Lindsay Beyerstein

Plotting to kidnap and interrogate the Speaker of the House is the classic logic of terrorism

The suspect, David Wayne DePape, has been charged with a slew of state and local offenses, including attempted homicide and attempted kidnapping of a family member of an elected official.

DePape allegedly smashed a back window of Pelosi’s San Francisco home early Friday morning, woke up her sleeping husband and demanded to speak with “Nancy.” The Speaker was not at home.

DePape told investigators his plan was to hold “Nancy hostage and talk to her.” He came prepared with flex-cuffs, tape, rope and two hammers, according to police. He said he wanted to interrogate Nancy Pelosi, because she was the “leader of the pack” of the lying Democratic Party, according to the federal criminal complaint.

READ MORE: 'Break her kneecaps': Feds charge suspect who attacked Paul Pelosi as new details on his motivation are revealed

DePape said he planned to let Pelosi go if she told him “the truth,” but that if she “lied,” he was going to break “her kneecaps,” the complaint said. DePape said he was certain that Pelosi would not have told the “truth.” This was an astute inference on his part seeing as the “truth” he was looking for probably had something to do with a cabal of satanist pedophiles. Pelosi’s wounds, DePape stated, would put Congress on notice that there are “consequences for actions.”

That’s the classic logic of terrorism.

DePape’s plan is reminiscent of another plan to kidnap and interrogate Democratic leaders. It’s what the Wolverine Watchmen militia were accused of plotting to do with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. The men schemed and trained to kidnap her and “put her on a show trial” over covid regulations.

DePape’s online footprint shows a man in the tightening grip of radicalization. He registered a domain name in August and began posting feverishly about QAnon, Pizzagate and the pedophile cabal that runs the world. He was an election denier and a proponent of the Big Lie of 2020 voter fraud. He also indulged in Holocaust denial and other forms of antisemitism, anti-Black racism, rants against “groomers” and attacks on Ukrainian democracy. He also found time to defend the honor of rightwing scholar and icon Jordan Peterson.

READ MORE: 'What the hell is wrong with these people?': Conservative batters the GOP response to Pelosi beating

DePape embraced the Revolutionary War kitsch beloved of J6 insurgents. In an interview, he repeatedly likened himself to the American founding fathers. He claimed to be fighting tyranny without the option of surrender.

Some of the most notorious J6 insurgents specifically targeted Pelosi during the J6 siege.

Guy Reffitt said he wanted to drag Nancy Pelosi out of the building. He brought a semi-automatic handgun onto Capitol grounds. "I just want to see Pelosi's head hitting every fucking stair of the building,” Reffitt said. Reffit also brought flex-cuffs.

Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, who is on trial for seditious conspiracy, said he wanted to see Pelosi’s head “rolling down the front steps” of the Capitol. Meggs and fellow Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson are accused of splitting off from the group to go “hunting” for Pelosi.

Insurgent Mark Mazza, who brought two loaded guns, told investigators that if he’d crossed paths with Pelosi "you'd be here for another reason."

Dawn Bancroft admitted on video that she and her friend broke into the Capitol and that they’d been “looking for Nancy to shoot her in the friggin' brain.”

We now know, in the suspect’s own words, that he was specifically targeting Speaker Pelosi for political violence. In the days following the attack, the political right has tried every bad faith deflection tactic imaginable, blaming DePape’s actions on drugs and mental illness. While DePape is likely mentally ill and may suffer from addiction, these factors are secondary at best.

This was a well-organized, premeditated attack.

DePape allegedly assembled a restraint kit, bought hammers, pinpointed his target’s address, and broke into the home under the cover of darkness. He knew exactly what he was doing.

The roots of this attack lie in toxic conspiracy theories that convince unstable people that their freedom is at risk and an insurrection that has gone largely unpunished.

As President Joe Biden said in Delaware, “[i]t’s one thing to condemn the violence but you can’t condemn the violence unless you condemn those people who continue to argue the election was not real, that it’s being stolen.”

READ MORE: 'Too soon?' Don Jr. mocks brutal hammer attack with 'Paul Pelosi Halloween costume' meme

'Five alarm fire for democracy': Meet the man incarnating the Big Lie into secretaries of state

Failed candidate Jim Marchant of Nevada teamed up with QAnon guru “Juan O. Savin” to elect Big Lie proponents as top election officials in swing states. The result is a five-alarm fire for democracy.

The unlikely duo has forged a coalition of like-minded secretary of state (SOS) candidates. The SOS races in Nevada and Arizona have taken on national significance in light of both Republican candidates working to overturn the 2020 election. Both are signaling that they would refuse to certify the results if a Democrat carried their respective states in 2024. If elected, Secretaries of State Jim Marchant of Nevada and Mark Finchem of Arizona could conceivably determine the outcome of the next presidential election.

Most of the coalition’s handpicked candidates have already lost their primaries or are trailing substantially in the polls. At least two of their candidates, however, are alarmingly competitive.

READ MORE: These 5 MAGA candidates could help Donald Trump steal the 2024 election if they win in 2022: journalist

A recent poll puts Marchant in a statistical dead heat with his Democratic opponent. In October, Finchem was effectively tied with his Democratic opponent, albeit with many voters still undecided.

It’s fair to say that if Marchant were secretary of state, he wouldn’t certify a Democratic victory, because he keeps telling us.

“When I’m secretary of state of Nevada, we are going to fix it, and when my coalition of secretary of state candidates around the country gets elected, we’re going to fix the whole country, and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024,” he said.

Finchem is a former member of the Oath Keepers militia, which was outside the US Capitol during the J6 insurrection. Text messages show Finchem collaborated with Stop the Steal’s Ali Alexander.

READ MORE: This QAnon influencer is fighting to put election-denying Republicans 'in charge of states' elections: report

As an Arizona state legislator, Finchem co-sponsored a bill that would have empowered the lege to overturn election results. Finchem was subpoenaed by the J6 committee over his role in the Trump-sponsored plot to send fake electors to Washington. The US Department of Justice has also subpoenaed Finchem’s communications in its probe of the fake electors scheme.

The strange saga of the QAnon coalition began when Marchant lost his race for a US House seat in 2020. As is customary for GOP losers these days, Marchant cried fraud. His pleas fell on deaf ears in court, given that he lost by a whopping five percentage points and presented no compelling evidence of fraud whatsoever.

Reeling, Marchant checked himself into the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, as one does. During that dark night of the soul, QAnon guru Juan O. Savin (aka Wayne Willott) appeared unexpectedly at his suite and convinced him to run for secretary of state, or so Marchant later told the faithful at a QAnon-themed conference in 2021.

Marchant has made conflicting claims about whether he personally believes in QAnon, but his stated ideology fits right in.

Marchant claims that no candidate has been legitimately elected in Nevada since 2006 on account of a diabolical plot between Harry Reid and George Soros on behalf of a group he calls The Cabal operating out of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Marchant himself was elected to the Nevada legislature in 2016, so make of that what you will. He did raise doubts about his primary win for the secretary of state, but that didn’t stop him from declaring victory. “What am I supposed to do, not win?” he said, neatly encapsulating the attitude of Republican election deniers.

READ MORE: Donald Trump's Nevada rally was an orgy of hate, ignorance, and right-wing propaganda

The January 6th Committee dares Merrick Garland

The J6 Committee summed up Thursday its case that Donald Trump was the central motive force behind the J6 attack on the Capitol.

The focus of the hearing was the former president’s state of mind, and his actions before, during, and after the insurrection. The evidence on this front is so voluminous that the committee could only get through a fraction of it during the televised hearing.

The hearing culminated with a vote to subpoena Trump to testify. There was speculation about whether the committee would make a formal criminal referral. Instead of formally asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to charge Trump with a crime, the committee laid out an airtight case for why Trump should have to answer questions about his lawless behavior under oath. If Trump doesn’t comply with the subpoena, he will be in contempt of the Congress.

READ MORE: 'Central player': January 6th Select Committee unanimously votes to subpoena Donald Trump

Today’s hearing recapped how Trump and his closest advisors had decided long in advance that Trump would cry fraud and reject the results of the 2020 election if he didn’t win.

The committee also recapped the evidence that Trump knew perfectly well that there was no outcome-altering fraud. Trump’s attorney general, his campaign’s data gurus and the federal courts spoke with one voice: He lost.

Trump kept planning the coup anyway, whipping up his supporters with bogus allegations of fraud and summoning them to Washington, DC, on the day the election was to be certified.

As usual, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon couldn’t stop running his mouth.

READ MORE: January 6th Select Committee: Secret Service ignored 'substantial intel' about Proud Boys threats

Bannon was in regular contact with the White House in the days before the insurrection and one of his advisors later said that his assistance was a key factor in Trump’s decision to pardon Bannon for an unrelated fraud charge.

On Halloween of 2020, Bannon explained to a crowd of Chinese associates how Trump intended to preemptively declare himself the winner of the election before the votes were counted, even if he knew he lost.

“And what Trump is going to do is just declare victory, right? He's gonna declare victory, but that doesn't mean he's the winner, he’s just going to say he’s the winner,” Bannon said, adding that “[I]f Trump is losing by 10, 11 at night, it's going to be even crazier. Because he’s going to sit right there and say they stole it.”

Bannon used his popular podcast to keep the MAGA faithful updated on efforts to overturn the election. Each episode of the show, known as The War Room, reportedly gets millions of downloads.

During this time, Bannon was huddling at the Willard Hotel with Trump and his closest advisors, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, plotting to overturn the election, a clique also known as the War Room. Bannon flaunted his inside knowledge of the Trump camp’s plans for J6 on his podcast. “It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen,” Bannon told his podcast listeners, “All I can say is strap in.” Bannon also used his podcast to try to help get Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio sprung from jail on January 5.

The Proud Boys served as the vanguard in the attack. The group even had a detailed written plan to seize and occupy the building. Tarrio was absent on J6 because a DC judge ordered him to get out of town as a condition of his bail on weapons and vandalism charges.

The committee also revealed that on November 11, Trump signed an order to immediately withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan and Somalia; he wanted it all done before he left office on January 20.

The committee introduced this as evidence that Trump knew perfectly well he was leaving office on January 20 because he knew he’d lost. I never want to hear about Biden's rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan again.

The committee took the opportunity to remind us that Congress also has the power to summon a former president to testify. A subpoena is not optional. By voting to compel Trump’s testimony, the committee has thrown down the gauntlet. If Trump doesn’t at least show up to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, he’ll be committing the same crime as Bannon.

Instead of earnestly petitioning Merrick Garland to act with a criminal referral, the committee is daring Garland to do something.

Steve Bannon is already awaiting sentencing for defying the J6 Committee’s subpoena. It could happen again.

READ MORE: House January 6th panel still has 'essential' work and not much time left to do it: law professor

Will a jury actually convict white insurrectionists of seditious conspiracy?

The former leader of the Oath Keepers militia and his four associates went on trial for seditious conspiracy this week. The defendants are accused of conspiring to prevent the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, a plan which included, but was not limited to, the siege of the US Capitol on January 6.

Stewart Rhodes and his minions are the first J6 defendants to be tried under this rarely-used Civil War-era statute. The government’s track record of convicting far-right defendants of seditious conspiracy is weak, but the facts of the Oath Keeper affair make for an unusually strong case.

The last people to be convicted of seditious conspiracy were Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and nine of his followers, who were found guilty in 1995 of scheming to blow up the United Nations and various New York City landmarks in a bid to turn American public opinion against Israel. A large group of Puerto Rican separatists was convicted of seditious conspiracy for storming the US Capitol and shooting five members of Congress in 1954.

READ MORE: Stewart Rhodes had contact with supportive Secret Service agent: former Oath Keepers member

The federal government has struggled, however, to make seditious conspiracy charges stick against rightwing extremists.

In 1939, 17 followers of the fascist broadcaster priest Charles Edward Coughlin were acquitted of plotting to overthrow the United States in order to purge the country of Jews and Marxists.

In 1988 an all-white jury in Arkansas acquitted a group of high-profile white supremacists accused of plotting to murder a federal judge and an FBI agent in what came to be known as the Fort Smith Sedition Trial.

In 2012, several members of the far-right Hutaree Militia were acquitted of plotting to murder a police officer in order to provoke a showdown with the federal government. The Hutaree case was very weak and deserved to fail, but you could also be forgiven for thinking that American juries are a lot more sympathetic to white extremists.

READ MORE: 'We are not joking around': January 6th Committee posts Oath Keepers’ walkie-talkie insurrection audio

Perhaps the state’s biggest asset in the seditious conspiracy case against Stewart Rhodes is the fact that three other Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Brian Ulrich, Joshua James and William Todd Wilson have already signed plea deals admitting that they conspired with Rhodes to forcefully impede the transfer of power by disrupting the certification of the election on January 6 as part of a plot that extended all the way to the inauguration.

That means they can testify to the inner workings of the plot. For Rhodes to go down, the government only needs to prove that he entered into that agreement with one other person who wasn’t a government agent.

The defense will do their best to attack the credibility of the three turncoats, painting them as opportunists who lied to save their own skin. And let’s be real, they’re Oath Keepers. It would be surprising if they weren’t a little opportunistic.

But all it takes is for a jury to believe one of them. And the jury doesn’t have to take their word alone. The Oath Keepers left behind mountains of evidence. For all their pretensions of tactical sophistication, the Oath Keepers were remarkably sloppy.

Rhodes also pledged to fight a bloody civil war if Trump didn’t invoke the Insurrection Act to keep himself in power. He didn’t talk about resisting the US government by force. He put it in writing, publishing “calls to arms” on the Oath Keepers’ website, and discussing his plans on right-wing radio.

The defense will say that this is just all-American, First Amendment protected expression. And by itself, it would be. It’s not a crime to argue for revolution in the abstract. It only crosses a legal line if it leads to imminent lawless action. Like, say, attracting dozens of armed followers to Washington, stashing an arsenal of automatic weapons in local hotel rooms and forcibly disrupting a joint session of Congress.

The Oath Keepers were secretive, relying on burner phones, face-to-face meetings, false identities and other subterfuge to keep their plan secret. So the state needs witnesses to fill in some of the details. However, much of the scheming was conducted over Signal chats that are now in the hands of the government.

The Oath Keepers were both secretive and sloppy. Rhodes was caught on tape warning his followers against loose talk that could get them popped for conspiracy. Nevertheless, his co-defendants were constantly posting incriminating updates to Facebook.

On January 6, one of the Oath Keepers’ lawyers scolded Rhodes on Signal: “STEWART: YOU ALL NEED TO DELETE ANY OF YOUR COMMENTS REGARDING WHO DID WHAT. [...] So GET BUSY. DELETE your self-incriminating comments or those that can incriminate others.”

The case against the Oath Keepers is also stronger than most seditious conspiracy cases because they actually tried to keep Trump in office by force. Oath Keepers in full battle rattle formed two infantry-style stacks and breached the building. We all saw it on television.

Historically, seditious conspiracy has been a kind of consolation prize for the government when they caught someone before they managed to do anything bad. In that case, a jury is always going to wonder if they were ever going to follow through, or whether the whole thing was so much loose talk, or even whether the whole case was manufactured by undercover agents egging on vulnerable people.

In the case in question, we know the Oath Keepers followed through.

One of the turncoats, Joshua James, swore in his plea deal that he accompanied Rhodes on the run after J6 and saw him buy and distribute thousands of dollars worth of weapons that he intended to use to stop the transfer of power. James also claims that on Jan 20, Rhodes gave him an AR15-style rifle and said he would “not be taken by law enforcement without a fight.”

This is a test of whether the 19th century statute still has teeth and, moreover, whether a jury is willing to apply it to white insurrectionists.

READ MORE: A militia expert explains the complex relationship between Trump and the Capitol rioters

Trump can’t sue his way out of a criminal investigation

The government can resume its criminal probe into how some of our nation’s most closely-guarded secrets ended up in former president Donald Trump’s desk and pool closet, thanks to a forceful ruling by the 11th Circuit last Wednesday. This is a huge victory for the people, a resounding rebuke to the lawlessness of Judge Aileen Cannon.

The three-judge panel eviscerated Judge Aileen Cannon’s flimsy justifications for barring investigators from using the documents until a court-appointed special master could review them.

The first question on the panel’s mind was jurisdiction. Why should Cannon decide the fate of the property seized from Mar-a-Lago rather than the judge who approved the search warrant?

READ MORE: Donald Trump's special master gambit is a 'giant backfire'

Cannon claimed that Trump’s case belonged in her courtroom because his lawyers had filed a Rule 41(g) motion to get his property back. Except, he hadn’t. The panel was not impressed.

You can’t normally sue your way out of a criminal investigation. Only people who have suffered extraordinary violations of their constitutional rights can sue to get evidence back before they’ve even been indicted. The Mar-a-Lago evidence was seized during a legal search, which means Trump’s rights weren’t violated at all.

Yet Judge Cannon took it upon herself to restrict the government’s access to evidence in a criminal case, even though she admitted that Trump had suffered no gross violation of his rights.

That’s “reason enough to conclude that the district court abused its discretion,” according to the 11th Circuit.

READ MORE: Watchdog publishes 'staggering' list of Donald Trump's 55 'credibly accused' criminal offenses

Donald Trump neither owns nor needs the classified documents taken from his home, which is all the more reason why Judge Cannon was wrong to insert herself into a criminal investigation on his behalf. By law, classified information belongs to the United States and access is limited to those with a legitimate need-to-know.

Former President Trump lacks need-to-know.

The panel scoffed at Trump’s claims that he would be irreparably harmed if he didn’t get the documents back. Sure, it sucks to have the government build a criminal case against you, but that’s not harm that qualifies for extraordinary relief through the courts.

In the panel’s opinion, it’s the US that could suffer irreparable harm if this investigation is delayed unnecessarily. The judges agreed with the government that allowing Trump’s lawyers and the special master to inspect these highly classified documents could cause irreparable harm. Every person who gets read in unnecessarily increases the risk that a critical national security secret will be exposed.

Cannon took the highly unusual step of revising her original order, eliminating restrictions on classified documents. Team Trump may have the option to appeal to the full 11th Circuit, or even to the Supreme Court, but given how the panel chewed out Judge Cannon, a wise man would think carefully about his chances of success with further appeals. Then again, this is Trump we’re talking about.

READ MORE: New DOJ filing exposes Trump’s secret objections — and asks special master to call his bluff

The MyPillow guy is the heart of the ‘Big Lie’ conspiracy

Federal agents boxed him in as he waited in at Hardee’s drive-thru last week. They handed Mike Lindell a subpoena and confiscated his phone. What does the FBI want with the My Pillow Guy’s mobile?

Lindell is the sugar daddy of the Big Lie. The eccentric pillow peddler claims that the nation’s voting machines hold proof of a stolen 2020 election. Since Trump’s defeat, he’s spent tens of millions of dollars bankrolling grassroots activists who pressure local Republican election officials to leak highly sensitive data from voting machines.

This data, our data, finds its way to Lindell’s “cybersecurity experts” who write bogus reports crying fraud. These false claims are amplified by Trumpworld celebrities like Steve Bannon. Lindell is also spending millions to build his own right-wing media platform so that his credulous acolytes can absorb his lies without contradiction and nobody can deplatform him for spreading misinformation.

READ MORE: How a rural Colorado county became an epicenter of Donald Trump's Big Lie

Lindell’s phone was seized because of his links to Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado. Last year, members of a Lindell-backed Big Lie group approached Peters with bogus allegations of voter fraud. An itinerant “cybersecurity” analyst with ties to Lindell further stoked her paranoia that an upcoming software update for Colorado’s voting machines would destroy evidence from 2020. Peters’ phone was also seized by FBI agents last week.

Peters admits that she allowed an unauthorized person to copy Mesa County’s sensitive election data before the software update. The state of Colorado has charged her with multiple felonies in connection with this incident, including identity theft. Mike Lindell’s subpoena reveals that the feds are also investigating allegations of identity theft, intentional damage to a protected computer, and conspiracy stemming from the Mesa County data heist.

Colorado authorities didn’t realize anything was amiss in Mesa County until QAnon luminary Ron Watkins posted the BIOS password for a Dominion voting machine on Telegram. Since these credentials are unique, authorities were able to pinpoint the security breach to Mesa County. A few days later, Watkins purported to “analyze” the stolen data from the Mesa County voting machines in front of an audience at Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium.” Lindell reportedly flew Tina Peters to the conference in his private jet. Afterwards, he helped Peters evade the FBI by putting her up in a safehouse.

The Mesa County breach was not an isolated incident.

READ MORE: FBI grabbing Mike Lindell’s phone may yield info on white supremacist and Christian nationalist allies

Another Colorado county clerk was caught on surveillance cameras copying his county’s voting machine data. Two Lindell associates, Shawn Smith and Mike Cook, talked the clerk of Elbert County through the process over text message.

There are eight documented cases of Trump-linked activists compromising election infrastructure in search of evidence of fraud.

There may be more.

Some of the people involved in those incidents also have ties to Lindell. Lindell denies involvement in any data breach, but the coincidences are beginning to add up.

It’s surprising the FBI waited this long to seize his phone.

READ MORE: Mike Lindell says that he has dumped $30 million into proving Donald Trump's Big Lie

The former guy has no claim to the current executive’s privilege

Judge Aileen Cannon stopped a criminal investigation by ordering a special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

This court-appointed official will probably be charged with reviewing the seized materials to see if they are protected by executive privilege.

It’s unclear who that official will be, what criteria they will use or how long this process will take. The judge’s ruling is a gift to Trump.

READ MORE: 'Something weird is going on': Donald Trump quietly flew to DC on Sunday night and nobody knows why

Faced with overwhelming evidence of their client’s guilt, his lawyers can only hope to drag the process out as long as possible.

On Thursday, the feds asked the judge to let them keep working with only the classified documents, because those couldn’t possibly be privileged.

Asking for a subset of the documents was a savvy tactical choice by the feds. But it’s obvious that Donald Trump has no claim to executive privilege over any of the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Richard Nixon had to turn over the White House tapes to the special prosecutor who had indicted seven of Nixon’s closest aides in the Watergate investigation.

READ MORE: 'No one is above the law': Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump 'is not the president' and should be prosecuted

Nixon’s lawyers argued that the president’s Oval Office conversations were off-limits. Advisors need privacy in order to give candid advice, they said.

But Chief Justice Warren Burger’s majority opinion held that Nixon’s demand for privacy “[could not] prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law.” The tapes were handed over. Nixon resigned shortly thereafter, leaving behind millions of pages of presidential records and hundreds of hours of tape recordings.

This case established not only that a president’s assertion of privilege could be tested in court, but also that the government’s need for evidence in a criminal case outweighs the president’s need for privacy.

The parallels to Trump’s situation are obvious.

If anything, Trump is in a weaker position than Nixon was in, because he’s the former president, and he’s the one facing indictment.

After Watergate, Congress passed a law that made presidential records public property and tasked the General Services Administration (GSA) with archiving them for posterity.

Nixon sued for control, again citing privilege. Justices rejected the claim by a vote of 7-2, noting that, since the doctrine of executive privilege is based on the separation of powers, Nixon couldn’t invoke it to thwart the GSA, which is also part of the executive branch.

The Department of Justice cited this precedent in Trump’s case. Trump is trying to invoke executive privilege against the DOJ, which is, like the GSA, part of the executive branch. Evidently, Judge Aileen Cannon ignored this seemingly decisive objection in her ruling.

It’s unclear whether a former president can ever claim executive privilege, let alone whether he can overrule a sitting president in a privilege fight.

Executive privilege is supposed to further the public good through the smooth operation of government. Privilege exists to protect the executive branch’s ability to fulfill its core constitutional functions. It’s not a perk for the office-holder.

A sitting president has core constitutional functions to uphold, like safeguarding national security and upholding the rule of law. A former president has no constitutional function whatsoever.

In a privilege fight between a sitting president and a former guy merely defending himself, the former guy should lose every time.

One of the bedrock principles of our democracy is that powers and privileges are vested in the office of the president, not in the person.

That makes it difficult to see how a former president, who is (legally speaking) just some guy, could wield executive privilege, let alone privilege strong enough to overrule that of the sitting president.

Proponents of executive privilege for former presidents have to resort to pretzel logic to explain why some guy should be able to overrule the sitting president of the United States: The former president has executive privilege, they say, because every current president is a future former president. The current president won’t be able to get good advice if his advisors are afraid that their deliberations could be made public by a future president.

The Supreme Court recently dodged the question of former-guy privilege. A lower court ruled that Trump must hand over documents to the J6 committee. Trump tried to invoke executive privilege, even though actual President Biden waived his actual privilege.

The lower court ruled that Congress’s claim was so strong that Trump wouldn’t have been able to invoke executive privilege even if he had been president. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Eight of the nine justices denied Trump’s motion to block NARA from handing over the documents, which now reside with the J6 committee.

Judge Cannon’s decision to freeze a criminal investigation to check for executive privilege is frivolous. It’s doubtful that former president Trump has executive privilege at all, but even if he did, the Supreme Court held unanimously that executive privilege must yield to the demands of an active federal criminal investigation.

Moreover, executive privilege can’t be wielded by one part of the executive branch against another. So, executive privilege would not justify withholding information from the Department of Justice.

READ MORE: Donald Trump's lawyers are 'witnesses' that Justice Department will 'try to flip': New Yorker chief editor

Trump World keeps admitting to an ongoing crime

As the president, Donald Trump ran the country as an extension of his personal real-estate fiefdom. As the former president, he’s taking an equally lawless attitude toward the classified materials that he removed from the White House at the end of his term.

Trump reportedly rebuffed advisors who urged him to return boxes of presidential records stashed at Mar-a-Lago, saying, “They’re mine.” Trump has even ordered his lawyers to recover all the documents the FBI recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Astonishingly, his legal team appears to be laying the groundwork to challenge the seizure.

The ludicrous claim that Trump owns these documents undercuts his excuse for having any records in his home in the first place. By law, the outgoing president must turn over all records for posterity.

READ MORE: Donald Trump demands 'a new election' because of Hunter Biden

Not just the sensitive, classified or privileged.

All of them.

Trump’s lawyers claim that overzealous General Services Administration movers inadvertently removed the 15 boxes of documents from the White House and took them to Mar-a-Lago. It was all a misunderstanding, see?

If so, why was the National Archives locked in months of bitter negotiation just to get the first 15 boxes back? The accident excuse is also hard to square with reporting from the Post that Trump personally and furtively supervised the packing – out of sight of even his close aides. Incidentally, the GSA flatly denies packing those boxes.

READ MORE: Watch: Rachel Maddow breaks down what Trump World's FBI lawsuit really means

The National Archives won the protracted custody battle for the boxes in early 2022, a year after Trump left office. When they were returned, staff found a trove of highly sensitive national defense information, including hundreds of pages marked as “classified.”

Some were labeled “HCS,” for Human Intelligence Control System. These materials are closely guarded because they can reveal the identities of CIA informants, critical intelligence assets who could be killed if their cover is blown. Others were marked ORCON, which means that the agency that originally classified the document must approve further dissemination.

Archive staffers informed the Justice Department, which kicked off the criminal investigation into the mishandling of classified information and obstruction of justice.

Trump had another chance to come clean on June 3 when FBI investigators arrived at Mar-a-Lago to remove additional records, which had been subpoenaed by a grand jury. Team Trump handed over a few more scraps of sensitive material that day, and at least one of his lawyers signed a document attesting that there was no more.

During that visit, Trump’s lawyers showed the FBI a basement storage area where documents had been kept. After the visit, Justice Department lawyers told Team Trump to secure the room and not touch anything.

Evidently, there was still something worth safeguarding in there. Moreover, if Team Trump started shifting documents around after the Justice Department specifically told them not to, they could be committing obstruction of justice.

Keep in mind that it was illegal for Trump to be hanging on to any presidential records, let alone priceless government secrets. By showing the basement cache of presidential records to the FBI, Team Trump was admitting to an ongoing crime.

Later that month, Trump was hit with another subpoena, this time for the surveillance footage of the storage room. The footage reportedly showed boxes being moved in and out of the storage room shortly after one of Trump’s contacts with the Justice Department.

The Justice Department clearly believed that there were more sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago, hence the search on August 8. The search yielded 11 sets of classified documents, which were removed from Trump’s bedroom, office and basement.

The affidavit that supplied the probable cause for the search was unsealed Friday, in a highly unusual move. The unredacted portions of the document reveal little about why the FBI expected to find not only additional classified documents but also evidence of obstruction of justice. The Justice Department cited the need to safeguard witnesses from harassment as one reason for redactions. That seems to confirm speculation that one or more sources inside Mar-a-Lago cooperated with the FBI.

If the affidavit seems underwhelming, it’s because the probable cause is already in plain sight. No one disputes that Trump removed more than 15 boxes of records at the end of his term.

He fought to hang onto them for nearly a year.

When Trump got one last chance to hand over the documents, his lawyer lied and said they’d all been returned. The subpoenaed surveillance footage may even have captured Team Trump’s attempts to hide documents from investigators.

Trump’s boasts that he owns the documents are undercutting his lawyers’ attempts to portray a brazen theft as an accident.

All evidence points to Trump knowingly and willfully removing classified documents for his own purposes.

READ MORE: What if Donald Trump's conspiracy was even bigger than we thought?

Why Allen Weisselberg can no longer invoke the 5th Amendment to protect Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s top financial adviser Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty Thursday to 15 felonies, including tax fraud. The Trump Organization itself stands charged with similar crimes. Legally, Weisselberg’s guilt is tantamount to the Trump Organization’s.

The former president is not charged in this case, but the indictment alleges that he participated in at least one aspect of the scheme.

The Trump Organization is the nerve center of Trump’s empire. It’s accountable only to him. If the organization is found guilty, the company could face large fines or roadblocks to future deals.

READ MORE: Allen Weisselberg expected to 'criminally implicate' Trump Organization in plea deal

That would hit Trump’s pocketbook directly. But more importantly, Weisselberg could potentially testify that Trump personally, knowingly and willfully participated in the tax scam.

A primitive scheme

Weisselberg was facing 15 years maximum, but he agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a five-month sentence, of which he’ll probably only serve 100 days at Rikers Island. He agreed to testify against the Trump Organization, but he didn’t agree to cooperate with the larger criminal investigation into Donald Trump personally. This is face-saving for Weisselberg who can say that he stayed loyal to his boss of 50 years, but this may be a distinction without a difference.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to administering and benefiting from a primitive tax-avoidance scheme. Some senior Trump Organization managers were paid in lavish fringe benefits such as rent-free apartments, leased luxury cars and private-school tuition payments.

READ MORE: Ex-Trump Organization CFO agrees to testify against Donald Trump's companies in potential criminal trial

As a result, their paychecks were smaller. They paid fewer taxes. The Trump Organization dodged taxes on their artificially small payroll.

Weisselberg failed to report nearly $1.8 million in income over 15 years that included the value of a rent-free apartment on Riverside Boulevard in Manhattan, leased Mercedes-Benzes for himself and his wife and private school tuition for his grandkids.

The indictment alleges that some of the tuition was paid by checks drawn on Trump’s personal account, signed by Trump personally.

If the Trump Organization insists on taking this case to trial, Weisselberg could theoretically testify that Trump knew he was writing those checks as part of the scheme.

Still a black box

The criminal investigation of Trump reportedly stalled out because New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg worried that he couldn’t prove that Trump knowingly falsified the value of his assets. The prosecutors who investigated Trump insisted they could prove multiple felonies, but Bragg’s the man in charge.

After so many years and so many investigations, the Trump Organization is still a black box. Trump’s top lieutenants have for years thwarted investigations by pleading the Fifth.

The perennial challenge in white-collar cases is proving that the big boss knowingly and willfully participated and that the crimes weren’t just the work of overzealous underlings. Trump’s lieutenants routinely refuse to answer basic questions under oath about how the company is run and who makes decisions, on the grounds that it might incriminate them.

For years, Weisselberg invoked his right against self-incrimination whenever investigators questioned him about Trump’s business dealings, even the most basic aspects of how the business operated.

But now Weisselberg can’t take the Fifth about any of the crimes he’s already pleaded guilty to. He already incriminated himself on those.

De facto life sentence

More to the point, since his sentencing isn’t until after the Trump Organization’s trial, he’s testifying with a 15-year prison term hanging over his head, a de facto life sentence for a frail 75-year-old man.

That’s a big incentive not to get cute with prosecutors who ask uncomfortable questions. That kind of testimony could be useful to investigators and possibly even to future prosecutors.

Weisselberg could reveal very damaging information about the inner workings of Trump’s business and his personal misconduct without technically cooperating with the criminal probe against his boss.

READ MORE: Ex-Trump Organization CFO negotiating 'unexpectedly favorable' plea deal with Manhattan DA

Alex Jones’ many-splendored phone

A Texas jury awarded $45.2 million dollars in punitive damages Friday in a defamation suit brought by the parents of a murdered Sandy Hook elementary school student whom extremist conspiracy media baron Alex Jones smeared as a “crisis actor.”

This is on top of $4.1 million in compensatory damages awarded by the same jury earlier this week for Jones' relentless campaign against a dead 6-year-old and his family.

Jones is liable for intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the parents of Jesse Lewis, who was gunned down alongside 19 of his fellow students and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Jones and his staff at InfoWars waged a relentless campaign of lies against the Sandy Hook parents, calling the shooting a “hoax” and insinuating that the victims were crisis actors hired by the government as a pretext to tighten gun laws.

READ MORE: What we know about Alex Jones' role in the January 6th insurrection

During the trial, the plaintiffs’ lawyers exposed Jones’ lies and his predatory business model: Jones breaks his viewers down with terrifying lies about the New World Order, reptilians, the Illuminati and the parents of murdered children.

Then he soothes them with pitches for untested boner pills, tactical gear and freeze-dried mystery meals in buckets – everything the discerning conspiracy buff needs to handle the apocalypse that is always just around the corner.

Jones draws in viewers by hundreds of millions, sells advertising on their traffic and then has the audacity to milk the rubes for donations by promising them that only he dares to tell them the truth.

It turns out, gullibility, anxiety and vanity are infinitely monetizable.

READ MORE: 'Highly embarrassing': Tucker Carlson is worried about his texts with Alex Jones leaking due to Jan. 6 probe

A forensic economist hired by the plaintiffs estimated that Jones is worth somewhere between $135 million and $270 million. Despite being hired by the plaintiffs, the economist couldn’t hide his admiration for Jones’ success, likening the QAnon-friendly vitamin hustler to Genghis Khan. “He promulgated some hate speech and some misinformation, but he made a lot of money,” Bernard Pettingill told the jury.

God bless America!

On Wednesday, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston confronted a stunned Jones with text messages and other data from Jones’ phone.

“Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years?” he asked.

In an epic blunder, Jones’ Connecticut lawyer Norm Pattis inadvertently shared 300 gigabytes of data with Bankston.

Bankston warned his opponent that there had been some kind of mistake, but the lawyer didn’t take the proper steps to cordon off any of the material as privileged within the 10-day deadline. So, Bankston got to use some of it in court to prove Jones had perjured himself.

The phone data proved that Jones was lying under oath when he claimed that a $2 million judgment would put him out of business and that he’d never texted about Sandy Hook.

But that’s just beginning.

Within minutes of these revelations being live-streamed, lawyers for the J6 committee sprang into action to subpoena the dumped data.

At a hearing the following day, Bankston said he intended to hand everything over to the J6 committee immediately unless Judge Maya Guerra Gamble intervened to stop him. She did not stand in his way.

On the contrary, the judge wryly predicted that the J6 committee would get those gigabytes whether Bankston cooperated or not.

The exact contents of the data leak are still unclear, but we already know that it’s not all from Alex Jones’ phone, indeed some of the records were part of an unrelated case.

The trove is huge and neither Jones’ defense lawyer, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, nor Judge Gamble seemed to know its full contents as of Thursday’s hearing.

About 2.3 gigabytes of the haul comes from Jones’ phone, including what Bankston described to the court as “intimate messages” between Jones and longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, another person of great interest to the J6 committee.

Jones met with the J6 committee in January. He claims to have asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over 100 times.

The committee is well aware that Alex Jones was Trump’s insurrectionary pied piper. Jones hyped the “wild protest” on his show, exhorting his audience to show up and stop the certification of the election.

The committee also knows that Jones played a key role in fundraising to put on the rally at the Ellipse, the stage from which Trump set the mob upon the Capitol.

A particularly rabid Jones fangirl, a 72-year-old supermarket heiress named Janice Fancinelli wired $650,000 to stage the fateful rally at the Ellipse, a display of largesse that some of her concerned family members and other insiders ascribed to “her enthusiasm for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.”

The donation was handled by elite GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren, who insisted that only Jones on the podium alongside Trump would satisfy the InfoWars superfan.

Wren reportedly pushed so hard that someone called the park police about a potential “disorderly.” In the end, Jones attended the rally but not in a speaking role. As the president’s inflammatory speech wound down, staffers escorted Jones out so that he could lead the crowd to the Capitol.

Photos show Jones inside the restricted area. Two InfoWars staffers entered the Capitol itself and are now facing criminal charges.

Jones’ former employee, Joe Biggs, is a Proud Boy who is facing charges of seditious conspiracy for his role in the J6 riot.

Biggs is represented by none other than Connecticut lawyer and tech wizard Norm Pattis.

As the name suggests, punitive damages are a punishment for particularly reprehensible behavior, above and beyond the compensation owed to a defendant’s victims.

Punitive damages are a jury’s opportunity to send a message to society about the defendant and their bad behavior. The award will probably be capped under Texas law, but the jury sent a clear message about the acceptability of lying about dead kids for money.

However, Jones’ biggest punishment may still be coming – at the hands of the January 6 committee or the criminal justice system.

READ MORE: Alex Jones texted wife’s naked picture to Roger Stone: Sandy Hook lawyer

The mob did what Donald Trump wanted

Thursday’s prime-time hearing of the J6 committee focused on one question: What was Donald Trump doing for the 187 minutes from when he set the mob on the Capitol until he told them to go home?

The committee deftly wove together live testimony, audio and video depositions, texts and chats, and riot footage to illustrate what was going on inside and outside the White House during that time.

Instead of coordinating the defense of the US government, as you’d expect, Trump was calling senators and lawyer Rudy Giuliani. He was still trying to put a coup together. And, uncharacteristically for Trump, he sent the White House photographer away while he did it.

READ MORE: Josh Hawley voted to cover up his involvement in a congressional coup

This is a guy who would invite a photographer to shoot him shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, but he didn’t want his machinations recorded for posterity. How’s that for consciousness of guilt?

The hearing corroborated witness Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony. The former White House staffer recalled how Trump knew the mob was armed and how he clashed with his Secret Service detail when they refused to take him to the siege of the US Capitol.

Hutchinson testified that the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail, Tony Ornato, recounted to her how Trump had become enraged. Retired Secret Service agent Mark Robinson testified in his video deposition that he too heard Ornato say that Trump became irate. Robinson said he was told that “the president was upset and was adamant about going to the Capitol.” He recalled radio traffic about insurgents with AR-15s in the trees along Constitution Avenue.

Anonymous sources within the Secret Service disputed Hutchinson’s account and hinted that they were willing to tell their side of the story under oath. So far none have followed through.

READ MORE: Watch: Jared Kushner reveals what Donald Trump tried to omit from his post-insurrection address

However, Ornato and Trump’s driver Bobby Engel have taken the unusual step of hiring private lawyers. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into the destruction of Secret Service text messages from J6, which the agency claims were lost in some Rube Goldberg-style IT mishap. Ironically, the outgoing director of the Secret Service is leaving to join Snapchat, an app famous for its rapidly disappearing texts.

Thursday’s hearing offered new glimpses of how dire the situation in the Capitol had become as the mob streamed into the building. We heard audio from Mike Pence’s security detail and heard testimony from an unnamed national security official who described how the agents guarding Pence were calling their families to say goodbye because they were afraid they were about to be killed by the mob.

We learned that White House national security staffers were monitoring these desperate communications in real-time. No one said so explicitly, but the J6 committee was inviting the inference that Trump must also have known the danger Pence was in.

Trump ignored entreaties from his advisors to calm his supporters. Instead, he fired off an even more inflammatory tweet, accusing Mike Pence of lacking the courage to overturn the election. "The situation was already bad, and so it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that," former White House staffer Sarah Matthews said.

The serious proceedings were lightened by moments of dark but revealing comedy, including the mad dash of US Senator Josh Hawley from the mob he helped incite, and the news that son-in-law Jared Kushner was stress-showering during the siege. The committee also played outtakes from the filming of Trump’s address the following day, in which he refused to say that the election was over.

“But this election is now over — Congress has certified the results — ” Trump read from the teleprompter, and then stopped adding, “I don’t want to say the election is over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election is over, OK?”

The committee’s many streams of evidence gelled into a clear closing argument for this phase of the investigation: Trump refused to quell the mob because the mob was doing exactly what he wanted them to do. The mob was his instrument to overturn the election.

READ MORE: Eighth January 6th hearing made Donald Trump 'look horrific': Fox News host

Even if Griswold stands, states are likely to ban contraception

The demise of Roe threatens access to emergency contraception, IUDs and even the birth-control pill. Access is threatened even if Griswold v. Connecticut, which safeguards our right to birth control, remains the law.

By refusing to recognize a right to abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, the rightwing supermajority on the Supreme Court has created a free-for-all.

State legislators can disregard medical consensus and redefine pregnancy and abortion according to whim. Effective female-controlled methods of birth control could be banned even without overturning Griswold.

READ MORE: Jennifer Rubin: The 'cruelty' of forced birth advocates will foster their demise

Five states already prohibit abortion from conception onward. These states have decrees that pregnancy begins at the moment of fertilization.

However dramatic a sperm’s entrance may be, fertilization does not guarantee a pregnancy. Medically speaking, pregnancy begins at implantation. Half of fertilized eggs fail without birth control. That means unprotected sex dooms more fertilized eggs than any birth control does

In any case, preventing a fertilized egg from implanting is contraception, not abortion. Even the notorious Hyde Amendment allows the federal government to fund contraceptives that prevent implantation.

State legislators will probably get away with their capricious redefining of key medical concepts like “pregnancy” and “abortion,” because the Supreme Court usually defers to their views on socially contested concepts.

READ MORE: Petition to impeach Clarence Thomas tops one million signatures

A major health care system in Missouri, which now bans abortion at all stages, briefly stopped providing emergency contraception after Dobbs. It feared its staff would be prosecuted under the state’s abortion ban.

It was a reasonable concern. The state’s governor dodged questions about whether the new law would apply to contraception. The network only went back to providing Plan B after Missouri’s attorney general confirmed that the law does not apply to emergency contraception.

Emergency contraception, also known as Plan B, works the same way as regular birth control pills, mainly by preventing ovulation. Experts used to think that IUDs worked primarily by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting, but we now know that the vast majority of pregnancies prevented by IUDs are headed off before fertilization.

Anti-choicers have been fighting to redefine contraceptives as abortion for years. They rallied behind pharmacists who put their religious beliefs ahead of their obligations when refusing to dispense Plan B. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that companies can deny employees comprehensive health care insurance based on their specious belief that birth control is abortion.

READ MORE: Roe's overturning commands ‘forced socialism’ in response to ‘forced births’: journalist

Last year, a group of Republican state legislators in Missouri tried unsuccessfully to stop the state’s Medicaid program from covering contraception methods that they falsely claim cause abortions.

“The bottom line is there is only one time something definitively happens and that’s the moment of conception,” Missouri state Sen. Paul Wieland said at the time, expressing a typically sperm-centric view of the situation, “Once that happens, anything that happens should not be state funded.”

Republican legislators in Idaho said they will consider using their supermajority to ban emergency contraception in the next session.

So never mind about Griswold.

READ MORE: The Supreme Court’s nod to white Christian theocracy

The right to contraception under threat even if it stands.

The House January 6th Select Committee has masterfully trapped Donald Trump

The January 6 Committee is methodically slamming Donald Trump’s remaining escape hatches. The committee’s third televised hearing deftly wove together expert and eye-witness testimony, video, and Trump’s own tweets to put the former president at the very center of the failed coup.

Officially, Thursday’s hearing was about whether Vice President Mike Pence had the power to single-handedly decide the winner of the 2020 election. The answer was a resounding “no.” The public learned what those who have been following the J6 committee’s legal findings have long known: that the scheme outlined in the Eastman memos was a crackpot plan that even Eastman acknowledged was illegal.

Just as importantly, today’s hearing established that Trump waged a public and private pressure campaign to get Mike Pence to follow John Eastman’s plan to overturn the election during the certification. This campaign was waged in person, over the phone, and on twitter, and the committee shared evidence of every step.

One of the hearing’s star witnesses was Greg Jacob, Pence’s former counsel. One of the most intriguing aspects of his testimony was a review of an email exchange between Jacob and Eastman that took place while Pence and Jacob were hiding from the mob.

“And thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege,”Jacob wrote to Eastman from the secure location.

Eastman shot back that the siege was happening “because you and your boss did not do what was necessary.” There you have it in Eastman’s own words: the mob stormed the Capitol because Pence refused to play his assigned role in the coup. And Eastman should know, he was on stage with Trump at the Ellipse when Trump explained to the crowd that Mike Pence had to send the election back to the states so that the Republicans would win the election.

“[The states] want to recertify. But the only way that can happen is if Mike Pence agrees to send it back. Mike Pence has to agree to send it back,” Trump told the crowd.

In another email from hiding, Jacob asked Eastman whether he had advised Trump that the Vice President lacks the power to unilaterally overturn the election. “[Trump] been advised, as you should know, because you were on the phone when I did it,” Eastman wrote back, “But you know him. Once he gets something in his head, it’s hard to get him to change course.”

During this exchange, Jacob forced the former law professor to concede that his plan violated the Electoral Count Act. Jacob also testified that Eastman admitted that not a single Supreme Court Justice would credit Eastman’s far-fetched theory that the vice president can decide who wins an election.

Eastman is saying that he told Trump the coup was illegal, but Trump tried to make it happen anyway. Knowingly, willfully, unlawfully.

Self-representing Peter Navarro has a fool for an attorney

Former Trump advisor and self-proclaimed J6 coup plotter Peter Navarro has been indicted for contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the J6 committee. Navarro faces two counts of contempt, each punishable by a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

This is big news. It’s an indictment of someone in Trump’s inner circle who has already admitted to trying to overturn the election.

A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

But what if you’re not even a lawyer?

Earlier this week Peter Navarro filed a rambling and at times bizarre 88-page complaint, pleading with a federal judge to quash the J6 committee subpoena and a new subpoena to provide the same documents or testify before a federal grand jury – presumably the same federal grand jury that just indicted him. The filing is widely regarded as a nuisance suit and a delaying tactic since its main arguments have already been rejected by federal courts.

Navarro made his subpoena public in his legal filing. He went on a media blitz to talk about it. This despite the fact that prosecutors asked him not to. It’s the kind of thing a lawyer might advise against.

Navarro is claiming he can’t testify, or even show up, because of executive privilege. The Supreme Court has already rejected that argument. One of the many other fatal flaws in Navarro’s argument is that executive privilege can only apply to conversations about your official job. “Coup plotter” isn’t a job description.

Navarro’s actual job was that of trade advisor. His main qualification was an especially frothy loathing of China. He wore many other hats over the years, all of them fake.

Navarro played at counter-espionage and falsely accused a staffer of being the leaker known as Anonymous. (It was Miles Taylor.) Navarro did a stint as an amateur viologist, accusing Dr. Anthony Fauci of cooking up covid. (It was bats.) As an amateur doctor, Navarro championed hydroxychloroquine as a cure for covid. (It was bunk.)

Navarro later compiled the false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election into an 18-page memo the Post’s Philip Bump described as possibly the most embarrassing document ever written by a White House staffer. Navarro saw himself as providing the intellectual ammunition for GOP lawmakers to vote to overturn the election.

Upon leaving the White House, Navarro wrote a memoir claiming to have been the co-creator of something he called “The Green Bay Sweep.” The Green Bay Sweep is another way of describing the Trump/Eastman plan for Mike Pence to steal the election during the certification ceremony by sending the election “back to the states.”

Trump and his cronies launched a massive pressure campaign against Pence that was so intense that Pence’s chief of staff warned the Secret Service that Pence might be in danger for defying Trump.

Navarro is the first member of Trump’s inner circle to be indicted for contempt, though a handful of others have been cited for refusing to testify before the J6 panel. The House voted to hold Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt.

The J6 committee has reason to believe that Navarro asked Meadows and possibly others to contact Roger Stone to discuss January 6. Stone is a longtime Trump advisor and self-proclaimed dirty trickster.

Stone played a key role in the “Stop the Steal” movement and worked closely with both Oath Keepers and Proud Boys – paramilitary groups whose members are facing charges of seditious conspiracy for their role in the storming of the US Capitol.

The 72-year-old Navarro noted in his complaint that a sentence of one year represents over a quarter of his remaining life expectancy.

Now he’s facing two contempt charges, each of which carries a one-year sentence. Navarro might want to hire a lawyer.

'The people were very angry': Why Donald Trump defending threats to hang Mike Pence matters

On learning that Vice President Mike Pence had been rescued from a mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” President Donald Trump allegedly remarked that Pence should have been hanged after all.

At least two witnesses told the J6 committee about this exchange, according to the Times. We don’t know how Trump delivered that line, but even in jest, such it bespeaks intense anger toward Pence.

This remark also bolsters the assumption that Trump intended for the J6 mob to coerce Pence. As we shall see, the mob was just the most dramatic part of an extended campaign by Trump and his allies to pressure Pence into doing something they all knew was illegal.

Earlier that day, Trump had sicced the mob on the Capitol with a fiery speech in which he exhorted Pence to steal the election. He then retreated to the White House to “gleefully” watch the chaos play out on television.

As the insurgents rampaged through the building, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

While Trump was indifferent to Pence’s safety, there’s no evidence that the president literally intended for the mob to kill him.

All the intricate plots that Trump hatched with his lawyer John Eastman depended on Pence remaining alive and cooperative.

But Pence had defied Trump in writing, releasing a statement repudiating the Eastman’s crackpot legal excuses and pledging to count the votes “in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws and history.”

In the weeks before the insurrection, Trump, Eastman and their allies waged a bitter public and private pressure campaign to convince Pence to steal the election during the joint session of Congress.

At first, they urged Pence to refuse to count electoral votes for Biden. Pence rejected that idea out of hand on grounds that it was illegal.

Eastman then switched gears, urging Pence to delay the certification for 10 days. Pence’s lawyer rejected the delay strategy as illegal, and Eastman conceded the point.

In an email exchange obtained by the J6 committee, Eastman accused Pence’s lawyer of being “small-minded” and “sticking to minor procedural statutes when the Constitution is being shredded.”

Eastman explicitly urged Pence to break the law, arguing that it would be the statesmanlike thing to do.

The pause Eastman was angling for was ostensibly to allow legislators to continue “investigating” Trump’s bogus allegations of voter fraud, but this was a fig leaf for his fake electors scam.

Eastman spent weeks courting Republican state legislators with an outrageous pseudo-legal theory: That state legislatures have absolute power to retroactively override any presidential election result they don’t like and handpick their own electors.

That’s what all those fake GOP electors were for.

On January 5, Eastman breathlessly informed Pence’s lawyer of a “huge” new development, claiming that the GOP-controlled state legislature would probably “recertify” its electors if Pence stopped the certification.

Trump apologists will try to play off the former president’s outrageous wish that Pence had been hanged as a mere joke, but we all know Trump too well to believe that.

Trump emotes and insinuates, but he doesn’t joke.

Turncoat Trump aide Michael Cohen once said that his boss lacks a sense of humor. "He doesn't laugh, he doesn't tell jokes, he doesn't have a sense of humor. He means it when he says it," he explained.

Trump disguises cryptic suggestions as jokes so that he doesn’t have to take responsibility for giving an order.

“Jokes” are the equivalent of disappearing ink for him.

He telegraphs his wishes and his underlings figure out how to execute his desires. Trump openly solicited Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election with his notorious “Russia, if you’re listening…” plea to hack Clinton’s emails.

It’s unlikely that Trump was being literal when he said he wished Pence had been hanged, but his bitterness over Pence thwarting the coup was deadly serious.

This comment sheds light on Trump’s hopes for the January 6 insurrection and could potentially even bolster criminal allegations against him.

Emails show that John Eastman thought allegations of fraud were unnecessary for stealing an election

Pennsylvania state legislator Russ Diamond had a problem. Joe Biden carried the commonwealth by 80,000 votes, thereby securing its 20 electors. According to a newly released trove of emails, Diamond and fellow Republican state legislators wanted instead to send electors dedicated to Donald Trump. They just needed the right excuse.

If that sounds outrageous, that’s because it is.

At first, it seemed allegations of electoral fraud might do the trick. Trump and his lawyers blanketed the airwaves with outlandish claims about fraud at the polls. But when the Trump legal team made their case to the Pennsylvania legislature, their efforts struck Diamond as unconvincing and frankly incompetent. If there was no fraud, how could they justify overriding the will of the voters?

Luckily for Diamond, an obscure conservative law professor had recently said in testimony that state legislatures didn’t need evidence of fraud to disregard the will of the people. It was enough, Professor John Eastman said, that the legislature objected to the rules under which the election was conducted. After watching Eastman’s testimony, Diamond decided Eastman was just the man to help him write a resolution purporting to nullify the will of his state’s voters.

“Honestly, the Trump legal team was not exactly stellar at PA's hearing, failed to provide the affidavits of their witnesses, and made a glaring error by purporting that more ballots had been returned than mailed out,” Diamond admitted in an email to Eastman. “It is for this reason that I latched onto your comments that actual fraud is irrelevant when the election itself is unlawful.”

Diamond sent Eastman a draft resolution predicated on Eastman’s crackpot theory that the US Constitution gives state legislatures the unchecked power to disenfranchise their own voters after the fact if legislators don’t like the results of an election.

Eastman praised Diamond’s efforts but urged his protegé to go still further and actually name Trump electors in the resolution, as opposed to simply announcing their intent to do so.

“One big question, though. Do you want to only go half way, and require another resolution to actually choose a slate of electors? Or should you do it all in one resolution?,” Eastman wrote. “I don't know the dynamic of your Legislature, so can't answer that. But my intuition is that it would be better to do what you need to do in one fell swoop.”

The Pennsylvania Secretary of State and the courts had made some tweaks to facilitate voting during the pandemic. Republicans challenged these changes in court and lost. But Eastman promised that these changes could give the Pennsylvania legislature the excuse it needed to throw out the election, even without any evidence of fraud.

Eastman argued that it would be more politically palatable if the legislature could claim that the new rules cost Trump the election and they as legislators were simply righting that wrong by nullifying the election and replacing Biden’s electors with Trump’s.

Knowing that the mail-in vote favored Biden, Eastman suggested that the legislature pass a resolution arbitrarily declaring a certain percentage of perfectly legal mail-in ballots to be illegal based on a convoluted formula Eastman made up.

That way, Eastman said, the legislature could claim Trump won. “That would help provide some cover,” he asserted. (In fact, Trump would still have lost under Eastman’s metric, but that’s beside the point.)

Ultimately, Pennsylvania state legislators did not pass a resolution openly nullifying the results of their state’s election and naming alternative electors. Instead, at the urging of Trump’s legal team, Pennsylvania Republicans secretly named a slate of pseudo-electors, as did Republicans in six other states that Biden won.

The threat of an Eastman gambit has not passed.

If anything, it has gotten worse.

Republicans who take Eastman’s arguments seriously are gaining ground in state legislatures and key election administration posts.

The GOP may retake the House and Senate this year, which could put GOP legislators in charge of certifying the next presidential election.

A bolder state legislature could still attempt the Eastman gambit in 2024. A GOP-controlled Congress might agree to count the illegitimate electors chosen by politicians, instead of those chosen by the people.

That is why Congress must reform the Electoral Count Act to specify that if there are two slates of electors claiming to represent a state, Congress must only count electors courts have affirmed as legitimate.

More new texts reveal how deeply involved the Oath Keepers were in the January 6th insurrection

Oath Keeper William Todd Wilson of North Carolina pleaded guilty last week to seditious conspiracy. He is the third member of the rightwing group to do so.

The Oath Keepers is an umbrella organization of heavily armed anti-government extremists led by former Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes.

The group preferentially recruits members with police or military experience. It encourages members to disobey laws they regard as unconstitutional.

The Oath Keepers are known for showing up heavily armed to emotionally charged events, often under the guise of providing security.

They participated in protests against covid restrictions as well as in the so-called “Stop the Steal” rallies promoting the lie of election fraud against Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

On January 6, the Oath Keepers served as bodyguards for maga VIPs, including Republican operative and convicted felon Roger Stone.

A total of 11 Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the J6 insurrection.

Another Oath Keeper facing the same charge recently submitted 337 pages of text messages, podcast transcripts and other materials in his motion for pretrial release.

This newly public trove of documents is a resource for those seeking to understand the Oath Keepers’ plans for J6, their activities on that day and their alleged conspiracy to keep on fighting to overturn the election after the insurrection failed.

One of the more intriguing details is that some of the Oath Keepers believed newly elected Republican member of Congress and former presidential physician Dr. Ronny Jackson was in trouble during and needed their protection.

Jackson had made fiery remarks at the Ellipse immediately before the assault on the Capitol, but he was trapped with the other legislators during the attack. It’s unclear how he made his way back there.

“Dr. Ronnie Jackson – on the move. Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect,” an unnamed Oath Keeper texted the group chat, as the mob roamed the building.

“Give him my cell,” replied Rhodes.

Needless to say, the J6 committee is curious about how the Oath Keeper knew that Jackson needed help, and what “critical data” the Oath Keeper thought he was safeguarding.

The committee sent Jackson a letter on May 2, asking to meet with him to discuss these issues. Jackson has refused to cooperate.

Jackson denies knowing any Oath Keepers and his spokesperson speculated, rather implausibly, that the Oath Keepers were just talking about him because he’s so famous.

It was no secret that Rhodes and the Oath Keepers had long intended to support Donald Trump if he declared martial law.

Indeed, Rhodes claimed in late 2020 that he had already massed troops and weapons in the Washington, DC, area to support Donald Trump if he did that. The text trove shows the Oath Keepers followed through on that plan.

The encrypted texts also show the Oath Keepers spending a lot of time scheming about what weapons they could bring to DC without violating the city’s strict gun laws so that they wouldn’t get arrested before Trump could declare martial law. Blades under 3 inches in length, lead pipe and bicycle helmets were all identified as legal weapons.

Meanwhile, the Oath Keepers had stashed an arsenal in a hotel room in Virginia, waiting for Donald Trump to give them the order to rise up.

The chats show the Oath Keepers were spoiling for a fight with antifascists. They openly hoped that violence by antifascist protesters would give Trump the pretext he needed to invoke martial law.

The text trove gives no clear indication that the Oath Keepers showed up on J6 expecting to overrun the Capitol. However, the record suggests that Rhodes may have made a spur-of-the-moment decision to throw his troops at the Capitol building when it became clear that Mike Pence had refused to steal the election from the podium and Donald Trump had yet to invoke martial law.

The record shows that Rhodes summoned his troops to the Capitol as the mob converged on the building. “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” Rhodes told the chat.

Whereupon Oath Keepers in tactical gear formed two single-file “stack” formations and surged towards the Capitol.

The Oath Keepers’ conspiracy to restore Trump to power does not appear to have ended after the authorities reclaimed the Capitol building.

Oath Keeper and self-proclaimed seditionist William Todd Wilson told a federal court on Wednesday that, after the attack, he heard Rhodes talking on the phone to someone whom Rhodes believed had a direct line to Trump. Whoever it was reportedly denied Rhodes’ demand to speak to the president.

Rhodes has pleaded not guilty and a disbarred lawyer associated with his defense asserts that the Oath Keepers had no way to communicate with Trump.

The text trove seems to confirm that Rhodes and his cronies had every intention of continuing the insurrection past certification day.

On the evening of January 6, the Oath Keepers’ group chat commiserated over the failed attack, shared videos and vowed to fight on.

“We need a new ‘Declaration of Defiance,’” someone suggested.

“Already working on it,” Rhodes wrote back.

“After Action Reports" will be dated 1/21/21” messaged another Oath Keeper, appending an unspecified emoji. January 21, 2021, would be the day after Inauguration Day,

“Be very careful and mindful that anything you say can and will be used against you,” Rhodes replied.

Inside the Jan. 6 committee’s 248-page motion to paint Meadows as Trump’s point man in bid to overturn the election

The J6 committee filed a motion in court arguing that Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows should be compelled to testify about his role in the plot to overturn the election. The filing uses Meadows’ text messages and witness testimony to paint a detailed picture of Meadows as Trump’s insurrection point man.

Meadows was subpoenaed to testify before the J6 committee in December, but at the last minute he announced that he’d had a change of heart. In true Trumpian fashion, rather than showing up to testify, Meadows sued the committee.

There are no facts in dispute.

Either Meadows has to testify or he doesn’t. Therefore, the committee asked the judge to dispense with the formality of a trial and simply rule on that question.

In their motion, the committee had to explain why Meadows’ claims of executive privilege are worthless. In order to make that case, the committee painted a detailed picture of what Meadows was up to in the weeks before the insurrection.

The record shows that Meadows coordinated with a clique of far-right members of Congress and outside operatives to hype election fraud lies and pressure the Department of Justice to validate those lies.

The affirmation of the nation’s top law enforcement agency would then be used to pressure legislatures in states that Biden won into calling themselves back into session to send fake Trump electors in place of the real Biden delegates.

The committee argues in effect that Meadows doesn’t have executive privilege because he was operating either as a campaign staffer or as a criminal, since his attempts to influence the election would constitute blatant violations of the Hatch Act if he acted as a federal official.

The 26 exhibits attached to the motion include some of the 2,319 text messages from Meadows’ personal phone that the former chief of staff had already handed over, plus excerpts from the testimony of various J6 witnesses, including Trump aide Jason Miller and Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchison.

Indeed, the exhibits are so voluminous that one suspects the committee is taking advantage of the filing to get some shocking details into the public record.

And not a moment too soon.

Hutchison told J6 investigators that Meadows schemed with a clique of far-right representatives that included US Reps. Scott Perry, Jim Jordan and Louie Gohmert. The group’s role was to identify and amplify election fraud conspiracy theories.

Armed with these baseless allegations, the clique badgered Justice Department officials to investigate and validate the claims so that they could be used to pressure state legislatures into overriding the will of the people and sending Trump electors in place of those duly pledged to Biden.

The officials found no evidence of significant fraud in any state, but Trump and his allies kept pushing. “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump said, according to notes taken by former senior Justice Department official Richard Donoghue and shared with the Times for a story that ran last December.

Donoghue later told the J6 committee that he and his colleagues narrowly talked Trump out of firing the acting attorney general and replacing him with Jeff Clark, a toady who had never tried a criminal case, but who promised to throw the agency’s credibility behind the lies.

Meadows and Clark allegedly planned to use the fraud allegations to pressure the GOP-controlled legislatures of the Biden swing states to call themselves back into session to pick Republican electors.

The exhibits show that Meadows and his merry band of insurrectionists were big promoters of a John Eastman-esque pseudo-legal theory whereby Mike Pence could somehow send the election back to the states.

Gohmert even tried and failed to sue Pence in federal court to force him to act on a version of the Eastman plan to steal the election during the certification ceremony.

This filing sheds light on what the J6 committee has learned.

The good news is that they are getting closer to Trump, uncovering the machinations of high-level elected officials.

The bad news is that compelling members of Congress to testify will be time-consuming and difficult.

The clock is ticking for the committee.

Journalistic fact-checking is not the same as doxxing – no matter what the right-wing claims

The right-wing is throwing a predictable fit about the Post’s exposé of one of the most influential propaganda accounts on the internet.

Desperate to deflect from valid concerns that its reckless accusations of pedophilia are marking their targets for violence, the right-wing is now denouncing routine journalism as a form of doxxing.

Taylor Lorenz revealed that the author of the notoriously homophobic “Libs of TikTok” account is a woman named Chaya Raichik.

The Twitter feed curates videos of teachers speaking about sex and gender. She adds hateful commentary baselessly accusing them of being “groomers,” tagging their school districts, and openly agitating to get them fired. The creator gloats about destroying their lives.

“To me, the most powerful part of it is exposing the teachers,” Raichik told Fox in December 2021. “When there’s actually action taken, when a teacher gets fired or suspended, it’s a really great feeling.”

Lorenz backed up a damning digital trail establishing Raichik’s identity with shoe-leather reporting to confirm Raichik was indeed the woman behind the account. Faced with overwhelming evidence, Raichik admitted authorship and set about fundraising off her fake victimhood.

The facts are unassailable, so the rightwing can only launch frivolous attacks on her journalistic ethics for – wait for it – door-knocking.

This argument scarcely merits a response.

Lorenz’s critics know perfectly well that door-knocking is a standard reporting tactic. A slightly more sophisticated version of this argument is that door-knocking is OK in principle, but it was wrong to use it on Raichik. She’s just a humble Brooklyn realtor with a passion for homophobia, a private citizen who has the right to remain anonymous.

“Is it now permissible for journalists to investigate and expose the real identity of any anonymous social media user?,” tweeted Glenn Greenwald, a frequent Tucker Carlson guest. “Or is it just permissible if the anonymous social media user has a certain kind of politics?”

Raichik’s own words demolish that argument.

She told the New York Post in February she quit her job and moved to California to pursue Libs of TikTok full-time. In the same interview, she likened her project to that of the notorious operatives at Project Veritas, who wage ideological warfare with covertly recorded videos.

Like Veritas, Raichik has at times identified herself as a journalist and appeared repeatedly as a guest on Fox News prior to her unmasking.

Like most political operatives, Raichik would prefer to operate in the shadows, but the press has no obligation to keep her secrets. Indeed, the responsibility of journalists is to hold power to account.

Libs of TikTok wields power due to its stature in right-wing media and politics as well as its enormous social media footprint. The account has over 900,000 followers, as of this writing. Raichik has power not only over the lives and careers of teachers whom she has smeared as pedophiles, but also over our national discourse and even legislation.

The account serves as a clearinghouse for videos of teachers advocating for sex education and LGBTQ rights. These are a vital resource in the rightwing’s primary domestic policy agenda: demolishing LGBTQ rights as well as the very concept of public education by accusing people they don’t like of being pedophiles.

Libs of TikTik supplies an endless stream of pretexts for “Don’t Say Gay” bills, such as the one Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law last month. DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw promotes Libs of TikTok frequently from her official account.

Fox has effectively outsourced the grubby work of finding a new Main Character for each day’s culture war to Libs of TikTok. Fox regularly runs packages sourced to clips publicized by Raichik. Fox flagship host Tucker Carlson even proclaimed Raichik’s “journalism” more trustworthy than that of the Times.

Libs of TikTok is rightly criticized for exposing private citizens to harassment and potential violence. The right is trying to neutralize attacks by creating an equivalence between reporting on right-wing operatives and falsely accusing private citizens of being pedophiles.

It’d be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.

We now have undeniable proof of a coordinated Republican effort to subvert the 2020 election

A recording made by a disgruntled election conspiracist is the strongest evidence yet that operatives in Donald Trump’s orbit summoned supporters to Washington on January 6 for the express purpose of coercing lawmakers into overturning the 2020 election.

News broke late Tuesday afternoon, whereupon this bombshell of a story was promptly buried under an avalanche of other news.

The main characters aren’t household names, but this story is every bit as important as the earlier revelation that Donald Trump, Jr, was pushing a detailed plan for a coup to his father’s chief of staff before the election had even been decided. And it’s even more important than the late-breaking news that Sen. Mike Lee talked up Trump lawyer John Eastman’s plan for a procedural coup in late November.

The star of the secret recording is Jason Sullivan, one-time aide to dirty trickster and longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone.

Sullivan told the Times he was invited to speak by a group of anti-vaccine activists, who were planning a permitted event in the capital on J6. (By amazing coincidence, Stone was scheduled to speak at an anti-vax event on the afternoon of J6, an engagement he missed, for reasons that are surely of great interest to the J6 committee.)

The call was made a week before the insurrection.

Sullivan repeatedly urged the other callers to intimidate the lawmakers who were meeting to certify the election. He told them they needed to make them feel like the people were “breathing down their neck.”

“If we make the people inside that building sweat and they understand that they may not be able to walk in the streets any longer if they do the wrong thing, then maybe they’ll do the right thing,” Sullivan said.

“We have to put that pressure there.”

This recording was made by a woman named Staci Burk, a former school board official turned election conspiracist. Burk filed an anonymous affidavit supporting one of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s many election conspiracy theories. Whereupon heavily armed paramilitary operatives calling themselves the 1st Amendment Praetorian (1AP) moved into her home for several weeks, ostensibly to guard her. Burk told the Times a 1AP member joined the call, and she made the recording because the armed men were making her feel unsafe. Members of 1AP were in the capital during the insurrection and members of the group have been subpoenaed by the J6 committee.

This recording partially corroborates previous claims by Ali Alexander, another one of Roger Stone’s associates. He said he schemed with members of the Congress to gather a crowd to pressure lawmakers into overturning the election during the certification ceremony.

In a video made before the insurrection, Ali Alexander claimed that he and US Reps. Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar “schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting.”

The video circulated on social media but was later deleted. The plan was to “change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside,” Ali Alexander said.

The Sullivan call proves there was an inside-outside game on J6.

The inside game was the procedural coup devised by John Eastman that was unfolding inside the Capitol on J6 as GOP legislators raised spurious claims of election fraud to overturn a free and fair election.

The outside game was the mob deliberately assembled in order to pressure legislators to go along with Trump’s illegal scheme.

Republicans labeling political enemies 'pedophiles' 'crosses the line into stochastic terrorism'

Supporters of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law have dusted off the vintage lie that gay men, trans folks and their allies are child molesters.

The word of the day is “grooming.”

Much has been written about how dangerous this rhetoric is to LGBTQ communities (see John Stoehr’s interview with Gabriel Rosenberg), but the threat extends further. Republicans have opened a new front against political opponents, insinuating or downright alleging that all Democrats and even dissenting Republicans are pedophiles.

Falsely labeling one’s enemies as pedophiles is a tacit incitement to violence. If a campaign is waged from huge platforms over a long time, as we’re seeing now, it crosses the line into stochastic terrorism.

Actual grooming is a form of manipulation.

Abusers ingratiate themselves into the victim’s life and wear down their defenses so they submit to sexual abuse. Proponents of these anti-gay bills claim that teaching kids about sex and gender is the same as grooming them for abuse, if not child abuse in itself. That’s preposterous, as are allegations that supporting a trans child’s identity or providing gender-affirming medical care is child abuse.

The rightwing is cynically collapsing the distinction between sexually abusing children, teaching ideas they falsely claim make children vulnerable and supporting the teaching of these ideas, thus exposing large segments of the population to reprisals for alleged pedophilia.

“If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of four 8-year-old children,” wrote Ron DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw on Twitter.

US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene proclaimed “the Democrats are the party of pedophiles,” adding that "either you are pro-pedophile and pro-transgender biological men or you defend children and women.”

Greene’s comments might be dismissed as the ravings of a crank if the rightwing weren’t united behind her. The moral panic over child porn extends from the lowliest 8chan poster to the halls of the United States Senate. The GOP is tapping into the energy of the QAnon base by repackaging their entire domestic agenda, from education policy to Supreme Court confirmations, as a crusade against pedophilia.

A bizarre gambit alleging that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was soft on child porn became the centerpiece of GOP objections to her confirmation. Greene even accused three senators of her own party of being “pro-pedophile” for voting to confirm Judge Jackson.

Not to be outdone, Tucker Carlson told viewers the Walt Disney Company was behaving like a sex offender by including gay characters in its movies and for opposing “Don’t Say Gay.” Carlson later said dads should physically attack teachers who “push sex values” on children.

Far-right operative Jack Posobiec claimed to have been suspended from Twitter Sunday for hawking shirts that read “Boycott Groomers” in Disney font and “Bring Ammo,” a veiled allusion to shooting up a theme park. This is familiar territory for Posobiec. In 2016, he was a major promoter of Pizzagate, a baseless pedophile conspiracy theory that culminated with a 28-year-old man firing an automatic rifle in a family restaurant because he believed child sex slaves were there.

This strategy of equating political opponents with child molesters and pedophiles in order to legitimize violence against them may be more recognizable when seen in totalitarian regimes overseas.

When protests erupted against the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian state media responded by branding the organizers of the demonstrations as “political pedophiles,” whom they baselessly allege to be sexually exploiting young activists who joined their cause.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin famously equates homosexuality and pedophilia with the west. In his speech outlining his motives for invading Ukraine, Putin claimed he was invading in part to stop the west from imposing on Ukraine values “contrary to human nature.”

The term eliminationism was coined by political scientist Daniel Goldhagen in his 1996 book Hitler’s Willing Executioners to describe the kinds of rhetoric used to utterly dehumanize a segment of society and mark them for forcible exclusion, expulsion or even elimination.

More recently, journalist and scholar Dave Neiwert has written extensively on eliminationist themes in US right-wing rhetoric.

Eliminationist rhetoric asserts that a group of people is so depraved and debased that coexistence is impossible. The group is thought to be a menace that must be crushed, expelled or otherwise eliminated.

At its core, eliminationist rhetoric is permission for violence. That is exactly what branding your political opponents as pedophiles does.

“Pedo” is eliminationist rhetoric. It’s the logical bridge that explains why people who claim to be the biggest proponents of democracy and freedom don’t want democracy or freedom for Democrats.

Allegedly, we’re too depraved to engage in normal politics.

We must be crushed, literally.

These spurious allegations can also be viewed as a form of stochastic terrorism that involves a group with a big media platform picking a target, blaming them for social ills and unleashing a torrent of rhetoric branding them as subhuman, depraved and dangerous. “Stochastic” refers to probabilities. In a country seething awash with guns, telling millions of people their enemies are pedophiles is playing a numbers game. Violence becomes reasonably foreseeable.

Stochastic terrorism is not new. It has long been a favorite tactic of the anti-choice movement. Who can say whether disgraced former Fox host Bill O’Reilly wanted someone to shoot Dr. George Tiller by incessantly calling the Wichita, Kansas, abortion provider a “baby killer” and a child abuser? The fact remains that someone did assassinate him in the name of protecting children.

We are also seeing stochastic terrorism from the anti-vaccination movement as leaders routinely label vaccination as “child rape” and allege that the shots kill young people. If this explosive rhetoric is repeated enough times, some suggestible people will take it literally. In 2021, a Maryland man allegedly murdered a pharmacist and two others because he believed the vaccines were poisoning people.

Stochastic terrorism unfolds in predictable phases:

  • demonization,
  • dehumanization,
  • desensitization and
  • denial.

Someone with a mass audience sets out to demonize a person or a group of people as the cause of a major social ill whether it’s child sexual abuse, a global pandemic, or an electoral defeat.

The target is repeatedly and falsely labeled as deviant, criminal, diseased and dangerous. The target may be called pedophiles, psychotics, drug addicts, Nazis, communists and murderers. The despised group is often likened to a disease or to vermin that must be eradicated to restore the health of the body politic.

The audience comes to think of the target as subhuman. At this point, it becomes easier to imagine violence as acceptable and necessary.

If these messages are disseminated widely enough, it’s virtually guaranteed the target will be harassed and threatened. Periodically, someone will take the inciting rhetoric literally and bomb a clinic or shoot up a theme park. Nobody can predict when.

It’s a numbers game, but the dread is constant.

The certainty of harassment and the possibility of violence can easily drive the target out of public life, ruin political careers and terrorize families. When the target complains or law enforcement begins asking questions, the stochastic terrorist can deny all responsibility.

After all, they didn’t tell their followers to harass abortion providers, Jews, trans kids, public health officials or female tech journalists.

They merely blamed these groups for major social ills and implied that they are too debased and dangerous to be engaged with politically, and normalized violent rhetoric about them.

Legally, they have a point.

Morally, we all know the score.

The concerted Republican attempt to label their enemies as pedophiles is a disgusting and dangerous display of homophobia and transphobia, but the threat extends to all of their political enemies.

They are trying to construe anyone opposing their agenda, whether by supporting gay kids, voting for the wrong Supreme Court nominee or even watching a Disney movie with their family, as a pedophile.

This is stochastic terrorism by a major political party.

Judge destroys all doubt that Donald Trump committed a felony on January 6th

In a big win for the J6 committee, a federal judge ordered Monday that lawyer John Eastman hand over emails in which he and former President Donald Trump plotted a procedural coup d’etat.

The 101 emails contain valuable information, but Judge David O. Carter’s legal reasoning has momentous implications, too.

Today’s order is the first test of the J6 committee’s theory of Donald Trump’s crimes.

The committee’s lawyers argued that Trump attempted to disrupt an official proceeding and schemed to defraud the United States when he colluded with Eastman to browbeat former Vice President Mike Pence into stealing the election during the certification ceremony.

The judge agreed.

In the words of Judge Carter, their scheme was “a coup in search of a legal theory,” a criminal enterprise that could have “permanently ended” the peaceful transition of power in the United States.

Carter’s task was to determine whether the Trump-Eastman emails were protected by attorney-client privilege. If they were, Eastman would not have to hand them over to the J6 committee.

Attorney-client privilege exists to allow clients to speak frankly with lawyers without fear of secrets being used against them by the government or anyone else. It’s important, because attorney-client privilege helps lawyers represent their clients effectively.

It has limits, though.

The so-called “crime-fraud exception” basically says you can’t expect confidentiality when you hire a lawyer to commit a crime.

Attorney-client privilege exists to give defendants the best legal representation possible, but not to shield crooked lawyers who use their expertise to subvert the law.

Carter found it “more likely than not” that the emails in question were part of an attempt to disrupt an official proceeding and a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Therefore, the judge reasoned, they are not covered by attorney-client privilege. Eastman must hand them over.

In the ruling, Carter lays out compelling evidence against Trump.

The judge points to a couple of meetings Trump and Eastman held with Mike Pence during which they attempted to pressure him into disrupting the certification of the election.

When Pence refused, Trump kept pressuring him on Twitter and in public statements, including his speech at the Ellipse where he said: “And Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you. I will tell you right now.”

“Together, these actions more likely than not constitute attempts to obstruct an official proceeding,” Judge Carter wrote.

Carter took pains to establish that Trump and Eastman knew what they were doing was illegal.

Among other things, the judge seized on Trump’s remark to Georgia election officials as evidence the former president was using fraud allegations as a pretext to win. Hence Trump’s infamous words:

“So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”

Carter also turned Eastman’s own words against him, noting, as I did earlier this month in the Editorial Board, that when Eastman described his plan as “BOLD” and outside of “Queensbury Rules,” he was admitting to giving extra-legal advice.

The judge noted that Eastman also admitted in a back-and-forth with Pence’s lawyer that his plan violated numerous laws, including parts of the Electoral Count Act.

Eastman further admitted his proposed gambit had never been tried, and that if it were, it would have dire consequences for democracy:

“You would just have the same party win continuously if [the] Vice President had the authority to just declare the winner of every State,” Eastman acknowledged.

The court was not impressed with Eastman’s argument that his actions rested on a “good faith interpretation of the Constitution,” noting that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and observing that Trump believing the Electoral Count Act was unconstitutional wouldn’t entitle him to disregard it.

“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter concluded.

Was there a conspiracy?

Well, as the judge explained, when Trump and Eastman weren’t exchanging emails about how they were going to disrupt an official proceeding, they were huddling together in back rooms trying to convince the vice president to disrupt an official proceeding, so it seems likely there was indeed a conspiracy.

Today’s order shows the J6 committee’s theory that Trump’s crimes can impress a federal judge and get results in court.

Granted, this was not a criminal trial. Carter did not rule on Trump’s guilt. If these allegations were presented to a hypothetical criminal court, there’s no guarantee the judge would interpret the evidence the same way Judge Carter did.

But a criminal trial would address many of the key questions Carter tackled in his opinion.

The government would have to prove Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to secure criminal convictions.

But if Carter was able to make such a strong case for Trump’s guilt based on one cache of emails, imagine what a strong case the government could make with the totality of the evidence.

Today’s opinion will bolster the J6 committee’s argument if it chooses to urge the US Department of Justice to pursue a criminal probe.

I don’t know how anyone can read this scathing analysis and doubt such a probe is necessary.

Donald Trump ditched Mo Brooks because polls show that his candidacy is 'dead'

On Wednesday, former president Donald Trump withdrew his prior endorsement of one-time ally US Rep. Mo Brooks, who’s running in a special election in Alabama to replace Senator Richard Shelby.

Trump claimed he rescinded his support because Brooks went “woke” and stopped fighting to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Brooks claimed Trump rejected him because he refused to go along with an illegal scheme to overturn the election in the fall of 2021.

The Times described Brooks’ allegations as “extraordinary.”

Brooks’ accusation piqued the curiosity of insurrection-watchers. The Alabama representative was one of Trump’s most devoted sycophants. He was a key ally in his bid to overturn the election on January 6, 2021.

Brooks was the first member of the Congress to say he’d contest the electoral count. He even donned body armor for a rousing speech at the Ellipse to the mob before Trump turned it loose on the US Capitol.

So – maybe – the wounded Brooks was dishing real dirt?

On closer examination, Brooks, who is trailing badly in the polls against his GOP primary opponent, isn’t dishing dirt so much as telling self-aggrandizing tales in order to save face after being dumped.

“Mo Brooks was a leader on the 2020 Election Fraud and then, all of sudden, during the big rally in Alabama, he went ‘woke’ and decided to drop everything he stood for — when he did, the people of Alabama dropped him, and now I have done so also,” Trump said in a statement.

“President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency,” Brooks subsequently claimed.

Brooks invited the inference that Trump sought Brooks’ legal advice on a serious plan and that Brooks was cast out for refusing to go along.

Trump often floats crazy ideas. Brooks might have said his beloved “rescission” idea was a non-starter, but it’d be naive to assume this is related to Trump ending Brooks’ political career six months later.

Trump and Brooks disagreed about when to stop litigating false allegations of 2020 election fraud. However, the incident Trump alluded to in his statement took place in August 2021 when Brooks was booed at a rally for telling the crowd they needed to stop trying to overturn the 2020 election and look ahead to future contests.

Brooks said Trump discussed Trump’s plan to rescind the election after Labor Day. Yet Trump is only withdrawing his support now.

Poll reveals the real reason Trump dumped his former ally.

Alabama pundits have been speculating about when Trump was going to drop the hammer based purely on Brooks’ dismal numbers.

Brooks is polling a distant third.

Trump endorsed Brooks in April 2021 while Brooks still had a substantial lead. Since that time, Brooks has sunk precipitously.

The congressman went from 40 percent in August to a mere 16 percent today, a slide Alabama Daily News publisher Todd Stacey called “incredible.” And this three-way race is likely to end in a runoff.

Even if Brooks made it that far, polling suggests he’d be unlikely to pick up enough support to win. He’s been outspent and out-campaigned. His bid to represent Alabama in the Senate is dead in the water.

While Trump remains the undisputed leader of the Republican Party and the overwhelming favorite to win the presidential nomination in 2024, a primary endorsement from Trump isn’t the electoral golden ticket it used to be. Trump-endorsed candidates are also struggling in Georgia, North Carolina and Idaho.

The notion that uber-lacky Mo Brooks has been cast out for standing up to Trump is preposterous on its face, but the narrative serves both men’s interests.

Trump wants to maintain his reputation as a kingmaker within the Republican Party, so admitting that he’s dropping Brooks because he’s losing would defeat the purpose.

Brooks wants to make it seem like he’s being dropped because he took a principled stand when the truth is he’s being cast aside because he’s a loser.

Right-wingers have embraced Russia's 'bizarre fantasy' about biolabs in Ukraine

The conspiracy theory that Russia invaded Ukraine to stop Anthony Fauci from engineering the next Covid-19 has turned the US far-right against Ukraine and for Russia.

The evolution of this bizarre fantasy can teach us a lot about how the US rightwing incubates and adapts Russian propaganda for domestic consumption.

Russia’s approach to propaganda has been likened to a firehose.

Its strategy is to spew countless narratives across a huge number of platforms without regard for internal coherence or even plausibility.

Then wait to see which catch on. Then build on those successes.

When Russia claimed to have captured secret US bioweapons labs in Ukraine, many observers assumed Russia had lifted the idea directly from American conspiracists. After all, Putin hadn’t said a word about biolabs ahead of his invasion of Ukraine.

However, the myth that the US is funding secret biolabs in Ukraine is part of a years-long Russian disinformation campaign.

These allegations are Russia’s latest attempt to smear a US program to help former Soviet republics.

The program began as an effort to eliminate stockpiles of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons left over from the Soviet Union. It later transitioned into ongoing help with peaceful biological, veterinary and public health research.

In 2018, Russia baselessly accused the US of running a secret bioweapons lab in the former Soviet republic of Georgia based on the lab’s participation in the same entirely non-secret program.

Unlike the US and most other countries, Russia does have an active chemical and biological weapons program. It has been falsely accusing the US of having bioweapons for decades, a propaganda strategy that experts say is geared towards undermining the taboo against biological weapons.

If Russia can convince the rest of the world that the US is secretly making bioweapons under the guise of non-proliferation, it makes Russia seem less deviant by comparison.

Ukraine, the US, the United Nations, the European Union and non-proliferation groups are unanimous: Ukraine does not have a biological weapons program.

Biological weapons are of negligible military value, especially if your goal is to defend your own homeland against an invading army.

Ukraine’s entire military has a smaller budget than the NYPD. The idea that Ukraine would waste its limited defense dollars on bioweapons rather than missiles and jets doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Investigative tech journos Ben Collins and Kevin Collier excavated the digital prehistory of the biolab smear for NBC News.

The first known mention cropped up on the right-wing social media platform Gab in mid-February, 10 days before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It received little traction at the time. However, on the day of the invasion, the number of references to Ukrainian biolabs jumped to hundreds, and kept climbing.

The big breakthrough came the following week when a QAnon-linked Twitter account called @WarClandestine shared the same graphic that had appeared on the original Gab post.

There’s clearly a feedback loop between Russian propaganda and its enablers on the US far-right.

On March 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed to have captured evidence of US-funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine. Tucker Carlson jumped on the story that very day. Two days later, Russia went to the United Nations to accuse the US of weaponizing migratory birds in Ukraine, hoarding deadly bat parasites that could fall into the hands of terrorists and trafficking in the blood of Slavs to make “ethnically-specific” biological weapons. Carlson used Russia’s presentation as a news hook, eliminating the crazy-sounding references to birds, bats and Slavs. Later Carlson falsely claimed that a US undersecretary had confirmed the existence of US-funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine. In fact, she’d acknowledged that there are labs in Ukraine that may contain pathogens that shouldn’t fall into Russian hands. In fact, these labs are not secret and almost any scientific or medical laboratory that studies or tests for diseases could have pathogens we wouldn’t want the Russians getting ahold of, especially now that they’re reaching for any justification to frame Ukraine as a bioweapons producer.

Since Carlson is the agenda-setter for the US far-right, his pronouncements help to amplify and codify the key elements of the conspiracy theory.

Russia is keenly aware of what Carlson is doing. A leaked memo shows that the higher-ups in Russian state TV consider it essential to feature Carlson as much as possible.

And why wouldn’t they?

Carlson hosts the most popular cable news show and he has shown himself eager to repeat Kremlin talking points.

Donald Trump's 'beliefs about whether the election was stolen' are 'irrelevant' to his criminal culpability

The perennial question of whether Donald Trump and John Eastman believed the 2020 election was stolen popped up again this week in a California federal courtroom. This question has been debated endlessly since the J6 insurrection. It’s the wrong question entirely.

The Post’s Greg Sargent argues that the question is a non-starter because there is overwhelming evidence that Trump knew, or should have known, that he lost fair and square. And, indeed there is.

Trump began telling his supporters to expect fraud months before the votes were even cast, let alone counted. After the vote, Trump was told by his campaign’s data analyst, his cybersecurity czar, and his Attorney General that there was no outcome-changing fraud in the 2020 election. When Trump’s legal team sought to overturn the election in the courts based on fraud allegations, they were routed at every turn.

The proviso that Trump knew, or should have known, is also important.

If the evidence is that strong, willful blindness is tantamount to guilty knowledge. You can’t refuse to accept reality and use your own self-delusion as a defense.

Sargent’s critique is well-taken, but it doesn’t go far enough.

Focusing on whether Trump knew the election was stolen is completely irrelevant to his criminal culpability for the J6 insurrection.

Asking whether Trump believed the election was stolen is a dangerous distraction. Even if it had been stolen, it would still have been a crime to sic a mob on Congress to stop it. If the bank rips you off, that doesn't make it legal to hold them up at gunpoint to get what’s yours.

The same is true of an election.

Coups are rarely called coups nowadays. Insurgents usually paint themselves as defenders of democracy who took extraordinary measures to prevent their opponents from stealing power.

We can’t afford to give credence to the idea that it’s OK to take the law into your own hands due to thinking an election was illegitimate.

In a healthy democracy, all sides agree to resolve their differences through legal channels. Al Gore fought all the way to the Supreme Court in 2000, but when the process didn’t go his way, he presided over the joint session of Congress to certify George W. Bush’s victory.

Gore didn’t orchestrate a procedural coup based on a transparently ridiculous reading of the law as well as bad faith allegations of electoral fraud. He certainly didn’t call on his supporters to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and “take their country back” by force.

The issue of who believed what is still germane to Eastman’s civil case. It’s about the limits of attorney-client privilege, not guilt or innocence for J6. Sargent rightly suspects that we may see the argument reappear when it comes time to assess Trump’s criminal liability.

The Eastman suit is being watched closely. It was the first time that the J6 committee’s lawyers publicly outlined a theory of Trump’s crimes. However, the civil suit is only about whether emails between Trump and Eastman are covered by attorney-client privilege.

The J6 committee’s lawyers argued that under the so-called “crime fraud” exception, attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply to advice given on how to commit crimes. As the J6 lawyers noted, the lawyer doesn’t even have to know his client is using his advice to get away with a crime in order to void the privilege.

In this case, however, Eastman knew perfectly well.

The J6 lawyers pointed to an email in which Eastman acknowledged a part of his plan was a violation of the law. If Eastman knew he was breaking the law, his emails to Trump aren’t covered by attorney-client privilege and he must hand them over to the J6 committee.

He might be obligated to hand them over even if he didn’t know, but his own words show he knew perfectly well, which should make the judge’s decision easy.

Trump’s beliefs about whether the election was stolen are irrelevant to whether he tried to overturn the result by force.

We all saw Trump point a mob on the seat of our democracy. We watched for hours as he refused to call them off.

Nothing can justify that.

If the criterion is whether Trump believed the election was stolen, democracy is doomed because we're saying the president doesn't have to respect the outcome of an election he doesn’t agree with.

John Eastman and Donald Trump committed crimes. Roger Stone knew about them

We learned this week the J6 committee is investigating former President Donald Trump and his advisor John Eastman for the same offense many foot soldiers of the insurrection are charged with.

The committee suspects Trump and Eastman obstructed an official proceeding, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

So many J6 insurgents are charged with this crime that Buzzfeed ran a trend piece on the phenomenon. Some insurgents already pleaded guilty and others failed in their attempts to get the charge thrown out.

A charge of disrupting an official proceeding would be a straightforward way to bridge the gap between the shock troops at the United States Capitol and the orchestrators of the insurrection.

If ordinary goons are guilty of disrupting an official proceeding by rushing the seat of government, then arguably the ringleaders who incited them to do so are guilty as well.

This charge might also fit the procedural coup into the framework of criminal law. The J6 committee’s blueprint for criminal prosecutions comes as new details have emerged about the culpability of Roger Stone, the architect of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement. However, we’re still a long way from seeing any of these guys stand trial.

The Post reviewed documentary footage of Stone by a Danish filmmaking crew made while he watched the insurrection unfold on television in a Washington hotel. According to the Post: “On the day of the attack, as he packed his bags, Stone told the filmmakers the riot was a mistake and would be ‘really bad’ for the pro-Trump movement.”

"On the eve of the 2020 election, however, he seemed to welcome the prospect of clashes with left-wing activists. In a recorded conversation, as an aide spoke of driving trucks into crowds of racial justice protesters, Stone said: “Once there’s no more election, there’s no reason why we can’t mix it up. These people are going to get what they’ve been asking for.”

Seemingly aware of the crimes he and his goons were committing, Stone “lobbied for Trump to enact the ‘Stone Plan’ — a blanket presidential pardon to shield himself, Trump’s allies in Congress and ‘the America First movement’ from prosecution” for the insurrection.

Trump did pardon Stone.

The rest of the J6 insurgents were not so lucky.

The J6 committee tipped its hand in a brief filed in federal court in California on Wednesday. This is a civil case where the select committee is asking a judge to review the 11,000 documents Eastman is withholding in the name of attorney-client privilege.

These documents can be expected to deepen the committee’s understanding of the well-established Trump-Eastman plot to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election by enlisting Mike Pence to abort the ceremony on legally specious grounds in order to send the vote “back to the states” on an equally flimsy pretext.

Eastman is a lawyer, at least for now, but it’s not clear he was acting as Trump’s attorney when he schemed with the former president.

In any case, attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply to advising clients how to commit crimes, let alone chatter about crimes a client and a lawyer do together.

So the J6 committee’s lawyers listed all the crimes they have good reason to think Trump and Eastman teamed up for.

The committee doesn’t have to prove Eastman and Trump are guilty. So far, it’s just asking the judge to look over Eastman’s supposedly privileged trove of documents to see if they contain any evidence of these alleged crimes.

If so, the argument goes, those documents aren’t really privileged and Eastman must hand them over.

To prove Eastman and Trump committed the crimes they are alleged to have committed, a hypothetical prosecutor would have to show they knew they were breaking the law, and possibly also that they knew claims of massive election fraud, the ones that formed the pretext for the procedural coup, were false.

If Pence had aborted certification on their orders, it would certainly have interrupted an official proceeding. But did Trump and Eastman know they were committing a crime when they badgered Pence to do so, as opposed to pursuing a dubious legal/political strategy?

The ignoble fiction running through this whole saga is that Eastman was simply giving Trump advice on how to legally send the election “back to the states.” In this case, the line between crankery and criminality would be blurry.

However, in one of his infamous memos, Eastman acknowledges that his plan is legally questionable at best. He falsely asserts that because Joe Biden stole the election, Team Trump is entitled to ignore “Queensbury Rules,” ie, the rules against fighting dirty.

The fact that Eastman invoked the Fifth Amendment 146 times in his testimony to the J6 committee means the former law professor believes discussing his actions in this case would incriminate him.

The brief makes a compelling argument that Trump knew, or should have known, that his claims of massive election fraud were false.

After all, he was informed by everyone from his campaign data analyst to his senior appointees at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to state-level elections investigators – everyone said he lost fair and square.

The J6 committee has no authority to charge anyone with a crime on its own, but depending on what their investigation reveals, the committee may ultimately make a criminal referral to the DOJ.

It can’t force it to open a criminal investigation on Trump or anyone else, but such a referral would put significant pressure on US Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch a criminal probe.

Terrorism is an organized attempt to intimidate a civilian population -- and the trucker siege checks those boxes

Tow trucks are on the move in Ottawa. Local and federal police, empowered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent declaration of national emergency, are finally dismantling the truck blocades that have paralyzed Canada’s capital city for over three weeks.

A crisis that local police declared unsolvable under existing law is being methodically dismantled thanks to the temporary powers invoked under the Emergencies Act. The act puts teeth in enforcement without suspending the constitutional rights of the truckers.

Conservative members of Parliament and convoy organizers objected to the state of emergency using suspiciously similar talking points.

The MPs and their trucker pals claim this isn’t a big enough emergency to justify its use. If the siege of Canada’s capital city isn’t big enough, what could possibly qualify? Conservatives claim to want the trucks removed from downtown but they know that’s impossible without emergency powers. The local police admit they were powerless to remove them without federal help, in part because local towing companies had been harassed and intimidated by the truckers.

The “freedom convoy” is more serious than the protracted siege of Ottawa. It’s a coordinated attack on Canada’s economy and democracy.

The truckers’ stated aim is to bring down the Trudeau government by strangling the cross-border trade underpinnning the Canadian economy. At the peak of the border blockades, the convoy was costing the Canadian economy nearly half a billion dollars a day.

The biggest blockades were cleared with federal help before the state of emergency went into effect, but the fight to keep the border open continues. Convoy supporters tried to re-block the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor to Detroit but were rebuffed by police.

Trudeau needed emergency powers to end the siege because the Ottawa police let them get so well ensconced that they could otherwise hold out indefinitely. The occupiers raised millions of dollars through crowdfunding sites. They set up staging areas around the city and beyond to supply themselves with food and fuel.

The act empowers police to arrest people for aiding and abetting the truckers, even on private property. Critically, the declaration makes it a crime for adults to bring children into this combustible situation.

One of the biggest challenges to resolving the siege was the kids truckers brought and used as human shields. Puff pieces marveling at the insurgents’ bouncy castle missed the dark implications.

There’s good reason to suspect some truckers are heavily armed. Four members of the Freedom Convoy were arrested in Alberta for allegedly plotting to murder police officers. The raid that took these suspects into custody also uncovered a large cache of illegal weapons.

The alleged plotters are affiliated with the far-right Dialogon movement which, for the uninitiated, could be called the Boogs of Canada. Like the Boogaloo Boys, the Dialogons geminated online with an ironic aesthetic and then transitioned to real-life violence.

Many media accounts have portrayed extremists as a small faction within a much larger and less radical movement. This overlooks the glaringly obvious fact that everything they do is radical. Illegally occupying a G7 capital and blocking billions in trade is radical.

One of the hallmarks of terrorism is an organized attempt to intimidate or coerce a civilian population to achieve political goals.

The trucker siege checks those boxes.

Hopped up on anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and racism, insurgents vented their rage on health care workers and residents of Ottawa’s downtown core. The police set up a special hotline for residents to report hate crimes by occupiers, which as of two weeks ago had received over 400 calls, resulting in 50 investigations and 11 hate crimes charges. The siege also included a critical infrastructure attack on the city’s 911 system. Ambulances were pelted with rocks. Suspected convoyers tried to set an apartment building on fire after residents clashed with occupiers over late-night fireworks.

Earlier this week, Trudeau rose in the House of Commons to rebuke the Conservative Party members of parliament who support the truckers and oppose the declaration of national emergency.

"Conservative Party members can stand with people who wave swastikas. They can stand with people who wave the Confederate flag," the prime minister said. “We will choose to stand with Canadians who deserve to be able to get to their jobs, to be able to get their lives back. These illegal protests need to stop, and they will."

Since this is incontrovertibly true, the Conservatives spent days pretending to be offended by Trudeau’s gall to mention the iconography of hate we all saw on television, which groups like have been meticulously documenting for weeks.

Trudeau has finally acted decisively to end the fascist takeover of his nation’s capital. The only question is why it took him so long.

Trump committed crimes when he took 'top secret' files: If prosecution is 'politicizing the law' -- then he’s above it

This week, we learned that Donald Trump liked to eat presidential paperwork. A former aide told MSNBC that she saw him masticating memos.

Now we hear that the White House toilets periodically clogged with official records which, legally, should have gone to the National Archives Records Administration (NARA).

It’s all too gross to contemplate, but at least it explains why Trump was always railing against low-flow toilets. The former president famously blamed water-saving commodes that he said were forcing Americans to flush “10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”

You’d have to flush a lot, too, if the only source of fiber in your diet was the President’s Daily Briefing. All this brings new meaning to the phrase “document dump.”

Legally, every document that has any connection with the president’s official duties must be preserved for posterity under the Presidential Records Act. Trump was warned, but he kept shredding paper like a hamster honing its incisors. Trump’s aides recall him ripping up everything from memos and letters to post-its.

Trump’s aides tried to keep him on the right side of the law by taping papers back together when they could, or sending the fragments off to the archives in pieces. The National Archives and Records Administration even had a team whose job was to reassemble documents that Trump had ripped to shreds and strewn about the White House and Air Force One. This was a miserable, menial job that the senior staffers entrusted with the task regarded as punishment.

No word on whether these long suffering civil servants were called upon to reconstruct half-flushed documents, but one assumes those were gone for good.

Shockingly, the Presidential Records Act has no enforcement mechanism. It’s the law, but it’s really just an honor’s system, which is probably why Trump never made the slightest effort to comply with it.

The archivists may still have the last laugh, however.

NARA recovered 15 boxes of documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. These materials were supposed to have been left in the White House at the end of Trump’s term, but he took them.

Upon further examination, NARA officials discovered that the purloined boxes contained classified information.

And not just any classified information.

Documents in those boxes were reportedly marked Top Secret, a designation reserved for information that “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage” to national security if it were disclosed without authorization.

So Trump sneaking off with this stuff is potentially a much more serious offense than mutilating presidential paperwork. If Trump knowingly absconded with classified material, that’s a serious crime, the kind that sends people to prison.

NARA approached the Justice Department and requested an official investigation. It must now decide whether to pursue the matter.

The Times immediately threw cold water on the idea, reporting (as fact, not opinion) that, “If Mr. Trump was found to have taken materials with him that were still classified at the time he left the White House, prosecuting him would be extremely difficult and it would pit the Justice Department against Mr. Trump at a time when Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is trying to depoliticize the department.”

It might be difficult to prove that Trump knowingly and willfully took classified documents, but we’ll never know without an investigation.

By reporting opinion as fact, the Times is preemptively taking the pressure off the Justice Department to investigate by telling the public that it would be too hard to prosecute and too “political.”

For the paper of record to characterize the prosecution of such a crime as an inherently political matter is tantamount to declaring the former president above the law.

The same Times story notes that Hillary Clinton faced a grueling investigation by the Justice Department that never turned up enough evidence to charge her with any crime.

The Times hyped the emails story incessantly during the 2016 campaign, insisting with a straight face that Clinton’s information technology policies were matters of grave national importance.

Now that a former Republican president has apparently removed classified documents from the White House, prosecuting him would be unforgivably “political.”

The Clinton investigation was improperly political because there was no prima facie evidence of criminality. The whole thing was a fishing expedition spurred on by Republican elected officials and their credulous enablers in the mainstream media.

Whereas, Donald Trump has been caught red-handed with classified documents illegally removed from the White House. If any other government employee were caught with a trove of classified documents in their home, they would face criminal investigation.

The Republicans stand to benefit twice from their persecution of Hillary Clinton.

They reaped the political benefits of a frivolous investigation in 2016. What’s more, that investigation was so obviously frivolous and malicious that it has discredited the whole idea of prosecuting high-ranking elected officials for misusing classified information.

Trump might actually get away with stealing classified information because Republicans have made this kind of investigation synonymous with a political witch hunt.

The laws against mishandling classified information have teeth for a reason.

If laws governing the handling of classified information become a dead letter, the Republicans will have struck another grave blow against the rule of law.

Trump admitted he tried to execute Eastman’s plot to steal the 2020 election. Republicans still want to rewrite history

Last week, ex-president Karen reminded us that it’s so hard to get good help nowadays. Donald Trump asserted January 30 that Mike Pence had the power to overturn the election and lamented that he didn’t do it. “Unfortunately, [Pence] didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!” Trump wrote in a statement.

The ensuing flood of negative attention was so intoxicating Trump upped the ante. Like an aggrieved customer leaving a bad Seamless review, he proclaimed that Congress should investigate Pence for failing to steal the election for him.

Trump’s sinister passivity is in keeping with a series of bombshell stories that reveal that the former president was intimately involved in a multifaceted plot to overturn the election, and that he was constantly scheming to get someone else to break the law for him.

As Commander-in-Chief, Trump could have given an illegal order to military forces to seize voting machines. Trump’s underlings even presented him with a draft executive order that would have authorized their seizure by the National Guard. Instead of signing the order, Trump got Rudy Giuliani to ask Ken Cuccinelli at Homeland Security to do something about it. Cuccinelli let the matter drop.

Last week’s statements about how the former vice president should have stolen the election are tantamount to a confession that Donald Trump executed John Eastman’s plan for Pence to steal the election during the certification ceremony of January 6, 2021.

The evidence that Trump and Eastman tried to act on the plan detailed in Eastman’s notorious memos was overwhelming even before Trump’s tacit admission. Trump and Eastman publicly and privately lobbied Pence to throw out electoral votes from Biden swing states, and when that didn’t work, they pressured him to somehow send the election “back to the states,” where they hoped the GOP-controlled legislatures of Biden swing states would execute multiple mini-coups from their respective capitals.

Once again, Trump was looking for others to take the risk for him. Pence had no legal power to send the election anywhere. Furthermore, all states have laws allocating their electoral votes based on the popular vote. Trump and his minions tried to sell hundreds of state legislators on a pseudo-legal theory that state legislatures can simply declare elections null and avoid and choose their electors themselves.

Trump had some success convincing his followers to break the law to keep him in power. The fraudulent GOP electors who signed fake electoral vote certificates were among the hapless followers who were willing to break the law for Trump. They now find themselves under investigation by state authorities, the Department of Justice and the J6 committee. The J6 insurgents also broke the law for Trump, storming the Capitol at his urging, but without Pence’s cooperation Eastman’s scheme came to naught. Team Trump sent fake electoral vote certificates to Pence. Eastman’s memo makes it clear that these fraudulent slates were an integral part of the plan to overturn the election.

The fact that Pence, Cuccineli and swing state legislators declined to break the law for Trump shouldn’t lull us into a false sense of security.

Trump is already promising to protect those who break the law for him in the future. He recently promised to pardon the J6 insurgents if reelected. The Republican National Committee underscored Trump’s message by passing a resolution at its annual convention deeming the J6 insurgency to be “legitimate political discourse” and accusing the select committee of persecuting ordinary citizens. The committee also censured GOP reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for participating in the investigation.

Meanwhile the J6 committee appears to be dithering while the Republicans attempt to rewrite the history of that horrible day. The public hearings the committee promised have yet to materialize.

If Trump and his enablers don’t face real consequences for attempting to overturn a free and fair election in 2020, we can be confident that there will be people lining up to break the law for him next time.

Cracks are emerging between Republicans as the fake 2020 electors scheme comes under more scrutiny

As Merrick Garland explained in his big speech earlier this month, the way to dismantle a criminal conspiracy is to start at the bottom and work up. It’s a slow process, but it can be devastatingly effective.

That’s why the fifty-nine Republicans who cast fake electoral votes are a gift to investigators seeking to understand Trump’s role in the plot to overturn the 2020 election. These pseudo-electors impersonated public officials in a bid to overturn a presidential election.

They signed forged paperwork and sent it to the government. It’s an open-and-shut case, but investigators could parlay this into something much bigger than prison terms for a few dozen local GOP operatives.

In a group of nearly 60 people facing serious prison time, at least some of them will be willing to implicate the higher ups to save themselves.

READ: Backlash grows against McConnell as viral video shows his racist remarks deeming Black voters not real Americans

“Once those individuals see that they could possibly be facing prison time, I do think we’re going to see some people flip and we’ll get some further information as to who orchestrated this in the first place,” Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel told MSNBC viewers last week, adding that, “It may go all the way to the top.”

Nessel noted that under Michigan law, those who signed the fake certificates could face up to 14 years in prison for forging a public record and five years for election law forgery.

The AG said she’s prepared to prosecute if she has to, but said the federal government is better suited to handle what is clearly a sprawling conspiracy orchestrated across state lines. Wisconsin's Attorney General Josh Kaul agrees this is a case for the feds.

They’re not wrong.

READ: ‘I will not stand by silently’: Sotomayor blasts her conservative colleagues in Texas abortion ban dissent

The fake certificates come from seven states, but they have nearly identical verbiage and formatting. Real certificates of ascertainment all look slightly different because there’s no standardized form. Yet the fake ones all look alike. The question: Who supplied the template?

Trump’s inner circle was obsessed with the fake electors scheme. Memos by Trump lawyer John Eastman show that he assigned these fake electoral votes a starring role in his procedural coup. It was these fake votes he hoped Mike Pence would count instead of the real ones.

Weeks before the electoral vote, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows was texting about how much he loved a plan to seat fake electors. Trump advisor Steven Miller even went on television to describe the plan to present congress with “alternative” electoral votes. US Rep. Mo Brooks led an effort to throw out the electoral votes of the Biden swing states, reportedly with Trump’s blessing.

US Rep. Louie Gohmert teamed up with some of the pseudo-electors to sue Mike Pence in a doomed bid to force the VP to count the phony votes. The connection between the fake electors and that lawsuit was reported well ahead of J6.

READ: ‘Culture war’ bills from far-right Arizona Republicans are becoming increasingly ‘extreme’: report

“[The fake electors] are counting on Pence and congressional Republicans to treat those informal votes as equal to the slates certified in those states where Trump was defeated,” Kyle Cheney of Politico wrote on Dec 28.

The pressure is on, and the cracks in the facade are spreading.

Arizona state Rep. Jake Hoffman refused to answer a reporter’s question about how he came to cast a fake vote for Trump, nervously referring all questions to “the party chair.”

The chair of the Arizona GOP is Dr. Kelli Ward, who was not only a fake elector but also Gohmert’s co-plaintiff. A number of the fake electors are high-ranking officials in their state parties. Wisconsin’s fake votes were even submitted by the state party’s chair on Wisconsin GOP letterhead.

READ: Christian-based adoption agency refuses to assist family because they are Jewish: report

Pennsylvania’s fake electors are already distancing themselves from their co-conspirators, stressing they refused to sign the electoral vote paperwork unless they could include a proviso that they weren’t the lawful electors unless a court recognized them as such.

“We were not going to sign unless the language was changed to say ‘if,’ fake elector Sam DeMarco told a local paper. “This was in no way, shape or form us trying to go around the election.”

The fact that Pennsylvania and Nevada felt it necessary to include a disclaimer makes the states that didn’t look even worse, like they were trying to, well, go against the election.

The fraudulent 2020 electors were no joke: A procedural coup to steal the presidency could've worked

The J6 committee is publicly opening a new front in its investigation of the insurrection: Donald Trump’s massive pressure campaign to overturn the election at the state level.

Thanks to open records requests by Nicholas Wu of Politico, we know that the J6 committee is looking at fraudulent certificates of ascertainment submitted by Republicans in the Biden swing states purporting to cast their electoral votes for the former president.

The liberal nonprofit American Oversight obtained seven fraudulent certificates through an FOIA request to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the agency that keeps track of Electoral College paperwork.

As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow observed, the fraudulent documents are strikingly similar in language and in formatting, as if they were based on a common template, which raises the question of who might have written it.

READ: Here's what it would really mean to prosecute Trump

Let’s take a closer look at the scam.

As we all know from civics, we don’t really vote for the president, but rather for a slate of electors in our state’s Electoral College, who are pledged to vote for our candidate.

On December 14, 2020, the winning slates cast their votes in their respective state capitols. That same day, Republicans in seven Biden swing states held sham votes for Trump.

Disturbingly, these fake voters were mostly real Trump electors who had been sidelined because Trump lost their states. These weren’t just randos cosplaying as electors. They were public officials who betrayed their position of trust.

READ: Marjorie Taylor Greene is profiting from the same government debt she rails against: report

The results of these sham votes for Trump were memorialized as fraudulent “certificates of ascertainment” and sent to Mike Pence as president of the Senate and to other federal and state officials. We know from Trump lawyer John Eastman’s notorious memos that Team Trump had big plans for those fraudulent slates of electors.

In the run-up to the J6 insurrection, Eastman wrote two notorious memos outlining how Trump could use baseless allegations of mass voter fraud as a pretext to steal the election during the certification ceremony (aka the long memo and the short memo).

The long memo begins with the observation that seven states have sent dual slates of electors to Mike Pence as president of the senate. It was Pence’s prerogative, Eastman insisted, to accept or reject electoral votes at his whim.

“The president of the Senate does the counting,” Eastman falsely asserted, “[...] and all the Members of Congress can do is watch.” According to Eastman, if a state legislature defied its governor and “certified” a fraudulent slate, Pence could simply ignore the real votes and count the fake ones.

READ: 'To defy Trump's wishes is to defy God's plan': The scary truth about modern right-wing misinformation

In fact, no state legislature succumbed to Trump’s pressure to certify the fraudulent electors. But Eastman had planned for that.

Pence’s remaining option, per the memos, was not to count any electoral votes from the Biden swing states. This move would supposedly result in Trump winning outright, or in a tie that would be decided by the House. (Win vs. tie came down to a dumb semantic debate over whether an elector whose vote was discarded by Pence could truly be said to have been appointed in the first place.)

But regardless, if the election went to the House, the GOP was expected to prevail, provided the Republicans in Congress went along with the coup. Perhaps the mob’s role was to inspire that kind of fortitude in the House GOP caucus.

The state-level machinations to send fraudulent electors were no great secret in the run-up to J6. Trump advisor Steven Miller announced on Fox that Republicans were voting to send alternative slates of electors to Congress.

READ: Washington Post editorial board slams Kevin McCarthy

The Nevada GOP boasted about its fake vote on its website and indicated that it expected Congress to decide which slate of electors to count. Arizona Republican activist Lori Osiecki bragged that her group decided to hold its own vote after a daylong meeting with Rudy Giuliani.

The fraudulent electors scheme got mainstream media coverage, but that coverage lacked a sense of urgency or outrage. Impersonating a state’s electors and sending fake certificates to the government attesting to fraudulent electoral votes is almost certainly illegal.

But the media focused on the absurdity as opposed to the likely illegality.

In fairness, it was tough to take the Republican’s gambit seriously because everyone knew that only a certificate of ascertainment signed by the governor carries any legal weight. A certificate signed by a bunch of self-appointed rogue electors seemed as likely to succeed as a real estate deal backed by Monopoly money.

What wasn’t apparent at the time was that Eastman had a plan to use these fraudulent electoral votes as grist for a procedural coup. Nor did the mainstream media anticipate the wildcard of mob violence.

The procedural coup failed largely because Mike Pence refused to play his assigned role, but the underlying vulnerability is still there.

Next time, we may not be so lucky. The details of the state-level pressure campaign will surely be a fertile field for the J6 committee to till.

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