Enemy of the State — What to do about Trump if the legal system fails?

Enemy of the State

What to do about Trump if the legal system fails?

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 23rd, 2022

Ever since the FBI served a subpoena on Trump at his residence at Mar-A-Lago, things have just looked worse and worse for the disgraced former president. The New York Times reported yesterday that the FBI secured more than 300 documents that were classified ‘secret’ or ‘top secret’, totaling some 600 pages. Trump had no business having them in the first place, and it has now come to light, according to the Times, that “the 15 boxes Mr. Trump turned over to the archives in January, nearly a year after he left office, included documents from the C.I.A., the National Security Agency and the F.B.I. spanning a variety of topics of national security interest.” The Times goes on to say that Trump went through the boxes himself in “late 2021” which means he had to know what the contents were. Even if he wasn’t bright enough to understand the nuances of what he was stealing, he could clearly see the security designations on each one.

Trump’s guilt is evident. His latest filing admits he knowingly took the documents. He lied about having the documents. When he finally turned some over in January, he lied again and said he didn’t have any more. He admits that he went through them personally. I can’t help but marvel at the aching silence of Republicans who screamed for years about Sandy Berger, who took secure documents home but with no malign intent and was tried and punished, or Hillary Clinton, who had some emails on an unsecured server. Neither was 1% as serious as what Trump did.

It doesn’t help that Trump is making veiled threats both on his ridiculous Twitter knock-off, and on Faux News. He said, “People are so angry at what is taking place. Whatever we can do to help— because the temperature has to be brought down in the country. If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen.”

Trump’s support is eroding quickly, so it may be an increasingly empty threat. Even the must rabid cult followers have to realize that if Trump is, in fact, a traitor, supporting him could damage reputations. As if being a MAGAt doesn’t.

Nice country youse got here. It would be a shame if SOMETHING should happen to it.

Given Trump’s level of literacy and intellectual laziness, I think we can dismiss the explanation offered by some Trump apologists that he took the documents (illegally) in order to do research for his memoirs. The man would be held back in the third grade, for Pete’s sake! He is no writer; one of his most vocal critics is the fellow who actually wrote “The Art of the Deal.”

Trump loved the trappings of office, and it’s been suggested that he wanted mementos of his time in power. But Trump loves the gaudy, the crass. He wouldn’t steal dry double-spaced documents; he would steal the White House cutlery, White House statuary, pictures of himself with world leaders.

It’s also been suggested that he took the documents in hopes of selling them to foreign powers. Certainly there is a market there; China, possibly, and almost certainly Russia. Trump may well have GIVEN Putin national secrets as a quid pro quo for the Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

But I think Michael Powell, former Trump personal lawyer and torpedo, a man who has spent decades immersed in the absolute depravity, dishonesty and cruelty of Trumpworld, has the right idea. He thinks Trump is planning to extort America. It’s his ‘get out of jail free’ card.

That makes sense. Beyond all the “stolen election” bluster, Trump had to know he lost, and that the Republicans had lost the House, as well. He still had the Senate, but as the January 6th primary drew near, his advisors had to know there was a chance that Democrats might win both special elections in Georgia (which they did) and at that point, he would be open to Congressional investigations. After his failed coup attempt, he probably took some chances, stealing documents that could cripple America.

The FBI taking those boxes hasn’t ended that threat: we don’t know they got everything he stole, or how much he scanned and put in a safe spot on the internet for release In The Event Of.

He suspects (with good cause) that he might be able to threaten the legal system into dropping the matter. Should the voters give Republicans control of the House, any pretense of serving national interest will vanish overnight and the January 6th Committee disbanded and its members, along with the DOJ, at the mercy of some of the scummiest creatures in America in a parade of endless showcase ‘investigation.’ Republican have already openly made that threat.

Capitalism, which Trump epitomizes, and a degraded form of Christianity have corrupted the judicial system just enough that Trump could get convictions overturned there. Do you really think THIS Supreme Court would uphold convictions for Insurrection or even Treason?

The remaining question is how badly Trump has corrupted the intelligence services. We know the Secret Service is corrupt. There is strong evidence that the Homeland Security Inspector-General is corrupt. But is it corrupt enough?

Well, Trump might be betting his life on that. If the CIA is still true to its mission, and believes that Trump is willfully extorting or profiting from national secrets, then they might just respond in the time-honored fashion of spy agencies, and engage in some black ops against Trump. I doubt the Secret Service would want to face that particular threat. And the MAGA crowd, no matter how loyal to Trump, wouldn’t have a chance.

Obviously, the far better recourse is to have Trump stand trial, fair and open and scrupulously honest, and if convicted, go to jail. That beats the hell out of seeing a former President assassinated by the government, which no matter what the circumstances, is a horrible route for America to take. But Trump isn’t in the habit of offering reasonable options, so this has to be on someone’s mind at DHS headquarters.

Hopefully, Trump will consider that—and take his chances with an honest trial without threats against the country.

Will that happen? Well, this IS Trump.

Prepare for the worse.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier…Donald Trump — Disgraced Ex-President facing charges of espionage

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier…Donald Trump

Disgraced President facing charges of espionage

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 12th 2022

www.zeppscommentaries.online

Property to be seized

“All physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793, 2071, or 1519, including the following:
a. Any physical documents with classification markings, along with any containers/boxes (including any other contents) in which such documents are located, as well as any other containers/boxes that are collectively stored or found together with the aforementioned documents and containers/boxes;
b. Information, including communications in any form, regarding the retrieval, storage, or transmission of national defense information or classified material ;
c. Any government and/or Presidential Records created between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021; or
d. Any evidence of the knowing alteration, destruction, or concealment of any government and/or Presidential Records, or of any documents with classification markings.”

The search warrant that was served on Donald Trump includes cites of the United States Code that could result in prison sentences of 3, 10, and 20 years on each count by which Trump ends up convicted. And each seemingly has evidence supporting multiple counts.

First, a quick glance at the codes Trump apparently has violated. I included links to the actual text so people can see for themselves. 793 alone runs several pages. It’s the one Trump needs to worry the most about: it’s not an accusation of actual espionage, but rather a basis for which a criminal charge of espionage might be made. In essence it says, “this is what the guy had, and it’s clear he had no legitimate reason to have it and it could be given or sold to people to use against us.” By itself it’s a grave charge, and if convicted, Trump would be banned from ever holding any office or position of public trust ever again. Assuming, of course, he lived long enough to get out of jail. Maybe he can hope President Boebert will pardon him.

Let’s start with the statutes cited as the basis for the warrant. 18 U.S.C. §§ 793 begins, Whoever, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation…Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Then there’s 18 U.S.C. §§ 2071.

(a) Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

(b) Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. As used in this subsection, the term “office” does not include the office held by any person as a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Finally, there’s 18 U.S.C. §§ 1519

Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

It crossed my mind from time to time starting in mid 2020 when it was becoming clear that Trump wasn’t going to win the election that he might try to grab sensitive secrets through his office and use them to blackmail the United States or simply help his buddy Putin. While I had an accurate view of his viciousness and moral depravity, I once again overestimated his intelligence. He kept this stuff at his Mar-a-Lago compound in a safe that one agent described as “being the type of safe you find in hotel rooms that are pieces of junk good only for preventing the maid from stealing your laptop.” The man is fantastically arrogant and profoundly stupid. I’ve said before that Trump’s incompetence is his best feature, in that it will save us all from Trump, and here we are.

There are reasonably credible reports that at least some of the top secret material he had stashed was nuclear. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for conspiring to give away nuclear secrets. There apparently is other material relating to top secret process procedures the US uses in dealing with adversarial nations.

If this is all true, then Trump will end up on trial for espionage.

And his followers are already up in arms. One bozo tried to attack an FBI office in Cincinnati with a nailgun. The judge who signed the search warrant has been getting death threats and antisemitic smears. Fox News linked him to Jeffrey Epstein, which would have been a legitimate story (if irrelevant) but then, being Fox, fabricated a picture of the Judge hanging out with Epstein. Fox News is utter trash, the lowest form of propaganda. There’s talk amongst the dupes of civil war.

So my suggestion to these people is mellow your shit out and see what happens. Donald fucked around. Now we all get to find out. In the meantime, remember that Donald Trump is a really stupid hill to die on. Don’t do it. Serve your country by exercising a little patience and common sense.

Cassidy Hutchinson — Blowing the fucking doors off the Beast

 

Cassidy Hutchinson

Blowing the fucking doors off the Beast

June 28th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

zeppscommentaries.online

When the announcement came, just 24 hours prior, that the January 6th Select Committee was going to have an unexpected public meeting today, it was safe to assume that they had found something big. While not as legally damning as some of the testimony in prior sessions, it was nonetheless riveting, and while a fair bit of it was he-said she-said and thus of little use at trial, I suspect a great deal of further evidence awaits in the wings.

Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony was pretty amazing. It’s not often a President tries to force the Secret Service to allow heavily armed men into the area where he is giving a speech on the grounds of “They aren’t here to hurt me!”. Never heard of a president trying to grab the steering wheel of the presidential limo to override security mandates, or throwing his lunch against the wall of the White House.

I had always assumed that when Trump returned to the White House rather than leading his coalition of neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and dingbats to conquer Congress, it was just Trump being a coward and leaving others out hanging in the wind while he ran to safety.

It turns out, according to Hutchinson, that this was far from the case. Trump was furious, and having a complete tantrum when the Secret Service refused to allow him to take part in an armed assault on Congress. He screamed, he cursed, he threw his happy meal against the walls of the executive dining room (Hutchinson relates how she helped a hapless valet to clean the ketchup stains from the wall) and he even tried to throttle the Secret Service agent who was driving “the Beast”, i.e., the Presidential limo.

There’s an old Jim Croce song that comes to mind here: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind, you don’t pull the mask of the old Lone Ranger and you don’t [paraphrasing a bit here] fuck with the Secret Service.” The idea of bloated, aged, out-of-shape Donald Trump trying to throttle a guy who could probably hog-tie him in ten seconds flat is both silly and horrifying.

Trump shouted, “I’m the fucking president! Take me up to the Capitol now!” But the driver had his orders. Protect the country, protect the President. It probably never occurred to his bosses that the decision was actually to protect the country from the President.

Trump was probably hoping to envision a triumphant meeting with Pence and the Congress, one similar to the one a triumphant Hitler had with von Hindenberg and the Reichstag in January 1933 where he wrested unearned power from a weakened and demoralized opposition. Or at least, some demented Riefenstahl version of that event that he probably held near and dear.

Gleichschaltung, or Nazification, would be sure to follow. Think I’m kidding? Trump for years kept a copy of Hitler’s “My New Order” in his bedside stand. He was (and probably still is) a great admirer of Hitler, and considered the collection of speeches a primer on how to go about amassing and sustaining power. America may never really know how close to a fall into the horrors of Nazism it came that day.

“Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol,” White House counsel Pat Cippollone had told Hutchinson on the morning of Jan. 6. “‘We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.'” That is why the Secret Service drove a kicking and screaming Trump to the West Wing rather than Congress. Cippollone probably did Trump a big favor. Had Trump waddled onto the House for in a dramatic recreation of Hitler and von Hindenburg, flanked by the Qanon shaman and all the rest of the crazies, he probably would have been hanged or shot by now.

One of the most striking moments came when Hutchinson related how a frantic and desperate Trump tried to get the Secret Service to permit people armed with AR-15s and other weaponry into the area immediately in front of where he gave his January 6th speech. “I don’t fucking care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson. “Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in, take the mags away.”

They weren’t there to hurt Trump. But they were there to hurt someone. If they can prove Trump said that, it might be the single most self-incriminating thing he said that day.

I had been wondering why the Committee suddenly sprung Hutchinson on the public the way they did. Her testimony, lurid as it was, wasn’t anything that couldn’t have waiting until the Committee had its next scheduled session sometime around mid-July. Presented with little corroborating evidence, it wouldn’t rise to the level of admissibility, although I’m sure there is corroborating evidence, and lots of it.

There are seven primaries today, including in Wyoming, where Liz Cheney is widely expected to be primaried. There’s nothing Republicans hate more than politicians who put country ahead of party, so she’s probably toast. Several pundits suggested that the session was timed to influence the primaries, but that’s nonsense. The political fallout from the meetings takes several days to percolate out into broad public consciousness, and it’s unlikely that 10% of those voting today would have known about the events of today’s session when they voted.

I suspect that the real reason for the rush was that hundreds of Trump supporters wanted Hutchinson dead before she could testify. It may have been problematic keeping her alive for three or four weeks as scalded-cat outrage from Trump galvanized the People Who Aren’t Here to Hurt Trump to go out and do plenty of hurt to the target that Trump clearly feared.

Now that she has testified, most of Trump’s more rabid brownshirts might realize that the cost/benefit ratio of shooting this twenty-five year old woman would no longer work in their favor. That, and the public knows who she is now, and they can’t quite risk attacking a figure that public. She should be reasonably safe now. Besides, between gays, teachers, town councils and all the traditional enemies of Nazism, Trump’s brownshirts have many others to threaten and intimidate.

In the meanwhile, thank you, Cassidy Hutchinson. You truly have done your country a service, and hopefully there’s a Presidential Citizens Medal in your future.

Dog Days — Moral dilemmas for Republicans

Dog Days

Moral dilemmas for Republicans

June 22nd 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Summer’s here, and my time to take the dog for his morning walk has shifted to an earlier hour. Temperatures are no longer at or below freezing (yes, that happens here in May) and this being the mountains, by 9:30, even if it’s still only 65 out, the sun is just beating down. So an earlier summer walk time accommodates both his desire not to freeze, and my desire not to bake.

As we were walking up the lane toward the house, I spotted a neighbor loading construction scrap into a trailer. Nice fellow, about my age, clearly intelligent and articulate. Friendly without being nosy, which is a definite plus in a small town. I had noticed that he had a Gadsden flag on his porch, alongside the American flag, which suggested his politics had a rightward, possibly libertarian bent. Not too uncommon in these parts. I figure if he can tolerate my politics (I’m a senior member of a group whose informal motto is “We’ll tread where we please”, and I fly the Flying Spaghetti Monster flag, which I’m sure some people think is Antifa or BLM) then I can tolerate his.

We chatted for a bit, and I glanced at my watch and said, “I’m going to move on. Have some chores, and I don’t want to miss the meeting.”

“What meeting is that?”

“January 6th Committee. Raffensperger is supposed to testify today.”

He actually snorted. “I’m not paying any attention to that farce.”

Well, OK then. I smiled, said, “Some of the testimony is pretty compelling” and let it go at that. I wasn’t looking for a fight. We exchanged pleasantries and I went home to watch the strongest session yet.

I think that decent Republicans have two choices at this point: refuse to pay attention to the Select Committee, or admit that Trump not only acted criminally, but perhaps treasonously. There’s the mad dogs of the sort that threaten poll workers and email death threats to terminally ill relatives of elected officials who refused to do Trump’s bidding (the centerpiece of the testimony in that session) and eventually America is going to have to deal with those after Trump is finished, but I think their numbers are already dwindling. After just the first three sessions, the percentage of voters who believe Trump should face criminal charges for his actions jumped from 52% to 60%, a huge one-week jump in these polarized times.

I suspect my neighbor will only be able to ignore the findings of the committee for so long. It’s one thing to say that “only” twenty or thirty million people are watching the proceedings, but it doesn’t count the streamers, and those who watched the wrap-up coverage on the evening news. A lot of people who pay scant attention to, or deliberately try to ignore “politics” are going to experience exposure to the meetings through a kind of social osmosis.

It doesn’t work to howl that the committee is nearly all Democrats. Originally, the committee was meant to be 8 Democrats and 7 Republicans but McCarthy tried naming such attack dogs as Gym Jordan and Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs to the committee—howling, vicious demagogues who voted to overturn the election on January 6th. In effect, McCarthy was in the position of naming jurors in a bank robbery trial and thought it would be clever to name some people who drove the getaway car. When Pelosi rejected two of the candidates, McCarthy did something very childish and weird: he withdrew all the Republican nominations.

Even Trump admits that was an own-goal, saying, “Well, I think in retrospect, I think it would have been very smart to put [Republicans on the committee] and again, I wasn’t involved in it from a standpoint so I never looked at it too closely. But I think it would have been good if we had representation. …I think in retrospect [McCarthy should’ve put Republicans on] to just have a voice. The Republicans don’t have a voice. They don’t even have anything to say.”

Anyone who watched the Mueller hearings or Benghazi or Emails knows that the Republicans operate by shouting, interrupting, making ridiculous accusations, and engaging in personal smears. It’s soul-sickening to watch. But the committee that evolved, which included Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, had a group of sober, serious, diligent people.

For all the damning testimony, perhaps the most revelatory thing about the Committee is that it shows the American people what it’s like when the grown-ups are in charge. Witnesses aren’t shouted at, called names, interrupted or deliberately misconstrued. It’s a reminder that yes, democratic governance can work. Which undermines the heart of the fascist philosophy that democracy is weak, and only a strongman can save us.

And while the committee is mostly composed of Democrats, nearly all the witnesses called have been Republicans (with the exception of Lady Ruby). Many were even Trump supporters. Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who gave spellbinding testimony revealing the moral courage it took to stand up to Trump, said he not only had voted for Trump, but would again. And yes, I think that undermines the foundation of his moral stance. But it shows clearly that most of these witnesses were Trump people at one time, and he drove them away with his bullying, corruption, and viciousness.

This session was a very bright spot in some dark times. I only wish my neighbor had watched.

Committee’s Latrine — The Trump Dump

Committee’s Latrine

The Trump Dump

June 16th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Hours before today’s utterly damning third January 6th Select Committee hearing, Trump finally had his long-awaited nuclear meltdown. (OK, it was more like a cake collapsing in the oven, but still kind of fun to watch). He got on his ersatz network, Truth Social, to rage, “The Fake News Networks are perpetuating lies, falsehoods, and Russia, Russia, Russia type disinformation (same sick people, here we go again!) by allowing the low rated but nevertheless one sided and slanderous Unselect Committee hearings to go endlessly and aimlessly on (and on and on!). It is a one sided, highly partisan Witch Hunt, the likes of which has never been seen in Congress before. Therefore, I am hereby demanding EQUAL TIME to spell out the massive Voter Fraud & Dem Security Breach! I DEMAND EQUAL TIME!!!

I’m sure several tens of millions of people had the same thought. OK, let’s give him twelve hours in front of the committee, responding to questions under oath. Isaac III wrote, “With 6 hearings, 2 hours each, equal time would come out to 12 hours of that tub of orange lard sitting there, sweating it out and corroding the upholstery. Let him go for the record, 11 hours, set by one Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

“A couple hours of trumpy ranting, with maybe a commentator to prod/goad (Proof. Where’s the proof. Do you know what proof is?) him about election fraud might be must see TV.” – grunt

Both Presidents and former presidents have testified in front of Congressional committees According to the far-right American Liberty blog in an unsigned piece, “Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Gerald Ford all testified before Congress when they were in office. Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford all testified before Congress after they left office – about scandals that happened while they were in office. Taft was called back to testify on 12 separate occasions before eight different congressional committees.” The link leads to some utterly hilarious reading in which the author is urging Lindsey Graham to investigate Russiagate and the attempted theft of the election by … Barack Obama. No, really. The irony is palpable.

So, yes, the committee could ask and even compel Trump to testify. Then put him under oath, and subject to the same rules of conduct the other witnesses all have to follow. He would have counsel of course, although the best he might be able to get might be Rudy and a case of gin. He would of course have the right to plead the Fifth (and Rudy would retort, “I’m not done with it yet!”). Even without Rudy, the Fifth is a popular item among Trumpkins. Don, Junior invoked it over FIVE HUNDRED times in one deposition lately. But even Trump has to know that doing so on live TV in front of tens of millions of people would look bad.

Of course Trump would probably just scream and rant and generally try to make an utter circus out of the proceedings, and that would leave the Committee in a bind. Arrest him for contempt? Gag him? There wouldn’t be any way to maintain decorum that wouldn’t be political poison. OK, save Trump for the actual trials. Judges don’t face the same political constraints. Judge Dredd can put Trump in the cooler for 48 to calm down and get away with it.

Ginni Thomas (another member of the Too Much Gin brigade) also wants to testify. It’s become more and more clear that her part was more than just cheerleading for team Trump, and that she was playing an active role in conspiring to interfere with the slates of electors in Arizona, and promoting Eastman’s paranoid and treasonous legal theories. The committee would not only want to know the extent of her activities (which may have crossed a line from politicking to conspiracy), but her husband’s knowledge of them. With Republicans in the Senate, Slappy Thomas would never be impeached, but the Court itself, already widely seen as a shadow kangaroo court for the religious right and corporations, might compel Thomas to resign just to try to preserve whatever gravitas it has left. So it’s definitely worth the while of the Committee to take Thomas up on her offer.

Finally: it feels very strange to credit Mike Pence with resolve and courage, but it appears that he showed both on January 6th in the face of overwhelming pressure to betray his country. His reasons may have been noble or base, but in the end he did the right thing, even with a mob braying literally to hang him. I’ll never respect the man’s philosophy or methods, but let it be said that when it really mattered, he really mattered.

Revolution — Means “going in circles”

Revolution

Means “going in circles”

June 10th, 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

When it comes to stuff like treason, sedition, resistance, whatever you want to call it, there is an old saying: “It is unwise to shoot at the King—and miss.” The logic is simple enough to follow: if you’re going to overthrow the government, make damned sure you have a solid shot at pulling it off, because kings (and governments in general) tend to take a dim view of insurrectionists. A real dim view. A “hang, draw and quarter” sort of dim view. There have been any number of revolutions in human history, and they rarely end well for the would-be revolutionaries. Even when they WIN it often goes poorly—Mao, Hitler, Lenin and Pol Pot conducted vast, murderous purges of their own in the wake of seizing control of their respective countries. It seems that if you’ve betrayed your country once, you are seen as a bit of a risk of being a repeat offender.

For all the romanticism and (sometimes) idealism, being a revolutionary is a shit way to make a living.

For these and other reasons (including the approbation of neighbors) most revolutionaries are fairly circumspect about being, well, revolutionaries. Not only do they have to deal with an unamused government, but social circumstances that foster rebellion usually foster deep schisms amongst the insurrectionists, with the result that your deadliest and most treacherous enemy might not be the palace guard, but the guy at the next table who is making IEDs for the Cause. There’s also the fact that it’s rare for more than a third of the general population to support revolution, and usually it’s a far lower percentage than that. Most people have jobs, families, some stability, and don’t want to trade it in for party proctors and kangaroo courts that need a steady stream of imagined enemies to paper over the failures of the new regime.

So it’s kind of unusual for the terminally disaffected to run around yelling that they’re out to overthrow the government and they’ve got the flags and bibles and guns to do it with. T’aint healthy to be sayin’ that sort of shit.

Until 21st century America, that is. Between Faux News and Donald Trump, the country got a special kind of revolutionary, a short bus rider with a big mouth and a small brain. These guys tended to run around saying stuff like “overthrow the government!” and even more puzzling, the ones smart enough to keep their yaps shut suffered having such loud fools in their ranks.

I was puzzled when I heard over the past few days that the Department of Justice had filed indictments of seditious conspiracy against a dozen or so leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. It wasn’t because I thought these two groups were innocent of such activities: it’s just that in the entire history of the country after Benedict Arnold, no government had made that sort of charge stick outside of war time. Proving intent is nearly impossible in most cases. So it’s rare. It’s very rare.

The first two hours of the January Sixth Select Committee hearings last night showed what an overwhelming case the government had against the leaders of those two groups. Not only did the committee have a plethora of emails and videos (!) and testimony showing clear and evident intent to assault Congress, but they showed that, contrary to the fiction that they were so worked up by Trump’s speech that they just got overenthused, they didn’t even hear the speech—they had already started their march on Congress before Trump started whipping up the crowd. The weapons and militia gear and so on? Oh, just the sort of stuff tourists usually carry, right?

The attack on Congress was premeditated and carefully planned. Subsequent hearings ought to tell us who the insurrectionists liaised with in the Trump administration.

The DOJ is carrying out a deft divide-and-conquer approach to Trump’s insurrection. Go after the brown shirt crowd first: that’s where you’ll find the biggest mouths and the smallest brains. The committee showed just how solid a case they have last night. They produced solid evidence that Trump knew his claims of an election steal were, in the words of Bill Barr, “bullshit” and dropped hints of similar proof of efforts to overthrow the election at the state level, and a bombshell leak that at least four Republican congressmen begged Trump for a pre-emptive pardon in order to avoid criminal culpability.

There’s an old Flemish proverb: “We must hang together or we shall all hang separately.” A similar quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but Franklin, like most good political theorists, pinched most of his juicier quotes. The Mob has its code, and street gangs have “Snitches get stitches.” The committee, and the DOJ are kicking apart any possible unity amongst Trump’s minions—not just the SA thugs in the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, but the inept clowns that Trump brought in to run the government in his name.

Everyone will be watching the committee over the next two weeks, of course. If the next five broadcasts are as sensational as this first one, then this will be the biggest story of its type in American history.

What makes this different from Teapot Dome or the attempted Putsch against FDR or Watergate is that the leaders of this mob don’t have enough brains to shut up and slink back into the shadows. Trump doesn’t think his followers are fools; he knows they are fools. But the drawback is that they don’t do subtle. So Trump has to tell them to keep taking bullets for the cause. Which exposes him, of course.

But that will only take him so far, especially since he routinely betrays his followers. (Including January 6th, when he promised his crowd he would lead them to the steps of Congress, and then sneaked off back to the West Wing to watch events unfold on television). Congress, and presumably the DOJ, are exploiting these weaknesses.

The committee meetings should remain utterly fascinating. But the really entertaining show is going to be amongst Trump’s supporters and followers, especially the ones who have been criminally complicit and are now feel as exposed as a no-pants-in-class nightmare. They are going to turn on one another, and that should make for an entertaining, if very messy show.

Don’t bother popping corn for this: just hold the bag up in front of the TV with the news on, and watch it pop itself.

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