Federal Prosecutors say Attackers Planned Assassinations

Among the most horrific details of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol were the chants and pronouncements from the attackers that they planned to assassinate the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and other elected officials. Now, federal prosecutors say Jacob Anthony Chansley is an ongoing threat and cite evidence the plan was “to capture and assassinate elected officials.”

In their filing, prosecutors wrote:

Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States Government… they were there to take out several United States congressmen.

Katelyn Polantz is reporting today for CNN that:

Prosecutors describe those who took over the Capitol as “insurrectionists” and offer new details about Chansley’s role in the violent siege last week, including that after standing at the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had stood that morning, Chansley wrote a note saying “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

This latest filing by prosecutors signals the deepening gravity of the charges facing insurrectionists and their network of sympathizers and supporters—including, potentially, those who funded their planning, travel, and events in Washington, DC. The news comes amid emerging evidence one heavily armed insurrectionist hoped to coordinate with at least one Senator.

Majority of Americans want Trump criminally charged

A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News finds a majority of Americans want Donald Trump to face criminal charges for instigating the attack on the US Capitol. Some important additional details from the poll:

  • 9 in 10 Americans oppose the “storming of the Capitol” with 80% “strongly” opposing it.
  • 20% of Republicans place “a great deal” or “a good amount” of blame on Trump for the insurrection.
  • Fully 42% of Republicans view him as at least partly to blame.
  • 2/3 of all Americans believe Trump behaved irresponsibly by lying about the election results.

The 42% of Republicans who place some blame on Trump should also be read in context: While there is no evidence of election fraud, and most Americans recognize Trump has spread dangerous lies, more than half of Republicans still believe those lies. 66% of Republicans, according to this poll, say they believe there is significant evidence of widespread fraud.

Election officials in all states, every state and federal court asked to examine the question, and Trump’s own Attorney General all confirm there is no evidence of widespread fraud. Cyber security officials also said the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history”.

Parsing the numbers a bit, this poll suggest that at least 1/5 Republicans who believe there is election fraud also blame Trump, at least partly, for the attack on the Capitol. Given that more than 60 lawsuits have failed for lacking evidence of fraud, and all state-level audits and recounts have found the results were accurate, the number of Republicans who hold Trump accountable is likely understated in these results.

The impeachment trial in the Senate will take place with more than half the country viewing Trump as criminally liable, and nearly half of Republicans viewing Trump as at least partly responsible.

Attack on the Capitol was coordinated paramilitary strike

In a stunning, detailed account of police officers’ desperate struggle to protect the Capitol, Peter Hermann reports in the Washington Post:

many appeared to be on a mission, and they launched what he and the police chief described as a coordinated assault.

“Everything they did was in a military fashion,” Glover said, saying he witnessed rioters apparently using hand signs and waving flags to signal positions, and using what he described as “military formations.” They took high positions and talked over wireless communications.

Authorities would later learn that some former members of the military and off-duty police officers from across the country were in the pro-Trump crowd. Glover called it disturbing that off-duty police “would knowingly and intentionally come to the United States Capitol and engage in this riotous and criminal behavior against their brothers and sisters in uniform, who are upholding their oaths of office.”

Hermann’s report draws on direct testimony from law enforcement officers who risked their lives to keep thousands of insurrectionists from breaching the Capitol. It opens with this harrowing account:

Blinded by smoke and choking on gas and bear spray, stripped of his radio and badge, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone and his battered colleagues fought to push back rioters trying to force their way into an entrance to the U.S. Capitol.

8 days on from the insurrection, it is now public knowledge that dozens of people on a domestic terrorist watch list were part of the attack on the Capitol, also thanks to reporting by the Washington Post.

Time Capsule: Trump seen as “corrupt… ignorant… ineffective &… evil”

In an op-ed in Ha’aretz, David Rothkopf writes, the day after Donald Trump was impeached for Incitement of Insurrection:

Donald Trump is undoubtedly America’s worst president, the only president to be impeached twice, the only person to lead a coup against the United States government, the president who presided over and was personally responsible for the greatest one year loss of life in American history, the only president since Herbert Hoover to actually leave office with fewer people employed than when he was sworn in, the only world leader to have been summarily banned from virtually all major social media sites because his words were so inflammatory, the most prolific liar if not conspiracy theorist in U.S. political history (which is saying something), a man who managed to be at once the most corrupt, the most odious, the most ignorant, the most ineffective and the most evil political leader in U.S. history.

More than 90,000 Americans could die of Covid-19 in next three weeks, CDC forecast shows

By Christina Maxouris, for CNN

More than 38,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 in the first two weeks of the new year. 

Another 92,000 are projected to die from the virus over roughly the next three weeks, according to an ensemble forecast published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the full story here.

House Impeaches Trump for Incitement of Insurrection

A bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives has voted to impeach Donald Trump for Incitement of Insurrection, by a margin of 232 to 197. 10 Republicans joined all of the Democrats in voting to impeach Trump for his role in the violent attack on the Capitol one week ago.

House Resolution 24, Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors, specifies:

incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.

The Article of Impeachment also states:

President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

The gravity of these charges explains why this was the most bipartisan vote to impeach a President in US history. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy did not vote to impeach, but he did say earlier in the day that “the President bears responsibility” for the insurrectionists’ attack on the Capitol.

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National security experts say Trump operates like a terrorist leader

Mark Follman reports today:

Pro-Trump rioters were more orchestrated than was generally understood.

For several weeks before the siege, the national security community was “swimming in threat intel” about far-right Trump partisans with potentially dangerous plans, a senior US law enforcement official told me. Some of the threats metastasized online. According to a social media analysis cited in the New York Times, the phrase “Storm the Capitol” was mentioned 100,000 times across various platforms in the 30 days preceding the attack. Violent far-right extremist groups exchanged ideas about concealing weapons and using guerilla tactics to target political enemies. On Twitter, President Trump himself spent weeks inciting violence focused specifically on Jan. 6, the day Congress would certify Joe Biden’s election victory. The day prior to the attack, a FBI field office in Virginia issued a stark internal warning about extremist talk of going to “war” in Washington, including individuals sharing a map of the Capitol complex.

Juliett Kayyem—a former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security—was blunt about Trump’s culpability, saying: “Trump is the spiritual leader for domestic terrorists and he is their operational leader. He tells them what to do.”

Elizabeth Neumann, who served served as Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention from March 2018 to April 2020, warned in October:

Language from campaign materials and Trump’s extemporaneous speeches at rallies have been used as justification for acts of violence. The president has repeatedly been confronted with this fact… the issue is not whether he has ever condemned those ideas and people; it is that he is inconsistent and muddied in his condemnations. Extremists thrive on this mixed messaging, interpreting it as coded support.

Combined with the president’s repeated efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the election and militaristic calls to “join Army for Trump’s election security operation,” law enforcement and counterterrorism officials have expressed concerns to me that the president’s rhetoric will lead to more civil unrest and violence.

Follman reported in December that national security experts had identified Donald Trump’s behavior as a pattern known as “stochastic terrorism”—“a method of political incitement that provokes random acts of extremist violence, in which the instigator uses rhetoric ambiguous enough to give himself and his allies plausible deniability.” Follman reported that:

Over the past four years, numerous perpetrators of threats and violence have directly invoked the president and his rhetoric, and recent gatherings by far-right groups in support of Trump’s efforts to reverse his election defeat have led to beatingsstabbings and a shooting

Domestic terrorism – as defined in US Federal law

Chapter 113B of Title 18 of the US Code defines Terrorism, outlines the various related criminal activities included under that heading, and the relevant penalties.

Section 2331(5) of Chapter 113B defines “domestic terrorism”:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
– (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States…

Joint Chiefs of Staff denounce insurrection

The Joint Chiefs of Staff—the most senior uniformed commanding officers in each of the US armed services—issued a joint memorandum to all active-duty military personnel today, denouncing the violent insurrectionist attack on the US Capitol.

The letter stated, in part:

The violent riot in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process. We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events.

We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.

The extraordinary letter made clear the military would “obey lawful orders from civilian leadership” and “remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

NPR reports:

The Joint Chiefs emphasized in the letter that President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, becoming the 46th Commander in Chief, and any acts to disrupt the constitutional process not only violate military values, but the law.

Trump Attacks Peaceful Demonstrators outside White House

In an inexplicable departure from basic American Constitutional law, Pres. Donald Trump today ordered a paramilitary attack on nonviolent protesters gathered in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House. In what will likely be studied as an example of Trump’s disregard for basic human rights, a large number of heavily armed security officers, whose affiliation was not clearly marked, launched a combat-style attack on peaceful protesters.

According to NPR:

The plaza between St. John’s Church and Lafayette Park was full of people nonviolently protesting police brutality late Monday afternoon when U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops, with the use of tear gas, suddenly started pushing them away for no apparent reason.

The reason, it turned out, was that Trump wanted to stage a photo op across the Park at St. John’s Church.

Speculation has run wild that the President may have conspired with the Attorney General to create an ad hoc strike force, not officially sanctioned by any law, to carry out the attack. High-ranking administration officials, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—the nation’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer—and the Attorney General walked with Pres. Trump across the recently cleared Park.

Civil rights organizations, as well as leading members of both political parties, have criticized the attack. Legal experts expect there may be lawsuits, or possible criminal inquiries into the conduct of some administration officials.

UPDATE—June 12, 2020

Protesters attacked in Lafayette Park file lawsuit

According to Lawfare:

Three protesters accused members of the Trump administration of violating their First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, as well as the Posse Comitatus Act, in a complaint filed in D.C. federal court On June 11, 2020. Seeking relief under Bivens and the Posse Comitatus Act, the protesters allege that while demonstrating peacefully in Lafayette Square they were sprayed with tear gar and hit with rubber bullets so the president could clear the crowd and attend a photo-op at a nearby church.

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