FBI vetting National Guard over concerns of “insider attack”

The FBI is reported to be vetting all 25,000 National Guard personnel serving in Washington, DC, due to concerns of an “insider attack” on the Inauguration. These are the wages of professional political disinformation. Every political actor inside or outside of government who has helped Trump to spread his big lie about the election, or other baseless lies about “communists”—lies which have been used to radicalize people to commit acts of terror and intimidation—bears responsibility for this dangerous situation.

Part of the concern stems from apparent participation of people with military training in the attack on the US Capitol. Beyond that, one defense official told the Washington Post:

the Pentagon received 143 notifications of extremism-related probes last year from the FBI, 68 of which were related to suspected domestic extremism among current and former service members — a category that includes white nationalism, anti-fascist, antiabortion and anti-government beliefs. Most of the cases were related to veterans, the official said.

After President Trump declined to send aid to the Capitol, for at least 2 hours, there is concern that the DC National Guard answers to the President, rather than to the governor of a state. It is unclear at this writing precisely how decision-making about National Guard responsiveness will be handled, in the hours leading up to the formal handover of the powers of the Presidency.

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.

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.

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

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.

Terrifying Details About the Capitol Hill Riots Keep Coming Out

By Claire Lampen, for New York Magazine’s The Cut

As chaos broke out at the Capitol, lawmakers and reporters alike found themselves directly in harm’s way. For members of the press, whom the president has spent the past four years maligning, an armed mob of his disciples felt particularly terrifying.

… “Much of what we saw — silly costumes, people taking selfies and grabbing the Speaker’s lectern — looked kind of like a group that might even attend a Trump boat parade,” Hayes said. “But there was something way, way darker, more violent, more sinister, and more organized happening in that Capitol on Wednesday, and it’s time we see it clearly.”

Read the full article here.

Republican-led Senate Committee finds Trump campaign chairman worked with Russian intel operatives

The Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has issued Volume 5 of its report on 3 years of investigations into Russia’s attack on the 2016 US Presidential election. The 996-page document details extensive contacts between Trump Campaign officials and Russian Intelligence operatives. It also provides the evidence to support these findings.

The report finds Paul Manafort worked closely with Russian intelligence operatives for many years, going back to 2004. It also found Manafort passed “targeting data” to Russian operatives, in order to assist them in their efforts to surround American voters with pro-Trump, anti-Clinton disinformation.

The report found that Manafort was paid tens of millions of dollars by “ProRussian Ukrainian oligarchs”, and that:

Manafort hired and worked increasingly closely with a Russian national, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer. Kilimnik became an integral part of Manafort’s operations in Ukraine and Russia, serving as Manafort’s primary liaison to [Oleg] Deripaska and eventually managing Manafort’s office in Kyiv.

Reacting to the release of the report on Twitter, Evan McMullin, who ran against Trump in 2016, as an independent candidate, called Manafort’s actions “the greatest betrayal of the country ever.”

While Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says the report finds “no evidence” of collusion between Trump and Russian operatives, the report does provide extensive evidence of ongoing, deliberate collaboration on Russia’s “active measures” attack on the election. The Republican-led committee also specifically said:

Taken as a whole, Manafort’s high level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat.

Volume 5 of the Senate Intelligence Committee report into Russia’s interference focused on counterintelligence investigations, and the potential risk to national security. Among its findings:

  • During the campaign itself, Michael Cohen—then candidate Trump’s personal lawyer—contacted Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking Russian officials, seeking assistance in the development of a Trump Tower Moscow property.
  • Donald Trump did, in fact, have multiple discussions with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and its efforts to smear Hillary Clinton and disrupt her campaign, despite Trump having told Robert Mueller’s investigation he did not recall any such conversations.
  • Donald Trump, Jr., was aware he was meeting at Trump Tower with people involved in the Russian government’s efforts to provide (illegal) assistance to his father’s campaign.
  • The Trump Transition Team sought to prevent investigators from accessing key documents, but the Committee was able to verify that Russian intelligence sought to leverage Michael Flynn’s then undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador.
  • Russian operatives Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin “established a broad network of relationships with the leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA), conservative political operatives, Republican government officials, and individuals connected to the Trump campaign,” an effort that began as far back as 2013.

Significant portions of the report are redacted, to protect sources and methods, or the identity of individuals who were not engaged in any criminal activity. It is also thought some of the information mentioned may pertain to ongoing investigations and that witnesses may have been threatened or might be facing potential retaliation.

Robert Mueller speaks publicly about Russia probe

Today, Robert Mueller — Special Counsel for the Investigation into Russia’s Interference in the 2016 Election — spoke publicly for the first time since his appointment to that position. Some critical takeaways include:

  1. “Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.”
  2. “The releases [of hacked documents] were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate.”
  3. “…a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.”
  4. “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”
  5. “…if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so.”
  6. “The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.”
  7. “…the [same Justice Department] opinion explicitly explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now.”
  8. The Constitution provides an alternative route for adjudicating and punishing wrongdoing by a sitting president.

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Terror Campaign Targeting Trump Critics is Threat to Democracy

UPDATED, 12:21 pm EDT—In the last two days, packages reportedly containing explosive devices have been sent to the home of pro-democracy philanthropist George Soros, the home of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and to the office of former President Barack Obama.

Also today, CNN’s New York offices were evacuated after an explosive device was found. That package was allegedly addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan. The Secret Service reports having intercepted the packages sent to the Clintons and to the office of Mr. Obama, all of them protectees of the Secret Service. The Secret Service also has reported that rumors of a package sent to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, DC, are false.

It is clear there is a mounting campaign of violent terror being waged against people and institutions seen as a counter-weight to President Trump. The inclusion of Mr. Brennan specifically—a vocal critic of President Trump—suggests the campaign is not just anti-liberal, but also of the particular ideological perversion that views progressive politics and the federal government with suspicion and which has ties to President Trump’s base of support.

These coordinated bombing attempts are a clear sign that the campaign of hate fomented by “alt-right” extremist leaders—often seconded or promoted by the Trump White House—is turning to terrorism.

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Trump Betrayed His Country to Serve its Attacker

Newspapers across the world today echo the determination of the former CIA director John Brennan that US President Donald Trump betrayed his country when he sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and defamed his own intelligence community, military, and Department of Justice. Stranger still, Trump blamed the United States for tensions with Russia, ignoring a long history of anti-democracy violence and human rights abuses, forty years of Cold War, and ongoing attacks against the US and the UK.

The US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats responded by reiterating that the evidence shows an ongoing, “pervasive” effort by Russia to attack and manipulate American democratic processes.

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