328 Days of Insurrection
Five weeks before the anniversary of January 6, we appear no closer to catching the planners of the insurrection. How much patience can we afford?
In five weeks and change, we will mark the first anniversary of the dark day when the U.S. Capitol was besieged in an attempt to overthrow the government on behalf of Donald John Trump.
Here is what I wrote about the insurrection back in January:
This really is a battle for the soul of America, just as Joe and Kamala claim. It is absolutely essential that the traitors be brought to justice. There is no way forward otherwise. If Trump and Kushner walk free, the republic is doomed. The Blue Wave of 2018, the 80+ million of 2020, would have been for nothing. These are the worst traitors this country has encountered since the Civil War, the most dangerous, the cruelest. The damage they have done to the republic is incalculable. The public debate should not be about whether they should be prosecuted, but rather, how they should be punished.
What’s remarkable is that this excerpt is from a piece called “Trump & Punishment,” which ran on January 5—a day before Trump’s crusaders swarmed the Capitol. One of the many unfortunate byproducts of the insurrection is that it distracted us from the Trump/Pence/Kushner sabotage of the pandemic response, and all those people they murdered.
Two days after J-6, I compared the besieging of the Capitol to the Fourth Crusade, when the Doge of Venice tricked his Frankish allies into sacking the Christian city of Constantinople:
The Constantinopolitans surely knew that the three emperors who held the throne from 1199 to 1204—Alexius III, whom the Doge installed; the Trumpy Alexius IV, who robbed the treasury and fled; Alexius V, the Mike Pence-like sap who was left holding the bag—were bumblers. But I’m sure they did not realize, as they prepared for Easter that fateful year, that their city was on the verge of being destroyed—that life, as they knew it, was over. . . .
Constantinople held on for a century and a half after the sack of 1204, before falling for good to the Turks in May of 1453. The Byzantines were replaced by the Ottomans. Their great Empire is no more. One day, America, too, will fall.
Wednesday’s botched insurrection was a warning we must heed. Unless we take urgent action right now, unless the MAGA terrorists are identified and arrested—unless the President is removed from office immediately—there is nothing to stop the Trump Crusaders from taking even more drastic measures 12 days from now.
I remain hopeful for the post-January 20 future. But as the Constantinopolitans of 1204 could attest: nothing is guaranteed.
The Republic managed to hold on (for the time being). Biden was sworn in. Trump failed, as he usually does. But the GOP poltroons in Congress let him off the hook, choosing complicity over country.
In “Capitol Records,” on January 15, I wrote:
When John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln, he exclaimed, “Sic semper tyrannis.” That is the state motto of Virginia, and it means, “Thus always to tyrants.” Booth fervently believed that the democratically-elected President of the United States was a power-mad despot, and that, by killing him, he was liberating his countrymen from tyranny. In his sick mind, he was a hero. In reality, he was an angry white supremacist, radicalized by false grievance: MAGA 1.0. He fell for the Big Lie of the 1860s—just as his spiritual descendants fell for the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from their Führer, Donald John Trump.
I keep referencing the mid-nineteenth century because the Civil War is the only precedent in our nation’s history to what’s happening right now. “Stupid Watergate,” we jokingly called it, but Trump has gone far beyond the wildest excesses of Richard Nixon. The republic is under attack—present tense. The peaceful transition of power, which took place even in 1860, is in jeopardy. Troops are bivouacked in the Capitol. The lame-duck president, an inveterate criminal, wants to remain in office, mostly to avoid prosecution. Whether motivated by cynical political calculation, rank delusion, authoritarian radicalism, coercion, or fear for their family’s lives, the lion’s share of a once-proud political party—ironically, the Party of Lincoln—has thrown in with him. Republicans failed to remove Trump a year ago; 400,000 Americans are dead because of their failure. Granted a second chance to do the right thing, most of the GOP balked.
Last Wednesday, a coup attempt came a hair’s breadth away from succeeding. The collaborators sought to, first, stop the electoral votes from being counted, because Trump had been told, wrongly, that this would prevent Joe Biden from taking office (by the same lousy low-rent lawyer who wrote the Kamala Harris birther attack in Newsweek!); and second, hunt down and execute Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and possibly Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley, so that Trump could resign and be pardoned by unctuous lapdog Mike Pompeo, who as Secretary of State is fourth in line to the presidency. If the second part sounds conspiratorial, I ask: Why else had Q whisperer Lin Wood called for the VP’s execution? Why else were there gallows erected outside? Why else would the Secret Service have whisked Pence away? The besiegers were seeking out Mike Pence, and they were seeking out Nancy Pelosi—and they made it into the latter’s offices, terrorizing her young staffers, smashing her mirror, and making off with her fucking laptop. What do we think these berserkers would have done if they had found her there? Shared a pot of tea? Binged Downton Abbey? Quilted?
Again: January 6 was an attempt to do harm to leaders in the presidential line of succession. This is no small thing. It’s not something we can gloss over because of “unity.” It’s the worst attack by secessionists since Lee surrendered. And only by the grace of God, and the heroic acts of police like Eugene Goodman, were we spared a bloodbath.
On February 12, in “Sì, the Doge Incited the Besieging,” I wrote about the impeachment trial in the Senate:
One week after the insurrection, Trump was impeached by the House, whose Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Trump’s mob was trying that day to kill. Two weeks after the insurrection, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris assumed the presidency—despite the assurances of Mike Flynn and other MAGA loyalists that a second term for The Donald was a certainty, “a ten out of ten.” Five weeks after the insurrection, the House managers began the second impeachment trial of Donald John Trump.
Watching all the footage of the besieging of the Capitol, cut chronologically with the exhortations of Trump and his surrogates, two things become clear. First, yes, duh, of course Trump incited the insurrection. It is objectively impossible to watch the case made by the House managers and not reach that conclusion—which is why Fox “News” is picking and choosing and spinning what it shows its viewers. Second, we are very very very lucky that more lives were not lost. Denied backup by ex-president Trump, Capitol police fought back the waves of insurrectionists in hand-to-hand combat for hours. January 6 could have been a full-scale riot. The fact that it wasn’t—that the insurrectionists were there with common purpose, and not just to trash the place—only lends credence to the case against the ex-president.
The only drama remaining is what the Republicans will do.
The Republican Senators are fascinating characters in this season of the series, as they seem dead set on acquitting the ex-president. Which, on its face, makes no sense. Remember, all of these Senators, even the seditious ones, were victims of the besieging.
All of them were targets. All of them were in danger. All of them. Republicans speak of the need for an “offramp.” It’s harder to conceive of a safer offramp than “Trump put me in harm’s way as he tried to attack democracy.”
This would be like if the civic leaders of Constantinople, whose homes had been invaded and ransacked, were jurors in the trial of the besiegers—and voted to acquit the Doge of Venice on the charge of masterminding the 1204 attack.
Or if the 9/11 families voted to acquit Osama bin Laden.
Or if Fred Goldman voted to acquit O.J. Simpson.
Or if Roman Polanski voted to acquit Charles Manson.
Like, why the fuck would they do that?
And yet there is Hawley with his feet on his desk. There is Chuck Grassley—whom the insurrectionists may well have executed that day, as he was third in the line of succession—sneaking a game of Solitaire on his iPad. There is Ted Cruz still arguing that the trial is unconstitutional even though the founding documents and literally every historical precedent proves the opposite, as Rep Joe Neguse masterfully showed on Tuesday. There is Rand Paul being a dick, as Rand Paul will. There is doe-eyed Ron Johnson on the MAGA-friendly talk-shows, protesting this and that. There is hysterical Lindsey Graham tweeting nonsense.The 'Not Guilty' vote is growing after today. I think most Republicans found the presentation by the House Managers offensive and absurd.
. . . . These Senators are traitors. They are the modern analogs to the residents of Constantinople in 1204 who helped the Crusaders gain entrance to the city. They have betrayed the American people, they have betrayed democracy, and when they vote to acquit Trump, they will have betrayed their colleagues in Congress.
After their inevitable and disgraceful betrayal, the Republicans began to gaslight. To normalize. To lie about the events of January 6. To tell what I called, in my piece of May 18, “Fables of the Insurrection:”
To tell the truth about something as basic and obvious as the results of the November 9 election, or the January 6 insurrection, is to be shunned [by the GOP], as Liz Cheney found out.
Removed from her position in the party leadership, Cheney was replaced by amoral mercenary Elise Stefanik. The latter lacks even a soupçon of scruple, and has demonstrated a willingness to do anything—lie, gaslight, Jim Jordan—to obtain power. Unlike her House colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene, who clearly suffers from mental illness, Stefanik is a cold, calculating creature who elbowed her way into the GOP mosh-pit willingly, eagerly, and with her murine eyes wide open. As Heather Cox Richardson points out, “[t]his means that the four top House Republican leaders—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Stefanik, and Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)—all voted to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.”
GOP: Gaslighters On Parade.
When the party’s leadership are all liars and sedition sympathizers…when the GOP has gone Full Vichy…when the lone attempt at truthtelling is met with expulsion—how can rank-and-file Republicans do anything but continue the onslaught of gaslighting?
This week, we were introduced to Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Republican from Georgia, who looks like he walked out of Central Casting for “crooked used car salesman,” “college coach who throws the big game to pay off gambling debts,” or “creepy politician who gets busted for having multiple hard drives of foot fetish pornography and has to call Olivia Pope.” Here is what this seditious fuck had to say:
This hearing is called the Capitol insurrection. Let's be honest with the American people: it was not an insurrection, and we cannot call it that and be truthful….As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol and on the House floor and who, with other Republican colleagues, helped barricade the door until almost 3 pm that day from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you, the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. There was no insurrection. To call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bald-faced lie.
You see what he did there? Clyde didn’t deny that there were besiegers trying to break into the House chamber to do violence—he just claimed that what said besiegers were doing couldn’t possibly be termed “insurrection.” The sleazeball actually read the definition of the word from a dictionary, like he was back in eighth grade writing his first paper. It’s particularly apt that we can’t pronounce the guy’s last name without saying “lied.” Because, um, Clyde was one of the lawmakers barricading the House chamber from besiegement on January 6, a fact one would imagine he’d recall:The Rep. Clyde news reminded me of this: UNITED STATES - JANUARY 6: Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., second from top left, helps barricade the House chamber door as rioters disrupt the joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote on January 6, 2021.
Another Republican, Jody Hice, also of Georgia, said: “It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” as if video of Ashli Babbitt crawling through a window like the Terminator to try and do harm to lawmakers did not exist, as if Capitol police did not also die that day.
To no one’s surprise, Paul Gosar, the Arizona dentist and bosom chum of January 6 organizer Ali Alexander, also lied, insisting that the prosecution of the insurrectionists amounted to “harassing peaceful patriots.”
And hateful Amy Kremer, the chair of Women for America First, the original organizer of the January 6 rally, has doubled down on the seditious bullshit:
They gaslight because to tell the truth is to admit that members of their party, including their lame-duck president, tried to overthrow the will of the American people—to topple democracy. But that’s exactly what happened.
By the time I wrote “American Guy Fawkses” on August 24, I was already fed up with the lack of urgency from Merrick Garland’s staid, memo-bound DOJ:
As I’ve said many times, January 6 was the worst attack on our democracy since Booth shot Lincoln. While Booth acted alone at Ford’s Theater, he was part of a larger plot to overthrow the government. One of his conspirators attacked, but failed to kill, William Seward, the Secretary of State. Another lost his nerve, opting against assassinating Andrew Johnson, the Vice President. Others gave material aid to the plotters. Do you know what happened to these traitors, the so-called Lincoln conspirators? Booth was hunted down and killed by a U.S. marshal. His mates were arrested, convicted, and hanged.
I’m not saying we should get medieval on our current crop of traitors. It’s probably not wise to grant the government the power to execute people, even evil people, even the worst of the worst. But that doesn’t mean we should let bygones be bygones and chalk armed insurrection up to foolish indiscretion or mass MAGA hysteria. Violent attempts to overthrow the government should not be treated like jaywalking or smoking joints at the Barry Manilow concert in Central Park. When it comes to treason, I’d rather we err on the side of Hammurabi.
In addition to Trump himself, there are four powerful and dangerous men involved with the Big Lie: Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and Erik Prince. All four have run afoul of the law. Three have been indicted, two convicted—and three pardoned, corruptly, by the outgoing Former Guy. They are all clearly bad guys. And yet they remain free to ply their seditious trade, which mostly involves poisoning American minds with disinformation and propaganda cooked up by foreign intelligence services. . . .
The disgraced general and felon Mike Flynn, convicted as part of the Mueller investigation only to be pardoned before sentencing, has been an outspoken proponent of the narrative that Trump won the election and will be reinstated as president. On January 5, he gave an interview with the seditious conspiracy theorist and rabble-rouser Alex Jones in which he said four more years of Trump was a “certainty.” He riled up the bellicose crowd in Washington later that day, in advance of the besieging of the Capitol. It does not appear that he’s ever going to stop, until he’s behind bars or Trump is back in the White House.
Convicted felon Roger Stone was also in Washington at that time, surrounded by the Proud Boys he hires as bodyguards. At a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 5—the phrase was his coinage; he first used it in 2016—he addressed the MAGA masses, saying Biden’s victory was “nothing less than the heist of the 2020 election,” and insisting that “we will win this fight or America will step off into a thousand years of darkness. We dare not fail. I will be with you tomorrow shoulder to shoulder.” Whether or not Stone winds up being charged as part of the January 6 conspiracy—he was not there “shoulder to shoulder” with anyone, the sniveling coward—he clearly contributed to it. And he, too, shows no signs of reforming. He’s going to continue behaving like this until he’s stopped. This is the same guy who, when the federal judge told him to not talk about his case on social media, posted a photo of her in a sniper’s crosshairs.
Erik Prince is another obvious, dangerous traitor. The former head of Blackwater and real-life Bond villain almost certainly perjured himself in his Mueller questioning. He’s also done things of questionable legality in Libya and in China. His former business associate turned apostate Gregg Smith has been shouting from the rooftops about Prince’s shady deeds, literally for years. “I spent 20 years with Erik Prince,” Smith wrote last week, in a since-deleted tweet. “I attended weddings, funerals, travelled the world, ate [hundreds] of meals with him and planned business operations on [four] continents. I know his network and what he is capable of. You only imagine, and you are way underestimating.” That sounds ominous, and yet the federal government seems just as uninterested in prosecuting Prince as it was in prosecuting Jeffrey Epstein—once again prioritizing secrecy over protecting Americans. Prince, too, will not stop until law enforcement steps in.
And Steve Bannon, one of the architects of the Trump insurgency, last year called for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be beheaded, and his head displayed on a pike as “a warning.” (Note: the heads of Guy Fawkes and his conspirators were indeed displayed on pikes after their deaths). I am not advocating that fate for Bannon—the less I see of his hideous face, the better—but I don’t understand how the executive branch of the federal government, whose primary function is to provide for the common defense, has not detained this clear and present danger, who appears to be in bed with Chinese intelligence. At the very least, his “War Room” podcast should be de-platformed. The First Amendment does not allow for open treason. And yet Bannon seems to be in the media constantly, with no signs of stopping.
Bannon, Flynn, Stone, Prince—these men are our Guy Fawkeses. . . . These are dangerous, dangerous individuals, legitimate threats to the American way of life, who working together may yet bring about the end of our republic. Why is the government not treating them as such? It’s like a lion, a tiger, a bear, and a crocodile escaped into a local elementary school, and the principal is like, “Whatever, man, ferocious wild animals have rights, too.” Why are we not doing everything in our power to counter the threat?
I still don’t know the answer to that question. I hoped, back in January, that the FBI would do its job, and I wouldn’t have to invest time or energy figuring out what happened during the besieging—who were the boots on the ground and who were the generals. Eleven months later, I’m not as confident.
On October 22, I had the photojournalist Sandi Bachom on my podcast, to memorialize her eyewitness account. Listeners were interested; it is the most-downloaded episode of PREVAIL to date:
In “Witness to the Insurrection,” published the same day the podcast dropped, I wrote:
The totality of January 6—the logistics, the psyop, the scheming, the besieging, the intentional denial of security—was nothing less than a plot to overthrow the government. And thanks to images shot by Sandi Bachom and her courageous colleagues, we can see exactly what happened.
Not everyone was looking. Almost eleven months after the besieging, legal Twitter is arguing about whether or not Merrick Garland and the Justice Department are actually investigating the planners of the insurrection—and if Trump will be held accountable. Half of Twitter insists that yes, the DOJ is doing its thing, and anyone saying otherwise doesn’t understand how this stuff works; the other half says, in effect, Show me the money. With each passing week, the indictment of Trump and his inner circle feels like less and less of a certainty, and more and more of a pipe dream.
The thing is, this shouldn’t be a fucking mystery. There is a way for the Attorney General to communicate to the American people he’s supposed to work for without compromising ongoing investigations; FDR didn’t not talk about the war for fear of jeopardizing the troops. The overmatched and tone-deaf Garland has not figured this out, and likely never will.
And so I will end with a snippet from the same piece I wrote on January 5, the day before the insurrection:
Andrew Johnson’s failure to properly punish the traitors—and make no mistake: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and their Confederates were all stinking traitors, the vilest in American history—has ripple effects to this day. There is a thruline from the half-assed Reconstruction to Ford pardoning Nixon, and from there to Obama not investigating Bush and Cheney for war crimes.
This is what we do in this country. We repeat the same mistake, over and over and over. We let the bad guys off the hook. The traitors. The murderers. The thieves. The confidence men. The so-called “white collar” criminals. All escape with a slap on the wrist. And if history is our guide, that’s exactly what will happen to the despotic Donald John Trump and his gaggle of venal collaborators—some of whom he has already pardoned!
We cannot—we must not—allow that to happen. The crimes are too serious, the damage to the country and the world too great. For the soul of the nation to survive, we must recognize the crimes of the President and his co-conspirators for what they are: a coordinated attack on our democracy.
That was 329 days ago—when I fervently believed that the sabotage of the pandemic response, and the avoidable death of some six hundred thousand Americans, was more than enough to warrant immediate action from our leaders.
It was not. January 6 wasn’t, either. Robert Mueller came and went, and we’re still waiting for our next Savior: for Merrick Garland, for Cy Vance, for Tish James, for Fani Willis. Be patient, we’re told. It’s part of the process. Grand jury this, IG report that. Wheels of Justice blah blah blah. These things take time.
Is 328 days enough time? How about 671 days? Because that’s the midterms. What about 783 days? That’s the interval between the Watergate break-in and Nixon’s resignation. Will we have to wait 1,399 days, until Election Day 2024? Will we still be told to be patient when Trump’s name is on the ballot? Will Garland still be putting the finishing touches on some secret indictments? Or is he cool with democracy dying on his watch?
Photo credit: Jmarcosny.