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Court documents were released about the militia members who planned the January 6 Insurrection, according to the Washington Post, that led to the sacking of the U.S. Capitol, a horrifying sight and a desecration of one of our national monuments by a wild mob. The mob listened to Trump’s incitement and headed for the Capitol, inspired to carry out heinous actions against members of Congress. Some of the videos of the horrendous events showed a line of military-clad people walking through the mob, with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front. Frankly, I wish the FBI had waited another 24 hours to unseal the documents, until Trump was out of office. Supposedly, the FBI watches the communications of would-be terrorists and white supremacists. Why were they not prepared? Why did they not alert the Defense Department (oh, the acting Secretary of Defense is a Trump loyalist)? Will Trump use this information to claim that he did not incite the mob because its leaders came prepared to invade the Capitol? Or did his words inspire the large audience to join in the assault on the Capitol, led by people eager to destroy the seat of our government and to kill members of Congress? And one other question: Why did so many Republicans who were the targets of the mob vote to support their goals after the Insurrection?

Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, communicating in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and leading dozens in a hunt for lawmakers to make “citizen’s arrests,” according to new court documents filed Tuesday.

U.S. authorities charged an apparent Oath Keeper leader, Thomas Edward Caldwell, 66, of Clarke County, Va., in the attack, alleging that the U.S. Navy veteran helped organize a ring of what became 30 or 40 people who “stormed the castle” to disrupt the electoral vote confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan,” co-defendant Jessica Watkins, 38, a U.S. Army veteran, said while the breach was underway, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.

“You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud,” a man replied, according to communications recovered from her phone, the FBI alleged.

We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here,” a woman believed to be Watkins said, according to court documents.

A man then responds, “Get it, Jess,” adding, “This is … everything we f——trained for!”

The extraordinary real-time narration of parts of the assault on the Capitol came as investigators made public new details of events in unsealed conspiracy charges in which thousands of pro-Trump supporters forced the evacuation of lawmakers and triggered violence that left five people dead.

FBI probes possible connections between extremist groups at heart of Capitol violence

FBI charging papers against Caldwell, Watkins and a third man, former U.S. Marine Donovan Crowl, 50, allege that Caldwell and others coordinated in advance to disrupt Congress, scouted for lodging and recruited Oath Keepers members from North Carolina and like-minded groups from the Shenandoah Valley. Participants both anticipated violence and continued to act in concert after the break-in, investigators said in court documents...

Federal prosecutors in Washington have charged more than 100 defendants in the past 13 days. But arrests this weekend of several people with alleged ties to extremist groups, including the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters, have offered evidence that the riot was not an entirely impulsive outburst of violence but an event instigated or exploited by organized groups. Hours of video posted on social media and pored over by investigators have focused on individuals in military-style gear moving together...

In New York, a Queens man who worked in the state court system was accused Tuesday of making threats to murder Democratic politicians, including suggesting another attack on the Capitol timed to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Brendan Hunt of Queens, N.Y., is described in the documents as a part time actor and full-time employee of the New York State Office of Court Administration. Authorities said Hunt was not at the Jan. 6 riot, but made threatening remarks about Democratic politicians beforehand that intensified in a video he posted two days later, titled, “KILL YOUR SENATORS.”

“We need to go back to the U.S. Capitol,” Hunt said in the video, according to the FBI. “What you need to do is take up arms, get to D.C., probably the inauguration … put some bullets in their f—– heads. If anybody has a gun, give it to me, I’ll go there myself and shoot them and kill them.”

Caldwell’s group appeared motivated by a similar animus. In a Jan. 1 reply to a Facebook comment cited by the FBI, Caldwell referred to the military oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, saying he had done both, but “they have morphed into pure evil even blatantly rigging an election and paying off the political caste.”

“We must smite them now and drive them down,” Caldwell said. An FBI charging affidavit said Caldwell was recorded outside the Capitol on a YouTube video posted Jan. 8, motioning to the building and shouting “Every single [expletive beeped in original] in there is a traitor. Every single one.

In Caldwell’s charging papers, the FBI said that it is reviewing communications between Caldwell “and other known and unknown Oath Keepers members.”

An FBI agent in court records said Caldwell helped organize a group of eight to 10 individuals led by Watkins, a bartender who founded the “Ohio State Regular Militia” in 2019. Members of the group are seen on video wearing helmets and military-style gear moving purposefully toward the top of the Capitol steps and leading the move against police lines, court records said.

In this article published at The Conversation, Alex Newhouse writes that far-right activists made their plans known on social media for weeks in advance. Newhouse is Research Lead at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at Middlebury College. The question arises: If he could read the chatter and see the portents of violence, why didn’t the FBI?

The attack on the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 was shocking, but no one following right-wing activity on social media should have been surprised. The attempt by President Donald Trump’s far-right supporters to violently stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote and formalizing Joe Biden’s election victory was consistent with their openly expressed hopes and plans.

As a researcher of far-right extremism, I monitor right-wing social media communities. For weeks in advance, I watched as groups across the right-wing spectrum declared their intentions. On Facebook, Twitter, Parler and other platforms, influencers, politicians, activists and ordinary people focused on Jan. 6 as their final opportunity to prevent what they claimed was corruption on a monumental scale. 

To most of these activists, there was no possible resolution other than Trump emerging victorious. In the open, they discussed how they were preparing to force Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to nullify the election results and declare Trump the victor. 

The buildup

Conservative groups began organizing for a large-scale protest in Washington, D.C., following a tweet from President Trumpposted on Dec. 18. “Big protest in D.C. on Jan. 6. Be there, will be wild!” he wrote. His instructions were taken seriously by mainstream supporters and far-right extremists alike. 

Stymied repeatedly in their efforts to overturn the election, Trump supporters and right-wing extremists searched for another avenue to reverse election results. For Trump and his supporters, Jan. 6 became a desperate, last-ditch effort. As social media posts showed, this desperation led them to express the righteousness of using violence to force Congress to act in their favor.

Out in the open

In the days preceding the events of Jan. 6, right-wing social media communities frequently discussed preparations, travel plans and hopes for the demonstrations. Across Twitter and Facebook, people began speaking of Jan. 6 in near-mystical terms. By surveying social media data from mid-December to Jan. 5, I discovered thousands of posts referring to the planned protests as if they were a coming revolution.

In some circles, the event became synonymous with a final battle – the moment when all of the supposed crimes of Democrats would be laid bare, and when ordinary Americans would take back the government. “On January 6, we find out whether we still have a constitutional republic,” one user wrote on Twitter on New Year’s Eve. “If not, the revolution begins. I’d rather fight and die than live in a socialist society. Pretty sure 80 million Americans feel the same way.”

Specific references to storming the Capitol also appeared, although infrequently. As one Twitter user put it, “Roberts is the Corrupt-in-chief. January 6. We need to storm Congress and @SCOTUS and arrest Roberts, McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer, McCarthy just to begin the swamp’s draining! #RobertsCorruptInChief.” 

More frequently, QAnon adherents zeroed in on Jan. 6 as the beginning of a chain of events that would lead to apocalyptic cleansing they refer to as “The Storm.” Some even believed that The Storm would arrive during the demonstration itself, and that Trump would, far beyond any reasonable expectation, arrest members of the Democratic and global elite for treason while also winning the election.

Although posts on Facebook and Twitter hinted that more than just protests were possible, nowhere was the coming violence as obvious as on Parler. The site, which has attracted millions of new conservative users in the past year, has positioned itself as a bastion for right-wing conspiracy theories and organizing efforts. From my research, hundreds of Parler users expressed their sincere belief, and even desire, that the demonstrations would spark a physical battle, revolution or civil war. 

“We are ready to fight back and we want blood,” a Parler post from Dec. 28 declared. “The president need to do some thing if Jan. 6 is the day then we are ready.” Another user stated, “January 6 will either be our saving grace or we will have another civil war that should end very quickly!! Either way Trump will be our POTUS!! Anything less is unacceptable!!”

Using tools that allow me to monitor large-scale social media data, I found evidence that right-wing activists had been explicit and open with their intentions for the Jan. 6 demonstrations since at least mid-December. I have no doubt that the demonstration was specifically designed to force Congress to overturn the election. Although the act of storming the Capitol may not have been planned, the demonstrators had prepared for weeks to use at least the threat of physical violence to intimidate Congress and Pence during the certification process.

A pattern of planning and calls for violence

The profound transparency with which right-wing activists planned their demonstrations indicates both that extreme, anti-democratic thought has become normalized on Parler, and that Twitter and Facebook still struggle to moderate open calls to violence. This is not the first time. Right-wing activists have made a habit of organizing in the open and galvanizing supporters to express their desire for violent confrontation. 

Far-right activists have also engaged in online fundraising, including while livestreaming the attack on the Capitol building.

Since the attack, I’ve observed users on Parler, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously celebrating the occupiers and spreading unfounded, dangerous conspiracy theories that the instigators of the violence were actually antifascists and leftists. On Parler, many users have turned on Pence, and calls for the execution of politicians have increased.

Law enforcement and intelligence services should learn from what happened and the apparent lack of preparedness on the part of Capitol police, because this is likely to happen again. It’s impossible to know what will happen next. However, the communities that caused the events of Jan. 6 organized for it openly on social media – and they show every intention of acting again.

Yvonne Abraham is a brilliant columnist for the Boston Globe. She watched the impeachment hearings and found it ironic that the party defending the most divisive president in memory defends his seditious actions and language by appeals to “unity.”

She writes:

Unity. Seriously?

One after the other, the president’s defenders rose to the podium in the House chamber on Wednesday, trying to head off an inevitable vote for impeachment with one of the most transparently cynical gambits in recent memory.

We can’t impeach a president who incited a violent insurrection in which five people died, they argued, because it would further divide us, and what the nation needs now is to heal, to move on, to come together. Not by holding the inciter-in-chief accountable for sending a deadly mob to the Capitol and forcing some of these very legislators to flee for their lives, but by yet again letting him escape any consequences for his heinous actions.

The very leaders who refused to accept the results of a free and fair election, who themselves trucked in the falsehoods and debunked conspiracy theories about a stolen vote and oncoming tyranny — the lies that fueled the Capitol assault — were now preaching the gospel of unity. And they did it with straight faces.

For example, Madison Cawthorn, the newly elected congressman from North Carolina, urged Democrats to “vote against this divisive impeachment and realize that dividing America will not save this republic.”

That is pretty rich, given that MAGA diehard Cawthorn was all-in on the effort to overturn the results of the presidential election, even helping to whip up the mob at the rally before the insurrection. His first tweet after winning his House seat was “Cry more, lib.”

Here’s the thing about unity: To achieve it, you have to believe in a common good. And most members of this Republican Party have demonstrated over and over that they simply don’t.

She goes on to describe the loathsome behavior of the Republicans who were in hiding with Democrats. Some refused to wear face masks.

“It wasn’t all Republicans, just the organizers of the revolt,” said Representative Seth Moulton, who was one of the last to arrive in the room where hundreds took refuge. “They were clearly proud not to be wearing masks.”

Unity? Seriously? Don’t ask for if you don’t believe in it yourself.

I am still incredulous that so many Republicans defended a president who put their lives in danger and did nothing to protect them, no matter how many calls he received from top Republicans begging for protection from the mob he incited.

Katherine Stewart is the nation’s leading chronicler of Christian nationalism and the religious right. Her latest book, The Power Worshippers, is a must-read; I reviewed it in The New York Review of Books. This article appeared in The New York Times. It is an alarming and well-documented analysis of the religious zealotry and intolerance that propels Trumpism. Josh Hawley is competing with the loathsome Ted Cruz to be the next Trump.

In today’s Republican Party, the path to power is to build up a lie in order to overturn democracy. At least that is what Senator Josh Hawley was telling us when he offered a clenched-fist salute to the pro-Trump mob before it ransacked the Capitol, and it is the same message he delivered on the floor of the Senate in the aftermath of the attack, when he doubled down on the lies about electoral fraud that incited the insurrection in the first place. How did we get to the point where one of the bright young stars of the Republican Party appears to be at war with both truth and democracy?

Mr. Hawley himself, as it happens, has been making the answer plain for some time. It’s just a matter of listening to what he has been saying.

In multiple speeches, an interview and a widely shared article for Christianity Today, Mr. Hawley has explained that the blame for society’s ills traces all the way back to Pelagius — a British-born monk who lived 17 centuries ago. In a 2019 commencement address at The King’s College, a small conservative Christian college devoted to “a biblical worldview,” Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.

The most eloquent summary of the Pelagian vision, Mr. Hawley went on to say, can be found in the Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Mr. Hawley specifically cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words reprovingly: “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The fifth century church fathers were right to condemn this terrifying variety of heresy, Mr. Hawley argued: “Replacing it and repairing the harm it has caused is one of the challenges of our day.”

In other words, Mr. Hawley’s idea of freedom is the freedom to conform to what he and his preferred religious authorities know to be right. Mr. Hawley is not shy about making the point explicit. In a 2017 speech to the American Renewal Project, he declared — paraphrasing the Dutch Reformed theologian and onetime prime minister Abraham Kuyper — “There is not one square inch of all creation over which Jesus Christ is not Lord.” Mr. Kuyper is perhaps best known for his claim that Christianity has sole legitimate authority over all aspects of human life.

“We are called to take that message into every sphere of life that we touch, including the political realm,” Mr. Hawley said. “That is our charge. To take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Of our nation!”

Mr. Hawley has built his political career among people who believe that Shariah is just around the corner even as they attempt to secure privileges for their preferred religious groups to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove. Before he won election as a senator, he worked for Becket, a legal advocacy group that often coordinates with the right-wing legal juggernaut the Alliance Defending Freedom. He is a familiar presenceon the Christian right media circuit.

The American Renewal Project, which hosted the event where Mr. Hawley delivered the speech I mentioned earlier, was founded by David Lane, a political organizer who has long worked behind the scenes to connect conservative pastors and Christian nationalist figures with politicians. The choice America faces, according to Mr. Lane, is “to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.”

The line of thought here is starkly binary and nihilistic. It says that human existence in an inevitably pluralistic, modern society committed to equality is inherently worthless. It comes with the idea that a right-minded elite of religiously pure individuals should aim to capture the levers of government, then use that power to rescue society from eternal darkness and reshape it in accord with a divinely-approved view of righteousness.

At the heart of Mr. Hawley’s condemnation of our terrifyingly Pelagian world lies a dark conclusion about the achievements of modern, liberal, pluralistic societies. When he was still attorney general, William Barr articulated this conclusion in a speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, where he blamed “the growing ascendancy of secularism” for amplifying “virtually every measure of social pathology,” and maintained that “free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people.”

Christian nationalists’ acceptance of President Trump’s spectacular turpitude these past four years was a good measure of just how dire they think our situation is. Even a corrupt sociopath was better, in their eyes, than the horrifying freedom that religious moderates and liberals, along with the many Americans who don’t happen to be religious, offer the world.

That this neo-medieval vision is incompatible with constitutional democracy is clear. But in case you’re in doubt, consider where some of the most militant and coordinated support for Mr. Trump’s postelection assault on the American constitutional system has come from. The Conservative Action Project, a group associated with the Council for National Policy, which serves as a networking organization for America’s religious and economic right-wing elite, made its position clear in a statement issued a week before the insurrection.

It called for members of the Senate to “contest the electoral votes” from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states that were the focus of Republicans’ baseless allegations. Among the signatories was Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who advised Mr. Trump and participated in the president’s call on Jan. 2 with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. Cosignatories to this disinformation exercise included Bob McEwen, the executive director of the Council for National Policy; Morton C. Blackwell of The Leadership Institute; Alfred S. Regnery, the former publisher; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Thomas Fitton of Judicial Watch; and more than a dozen others.

Although many of the foot soldiers in the assault on the Capitol appear to have been white males aligned with white supremacist movements, it would be a mistake to overlook the powerful role of the rhetoric of religious nationalism in their ranks. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, on the eve of Electoral College certification, the right-wing pastor Greg Locke said that God is raising up “an army of patriots.” Another pastor, Brian Gibson, put it this way: “The church of the Lord Jesus Christ started America,” and added, “We’re going to take our nation back!”

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, a number of Christian nationalist leaders issued statements condemning violence — on bothsides. How very kind of them. But few if any appear willing to acknowledge the instrumental role they played in perpetuating the fraudulent allegations of a stolen election that were at the root of the insurrection.

They seem, like Mr. Hawley himself, to live in a post-truth environment. And this gets to the core of the Hawley enigma. The brash young senator styles himself not just a deep thinker who ruminates about late-Roman era heretics, but a man of the people, a champion of “the great American middle,” as he wrote in an article for The American Conservative, and a foe of the “ruling elite.” Mr. Hawley has even managed to turn a few progressive heads with his economic populism, including his attackson tech monopolies.

Yet Mr. Hawley isn’t against elites per se. He is all for an elite, provided that it is a religiously righteous elite. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School and he clerked for John Roberts, the chief justice. Mr. Hawley, in other words, is a successful meritocrat of the Federalist Society variety. His greatest rival in that department is the Princeton debater Ted Cruz. They are résumé jockeys in a system that rewards those who do the best job of mobilizing fear and irrationalism. They are what happens when callow ambition meets the grotesque inequalities and injustices of our age.

Over the past few days, following his participation in the failed efforts to overturn the election, Mr. Hawley’s career prospects may have dimmed. Two of his home state newspapers have called for his resignation; his political mentor, John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has described his earlier support for Mr. Hawley as “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”; and Simon & Schuster dropped his book. On the other hand, there is some reporting that suggests his complicity in efforts to overturn the election may have boosted his standing with Mr. Trump’s base. But the question that matters is not whether Mr. Hawley stays or goes, but whether he is simply replaced by the next wannabe demagogue in line. We are about to find out whether there are leaders of principle left in today’s Republican Party.

Make no mistake: Mr. Hawley is a symptom, not a cause. He is a product of the same underlying forces that brought us President Trump and the present crisis of American democracy. Unless we find a way to address these forces and the fundamental pathologies that drive them, then next month or next year we will be forced to contend with a new and perhaps more successful version of Mr. Hawley.

Hiding from the rioters in a secret location away from the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appealed to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) phoned Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

And Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump confidante and former White House senior adviser, called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side.

But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.

He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive.

“It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation,” Graham said in an interview. “The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.”

Trump ultimately — and begrudgingly — urged his supporters to “go home in peace.” But the six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8 p.m. that evening reveal a president paralyzed — more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job.

Capitol Police were unable to stop a breach of the Capitol.

The man who vowed to be a president of law and order failed to enforce the law or restore order. The man who has always seen himself as the protector of uniformed police sat idly by as Capitol Police officers were outnumbered, outmaneuvered, trampled on — and in one case, killed. And the man who had long craved the power of the presidency abdicated many of the responsibilities of the commander in chief.

The episode in which Trump supporters rose up against their own government, leaving five people dead, will be central to any impeachment proceedings, critical to federal prosecutors considering incitement charges against him or his family, and a dark cornerstone of his presidential legacy.

This portrait of the president as the Capitol was under attack on Jan. 6 is the result of interviews with 15 Trump advisers, members of Congress, GOP officials and other Trump confidants, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.

The day began ominously, with a “Save America March” on the Ellipse devoted to perpetuating Trump’s baseless claims that somehow the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Before the president’s remarks around noon, several of his family members addressed the crowd with speeches that all shared a central theme: Fight. Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, told the crowd that lawmakers needed to “show some fight” and “stand up,” before urging the angry mass to “march on the Capitol today.” Donald Trump Jr., another of the president’s sons, exhorted all “red-blooded, patriotic Americans” to “fight for Trump.”

Backstage, as the president prepared to speak, Laura Branigan’s hit “Gloria” was blared to rev up the crowd, and Trump Jr., in a video he recorded for social media, called the rallygoers “awesome patriots that are sick of the bull—-.” His girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, danced to the song and, clenching her right fist, urged people to “fight.”

The president, too, ended his speech with an exhortation, urging the crowd to give Republicans “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

“So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he concluded.

Trump, however, did not join the angry crowd surging toward the Capitol. Instead, he returned to the White House, where at 2:24 p.m. he tapped out a furious tweet railing against Vice President Pence, who in a letter earlier in the day had made clear that he planned to fulfill his constitutional duties and certify President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris as the winners of the 2020 electoral college vote.

“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,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”

By then, West Wing staffers monitoring initial videos of the protesters on TV and social media were already worried that the situation was escalating and felt that Trump’s tweet attacking Pence was unhelpful.

Press officials had begun discussing a statement from Trump around 2 p.m., when protesters first breached the Capitol, an official familiar with the discussions said. But they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the president and could only take the matter to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, this person said, adding that “the most infuriating part” of the day was how long it took before Trump finally spoke out.

Around the same time, Trump Jr. headed to the airport for a shuttle flight home to New York. As he waited in an airport lounge to board the plane, the president’s namesake son saw that the rally­goers they had all urged to fight were doing just that, breaching police barricades and laying siege to the Capitol.

An aide called Trump Jr. and suggested he immediately issue a statement urging the rioters to stop. At 2:17 p.m., Trump Jr. hit send on a tweet as he boarded the plane: “This is wrong and not who we are,” he wrote. “Be peaceful and use your 1st Amendment rights, but don’t start acting like the other side. We have a country to save and this doesn’t help anyone.”

But the president himself was busy enjoying the spectacle. Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser said.

But if the president didn’t appear to understand the magnitude of the crisis, those in his orbit did. Conway immediately called a close personal aide who she knew was with the president, and said she was adding her name to the chorus of people urging Trump to speak to his supporters. He needed to tell them to stand down and leave the Capitol, she told the aide.

Conway also told the aide that she had received calls from the D.C. mayor’s office asking for help in getting Trump to call up the National Guard.

Ivanka Trump had gone to the Oval Office as soon as the riot became clear, and Graham reached her on her cellphone and implored her for help. “They were all trying to get him to speak out, to tell everyone to leave,” said Graham, referring to the small group of aides with Trump on Wednesday afternoon.

Several Republican members of Congress also called White House aides, begging them to get Trump’s attention and have him call for the violence to end. The lawmakers reiterated that they had been loyal Trump supporters and were even willing to vote against the electoral college results — but were now scared for their lives, officials said.

When the mob first breached the Capitol, coming within mere seconds of entering the Senate chamber, Pence — who was overseeing the electoral certification — was hustled away to a secure location, where he remained for the duration of the siege, despite multiple suggestions from his Secret Service detail that he leave the Capitol, said an official familiar with Pence’s actions that day.
Instead, the vice president fielded calls from congressional leaders furious that the National Guard had not yet been deployed, this official said. Pence, from his secret location in the Capitol, spoke with legislative and military leaders, working to mobilize the soldiers and offering reassurance.

Even as his supporters at the Capitol chanted for Pence to be hanged, Trump never called the vice president to check on him or his family. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, eventually called the White House to let them know that Pence and his team were okay, after receiving no outreach from the president or anyone else in the White House.
Meanwhile, in the West Wing, a small group of aides — including Ivanka Trump, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Meadows — was imploring Trump to speak out against the violence. Meadows’s staff had prompted him to go see the president, with one aide telling the chief of staff before he entered the Oval Office, “They are going to kill people.”

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., the group finally persuaded Trump to send a tweet: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

But the Twitter missive was insufficient, and the president had not wanted to include the final instruction to “stay peaceful,” according to one person familiar with the discussions.

Less than an hour later, aides persuaded Trump to send a second, slightly more forceful tweet: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful,” he wrote. “No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

’You’re very special’

McCarthy did eventually reach Trump, but later told allies that he found the president distracted. So McCarthy repeatedly appeared on television to describe the mayhem, an adviser said, in an effort to explain just how dire the situation was.

McCarthy also called Kushner, who that afternoon was arriving back from a trip to the Middle East. The Secret Service originally warned Kushner that it was unsafe to venture downtown to the White House. McCarthy pleaded with him to persuade Trump to issue a statement for his supporters to leave the Capitol, saying he’d had no luck during his own conversation with Trump, the adviser said. So Kushner headed to the White House.

At one point, Trump worried that the unruly group was frightening GOP lawmakers from doing his bidding and objecting to the election results, an official said.

National security adviser Robert C. O’Brien also began calling members of Congress to ask how he could help. He called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) around 4 p.m., a Lee spokesman said. In an unlikely twist, Lee had heard from the president earlier — when he accidentally dialed the senator in a bid to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) to discuss overturning the election.

Others were still having trouble getting through to the White House. Speaking on ABC News shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday, Chris Christie, a GOP former governor of New Jersey, said he’d spent the last 25 minutes trying to reach Trump directly to convey a simple, if urgent, message.

“The president caused this protest to occur; he’s the only one who can make it stop,” Christie said. “The president has to come out and tell his supporters to leave the Capitol grounds and to allow the Congress to do their business peacefully. And anything short of that is an abdication of his responsibility.”
Around this time, the White House was preparing to put out a video address on behalf of the president. They had begun discussing this option earlier but struggled to organize their effort. Biden, meanwhile, stepped forward with remarks that seemed to rise to the occasion: “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America, do not represent who we are.”

Trump aides did three takes of the video and chose the most palatable option — despite some West Wing consternation that the president had called the violent protesters “very special.”

“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” Trump said in the video, released shortly after 4 p.m. “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.”

Amid the chaos, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had implemented a 6 p.m. curfew for the city, and as darkness fell, the Secret Service told West Wing staff that, save for an essential few, everyone had to leave the White House and go home.

At 6:01 p.m., Trump blasted out yet another tweet, which Twitter quickly deleted and which many in his orbit were particularly furious about, fearing he was further inflaming the still-tense situation.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so ­unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Thirteen minutes later, at 6:14 p.m., a perimeter was finally established around the Capitol. About 8 p.m., more than six hours after the initial breach, the Capitol was declared secure.

The following evening, on Thursday, Trump released another video, the closest advisers say he is likely to come to a concession speech.
“Congress has certified the results: A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th,” Trump said in the video. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

His calls for healing and reconciliation were more than a day too late, many aides said. Yet as Trump watched the media coverage of his video, he grew angry.
The president said he wished he hadn’t done it, a senior White House official said, because he feared that the calming words made him look weak.

Dana Milbank writes that the Republican Party deserves to die because so many of its members chose fealty to Trump over loyalty to the country. Even after the failed coup attempt, when their own lives were in danger, they still fought to overturn the legitimate election of Joe Biden and to install Trump for a second term, without having won the election. Trump instigated the coup attempt. Evidence is slowly accumulating that the storming of the Capitol was premeditated and coordinated. Fortunately it failed. But make no mistake: Those who continue to support Trump after his incitement of a riot against Congress are traitors, like him.

If any good could possibly come of the Trump-incited mob’s murderous attack on the United States Capitol, and the people’s representatives therein, it would be the demise of this Republican Party.

Even as Trump-inspired barbarians overran Capitol Police Wednesday, fatally injuring one, to defile and plunder the Capitol, official word came that Democrats had won the second Georgia Senate seat, exiling Republicans to the political wilderness for the first time in a decade, without control of the White House, House or Senate.

And, at the same time, the whole world saw the defeated leader of this Republican Party use the awesome powers of the presidency to instigate an insurrection against the legislature — a coup attempt, plain and simple. After the last time Republicans lost the presidency, in 2012, they famously held an “autopsy” to see what had gone wrong. This time, President Trump went straight to the cremation, throwing the Capitol, with Vice President Pence in it, onto the funeral pyre.

So many sounded the alarm for so long about Trump’s authoritarian instincts and violent rhetoric. For years, he instigated threats and violence against journalists (“enemy of the people”), racial and religious minorities, immigrants and Democrats. Yet Republicans excused him, defended him, enabled him. Now, in defeat, the autocrat showed the world his true colors and mobilized violence against Congress, Republicans included, and his own vice president.

What Trump’s mob did to the Capitol — the first time the seat of American government had been sacked since the War of 1812 — was evil. It was murder. It was domestic terrorism. It was sedition. And, yes, it was treason.

Yet what Trump’s Republican allies were doing inside the chambers of Congress at the time of the attack — Trump’s justification for inciting the riot — was just as seditious: They were attempting to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president, overrule the voters and install Trump, by fiat, for another term.

The GOP was born, from the ashes of the Whigs, under similar circumstances. The Whigs in 1848 jettisoned their core principle — limited presidential power — in favor of political expediency. Instead of nominating one of their legendary statesmen — Daniel Webster or Henry Clay — the Whigs went with celebrity war-hero Zachary Taylor, an enslaver who was popular with Southerners but had no governing experience and no fealty to Whig principles. Taylor won, but he savaged Whig leaders and Whig doctrine. The party, split over slavery, dissolved.

In 2016, McGill University historian Gil Troy, presciently noting the parallel deal with the devil Republicans made with Trump, wrote in Politico: “Many Republicans might want to consider what is worse: the institutional problems mass defections by ‘Conscience Republicans’ could bring about — or the moral ruin that could come from the ones who stay behind, choosing to pursue party power over principles.”

Today’s morally ruined Republican Party knows the answer. “The ultimate challenge to the Republican Party is: Do they want to find their soul again? Do they want to be patriots again?” Troy told me this week. It comes down to whether “there are enough people in the party to say, ‘We’ve gone to the brink. How do we pull back?’”

Trump administration officials now announcing last-minute resignations, after excusing similar abuses for years, are hardly profiles in courage. Eleventh-hour epiphanies from the likes of chief Trump enablers Pence, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), though welcome, are unpersuasive. They have the ability to remove Trump from power immediately; any further damage he does is on them.

But the seditious actions this week in Congress to overturn the election and overthrow the incoming Biden presidency provide a useful delineation: which Republicans have followed Trump off the cliff of authoritarianism and which still have some respect for democratic principles.

In the Senate, there are signs of hope. After the insurrection in the Capitol, several senators proposing to overturn the election results reconsidered, leaving only eight Republican senators beyond all salvation: ringleaders Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Josh Hawley (Mo.), with blood on their hands; and Rick Scott (Fla.), John Neely Kennedy (La.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) and Roger Marshall (Kan.).

In the House, prospects for Republican redemption are dimmer. Even after Trump’s mob brought siege and death to the Capitol, two-thirds of Republicans voted to overturn the election. They weren’t just the usual nutters — Jim Jordan (Ohio), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) — but also House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Steve Scalise (La.).

As long as such people remain in positions of honor, trust or profit under the United States, the Republican Party will not be a participant in constitutional democracy, but rather an entity dedicated to its destruction.

The Washington Post reported that a leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement collaborated with three members of the Congress.

Weeks before a mob of President Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, right-wing activist Ali Alexander told his followers he was planning something big for Jan. 6.
Alexander, who organized the “Stop the Steal” movement, said he hatched the plan — coinciding with Congress’s vote to certify the electoral college votes — alongside three GOP lawmakers: Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Mo Brooks (Ala.) and Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), all hard-line Trump supporters.

“We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a since-deleted video on Periscope highlighted by the Project on Government Oversight, an investigative nonprofit. The plan, he said, was to “change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”

After riots inside the Capitol left five people dead — and Alexander and his group were banned from Twitter this week — those three GOP lawmakers are now under increasing scrutiny over their role in aiding the right-wing activist.
In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesman for Biggs said the congressman had never been in contact with Alexander or other protesters and denied he had helped organize a rally on Jan. 6.
“Congressman Biggs is not aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point — let alone working with him to organize some part of a planned protest,” the statement said.

Neither Brooks nor Gosar responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post. But in a lengthy, defiant statement on Wednesday, the Alabama lawmaker insisted he also bore no responsibility for the riot. Brooks added he would not have promoted any action that could undermine GOP efforts to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.

“I take great offense at anyone who suggests I am so politically inexperienced as to want to torpedo my honest and accurate election system effort I spent months fighting on,” Brooks wrote.

Videos and posts on social media suggest links between all three Republicans and the right-wing activist.
Alexander, a felon who has also been identified in media reports as Ali Akbar, gained a large following by live-streaming monologues in which he professed his conservative views and support for Trump. Speaking to Politico Magazine in 2018, he called himself an “interpreter of energy for this period.”

In June 2019, Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Alexander’s false claim that Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris is not an “American Black.” The following month, Alexander attended a “social media summit” at the White House, alongside a number of far-right figures who had accused companies of anti-conservative bias.
After Trump lost in November, the Daily Beast noted, Alexander positioned himself as a leading voice behind the movement to support the president’s challenge to the election results. He was labeled “a true patriot” by Gosar on Twitter, and on Dec. 19, the two both spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Phoenix.

“We will not go quietly. We’ll shut down this country if we have to,” Alexander told the crowd, later leading them in a chant of “1776.”

Later on at the event, Alexander played a video message from Biggs, calling him a “friend” and “hero.” In the recording, Biggs said he wished he could have attended the event and vowed to challenge the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

“When it comes to January 6, I will be right down there in the well of the House with my friend from Alabama representative Mo Brooks,” Biggs said in the recording. A tweet from Alexander, including the message from Biggs, was retweeted by Trump on Dec. 26.
A Biggs spokesperson told CNN that the congressman recorded the video following a request from Gosar’s staff.

By late December, Alexander said he was planning a protest outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. His event appears to be one of at least four competing rallies that had sought permits for that date. But far-right online forums indicated Trump supporters were preparing for more than just a rally — and Alexander, too, appeared to suggest protesters might do more than just wave signs.

If Democrats got in the way of an objection from congressional Republicans, “everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” he wrote on Twitter in December, according to the Daily Beast. “1776 is always an option.”
At a rally the night before the vote, Alexander led the crowd in chanting, “Victory or death!” The following morning, Gosar tagged the activist in several tweets.

Rep. Gosar tweeted on January 6 at 12:51 pm:


Biden should concede. I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021@ali

Rep. Gosar’s siblings have called for his expulsion from Congress.

Consider what might have happened on January 6, 2021, if the members of the House and Senate had not been evacuated in time.

A CNN documentary on Sunday night (“The Trump Insurrection”) showed how close their escape was, as does this timeline in the New York Times. The Senate and House were both in session as the mob was battling the police inside the building. The Senate seems to have been moved first. The mob was trying to break through the doors of the House of Representatives while members were still on the second floor gallery. They were sheltering under their desks, lying on the floor, wearing gas masks, aware that the terrorists were trying to smash through the doors. The members seem to have gotten out only seconds or minutes before the terrorists broke in.

What if the terrorists had broken into the chambers while the members were still huddled on the floor? How many would have been taken hostage? How many would have been killed by the mob? Would Nancy Pelosi have been beheaded on national television? When you see the intensity of the mob, none of this seems unlikely. They were raging for blood. They chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” They wanted Pelosi. They wanted the House leaders. They wanted to capture and eliminate the leadership of the Congress.

White House aides said that Trump watched the spectacle with “enthusiasm.” He loves chaos and he got what he wanted. When he spoke of “American Carnage” in his inaugural address in 2017, we did not know it was a prediction of what he would create. When Trump was finally persuaded by his aides to tell his mob to go home, he added, “I love you. You are very special.” Not exactly discouraging words to a bloodthirsty mob.

Dozens of Capitol Police officers were injured. Two died, one when he was hit over the head with a fire extinguisher, the other by suicide. So far, the death toll is six. Will anyone be held accountable for this failed coup?

One Capitol Police officer, Eugene Goodman, has been hailed as a hero. He single-handly misdirected an angry mob away from the entrance to the Senate Chamber and led them up the stairs where reinforcements were waiting. His timely action may have saved the lives of the Senators.

Despite the mob violence, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Josh Hawley emerged from their hiding places, along with several Senate colleagues, to vote against certifying the Electoral College count for Biden. They continued to peddle Trump’s Big Lie about voter fraud, knowing full well that it was a lie. Surely they did not believe that hard-right Republican governors like Doug Ducey of Arizona and Brian Kemp of Georgia “rigged” the vote for Biden. If Democrats were so successful at “rigging” the vote for president, why were they unsuccessful at doing the same for Senate seats? It defies the imagination. Cruz and Hawley are trying to draw support from the Trump world of the deluded and the gullible. Trump’s bottom line has been consistent since he starting running for president: If he lost the election, it was “rigged.” If he won, it was not “rigged.”

Was there a larger plot? Were members of the Trump administration or others complicit? We must wait for a thorough investigation before we can know the answers to those questions.

Former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farrah resigned on December 1. She says that Trump knew full well that he lost the election. He tried to bully state officials into reversing the outcome. He lied to the public and to his followers. The big lie was a hoax. She said Trump should resign.

He fooled Ted Cruz. He fooled Josh Hawley. He fooled the majority of House Republicans. He put their lives at risk in service to his lie. They believed him and joined his effort to overturn the election even after it was validated by the Electoral College.

Of course, he won’t. He will continue the Big Lie and continue to raise millions from his followers and to incite violence as long as he is not in prison for his multitude of crimes.

We know a lot of very disturbing facts about what happened on January 6 when a mob of thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building and held it for two hours.

We know the mob was incited by Trump, Guiliani, and others at the Trump rally that morning. Trump said repeatedly that Congress was meeting to certify the election of Joe Biden, that the election was stolen, that his followers must “stop the steal.” He urged the mob to march to the Capitol and falsely claimed that he would march with them. Of course, he didn’t, but they did.

When they entered the Capitol grounds, the Capitol Police were quickly overwhelmed. For some reason, though they knew about the Trump rally, they were not prepared for a mob. The barriers were knocked over, the domestic terrorists entered the hallowed halls of the Capitol, where they vandalized the building, went searching for Congressional leaders who had “betrayed” Trump, broke windows, smashed doors, smeared feces on the floor, and entered Congressional offices in search of Trump’s enemies.

Somehow they knew where House Minority Whip James Clyburn’s secret office was, although it was behind a marked door. They broke into Speaker Pelosi’s office and stole her laptop.

Some of the terrorists had a plan. Not only did they know the layout of the building and where to locate the key members of Congress, but they had flex cuffs, preparing to take hostages. Fortunately, the members of Congress were in a secure, undisclosed location.

The Pentagon and D.C. officials traded accusations, but there is little doubt that the Pentagon was very slow to provide aid and blocked state officials in Maryland and Virginia from sending in their National Guard.

A timeline released by the Pentagon late Friday says Capitol Police twice declined help from the Defense Department in the days prior to Jan. 6. But it also shows that when the city officials and the Capitol Police requested additional National Guard troops after rioters breached the Capitol, it took four hours for those troops to arrive...The Army secretary, not the city, set the number of National Guard troops at about 300, decided not to use armored vehicles and “established that the guard members were not to move East of 9th Street NW,” roughly nine blocks away from the foot of the Capitol, said mayoral spokeswoman LaToya Foster.

According to the Pentagon’s timeline, officials became aware of demonstrators moving to the Capitol just after 1 p.m. The timeline says that the Capitol Police ordered the building evacuated at 1:26, and that Mayor Bowser and Capitol Police Chief Sund requested help from the DoD by phone at 1:34 and 1:49 respectively.

The acting secretary of defense verbally authorized deployment of additional National Guard troops 75 minutes later, at 3:04 p.m., according to the timeline. The timeline describes an additional conversation with Bowser and a separate discussion of the Sund and Bowser requests by top Defense officials in the interim, but there also intervals of 33 and 30 minutes with no phone calls or meetings listed.

The timeline also lists a call between Bowser, the D.C. police chief and the Army secretary at 3:26, in which the defense official tells the local officials their request for troops was not rejected, and that the deployment has been authorized.

According to the timeline, the D.C. National Guard troops did not leave the D.C. armory until 5:04 p.m, and arrived at the Capitol at 5:40, four hours after they were first requested by the mayor.

At 5:45, the acting secretary of defense formally authorized Virginia and Maryland National Guard troops to support the Capitol Police. The governors of both states had offered their assistance hours earlier. Virginia’s Ralph Northam had tweeted the offer at 3:29 p.m.

You may recall that Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper after the election and replaced him and the top echelon of leaders at the Pentagon with Trump loyalists.

Jim Bourg of Reuters said he heard some of the rioters say they were looking for VP Pence so they could hang him.

Reuters photographer Jim Bourg, who was photographing protesters trying to break down doors to the Capitol building, said he heard three older white men in red “Make America Great Again” caps talking about finding Vice President Mike Pence to hang him from a tree as a “traitor.”

Bourg said shouts of “traitor” were common among other demonstrators as well. Pence was presiding over the electoral vote count, a largely ceremonial duty to confirm Biden’s victory. Trump had falsely suggested to his followers that Pence could ignore the official count and hand Trump a second term. Security agents rushed Pence from the Senate chamber after protesters breached the Capitol building.

There is a video on Twitter of the mob inside the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” posted by @59Dallas.

Snopes confirmed that there was a noose erected outside the Capitol building

All of those who participated in this seditious action should be arrested and charged with sedition, not just trespassing. They were trying to stop the democratic process ordained in the Constitution, so they could install Trump for a second term, despite the fact that he lost the election. They are traitors, as is Trump. He was the instigator of the Insurrection and he should be held accountable. His enablers in Congress should also be held accountable.