. 6. It has shown how white supremacist militias were involved in planning and promoting that violence. In the most recent hearings, the committee has begun the process of unfolding the conspiracy, led by Trump, that hoped to use Jan. 6 as a means of subverting a national election.

The effectiveness of those hearings can be directly measured in the scorn now being heaped on McCarthy.

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It’s not as if total noncooperation was an idea original to McCarthy. Refusal to cooperate and forcing House committees to go to court to get the most trivial documents that are usually handed over as a matter of course was standard operating procedure during the Trump White House. That noncooperation has continued as Trump has made it clear he doesn’t want any of his insiders testifying before the select committee on Jan. 6.

However, as The New York Times now reports, pro-Trump Republicans have discovered that since McCarthy cut them out off the committee, they have, shockingly, been cut out of the committee. That is, they haven’t been privy to the inner workings of the investigation or had any clarity on how the committee staff was building the case against Trump and his supporters. That’s left them open to surprises in terms of documents and testimony turned up in the investigation.

The absence of Trump-defenders on the committee has become exceedingly obvious during the public hearings, as the testimony of witnesses has not been hijacked or sidetracked as it frequently was during the House impeachment hearings. Witnesses to Jan. 6 violence have not been asked to give their opinion on Hunter Biden’s laptop, to discuss how President Joe Biden is responsible for high gas prices, or about anything related to Hillary Clinton. And Republicans are suddenly regretting that.

As The Washington Post notes, McCarthy is still instructing Republicans to simply ignore the hearings until they go away. Except a few Republicans seemed to have removed their heads from holes long enough to note that people are watching these hearings and seeing things that are not so good for Republicans. And especially not good for Trump.

That’s why Trump is said to be at “the point of about to scream at the TV” and why he has been going on right-wing media to complain that McCarthy made “a very, very foolish decision.” Not only does this information highlight the growing rift between Trump and McCarthy, it also provides the satisfying knowledge that Trump is sitting down at Mar-a-Lago, watching the hearings and fuming.

As he watches, Trump is complaining that there is no one to defend him. Blame for that lack is “falling squarely on McCarthy’s shoulders.” 

Elsewhere in the Post, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that 26% of Americas say they are watching the hearings very closely, while 32% say they are watching somewhat closely. In that poll, 64% of Americans also say they believe the Jan. 6 attack was planned, rather than spontaneous. 

As Politico notes, Republicans are now finding themselves in an uncomfortable schism between Trump, who multiple sources indicated intends to run again in 2024, and McCarthy, who hopes to replace Pelosi as House speaker after the fall midterms. The hearings are already hurting them both, but the growing rancor against McCarthy is making things worse.

Trump has refused to endorse McCarthy for the speaker position. And Republicans like Jim Jordan, who is regarded as an ally of McCarthy but a disciple of Trump, is finding there is no safe ground in this fight. Trump is reportedly “leaving room to turn on McCarthy if he chooses.” 

Considering the public statements he’s already making, the question should be if Trump chooses to turn on McCarthy more

However, one thing is certain: If Republicans didn’t see these committee hearings as effective, McCarthy wouldn’t be getting criticism. If they thought the hearings were really being viewed as partisan, or that Americans weren’t paying attention, McCarthy would be collecting praise.

And it’s not as if there haven’t been plenty of Republicans in the committee hearings. They’ve been in there every day, testifying to how Donald Trump pressured them, threatened them, and terrorized them in an effort to overturn a federal election.

Trump’s offer to pardon Jan. 6 insurgents is witness tampering, and it’s not just about Jan. 6

There’s a long perception that Donald Trump makes his living as a real estate developer. However, it’s been clear for a long time that Trump’s major occupation is actually going to court. Even before he announced his candidacy in 2015, Trump had been involved in over 3,500 court cases. That doesn’t just include all the times Trump has sued contractors, or all the times contractors have sued Trump. It includes the 106 charges of money laundering lodged against one Trump casino in just 18 months. It does not include the settlement to end legal proceedings over Trump’s fake university scam, or the settlement over Trump’s fake charity scam, and any of the dozens of legal filings Trump has taken in an effort to keep his taxes hidden. It definitely doesn’t include all the lawsuits Trump has filed in an attempt to prevent information from being revealed from his time in the White House, or the hundreds of lawsuits and appeals his team pushed following the election.

The point is, Trump may not be a lawyer, but there are few attorneys in the nation who have anything like Trump’s level of experience in weaseling out of legal issues. That includes how to threaten, pay off, and generally influence witnesses.

That particular skill was evident during Trump’s first impeachment, and during the whole Trump-Russia investigation, where Trump repeatedly made clear that those who kept their lips zipped would find a nice little bonus. Right, Mr. Manafort? While those who cooperated in any way would be left out to dry. Got that, Mr. Cohen

So when Trump gets on a rally stage and tells Jan. 6 defendants that, should he return to power, a pardon is on the menu for them all, he understands that this influences how those charged in connection with the insurgency will testify. And that message goes out to more than just the people who have already been indicted.

As CNN reports, Trump’s offer to issue pardons is absolutely a form of witness tampering. That would be true even if the people involved thought the odds of Trump getting back in the White House were no better than 50-50, but that’s not the crowd he’s addressing. Trump is making this pitch directly to people involved in Jan. 6—the same crowd who thought he’d be restored to power that day, or on Jan. 20, or in April, or in August, or … soon. The people involved in the pro-Trump insurgency are the deepest of his deep swamp believers. They don’t just believe Trump has a chance of being back behind the Resolute Desk, they think it’s inevitable.

So when Trump tells them that he’s got pardons in the works, they understand what this means: Shut up, hunker down, and wait for rescue. No one is exactly unaware of this.

“Robert Jenkins, who is an attorney for several January 6 riot defendants, including Anthony Antonio, said Wednesday his clients are aware of Trump's offers for potential pardons and that the former President's offers could impact the defendants' cooperation. Jenkins also said he is not sure Trump's comments rise to the level of witness tampering but said the former President is putting his ‘fingers on the scales.’”

It’s hard to be more blatant than this. However, much of the media will apparently wait until Trump puts it in writing for them before getting a tiny dab upset.

But it’s not just the people arrested for waving Confederate flags or brandishing handcuffs in the Capitol who are the targets of this message. In addition to the messy, violent insurgency that took place on Jan. 6, there was an even larger threat: the extensive coup attempt conducted by Trump with the cooperation of Republican officials from county level chairmen to members of Congress.

Indictments related to that coup have not yet been filed, but the United States House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack has been making it clearer and clearer that they have all the evidence necessary to explain every step in the six-point plan to overturn democracy. The subpoenas that the select committee has sent to former Trump advisers, as well as members of the slates of false electors assembled to support the attempt, show that the investigation is going well beyond people wearing horned helmets. 

Those people are also getting the message that Trump will save them if they give him a chance. And since some of those same people are in sitting in the House, Senate, or in a position to affect how results are tallied at the state level, it’s a very special form of incentive. What’s good for Trump is good for them. 

And what’s good for both of them is making sure that the next coup attempt is successful.

JUST NOW (WOW): "Absolutely it would impact not only the attorney's perspective but also the client's...Far less likely to cooperate." Robert Jenkins, an attorney for several 1/6 clients says flatly Trump's pardon statements impact the

— John Berman (@JohnBerman) February 2, 2022

McCarthy refuses to testify. ‘I wish that he were a brave and honorable man,’ says Cheney

Reinforcing the degree to which Republicans do not want the truth about events on Jan. 6 to reach the public, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has announced he will not cooperate with a request to voluntarily testify before the select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol. In refusing the request, McCarthy becomes the latest in a string of Republican representatives who have made it clear that talking about their role in events leading up to the insurgency is the last thing they want to do.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol sent a letter to McCarthy making clear that his testimony is critical to investigation of events that sent Congress scrambling as the Capitol was invaded. McCarthy didn’t just speak with Donald Trump before and after the attempt to prevent the counting of electoral votes, he had a phone conversations with Trump in the midst of the hours-long violence. That conversation reportedly included McCarthy yelling in anger “Who the fuck do you think you are talking to?” after Trump refused to take action to end the violence. Current accounts of the phone call are secondhand, though they are included on an official statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

In the past month, the committee has released text messages from members of Congress as well as those from Fox News propagandists and even Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. Those texts clearly show that both Republican lawmakers and right-wing media understood that Trump was in control of the violence. However, the released messages were directed at former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. A full account of McCarthy’s conversation, including an accurate transcription of Trump’s replies, could be crucial in demonstrating his knowledge of the violence and his complicity in refusing to end the attack.

In refusing to testify, McCarthy is making clear—again—that his first loyalty is to Trump, with any concerns about the truth or what’s best for the nation somewhere far behind.

The letter from Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson noted that McCarthy not only had conversations with Trump concerning his refusal to stop the violence on Jan. 6, but about “the potential [Trump] would face a censure resolution, impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. It also appears that you may have identified other possible options, including President Trump’s immediate resignation from office.”

In the hours immediately following the assault, it appeared that McCarthy was angry enough to momentarily forget that he had cooperated in turning his party over to Trump. However, McCarthy swiftly remedied this situation. McCarthy flew to Mar-a-Lago to pay homage and turned his attacks away from Trump and toward his fellow Republicans who failed to join in the leadership cult. That includes attacking Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans now on the select committee.

It’s been clear for months that McCarthy is terrified to make a full account of his conversations with Trump. His attempts to dodge any questions have led him into making a claim of pseudoprivilege in which “my conversations with the president are my conversations with the president.” Executive privilege does not extend to conversations held with members of the legislative branch. 

On receiving the letter from the select committee, it took only a few hours for McCarthy announce that he would not be appearing. McCarthy—who earlier tried to sabotage the committee with an attempt to force the committee to include in its membership some of those known to be most involved in perpetuating the Big Lie around the 2020 election—indicated that the committee was “only out to hurt political opponents” and that he would not cooperate with what he called “an abuse of power.”

It took even less time for Cheney to make clear what she thought of McCarthy’s refusal. As reported in The Washington Post, Cheney had this to say about her titular leader in the House.

“I wish that he were a brave and honorable man,” said Cheney. “He’s clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward and we’ll get to the truth.”

However, in an interview with MSNBC, Rep. Jamie Raskin noted that McCarthy has some very personal reasons for keeping his lips zipped—reasons that include his involvement in possible criminal charges of conspiracy. In recent weeks, reports indicate that the select committee has been seriously considering how it may make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice for those involved not just in planning and encouraging the violence on Jan. 6, but for the dozens of Republicans who were intimately involved in a scheme to overturn the results of the election by refusing to honor electoral votes.

Related to that scheme were revelations on Tuesday showing that Republicans forged documents in multiple states to falsely declare Trump the winner in states where President Joe Biden actually came out on top. This is just one aspect of a plan that was presented in an extensive PowerPoint slide deck to Republican members of the House so that they could properly execute their part of the conspiracy. 

It’s not clear if McCarthy was present for that presentation, but if he were to appear to testify, he would certainly be asked about this event and other meetings held in preparation for overthrowing the legitimate government of the United States. 

First Jan. 6 hearings begin with police who were assaulted, GOP continuing that assault

Make no mistake: Republicans do not want any kind of investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection because they’re extremely afraid of what that investigation will find. That’s why, when given the opportunity to have an impartial panel that examined those events outside the normal back and forth of Congressional politics, Republicans in the Senate shot it down. That’s why when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revived the idea as a select committee, Republicans voted against it. That’s why Kevin McCarthy first tried to saddle the investigation with a stack of Republicans whose announced intention was to derail any look into those events, then made a pretense of withdrawing Republican “support” when Pelosi rejected the worst of those who were out to make the investigation a farce.

Republicans do not want this to happen. What they want is for everyone else to leave this alone so they can continue the project of turning Jan. 6 from insurrection to tourist visit to patriotic action that’s a model for future events.

That effort is expected to continue on Tuesday as the House holds the first hearing from that select committee. As CNN reports, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is expected to make clear that he “will not cooperate” with the committee’s investigation. They are planning a number of events for the course of the day, all with the same theme: It’s Nancy Pelosi’s fault. Pelosi, according to the cover story being generated on the right, failed to get the Capitol Police and National Guard to the Capitol in sufficient numbers—a claim that ignores how that was both not Pelosi’s job and not within her authority.

Meanwhile, the actual hearing is going to begin. Here’s what to expect.

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2021 · 2:38:18 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Fanone pounds the table as he says, "the indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!" "Nothing has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day and in doing so betray their oath of office," he adds

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 27, 2021

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2021 · 2:41:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

DC officer Daniel Hodges: "A man attempted to rip the baton from my hands & we wrestled for control. I retained my weapon. After I pushed him back, he yelled at me, 'you're on the wrong team!'...another [shouted], 'you will die on your knees!'"

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 27, 2021

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2021 · 2:43:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The opening video included new information, including audio communications of insurgents calling for use of the gallows, and those outside the Capitol insisting that federal, state, and local officials needed to be rounded up for mass executions.

This first day of testimony will be focused on the appearance of four members of law enforcement who were present at the assault on the Capitol. D.C. Metro Police Officer Michael Fanone has become well known for his previous statements and a letter to Congress in which he called attempts to downplay the events of Jan. 6 “disgraceful” and demanded recognition for the dozens of officers injured on that day. Fanone was beaten with metal pipes and repeatedly shocked with a Taser. He described the events of that day as the “most brutal, savage, hand-to-hand combat of my entire life.” 

D.C. Metro Police Officer Daniel Hodges’ name may not be quite as familiar as Fanone’s at this point, but millions of Americans have certainly seen his face. It was Hodges who was caught in the entrance as Trump supporters made a game of trying to crush him between two doors. Trapped with his hands and shoulders pinned behind him, insurgents took the opportunity to beat him, hit him with bear spray, and coordinate their movements to press ever harder against Hodges’ trapped form. At least one man has already been arrested specifically for his attack on Hodges. Hodges also made it clear that in spite of the pain and damage he suffered on that day, he knew exactly what was going on. “If it wasn't my job, I would have done that for free ... It was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection ... and we’ll do it as many times as it takes.”

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn fought against rioters who smashed police lines and assaulted officers outside the building, then teamed up with other officers to follow Trump insurgents inside and attempt to block access to officials. As a Black man, Dunn was subject to special attention from the white supremacist mob, including being called the N-word dozens of times. When Dunn mentioned this, it was enough to have Tucker Carlson attempt to discredit the officer as an “angry activist.” Because that’s how Black men are. Angry … about being kicked, beaten, bear-sprayed, and clubbed while being under constant racist assault.

The final member  of police to speak on this day is Capitol Hill Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell. Gonell, both a police veteran and a military veteran, was beaten with a flag pole, had his hand sliced open with a knife, and was so dosed in chemical spray that it dripped from his clothing. Gonell, in a stunned haze from the assault and chemical spray, has recounted hearing insurgents say they were going to kill the police and calling them traitors. Gonell has also said he took Republican votes to block an independent Jan. 6 commission as a personal insult.

The hearing is now underway with a review of videos and reports from that day.

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2021 · 1:48:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

NEW: The Justice Department is green-lighting the participation of ex-Trump officials in the Jan. 6 investigation, according to a letter reviewed by POLITICO. Story TK w/ @woodruffbets

— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) July 27, 2021

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2021 · 1:53:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The initial video presented at the opening of the hearing was genuinely chilling. It not only showed footage previously seen at the Senate impeachment trial, but included new footage, much of  it from the Capitol grounds, showing more Trump supporters urging the use of the gallows to hang members of Congress, as well as making it clear that many of those present saw Jan. 6 as an opening act.

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2021 · 2:04:50 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

It’s a real shame we don’t get to have Jim Jordan on this committee, rolling his eyes and making dismissive gestures as they show the MAGA mob assaulting cops and hunting for Pelosi and Pence.

— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) July 27, 2021

House votes to create Jan. 6 commission, but McConnell is doing what he always does—blocking justice

On Wednesday evening, the House authorized the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the the January 6 assault on the Capitol. In the process, 35 Republican representatives bucked GOP leadership to vote in favor of the commission that will investigate not just events of that day, but just how the nation came to face a violent insurgency and an attack on democracy. 

The overwhelming 252-175 vote in the House came after Republican leaders at first expressed support for the idea of such a commission in the immediate wake of the attack. The actual design for the commission came from a bipartisan agreement of the Homeland Security Committee, and gave Republicans equal representation in the investigation, as well as what amounts to  veto power over any subpoenas. That such a Republican-friendly agreement was reached seemed to surprise Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who initially refused to say whether he would support the deal. Then McCarthy let it be known that he would not whip other Republicans to vote against it. Then he did exactly that.

Now the proposed commission moves to the Senate, where—despite Mitch McConnell’s speech calling January 6 “a disgrace” that happened because Americans were “fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth”—McConnell has already announced that he will oppose it. At the moment, not a single Republican in the Senate has spoken up to support the bill.

Because, when all is said and done, they are all still following the orders of the same man, who is still spreading the same wild falsehoods.”

The commission designed by the House Homeland Security Committee could not be more straightforward or more generous in the power it gives to the minority party. Modeled after the similar body created to investigate 9/11, the commission is “charged with studying the facts and circumstances surrounding the January 6th attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on our democracy.”

The 10-person panel is to be composed, not of political figures, but of individuals with “significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity.” Anyone currently serving in government is not eligible, and the selections are to be split evenly between majority and minority leadership in the House and Senate. The commission can issue subpoenas, but they must be approved by both the Democratic chair and Republican vice-chair.

In terms of the structure and purpose, the commission created by the House bill is in no way slanted toward a Democratic position. The fact that Democrats have agreed to this structure, despite holding a majority in the House and Senate, is testament to the idea that they simply want to know the truth.

 Which is, of course, the problem. 

Because a lot of Republicans stand to be put in a very, very bad light if the full truth comes out. Not least of all, that man who was the ultimate source of “wild falsehoods.” That’s why Donald Trump used his new web page this week to insist that the strikingly bipartisan commission was a “Democrat trap” and “partisan unfairness.” And Trump provided the talking points by saying that any commission should also investigate every act of violence that Republicans blame on Democrats, even if exactly none of those events threatened to overturn the outcome of the election and destroy our system of government.

Both Republicans and right-wing media immediately picked up on Trump’s theme, with McCarthy issuing a statement saying that he could not support the commission because it would not investigated “political violence” on the left. Which makes all the sense of refusing to vote for a 9/11 commission unless it also covered Vietnam protests. Or the Civil Rights movement. 

There is no connection, nor comparison, between what happened on January 6 and what happened during Black Lives Matter protests following the police murder of George Floyd. No connection except how men like Trump and McCarthy used lies about about the BLM protests to help stir anger among many of the same groups behind the violence on January 6.

When McConnell spoke on February 13, he agreed that “Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty” and that “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.” McConnell also pushed back against Republicans who had voted in the House or Senate against certifying the election. In fact, as of Tuesday, McConnell had said he was open to voting for the commission.

But, as The New York Times reports, McConnell “reversed” his position and declared his opposition to the commission. McConnell has made it clear that not only will he vote no, he will also insist that other Republicans vote against the commission.

That reversal came “amid pressure from Mr. Trump.” And now McConnell is absolutely toeing the Trump line, voicing the same nonsensical claims that the studiously bipartisan commission would somehow be unfair because it’s not also looking at events totally unrelated to the assault on the Capitol. Previous Trump’s statement, getting the commission passed by the Senate seemed like a given. Now it seems impossible. That change in tone came after both McConnell and McCarthy “joined … Mr. Trump in panning the proposal.”

The man who McConnell explicitly said is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day” is being allowed to quash an investigation of those events.  Even in exile, even in defeat, Trump rules the Republicans. And the reason is simple. As Politico notes, Trump is their “cash cow.” 

In a party literally without a platform, and with absolutely no vision for the future, the only means of engaging their voters—and donors—is through fear and anger. No one generates that fear and anger more than Trump. Republicans aren’t just giving in to Trump, they’re selling out. 

Thanks to Mike Lee’s odd objection, one thing is now clear: Donald Trump tried to murder Mike Pence

Over the course of their presentation, House impeachment managers showed how Donald Trump groomed his supporters to be outraged, repeatedly encouraged violence, and finally directed them to carry out their assault on the Capitol building in order to interrupt the counting of electoral college votes. The day was full of shocking moments and previously unseen images. The number of moments when enraged insurgents intent on murder came within feet of members of Congress should have been sobering—if not terrifying—to everyone watching in the Senate.

One other thing that came up during the day was a repeated theme of praise for the way that Mike Pence did his job on Jan. 6. That may seem like a strange approach for a Democratic team to take in dealing with the impeachment of a Republican president. But pointing out how Pence stood up to Trump in saying he would certify the results of the count serves two purposes: First, it allows the House managers to showcase that a Republican can, in fact, oppose Trump, providing Pence as a role model for any Republican senators who might think of stepping out of Trump’s fear-shadow.

But the other thing it does is point the finger straight at what might be the most chilling moment of Jan. 6—one that showcases Trump’s absolute malice and depravity. 

The complete story of that moment was split across two presentations on Wednesday. First, as Rep. Stacey Plaskett reviewed the events of that afternoon, there was the footage and diagrams showing just how close the insurrectionists came to capturing Pence. Second, a presentation from Rep. Joaquin Castro showed how Trump’s tweets about Pence came even as people were begging him to stop his supporters. When it’s all put together, it looks like this.

2:10 PM

As insurgents smash their way through the Capitol windows and doors, Donald Trump ignores the violence being seen on every network and tries to make a call to Sen. Tommy Tuberville. Instead, he dials Sen. Mike Lee. At the end of the day on Wednesday, Lee objected to this information and asked that a statement attributed to him be stricken from the record. However, these are the only statements made by Lee that were mentioned anywhere in the House presentation.

Thanks to Lee’s objection, Sen. Tuberville was questioned about the phone call on Wednesday afternoon and told reporters from Politico that he ended the phone call by saying this: “I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go.'” 

2:15 PM

Thanks to Tuberville’s statement, there’s a definitive time stamp on the call. Because Pence was quickly removed from the Senate chamber and taken to another location as the Secret Service and Capitol Police worked to secure an exit route.

2:24 PM

This means that the moment he hung up with Tuberville, Trump knew both that his supporters had entered the Capitol, and that Mike Pence was in danger. Trump’s next action may be his most incredibly depraved of the entire day. Because what he did next was to pull out his phone and enter a tweet that aimed his supporters straight at the fleeing Pence.

At the Capitol, Trump’s tweet was read in real time by the enraged mob, with one of Trump’s supporters even blasting out the tweet over a bullhorn just seconds after it appeared. In response, the crowd takes up a chant of “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!”

2:26 PM

Two minutes after Trump’s tweet appears, officers take advantage of the distraction provided by Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman to direct Pence and his family down a flight of stairs and out of the building.

No one can say that Donald Trump didn’t take action during those hours following the invasion of the Capitol. Because, on learning that Mike Pence was in peril, Trump acted instantly and decisively … to aim the threat at Pence and his family. Trump went for what he saw as both a chance of revenge at Pence for his refusal to participate in an unconstitutional scheme to “send the votes back” to states, and Trump saw an opportunity to do what he had just tried to gain from Tuberville—a delay in counting the votes. After all, what better way to delay than to have Mike Pence hanging from a gallows on the Capitol lawn?

Thanks to Lee’s objection, Tuberville nailed down the timing of Trump’s call. And thanks to Tuberville, we now know the full sequence of events. And thanks to that sequence we know this: Donald Trump acted quickly and deliberately in an attempt to harm or kill Mike Pence.

Ayanna Pressley sums up why impeaching Donald Trump is about more than just symbolism

It’s been just over one month since pro-Trump insurgents rioted at the U.S. Capitol, creating both physical and emotional damages. Many who survived the riots have spoken out about their personal experiences, including, as Daily Kos covered, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has done two live videos detailing her trauma. For those of us who followed the insurgency from home, we know that after a group of countless white people invaded the Capitol, custodial workers—including many people of color—were left to clean their mess. 

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley spoke to CNN host Jake Tapper about just that subject on Sunday morning, appearing on State of the Union. Her response is smart, moving, and emotional, and absolutely worth a watch. Let’s delve into it below.

Tapper referenced the one-month anniversary of the insurgency, as well as Donald Trump’s impeachment trial beginning this coming Tuesday. “You lived through the events of January sixth,” Tapper stated. “What do you say to people who say, ‘Come on, just move on’?”

“If we really believe that this is a moment of reckoning in every way, then we must act accordingly,” Pressley replied. “And that means that Donald J. Trump must be held accountable because he is culpable for having incited this insurrection by perpetuating this big lie. This House has twice done its job. He will forever be the twice impeached president by this Democratic-majority led House.

Now, the Senate must honor their oath and impeach Donald J. Trump to hold him accountable,” Pressley continued. “But also, to bar him from running for public office ever again. And then, we know that he had accomplices. Who told on themselves. In broad daylight. They aided and abetted this insurrection by perpetuating this big lie. And they must be expelled. And then we must continue to investigate, Jake, so that any individuals or agencies that enabled this insurrection are taken to account.

But let me just say this, for those that continue to feign great surprise about what happened on January 6th. As a Black woman, to be barricaded in my office, using office furniture and water bottles… On the ground, in the dark. That terror, those moments of terror, is familiar in a deep and ancestral way for me. And, I want us to do everything to ensure that a breach like this never occurs at the Capitol. But I want us to address the evil incurred that is white supremacy in this nation. This is not only about securing the Capitol to ensure that members, and our staffs, and custodial staff, and food services workers, are safe in the Capitol… It is that we are safe in America.

One of the images that I am haunted by,” Pressley continued, “is the Black custodial staff cleaning up the mess left by that violent white supremacist mob. That is a metaphor for America. We have been cleaning up after violent white supremacist mobs for generations. And it must end. So, impeach, expel, investigate.”

Tapper mentioned that some Congresspeople have expressed fear for their safety following the insurgency, and noted that they are not sharing Pressley’s location during the interview because of her “significant” security concerns and that many House colleagues blame rhetoric coming from some House Republicans. Surprising no one, Tapper mentioned Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

“Simply put,” he asked. “Do you feel safe going to work?”

“Look, I feel safe,” Pressley said. “Living with threats and living with bigots, who are as vile in their rhetoric as they are in the policies that they seek and enact, and the harm that they seek to cause the most marginalized communities, Black Americans in particular, is not new. Again, this is familiar in an ancestral sort of way. So, it is not going to deter or obstruct me from doing my job for the American people.” Then Pressley discussed the importance of a COVID-19 response that leaves no one behind.

Here’s that clip.

“One of the images that I’m haunted by is the black custodial staff cleaning up the mess left by that violent white supremacist mob. That is a metaphor for America.” Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley discusses the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and impeachment. #CNNSOTU

— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) February 7, 2021

On a related note, New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim tweeted about his personal experience cleaning up after the riots. The thread is quickly going viral and is well worth checking out, too.

It was a month ago when I found this broken eagle while cleaning the Capitol after the insurrection. I kept it as a tender reminder of the enormous work ahead to heal. This is one of several symbols I want to share with you as we think what comes next for our nation (THREAD)

— Andy Kim (@AndyKimNJ) February 6, 2021

Report from inside the Capitol Police rated chance of violence on Jan. 6 as ‘remote’

When the Senate trial for Donald Trump gets underway, one of the tasks for the House impeachment managers is going to be laying out events between Election Day and Jan. 6 to show how Trump encouraged his supporters in a lie and incited them to violence. But it’s going to have to wait until later hearings before the House and Senate bring in additional testimony on security issues related to the insurgency. Which is frustrating. Because a month after the assault on the Capitol, it seems the police, the Pentagon, and intelligence agencies still can’t agree on who knew what, who asked for help, or how things got so royally mucked up.

Since the Jan. 6 insurrection, the House has heard testimony about the lack of preparations made by the Capitol Police—despite an assessment by the acting chief, who said: “We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending ... We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.” There has also been a continually shifting story over efforts from the police to obtain help from the National Guard.

A month after a Trump-loving mob stormed the Capitol in a deadly attempt to overthrow democracy, the truth about what police knew, and what they did to prepare, seems more muddled than ever. Because despite everything else, police labeled the potential for violence on that day as “remote.”

On Jan. 26, Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told the House Appropriations Committee that two days before the event, the department knew that Trump’s rally was going to include white supremacist militias, that many of them were bringing weapons, and violence was expected. That was a big part of why then-Chief Steven Sund put in a request for National Guard assistance. 

But The New York Times is now reporting that a report issued by the intelligence division of the Capitol Police on that same day painted a very different picture. That report looked at the groups of Trump supporters expected on Jan. 6 and rated them on a scale ranging from “remote” to “highly unlikely” when it came to any probability of violence. Not only did the report not anticipate anything like the thousands who assaulted police, surged into the area around the Capitol, and eventually went hunting for congressional hostages—the prediction seemed to be that the whole thing would be a snooze.

That assessment seems starkly at odds with Pittman’s statements about what the police were expecting on Jan. 6, and with Sund’s request to the National Guard. However, it could explain why the police had only 170 officers outfitted with riot gear. If that report circulated beyond the Capitol Police, it might even partially explain why then-Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller placed what seemed to be unreasonable restrictions on the few National Guard forces who were allowed to direct traffic around the city.

The only way to justify the results of the police intelligence report would be if the people in charge treated each of the groups who had applied for rally permits as if they were holding completely separate events. It would also requiring ignoring the context, as well as the violence associated with those expected to attend. Even then, it would seem impossible to produce such a low threat potential, seeing that the same “Stop the Steal” events had led to violence in other locations.

The “remote” chance of violence not only conflicts with everything Sund and Pittman said earlier, but runs counter to a statement from the same intelligence division of the Capitol Police that appeared just one day earlier. That Jan. 3 statement indicated that Trump supporters were desperate about “the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election” and warned there was a significant danger to both police and the public.

If the Capitol Police appear to have been confused, they were not alone. In a letter sent to congressional leaders by Sund this week, he declared that the “entire intelligence community” missed the signs of impending violence. At a Jan. 5 meeting among various agencies, the Times sources say that “no federal or local law enforcement agencies raised any specific threats of violence for the next day.” If that’s true, it happened even though these agencies knew the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three-Percenters, and other white supremacists militias were on their way to town. All of this makes it unclear whether agencies missed the signs or were simply told to ignore them. 

What’s absolutely clear is that the House investigation into the security decisions that led up to paramilitary forces prowling through the Capitol—and left a small knot of Metro D.C. police fighting a desperate battle in the tunnels behind the House—need a great deal more investigation. 

  • What caused Miller’s action in restricting the use of National Guard on Jan. 6?
  • Why were limitations put in place by the Pentagon that prevented the Guard from coming in response to direct requests from the police, even though those restrictions had not been in place for earlier events?
  • Why did the Capitol Police line up so few forces with riot gear when they knew white supremacist militias were specifically targeting Congress?
  • Most of all, why was there such an the enormous delay between the time that it was clear police at the Capitol would be overrun and an adequate response being provided?

All of those things may have explanations that amount to inadequate analysis and criminally poor planning … but that seems unlikely. If any, or all, of these actions are rooted in politics that insisted on giving Trump supporters protection even in the face of expected violence, that’s not just criminally poor planning—it’s criminal.

Trump supporters were fed explicitly racist and anti-Semitic propaganda before marching on Capitol

Republicans want to frame Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial as if it’s all about the speech he made at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. It’s not. The impeachment is over the incitement to violence and insurrection created by Trump over the whole span from the election to the assault on the Capitol. That includes Trump sending tweets such as “This Fake Election can no longer stand”  and, of course, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

However, so long as Republicans are focusing on the events of that one morning, it’s worth taking a second look at that rally and the one that came before on the evening of Jan. 5. While the words of Trump’s closing speech—complete with repeated demands that his followers march to the Capitol—are the most obvious subject of the impeachment, he was far from alone. Speakers at those two rallies included Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. All of them did their share in both raising the temperature of the crowd and encouraging violent actions. 

But there was one other event at that rally that both sums up what Trump’s movement is all about, and contributed to driving insurgents into the halls of Congress. It was a film. One in which every frame is a cast study in delivering violent, anti-Semitic propaganda. 

There’s no doubt that every speaker on the agenda added to the dark energy that resulted in the deadly insurgency. In fact, as The Washington Post reports, one of the speakers at the Jan. 5 rally was actually among those who bashed their way into the Capitol the following day. Brandon Straka—a white guy who founded the “walk away” campaign that encouraged Black voters to leave the Democratic Party—described Jan. 6 as “the revolution” in his speech to the gathered Trump supporters, and encouraged them to “fight back” as “patriots.” Straka, who frequently appears on Fox News as “a former liberal,” assaulted a police officer, called on others to do the same, then broke into the Capitol. He’s now facing multiple felony charges.

That same evening Roger Stone spoke while being flanked by “guards” from the Oath Keepers. As Mother Jones noted, Stone has a long-standing relationship with terrorist group the Proud Boys. On Jan. 5, Stone was there to tell Trump supporters to “fight until the bitter end” to block Joe Biden’s victory. Stone described the following day as the central moment of an “epic struggle.”

Michael Flynn described Jan. 6 as “a crucible moment in United States history.” While his word choice was suspect, his message to the gathered mob was clear. “We should not accept this,” said Flynn.  “Some of these states had more dead voters than the battlefields of Gettysburg or the battlefields of Vicksburg or the battlefields of Normandy. … We did not have a free, fair, and transparent vote on the third of November. And the entire world knows, everyone in this country knows, who won the election on the third.” And Flynn finished by explicitly telling the crowd what was expected of them. “The members of Congress, the members of the House of Representatives, the members of the United States Senate … those of you who are feeling weak tonight; those of you who don’t have the moral fiber in your bodies, get some tonight. Because tomorrow we the people are going to be here, and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.” On the heels of Flynn’s speech, former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos stepped up to make it clear that Trump’s supporters would not forget the “traitors” who voted to count the electoral votes. 

Before Trump spoke on Jan. 6, Rudy Giuliani took the stage and spun a completely fantastic tale in which halting the day’s count of electoral votes would somehow generate a 10-day period in which everything about the election could be reviewed. There’s nothing in the Constitution or later law that even hints at such an event, and Giuliani was speaking after 63 days and 62 lawsuits had failed to uncover any of the evidence of fraud he assured the crowd was present. Still, “Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked,” said Giuliani, “the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. Let’s have trial by combat.”

Donald Trump’s sons also appeared that morning, and their speeches—particularly that of Donald Trump Jr.—did have one especially notable quality. As Politico reported, Junior’s speech was so laced with expletives that Fox News, which had been covering the event live, was forced to cut away. But as Trump’s eldest son warned Republicans that they better vote the way his father wanted spoke, he did make one clear statement between all the four letter words. “This gathering should send a message to them,” said Trump Jr. “This isn’t their Republican Party anymore! This is Donald Trump's Republican Party!” Oh, and Eric also spoke. “We will never, ever, ever stop fighting,” said Eric. 

But for all those speakers, it was a film that both set the mood of the day and serves as the best defining document of Trump and Trumpism. Just Security has done a breakdown of the imagery involved in this brief film, and the message of fascism shines through. Not just the kind of authoritarianism that everyone casually assigns to Trump as if that’s just peachy, but genuine shiny-boot and red armband fascism, complete with enough tropes of Übermensch and Untermensch to make Leni Riefenstahl jealous.

As Just Security’s analysis makes clear, the video follows a long tradition of fascist framing. That doesn’t just mean presenting Trump as a heroic figure whose powerful presence causes others to swoon, or contrasting a false paradise under Trump with an equally false wasteland without him. It also explicitly involves using images to remind supporters what Trump stands for: white nationalism.

Everything about the video is designed to help viewers see a through line that connects what’s happening in the Capitol to an elite group of Jews secretly, and not so secretly, guiding America toward a state where white Christians are under siege. The scope of the threat is expanded to include an international conspiracy that includes the U.N. and E.U. who, with Jewish-controlled Hollywood, are seeking to weaken powerful white America.

The video shifts to an image of Senator Charles Schumer, reminding the viewer of prominent Jewish leaders of the Democratic party. Schumer is wearing a Kente cloth, an image evocative of Ku Klux Klan ideology — that Jews support Black liberation movements as a way to undermine white rule and destroy the nation. The next frame shows the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, flanked by two Jewish Congressman, Representatives Nadler and Schiff. Pelosi, too, is controlled by Jews.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy may have had a sudden memory lapse when it comes to understanding QAnon and the intrinsically anti-Semitic ideology at its core. Trump’s video team did not forget. They’ve created a video that is practically a look into Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s hate-filled mind.

This video was sequenced right after Rudy Giuliani told Trump’s supporters that he wanted “trial by combat” and right before Trump himself stepped up to call on his followers to march to the Capitol. What those people who murdered a police officer, trampled over a woman, injured hundreds, smashed open the doors of the Capitol, raised a gallows, and went hunting for congressional hostages received wasn’t just limited to Trump’s statements on the morning of Jan. 6. What drove them there was what Trump, his surrogates, the right-wing media, and Republicans in both the House and Senate did after—and before—the election.

They created a world where people don’t just believe the propaganda of the video above, they’re willing to act on it.