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Business Last Updated: Jun 13, 2022 - 10:01:03 AM

Proud of your boys
By Jonathan M. Katz, Racket, 1/6/22
Jun 12, 2022 - 10:24:57 AM

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Collusion and conspiracy in the Jan. 6 coup


In their book on the six février — the 1934 attack by a right-wing and fascist mob on the French legislature — Brian Jenkins and Chris Millington admonished historians who, for decades, insisted that the lack of definitive proof of an organized coup meant the event should not have been taken seriously:

The quest for evidence of a conspiracy to overthrow the Republic has been something of a red herring. No conclusive proof has been found, and the existence of any such conspiracy remains a matter of pure speculation. The propensity to believe in it or not is governed almost entirely by the political prejudices of those concerned. More importantly, there does not need to have been a conspiracy for the Republic to have been in danger. To see the one as the precondition of the other is quite misleading. Indeed, situations of acute political crisis are not conducive to conspiracy, which requires planning, foresight and the capacity to control events. Crisis situations, on the contrary, often develop suddenly and are by their very nature fluid and volatile. It is precisely these qualities that make them potentially dangerous.

That passage came back to me last night as I watched the recaps of the first hearing by the House Jan. 6th committee. Documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who was working on a documentary about the Proud Boys — the violent pro-Trump paramilitary organization whose leaders were charged this week with seditious conspiracy — was brought in to tell the committee and the country what he saw that day.

The committee wanted to highlight Quested’s testimony for a few reasons. First, he testified that Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio met with a small group including Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oathkeepers — another militia leader charged with seditious conspiracy — in a Capitol Hill parking garage the night before the attack. (The video of that meeting was released

in May; you can watch it here.) He could not hear what was discussed but Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the committee, added last night that “according to the Justice Department, in the indictment of Mr. Tarrio, a participant [in the conversation] referenced to Capitol.”

The other key bit was that he testified that hundreds of Proud Boys went to the Capitol hours before Trump’s speech:

QUESTED: We met up with the Proud Boys somewhere around 10:30 AM, and they were starting to walk down the mile, uh, easterly direction towards the Capitol. There was a large contingent, more than I had expected. And I was confused to a certain extent why we were walking away from the president’s speech, because that’s what I felt we were there to cover.

At the Capitol, the filmmaker testified, the neofascist gang watched police set up barricades, put on riot gear and set up a tactical unit, and move into the positions they would be guarding during the joint session. Then they went to get tacos before the rally started.

The chairman bottom-lined the significance of all of this for the primetime audience watching at home:

REP. THOMPSON: They walked around the capital that morning. I’m concerned this allowed them to see what defenses were in place and where weaknesses might be. And they decided to launch their attack at the Peace Circle, which is a front door of the Capitol complex. … Now, the central question is whether the attack on the capital was coordinated and planned. What you witnessed is what a coordinated and planned effort would look like. It was the culmination of a months-long effort spearheaded by President Trump.

I agree with that assessment broadly — I spent months calling out Trump’s coup attempt, starting on Election Night itself, and warned two days before the storming of the Capitol that a Business Plot- (and thus six février-)style effort to seize control of the U.S. government was underway. The evidence has only grown stronger since then, as details have emerged of Trump lawyer John Eastman’s plan to overturn the election and the outright, violent hostility between the Pence and Trump camps once it became clear the vice president would not go along.

My concern is that leaning too hard on details like the meeting at the Hall of the States parking garage, or the Proud Boys’ apparent casing of the Capitol complex on the morning of Jan. 6 could risk missing the forest for the trees. Say that audio emerges of Rhodes and Tarrio’s conversation in which they didn’t specifically discuss plans for the attack. Or if Tarrio’s lawyers can persuade a court that they were at Capitol Hill to do something other than surveil? Quested described the Proud Boys taunting and heckling the police officers about “their duty and their honor” — which, while evidence of premeditated aggression and perhaps even foreknowledge of a coming attempt to breach the building, isn’t the smartest thing to do in a reconnaissance mission. (Counterpoint: Nobody said these guys were smart. — ed.)

The problem with holding anyone to account for Jan. 6, like so much that happened in the Trump years, is that it seems to have been incompetently done, and in full view of the public. The committee played multiple videos last night of rioters convicted in connection with the attack saying things like “[Trump] personally asked us to come to D.C. that day.” They aren’t talking about parking lot meetings, of course, but tweets and speeches — things he said in broad daylight for everyone to hear and see.

Trump most certainly wanted to overthrow the election, for his vice president and Congress to reverse the results, and — when it became clear that Pence was not going along — for his supporters, both paramilitary and civilian, to move on the Capitol to intimidate officials and force their hands. Thousands of people got picked up and discarded in that current. The coup attempt didn’t culminate in a soaring floor debate, the way Eastman thought it would, or on a field of honor the way Tarrio and Rhodes perhaps imagined. Like the six février, it was a deadly clown show, and that deadly clown show will continue unless the leaders who caused it are held accountable and prevented from getting anywhere near the levers of power again. That’s the story, and one I hope will land in these hearings.

Source:Ocnus.net 2022

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