August 18, 2022 / by 

 

The Legal and Political Significance of Nuclear Document[s] Trump Is Suspected to Have Stolen

After Merrick Garland called Trump’s bluff yesterday, multiple outlets reported that DOJ was looking for documents relating to nuclear weapons.

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

[snip]

Material about nuclear weapons is especially sensitive and usually restricted to a small number of government officials, experts said. Publicizing details about U.S. weapons could provide an intelligence road map to adversaries seeking to build ways of countering those systems. And other countries might view exposing their nuclear secrets as a threat, experts said.

It’s unclear whether this information is coming from investigators trying to demonstrate what a no-brainer this search was, people who’ve otherwise seen the Attachment listing items to seize, or from Trump’s camp in an effort to pre-empt damage from when this will be released. With few exceptions, most details made public about the search thus far have come from Trump’s side.

But the report that FBI showed probable cause to believe Trump was hoarding a document or documents pertaining to nukes has several significant legal and political implications.

First, it makes it far more likely that Trump has violated, and can be proven to have violated, part of the Espionage Act, 18 USC 793.

In my post describing the likely content of an affidavit justifying a search of the former President, I noted that somewhere in there, the FBI would have had to anticipate and rule out the possibility that Trump simply declassified these documents which, if Trump could prove it, would render the documents simply stolen documents covered by the Presidential Records Act.

  • Some explanation of why DOJ believes that these documents weren’t actually declassified by Trump before he stole them

But the fact that these are nuclear documents, under the Atomic Energy Act, Trump cannot declassify them by himself. They’re “restricted documents,” the one kind of document that’s true of. Here are threads by Kel McClanahan and Cheryl Rofer explaining the distinctions — even Chelsea Manning weighed in! As McClanahan likened it, nuclear documents are protected by two padlocks, and Trump only had the legal key to one of those padlocks.

So by showing probable cause that Trump had stolen at least one document pertaining to nuclear weapons, FBI would accomplish that task: Trump could not claim to have declassified any such documents, because he cannot have declassified them by himself.

Now consider how it impacts Trump’s exposure under the Espionage Act. As I laid out here, to prove someone violated the Espionage Act, you don’t actually prove they were refusing to return classified information; you prove they had what is called “National Defense Information.” Even if Trump claimed to have declassified the documents, if the Agency in question (here, likely DOD or DOE) still believed the information to be classified and still treated as such, it could still qualify as NDI. But ultimately, a jury gets to decide whether something is NDI or not. One key difference between the first and second Joshua Schulte trials, for example, is that DOJ relied not on expert testimony to prove that he leaked or was trying to leak NDI, but rather on the logic of why the government would want to keep information about its assets secret. I thought it was one of the areas where the second prosecution was vastly more effective than the first.

There are few easier concepts to explain to a juror than that you need to keep information about nuclear weapons safe, and that doing so pertains to the national defense.

Then there’s the backstory. Early in the Trump Administration, there were reports that Trump had a scheme (one that involved all Trump’s sketchiest flunkies, including Mike Flynn) to transfer sensitive nuclear reactor technology to Saudi Arabia. The Oversight Committee conducted an investigation, the results of which, with the hindsight of Mohammed bin Salman’s $2 billion investment in a paper-thin Jared Kushner finance scheme and the Foreign Agent charges against Tom Barrack, look all the more suspect.

In 2017, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, orchestrated a visit to Saudi Arabia as the President’s first overseas trip. Mr. Kushner also met on his own with then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who subsequently ousted his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, launched a crackdown against dozens of Saudi royal family members, and reportedly bragged that Mr. Kushner was “in his pocket.”

In October 2018, the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was met with equivocation by President Trump and other top Administration officials. This month, the White House ignored a 120-day deadline for a report on Mr. Khashoggi’s killing requested on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Within the United States, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia—a potential risk to U.S. national security absent adequate safeguards. These commercial entities stand to reap billions of dollars through contracts associated with constructing and operating nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia—and apparently have been in close and repeated contact with President Trump and his Administration to the present day.

However, experts worry that transferring sensitive U.S. nuclear technology could allow Saudi Arabia to produce nuclear weapons that contribute to the proliferation of nuclear arms throughout an already unstable Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman conceded this point in 2018, proclaiming: “Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

When Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act, it imposed stringent controls on the export of U.S. technology to a foreign country that could be used to create nuclear weapons. Under Section 123 of the Act, the U.S. may not transfer nuclear technology to a foreign country without the approval of Congress, in order to ensure that the agreement reached with the foreign government meets nine specific nonproliferation requirements.

[snip]

[W]histleblowers provided new information about IP3 International, a private company that has assembled a consortium of U.S. companies to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia. According to media reports, IP3’s only project to date is the Saudi nuclear plan. A key proponent of this nuclear effort was General Michael Flynn, who described himself in filings as an “advisor” to a subsidiary of IP3, IronBridge Group Inc., from June 2016 to December 2016—at the same time he was serving as Donald Trump’s national security advisor during the presidential campaign and the presidential transition. According to the whistleblowers, General Flynn continued to advocate for the adoption of the IP3 plan not only during the transition, but even after he joined the White House as President Trump’s National Security Advisor.

[snip]

Another key proponent of this effort was Thomas Barrack, President Trump’s personal friend of several decades and the Chairman of his Inaugural Committee.

The nuclear energy scheme (which did not involve nuclear weapons, but implicated concerns that the Saudis would develop them) overlaps closely with the scope of the Foreign Agent charges against Barrack (and I don’t rule out that FBI’s focus on such document(s) stems, in part, from Barrack’s upcoming trial). One of the overt acts charged against Barrack, for example, is that he “forced” the Trump White House to elevate the treatment of MbS on a visit to the US in March 2017 beyond that accorded by his rank at the time.

To be sure: There’s not a hint of evidence that the government has reason to believe Trump tried to sell or otherwise share the documents he stole with foreign entities. If the government suspected Trump might do so with Restricted Documents covered by the Atomic Energy Act, it would implicate a different crime, 40 USC 2274, with which Jonathan Toebbe was charged last year for trying to deal such technology to Brazil. Trump has succeeded in obscuring the crimes listed on his warrant (though not all crimes need to be listed on the overt warrant), but if the Atomic Energy Act were implicated, that would be really hard to do (unless this leaked detail is an effort on Trump’s part to prepare for the mention of the Atomic Energy Act on the warrant, though I doubt that’s the case).

So for now, Trump’s past history of attempting to share nuclear technology with the Saudis for the profit of his closest advisors is just background noise: something that makes it all the more concerning he is suspected of stealing such documents. But if the FBI did not find nuclear documents they have reason to believe Trump stole, then that could change quickly.

Finally, there’s a political angle. The press has been absolutely remiss in calling out Republicans for their hypocrisy about classified information — or their irresponsibility in parroting Trump’s complaints about a serious breach investigation. Instead, the press treated the nation’s security as a he-said, she-said fight between political parties.

But the report that the FBI has reason to believe that Trump stole documents about nuclear weapons provides just the kind of horse race angle that seems to be the only thing that vast swaths of journalists can understand anymore. That’s because in 2016, Marco Rubio argued that Trump was “unfit for the Presidency” because we could not give the “nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.”

Indeed, Val Demings, who is in a close fight against Rubio in November’s Senate elections, just made it an issue yesterday, before the nuclear angle became clear.

2016 Marco Rubio scoffed at the notion that someone like Trump should be given access to the nuclear codes. 2022 Marco Rubio — largely because he wants to win Trump’s favor in the election against Demings — doesn’t even want the FBI to investigate whether Trump stole the nuclear codes when he left office.

Perhaps with a horserace angle, the press might finally hold Republicans accountable for their irresponsibility of their efforts to protect Trump here.


Mid-Term Election 2022: August 2 Primary Elections and Ballot Initiatives [UPDATE-3]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Updates will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Though we’re deep into the primaries already, tonight’s a pretty big night as the following states all held primary elections today including ballot initiatives:

Arizona — August 2 (head to bmaz’s post for this state’s results)

Kansas — August 2

Michigan — August 2

Missouri — August 2

Ohio — August 2

Washington — August 2

Counting may not be complete for races but there’s already a doozy of a political wind indicator out of red state Kansas. An initiative to amend the state’s constitution was on the ballot and it hasn’t gone the direction anti-abortion activists wanted.

Here’s an explainer from Ballotpedia:

The Kansas No State Constitutional Right to Abortion and Legislative Power to Regulate Abortion Amendment is on the ballot in Kansas as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on August 2, 2022.

A “yes” vote supported amending the Kansas Constitution to:

  • state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion and
  • state that the legislature has the authority to pass laws regarding abortion.

A “no” vote opposed amending the Kansas Constitution, thereby maintaining the legal precedent established in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt (2019) that the Kansas Bill of Rights provides a right to abortion.

As of 9:16 p.m. ET the results looked like this:


And by 9:26 p.m. ET, Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman was calling it for reproductive rights:


There had been an attempt to ratfuck the vote for this initiative:


Voters were sent text messages without attribution providing the wrong instructions about the initiative. It’s not clear whether this violates any federal law but Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission responded to complaints about this ratfucking attempt with a Twitter thread explaining that under Kansas’s current state law attribution for political advertisements wasn’t required for ballot initiatives though it is required for candidates’ campaign ads.

Sounds like this should be on the next ballot.

~ ~ ~

In my home state, things went about as expected:

– Trump’s endorsed candidate, Tudor Dixon, won the MIGOP primary. She’s not as wretched as a couple other MIGOP candidates but she’s still absolutely awful.

How nice of you to want to force your personal choice on all Michiganders, Dixon.

– MAGA candidate Kevin Gibbs had the lead early over Rep. Peter Meijer. The race has tightened substantially and is too narrow to call at this point.


You’ll recall the DCCC through money behind Gibbs so they could run against a Trumpy candidate in a newly configured district. Meijer, who was one of only 10 GOP reps to vote for Trump’s impeachment, currently holds the seat once held by Justin Amash.

~ ~ ~

Trump’s attempt to split the baby by endorsing “Eric” in the Missouri GOP Senate primary race didn’t go to plan, exactly. Eric won, but not Eric Greitens.


Trump will claim victory through Eric Schmitt anyhow, you can be sure. His narcissism wouldn’t have it any other way.

~ ~ ~

What do you see in the other primary races and ballot initiatives tonight? Let us know in comments.

Let’s stay on topic here because there’s plenty of primary election material to discuss without dragging in other topics.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:35 PM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

DCCC’S money paid off and defeated incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer:

Grrr…sure hope DCCC pulls out the stops and gets behind Scholten because the western part of this district and the DeVos/Van Andel/Prince crowd may not take this lying down even if a Trumpy MAGAt is the GOP candidate.

I’ve experienced supporting a state legislative candidate who was targeted by DeVos money. It can get fucking ugly.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-2 — 1:00 AM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

Can you not do better than this hack, KSGOP? This is the best you’ve got, a lawyer who needed remedial law classes?

Anyhow, here’s Democratic opponent Chris Mann’s campaign website.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-3 — 9:15 PM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

Another too-little-discussed bellwether was Missouri’s 1st Congressional District primary race. Incumbent progressive Rep. Cori Bush beat out four other Democrats taking more than 69% of the vote. Her strongest opponent, Steve Roberts, is and remains a Missouri state senator for District 5; he ran to the right of Bush.

The GOP primary in that district was won by Andrew Jones Jr. with 6,927 out of 16,328 total GOP votes. Even Roberts took more votes than the total GOP primary votes.

Clearly MO-01, home to 714,746 citizens, wants a progressive representative.


Mid-Term Election 2022: August 2 Primary, Arizona Edition [UPDATE-2]

[Updates will appear at the bottom.]

There are a lot out there and will probably still be dribbling in through tomorrow. Use this thread to chat about them. The big one is the Kansas abortion issue, and it looks like the good side has a resounding victory.

In one of the most red states in the Union. Kansas. Go figure. Take that you conservatives at SCOTUS.

~ ~ ~

Rayne here, taking the reins on this post. Apparently bmaz and I were writing posts about the primaries at the same time.

Let’s use this one bmaz started to focus on his own state, Arizona, because there’s plenty to dish about in the Grand Canyon State.

Biggest story is the GOP primary for the governor’s race. There’s been a big field, eight candidates with three withdrawn; of the eight in the running, there’s one unofficially withdrawn candidate and three write-ins.

What a mess. But now we get to the hot mess.


Kari Lake is a Trumpy Big Lie election truther. I’d use stronger terms here but I don’t want this to reflect on bmaz (though he’s probably thinking what I’m not saying).

How batty does a Trumper have to be for the National Review to exhort AZ GOP voters not to cast a vote for a GOP candidate? Kari Lake is that bad. She wants to decertify the 2020 election results and call it for Trump even though doing so might jeopardize a 2024 run for Trump.

Fortunately, AZ voters appear to be paying heed. Lake has been behind GOP opponent Karrin Taylor Robson all evening.

Let’s hope the final results resemble these early numbers.

More results as they come in from the dry heat.

~ ~ ~

bmaz observes long-time sportscaster Vin Scully has died.

Scully called games for the Dodgers from 1950 to 2016, the longest career of any sportscaster of any sport. He was an institution. He has been and will be missed.

~ ~ ~

Not a good night for QAnon-Arizona in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.


With 43% reported, there’s no realistic way for Watkins to pull out a win let alone a tie coming from the basement.

But I’m sure there will be some spin put on this because the grift never ends. There must be some conspiracy theory which will prop up this fail and bring home the bacon.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:35 PM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

Oh great, another election truther won their primary — this time for AZ’s Secretary of State.


Mark Finchem was at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. I don’t know if he made it inside the Capitol Building that day; he has not been charged for trespassing.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 2:15 PM ET — 03-AUG-2022 —

I don’t know about bmaz but I just received my first fundraising email from Sen. Mark Kelly for his re-election campaign based on the outcome of yesterday’s primary.

What’s amusing is that Kelly’s email never mentions Blake Masters by name, only says Kelly now has an opponent. Was this an email drafted before the primary was finished, prepared for any eventually? Or is this Kelly’s campaign helping voters a la Lakoff, not naming the elephant?

Whatever the case, super Trumpy MAGAnoid Blake Masters is now the AZGOP candidate for U.S. Senate opposing incumbent Mark Kelly.

Masters shouldn’t be too glib about his win because of 622,098 total GOP votes cast, 379,218 were not cast for Masters. If those GOP votes are adamantly against Masters, they may not turn up in November for him.

Masters drew fewer votes than AZGOP gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson, who won with 238,486 over super Trumpy MAGAnoid Kari Lake. Compare to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs who won with 311,210 votes.

~ ~ ~

The AZGOP candidate for Secretary of State is the problematic Mark Finchem, an admitted member of the Oath Keepers who was at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. He won over three other competitors, though he shouldn’t be too smug about it. He may have won with 243,403 votes, but there were 350,398 GOP votes cast for other AZGOP candidates.

The outcome of the Democratic primary race for Secretary of State between Adrian Fontes and Reginald Bolding has not yet been determined as 31% of the votes cast are yet to be counted. Fontes currently leads 52.8% to 47.2% over Bolding and is likely to maintain a lead.

Here’s Fontes if you’re not familiar with him:


Constructive Action: Make It Rain [UPDATE-1]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Updates will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

For more than a year news media have indulged in conventional wisdom about a mid-term election, insisting that the president’s party will lose seats in Congress.

Never mind 2018’s blue wave, though — a tsunami during which Democrats took control of the House by 40 seats.

News media have interspersed this with their easy go-to, the time-worn “Dems in Disarray” bullshit, refusing to frame the lack of traction on Biden agenda legislation as continuing obstruction by the GOP which retains a stranglehold on half the Senate.

Never mind the deliberate and overt GOP obstruction throughout Obama’s two terms in office, or the votes of GOP’s congressional caucus to obstruct the certification of 2020 election after a GOP president whipped up an insurrection under news media’s gaze.

Don’t readily accept news media’s positioning on Congress going into the mid-term elections, the same media which lost its way during Trump-Bannon flood-the-zone-with-shit era.

We can make our own flood. We can make it rain.

~ ~ ~

That nasty Floridian GOP hairpiece with a mouth, Matt Gaetz (FL-1), decided to puff up his ego and stir up shit by bullying a Latinx teen from Texas, Olivia Julianna.

He implied only unattractive women are concerned about reproductive rights.

He had absolutely no fucking idea what kind of wasp nest he stuck his puny dick in.


She went after him as he continued his bullying.


She didn’t back down.


Olivia began fundraising for reproductive health care.


She even thanked the Florida Man.


State and national media interviewed her, and fundraising snowballed.

Until this evening’s benchmark:

This 19-year-old GenZ for Change activist didn’t take crap from obnoxious Matt Gaetz lying down. She tore after him using her heightened media profile to raise money for a cause she believes in.

Olivia Julianna made it rain. You can help her make it rain, too. Piss all over Gaetz’s parade.

~ ~ ~

Speaking of piss, the GOP Senate caucus decided to urinate on veterans and their health care needs:


They didn’t just block the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act), they celebrated it.


Satirist-entertainer Jon Stewart was infuriated.


Stewart’s rage might make it rain.

But I know you can make it rain by supporting VoteVets’ endorsed candidates.

~ ~ ~

Pennsylvania is a good news/bad news story.

The good news: a new poll shows PA Senate Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman kicking carpetbagging Republican candidate Mehmet Oz in the ass.

The bad news: three Pennsylvania counties — Berks, Fayette and Lancaster — are still screwing with primary election results, setting a negative tone ahead of the mid-term elections. A court hearing began Thursday, documented in this Twitter thread:


All three counties are strong/solid GOP. The congressional districts they’re in — PA-09, PA-11, PA-14 — have been tweaked slightly during redistricting since the state lost a House seat.

One of these districts, though, has NO Democratic candidate running:

PA-09
Dan Meuser (Incumbent) (GOP)
Amanda Waldman (Dem) — grossly underfunded

PA-11
Lloyd Smucker (Incumbent) (GOP)
Robert Hollister (Dem) — also grossly underfunded

PA-14
Guy Reschenthaler (Incumbent) (GOP)
No candidates filed for the Democratic Party primary

It not only makes zero sense why Berks, Fayette and Lancaster counties are refusing to certify their primary elections, but no sense why the Democratic Party hasn’t provided more funding to the Democrats in PA-09 and PA-11, and why there’s no Democratic candidate in PA-14

Furthermore, it makes no goddamned sense why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is throwing money at a MAGA GOP candidate in Michigan’s MI-03 Grand Rapids area district, while there’s inadequate funding and no candidate in three of Pennsylvania’s House races while Fetterman may help all down ticket races in what looks to be a mounting wave election.

Somebody make it rain for Amanda Waldman and Robert Hollister in PA-09 and PA-11. Force the GOP incumbents to work for their seats since they’re not doing much else for Pennsylvanians.

Make it rain in PA-14 by recruiting a Democrat for write-in, if that’s still a possibility.

~ ~ ~

I smell petrichor, do you?

Consider this an open thread.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:30 P.M. ET — 29-JUL-2022 —

Olivia Julianna published a statement with an ask:

It’s not enough to fund reproductive health care while reproductive rights remain at risk and stripped away in some states.

Make it rain for the reproductive rights champions.

Democratic Governors’ Association Protect Reproductive Rights Fund at ActBlue

WI: Re-elect Gov. Tony Evers
MI: Re-elect Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and AG Dana Nessel
IL: Re-elect Gov. JB Pritzker

PA: Elect Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman and Austin Davis as Lt. Gov.
GA: Elect Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock
TX: Elect Beto O’Rourke and Mike Collier and Rochelle Garza
OH: Elect Tim Ryan
NC: Elect Cheri Beasley


If You Need to Panic about DOJ’s Investigation into January 6, Panic First about Doug Mastriano

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow reported the exciting news that Merrick Garland released the same memo that Attorneys General always do during election years.

“As in prior election cycles, I am issuing this memorandum to remind you of the Department’s existing policies with respect to political activities.” Rachel was really upset that Garland integrated the requirement for prior approval that was already the norm, but which Barr put into writing (which arose, in part, out of Michael Horowitz’s IG Report on Carter Page, which showed that not everyone had learned of the investigation into Trump’s flunkies in timely fashion). After months and months of inflammatory commentary suggesting that the decision on whether or not to investigate Trump rested exclusively with Garland (and not, as is the reality, a hierarchy of DOJ personnel, starting with a team of career AUSAs), Rachel wailed that the memo requires Garland to do what everyone has long assumed was true: that Garland would have to approve any investigation into Trump.

In response to her irresponsible sensationalism, people immediately concluded that by releasing the memo, Garland had nixed any further indictments before the election.

One reason I’m certain that’s not true is because after Garland released this memo, DOJ arrested declared candidate for Governor of Michigan, Ryan Kelley. Kelley never entered the Capitol on January 6. But in addition to charging him with entering restricted grounds (that is, entering inside the barricades set up around the Capitol), DOJ also charged him with vandalizing the scaffolding set up in advance of the Inauguration. The charging documents also cited some of his other efforts to undermine democracy in the lead-up and aftermath of the 2020 election.

In October of 2020, KELLEY attended the “American Patriot Council Nationwide Freedom March” in Allendale, Michigan. During that event, KELLEY wore a blue shirt, a black coat, a watch with a red watch band, and aviator sunglasses. Parts of this attire were also worn by KELLEY in photos and videos from the U.S. Capitol grounds on January 6, 2021. KELLEY appears at this event in the image below.

In November of 2020, KELLEY was a featured speaker and introduced by name at a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. During that event, KELLEY indicated that those attending the rally should stand and fight, with the goal of preventing Democrats from stealing the election.

He gave a speech while wearing a name tag and stated “Covid-19 was made so that they can use the propaganda to control your minds so that you think, if you watch the media, that Joe Biden won this election. We’re not going to buy it. We’re going to stand and fight for America, for Donald Trump. We’re not going to let the Democrats steal this election”.

Kelley was arrested on June 9, technically within the 60 day window in advance of the August 2 primary. But DOJ did arrest the gubernatorial candidate in time for voters to learn of his actions during the insurrection (it even was an issue at a recent debate), without creating last minute news before an election like Jim Comey did against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Kelley’s not the only one against whom DOJ has taken overt investigative steps in the wake of the memo, either. DOJ seized the phones of a number of high ranking subjects in the fake electors plot, including the Chair of Nevada’s Republican Party, Michael McDonald. Indeed, the likelihood a number of subjects of the fake elector plot would be covered by the DOJ policy may be why the January 6 Committee is finally making an exception regarding their refusal to share interview transcripts for that part of DOJ’s investigation: while they’ve been refusing, the window on pre-election indictments for fake elector plotters is closing.

Besides, all this panic-mongering seems really, really badly targeted.

I’m impatient to have some accountability for Trump and his flunkies, just like everyone else (even if, because I’ve followed the investigation, I know that DOJ is investigating Trump’s flunkies). I think, for the reasons I laid out here, a hypothetical Trump indictment wouldn’t come for some time yet, but I’m also confident that if the investigation isn’t open now or soon, Trump’s campaign roll-out would do nothing to thwart opening an investigation. It would require the same Garland approval that would be obtained in any case. Trump wouldn’t even be affected by the DOJ policy on pre-election actions, because he’s not on the ballot this year.

But there is a key player in January 6, someone known to have been under investigation, for whom the window to prosecute is closing as the election draws near, someone who presents a far more immediate threat to democracy than Trump: Doug Mastriano, the GOP candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania.

Mastriano technically could be charged, just for his actions on January 6. Like some other political figures — in addition to Kelley, Couy Griffin, and key influencers like Owen Shroyer and Brandon Straka (though Straka’s original complaint included civil disorder) — Mastriano appears to have been at the Capitol, inside the barriers, but did not enter the building.

The images, shared with NBC News, appear to show Mastriano holding up his cellphone as rioters in the front of the mob face off with police at the Capitol steps. Reconstructed timelines and other videos filmed nearby show rioters would breach this police line within minutes, ripping away a crowd control rope line and rushing past officers up the stairs. The timelines and videos, including unedited versions, that show Mastriano in the crowd were reviewed by NBC News.

A man who appears to be Doug Mastriano takes photos or video with his cell phone on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
 A man who appears to be Doug Mastriano takes photos or video with his cellphone near the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.@MichaelCoudrey via Twitter

Online sleuths also identified a video posted by “Stop the Steal” organizer Mike Coudrey on Jan. 6 that appears to show Mastriano taking photos or video with his cellphone as rioters face off with police on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Coudrey’s tweet celebrated the mob, which he said “broke through 4 layers of security at the Capitol building.

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Mastriano previously said that he “respected all police lines as I came upon them” and that he never stepped foot on the Capitol stairs. One of his campaign aides, Grant Clarkson, was near the front of the mob, NBC previously reported. There has been no evidence that Clarkson entered the Capitol that day and he has insisted he did not.

Mastriano has had ties with a number of the people charged for more serious roles in the insurrection, most notably Sam Lazar, who was arrested a year ago on charges of civil disorder and assaulting cops.

And perhaps to an even greater extent than some other influencers who were arrested for their presence inside the barricades at the Capitol, Mastriano spent the months leading up to the insurrection laying the foundation for it, actions that might make him susceptible to an obstruction charge. This article describes his key role in sowing The Big Lie, most notably arranging for the quasi-official hearing at which Rudy could spread false claims. Mastriano also spoke at the “Jericho March” on December 12, 2020, which was a key networking event in advance of the insurrection.

As laid out in the SJC Report on the topic, Mastriano also pressured DOJ to intervene to overturn the election. When Trump complained to DOJ that they were ignoring fraud claims on December 27, for example, Mastriano was — along with Jim Jordan and Scott Perry — one of the people whose complaints he directed Jeffrey Rosen to attend to.

Trump twice calls Rosen. During the second call, Rosen conferences in Donoghue, who takes extensive notes on Trump’s claims that the “election has been stolen out from under the American people” and that DOJ is failing to respond. Trump mentions efforts made by Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, and Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, and asks Rosen and Donoghue to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.” Trump also references Jeffrey Clark and potentially replacing DOJ’s leadership.

Mastriano also paid $3,000 to bus people into the event.

On paper, then, Mastriano is the kind of influencer-organizer that DOJ has been investigating for some time, but he has not yet been charged.

The FBI have carried out investigative steps with regards to Mastriano. A CNN report from last month says he was interviewed last summer (and sat for an interview with the January 6 Committee).

The FBI has been conducting an expansive investigation into the January 6 riot and questioned Mastriano last summer after photos emerged of him on Capitol grounds that day, according to the source familiar with the interview, which has not been previously reported.

Mastriano has not been accused of committing any crimes and cooperated fully with the FBI, according to the source. Asked about Mastriano’s interview, an FBI spokesperson told CNN that the bureau “cannot confirm the existence of an investigation or comment on details.”

The lapsed time since his FBI interview doesn’t mean he won’t be charged; such delays, even longer ones, are common for those arrested for January 6. Plus, Mastriano is someone whose communications, including with Rudy and probably John Eastman and Ali Alexander, have likely shown up in materials seized or subpoenaed by DOJ.

But if DOJ is going to charge Mastriano, they have slightly more than 50 days to do so in order to comply with the DOJ guidelines.

And when I say he poses a more urgent threat to democracy right now than Trump, that’s not just about the impending election. In addition to regressive policies that are typical of the GOP these days, such as a no-exception ban on abortion, he poses an immediate threat to democracy itself. He has publicly committed to attacking democracy itself.

Those concerns are made especially acute in Pennsylvania by the fact that the governor has the unusual authority to directly appoint the secretary of state, who serves as chief elections officer and must sign off on results. If he or she refuses, chaos could follow.

“The biggest risk is a secretary of state just saying, ‘I’m not going to certify the election, despite what the court says and despite what the evidence shows, because I’m concerned about suspicions,’” said Clifford Levine, a Democratic election lawyer in Pennsylvania. “You would start to have a breakdown in the legal system and the whole process.”

Mastriano’s backers appear well aware of the stakes. A video posted to Telegram by election denial activist Ivan Raiklin from Mastriano’s victory party on Tuesday showed the candidate smiling as Raiklin congratulated him on his win and added, with a thumb’s up, “20 electoral votes as well,” a reference to the state’s clout in the electoral college.

“Oh yeahhhh,” Mastriano responded.

Mastriano did not respond to a voice mail or an email sent to a campaign account for media.

But Mastriano told Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to Trump who now hosts a podcast popular on the right, that he had already selected the person he would appoint as secretary of state if elected.

“As far as cleaning up the election, I mean, I’m in a good position as governor,” he said in the April 23 appearance on Bannon’s “War Room” podcast. “I have a voting-reform-minded individual who’s been traveling the nation and knows voting reform extremely well. That individual has agreed to be my secretary of state.”

Mastriano has been buying followers from the far-right social media site, Gab. And he has ties to Russian-backed far-right propagandists.

A number of people have said, with no exaggeration, that a Mastriano win would virtually guarantee no Democratic candidate could win the state’s presidential votes in 2024.

If DOJ is going to expand its prosecutions to those who laid the groundwork for January 6, they are going to be charging people like Doug Mastriano. There’s little doubt that Mastriano, as much as anyone who went inside the building on January 6, as much as Trump, was trying to prevent the lawful transfer of power.

Yet DOJ only has seven weeks left to charge Mastriano before DOJ’s election guidelines would prevent that from happening.

If you want to panic, panic first about Mastriano. Because the threat he poses to democracy is far more imminent than the very real threat Trump poses.

Update: Politico has a piece on Mastriano talking about how close it is in PA, and NYT has a piece using Mastriano as illustration of the increasing embrace of conspiracism on the far-right.

Update: This thread from an online researcher tracks Mastriano’s movements around the Capitol on January 6.


Constructive Action: Taking Back Real Control of the Senate

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

There’s just so much wrong right now in governance which could be fixed with 60 Democratic seats in the Senate.

We could pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, for starters, which would encode women’s reproductive rights and autonomous control of their bodies. This bill passed the House but not the Senate because of 50 GOP senators and 2 DINOs.

We could pass other needed legislation which has been throttled by the same 50 GOP senators and 2 DINOs, including the Build Back Better Bill.

We could expand the Supreme Court so that the total number of jurists would match the number of circuit courts.

We could institute term limits for Supreme Court justices so that retirements could be planned.

We could address the shortcomings of the Roberts’ Court ethical failings, from the lack of an ethics code, to Thomas’s refusal to recuse or resign, to the Trump appointees’ misrepresentations before the Senate Judiciary Committee during nomination hearings.

But none of these and other additional remedies can be addressed without at least 60 seated Democratic Senators.

These are the Class III Senators up for re-election or open seats this year:

State Class 3 Cook PVI Notes
Alabama Richard Shelby (R) retiring, open seat R+15 Will Boyd (D)
Alaska Lisa Murkowski (R) R+9 Non-Partisan Primary August 16, 2022
Arizona Mark Kelly (D) R+3
Arkansas John Boozman (R) R+16
California Alex Padilla (D) D+14
Colorado Michael Bennet (D) D+3
Connecticut Richard Blumenthal (D) D+7
Delaware D+6
Florida Marco Rubio (R) R+3 Primary August 23, 2022
Georgia Raphael Warnock (D) R+3
Hawaii Brian Schatz (D) D+15
Idaho Mike Crapo (R) R+19
Illinois Tammy Duckworth (D) D+7
Indiana Todd Young (R) R+11
Iowa Chuck Grassley (R) R+6 Michael Franken (D)
Kansas Jerry Moran (R) R+11
Kentucky Rand Paul (R) R+16
Louisiana John Kennedy (R) R+12
Maine D+1
Maryland Chris Van Hollen (D) D+14
Massachusetts D+14
Michigan R+1
Minnesota D+1
Mississippi R+10
Missouri Roy Blunt (R) R+11
Montana R+11
Nebraska R+13
Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto (D) Even
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan (D) Even
New Jersey D+6
New Mexico D+3
New York Chuck Schumer (D) D+10
North Carolina Richard Burr (R) not seeking re-election R+3 Cheri Beasley (D)
North Dakota John Hoeven (R) R+20
Ohio Rob Portman (R) R+6 Tim Ryan (D)*
Oklahoma James Lankford (R) R+20
Oregon Ron Wyden (D) D+6
Pennsylvania Pat Toomey (R) R+2 John Fetterman (D)
Rhode Island D+8
South Carolina Tim Scott (R) R+8 Dem primary results pending
South Dakota John Thune (R) R+16
Tennessee R+14
Texas R+5 **
Utah Mike Lee (R) R+13 *** Evan McMullin (I) has Utah Dems’ support
Vermont Patrick Leahy (D) retiring, open seat D+15 Dem primary August 9, 2022
Virginia D+2
Washington Patty Murray (D) D+8
West Virginia R+23
Wisconsin Ron Johnson (R) R+2 Dem primary August 9, 2022
Wyoming R+26

light orange: needs assistance with defense

light yellow: winnable

light green: stretch but in range

* Ohio’s senate race is tied — within MOE depend on the poll. There is an independent candidate running as well who may act as a spoiler. Ohioans need to do an effective job of encouraging votes for Ryan so that the independent doesn’t fragment the vote.

** Texas does not currently have a senate seat open or up for re-election. The governor’s race is critical, though, as it is Texas state anti-abortion laws which have been setting the trend for the nation. Beto O’Rourke needs to win this seat.

*** Utah’s Democratic Party has thrown its support behind Evan McMullin because the chances of a Democrat winning that state are slim to none. Mike Lee is an insurrectionist who must be removed.

Pick one or more senate races to defend. Help others go on the offense. Pay attention to the pending primary races and be ready to step in to help.


It’s Your Economy, Stupid GOPr

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I’ve had it. I’m fed up with the attacks on the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress about the economy when the problem is and has been the GOP.

The same GOP which has steadfastly encouraged Americans to avoid vaccines and boosters, reject wearing masks, ignore the need for social distancing and better ventilation to prevent the ongoing spread of COVID, ultimately weakening the country’s workforce and reducing the number of healthy workers.

The same GOP which has persistently supported Putin’s demoralization and destabilization of this country, even though they knew Trump was an asset — we haven’t forgotten Kevin McCarthy’s blurting it out back in 2016 and the rest of the GOP congressional caucus continuing their omertà — ultimately encouraging Putin to attack Ukraine setting economic sanctions in motion.

Now there are GOP candidates who are running not only on the worst of Trumpism, expressing naked racism, misogyny, other forms of xenophobia, but running on just plain stupidity about the economy.

I swear I could publish a post at least once a week cataloguing so much fresh stupid.

Today’s idiot is a GOP senate candidate, Blake Masters, who has already distinguished himself within the last week with a racist remark aimed at Black Americans.

Masters decided today he wanted it his way:

Sir, this is a McDonald’s.

Masters has no fucking clue why there aren’t enough fast food workers to take orders, as if COVID didn’t kill more than a million Americans causing a cascade of job losses due to long COVID, difficulty finding and keeping safe daycare for children and eldercare, scared off older employees who’d rather tough it out on their Social Security than risk getting sick, made transportation more challenging because the used car market is tight and parts and labor for repairs equally tight, public transport shared with maskless riders, so on.

And last but not least, fast food workers’ wages have not kept up with the increase in rent driven upward by speculation.

That’s why you’re looking at a goddamned self-operated kiosk, Masters.

Not to mention potential employees don’t want to take the risk on an employer which can’t be bothered to post wages or the number of available openings.

Applicants need to know before they even bother to apply because the average rent in Marana, AZ on a 1-bedroom apartment is $1542 a month. A worker needs in excess of $15/hour at 40 hours a week to make the rent — not including any other expenses like food or clothing or water or electricity or health insurance — and fast food jobs aren’t 40 hours a week because the companies want to avoid paying unemployment benefits.

The remaining fast food restaurant workers are moving into other industries because they can’t afford the irregular, too few hours combined with the lack of benefits, the crappy management, and the chronic mistreatment by customers on top of exposure on the regular to COVID.

But go ahead and expose your gross ignorance, Masters, punching down on the people who can least afford the time to rebut your whining.

The people who should rebut Masters’ whining are the Arizona corporations which do business in or rely on automation and robotics — businesses which will replace the crappy jobs fast food workers can’t afford, while improving the Arizona economy with better paid design and manufacturing jobs.

Like these companies, to name a few: Stanley Black & Decker, Nogales AZ; Caterpillar, Tuscon AZ; Lucid Motors and IPE Aerospace, Tempe AZ.

I hope Arizonans are smart enough not to fall for Blake Masters’ ignorant Trumpiness. If he hasn’t already figure out how stupid he is (being a potential victim of Dunning-Kruger), he may inflict some wretched stupidity on Arizona and the rest of the nation.

Seriously, can Arizonans trust him not to lick the kiosk display?


‘This Time Is Going to Be Different’: Confronting the NRA

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I can’t read one more story today about the fathomless horror children, teachers, and parents experienced in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday. Each new report nauseates me learning that Texas state and local government failed their most vulnerable citizens repeatedly.

Knowing that a child had to play dead after swabbing themselves in their dead friend’s blood is just…I don’t have words for this, only tears and an urge to scream and rail.

If this representative was mine, I’d be screaming at him.


Par for the course with this guy who succeeded NRA’s buddy Will Hurd for Texas’s 23rd congressional district.

Utterly useless and irresponsible, unresponsive to the needs of his constituents while doing little more than lobbying for guns.

Fortunately, the young people of Texas aren’t taking the attack on their futures lying down. We’ve seen protests after mass shootings before but this feels different — they are taking it right to the NRA.

Yeah, this really feels different.

There will be more protests tomorrow against the NRA in Houston outside the organization’s convention when big name doofuses like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump show up.

I hope more protests will occur in Uvalde against this monstrous wretch who is trying to suck up to the NRA and patronize Uvalde’s citizens at the same time. One can only wonder if polling told him to do this.

You’ll recall David Hogg is a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He continues to fight for the rights of young Americans to live without the terror of gun violence.

Hogg’s promoting the next rallies on June 11. By then Congress will be back in session.

It will take more than these rallies to make change happen, though. I hope there’s effort on the ground to encourage voter registration and education about candidates who support gun control.


There’s No Doubt the GOP Now Has Weapons of Mass Destruction [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the bylines, thanks. Updates at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

I’ve been frozen by anguish and anger, unable to write something about the mass murder in Uvalde, Texas. Whatever I dump here emerges from this, and some of it will be others’ words because they’ve said it better and more succinctly.

~ ~ ~

We’ve had some discussion in one of the threads about Beto O’Rourke’s attempt to question current Texas governor Greg Abbott about Abbott’s response to Uvalde.

Abbott’s minions shouted down O’Rourke, who as a Texan was entitled to know what the state’s top elected official was doing in response to the mass murder.

This encapsulates everything which is wrong with Abbott — he and the people he surrounds himself with don’t give a flying fuck about Texans. The Abbott administration is a goddamned joke.

This careless disregard will affect more than a couple of generations of Texans who’ve already had to deal with Abbott’s general uselessness against Texas’s isolated energy grid which killed a child along with 110 other Texans in 2021.

57.5% of Texas is not white; the largest portion of this non-white population is Hispanic/Latin, making up 39.3% of the state’s citizens according to a badly-run 2020 US Census which undercounted Texas citizens and undocumented residents alike.

Which means Texas is more than 40% Hispanic/Latin and Gov. Greg Abbott could give a flying fuck how they feel about Tuesday’s mass murder he enabled by signing an bill with the loosest open carry regulations in the nation.

He really hasn’t given but lip service after previous mass murders with assault weapons in his state, supporting increasing laxity about gun control in Texas in spite of six mass shootings since he was first elected governor in 2015.

Not just supporting increasing laxity, but doing so in the face of a majority’s support for increased gun controls from banning assault rifles to background checks before sales.

The Texas Tribune does a phenomenal job of laying out how Abbott has consistently ignored Texans’ sentiments while not pointing a finger at him alone. Abbott is doing what the GOP and its foreign-financed sponsor the National Rifle Association have wanted him to do: demoralize Texans and destabilize it so that state and federal government are undermined and lose support of the people.

~ ~ ~

We had quite a few heated discussions here in the wake of George Floyd’s murder-by-cop and subsequent protests against police abuse. The heat focused on “defunding the police” rather than the problem itself: increasing militarization of the police at all levels has not led to fewer murders-by-cop, nor to reducing the number of BIPOC Americans murdered by cop, extrajudicially executed by police who’ve more or less been granted absolute immunity because of the way “qualified immunity” has been applied.

Stop arguing about the effectiveness of the message, “defund the police.” Don’t even try to offer “reform policing” as an alternative. Not when police stood by and let a shooter terrorize and murder a classroom yesterday, restraining parents from going in to help, whisking cops’ kids to safety, coaching potential victims to yell for police help only to have the shooter kill a victim who yelled, “Help!”


These people right here:


called the U.S. Border Patrol to help them unlock a fucking classroom door.

$4 million a year –40% of its annual budget — plus grants the city of Uvalde has spent on policing only to have their police attacking frightened parents in some twisted form of crowd control as they stood there outside a locked classroom waiting for the gunman to do whatever it was he was going to do.

Greg Abbott went to a fundraiser that evening even as the blood of children and their teacher dried on the floor of that once locked classroom, as their parents’ DNA was collected for identifying the victims who had surely be turned into mincemeat by an AR-15. That was his response to the mass shooting: pay me, I’m delivering for you, he is telling his sponsors who are perfectly alright with a demoralized, destabilized Texas.

This is the response of police elsewhere: double down on what hasn’t worked since 1999 in Columbine.

[Tweet deleted by Rochester @News_8 which said police there were looking into more active shooter training]

It’s only a matter of time before we are offered the excuse that the AR-15 armed killer could take out Uvalde’s police the way the AR-15 armed killer took out the armed guard at the grocery store in Buffalo NY during a mass shooting ten days earlier.

Except there’s no comparison between a lone security guard not wearing a plate carrier and a militarized SWAT team which should have had far more training to deal with a lone gunman situation.

We’ve already heard the excuse from that malignant sluggard Abbott that the shooter was mentally ill, an assumption based on little to know evidence. And of course Abbott is responsible for the cutting funding for mental health care in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the Uvalde school shooter had a “mental health challenge” and the state needed to “do a better job with mental health” — yet in April he slashed $211 million from the department that oversees mental health programs.

In addition, Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.

“We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health,” Abbott said during a news conference at Robb Elementary School, where a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers on Tuesday. …

Texans, you can do better than this lousy lying hack. You deserve better. Se merecen algo mejor que Abbott, tejanos.

Take it all down and start over. Rethink public safety from the ground up because it’s not working and it only gives the worst kinds opportunities to grift — like Abbott’s fundraising.

~ ~ ~

Even more frustrating than the endless stream of pablum offered by stupid gits like Ted Cruz, or rebellious threats against the president like Florida’s state house rep Randy Fine is the inability to connect dots.

The mass murder by an AR-15 carrying teen and previous mass shootings have been encouraged by the GOP because they are bought and owned by the gun manufacturers’ lobby, the NRA. The NRA doesn’t give a shit about Americans; it only cares that there is a sustained market for its products. It only cares that a minority of Americans are rabid enough about gun rights to act as enforcers for the lobby’s demands.

The lobby itself has been bought and owned by Russia following the 2010 Citizens United decision; a flood of Russian money laundered through the NRA bought GOP elected officials and candidates.

The Senate Finance Committee’s 2019 report based on an 18-month investigation said the NRA was a Russian ‘foreign asset’ before the 2016 election.

Considering who the NRA continues to support with campaign donations — like Senators Mitch McConnell (total $1,267,139 )and Rand Paul (total $104,456) whose state Kentucky has also been courted with Russian oligarch money — it’s likely still a foreign asset.

The NRA continues to buy the GOP; it remains pleased with the results of its lobbying because it hasn’t changed its mode of operation no matter how many mass shootings and deaths there have been.

[Screenshot, distribution of 2020 election cycle donations by NRA to major national political parties (FEC data via OpenSecrets)]

In short, Russia is conducting war on the US through its proxies the NRA and the GOP, ensuring weapons of mass destruction remain in the hands of people who are vulnerable to messaging encouraging violence — messaging which may arise from active measures over social media as a subset of Russia’s hybrid warfare..

The GOP need not worry about Putin escalating his assault on Ukraine into a nuclear war involving the US.

They’re already killing plenty of Americans using American weapons of mass destruction on American soil without a single drop of blood spattered on Putin’s doorstep.

Why would Putin waste a single warhead when the GOP will do all the dirty work for him, sitting on their hands and taking NRA money rather than do what has been proven effective (ban assault weapons) and what is popular (background checks on all gun buyers)?

~ ~ ~

A Twitter thread recap of Uvalde’s preventable disaster:

Do something. Fucking do something constructive to stop this madness, you book-burning child-killing hacks with the R after your name.

For Democrats who were elected to serve this nation, stop enabling both the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction here in our own backyards. Stop enabling lousy policing which clearly isn’t solving the problem of mass shootings in public spaces while it punches down on the public it’s supposed to serve.

For those of us who vote D, help people get IDs to vote, help them register, make sure every voter you know is educated about the ballot in your state/county/city/precinct, and get every voter to polls for the remaining primaries and the mid-term election in November. The life you save may be your own.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 11:00 P.M. 26-MAY-2022 —

I called it.

They had gear as well as training and they weren’t willing to use it because they might have been shot. It’s called dereliction of duty.

If they don’t want to police, then fucking defund the police. Use the budget to deal with the root causes like improved local mental health care and services for precarious residents.


The Hard Right Gains Power In Enid Oklahoma

This New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise shows how the hard right wing is organizing. The star of the story is Melissa Crabtree. The initial controversy is whether the city council of Enid Oklahoma should impose a mask mandate in the Summer of 2020, as Covid raged across the nation.

According to the article, Crabtree is the daughter of very religious parents, and is herself a deeply religious person. We get this anecdote:

Gender is blurred in ways that she said [Crabtree] believes God did not intend. She said a man in her church comes to Sunday services dressed in women’s clothing. When she was shopping this fall, a cashier at T.J. Maxx who checked her out looked like a man but, as she saw it, had feminine mannerisms.

“I wanted to shake him and say, ‘You can be the man you are!’” she said. “‘It’s OK to use your strong voice.’”

She doesn’t like teaching anything about race to kids. She doesn’t like the rising number of immigrants. She thinks these things are “pulling our Republic apart at the seams.” She home schools her four children to protect them from these cultural changes. Her oldest son went with his father to Trump’s January 6 speech. She says they didn’t participate in the insurrection.

[Crabtree’s son] graduated from high school last year but did not want to go to college and “pay $100,000 to fight indoctrination.” She said he now works at Chick-fil-A and wants to teach his peers about patriotism.

After states and cities responded to the pandemic with lockdowns, mask mandates, and other public health measures, she began to research.

The more she researched online, the more it seemed that there was something bigger going on. She said she came to the conclusion that the government was misleading Americans. For whose benefit she could not tell. Maybe drug companies. Maybe politicians. Whatever the case, it made her feel like the people in charge saw her — and the whole country of people like her — as easy to take advantage of.

When she found out that Enid was considering a mask mandate, she decided to get involved. She used Facebook.

She felt contempt radiating from the other side, a sense that those who disagreed with her felt superior and wanted to humiliate her. She said she was taken aback at how people were ridiculing her on a pro-mask group on Facebook. She said she remembers one person writing that he hoped she would get Covid and die.

She can’t believe people are mean on the internet. She thinks “fear” is at the root of the meanness. (The articles doesn’t explain what that fear is.) The theme of victimization recurs throughout the article. This is new Council Member Whitney Roberts, a California transplant who runs a photography shop in Enid:

Ms. Roberts, who is 34, said that when she came out as a Trump supporter on Facebook in 2016, “I had a lot of friends delete me, without saying anything,” behavior that she said told her that they thought they were better than her, that she was not worth bothering with. Mr. Ezzell reminded her of that, she said, doodling instead of listening to people, “not even acknowledging that they’re there.”

Crabtree reached out to like-minded friends, and then created a Facebook page for the Enid Freedom Fighters. The first big action of the group was to attend the city Council meeting to speak against the mask mandate. Tavernise gives us a flavor of the meeting:

The meeting was unlike any [Councilman Jonathan Waddel] had ever attended. One woman cried and said wearing a mask made her feel like she did when she was raped at 17. Another read the Lord’s Prayer and said the word “agenda” at the top of the meeting schedule seemed suspicious. A man quoted Patrick Henry and handed out copies of the Constitution.

“The line is being drawn, folks,” said a man in jeans and a red T-shirt. He said the people in the audience “had been shouted down for the last 20 years, and they’re finally here to draw a line, and I think they’re saying, ‘We’ve had enough.’”

The mask mandate failed. Council members who supported it were shunned at Church, lost friends, and faced low-level threats. They lost their reelection bids. Former council member Waddell is thinking about leaving Oklahoma. The Enid Freedom Fighters have elected four people to the School Board, and put four people on the library board after a display of LGBTQ books during Pride Month.

The religious side of this story begins with Crabtree’s faith, but there’s more. She attends a Church led by Wade Burleson. Burleson

… whose church, Emmanuel Enid, is the largest in town. Enid has a substantial upper middle class, with large homes and a gated community near a country club and a golf course, and many of those families are part of the church’s 3,000-strong congregation,

Burleson is a supporter of an anti-vaxx doctor. (This link is amazing.)

Mr. Burleson used apocalyptic language, invoking Nazi doctors as a specter of where mask and vaccine mandates could end up. Mandates, he argues, are the first steps toward complete government control, and he feels called to warn people.

Burleson invited the right-winger Charlie Kirk who is touring churches around the country.

“They want to crush you,” Mr. Kirk said at an evening talk at Emmanuel Enid, referring to an unspecified “metropolitan elite,” and to government leaders, including Republicans. “They call you the smelly Walmart people. They do. You should hear the way your leaders talk about you. They have contempt for you. They want to try to turn Oklahoma into nothing more than a producing colony for the rest of the country.”

Discussion

1. Tavernise frames this story in standard liberal dressing. She quotes social scientists saying thing like: people whose identity is threatened feel threatened and react forcefully. She says this is a story of two groups of people who both want what’s best for Enid.

That’s not what this is. Crabtree and her group follow standard right-wing Republican tactics: they go to meetings and scream at officials. They rile people up leading to low-level but deniable violence aimed at their opponents. It isn’t about being heard. It’s about bludgeoning officials into doing what the screamers want.

Tavernise doesn’t push on obvious questions. If Crabtree feels threatened, what exactly is she afraid of? Is it some kid at a TJ Maxx, or a guy in a dress at her Church? If so, what does she think should be done, exactly? How would she use the government to force that kid to talk like Johnny Cash? What is her vision for Enid? Are the Enid Freedom Fighters fighting for the freedom of anyone besides themselves?

2. The argument that opponents act superior is preached by the likes of the scold David Brooks in The Atlantic. See this post.

Democracy is founded on the willingness of all of us to listen respectfully to the arguments of others. I’d be delighted to hear how I can politely discuss the claim that Covid is a hoax designed to enable some unknown persons to exert control over other people for some unknown reason, or the claim that vaccines kill people.

3. At the end of the article, Tavernise quotes Crabtree:

““There are a whole bunch of people who are realizing, oh, apathy didn’t serve us well. Look at where we are. I think we better wake up and get involved. I think people are waking up.”

We’d better wake up to what the anti-democracy forces are doing. And by “we” I mean Democratic Party Politicians: their indifference to anyone except consultants and donors, and their happy decades-old memories of a vanishing US democracy, have put them soundly to sleep.

Copyright © 2022 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/2022-mid-term-election/