Alex Henderson

'It is a pathetic excuse': Police officer rebukes Trump's defense of the Capitol rioters

During a recent interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, former President Donald Trump seriously downplayed the violence that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 6 — describing the insurrectionists as "loving" and "peaceful." But when Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the Capitol Police testified before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's select committee on the January 6 riot on Tuesday, he vehemently disagreed with Trump's description of what occurred that day.

Gonell was among the police officers who was present in the U.S. Capitol Building when it was violently attacked by a pro-Trump mob on January 6. And during his testimony before members of Congress, he has offered vivid, graphic testimony about the violence that he witnessed.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, an arch-conservative Republican who Pelosi picked for her committee, quoted Trump's exact words during Tuesday's hearing: "It was a loving crowd. There was a lot of love in the crowd." And when Cheney was questioning Gonell, she matter-of-factly asked him, "How does that make you feel?"

Gonell responded, "It was upsetting. It is a pathetic excuse for his behavior for something that he himself helped to create — this monstrosity. I'm still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day."

The Capitol police sergeant, on Tuesday, described the injuries that he suffered on January 6.

"Rioters, terrorists were assaulting us that day," Gonell told Cheney. "If that was hugs and kisses, we should all go to his house and do the same thing to him. To me, it's insulting. It's demoralizing. Because everything that we did was to prevent everyone in the Capitol from getting hurt. And what he was doing — instead of sending the military, instead of sending the support or telling his people, his supporters to stop this nonsense, he egged them to continue fighting."

Gonell went on to say of the insurrectionists, "All of them were telling us: 'Trump sent us.' It was nobody else. It was not Antifa. It was not Black Lives Matter. It was not the FBI. It was his supporters — he sent them over to the Capitol that day. And he could have done a lot of things. One of them was to tell them to stop."

Marjorie Taylor Greene's press conference devolves into chaos — and an aide angrily blames 'the left'

During their summer fundraising tour, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida have mostly preached to audiences that were receptive to the Republicans' far-right message. But Greene got more than she bargained for when, during an outdoor press conference in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, she was greeted by loud protesters — and the event was abruptly ended.

Some of the protesters expressed their opposition to Greene and Gaetz by loudly blowing whistles, inspiring a frustrated Greene to say, "To the guy that's blowing the whistle, we are not deterred…. We will not back down."

But despite this promise, Greene's speech was cut short. And an aide angrily declared, "The left is interrupting the press conference. We need to end it."

The press conference was held on the same day as the first hearing for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's select committee on the January 6 insurrection. Greene has been a tireless promoter of the false and debunked claim that former President Donald Trump was robbed of a second term because of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

'Trump sent us': Capitol Police officer tears up describing 'medieval battle' with Jan. 6 rioters

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's select committee on the January 6 insurrection held its first hearing on Tuesday, one of the people who testified was Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the Capitol Police. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, an arch-conservative Republican Pelosi picked for the committee, set out to demonstrate just how horrific the January 6 attack was — and Gonell's testimony made it painfully clear that the insurrection was hardly the "normal tourist visit" that Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia claimed it was.

Gonell testified, "What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battle. We fought hand to hand, inch by inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process. My fellow officers and I were committee to not letting any rioters breach the Capitol. It was a prolonged and desperate struggle. The rioters attempting to breach the Capitol were shouting, 'Trump sent us. We won. Trump.'"

The Capitol Police sergeant went on to say that on January 6, he "heard officers screaming in agony, in pain just an arm length from me." And one of them, Gonell noted, was Officer Daniel Hodges, who was present when Gonell spoke.

"I too was being crushed by the rioters," Gonell testified. "I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, 'This is how I'm going to die.'"

Gonell noted the injuries he sustained on January 6, pointing out that he has been on administrative leave for "much of the past six months."

"I expect to need more rehabilitation for possibly more than a year," Gonell testified. "There are some who express outrage when someone kneels while calling for social justice. Where are those same people expressing the outrage to condemn the violent attack on law enforcement, the Capitol and our American democracy? I'm still waiting for them."

Before Gonell's testimony, Cheney made an opening statement:


Jim Jordan 'may well be a material witness' for the Jan 6. House committee. Here's what they should ask him

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was clearly pandering to the Republican Party's lowest common denominator when he picked Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as one of the five Republicans he wanted to serve on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's select committee on the January insurrection — a pick that Pelosi flatly rejected, inspiring McCarthy to angrily respond that if Pelosi wouldn't accept all of his picks, she couldn't have any of them. But Pelosi made a wise decision, given how aggressively Jordan promoted the Big Lie and former President Donald Trump's bogus elect fraud claims. And author Sidney Blumenthal, in an op-ed published by The Guardian on July 27, lists some things that Jordan might be asked if he testifies before Pelosi's committee.

Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

One right-wing Republican who Pelosi herself picked for the committee is Rep. Liz Cheney, who wholeheartedly agrees with Pelosi's decision to keep Jordan off her January 6 committee. Cheney has said that Jordan should be kept off the committee because he "may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6."

On October 20, Jordan tweeted, "Democrats are trying to steal the election, before the election." In light of that tweet, Blumenthal writes, the committee could ask: "What does Jordan know about the creation of the 'stop the steal' myth? Were his statements about a fraudulent election and attacking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for its role in 'stealing the election' made in coordination with anyone at the White House or known to them in advance? If he got marching orders, where did he get them from?"

A few days after the 2020 presidential election, Jordan promoted the Big Lie at a "Stop the Steal" rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that was organized by Scott Presler, a former field director for the Virginia Republican Party. And Pelosi's committee, according to Blumenthal, could ask: "Who funded the Harrisburg rally? What is Jordan's relationship to Scott Presler? What are the communications between Jordan, his staff and Presler?"

On January 11, the day the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump for incitement to insurrection, Trump gave Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And Pelosi's committee, Blumenthal writes, should ask: "What conversations did Jordan have at the ceremony with Trump or others about overturning the election and how to defend Trump?"

On December 4, Jordan tweeted, "Over 50 million Americans think this election was stolen." And in light of how much Jordan promoted the Big Lie that month, Blumenthal writes, Pelosi's committee should ask: "Did Jordan coordinate his statements with Trump, the White House staff, other Republican House members, or Trump's legal team led by Rudy Giuliani?"

On December 21, according to Politico, Jordan privately met with Trump and other Republicans in the hope of finding ways "to overturn the election results." And according to Blumenthal, Pelosi's committee should ask: "What was said at that meeting? What were those plans? Was the rally discussed? Was the idea discussed of sending Trump supporters to intimidate and interrupt members of Congress in the certification process? Was Jordan's role on the House floor on 6 January against certification raised at that meeting? What did Jordan say?"

The committee, Blumenthal writes, should also ask: "Did Jordan broadcast falsehoods in order to encourage Trump supporters to come to Washington on 6 January?"

In a January 12 hearing, Jordan claimed, "I never once said that this thing was stolen." And the committee, according to Blumenthal, should ask: "Why, then, did he tweet that the election was being stolen before it had occurred, appear at a 'Stop the Steal' rally and claim that 'crazy things' had changed the vote in swing states in addition to many other statements?"

'Sellout': Ron DeSantis faces backlash from anti-vax extremists as Florida becomes COVID-19 'hotspot'

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been a devout Trump supporter, and many pundits have described him as the Republican who would be the most likely to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination if former President Donald Trump doesn't run. But DeSantis is now coming under fire from anti-vax extremists on the far right for urging Floridians to get vaccinated from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Politico reporter Matt Dixon explains, "Florida's COVID crisis has wedged Gov. Ron DeSantis between two competing forces: public health experts who urge him to do more and anti-vaxxers who want him to do less. The Republican governor has come under attack from the medical community and Democrats as the Delta strain of COVID-19 sweeps through Florida, turning it into a national coronavirus hotspot."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five new COVID-19 infections in the United States is in Florida. But that isn't preventing the anti-vaxxers in Trumpworld from saying that DeSantis has betrayed the MAGA cause by encouraging vaccination for COVID-19.

DeSantis, according to Dixon, is now "facing a backlash from the anti-vaccination wing of his political base." Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for example, criticized DeSantis during an appearance on the talk show "The Right Side with Doug Billings" — saying, "Don't let political correctness get in the way of health choices." And right-wing radio host Stew Peters called DeSantis a "sellout."

But at the same time, some Florida-based health experts believe that with the Delta variant raging in the Sunshine State, the last thing DeSantis should be doing is criticizing expert immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci in order to score cheap political points in MAGA World.

CBSMiami.com quotes Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based cardiologist and leader of the Florida chapter of the Committee to Protect Health Care, as saying, "While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about 'Freedom over Faucism.' If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping COVID-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position."

Mona Mangat, an immunologist in St. Petersburg, Florida, has criticisms of DeSantis as well. CBSMiami.com quotes Mangat as saying, "At the same time as DeSantis says the vaccines are effective — which they are — he's also banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. He has taken away private companies' ability to protect their employees and customers by requiring the safe and readily available vaccine."

Former federal prosecutor explains why the case against Trump ally Tom Barrack is so damning

Six months after Donald Trump's departure from the White House, the criminal charges continue in Trumpworld — from Allen Weisselberg (chief financial officer in the Trump Organization) to Tom Barrack, who chaired Trump's inaugural committee in late 2016/early 2017. While Weisselberg is being accused of financial crimes by the Manhattan DA's Office, Barrack is facing federal charges for allegedly failing to register as a foreign agent during his activities with the United Arab Emirates and lying to the FBI about it. Dennis Aftergut, a former assistant U.S. attorney, analyzes the federal government's case against Barrack in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on July 27 — and argues that the case against him is even worse than it looks.

"Barrack stands accused of being an agent of the United Arab Emirates without registering with the attorney general," Aftergut explains. "That would violate 18 USC §951, what prosecutors sometimes call the 'espionage-lite' statute — 'lite' because Barrack didn't pass to foreign adversaries classified information or the names of double agents. He merely — allegedly — earned $1.5 billion for his company by being the UAE's unregistered 'pitchman' inside the Trump campaign and administration from 2016 to 2018."

During Trump's presidency, veteran television journalist Dan Rather used the phrase "flock of felons" to describe all the Trump associates who were convicted of or pled guilty to federal crimes — a list that includes Paul Manafort (who was Trump's 2016 campaign manager before Kellyanne Conway came on board), veteran GOP operative Roger Stone, Michael Flynn (who briefly served as national security adviser in the Trump Administration), Rick Gates (a 2016 Trump campaign aide) and Michael Cohen (Trump's former personal attorney and "fixer"). Barrack, unlike Manafort or Stone, hasn't been convicted of anything, and he has entered a "not guilty" plea.

"Some legal analysts have minimized the main charge against Barrack saying that by simply registering, he could have avoided the violation, but this excuse misses the point," Aftergut argues. "The way that our government uses, or the citizenry perceives, information from a person completely changes when they know that a foreign country is controlling and directing the individual. Reporting reduces the agent's ability to influence U.S. foreign policy priorities and public opinion in favor of that country."

The former federal prosecutor adds, "That influence is what Barrack is alleged to have monetized, just as did former General Michael Flynn. Flynn, while on Turkey's payroll, wrote a November 2016, election-eve op-ed pitching that country's image and need for American support. He was still being paid by Turkey months later when he became Trump's national security advisor."

According to Aftergut, "Influencing public opinion was central to what Barrack was peddling."

"The indictment says that he accepted and used talking points from UAE officials for multiple television appearances and for an October 2016 Fortune magazine op-ed that praised the UAE," Aftergut notes. "If Barrack had acknowledged that he was the country's paid agent, Fortune might never have run the piece. Barrack would have had no public influence to sell."

Aftergut continues, "Even more gravely, the indictment also charges that Barrack passed along to foreign officials information about meetings at the White House, and that he helped shape a pro-UAE speech by candidate Trump. Think about it: A paid agent for another country with as much daily access to the White House — and ability to steer the president's thinking — as the agent's foreign handlers desired."

Boebert’s casual Nazi reference used 'millions of murdered souls' to score 'cheap political points': conservative

Like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado — another far-right QAnon supporter serving in the U.S. House of Representatives — has foolishly compared anti-COVID-19 measures to the horrors of the Holocaust. Never Trump conservative Benjamin Parker, in an article published by The Bulwark on July 27, stresses that these casual references to Nazis show how badly the political discourse has deteriorated in the United States.

The things Greene and Boebert are upset about, mask requirements and COVID-19 vaccines, are designed to save lives — which is the polar opposite of Adolf Hitler's regime. But on July 8, Boebert tweeted, "Biden has deployed his Needle Nazis to Mesa County. The people of my district are more than smart enough to make their own decisions about the experimental vaccine and don't need coercion by federal agents. Did I wake up in Communist China?"

Parker explains, "Another freshman member of Congress, Lauren Boebert, dropped a Nazi reference to mock the Biden Administration's vaccination-education efforts: Once again, (House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy is delinquent in policing his conference. He has yet to publicly address Rep. Boebert's tweet."

Parker, a senior editor at The Bulwark, goes on to explain why casual Nazi references were, for many years, "off limits in political discourse" in the U.S. — where politicians had a "rule" that "the first person to compare their interlocutor to Hitler loses the argument."

"If Rep. Boebert were to visit Auschwitz," Parker argues, "perhaps she would feel compelled to apologize, just as Rep. Greene did. If she saw where Josef Mengele, the Nazi 'Angel of Death,' conducted his inhumane experiments on prisoners, perhaps she would understand how grotesque it is to refer to Americans participating in vaccination-education efforts aimed at saving lives as 'Needle Nazis.' Perhaps she would know in her heart that she had used millions of murdered souls for cheap political points."

Parker points out that one of the most famous Republicans of the 20th Century, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, wanted to make sure that fellow Americans realized just how horrific the Holocaust was.

The Never Trumper notes, "It's been 76 years since the end of the Holocaust…. Among the first to anticipate the moral meaning of this moment was Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who in April 1945, ordered the documentation and publication of the horrors of the camps. He wanted to witness the atrocities firsthand so that, 'if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda,' he could rebut the claim."

Parker wraps up his article by stressing that casual Nazi references to score "cheap political points" are an insult those who were slaughtered by the Nazis during the 1930s and World War II.

Parker writes, "The Holocaust used to be out of bounds in political discourse because its enormity shocked the world — at least the free world… When the Holocaust is fair game, everything is Auschwitz, so nothing about Auschwitz is exceptional and worth holding apart. At that point, the memory of millions of murdered innocents is desecrated. But worse, never again becomes: eventually."

New report exposes a shady campaign to pay online influencers to spread lies about vaccines

No matter how high the COVID-19 death count climbs — according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, it has passed 4.1 million worldwide — anti-vaxxers in different parts of the world are trying to discourage people from getting vaccinated. Some of these efforts include outright disinformation. But in some cases, internet users will aggressively push back against anti-vaxxer lies.

According to BBC reporters Charlie Haynes and Flora Carmichael, two such internet users in Europe are German journalist and YouTuber Mirko Drotschmann and French YouTuber Léo Grasset, who reports on science.

Hayes and Carmichael explain, "An influencer marketing agency called Fazze offered to pay (Drotschmann) to promote what it said was leaked information that suggested the death rate among people who had the Pfizer vaccine was almost three times that of the AstraZeneca jab. The information provided wasn't true. It quickly became apparent to Mirko that he was being asked to spread disinformation to undermine public confidence in vaccines in the middle of a pandemic."

Meanwhile, in France, the BBC reporters add, Grasset "received a similar offer" from Fazze and was offered 2000 euros "if he would take part."

"Both Léo and Mirko were appalled by the false claims," according to Hayes and Carmichael. "They pretended to be interested in order to try to find out more and were provided with detailed instructions about what they should say in their videos…. Fazze's brief told influencers to share a story in French newspaper Le Monde about a data leak from the European Medicines Agency. The story was genuine, but didn't include anything about vaccine deaths. But in this context, it would give the false impression that the death rate statistics had come from the leak."

Hayes and Carmichael report that "when Léo and Mirko exposed the Fazze campaign on Twitter, all the articles, except the Le Monde story, disappeared from the web."

According to the BBC journalists, "By any measure, the disinformation campaign was bungled. Since Léo and Mirko blew the whistle, at least four other influencers in France and Germany have gone public to reveal they also rejected Fazze's attempts to recruit them."

Merrick Garland gets warned against making 'a gross error' that would invite 'future insurrections'

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who spoke at former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6, is named in a civil lawsuit alleging that he incited the violent mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol Building that day. Brooks is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the case, insisting that he did nothing wrong on January 6. And Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, this week in her column, argues that Attorney General Merrick Garland should not side with Brooks.

The civil lawsuit that Brooks is facing was filed by Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell and also names former President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

At the "Stop the Steal" rally, Brooks urged supporters of then-President Donald Trump to start "kicking ass" in response to Trump's election fraud claims — which had been repeatedly debunked. Swalwell's civil lawsuit alleges that Brooks was inciting the January 6 riot with such rhetoric. But Brooks contends his actions were legally protected.

"On Tuesday," Rubin explains, "the Justice Department and the House of Representatives will file briefs explaining to a federal court whether each believes that Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was acting within the scope of his employment when he allegedly incited the violent attack on the Capitol and sought to subvert the peaceful transfer of power on January 6. This sounds absurd, but in effect, Brooks is asking the Justice Department to certify that he was acting in the scope of his duties when he tried to overthrow the government."

Rubin continues, "If he succeeds, he would be immune from suit, and the Justice Department would step in on behalf of the government in civil suits arising from the violent insurrection. It would be a gross error and invitation for future insurrections if either the House or Justice Department agreed that Brooks is protected. How can encouraging a mob to disrupt the Electoral College tabulation possibly be within Brooks' duties? That would be akin to saying Gen. Robert E. Lee was acting within the scope of his duties in the U.S. Army when he attacked Union troops. Sedition is not within the scope of any official's duties."

Rubin goes on to make her point by quoting an op-ed by attorney Laurence H. Tribe, an expert on constitutional law, that was published in the Boston Globe on July 19.

Tribe wrote, "If the attorney general decides to treat such action as merely one way of discharging official duties, then self-government will become a mirage — and those who are guilty of trashing it will have been placed beyond the reach of legal accountability to those they injure…. That would mean that popular sovereignty is dead, and the twin principles that no one is above the law and that every legal wrong deserves a remedy might as well be tossed into history's dust heap."

Ethics expert Walter Shaub, who isn't quoted in Rubin's column, has also been weighing in on Swalwell's lawsuit and the arguments Brooks is making to the DOJ.

In a recent newsletter, Shaub noted, "Here's how this lawsuit could spark serious long-term consequences when it comes to holding political leaders accountable for wildly incendiary speech: Brooks has asked Attorney General Garland to certify that he was acting within the scope of his official duties as a member of Congress when he spoke to the crowd…. If Garland grants this request and persuades the court to agree, the certification would effectively immunize Brooks by dismissing him from the lawsuit and substituting the government as a defendant."

Shaub argues that "if Garland certifies that Brooks was acting within the scope of a congressional representative's duties, he will be legitimizing the incitement of a mob" and sending a "message to elected officials" that "they can act with impunity, even when their actions are inconsistent with the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution."

Rubin concludes her op-ed by warning that if Garland agrees with Brooks, he will be sending out a message that Trump and his allies are above the law.

"We need an attorney general to aggressively pursue facts and bring actions against Trump and his supporters where warranted," Rubin writes. "If not, Garland would have inadvertently affirmed Trump's argument that he was above the law."

'We just want him gone': Houston paper calls for far-right AG Ken Paxton's resignation

Far-right Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton showed his authoritarian mindset when, in December 2020, he filed a ridiculous lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out millions of votes in four states that Joe Biden won: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin — a lawsuit so flawed that even the most right-wing Supreme Court in generations rejected it. But as embarrassing as that lawsuit was, it is only one of many shameful things in Paxton's history — and the Houston Chronicle's editorial board, in a scathing editorial published this week, lays out some reasons why Paxton's departure would be a blessing for the Lone Star State.

The editorial explains that 16 Texas-based attorneys, including four former Texas Bar presidents, recently signed a 31-page complaint against Paxton with the Texas State Bar. That group is calling itself Lawyers Defending American Democracy and would like to see Paxton either suspended or permanently disbarred.

"We just want him gone," the Chronicle's editorial board declares. "A quick Paxton primer underscores why."

The editorial board adds that in 2015, Paxton was "indicted on felony securities fraud charges" but "still hasn't gone to trial." And the board goes on to note that Paxton has been a relentless promoter of the Big Lie — the false claim that former President Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 election and that the election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.

"Paxton took it upon himself to file a howler of a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to toss the 2020 presidential election results in four battleground states that had assured Joe Biden's victory," the Chronicle's editorial board explains. "His own solicitor general wouldn't even sign it. The lawsuit, soundly rejected, relied on discredited claims of election fraud. Keep in mind that Paxton uses our money to make himself and his state a national laughingstock."

After the lawsuit debacle, Paxton continued to promote the Big Lie when he spoke at Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington, D.C.

"A little over six months ago," the Chronicle's editorial board observes, "our attorney general stood before a roiling crowd at the White House and urged supporters of then-President Donald Trump to keep fighting. 'We are Texans, we are Americans, and we're not quitting,' he shouted. Later that day, January 6, Paxton claimed — with a straight face — that the mob that invaded the Capitol a few hours earlier were liberal Antifa activists, not Trump supporters."

Lawyers Defending American Democracy co-founder Gary Ratner, in the group's anti-Paxton letter to the Texas Bar, write, "Mr. Paxton's misconduct has brought dishonor not only to his fellow Texas lawyers, but to the American legal profession as a whole. After investigation, if the allegations in this complaint are validated, Mr. Paxton should be suspended from the practice of law or be permanently disbarred."

The Chronicle's editorial board points out that even Republican Rep. Chip Roy, formerly Paxton's top aide, is urging him to resign.

"For the good of the state he serves, Paxton should have had the decency to resign months ago," the Chronicle's editorial board writes. "He didn't and he doesn't, which means Texans likely will have to endure a non-functioning AG's office for months to come — assuming that Texas Republicans have finally seen the light. Here's hoping the water gets even hotter."

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