Ray Hartmann

FBI invited a Trump rioter to write an essay about his day at the Capitol -- and he did

Carey Jon Walden of Kansas City was arrested today in connection with the January 6 Capitol riot, but only after an FBI interview that resembled a middle-schooler getting questioned by his teacher about a field trip.

Walden, identified by the FBI as an ex-Marine, was identified with the help of a tip to the bureau's online portal and a photo he had posted on his Facebook page. But what made this accused rioter stand out from the rest was his unusually forthcoming discussion with the FBI.

What was truly extraordinary was the FBI description of his response to being interviewed by an agent. The highlight was Walton's claim to have "fist-bumped and devil-horned" a friendly swat line.

Here, according to the FBI criminal complaint, is how it went:

"On February 3, the FBI interviewed Walden at his residence in Kansas City, Missouri. Walden admitted to the FBI that he was present at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and that he went inside the Capitol Building that day through a broken window.

"Walden was shown a photocopy of the U.S. Capitol and asked to show where he went inside. Walden circled on the photocopy where he thinks he went into the US Capitol. He wrote on the back, 'That's where I think I was during protest.' Walden signed, dated, and placed his date of birth on the photocopy. Walden also forwarded three videos (and) four still photographs from his phone to the FBI (that he identified as coming) from his activities outside the Capitol.

"Walden was then shown two printed photos from Facebook titled Carey Jon Walden. Walden stated that the first picture was one he took and posted on Facebook prior to entering the U.S. Capitol thru a broken window. Walden confirmed also posting the second photo and then wrote on the front of the photocopy "This is from my Facebook, picture that I took."

"Walden was then asked to write in his own words his activities inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, which he did.

"I, Carey J. Walden, climbed a wall into the Capitol building on 6 Jan 21, at approx 1:00pm to 1:30pm. I took pictures and videos of where I entered. I went into a broken window, which was already broken. I walked in a 15 SQ FT, area, witch there were police in a line guarding a passage way. I took pictures and video. I did not break anything. The police were present and I was not asked to leave. I fist bumped and 'Devil horned' the swat line. I left after about 5 minutes. I walked out after I heard that someone was shot. I was wearing blue jeans gray sweatshirt, blue respirator, red chiefs beanie. Had a backpack, with all of the belongings I have. I was not armed, nor had body armor. I am not a part of any hate groups. I went with a bus of Trump supports. I am a U.S Marine (inactive) veteran. These are my recollections of that day."

The FBI complaint against Walden also showed a screen capture of Walden's self-identified video shows a breathing apparatus he was wearing prior to making entry into the Capitol building. Walden faces charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful entry.

You can read the complaint here

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Even right-wing media are slamming Arizona's bizarre 'election audit'

The conservative Washington Times, a noted purveyor of conspiracy theories, didn't mince words in criticizing the spectacle of a partisan election "audit' -- to placate Donald Trump -- in Maricopa County, AZ.

"'Hoping something sticks': Arizona election audit promises more intrigue than answers," read the headline on a Saturday piece at the newspaper's website.

"The ongoing audit of the 2020 election in Arizona has the state's Republican leaders at each other's throats and their disputes over the process are raising doubts about the outcome of the high-tech recount," the paper reported.

The Times was not alone among leading conservative information sites in shying away from Trump's obsession. The Arizona audit has received scant coverage at FoxNews.com and Newsmax.com -- likely because Arizona Republicans are allowing the even-battier OANN to livestream the festivities -- and other right-wing sources have also seemed unimpressed.

"The Madness of the Maricopa Election Audit," blared a headline Friday at the National Review. "The election results in Arizona's largest county have been certified and authenticated multiple times. This audit effort has been pure folly."

Even the agitators at Breitbart.com have been circumspect, eschewing their customary red-meat screeching and picking up AP News stories on the audit instead. Imagine the confusion among Breitbart believers upon seeing the audit described like this last week:

"EXPERTS OR GRIFTERS? LITTLE-KNOWN FIRM RUNS ARIZONA AUDIT."

The Washington Times analysis did not read like one would expect from a newspaper known for birtherism, climate denial and most recently, wondering aloud if Antifa hadn't pulled off the January 6 Capitol riot in disguise.

"The pro-Trump faction that is championing the effort says all they want is the truth about an election in which President Biden was declared the winner by a less than 1% margin and GOP challenges over irregularities were rejected by the courts," the newspaper reported.

"Republican officials in Maricopa County, which is Arizona's largest county and the target of the audit, say the auditors have made impossible demands. Some analysts suspect the audit is less about getting answers and more about injecting new uncertainty."

The National Review piece -- one of three critical of the audit in recent weeks, with none in support -- was authored by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican elected to that post in November. The article was carried until the "Elections" tab and not identified as a guest column.

Richer offer the conservative audience an analogy to an IRS audit of an American who does not cheat or lie on taxes:

"Even though an IRS audit might annoy you and cause you some stress, you'd eventually realize that you have nothing to fear as long as the audit is done fairly and properly.

"But you'd likely feel differently if the IRS outsourced the audit to someone who:

  • Had no applicable professional credentials
  • Had never previously run a tax audit
  • Believed that Hugo Chavez had nefariously controlled your tax-auditing software
  • Had publicly stated prior to examining your taxes that you'd certainly committed tax fraud

"That is what is happening to elections in Maricopa County, Ariz. — the home of almost two-thirds of Arizona's voting population."

Richer went on to defend the accuracy of the county's 2020 vote tabulation and he described the head of the company conducting the audit -- Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan -- as having "indulged the wildest election conspiracy theories, including the one that deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez somehow had a hand in rigging America's elections."

For its part, the Washington Times piece did present some whataboutism about then-Democratic president candidate John Kerry having challenged voting-machine accuracy in Ohio during the 2004 election. And it presented some Trump quotes, but in the context of questions that "have given Trump room to operate."

And the most telltale sign of how skeptically the conservative media view the Arizona circus is how the Times ended its analysis. It quoted Matt Bernhard, a research engineer at VotingWorks, a non-partisan, non-profit voting technology company:

"Mr. Bernhard said the problem is from what he's seen, the auditors in Arizona are in over their head and 'based on their lack of expertise, aren't capable of finding problems if they are there.

"'It is sort of the dog chasing a firetruck situation," he said. 'The dog is never going to catch the fire truck and even if he did he wouldn't know what to do with it.'"

All-villain team: The 62 who voted against the bipartisan hate crimes bill are the worst of the worst GOPers in the House

The "COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act" signed into law Thursday by President Joe Biden has been hailed as a rare breakthrough in the partisan gridlock that poisons American politics.

That's a fair assessment, given that the law was passed by whopping margins of 94-1 in the Senate and 364-62 in the House of Representatives. The big story was the bipartisan goodwill -- however fleeting -- that accompanied a measure that will, among other things, provide long-overdue greater protections to members of the AAPI community.

But every silver lining has a cloud in Washington D.C. So it's not unreasonable to wonder who would possibly stoop so low as to vote against a resolution "condemning the horrific shootings in Atlanta, Georgia on March 16th and reaffirming the House's commitment to combating hate, bigotry, and violence against the AAPI community."

The answer is 63 Republican members of Congress. But not just any 63.

They are the worst of the worst, a veritable who's who of the most hateful, treasonous and otherwise irrational voices on the national landscape.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley reveled in his lone "no" vote in the Senate. His quest to claim the title as most bodacious seditionist this side of the Dear Leader could not have been more transparent.

On the House side, 62 members shamelessly stood apart from 147 other Republicans to take a collective public stand on behalf of hatred. All of them have terms that expire in 2022 -- and almost none have anything to fear electorally other than perhaps a primary from their right -- so they fired stray bullets in the culture war. Or perhaps they really love hate.

Considering that their fellow 147 Republicans have a pretty clear record of enabling Trump and his racist agenda, it's no small feat to put together a group that makes the others moderate in comparison. They've definitely planted their QAnon-ish flag.

What has emerged is the handiest roster of the nastiest scoundrels in the House.

Most striking about the 62 House members-- overlooked in the media focus on bipartisanship -- is the high-profile nature of this rogue's gallery. Virtually every major reprobate of the Far-Right defiantly went out of the way to make it more difficult to protect the AAPI community from acts of hatred.

It's an all-villains registry featuring the biggest of the big names: Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Green, Mo Brooks, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Madison Cawthorn, Paul Gosar, Ronny Jackson, Andy Biggs and more. If they're in Congress and have made a public splash on behalf of insurrection, racism and the like, they're almost certainly listed in this program guide.

To borrow a phrase offered today by ultra-conservative Rep. Liz Cheney, these people embody "evil lunacy." And though not all of the 62 hate enablers are household names, as a group they share one trait: This isn't their first act of treachery, just the most recent.

Consider some statistics:

Of the 62 members, 40 were among those joining as a group the disgraced and dismissed December lawsuit in Texas to overturn the results of the 2020 election. A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court flipped it aside.

Another 17 of the members weren't part of that legal effort because they hadn't yet taken office. These freshmen members of Congress represent 38% of the Republican class of newcomers--a chilling glimpse into the direction the party is heading.

Of the remaining five members, three -- Gosar, Cole and Davidson -- didn't join the lawsuit (citing concerns over federalism) but did vote to overturn the election on January 6. The others, Massie and Roy, have still continued to support the Big Lie.

Sixty of the 62 members voted to overturn the results, with two -- Mace and Massie -- saying Congress lacked power to do so (while repeating the Big Lie about the election having been stolen from Trump).

In a strange footnote, Cole claims he voted "no" by mistake on the anti-hate bill and had that read into the Congressional record. His official "no" vote stands in the final count.

Here, as reported at CNN, is an alphabetical list of the House Republicans who voted against the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act:

Robert Aderholt of Alabama

Rick Allen of Georgia

Jodey Arrington of Texas.

Brian Babin of Texas

Jim Banks of Indiana

Andy Biggs of Arizona

Dan Bishop of North Carolina

Lauren Boebert of Colorado

Mo Brooks of Alabama

Ted Budd of North Carolina

Tim Burchett of Tennessee

Kat Cammack of Florida

Jerry Carl of Alabama

Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina

Michael Cloud of Texas

Andrew Clyde of Georgia

Tom Cole of Oklahoma

Warren Davidson of Ohio

Byron Donalds of Florida

Jeff Duncan of South Carolina

Virginia Foxx of North Carolina

Matt Gaetz of Florida

Louie Gohmert of Texas

Bob Good of Virginia

Lance Gooden of Texas

Paul Gosar of Arizona

Mark Green of Tennessee

Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia

Michael Guest of Mississippi

Andy Harris of Maryland

Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee

Kevin Hern of Oklahoma

Yvette Herrell of New Mexico

Jody Hice of Georgia

Clay Higgins of Louisiana

Ronny Jackson of Texas

Mike Johnson of Louisiana

Jim Jordan of Ohio

Trent Kelly of Mississippi

Doug LaMalfa of California

Barry Loudermilk of Georgia

Nancy Mace of South Carolina

Tracey Mann of Kansas

Thomas Massie of Kentucky

Tom McClintock of California

Mary Miller of Illinois

Alex Mooney of West Virginia

Barry Moore of Alabama

Ralph Norman of South Carolina

Steven Palazzo of Mississippi

Gary Palmer of Alabama

Scott Perry of Pennsylvania

August Pfluger of Texas

Tom Rice of South Carolina

John Rose of Tennessee

Matt Rosendale of Montana

David Rouzer of North Carolina

Chip Roy of Texas

John Rutherford of Florida

Greg Steube of Florida

Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin

Randy Weber of Texas

Roger Stone's latest hustle finds him groveling for mercy — and cash

Poor, pitiful Roger Stone.

Oh, what a fall from grace it has been for the Prince of Darkness, the Dirty Trickster, Roger Dodger the Artful Codger. Call him what you will (he's said to like the first one), Stone has suddenly pivoted to a new persona.

Meet Roger Stone, downtrodden political martyr. Here's how he is spinning his suffering at -- where else? -- the Roger Stone Legal Defense Fund:

"As a Victim of The Mueller Witch Hunt, I Have Been Drained of All My Resources," Stone blubbered to his followers.

"For me and my family, the Mueller Witch Hunt never seems to end- even after the President of the United States saw through the corruption and unfairness of my railroading in a DC Courtroom and granted me a commutation and ultimately a full pardon.

"For three years I was smeared by CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post and the rest of the fake news media, hunted, terrorized, silenced, de-platformed, gagged, censored, harassed, persecuted, and forced into poverty by the corrupt politically-motivated Mueller witch hunt.

"Now the same corrupt cabal of media leftists and their Democrat allies are seeking to frame and destroy me again." In recent days the exact same fake media outlets seek to imply that I was involved in or knew about the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. This is categorically false and a smear, based solely on naked "guilt by association", sly innuendo and baseless supposition. It did not happen.

"Now these same Trump-hating leftists are once again demanding I be prosecuted in connection to the January 6th storming of the Capitol, an event I was not present for and have no knowledge of or connection to!"

Stone's plea conveniently left out a few details. One, was the part about a jury in that DC courtroom having found him guilty in November 2019 of all seven charges he faced: Five counts of lying to Congress, one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of a proceeding. That was a jury. Not Mueller. Not the media.

Stone also forgot to mention that his current financial plight owes to the IRS closing in on him regarding tax liabilities dating back a decade prior to the Mueller probe. Here's the crux of Stone's newest (and not small) problem, as reported Friday by Newsweek:

"The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump's ally and confidante Roger Stone on Friday, alleging that Stone avoided paying about $2 million in taxes and fees to fund his "lavish lifestyle."

"The suit claims that Stone and his wife Nydia Stone used the company Drake Ventures as an "alter ego" to avoid paying $1,590,361.89 in taxes, interest and fees for the tax years 2007 to 2011, along with another $407,036.84 for the 2018 tax year.

"Although they used funds held in Drake Ventures accounts to pay some of their taxes, the Stones' use of Drake Ventures to hold their funds allowed them to shield their personal income from enforced collection and fund a lavish lifestyle despite owing nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties," the complaint states. "As the Stones' alter ego, Drake Ventures is liable for the taxes."

"The complaint goes on to note that Drake Ventures is "dominated and controlled" by the Stones to such an extent that it "does not exist as an independent entity," with the company having no website or phone number and the Stones' private residence listed as the address. Nydia Stone is said to be listed as the managing member of Drake Ventures, while all other members are also members of the Stone family."

"They purchased the residence shortly after Roger Stone's indictment and placed it in the name of the Bertran Trust just prior to defaulting on their installment agreement with the IRS," the suit claims. "The Stones have long owed back taxes, and they have been parties to numerous installment agreements, some of which were terminated by the IRS. They were aware that their default would result in IRS collection activity."

"In addition to repayment of the unpaid taxes and fees, the DOJ is seeking that the house the Stones transferred to the trust be declared their own property rather than that of the trust, allowing it to be included in tax liens that could collect the unpaid balances."

Perhaps it's understandable that Stone would fail to mention any of that. It's a bit awkward to be trying to blame federal prosecutors and media leftists for all those IRS tax delinquencies -- and related shenanigans -- from a previous decade.

Besides, Stone apparently views another cause as riper for fund-raising purposes: The January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. While ignoring his enormous IRS problem, Stone's urgent plea for help spins his need for lawyers to fend off still another political persecution:

"Because, by the grace of God, I escaped the devilish deadly snare set for me by Congressman Adam Schiff and Robert Mueller's dirty cops, the hysterical demand for my blood on Twitter has reached epic proportions. There are literally thousands of butthurt leftists screaming for my blood- despite the total lack of evidence that I knew about or was involved in this appalling act of lawlessness.

"That's why I need your help. Please contribute to the STONE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND to help prepare to fend off this malicious assault on me once again.

"We lost our home, our savings, my car and most of our insurance in my epic fight for freedom list year. Being banned for life on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram has made it virtually impossible to sell my books online- my main source of income in the two years in which I awaited trial. I simply do not have the personal resources to fight yet another legal battle where I have done nothing whatsoever wrong."

How could anyone read that without tearing up? How is this poor man -- homeless, car-less, drained of all his resources -- supposed to carry on epic fights for freedom?

One way, apparently, was to jet off from Florida to Washington DC, stay at a posh hotel -- presumably serving the "impoverished" -- and hang out innocently with members of the Oath Keepers militia group. Mind you, without knowing who they are, except for the fact they had "graciously" offered to provide free security services for a few days.

Stone was famously videotaped on January 6 in front of that hotel talking with these perfect strangers.

ABC News had this report in February:

"In the video, which was obtained and reviewed by ABC News, Stone takes pictures and mingles with supporters outside a D.C. hotel as Oath Keepers hover around him, one wearing a baseball hat and military-style vest branded with the militia group's logo.

"So, hopefully we have this today, right?" one supporter asks Stone in the video, which was posted just after 10 a.m. on the morning of the rally. "We shall see," Stone replies.

"It is not known to what they were referring.

"Stone has maintained that he played "no role whatsoever in the Jan. 6 events" and has repeatedly said that he "never left the site of my hotel until leaving for Dulles Airport" that afternoon. He has also decried attempts to ascribe to him the motives of the people around him."

Since the ABC report, the FBI has charged one of the men in the video, Roberto Minuta of Texas, in connection with the riot.

Prosecutors told a federal judge "Minuta came to the Capitol dressed in gear identifying him as a member of the right-wing Oath Keepers group — citing a video in which he appears with Stone that morning," the Washington Post reported. And there was this:

"The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether Stone and other high-profile right-wing figures played a role in the insurrection by promoting false claims that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. Stone, a longtime Trump friend and adviser, was involved in some events on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 but says they were peaceful protests.

"While investigators are interested in how the rioters became radicalized, they caution that criminal charges against Stone and others who spread misinformation are a distant prospect given case law on incitement and free speech."

At least two other Oath Keepers arrested in connection with the riot were pictured with Stone in December, the Post reported in a separate story.

Stone can't be troubled with any of that stuff. He's on a higher mission.

"Because of my unique perspective, I have an obligation to let the world know what happened to me and hold those responsible for abusing the system professionally accountable for their actions. But this does not come cheap and your donations are more vital than ever.

"As if fighting the government was not enough, throughout this whole ordeal, the DNC, former DNC employees, Larry Klayman, and Jerry Corsi have filed numerous and meritless lawsuits against me all over the country. With your donations and the help of expensive and skillful counsel, I have been able to beat back some of them, while some of them continue to be litigated. Your donations are also still needed to defend me from these attempts to bankrupt my family.

"Defending myself in court against the Mueller railroading and the other attacks on me cost almost $3M. Today the coffers are virtually bare. Once again I urgently need your help. Please consider making a contribution to my legal defense fund today."

Stone's tone certainly has changed since 2019. Perhaps you might recall the witness tampering thing, as it made for some reasonably colorful news coverage thanks to a more swaggering Stone.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Stone had threatened radio host Randy Credico, saying he would steal his little service dog if Credico didn't "do a Frank Pentangeli" (refuse, just like a mobster in "The Godfather," to testify before Congress).

"Stone wrote in an email to Credico, "You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds."

Now that 2019 quote didn't sound at all like today's whiny victim begging his supporters for charity. But that's not the important point, no more than Stone's need for cash is related to past IRS delinquencies. This is about the man's terrifying legal bills.

You see, as Stone is quick to point out, lawyers who rip people to shreds aren't cheap. These are practitioners with rare skill sets. They need to be cold and tough and willing to hurt people. They also need to be calculating enough to change their tune when the moment suits.

Just like Roger Stone.

'I'm sure these officers are scared': Infowars 'editor' arrested for role in the Capitol riot

Samuel Christopher Montoya of Texas was arrested today by the FBI on charges of unlawful entry and disorderly and disruptive conduct in connection with the January 6 Capitol riot.

The FBI complaint identifies Montoya as a narrator and video editor at Infowars.com and quotes a witness as saying he worked there. Here's what the complaint states was found at Infowars.com:

"PatriotsStormCongressRawFootageIncludesExecutionofAshliBabbitt. The approximately 44-minute video is embedded with the tag "THERESISTANCE.VIDEO" and the narrator identifies himself as "Sam with Infowars.com." The video captures "Sam" going from the Capitol grounds into the Capitol Building along with crowds of protesters on January 6, 2021, at one point turning the camera on himself and exclaiming, "It feels good to be in the Capitol baby!"

Here are some of the other comments attributed to Montoya in the FBI arrest complaint:

"During the video, Montoya makes the following statements:
9:55 – "We're gonna crawl, we're gonna climb. We're gonna do whatever it takes, we're gonna do whatever it takes to MAGA. Here we go, y'all. Here we go, y'all. Look at this, look at this. I don't even know what's going on right now. I don't wanna get shot, I'll be honest, but I don't wanna lose my country. And that's more important to me than—than getting shot."
11:04 – "We have had enough! We're not gonna take your fucking vaccines! We're not gonna take all your bullshit! The people are rising up! Folks, I am now on the steps of the Capitol. Here we go! Here we go! Having a good time!"
12:55 – "We are in the Capitol, baby! Yeah!"
5:40 – "We're all being a little bit too rowdy for sure."16:07 – "Here we are in the US Capitol in Washington DC in the Capitol building, it has officially been stormed by Trump supporters. Again, the US Capitol building in Washington DC has officially been stormed by Trump supporters. And here we are, taking our—the people's house back!"17:38 – "I'm sure these officers are scared, but we're here, we're here to just show that we've had enough. We've had enough."34:05 – "We don't hurt innocent people; we don't tear down statues! We don't tear down statues! We take our house back! We take the people's house back!"

The report also states: "At times during the video, Montoya describes himself to others inside the Capitol Building as a "reporter" or "journalist" as he attempts to get through crowds. The director of the Congressional press galleries within the Senate Press office did a name check on Samuel Christopher Montoya and confirmed that no one by that name has Congressional press credentials as an individual or via any other organizations.

The FBI stated it had received a tip January 11 to its National Threat Operations Center "from W-1, a family member of Samuel Christopher Montoya." W-1 reported that W-1 had proof that Montoya was physically inside the U.S. Capitol near the shooting of a woman on January 6, 2021. FBI agents interviewed W-1 on January 17, 2021, to follow up on the tip received. W-1 stated that Montoya worked for Infowars and that Montoya showed a video of himself walking through the Capitol and captured footage of the death of Ashli Babbitt. W-1 reported that Montoya showed the video to family members who all recognized Montoya as being the one in the video and having taken the video.

And there was this: "Your affiant has also reviewed several interviews with Montoya on the Infowars show "War Room with Owen Shroyer" regarding the events at the U.S. Capitol. On January 8, 2021, Shroyer interviewed Montoya in a video titled "EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT OF ASHLI BABBITT'S EXECUTION"2 Montoya - who is credited as "Sam," and a "Video Editor" at "Infowarsstore.com" – describes to Shroyer hearing the gunshot and his recollections of the scene of the shooting. His "exclusive" footage that is played features his same voice narrating as in the 44-minute video, and appears to depict activity by the Speaker's Lobby sometime after the conclusion of his 44-minute video.

Here's the FBI complaint.

The RNC has sent out a mailer that is going to infuriate Trump

Donald Trump probably is not happy about this.

The Republican National Committee last week mailed supporters a fundraising letter and survey of GOP 2024 presidential hopefuls over the signature of RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. The letter was remarkable, not for what it said, but what it didn't say.

The party of Donald Trump didn't mention Donald Trump, other than to list his name without fanfare on an alphabetical list of 15 potential presidential nominees. Instead, McDaniel offered the following unconvincing disclaimer:

"I must emphasize the RNC is strictly neutral through the entire presidential primary process," McDaniel's letter stated. "But once the presidential primaries are complete in 2024, the RNC is the ONLY Party committed by federal law that can provide substantial direct financial support to our presidential nominee."

From Trump's perch as arguably the most narcissistic human ever, the two-page letter's five mentions of the White House and zero of him likely didn't sit well. In particular, this paragraph took neutrality to a level not seen at the RNC for many years:

"President Biden and the Radical Democrats are feverishly working to reverse the gains our country made the last four years under Republican leadership in the White House and are determined to ram their Far Left agenda down the American people's throats."

Really? "Under Republican leadership in the White House?" Can't think of the fellow's name, apparently. What's worse, it's part of a sentence that looks to be lifted right off of a MAGA propaganda piece.

McDaniel's letter explained that I (strangely enough) have been invited to be "one of a handful of Republicans in your state" to help ensure the party picks the "absolute strongest candidate for the Presidency our party can find." It repeatedly mentioned Biden and sounded alarms in terms strangely reminiscent of that guy who preceded him:

"Their Far-Left special interest allies are already planning to raise billions of dollars to keep Biden in the White House for another four years so he can finish the "fundamental transformation" of America into a Big Government Socialist state."

The letter was accompanied by an enclosure listing 15 "Republican leaders as potential nominees for president of the United States." We special recipients of the letter weren't asked to rank them, merely to check one of five boxes rating our views of them from "strongly favorable" to "strongly unfavorable."

As the letter explained, "The poll does not ask you to choose between possible candidates. Its purpose is simply to help our Party and possible candidates establish a baseline gauge, at this moment in time, of the interest, viability and support within our Party, of the current provisional slate of "most likely" presidential nominees.

Despite the pledge of strict neutrality, the RNC had to pick someone and -- given that there are far more than 15 such leaders -- it had to some people as well. Both lists, as well as Trump's not-at-all-special treatment, were rather telling.

Here's the list of candidates, with their accompanying descriptions:

  • Tom Cotton (Arkansas Senator)
  • Chris Christie (Former New Jersey Governor)
  • Ted Cruz (Texas Senator)
  • Ron DeSantis (Florida Governor)
  • Nikki Haley (Former South Carolina Governor)
  • Josh Hawley (Missouri Senator)
  • Larry Hogan (Maryland Governor)
  • Rand Paul (Kentucky Senator)
  • Mike Pence (Former Vice President)
  • Mike Pompeo (Former Secretary of State)
  • Marco Rubio (Florida Senator)
  • Rick Scott (Florida Senator)
  • Tim Scott (South Carolina Senator)
  • Donald J. Trump (Former President)
  • Donald Trump Jr. (Businessman)

Just the way the candidates are listed and identified is a hoot. Not that Trump wouldn't appreciate the need to refer to him parenthetically as "Former president." At least he wasn't just called "Businessman" like his son.

But it's worth noting some of the big names who didn't make the cut. There was Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, former adviser and what not. There was Governors Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Greg Abbott, of Texas, on almost everyone's short list. They must be wondering how the RNC dredged up Christie for a spin rather than them. So might Senators Mike Lee and Joni Ernst and Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

On the celebrity non-politician front -- where Don Jr is lined up, so to speak -- a couple of glaring omissions were two media figures whose names have been widely bandied about: Tucker Carlson and Candace Coleman.

These non-inclusions probably weren't as telling, however, as those of Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, Governor Mike DeWine, former Governor John Kasich and former Senator Bob Corker. All of them have run, or are flirting with running, for the GOP presidential nomination. All have received the title "Never Trumper."

Or, as the RNC, apparently would say now, "Never that former president."

Wingnut Matt Walsh says the quiet part out loud

The right to vote isn't a right at all, but rather a privilege that should be reserved only for those "equipped to take part in the process," writes Matt Walsh, a 27-year-old, far-right talk-show host and blogger, at the Daily Wire this week.

Walsh normally would not merit a flicker of attention from normal humans. But in this case, he has provided a valuable service to the non-wingnut world by saying openly what fellow voter suppressors are only thinking. Or perhaps whispering amongst themselves.

"No It Isn't Easier To Buy A Gun Than Vote. But It Should Be," proclaimed the headline above Walsh's Daily Wire blog. Obviously, he relished killing two birds with one stone. Walsh bathed in conservative shock-and-awe. After complaining that guns were more costly to obtain and more restricted than voting rights, he wrote:

"Gun ownership is, after all, a more important and more essential right than voting. Voting is not really a human right at all, but a privilege that ought to be reserved for those who are the most qualified to do it. The ability to defend yourself and your family is fundamental. We all have the God-given right to ensure our own safety and that of our loved ones."

Having drawn the obligatory -- albeit sacrilegious -- connection between God and guns, Walsh delivered the kill shot:

"But determining the political course of the nation is something different. It is not fundamental and should not be opened up to any warm bodied (or even cold bodied, in some cases) person. In an ideal scenario, there would be tests and requirements for voting which rule out the voters who are not equipped to take part in the process and have no business involving themselves in it. That's the way it should be. That's not the way it is."

This was not the first time Walsh has ventured down this verbal dark alley. In June 2019, he tweeted "Every voter should be a taxpayer who can pass an 8th grade civics exam," apparently unconcerned about the tens of millions of Trump votes this would disenfranchise (along with several Trumps).

In a companion tweet, he added, "I absolutely believe certain people should not be allowed to vote. Specifically, ignorant and non-contributing people. There is no benefit whatsoever to their participation. They only cause damage."

This time, the tweet about guns and voting drew an approving response from the infamous Ann Coulter, who emerged from her crypt with this: "You're right. Possible solution: have Registrars in all 50 states mail guns to citizens."

Walsh surely was flattered to his creepy core: To an upstart agitator, Coulter's blessing is bigotry gold.

As with Coulter, gaining attention by provoking rage is Walsh's oxygen. He is best ignored for the most part. But with the Republicans' voter-suppression campaign in full swing, Walsh provided a service this time by exposing its ugly underbelly.

For that, Walsh has earned no angry reaction. Just a thank-you for spelling out the ongoing attack on democracy so succinctly.

Here's Walsh tweet


Michigan judge who gained fame demolishing rapist Larry Nassar just locked up one of Tucker Carlson's heroes

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced a Michigan restaurant owner to jail Friday for flagrantly violating state health laws regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. That came less than 48 after Fox News agitator Tucker Carlson had tried to make the defendant one of his endless tales of national grievance.

Aquilina threw Holland, Mich. restaurateur Marlena Pavlos-Hackney in jail Friday after a raucous hearing. Aquilina ruled that Pavlos Hackney will remain in jail until the state is assured her restaurant -- Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria -- is closed and she pays a $7,500 fine, the Detroit News reported.

Pavlos-Hackney has become a cause celebre among Michigan Republicans since the state took away her license for refusing to comply with even the most basic COVID-19 mitigation measures. The restaurant stayed open during a state shutdown and refused to follow mask requirements, seating limits or other social-distancing rules, according to various published reports. Also, Pavlos-Hackney was charged with contempt in court for failing to show up when ordered.

Pavlos-Hackney has been openly defiant of authorities, proclaiming "they can arrest me" and appearing on Carlson's show Thursday and others (including Glenn Beck's "The Blaze") to complain that Michigan "was acting like the Communist state (Poland) I escaped from."

But Friday in Aquilina's court, it was the judge who was making the best sound bites in dressing down the defendant:

"We're in the midst of a pandemic," Aquilina said. "You have selfishly not followed the orders. You've not followed them for your own financial gain and apparently for the publicity that comes with it."

"Aquilina threatened supporters in the courtroom with contempt of court when they made noise during the court hearing. The judge gaveled down Pavlos-Hackney when the restaurant owner tried to interrupt the judge. "This isn't Burger King," Aquilina said. "When the sign changes to Burger King, you can have it your way."

"After the hearing, two supporters of Pavlos-Hackney stood outside the courthouse with bullhorns, calling Aquilina a "tyrant judge."

But Friday, Aquilina spoke with the assurance of a celebrity judge. She had drawn widespread recognition in 2018 in presiding over the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal case involving team doctor Larry Nassar. Here's how BBC.com reported it:

"The judge who has sentenced disgraced USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has given a voice to over 150 women who chose to confront their abuser face-to-face.

"'I just signed your death warrant," Aquilina said as she told him he would serve up to 175 years. She listened patiently as survivors shared their stories of abuse during the multi-day-long sentencing. At times acting as more of a therapist than a judge, the 59-year-old did not hide her empathy for the women.

"'Leave your pain here," she said.

"She said she had received media requests from around the world but insisted the story was not about her."

Aquilina, first elected as a judge in 2004, had previously "become the first female Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the Michigan Army National Guard where she earned the nickname "Barracuda Aquilina," the BBC reported.

She had not lost her bite as of Friday, as the News reported:

"During Friday's hearing, Aquilina also ordered a man attempting to represent Pavlos-Hackney as "assistance of counsel" to be arrested for contempt of court because he allegedly had represented himself as a lawyer when he was not licensed to practice. Richard Martin, who described himself as a constitutional lawyer and is the founder of the Constitutional Law Group, was ordered to serve 93 days in jail.

Not having been allowed the legal services of non-lawyer Martin was among the grievances spouted by Pavlos-Hackney during media interviews.

The News reported that "Pavlos-Hackney is believed to be the first restaurant owner in Michigan to be arrested for non-compliance with COVID-19 orders, according to Attorney General Dana Nessel's office. Others have complied after receiving court orders."

Carlson had criticized Michigan's "out of control" Attorney General Dana Nessel, consistent with messaging of the Michigan GOP, as reported by the News.

"The Michigan Republican Party criticized Nessel's office for arresting the restaurant owner while refusing to investigate COVID-19 nursing home deaths in Michigan. About 35% of all COVID deaths have occurred among nursing home residents and employees.

"Nessel is eager to spend taxpayer-funded resources going after small business owners trying to stave off bankruptcy but refuses to investigate the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents potentially caused by policies implemented by her political-ally Gretchen Whitmer," GOP spokesman Ted Goodman said in a Friday statement.

"It's a massive abuse of power and shows what her priorities are."

Notably, the Republicans' political attack was void of any substantive defense of Pavlos-Hackney's inalienable right to spread infectious disease. Here's what Nessel's office had stated on that front:

"Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development suspended Marlena's food establishment license on January 20, 2021. The restaurant has been operating without a license since then - in violation of the Michigan Food Law. An administrative hearing was held on February 1 to determine if the suspension was proper and on February 11 the Administrative Law Judge issued a decision and an order continuing the summary suspension of Marlena's food license.

"This owner has continued to willfully violate the state's food laws, public health orders and the order of the court - a dangerous act that may have exposed dozens of diners and employees to the virus following the discovery that one of Marlena's customers tested positive for the virus within two days of eating there."

There was a small gathering of supporting protesting on behalf of the jailed restaurateur Saturday. Neither that, nor Tucker Carlson, is likely to hold much sway with Barracuda Aquilina, however.

Political legend Pete McCloskey compares 'psychopath' Trump to Hitler — and traces the GOP's demise to Newt Gingrich

If anyone ought to have perspective about the troubled state of American democracy, it's Pete McCloskey.

Now 93, McCloskey had more than a front-row seat during the turbulent Vietnam era and the fall of President Richard Nixon. As a renegade Republican congressman, McCloskey called for Nixon's impeachment over the Vietnam War in 1971, opposed him in the Republican primary in 1972 and was the first to demand his resignation during Watergate.

So McCloskey knows an outlaw president when he sees one. With the benefit of that experience and the wisdom of his years, does he see the need to view the reign of Donald Trump dispassionately as just a case of history repeating itself? Are people overreacting to the turmoil of recent times?

Nope.

McCloskey describes the current climate as "much worse" than the Vietnam era. And he sees Trump -- "a narcissistic psychopath incapable of the truth" --as on an entirely different level than his old nemesis from the 70s. Indeed, McCloskey likened Trump's impact on the Republican Party to that of Adolf Hitler. And he continues to worry about the safety of U.S. politicians.

Highly decorated as a Marine combat veteran in the Korean War, only to become the first Republican elected to Congress opposing the one in Vietnam, McCloskey hasn't lost any of the passion that set him apart as a renegade Republican in his heyday. Nor has any of the idealism faded that spurred him to work across the aisle as co-founder of the first Earth Day and as co-author of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

McCloskey says Congress should go full bore in its investigations of Trump, with "every committee and subcommittee" focused on getting to the bottom of what happened to government during his reign. And he continues to bemoan what's happened to his former political party, a decay he traces back to former colleague Newt Gingrich's election as Speaker of the House in 1994.

McCloskey does see President Joe Biden as having "as much chance as anyone" in restoring some of the relative civility that existed during his 15-year Congressional career spanning 1967 to 1982. And he drew inspiration from how democracy prevailed in the wake of the Capitol insurrection.

Through it all, Congressman Paul Norton (Pete) McCloskey Jr. has kept his sense of humor.

Raw Story spoke to McCloskey last week. What follows is a lightly edited version of that interview.

Q. What has happened to American politics?

A: Who knows? It's a mystery to all of us. How can some Republicans get up and say, oh yes, we think the election was rigged when they know that it wasn't?

I mean, the closest you can come to it is Kristallnacht in 1938 when Hitler's stormtroopers dragged the Jews out of their house and broke all the windows and he had convinced the German people that the Jews were responsible for having lost World War One. And the stormtroopers, coupled with his concept of the Aryan race: that Germans were a special race and that Jews were tainting the blood of the chosen people. He gradually convinced the Germans of the untruth, and they accepted that the Jews were responsible, and the Holocaust was justified.

Q. That's quite a comparison.

A. That's the only way I can explain what Trump has done in this last four years. for Republicans to all stand up and say something that they don't believe yet saying that they believe it. I don't know that anyone could explain that except as a sort of a mass herd of sheep mentality or buffaloes thundering across the plains. The madness on the faces of those who raided the Capitol reflects almost an insanity, a cult a faith, a religion that goes all the way back to the Bible that to wipe out all the enemies and kill their sheep and sow their grounds with salt. These people believe they're right. And it isn't a matter of rationally discussing it with them. It's a matter of challenging their faith when you say it's not true, that the elections weren't rigged. I don't know how to explain that though. If anything, my inability to explain should come through.

Q. That's a long way from where you were as an idealistic young 40-year-old running for his first office in 1967. How did you get into all this?

A. Our congressman suddenly announced that he had leukemia and a cousin of mine said that means he's going to die within a week, which he did. The expectation was that Shirley Temple would be our Congresswoman. She was very conservative, and the odds-on favorite to win. Something snapped in me. I thought if you're going to gripe about the system, you ought to be willing to serve in it. I never wanted to be in politics. I'd seen local government corrupted and state government wasn't anything I wanted to have anything to do with. But with the Congress of the United States, I thought was a worthwhile thing.

Q. So your first race for public office was against Shirley Temple? That must have been interesting.

A. There was no way you run against a child movie star. You couldn't criticize her. You couldn't say anything. But luckily, she talked herself out of it. A lot of people over 60 loved her, since they remembered her from the Good Ship Lollipop. But the Good Ship Lollipop girl wanted to nuke Hanoi. She wouldn't debate anybody. She could have been the Congresswoman if she had even the slightest sensitivity to the public, even though she was probably a nice person underneath it all.

Q. So you managed to defeat Shirley Temple without attacking the Good Ship Lollipop?

A. A guy wrote a book called "The Sinking of the Lollipop" about that election. It was a surprise I was elected, especially since I'd come out against the Vietnam War and majority opinion at that time still favored the war. But I had a Marine Corps background so people really couldn't say I was a communist sympathizer. (Arguably, McCloskey's having been awarded the Navy Cross and Silver Star decorations for heroism in combat and two Purple Hearts while leading his Marine platoon in combat in Korea might have had something to do with it.)

Q. You never thought much of Nixon even as a member of his party, did you?

A. I had no real love for Richard Nixon going back to the 1940s when his was my congressman when I was in high school. But it wasn't until the tapes came out recently and have been declassified that the true evil of Nixon became apparent.

Q. But you certainly were one of his leading critics, during the Vietnam War and through Watergate. So how do you compare him to Donald Trump?

A. There really isn't any comparison. Next to Nixon, Trump is the antichrist. I think Trump's thinks of himself as almost a god, the Messiah, that's come to save the country. Certainly his followers treat him like he's the Messiah. Nixon at least preserved the front of being a reasonable person. Trump is a narcissistic psychopath and incapable of the truth. It's not in him. But I'll tell you the President who was more like Trump than Nixon was Lyndon Johnson, who was a skilled diplomat and understood everything about Washington. We honor him for getting through Medicare and civil rights bills and much else. But he also got us into the Vietnam War by lying about what allegedly happened to a destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. He and Secretary McNamara didn't hesitate to lie to the Congress to of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed. Johnson was a terrible man.

Q. Wow. So you won't be suggesting President Joe Biden emulate Johnson. Who would you suggest as more of a role model for him?

A. I would say Gerry Ford. He was a good friend of mine, going back to our time together in Congress. Ford was the last of the great moderate Republicans. He believed in a woman's right of choice and other important issues. He was perhaps the most decent man I've ever known in politics, too decent a man to run for president. Most people who run for president don't have that quiet, decent judgment that Gerry had.

Q. So many people remember him primarily, though, for his having pardoned Nixon.

A. I can remember the euphoria, that overtook the country when Nixon resigned and finally that period was over. The unfortunate thing was that Congress then went in recess for a month. Had we been in session, had we been around to counsel Gerry, I think we could have talked to him out of the pardon. We'd have said, "Look, Mr. President, he'll plead guilty to two or three counts. or one count of something, he'll get straight probation and it'll be behind us." We knew he hadn't made any deal with Nixon, but it came out looking like he had. Ford had a big heart, and he did what he thought was right for the country. It did cost him the election.

Q. So you think Biden might have some similarities to Ford?

A. I think Biden is decent as well. And he knows the legislative process. But it's such an incredible task. For a president to bring us through all of this, he'll need the genius of a Franklin Roosevelt to do it. I think this first six months is so important. By summer they need to get the COVID crisis under control and the economy turning around. But there are so many challenges.

Q. How did things get so bad?

A. It's been happening for a long time. But I think you can trace a lot of the bitterness that now exists between the two parties back to Gingrich getting elected speaker in 1994. He had been in the House when I was there. He was a pop off, and nobody thought of him as anything but a pop off. But he conceived that for the Republicans to gain power, they needed to treat Democrats as weak and unprincipled and as people who were going to sell the country down the road. That the entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security were bankrupting the country and the Democrats were an evil thing to the country. When Gingrich became speaker, he removed chairmen from any of the 21 House committees if they collaborated with the Democrats in any way. He replaced them with hard heads. From that time on, the contempt Gingrich's has felt for Democrats, that concept of regarding them as enemies of the country, has lasted beyond Gingrich's time. We're so far from where we were when I was in Congress, when people were more decent to one another even when they disagreed.

Q. Do you think there's any hope of getting back to that at this point, given how divided people are, and how they're getting such different information from such different sources in the digital age?

A. I don't know. I hope we can somehow get back to what we had with John Kennedy at one time: the idea that public service, and public office was an honorable thing. I hope we can restore that in the 2022 elections. It's so hard, with 40 percent of the people not believing Biden's the duly elected president.

How do you reach out to those people? You put your finger on it with the question: With knowledge coming from so many different sources and there's so many people out there expressing crazy conspiracy theories, who knows what can be done? Is our educational system strong enough to cause people to go back, to think and challenge and discuss different ideas without all the hatred? These are real questions. But if anybody can do it, it's Joe Biden and I just wish him the best.

Q. What did it feel like for you to be an elector for Biden at the tender age of 93?

A. It was a wonderful honor. When my wife wheeled me into the California assembly room in the capitol and I sat behind one of those desks, I thought, my God, I'm going to have the privilege of being an elector for President of the United States. It was a wonderful feeling. But the real feeling-- the real euphoria we haven't had since Nixon resigned -- was the euphoria of watching the members of the House file back into the chamber two hours after it had been ravaged by the Trump people, to count the electoral ballots. Bless the vice president, under all that pressure, for saying, "my job is just to preside over the counting." The only way Biden was going to become president was when those electoral votes were counted, and he got to 270 votes. Trump knew that he had to block that some way, he had to stop the counting of the votes. If they had caught Pence, they would have hung him, if they would have been able to catch any of the Congress people particularly the speaker, they probably would have killed her on the spot. Mob violence is a terrible thing to behold. Every member of Congress was at risk. We should be grateful for their courage to count every vote, including mine.

Q. So you're not one of the people who thinks Trump was just venting and using the occasion to raise money off his supporters. You think he was all in for a coup?

A. Yes, I think, very definitely. He wanted to stop that vote count. I worried right up until the day they were counted that Trump and his people would understand that if they assassinated Joe Biden, Trump would remain president because Trump would have enough to win the electoral college if he had a dead candidate on the other side. I worry now that every Democratic senator who has a Republican governor has a target on his back-- a bulls' eye on his back --because the people around Trump, those people out in the hinterlands who feel their country has been stolen from them, all they have to do is shoot one democratic senator from a state that has a Republican governor and suddenly the power shifts back to the Republicans in the senate. We see these people all around us that are so crazy that killing is a patriotic act on their part.

Q. So what now?

A. After the impeachment trial is over, every committee of Congress, every subcommittee ought to be investigating what happened during the Trump administration. I hope they subpoena everyone who was part of it, I hope they use their contempt power and use the Freedom of Information Act and remove some of the things that have kept the truth from coming out. This is such a challenging period. I wish that I were in Congress for the next two years.

Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are truly in danger of getting booted from the US Senate — here's why

Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz should be afraid. Very afraid. There's a very real possibility that they might soon find themselves on the business end of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Hawley and Cruz -- likely in that order -- are truly in danger of getting booted from the U.S. Senate by their fellow senators.

As historian Michael Beschloss and others have noted, the legal basis is clear, dating back to the post-Civil War amendment ratified during Reconstruction in 1868. Amendment XIV Section 3 states definitively that "no person shall hold any office" if as a member of Congress they "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

It's never good news to get caught helping out in a civil war when you're holding a job with qualifications that read "hasn't helped out in a civil war."

Well, that's what Hawley and Cruz just did: The organized insurrectionists incited and directed by Donald Trump to attack the Capitol were doing so in the name of a borderless civil war. (The fact that Trump continues to shun any expression of sympathy for fallen Capitol police officers confirms he regards them as enemy casualties).

Not long after these heavily armed insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol for the expressed purpose of preventing Congress' certification of the 2020 election -- keyword, "after" -- Hawley moved to give their seditious cause "aid and comfort" by challenging the election results of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Cruz had done the same before the insurrection with respect to the state of Arizona.

Both were among senators who voted to reject Pennsylvania's electors. If you're looking for clues as to why the whole enterprise might have been not-so-kosher by this point in time, Hawley yielded his five minutes of time, his first shunning of a microphone or camera in 41 years on the planet. Hawley knew who he was helping and why and wasn't about to add to the record.

But while the conduct of Hawley and Cruz affronted the Constitution's language, the remedy is purely political. That, too, lies in the Constitution: Article 1 Section reserves solely to each chamber of Congress the power to "determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member."

So it comes down to this: Would 17 Republicans join 50 Democrats and independents in taking a patriotic stand against the sedition of Hawley and Cruz?

For the blue team, it's not a tough vote, because January 6 will forever remain on a shortlist of tragic days in American history. Doing nothing shouldn't be an option with regard to members of Congress who actively abetted it.

For both parties, however, almost all political questions come down to three criteria: 1) Is this in our political self-interest?' 2) Is this in our political self-interest, and 3) Is this in our political self-interest?

Normally, that would be that -- as it was during Trump's impeachment -- and the prospect of finding 17 Republicans to vote against him would be impossible. That might remain the case here. But the big problem for Hawley and Cruz is that this wasn't just any domestic terrorist event: It was one that jeopardized the lives of all members of Congress and their staffs, across party lines. Many found themselves quaking under desks making farewell calls to loved ones. And lots of stuff got messed up.

Let's not mince words: They are pissed off and are likely to stay pissed off at Trump and anyone who gave him and his terrorist minions an iota of aid and comfort, especially after the attack occurred. This one literally hit home to them.

This brings us back to the politics. What would be the consequence, in terms of angering the Trump base, to punishing Hawley and Cruz for supporting his cause? And even if Hawley and Cruz can wrap themselves in MAGA flags now, will that matter two or four years from now? Further, would a defanged and de-platformed Trump himself matter by then, especially if he's off making license plates somewhere?

Unhelpful to both senators are the low esteem with which they are held by colleagues, even on their own side of the aisle. Cruz has long held the "most hated man in the Senate" without much competition, pretty much by acclamation. Compare him to a snake and the reptile lobby will go nuts on you.

Hawley might not quite be living on Cruz Island, but he's not far from it.

Consider this from the New York Times Friday:

"The day after Josh Hawley became the first Republican senator to say he would indulge President Trump's demand that lawmakers try to overturn the election, a reporter asked if he thought the gambit would make him unpopular with his colleagues."

"'More than I already am?' he retorted."

Such a lovable guy. But getting back to the original question about political self-interest, there's a factor that weighs against Hawley more than Cruz: Removing him would mean replacing him, with near certainty, with another Republican. And it would probably do a favor to Senator Roy Blunt, a highly regarded member of the party's Senate leadership, who has potential primary concerns of his own as he faces reelection in 2022.

Missouri is one of the Trumpiest states in America, having favored him by 15 percentage points this year and 19 percent in the 2016 election. Were Hawley ejected from the Senate, his replacement would be chosen by Republican Governor Mike Parson--one of the most pro-Trump governors in the nation -- and that person who would stand for a special election alongside Blunt in 2022.

Missouri in 2022 would host a rare dual-senator election like Georgia did in 2020, but with a far higher likelihood of success for the Republicans. Blunt would benefit from running alongside a teammate. Parson would benefit because he could break a logjam of statewide Republican officeholders looking for higher office, including his (Parson is term-limited out in 2024). Hawley has been disowned by his erstwhile patron saint, former Senator Jack Danforth, and two of the state's most influential and wealthy GOP political donors.

So the Republican Party writ large would be glad to be rid of Hawley, who is almost certainly damaged goods for the long term. Even if the party decides it needs a Trump acolyte to carry its banner in 2024, there's a long list of people with last names like Trump, Pompeo, and Haley standing ahead of him in that regard.

For Cruz, the politics are a bit foggier. Unlike Hawley, he has been around quite a while and has more of a natural base of his own. But far more important, Texas is growing more purple by the day. The Republican Party runs a real risk of losing a seat if it jettisons Cruz as it would open the possibility of a Democrat winning the seat in 2022. Cruz isn't up until 2024.

Plus, Cruz didn't inadvertently pose for an iconic fist-pump-to-the-seditionists photo like Hawley did on his way to the Capitol. (That one will help every bit as much smiling from a tank helped not-President Michael Dukakis in 1988.) And Cruz isn't continuing to act in as bellicose a fashion as Hawley, who is continuing to spout "I will never apologize!" and claiming ludicrously that Simon and Schuster abridged his First Amendment rights by dumping his book deal.

Still, Cruz did offer aid and comfort to Donald Trump's cause and, by implication, his little army. And given that so much champagne would flow so freely among so many senators across the aisle were Cruz kicked to the curb, it cannot be ruled out that they'd gleefully kick him to the curb over sedition.

Now if you're thinking none of this could possibly be real, look no further back than a quarter of a century, when longtime Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon was facing expulsion. Over a period of a few years, a sordid history had emerged of Packwood having sexually harassed female aides and other women. Plus he had altered diaries to cover it up.

Packwood resigned in disgrace in 1995, but only after the Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously -- under Chairman Mitch McConnell, of all people -- to have him expelled from the Senate. Kicking out a senator hasn't happened often, but it's not out of the question.

Long before the Me Too movement, Republican senators were ready to boot a senator for sexually harassing people in the Capitol building. So might they do the same for a senator who offered aid and comfort for people who stormed that very building with guns blazing?

We'll all have to wait on the edge of our seats to learn the answer to that one. You can rest assured that Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are.

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