USA 2020 Elections: Thread

grarpamp grarpamp at
Wed Aug 25 22:49:53 PDT 2021

The FBI Comes Up Empty-Handed in its Search for an Insurrection

Below is my column in The Hill on the recent reports confirming that
the FBI has not been able to establish a planned insurrection on
January 6th despite the overwhelming references in the media.  The
vast majority of charges concern trespass or unlawful parading. The
absence of a major insurrection or sedition prosecution is conspicuous
but has done little to temper the characterization of the riot in
media accounts or political statements.

Here is the column:

It may be true, as Confucius said, that “the beginning of wisdom is to
call things by their proper name,” but it can also be the end of
politics. For politicians, labeling controversies is often more
important than addressing them. Even well-defined terms used in
legislation must change to fit political needs, like “infrastructure.”
When its real meaning stood in the way of real money, Sen. Kirsten
Gillibrand (D-NY) simply tweeted: “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child
care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.” Done.

The same is true with labeling political violence. When protests by
Black Lives Matter and other groups turned violent last summer, the
media was expressly told not to refer to “rioters” but rather
“protesters.” Riots causing massive property damage were described by
CNN as “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.”

Conversely, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol could not be just a riot,
let alone a “fiery” protest, but only an “insurrection.” Many in the
media continue to awkwardly refer to “the insurrectionists” rather
than the rioters. National Public Radio even ran a running account of
the “Capitol Insurrection.” The term was further driven home by House
Democrats by impeaching President Trump for “incitement to
insurrection” despite undermining any chance for an actual conviction.
Members of Congress like Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) are still in federal
court claiming a conspiracy of “armed and organized insurrectionists.”

The characterization of the attack as an insurrection served a myriad
of political and personal purposes. First, it painted anyone
associated with challenging the 2020 election results as supporting
sedition and the country’s overthrow. Second, if this was a protest
allowed to turn into an uncontrolled riot, there would be more
questions about the failure to properly protect the Capitol.

It is easier to excuse a response to an insurrection than a violent
protest. That point was expressly made by former U.S. Capitol Police
Chief Steven Sund who insisted “this was not a demonstration. This was
not a failure to plan for a demonstration. This was a planned,
coordinated attack on the United States Capitol.”

Despite the adoption of the term by many in the media, there has been
a growing disconnect with the actual cases in court. Indeed, a new
report from Reuters disclosed that the FBI has struggled to support
the account of a coordinated “insurrection” on Jan. 6. Reuters’ FBI
sources said that, despite months of intense investigation, they could
find “scant evidence” of any “organized plot” and instead found that
virtually all of the cases are “one-offs.” One agent explained:
”Ninety to 95 percent of these are one-off cases. Then you have 5
percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely
organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex
Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”

In other words, they found a protest that became a runaway riot as
insufficient security preparations quickly collapsed. While there
clearly were those set upon trashing the Capitol, most people were
shown milling about in the halls; many took selfies and actively
described the scene on social media.

More than 570 people have been arrested, but only 40 face conspiracy
charges. Those charges are often based on prior discussions about
trying to enter Congress or bringing material to use in the riot; some
clearly came prepared for rioting with ropes, chemical irritants and
other materials. Those cases, however, are a small group among the
hundreds charged and an even smaller percentage among the tens of
thousands of protesters on that day. They remain a couple
insurrectionists short of an insurrection.

After five months of dragnet arrests nationwide, a few reporters noted
that no one was actually charged with insurrection or sedition. The
vast majority of people face charges like simple trespass. For
example, the latest guilty plea is from San Francisco real estate
broker Jennifer Leigh Ryan, who posted an account on social media of
how “We’re gonna go down and storm the capitol.” She pleaded guilty
this week to “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol
building” and faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a
fine of $5,000.

Yet, the characterization of the “insurrection” has continued as a
virtual article of faith for those reporting on or writing about Jan.
6. Moreover, the treatment of many has remained severe, if not
draconian by design. Justice official Michael Sherwin proudly declared
in a television interview that “our office wanted to ensure that there
was shock and awe … it worked because we saw through media posts that
people were afraid to come back to D.C. because they’re, like, ‘If we
go there, we’re gonna get charged.’ … We wanted to take out those
individuals that essentially were thumbing their noses at the public
for what they did.”

That “shock and awe” included holding people without bail and imposing
“restrictive housing” for no obvious reason. That includes some of the
most notable figures from that day, like Jacob Chansley (aka Jake
Angeli), better known as “Chewbacca Man” or the “QAnon Shaman” for the
distinctive horned headdress he wore during the riot. Angeli, 33, is
not accused of attacking anyone while parading around the Senate floor
in his bear skin. He always insisted he was not trying to overthrow
the nation with his decorative outfit and spear-topped flagpole. While
the government did not find a basis for an insurrection or sedition
charge, it did learn that he has an array of mental illnesses
including transient schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and
anxiety. Yet, he has been held since the riot and is charged with six
crimes, including violent entry, trespass and parading, that
collectively could yield up to 28 years in prison.

There is a fair distinction between those who tried to stop the
certification of a presidential election and those who burn police
stations or businesses during protests. While the majority of people
who went to the Capitol were protesters and did not engage in the
riot, there were some who sought to physically disrupt or prevent the
certification, including the use of violent entry into the Capitol.
Yet, there remains a striking contrast in how other riots are
characterized or prosecuted. Most of those arrested for violent
protests after the death of George Floyd saw their charges dropped by
state prosecutors. For months, rioters sought to burn federal
buildings or occupy state capitals and, in some cases, seized police
stations, sections of cities, even occupied a city hall. They were not
declared insurrectionists; they were rioters before being set free
after brief arrests.

Many of us remain disgusted and angered by the Jan. 6 riot — but it
was a riot. It also was a desecration. These people deserve to be
punished, particularly those who went with an intent to try to enter
the Congress. The question is whether you can have an insurrection
without anyone actually insurrecting. That Zen-like question may find
its way into the hearings of some pending cases.

Calling these people “rioters” does not minimize what they did, or
undermine the legitimacy of their punishment. However, there is wisdom
and even the chance for resolution when we “call things by their
proper name.”

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