The Evidentiary Hole in the Middle of Ari Melber’s “Not anything but evidence”

Fresh off giving Andrew Weissmann a platform to complain that DOJ’s multi-spoked investigation into January 6 should be multi-spoked, fresh off giving Adam Schiff an opportunity to make the (still-uncorrected) false claim that Congress never gets ahead of DOJ on parts of investigations they’re conducting in parallel, Ari Melber rolled out a schema (one, two) about his understanding of Trump’s corrupt acts that others have found really helpful.

It came with a nifty, mostly-accurate graphic that shows how multiple attempts to stay in power worked in parallel.

That graphic is helpful for those trying to keep track of all the efforts Trump pursued.

But Ari’s “special report,” which he claims is “built on evidence, not anything but evidence,” is most useful for demonstrating the evidentiary hole in the middle of his understanding of events leading up to January 6. And not just his understanding: also my own, and (at least based off their hearings) even the January 6 Committee’s. Neither Ari, the Committee, nor I, nor anyone I know to be investigating — save possibly DOJ and one or two really well sourced journalists — knows for certain what happened between the end of the December 18, 2020 meeting where Sidney Powell pitched Trump on a plan to seize voting machines and Trump’s December 19 tweet that led Stop the Steal plotters to start taking steps that led to a violent attack on the Capitol.

Before I lay out how well Ari illustrates that evidentiary hole, there are multiple things that Ari gets wrong (I’ve put my transcription of the most important parts of his presentation below). Most have to do with Ari’s apparent misunderstanding of how the blue collar violent attack on the Capitol related to the white collar parts of the coup attempt he has familiarity with.

For example, he claims, without evidence, that Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, and John Eastman wanted pardons, “totally separate from the January 6 violence.” But according to Cassidy Hutchinson, both Rudy and Meadows knew by January 2 that Trump planned to go to the Capitol and it might get “real, real bad.”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: As Mr. Giuliani and I were walking to his vehicles that evening, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It’s going to be a great day. I remember looking at him saying, Rudy, could you explain what’s happening on the 6th? He had responded something to the effect of, we’re going to the Capitol.

It’s going to be great. The President’s going to be there. He’s going to look powerful. He’s — he’s going to be with the members. He’s going to be with the Senators. Talk to the chief about it, talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.

LIZ CHENEY: And did you go back then up to the West Wing and tell Mr. Meadows about your conversation with Mr. Giuliani?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I did. After Mr. Giuliani had left the campus that evening, I went back up to our office and I found Mr. Meadows in his office on the couch. He was scrolling through his phone. I remember leaning against the doorway and saying, I just had an interesting conversation with Rudy, Mark. It sounds like we’re going to go to the Capitol.

He didn’t look up from his phone and said something to the effect of, there’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know. Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.

Hutchinson also tied White House awareness of the militias now charged with seditious conspiracy with Rudy’s presence.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I recall hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boys closer to the planning of the January 6th rally when Mr. Giuliani would be around.

As for Eastman, Mike Pence’s Counsel, Greg Jacob, accused Eastman in real time, as his family was worried whether Jacob would get out alive, of causing the “siege” on the Capitol by “whipping large numbers of people into a frenzy over something with no chance of ever attaining legal force through actual process of law.”

[T]hanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.


[I]t was gravely, gravely irresponsible of you to entice the President of with an academic theory that had no legal viability, and that you well know we would lose before any judge who heard and decided the case. And if the courts declined to hear it, I suppose it could only be decided in the streets. The knowing amplification of that theory through numerous surrogates, whipping large numbers of people into a frenzy over something with no chance of ever attaining legal force through actual process of law, has led us to where we are.

Judge David Carter’s opinion finding it likely Eastman and Trump conspired to obstruct the vote count included Trump’s effort to send the mob, which we now know he knew to be armed, to the Capitol.

President Trump ended his speech by galvanizing the crowd to join him in enacting the plan: “[L]et’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” to give Vice President Pence and Congress “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”218

So all of these three men, per key witnesses and one judge, have legal exposure that is directly tied to the violence at the Capitol. Maybe they only wanted pardons for their white collar crimes, but — according to the evidence — all are implicated in the blue collar crimes.

Ari also treats the consideration of a plan to have DOD seize the voting machines as “the military plot,” one that ended on December 18. There are two problems with this. First, Ari ignores that this plan was revised to put DHS in charge of seizing the machines, which is how the plan resurfaced on December 31, when Trump serially tried to get DOJ and DHS to seize the machines.

ADAM KINZINGER: Mr. Rosen, the President asked you to seize voting machines from state governments. What was your response to that request?

JEFFREY A. ROSEN: That we had — we had seen nothing improper with regard to the voting machines. And I told him that the — the real experts that had been at DHS and they had briefed us, that they had looked at it and that there was nothing wrong with the — the voting machines. And so that was not something that was appropriate to do.

ADAM KINZINGER: There would be no factual basis to seize machines. Mr. Donoghue —

JEFFREY A. ROSEN: — I — I don’t think there was legal authority either.

ADAM KINZINGER: Yeah. Mr. Donohue can you explain what the President did after he was told that the Justice Department would not seize voting machines?

RICHARD DONOGHUE: The President was very agitated by the Acting Attorney General’s response. And to the extent that machines and — and the technology was being discussed, the Acting Attorney General said that the DHS, Department of Homeland Security, has expertise in machines and certifying them and making sure that the states are operating them properly.

And since DHS had been mentioned, the President yelled out to his Secretary get Ken Cuccinelli on the phone. And she did in very short order. Mr. Cuccinelli was on the phone. He was the number two at DHS at the time. It was on the speakerphone, and the President essentially said, Ken, I’m sitting here with the Acting Attorney General.

He just told me it’s your job to seize machines and you’re not doing your job. And Mr. Cuccinelli responded.

More importantly, Ari ignores that both militias charged with sedition and a goodly number of other armed rioters believed that larger scale violence would break out (possibly via clashes with counter-protestors, possibly in response to the GOP attempt to steal votes at the Capitol) on January 6, which would create the excuse for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to accord legal authority to the mob to act on his behalf. That will literally be Stewart Rhodes’ defense against a sedition charge, that he expected his attack on the US to come with Trump’s legal sanction.

And the plan may have gone further than that. To the extent that Trump asked the National Guard to be prepared for January 6, it was to protect his supporters, not to protect the Capitol.

Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘‘protect pro Trump people’’ and that many more would be available on standby.

When reports that the Guard would deploy first started to come out on January 6, Proud Boy Charles Donohoe [now a cooperating witness] reacted with surprise that the Guard would attack, rather than protect, Trump supporters.

That is, the actual plans for a military coup, rather than a Sidney Powell plan that Trump rejected then revisited, envisioned having armed Trump supporters and the National Guard holding the Capitol together. It was a plan that multiple militia members — most notably Rhodes, which forms a key part of the sedition evidence against him — but even joined by some members of Congress continued to pursue after January 6. There was a military plot that was far worse than the one that Ari labels as “that very bad red illegal plan,” but to understand it, you need to understand what happened at the Capitol, and what plans continued for weeks — still continue!! — after, per Ari, the violence “ended within one day.”

On top of a lack of understanding of what actually happened at the Capitol, Ari’s scheme includes conflicting claims. Ari claims that after Trump chose not to pursue Sidney Powell’s plan on December 18, he turned to “muscle.” “So that’s when I bring muscle to January 6.” His nifty graphic shows the plans to “sabotage Jan. 6” (adopting an utterly bizarre word, “sabotage,” which whitewashes both the violence planned and the legal crime, obstruction, committed) started right then, on December 19. But then, after claiming that Trump turned to “muscle” starting on December 19, Ari suggests that Trump’s only agency in the violence that ensued was the speech he gave on January 6. “The law makes it hard to pin an insurrection on one speech.”

In his presentation, at least, Ari ignores that “muscle” had been a part of the plan from the start, with operatives forming mobs at counting locations in the swing states that in turn created the cover for the fake electors plot and elicited threats against election officials, and it continued through to January 6 and beyond.

This may stem from an unfortunate unevenness on the part of the January 6 Committee.

The seventh hearing — the one purportedly focused on the rioters — depicted the actions of Ali Alexander and Alex Jones as an organic response to Trump’s December 19 tweet.

Donald Trump issued a tweet that would galvanize his followers, unleash a political firestorm, and change the course of our history as a country. Trump’s purpose was to mobilize a crowd. And how do you mobilize a crowd in 2020? With millions of followers on Twitter, President Trump knew exactly how to do it. At 1:42 AM on December 19, 2020, shortly after the last participants left the unhinged meeting, Trump sent out the tweet with his explosive invitation.

Trump repeated his big lie and claimed it was “statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 election” before calling for a big protest in DC on January 6th, be there, will be wild. Trump supporters responded immediately. Women for America First, a pro-Trump organizing group, had previously applied for a rally permit for January 22nd and 23rd in Washington, DC, several days after Joe Biden was to be inaugurated.

But in the hours after the tweet, they moved their permit to January 6th, two weeks before. This rescheduling created the rally where Trump would eventually speak. The next day, Ali Alexander, leader of the Stop the Steal organization and a key mobilizer of Trump supporters, registered, named after Trump’s tweet. provided comprehensive information about numerous newly organized protest events in Washington. It included event times, places, speakers, and details on transportation to Washington DC. Meanwhile, other key Trump supporters, including far right media personalities, began promoting the wild protest on January 6th. [Begin videotape]

ALEX JONES: It’s Saturday, December 19th. The year is 2020, and one of the most historic events in American history has just taken place. President Trump, in the early morning hours today, tweeted that he wants the American people to march on Washington DC on January 6th, 2021.

That hearing similarly implied that Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs’ efforts to set up an alliance between the militias, which undoubtedly started at least days earlier, was a response to Trump’s tweet.

On December 19th at 10:22 a.m., just hours after President Trump’s tweet, Kelly Meggs, the head of the Florida Oath Keepers, declared an alliance among the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and the Florida Three Percenters, another militia group.

He wrote, we have decided to work together and shut this shit down. Phone records obtained by the Select Committee show that later that afternoon, Mr. Meggs called Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and they spoke for several minutes. The very next day, the Proud Boys got to work. The Proud Boys launched an encrypted chat called the Ministry of Self-defense.

That is, in places, the Committee encouraged this notion that everything pivoted on December 19 after that tweet.

But elsewhere, the Committee made it clear that the “muscle” and the militia were part of the plan from the start. Its fourth hearing on the Big Lie, for example, made clear that the earlier mobs were led by the very same people who seemingly sprung to action in response to Trump’s December 19 tweet.

[Ali Alexander]:

Let us in. Let us in. Let us in. Special session. Special session. Special session. We’ll light the whole shit on fire.


What are we going to do? What can you and I do to a state legislator besides kill him? Although, we should not do that. I’m not advising that, but I mean what else can you do? Right?


The punishment for treason is death.

[End Videotape]


The state pressure campaign and the danger it posed to state officials and to State Capitols around the nation was a dangerous precursor to the violence we saw on January 6th at the US Capitol.


The Select Committee has uncovered evidence in the course of our investigation that at stop the steal protests at state capitols across the country, there were individuals with ties to the groups or parties involved in the January 6th attack on the US Capitol. One of those incursions took place in the Arizona House of Representatives building, as you can see in this footage.

This is previously undisclosed video of protesters illegally entering and refusing to leave the building. One of the individuals prominently shown in this video is Jacob Chansley, perhaps better known as the QAnon Shaman. This rioter entered the Capitol on January 6th, was photographed leaving a threatening note on the dais in the US Senate chamber, and was ultimately sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding. Other protesters who occupied the Arizona House of Representatives building included — included Proud Boys, while men armed with rifles stood just outside the entrance.

And different parts of the seventh hearing showed that these ties are much better established, including through Roger Stone’s Friends of Stone listserv that started plotting immediately after the election.

Raskin: In the same time frame, Stone communicated with both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers regularly. The committee obtained encrypted content from a group – – from a group chat called Friends of Stone, FOS, which included Stone, Rhodes, Tarrio and Ali Alexander.

The chat focused on various pro-Trump events in November and December of 2020, as well as January 6th. As you can see here, Stewart Rhodes himself urged the Friends of Stone to have people go to their state capitols if they could not make it to Washington for the first million MAGA March on November 14th. These friends of Roger Stone had a significant presence at multiple pro-Trump events after the election, including in Washington on December the 12th. On that day, Stewart Rhodes called for Donald Trump to invoke martial law, promising bloodshed if he did not.


JAMIE RASKIN: Encrypted chats obtained by the Select Committee show that Kelly Meggs, the indicted leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, spoke directly with Roger Stone about security on January 5th and 6th. In fact, on January 6th, Stone was guarded by two Oath Keepers who have since been criminally indicted for seditious conspiracy.

One of them later pleaded guilty and, according to the Department of Justice, admitted that the Oath Keepers were ready to use, quote, lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard. As we’ve seen, the Proud Boys were also part of the Friends of Stone Network.

Stone’s ties to the Proud Boys go back many years. He’s even taken their so-called fraternity creed required for the first level of initiation to the group.


Katrina Pierson, one of the organizers of January 6th rally and a former campaign spokeswoman for President Trump, grew increasingly apprehensive after learning that multiple activists had been proposed as speakers for the January 6th rally. These included some of the people we discussed earlier in this hearing.

Roger Stone, a longtime outside advisor to President Trump; Alex Jones, the founder of the conspiracy theory website Infowars; and Ali Alexander, an activist known for his violent political rhetoric. On December 30th, Miss Pierson exchanged text messages with another key rally organizer about why people like Mr. Alexander and Mr. Jones were being suggested as speakers at the President’s rally on January 6th. Ms. Pierson’s explanation was POTUS, and she remarks that the President likes the crazies.

Remember that the Committee cut a good deal of their presentation focused on the militia in that seventh hearing to integrate more of Pat Cipollone’s testimony, which I think was one of the more unsuccessful planning decisions the Committee made.

Even still, taken as a whole, the Committee shows that the network around Roger Stone, which linked Ali Alexander, Alex Jones, and other movement activists to the militias (Jones had his own long-standing ties to the militias, including his former employee Joe Biggs), was riling up crowds starting immediately after the election, took concrete steps seemingly in response to Trump’s December 19 tweet, and continued to do so on January 6.

I mean, Roger Stone has been doing this since 2000.

In his most recent schema at least, Ari ignores all of that. Stone, Alexander, the militias, go unmentioned, and Trump’s role in the violence is limited to a single speech.

Which brings me back to the evidentiary gap that Ari and I share, seemingly in conjunction with the Committee.

In Ari’s telling, Donald Trump and Peter Navarro (with whom Ari has had a series of interviews) are the agents of this timeline. In his telling, Trump made an effort to “find a coup plotter” who would go further than his personal lawyer Rudy, who at least according to Hutchinson, had ties to the militias (though Powell is currently funding the legal defense of several Oath Keepers). Ari claimed that Powell was still on the campaign team, even though Rudy had explicitly and publicly stated she had no role on the campaign as early as November 22.

And Ari suggested that Trump adopted Powell’s plan, then either “back[ed] down” or “quit” it.

But as the January 6 Committee described it, it’s not really clear what happened; Pat Cipollone couldn’t even say whether Powell was appointed Special Counsel.

PAT CIPOLLONE: I don’t know what her understanding of whether she had been appointed, what she had been appointed to, Ok? In my view, she hadn’t been appointed to anything and ultimately wasn’t appointed to anything, because there had to be other steps taken. And that was my view when I left the meeting. But she may have a different view, and others may have a different view, and — and the president may have a different view.

To make matters worse, there are few if any credible witnesses here. Sidney Powell and her entourage (including Patrick Byrne, Mike Flynn, and an unnamed attorney) are batshit insane. So is Rudy. Cipollone, who gets treated as a grown-up, seems to be protecting Trump with his privilege claims. Meadows showed up later, but he’s a liar. Cassidy Hutchinson was texting details about the screaming and took a picture of Meadows escorting Rudy from the premises, but she is not known to have been in the meeting.

What seems common to all descriptions is that the Powell entourage showed up without an appointment and were let in by (as Ari notes) Peter Navarro aide Garrett Ziegler, though Patrick Byrne’s account describes two others being involved in their unplanned entry as well. That’s not a plan, it’s a pitch.

During the course of the meeting, Trump entertained the Powell plan because, he complained, Rudy and others were offering him nothing better.

UNKNOWN: So one of the other things that’s been reported that was said during this meeting was that President Trump told White House lawyers Mr. Herschmann and Mr. Cipollone that they weren’t offering him any solutions, but Ms. Powell and others were. So why not try what Ms. Powell and others were proposing? Do you remember anything along those lines being said by President Trump?

DEREK LYONS: I do. That sounds right.

ERIC HERSCHMANN: I think that it got to the point where the screaming was completely, completely out there. I mean, you got people walk in, it was late at night, had been a long day. And what they were proposing I thought was nuts.

RUDY GIULIANI: I’m gonna — I’m gonna categorically describe it as you guys are not tough enough. Or maybe I put it another way. You’re a bunch of pussies. Excuse the expression, but that — that’s I — I’m almost certain the word was used.

But the impression given by virtually all versions of this story (key versions linked below) is that by the end of the night, the White House lawyers and Rudy had mostly convinced Trump not to adopt this plan.

If that’s the case (and several people have backed that story under oath), this will be exculpatory if and when Trump ever goes to trial, not inculpatory. Entertaining a suspect idea — even the arguably legal one of appointing Jeffrey Clark to more aggressively pursue voter fraud claims, and especially a plan to seize the poll machines — but rejecting it on the advice of lawyers, even if Trump was persuaded to do so largely out of self-interest, is evidence someone is trying to stay inside the law, not break it. To be sure, there’s plenty of other evidence that Trump knowingly broke the law, but some of the most contentious meetings will actually be used in his defense. That just means prosecutors will find their proof of motive in places more directly tied to the crimes.

But the meeting accounts showing lawyers at least stalling on any decision about seizing the machines is where the trail goes dark.

No one has yet explained what happened between the time everyone left and the moment Trump’s tweet went out, and the understanding with which key planners adjusted their own timelines. Instead, we get narratives like Ari’s, or Jamie Raskin’s, that present the timing as proof that Trump took a third alternative — a pretty strong inference, undoubtedly — without an explanation of how the tweet got sent out or whether those involved knew where things would lead or who pitched Trump.

Not long after Sidney Powell, General Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani — Giuliani left the White House in the early hours of the morning, President Trump turned away from both his outside advisers’ most outlandish and unworkable schemes and his White House counsel’s advice to swallow hard and accept the reality of his loss.

Instead, Donald Trump issued a tweet that would galvanize his followers, unleash a political firestorm, and change the course of our history as a country. Trump’s purpose was to mobilize a crowd. And how do you mobilize a crowd in 2020? With millions of followers on Twitter, President Trump knew exactly how to do it. At 1:42 AM on December 19, 2020, shortly after the last participants left the unhinged meeting, Trump sent out the tweet with his explosive invitation.

Trump repeated his big lie and claimed it was “statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 election” before calling for a big protest in DC on January 6th, be there, will be wild. Trump supporters responded immediately. Women for America First, a pro-Trump organizing group, had previously applied for a rally permit for January 22nd and 23rd in Washington, DC, several days after Joe Biden was to be inaugurated.

But in the hours after the tweet, they moved their permit to January 6th, two weeks before. This rescheduling created the rally where Trump would eventually speak. The next day, Ali Alexander, leader of the Stop the Steal organization and a key mobilizer of Trump supporters, registered, named after Trump’s tweet. provided comprehensive information about numerous newly organized protest events in Washington. It included event times, places, speakers, and details on transportation to Washington DC. Meanwhile, other key Trump supporters, including far right media personalities, began promoting the wild protest on January 6th. [Begin videotape]

It appears that both Powell’s contingent and Rudy left after midnight, with Meadows and Rudy together alone as Rudy left. Less than two hours later, that tweet went out, a tweet that was demonstrably central to both the organized and disorganized mobilization of the mob, one that has long been a focus of DOJ’s prosecutions (proof, among other proof, that Ari’s claim that DOJ has only focused on January 6 and the days immediately before it is false).

It’s certainly possible that after everyone left Peter Navarro came in, or maybe just Ziegler, and presented an alternative plan, a mob, but Ari presents no evidence that happened and it’s unlikely either Ziegler or Navarro would have been silent about their role in it. It’s more likely that Rudy and Meadows agreed they had to offer Trump another alternative, and they settled on January 6 (certainly, Meadows had advanced knowledge of Rudy’s plans for January 6). It’s possible that Trump had a late night call with someone else — Roger Stone or Bannon, maybe — who operationalized what came next. Maybe the dim-witted Meadows came up with the plan by himself.

Meadows, who refused to cooperate with the Committee, surely knows. Dan Scavino, who refused to cooperate, spent four years knowing what led up to most every tweet that Trump sent out. He also must know.

And while Ari doesn’t appear to know and I don’t either and the Committee doesn’t explain it if they know the answer, the one other place one might learn the answer is from those who turned existing infrastructure — the Stop the Steal effort, the permits — towards planning for January 6 (both of which DOJ has issued grand jury subpoenas to learn).

DOJ has been a bit coy about whether they know. That’s why I pointed to the remarkable use of the passive voice in Donohoe’s statement of offense in April, which virtually alone among January 6 filings obscures Trump’s role in announcing the riot on December 19, then turns immediately to Enrique Tarrio’s very hierarchical plan to instill discipline in the Proud Boys that didn’t exist at the December 12 MAGA March (the same trip to DC where Tarrio visited the White House as part of a Latinos for Trump visit).

On December 19, 2020, plans were announced for a protest event in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, which protest would coincide with Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

On or before December 20, 2020, Tarrio approached Donohoe and solicited his interest in joining the leadership of a new chapter of the Proud Boys, called the Ministry of Self Defense (“MOSD”). Donohoe understood from Tarrio that the new chapter would be focused on the planning and execution of national rallies and would consist of hand-selected “rally” boys. Donohoe felt privileged to be included and agreed to participate.

That happened “on or before” December 20, allowing for the possibility that the Proud Boys started to plan before Trump publicly announced the rally. Among other communications that DOJ likely has that the Committee has more limited access to are at least three versions of the Friends of Stone listserv (from Tarrio, Rhodes, and Owen Shroyer’s phones).

My instinct — based on all the evidence that these same people had been the muscle going back to the election — is that that’s where one could find the answer: Meadows, Scavino, Trump, Rudy, but also those who directed existing infrastructure towards January 6. But that’s just instinct. We still really don’t know for sure.

Presidents often adopt the plans of the last person in the room, and that’s probably more true with Trump than many of his predecessors. We know — or believe — that Sidney Powell and Rudy both left. Which means we don’t know who pitched Trump on the plan he ultimately adopted, the one that led directly to an attack on the Capitol.

There absolutely is a slew of evidence that that tweet made the difference, not just with the militias, but with disorganized conspirators and individuals who took Trump’s tweet as an order to make travel plans. It is absolutely the case that after that meeting, Trump took a fateful step (though that has been clear for at least a year). We just don’t know what led him to post that tweet.

Many of those people [Rudy, Meadows, Eastman] wanted pardons totally separate from the January 6 violence and that is important as we look at a different plot Trump’s effort to find a coup plotter would who go farther than Giuliani, his lawyer, Sidney Powell. She would go even farther. So the plan was to take her off the campaign team and try to install her inside the government to get the military to seize voting machines.


Trump did back down on that very bad red illegal plan. And by the way, quitting an illegal coup would be a good thing, but this was the military plot: another conspiracy’s prong that hits a dead end. And this is key, because facing that dead end, late that same night of December 18th, Trump turned to the other plot pushed by Eastman and Navarro, posting what is by now an infamous tweet that announces the January 6 rally, beginning, quote, Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump. That was the lie Trump needed to build on when he summons the people to DC for the first time. Quote, big protest in DC on January 6th. Will be wild. Now that’s the first time Trump ever told supporters there was a place to come join this fight. And none of this happened in isolation. The evidence of Trump’s criminal intent is worse when all the facts are shown about the plot. Trump began the public operation to sabotage January 6 as a certified vote which was criminal, only after hitting this dead end in the failed plot to have the military help a coup. Now his lawyers warned him of the criminal issues here. Of the criminal intent and actions of that military plot. And he still moved, continuously, from that conspiracy to this one. Now, that’s damning evidence if prosecutors are indicting a broader conspiracy. And the White House aide connecting both plots is Navarro whose aide helped sneak in the military plotters there, then, he’s part of Trump’s January 6th announcement.

[A quote about seizing machines, ignores DHS]

This is something that Rudy Giuliani said would land them all in prison. Rudy Giuliani. He’s already lost his law license. We’ll see what else happens to him. But that is the context as we showed tonight: That when that fails, is the same time, the same night, that Donald Trump comes in and says, alright, I can’t abuse military power. I’m even being told by my most aggressive, lawless lawyers — the kind that he apparently prefers — that that’s not gonna work. So that’s when I bring muscle to January 6. But we have had, in this country, in our minds and apparently at the Justice Department as we reported tonight, a fixation on only looking here [post December 19]. On basically the 6th, or the lead-up to the 6th, or a few days out. And that’s understandable, given what we lived through. We’re human beings and the 6th was one of the worst attacks and one of the worst national security crises America has ever faced, from a domestic threat, let alone an incumbent outgoing President. The point tonight, which we’ve built on evidence, not anything but evidence, is that when you actually go all the way back, when you actually understand how this started, and how many different plots were pursued, thwarted, warned about, and then desperately doubled down upon, that goes to the criminal intent. Let me put it simply. Taken separately, some of these plots can be viewed like a gray area, clumsy plans that didn’t occur or the insurrection that exploded but also ended within one day. I’ll tell you something. The law makes it hard to pin an insurrection on one speech. As it should. But taken together, you have the evidence of this wider criminal conspiracy with criminal intent running across weeks if not more. Remember, in court, prosecutors have to prove criminal intent in a moment, just that you meant to do it. This is weeks of that with lawyers warning these were crimes, especially after the legal door was closed in mid-December when the Electoral College voted — everything after that, when it comes to overturning votes and installing fraudulent electors, that’s that illegal red zone. That’s where you see the evidence of several crimes. And taken together? Well, this evidence suggests the question is no longer whether there are any indictable election offenses here, but how prosecutors would explain a failure to indict and enforce the law and how that does risk letting the close call of this documented and attempted multi-prong coup conspiracy turn into a training exercise that American democracy may not survive.


110 replies
  1. Gee says:

    “It’s possible that Trump had a late night call with someone else — Roger Stone or Bannon, maybe — who operationalized what came next.”

    This was always the fallback plan, IMO. If none of the political/electoral maneuverings panned out (and Cippolone killed that finally, mostly to save his own ass I’d guess), then it was going to get done the ugly way, with force. I’d bet everything that this is how it went down, and with Stone as the militia lead, Bannon as a consultant.

    *sorry if I’m using the wrong email; haven’t posted here in a long time.

    • Gee says:

      I say this in that, with the mob it seems, their is always coercion first, threats perhaps after. But if whatever the need is has not been satisfied, in the end, it is violence. And Trump is nothing if not a mobster in how he has conducted business throughout his life, not coincidentally in industries which are notorious for mob activity.

      The phrase “resorting to violence” is as it is because it’s often the last choice, the most unseemly, the most risky, but also, when all else has failed, and there is seemingly not much left to lose, the most likely means to a successful end. But this was not casual violence, or random, or spontaneous, not all of it, for in this case, such violence would have been less likely to be successful. The randos could act that part of the violence out (the cover) but the coordinated ones were directly in line with the contact Trump made after the failed pitch from the Overstock guy, Flynn, etc.

      • grennan says:

        So quickly that he stuffed his suits — high end, like those of his former business partner Paul Manifort — into trash bags so he could skedaddle. Wash Post, story about what the Danish film crew saw.

    • John Colvin says:

      I would bet good money that Roger Stone had some role in the shaping of the events of J6. There are certainly parallels with the successful Brooks Brothers Riot, which interrupted, intimidated, and ultimately shut down a vote recount in Miami-Dade in 2000. Replace the conservatively-dressed protestors in Miami with militia members and MAGA true-believers in the Capitol, and you have a recipe for convincing Pence and/or Congress to place their personal survival above their obligation to accept the electoral college votes of the contested states.

  2. obsessed says:

    >”It is always true that Presidents often adopt the plans of the last person in the room. ”

    That sentence needs something. Removing the first 5 words would fix the logical problem, and I think that’s what you mean. You could also remove “often” but I doubt that’s what you mean.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Read it again. The sentence is coherent as written: always and often apply to different things and are not contradictory.

      Of course there are other ways to say the same thing. For example, “It is true that presidents do not always adopt the recommendation of the last adviser in the room, but they often do.” It incorporates the same apparent conflict you raise, but uses a third more words to say the same thing.

      The most obvious example of the truism Marcy points out is George W. Bush. Dick Cheney, knowing the limitations of the man he was dealing with, ensured he was often the last man in the room to give him advice, often without any record. He only occasionally failed at his mission, as with obtaining a pardon for Scooter Libby.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Trump was obsessed with staying in office to save his own ass. He consistently refused to accept advice that did not lead to that end, regardless of how well-credentialed and experienced the adviser and how often it was given to him.

          He occasionally rejected advice that might lead to that end, but might also implicate him personally or criminally. But he never wavered in seeking advice that resulted in his staying in office.

          Given Trump’s habit of using someone else’s phone, who’s to say the “last adviser in the room” wasn’t there by phone call or tweet, which might well have been erased for some obstructive but spurious reason or another?

          • Fran of the North says:

            I’d suggest that in addition to staying in office to prevent being indicted in any one of other offenses, he also did it because of the ego boost of being the most powerful individual on the planet, along with the incredible opportunities for grift.

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    Why do so many people assume that sequence suggests causation with respect to the crazy meeting and the tweet? I think it is far more likely that the crazy meeting simply delayed that tweet. Trump had multiple lines of attack in his coup plot, even before the election. The coup violence and plotting for violence had already started before the tweet. Arguably, the coup violence started in October 2020, although there no indication yet that Trump was involved in that episode.

    • bmaz says:

      This why I keep talking about causation and intent, because I don’t think DOJ or J6 has it yet.

    • Gee says:

      Right…it’s not like you can get a few militias to attack the Capitol without a ton of distracting cover. And they needed time, planning and ultimately a trigger to make sure all those cover providing people were in going to be in place.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Indeed. Trump’s career demonstrates the lessons he learned from Roy Cohn, but he failed to grasp the utility of the subtlety, nuance, and misdirection his mentor could sometimes apply to the task. For Trump, there is little separating physical violence from violent and egregiously invalid interpretations of the law.

      Physical violence or its threat is an inseparable part of an insurrection. The coup leader’s task is not to be accountable for it.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      As Gee (I think) says above, violence is Trump’s lasts resort, an option he always has in mind from the beginning. To me it seems more that the tweet was a result of the meeting because he had been convinced by WH lawyers that the crazy quasi-legal methods being proposed wouldn’t get him where he wanted to go. My guess is the meeting “caused” the tweet not because the idea was hatched there, but because that meeting convinced Trump that violence would have to be part of the plan. My guess is that after that meeting, Trump himself set in motion the plan for a riot. Unless there is evidence about what Trump did in that hour and forty-five minutes. the case against Trump will be limited in the way Bmaz describes.

      • grennan says:

        The time gap was less than half an hour, according to some coverage…yet another timing issue.

  4. viget says:

    I still am of the opinion that @gal_suburban has it right: the insurrection was always plan B. Plan A was the military coup/voting machine seizure. But that all depended on EO 13848, and when the IC failed to deliver the so-called required 45 day report with the verbiage they wanted, they couldn’t use the EO as pretext any more.

    Dec 18th then was the crazies trying to get Trump to go along invoking the IEEPA act anyway, to allow for seizure based on Navarro’s report.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think EO 13848 was more utilitarianism tho. That EO was forced on POTUS; otherwise it was going to be law. But once in place, it served as another tool he could exploit.

      • viget says:

        I totally agree re: 13848 being forced on Trump by others, but it strikes me as the kind of window dressing Cipellone would have been ok getting behind. But only if the letter of the EO was followed. Without the IC report, that wasn’t going to happen.

        My thoughts are that Rudy was supposed to deliver the goods via his Ukrainian connections to DHS, but with the Fraud Guarantee clowns getting caught, that never happened.

        Makes me wonder if impeachment I, impeachment II, and J6 are all just part and parcel of the same long conspiracy to get Trump reelected. With the qpq being Firtash funding it in exchange for the Ukrainian carve-up they’re attempting now.

        • Rayne says:

          Purely coincidental that Joseph Cuffari was approved by the Senate to be OIG-DHS on July 25, 2019 — the same day as Trump’s “perfect phone call” with Ukraine’s Zelenskyy.

          Cuffari had been nominated on November 1, 2018, while Cuffari was still working for AZ’s Gov. Doug Ducey. I need to go back and check to see when Giuliani started working on the Ukraine stuff…oh, Parnas hired Giuliani Partners in August 2018.

        • MattyG says:

          Well, I agree. Kremlin-Ukraine must have been a moving part in the overall plan. Which argues for considerable advanced planning – on all fronts,

          • viget says:

            As Marcy is wont to say: good thing they had shitty op sec.

            If Asha Rangappa knew what was up in Sept 2019, not surprised the IC was able to stop it.

              • viget says:

                Exactly. I think she deleted the tweet, but I distinctly remember a “democracy was fun” tweet with a sad kitty looking out on a rainy day in early Sept 2019. Shortly thereafter we heard about the CIA whistleblower.

  5. BobCon says:

    “the actual plans for a military coup, rather than a Sidney Powell plan that Trump rejected then revisited, envisioned having armed Trump supporters and the National Guard holding the Capitol together.”

    I keep thinking back to the January 3 Washington Post piece cosigned by every former DOD secretary (including Trump’s) warning against military interference with the transfer of power.

    This came weeks after the end of the idea to use the military to seize voting machines. It’s possible it was in reaction to that plan, but I have to wonder if it wasn’t prompted by concern about the potential to use the National Guard to seize the Capitol.

    The recent January 6 hearing covering the role of Guard still hasn’t cleared up whether more was in the works besides general incompetence and fears about optics. But the delay in deployment doesn’t rule out the possibility that it was intended to allow the hunt for Pence and Pelosi to continue for as long as possible without interference, and then create a pretext for then using the Guard for his own ends.

    But I assume Liz Cheney knows more about the January 3 letter and what was behind it, since her father signed it and his former aide organized it. Something spooked the former secretaries, and I have to wonder if it was just the Powell voting machine seizure plan or newer circumstantial evidence.

    • Zirc says:

      Agreed. I sure would like to know what spooked the SecDefs. Dick Cheney thought he knew something was going to happen and was able to convince the other SecDefs to sign on to the letter. What was it?

    • FiestyBlueBird says:

      Perhaps Liz actually got that ball rolling. I thought I’d read that somewhere. Found it again here in The New Yorker.

      I, too, found that letter an extraordinary thing at the time.

      • timbo says:

        Everyone who was paying attention found it extraordinary. The fact that it was issued that late in the game makes one wonder exactly what was happening behind the scenes within the military and intelligence communities. If there was nothing irregular in the works, the letter would have been unnecessary.

  6. bmaz says:

    And here it is: At least seven key Trump Defense and military officials, including Chris Miller and Kash Patel, wiped their cell phones too. DOJ not amused.

    • Fraud Guy says:

      That should leave a mark on their security clearances, which might be required for their current positions

      • cmarlowe says:

        “Current positions?” — I could be wrong, but I think Kash and Miller are no longer employed by DoD, so their clearance would have ended. Future employment requiring a clearance would require a new SF86 (I think) which would require them to reveal all J6 related activities.

        For military people, this should be a problem.

        • bmaz says:

          Think it carries over for at least two years, especially if move into a civilian job requiring clearance. Unless, of course, it gets revoked for cause.

          • Peterr says:

            And if you go beyond the two year time (or whatever the length is), you don’t generally have to file a new SF86, but simply update it to cover the time since you were last cleared.

            It’s not nothing, but they don’t start the clearance process from scratch either.

            • cmarlowe says:

              It may or may not carry over to the new job. Probably would if the sponsor (like DoD) is the same. If its a different 3 letter agency, it may not.

              The update would have to include disclosure of questionable J6 activities. That said, even if you have an active clearance not currently up for review – you are required to disclose any illegal (or potentially illegal I think) activities, like obstruction. “Knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony…”

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      If we hadn’t become so desensitizes during recent years, the news so many high government officials, and especially officials responsible for national security, having to wipe messages from their phones–I mean, it’s pretty damn frightening and a BFD.

      • bmaz says:

        Yeah. After all the hysteria over Hillary having her cooking emails and ones to her mother of whatever filtered and gone, you would sure think this is 10X, or worse, worse.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Looks like coordinated obstruction, but you might need the deleted texts to prove it. That, plus records retention laws have no teeth, something Congress might address after it enjoys its August recess.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Not to be too obvious, but government, like corporate culture, starts at the top. Combine that with Dick Cheney’s truism that personnel is policy, and you have the serial illegality that is the Trump administration. Imagine how bad this would be were there a Trump 2.0.

  7. Badger Robert says:

    Mr. Melber is dealing with the limitations of TV, but also its visual power.
    His premise is contained in his closing remarks which you transcribed. The plot was all connected, by its center. Anyone involved in one part was involved in the whole plot.
    And he pointed out that DofJ has not yet indicted any of the advocates of the other parts, nor the planners of the 01/06 riot.
    On TV, there could be further exposition of how the law of conspiracy applies. A conspiracy can have many parts, not all of which are implemented and the people in the conspiracy may not even know how their part connects to the other parts.
    Thanks for this post, which is an important step.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, well, obtaining a conspiracy conviction is not at all that easy. Ari and Weissmann should know that, but they keep spewing this stuff and gullible viewers slurp it up.

      • Gee says:

        Yeah, and it’s going to be a lot harder now that we are learning just how much of the planning communicatons got wiped. Ugh.

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s not even clear that Trump is the clear center. Yes, he was central, but parts of this plot were masterminded by other minds.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Trump attracted others who saw in him a chance to benefit themselves and their careers, so it makes sense that his ostensible centrality blurs. He seems incapable either of masterminding anything so complicated or imagining any consequences beyond his fantasy of a get out of jail free AND Go Directly to Boardwalk card being pressed in his hand on January 20.

  8. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Well, I’m just going to skip right on down to comment before I finish reading because right now I’m pretty damn proud of myself. I had even left a comment about those hours between a drunken Giuliani escorted off the WH grounds and the tweet. I keep picturing a phone call to Roger Stone. If the DOJ can get that evidence, that’s what ties Trump directly to his muscle. I look forward to reading the rest of this and the commentary.

    • Peterr says:

      The Willard Hotel is right across the street from the Treasury building, which actually sits on the WH grounds. I was recently in DC and stood between the Willard and Treasury, and wondered about the foot traffic between the WH and the Willard, including through the tunnel between the WH and Treasury basements that has been used in the past to keep WH visitors out of sight.

      • viget says:

        This. There have been rumblings of tunnels that connect Willard to Treasury and thus to WH. I can’t find anything definitive, but I’ve seen this RUMINT a number of times.

        • grennan says:

          The basement(s) of the Willard were “dug” by a team of government contract archeologists in the late ’70s or early/mid ’80s. (My late mom was one of them.)

          Can’t remember whether it was necessitated by Metro construction, potential demolition or sale. It would have been Interior or GSA, and there’s probably a copy of the report in the Library of Congess (LOC), Smithsonian (SI) or National Archives.

          That part of town was still pretty grungy, the Willard was a dump or closed or both.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            The building has been there since the 1840s, so perhaps they were enlarged or redug to buttress the existing structure.

            • grennan says:

              A little reading reminded me that it was empty for almost 20 years (and that I’d ridden the bus past it for summer jobs several of those years). Before the archaeology, the building/site was an inchoate urban planning issue for at least a decade. Finally historic preservation took hold along with skyrocketing Washington real estate prices.

              The archaeology report would have stuff about tunnels if there were any. (Plus several obsolete sewer systems, wharves, etc.)

              But IMO it’s much more likely that Mr. or Ms. X worked at the WH or was there earlier (apparently security and logs were not a quality concern).

  9. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Re-reading Hutchinson’s testimony about Rudy and PB makes me wonder if Giuliani was Trump’s contact person. If so, Rudy’s phone records are in possession of DOJ (right?), unless both ends used burner phones that DOJ never saw.

    • Ruthie says:

      You can use Signal to make phone calls. Since the app is encrypted, it would be difficult at best get caught.

      I’m not an expert, but a son is. He insists on using Signal for texting and phone calls (free even though he lives abroad, which is handy).

  10. Savage Librarian says:

    Count me among those who think the J6 coup was in the plans as an option for months, if not years. Trump could have conferred with any number of thugs after the crazies left on 12/18. Maybe he spoke with several people. And don’t forget that Manafort may have had actual experience in coup planning that Trump and Stone knew about:

    “Paul Manafort admits indirectly advising Trump in 2020 but keeping it secret in wait for pardon”| Books | The Guardian, 7/29/22
    “Manafort says the news he would be pardoned came via an intermediary, “a very good doctor friend, Ron, who is also close to Donald and Melania” and “was always one of the judges” at Miss Universe pageants when Trump ran them.”

    “The friend spoke to Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump adviser, who relayed the good news. Manafort was pardoned on 23 December 2020 – two weeks before the culmination of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, the deadly US Capitol attack, an event Manafort does not address.”

    • Savage Librarian says:

      “Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch” – Simon Shuster, 12/29/18
      “In more than a dozen interviews that TIME conducted this year, officials and political leaders in Montenegro confirmed that Deripaska and one other Russian oligarch bankrolled the pro-Russian opposition in 2016. Two of them said they heard Manafort’s name come up in strategy meetings for that opposition movement.”

      “When asked about Manafort’s role, Medojevic, one of the leaders of this movement, confirmed that he had met with Manafort to discuss a potential partnership in the fall of 2016….”

      “For Medojevic and the rest of the opposition, the elections in Montenegro did not go smoothly. The day before the vote, a group of men was arrested and charged with plotting to overthrow the government of Montenegro, assassinate its leader and seize power by force – all with abundant help from Moscow. The Montenegrin authorities later charged two agents of Russia’s
      military intelligence service with masterminding the alleged coup…”

    • viget says:

      As Marcy has pointed out many times before, Giuliani was the heir apparent to Manfort’s machinations once Manfort was indicted and jailed.

      Giuliani has connections to Ukraine through Lev Parnas and through the mobster Firtash via DiGenovToe.

      Note that Sidney Powell was a former AUSA for WD of Texas, and former FBI director and father of Pete Sessions, William, was the chief judge while Sidney was there.

      • grennan says:

        If you want to get conspiratorial, the Overstock guy was connected to Maria Butina, who was also the girlfriend of Paul Erickson, who Trump pardoned in his last days in office. Russian connections again…

        • vvv says:

          Forgive me if I’m wondering if, like, Kevin Bacon fits in somewhere …

          You know, just to some degree.

  11. Frank says:

    I don’t think Ari meant pardons “exclusive” to white collar crimes. I think he just meant that if the violence hadn’t happened, they still would have asked for pardons.

    • emptywheel says:

      He still has no evidence for that either.

      Look, one reason I took the time to do this is bc Ari embodies a particular kind of commentator who simply refuses to understand that the white collar scheming is directly connected to the blue collar violence. Without realizing it, they’re making it hard for DOJ to try to prevent more similar political violence, and they’re letting Trump off easy. I’m convinced it’s a cognitive problem, which is one of the reason I’ve started labeling it white/blue collar — because these people can’t conceive of how crass these crimes really were. Again, it lets Trump off easy.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        The blue collar/white collar dichotomy was brilliant, Marcy! It immediately got my attention as the perfect relatable pattern. Main Street vs. Wall Street: the language of social circles is well understood. The Mobster’s Mall is also subject to the same dichotomy. I think it is extremely helpful to think of it this way.

        Speaking of language, and incorporating mapping concepts that Rayne focused on recently, I came across this interesting (but dated) article:
        “Neuroscientists create ‘atlas’ showing how words are organised in the brain” – Ian Sample

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Didn’t Trump himself think of the mob, condescendingly, as “blue-collar” or its analogues? He has been reported as viewing his own base as beneath him, which might reinforce the dichotomy on the conspirators’ side.

        It’s also interesting, IIRC, how many J6 participants in fact held those kinds of jobs that might be classified as white-, pink-, or otherwise-collared, like business owners, real-estate agents, and tech experts. Not sure where all the gun dealers fall, but I’m thinking there should be a camo-collared category as well.

  12. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Re: what Trump took from the face-off between Team Crazy and Team Don’t-Want-to-Get-Caught. I think Trump saw that the WH lawyers weren’t going to let him follow the goofball plan. Sidney Powell, one of the most baffling characters I’ve ever come across, testified indignantly how about how controlling the lawyers were to Trump, said she would have had them escorted out of the building. Did she use the word insubordination? Anyway, those WH lawyers did a job that night. I particularly enjoy Eric Herschmann’s scornful description of events. Per their job description, they forced Trump to seek his illegal means off the record, which he did after that meeting, I strongly believe. Even more strongly I believe that no WH lawyer had anything to do with it. Meadows is stupid enough to do anything, of course.

    • timbo says:

      Do you also believe that none of these White House lawyers helped cover up Twitler’s crimes during the first two impeachment hearings?

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        I hope the name Team Don’t-Want-to-Get-Caught indicates my level of respect for their fidelity to the law. I think they understood the legal consequences should anything go awry this time–consequences in a whole other universe than flipping off Congress. I think they legit refused to participate in an insurrection. Herschmann claimed he said to Meadows, “I only want to hear 2 words from you: orderly transition.” I think that was more or less how Herschmann really felt and acted.

          • Doctor My Eyes says:

            Yes, I think you’re right, it was Eastman. Anyway, this is all speculation. I don’t know what those WH lawyers think and feel. I can’t imagine working with Trump and coming out thinking your dignity is intact.

  13. grennan says:

    Michael Flynn was at that meeting, too, and possibly attorney william Olson, who sent a Dec. 28 memo to Trump that the NYT published July 16.

  14. pdaly says:

    Dec. 18 and Dec. 19, 2020 make me think of Barr (who had already submitted his resignation letter and worked quietly on something(s) until he left the DoJ for good on Dec. 23, 2020, a date Barr picked for himself. Trump didn’t bother with the “you’re fired tweet” as he had with others).

    How long does it take to write up a Presidential pardon?
    12/22/20 news hits the airwaves that Trump pardoned 4 Blackwater guards for their 2014 conviction of the 2007 “Nisour Square massacre” in which 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed and 20 other people were injured when the Blackwater guards opened fire.

    As I mentioned in a prior thread on emptywheel, these Blackwater guards initially had their case dismissed by a judge in USDC in DC on 12/29/2009. However, then VP Joe Biden, overseeing U.S. policy in Iraq, promised Iraqi leaders that the U.S. DOJ would appeal their dismissal. The charges were reinstated 2011, and the four guards were put on trial. Seems like someone was keeping score and riling up anti-Biden sentiment among the would-be muscle on Jan 6.

    Is Trump savvy enough to have researched this on his own? /s

  15. Silly but True says:

    Kinzinger himself doesn’t see or understand the trap inherent to his position: “There would be no factual basis to seize machines. Mr. Donoghue…”

    Are we to understand that if some “factual basis” did exist, it would be permissible?!? For his part, Rosen tried to add that in any case, he didn’t think it legal but that got zero acknowledgement from Kinzinger.

    The only acceptable response from anyone in Rosen’s shoes must be: “No federal government entity has any authority to seize State voting machines” not merely as a throwaway add-on comment.

    Just 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin separated Biden and Trump from a tie in the Electoral College; just 20,000 votes in WI, 13,000 votes in GA, and 11,000 votes in AZ). (And for those that recall 2016: Trump won the 2016 election thanks to just under 80,000 combined votes in three of the same six key states in 2020 election [AZ, GA, MI, NV, PA, WI].)

    The whole “widespread election fraud” narrative is a false strawman that seeks to conflate national election results to the electoral college one.

    In the electoral college vote, just 44,000 / 156,000,000 = 0.028% of votes cast — provided they were well placed — would have thrown the 2020 electoral college in a dead heat tie.

    If Kinzinger’s narrative has any traction, all it might take for the next DoJ or DHS is say 100 or 200 problematic votes to turn up as sufficient “proof” that DHS needs to seize machines to audit “for the integrity of the election.”

    Kinzinger shouldn’t even have cracked that door open.

    The other thing they need to table for now is amending the Electoral Count Act to “clarify its ceremonial meaning.” The bottom line needs to be that the VP role under _existing law_ already is ceremonial only: the operative text “shall certify” leaves him no discretion. Congress attempting to validate that the existing law is unclear and in need of additional clarity in that regard actually strengthens Trump’s defense.

    • Tom says:

      I agree that words are important and that people should be careful how they use them. I get impatient when I hear TV reporters use the word “proof” instead of “evidence” when they’re referring to voter fraud, climate change, crime rates, or anything else. As I see it, you can have evidence without proof but you can’t have proof without evidence. So when I hear a TV commentator say, for example, “there’s no proof of widespread voter fraud,” I want to yell at the screen, “Not only is there no proof, there isn’t even any substantive evidence!”

      Radio and TV reporters also still occasionally make statements such as, “How do you deal with a former President who believes the election was stolen?” You can’t get inside Trump’s head to know what he’s really thinking–though my own opinion is that Trump knows full well he lost in 2020–so it would be more accurate and informative to say something like, “How do you deal with a former President who maintains the election was stolen despite all evidence to the contrary?”

      These points may seem picayune, but I think we should take care to express ourselves as accurately as possible when discussing such large matters.

  16. bmaz says:

    And more good news! DOJ has subpoenaed Cipollone to a grand jury. That will be Rule 6 protected, so unless Cipollone blabs about it, and I doubt he personally will, and if I were him, I’d tell my lawyer not to either.

    • timbo says:

      Baloney vs a Grand Jury should be interesting indeed. Score currenlty? 0-0.

      How many times will Pat try to invoke privilege claims in front of a federal judge on this do you think? None?

      • bmaz says:

        He won’t, it would be to the GJ and the attending prosectors decide whether to take it to the judge (they would).

        • timbo says:

          At the risk of splitting more hairs here…isn’t it up to PC (and his attorneys) to either present the case for being able to invoke this privilege to a judge (once prosecutors contest such assertions, if any, made before the grand jury or withdraw such assertions? One assumes that PC and his attorneys won’t make such assertions without some good legal basis to do so…and that federal judges will shoot most of these down pretty quick if the assertions are spurious to obvious attempts to avoid invoking the 5th, avoid implicating others in possible crimes, etc.

  17. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    I read that the DOJ intended to very quickly go to court about Marc Short’s and Greg Jacob’s assertions of executive privilege (EP). Cipollone being subpoened at this time suggests the DOJ is aggressively seeking full judicial resolution of the EP issue..

    Correct me if I’m wrong. If the DOJ argues a crime/fraud exception to EP, the prosecutors would have to present a prima facie case describing the alleged crime or fraud. Would Trump have to become an intervenor in any EP case in order to ensure it’s appealed all the way to the SC? Short, Jacobs and Cip might welcome a District Court ruling that EP can’t shield their testimony, so they might not file an appeal.

    BTW, another great article by EW.

    • timbo says:

      Actually, given that the Executive Privilege exception is not a codified law, it sort of falls on the person asserting such a privilege to not testify truthfully to argue for it to apply, not the other way ’round, correct?

  18. BROUX says:

    Focusing on a glaring hole, like this great post does very well, helps finding the right questions to ask.

    I too believe that some sort of violence at the moment of highest vulnerability (Jan 6) was probably cooking since the beginning (“Stand back and stand by”). But it does seem that after the Dec 18 meeting, the decision was made to activate the final part of the plan for Jan 6. This was the famous Tweet during the night by TFG.

    These Tweets are important. I think that people often do not appreciate the significance of TFG’s public messaging. Just because he is communicating via Twitter or a speech in a very public manner, people (like Ari Melber) dismiss this as possibly serving the purpose of direct and specific commands on his part. Communication is communication; the medium does not matter. It could be smoke signal or chalk marks on mailboxes, for all that matter. What is important is whether the communication serves its purpose unambiguously. Facially, this Tweet like many other things done by TFG is facially legal. But put in the full context, one has to see how it was expected and understood by those who received it. The Dec 18 Tweet triggered extremely specific planning from the militias–and it is likely that Twitter could show the causality between the messages and the chain of reactions in a very quantitative manner.

    In addition, I also think that there must have been more guided directive to organize this. Just try to have a picnic with 40 people and you quickly see that you need lots of communications to get it together. It seems highly unlikely that the level of coordination seen between the muscle on Jan 6 just happened organically, without some general top-down authority. Maybe DOJ has already ceased all phone records of whomever was in the Willard Hotel around this time, but it would be a good place to start (Stone, Giuliani, Flynn, Jones).

    Keep up the good work.

  19. Hoping4Better_Times says:

    Thank you Marcy for your thoughtful hard work analyzing the J6 insurrection. That said, I found it bothersome to describe the people involved in the insurrection as Blue Collar/White collar. How about characterizing the two divisions as the Plotters/Planners and the other division as Perpetrators/foot soldiers? Many of the J6 defendants, according to news reports, owned businesses or were professionals, some 15% with military backgrounds. Blue Collar workers do most of the heavy lifting in our country.

    • grennan says:

      MW wrote months ago about the rioters being one of the weapons which IMO is a brilliant insight and organizing principle.

      But yes about arbitrary division between white and blue collar. It may be more useful to look at the functions of the strands, rather than the people: Capitol/rioters; Capitol/militia, military, and so on.

      Rhodes has a Yale JJD.. The cross-section of jobs and background of the rioters is very diverse and unfortunately more educated than might be expected.

      Also, we still don’t know how many strands were at work. With Trump, it always gets worse.

      IMO he saw it all as a circus with various acts going on and himself as ringmaster. — when one group of people told him the sword swallower wasn’t working out he listened to another group or called up the guy whose lions really did eat people.

      Practically everybody knows more about how the basics of our government works than the Trumps. We might assume some rationality, coherence, etc. that were not. at play.

  20. Retired guy says:

    Thanks EW and the commenters for this.

    I found the Melber graphic really a useful visualization of the operationalized parts of the coup. I think graphics like this are useful in understanding complex things.

    In addition to the gaps discussed, I think the Melber graphic could be improved with addition of the underlying thread of doubt about the election/Big Lie. Here is a description of this thread:

    Former president tweets in Sep 2020 – If I lose, it is because there was cheating. He similarly tried this before his 2016 win, when he also thought he might lose.

    When the media finally called the election, president’s messaging of stolen election pushes doubt with filigree anecdotes, which are packaged with other anecdotes and goofy conspiracy theories into what became the 60 flawed lawsuits, pushed by an army of random lawyers, bringing suit from plaintiffs, many of whom did not have standing. Judges who reviewed the evidence threw the rest of the lawsuits out. This is in stark contrast to the very focused Bush v. Gore litigation, where the best election lawyers in the country battled strategically in court. Where this president’s campaign lost in court, the team could use the existence of these lawsuits to cast doubt on the election results in several states (where there is smoke, there is fire). The doubt is more fervent among supporters, and the losses in court are just more evidence of the scale of the conspiracy against the president’s righteous campaign.

    As the news coverage moves on after electors are seated, the president tries to keep the Big Lie in the news. Navarro produces his report, which is a summary of the material in the lawsuits. For each allegation in court, Navarro narrates “We filed a lawsuit” that alleges X, and we believe this calls Y0,000 ballots into question. No mention that the lawsuit was thrown out or voluntarily withdrawn. My favorite of these anecdotes is “our election observers did not have all the access they wanted to the counting process, so we think 600,000 votes in this state are suspect.”

    At this point, the Big Lie is fully mobilized with advocates on TV screens speaking lots of targeted sound bites, supporting narrative, and the “detailed” Navarro document. This reinvigorates the national campaign, turning the usual grim disappointment into righteous indignation, and money flows wherever it is needed. Local county Republican committees are renting busses, recruiting protestors, J5&6 rallies organized, and high school dropouts are saying the words “statistically impossible”.

    The 19 Dec 2020 tweet ties the fully operationalized Big Lie “Read the Navarro Report” to a call to action “Come to DC Jan 6” with the hype/messaging “Will be Wild”. Fever pitch of righteous indignation, and perhaps a coded call to violent criminals, as well as some upright citizens feeling the need to “do something”.

    While some of us are appalled that the Big Lie is still animating partisans, it is a testament to how effectively the Big Lie was orchestrated. I don’t know if any of this thread is prosecutable, or if the steps were planned from the start or improvised as elements failed.

    I think the Melber diagram would be more effective if this central thread of the evolution of the Big Lie was graphically depicted. It will be interesting to see when it is judged to transition from green first amendment activity to a red element of a seditious conspiracy.

    • Sonso says:

      So it’s really a “culture of conspiracy”; these folks have been caught up in their unaccountable cosplay for so many years, that they take for granted that their fever dreams are true. I would bet many of them think that Penthouse letters and Internet porn are the real thing. When you’re whole life is wrapped up in being a sucker, it is much easier to be suckered.

      • timbo says:

        Some of them are bad actors, grifters, and socio-paths who do not care whether it is true or not. They are only looking for results for their own self-aggrandizement at the rest of our nation’s expense.

    • Rayne says:

      The Melber diagram is effective for folks who aren’t familiar with the scope of the interleaved conspiracies — manifold — as it pares down to very simple chronological narratives which can be easily presented on cable TV.

      But there are thousands of persons not represented in that diagram, over years of time as well, and the diagram doesn’t allow for any suggestion there are other subset conspiracies and additional conspirators yet to be pieced into the picture.

      I’m recalling Robert E. Horn’s work on information mapping for the purposes of increasing effectiveness in communication. Information should be chunked into smaller portions numbering 5 for the non-expert and up to 9 for the expert to facilitate speed in uptake. A sentence for a neophyte introduced to a subject should be 5 words long; an expert can handle 9 words at a time. Same for paragraphs, a smaller number with shorter sentences for the inexpert and longer with more content for the expert.

      Melber’s diagram fits the scope readily accessible to non-experts who need to be brought up to speed in a short span of time. The problem, though, is that it is so abbreviated it damages the narrative — the non-expert audience needs to understand the conspiracies are bigger, deeper, wider and this can be communicated.

      • Retired guy says:

        Concur on all, Rayne. I confess to my own wordiness. A couple weeks ago, i started a verbal narrative of what was later the Melber diagram with the Big Lie thread added. Your thoughts about the diagramming at several levels is intriguing. I am a student of Edward Tufte, and can see how it might be diagrammed.

  21. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Dr. Wheeler mentions a facet of the infamous 12/19/20 “Will be wild!” tweet that I keep waiting for the J6SC to bring up and contextualize: the first part of that tweet, with its shout-out to Peter Navarro’s supposed proof the election had been stolen. Trump tells his audience to read it, but then blurts out a spoiler (the “statistically impossible” conclusion), thereby undermining the curiosity factor for the sake of sheer incitement.

    Using this reference as a set-up for his invitation to the J6 rally/protest has always struck me as odd, not least because it relies so much on the implicit credibility of Navarro. He had played an unusually visible role in 2020, starting with the arrival of Covid when he made himself a central player–controversially so. Does anyone here wonder if maybe Trump talked to Navarro after the others left that December 18 meetup?

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