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Trump defends supporters’ ‘hang Mike Pence’ chants on 1/6

In newly released audio, former president Donald Trump defends his supporters chanting “hang Mike Pence!” during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The audio comes from an interview with the former president conducted by ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl. The interview took place in March 2021 for the upcoming book Betrayal, which is set for publication on November 16.

“Were you ever worried about him during that siege? Were you worried about his safety?” Karl asked Trump during the interview.

Trump predictably said no, adding that he thought that the chant was “common sense,” citing the bogus claim that there was election fraud. Trump had urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to interfere in the counting of the Electoral College votes.

Although reporting has since found that Pence hemmed and hawed, consulting both former Vice President Dan Quayle and the Senate parliamentarian to determine his authority, he ultimately refused, drawing the ire of Trump and his mob of supporters who attacked the Capitol.

Investigating the coup attempt

The 1/6 Committee is stepping up its investigation, subpoenaing Trump administration officials and campaign staffers, even as members of Congress receive death threats. The bipartisan committee is examining Trump’s role in organizing and fomenting an insurrection in a desperate attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

While we have consistently used the words “coup attempt” to describe January 6th – after all, it bears all of the hallmarks of a self-coup – major media outlets have only recently begun to recognize the concerted effort to subvert America’s democracy and install an illegitimate president.

We’re hardly alone in acknowledging this. The Brookings Institute recognized the coup attempt for what it was back on January 9.

Charles T. Call writes:

Trump’s behavior constitutes a self-coup since he has sought to undermine the integrity of the November 3 election and has sought to overturn the results of an election. He urged voters to illegally vote twice; he sought to disenfranchise voters; he sought to coerce officials to alter the vote results. On January 6, Trump explicitly urged the mob to “walk down to the Capitol,” to “demand that Congress do the right thing,” to “show strength,” and to “take back our country.”

Trump’s mob

It should come as no surprise that Trump defended his supporters when they chanted “hang Mike Pence.” When the mob descended on the US Capitol, they did so at Trump’s behest.

While the 1/6 Committee is doing its job – despite the best efforts of Trump to undermine the investigation – Congress needs to step up and defend American democracy with stronger voting rights laws and enforcement against states that engage in voter suppression.

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Insurrectionist receives 41-month prison sentence for assaulting police officer

A supporter of Donald Trump who was among the insurrectionists at the US Capitol on January 6 was sentenced on Wednesday.

Judge Royce Lamberth handed down the sentence for Scott Fairlamb, a Capitol insurrectionist who assaulted a police officer during the January 6 coup attempt.

According to CNN:

A New Jersey gym owner and former MMA fighter who punched a police officer during the January 6 riot was sentenced to 41 months in prison on Wednesday, becoming the first rioter sentenced for violence against the police during the attack.

Scott Fairlamb pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding in August.

In addition to the prison sentence, Fairlamb will also receive 36 months of supervised release following his time behind bars. Fairlamb is the first person to receive a sentence for attacks on police officers that day.

The sentencing comes one day after a federal judge rejected Donald Trump’s attempt to obstruct the 1/6 Committee investigating the coup attempt. Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that Trump cannot block the release of the documents, rejecting a claim of executive privilege for the former president. President Joe Biden has already waived executive privilege.

In her ruling, Judge Chutkan wrote that “presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not president.”

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Michael Flynn Endorses Military Coup in the US

The former and brief National Security Advisor for Donald Trump in early 2017 embraced the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup in the United States. Speaking at a QAnon conference in Dallas, Texas, over the weekend, a flustered attendee asked Flynn: “I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?” At this point, the crowd erupts in cheer. Flynn then responds with: “no reason. I mean, it should happen here.”

At this point, the crowd again cheers at the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup in the United States to apparently overthrow the democratically elected government of Joe Biden.

The exchange can be seen in the tweet below:

Flynn is now saying out loud what many radicalized Republicans have been dreaming of in their post-election turn to authoritarianism.

Back in February, Rolling Stone Magazine published an article revealing that members of QAnon see the Myanmar coup as an emboldening development.

Rolling Stone continued:

…it was an emboldening development for many believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits the existence of a deep state child trafficking ring made up of Hollywood actors and left-wing politicians. Some prominent influencers within the QAnon community with thousands of followers have promoted the baseless idea that electronic voting companies Smartmatic and Dominion were involved in perpetuating voter fraud in Myanmar, and some have posited that a similar military coup could happen in the United States.

The totally baseless QAnon theory is contingent on Trump retaining power and arresting and eventually executing his enemies. Therefore, in the months following Biden’s election, QAnon believers have been rumbling about the results of the election being fraudulent. Many have been pushing the claim that Trump will return to office, possibly by force of a military coup. And they have been invigorated by watching this exact scenario taking place in the small southeast Asian country.

“The Burmese military has arrested the country’s leaders after credible evidence of widespread voter fraud became impossible to ignore…sounds like the controlled media and Biden admin are scared this might happen here,” one influencer with more than 45,000 subscribers on the encrypted messaging app Telegram wrote. “We will see this headline here soon,” another QAnon believer with more than 50,000 subscribers on Telegram wrote, linking to a tweet from a far-right news website about the arrest of Myanmar’s leaders.

Myanmar joined a troubling rising tide of authoritarianism in some countries around the world when its military arrested the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and imposed a military dictatorship. Myanmar had previously been under a military dictatorship for more than 25 years until 2011 when the country finally elected a civilian government. Since the February coup, the country has been embroiled in a resistance movement and protests against the ongoing military dictatorship.

The last known official numbers put the civilian death toll in Myanmar over 750. As of late April, 3,331 people had been detained by the military. Both numbers are likely much higher now.

This type of violence is exactly what some on the far-right have been calling for in the US, for years.

A CNN article noted how QAnon-Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called for and endorsed violence against Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019:

In one post, from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who, in her eyes, were part of the “deep state” working against Trump.

In one Facebook post from April 2018, Greene wrote conspiratorially about the Iran Deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements. A commenter asked Greene, “Now do we get to hang them ?? Meaning H & O ???,” referring to Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Greene replied, “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

This isn’t the first time Michael Flynn has endorsed military action against US democracy. Shortly after Trump was defeated in the 2020 election, Flynn promoted the idea that Trump should impose martial law and that the military should oversee a new election in swing states.

The Independent reported on Flynn’s comments in December 2020:

There is no way in the world we are going to be able to move forward as a nation,” General Flynn said. “[The president] could immediately, on his order, seize every single one of these machines.

Within the swing states,” he continued, “if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.

I mean, it’s not unprecedented. These people are out there talking about martial law like it’s something that we’ve never done. Martial law has been instituted 64 times.

Just weeks after Flynn’s comments, far-right terrorist groups such as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other groups, coordinated to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. So far, a total of 31 members of far-right terrorist groups, including 16 members of the Oath Keepers, have been charged with conspiracy to invade the US Capitol and disrupt the proceedings to certify the results of the 2020 election.

The urgency and danger of the moment American democracy faces cannot be overstated. We are in a democratic emergency and an emergency of this type requires bold and swift action by law enforcement agencies and it requires bold and swift political action to neutralize and crush any and all threats to our democratic republic.

We must do everything we can to protect our democracy. Make no mistake, if the far-right is not neutralized now, it will regroup and attempt another January 6th. The Capitol Insurrection was a trial run for them and it would be a great error for everyone who believes in democracy and peace to dismiss the far-right’s aspirations as implausible.

Image Credit: East Asia Forum

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Arnold Schwarzenegger compares Capitol coup attempt to Kristallnacht

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former actor and two-term governor of California, offers perhaps the starkest portrait of Wednesday’s coup attempt from a leading Republican voice in the United States.

In a recording published on YouTube, Schwarzenegger offers his thoughts on the Capitol riot and reflects on life growing up in Austria shortly after the fall of the Nazi regime.

As an immigrant of this country, I would like to say a few words to my fellow Americans and to our friends around the world about the events of recent days.

I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys. Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol.

But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy. They trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.

I grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy. I was born in 1947, two years after the Second World War. Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away the guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history.

Not all of them were rabid anti-Semites or Nazis. Many of them just went along step-by-step down the road. They were the people next door.

Schwarzenegger goes on to call Trump a “failed president” who will “go down in history as the worst president ever.” He is just as unsparing of other members of his own party – particularly Congressional Republicans – who he called “spineless” and “complicit.”

You can watch Schwarzenegger’s full comments below:

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January 6, 2021: Trump’s failed coup attempt is a ‘date which will live in infamy’

Seventy-nine years ago last month, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in an unprovoked attack on America.

The nation was never the same after that day. President Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress to declare war, drawing the United States into World War II. In one of the most quoted lines in presidential history, Roosevelt remarked that December 7, 1941 – the day of the attack – was a “date which will live in infamy.”

One could argue that January 6, 2021 is the 21st-century equivalent of that day – except instead of a foreign power attacking the United States, it was an attack from within.

For months, the defeated outgoing president attempted a soft coup, hoping to overturn a free and fair presidential election through frivolous lawsuits and other machinations that one could only dream up in a poorly-written fiction novel. Trump bullied and threatened state officials – many of them Republican allies – to do his dirty work for him. Thankfully, these efforts went nowhere; Republican state officials, like Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, held their ground.

When those attempts failed – including a futile effort to have Vice President Mike Pence disregard the will of voters and the certifications of several states – the desperate aspiring dictator turned to his supporters in a long-shot push to cling on to power. At a rally filled with lies where he trashed his own vice president and allies in Congress, Trump riled the crowd into a frenzy and directed his supporters to head to the Capitol.

The mob breached the Capitol’s inexcusably (and perhaps intentionally) lax security, damaged federal property, and forced lawmakers convened in a joint session of Congress into hiding. At the end of the historic day, five people were dead, including a police officer.

The consequences of this day will not be known for some time, but it is safe to say that – like after the attack on Pearl Harbor – our country has changed forever. What happens in the days, weeks, and months to come – including decisions on whether to invoke the 25th Amendment or impeach the president – will be consequential. The legal and professional consequences for the insurrectionists, co-conspirators, and their enablers in Congress and elsewhere may well determine whether there are future attempts to violently thwart American democracy.

If this brazen attack on our democracy goes unanswered in the waning days of the Trump presidency and the early days of the Biden presidency, there almost assuredly will be a repeat of this day not far down the line – and that coup attempt may very well succeed.

Image Credit: Tyler Merbler, Flickr, CC BY 2.0