By Sarah Desmarais, Professor of Psychology, North Carolina State University. Nikolas Cruz, who was charged with 17 counts of murder in the Parkland school shooting, in February 2018. AP Photo/Mike Stocker In the wake of mass shootings and other tragedies, a frequent refrain is: Why don’t we get those dangerous people off the streets?
On Friday, CNN published an analysis of how Alex Jones, the infamous conspiracy theorist behind the far-right webcast Infowars, gave Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes a platform to spread anti-government extremism.
"Jones, who has built a staggering online following around his Infowars empire, has given Rhodes a platform to reach a wider audience -- from the day Rhodes plugged the Oath Keepers' first public meeting to the weeks surrounding the invasion of the US Capitol," reported Zachary Cohen and Curt Devine. "At the same time, Rhodes' Oath Keepers protected Jones at multiple 'Stop the Steal' rallies. The heady mix of access and influence came to a boil on January 6, 2021, with the Oath Keepers tasked with providing a personal security detail for Jones and Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander before the pro-Trump rally culminated with the deadly riot at the Capitol."
On Infowars, Rhodes pushed violent rhetoric for years.
"In 2012, Rhodes appeared on Jones' show and drew a comparison to the American Revolution during a conversation about alleged government abuse of power," said the report.
Rhodes said, "Just the same as the founders did, they exhausted all their peaceful means, but they also rallied more people to the cause, won more people over and steeled them up and hardened them, got them ready for the confrontation. That's what we have to do."
Rhodes and several other Oath Keepers are being charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Jones, meanwhile, is a subject of the House committee investigation into the attacks, and is currently suing the committee to block them from obtaining his phone records.
Reacting to the Rhodes indictment on Friday, Jones said, “If what they say about Stewart Rhodes is half true, I’m personally pissed. If things went off the way he wanted them to, if he wanted a bloody civil war to be triggered there, there might be millions dead, so this is a big problem folks.”
Diabolical, but brilliant.
That's how MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos is describing federal prosecutors' decision to target Matt Gaetz's ex-girlfriend as they investigate whether the Florida GOP congressman sex-trafficked a minor.
Earlier this week, NBC News reported that Gaetz's ex-girlfriend testified before a grand jury as part of a possible immunity deal in the case, calling it "a major development that suggests the Department of Justice may be moving closer to indicting him."
On Friday, Cevallos wrote that while we don't know details about the testimony of Gaetz's ex-girlfriend, "we do know ... that if the target of a federal investigation is going to be romantically involved, prosecutors would prefer it be with a girlfriend rather than a wife."
"And they’d always prefer to deal with an ex-girlfriend than a current girlfriend," Cevallos wrote.
He explained that federal courts recognize two important marital privileges.
"Either spouse may assert the confidential marital communications privilege to prevent the other one from testifying about private discussions they have during the marriage," Cevallos wrote. "Additionally, the spousal testimonial privilege permits one spouse to refuse to testify against the other during the marriage."
But the privileges — which have their roots in "medieval" views that didn't recognize women as separate entities from their husbands — don't apply to girlfriends.
"It doesn’t matter if the girlfriend has lived with the boyfriend for years," Cevallos wrote. "It doesn’t matter if they have kids together. A girlfriend is not a wife — but she is a potential gold mine for prosecutors."
According to Cevallos, the only thing prosecutors like more than a cooperating girlfriend is a cooperating ex-girlfriend — but that preference is based on "human nature" and not "rules of evidence."
"An ex-girlfriend usually ex-likes the ex-boyfriend being investigated," he wrote. "Even better for the investigators, sometimes the ex-girlfriend hates the ex-boyfriend with a seething passion. It’s a lot easier for a witness to incriminate someone if they already hate their guts."
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that the Biden administration has forced the resignation of a Trump administration appointee to an advisory commission, after he promoted conspiracy theories on his blog that the FBI helped to instigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
"Darren Beattie was named by former president Donald Trump to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad in November 2020. In a letter Friday, Gautam Raghavan, deputy director of the White House office of presidential personnel, told Beattie that he must turn in his resignation by the end of business Friday and if he did not, his position would be terminated," reported Mariana Alfaro. "Beattie confirmed the White House’s letter in a Friday afternoon tweet, saying the request for his resignation was 'better than a Pulitzer [Prize].'"
"On Sunday, the former president issued a statement praising Beattie for pushing his baseless claims about Jan. 6, when the pro-Trump mob invaded the Capitol to stop the affirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral college win, an attack that left five dead and 140 members of law enforcement injured," said the report. "'Because of Darren’s work, and others, Americans aren’t buying into the Unselect Committee’s attempts to smear 75 million (plus!) Americans,' Trump said, in an apparent reference to his 2020 voters. He received about 74 million votes; Biden got about 81 million."
The main purpose of the Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad is to memorialize victims of the Holocaust.
Before Trump appointed him to the commission, Beattie worked as a presidential speechwriter, but was removed from that role after it emerged that he appeared at a conference with Peter Brimelow, the infamous founder of the white supremacist website VDare.com.