Archives for category: Elections

Avi Wolfman-Arent writes at the Philadelphia PBS website WHYY about the uncomfortable dilemma of the “school choice movement.” At least some of the choice champions had not come to grips with the fact that their movement was funded by Trump supporters. Perhaps the reckoning might have caused them to wonder if they were being used. It’s easy to forget–or perhaps never realize–that the school choice movement was created by Southern segregationists, borrowing the rhetoric of libertarian economist Milton Friedman. It i worth pondering why and how the Democratic Party abandoned its longstanding belief in equitable, well-resourced public schools as a common good.

He begins:

When Philadelphia-area mega-donors Jeff and Janine Yass made headlines recently for their contributions to Republican politicians — some of whom tried to overturn the presidential election — it stirred up a familiar debate in local education circles.

The Yass family has a long history of donating to Republican politicians and conservative causes. They also are among the largest donors to Pennsylvania’s school choice movement.

Therein lies a dilemma that, for some Democrats who support school choice, has caused increasing bouts of self-reflection.

On the ground, many charter school employees and school choice advocates are left-of-center, motivated by a desire to shake up an educational system that they see as not acting urgently enough to help low-income students of color.

But the movement’s growth — and success — has long relied on the political and financial capital of conservatives, who see school choice as a way to inject free-market thinking into the educational bureaucracy.

None of this is new.

What’s new is the reckoning forced by the Trump era, culminating in a violent insurrection that was fomented by Republican lawmakers — carried out with symbols of the Confederacy — who, on other days, could be a charter advocate’s best ally.

“For a period of time, this coalition was able to exist without some of the tensions we’re talking about threatening to rip it apart,” said Mike Wang, a veteran of the Philadelphia education scene who once headed a leading school choice advocacy group that lobbied in Harrisburg.

Will this unusual alliance survive? Can it find new political strength under an administration promising reconciliation and unity? Or will it disintegrate in an era of increasing political polarity?

At what point do well-meaning liberals understand that there is a fundamental contradiction between the free market and equity. The free market produces winners and losers, not equity.

We start the day today with reports from Mercedes Schneider and from me on the new members of the House Education and Labor Committee. We both spent several hours on Sunday putting together posts, not aware that the other was doing the same thing. Mercedes reviewed the backgrounds of the Republicans just added to the committee, and she picked up some very interesting information that I missed. I recommend that you read her post.

This is my review of both parties’ new additions to the committee, which should be read in conjunction with Mercedes’.

Fifteen new members were added to the House Education and Labor Committee: 11 Republicans and four Democrats. The information I provided below was gathered mostly from Wikipedia (in italics) and the candidates’ campaign website.

By now, you have no doubt heard that rightwing extremist and Qanon nutcase Marjory Taylor Greene was added to the House Education and Labor Committee by the Republican leadership.

But she is not the only new Republican member appointed to the committee who is hostile to public schools.

Here is the complete list of new Republican members added to the committee.

New Republican members
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA)

Miller-Meeks is a physician and an opthamologist in Iowa. According to Wikipedia: Miller-Meeks opposes the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[1] She opposes abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or harm to the mother.[1] Of same-sex marriage, she said in 2014 that she favors “traditional marriage.”[1] She has criticized EPA regulation of waterways and coal plants, saying it creates “uncertainty.”[1] During the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she opposed the implementation of face mask mandates to halt the virus’s spread.[13]

Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT)

Burgess Owens was elected from Utah. He was a professional athlete. He is African American. He is a very conservative Republican who appears frequently on FOX News.

When asked if he planned to be involved with the Congressional Black Caucus, a group made up of African American lawmakers that is currently made up entirely of Democrats. “I will have nothing to do with the Black Caucus,” Owens responded. “It has nothing to do with color; it has to do with our values. I see an organization that’s been pro-abortion, anti-choice for school, not doing anything to make sure our kids get educated or get job opportunities. They have been our biggest problem.”

Owens says he left the NFL “a cocky liberal” but went on to become “a very humbled and appreciative conservative”.[2] He has also described his current views as “very conservative”.[22] In June 2019, Owens, who is black, provided testimony to a United States House Committee on the Judiciary subcommittee opposing a bill that advocated reparations for slavery.[23] Owens has also criticized U.S. national anthem protests and Colin Kaepernick.[24] In November 2019, Owens called Donald Trump “an advocate for black Americans”.[25] On January 6, 2021, Owens joined fellow Utah Congressman Chris Stewart and voted to reject Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for President-elect Biden.[26]

At a June 1, 2020, Republican primary debate, Owens said Democrats in Washington are held in thrall by Marxists and socialists. Owens stated: “The days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill are over. We’re dealing with people who hate our country”. He also said the Affordable Care Act should be repealed and that he supported President Donald Trump.[27] Later on in the campaign, Owens changed his stance, stating that coverage for pre-existing conditions should be protected, and that he did not support the repeal of Obamacare.[28][29][30]

In a candidate forum in October 2020, Owens stated that the country’s top economic need is to reduce business regulations and make tax cuts. He also stated his opposition to a minimum wage increase.[31] When asked about the need for bipartisanship, he responded, “The first thing we have to do is make sure that the Republican Party gets control again… We’re at a point now we just cannot afford to go off the cliff and allow a socialist to actually take the lead now… We have to be honest about this. There are truly people who don’t love our culture and do anything to destroy it and transform us into something else.”

In January 2021, speaking before a group of Democrats in the Utah Legislature, Owens stated he now realizes the difference between liberals, Marxists and socialists, and apologized to liberals for past remarks. Owens stated at the time: “What I didn’t realize and now I am realizing is that the ideology that we’re all fighting against is something we all need to know is out there. There are literally people who do not love our country the way we do. And when I say that, my apologies go to liberals, because I didn’t quite see the difference in liberalism and Marxism and socialism. There’s a difference. … We believe in God. We believe in capitalism. We believe in the family unit. Conservatives and liberals believe that. … There’s an ideology, if we don’t recognize it, if we say it doesn’t exist, it’s to our detriment.”[32]

Rep. Bob Good (R-VA)

Rep. Bob Good of Virginia attended Liberty Christian Academy and received his B.S. and M.B.A. at Liberty University, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Good campaigned in 2020 on a far-right platform, espousing hard-line views on immigration policy and opposition to same-sex marriage[13] and aligning himself with President Donald Trump.[6] Good called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act[6]and rejected public-health measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic in the United States.[13] He did not wear a face covering or encourage the wearing of face coverings at campaign events, and opposed restrictions on businesses to slow the spread of the virus.[13] Good suggested, without evidence, that the wearing of face coverings might be harmful.[13] In the November 3, 2020 election, Good defeated Democratic nominee Cameron Webb, a physician.[6]

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI)

Rep. McClain was endorsed by Donald Trump.

McClain has raised over $1 million for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.[10] She is a devout Roman Catholic.[11]

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)

Greene was one of the 139 representatives who challenged the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Congress on January 7, 2021, the day after the storming of the U.S. Capitol.[3] She has voiced support for disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theories including Pizzagate,[4]QAnon,[5]false flag shootings as a means for Congress to legislate for gun control,[6][7]9/11 conspiracy theories,[8] and the “Clinton Kill List“.[6] Her Facebook account has expressed support for executing prominent Democratic politicians.[9] After falsely asserting Donald Trump was elected in a landslide but the election had been stolen from him, in January 2021 Greene filed articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden the day after his inauguration, alleging abuse of power.[10][11]


Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN)

Rep. Harshbarger is a pharmacist from Tennessee. She ran for a safe Republican seat.

Harshbarger focused her campaign on fixing the opioid crisis, advocating anti-abortion legislation, and protecting religious freedom. She failed to debate any competitors throughout her primary or general race. [11]

On the afternoon of January 6, supporters of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, incited by the president himself, broke into the U.S. Capitol during debate, vandalized the building, and threatened lawmakers. Lawmakers fled to an undisclosed location for safety. Later that evening, Representative Harshberger joined 139 other Republican House members in voting to sustain objections to the certification of the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, based on claims of vote fraud that were supported by no evidence.[12]


Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL)

Rep. Miller graduated from Naperville Central High School and has a B.A. in elementary education and a B.S. in business management. She is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus.

On January 5, 2021, two days into her House term, Miller issued a prepared speech to the conservative group Moms for America.[11][12] She quoted Adolf Hitler, saying: “Each generation has the responsibility to teach and train the next generation. You know, if we win a few elections, we’re still going to be losing unless we win the hearts and minds of our children. This is the battle. Hitler was right on one thing. He said, whoever has the youth has the future.”[13][14]

A number of groups and politicians strongly condemned the comment, harshly criticized Miller, and exhorted the Republican party to do likewise. Public statements were issued by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial MuseumAnti-Defamation LeagueWorld Jewish Congress, and multiple lawmakers including Adam Kinzinger and Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker.[15][16][17][18][19][20] Representative Jan Schakowsky, Senator Tammy Duckworth, and the Illinois Legislative Jewish Caucus called for Miller’s resignation.[21][19][16]

On January 7, Miller’s office tweeted that her remarks had been intended to compare alleged youth indoctrination efforts by unnamed “left-wing radicals” to those of Hitler, while nonetheless encouraging Republicans to even more aggressively appeal to the youth as a means to collective power.[12] On January 8, she apologized for having quoted Hitler in the message, but accused her critics of twisting her words.[11][22]

On January 14, Schakowsky said that she would introduce a measure to censure Miller.[23]


Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN)

Rep. Spartz is a CPA.

Victoria Kulgeyko was born in Nosivka,[4] Chernihiv OblastUkrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, today Ukraine.[6] Before moving to the United States, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Kyiv National Economic University. She also earned a Master of Accountancy from the Kelley School of Business of Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis.[8]

While Kulgeyko was in college, she met her future husband, Jason Spartz, on a train in Europe and began dating him.[9] They married in 2000.[10] Victoria Spartz immigrated to the United States in 2000 at the age of 21 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006.[11][12][13]

In late 2020, Spartz was identified as a participant in the Freedom Force, a group of incoming Republican members of the House of Representatives who “say they’re fighting against socialism in America”.[23][24][25][26


Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI)

Rep. Scott Fitzgerald was leader of the State Senate in Wisconsin, where he was a close ally of Governor Scott Walker and helped to pass laws that limited collective bargaining and that gerrymandered state legislative districts. He opposed certification of Biden’s election on January 6.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC)

Rep. Cawthorn was homeschooled and dropped out of Patrick Henry College after one semester. He spoke at Trump’s rally on January 6, rallying a violent mob to invade the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA)

Rep. Steel is one of the few Korean-Americans to serve in Congress. She represents the conservative Orange County district in California. She has been active in Republican Party politics. She wants to lower taxes and supports school choice.

During her campaign, Steel spoke out against COVID-19 mask mandates.[13] Her platform included opposition to abortionsame sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and the creation of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.[13][23] A conservative, she aligned herself with President Donald Trump.[24]

Democrats appointed four new members to the House Education and Labor Committee:

  • Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York

Rep. Jamaal Bowman is a career educator who founded the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, a middle school in The Bronx, New York City. He has a Bachelor’s degree in sports management, a masters’ degree in counseling, and a doctorate in educational leadership.

Bowman became a leading advocate against standardized testing.[8][9] His blog on the role of standardized testing has received national attention.[8] He has written about high-stakes testing’s role in perpetuating inequalities,[10] including the turnover, tumult, and vicious cycle it creates in the lives of students and educators, as assessment performance damages a school’s ability to teach and, subsequently, the quality of the education upon which the student is assessed. By the mid-2010s, a quarter of Bowman’s students had opted out of standardized testing. He also advocated for children to receive arts, history, and science education in addition to the basics of literacy and numeracy.[8] Bowman’s school policy used a restorative justice model to address the school-to-prison pipeline.[citation needed] After ten years as principal, he left the job to focus on his congressional campaign.

  • Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico

Rep. Leger Fernandez received her BA from Yale and her law degree from Stanford Law School. She practiced law in New Mexico before running for Congress. Leger Fernandez has advocated for a “New Mexico Green New Deal,” Medicare For All, a transition away from fracking to green energy, and a ban on the sale of military style semi-automatic rifles.[26] She has also supported comprehensive immigration reform and the passing of the DREAM Act.[27]

  • Congresswoman Kathy Manning of North Carolina

Rep. Manning earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and her law degree from the University of Michigan. Her father worked for Ford Motor Co. and her mother taught public school. Manning was director of the charitable Jewish Federations of America. She supports an increase in the minimum wage, affordable healthcare, improving education, and access to arts in the community.

  • Congressman-elect Frank Mrvan of Indiana

Rep. Mrvan was born in Indiana, where he attended public school and graduated from Ball State University. He was a mortgage broker, then a township trustee. He campaigned on a platform of improving healthcare, increasing jobs and opportunity, and was endorsed by the AFT and United Steelworkers.


 

Jake Jacobs, an art teacher in New York City, a leader of New York BadAss Teachers, and a writer for The Progressive, read and reviewed Hillary Clinton’s policy briefing book in 2017 and reviewed the education section for Alternet. I missed his article, but it’s worth reading now to understand how advocates of privatization have inserted themselves into both political parties and use their vast wealth to control public policy and undermine public schools.

Jacobs points out that Laurene Powell Jobs “has been close with the Clintons since the late ’90s, also sat with Betsy DeVos on the board of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. She set up billionaire “roundtables” with Clinton’s campaign advisors through 2015 while donating millions to Priorities USA, Clinton’s main PAC.”

Jacobs notes:

Notes taken by Clinton aide Ann O’Leary were made in interviews with Powell Jobs and Bruce Reed, President of The Broad Foundation (and former chief of staff to Joe Biden). According to the notes, the “experts” were calling for new federal controls, more for-profit companies and more technology in public schools — but first on the menu was a bold remake of the teaching “profession…”

Powell Jobs suggests letting principals “pick their teams,” making teachers individually negotiate salary (every teacher—really?), expanding online education offerings like Khan Academy and making teaching universities “truly selective like TFA and Finland.” This comment is perplexing because while Finland has demanding teacher vetting and training, Teach for America places inexperienced teachers in classrooms after a seven-week summer crash course...

Tying campaign donations to a singular issue like expanding charter schools might in days past been seen as a prohibited quid-pro-quo. But in this cycle, Podesta, O’Leary and [Neera] Tanden [director of the Center for American Progress and President Biden’s nominee to lead the crucial Office of Management and Budget, which sets priorities for federal funding] all busily raised campaign money from the same billionaire education reformers with whom they were also talking policy specifics.

But they did more than talk. On June 20, 2015, O’Leary sent Podesta an email revealing the campaign adopted two of Powell Jobs’ suggestions, including “infusing best ideas from charter schools into our traditional public schools.” When Clinton announced this policy in a speech to teachers, however, it was the one line that drew boos.

“Donors want to hear where she stands” John Petry, a founder of both Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Success Academy, New York’s largest network of charter schools, told the New York Times.  Petry was explicit, declaring that he and his billionaire associates would instead put money into congressional, state and local races, behind candidates who favored a “more businesslike approach” to education, and tying teacher tenure to standardized test scores.
..

Not mentioning education would become important in the general election. This policy book shows a snapshot in time when wealthy donors were pushing Clinton’s and Jeb’s positions together, seeking more of the federal privatization begun under George W. Bush and continued by Obama...

This was predicted by John Podesta, who bragged just after the 2012 election about nullifying education policy differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Sitting next to Jeb Bush, Podesta proclaimed “ed reform” a bipartisan affair, telling donors “the Obama administration has made its key priorities clear. The Republicans are pretty much in the same place…this area is ripe for cooperation between the center-right and center-left”...

The 2014 policy book reveals some essential lessons about how education policy is crafted: in secret, with the input and influence of billionaire donors seeking more school privatization and testing—regardless of what party is in power. Even as the backlash against testing and the Common Core grew, Clinton’s advisors pushed her to embrace them. Clinton vacillated, then fell silent on K-12 policy, and as a result, education issues were largely left out of the election debate. Today, under Trump, privatization marches on worse than ever.


The Wall Street Journal has the details on the money behind Trump’s incendiary “Stop the Steal—Save America” rally of January 6, which preceded a violent attack on the nation’s Capitol:

The rally in Washington’s Ellipse that preceded the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was arranged and funded by a small group including a top Trump campaign fundraiser and donor facilitated by far-right show host Alex Jones.

Mr. Jones personally pledged more than $50,000 in seed money for a planned Jan. 6 event in exchange for a guaranteed “top speaking slot of his choice,” according to a funding document outlining a deal between his company and an early organizer for the event. 

Mr. Jones also helped arrange for Julie Jenkins Fancelli, a prominent donor to the Trump campaign and heiress to the Publix Super Markets Inc. chain, to commit about $300,000 through a top fundraising official for former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, according to organizers. Her money paid for the lion’s share of the roughly $500,000 rally at the Ellipse where Mr. Trump spoke. 

Another far-right activist and leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement, Ali Alexander, helped coordinate planning with Caroline Wren, a fundraising official who was paid by the Trump campaign for much of 2020 and who was tapped by Ms. Fancelli to organize and fund an event on her behalf, organizers said. On social media, Mr. Alexander had targeted Jan. 6 as a key date for supporters to gather in Washington to contest the 2020-election certification results. The week of the rally, he tweeted a flyer for the event saying: “DC becomes FORT TRUMP starting tomorrow on my orders!”

It is late in the day for former Attorney General Bill Barr to rehabilitate his reputation, but he apparently gave journalist Jonathan Swan an inside view of why he quit in December. He knew that Trump was lying about the election. He tried to convince him that all the claims of election fraud were B.S., but Trump got angry when Barr told him the truth. Of course, when Barr resigned, he wrote an obsequious letter about how great Trump was, which in itself robs him of any glory for repudiating Trump after the failed putsch.

Swan begins:

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president’s theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were “bullshit.”

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and a few other aides in the room were shocked Barr had come out and said it — although they knew it was true. For good measure, the attorney general threw in a warning that the new legal team Trump was betting his future on was “clownish.”

Trump had angrily dragged Barr in to explain himself after seeing a breaking AP story all over Twitter, with the headline: “Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud.” But Barr was not backing down. Three weeks later, he would be gone.

The relationship between the president and his attorney general was arguably the most consequential in Trump’s Cabinet. And in the six months leading up to this meeting, the relationship between the two men had quietly disintegrated. Nobody was more loyal than Bill Barr. But for Trump, it was never enough.

The president had become too manic for even his most loyal allies, listening increasingly to the conspiracy theorists who echoed his own views and offered an illusion, an alternate reality.

What follows is fascinating.

His inner circle knew he was lying. Barr had the audacity to say that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, certainly not enough to change the outcome of the election. But Trump became committed to his Big Lie. The lies about voter fraud were good enough to set off thousands of Trump’s most avid supporters, who gathered on January 6 to set siege to the U.S. Capitol and to threaten the lives of legislators, both Democrats and Republicans. We now know that the nation barely missed witnessing a massacre of our Congress, with a wild and bloodthirsty mob roaming unconstrained through the Capitol for hours. Did Barr know the plan? Is that why he quit?

This is a great post by Mike Klonsky about the ignominious end of the Trump nightmare.

He planned a big military send-off for himself but was afraid no one would show up, so the invitations went out to people like John Bolton and Anthony Scaramucci, who long ago deserted him. Every invitee was asked to bring five friends to bulk up the audience. Someone said on CNN today that she had seen more people in an Apple store than showed up for Trump’s departure.

Not even Mike Pence showed up! Maybe he was annoyed that Trump told his mob to go after Pence when they vandalized the Capitol building, and they set up a scaffold and chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” That’s not the way you reward four years of puppy-dog loyalty!

Mike also laughed, as I did, at the thought that Woody Guthrie’s iconic “This Land Is Your Land” was sung at the Inauguration. If only Woody knew!

Politico reports that Trump officials at the Pentagon refused to share information with the Biden transition team.

Shameful but typical of Trump, who lacks any sense of propriety, decency, duty, or patriotism.

The Pentagon blocked members of President Joe Biden’s incoming administration from gaining access to critical information about current operations, including the troop drawdown in Afghanistan, upcoming special operations missions in Africa and the Covid-19 vaccine distribution program, according to new details provided by transition and defense officials.

The effort to obstruct the Biden team, led by senior White House appointees at the Pentagon, is unprecedented in modern presidential transitions and will hobble the new administration on key national security matters as it takes over positions in the Defense Department on Wednesday, the officials said.

Typical Trump. Mean of spirit. Unconcerned with the well-being of the country. Lie a spoiled child, he screams, “All the toys are mine. If you try to take them away, I’ll break them. Mine, all mine.”

A fitting ending to four years of the worst president in American history.

It felt as though it would never be over. Our long national nightmare has come to an end (to repeat a

But it did! Proving that all bad things must finally come to an end.

Now we await the trials and prosecutions. First, the Senate. Then the trials in New York City and New York State. Maybe one in Atlanta for election tampering.

Justice and accountability must be served.

My hunch: when the insider accounts are published, we will learn that he had no interest in governing or policy. He just liked the trappings of power. He liked winning. He liked being saluted. We will learn why he was obsequious to Putin. His tax returns will become public.


Now go watch the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. They have a big task ahead cleaning up the mess that Trump left behind. Our nation will once again have a chance of living up to its lofty ideals, abandoned for four horrible years.

Congratulations to the new President and Vice-President!

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.