I have always been amused by the cockiness of hyper-committed partisans ahead of elections. And what is happening in GOP ranks these days can definitely be described as cocky. Every Republican you talk to is absolutely certain that covid fatigue and economic frustration will drive a red wave in November. President Biden is polling underwater in every demographic except Black voters. Biden’s staff is so embarrassed by him that they will not “allow” him to talk to reporters without notecards to read off of verbatim. (And he actually obeys them!) He now gives his fireside chats from a Hollywood-ish set designed to look like the White House, presumably so he can choke his way through a speech spelled out on a teleprompter without going off about how he used to drive an 18-wheeler or how, if you think about it, George Floyd’s death was more important than MLK’s assassination. His bizarre legislative agenda went down in flames. There has been an avalanche of retirements on the left, as establishment Democrats would rather back out of races than be on the losing team (or suffer public defeat themselves, or maybe they are existentially exhausted with identity politics like everyone else). Nancy Pelosi bought a $25 million beachfront mansion in Florida. Etc. etc. etc.
It does seem like midterms are the GOP’s election to lose. And that is why the media is suddenly breaking its stance that Trump should be ignored. Because if anyone can steal defeat from the hands of victory, it’s Trump and his big, ugly mouth, right?
Trump and his strange bedfellows are clearly out to sabotage DeSantis’s reelection campaign. (Which, upon reflection, is pretty funny. Trump is so insecure about DeSantis that he wants to push him out of politics, but Trump somehow hasn’t contemplated what his life would be like under Democratic leadership? Does he want to be under investigation in two states simultaneously or what? You just don’t get it; he’s playing chess in five dimensions and you are only playing checkers!) In addition to Trump suggesting DeSantis was “gutless” for not promoting what Trump thinks is the Trump Vaccine, God’s Greatest Gift to Humanity, we were blessed yesterday with Roger Stone calling DeSantis a “Harvard/Yale fat boy with a bad haircut” who was “nothing” before Trump met him. I mean, sure, DeSantis was only a former congressman and governor of one of the largest states in the country, but that obviously pales in comparison to Roger Stone’s vast accomplishments, like getting pardoned by Trump for witness tampering and perjury. Sometimes it is profoundly difficult to believe these people are grown-ass adults with responsibilities.
Alas, pattern recognition does not seem to be MAGA dead-enders forte. In every recent election – both presidential and midterms – the Democratic Party has hatched some devious plan to break the world. I’m not kidding, they seem to think this is a bona fide political strategy now. In 2016, they split the country in two talking about the descent of the country into fascism and weaponized cancel culture on a grand scale. They annihilated Republicans in the 2018 midterms by pushing the Russia hoax, which successfully hobbled the Trump administration with two years of lawfare and fake news. In 2020, they destroyed state and local economies (pretty much every social institution, really) over nonsensical covid lockdowns and capacity limitations, while Trump just sat there and twiddled his fingers. (In some alternate universe, we sequestered the vulnerable until treatments became available / the virus was no longer novel and went about our business, and China’s economy will not eclipse ours over the next decade. Alas.)
One would think the political savants would be asking themselves how Democrats plan to break the world this year. I think it is fairly obvious what that’s going to be.
They are probably going to indict Trump, who is now a private citizen like anyone else.
This is why they are inviting Trump back into the public consciousness to strut and preen and declare his 2024 comeback before midterms are even over. It’s the ultimate October surprise, which will achieve maximum chaos, dominate all conversation, and demoralize independent voters who started to lean right once Trump and his antics seemed definitively out of the picture.
The Department of Justice is likely looking for a way to charge Trump and his family with seditious conspiracy, among other things, and that indictment will toss their personal communications to the wind. And those communications will, in fact, be deeply humiliating to the GOP because the Trump crowd says a lot of stupid and incriminating shit. I mean, really, look at the nonsense they say publicly and then imagine the nonsense they say when they think no one is looking. It’s going to be bad, y’all.
And, frankly, Trump is probably quite guilty of orchestrating this whole enterprise. When he lost the election, he was publicly freaking out, turning on everyone, and the world was able to see exactly how under the sway of the three election fraud Rasputins he was. All the man can think of is his own status, so it takes precious little imagination to believe he saw the Q Anon crowd as henchmen to be exploited. And they did willingly offer themselves, their families, their careers, their personal freedoms up for their political Jesus, while he watched them on television from the Oval Office.
Many MAGA dead-enders foolishly believe the investigations into January 6th are a joke – or, to borrow the phrase they most often parrot from Trump, a “witch hunt.” If January 6th was truly an “insurrection” they ask, why have all these people only been charged with petty crimes like trespassing? If you disagree with them, in spirit or magnitude, they smear you as a “RINO” and go back to making frog memes, which is of course how all giants of public policy spend their free time.
While that was true of the early indictments, of people who were incidentally present and engaged in some perhaps trivial form of property destruction, it is not true of the people who planned the event. You know, the event they intelligently marketed not as a political rally, but as “Stop the Steal.” You can already hear the prosecutor leaning into the jury dramatically: “Stop the steal how?”
You can’t explain to a MAGA dead-ender that there is any real legal risk involved here, because they don’t think the Capitol riots were a big deal. They are equipped with some bad legal reasoning, which from a distance is honestly kind of hilarious.
I cannot tell you how many MAGA dead-enders I have heard say “the people have a right to be in the people’s house.” Um, you actually don’t. In fact, there are thousands of government buildings in the United States that you cannot enter without a legitimate appointment and reason to be there, generally for the safety of the government officials and staff who work there. You don’t have a “right” to break through several lines of barricades, bust through windows, chase police officers, and take a shit on the floor of a public building like some deranged savage. Just like how when you get arrested for doing this, you don’t get to bust into the judge’s chambers and declare your “right” to read his emails and toss his files all over the floor.
This is not part of the social contract, and you are not being a responsible or rational citizen that anyone should praise or defend. And if you are behaving violently when you are doing this, especially when the feds have put police officers on notice that something like this was going to be attempted, you are putting your person in physical danger. You charge a judge in a courtroom, and the bailiff will defend the judge. You charge the quarters of policymakers trying to throw important proceedings into chaos, and the police will defend the policymakers. A rational person has every reason to expect these outcomes in these circumstances. You are not anyone’s victim. You are simply a fool courting predictable and unnecessary tragedy.
But beyond this, if you believe the constitution gives you a “right” to riot, you shouldn’t go around calling yourself a cultural conservative, because you are not. You are just a politically homeless anarchist not unlike Antifa and BLM. As I said in my last post, most MAGA dead-enders will respond to much of this by saying they just want what is “fair” – which is apparently the ability to riot without accountability like any other anarchist group in the country. Their idea of “fairness” somehow doesn’t include anyone besides them, like the people who want to live in a decent and peaceful society that doesn’t involve, you know, trashing public spaces.
You also cannot claim that this was the only way to “observe the process” in the name of institutional integrity or whatever. The proceedings were televised, for crying out loud. Every American who wanted to see what was happening and what people were saying could watch. Just like every American who did not like the way things were handled had platforms through with they could contact their representatives and make those opinions known. This is how you behave in a civilized society, folks.
Most of these folks stupidly left extensive online trails. It was clear before the event even happened that many of them were hungry for some form of violence and social unrest. I’m not sure that is apparent to observers who are not Aggressively Online, but it’s true.
I like to tell people about a couple of Facebook groups an online acquaintance (if she can be called that, as I never met her in real life) added me to without my permission. I did not belong to any explicitly political groups before that, and it proved to be quite the eye-opening experience. I suddenly understood all of the media caricatures of MAGA folks as bigoted authoritarians. All day long these folks posted about preparing for the coming civil war, the mechanics of how it would unfold, which parts of the country had all the guns, how they would starve off the populations of California and New York (apparently they did not know agriculture is a major component of California’s economy and that Kansas is not filled with fields of spinach), blah blah blah. I started to look at some conservative publications differently, especially The Federalist. People like me were obviously not the target market for the “national divorce” chatter – these groups were. I loathe the phrase “dog whistle,” but in this context it applies.
I did eventually get bored with hate-following these groups and eventually left. I also unfollowed a lot of the people I had met online through this acquaintance, who seemed relatively normal in their public feeds but were baring their Confederate re-enactor souls in Facebook groups. It was clear these people were trouble, and I did not want myself and my family swept up in their social connections when it inevitably happened.
On my way out, I could not resist mocking them, however. “You dumbasses realize Zuckerberg is just going to hand all your conversations over to the FBI. You probably have feds in this group [with thousands of members, most of whom don’t know each other in real life] watching all the garbage you are saying.” Or something to that effect. I mean, it would take a Big Tech programmer about 30 seconds to write an algorithm that crawls pages for key words and harvests conversations to pass to law enforcement. But many of these folks were not even remotely sophisticated people, and a not insignificant number of them think they are protected by God and DuckDuckGo, so they don’t really think about how the magic of online communication or all the smart devices in their homes work. Talking all helter-skelter is just so much fun! What’s the harm in a little soldier cosplay among “friends”?
This whole experience led me to fall down an online rabbit hole for about a week. I started stalking the QAnon chats, which I had never been interested in before, and the satellite chat rooms that the groups obsessed with election fraud had set up. The Stop the Steal plans and conversations about civil war were everywhere, and totally public. I ranted for weeks to my friends on Facebook that Trump was egging these people on to violence – his Rasputins loved to allude to the big “reveal,” and a lot of Q Anon folks showed up on January 6th genuinely expecting the military to join them in some twisted coup – and that something catastrophic was going to happen. I didn’t know what it was going to look like – obviously these people were nuts and capable of anything – but it was clear they were planning something. I watched the certification process on television that day, not because I was interested in the formalities, but because I expected things to blow up. I even talked to my daughter about it beforehand.
One thing that really came out of observing these sites, however, was how people like Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and some other figures within Trump’s milieu worked the online crowds for him. I’d guess one of them created the whole Q Anon conspiracy theory too – you listen to them talking about secret servers in Germany re-routing votes and talking about how the US military is in on it, and it is too on-brand to be a coincidence.
Anyway, I think there is a zero-percent chance that folks in the Trump administration did not know who was behind these accounts and was feeding them ideas on how to manipulate their followers into useful action. I also think there is a zero-percent chance that these folks were smart enough to effectively conceal those exchanges technologically.
Thus the early indictments related to January 6th were the low-hanging fruit. They will save the splashier ones until closer to the election and to make sure they have built as solid a case as possible against them. This entails culling through a lot of chatter and persuading some participants to hand over their communications, if they cannot achieve that through search warrants. By all accounts, this is already taking place.
They have already stepped up their game in indictments (emphasis mine):
The Justice Department escalated its January 6 investigation by bringing seditious conspiracy charges against 11 defendants, including the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes.
The latest accusations — with a charge that had not previously been brought in the department’s US Capitol attack prosecutions — remove any sense that prosecutors believe the riot emerged from just a group of overzealous protestors, with new details about the planning and logistics alleged to have predated the Capitol breach.
The Justice Department until now had been careful not to push the idea of sedition, instead charging defendants affiliated with right-wing groups with conspiracy to obstruct the congressional proceeding on January 6. The seditious conspiracy charge carries the same possible consequence as an obstruction charge, but is rarely used, politically loaded and has been difficult for the Justice Department to use successfully against defendants in the past.
Attorney General Merrick Garland had balked at the earlier efforts to bring the seditious conspiracy charge. But in the months since, people briefed on the matter say FBI investigators and DC federal prosecutors have spent much time building the case, at least in part with the help of cooperators and the benefit of internal communications among the Oath Keepers.
The new indictment brings to light planning the Oath Keepers are accused to have done ahead of the Capitol attack, as they allegedly recruited members, stocked up on weapons and organized to disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election. Prosecutors say they also continued to plot “to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power” after the Capitol riot failed to block the electoral college vote, according to a Justice Department statement on Thursday.
One Oath Keeper claimed to travel to Washington, DC, for a scouting trip ahead of January 6, according to the indictment. The new court filings also detail accusations that the defendants stashed weapons at a Virginia hotel and that they were prepared to “rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C.” to support the efforts to stop the presidential certification vote.
Rhodes was arrested Thursday in Little Elm, Texas.
The new indictment, approved by a grand jury on Wednesday and made public Thursday, alleges that Rhodes and his co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy to “oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force, by preventing, hindering, or delaying by force execution of laws governing the transfer of power.”
The latest court filings revealed that Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell, who was arrested in January, claimed to take a reconnaissance trip to DC before January 6. The indictment also surfaces previously unknown communications Rhodes is alleged to have sent that prosecutors say encouraged the use of force to oppose the lawful transfer of power.
“We aren’t going through this without civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body and spirit,” Rhodes allegedly said in a November 5, 2020, Signal message. In December, Rhodes — according to the indictment — wrote of the electoral college certification that “there is no standard political or legal way out of this.” Prosecutors have previously said that Rhodes used Signal during the attack to communicate with other members of the Oath Keepers who were at the Capitol.
“All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything,” Rhodes allegedly wrote. “So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” he allegedly said on Signal at 1:38 p.m. that day, shortly after the siege had begun. Additionally, the indictment says that Oath Keepers from three different states, including newly charged Edward Vallejo, stashed weapons in a Virginia hotel as part of a quick reaction force.
“[Quick reaction force] teams were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power,” the indictment said.
On his way to DC on January 3, Rhodes allegedly bought an AR-platform rifle and other firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, triggers, slings, and other firearms attachments in Texas. The next day, he allegedly bought more firearms equipment in Mississippi including sights, mounts, an optic plate, and a magazine, according to the filings.
The Rhodes indictment walks through public and private statements the Oath Keeper leader made, starting just days after the election, that prosecutors say illuminate the plot to oppose by force the transfer of presidential power.
Those alleged discussions include a November readout that Caldwell reached out to provide Rhodes about a November 9 trip he had taken to DC to do recon for an upcoming “op.” Communications about the “bloody” “fight” and “revolution” were accompanied by logistical planning, prosecutors alleged, with defendants discussing obtaining and bringing weapons to the Washington area. Rhodes allegedly spent thousands on firearms equipment en route to DC, prosecutors allege.
On January 6, prosecutors allege that Oath Keepers stationed themselves around the DC area — some near the Capitol, others providing security and a third group waiting across the river in a Virginia hotel with a cache of weapons. At the Capitol, some members moved in a military “stack” formation into the Capitol where they fought with police, and a small group unsuccessfully looked for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to court documents.
The plotting didn’t end with the Capitol riot, prosecutors say, alleging Rhodes and other co-conspirators met in Virginia to “celebrate” the attack and “discuss next steps.” In a Signal chat to other members of Oath Keepers leadership, Rhodes allegedly said that “Patriots entering their own Capitol to send a message to the traitors is NOTHING compared to what’s coming.”
In the week after the riot, Rhodes allegedly spent more than $17,500 on weapons, equipment, and ammunition. One member, according to the filings, said Rhodes should stay “below the radar,” while another brought what he called “all available weapons” to Rhodes’ home in Texas.
Around Inauguration Day, January 20, Rhodes allegedly told associates to organize local militias to oppose the Biden administration. Another member allegedly said, “After this… if nothing happens…its war…Civil War 2.0.”
CNN reported in July that Rhodes gave a voluntary interview to the FBI and that investigators seized his cell phone. He has denied all wrongdoing.
According to previous court filings submitted by the Justice Department in other cases, Rhodes said at a November 2020 online meeting, “We’re going to defend the president, the duly elected president, and we call on him to do what needs to be done to save our country. Because if you don’t guys, you’re going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war and a bloody — you can call it an insurrection, or you can call it a war or fight.”
The other clue that there is something bad that directly involves Trump is Trump’s refusal to hand over his own communications, which has not been faring well in court for him. Trump has an insatiable urge to overshare. He cannot see or hear anything without wanting to broadcast his immediate reactions to everyone. This means when Trump chooses not to be transparent, there is something he understands will not be to his advantage in sharing. If he thought there was anything out there that would absolve him, you best bet he’d be issuing a “press release” about it. We watched this with him fighting for years to keep his tax filings private. As a finance geek, I thought they were a bit of a nothingburger, but to him they were evidence of him taking such a massive financial loss that he did not have to pay taxes for many years. It was his ego as a successful businessman that was at stake. So they were not a nothingburger to him.
Trump and his family do not need to be in direct communications with people like Rhodes to be considered conspirators in this stuff. If they are feeding information to third parties that are riling up these groups, it’s more or less the same thing.
A lot of political investigations merely serve the purpose of grandstanding. There has definitely been a lot of grandstanding in Congress over this. But there is a big difference between the airing of family text messages in public hearings and the interception of communications as described in the article above. This is some incredibly sociopathic content. No one gets excited about the idea of a civil war without being comfortable with the idea of murdering their neighbors for their political opinions. Civil war is not having it out with your liberal uncle over Thanksgiving. It’s war, and war means killing people. That’s literally all it is. When you get wishy-washy about what was happening there, blah blah blah fairness and all, understand this is what these sociopaths wanted to see happen. This is what you are dismissing as no big deal. People are going to judge your morals accordingly.
The GOP is wasting precious time where they can condemn Trump’s behavior – and it fully deserves to be condemned – permanently distance themselves from him and look forward to winning the hearts and minds of Americans on bona fide policy matters. If they let him proceed into 2024 mode, there’s a solid chance that midterms won’t be the rosy reversal that people think.
How many times do you have to get burned, how much control over the direction of this country do you have to sacrifice, before you learn that the only “divorce” that needs to happen is between the party and this buffoon?
As a final remark, after reading my last missive, a good friend of mine asked me why I do not include some of the positive things from Trump’s tenure. Two reasons. (1) After all of the nonsense after the election, I have lost any desire to qualify my criticism of the man. Some things are just so bad, they blot out all the good or interesting or lucky things that happen. Not to compare Trump to Hitler, but I’m also not going around praising Hitler’s watercolors either. (2) I don’t think a lot of what some folks think are “Trump’s accomplishments” are really his. I have said this many times. Did Trump build up the court system, or did Mitch McConnell and the Federalist Society? I’m not sure Trump can even name many of the judges he appointed to the bench, and they certainly have no problem ruling against his interests. Did Trump get tax reform done, or did Mnuchin and Mitch McConnell? I’ve never heard Trump even get into tax policy before. You get the drift. But both reasons more or less amount to “I don’t even care anymore.”
I just want to see the GOP return to sanity and salvage some of its dignity. I don’t want to deal with batshit socialists talking about trillions of dollars of spending and the pronouns of kindergartners for a few more years just because the GOP can’t get its act together.