Witness to the Insurrection (with Sandi Bachom)
An independent photojournalist documents the besieging of the Capitol.
She’s been covering the alt-right since Charlottesville. She’s been injured more than once on the job. She’s been accosted on an Acela, trolled on social media. She’s received death threats. The head of the Proud Boys knows her by name. Oh, and she just celebrated her 77th birthday. Maybe it’s time for her to turn in her press credentials and hang up her spurs?
“You know what? I’m 77 years old. I am fighting this until my last breath,” Sandi Bachom tells me on today’s PREVAIL podcast. “My great-grandfather lied about his age and fought in the Ohio 111th in the Civil War. He fought those guys with the Confederate flags. My dad was in the Navy, and he fought the Nazis. And my uncle, his brother, was shot down by the Nazis when he was 19 years old. So I’m in this, alright? I’m not going anywhere. And I have the most dangerous weapon of all—a camera!”
That’s not just some aphorism. Thanks to Bachom and her intrepid photojournalist colleagues, we have incredible footage of what happened on January 6. Because of them, we know what happened—and what did not. Those cameras are changing the course of history.
Below is a timeline that she helped compile, during the course of our discussion:
On July 19, on Fox News Sunday, when asked point-blank if he would accept the results of the election, President Trump says, “I have to see.” He would hit this refrain repeatedly in the run-up to Election Day. “The Democrats are trying to rig this election,” he would say in September, “because that’s the only way they’re going to win.”
On September 7, OAN’s Jack Posobiec resurrects a slogan first used by Roger Stone in 2016, when Stone believed Trump would lose. As Just Security notes on its “Stop the Steal” timeline, “Far-right social media personality and One America News correspondent Jack Posobiec tweets ‘#StopTheSteal 2020 is coming…’ Posobiec has since deleted the tweet and all of his other tweets mentioning Stop the Steal.”
When asked if he renounces white supremacist groups in the September 29 presidential debate, Trump says, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem.”
Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. The next day, Trump declares victory, because the maps on CNN and Fox News show him in the lead, with many votes still uncounted.
In the days after Election Day, the slogan “Stop the Steal 2020” proliferates. In Phoenix, Arizona, where votes are still being tallied, far-right personalities Mike Cernovich and Alex Jones appear at “Stop the Steal” events in that state. According to Hatewatch, Posobiec and Ali Alexander also promote “Stop the Steal 2020.”
On November 7, a Saturday, after four days of limbo, the 2020 presidential election is finally called for Joe Biden. It was already known that he received millions more popular votes; the Electoral College, too, would tilt in his favor. There is now no question that Trump has lost—handily.
On November 9, a Monday, Trump fires his Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, naming Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, acting secretary. In the move, Miller leapfrogs Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist. “Trump’s abrupt move to dump Esper triggers questions about what the president may try to do in the next few months before he leaves office,” write Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor, in the AP story on Esper’s termination—presciently, as it happens.
On Saturday, November 14, a “Million MAGA March” is held in Washington, attended by thousands of MAGA. After nightfall, things get violent—a harbinger of what’s to come.
On Tuesday, January 5, a judge bans Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio from setting foot in the District of Columbia, a day after his arrest for burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a church. That night, fiery speeches are given in Washington by the likes of Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Alex Jones. Also that night, at the Willard Hotel, there is some sort of pow-wow with those three Trump loyalists, Rudy Giuliani, and a host of other, lesser collaborators, as noted by Seth Abramson.
Then, on January 6, a Wednesday, Congress convenes to certify the election—a rubber-stamping of the results that, contrary to Trump’s belief, does not officially make or break an election. Vice President Pence presides over this vote, in his capacity as President of the Senate.
Bachom begins shooting footage of the speeches. Mo Brooks, Rudy Giuliani, Eric Trump, Lara Trump speak. According to Bachom, Lara tells the crowd to “Take our country back” and “Fight like hell.” Rudy demands “trial by combat.”
A group of incognito Proud Boys that includes most of the men who would eventually be indicted leave the speech and head to the Capitol.
Trump’s speech is supposed to begin. It does not start on time. Instead, music plays, notably “Gloria” by Laura Brannigan. I think you've got to slow down before you start to blow it. I think you're headed for a breakdown, so be careful not to show it.
Trump finally begins his speech, a full hour late.
Pipe bombs are found in front of the DNC and RNC headquarters. They are set to detonate at 1pm, when the certification is scheduled to begin.
People begin to leave the speech, heading to the Capitol, even as Trump is droning on. “I’ll be with you,” he lies. Bachom follows the crowd. She has heard Trump’s speech a bunch of times, and it seems like today, he is stalling, drawing it out for some reason.
Bachom passes a hotel, where a MAGA couple sit in lawn chairs listening to the speech on the radio. Meanwhile, at the Capitol, the barricades are breached.
First request to send in the National Guard is made by the Capitol police chief. His request will be repeated at 1:05, 1:28, 1:34, 1:39, and 1:45. These requests go nowhere.
Besiegers are at the Capitol doors. As Bachom notes, this was easy to accomplish, as there was zero police presence at the rally and not nearly enough officers guarding the Capitol—in contrast to the Kavanaugh hearings, when it was not possible to get within a block of the place.
Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola breaks a window and enters the building, the first to do so.
Pence is removed from the Chamber. The proceedings are halted.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a QAnon/MAGA ally, tweets: “The Speaker has been removed from the chambers.”
Trump tweets: “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
The Capitol police chief continues to urgently request D.C. National Guard deployment, is shot down. Important: In the District, the power to send in the Guard lies with the President, who is too busy fucking around on Twitter to act to save lives.
Thousands of crazed, slovenly MAGA are between Bachom from the Capitol building. She hears someone say, “They’re in!” and “Pelosi has left the chamber!”
Inside, besieger and domestic terrorist Ashli Babbitt is shot and killed.
Acting Secretary Christopher Miller approves sending in the Guard, finally.
Nancy Pelosi reaches the governor of Virginia, convinces him to send in Virginia National Guard.
In a video posted to Twitter, Trump says, “I know your pain, I know you're hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don't want anybody hurt. It's a very tough period of time. There's never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can't play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You're very special. You've seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.” When this is done, Bachom will later recall, he continues to urge people on.
It will take almost five more hours to secure the Capitol and re-convene Congress to certify the election results. In all this time, Trump—who cowered in the White House bunker during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest—is not removed from the scene by the Secret Service, who correctly assess that he is not in any danger. Why would he be? The whole point of January 6 was to overthrow the government: to either install Trump as president for life, or else—this is my theory—remove enough people in the presidential line of succession so that his resignation would elevate a feckless puppet into the Oval Office—one who, unlike Mike Pence, would have no qualms about issuing Trump a full pardon.
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.
The photojournalist Sandi Bachom was on the ground at Charlottesville, at “Stop the Steal” rallies on 11/14 and 12/12, and at the January 6 besierging of the Capitol. She talks to Greg Olear about her experiences covering the insurrectionists. Plus: a new fragrance for alpha men.
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Photo credit: Sandi Bachom, January 6, 2020.