Almost one month later things became a bit clearer. This wasn’t spontaneous enthusiasm that got out of hand. This had been planned:
The Justice Department continued building cases on Wednesday against people accused of storming the Capitol, arresting a leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys and charging two men with conspiracy in an effort to block certification of President Biden’s victory in the election.
Ethan Nordean, the self-described “sergeant of arms” of the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys, was arrested on Wednesday morning, federal prosecutors said. He had been under investigation for more than a week after prosecutors named him in court papers as a chief organizer of a mob of about 100 other members of the group that marched through Washington on Jan. 6, ending at the Capitol building.
Separately, Nicholas DeCarlo, a 30-year-old Texas man, and Nicholas Ochs, a founder of Hawaii’s chapter of the Proud Boys, were charged with conspiring with one another and unnamed co-conspirators to stop the certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College win as part of last month’s riot at the Capitol, according to the indictment.
Donald Trump has been impeached, for a second time, for inciting a riot, specifically for inciting sedition, and this may help him. He incited nothing on that one day. This was a long-planned event already in progress. He helped it along that day. But he could have said nothing and all of it would have happened anyway, unless he was in on the planning. He had talked about what a “wild day” it would be. And he knew why. He knew what was about to happen. He may not have planed all the details, or any of them, but he gave the signal to let it rip.
In the indictment against Mr. DeCarlo and Mr. Ochs, prosecutors said the men carved the words “MURDER THE MEDIA” into the Capitol’s Memorial Door… Mr. DeCarlo was also seen in photos taken inside the Capitol during the riots wearing a shirt and hat that said “MT Media,” which investigators said stands for “Murder the Media.”
Prosecutors say that Mr. Nordean, carrying a bullhorn, led a 100-person mob and entered the Capitol with another top-ranking Proud Boys leader, Joseph Biggs, who is also facing charges in connection with the attack.
In a criminal complaint against Mr. Nordean, prosecutors said he and other Proud Boys “were planning in advance to organize a group that would attempt to overwhelm police barricades and enter” the Capitol.
And there’s this:
After the assault, prosecutors say, Mr. Nordean continued writing inflammatory messages. On Jan. 8, they said, he posted a photo on social media showing a police officer spraying pepper spray. The caption read, “If you feel bad for the police, you are part of the problem.”
Donald Trump has nasty friends he admires. He always seemed to admire Vladimir Putin, for Putin’s wonderful and inventive nastiness. He called that bold leadership. He may like the Proud Boys for the same reason. And wonderful and inventive nastiness may be a Republican thing now. That’s what the party is deciding. This was the day for that:
The top House Republican refused on Wednesday to punish Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading false and bigoted conspiracy theories and endorsing political violence against Democrats, condemning the Georgia freshman’s previous comments but declining to take away her posts on influential congressional committees.
After days of public silence and private agonizing over what to do about Ms. Greene – who has endorsed the executions of top Democrats, suggested that school shootings were staged and said that a space laser controlled by Jewish financiers started a wildfire – the minority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, issued a tortured statement that harshly denounced her past statements but then argued that she should face no consequences for them.
“Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” Mr. McCarthy said.
But he can live with that, and with the nastiness of that other woman too:
The feuding played out behind closed doors well into Wednesday evening, as House Republicans debated stripping Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, of her leadership post, as a penalty for her vote to impeach President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Cheney ultimately emerged victorious after a 145-to-61 secret ballot vote. The lopsided results also amounted to a vote of confidence in Mr. McCarthy, who delivered an impassioned closing speech, according to officials in the room. In the hours-long, often heated meeting, according to people familiar with the discussion, Mr. McCarthy stood by both Ms. Cheney and Ms. Greene, and stressed the importance of presenting a united front.
Okay, one woman says put a bullet in Pelosi’s brain and hang Obama, and the other voted to impeach Trump for inciting a riot that killed a young policeman. That’s one woman for political violence, one woman appalled by it, and McCarthy saying they’re both right – keep the party unified – which he may not be able to do:
The challenge to Ms. Greene will continue on Thursday, when House Democrats will call a vote of the full chamber to strip her of her committee assignments. Mr. McCarthy called it a “partisan power grab.”
He also warned that if they indulged the effort to strip Ms. Greene of her assignments, Democrats could try to target other Republicans, according to three people familiar with his comments, who insisted on anonymity to divulge the private exchange.
That’s a bit of paranoia, but he should really worry about the Senate, where no one likes that Greene woman:
“She’s not going to be the face of the party,” Senator Rick Scott of Florida, the chairman of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said of Ms. Greene. Mr. Scott, who was governor in 2018 when a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla., said her effort to portray the shooting as faked was “disgusting.”
“It’s beyond reprehensible for any elected official, especially a member of Congress, to parrot violent QAnon rhetoric and promote deranged conspiracies,” Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, wrote on Twitter. “It’s not conservative, it’s insane.”
And it’s too late:
For her part, Ms. Greene offered a modicum of contrition in a brief speech on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the remarks, and received applause from some lawmakers. She apologized for espousing a number of conspiracy theories and emphasized that she no longer believed in them.
But she sidestepped the issue of a Facebook post she made in 2018, unearthed by Media Matters for America, suggesting that a devastating wildfire that ravaged California was started by “a laser” beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats.
Ms. Cheney’s victory was all the more remarkable because she refused to apologize for her impeachment vote, even as several members of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus accused her of “aiding the enemy” in voting to impeach Mr. Trump, the people said.
Cheney’s not fond of nonsense. She wasn’t aiding the enemy. Trump had done the unforgivable. He has made himself the enemy. That was the problem:
The fate of Ms. Cheney, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington said, was only a proxy for the larger issue looming over the Republican Party: its obeisance to Mr. Trump.
“This is about the direction of our party and whether or not we’re going to be a minority dedicated to just one person or a united Republican majority,” she said.
Hours before the conference meeting, a number of other Republican women were even more explicit during an at-times emotional virtual fund-raiser for Ms. Cheney, according to two Republicans who participated.
Most outspoken was former Representative Barbara Comstock of Virginia, a longtime party official who was swept out of her suburban Washington seat in the 2018 backlash to Mr. Trump. On the video call, Ms. Comstock belittled Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida – who went to Wyoming last week to rail against Ms. Cheney – describing him as “a joke.”
Gaetz is the one who will ruin the party with such stunts, scaring off all but the loyal few, unless the Democrats ruin the party first:
The immediate problem facing House Republicans was how they would vote on Thursday on Democrats’ resolution to strip Ms. Greene of her committees.
With Democrats in control of the House, the measure is certain to pass. But the vote will force Republicans to go on the record for the first time on whether Ms. Greene should be punished for her past comments, and it will force them to confront head-on the conspiracy theories that Mr. Trump allowed to flourish, and in some cases fed, while he was in the White House. Mr. Trump often winked at such theories, like stating that QAnon adherents “love our country.” But Ms. Greene has been more explicit in her embrace of them, and in her endorsement of violence against Democrats.
But those days are over now;
Mr. McCarthy had tried to shield his members from taking such a vote, and spoke with Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, by phone on Wednesday to try to strike a compromise. Mr. McCarthy later told reporters that he had offered to remove Ms. Greene from the Education and Budget Committees and to put her on a panel overseeing small businesses instead. Mr. Hoyer declined the offer, he said, insisting that Ms. Greene should not sit on any committees.
Lawmakers will vote on a resolution on Thursday removing Ms. Greene from her committees, citing simply the “conduct she has exhibited.”
Each and every one of the House Republicans will have to go on record. Do they approve of this woman? The ballot won’t be secret this time. They say that’s not fair:
Some Republicans are now arguing that voting in favor of the resolution would set a dangerous precedent because it would effectively allow the majority party to dictate which lawmakers in the minority party are fit to serve on committees, a crucial pipeline for members to advance legislation. Committee assignments have traditionally been the prerogative of the party leaders.
Others argue that members of Congress should not face punishment for remarks they made before they were elected. But Democrats said they were comfortable establishing a new set of rules whereby statements like those Ms. Greene made would prompt banishment from committees.
“A member of this House is calling for assassinations – that’s the new precedent,” said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Rules Committee. “If that’s the standard that we remove people from committees, I’m fine with that.”
And that makes someone quite happy:
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) would like the public to know that she’s apparently relishing in the backlash over her conspiracy-ridden remarks that have spurred calls for her expulsion from Congress as well as the revocation of her House committee assignments.
In an interview published in the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, Greene touted that she believes Democrats’ efforts to boot her off of committee assignments will help clear her schedule so that she can go on a national tour for the purpose of getting more Republicans into the House next year.
“How stupid they are,” Greene said, before Democrats on the House Rules Committee voted to advance a resolution to strip her membership on her committee assignments on Wednesday, setting up a final vote in the full House on Thursday. “They don’t even realize they’re helping me. I’m pretty amazed at how dumb they are.”
The feeling is no doubt mutual:
Greene said that she’d rather work toward campaigning efforts that would give Democrats – and Republicans she views as centrists – including the GOP leadership, less sway on Capitol Hill.
“I think Republicans need to get back to who they are, and they need to stop talking and actually doing,” Greene said. “And (House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy and all these leaders, the leadership, and everyone is proving that they are all talk and not about action, and they’re just all about doing business as usual in Washington. And so, what’s the difference between them and the Democrats? There isn’t a difference.”
McCarthy backed off and saved her ass. She just sneered at him and called him a fool, and no better than a Democrat. She is Trump now. She may be president next week.
Jonathan Chait wouldn’t be surprised. He argues that within the Republican Party, QAnon has become too big to fail:
Donald Trump spent months amplifying QAnon themes on his Twitter account and repeatedly refusing to condemn the cult. “I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” he said. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard.” Reporters took these comments as a cynical game. In fact, as we now know, Trump believed this. What’s more, Republican leaders knew he believed it. In a meeting at the White House last July, Trump touted QAnon to Mitch McConnell. “Are you familiar with that, Mitch?” asked the president, “You know, people say they’re into all kinds of bad things and say all kinds of terrible things about them,” Trump added. “But, you know, my understanding is they basically are just people who want good government.”
This story did not come out in the media until December, during which time McConnell kept it quiet long enough to try (and fail) to secure Trump a second term.
In the meantime, the party’s exploitation of QAnon’s messaging was hardly a secret. It was an integral – and by all accounts successful – part of Republican messaging.
Both Trump and his oldest son posted memes accusing Biden of pedophilia. White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller told reporters in October that Biden “would incentivize child smuggling and child trafficking on an epic global scale.” After Rudy Giuliani stole a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, Maria Bartiromo and Senator Ron Johnson told Fox News viewers it contained child pornography. Trump strategist, accused fraudster, and eventual federal-pardon-recipient Steve Bannon used QAnon lingo to titillate his podcast audience (“It’s gonna be a storm”) and defended its claims. (“How are they not at least, at least an aspect of their argument, at least appears, directionally, to be correct?”) By fall, Trump’s crowds were taunting his rival with chants of “Creepy Joe.”
And everything fell into place:
Polls consistently showed a substantial chunk of Republican voters to agree with QAnon. In September, Pew found that 41 percent of Republicans described the group positively; the next month, Morning Consult found that 38 percent of them believed QAnon theories to be at least somewhat true. An Emerson poll of Georgia voters that same month found that a plurality of Republicans thought QAnon was “accurate.”
But it wasn’t just that the party’s voters liked QAnon. Its political class did too – or at least found it useful. Several Republican strategists admitted to Business Insider last fall that they saw the cult “not as a liability or as a scourge to be extinguished, but as a useful band of fired-up supporters.”
Chait does, however, note that we’ve been here before:
QAnon’s role in the party roughly echoes that of Joe McCarthy seven decades ago. Republicans regarded McCarthy privately as a clown and a demagogue, and their contempt frequently leaked out in the press. But they also relished his wild lies, which put Democrats on the defensive and associated them in the public mind with communism. Eventually, McCarthy turned his attacks on his own party, bringing about his political self-destruction. But before he did so, it was quite convenient for Republicans to have McCarthy firing up their base and wafting charges that the Democratic party was following orders from Joseph Stalin, which gave more traction to their slightly more hinged Red-baiting attacks on the New Deal.
QAnon’s smears play an analogous role. The wildest adherents can directly charge Democrats with belonging to a secret global pedophile cult, while more respectable Republicans merely issue sober warnings that Democratic policies would fail to contain sex trafficking.
And that was that. Greene won:
The most belligerent Republicans have embraced their nuttiest colleague, treating an attack on her racist fantasies as an attack on them. “All self-righteous Republicans beware: If this can happen to Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, it can happen to any one of us,” warns Representative Andy Biggs (Republican of Arizona). Once the party starts rooting out the craziest of the crazy, who knows where it will end?
Most Republican elites have taken a less defiant tack, deflecting attention away from her without defending her. They have directed their ire not at Greene, nor at the Republicans who cultivated the QAnon cult, but at the media that has reported her beliefs. “Reporting that a politician believes in/flirts with conspiracy theories is legit, but the attention they get should be proportional to their ability to influence actual public policy,” suggests that barometer of median party opinion Marco Rubio.
Chait is not a happy man, and then there’s Greg Sargent. He tied things together:
Republicans are facing two big decisions. They must determine whether they will strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of committee assignments in response to her all-around crackpottery. They must also decide whether to convict former president Donald Trump for inciting violent insurrection.
These dilemmas are often interpreted as separate from one another. But these decisions also share a common thread. That common thread concerns political violence.
In an important sense, both dilemmas are fundamentally about whether Republicans will unambiguously stand for the proposition that the temptation to resort to political violence is wholly intolerable in a democracy and has no place whatsoever in their party.
Greene challenges that idea:
If you read through numerous quotes from Republicans condemning Greene, they mostly focus on her lunacy about 9/11, about staged mass shootings and about space lasers igniting wildfires.
But Republicans don’t say enough about the fact that Greene also endorsed the killing of numerous high-profile Democrats.
Republicans occasionally mention this, but not that often.
Mitch McConnell called out Greene’s “loony lies.” Sen. Todd Young (Ind.) called her “nutty.”
But Greene also approved of the execution of her political opponents. The current context should force a much greater focus on that aspect of Greene’s offenses.
But the current context is almost surely the reason Republicans don’t want to focus on it.
In short, they’re stuck:
As Republican senators prepare to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial, they are going to extraordinary lengths to bury what Trump is actually accused of doing, that is, inciting a violent insurrectionist assault on lawmakers themselves.
Thus it is that Republicans are deeply relieved that in his trial defense, Trump’s lawyers are emphasizing the (bogus) argument that convicting a former president would be unconstitutional. A Republican leadership aide described a “palpable sense of relief” within the party that the GOP had coalesced around the constitutionality question. That allows members to acquit Trump on a process argument rather than judge the merits of whether Trump incited an insurrection.
Republicans don’t want to confront Trump’s lies about the election being stolen, or confront the question of whether Trump did or did not incite the assault, because they cannot condemn these things without condemning themselves.
They did incite violence too:
Republicans spent many weeks propping up Trump’s lies about the election for the instrumental purpose of keeping the Trump base energized in the Georgia Senate runoffs. And those lies are what inspired the violent assault on the Capitol.
What’s becoming unmistakably clear is that the assault was unambiguously an effort to nullify the election through violent intimidation at best and violent attacks on lawmakers at worst. And this was done at Trump’s direction.
So, follow the logic:
It is often said that Republicans can’t condemn Greene because she’s allied with Trump. But what’s left unexamined is the real nature of this alliance. What binds them, exactly?
Among other things, it’s that both genuinely believe the Trump movement should be fully prepared to resort to political violence against their political opponents.
Yes, Greene has mouthed opposition to the attack on the Capitol. But she helped instigate what happened that day, promoting the event as the GOP’s pending “1776 moment.”
And Greene has endorsed political violence in other ways. Mother Jones reports that just before the election, she declared that if Democrats defeated Trump and Republicans, it would “end America as we know it” and do away with “freedom,” and that once freedom is gone, the only way to get it back will be “with the price of blood.”
Greene’s endorsement of the executions of Democrats was not a one-off. It revealed what she really believes. Trump does, too.
That is the implication:
Republicans may very well discipline Greene. But in so doing, they’ll be sacrificing one extremist in order to mitigate the political damage from acquitting another, much bigger one. And whatever happens to Greene, the truth is unavoidable: Republicans have yet to offer a clear and unambiguous declaration that political violence is unacceptable and has no place in their ranks.
Don’t expect that. Donald Trump changed America.