Alito’s explanation for his upside-down flag has fallen apart

New information shows that everything Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has said about the reason an American flag was flown upside down over his home appears to have been a lie. Alito blamed the flag on a dispute with neighbors. Unfortunately for the prevaricating justice, his wife’s altercation with the neighbors became so extreme that those neighbors called the cops. The police report shows that the altercation came weeks after the upside-down flag was hoisted over Alito’s home.

On May 16, The New York Times broke the story that an American flag was flown upside down at the Alito home in January 2021. The upside-down flag, long used as a signal of distress, was appropriated by Donald Trump supporters following Jan. 6, 2021, to express their solidarity with the insurrectionists who had smashed their way into the Capitol building.

Alito denied any connection to the flag and claimed that his wife had put up this symbol in response to an altercation with a neighbor. He also claimed those neighbors had placed an offensive sign about Trump where it was near children waiting to board a school bus. But that excuse always had problems.

Now everything about Alito’s story is falling apart.

The story that Alito told Fox News reporters was that his wife flew the flag because neighbor Emily Baden placed a “Fuck Trump” sign in her yard that was within 50 feet of where children were waiting for the school bus in January 2021. Alito said that his wife had tried to talk to the neighbors about having a vulgar sign so close to where children waited for the bus, but that the conversation ended in an argument. 

Alito then claimed that Baden put up a sign that personally insulted Martha-Ann Alito and blamed her for the Jan. 6 assault. Finally, Alito said that he and his wife were walking through the neighborhood, ran into a man who lived at the property, and he called Martha-Ann Alito a number of disparaging terms, including the c-word.

So she went home and raised a flag in support of insurrection. As one does.

However, even a cursory look at Alito’s claims shows that they’re simply not true. In January 2021, area schools were still dealing with Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic. Children would not return to the classroom until March. So no children were waiting for the bus for Alito’s wife to be concerned about.

The latest information paints a very different picture of the interaction between Baden and the Alitos. Baden and her then-boyfriend, now husband, reported that Martha-Ann Alito was repeatedly harassing them to the point where they called the police and asked them to intervene. 

“Aside from putting up a sign, we did not begin or instigate any of these confrontations,” Baden told Times reporters.

At some point in January, the original “Fuck Trump” sign blew over. Martha-Ann Alito approached Baden thinking that the sign had been removed, but according to Baden, this encounter didn’t end in an argument. It was the first time Baden could ever recall speaking to either of the Alitos.

Following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Baden added two new signs. One of these read “Trump is a fascist.” The other said, “You are complicit.” Neither mentioned Martha-Ann or Samuel Alito, and Baden says that the signs were not aimed at them. Baden’s mother took the signs down out of concern that the same kind of people who attacked the Capitol might bring that kind of violence to their home.

Sometime after the signs had been removed, Baden and her boyfriend saw Martha-Ann. Alito sitting in a car outside their home and glaring at them in a way notable enough that they mentioned it to friends. A few days after President Joe Biden’s inauguration—which Samuel Alito skipped—the couple was driving past the Alito home when Alito’s wife ran toward their car, yelling something they couldn’t hear. She then appeared to spit in their direction.

It wasn’t until Feb. 15, a month after the upside-down flag flew over the Alito home, that the Alitos walked past Baden’s home while she and her boyfriend were bringing in the trash containers. Martha-Ann Alito then “used an expletive” and called them “fascists,” Baden told Times reporters. This event was also noted in texts that Baden sent at the time.

At that point, Baden said she snapped. 

She does not remember her precise words, but recalls something like this: How dare you behave this way. You’ve been harassing us, over signs. You represent the highest court in the land. Shame on you.

Her boyfriend admitted that he chased this statement with the use of the C-word. The incident was also observed by a neighbor. 

Following this exchange, the boyfriend went inside and called the police, confirming that it happened on Feb. 15, not before the flag was flown on Jan. 17, as Alito told Fox News reporters.

Alito’s excuse about the kids and the school bus was a lie. His claim that the flag was flown following a dispute with the neighbors is inaccurate. And none of it explains why he flew another pro-insurrection flag over his vacation home.

The Supreme Court is currently considering Trump’s motion for absolute legal immunity for his actions to interfere with the 2020 election while in office. It’s also determining whether the insurrectionists involved in the attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, can appropriately be charged with obstruction

Alito has not recused himself from either of these cases. And on Wednesday, he stated in a letter to Congress that he will not recuse himself.

“I am therefore duty-bound to reject your recusal request,” he claimed in the letter.

The idea that Alito should be involved in considering any case connected with Trump, Jan. 6, or the 2020 election completely violates any concept of judicial ethics. This isn’t just the appearance of a conflict. It’s a conflict.

The only real question is: Will anyone do anything about it?

The revelation that Alito had flown a pro-Trump flag at a second location sparked renewed pressure in the Senate. Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin has been calling for Alito to recuse himself—which he’s now outright rejected—and for Chief Justice John Roberts to call this rogue justice into line.

“[Chief] Justice Roberts has to step back and realize the damage that’s being done to the reputation of the court,” Durbin told The Washington Post.

The Senate Judiciary Committee needs to open an investigation into Alito’s partisan support for the pro-Trump insurrection. They need to do it immediately.

Two other members of the committee, Sheldon Whitehouse and Richard Blumenthal, have been pressing Durbin to take action. That includes Blumenthal noting that while the Senate can’t regulate the actions of the Supreme Court, it isn’t without power—including the ability to set the number of justices on the court. And outside groups, like Indivisible and Demand Justice, as well as legal experts have also demanded an investigation into Alito’s leanings.

The new information showing that Alito’s claims about the flag incident were simply untrue only reinforces the need for the Senate to move. An impeachment of Alito is fully warranted, but with Republicans holding a narrow margin in the House and anxious to show their allegiance to Trump over the nation, an impeachment seems next to impossible.

There’s no time like the present to dilute Alito’s toxic presence by adding more seats to the Supreme Court.

RELATED STORY: The pressure is building for the Senate to do something about Alito

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Profiles in cowardice: Three years after Jan. 6, GOP leaders won’t hold Trump accountable

Sen. John F. Kennedy wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Profiles in Courage” in 1956, focusing on eight U.S. senators Kennedy felt were courageous under intense pressure from the public and their own party. If you were to write a book about Republican House and Senate members in the three years since the Jan. 6 insurrection, you’d have to title it “Profiles in Cowardice.”

Just weeks before the Iowa caucuses, all the members of the GOP House leadership have endorsed former President Donald Trump. That’s the same Trump who sicced a mob on the Capitol, urging his supporters to “fight like hell.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a presidential candidate, was asked Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” why Republican politicians remain loyal to Trump. He replied that it’s “a combination of two emotions: fear and ambition.” 

RELATED STORY: Three years of Trump's lies about the Jan. 6 insurrection have taken their toll

That fear can be understood given the results of a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll published Tuesday. It shows that “Republicans are more sympathetic to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol and more likely to absolve Donald Trump of responsibility for the attack then they were in 2021.” That’s despite the twice-impeached former president facing 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments. The poll found:

More than 7 in 10 Republicans say that too much is being made of the attack and that it is “time to move on.” Fewer than 2 in 10 (18 percent) of Republicans say Jan. 6 protesters were “mostly violent,” dipping from 26 percent in 2021. 

The poll also found that only 14% of Republicans said Trump bears a great or good amount of responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack, compared with 27% in 2021. So it’s no surprise that Trump feels comfortable on the campaign trail where he regularly downplays the violence on Jan. 6. Yet nine deaths were linked to the Capitol attack, and more than 450 people have been sentenced to prison for their roles in it. The Associated Press reports:

Trump has still built a commanding lead in the Republican primary, and his rivals largely refrain from criticizing him about Jan. 6. He has called it “a beautiful day” and described those imprisoned for the insurrection as “great, great patriots” and “hostages.” At some campaign rallies, he has played a recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by jailed rioters — the anthem interspersed with his recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Just Security reported that special counsel Jack Smith has taken notice of “Trump’s repeated embrace of the January 6 rioters” as part of the federal case against him for allegedly plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Trump probably should have stuck to the script he read in a video released on Jan. 7, 2021. Trump was under pressure to make a statement after two Cabinet members and several other top administration officials had resigned over the Capitol violence. Trump denounced what he called the “heinous attack” on the U.S. Capitol and said:

“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem  … America is and must always be a nation of law and order.

"The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay."

pic.twitter.com/csX07ZVWGe

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021

Of course, Trump couldn’t stick to that script. But the Jan. 6 attack prompted some to prematurely declare the death of Trumpism. In an opinion piece in The Hill on  Jan. 7, 2021, Glenn C. Altschuler, professor of American Studies at Cornell University, wrote:

Trumpism has been exposed for what it is: a cancer on the Republican Party and a real threat to democracy in the United States. It is in our power — starting with Republican politicians in Washington, D.C. and red states, the mass media news outlets, as well as voters throughout the country — to make Jan. 6, 2021 the day Trumpism died.

Initially, Republican congressional leaders showed some spine. The New York Times wrote:

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, the two top Republicans in Congress, Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell, told associates they believed President Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics.

Mr. McCarthy went so far as to say he would push Mr. Trump to resign immediately: “I’ve had it with this guy,” he told a group of Republican leaders, according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.

But within weeks both men backed off an all-out fight with Mr. Trump because they feared retribution from him and his political movement. Their drive to act faded fast as it became clear it would mean difficult votes that would put them at odds with most of their colleagues.

Just hours after the Capitol attack, 147 Republican lawmakers—a majority of the House GOP caucus and a handful of Republican senators—voted against certifying Biden’s election. Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the current House speaker, played a leading role in the effort to overturn the presidential election results. In a radio interview he even repeated the debunked claim about an international conspiracy involving deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to hack voting machines. 

On Jan. 13, 2021, the House voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection, but only 10 House Republicans supported the resolution. Only two of them remain in Congress. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy read the writing on the wall: He made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 27 to bend the knee to Trump. He realized that he never would become House speaker without Trump’s support. Trump’s Political Action Committee Save America put out this readout of the meeting:

“They discussed many topics, number one of which was taking back the House in 2022,” the statement read. “President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time.”

The Senate impeachment trial represented a last chance to drive a stake into Trump’s political career because conviction would have kept him from holding office again. Seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump, but the tally fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction.
McConnell voted to acquit Trump. In his Feb. 13 speech to the Senate, he said Trump “is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events” of Jan. 6. He suggested that Trump could still be subject to criminal prosecution: “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.” 
In 2023, McConnell stayed quiet when asked for reaction to Trump's criminal indictments. But McCarthy and other Republicans joined in defending Trump and criticizing prosecutors. On Aug. 14, 2023, after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announced her racketeering and conspiracy indictment against Trump and 18 allies for allegedly trying to overturn the presidential election results in Georgia, McCarthy posted:

Justice should be blind, but Biden has weaponized government against his leading political opponent to interfere in the 2024 election. Now a radical DA in Georgia is following Biden’s lead by attacking President Trump and using it to fundraise her political career. Americans…

— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) August 15, 2023

Trump has now made the outlandish claim that he’s immune from criminal prosecution over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election because he was serving as president at the time. In a brief filed last Saturday to a federal appeals court, Smith warned that Trump’s claims “threaten to undermine democracy.”

The events of Jan. 6 were a warning that Trump and his MAGA cultists really don’t believe in the Constitution. McKay Coppins, who wrote a biography of Mitt Romney, wrote in The Atlantic that the Utah senator wrestled with whether Trump caused the downfall of the GOP, or if it had always been in play:

Was the authoritarian element of the GOP a product of President Trump, or had it always been there, just waiting to be activated by a sufficiently shameless demagogue? And what role had the members of the mainstream establishment—­people like him, the reasonable Republicans—played in allowing the rot on the right to fester?

The feckless Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been a weather vane of what’s been happening within the GOP. During the 2016 campaign, he dismissed Trump as a “kook” and “race-baiting bigot” unfit to be president. Then Graham stuck his head up Trump’s posterior once the reality show host became president. On Jan. 6, 2021, Graham declared he had “enough” of Trump and voted to confirm the election results. But in February 2021, Graham made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to make peace with Trump. Graham’s remarks at the time proved to be quite prescient:

"If he ran, it would be his nomination for the having …" Graham told The Washington Post. "Because he was successful for conservatism and people appreciate his fighting spirit, he's going to dominate the party for years to come.” 

Recently, Graham even defended Trump’s presidential immunity claim on CBS’ “Face the Nation”:

“Now, if you're doing your job as president and January 6th he was still president, trying to find out if the election, you know, was on the up and up. I think his immunity claim, I don't know how it will bear out, but I think it's a legitimate claim. But they're prosecuting him for activity around January 6th, he didn't break into the Capitol, he gave a fiery speech, but he's not the first guy to ever do that.”

After Jan. 6, some ultra-right Republicans tried to portray what happened as a largely peaceful protest and absolve Trump of any blame. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia said many of the people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 behaved in an orderly manner as if they were on a "normal tourist visit." Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar blamed the violence on left-wing activists, calling it an “Antifa provocation.”

But now the fringe conspiracy theories have moved into the party’s mainstream as MAGA Republicans have gained influence in Congress. As speaker, McCarthy granted then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 42,000 hours of Jan. 6 security footage. Carlson used the footage for a show that portrayed the riot as a peaceful gathering. “These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers,” Carlson said.

Trump claimed Carlson’s show offered “irrefutable” evidence that the rioters had been wrongly accused of crimes and called for the release of those jailed on charges related to the attack, the Associated Press reported. In the December Republican presidential debate, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy pushed the conspiracy theory that the Jan. 6 attack looked “like it was an inside job” orchestrated by federal agents.

Trump has pushed these “deep state” conspiracy theories in filings by his lawyers in the case brought by Smith accusing Trump of attempting to overturn the 2020 election results, The Washington Post reported. The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 34% of Republicans believe the FBI organized and encouraged the Jan. 6 insurrection, compared with 30% of independents and 13% of Democrats.

In a CNN Town Hall in May, Trump said he had no regrets about what happened on Jan. 6 and repeated the Big Lie that the 2020 election “was rigged.” Trump has also portrayed Ashli Babbitt—the Jan. 6 protester who was fatally shot by police as she tried to force her way into the House chamber—as a martyr. He has cast the jailed Jan. 6 insurrectionists as “patriotic” heroes. That should raise alarm bells because there’s a dangerous precedent. After his failed 1923 Munich Beer Hall putsch, Adolf Hitler referred to Nazi storm troopers killed in the attempted coup as blood martyrs. It took Hitler a decade to become chancellor of Germany in 1933.

RELATED STORY: 100 years after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Trump is borrowing from Hitler's playbook

As we mark the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump is on a faster track to become president again, aided and abetted by right-wing news outlets and social media platforms like Elon Musk’s X.

Biden understands the growing threat to American democracy. That’s why he’s following up his Friday speech in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, about democracy on the brink with an advertising push starting Jan. 6. In the Biden-Harris campaign’s first ad of 2024, Biden says: “Now something dangerous is happening in America. There’s an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy. All of us are being asked right now, what will we do to maintain our democracy?”

RELATED STORY: Trump attorney leans on Supreme Court to repay their debt to Trump

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McCarthy privately claims he told Trump ‘F**k you’ after McCarthy’s ouster

Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump have a long history of having each other’s backs to the extent that two such soulless, transactional people ever do. But that broke down when Trump didn’t come to McCarthy’s aid as he was on the way to being voted out as speaker of the House, the first speaker ever ousted in that way. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who initiated the motion to vacate the chair, even publicly claimed that Trump supported his move against McCarthy. McCarthy had reason to be frustrated and angry—and The Washington Post reports that McCarthy claims he vented that frustration to Trump directly. (Emphasis on McCarthy claims.)

McCarthy and Trump reportedly had a call weeks after McCarthy’s ouster in which Trump made clear that he had made an active decision not to bail McCarthy out, because he was angry that McCarthy hadn’t gotten Trump’s two impeachments expunged and hadn’t endorsed him yet for the 2024 Republican presidential primary, sources told the Post:

“F--- you,” McCarthy claimed to have then told Trump, when he rehashed the call later to other people in two separate conversations, according to the people. A spokesperson for McCarthy said that he did not swear at the former president and that they have a good relationship. A spokesperson for Trump declined to comment.

It is totally believable that Trump’s ego is so fragile he let McCarthy twist in the wind over impeachments not being expunged and an endorsement that McCarthy did plan to make later. It is less believable—though not entirely unbelievable—that McCarthy said “Fuck you” to Trump, but totally typical that McCarthy was reportedly saying one thing in multiple private conversations and then having a spokesperson deny it.

McCarthy is never the most reliable source on his own interactions with Trump. Everything he says is bound up in his own ambition and reputation management, and his dramatic stories often change. For instance, following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler described a phone call between McCarthy and Trump during the attack in which McCarthy pleaded with Trump to call off the mob, only to be told, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy reportedly yelled at Herrera Beutler for making that public, saying, “You should have come to me! Why did you go to the press? This is no way to thank me!” McCarthy and Herrera Beutler then denied reports that he had yelled at her until she was in tears, but the reporting on that meeting “was verified by a primary source and multiple lawmakers who heard the account firsthand from McCarthy.” McCarthy lied one of those times, in other words.

Former Rep. Liz Cheney also offers another eyebrow-raising McCarthy-Trump story in her new book:

“Mar-a-Lago? What the hell, Kevin?” Cheney asked, per CNN.

“They’re really worried,” he replied, according to her book. “Trump’s not eating, so they asked me to come see him.”

“What? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump’s not eating?” Cheney said.

“Yeah, he’s really depressed,” McCarthy added.

Yes, Donald Trump was depressed and the only thing that could make him feel better was a visit from Kevin McCarthy.

These two deserve each other. They are seething balls of ego and ambition, only caring for what the people around them can do for them. The thing is, Trump is better at it. He’s more shameless, more dangerous. McCarthy is always a little—and sometimes more than a little—pathetic. And these days, as ex-speaker, he’s barely even relevant except as a symbol of his party’s ongoing disgrace.

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Cheney’s new book is a devastating indictment of Republican efforts to overturn 2020

In her new book, former Rep. Liz Cheney unloads on her former colleagues in the Republican Party, and to no one's surprise, her disgust is seething and deep.

"Oath and Honor," which was obtained by CNN, serves as an overarching indictment of the many Republicans Cheney deems most responsible for gifting the GOP to the twice-impeached, four-time criminally indicted Donald Trump, whom she calls “the most dangerous man ever to inhabit the Oval Office.”

“As a nation, we can endure damaging policies for a four-year term. But we cannot survive a president willing to terminate our Constitution," writes Cheney, who served as the number three House Republican before being ousted from leadership over her vote to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol.

According to the book, then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Cheney following the 2020 election that Trump knew he had lost. “He knows it’s over,” McCarthy reportedly said at the time. “He needs to go through all the stages of grief.”

Yet that same day, Cheney reveals, McCarthy fanned the election-denial flames on Fox News, telling viewers, "President Trump won this election."

Cheney writes, "McCarthy knew that what he was saying was not true.” So much for virtue.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a pro-Trump MAGA stalwart, derided the legal avenues for challenging the election results, saying, “The only thing that matters is winning,” according to Cheney. So much for honor.

Cheney also shredded Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana in the book, which she finished writing before he was elevated to speaker. Johnson, she said, pressured his Republican colleagues to sign on to an amicus brief supporting his legal challenge to 2020 results.

“When I confronted him with the flaws in his legal arguments," Cheney writes, "Johnson would often concede, or say something to the effect of, ‘We just need to do this one last thing for Trump.'" So much for the rule of law.

Fast-forward to Nov. 29, 2023, and Johnson contrasting Republicans' ham-handed effort to impeach President Joe Biden with what he framed as Democrats' "brazenly political" impeachment of Trump for springing a violent coup attempt on the U.S. Capitol.

"What you are seeing here is exactly the opposite. We are the rule-of-law team—the Republican Party stands for the rule of law," Johnson told reporters Wednesday, touting his work to defend Trump against Democrats’ "meritless" impeachment proceedings.

Speaker Mike Johnson claims that both of Donald Trump's impeachments were “brazenly political” and “meritless,” but says the GOP's efforts to impeach Joe Biden are “just the opposite” because “the Republican Party stands for the rule of law.” pic.twitter.com/vqpjqbPnbk

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) November 29, 2023

Just a quick trip to Republicans' present day house-of-mirrors routine as the majority party in the House. Now, back to the book.

Perhaps the most chilling part of CNN's write-up was Cheney's recollection of House Republicans' methodical efforts to reject the will of the people in 2020. Here’s CNN:

On Jan. 6, before the attack on the Capitol, Cheney describes a scene in the GOP cloakroom, where members were encouraged to sign their names on electoral vote objection sheets, lined up on a table, one for each of the states Republicans were contesting. Cheney writes most members knew “it was a farce” and “another public display of fealty to Donald Trump.”

“Among them was Republican Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee,” Cheney writes. “As he moved down the line, signing his name to the pieces of paper, Green said sheepishly to no one in particular, ‘The things we do for the Orange Jesus.’”

So much for fealty to the Constitution.

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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.

Romney prepares for post-Senate career by showing he was no hero

On Wednesday, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah announced that he would not be running for reelection to the Senate in 2024. Well-known bus owner and patriarch of his own micro-state, Romney is now garnering praise for his willingness to bring down the “demagogue” axe on Donald Trump as he heads for the door.

In an Atlantic excerpt from an upcoming biography, released following Romney’s declaration of no mas, there is a story that takes place in the days just before Jan. 6, 2021. Romney was contacted by independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who had a warning about “online chatter among right-wing extremists.” King was mostly giving Romney a heads-up because Romney’s lack of vocal support for Trump had placed him closer to the Nancy Pelosi/Mike Pence threat territory than to the Jim Jordan/Matt Gaetz safe zone. Romney’s name was “popping up in some frightening corners of the internet,” according to McKay Coppins, who authored the biography.

So Romney wrote a note to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, warning him that there could be violence on Jan. 6, that Trump was the instigator, and that there were plans to storm the Capitol. McConnell did not reply. And when it came down to it, Romney did nothing else.

Here’s the text that Romney reportedly sent to McConnell on Jan. 2, 2021.

“In case you have not heard this, I just got a call from Angus King, who said that he had spoken with a senior official at the Pentagon who reports that they are seeing very disturbing social media traffic regarding the protests planned on the 6th. There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol. I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator—the President—is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.”

Romney gets full marks both for outlining the scope of the threat and for predicting, accurately, that Trump would both encourage the insurgents and fail to provide resources to the police.

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But no one is a hero in this story. McConnell never responds to Romney and, as far as we are aware, never makes a move to ensure that additional security is in place. It also doesn’t seem that McConnell took any of these concerns to Trump or brought this information to others who were endangered by the violence Trump was summoning.

Romney doesn’t appear to have done anything more. He didn’t confront Trump. He didn’t step in front of a camera to give a warning. He kept what knowledge he had to himself and—very notably—doesn’t seem to have provided the text he sent McConnell to either the Jan. 6 investigation committee or the representatives conducting Trump’s second impeachment trial.

It’s also worth noting that King doesn’t seem to have taken action beyond warning Romney. That’s in spite of telling Romney that he had heard rumors about “gun smuggling, of bombs and arson, of targeting the traitors in Congress.” Maybe King called others. If so, those others have not spoken out. He certainly didn’t make any kind of public statement, and he also doesn’t seem to have taken this information to investigators, because his communications with Romney were unrevealed until the fragment of the biography was published.

Likewise, King’s Pentagon sources appear to have been content to sit on their discovery of plots to assault the Capitol and threaten the lives of lawmakers. Those sources may have a better following-the-chain-of-command excuse than either McConnell, Romney, or King. But if they were content to merely report a coming insurrection among Trump supporters to Trump, that excuse isn’t a good one.

There aren’t any heroes in this story. There are just a lot of Washington insiders who knew the storm was coming but whose concerns seemed to be limited to whispering about these threats among themselves. When the chips were down, Romney had a chance to go public with his concerns, to warn the nation of what was about to happen and express his disdain for Trump’s role in instigating violence. He didn’t do that.

So don’t hand him any accolades now.

What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

Missouri town to host Loser-palooza for Jan. 6 rioters, and not everyone is happy about it

What is it with America and its penchant for celebrating failed, deadly insurrections launched in the name of white supremacy? We had that whole Civil War business in the mid-1800s, and that probably should have settled the issue once and for all. But we let Confederacy-humpers hang around like a bad bathroom chandelier, and so on Jan. 6, 2021, they tried again.

And now they’re so enamored with their bumblin’ coup, they’re holding events to honor the perpetrators. Because nothing says “I’m sorry” like a $9 Costco sheet cake that actually says, “Nice Try, Traitor—Better Luck Next Time!”

The town of Rogersville, Missouri, will host a Loser-palooza this weekend for a passel of peeps the organizers are oddly referring to as the “J6 community.” And not everyone is happy about it.

RELATED STORY: Music to Trump's ears: Whitewashing Jan. 6 riot with song

Called the J6 Truth and Light Freedom Festival, the event runs Friday through Sunday in Rogersville and is supposed to feature numerous speakers, live and via Zoom. Some are facing multiple felony charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack and one recently was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

“An amazing weekend of love and support for our J6 community!” says a flyer being circulated about the event. “Bring your RV, tent, lawn chairs and the whole family for this annual gathering of the Jan6 community!”

Nice to know J6 rioters are a “community” now. Of course, it makes perfect sense. Bashing in cops’ heads with flagpoles is hard work, and everyone needs to pitch in. You know, like when Amish towns all get together to raise one lazy fuck’s barn that he can’t be bothered to raise himself.

But those who monitor extremist groups say the festival raises concerns about the potential for future violence.

“These events are really important to watch,” said Chuck Tanner, research director at the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which has tracked extremist activity for decades. “You see at them the contours of a movement stretching from the halls of government to far-right publications and groups — and a movement that continues to frame January 6 insurrectionists as martyrs and build out a framework for another far right, nationalist insurrection.”

Good point. After all, OG insurrectionist Jefferson Beavis Trump is still at large, and we’ve even heard rumors that he’s running for president. Which is almost too outlandish to believe given that he literally tried to end American democracy, but I swear I read that somewhere.

Sadly, conservatives have been doing their best to normalize the events of Jan. 6, 2021, pretty much since the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, when Fox News, et al., openly speculated that the riot had actually been launched by liberal agitators who had inexplicably decided to disrupt the election of the guy they’d voted for and desperately hoped would win. And when the Senate voted to acquit Trump during his second impeachment—and Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Kevin McCarthy decided once again to find succor at Donald John Trump’s oleaginous, heaving bosom—Insurrection 2.0 was officially underway.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted on the second anniversary of Jan. 6, the danger Trump and his followers posed to our democracy on that fateful day has arguably grown.

We have also learned that white supremacy and hard-right extremism have been normalized and mainstreamed to a dangerous degree. White supremacist groups played a lead role in organizing, coordinating and executing the deadly Capitol attack and in other efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. SPLC Intelligence Project experts submitted testimony to the [House Jan. 6] committee on how extremist groups and individuals – like the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and white nationalist Nick Fuentes – have infused once-marginalized, white supremacist ideas into mainstream Republican discourse and politics with the goal of maintaining a grip on power and silencing communities of color.

The threat of political violence substantially increased in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack. According to a June 2022 poll jointly conducted by the SPLC and Tulchin Research, the mainstreaming of hate and antigovernment thought, and the willingness to engage in political violence, are now widely accepted on the right.

According to promotional materials distributed by the organizers, the festival is “a closed event only for J6’ers and their families.” Which is odd, considering how proud they appear to be about their gaffe riot. 

Nicole Reffitt, one of the scheduled speakers, said in a video posted by Sedition Hunters that the event would be “mostly peaceful.” She appeared to be “joking,” but then these are the same people who support the guy who wants you to believe the rioters were hugging and kissing the Capitol Police.

Apparently the event celebrating the violence at the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021 in Rogersville, MO sponsored by @godfatherspizza will be "mostly peaceful" hope @FBIKansasCity is keeping an eye on things https://t.co/uNFn6qTik6

— TheRealJ6 (@SeditionHunters) June 28, 2023

Meanwhile, members of the non-white-nationalist-insurrection community remain alarmed over the troubling lack of political consensus that attempting to overthrow your own democracy is a bad thing. The Star spoke with Don Haider-Markel, a University of Kansas political science professor and an expert on extremism, who remarked that the festival had a “pretty narrow appeal” but was nevertheless emblematic of a bigger—and festering—problem. 

“But I definitely think it’s further evidence of the sort of radicalization of the far right,” he noted. “It allows participants to essentially publicly express their identity. That not only reinforces those identities, but it also can tend to radicalize people further.”

Of course, you’ll hardly be surprised that the lineup of event speakers is worthy of a TED Nugent Talk. Scheduled to appear are Oath Keepers founder and convicted seditionist Stewart Rhodes; Micki Witthoeft, the mother of insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt, whom Donald Trump indirectly killed; and George Tanios, a rioter who was charged with providing another insurrectionist with the pepper spray that was used on three Capitol officers, including Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the insurrection. Tanios later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, but his participation in this event suggests he’s not into the whole remorse thing.

“They’re trying to create the historical view that these people did the right thing, that they were the patriots that stood up to the government corruption, that they were there to save our Constitution,” Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst for domestic terrorism with the Department of Homeland Security, told the Star. “These people believe that God’s on their side, and they are these righteous truth-holders that are protecting our country. That’s why they’re calling it the Truth and Light Rally. Light means you’re enlightened, and the other people aren’t. And celebrating these people that participated in the riot by calling them patriots is keeping that fervor alive for the 2024 election.”

RELATED STORY: Five singers from Trump's pro-J6 tune have been identified. They're not 'very fine people'

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.   

Trump’s big mouth is finally getting him in (legal) trouble

Donald Trump's charmed stretch defying legal gravity in spite of his penchant for self-incrimination finally came to an end last month, when he sunk himself in the E. Jean Carroll rape case deposition.

He claimed he had never seen Carroll before in his life and even if he had, she most certainly wasn't his type. Those twin defenses were hilariously blown apart when he was shown a picture of himself interacting with Carroll—and mistook her for his ex-wife Marla Maples.

Ultimately, the jury found Trump had sexually abused and defamed Carroll and awarded her $5 million.

Although the case was civil, not criminal, it marked the beginning of the end of Trump's luck evading the law. During his tenure at the White House, Trump successfully used his chief bulldog at the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr, to run interference on pesky inquiries ranging from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to the impeachment probe of Trump's efforts to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, not to mention Carroll’s rape case.

But without his White House shield, Trump's publicly incessant blathering, blustering, and bullying is poised to cost him dearly.

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In special counsel Jack Smith's federal probe of Trump's classified document scandal, the emergence of a 2021 recording revealing that Trump clearly knew he had classified information and was contemplating sharing it has provided prosecutors with a rare legal gem: proof of Trump's state of mind.

"The import of the new Trump audio is not that it eviscerates his defense that he declassified everything,” tweeted Justice Department veteran Andrew Weissmann, who served as a prosecutor during the Mueller special counsel investigation. “That was never a legal defense (nor factually plausible). The import is that he is caught lying to the public to gain support when he’s indicted."

Weissmann added that such a recording would be an "admission” that Trump "intentionally and knowingly" possessed a classified document, which is a crime if the document actually exists and Trump wasn't simply bragging to people about a document that didn’t exist.

Given the damning nature of that recording, Weissmann predicted an indictment is "days, not months" away. But either way, he firmly believes it's a matter of when, not if.

As if that weren't enough, now there appears to be a mad hunt for the document in question, which no one seems able to locate. Its apparent disappearance raises the specter that Trump might have followed through on his stated desire (in the recording) to share the classified information. Good thing Trump’s blathering gave the game away!

This week also brought news that the Georgia election fraud probe—built around Trump's recorded demand that the Republican secretary of state "find" the votes to beat Joe Biden—is reportedly expanding into examining Trump's activities in other states and the District of Columbia.

The Washington Post calls the news a "fresh sign" that Fulton County prosecutors and District Attorney Fani Willis could be building an expansive racketeering case against Trump.

[Georgia’s] RICO statute is among the most expansive in the nation, allowing prosecutors to build racketeering cases around violations of both state and federal laws — and even activities in other states. If Willis does allege a multistate racketeering scheme with Trump at its center, the case could test the bounds of the controversial law and make history in the process.

Trump is already facing more than 30 criminal counts of falsifying business records in the hush-money-scheme case brought by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg.

And Smith's probe of Trump's role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection is ongoing. Fortunately, there's no shortage of taped material there either, including Trump's post-insurrection assertion that he didn't want to admit the election was over.

“I don’t want to say the election’s over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election’s over, okay?” Trump insisted on Jan. 7, 2021, while filming outtakes for a video intended to help calm a roiled nation.

Trump remains the undeniable frontrunner for the Republican nomination. The initial Bragg indictment arguably gave him a small bump with Republican voters, but a gusher of criminal scandals awaits him in the coming months—or days, depending on who you ask.

We have Rural Organizing’s Aftyn Behn. Markos and Aftyn talk about what has been happening in rural communities across the country and progressives’ efforts to engage those voters. Behn also gives the podcast a breakdown of which issues will make the difference in the coming elections.

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Grand jury hears how Trump tried to seize voting machines despite being told he lacked authority

The federal grand jury seated by special counsel Jack Smith has reportedly heard additional testimony from former Homeland Security officials about Donald Trump’s efforts to seize voting machines following the 2020 election. CNN reports that both former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and former Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli testified that Trump went ahead with plans to seize the machines even though they repeatedly told him that he did not have this authority.

A report in January revealed that Trump had drafted at least two versions of an executive order in December 2021, directing the military to seize voting machines after discussions with convicted former national security advisor Michael Flynn and retired Col. Phil Waldron. Waldron was also the author of an extensive presentation in which he claimed that the voting machines had been tampered with by foreign governments. He urged Trump to declare a national emergency and use U.S. marshals and National Guard troops to manage a “secure” election. Trump and Waldron reportedly had multiple meetings with Trump and took his “how to overthrow democracy” slideshow around Washington, where it was played for Republican members of Congress, who were eager to participate.

The latest testimony apparently focused on Wolf and Cuccinelli telling the jury that Trump continued in these efforts even though they told him repeatedly he did not have the authority to seize the machines. Additional testimony on the subject came from former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, but this was reportedly given to investigators in a closed-door meeting, not to the jury.

All of this testimony shows that Smith’s investigation is focusing heavily on Trump’s efforts to overturn the election that extended beyond the specific scheme on Jan. 6.

As CBS notes, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Trump could not shield former staff members from testifying before the grand jury under claims of executive privilege. That ruling is likely to mean that Cuccinelli, Wolf, and O’Brien will spend more time with the grand jury. It will also mean that Mark Meadows and others who have previously avoided such testimony are likely out of options.

Much of this testimony appears to be new information not heard in either Trump’s impeachment trial or previous investigations.

The House Select Committee did have one of the drafts of Trump’s executive order, one that ordered the Department of Defense to take charge of the voting machines. That order contained a vast collection of improbable and unsupportable claims, including that the voting machines had been altered by “a massive cyber-attack by foreign interests,” that the machines “intentionally generated high number of errors,” and that voter databases could not be trusted because they had been “hacked by Iran.” It also leans heavily on a “forensic analysis,” which actually confused counties in Michigan and Minnesota. The order ended by instructing officials to take seven steps, starting with:

“Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records...”

That the jury is hearing this testimony means that Smith is interpreting his writ beyond the narrow confines of just how Trump’s actions contributed to violence on Jan. 6 but all the ways that Trump sought to undermine the election. It’s also unlikely that the jury would be hearing this testimony unless Smith thought there was a good possibility that it would support criminal charges.

Now that the appeals court has removed another layer of doubt around whether or not Trump could halt some testimony—no, he can’t—Cipollone and O’Brien are also likely to be asked about an infamous Oval Office meeting in mid-December. That was the “rancorous meeting” at which Trump, Flynn, attorney Sidney Powell, and others launched so deeply into sedition that even Mark Meadows reportedly turned away. Cipollone and O’Brien were reportedly first-hand witnesses to that event.

Between Waldron’s military coup presentation, attorney John Eastman’s plan for declaring Trump the winner on Jan. 6, the Jeffrey Clark plan to replace the attorney general and declare the vote invalid in several states, the scheme laid out for Pence to simply ignore the vote in seven states, and straight out calls for violence and threats on Jan. 6, Trump tested the waters on just about every illegal option he could use to make himself dictator. Smith has plenty to look at. 

All that came after every possible legal remedy, including requests for recounts, were rejected, and it’s not even considering the efforts Trump made in deliberately leaning on local officials in Georgia.

If a federal grand jury is hearing testimony, it’s because Jack Smith thinks they need to hear it. They’re likely to hear a lot more.

Pulling back from the ‘appalling descent’: An interview with Jan. 6 investigator Jamie Raskin

Jan. 6, 2021, was madness. Without a proper account of that day, the stain of its violence and betrayal, already indelibly etched into the national history, could continue to spread, shading and infiltrating every institution low and high until finally, this ‘great experiment’ collapses in on itself in a heap of dingy authoritarianism. 

For the last several weeks, the Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol presented its findings on the insurrection incited by former President Donald Trump now more than a year ago.

He is the only American president ever impeached for this betrayal, making him uniquely offensive since his actions obliterated the core of what the Constitution demands of presidents above all else when they take the oath: its faithful preservation and defense.

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So much of what happened on the way to Jan. 6 unfolded in public. 

Trump said long before Election Day if he lost, it was because the election was rigged. Many of his personal attorneys and members of his administration spent weeks promoting or defending wild conspiracy theories of voter fraud at press conferences, on podcasts, on the radio, or on television. This continued unabated even after the nation’s Attorney General and heads of the nation’s intelligence networks confirmed to Trump in public—and in private, as the committee showed at length this summer—that his fraud claims lacked credibility entirely. 

It was an all-out assault of disinformation and propaganda aimed at convincing the American public he was not defeated after a single term in the White House where his tenure and popularity were regularly marred by the cruelty of his policies and the consequences of his own actions, like impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Trump’s speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 was a tirade but it was also an open invitation to his most devoted followers to help him retain power by force despite losing the 2020 election popularly and by way of the Electoral College. And when the debris, blood, sweat, urine, and feces were finally cleared away from the Capitol after the mob stormed it, Trump’s second impeachment followed.

The case was, as Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told Daily Kos during an interview this week, “made almost completely with facts from the public record, and the statements and actions Trump made.”

“It was overwhelming,” Raskin said. “Although the incitement was plain to see and the violence was bloody and fresh on people’s minds, what we did not have was the detailed account of the president’s step-by-step effort to orchestrate a political coup against the election and essentially set aside Joe Biden’s seven-million-vote victory.” 

Kevin Seefried of Delaware, pictured here, was found guilty of obstruction of Congress among several other charges in June. He used the Confederate flag to jab at U.S. Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman. Goodman was the officer responsible for luring rioters away from lawmakers by mere seconds and inches. Seefried is sentenced in September.

Now, that “detailed account” has been presented to millions of Americans.

An average of 13 million broadcast viewers watched per hearing day, according to Nielsen, hearing evidence at each juncture about how Trump: 1) worked to overturn the election results by promoting a lie; 2) attempted to install his allies at the Justice Department when legal avenues to assert his victory were defeated; 3) advanced a fake elector strategy to pressure the vice president to stop Congress from certifying the count; 4) invited a crowd he understood to be armed to march to the Capitol with him during the Joint Session of Congress; and 5) abandoned his sworn duty to protect the United States by sitting idly for nearly three hours while ignoring pleas for help as a mob erected a gallows, issued calls to hang the vice president and Speaker of the House, stormed the halls of Congress and attacked hundreds of outnumbered police officers with a barrage of lethal weapons. 

During its two primetime sessions alone, a cumulative 30 million (or more) broadcast viewers heard this evidence—and then some.

Raskin told Daily Kos in April he hoped the hearings would become a way of arming the American public with the tools of “intellectual self-defense against the authoritarian and fascistic policies that have been unleashed in this country.”

”These hearings have been so devastating for Trump and his followers because they have shown everyone exactly every effort he undertook to overturn the election and the Constitutional order. And almost all of it was based on evidence brought forth by Republican witnesses,” Raskin said by phone this week.

That is true, despite what disinformation may be flowing out from right-wing platforms. 

The testimony during the hearings overwhelmingly featured Republican lawyers, judges, political commentators, election attorneys, Trump-appointed U.S. Attorneys, a Republican city commissioner, and a Trump campaign manager, to name but a few. 

”I think [the hearings] have moved the whole spectrum of public opinion closer to the facts of what actually happened. These people who were already convinced of Donald Trump’s culpability now have a lot more evidence to corroborate their initial convictions,” Raskin reflected.

“Those who were on the fence have been moved to reject the ‘Big Lie’ and to doubt the continuing efforts to undermine the reality of Biden’s victory. Those who were in Trump’s camp as true believers have begun to melt away at the margins even though many of them are still holding firm. It does not look like a promising scenario for those who continue to want Donald Trump to be the central figure of American politics,” he said.

A Morning Consult/Politico poll released this week found that the hearings may not have shaken loose many of Trump’s most fundamental supporters, but the share of unaffiliated or independent voters in the U.S. that believe the former president is responsible for the insurrection has increased significantly. And almost more importantly, those independents who held “favorable views” of Trump have continued to dip, too. Many independents are indicating they will vote for a Democrat in November.

If the Justice Department will not make it so that Trump is unable to hold office, at the least, this should be a small comfort: the hearings have manifested an even greater number of Americans who believe there is good reason to vote against a person, or persons, who would incite a deadly insurrection. 

Raskin would like to see the Justice Department take action publicly and more definitively before the midterms. He also knows that the timing of that announcement could draw ire, and that screeches of political impropiety are likely to come.  

“But the Constitution itself regards this matter with the utmost gravity,” Raskin said. “Section III of the 14th Amendment said that people who have sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and betray it by engaging in an insurrection shall never hold federal or state office again. That is a constitutional principle.”

He continued: “It’s obviously a legitimate thing for us to be talking about. But the Department of Justice and prosecutors at other levels have to make their decisions without regard to anyone’s political plans. If people had immunity from prosecution just because they were running for office, then anybody who was suspected of a crime, any crime at all, could simply announce for political office, and then they would have legal immunity. That can’t be right,” he said.”

The committee’s debut session was a year ago this month. Police who defended the Capitol testified for the first time publicly and put a personal face on the raw, frenzied violence that most Americans only witnessed from afar.  

As the months have marched on, the committee has unearthed hundreds of thousands of pages of records from the White House and elsewhere and has interviewed over 1,000 people who were directly or indirectly involved with Jan. 6. Those interviews continue. Raskin said this week the number of former Trump aides who have come forward recently are producing a “waterfall of truth.”

Attempts to stop the committee from airing its evidence have been unceasing, yet mostly unsuccessful. Those caught in the committee’s scrutiny have been unable to cast the panel as illegitimate when fighting subpoenas in court.

The committee’s work has been overwhelmingly bolstered through judicial opinions, providing an outcome that offers benefits twice over. When Judge David Carter ruled that Trump and John Eastman, the attorney who developed a six-point strategy to overturn the election, had likely engaged in a criminal conspiracy—and further that they “engaged in a coup in search of legal theory”—it set a strong precedent for Congress and upped the ante for investigations at the Justice Department. 

Carter Ruling by The Western Journal

In fact, this week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom revealed in court that the Department obtained a new search warrant to access records on John Eastman’s phone. This process has been unfolding for the last month. The home of Jeffrey Clark was also searched. Clark is the former DOJ attorney who Trump tried to install as attorney general after existing senior officials at the department refused his scheme to declare the election as false. And Clark’s underling, Ken Klukowski, is now cooperating with the DOJ’s probe into Jan. 6 in full, according to Klukowski’s lawyer, Ed Greim.  

Cassidy Hutchinson, who provided some of the most shocking public testimony this summer is cooperating with the department. During the hearings, she testified under oath that Trump knew the mob was armed—“I don’t fucking care that they have weapons, they’re not here to hurt me,’” she recalled him saying—and she disclosed that her boss, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, sought pardons in the aftermath of the insurrection. She also disclosed information about a small battery of Republican lawmakers who sought pardons in the wake of Jan. 6.

She also divulged how the president wished to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 after his speech, offering insight into his mindset that day. When this request was rejected, his outrage was so severe, Hutchinson said, that the former president lunged at the arm and neck of a Secret Service agent driving him.

Other witnesses have refused to cooperate under subpoena, courting contempt of Congress charges and indictments like Trump ally and strategist Steve Bannon and former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. Bannon was found guilty on two counts and faces sentencing in October. Others, like Meadows or onetime adviser Dan Scavino, have cooperated to varying degrees and managed to evade prosecution. Other Trump-world officials have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights after being subpoenaed. Committee vice chair Liz Cheney said last month, more than 30 witnesses called before the committee invoked their right against self-incrimination. 

The most high profile of those figures are Eastman; Clark; longtime GOP operative Roger Stone; conspiracy theory hack and right-wing podcaster Alex Jones; and Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser.

In December 2020, Flynn publicly advocated for Trump to invoke martial law to rerun the 2020 election. He was also part of discussions with Trump and his attorneys where there was talk of the military seizing voting machines. He did not ultimately cooperate with the select committee, but in airing a five-minute clip of Flynn’s deposition, the committee allowed his silence to speak volumes.

When Cheney asked Flynn if he felt the violence on Jan. 6 was legally justified, he pleaded the Fifth. When she asked if he believed it was morally justified, he pleaded the Fifth. When she asked him if he believed in the peaceful transition of power in the United States, the retired three-star Army general pleaded the Fifth. 

A Capitol Police officer walks past a worker cleaning damage a day after a pro-Trump mob broke into the US Capitol.

With each day that has passed since the committee’s first-ever hearing last July, the truth continues to pour out. 

”The defense of the constitutional order and the rule of law should be something that unifies Americans across the political spectrum,” Raskin said. “Trump convinced millions of people that if your team does it, if they break the law or upend the Constitutional order, you embrace it or defend it regardless of how unlawful or criminal it is.”

“But that’s just an appalling descent for intellectual and ethical standards in American life,” Raskin said.

“When the people [who believed the Big Lie] called for ‘Justice for Trump’ they said ‘let the people decide.’ The people voted for Biden. But Trump tried to overthrow the election, so he was impeached for doing that. And we took it to trial, and at trial, they told us then, ‘don’t deal with this through impeachment, you could prosecute him if there was a crime.’ “

“Now the Department of Justice is investigating whether there is a crime, and these same people are saying, ‘you can’t prosecute him, it’s too political!’ No matter what is done, they essentially assert that Donald Trump is beyond the reach of the law and that is a profoundly anti-democratic attitude,” he said. 

One of the last battles to be waged between Trump and the truth about January 6 will very likely play out on the field of executive privilege disputes and crime-fraud exceptions where the Department of Justice, not the select committee, will lead the charge of a criminal investigation into the former president and his associates.

The Justice Department is moving at its own pace and operating mostly in stealth, but the dam seems to be breaking as more reporting now suggests the DOJ has its Jan. 6 prosecutors focused on two principal tracks: Trump’s possible orchestration of a seditious conspiracy and obstruction of a congressional proceeding and fraud.

The fraud track would stem from the fake-elector scheme and is believed to encompass the pressure campaign Trump and his allies put on officials at the DOJ to say the election was rigged and votes were fraudulently cast. 

The committee’s investigation, meanwhile, is still humming as members maneuver their way through new challenges—like what to do about a batch of deleted Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 as well as deleted texts from the same period at the Department of Homeland Security. 

That department’s inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, the Washington Post was first to report on Friday, “scrapped” an effort to recover agency phones. In February, after learning that messages had been erased during a “planned” device reset, Cuffari reportedly decided to stop further review and collection of phones. He only this month notified the House and Senate Homeland Security committees of the “erased” texts. He was asked by the head of that committee, and various others 10 days after the insurrection to ensure all records and devices were preserved. 

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson, as well as Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who sits on a committee that oversees offices of the inspectors general, have called on Cuffari to recuse himself from the investigation. The director of the Secret Service, James Murray, announced late Friday he would waylay his planned July 31 retirement to “ensure our agency's continued cooperation, responsiveness, and full support with respect to ongoing congressional and other inquiries.” 

This is an unsettling series of developments, Raskin admits.

“This profound mystery of the Secret Service texts and what information is being masked by their disappearance is something we are all pursuing. We are invested in finding out the truth there,” he said.

The next hearing is expected in September and the committee plans to produce an interim report around the same time. A final report will follow, but meanwhile, over the next month, he said, “everyone has loose ends that they want to follow up on.”

During the course of its probe, every member of the committee has specialized in a different facet of the investigation.

Raskin’s focus was Trump’s mobilization of the mob as well as domestic violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers. and Three Percenters. 

“There are still significant things that we are finding out that I want to pursue there,” Raskin said. “The same goes for the shakedown of the Justice Department, the attempt to coerce state election officials, and so forth. I would say each member has his or her continuing research agenda and then we have some things we consider major to the whole of the investigation we are pursuing.” 

It has been a long year already and it is not quite yet over. As for the man at the center of the probe, former President Trump, he has yet to stop his incessant spread of disinformation about the 2020 election and is poised to take another run for the White House. 

But Raskin is optimistic. 

“I’m most optimistic about the fact that the vast majority of the American people do not believe in coups, insurrections, and political violence to usurp the will of the people. There is still a profound allegiance to constitutional democracy in the country,” he said.

He is not cynical, but “sobered” around other facts.

What “sobers him,” he said, is that Republican Party, even now “remains under the spell and stranglehold of Donald Trump.” 

He continued: “They are using every anti-democratic device in the book to thwart majority rule; from voter suppression statutes to gerrymandering of our districts to the weaponization of the filibuster to the manipulation of the Electoral College.”

“We are in a race between the clear majority’s will and preference for democratic institutions and progress and the efforts to drag us back into some kind of anti-democratic past,” Raskin remarked. 

So, then, are the people now armed with the tools of “intellectual defense” they need to resist this and other aspiring tyrants to come? 

“I don't think people will fall for any more ‘Big Lies’ or disinformation for the most part,” he said.

The lawmaker reflected: “People who have been disabused of all these notions aren’t going back. But there is an important question being tested here: whether the new propaganda systems that have grown up in the internet age can actually operate like an intellectual straight-jacket? Will millions of people really be locked into a system of lies? That’s a question that is closely connected to the future of our democracy. Democracy needs a ground to stand on, and that foundation has got to be the truth.”

Cases containing electoral votes are opened during a joint session of Congress after the session resumed following protests at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, early on January 7, 2021.

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