Tuesday, January 12, 2021

In The Weeks Before And On The Day Of The Capitol Attack, Was Donald Trump Attempting To Orchestrate The Assassinations of Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, And Others?

The sitting president of the United States, in his final days in office after losing the election, desperate to retain power and postpone the numerous legal battles he will have to fight once he's out of the White House, incites, directs, and encourages an armed lynch mob to attack members of the Senate and the House as they certify the election victory for his opponent.

Insurrectionists loyal to the president have planned for this moment for weeks, to invade the Capitol and execute those lawmakers they believe are traitors. They smash their way in shortly after the president implores them:

We will never concede. . . . You don't concede when there's theft involved. . . .  Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore . . . We will not let them silence your voices. . . .

I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. . . . [H]e has the absolute right to do it. . . . All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people. . . . [If not,] our country will be destroyed. . . .

Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country because you're sworn to uphold our Constitution. . . . [Y]ou'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. . . .

We're going to see whether or not we have great and courageous leaders or whether or not we have leaders that should be ashamed of themselves throughout history, throughout eternity. . . . If they do the wrong thing, we should never, ever forget that they did. Never forget. We should never, ever forget. . . .

[I]t was a setup . . . We will not be intimidated into accepting the hoaxes and the lies that we've been forced to believe. . . .

You're not going to have a Republican Party if you don't get tougher. . . . [T]he Constitution says you have to protect our country . . . and fraud breaks up everything, doesn't it? . . . I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn't listen to the RINOs and the stupid people that he's listening to . . .

Today is not the end; it's just the beginning. . . . This is the greatest in history. There never been a movement like that. . . . We must stop the steal . . . [W]e will take care of it . . .

The president's loyal supporters are heavily armed with numerous weapons, explosive devices, at least 11 Molotov cocktails, a substance described as "liquid napalm", and dozens of hard plastic handcuffs. Some of terrorists have had military training. They have two-way radios and earpieces to communicate throughout the building. They had access to the blueprints so they know their way around the different floors of the building. Vans are parked nearby with additional weapons and caches of ammunition. Outside the Capitol, a scaffold and noose are being constructed.

Note: The domestic terrorists would not need blueprints if they were given a tour of the building the day before they attacked it.

As more information about last Wednesday's seditious assault emerges, it has become hard to ignore the growing realization that Donald Trump, deeply and profoundly unsettled by the thought of losing and psychologically unable to calm his raging thoughts, attempted to orchestrate the murder of Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and numerous other lawmakers he had been insisting for weeks were destroying the country he vowed to make great again.

In the days before the Capitol assault, Trump repeatedly told his supporters that it was up to Pence to do his patriotic duty on January 6 and overturn the election results. Pence had no power to do that, of course, which he told Trump during their weekly lunch meeting on January 5. Earlier that morning, Trump tweeted the lie that Pence could, if he chose to do so, overturn the election. In reality, Pence was merely the person in charge of reading the results to members of the House and Senate, like a presenter at the Oscars opening an envelope and announcing the winner for Best Supporting Actor. For the rest of the day, Trump was furious at Pence's disloyalty. Whenever Trump makes mistakes or fails (and that happens often), there must always be someone to blame. And if Trump was not magically granted a second term, it was Mike Pence's fault. During this pre-attack speech, Trump set Pence up as the fall guy in the way a cheap mob boss would use when ordering a hit.

At the end of the day, Washington, D.C. police insisted there was "no intelligence that suggests that there would be a breach of the U.S. Capitol". However, the terrorists who planned the event and many who attended discussed openly, for weeks in advance, what would happen on both "mainstream social media and the pro-Trump internet". In fact, nineteen days before the attack, one man predicted more or less exactly what happened, just by reading easily-accessible message boards (see below). Others have since posted screenshots that showed what was coming. The D.C. police are either: (1) incompetent for not seeing the flashing neon warning signs or (2) complicit in the armed attack. There are no other possibilities.

As Buzzfeed reported, the talk online throughout December was that if things didn't start changing in Donald Trump's favour, his supporters were "ready for blood":

On forums like TheDonald[.win], a niche website formed after Reddit banned the subreddit of the same name, they promised violence against lawmakers, police, and journalists if Congress did not reject the results of the 2020 election.

In one interaction four days ago, a person on TheDonald asked, "What if Congress ignores the evidence?"

"Storm the Capitol," said one reply, which received more than 500 upvotes.

"You're fucking right we do." . . .

"Extremists have for weeks repeatedly expressed their intentions to attend the January 6 protests, and unabashedly voiced their desire for chaos and violence online," said Jared Holt, a visiting research fellow with DFRLab. . . .

Hundreds of extremists' posts discussed bringing firearms in violation of Washington, DC, law. . . . "All this bullshit about not bringing guns to D.C. needs to stop," read one post from Tuesday [the day before the attack] with more than 5,000 upvotes. "This is America. Fuck D.C. it's in the Constitution. Bring your goddamn guns."

According to Advance Democracy, a nonprofit research organization, all corners of the social web were signaling imminent violence in the days leading up to the riot. . . .


This was also the case on Parler, ADI found. One account, with the name No Trump No Peace #GoTime, posted a GIF with a noose and a caption that said, "Who would you like to see 'dispatched' first? 1) Nancy Pelosi 2) John Roberts 3) Pence 4) other (please name) I was leaning towards Nancy, but it might have to be Pence." (Two days after that post, a livestream of the violent mob standing outside Congress showed them chanting "Hang Mike Pence.") . . .

One Parler commented wrote: "It will be literal war on that day. Where we'll storm offices and physically remove and even kill all the D.C. traitors and reclaim the country." Another vowed to "stop the steal and execute the 'stealers'". (my emphasis)

In the week before the attack, one of Trump's attorneys, Lin Wood, had called for Pence's death several times. Twitter banned his two accounts, so Wood was posting at Parler: "Get the firing squads ready. Pence goes FIRST." (There is no logical reason why Lin Wood has not been arrested for conspiring to assassinate the Vice President.)

Numerous threats of assassination were also made against Nancy Pelosi, who had brought impeachment charges against Trump less than a year earlier and was a frequent target of Trump's verbal attacks. One Trump supporter, Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., was arrested for "making interstate threats to Speaker Nancy Pelosi". One of his texts mentioned "putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV".

During the siege of the Capitol, Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert tweeted: "The Speaker has been removed from the chambers". It's an odd update for a Republican (and proud QAnon supporter) to make unless she was sending information about where Pelosi might or might not be located. She denied that was her intention, naturally, but earlier in the day she also wrote that she would "fight with everything I have to ensure the fairness of the election" and tweeted "Today is 1776," a reference to the Revolutionary War.

While invaders wearing fur pelts and other costumes were seen on TV reports and in newspapers, other insurrectionists were more serious. They wore black tactical gear—helmets, armor, and black masks. They carried blunt instruments and flex cuffs. At least one was an Air Force combat veteran. They moved through the capitol purposefully, as if they knew where they were going. (As noted, they had access to blueprints beforehand.)

Peter Simi, an expert on extremist groups at Chapman University:
It could have been far, far worse. . . . The idea of taking folks who have committed treason prisoner, those are ideas that are widely circulating in [far-right] circles. All the Democratic lawmakers and any of the Republicans that have criticized Trump or not fully supported Trump would be eligible.
On the day before the attack, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and "war":
"As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to 'unlawful lockdowns' to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C. An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating 'Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.'" (my emphasis)
The report "painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans", according to the Washington Post, "including individuals sharing a map of the complex's tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Steven D'Antuono, the head of the FBI's Washington field office, told reporters last Friday that the FBI had no information suggesting that any person attending the protest at the Capitol would do anything violent.

On Tuesday, D'Antuono acknowledged the existence of the warning (though he did not explain why he lied last week) and actually said - out loud, to reporters - that law enforcement could do nothing with that information because it did not include the names of the people who made the threats. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund (who has resigned from his position) said he never received the FBI warning.
"President Trump has ignited fire within people. Some of these guys . . . they're ready to go to war or die for their country today. This is not going away anytime soon."
- A woman named Maria, speaking to Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic, January 6, 2021]

"Execute the traitors! I wanna see executions!"
- Man with a megaphone, on the West Lawn of the Capitol, January 6, 2021

"Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!"
- A Reuters photographer heard at least three different rioters say they wanted to find and murder Vice President Mike Pence

"I had an image of an overwhelming number of armed people invading the Capitol coming in to shoot us up. I remember thinking, Wow, this is what it's come to."
- Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, hearing that armed terrorists had invaded the Capitol Rotunda. She put on a gas mask, dropped to the floor, and crawled across the gallery to an open exit before she was able to contact her two adult children. 

Arieh Kovler, a political consultant who studies extremist Trump message boards:

Last week, these people were sharing maps of D.C. They were talking about having enough of them that they would be able to erect basically their own cadre around the entire area of Congress. They had a map of the tunnels [in the basement of the Capitol], and they were talking about how they're going to be able to stop Congress from leaving. They imagined that this was the day there were going to be mass executions of Congressmen. . . .

[T]hey were going to be there for this historic time when Trump pulled away the curtain and revealed that all of Congress were traitors and then took his just and equal revenge. . . . They thought they were there to go and purge Congress. They were there to stop the certification. They were there to punish those who went against Trump. . . . The only thing that surprised me was that it was not the army I expected it to be. . . . I think that had things gotten more violent, there would have been a lot of people who would be very willing to go along with it. (my emphasis)

Trump has not given in.

The Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, helped organize the armed insurrection. Some of RLDF's funding came from these corporations: Koch Industries ($375,000), Comcast Corporation ($200,000), Walmart ($140,000), Home Depot ($125,000), Amazon ($100,000), TikTok ($75,000), 1-800 Contacts ($51,000), Chevron ($50,000), The National Rifle Association ($50,000), Monsanto ($50,000), Facebook ($50,000), Fox Corporation ($50,000), Uber ($50,000), Coca Cola ($50,000), Exxon ($50,000), and Google ($25,000). 

* * *

Before Trump spoke last Wednesday, the disgraced Rudy Guiliani called for "trial by combat" and Donald Trump Jr. warned: "We're coming for you." A few days earlier, Ted Cruz whipped up a crowd by comparing them to the armed patriots in the American Revolution, who grabbed their guns and killed the British army they believed was intent on oppressing them.

Trump told the crowd he would march with them to the Capitol. That was a lie, of course. The cowardly grifter quickly retreated to the safety of the White House and watched everything on TV. After the mob smashed its way into the Capitol, Trump tweeted (just before 2:30 pm):

Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!
It was as though a general had sent orders to his troops at the front. Almost immediately, chants of "Hang Mike Pence!" rang out in the halls of the Capitol.

About 10 minutes later, Trump tried covering his ass (or provide plausible deniability):

Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!

Long after the horse had escaped from the barn (3:13 pm), Trump tweeted:
No violence! WE are the Party of Law & Order.
* * *

The January 6 event was first promoted by Trump back on December 19, 2020:

Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

A MAGA loyalist replied: "That's a marching order if I ever heard one."

Two days after Trump's tweet, Arieh Kovler wrote:

On January 6, armed Trumpist militias will be rallying in DC, at Trump's orders. It's highly likely that they'll try to storm the Capitol after it certifies Joe Biden's win. I don't think this has sunk in yet.

These people are angry at the Democrats. They're angry at the GOP for not suspending democracy. They hate the media, and many consider police to be the enemy even as they fly the "blue lives" flag instead of the Stars and Stripes.

They are convinced that Congress will, somehow, declare Trump the winner on Jan 6. Maybe Pence will just refuse to count the Electoral Votes from states Biden won? Or the Senate will throw those votes out? Or Justice Thomas? Alternatively, some think Trump will win because they will ensure it. Maybe by forcing Congress to certify him as the winner at gunpoint. Maybe as backup forces to Trump's supposed military coup. . . .

When Congress certifies Biden, these people will be shocked. Their worlds will collapse. And it'll happen while they're (illegally) armed and gathered in DC. It's the nitroglycerine of explosive mixtures.

How will January 6 be policed? . . . Will Congress get the protection it needs? The Capitol Police has 2200 officers, but I'm guessing they mostly aren't riot trained or SWAT types. The question here is if federal forces will be allowed to help them.

To be clear here, I don't think the 3%ers, Proud Boys, Oathkeepers or boogaloo types are going to seize the Capitol. But some of them are going try. And people will die. How will US Conservatives react? Well, they made Kyle Rittenhouse into a hero. They ignored the Whitmer kidnap plot, except as a way of calling for more violence against her.

@Robertwaldeck reckons I'm completely wrong here and that DC forces including the Capitol Police, DC police and Nat Guard, which he knows well, will be able to keep things completely under control.

[One commenter, writing on the day of the riots: "This thread needs to go in a hall of fame as an illustration of how powerful it can be to just pay attention."]

In the aftermath of the Capitol Riots, Kovler told GQ:

[O]nce Trump said "be there," they interpreted that as a call to action, as their marching orders. Trump supporters thought they would come and would be called on to do something. . . . There's a trend among the Trump fans—it's almost religious—to see him as basically infallible and any mistakes are caused by bad people around him. He wouldn't be calling us to Washington unless there was a purpose that would ultimately end in him winning the election. . . .

Trump was continually telling them everything was in the bag and he was massively ahead and . . . it's going to be a landslide. Come Election Day, he doesn't win. So all these people go, "Wait, it can't be. How could Trump possibly lose an election that everyone I know knew he was going to win?" (my emphasis)

Several reports, including one from Republican Ben Sasse, state that Donald Trump was thrilled by the chaos and violence he saw on television. Trump also seemed "confused" why his aides and other government officials did not share his excitement. Staffers were "freaked out" by Trump's glee at what he was seeing.

Dr. John Gartner said months ago that Trump is a malignant narcissist and a sadist who is addicted to causing pain in other people. Trump is "someone who enjoys dominating and harming, terrifying and injuring and destroying" other people. "It is like a hobby for him. . . . Donald Trump is a terrorist. If he can't be president, then he will make his force felt through terrorism."

Trump also continued to criticize Pence and say how he was glad the two Republican Senate incumbents in Georgia lost their election run-offs, because they had not done enough to defend him. Trump also called an unknown number of people "during the Capitol insurrection to try to continue to delay election certification".

Pence and his family spent hours in a secure holding area while men with guns and plastic handcuffs (and a sturdy scaffold close by) roamed through the Capitol, screaming about wanting to hang him. Trump never asked anyone about Pence's safety during the entire day and he has never condemned the numerous calls (including several from one of his own lawyers) for Pence's assassination. In fact, he quickly filmed and released a video in which he told the terrorists: "We love you. You're very special."

The two men had not spoken for almost one week before a conversation on Tuesday, even as Trump "retreats ever further into a world of anger and conspiracy and continues to rage" about his predicament.

Trump further assisted the Capitol terrorists by refusing to take steps to have the National Guard assist in defending the members of the Senate and House, as well as the Capitol building. Back on November 11, Trump fired four Pentagon officials, including the Defense Secretary, and installed MAGA loyalists. NPR noted that other officials were "very worried" because "they don't know . . . what's happening".

That decision makes far more sense now than it did two months ago. As the attack on the Capitol raged, the Pentagon wasted hours by not authorizing the request for the National Guard. The Pentagon took a page out of Trump's playbook, blaming federal and local law enforcement for not responding to warnings about the urgent threats. (I note that it is exceeding difficult to respond to a warning you never receive).

The Washington Post reports that during a phone call at about 2:30 pm (roughly the same time as Trump's "Pence had no courage" tweet), during which Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, Army staff director, allegedly told Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund of his concerns about sending the Guard to the Capitol. Piatt reportedly said: "I don't like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background."

The statement shocked city officials. (What about the visual of armed terrorists running wild through the Capitol or the possible sight of mass executions of members of Congress?) Piatt has denied making the comment. He also claimed he never declined to deploy the National Guard, but the approval for the Guard's activation came from acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller.

Hours after the worst of the attack was over, Trump refused to allow Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff, back into the White House, telling aides that Short was "not welcome".

Pence's apparently endless subservience to his boss and his adoring gazes through the years as Trump delivered yet another incoherent monologue have been a source of amazement and ridicule for five long years. Even though Trump branded Pence a traitor numerous times and whipped up an armed crowd to go after and murder the vice president (and others in the direct line of presidential secession) and although Pence will have a huge target on his back for the rest of his life (imagine the furious pro-Trump mob that harassed Lindsey Graham at an airport, but with weapons and the luxury of fewer security personnel in the way), he still remains devoted to Trump, too spineless to invoke the 25th Amendment. (Which would also be his chance to act as president, if only for a few days.)

Donald Trump led a lynch mob against Congress and Mike Pence continues to cover for the man who tried to orchestrate his death. Or perhaps Pence is terrified of crossing Trump any further. Both scenarios are believable.

* * *

The pro-Trump mob murdered one police officer and beat and harassed many others. (Another officer who was working on the day of the attack committed suicide last Saturday.) Two Black Capitol Police officers suggested their superiors withheld information about how violent the day was expected to be. From Buzzfeed:

The first glimpse of the deadly tragedy that was about to unfold came at 9 a.m. on the morning of the insurrection for one Black veteran of the US Capitol Police. But it didn't come from his superiors — instead the officer had to rely on a screenshot from Instagram sent to him by a friend.

"I found out what they were planning when a friend of mine screenshot me an Instagram story from the Proud Boys saying, 'We're breaching the Capitol today, guys. I hope y'all ready.'" The officer, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from his superiors, told BuzzFeed News that it was just a sign of the chaos that was to come, which saw officers regularly finding themselves unprepared and then outmanned and overpowered by the mob.

The officer said that . . . upper management had been telling them to prepare for Wednesday's storming of the Capitol like they would for any other protest . . . Management's inaction left Black police officers especially vulnerable to a mob that had been whipped up by President Donald Trump, a man who has a record of inspiring racist vigilantes to action. . . .

BuzzFeed News spoke to two Black officers who described a harrowing day in which they were forced to endure racist abuse — including repeatedly being called the n-word — as they tried to do their job of protecting the Capitol building, and by extension the very functioning of American democracy. The officers said they were wrong-footed, fighting off an invading force that their managers had downplayed and not prepared them for. They had all been issued gas masks, for example, but management didn't tell them to bring them in on the day. . . .

The officer said that many of the widely spread images of smiling marauders, wandering the halls dressed in absurd costumes, had the effect of downplaying how well prepared some of the rioters were to overtake the building, and even to capture and kill Congress members.

"That was a heavily trained group of militia terrorists that attacked us," said the officer, who has been with the department for more than a decade. "They had radios, we found them, they had two-way communicators and earpieces. They had bear spray. They had flash bangs . . . They were prepared. They strategically put two IEDs, pipe bombs, in two different locations. These guys were military trained. A lot of them were former military," the officer said, referring to two suspected pipe bombs that were found outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.

The officer even described coming face-to-face with police officers from across the country in the mob. He said some of them flashed their badges, telling him to let them through . . .

"[One guy] pulled out his badge and he said, 'We're doing this for you.' . . . [T]hey're telling us they are on our side . . . as I'm getting punched in my face by one of them . . . That happened to a lot of us." . . .

He said that what upset him the most was when he later saw images of a white colleague taking a selfie with the attackers, seeming to enjoy his time with the insurrectionists who were roaming the US Capitol with Confederate flags and other symbols of white supremacy. "That one hurt me the most because I was on the other side of the Capitol getting my ass kicked," he said. . . . "If you're going to treat a group of demonstrators for Black Lives Matters one way, then you should treat this group the same goddamn way."

More Attacks Planned in Days Before Inauguration

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