While all eyes today are on the fight over the newly combined voting rights bill before the Senate—it is now the “Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act”—there are plenty of stories out there right now that make clear what is at stake if the Republicans are permitted to rig the rules so that they will win the next election.
Today the Department of Justice acknowledged that there was a seditious conspiracy behind the January 6 insurrection against our government.
The Justice Department indicted Oath Keepers leader [Elmer] Stewart Rhodes III and 10 other members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right antigovernment militia that specializes in recruiting veterans, for a number of crimes including seditious conspiracy in relation to the January 6 insurrection. Sedition is the crime of inciting a revolt against the government, and these men allegedly established training sessions and areas for staging equipment around Washington, D.C., before the insurrection to support an attack on that day. They also brought knives, tactical vests, radio equipment, and so on, to the Capitol on January 6.
Rhodes stated that, should Biden assume the office of the presidency, “We will have to do a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That’s what’s going to have to happen.” He wanted Trump to use military force to stop the transfer of presidential power. On Christmas Day, he messaged his co-conspirators about the January 6 joint session of Congress, “We need to make those senators very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away…. I think Congress will screw him [Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time is [sic] they don’t do the right thing. But I don’t think they will listen.” On December 31, he wrote: “There is no standard political or legal way out of this.”
Officials produced a lot of evidence from encrypted messaging channels—suggesting they have access to encrypted messages—to support their argument that the conspirators intended to overturn the government. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” one messaged another; and “We aren’t quitting!! We are reloading!!” They plotted going to Washington, D.C., getting hotel rooms, and stashing weapons, and then continued to communicate as they stormed the Capitol, evidently seeing themselves as the modern-day version of the patriots of the American Revolution (calling to mind Representative Lauren Boebert’s [R-CO] tweet the morning of January 6 that “Today is 1776.”).
After the insurrection, the conspirators continued to stockpile weapons and prepare for “next steps.” On January 20, the day of Biden’s inauguration, one messaged another: “After this…if nothing happens…its [sic] war…Civil War 2.0.”
The Oath Keepers provided security to Trump loyalist Roger Stone on January 5 and January 6. Stone has denied any involvement in the insurrection.
Tess Owen of Vice reported on January 5 about a similar right-wing gang active at the Capitol. Owen said that after the January 6 insurrection, for which nearly 50 members of their gang have been charged, the neofascist street-fighting gang the Proud Boys turned from the national stage to local right-wing culture wars. From January 6 to December 21, 2021, the Proud Boys appeared in uniform at least 114 times in 73 cities and 24 states, working to embed among local activists opposing critical race theory and vaccine mandates in order to expand their base of support. The Proud Boys are the gang Trump told to “stand back and stand by,” when reporter Chris Wallace, then of the Fox News Channel, asked him to condemn white supremacists.
It was not just members of street gangs who were involved in overturning the 2020 election. Last week, a new website called Insurrection Index, published by the voting rights organization Public Wise, established that more than 1000 people in elective office or positions of public trust around the country either spread the Big Lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent or participated in the January 6 insurrection.
Over the past several days, news has broken that lawmakers or partisan officials in various states forged documents claiming that Trump won the 2020 election. This links them to the insurrection; as conservative editor Bill Kristol of The Bulwark notes, false electoral counts were part of Trump’s plan to get then–Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count a number of Biden’s electoral votes on the grounds that the states had sent in conflicting ballots.
Interestingly, on December 17, 2021, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that in four states there were an “alternate slate of electors voted upon that Congress will decide in January.” McEnany talked to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol yesterday.
The January 6th Committee also asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) yesterday to testify. He promptly refused, saying the committee is illegitimate (a court has said it is legitimate). The committee’s 6-page letter requesting McCarthy’s voluntary cooperation made it clear they have a lot of information.
In an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, New York University School of Law professor Ryan Goodman suggested that McCarthy might be able to shed light on whether Trump believed the rioters were helping his effort to overturn the election. Lawmakers who talked to McCarthy in January about his expletive-laden conversation with Trump as McCarthy tried to get him to call off the rioters reported that Trump’s answer to McCarthy was: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Sargent’s article suggests that, among other things, the committee wants to know if Trump tried to make a deal with McCarthy or others, indicating that he would call off the rioters if the Republicans either overturned the election results or delayed the count.
House Republicans have already begun to map out how they will retake the government, planning to investigate the Biden administration aggressively if they win control of the House in 2022, trying to stoke the culture wars before the 2024 election.
Last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said on a podcast that the Republicans might well impeach Biden if they retake the House in 2022, “whether it’s justified or not.” He claimed the Democrats had “used [impeachment] for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him,” and that there would be “enormous pressure on a Republican house to do the same.”
Democrats impeached Trump, of course, not over policy differences but over two extraordinary acts. The first was Trump’s July 2019 attempt to strongarm Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into smearing Trump’s leading challenger for the presidency, withholding congressionally appropriated money for Ukraine’s defense against Russia until Zelensky would agree to tell media that he was launching an investigation into Biden’s son. (It would be ironic if the Republicans acquitted Trump of just such a quid pro quo with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky only to have him suggest a similar quid pro quo over their own lives.)
The second was inciting the January 6 insurrection.
And yet, despite all this, the Republican Party is lining up behind Trump’s wishes. Today the Republican National Committee announced that it plans to change its rules, refusing to permit any of its candidates to participate in debates run by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. The commission was founded by the Republicans and Democrats in 1987 to make formal debates part of the election process, and is actually supposed to arrange the debates with candidates, not party officials. Debates are not Trump’s strong suit, and he insists the commission is biased against him.
Tonight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has adjourned the Senate tonight out of concerns about Covid and an upcoming storm. It will reconvene on Tuesday to debate voting rights.
Acyn @AcynKayleigh says the litigation is ongoing and says in four states there has been “alternate slate of electors voted upon that congress will decide in January” https://t.co/MZJAbGe7NJ