June 27, 2022
Midday today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol announced a hearing “to present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony.” This is a surprise, and it was not until late tonight that reporters confirmed with their sources that the witness will be Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former president Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. Hutchinson was the person who revealed that congress members had asked for pardons.
Legal analyst Asha Rangappa tweeted that she will be watching to see if Hutchinson can testify that Trump, Meadows, or members of Congress either knew about or planned violence for January 6 to pressure Pence. “If so, it brings them into crosshairs of seditious conspiracy,” she wrote.
While we have been focused on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade more news has come out about the attempt of Trump and his allies to overturn the government.
Indeed, scholar of authoritarianism Ruth Ben-Ghiat today noted that there is a relationship between the insurrection and the radical Supreme Court decisions coming out. Justice Clarence Thomas has been writing opinions and footnotes that are to the right even of the rest of the radical court, and today he suggested he would like the court to revisit the 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan decision that provides some protection to media outlets from being sued for defamation by requiring a plaintiff to prove the outlet acted with “actual malice.” Thomas wants to make it easier to sue media outlets because, he wrote, the “New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups ‘to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity.’”
Ben-Ghiat tweeted that “[s]elf-protection (and protection for corrupt family members) is a huge driver of authoritarian behaviors. He feels threatened and will try and change the legal order to avoid scrutiny. Radicalized people no longer care about ‘how it looks’ to outsiders.”
In this particular case, Thomas’s beef is with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for calling out Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc., as a “hate group” because of its opposition to homosexuality and gay rights. The SPLC identifies as hate groups any groups that “have beliefs or practices that malign or attack an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” “SPLC’s ‘hate group’ designation lumped Coral Ridge’s Christian ministry with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis,” Thomas complained, and that hurt their ability to raise money.
Recent stories about the attempt to overturn the election include, most notably, Politico’s report of last Monday that British filmmaker Alex Holder filmed the Trump family from September 2020 through to mid-January 2021 to record for posterity their actions during the historic election. Apparently, this was a family project, and a number of the people on the campaign did not know.
Last Thursday, the January 6 committee interviewed Holder. It has also subpoenaed the tape and the raw footage.
There are continuing signs that the attempt to overturn the Democratic victory in 2020 and install Trump in office swept in more lawmakers than the committee identified last Thursday. When news broke last Tuesday that Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson, a Republican, had tried to hand off slates of false electors from Michigan and Wisconsin to then–Vice President Mike Pence at the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, Johnson initially passed it off as the work of an unnamed intern and called it a “non-story.”
Two days later, Johnson changed his tune, saying that the office of Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) had sent the fake slates of electors and that Johnson, his chief of staff, and Trump-affiliated lawyer Jim Troupis had coordinated through text messages to figure out how to get the fake ballots to Pence. Kelly’s office promptly said Kelly “has not spoken to Sen. Johnson for the better part of a decade, and he has no knowledge of the claims Mr. Johnson is making related to the 2020 election.”
Meanwhile in Colorado, Tina Peters, an election official from Mesa County who has been charged with crimes for her role in trying to overturn the results of the election, on Friday told Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon of the New York Times that Lauren Boebert (R-CO) encouraged her “to go forward” with stealing and sharing voter information. That information, allegedly obtained through identity theft and illegal breach of computers, later turned up on a right-wing website and at a symposium organized by Mike Lindell, the owner of the MyPillow Company and a leading Trump supporter, alleging voter fraud. A press secretary for Boebert calls the claims false.
Today we also learned that the Department of Justice last week seized the phones of John Eastman, the man who wrote the infamous memo outlining plans for Pence to steal the election. In a lawsuit trying to get the phones released and all that was on them deleted, Eastman’s lawyers explained that federal prosecutors had stopped Eastman outside a restaurant in New Mexico on June 22. This was the same day federal agents executed a search warrant on Jeffrey Clark. Trump wanted to make Clark acting attorney general in the days before January 6 so he would work to overturn the election.
Right-wing insistence Friday night that the weekend would be characterized by “rage” as pro-choice supporters turned violent seemed designed to draw false equivalence between those who stormed the Capitol to overturn the election and those angry at the Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize a constitutional right that the American people have enjoyed for half a century—and, perhaps, to justify brutality to silence those protests. In fact, aside from sporadic violence against the protesters rather than from them, the protests were peaceful.
There is another link between the recent Supreme Court decisions and the January 6 attempt to destroy our democracy that creates an unprecedented situation. If Trump is prosecuted as the leader of an attempted coup, a coup that may have included some of those who voted for Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees, what does that do to their positions on the court?
John Kruzel @johnkruzelJUST IN: Justice Clarence Thomas signals interest in making it easier to sue media. Says he would revisit landmark 1964 decision in NYT v. Sullivan that makes it relatively difficult to bring successful lawsuits against media outlets for defamation👇 https://t.co/gVqmaPNcLE