The Dec. 16, 2020 draft executive order prepared for Donald Trump to use the military to seize voting machines provides clear clues for the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, a former federal prosecutor explained for MSNBC on Tuesday.
"We don’t yet know the full story behind the EO. We don’t know who was involved in writing it (although some pundits have opined that the use of the word “she” describing plans for a special counsel suggests that now-disgraced Trump lawyer Sidney Powell was involved) and whether it received serious consideration. Trump never signed it, despite other dogged efforts to try to recapture a lost election. Were there residual guardrails that held? People who pointed out that the order was unconstitutional and an affront to democracy? These questions highlight the importance of the Jan. 6 committee’s work," former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance wrote.
She noted the document draws attention to Trump's former acting Pentagon chief.
"Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller, a former special forces member, worked as a special assistant to Trump and in various other capacities before he was appointed to serve at the Pentagon on Nov. 7, 2020, four days after the election. Trump had already lost. What reason could there be to replace a secretary of defense so late in the game?" she asked. "But Miller wasn't the only red flag. Trump installed another loyalist, Kash Patel, as Pentagon chief of staff after the election. Patel was put in charge of running the Defense Department's transition just two weeks after he assumed his new role. According to an NBC News source at the Pentagon, Patel “told everybody we're not going to cooperate with the transition team.” Three other people, characterized in news reports as Trump loyalists, also took over important posts at the Pentagon, handling policy, intelligence and security — again after the election."
The former federal prosecutor explained why prosecutions may be warranted.
"The EO suggests that a group of people was hard at work on plans to use the Pentagon to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. It took high-level insight to craft those plans and potentially put people in place to implement them. If evidence confirms a conspiracy, those involved, however high up, merit prosecution," Vance wrote. "The truth cannot stay covered up."
Read the full column.
The government has allowed most of the rioters who illegally entered the U.S. Capitol to keep their firearms, even though some of the most unapologetic insurrectionists have made clear they intend to use them in another attack.
More than half of the Donald Trump supporters arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack have not been indicted on charges serious enough to prevent them from owning guns, even though many of them have bragged on podcasts or media interviews that they would use them next time, reported The Daily Beast.
“I absolutely think it’s a missed opportunity," said former gun industry executive Ryan Busse. "These people have proven that they will take actions against the very democracy itself -- why would you want them armed?”
Busse, who warns about growing right-wing violence in his book Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry That Radicalized America, said the criminal justice system has a clear chance to disarm dangerous individuals who've already taken violent action against the government.
“I hear all the time: ‘Enforce the laws we have on the books. We don’t want bad guys to get guns,'" Busse said. "Why not do this here? All the people who did this are obviously unstable, borderline treasonous individuals."
At least some of the rioters carried firearms on Jan. 6, 2021, although only seven have faced charges for that, and indictments show Oath Keepers members built a massive stockpile of weapons and ammunition at Virginia motel, but law enforcement officials are growing concerned that currently jailed insurrectionists will put weapons to use in a future attack.
Federal charges could use felony charges to disarm some of the insurrectionists, because it's illegal for convicted felons to own guns, but more than half the 720 defendants have been hit with only misdemeanors, and that number could grow as they are convicted or plead out to lesser offenses.
“It is difficult to imagine they could have brought felony obstruction charges against all 700 individuals, including a significant group of them who just trespassed into the Capitol, took some photos, then left," said Jonathan Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. "It’s serious conduct, but it does speak to the challenge the DOJ is facing."
Lewis said the District of Columbia’s tight restrictions against firearms greatly reduced the threat of violence on Jan.6, and police made the strategic decision not to use their guns, but he said that likely wouldn't be the case if right-wing extremists engage in similar actions elsewhere.
“If anything, we’re learning that in 2022 and 2024, as we see groups like the Proud Boys and broad, nebulous ‘stop-the-steal’ anti-authority conspiracy movement embed itself at the state and local level, you’re seeing the potential for individuals to mobilize armed in state capitols and election offices where there are far more lax firearms laws,” Lewis said.
With the midterm elections just months away, a trio of federal judges late Monday struck down Alabama's newly drawn congressional districts on the grounds that they discriminated against Black voters, forcing state lawmakers to craft new maps.
In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel ordered that "any remedial plan" from the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature must "include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it."
"We've said since the beginning that we would refuse to let unconstitutional maps be used without a fight."
The map that the judges deemed discriminatory contained just one majority-Black district in a state where Black people make up roughly 27% of the population.
"Under the totality of the circumstances, including the factors that the Supreme Court has instructed us to consider, Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the judges wrote.
Alabama's Republican attorney general swiftly vowed to appeal the ruling, a move that could ultimately put the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Evan Milligan, one of the plaintiffs in the case, applauded the judges' decision, arguing in a statement Monday that "the congressional map our legislature enacted fails Alabama's voters of color."
"We deserve to be heard in our electoral process, rather than have our votes diluted using a map that purposefully cracks and packs Black communities," said Milligan. "Today, the court recognized this harm and has ordered our elected officials to do better. My co-plaintiffs and I hope that more Alabamians will embrace the important role we play in holding our officials accountable, until all of Alabama's voters are fairly represented."
Alabama's racially gerrymandered map was just the latest Republican-led redistricting scheme to be struck down in the courts as voting rights groups and activists rush to challenge the GOP's nationwide map-rigging spree—with no help from Democratic lawmakers at the federal level.
Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the state's GOP-drawn congressional districts. Civil rights organizations are also challenging gerrymandered maps in South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere throughout the country.
"We've said since the beginning that we would refuse to let unconstitutional maps be used without a fight, so we are pleased that the court recognized the importance of urgently remedying the congressional district maps ahead of November's election," Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director for the ACLU of Alabama, said late Monday. "It's past time for Alabama to move beyond its sordid history of racial discrimination at the polls, and to listen to and be responsive to the needs and concerns of voters of color."
The redistricting cycle that began in 2021 was the first since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the section of the Voting Rights Act that required states and localities with a history of racial discrimination to obtain "preclearance" from the Justice Department or a court before implementing new maps.
"In five of the six redistricting cycles since 1960, Alabama's legislative districts—congressional, state, or both—have violated the rights of voters under the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. Enough is enough," the ACLU said Monday. "Lawmakers cannot manipulate district lines to undermine the political power of Black voters—in Alabama or anywhere. We won't stop fighting for fair maps."