Sunday, January 31, 2021
A Georgia police chief and an officer resigned after they were caught on bodycam footage using racial slurs ahead of a BLM march
- A Georgia police chief and officer are both out of jobs after bodycam footage of the two using racial slurs was discovered this week.
- In a six-minute video obtained by WTVM, both officers can be heard using the N-word and other profanities.
- WRBL reported that the Hamilton City Council asked both Allmond and Brooks to resign after a city employee found the footage and brought it to the Mayor's Assistant.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
A Georgia police chief and officer are both out of jobs after bodycam footage of the two using racial slurs was discovered this week.
Police Chief Gene Allmond and officer John Brooks of Hamilton County Police were caught on bodycam video ranting about slavery and the Black community hours before a Black Lives Matter march last June, according to WTVM.
In a six-minute video obtained by WTVM, both officers can be heard using the N-word and other profanities.
"F---…Protests, son of a b--- what is the matter with these f------ people?" Allmond said on the video. "I don't own no slaves. My folks didn't own no slaves. What are we talking about… 200 f------ years ago?"
Allmond continues to talk about slavery saying all slaves had to do was "work."
"I don't know if this has any merit, back in the slave times, but there was a lot them mistreated. I don't have any doubt about that," Allmond said. "But for the most part, it seems to me like, they furnished them a house to live in, they furnished 'em clothes to put on their back, they furnished 'em food to put on their table, and all they had to do was f------' work."
"And now, we give them all those things and they don't have to work," said Brooks.
WRBL reported that the Hamilton City Council asked both Allmond and Brooks to resign after a city employee found the footage and brought it to the Mayor's Assistant.
Hamilton Mayor Pro-Tem Ransom Farley told WTVM that it was disgusting watching the video.
"I had to leave the room," said Farley.
Allmond resigned on Monday and Brooks was terminated, WSB-TV reported."
Ghosts of 2009 Drive Democrats’ Push for Robust Crisis Response
"In their quest for Republican backing, Democrats say they missed opportunities in 2009 for a stronger response to the Great Recession. They’re determined not to repeat the mistake.
WASHINGTON — Democrats are haunted by legislative memories of 2009 as they fashion their response to the multiple crises of 2021.
Their strategy for addressing the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying economic havoc is being shaped by what they see as their own miscalculations 12 years ago when Barack Obama became president, they controlled both houses of Congress and they tackled both an economic rescue package and a sweeping health care overhaul.
In retrospect, in the quest to win Republican backing for both, Democrats say, they settled for too small an economic stimulus and extended talks on the health care measure for too long. Those experiences explain why the White House and top Democrats are determined to move quickly this time on a plan for pandemic aid, and why they are reluctant to pare back their nearly $2 trillion stimulus package or make significant changes that would dilute it with no certainty of bringing Republicans on board.
“The dangers of undershooting our response are far greater than overshooting,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the new majority leader. “We should have learned the lesson of 2008 and 2009, when Congress was too timid and constrained in its response to the financial crisis.”
While negotiations with Republicans continue, Democrats are set this week to put in motion a budget process known as reconciliation that is not subject to a filibuster, allowing them to push through pandemic legislation on their own if no bipartisan agreement emerges.
The approach has Republicans squawking that Democrats are abandoning their bipartisan pledge without giving it a chance and warning that the effort will poison their ability to reach bipartisan deals. The gripe ignores the fact that when they controlled Congress, Republicans rolled over Democrats in January 2017 and began their own reconciliation process before Donald J. Trump was even sworn in as president, paving the way for enactment of a $1.5 trillion tax package muscled through without a single Democratic vote.
“We’re giving an opportunity to come together on important and timely legislation, so why wouldn’t you do that rather than trying to move it through with reconciliation and having a fully partisan product?” asked Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and a member of a bipartisan group that has been working to draft a coronavirus relief bill that could draw votes from both parties.
But the scars from 2009 cut deep. First, Democrats believe they were too accommodating to Republicans who called for restraint in providing stimulus for the economy. Then Democrats saw themselves as sandbagged by Republicans who engaged in prolonged negotiations over health care before pulling the plug entirely, opposing legislation they had helped draft and inflaming a partisan fight that cost Democrats dearly in the 2010 midterm elections.
This time, Democrats say the new aid must be robust and delivered quickly. They do not intend to allow Republicans to dictate the timing nor the reach of the legislation.
“I’m not going to let Republican senators stall for the sole purpose of stalling,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the incoming Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said on a conference call hosted by the advocacy group Invest in America. He added that his view grew out of his own experience serving as a junior member of the panel during the Great Recession.
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“We were told that somehow if you went small, there would be multiple bites at the apple and you’d come back,” Mr. Wyden said. “The fact is in 2009, the Congress didn’t pass another economic relief package after the Recovery Act, and so this has real consequences for people.”
President Biden would no doubt prefer to push his proposal through with bipartisan support to show he is capable of bridging the differences between the two parties. But the White House has been adamant that it will not chop up his plan to try to secure Republican backing and that while the scope could be adjusted, the changes will not be too substantial.
“We have learned from past crises that the risk is not doing too much,” Mr. Biden, who was vice president in 2009, said on Friday at the White House, striking the same theme as Mr. Schumer. “The risk is not doing enough.”
Like Mr. Biden this year, Mr. Obama entered the White House in 2009 optimistic he could cooperate with Republicans, and there had been promising signs in 2008. In the face of a dire economic emergency, congressional Republicans, Democrats and George W. Bush’s administration had worked closely to approve the $700 billion Wall Street bailout and to take other steps to stem the crisis before Mr. Obama took office. Republicans also seemed dispirited by steep election losses in November, suggesting some might be open to cooperation.
But to an extent that was not immediately apparent, top Republicans in the House and Senate quickly decided that their return to power was to remain united against Mr. Obama’s agenda, a stance Republicans later acknowledged.
As a result, the administration and Democratic leaders had to make multiple concessions to ensure the votes of three Republicans and a few moderate Democrats needed to provide the bare minimum of 60 votes to overcome deep Republican opposition to the stimulus package. That meant holding the amount to $787 billion, less than what some economists at the time said was needed, and potentially slowing the recovery.
For Republicans who supported it, the backlash was so bad that one of them — Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — was forced to switch parties, a development that made other already reluctant Republicans think twice about working with Democrats.
Then came the health care law. Democrats were determined both to expand access to affordable health insurance and to work with Republicans in doing so. Then too, they were concerned about repeating past mistakes, particularly the Clinton health care effort in 1994, whose spectacular collapse was attributed partly to a failure to involve Republicans from the start.
While many Republicans were considered out of reach in 2009, a group of three senators influential on health care policy — Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Olympia Snowe of Maine — engaged in lengthy negotiations with three Democratic counterparts, in a group that came to be known as the “Gang of Six.”
To bring them along, Democrats proposed a market-based approach rather than the kind of government-run, single-payer program sought by many liberals. They even eschewed a limited public option to mollify Republicans and some moderate Democrats. Still, the talks dragged and Republicans began pulling back amid a rash of raucous protests at congressional town hall events across the country.
Frustrated and believing Democrats were being strung along, Mr. Obama in September 2009 summoned Mr. Grassley to the White House along with Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, who was leading the Gang of Six.
Mr. Obama recounted the scene in his new memoir, writing that he pressed Mr. Grassley on whether, “if Max took every one of your latest suggestions, could you support the bill?” Mr. Grassley was hesitant. “Are there any changes — any at all — that would get us your vote?” Mr. Obama asked, drawing what he described as an awkward silence from the Republican senator.
“I guess not, Mr. President,” Mr. Grassley eventually responded.
As they plunge forward this year, Democrats say they do not want to find themselves in a similar position, working with Republicans only to come up short with an insufficient response that does not draw bipartisan support.
Some Democrats still hold out hope of reaching bipartisan agreement on at least some elements of the administration’s coronavirus response and say the party must make a legitimate attempt at coming together with Republicans.
“We ought to try to do what we can do in a bipartisan way,” Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a leading Democrat in the bipartisan talks, told reporters. He said it would then be appropriate for Mr. Schumer to use “other means to move things along” if progress could not be made.
Most Democrats do not appear to be in a mood to wait long. The lessons of 2009 are telling them that it is preferable to be accused of failing to be bipartisan than to be accused of failing to do all they could have to confront a national crisis.
Alan Rappeport contributed reporting."
I’m Not Actually Interested in Mitch McConnell’s Hypocrisy
To make his case for the filibuster, he has essentially rewritten the history of the Senate.
"On Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, now the Senate minority leader, spoke in defense of the legislative filibuster.
“When it comes to lawmaking, the framers’ vision and our history are clear. The Senate exists to require deliberation and cooperation,” McConnell declared. “James Madison said the Senate’s job was to provide a ‘complicated check’ against ‘improper acts of legislation.’ We ensure that laws earn enough buy-in to receive the lasting consent of the governed. We stop bad ideas, improve good ideas and keep laws from swinging wildly with every election.”
He went on: “More than any other feature, it is the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation that achieves this.”
It’s hard to take any of this seriously. None of McConnell’s stated concern for the “lasting consent of the governed” was on display when Senate Republicans, under his leadership, tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act by majority vote. Nor was there any interest in “deliberation and cooperation” when Republicans wanted a new round of corporate and upper-income tax cuts.
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If anything, the filibuster stymies that deliberation and cooperation by destroying the will to legislate at all. It makes bipartisanship less likely by erasing any incentive to build novel coalitions for particular issues. If, under the filibuster, there’s no difference between 51 votes for immigration reform and 56 votes (or even 59), then what’s the point of even trying? Why reach out to the other side if there’s almost no way you’ll reach the threshold to take action? And on the other side, why tinker with legislation if you know it’s not going to pass? When there’s no reason to do otherwise, why not act as a rigid, unyielding partisan?
It’s obvious that McConnell’s commitment to the filibuster is instrumental. The filibuster on executive branch nominations of appointees and federal judges was sacred — he condemned the Democrats’ use of the “nuclear option” to get rid of it in 2013 — until President Trump needed Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and then it was bye-bye to the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees that McConnell’s predecessor as Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, had left intact. If the reconciliation process didn’t exist, and Republicans needed 60 votes for upper-income tax cuts, there’s almost no doubt McConnell would have killed the legislative filibuster in 2017, for the sake of his party’s signature priority.
I’m not actually that interested in McConnell’s hypocrisy. I’m interested in his history. To make his case for the indispensable importance of the legislative filibuster, McConnell has essentially rewritten the history of the Senate. He has to create a new narrative to serve his current interests.
The truth is that the filibuster was an accident; an extra-constitutional innovation that lay dormant for a generation after its unintentional creation during the Jefferson administration. For most of the Senate’s history after the Civil War, filibusters were rare, deployed as the Southern weapon of choice against civil rights legislation, and an occasional tool of partisan obstruction.
Far from necessary, the filibuster is extraneous. Everything it is said to encourage — debate, deliberation, consensus building — is already accomplished by the structure of the chamber itself, insofar as it happens at all.
In the form it takes today, the filibuster doesn’t make the Senate work the way the framers intended. Instead, it makes the Senate a nearly insurmountable obstacle to most legislative business. And that, in turn, has made Congress inert and dysfunctional to the point of disrupting the constitutional balance of power. Legislation that deserves a debate never reaches the floor; coalitions that could form never get off the ground.
In quoting Madison, McConnell frames the filibuster as part of our constitutional inheritance. It is not. The filibuster isn’t in the Constitution. The Senate, like the House of Representatives, was meant to run on majority rule.
Remember, the framers had direct experience with supermajority government. Under the Articles of Confederation, each state had equal representation and it took a two-thirds vote of the states for Congress to exercise its enumerated powers. Without the consent of nine states (out of 13), Congress could not enter treaties, appropriate funds or borrow money. And the bar to amendment, unanimity, was even higher. The articles were such a disaster that, rather than try to amend them, a group of influential elites decided to scrap them altogether.
For a taste of this frustration, read Alexander Hamilton in Federalist no. 22, which contains a fierce condemnation of supermajority rule as it was under the articles:
The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching toward it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.
Hamilton is especially angry with the effect of the supermajority requirement on governance.
In those emergencies of a nation, in which the goodness or badness, the weakness or strength of its government, is of the greatest importance, there is commonly a necessity for action. The public business must, in some way or other, go forward. If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority, respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings. Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good.
Delegates to the constitutional convention considered and rejected supermajority requirements for navigation acts (concerning ships and shipping), regulation of interstate commerce and the raising of armies. Majorities would have the final say everywhere except for treaties, amendments and conviction in an impeachment trial.
To make the Senate slow-moving and deliberative, the framers would not raise barriers to action so much as they would insulate the body from short-term democratic accountability. That meant indirect election by state legislatures, staggered terms of six years and a small membership of two senators per state. And at ratification, that is where the Senate stood: a self-consciously aristocratic body meant to check the House of Representatives and oversee the executive branch, confirming its appointments and ratifying its foreign agreements.
The filibuster doesn’t enter the picture until years later, as an accident of parliamentary bookkeeping. In 1806, on the advice of Vice President Aaron Burr (who thought it redundant), the Senate dropped the “previous question” — a motion to end debate and bring an item up for immediate vote — from its rules. Without a motion to call the previous question, however, an individual senator could, in theory, hold the floor indefinitely.
It took 31 years for someone to actually do it. The first known filibuster took place in 1837, when several Whig senators tried unsuccessfully to block a Democratic bill to reverse an 1834 censure of President Andrew Jackson and expunge it from the congressional record. Even then, the filibuster was not widely used until the second half of the 19th century, as the parties, and thus the Senate, grew more polarized along party lines.
The filibuster as we understand it developed in the 20th century. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called on Senate Democrats to reform the filibuster as a war measure after Republicans successfully filibustered a bill to arm merchant ships. Democrats obliged and created a “cloture” rule to end debate with a two-thirds vote of the chamber. In 1975, the Senate reduced that threshold from two-thirds to three-fifths, or 60 votes in a 100-member body.
Throughout this time, filibusters were uncommon. It was perfectly possible for the Senate to debate, deliberate and come to consensus without the supermajority requirement McConnell and the Republican caucus have imposed on virtually all legislation since 2009.
The point of comparison for the Senate as McConnell has shaped it is the middle of the 20th century, when a conservative coalition of Republicans and Dixiecrats made the chamber a graveyard of liberal legislation and social reform. Consensus didn’t matter. Power did. And it wasn’t until liberals wrested powerfrom this coalition — in the House as well as the Senate — that they could take the initiative and begin work on an otherwise popular agenda.
There is no question the Senate is supposed to be slow, even sluggish. But it’s not supposed to be an endless bottleneck. The framers wanted stability in government, not stagnation. What we have now, with the filibuster intact, is a Senate that can barely move.
This isn’t just a problem for President Biden and the Democratic Party; it’s a problem for the entire constitutional order. Our system is built around Congress; Congress makes laws, Congress holds the purse strings, Congress hands out mandates, Congress checks the president and makes sure the judiciary stays in its lane.
When Congress doesn’t act, other actors take up the slack. The story of our democracy these last 10 years is, in part, the story of how a listless, sclerotic Senate broke Congress and pushed the other branches to govern in its stead, with the president and the courts making as much policy as they can without congressional input, with all the capriciousness, whiplash and uncertainty that can come from that.
If you don’t like presidents governing through executive order, then you should want an active, energetic Congress that embraces its constitutional mandate to rule over the whole country and direct its government. If you want that, you should oppose the filibuster."
Saturday, January 30, 2021
Dr. John Torres breaks down details on the Covid variants. New Covid variants are still popping up all over the country. NBC's Dr. John Torres breaks down what a variant is and everything you need to know.
“We asked party leaders about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s theory.
On Thursday, it was reported that freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had endorsed a theory that wealthy Jewish bankers had started California’s 2018 Camp Fire by firing a laser from space in order to benefit themselves financially.
You can read her Facebook post, uncovered by Media Matters reporter Eric Hananoki, here. In it, Greene postulates that the “Vice Chairman of Rothschild Inc, international investment banking firm” may have used “space solar generators … beaming the sun[’]s energy back to Earth” to fire a “laser beam or light beam coming down to Earth” to “cause” the 2018 Camp Fire in California in order to manipulate the stock market and line the pockets of “Rothschild Inc,” “Solaren,” and Sen. Dianne “Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum.”
Feinstein and her husband are Jewish, and conspiracy theories involving the Rothschilds are a long-standing anti-Semitic trope. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean and director of global social action of the Wiesenthal Center, told me “anyone who used the term ‘Rothschild banker,’ that’s shorthand for Jews.” Cooper called on Greene to apologize and said she should not be on the House Committee on Education and Labor.
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When told of a video Greene once posted on social media in which a narrator says “an unholy alliance of leftists, capitalists, and Zionist supremacists has schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation, with the deliberate aim of breeding us out of existence in our own homelands,” Cooper said: “This is clearly a person that has an anti-Semitism problem.”
Democrats have been calling for weeks to expel Greene from the House of Representatives, based on her anti-Semitism, conspiracy-mongering, and insurrection-backing. Given her popularity with former President Donald Trump and with the QAnon movement, and its overall interest in owning the libs, the institutional Republican Party has been much more reluctant to respond. But after the latest revelations, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the comments “disgusting” and said there is “no place for anti-Semitism in our party” and that the comments “should be looked into.” And a spokesperson for California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, told Slate, “These comments are deeply disturbing and Leader McCarthy plans to have a conversation with the Congresswoman about them.”
Before that conversation could occur, Greene put out a statement denouncing “the radical, left-wing Democrat mob and the Fake News media trying to take me out” and saying “I will never back down.”
“I will lead the charge to be a voice for the Silent Majority,” she wrote.
Speaking of silent majorities: I asked every member of House Republican leadership whether or not they believe, as Greene has speculated, that the 2018 Camp Fire might have been caused by powerful Jewish interests shooting an energy beam from space, or if such comments were appropriate.
Here is a list of their responses or nonresponses, which will be updated if and when these Republican House leaders get back to Slate.
A spokesperson for Rep. Steve Scalise, the House minority whip, said, “No, of course he does not believe that.”
Rep. Tom Emmer, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee: “We don’t support any hate-driven conspiracy theories.”
A spokesman for Rep. Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, replied in response to both questions, “no.”
Rep. Mike Johnson, the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, responded “of course not” and “of course not.”
Rep. Jason Smith, the secretary of the House Republican Conference, did not respond when his office was asked if he believed that “Rothschild Inc” had fired space lasers to start the 2018 Camp Fire, or if such comments were appropriate.
Rep. Gary Palmer, the chair of the House Republican Policy Committee, did not respond when his office was asked if he believed that “Rothschild Inc” had fired space lasers to start the 2018 Camp Fire, or if such comments were appropriate.
This lack of widespread condemnation is a marked departure from how the House reacted to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar over 2019 statements that congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leadership described the remarks as “anti-Semitic tropes” and asked Omar to apologize, which she “unequivocally” did.
This didn’t stop House Republicans from sponsoring a resolution to condemn Omar. Of the three Republican sponsors of that failed resolution who remain in the House—Rep. Greg Steube, Rep. Jeff Duncan, and Rep. Louie Gohmert—none responded when asked whether or not they shared Greene’s belief that “Rothschild Inc” may have fired space lasers to start the 2018 Camp Fire.“
Proud Boys Charged With Conspiracy in Capitol Riot
"The conspiracy charges were the first to emerge against members of the extremist group in connection with the assault on Congress.
Federal prosecutors investigating the violent riot at the Capitol this month announced their first conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys on Friday night, accusing two members of the far-right nationalist group of working together to obstruct and interfere with law enforcement officers protecting Congress during the final certification of the presidential election.
In a brief news release, the Justice Department said that an indictment had been filed against two Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, of Rochester, N.Y., and William Pepe, of Beacon, N.Y. But by late Friday night, the charging papers had not yet appeared in the Washington federal court database. Both Mr. Pezzola, a former boxer and Marine, and Mr. Pepe, an employee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, already had been facing lesser charges connected to the Capitol attack.
While more than 170 people have been charged in the deadly assault on the Capitol, most have been accused of relatively minor crimes such as disorderly conduct and unlawful entry. The only other serious conspiracy charges in the inquiry have been brought against three members of the militia group the Oath Keepers, who are accused of preparing for the Jan. 6 rally in Washington as early as one week after the election.
The Proud Boys, a self-described “western chauvinist” group that has a long history of bloody street fights with the activists known as Antifa, have drawn the attention of investigators because they are one of the extremist outfits that had a large presence on Capitol Hill during the assault.
The organization, which has maintained links with both overt white supremacists and more mainstream Republicans, has been a vocal — and often violent — advocate for former President Donald J. Trump. During one of the presidential debates, Mr. Trump seemed to signal his support by telling its members to “stand back and stand by.”
Investigators have made a priority of exploring whether the attack was planned in advance. Earlier this week, Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, said that prosecutors were focused on bringing “more complicated conspiracy cases related to possible coordination among militia groups” and “individuals from different states that had a plan to travel” to Washington before Jan. 6.
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But because the new indictment remained under seal on Friday night, it remained unclear precisely how prosecutors believed that Mr. Pezzola and Mr. Pepe conspired together to obstruct law enforcement.
Mr. Pezzola, 43, has been a particular focus of the sprawling investigation into the Capitol attack almost from the moment it began.
Court papers released on Friday morning said that he was in the first wave of rioters to enter the building, shattering a window with a plastic police shield. After climbing through the window, prosecutors said, Mr. Pezzola joined a mob that confronted a Capitol Police officer, Eugene Goodman, in a stairwell near the Senate floor. According to court papers, someone in the mob called out, “Where they meeting at? Where they counting the votes?”
Prosecutors said that Mr. Pezzola later posted a video of himself online, smoking a cigar inside the Capitol. In the video, court papers say, he refers to the cigar as a “victory smoke,” adding that he knew the mob would be able to take over the building if the rioters “tried hard enough.”
When F.B.I. agents searched Mr. Pezzola’s home near Rochester after the riot, prosecutors said, they found a thumb drive with several PDF files, some suggesting he had been studying bomb-making techniques. The computer files, court papers said, had titles like “Advanced Improvised Explosives,” “Explosive Dusts” and “Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons.”
Michael Scibetta, Mr. Pezzola’s lawyer, said on Friday night that he had not yet seen the new conspiracy charges and complained that the authorities were not letting him see his client, who is now in custody in Washington.
“The matter is evolving,” Mr. Scibetta said, adding that prosecutors were depriving Mr. Pezzola of “his constitutionally guaranteed right of assistance of counsel.”
Mr. Pepe’s lawyer, Susanne Brody, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The prior charges against Mr. Pepe, a 31-year-old Metro-North Railroad worker, were only scantly described. In a criminal complaint issued on Jan. 11, prosecutors said that he had used a day of sick leave to attend a “Stop the Steal” protest in Washington and was subsequently photographed inside the Capitol. At a hearing earlier this week, prosecutors made a cryptic reference to an ongoing investigation involving Mr. Pepe, but never fully explained what it was at the time.
At least four other members of the Proud Boys have been charged so far in connection with the Capitol attack, including a top-ranking leader of the group, Joseph Biggs. Mr. Biggs, a U.S. Army veteran, stands accused of leading a group of about 100 Proud Boys on an angry march toward and into the Capitol."
Friday, January 29, 2021
Congressmember Cori Bush recounts how Marjorie Taylor Greene berated her in Congress: "I moved my office because I'm here to do a job for the people of St. Louis. They deserve that. And what I cannot do is continue to look over my shoulder wondering if a white supremacist in Congress by the name of Marjorie Taylor Greene or anyone else, cause there are others, that they are doing something or conspiring against us."
Did Trump and His Supporters Commit Treason?
"For years, Carlton F. W. Larson, a treason scholar and law professor at the University of California, Davis, has swatted away loose treason accusations by both Donald Trump and his critics. Though the term is popularly used to describe all kinds of political betrayals, the Constitution defines treason as one of two distinct, specific acts: “levying War” against the United States or “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Colluding with Russia, a foreign adversary but not an enemy, is not treason, nor is bribing Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Ordering the military to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria, effectively strengthening ISIS, is not treason, either—though that is getting warmer. During Trump’s Presidency, Larson told me, his colleagues teased him by asking, “Is it treason yet?” He always said no. But the insurrection of January 6th changed his answer, at least with regard to Trump’s followers who attacked the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress’s certification of the election. “It’s very clear that would have been seen as ‘levying war,’ ” he said.
Both of Trump’s impeachments, in 2019 and 2021, were for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but the Constitution also names treason as an offense for which a President can be impeached. Individuals, including a former President, may also be criminally punished for treason, perhaps the highest offense in our legal system, carrying the possibility of the death penalty. Fearing abuse of treason charges, the Framers gave treason a narrow definition and made it extremely difficult to prove.
The Treason Clause dictates that a conviction can rest only “on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” Partly as a result, there have been around forty treason prosecutions. No American has been executed for treason against the U.S., although Hipolito Salazar (a Mexican who officials thought was American) was federally executed for treason during the Mexican-American War, and some states have executed people for treason, including the abolitionist John Brown.
Larson wrote in his book “On Treason: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law,” from 2020, that the Framers “had a very specific image in mind—men gathering with guns, forming an army, and marching on the seat of government.” Few events in American history, if any, have matched that description as clearly as the insurrection of January 6th, which, court documents suggest, was planned by milita members who may have intended to capture elected officials. The American most associated with treason was one who did not “levy war” but rather gave “aid and comfort” to the enemy: Benedict Arnold. He at first fought heroically in the Revolutionary War but then attempted to aid the British; he fled to the enemy when his betrayal was discovered, and so was never punished. Treason prosecutions for levying war were brought against some individuals who took part in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, in which armed men burned down a tax collector’s house, and the Fries Rebellion of 1799, in which armed men stormed a prison and forced the release of tax resisters. Both resulted in conviction followed by pardon. The Jefferson Administration prosecuted the former Vice-President Aaron Burr, in 1807, for allegedly conspiring with a group of armed men to overthrow the U.S. government in New Orleans, but he was acquitted. In connection with that planned rebellion, the Supreme Court held that a mere conspiracy to levy war does not count as actually levying war. Another treason case resulted from the Christiana Riot, in which dozens of men fought the return of slaves to their owners as required by the Fugitive Slave Act. Supreme Court Justice Robert Grier, presiding at trial (as Justices did in those days), held that “levying war” had to involve an intent to overthrow the government or hinder the execution of law.
Southern secessionists who waged war against the United States were treasonous under any reading of the Treason Clause’s “levying war” standard. Jefferson Davis, the former U.S. senator turned President of the Confederacy, was indicted for treason in 1866. Before trial, however, Chief Justice Salmon Chase made clear his view that the Fourteenth Amendment, which had been ratified a few months earlier, precluded any other treason penalties for Confederates. Section 3 of the amendment bars from holding public office anyone who took an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection against” or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies” of the United States. Because of the Chief Justice’s interpretation, President Andrew Johnson gave up on the prosecution of Davis and granted amnesty to all former Confederates if they swore an oath to defend the Constitution and the Union.
In the past century, federal treason prosecutions generally have been “aid and comfort” cases. After the Second World War, a Japanese-American woman named Iva Toguri D’Aquino, better known as Tokyo Rose, was convicted of treason for broadcasting anti-American propaganda on Radio Tokyo; she was pardoned in 1977, after witnesses recanted. The poet Ezra Pound was famously prosecuted for Fascist propaganda broadcasts on Italian radio; the case was dropped in 1958, when he was found incompetent to stand trial. During the Cold War, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted and executed for conspiracy to commit espionage, not treason; the Soviet Union was not technically an enemy. After a half century of no federal treason cases, the indictment of the Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, in 2006, was the first to concern giving aid and comfort to an enemy that was not a nation. Had Gadahn ever been tried, the defense might have argued that a terrorist group such as Al Qaeda isn’t an enemy as envisioned in the Treason Clause, though a federal district court assumed, in 2013, that it was. Gadahn was killed in Pakistan in 2015, by a C.I.A. drone strike.
Since the Capitol insurrection, there has been little talk of treason charges. Carlton Larson suggested that this was because “everybody now tends to think of treason as mostly aiding foreign enemies.” In his book “On Treason,” he even states that “levying war is arguably archaic, of interest only to historians,” and that, in the twenty-first century, “armed rebellions to overthrow the government are simply not going to happen.” But, to the Framers, such an insurrection was a paradigmatic case of treason. The founding-era Chief Justice John Marshall held in the treason trial of Aaron Burr that levying war entails “the employment of actual force” by “a warlike assemblage, carrying the appearance of force, and in a situation to practice hostility.” If some of those who attacked the Capitol assembled in order to incapacitate Congress—perhaps even by kidnapping or killing lawmakers—then their actions could be construed as an attempt to overthrow the government, and federal prosecutors could plausibly consider treason charges. As Larson put it, “At some point, you have to say, if that’s not levying war against the United States, then what on earth is?”
Last Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, who is now the Senate Minority Leader, said that the attackers “tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like,” offering a narrower purpose than government overthrow. Investigators examining the emerging evidence on the scope of the plot might disagree. Federal law also makes it a separate felony for anyone who owes allegiance to the U.S. and knows of the commission of any treason to conceal it or not tell authorities. That vastly widens the net of those who could potentially be charged, including friends, acquaintances, and co-workers of the attackers. (Since the attack, many such individuals have, in fact, come forward to give information to law enforcement.)
The Treason Clause’s strict evidentiary rule of two witnesses to the act makes it exceedingly difficult to convict anyone of treason, even with so much conduct captured on video. But a treason case against Trump himself might conceivably be built, if prosecutors could establish that he knew in advance that his supporters planned to violently assault the Capitol, rather than peacefully protest; that he intended his speech urging them to “fight harder” to spur them to attack Congress imminently; and that he purposely didn’t do anything to stop the insurrection while it was unfolding—or, worse, intentionally contributed to a security failure that led to the breach. Then Trump would have engaged in treason along with supporters who attempted, in his name, to overthrow the U.S. government. At a minimum, it appears that Trump, along with top government officials, was aware that his followers were planning acts of violence. Trump did, however, say, in the midst of his incendiary speech, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Short of treason, a related federal law prohibiting rebellion or insurrection states that a person who incites “any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto,” has committed a serious felony and is disqualified from holding federal office. This description is similar to the current article of impeachment against Trump: “for inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” If two-thirds of senators vote to convict Trump, a majority of the Senate could then vote to bar him from future federal office. But a Senate conviction requires the votes of at least seventeen Republicans and, so far, looks unlikely. A federal criminal conviction for inciting rebellion or insurrection may offer an alternative route to disqualifying Trump from holding office.
For the time being, the government has indicted more than a hundred and fifty people for crimes related to the insurrection, including unlawful entry, disorderly conduct, theft, destruction of property, firearms offenses, assault on police, conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of justice, and even curfew violation. Ongoing investigations will likely produce more indictments. In addition to potential homicide and terrorism charges, prosecutors have pledged to pursue the charge of “seditious conspiracy.” That crime overlaps with but covers more than treason; federal law defines it as any conspiracy “to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States.”
While federal prosecutors could charge some of the leaders of the riot with treason, seditious conspiracy would be far easier to prove. It is clear that the rioters’ goal was, at a minimum, to delay Congress’s legally mandated counting of electoral votes. Prosecutors would need to prove that two or more people had agreed to undertake the seditious conduct, but, with respect to the rioters who were explicit about their aims and coördinated their actions, the evidence may well be sufficient, particularly given the violent result. More evidence might even enable charges against individuals who conspired to attack the Capitol but didn’t take part in the events. Some of those individuals might be elected officials. Representative Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat of New Jersey, has alleged that unnamed members of Congress “had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th, a reconnaissance for the next day.” Soon afterward, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Capitol Police opened investigations into what roles members might have played in the siege.
If evidence were to emerge that members of Congress intentionally aided or incited the attack, they may face criminal consequences. It’s more likely, however, that Republicans who amplified Trump’s election-fraud lies will be sanctioned by their colleagues. Seven Democratic senators have filed an ethics complaint against the Republican Senators Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Josh Hawley, of Missouri, who led the effort to overturn the election in Congress. Representative Cori Bush, a Democrat of Missouri, has introduced a House resolution to investigate and potentially expel members of Congress who challenged states’ electoral votes. Bush said, in a tweet, that they “incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election.” Mitch McConnell may agree. He has pointedly acknowledged that the mob was “provoked by the President and other powerful people,” implying that fellow-lawmakers might bear responsibility. But, whatever moral condemnation or political remedy is appropriate, criminal charges cannot be brought against congresspeople such as Hawley and Cruz solely for using a legal process to challenge electoral votes in Congress. It is unlikely that any Republican politician thought they’d succeed in overturning the election, and it may be hard to distinguish their moves in Congress, at least legally, from a few Democrats’ challenges to states’ electoral votes in 2001, 2005, and 2017.
Even if Congress doesn’t censure or expel any of its members, the Senate declines to convict Trump, and federal prosecutors decline to bring charges against any of them, Trump and lawmakers who tried to overturn the election could still be held accountable through Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, the same provision that was intended to prevent former Confederates from holding office. If Trump and the officials tried to run for office again, a lawsuit could claim that they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and, if the evidence bears it out, some could be disqualified from holding office. But, apart from any of these remotely possible legal remedies, Republicans who helped foment the attack are facing political repercussions: in the weeks since the riot, Hawley has had a fund-raiser and a book contract cancelled, and Missouri’s two biggest newspapers have called for his resignation. But, alas, in our divided country, Republican officials who denounced the insurrection or voted to impeach Trump may also face the ire of many Republican voters.
The past month has required both affirmation of the strength of our democracy and recognition of its fragility. Laws against treason, sedition, rebellion, and insurrection may seem obscure or arcane, but they are on the books for those real instances in which the expression of strong beliefs, which is constitutionally protected, crosses into actions that fundamentally betray and threaten our government. In times of intense division, such actions pose more danger even as their meaning becomes more contestable. The deep split that cracked open during one of the most consequential transfers of power in history—which, as it turned out, was militarized and not exactly “peaceful”—is apparent in the fact that one side’s patriot is the other side’s traitor. Punishments for disloyal acts are a means of insisting on who has legitimate power in our constitutional democracy, and of deterring those who are shown to be trying to destroy it. The legal terms may seem archaic, and sometimes have been misused or abused, but that should not blunt their precise relevance to our unfortunate contemporary situation."