Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Michael McCaul (R-TX) is a typical right-wing establishment politician, except he's also one of the richest members of Congress. He may not have been 100% comfortable with Trumpism but he went along with it completely and never spoke out against any of the worst extremism. In fact, as chair of the Homeland Security Committee, he wrote the bill with Stephen Miller that separated families at the border and led to children in cages. McCaul has a lot to answer for. And in a ridiculously drawn super-gerrymandered district that snakes from north Austin into the Houston exurbs, he nearly lost his seat to Mike Siegel, a Bernie-quality progressive running on Medicare-for-All, the Green New Deal and racial justice. Yesterday, Michael Isakoff reported that McCaul, of all people, is formally asking the Justice Department "to broaden its investigation to include President Trump’s conduct during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol when members of Congress and others were reportedly pleading for him to deploy the National Guard and take other steps to quell the riot. 'I would go beyond the article filed by the Democrats and Pelosi,' Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas said on the Yahoo News Skullduggery podcast. 'I’m interested in what actions were taken after the Capitol was breached. Once the president knew that the Capitol was under siege and really being invaded by domestic terrorists, what actions did the president specifically take to remedy what happened? If it was al-Qaida attacking the Capitol, my God, I would think the president would pull out all the stops to ensure the National Guard was fully deployed and would stop this breach and this invasion of the Capitol.'"
If the video up top doesn't scare the crap out of you, you have ice in your veins where the blood is supposed to go. Last night, writing for the Washington Post, Tim Craig, Holly Bailey and Matt LaPalante reported that "Governors and other local officials are worried that... heavily armed and politically motivated extremists could gather in state capitals, leading to violent clashes... State officials have spent much of the week rushing to secure government buildings and fortify their capitols after an FBI bulletin issued Monday warned that armed far-right extremist groups are planning to march on state capitals this weekend. In response, many states have erected fencing, boarded up windows, closed sites to the public and in some cases declared states of emergency and activated the National Guard. The U.S. Postal Service also removed collection boxes from areas around several capitols, including in Arizona, Wisconsin and Oregon, fearful they could be used to hide explosives or weapons."
The FBI warning was primarily driven by weeks-old calls by the “boogaloo boys”-- a loosely connected group of anti-government advocates who think the country is headed toward civil war-- to protest at state capitols Sunday. But in recent days, without clear intelligence about who might show up, state officials said they are bracing for an unruly mix of far-right, white supremacist, gun rights and anti-government extremist groups.
...“One of the advantages that we had when those fringe groups were available and communicating in the open, with Facebook, Twitter and Parler, is that it was an open-source way to track the flow of protest interest,” said Sgt. Nick Street, a public information officer for the Utah Highway Patrol, which provides security for the state Capitol.
“That was like a nice slow-pitch softball. It was easy to see coming and easy to make contact with,” Street said. “But that was taken away, and no argument here-- it’s for the best because of what it could incite and what we witnessed it incite in the events from a week ago.”
At The Atlantic this morning, David Graham wrote that We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was. He was looking at the videos like the one embedded at the top of the page. It didn't really seem like that big a deal on CNN and MSNBC and the other news networks in real time, did it? I mean it was horrible that the Capitol was overrun but there didn't seem to be any injuries and the only death reported was one woman and no members of Congress were accosted. The vote certification was postponed by a few hours and was then completed. Some broken windows... But Graham wrote that "Every day since, as more videos and reporting have emerged, it’s become clear how dangerous the insurrection truly was. As my colleague Elaine Godfrey, who was in the crowd, wrote, 'The violence could have been even worse. Some of the rioters clearly wanted it to be.' This was more than a group of people swept up in the emotions of the moment. Within the mob were radicals plotting to kill or kidnap the vice president and members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The rioters came within moments of catching up to Vice President Mike Pence. And the violence was far worse than first reported. One Capitol Police officer died following the assault, another died by suicide soon after, and dozens of officers were injured, some seriously."
We also now know more about President Donald Trump’s response. While it was clear from the start that he had incited the crowd, further reporting has indicated that he watched the attempted coup with delight. He actively resisted calling out the National Guard, a task that reportedly fell to the besieged Pence. He was induced by his horrified staff to condemn the mob, but reportedly regrets doing so.
In short, January 6 not only could have been much worse-- it was much worse than was initially apparent. Sometimes real-time coverage of news events leans toward the sensational and overstates what happened. But because reporters were unprepared for the violence, and because of the fog of war (and tear gas), the horror of this event has emerged slowly. Many people were able to see the stakes on January 6, but it was much harder to see how close a larger catastrophe was to occurring, much less how much harm was actually done.
To begin with, the attempted coup was not some spontaneous event. Much of the planning occurred more or less in plain sight on the internet. According to one analysis, the phrase storm the Capitol was used 100,000 times online in the month before it occurred. Some law-enforcement agencies picked up on this chatter. The Capitol Police were inadequately prepared, but the agency’s former chief’s request for National Guard backup ahead of the event was denied.
There seem to have been at least three groups, in descending order of size, mixed together on the Mall last Wednesday: people who were there to protest and who just protested peacefully; people who were there to protest but decided to join the mob as it surged up to the Capitol; and people who came with specific plans to commit violence, or who hoped to carry out chillingly elaborate plots.
Reporters heard cries of “Hang Mike Pence!” A Reuters photojournalist heard people inside the Capitol searching for Pence, saying they wanted to kill him. A witness told the FBI about another group that hoped to murder the vice president. “Execute the traitors! I wanna see executions!” Godfrey heard a demonstrator yell through a megaphone. Another man said of journalists, “Start makin’ a list! Put all those names down, and we start huntin’ them down, one by one!”
Apologists say this is mere hyperbolic rhetoric, which would be easier to believe if protesters hadn’t erected a gallows on the National Mall. Federal prosecutors wrote in a brief about Jacob Chansley, a.k.a. Jake Angeli, the shirtless, fur-hatted man often depicted in coverage, that “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States Government.” One man allegedly stockpiled ammo and came prepared to assassinate Nancy Pelosi.
As the crowds began to overrun barriers and push into the building, police found themselves on their heels. They weren’t just facing an unruly protest, and they weren’t just underprepared—they were in a battle against a more organized and coordinated force than they had realized. A stunning Washington Post report lays out the scene. “Everything they did was in a military fashion,” a D.C. police commander said. One officer was overcome by protesters and heard rioters shout, “We got one! We got one! Kill him with his own gun!” Brian Sicknick, the officer who died of injuries sustained in the attack, was reportedly beaten with a fire extinguisher.
Critics often accuse police of overstating or overreacting to the danger they face and using that to explain the use of lethal force. That makes what happened at the Capitol so much more surprising. One protester, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed as she attempted to enter the Speaker’s Lobby, but few shots were fired on January 6. While it is true that police initially responded to the largely white crowd far less aggressively than they often responded to Black Lives Matter protests this summer, some officers say they held their fire because they were afraid to start a shoot-out they couldn’t win.
“I didn’t want to be the guy who starts shooting, because I knew they had guns—we had been seizing guns all day,” Daniel Hodges, a D.C. police officer, told the Post. “And the only reason I could think of that they weren’t shooting us was they were waiting for us to shoot first. And if it became a firefight between a couple hundred officers and a couple thousand demonstrators, we would have lost.”
Once inside, some putschists were prepared. They came with schematics and maps of the building, and set about their work with purpose. Some wore tactical gear and carried flex ties, which would have been useful for kidnapping and hostage-taking. If not for the quick thinking of the Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who drew a column away from the Senate floor, they might have walked through the unlocked doors and into a chamber still filled with lawmakers.
Only on Friday did it become clear how much danger Pence had been in. Secret Service officers whisked Pence and his family to a hideaway in the Capitol—but just one minute before Goodman made his stand, and only about 100 feet from the stairs up which the officer was chased by the mob, according to the Post.
Under almost no circumstances would the insurrection have succeeded at overturning the election, though that doesn’t lessen the gravity of the attempted coup. But it could have been much worse. A firefight could have broken out between police and putschists. Members of Congress could have been taken hostage or killed. Pelosi could have been shot and killed. Pence could have been lynched. The insurrectionists were there because the president of the United States lied to them, claiming that the election had been stolen and that Pence could save Trump’s presidency, and because he had demanded that they act. “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said that day.
Yet this slow realization comes even as many conservative media outlets and politicians attempt to gaslight the public, as I warned they would. One leading voice of Trumpism, Tucker Carlson, insists, “What happened last week was not new or unusual.” While some Republicans have sought to spread baseless conspiracy theories about leftist agents provocateurs, many others have simply tried to minimize what happened. During debate over Trump’s historic second impeachment this week in the House, most Republicans did not defend Trump, but instead claimed that what happened was more like the civil unrest over policing this summer.
Oh, did I mention that McCaul voted against impeachment, along with all but 10 of his GOP colleagues? Some of those ten brave souls are currently being fitted for body armor now, which is being paid for by the taxpayers-- to protect them against... deranged Republican extremists.
That video up top is going to help you to understand who're dealing with and your heart will help you understand what has to be done with them. If you need even more information after watching it, read Luke Modelson's Friday New Yorker piece, Among The Insurrectionists. "The attack on the Capitol was a predictable apotheosis of a months-long ferment," he wrote. "Throughout the pandemic, right-wing protesters had been gathering at statehouses, demanding entry. In April, an armed mob had filled the Michigan state capitol, chanting 'Treason!' and 'Let us in!' In December, conservatives had broken the glass doors of the Oregon state capitol, overrunning officers and spraying them with chemical agents. The occupation of restricted government sanctums was an affirmation of dominance so emotionally satisfying that it was an end in itself-- proof to elected officials, to Biden voters, and also to the occupiers themselves that they were still in charge. After one of the Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol, he insisted through a megaphone, 'We will not be denied.' There was an unmistakable subtext as the mob, almost entirely white, shouted, 'Whose house? Our house!' One man carried a Confederate flag through the building. A Black member of the Capitol Police later told BuzzFeed News that, during the assault, he was called a racial slur fifteen times... The America Firsters and other invaders fanned out in search of lawmakers, breaking into offices and revelling in their own astounding impunity. 'Nancy, I’m ho-ome! ' a man taunted, mimicking Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. Someone else yelled, '1776-- it’s now or never.' Around this time, Trump tweeted, 'Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country. . . . USA demands the truth!' Twenty minutes later, Ashli Babbitt, a thirty-five-year-old woman from California, was fatally shot while climbing through a barricaded door that led to the Speaker’s lobby in the House chamber, where representatives were sheltering. The congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, later said that she’d had a 'close encounter' with rioters during which she thought she 'was going to die.' Earlier that morning, another representative, Lauren Boebert-- a newly elected Republican, from Colorado, who has praised QAnon and promised to wear her Glock in the Capitol-- had tweeted, 'Today is 1776.'"
Boebert hasn't been expelled from Congress or arrested-- or even formally charged yet. Pramila Jayapal experienced what happened at the Capitol very differently from the way insurrectionists like Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar [please see video below] and Andy Biggs experienced it. Pramila: "There was a very real fear that these people who were pounding on the doors, maybe just 15 feet from us, were going to get in and that we would not make it out... For those of us who are people of color, several of us, when we were told to take off our member pins so that the insurrectionists couldn't identify us, we actually had to make a choice about whether we wanted to do that or keep them on because we weren't sure that Capitol Police would identify us as members if we took them off. So I kept mine on. These insurrectionists came fully prepared to cause harm. In fact, they killed several people. They had bombs. They had nooses, zip ties, and pipes. They came armed and with bulletproof vests. They chanted, 'Hang Mike Pence.' They hunted the Speaker of the House." And when Pramila made it to a secure location, a Republican member of Congress refusing to wear a mask, infected her with COVID-19.