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Dozens of former national security, military officials push for Jan. 6 commission GOP is blocking

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Unfortunately, that’s the part of the rationale behind the commission that Republicans in Congress are most intent on blocking. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed a commission consisting of 11 members, seven of them picked by Democrats—three members chosen by President Biden, two by herself and two by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The remaining four would be chosen by Republicans, two by House leader Kevin McCarthy and two by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Of course Republicans balked at that, demanding equal representation. Pelosi has indicated she’d be flexible on the commission make-up, but there’s a bigger problem behind the Republicans blockade: the scope of the investigation, the “complex national security threats” the former national security officials are warning about.

Republicans, led by McConnell and McCarthy, are insisting that antifa and Black Lives Matter will be dragged into any investigation examining the domestic terrorism of Jan. 6 if Pelosi insists on a commission with an investigative scope beyond the limits of the failure of Capitol security on that day. If she wants to look at anything leading up to Jan. 6, McConnell says that it should also examine “the full scope of the political violence problem in this country.”

“Rioting and political violence are abhorrent and unacceptable no matter what cause the mob is advancing. These are not forms of political speech,” he said. “We cannot have artificial cherry-picking of which terrible behavior does and does not deserve scrutiny.” McCarthy echoed that threat: “What are the other things that happened as well? With Antifa, and others, I think there should be a lot of investigations.”

That’s what any Republican either McConnell or McCarthy put on the panel would be there to do—to force the scope of the “investigation” away from the white supremacist Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol, away from the dark money forces that helped them, away from the far-right networks that egged them on. Trying to find agreement with McConnell—his commission proposal would give him the ability to pick the majority of its members—is probably futile for Pelosi. McConnell can filibuster any legislation to create the commission if he doesn’t agree with it. Until and unless Senate Democrats get rid of the filibuster, this is one more thing that’s not going to move through the Senate.

In the meantime, Pelosi is moving forward with House committee investigations. Before the House left for Easter recess, chairs of seven committees sent letters to 16 agencies overseen by the White House and Congress demanding “all communications sent between agency officials regarding Congress’ Jan. 6 session, when lawmakers certified Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory,” as well as “all relevant documents and messages from Dec. 1, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021.”

“We understand that the Department continues to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in the events on January 6, 2021,” they wrote to the Justice Department. “We are happy to work with you to ensure that the document requests in this letter do not interfere with ongoing investigations and prosecutions.” The Biden Justice Department is quite likely to be happy to work with Congress, too, in determining what happened that day, and what led up to it. Republicans are going to bet on their ability to paint any information that comes from these committee investigations as “partisan,” and also on the hope that as the day recedes in time, the horror of it will as well.

Republicans will not listen to the urgency of 140 Democratic and Republican national security professionals and their former colleagues. They won’t listen to the widow of a Capitol Police officer who died by suicide in the days after the insurrection.


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Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar launch ‘America First Caucus,’ and it’s as bad as you imagine

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While immigration may increase the nation’s “aggregate output,” they acknowledge, it’s still unacceptable because of “the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk.”

IT’S UNIQUE, PEOPLE. UNIQUE.

Oh, and they have ideas about infrastructure. Yes, white supremacist ideas about infrastructure. “The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.” (Do they know that stunningly beautiful infrastructure costs money?)

The progeny of European architecture pretty much puts it right out there, just in case you’d missed the Anglo-Saxon bit: We’re talking about white people, and nobody but. The United States of America is unique … but in a very European way.

So. Why should you not dismiss this as just a handful of Republicans? Punchbowl reports that Greene and Gosar are being joined by Reps. Louie Gohmert and Barry Moore, but that’s still just four. Yeah. Four people elected to the United States Congress creating or signing on to a group intended to bring stunningly, classically white supremacist ideas to Congress. Four is not a lot of people to embrace white supremacy if the four people are random schmoes in a population of millions. Four is a lot of people when you’re talking about a pool composed of those elected to the national government in one of two major parties. There are 212 Republicans in the House and it’s not hard to think of a few more of them who are probably thinking seriously about joining this caucus.

This is also significant because it’s not coming out of nowhere. A “certain intellectual boldness is needed amongst members of the AFC to follow in President Trump’s footsteps, and potentially step on some toes and sacrifice cows for the good of the American nation.” There are footsteps for them to follow in when they sketch out this white supremacist vision of the U.S.—footsteps that went into the White House.

For years the Republican Party as a whole has gotten the benefit of the doubt about its far-right members. It’s just a few, people said. It’s the fringe. But the party as a whole keeps moving toward that fringe, making the fringe of a decade ago the center of the party now. It is never safe to assume that Republicans will cleanse themselves of the racists or the conspiracy theorists or the sex pests in their party. We’ve watched them refuse to do so again and again, and if we don’t learn from that, it’s a guarantee of disaster.


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Oath Keepers ‘lifetime member’ agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in Jan. 6 insurrection case

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Schaffer’s guilty plea to two charges—obstructing an official proceeding and illegally entering the Capitol grounds—makes him the first participant in the insurrection to agree to provide evidence against his fellow rioters. Schaffer, who originally faced six felony charges, will enter the government’s witness protection program as part of the deal.

According to an earlier filing, which was mistakenly made public, Schaffer in March began engaging in “debrief interviews.” As The Washington Post notes, the plea bargain marks a critical step forward in the prosecution of the cases, as other defendants face similar choices in terms of providing evidence for prosecutors, particularly when it comes to the activities of the two key paramilitary organizations involved in the insurrection, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

“Whenever you have a large group of people arrested,” criminal defense attorney Martin Tankleff told CNN, it’s common for prosecutors to pressure defendants to flip on each other. “They’re going to start talking. They’re going to start sharing information.”

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who was present in Washington on Jan. 6 but did not enter the Capitol, is one of the key figures being drawn into the net prosecutors are creating with conspiracy charges involving other members of his group. Though federal indictments handed down against his Oath Keepers and Proud Boys cohorts have not named him personally, he is referenced in several of them as “Person 1,” a central player in what prosecutors are describing as a conspiracy to “stop, delay, or hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.”

“I may go to jail soon,” Rhodes recently told a right-wing rally in Texas. “Not for anything I actually did, but for made-up crimes. There are some Oath Keepers right now along with Proud Boys and other patriots who are in D.C. who are sitting in jail denied bail despite the supposed right to a jury trial before you’re found guilty and presumption of innocence, were denied bail because the powers that be don’t like their political views.”

Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola’s attorney wrote in court filings that he believed a so-called “cooperating witness” was sharing information about the Proud Boys. An earlier filing by prosecutors had revealed that this witness heard Proud Boys members claim that “anyone they got their hands on they would have killed,” including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and that they would have also killed then-Vice President Mike Pence “if given the chance.” The men—who all had firearms or access to them—also talked about returning to Washington for Inauguration Day, and that “they plan to kill every single ‘m-fer’ they can.” That witness, prosecutors noted, has not been charged with a crime.

Most of the defendants, as a New York Times piece recently explored, are facing substantial evidence of their crimes culled from videos and photos both in mainstream media and on social media. Indeed, a large portion of that evidence was provided by the insurrectionists themselves.


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Republicans can’t agree with themselves on how tiny an infrastructure package to demand

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An estimated $41.8 billion is needed to repair structurally deficient bridges alone—never mind getting ahead of the bridges that will become structurally deficient in the coming years. Or talking about roads, rail, broadband, schools, veterans’ hospitals, ports, airports, replacing lead pipes for drinking water, caring for our elders while boosting some of the fastest-growing occupations, and supporting medical manufacturing.

As absurd a low-ball as Capito’s $600 to $800 billion was, though, at least she said something that she would be willing to talk about. More Republicans are just saying “No! Smaller!” and counting on voters to recoil from a corporate tax increase.

Voters, however, support raising corporate taxes to pay for infrastructure—in one poll, telling people that infrastructure would be paid for by a corporate tax hike actually increases support for the plan. Another new poll, from Navigator Research, finds narrow majority support for the infrastructure plan that grows to 70% support when people learn what’s in it, with large majorities of independent voters supporting many of the specific components of the American Jobs Plan, including the senior care proposal that congressional Republicans are so intent on disqualifying as “not really infrastructure.”

Even a majority of Republicans polled support that proposal, along with eliminating lead pipes, investing to protect against future pandemics, investing in rail systems, upgrading and building new schools and child care facilities, and more. Things like clean energy and investing in communities of color don’t get Republican majorities, but they do get independent majorities and strong Democratic support. If these proposals would get support from just half the proportion of Republican lawmakers as Republican voters, they would be seen as strongly bipartisan. But instead, congressional Republicans ignore the polling and yell about how Biden is steamrolling them because his willingness to compromise doesn’t extend to being steamrolled himself. These people are not operating in good faith. Doing so would be in violation of their deepest principles and would probably get them kicked out of their party. And they should be dealt with—and reported on—accordingly. 


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