Posts tagged with "Oath Keepers"

Meadows was central to hundreds of texts about overturning 2020 election, book says

September 28, 2022

The texts included previously unreported messages—including a group chat with Trump administration cabinet officials and plans to object to Joe Biden’s election certification on January 6 by Republican members of Congress and one former US attorney, as well as other Trump allies.

The book, “The Breach” by former Congressman Denver Riggleman, was obtained by The Guardian in advance of its scheduled publication on Tuesday, September 27.  The 288-page tome, published by Henry Holt and Co., already has become controversial after being condemned by the panel as “unauthorized.”

Although most of the texts sent to and from Meadows that Riggleman includes in the book have been public for months, his text offers new insight into and fills some gaps about how all three branches of government were seemingly involved in strategizing ways to obstruct the congressional certification on January 6, 2021.

Less than an hour after the election was called for Biden, for instance, Rick Perry, Trump’s former energy secretary, texted a group chat that included Meadows; then-housing secretary, Ben Carson; and former agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, all concluding that Trump should dispute the call.

POTUS line should be: Biden says hes [sic] president. America will see what big data says,” Perry wrote. “This sets the stage for what we’re about to prove.” While Carson was more cautious, Perdue appeared unconcerned about seeing concrete proof of election fraud. “No quit!” he wrote.

The former president’s final White House chief of staff also fielded a text from the Republican Senator Kevin Cramer, who forwarded a note from North Dakota’s then-U.S. attorney, Drew Wrigley, who offered his own advice for overturning the results because “Trump’s legal team has made a joke of this whole thing.”

“Demand statewide recount of absentee/mail-in ballots in line with pre-existing state law with regard to signature comparisons,” Wrigley wrote. “If state officials refuse that recount, the legislature would then act under the Constitution, selecting the slate of electors.”

The suggestion from Wrigley echoed what the Trump legal team would ultimately pursue in having fake electors sent to Congress on January 6 to have the then vice-president, Mike Pence, refuse to certify Biden’s win—a scheme now part of a criminal investigation by the US attorney in Washington, D.C.

The text from Wrigley is significant since the Justice Department is supposed to remain above the political fray. Wrigley’s note appears to mark an instance of a federal prosecutor endorsing a legally dubious scheme when there was no fraud sufficient to alter the outcome of the 2020 election.

A DOJ spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment. Wrigley, now the North Dakota state attorney general, also could not be immediately reached for comment.

Texts to Meadows also show Republican lawmakers started to finalize objections to the certification of the 2020 election only hours after Trump sent a tweet about a “big protest” that the House January 6 committee has said mobilized far-right groups to make preparations to storm the Capitol.

The former president sent the pivotal tweet in the early hours of December 19, 2020. The panel previously described it as the catalyst that triggered the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups, as well as “Stop the Steal” activists, to target obstructing the certification.

But the tweet also coincided with efforts by Republican lawmakers to finalize objections to the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election win, new texts from some of Trump’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill sent to Meadows show.

Hours after Trump sent his tweet, according to texts published in the book, the Republican congressman Jody Hice messaged Meadows to say he would be “leading” his state’s “electoral college objection on Jan 6”—days before Trump is known to have met with Republicans at the White House to discuss it.

The congressman also told Meadows that Trump “spoke” with Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Republican who had been elected to a House seat in Georgia but had yet to be sworn in, and was interested in meeting with the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Hice’s messages to Meadows came at a critical juncture: It was the Saturday after a contentious Friday meeting at the White House, where Trump entertained seizing voting machines and installing a conspiracy theorist lawyer, Sidney Powell, as special counsel to investigate election fraud.

The meeting to discuss objecting to Biden’s win on January 6 was originally scheduled for the next Monday, December 21, 2020, but it was rescheduled to take place on the next Tuesday, according to the book, citing additional messages sent by the Republican congressman Brian Babin.

Nine days after the meeting with Trump, the Republican members of Congress seemed to finish their objection plans, and Babin texted Meadows to say the “objectors” would be having an additional strategy session at the Conservative Partnership Institute, which played host to other January 6 efforts.

The timing of the new texts to Meadows raised the prospect that Trump’s tweet moved ahead several plans that worked in concert, with the Republican objections about supposed fraud giving Pence a pretext to throw out Biden votes as rioters obstructed proceedings.

Research contact: @guardian

ADL: Hundreds of police and military officers, and public officials are members of the Oath Keepers

September 8, 2022

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials, and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released on Wednesday, September 7, reports HuffPost.

 The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies—including as police chiefs and sheriffs—and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

 It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or serving in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.

 The data raise fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the USA. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.

“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.

Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group. Some said they were never dues-paying members.

 “Their views are far too extreme for me,” said Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado. Mobley told the AP in an email that he distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago over concerns about its involvement in the standoff against the federal government at Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other things.

 The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police, and first responders. It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties, and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.

 More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers—including Rhodes—have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates are heading to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors have described as a weekslong plot to keep President Donald Trump in power. Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers say they are innocent and that there was no plan to attack the Capitol.

 Among the elected officials whose names appears on the membership lists is South Dakota state Representative Phil Jensen, who won a June Republican primary in his bid for reelection. Jensen told the AP he paid for a one-year membership in 2014, never received any Oath Keepers’ literature, attended any meetings, or renewed his membership.

 Jensen said he felt compelled to join because he “believed in the oath that we took to support the U.S. Constitution and to defend it against enemies foreign and domestic.” He wouldn’t say whether he now disavows the Oath Keepers, saying he doesn’t have enough information about the group today.

 “Back in 2014, they appeared to be a pretty solid conservative group, I can’t speak to them now,” he said.

 ADL said it found the names of at least ten people who now work as police chiefs and 11 sheriffs. All of the police chiefs and sheriffs who responded to the AP said they no longer have any ties to the group.

Research contact: @HuffPost

January 6 Panel lays out Trump’s dangerous ‘call to arms’

July 14, 2022

As the January 6 committee’s explosive string of televised hearings resumed on Tuesday, July 12, the panel focused on “three rings” of the insurrection: Former President Donald Trump’s inside pressure campaign to persuade his vice president to overturn the electoral votes; the coordination between right-wing extremist groups to violently sack the Capitol; and the force of a MAGA crowd willing to march alongside them, reports The Daily Beast.

“All of these efforts would converge and explode on January 6th,” Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), a member of the congressional panel, said Tuesday.

Raskin added that “the problem of politicians whipping up crowds” was “the oldest domestic enemy of constitutional democracy in America.”

But Trump’s decision to order his angry followers to march on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 wasn’t spontaneous. The committee on Tuesday afternoon revealed a draft tweet that Trump wrote, but never sent, telling people, “Please arrive early, massive crowds expected, March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!”

The committee also disclosed White House call logs that showed Trump twice spoke to right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon on the morning of January 5 shortly before Bannon took to his podcast to announce, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s all converging, and we’re on the point of attack.”

But the biggest bombshell of the hearing came in its final seconds, when Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), the committee’s co-chair, revealed that Trump recently tried to reach an undisclosed witness who has yet to testify. The matter, Cheney said, was referred by the committee to the Department of Justice, after the witness—who did not pick up the phone and has not been identified—reported it to his or her attorney.

The revelation is an obvious warning to stop Trump and his associates from further intimidating insiders who are willing to speak to investigators—and is a shot across the bow with the threat of criminal charges for witness tampering. A Trump spokesperson and his attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

So far, the Republican Party has lambasted these congressional hearings as a proxy attack on the former president. But the committee’s seventh hearing is already showing something that goes well beyond politics: the direct connection between a president who refused to leave office and armed insurrectionists who played a pivotal role in his attempt to interrupt the transfer of power.

At least three groups with ties to fascists and white supremacists—the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys—served as bodyguards to Trump associates in the run-up to the insurrection. They also played pivotal roles in pushing past police lines on January 6, 2021.

The chairman of the congressional panel, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), started the hearing by criticizing Trump’s refusal to concede in the weeks after the 2020 election and his role in the nation’s capital that day. “He seized on the anger he had already stoked among his … supporters. He didn’t wave them off. He urged them on.”

“Donald Trump summoned a mob to Washington, D.C., and ultimately spurred that mob to wage a violent attack on our democracy.”

On Tuesday, the committee also revealed that Trump went out of his way to insert menacing references to Mike Pence, the vice president whom he felt betrayed him.

An initial draft of his speech at the Ellipse park south of the White House on January 6 made no reference to Pence. White House records show that an angry reference to Pence was added after a chat that morning between Trump and his hardline rightwing political adviser, Stephen Miller.

That reference was quickly cut by speechwriters who knew better. But then Pence told Trump one final time that he was not willing to break with tradition—and violate the law—by abusing his role as president of the Senate and refusing to officially count electoral ballots. Shortly thereafter, special assistant to the president Robert Gabriel Jr. wrote an email to staff: “REINSERT THE MIKE PENCE LINES.”

By sorting through White House records, the committee also spotted how Trump ad-libbed and turned that single Pence reference into a total of eight. He took one reference to marching on the Capitol and repeated it three more times. His additions included, “Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” and, “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not gonna have a country anymore.”

Cheney, the top Republican on the committee, noted that Trump should have known better than to continue to espouse conspiracy theories about the election results: “Donald Trump is a 76-year-old man,” she said. “He is not an impressionable child.”

Providing further proof that the ex-commander in chief should have called it quits before the day of the insurrection, the panel played clips of interviews with Trump’s labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, and his former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, in which they both stated that Trump should have conceded when presented with the overwhelming evidence that he lost to Joe Biden in 2020.

Even Trump’s own digital guru, Brad Parscale, laid the blame for the violence at his boss’s feet. He and spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, who both worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign together, texted each other while the pepper spray was still being aired out of the Capitol building the evening of the assault.

“This is about Trump pushing for uncertainty in our country. A sitting president asking for civil war. This week I feel guilty for helping him win,” Parscale wrote to Pierson, according to texts acquired by the committee.

“You did what you felt right at the time and therefore it was right,” Pierson responded.

“Yeah. But a woman is dead,” Parscale said, referring to Ashli Babbitt, who was shot to death by a police officer as she and other protestors tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby on their way to the House of Representatives Chamber.

Parscale further clarified that he thought that the rioters entered the Capitol building—and that Babbit was dead—because of the former president’s “rhetoric.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

How the January 6 panel’s star witness drew a roadmap for Trump’s culpability

CasJune 30, 2022

Cassidy Hutchinson wasn’t a household name before her testimony at the January 6 select committee’s hearing on Tuesday, June 28, but it seems unlikely she’ll remain in obscurity now, reports Politico.

With what may prove the most damning testimony about a sitting president’s actions in American history, the former right hand of ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stitched together every element of the panel’s case against former President Donald Trump, Politico says.

The Capitol riot committee has painted the former president’s potential criminal culpability for his effort to overturn the election in stark hues: investigators have portrayed Trump fuming atop an increasingly conspiracy-addled West Wing and working to corrupt the peaceful transfer of power at any cost.

Yet it was their sixth hearing that most clearly cast Trump as a uniquely pernicious force, thanks to a soft-spoken but bell-clear witness.

“I was disgusted,” Hutchinson said of Trump’s behavior on January 6, particularly after he tweeted an attack on Mike Pence as the then-vice president was fleeing rioters who’d called for his execution. “It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

And, while Trump and his allies rejected her assertions as “hearsay”—or, in Trump’s case, simply false—the former president’s allies have offered limited pushback so far to any of the specific evidence and recollections she presented. In fact, much of what she described has been corroborated by others.

Among her recollections, part of a succession of shocking details from inside the White House:

  • Trump was informed that members of the crowd during the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021, carried weapons. He asked the Secret Service to dismantle metal detectors to let them into the Ellipse,  so that his audience would appear larger on TV. Those rallygoers would later march to the Capitol and mount a violent siege aimed at disrupting Congress’ certification of Trump’s loss.
  • Trump lunged at the steering wheel of his presidential vehicle after he was informed that the Secret Service would not permit him to travel to the Capitol following his speech at that Ellipse rally.
  • Trump told aides that he agreed with those who had stormed the Capitol and thought they were “right” to call for Pence’s hanging.
  • Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani sought pardons from the then-president for their actions on that date related to challenging the election.

Hutchinson shared her sworn narrative just as federal prosecutors appear to be closing in on several of Trump’s top supporters/aides in his effort to stay in power. FBI agents last week seized the cell phone of attorney John Eastman, who devised a January 6 strategy to pressure Pence to overturn the election; they also searched the Lorton, Virginia, residence of Jeffery Clark, a former Justice Department official whom Trump nearly appointed acting attorney general to aid his election subversion push.

Meanwhile, Trump was also watching. The former president uncorked an 11-post tirade against Hutchinson on the Truth Social platform he created after getting booted from Twitter post-Capitol riot. He called her a “third-rate social climber,” denying her accounts of his comments about Pence as well as his apparent physical confrontation with his Secret Service leader—and even suggested her handwriting was indicative of a “whacko.”

Some Trump allies sought to puncture Hutchinson’s credibility by casting doubt on the notion that Trump could have lunged at the wheel of his car, given the layout of the presidential limousine known as “The Beast.” However, he was not riding in the beast; but in an SUV he often used.

Former security aide Tony Ornato relayed to her the details of what took place in Trump’s Secret Service vehicle, as she explained to the select panel.

Yet Hutchinson laid out a road map for the committee to test her own credibility. She showed that, time and again, she was a go-to for Trump backers looking to connect with Meadows and, ultimately, the former president himself.

McCarthy called her to vent about Trump’s rally speech on January 6, she recalled. Cipollone complained to her that White House aides could be on the hook for crimes if Trump traveled to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she said. And former national intelligence director John Ratcliffe told Hutchinson he was concerned about Trump’s effort to overturn the election, she testified.

Even when Hutchinson wasn’t dropping bombshells, she was helping paint a granular picture of Trump’s West Wing and how it operated. She described top officials as falling into three camps during the riot: those who pleaded with Trump to call off the rioters; those who stayed “neutral,” knowing that Trump didn’t want to act; and those who wanted to “deflect” blame for the violence away from Trump supporters.

Hutchinson described the layout of the West Wing, the way information flowed among officials in Trump’s chaotic offices, and the way Meadows was the connective tissue for Trump among a slew of disparate factions within his orbit.

Where the select committee goes from here is a bigger question now, Politico notes. Its chair, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), floated the possibility of calling then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in for a transcribed hearing. The former top Trump White House lawyer already has met informally with the panel but has not sat for the type of on-camera interview that many other former aides have.

The panel also plans to highlight the nexus between Trump’s orbit and the domestic extremist groups that seeded the Capitol riot—including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. And there’s likely to be a further public effort to reconstruct Trump’s movements on January 6, as he watched the violence unfold on TV, but took no actions to help quell the mob.

Research contact: @politico

DOJ widens January inquiry to range of pro-Trump figures

April 1, 2022

Federal prosecutors have substantially widened their January 6 investigation to examine the possible culpability of a broad range of figures involved in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, reports The New York Times.

The investigation now encompasses the possible involvement of other government officials in Trump’s attempts to obstruct the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory and in the push by some Trump allies to promote slates of fake electors, they said.

Prosecutors also are asking about planning for the rallies that preceded the assault on the Capitol, including the rally on the Ellipse on January 6, 2021, just before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

The federal investigation initially focused largely on the rioters who had entered the Capitol—an effort that has led to more than 700 arrests. But the Justice Department appears to have moved into a new phase, seeking information about people more closely tied to Trump. This development comes amid growing political pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to move more aggressively on the case.

A grand jury sitting in Washington is investigating the rallies that preceded the storming of the Capitol, a person familiar with the matter told the Times.

One of the subpoenas, which was reviewed by The New York Times, sought information about people “classified as VIP attendees” at Trump’s January 6 rally. It also sought information about members of the executive and legislative branches who had been involved in the “planning or execution of any rally or any attempt to obstruct, influence, impede, or delay” the certification of the 2020 election.

And it asked about the effort by Trump supporters to put forward alternate slates of electors as Trump and his allies were seeking to challenge the certification of the Electoral College outcome by Congress on January 6.

Another person briefed on the grand jury investigation said at least one person involved in the logistics of the January 6 rally had been asked to appear.

In pursuing January 6 cases, prosecutors have been assembling evidence documenting how defendants have cited statements from Trump to explain why they stormed the Capitol. And prosecutors have cited in some cases a Twitter post from Trump weeks before January 6 exhorting his followers to come to Washington—a call that motivated extremist groups, in particular.

The expanded criminal inquiry is unfolding just as a separate investigation by the House select committee on the Capitol riot is gathering evidence about Trump’s efforts to hold onto power and weighing the possibility of making a criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department.

On Monday, March 28,  a federal judge in California, in a civil case involving the House committee, concluded that Trump likely engaged in criminal conduct, including obstructing the work of Congress and conspiring to defraud the United States.

Attorney General Garland has given little public indication of whether the Justice Department would consider prosecuting Trump, saying only that the department will follow the facts wherever they lead.

The House committee’s investigators, like the federal prosecutors, also have been interested in the planning and financing of the January 6 rally on the Ellipse and key figures involved in it. Ali Alexander, a prominent figure in the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement and an organizer of the rally, has been cooperating with the House committee. Alexander marched to the Capitol from the rally with Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and Infowars host.

The House panel has also been seeking information from Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of Women for America First, which helped plan the rally.

According to the Times, the committee has also sent subpoenas seeking information to Katrina Pierson, Trump’s former national campaign spokeswoman; Kylie Jane Kremer, the daughter of Amy Kremer and the director of Women for America First; Lyndon Brentnall, the owner of a Florida-based security company who was the “on-site supervisor” for the rally; Maggie Mulvaney, a niece of the former top Trump aide Mick Mulvaney who is listed on the permit for the event; Megan Powers, an operations manager; and Tim Unes, whose company was listed as the stage manager for the gathering.

The criminal charges against rioters so far have ranged from misdemeanors to obstructing Congress in its duty to certify the Electoral College result. The Justice Department also has lodged conspiracy charges against leaders of two of the extremist groups who figured prominently in the Capitol attack, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

Research contact: @nytimes

Judge rejects free speech argument; refuses to dismiss indictment against four Proud Boys

December 30, 2021

On Tuesday, December 27, a federal judge refused to dismiss an indictment based on an argument from the attorneys for four men associated with the right-wing group the Proud Boys that their actions leading up to and on January 6 were protected under the freedom of speech rights in the First Amendment, reports Newsweek.

Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Charles Donohoe were indicted in March and charged with conspiracy and obstructing an official proceeding, among other charges; and remain in jail leading up to their trial scheduled for May 2022.

Nordean, of Auburn, Washington, was a Proud Boys chapter president and member of the group’s national “Elders Council.” Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, is a self-described Proud Boys organizer. Rehl was president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia. Donohoe, of Kernersville, North Carolina, also served as president of his local chapter, according to the indictment.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said the four men had many other options that actually are protected under the First Amendment to protest the election and express their thoughts about its results in a nonviolent, legal manner.

“Defendants are not, as they argue, charged with anything like burning flags, wearing black armbands, or participating in mere sit-ins or protests,” Kelly wrote in a 43-page ruling. “Moreover, even if the charged conduct had some expressive aspect, it lost whatever First Amendment protection it may have had.”

At least three dozen of the over 700 people who have been charged in the insurrection at the Capitol building on January 6 have been identified as leaders or associates of the Proud Boys, the far-right organization that was one of many that

organized events on the day that led to rioters breaking windows and forcing their way through doors into the Capitol. Five people were dead when the insurrection finally ended.

Defense lawyers also argued that the obstruction charge doesn’t apply to their clients’ cases because Congress certification of the Electoral College vote was not an “official proceeding.”

Kelly disagreed.

Earlier this month, another judge in the District of Columbia’s federal court upheld prosecutors’ use of the same obstruction charge in a separate case against two riot defendants.

The case against Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe is a focus of the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation of the January 6 insurrection. More than three dozen people charged in the Capitol siege have been identified by federal authorities as Proud Boys leaders, members, or associates—including at least 16 defendants charged with conspiracy.

Last Wednesday, December 23, a New York man pleaded guilty to storming the U.S. Capitol with fellow Proud Boys members. Matthew Greene is the first Proud Boys member to publicly plead guilty to conspiring with other members to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote. He agreed to cooperate with authorities.

Other extremist group members have been charged with conspiring to carry out coordinated attacks on the Capitol, including more than 20 people linked to the anti-government Oath Keepers.

Lawyers for Nordean and Donohoe declined to comment on Tuesday’s ruling. Attorneys for Rehl and Biggs didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Research contact: @Newsweek

Missing in action: The baffling disappearance of the go-to lawyer for Capitol riot defendants

September 1, 2021

The mysterious disappearance of the lawyer, John Pierce, began on last Tuesday, August 24, prosecutors say, when he missed a hearing for one of the many cases in which he is representing a defendant in the Capitol riot investigation. The young associate who took his place said that Pierce had a “conflict.” At the time, no one seemed to give it much mind, according to a report by The New York Times.

But in the days that followed, Pierce—who is defending more cases connected to the riot than any other lawyer nationwide—missed additional hearings, and the details of his decampment started changing.

On Wednesday, his associate told a judge in one case that Pierce had gotten COVID-19 and was in the hospital on a ventilator—but only after telling a prosecutor in another case that Pierce had been in a car accident. That same evening, a different associate told a reporter that Pierce had, in fact, been hospitalized, but was getting care for “dehydration and exhaustion.”

Finally, on Monday, August 30—after Pierce had still failed to reappear—the government got involved. Federal prosecutors issued letters to several judges in 17 Capitol riot cases, informing them that no one in the Justice Department had heard from Pierce in a week and that “multiple” phone numbers for his law firm appeared to have been disconnected.

His criminal cases had come to a “standstill,” the prosecutors said, endangering the rights of his clients. If Pierce did not surface soon, they added, somethin —although it was not clear what—would have to be done.

The New York Times tried to reach Mr. Pierce several times by text and phone in recent days, but he did not respond.

Pierce’s unexplained absence was the only latest twist in his outsized role in defending those accused of participating in the Capitol attack. His clients — among them members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers militia — have stood out not only for their number, but also for the scorched-earth battle that he has vowed to wage on their behalf.

A self-described pro-Trump populist, Pierce has promised, for example, to force the government to give him video footage of the Capitol for several days before and after January 6, and has said he will demand information about every police officer working at the building that day. He also has vowed to subpoena hostile witnesses such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi—ostensibly to learn what she may have known about security at the Capitol before the attack.

Without citing evidence, Pierce has said he intends to implicate the F.B.I. and the intelligence community by showing that the riot was something like a grand act of entrapment or an inside job. He has often talked about his cases with a conspiratorial zeal, painting himself as something like a lonely legal warrior out to save his clients from an overreaching government.

“I’m like Gerard Butler in ‘300,’” Pierce said in an interview before dropping out of sight, comparing himself to the action star who played a Spartan king. “I’m in the hot gates at Thermopylae, holding the pass against the million-man Persian army.”

While the government has not yet weighed in on the merits on his claims, prosecutors did express concern in their letters filed on Monday about the young associate, Ryan Joseph Marshall, who has been standing in for Pierce at the hearings he has missed.

For one thing, Marshall is not a licensed lawyer, prosecutors said, and has taken actions on behalf of clients “that he is not permitted” to take. Moreover, they went on, it remains unclear if and when Marshall will be able to get his law license—given that he is under indictment in two criminal cases accusing him of corruption, theft and fraud in Pennsylvania.

Pierce’s situation is not his first encounter with personal and professional setbacks. Last year, his law firm nearly collapsed in a swirl of debts and resignations. Then his most prominent client, Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man charged with murder at a racial justice protest in Wisconsin last year, fired him in a highly public spat that included allegations that a charity arranged for the defense had engaged in financial improprieties.

His work in the Capitol cases began just after the attack when he took several members of the far-right nationalist group, the Proud Boys, as clients. He also has been hired by L. Brent Bozell IV, the son of a prominent conservative commentator, as well as by a Florida pastor and a Minnesota pub worker.

In recent weeks, however, at least two clients have fired Pierce, complaining that he seemed unresponsive and appeared at times to be unversed in the details of their cases. Last week, the wife of yet another client, Kenneth Harrelson, a member of the Oath Keepers from Florida, sent a letter to her friends and associates, complaining that her husband was having “issues” getting Mr. Pierce “to do his job.”

Such complaints have come atop concerns that the sheer number of Pierce’s clients has exposed him to accusations of conflict of interest. He is, for example, representing both James Cusick Jr., the Florida pastor; as well as Cusick’s son Case. Both are charged with breaching the Capitol with another of his clients, David J. Lesperance, a member of the Cusicks’ church.

In a separate case, Mr. Pierce has been hired by another father-and-son pair, Kevin and Nathaniel Tuck, two former Florida police officers who have been charged in an indictment with a Florida Proud Boy he also represents.

However, all of that only can only come to pass if he returns to court—and the government seems worried that might never happen.

“Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Pierce may be hospitalized and unable to communicate,” prosecutors wrote on Monday, “and it is unclear when Mr. Pierce will recover.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Study: Fears of ‘White people losing out’ permeate Capitol rioters’ towns

January 7, 2021

Most Americans take the Capitol rioters at their word—accepting that their motive for breaching the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was to stop the Congress from verifying the election of Democratic President Joe Biden.

However, The New York Times reports, when the political scientist Robert Pape of The University of Chicago began studying the issues that motivated the 380 or so people arrested in connection with the attack against the Capitol, he found something very different: Most of the people who took part in the assault came from places, his polling and demographic data showed, that—goaded by then-President Trump– were awash in fears that the rights of minorities and immigrants were crowding out the rights of white people in American politics and culture.

Indeed, if Pape’s initial conclusions— published on Tuesday in The Washington Post—hold true, they would appear to connect the January 6 insurrrection  to the once-fringe right-wing theory called the Great Replacement— that an indigenous European (e.g., White) population is being replaced by non-European immigrants.

What’s more Pape’s conclusions appear to link the January 6 riot to events like the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 where crowds of white men marched with torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us!”

“If you look back in history, there has always been a series of far-right extremist movements responding to new waves of immigration to the United States or to movements for civil rights by minority groups,” Pape told the Post, adding,  “You see a common pattern in the Capitol insurrectionists. They are mainly middle-class to upper-middle-class whites who are worried that, as social changes occur around them, they will see a decline in their status in the future.”

One fact stood out in Pape’s study, conducted with the help of researchers at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats—a think tank he runs at the University of Chicago. Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic white population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists. This finding held true, Pape determined, even when controlling for population size, distance to Washington, unemployment rate, and urban or rural location.

Law enforcement officials have said that between 800 and 1,000 people entered the Capitol on January 6—and prosecutors have spent the past three months tracking down many of them in what they have described as one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history. In recent court filings, the government has hinted that more than 400 people may ultimately face charges, including illegal entry, assault of police officers and the obstruction of the official business of Congress.

According to the report by the Times. Pape determined that only about 10% percent of those charged were members of established far-right organizations like the Oath Keepers militia or the nationalist extremist group the Proud Boys. But unlike other analysts who have made similar findings,

In an effort to determine why the mob that formed on January 6 turned violent, Pape compared events that day with two previous pro-Trump rallies in Washington, on November 14 and December 12. While police records show some indications of street fighting after the first two gatherings, Pape said, the number of arrests were fewer and the charges less serious than on January 6. The records also show that those arrested in November and December largely lived within an hour of Washington while most of those arrested in January came from considerably farther away.

The difference at the rallies was former President Donald Trump, Pape said—noting that Trump promoted the January 6 rally in advance, saying it would be “wild” and driving up attendance. He then encouraged the mob to march on the Capitol in an effort to “show strength

Pape said he worried that a similar mob could be summoned again by a leader like Trump. After all, he suggested, as the country continues moving toward becoming a majority-minority nation and right-wing media outlets continue to stoke fear about the Great Replacement, the racial and cultural anxieties that lay beneath the riot at the Capitol are not going away.

“If all of this is really rooted in the politics of social change, then we have to realize that it’s not going to be solved—or solved alone—by law enforcement agencies,” Pape said. “This is political violence, not just ordinary criminal violence, and it is going to require both additional information and a strategic approach.”

 “We really still are at the beginning stages,” he said.

Research contact: @nytimes

Oath Keepers awaited ‘direction’ from Trump before engaging in Capital insurrection, prosecutors say

Febraury 15, 2021

Chilling new details emerged on February 11—the third day of the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump—about a plot by the Oath Keepers far-right militia group for an organized, weaponized, and adroit attack on the U.S. Capitol, The New York Times reports.

On Thursday, prosecutors outlined a brazen plan by group members to ferry “heavy weapons” in a boat across the Potomac River into Washington and to begin training sessions “for urban warfare, riot control and rescue operations” well before Election Day.

The new accounts about the Oath Keepers’ role in the Capitol assault included allegations that a member of the militia group was “awaiting direction” from Trump about how to handle the results of the vote in the days that followed the election. “POTUS has the right to activate units too,” the Oath Keepers member, Jessica M. Watkins, wrote in a text message to an associate on November 9, according to court papers. “If Trump asks me to come, I will.”

The Justice Department has brought charges against more than 200 people in the attack on the Capitol last month, but the case against Watkins and her two co-defendants, Thomas E. Caldwell and Donovan Crowl, is among the most serious to have emerged from the vast investigation.

Prosecutors say that the three Oath Keepers, who are facing conspiracy charges, appear to have worked with other far-right extremist groups and “began plotting to undo” the results of the election only days after it occurred.

Shortly after the three militia members were arrested last month, prosecutors said that they were some of the first rioters to have planned their part in the attack on the Capitol instead of merely storming the building spontaneously. Federal agents said that Caldwell, a 66-year-old former Navy officer, had advised his fellow militia members to stay at a particular Comfort Inn in the Washington suburbs, noting that it offered a good base to “hunt at night” — an apparent reference to chasing left-wing activists. Watkins, a 38-year-old bar owner from Ohio, apparently rented

In a pair of court papers filed on Thursday, prosecutors offered further evidence that the three Oath Keepers planned the attack, citing text messages reaching back to November. In one message from November 16, prosecutors say, Crowl told Caldwell, “War is on the horizon.” One week later, court papers say, Caldwell wrote Watkins saying he was “worried about the future of our country,” adding, “I believe we will have to get violent to stop this.”

Similar themes were also being struck around the same time by the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, who told the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on November 10 that he had men stationed outside Washington prepared to act at Trump’s command. At a rally in the city on December 12, Rhodes called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, suggesting that a failure to do so would result in a “much more bloody war.”

Both court papers filed on Thursday referred to Rhodes’s role in stoking the rampage, suggesting that he too may be a focus of the federal investigation.

The Oath Keepers, who largely draw their membership from former law enforcement and military personnel, appear to have coordinated before the Capitol attack with other extremist groups, prosecutors say. According to the court papers, Caldwell sent a text to an associate just before Christmas, saying he was “expecting a big turnout of the Proud Boys,” the far-right nationalist organization, in Washington on January 6. More than a dozen members of the Proud Boys have been charged in connection with the riot at the Capitol, including a group from Kansas City charged on Thursday with breaching the building.

According to the Times report, five separate major cases have been filed against members of the Proud Boys in the past few weeks, but investigators are working toward putting together an overarching case that shows how several members of the group worked together in the days and weeks before the riot to plan to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote, according to an official familiar with the investigation.

Days before the riot, prosecutors say, Caldwell also reached out to a contact associated with another group, the Three Percenters, an extremist gun rights militia that takes its name from the supposed 3% of the U.S. colonial population that fought the British Army. In a text message, Caldwell suggested finding a boat that “could handle a Potomac crossing” and could carry a “Quick Response Team” with “heavy weapons” to militia members already at the Capitol.

Research contact: @nytimes