February 9, 2022
This evening, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena for documents and testimony to former White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, who has made a number of public statements about his role in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. In its letter to Navarro, the committee noted his statements that former president Trump was “on board with the strategy” of trying to steal the election, as were “more than 100” members of Congress, including Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
This subpoena suggests that the committee is getting closer to lawmakers, and some of them are certainly acting as if they are uncomfortable these days.
Navarro responded to the subpoena with a fire-eating statement calling the members of the January 6 committee “domestic terrorists” engaged in a “partisan witch hunt,” and inaccurately claimed that former president Trump has invoked executive privilege that he cannot waive. (In fact, Trump invoked executive privilege only over documents in the possession of the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Supreme Court denied his claims.) He tried to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Capitol Police for the violence on January 6.
He added fuel to the ongoing fight within the Republican Party when he added: “Pence betrayed Trump. Marc Short is a Koch Network dog. Meadows is a fool and a coward. Cheney and Kinzinger are useful idiots for Nancy Pelosi and the woke Left.”
Navarro’s discomfort with the committee’s questions was not unlike that of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who picked up today on Representative Troy Nehls’s (R-TX) odd accusations of yesterday that Pelosi and the Capitol Police were spying on him. Greene accused Pelosi of having Gestapo-like secret police “spying on members of Congress, spying on the legislative work we do, spying on our staff and spying on American citizens,” she said, although she called them “gazpacho,” apparently confusing the cold tomato soup with the Nazis.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is also flailing. Sunday, on Face the Nation, he said: “This commission is a partisan scam. They're going after—they're—the purpose of that commission is to try to embarrass and smear and harass as many Republicans as they can get their hands on.”
Yesterday, he released a video saying “Biden is sending free meth & crack pipes to minority communities in the name of ‘racial equity’.... There is no end in sight for this lunacy.“
This is a wild lie made up and spread by right-wing publications, referring to a drug harm reduction program inviting applications for grants in a 75-page call for proposals. Part of that harm reduction includes infectious disease testing kits, medication lock boxes, safe sex kits, vaccinations, and so on, including safe smoking kits, which do not include free meth or crack pipes but do include rubber mouthpieces for pipes to prevent burns, and disinfectant wipes.
Drug harm reduction programs have been around in the U.S. since the 1980s, when the HIV epidemic made it clear that addressing drug addiction could stop that era’s epidemic.
Exaggeration and demonization of their opponents has been part of politics for years, as Republicans tried to fire up their base by describing their opponents as socialists, lazy “takers,” baby-killers, and so on. Now, though, these over-the-top attacks on the committee and on the Democratic administration seem to be part of a new political project.
The frantic edge to them suggests concern about what the January 6th committee might uncover.
But statements like those yesterday of Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who claimed the Department of Justice was reading his mail; Nehls, who claimed that Pelosi was using the Capitol Police to spy on him; and Greene, who claims Pelosi has a “Gestapo,” normalize the practices of authoritarian government. The proposed banning of books by Republican school officials and lawmakers also echoes authoritarian tactics. Texas State Representative Matt Krause’s October list of 850 books he said “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex” invited schools to self-censor. It also puts the idea of banning books–—banning one book normalizes the banning of 850—on the political table.
And, to enforce such bans, states like Virginia, West Virginia, and Florida are turning to laws that enlist ordinary people to turn each other in to authorities.
We learned yesterday more details of another undemocratic project thanks to Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman of the New York Times: in summer 2018, Republican operatives launched a spying operation in Wyoming to gather dirt on opponents of then-president Donald Trump, targeting progressives, Democrats, and Republicans who seemed insufficiently loyal. To help fund the project, they turned to Erik Prince, known as the founder of the military contractor Blackwater and brother of then–secretary of education Betsy DeVos.
The third piece of this new, frantic language ties into America’s long history of politicians deploying racism to break the coalitions that challenge their power.
When Rubio lies that Biden is sending crack pipes to minority communities, he is tying into other constructed panics around race. Fourteen state legislatures have passed laws restricting the teaching of anything that looks like Critical Race Theory, although the actual concept, an advanced legal theory that seeks to explain the persistence of racial inequality in the U.S., is almost never taught in public schools. Republican allegations of voter fraud focus on majority Black districts, and state laws are increasingly threatening minority voting. On Monday night, the Supreme Court okayed racial gerrymandering, making it harder for Black voters to elect representatives of their choice.
These new legal fences enclosing Black Americans echo times in our past when multiracial coalitions threatened an entrenched political party and those in power reacted by using the law to divide their opponents along racial lines. Last June, as Republican operatives whipped up fears of CRT, Republican political operative Stephen K. Bannon told Politico that enflaming racism was how Republicans would take back Congress. “I see 50 [House Republican] seats in 2022. Keep this up,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a lot more emphasis from Trump on [CRT] and DeSantis and others. People who are serious in 2024 and beyond are going to focus on it.”
Cracking the majority that elected a Democratic government in 2020 will enable the Republicans to take back Congress and, among other things, ease pressure over the January 6 insurrection.
But according to a Washington Post story today, some of the very “suburban moms” being pressed into this racial division are organizing to fight back. “[I]t’s time to get off defense,” organizer Katie Paris told reporter Annie Gowan. “Why should we be the ones explaining ourselves?” Paris’s organization, Red, Wine, and Blue, trains its more than 300,000 members to push back against book bans. Paris recognizes that the attacks on diversity in the schools are about political control of the nation. Attacks on the schools, she says, “certainly are part of what I would say is a pretty massive orchestrated effort to undermine public education and teachers in the country, impose a political agenda and win back suburban voters.”
Annie Grayer @AnnieGrayerCNNNEW: The 1/6 Committee has issued a subpoena for former White House advisor Peter Navarro. The committee wants to know more about his role in delaying the certification of the 2020 election. Story w/@ZcohenCNN and @ryanobles https://t.co/GrToDz9QS3