Quite Dangerous People

Okay. Last Sunday it was this:

Federal and local authorities across the country pressed their hunt this weekend for the members of the angry mob that stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday, as Washington’s mayor issued an urgent appeal to start preparing immediately for more potential violence before, during and after the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Following one of the most stunning security lapses in the city’s history, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser sent a firmly worded letter on Saturday to the Department of Homeland Security, asking officials to move up to Monday the implementation of heightened security measures that are otherwise set to begin on Jan. 19, just one day before Mr. Biden’s swearing-in.

Those people will be back. They couldn’t stop Congress from recording the certified Electoral College votes of all fifty states – Biden had won – but if enough of these people showed up to storm the inauguration then they could stop the inauguration and thus Biden wouldn’t be inaugurated and Trump would be president kind of by default. That seems to be the plan. The idea was to stop these people, to round them up and lock them up, and to lock down the Capitol, and the immediate problem was this:

Security experts warned this weekend that some far-right extremist groups have now started to focus attention on Inauguration Day and are already discussing an assault similar to the one on the Capitol, which led to the sacking of congressional offices and the deaths of at least five people, including a Capitol Police officer.

As of Sunday, nearly 400 people had joined a private group online dedicated to what is being billed as the “Million Militia March,” an event scheduled to take place in Washington on Jan. 20. On Parler, a social media site popular on the far right that is in danger of being taken offline because of rampant talk of violence, commenters were debating what tools they should bring to the march, mentioning everything from baseball bats to body armor to assault rifles.

“We took the building once,” one person posted. “We can take it again.”

Maybe it was time to take them seriously:

While most of the chatter online appears to be directed toward Inauguration Day, some on the right have argued that pro-Trump activists should instead gather once again on Capitol Hill and hold other rallies in cities outside Washington on Jan. 17. Over the weekend, fliers began to circulate on Parler and in private groups on the chatting services WhatsApp and Signal, calling for an “Armed march on Capitol Hill and all state capitols” at noon that day.

“I’d like to come to this, but want to know, does our president want us there?” asked one person on the social media site Gab. “Awaiting instructions.”

Forget that. Trump had been banned from Twitter. How could he send his cryptic instructions now? And then Parler went down. No one would host that site where everyone planned how to meet up and go beat Nancy Pelosi to death and that sort of thing. There were liabilities, but Parler just came back up – it’s new hosting service also hosts the Daily Stormer, the proud-skinhead American Nazi site. But it was too late. This second Sunday brought no Million Militia March:

The troops were in formation. The residents were told to stay home. The heart of Washington was a fortress of fences, concrete barriers and security checkpoints. But on Sunday, the planned and promoted “armed march” on the nation’s capital never materialized.

There were no gathered crowds, large or small, and authorities reported just one arrest of an armed man carrying a handgun and ammunition near barricades surrounding the Capitol building just after midnight.

Here, the Local section of the Washington Post reports that the locals were relieved, but that wasn’t enough:

The quiet Sunday brought little relief to a city on edge from an attack on the Capitol. Each day leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden comes with fear of additional violence and ever more security.

“It’s as if we are all being held hostage to people who want to bring a lot of chaos to America,” said Charlyce Wilson, a 62-year-old Washingtonian who has been to nearly every inauguration since she was 11. On Sunday, she was boarding a train at Union Station that would take her to Florida for the week, where she knew she’d feel safer as a Black woman.

But nothing happened:

Washington has been a city split in two. Its center, once pulsing with visitors for inaugurations past, has become an armed encampment, surrounded by the 10,000 National Guardsmen already in the District. Outside of those barriers are the hundreds of thousands of residents who have weathered a pandemic, a summer of protests and now, the consequences of law enforcement officials’ efforts to ensure there isn’t another national security failure.

Those officials had been bracing for a chaotic Sunday since right-wing forums began urging instigators to bring their firearms to every state capitol in the country on Jan. 17. Extremist organizations including the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers and Boogaloo indicated plans to come to the District.

But after the attack on the Capitol, and the pouring in of military personnel in the days that followed, the online chatter turned to warnings that the District was a “trap.” The organizer of a “Million Militia March” and the leader of the Proud Boys urged followers to stay away.

They’re patriots. The federal government, with all its troops, is out to kill all patriots and has them outnumbered, so far, so wait until the odds are better, or not:

Federal and local law enforcement across the country vowed to remain vigilant, understanding that all too often, it only takes one dangerous person for violence to begin. Their shows of force seem to have convinced protesters to stay away from most state capitals as of Sunday afternoon.

Nothing really happened anywhere but it only takes one dangerous person to change everything. The Associated Press reports that the military knows this:

Defense officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event…

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press on Sunday that officials are conscious of the potential threat, and he warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches. So far, however, he and other leaders say they have seen no evidence of any threats, and officials said the vetting hadn’t flagged any issues that they were aware of.

“We are continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy said in an interview after he and other military leaders went through an exhaustive, three-hour security drill in preparation for Wednesday’s inauguration. He said Guard members are also getting training on how to identify potential insider threats.

That would be the guy next to you who mutters that maybe it is time to kill every senator and congressman and congresswoman and install Donald Trump as President for Life and shoot anyone who disagrees. That guy might be a problem, but things have changed in the past few years:

Insider threats have been a persistent law enforcement priority in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But in most cases, the threats are from homegrown insurgents radicalized by al-Qaida, the Islamic State group or similar groups. In contrast, the threats against Biden’s inauguration have been fueled by supporters of President Donald Trump, far-right militants, white supremacists and other radical groups. Many believe Trump’s accusations that the election was stolen from him, a claim that has been refuted by many courts, the Justice Department and Republican officials in key battleground states.

They don’t believe that. The election was stolen. The country was stolen. Their country was stolen from them, personally. A few will believe that and be reassigned:

Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, has been meeting with Guard troops as they arrive in D.C. and as they gather downtown. He said he believes there are good processes in place to identify any potential threats.

“If there’s any indication that any of our soldiers or airmen are expressing things that are extremist views, it’s either handed over to law enforcement or dealt with the chain of command immediately,” he said.

And the rest is just the usual:

Commanders went over every aspect of the city’s complicated security lockdown, with McCarthy and others peppering them with questions about how the troops will respond in any scenario and how well they can communicate with the other enforcement agencies scattered around the city.

Hokanson said he believes his troops have been adequately equipped and prepared, and that they are rehearsing as much as they can to be prepared for any contingency.

The major security concern is an attack by armed groups of individuals, as well as planted explosives and other devices. McCarthy said intelligence reports suggest that groups are organizing armed rallies leading up to Inauguration Day, and possibly after that.

The bulk of the Guard members will be armed. And McCarthy said units are going through repeated drills to practice when and how to use force and how to work quickly with law enforcement partners. Law enforcement officers would make any arrests.

The military cannot make any of those arrests. That’s not their job, unless the president invokes the somewhat obscure Insurrection Act or declares martial law. Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO, was just at the White House with notes for Trump on doing both those things right now – but the few remaining White House staff kept him away from Trump. Trump needs to calm down. They have to explain things to him. Don’t ask the military to keep you in power. They already said they wouldn’t do that. Don’t pick a fight with them. You’d lose. Forget the MyPillow guy.

But what about martial law? There are dangerous people out and about. Sure, but who are the dangerous people here? The New York Times’ Astead Herndon reviews the evolving disagreement about that:

Immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, all corners of the political spectrum repudiated the mob of President Trump’s supporters. Yet within days, prominent Republicans, party officials, conservative media voices and rank-and-file voters began making a rhetorical shift to try to downplay the group’s violent actions.

In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Trump era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like antifa who stormed the Capitol – in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election.

Because this just couldn’t be them:

For a brief time, Republican officials seemed perhaps open to grappling with what their party’s leader had wrought – violence in the name of their Electoral College fight. But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Mr. Trump.

“The violence at the Capitol was shameful,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, tweeted at 6:55 a.m. the morning after the attack. “Our movement values respect for law and order and for the police.” But now, in a new video titled “What Really Happened on January 6th?” Mr. Giuliani is among those who are back to emphasizing conspiracy theories.

“The riot was preplanned,” said Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. “This was an attempt to slander Trump.” He added, “The evidence is coming out.”

That was Rudy Talk. The evidence is coming out, one day, soon, or relatively soon. Yes, there’s no evidence now, but there will be evidence, later. It’ll be amazing. It’ll change everything. Everyone needs to trust him on that. This is all about George Floyd:

For months, Republicans have used last summer’s protests as a political catchall, highlighting isolated instances of property destruction and calls to defund the police to motivate their base in November. The tactic proved somewhat effective on Election Day: Democrats lost ground in the House of Representatives, with Republican challengers hammering a message of liberal lawlessness.

About nine of every 10 voters said the protests had been a factor in their voting, according to estimates from A.P. VoteCast, a large voter survey conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. Nearly half of those respondents backed Mr. Trump, with some saying they worried that the unrest could disrupt their communities.

Republicans are now using the looting to try to explain away the Capitol attack.

What? This is disconcerting:

Suzanne Doherty, 67, who traveled from Michigan to be in Washington on Jan. 6 to support Mr. Trump, came away feeling confused and depressed over the invasion of the Capitol and not trusting the images of the mob.

“I heard that on antifa websites, people were invited to go to the rally and dress up like Trump supporters, but I’m not sure what to believe anymore,” she said. “There were people there only to wreak havoc. All I know is that there was a whole gamut of people there, but the rioters were not us. Maybe they were antifa. Maybe they were B.L.M. Maybe they were extreme right militants.”

Or maybe that was her crowd, or not:

The conjecture that the mob was infiltrated by Black Lives Matter and antifa has been metastasizing from the dark corners of the pro-Trump internet to the floors of Congress and the Republican base, even as law enforcement officials say there is no evidence to support it… That has not stopped Republican lawmakers and some of their constituents from pushing these narratives to defend Mr. Trump.

Interviews with voters this week in Kenosha, the southeast Wisconsin city that was roiled by a high-profile police-shooting last summer, captured the yawning split along ideological and racial lines. Democrats pointed to the differences in motivation between the Capitol mob and the mass protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was not seeking to overturn an election or being incited by the president. Republicans saw the Capitol attack as the work of outsiders or as justified by the summer’s isolated incidents of looting and property destruction.

“I think the goal was to try to put some final nails in the coffin of Donald Trump,” said Dale Rovik, a 59-year-old who supports Mr. Trump and is a native of Kenosha. “I think it’s pretty clear that they did that to make him look bad and to accuse him and, of course, to try and impeach him again. That certainly is pretty clear to me.”

And there’s this:

Joe Pillizzi, a 67-year-old retired salesman in Kenosha who supports Mr. Trump, said he believed last summer’s looting and rioting had “put a seed” in the minds of the mob that attacked the Capitol.

“If the Black Lives Matter didn’t do what they did, I don’t think the Capitol attack would have happened,” he said.

The sole purpose the Capitol attack was to hit back at Black Lives Matter? Why didn’t someone in the Capitol mob say so? Don’t even try to make sense of that. Just note this:

The misinformation on the right reflects the mood of Mr. Trump’s most ardent base, the collection of elected officials in deep-red America who have consistently rationalized his behavior in crises. But other signs indicate that some Republicans are exasperated by Mr. Trump and his actions in a way not seen since he entered office.

A new Pew Research poll released Friday showed the president’s approval rating dropping sharply among Republicans since he inspired the mob violence, cratering to an all-time low of 60 percent, more than 14 percentage points lower than his previous nadir. Among Americans at large, Mr. Trump’s approval rating was 29 percent, a low since he took office in 2017, and he had a 68 percent disapproval rating – his highest recorded number.

This is over, and Alan Feuer and Nicole Hong report the end of excuses:

In the two weeks since a raging mob stormed the Capitol, President Trump has shown no sign that he believes he shares responsibility for the worst incursion on the halls of Congress in more than two centuries. Shielding him further, his loyalists have started shifting blame for the attack to an array of distracting bogeymen: far-left anti-fascists, Black Lives Matter activists, even vague conspiracies of a setup involving Vice President Mike Pence.

But one group of people has already come forward and directly implicated Mr. Trump in the riot at the Capitol: some of his own supporters who were arrested while taking part in it. In court papers and interviews, at least four pro-Trump rioters have said they joined the march that spiraled into violence in part because the president encouraged them to do so.

And the four were quite specific:

In the past few days, a retired firefighter charged with assaulting members of the Capitol Police force told a friend he went to the building following “the president’s instructions,” according to a criminal complaint, and a Texas real estate agent accused of breaching the building told a reporter that by protesting in Washington, she had “answered the call of my president.”

A Virginia man has told the F.B.I. that he and his cousin marched on the Capitol because Mr. Trump said “something about taking Pennsylvania Avenue.” And a lawyer for the so-called QAnon Shaman – who invaded the building in a Viking costume – said that Mr. Trump was culpable, and he planned to ask the White House for a pardon.

“Does our president bear responsibility?” the lawyer, Al Watkins, told The New York Times. “Hell, yes, he does.”

And that’s now legal trouble:

With dozens of people now in custody and starting to appear in court, the accounts they give about Mr. Trump could end up not only as fodder in criminal proceedings but also at an impeachment trial to bolster charges that the president incited the assault.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump was impeached for a second time after the House voted to approve a single charge, citing his part in whipping up the mob that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 after attending a rally where Mr. Trump and his allies repeated his baseless assertions that the election was rigged against him. He now faces a trial in the Senate that could disqualify him from future office.

While it would be unusual if any of the defendants charged in the Capitol attack were called as witnesses in the impeachment drama, it is possible that Democrats could cite statements about Mr. Trump that those defendants have made in public or to investigators.

But it’s worse than that:

As the criminal cases stemming from the riot move through the legal system, they also could put some of Mr. Trump’s most ardent followers in the awkward position of having to publicly lay blame at the feet of the man they came out to support.

The approach is formally known as a public authority defense, and in using it, lawyers can try to argue that their clients are not guilty because a government official permitted them to commit the crimes.

Legal scholars have questioned the viability of the defense in the case of the Capitol breach, noting that anyone who seeks to blame Mr. Trump for their part in the assault would have to prove not only that they believed he had authorized their actions, but also that such a belief was reasonable.

But even if trying to offload responsibility onto Mr. Trump may not be effective at a trial, it could ultimately help lighten the punishment for anyone convicted of a crime in connection with the attack, said Judith P. Miller, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

“The fact that our country’s highest leader is promoting this grand lie and giving millions of people a sense of righteousness, and that they’re on the side of the angels, that seems like it could be potentially strong mitigating evidence,” Ms. Miller said.

Yes, it’s complicated:

Another video emerged on Sunday of the mob inside the building confronting the Capitol Police, while one man yelled at the officers that he and his fellow rioters were there because they were “listening to Trump, your boss.”

That, in essence, was the argument that Mr. Watkins, who is based in St. Louis, plans to make as he begins his defense of the QAnon Shaman, a Phoenix man whose real name is Jacob Chansley.

Mr. Chansley, an unemployed actor who has made a name for himself in recent weeks by turning up at pro-Trump rallies in face paint, a horned battle helmet and a six-foot spear, was charged with breaking into the Senate chamber and leaving a note for Mr. Pence that read, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.” On Friday, a federal judge in Arizona ordered him detained pending trial, saying he was “an active participant in a violent insurrection to overthrow the U.S. government.”

No, not really:

Mr. Watkins did not deny that Mr. Chansley was inside the Capitol that day, but suggested he had gone there because he, like others, “hung on the words of the president” for comfort and guidance. “What you’ve got here are people like my client who take the president seriously,” Mr. Watkins added, “and look to him to make them feel relevant in a system that has made them feel neglected.”

That is why Mr. Watkins plans in the coming days to ask Mr. Trump to pardon Mr. Chansley, comparing him and the others at the Capitol to cult members.

“They were betrayed by somebody in whom they’d placed their faith,” Mr. Watkins said. “They’re like the followers of Jim Jones. The only thing missing was the Kool-Aid.”

That sounds about right. Can we have a bit of Biden now?

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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