Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Last Call For Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Capitol and DC Police officials testified before the Senate today about the January 6th terrorist attack on the US Capitol building, and GOP Sen. Ron Johnson did everything he could to try to deny that any of it could possibly have been related to Trump's white supremacist cultists, of which Ron Johnson is apparently a paying member.

Since the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, some of former president Donald Trump’s supporters have suggested it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Initially, the argument was that maybe this was the work of provocateurs like antifa trying to give Trump supporters a bad name. That died down as scores of Trump supporters were arrested in connection with the violence — with some bristling at the idea that their actions would be blamed on antifa — and as GOP leaders cautioned their colleagues against the theory. Then the argument was that the storming of the Capitol wasn’t really that bad: that it wasn’t the “insurrection” that some alleged. This also runs afoul of the actual evidence.

On Tuesday, as his colleagues were trying to get to the bottom of the problems with the response to the Capitol riot, one senator united both of these theories: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

Johnson recently spearheaded the effort to argue that the event wasn’t actually an armed insurrection. As he began his questioning Tuesday, he assured that what happened was indeed a tragedy. But then he spent most of his time planting seeds of doubt that the violence wasn’t actually the work of Trump supporters.

The seeds, though, rely upon very speculative evidence and a very suspect gardener.

Johnson’s argument revolved around the account of one man: J. Michael Waller. Waller wrote a piece last month that later ran in the Federalist in which he strongly suggested provocateurs were actually responsible for what happened.

It’s worth noting that Waller is a senior analyst at the Center for Security Policy, which is a hard-line right-wing think tank founded by former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney. If those names ring a bell, it’s because Gaffney and the Center for Security policy had been ostracized, even by mainstream Republicans, before finding new life with the rise of Trump. In 2009, Gaffney wrote a piece about then-President Barack Obama citing supposed "mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.”

This is the source of the information Johnson thought worth raising — quoting Waller at length — in a Senate hearing.

But even beyond the source, what Johnson cited was highly speculative. Among the things Waller argued for his theory:

  • People “wearing Trump or MAGA hats backward and who did not fit in with the rest of the crowd in terms of their actions and demeanor, whom I presumed to be antifa or other leftist agitators.”
  • Saying “the mood of the crowd was positive and festive.”
  • Emphasizing that, actually, the Trump crowd was pro-police. “Many wore pro-police shirts or carried pro-police ‘Back the Blue’ flags.”
  • Citing the families and physical characteristics of those gathered: “ … Some were indignant and contemptuous of Congress, but not one appeared angry or incited to riot. Many of the marchers were families with small children; many were elderly, overweight, or just plain tired or frail — traits not typically attributed to the riot-prone.”

Waller’s piece is rife with leading conclusions, most notably:

  • A very few didn’t share the jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor of the great majority. Some obviously didn’t fit in.
  • Among them were younger twentysomethings wearing new Trump or MAGA hats, often with the visor in the back, showing no enthusiasm and either looking at the ground, glowering, or holding out their phones with outstretched arms to make videos of as many faces as possible in the crowd.
  • Some appeared awkward, the way someone’s body language inadvertently shows the world that he feel like he doesn’t fit in. A few seemed to be nursing a deep, churning rage.

If these people were provocateurs, in other words, they didn’t appear to try that hard to fit into the crowd for some reason. Waller draws numerous conclusions for which there is no real evidence in the arrest records of those who stormed the Capitol.

Waller has also in recent weeks floated the baseless idea that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) purposely allowed Capitol Police to be overrun.
Waller’s piece also relied upon the debunked idea that the preplanning of the attack points the finger elsewhere, saying it “bore the markings of an organized operation planned well in advance of the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.” As has been discussed ad nauseam, preplanning doesn’t mean the riot wasn’t incited. Democrats have argued this incitement far predated Trump’s Jan. 6 speech to supporters who later stormed the Capitol, given Trump had long predicted a stolen election and regularly cited the prospect of violence by his supporters.

None of this nuance made its way into Johnson’s presentation.

“The last five pages is titled ‘Provocateurs Turn Unsuspecting Marchers into an Invading Mob.’ ” Johnson said toward the end. “So I’d really recommend everybody in the committee read this account. And I’ve asked that it be entered into the record.”
This of course is exactly how the Right-wing noise machine works: Crackpot white supremacist cultist writes a wildly speculative pile of crap, crap gets picked up by right-wing social media, and then by Republican lawmakers who introduce the "evidence" into official proceedings, where the media then writes about it as if it's worth considering because the GOP brought it up as official, on the record stuff.

I'm tired of it, and I'm actually glad Johnson faces Wisconsin voters in 2022, because he's the number one flip chance as far as I'm concerned.


Replaying The Texas Blues

Democrats came close in Texas, but fell short in a major way, particularly among Latino voters. According to the Texas Democratic party itself, the reason was simple: lack of door-knocking sunk the Dems in a COVID-19 restricted campaign.

Texas Democrats conceded that Republicans won the state's turnout battle in the 2020 election by staying in the field despite the coronavirus pandemic, while the state's Democrats relied on digital and more unreliable telephone contact with voters.

According to a post-election report provided in advance to NBC News, the party lost its "most powerful and competitive advantage" when it didn't dispatch volunteers to canvass in person, following the directive of Joe Biden's campaign after the pandemic hit.

"Our inability to campaign was really devastating for us, especially with our main base. Our main base is Latino voters, and they do not take well to mail and texting contact," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said.

The report, released Monday, found that even though Democrats turned out at higher rates than expected, so did Republican voters, who outperformed the higher Democratic turnout.

The party struggled to reach voters "for whom we did not have phone numbers, who are disproportionately young [and] rural," as well as people of color.

Despite early hopes that they could turn the state blue, Democrats didn't win any new congressional seats or flip the state House, and former President Donald Trump got higher vote shares than expected in heavily Hispanic counties.

The report did not find a Latino shift to Republicans and Trump; about two-thirds of the state's Hispanics continue to support Democrats.

"Many have interpreted this as 'Latinos voted for Trump,' but it's more accurate to say, 'Latinos who were already Republicans turned out more than Latino Democrats,'" said the report, assembled by Hudson Cavanaugh, the state party's director of data science.

Support for Trump increased significantly in mostly rural, majority Latino counties, accounting for an estimated 17,000 net votes, according to the report.

Latinos moved to Trump in the Rio Grande Valley and in some parts of the Texas Panhandle, although they also supported Democratic candidates lower on the ballot.

Republicans were able to make headway in the conservative state with rhetoric blasting the Democrats' progressive wing on police reform — reduced to "defunding the police" — and on moving away from fossil fuels, which the GOP emphasized could affect jobs in Texas.
That lack of face-to-face contact really hurt the Dems in fighting GOP disinformation, and they lost the state because of it.  Here's hoping that 2022 goes better, but with Texas gerrymandering by the GOP on the way, it may not matter much now that districts will be redrawn within an inch of their lives to favor Republicans.
That combined with voter suppression and states like Texas may be entirely out of reach...unless Dems can pass voting rights legislation, which the GOP will never allow in the Senate.
That means getting rid of the filibuster, and well, we've been down this road before.


A Taxing Explanation, Con't

Well, and just as I was resigning myself to the Supreme Court sitting on the Trump tax return decision for months or longer in order to protect him from prosecution, it seems SCOTUS has finally gotten around to doing the right thing.
The Supreme Court has cleared the way for prosecutors in New York City to receive eight years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of an ongoing investigation into possible tax, insurance and bank fraud in Trump’s business empire.

The high court’s decision to turn down Trump’s request for a stay of a grand jury subpoena advances a criminal probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. that appears to be one of the most serious of an array of legal threats Trump faces in his post-presidency.

The justices issued no explanation for the denial and no member of the court publicly noted any dissent.

Last July, the justices unanimously rejected Trump’s broad claims that he was absolutely immune from state and local criminal investigations while serving as president. However, the decision allowed Trump to pursue other arguments against a wide-ranging subpoena served on the Trump Organization in August 2019.

A federal appeals court rejected those arguments in October 2020, prompting Trump’s lawyers to make another run at the Supreme Court. An agreement with Vance put the subpoena fight on hold while the justices considered Trump’s request for a stay.

The precise contours of Vance’s investigation remain uncertain, but it appears to be centered on allegations from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that the firm manipulated real estate valuations in order to maximize collateral for loans and minimize real estate taxes. Cohen also claimed that Trump committed fraud in dealings with insurance companies. Trump and the Trump Organization have denied the allegations.

The decision is the first breakthrough for investigators in accessing Trump’s financial records after numerous attempts by House Democrats and debates among federal investigators who worked for special counsel Robert Mueller. The House has been pursuing Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, as well as a top Trump creditor, Deutsche Bank. But those cases have been tied up in courts for years, with no end in sight.
So finally Cyrus Vance and company can get around to running the numbers, and hopefully soon running a grand jury indictment on Trump.  I like it when I'm worried about what turns out to be pretty much nothing, and the right thing happens sooner rather than later.

It's a nice change of pace from the last four years.

And speaking of the last four years...

Donald Trump’s yearslong quest to prevent the public, Congress, or law-enforcement officials from seeing his tax statements came to a resounding end with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. He did not take the defeat in stride. Instead, the former president released a statement that, even by Trumpian standards, brims with anger.

Trump’s response bears every hallmark of an authentically Trump-authored text, as opposed to the knockoff versions produced by his aides. It is meandering, filled with run-on sentences, gratuitous insults, and exclamation points. Trump’s position on the tax returns rests on a series of assertions, ranging from his false claim that Robert Mueller found “No Collusion” to his insistence that he actually won the 2020 election to his extremely ironic complaint that prosecutors targeting their political opponents is “fascism, not justice.” (Trump, of course, spent his presidency publicly demanding his Attorneys General investigate his political rivals.)

The statement does contain one unambiguously true point: “This is something which has never happened to a president before.” That’s correct, because every president for the past several decades has voluntarily released his financial information. Only Trump refused.
Trump literally accuses the Supreme Court of enabling a "fishing expedition" and blames Andrew Cuomo for all of this, calling it "fascism, not justice." Oh yes, and he still claims he won the election.

I swear, I know indictments aren't coming, the risk to Manhattan, the great probability of the NYPD fascists aiding and abetting attacks on the DA's office and outing jurors, Trump whipping up rage to foment another attack, but damn I want this asshole in supermax.

Donald Trump is much worse than Nixon, and yet Trump's poll numbers never sunk to the mid-20s during his presidency, the way Nixon's did, even after two impeachments. Nixon was eventuslly regarded as the greatest living monster in American politics. Much of America still doesn't see Trump that way.

Many Americans assume that everyone in big business cooks the books. They think New York real estate is a tough, cutthroat enterprise, and that you have to work the angles to make money.

Many Americans won't understand what the crimes are. They'll be bored by the details. They won't see how they were harmed by what Trump did. Remember when The New York Times obtained Trump tax records and ran a massive story about the financial chicanery they revealed? Most of America yawned.

I'd love to see Trump go to prison. But I'd also love to see him become the national pariah that Nixon became, someone who's an embarrassment even to his party-mates. We're not there yet. And a long investigation into business crimes, followed by a trial focused on a complicated parsing of financial documents, won't get us there.
Trump made at least $1.6 billion while in office, according to ethics watchdog CREW. At least 40% of the country will cheer that news because that's how it's supposed to work, and Trump was at least an honest criminal because all politicians are crooks, and Trump won the game of who can win the most money off the political grift, the most American thing possible. He's a hero to a third of the country for exactly that reason.

I still don't think Trump will ever be indicted for anything.
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