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Medical examiner accused of covering up cop killing in Maryland becomes witness for Derek Chauvin

In the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a key witness for the defense was the former Maryland chief medical examiner, Dr. David Fowler, who contradicted most other expert witnesses in the trial and suggested heart trouble and other issues, not the police restraint, caused George Floyd's death. The decision by Chauvin's legal team to rely on Fowler's testimony shocked many in Maryland, where he is being sued by the family of 19-year-old Anton Black, an African American teenager from Maryland who died in 2018 after he was electrocuted with a Taser, pinned in a prone position and crushed under the weight of three white police officers and a white civilian as he struggled to breathe and lost consciousness. After an autopsy, Dr. Fowler ruled Black's death an accident, and no one was charged with a crime. The wrongful death lawsuit says Dr. Fowler delayed release of an autopsy report for months and covered up police responsibility for Black's death. Sonia Kumar, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland, says there is "a pattern of conduct in Maryland involving police violence against Black people that then are characterized as anything other than homicides." We also speak with Richard Potter, the founder of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black and president of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, who says officials in Anton Black's case spent months dragging their feet after the teenager's death. "Nobody was giving the family any information in terms of a cause of death," he says.


All-American insurrection: Expert explains how right-wing extremists' targets have shifted

A scathing new report by the Capitol Police's internal watchdog reveals officials knew Congress was the target of the deadly January 6 insurrection, yet officers were instructed to refrain from deploying more aggressive measures that could have helped "push back the rioters." Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports domestic terrorism incidents surged to a record high in 2020, fueled by white supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right. The Post found that, since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks, leading to 91 deaths. Reporter A.C. Thompson, who explores the threat of far-right extremism in the new PBS "Frontline" documentary "American Insurrection," says there was a "massive pool of radicalized individuals" ahead of the January 6 attack who were being pushed toward violence by "an abundance of lies by the former president, by this entire conspiratorial right-wing media and social media ecosystem." We also speak with director Rick Rowley, who says many white supremacist groups began to splinter during the intense backlash to the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, but Trump gave the groups new life ahead of the January 6 insurrection. "Many elements inside the white supremacist movement found in him a path into the mainstream," says Rowley. "They took off their swastikas, and they wrapped themselves in the flag."



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

A new report by the Capitol Police's watchdog reveals officials knew Congress was the target of the deadly January 6th insurrection, yet officers were instructed to refrain from deploying a more aggressive response that could have helped, quote, "push back the rioters." Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton found the agency failed to properly prepare for and respond to the pro-Trump mob despite warnings. The report cites a Capitol Police intelligence assessment issued several days before the attack that warned, quote, "Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike." The assessment also warned "Congress itself is the target on the 6th." Well, Bolton is set to testify Thursday before the House Administration Committee.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports domestic terrorism incidents surged to a record high in 2020, fueled by white supremacist, anti-Muslim, anti-government extremists on the far right. The Post found, since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks, leading to 91 deaths.

For more, we turn to a new film called American Insurrection, that explores how far-right groups were emboldened and encouraged by former President Trump, and what the fears and concerns are, going forward. The documentary by Frontline premiered Tuesday on PBS in collaboration with ProPublica and the University of California, Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program. In a minute, we'll be joined by the film's director, Rick Rowley, and correspondent A.C. Thompson. This is the trailer.

MIKE DUNN: I think about a revolution against the government. We're past the point of peace.
WHITE SUPREMACISTS: You will not replace us!
NARRATOR: From Charlottesville to the assault on the Capitol —
TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Fight for Trump!
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: One of the darkest days in the history of our nation.
REP. ANDRÉ CARSON: We're seeing this country fall apart before our eyes.
NARRATOR: How the former president galvanized an army.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Who's our president?
TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Trump's our president!
BRIEN JAMES: We've got a guy who's a nationalist in the most powerful seat in the world. We can actually win. We can actually get our views represented.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.
ROBIN GILL: So, Trump encouraging calls to lock Whitmer up…
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Lock 'em all up.
MARY McCORD: The far-right militias have felt much more license to publicly engage.
REPORTER: Terror plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
A.C. THOMPSON: And so, you think the guys were planning to arrest her?
MILITIA MEMBER: It was going to be a citizen's arrest.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER: Two militia groups were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you do not fight like hell, you're not going have a country anymore.
REPORTER: Violent mob, stoked by the words of President Trump, stormed the building.
REP. ANDRÉ CARSON: They were hostile. They were venomous that their country somehow was being taken away from them.
NARRATOR: In the aftermath of the 2020 election, how these groups have become part of the American political landscape.
A.C. THOMPSON: What was the role of the boog bois on that day?
MIKE DUNN: There was some boogaloo bois in the crowd associated with us. They weren't there for Trump. They were there just to mess with the federal government one more time.
NARRATOR: Over the last several years, Frontline and ProPublica have been reporting on the rise of hate groups —
A.C. THOMPSON: Talk to you about what you were doing in Charlottesville last year.
NARRATOR: — and their violence.
A.C. THOMPSON: What do you think was going on in this house?
UNIDENTIFIED: They were making bombs.
NARRATOR: Now correspondent A.C. Thompson investigates the surge of far-right political violence.
A.C. THOMPSON: What do soldiers and marines bring to the boogaloo?
MIKE DUNN: They bring training expertise in certain areas.
REP. KEITH ELLISON: They have decided this is a strategic initiative for them. There is a real, legitimate fear. We've got to be vigilant about it.
UNIDENTIFIED: I'm afraid that more innocent civilians will be targeted and actually victimized by these violent offenders. Everything that we had predicted has come to fruition. And it's actually even worse.
NARRATOR: The first in a series of films on the rise of extremism around the world.
MIKE DUNN: We definitely are the modern militia.

AMY GOODMAN: That's the trailer for American Insurrection, the new Frontline documentary, now streaming on PBS.org.

For more, we're joined by A.C. Thompson, PBS Frontline correspondent and staff reporter with ProPublica, who's covered the rise of right-wing extremist and white supremacist groups for years, and director Rick Rowley, the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning filmmaker, independent journalist with Midnight Productions.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! A.C., you begin this documentary on January 7th, the day after the deadly insurrection in Washington, and then you make your way back to the University of Virginia. Talk about what we're facing now and the buildup.

A.C. THOMPSON: You know, the concern that I have at this point is that we may see an act of mass casualty terrorism sometime in the relatively near future, because we have a massive pool of radicalized individuals who have been fed an abundance of lies by the former president, by this entire conspiratorial right-wing media and social media ecosystem. And that is the concern I have.

For us, the film traces sort of what happens from Charlottesville with the white power movement, which was emboldened and catalyzed by former President Trump, up to now, where we see the sort of white supremacists fading and these groups we saw on January 6th coming out, the street fighters, like the Proud Boys, the militias, the boogaloo bois. And that's sort of the arc that we're tracing here. We expect trouble from those groups in the future.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, A.C., in the film, you explore several of these groups. In the Proud Boys, for instance, the Cuban American, Enrique Tarrio, who is the — one of the leaders of the group — several of these folks are not — they're white supremacists, but they're not white themselves. And those of us who know the Latin American history know there's always been an extreme-right-wing trend among people of Latin American descent. Could you talk about Tarrio and the Proud Boys and what you found?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, that's a great question. Honestly, a few years ago, our colleague Karim Hajj and I were filming in Portland and filming these Proud Boys rallies. And we thought, you know, "How do we even make sense of these guys?" Like, you know, because they're ethnically mixed. They're sort of white supremacist-adjacent, like they're hanging out with white supremacists, but that's not how they categorize themselves. And I think the term that we came up with was sort of multicultural fascism, multiethnic fascism.

You know, in the film, we meet a member of the Proud Boys, and he's wearing a shirt that says "Pinochet did nothing wrong," referring to the fascist Chilean dictator. And that's a thing that we saw over and over again with the Proud Boys, is shirts that said "right-wing death squads," shirts that talked about throwing socialists and leftists out of helicopters, as happened in Chile and Latin America during the dirty wars. So, that's the sort of thing that I think these movements, the ultranationalist movements, really represent, is a multiethnic fascism.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip from your documentary, American Insurrection. You report on Steven Carrillo, the active-duty Air Force sergeant accused of shooting dead a federal security officer in Oakland during last year's protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Remember, it was originally blamed on antifa. But then it turns out to be that Carrillo killed not only him, but a deputy sergeant in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. He belonged to the anti-government boogaloo bois movement and was interviewed by investigative journalist Gisela Pérez de Acha from jail.

A.C. THOMPSON: Before he was captured, Carrillo wrote messages in his own blood, including a single word that would be the key to all the chaos: "Boog."
STEVEN CARRILLO: What the boogaloo is, is a revolution, a revolutionary thought.
A.C. THOMPSON: Carrillo told Pérez de Acha that he was part of a movement called the boogaloo bois.
STEVEN CARRILLO: The boogaloo movement, it's about people that love freedom, liberty, and they're unhappy with the level of control that the government takes over our lives. Being free to do what you want as long as you don't hurt anyone else.
GISELA PÉREZ DE ACHA: Aren't you accused of hurting someone?
STEVEN CARRILLO: Oh, that's — you know, that's what I'm accused of, but — yeah, so, back to the example, that's what I wanted to get to, you know, is the freedom of choice, the freedom of expression.
A.C. THOMPSON: Carrillo has pleaded not guilty, and he wouldn't answer questions about the shootings.
Did you find it hard to get him to actually —
GISELA PÉREZ DE ACHA: It was so hard. It was so hard. He would just deny and skirt every question.
How did you come to this? How did you — because you said you didn't read a lot before.
STEVEN CARRILLO: Basically, through friends, friends, you know, the Air Force. Once I joined the Air Force, you know, I traveled around the world. I met people from all over the world. And just talking to people changed my whole views.
A.C. THOMPSON: So, do you think that he's saying that he found these radical ideas in the military?
GISELA PÉREZ DE ACHA: Yeah, I think — mainly from my conversations with him, I think he was definitely radicalized at the Air Force.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we were hearing the voice of Carrillo there from jail, thanks to the investigative journalist Gisela Pérez de Acha. And you're talking to her, A.C. Thompson. Now, central to this is the military's prominent role in the white supremacist movement. I mean, you even interview a Pentagon spokesperson who says this is what they're looking at now, the disproportionate representation of police and military in the white supremacist movement. Tell us more through the story of Carrillo.

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah. So, Steven Carrillo is a 32-, now-33-year-old Air Force staff sergeant. He was assigned to a sort of elite security unit called the Phoenix Ravens within the U.S. Air Force. He had been in the service for many years.

And the truth about Steven Carrillo, who is facing the federal death penalty for allegedly killing a federal security officer, facing state charges for murder for allegedly killing a deputy down in Santa Cruz County, California, is that he's representative of a much, much broader nexus between the military and extremist movements, most prominently anti-government militias and the white supremacist movement. Now, Steven is Mexican American. He wouldn't identify as white supremacist in any way. But he does identify with these sort of extremist, extreme libertarian ideas and this really anti-government sentiment that we've seen swirling around many people in the armed forces in recent years.

We did reporting that found — that basically found some 20 members of the boogaloo movement with military ties, many of them active-duty. Thirteen of them had been jailed on serious, serious criminal charges in the last year. Our colleagues at Berkeley found another 15 active-duty airmen, many of them connected to Carrillo online, who are promoting boogaloo anti-government content, while collecting a government paycheck.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Rick Rowley, I'd like to bring you into the conversation, as well. Could you talk about this — first of all, the timeline of the film, starting from Charlottesville through a variety of other events, that most people don't — most Americans don't associate as part of any kind of continuum, but also the role of social media, as you got into this story, in the growth of these groups?

RICK ROWLEY: Yeah. Thanks, Juan.

I mean, I think, really, the important — a major, important takeaway for everyone is that, you know, we look too often at these movements as a monolith, as an unchanging kind of thing. But actually, the far-right ecosystem is diverse, and it evolves, and it takes advantage of political crises as they appear. And if you don't understand how it's growing and changing, then it becomes impossible to understand the kind of threat they pose.

So, yeah, we begin in Charlottesville with Unite the Right, the explosion of the largest white supremacist — openly white supremacist demonstration in our lifetimes. And there was a backlash after that, that was actually quite effective in splintering and breaking up the overt, explicitly white supremacist organizations that were there. The main groups behind that, you know, they dissolved, or they changed their names, or they just kind of disappeared.

But what happened was, something else happened there, and that was that Trump, with his response to Charlottesville, he made explicit something that had been imminent inside his campaign for a long time. And many elements inside the white supremacist movement found in him a path into the mainstream. And so, they took off their swastikas, and they wrapped themselves in the flag, and they joined groups like the Proud Boys.

At the time, the Proud Boys seemed to me to be kind of a joke — right? — not a very serious player in this space. But they became a vehicle through which neo-Nazis and white supremacists could enter into a mainstream kind of organization. You know, one of the great interviews that A.C. does is with this guy Brien James, who is — his career is like a bingo card of far-right violence, like the Klan, militias, where he met Tim McVeigh. He's founder of a neo-Nazi skinhead gang whose members have been committed — who have been convicted of multiple murders. Now he's a Proud Boy. And he says to us on camera that he sees that now they can win with someone like Trump in power, in office, and then also just offering them this vehicle into the mainstream.

And so, you know, what you mentioned earlier, Juan, about Enrique Tarrio and the Black and Latino members of the Proud Boys, this is a very self-conscious move by the movement to put forward an image of themselves that is difficult for people who haven't watched them evolve to classify. So, people look at them, and it's hard to call them white supremacist, because they can't — you know, it's hard for them to square that image because they haven't seen them evolve. I mean, the slogan, "Pinochet did nothing wrong" — "Hitler did nothing wrong" was a slogan, you know, started, I think, on Stormfront a couple decades ago and sort of popularized. They just take the "Hitler" out, put the "Pinochet" in, and suddenly they're a multiethnic, multicultural fascist movement that finds a way to become more acceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to another clip of American Insurrection. This is about the boogaloo bois.

A.C. THOMPSON: I need to see the movement for myself. I go to Virginia, where a boogaloo cell is marching against a local gun ordinance. Fifty protesters show up. They have body armor, assault rifles and outlawed high-capacity magazines. They carry igloo flags and wear Hawaiian shirts and ironic patches. The group is led by Mike Dunn.
So, how are you feeling about today?
MIKE DUNN: Liberty shall not be infringed.
A.C. THOMPSON: Has this been a success, in your mind?
MIKE DUNN: Liberty shall not be infringed.
A.C. THOMPSON: Dunn postures like a seasoned squad leader. But this doesn't look like a group that's going to lead a violent insurrection. I can see the threat they pose, though. Boogaloo bois have demonstrated the potential to carry out acts of violence. Some in law enforcement and the intelligence community also saw this threat. I've been told that their concerns were rejected by the White House.
ELIZABETH NEUMANN: Among the counterterrorism community, we took it very seriously. But you really do need that presidential-level leadership saying, "This is a threat. We are going to use all of our tools to go after this threat." That never happened under Trump.
A.C. THOMPSON: Elizabeth Neumann was one of the top counterterrorism officials in the Trump administration. She says she tried to warn the White House about the rising threat of far-right extremists, but the president and his allies claimed the real threat was from Black Lives Matter and antifa.
ELIZABETH NEUMANN: Does antifa exist? It's not an organization; it's a movement. You have groups of people that associate with them. Do they show up at protests? Sure. Is it a massive conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and kill a lot of people? No. You know where that is? It's on the right. It's in the white supremacist movement. It's in the anti-government militia movement. It's in the boogaloo bois movement.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is key. That was Elizabeth Neumann, who was a Trump administration official, who quit then because the White House kept stressing the threat was Black Lives Matter and antifa, when all of the facts indicate the overwhelming level of violence, the number one domestic terror threat in this country are the white supremacists, are the anti-government groups, this right wing that coalesced on January 6th. You have Mike Dunn in there. A.C., you say he's gone underground now? What do you see as the next insurrection or threat? And what about how the Biden administration is dealing with this?

A.C. THOMPSON: You know, I think the fear that I have, and I've gotten this from our interviews with people like Mike Dunn, is both federal agencies and federal law enforcement being targeted. They are a particular target for people in these militia and militant anti-government groups. As well, I think there's a real concern with state-level and county-level officials being targeted, particularly in states that maybe have more serious COVID restrictions — I think that's the thing we saw in Michigan with the kidnapping plot there against the governor — particularly in states where they may be moving to enact some forms of slightly more aggressive gun control laws. Those are the concerns I think that we should all have. And that's what's been articulated to us, is like, "Look, it's not just that we're targeting the federal government; we're targeting everybody."

AMY GOODMAN: A.C. Thompson, we want to thank you for being with us, PBS Frontline correspondent, ProPublica reporter, and Rick Rowley, Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning filmmaker, just released American Insurrection, a new Frontline documentary, now streaming at PBS.org.

Pandemic profiteers: How US billionaires like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos saw wealth grow by $1.3 trillion

A new report reveals that as a record number of people in the United States lost their jobs and struggled to put food on the table during the past year of the pandemic, the combined wealth of the 657 billionaires in the country grew more than $1.3 trillion, nearly 45%, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who saw his personal wealth increase by $65 billion — more than $7 million every hour. "They are often leading companies who have benefited from the pandemic conditions by having, essentially, their competition shut down," says Chuck Collins, author of the report on pandemic profiteers by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. "These folks have reaped enormous windfalls in this pandemic." The massive gains come as pressure grows on lawmakers to impose new taxes on the top 1%, with both Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders proposing new measures to address growing economic inequality.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it's been a year of pain for so many, and massive gains for a select few billionaires. We begin today's show looking at a new report that names the biggest pandemic profiteers over the past year. As unemployment surged at the start of the lockdowns, the Institute for Policy Studies began working with Americans for Tax Fairness to track the wealth growth of U.S. billionaires. They've just published their findings that show the combined wealth of the 657 billionaires in the country grew more than $1.3 trillion, nearly 45%, since the pandemic began.

This comes as a record number of people in the United States lost their jobs and struggled to put food on the table. Food banks reported massive lines, and mutual aid groups popped up across the United States to help those in need. This is Harlem resident Ruth Crawford, speaking from a food bank last Thanksgiving.

RUTH CRAWFORD: You have to try to relax and think of the better things, because it wasn't always like this. But this is getting to people, and it's just sad. I mean, you work all the time, and then you can't go to work, or you can't work from home. So it's not easy.

AMY GOODMAN: Billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg all saw their bank accounts swell amidst the global crisis. This month, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others proposed an "ultra-millionaire" tax to tax fortunes above $50 million. Senator Sanders hosted a hearing on the inequality crisis last week.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We'll be asking about how it happens that the top one-tenth of 1% now owns more wealth than the bottom 90% — one-tenth of 1%, more wealth than the bottom 90% — and two individuals, Bezos and Musk, now own more wealth than the bottom 40%. And meanwhile, we're looking at more hunger in America than at any time in decades.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Sanders is holding another hearing today.

For more, we're joined by Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Program on Inequality and author of their new report, "A Year of Billionaire Pandemic Gains." Chuck Collins is also the author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

Chuck, welcome back to Democracy Now! Who are the pandemic profiteers, and how they do it?

CHUCK COLLINS: Well, good morning, Amy.

And you mentioned a couple, who — like Jeff Bezos, like Elon Musk. But what we found was that there was a whole group of people, almost 50 billionaires, whose wealth has gone up over 100%. And they are often leading companies who have benefited from the pandemic conditions by having, essentially, their competition shut down. So, they're the online retailers, the online telemedicine. And then, think about it: Any of the companies that we're sort of depending on while a bricks-and-mortar economy has been shut down, those are the ones that have seen their wealth surge dramatically. And as you said, you know, we're talking about 657 billionaires whose combined wealth is $1.3 trillion increase in the last year, but they have $4.2 trillion total, which is double, almost double, the amount of the wealth of the bottom half of U.S. households. So these folks have reaped enormous windfalls in this pandemic.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Chuck, could you also respond to the ultra-millionaire tax proposals that Sanders was just talking about, what we played? And also, in 2018, you wrote that the effective rate of tax on the billionaire class was lower than for most middle-income taxpayers. Explain what the effective rate of tax is. And again, your response to the proposal for an ultra-millionaire tax?

CHUCK COLLINS: Well, it really is a good time to be talking about taxing the very wealthy. The effective rate is really what's the percentage of your income and wealth that you pay in taxes. And the billionaire class is down to about 23%, which is like a 70-year low. That's the level at which many schoolteachers pay their tax rates. So, a wealth tax, along the lines the ultra-millionaire tax that's been proposed; Senator Sanders is going to introduce his reformed estate tax bill today, the For the 99.5% bill, today — those are the kinds of legislation that will raise significant money from that billionaire class. We estimated — Americans for Tax Fairness and Institute for Policy Studies estimated that the wealth tax, half the revenue would come from billionaires. Over 10 years, almost $1.5 trillion of revenue would come just from billionaires. So, it would go a long way toward making the tax system more fair and restoring the lost progressivity that we had in past decades.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Chuck, it's clear that, of course, the U.S. was not the only country that saw billionaires increasing their wealth exponentially during the pandemic. There is another report that tracks global wealth, called the Hurun Global Rich List. And it found that in addition to billionaires, of course, increasing their wealth, the world also added 607 new billionaires, and that's three billionaires every two days. So, could you talk about how this happened globally and where this wealth is most concentrated — the U.S., China and India?

CHUCK COLLINS: Yeah, it's a good question. And we're going to release an analysis of the one-year mark on global wealth, but let me give you a preview. The global billionaire class — there's about 2,360 billionaires globally — their wealth increased $4 trillion. So, that group has $12 trillion. And if we were to levy a kind of Warren-style wealth tax on the global billionaires, just in one year that would raise about $350 billion. It would cost about $140 billion to vaccinate the world, according to Oxfam. So, you know, that's the juxtaposition that we're looking at in the pandemic.

But the common thing that these billionaires have, the ones that are really extracting enormous windfalls, is their Main Street business commerce competition has been shut down. I mean, it's clear — you know, take an example like Amazon. The Main Street bookstore and retailer is shuttered. They are consolidating — these bigger, billionaire-owned companies are consolidating their ownership in certain sectors. And it's both the things that we need, it's also diversions — you know, Snapchat, sort of gaming, online gaming. All those things have also — there's a huge amount of wealth that's been extracted from these companies that own some of the online gaming firms. And the United States billionaires only account — count for less than a third of this global wealth. There's a tremendous amount of new wealth in China, in Hong Kong. But what they all have in common is they benefit from the adversity and the artificial conditions that the pandemic has created in the marketplace.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Jeff Bezos. Earlier this week, we spoke to Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, talking about how Amazon treated workers during the pandemic. They're attempting to unionize the first Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

STUART APPELBAUM: Amazon cut people's wages in the middle of the pandemic. At the end of May, they eliminated the $2 hazard pay they had been giving, even though the pandemic continued to rage, even though the hazards were just as bad, if not worse, as they had been before. And why did they do it? They didn't do it because they needed to. You talked about how much money Bezos has made during this period. They did it because they thought they could get away with it. Oxfam put out a report that said if Jeff Bezos had given every one of his employees a bonus of $105,000, Bezos still would have been wealthier at the end of the pandemic than he was at the beginning.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about that, Chuck. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw his personal wealth increase by $65 billion — more than $7 million every hour. Tomorrow we're going to be talking with Danny Glover, who is going down, along with Bernie Sanders and others, for the final push days of the Amazon unionization drive effort in Bessemer. The significance of them fighting, spending millions fighting this unionization? And yet you look at the massive pandemic profiteering that he has engaged in.

CHUCK COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, it's clear that Bezos, you know, and Amazon hired 450,000 new workers during the pandemic globally, 800,000 workers now in the U.S. Many of them were sent into the viral line of fire with inadequate protection. I've talked to lots of Amazon workers in warehouses in the North, where even they are unionized in some cases, but they are still being forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Amazon could have done so much more. They could have kept hazard pay in place. They could allow workers to organize. They could share the wealth with their employees. But instead, they've hoarded the wealth at the top. And, you know, the average Amazon worker has seen their pay go up less than a dollar over the year, but compared to Bezos's, as you point out, thousands of dollars an hour that he's reaping from the situation.

So, it's really great that people like Danny Glover and others are standing and organizing, standing with the workers in Alabama in their struggle, because this is a pivotal moment to push back on these sort of oligarchic owners. Same with Musk — Musk, again, sending his workers back into factories without adequate protection, while these billionaires sit in their own protective bubbles.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much, Chuck Collins, and we're going to link to your report. Chuck Collins is director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Program on Inequality. That new report, "A Year of Billionaire Pandemic Gains." He's the author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

Next up, the House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on extremism in the Armed Forces. One in five of those arrested in connection with the deadly January 6th Capitol insurrection have served or are now serving in the military. Stay with us.

Trump and the pandemic may have permanently destroyed the GOP's trickle-down mythology

President Biden has signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which Democrats are hailing as the largest anti-poverty bill in a generation. It includes stimulus checks to most adults, expanded unemployment benefits and an overhaul of the child tax credit. One study projects the law will lift almost 14 million Americans out of poverty, including 5.7 million children. "This is transformational," says economist Joseph Stiglitz. "It says, 'We are actually going to live up — try to live up — to our aspirations.'"


The End of Trickle-Down Economics? Joe Stiglitz on the “Transformational" $1.9T American Rescue Plan www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package Thursday. Democrats are hailing the deal as the largest anti-poverty bill in a generation. One study projects the law will lift almost 14 million Americans out of poverty, including 5.7 million children. On Thursday night, President Biden gave his first primetime address, marking one year since much of the country shut down due to the pandemic.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I signed into law the American Rescue Plan, an historic piece of legislation that delivers immediate relief to millions of people, includes $1,400 in direct rescue checks, payments. That means a typical family of four earning about $110,000 will get checks for $5,600, deposited if they have direct deposit or in a check, a Treasury check. It extends unemployment benefits. It helps small businesses. It lowers healthcare premiums for many. It provides food and nutrition, keeps families in their homes. And it will cut child poverty in this country in half.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden also announced he would direct state, local and tribal governments to make all adults be eligible for a COVID vaccine by May 1st. He also set a goal of July 4th for the country to, quote, "mark independence" from the virus.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I will do everything in my power. I will not relent until we beat this virus. But I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that's not hyperbole. I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated, as well, because here's the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden also used his primetime address to condemn the surge in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Too often, we've turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives, sometimes it divides us — states pitted against one other instead of working with each other, vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated. At this very moment, so many of them — our fellow Americans — they're on the frontlines of this pandemic, trying to save lives. And still — still — they're forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. It's wrong. It's un-American. And it must stop.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined now by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Columbia University professor and chief economist for the Roosevelt Institute. He served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton and as chief economist at the World Bank. His latest book is People, Power and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent.

Thanks so much for joining us, Joe Stiglitz. Can you start off by talking about the transformational aspects of this American Rescue Plan?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: First, let me say it was enormously important that the economy be rescued, and that's why that $1.9 trillion package was so important. But within it, it was designed to begin a transformation. And what you talked about earlier, the number of people who are being lifted out of poverty, is absolutely essential.

You know, the first act passed under the previous presidency, one of the few acts in the process of what is called reconciliation, was a tax bill in December 2017. And nothing — the difference couldn't be clearer. That was a tax bill that helped the billionaires and the corporations. The money went to the top. This is a transformation with the money going to the people who really need it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk more about the significance of this. I mean, the reason it was able to be passed, with not one Republican joining in the House or the Senate, even though, astoundingly, they are starting to take credit for it — the Mississippi Senator Wicker, who tweeted out immediately how much money it was going to bring to restaurants and to keeping people on the payroll, which was one of the arguments for it, of course; he just didn't mention he did not vote for it. But take us back to FDR, what this means — it's only for a year — and if you think it could be carried out from there.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, I think it can be carried out, but to be permanent, it's going to need a change in Congress in 2022. It's very clear that the Republicans, at least for now, have come under the influence of extreme polarization and have become the party of Trump. And so, it's all about polarization, not a single one supporting what is necessary just for the economy to recover. You know, so, even if you thought, "We don't want to help the poor," you need to have the economy recover. And everybody will benefit from it. So, while it moves a lot of people out of poverty, it was an essential bill for the economy to get back going again.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the child tax credit, on its surface, might look like just another tweak to the tax code, but it defines a profound shift in how we view society, confronting poverty much like the New Deal's creation of Social Security and what that did for the elderly. Could this continue?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I believe it can. I mean, when you think about it, children don't choose their parents. And if there is any concern about the future of the country, you want to make sure that the children, no matter who their parents are, can live up to their potential.

One of the things that I pointed out in my research is that the American dream is really a myth. The life prospects of a young American are more dependent on the income and education of its parents that in almost any other advanced country. It's absolutely the opposite of the way we think about ourselves. And so, this is transformational. It says, "We are actually going to live up — try to live up — to our aspirations."

AMY GOODMAN: You have also the $5 billion for farmers of color, for Black farmers, in debt relief. The Republicans are trying to make this the kind of poster child example of — well, they're talking about reparations. But how key is this, Professor Stiglitz?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, this addresses a kind of legacy of discrimination that we've had. You know, when you've had a legacy of discrimination, you have to undo it. It's not a question of reparations, although I think there's a strong argument that can be made for reparations. But just for our society to go forward with a modicum of equality is going to necessitate dealing with some of the consequences of the discrimination of the past.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this the end of trickle-down economics?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I hope so. You know, I hope we've learned that — you know, as I mentioned earlier, the 2017 bill of Trump was, hopefully, the last gasp of trickle-down economics. The theory was, giving all that money to the corporations and the billionaires would lead to sustained economic growth from which everyone would benefit. What we saw in that bill was that the money overwhelmingly went to share buybacks, dividends, very little that trickled down to ordinary workers. That was a real demonstration that trickle-down economics didn't work. And this is the antithesis of what Trump did. It's building up the economy from the middle and the bottom.

'Huge victory': Black farmers hail $5 billion in new COVID relief law to redress generations of racism

A major provision in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill aims to address decades of discrimination against Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American farmers who have historically been excluded from government agricultural programs. The American Rescue Plan sets aside $10.4 billion for agriculture support, with about half of that amount set aside for farmers of color, and allocates extra federal funds to farmers who were "subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group." The U.S. Department of Agriculture has faced accusations of racism for decades, but little has been done to address the problem of discrimination in farm loans. John Boyd, a fourth-generation Black farmer and president of the National Black Farmers Association, says the new funds begin to address issues he has been fighting for 30 years. "This is a huge victory for Black farmers and farmers of color," says Boyd.


“Huge Victory": Black Farmers Hail $5B in New COVID Relief Law to Redress Generations of Racism www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

We begin today's show looking at a major provision in President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that aims to address decades of discrimination against Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American farmers, who have historically been excluded from government agricultural programs. The American Rescue Plan sets aside $10.4 billion for agriculture support and allocates about half the funds to farmers of color who were, quote, "subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group," unquote.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights confirmed, as long ago as 1965, the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against Black farmers, but little was done to address the problem, and the number of Black-run farms dropped 96% in the last century. By 1999, 98% of all agricultural land was owned by white people. In 2010, Congress approved a $1.2 billion settlement for thousands of Black farmers denied USDA loans because of their race. But a 2019 study by the Government Accountability Office, based on the USDA's own data, shows farmers and ranchers of color continue to receive disproportionately smaller farm loans.

The provision in the new COVID relief package is drawn from legislation introduced by newly elected Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who is Georgia's first Black senator and also the first Georgia Democrat to serve on the Agriculture Committee in three decades. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomed the measure.

AGRICULTURE SECRETARY TOM VILSACK: The history of USDA, unfortunately, involved a level of discrimination against a number of minority producers — Black farmers, Native American farmers, Hispanic farmers. And there is an effort, I think, with this package to try to deal not with the specific acts of discrimination, but the cumulative effect over a period of time. When people are discriminated against, they basically get behind, and it's really hard for them ever to catch up. And the result, of course, is that we've seen a significant decline in the number of minority producers around the country. So, this is providing some debt relief for those minority producers, those socially disadvantaged producers, to impact and affect the cumulative effect of — to offset the cumulative effect of discrimination over a period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: But the effort to address the USDA's history of racism has come under fire from some Republicans, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who lashed out against the measure during a Fox News interview.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Let me give you an example of something that really bothers me. In this bill, if you're a farmer, your loan will be forgiven, up to 120% of your loan — not 100%, but 120% of your loan — if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African American, some other minority. But if you're a white person, if you're a white woman, no forgiveness as for reparations. What has that got to do with COVID? So, if you're in the farming business right now, this bill forgives 120% of your loan based on your race. These people in the Congress today, the House and the Senate, on the Democratic side are out-of-control liberals.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Graham's comments prompted a stern response from House Majority Whip James Clyburn, who's also from South Carolina. He was speaking on CNN.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN: Mr. Graham is from South Carolina. He knows South Carolina's history. He knows what the state of South Carolina and this country has done to Black farmers in South Carolina. They didn't do it to white farmers. We are trying to rescue the lives and livelihoods of people. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on the fight to end discrimination at the USDA and restore land to Black farmers, we go to Boydton, Virginia, to speak with John Boyd, fourth-generation Black farmer, founder and president of the nonprofit National Black Farmers Association.

John, welcome back to Democracy Now! It's great to have you with us. Can you start off by talking about this $5 billion and what it means? Give us the history.

JOHN BOYD: The $5 billion is historic in nature, Amy — and thank you for having me again — in what it's going to do to help Black farmers and farmers of color in this country. You know, as you know, we've been suffering. And the $5 billion calls for debt relief. So, that would give many Black farmers a jumpstart, if they can get rid of the debt at the United States Department of Agriculture. And there is $1 billion that's set aside for technical assistance and outreach and to really dig down into the core of the discrimination at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Both of these measures, I've been fighting for for over 30 years, so I don't anybody who's watching this show to think that this is some new measure or new idea or concept that happened overnight. I've been trying to fix this, this measure, for over 30 years at the United States Department of Agriculture. And, Amy, I probably spoke to you about it 10 years ago. So, we've been trying a long time. And this is a huge victory for Black farmers and farmers of color, Native Americans and Hispanics, and other socially disadvantaged farmers.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how, over the last century, Black farmers lost 90% of their land?

JOHN BOYD: Yes. And at the turn of the century, we were tilling about 20 million acres of land, primarily in the Southeastern Corridor of the United States, and we were close to 1 million Black farm families strong. And for those who don't understand the history, every Black person in this country, we're one or two generations away from somebody's farm. And we survived slavery. We survived sharecropping. We survived Jim Crow. And here we are in the year 2021, and I'm talking to you about discrimination at United States Department of Agriculture. We lost this land by discrimination, from receiving discrimination at USDA.

And I was one of those recipients, where the government clearly discriminated against me. I have a 14-page letter from them admitting to the guilt in those egregious acts that I faced by this this county official. The person responsible for making farm loans spat on me and used racial epithets, referred to me and other senior statesmen in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, as "boy." He came to my farm, wanting me to sign a check over to him personally, with a loaded handgun. And I can tell you, Amy, he didn't treat white farmers that way in Mecklenburg County. He would only see Black farmers on Wednesday. All of us would be lined up in the hallway with the same date and time on it. And he was referring to these elderly Black farmers — many were deacons and preachers and leaders in the community — as "boy" and talking downward towards them. So, this is deep-rooted discrimination that's been going on in very pervasive ways for a very, very long time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to Senator Lindsey Graham?

JOHN BOYD: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the history of Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, when it comes to this issue.

JOHN BOYD: Yes. Well, first of all, I've lobbied Senator Graham when he was in the House and in the Senate, and I've had meetings with him, in buttonhole meetings, trying to get him to support the Claims Remedy Act of 2010. He has over 6,000 Black farmers in his state. He knows the discrimination that I'm describing. And I've spoken to him personally about this discrimination. Amy, he never once used his megaphone to talk about or investigate the acts of discrimination that Black farmers like myself faced.

So, I'm calling for, today, on your show — I want him to apologize to the Black community, to Black farmers, and apologize to this country for his wrong stance on this. Forty-nine members voted on 10 different amendments to strip or lessen the language that was in the COVID spending bill for Black farmers. Forty-nine senators, Republican senators, voted to take that out. And Senator Lindsey Graham was one of them. He has never tried to help. He is divisive. He is wrong for this country. And that message, that concept, the message of hate, hatred and division, that he continues to preach on Fox News, isn't the American way. That's not the way to bring America back.

Here we are, for 30 years, trying to get this done. He should have took some time to say, "What can we do to help this measure, to make farming better for Blacks and other farmers in this country?" And he never once spoke about all of the money going to white farmers. Just, for example, under the Trump administration, $29 million — $29 billion, with a B, went to white farmers. What is his definition of that? All of the subsidies and programs and loans and all these incentives at USDA, for all of these decades, have went to white farmers. What is his definition of that?

So, that's what we've been talking about, clearly, for a long time: a system that has discriminated and mistreated and took and stole land from Black farmers for decades. And it went unchecked in this country. If he wanted to check something, he should have been checking about discrimination at USDA. He should have been checking about sharecropping in his historic state, South Carolina. These are things that Senator Lindsey Graham should have been doing.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of it being Reverend Warnock, now Senator Warnock, from Georgia, the new Democratic senator, being the one who pushed this forward and sitting on the Agriculture Committee?

JOHN BOYD: Yes. This is a historic nature, and my hat goes off to Reverend Warnock, Senator Cory Booker. For the first time in history, Amy — this is a new day in America — we have two Blacks on the Senate Ag Committee. We have the chairman in the House, Chairman Scott, also from Georgia, a chairman of the [House] Agriculture Committee.

We have now a president, President Biden, and a vice president, who wants to help rectify some of the problems that we've faced. And I spoke to the president about this last February. And he committed to me that he would help me fix the issues at the United States Department of Agriculture. So I would like to recognize President Biden for signing that bill and making sure that we stayed in there. So, my hat is off right now to this administration for doing the right thing and having the guts to stand up to people like Lindsey Graham and the other 49 senators, who simply don't want to help people, Black farmers and poor people in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Tom Vilsack, the new, once again, head, but also past head, of the USDA. The NAACP has noted Vilsack had lied to conceal decades of discrimination against Black farmers. The NAACP president, Derrick Johnson, responded to Biden's nomination of Vilsack to head the USDA, calling it "extremely problematic for the African American community." He cited the 2010 controversy when Vilsack served as agriculture secretary during the Obama administration and fired Shirley Sherrod from her USDA position overseeing rural development, amidst a misunderstanding over racial comments. Vilsack would later apologize. Johnson told The Washington Post, quote, "We think that an individual who unjustifiably fired Shirley Sherrod — who is a civil rights icon, a legend, who worked with John Lewis — should not be considered. … We should not go backward, we should go forward." Well, in fact, Vilsack is once again the head of the USDA. John Boyd, have you spoken to him? And what are you demanding?

JOHN BOYD: Well, two things. Yes, I have spoken to him. And one of the things that President Biden also committed to me during our one-on-one visit in South Carolina, that there would be change in leadership at USDA. So, when they announced that Secretary Vilsack was coming back to USDA, he was not my pick. And he wasn't the pick for Black farmers. He was the pick that President Biden wanted to come back. I wanted new blood and new leadership, someone who will take a much more aggressive campaign against this discrimination at the United States Department of Agriculture.

And, Amy, when I lobbied all of those years for the Claims Remedy Act of 2010, that put in place $1.25 billion for Black farmers, Secretary Vilsack was, in my opinion, too slow to act. I didn't get the help on Capitol Hill, neither in the House or the Senate. And Valerie Jarrett, from the White House, the last five or six months, got on board and began to campaign to help me pass that measure in the House and Senate. So, I didn't think he was the right person.

But I spoke to him here a couple days ago, and he congratulated me on the measure in the bill. But I also urged him to put in swift action to make sure that these payments and the debt relief and all of these measures, the outreach and technical assistance, reach Black farmers and farmers of color expeditiously, not to sit on it and try to figure out a plan of action. If we can get $1,400 in the mailbox and direct deposit into Americans, then we can disperse and relieve debts for Black and farmers of color expeditiously. And I urged him to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, you mentioned the Trump administration and Black farmers, farmers of color. How does it fit in to past presidents? How would you assess the Trump administration?

JOHN BOYD: Worst administration in history for Black farmers, since my 38 years of doing this kind of work, Amy. My visit — and I've had the opportunity to sit down with every agriculture secretary, both Republican and Democrat, in the cage at USDA. And Secretary — former Secretary Sonny Perdue, in my visit with him, was the worst conversation I ever had. He said, "Mr. Boyd, it's your farmers, i.e. Black farmers, are going to have to get large or get out of business."

And when I urged him to have more Blacks on the county committees and all of the USDA commissions, he said he didn't need people that were lazy and didn't want to work. How egregious and — for former Secretary Sonny Perdue to say that. I told him that I didn't know any Black farmers, that are still farming, that have been treated worse than dirt by USDA, that are lazy and don't want to work. Now, Amy, I work seven days a week, including holidays and Christmas, and I've been working all of my life. And that's the way many Black farmers have. The issue here is, is we haven't had access to credit the way that the white farmers have.

And for that type of position from the Trump administration, set us back a little further. And not only just in Black farming, but in race relations in this country, the Trump administration set Black people and divided this country. And former Secretary Sonny Perdue was at the core of that, taking land away from Black farmers. He didn't even have an assistant secretary for civil rights, a position that I lobbied for and campaigned for, for many years, to get into the farm bill. They didn't even fill that position. So what does that tell you about the Trump administration's commitment on civil rights and resolving complaints from Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers? Sonny Perdue gets an F from me. And I hope he heads to retirement in politics, because he really done a bad number on Blacks and other farmers of color in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: John Boyd, I want to thank you so much for being with us, fourth-generation Black farmer, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.

When we come back, we go to Steve Donziger, the environmental lawyer who sued Chevron for ecological devastation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. After Chevron was ordered to pay billions of dollars, Chevron went after him personally. Donziger has spent nearly 600 days under house arrest. We'll speak to him at his house. Stay with us.

The burglary that exposed COINTELPRO: Activists mark 50th anniversary of a daring FBI break-in

Fifty years ago, on March 8, 1971, a group of eight activists staged one of the most stunning acts of defiance of the Vietnam War era when they broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they found. The activists, calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, began leaking shocking details about FBI abuses to the media. The documents exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI's secret Counterintelligence Program, a global, clandestine, unconstitutional practice of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of groups engaged in protest, dissent and social change. Targets included Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, antiwar groups, Black booksellers and other organizations. The leaked documents triggered congressional investigations, increased oversight and the eventual passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FBI never knew who was involved in the break-in until 2014, when several of the burglars made their identity public to coincide with the publication of a book about the break-in. To mark the 50th anniversary, we speak with Bonnie Raines, one of the activists involved in the heist, as well as Paul Coates, the founder and director of Black Classic Press and BCP Digital Printing, who was a target of FBI surveillance as part of COINTELPRO. "We already knew that we were being infiltrated. We knew that provocateurs were all throughout. We knew that the FBI had us under constant surveillance," says Coates. "But I don't think anyone at the time really knew the full extent of the program."




This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Fifty years ago this week, a group of activists staged one of the most stunning acts of defiance of the Vietnam War era. On March 8th, 1971, eight activists, including a cab driver, a daycare director, two professors, broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they found. They wanted to document how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was spying on citizens and actively suppressing dissent. The break-in occurred as much of the nation was fixated on a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, which was billed as the "Fight of the Century." The identity of the burglars would remain a mystery for over 40 years.

Soon after stealing the documents, the activists, calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, began leaking shocking details about FBI abuses to the media. The documents exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI's secret Counterintelligence Program, a global, clandestine, unconstitutional practice of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of groups engaged in protest, dissent and social change. Targets included the Reverend Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, antiwar groups, Black booksellers and other groups. The leaked documents triggered congressional investigations, increased oversight and the eventual passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The FBI never knew who was involved in the break-in until 2014, when several of the burglars made their identity public to coincide with the publication of The Burglary, a book by former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger, who had reported on the leaked documents back in '71. In 2014, Betty Medsger appeared on Democracy Now!

BETTY MEDSGER: One of the things that I remember most from those files was the truly blanket surveillance of African American people that was described. It was in Philadelphia, but it also prescribed national programs. And it was quite stunning. First, it described the surveillance. It took place in every place where people would gather — churches, classrooms, stores down the street, just everything. But it also specifically prescribed that every FBI agent was supposed to have an informer, just for the purpose of coming back every two weeks and talking to them about what they had observed about Black Americans. And in Washington, D.C., at the time, that was six informers for every FBI agent informing on Black Americans. The surveillance was so enormous that it led various people, rather sedate people in editorial offices and in Congress, to compare it to the Stasi, the dreaded secret police of East Germany.

AMY GOODMAN: Three of the burglars also appeared on Democracy Now! back in 2014 in one of their first joint interviews. Keith Forsyth served as designated lock-picker during the break-in. He hoped the break-in would speed the end of the Vietnam War.

KEITH FORSYTH: The war was escalating and not deescalating. And I think what really pushed me over the edge was, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia, there were four students killed at Kent State and two more killed at Jackson State. And — I'm sorry, I'd think I'd have this down after all these years. And that really pushed me over the edge, that it was time to do more than just — than just protest and just march with a sign.

AMY GOODMAN: John Raines was another one of the burglars. At the time of the break-in, he was a professor of religion at Temple University.

JOHN RAINES: The problem was, J. Edgar Hoover was untouchable. He was a national icon. I mean, he had presidents who were afraid of him. The people that we elected to oversee J. Edgar Hoover's FBI were either enamored of him or terrified of him. Nobody was holding him accountable. And that meant that somebody had to get objective evidence of what his FBI was doing. And that led us to the idea that Bill Davidon suggested to us: Let's break into an FBI office, get their files and get what they're doing in their own handwriting.

AMY GOODMAN: That was John Raines speaking on Democracy Now! in 2014. He died in 2017. Raines' wife Bonnie Raines also helped break into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, 50 years ago. At the time of the break-in, John and Bonnie had three young children. She's joining us now from her home in Philadelphia. We are also joined by Paul Coates, the founder and director of Black Classic Press and BCP Digital Printing. He's a former member and defense captain of the Black Panther Party in Baltimore. As a Black bookseller, he was targeted by the FBI as part of its COINTELPRO, its Counterintelligence Program. And, yes, he is also the father of the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Bonnie, you were the one who cased the joint — is that right? — who went to these Media FBI offices — that's Media, Pennsylvania — beforehand to get a sense of the blueprints of the two rooms, whatever it was.

BONNIE RAINES: That's right. I mean, we had cased the exterior environment, so we knew what the police patrols were. But we had to get inside the offices to see whether there were alarm systems and to see what the layout of the offices were, where the doors were that we hoped we could get through. And so, I had to call and say that I was a Swarthmore College student doing research on opportunities for women in the FBI, and I wondered if I could have an interview with the head of the office. And they very graciously gave me an appointment. And I showed up trying to look not at all like my usual identity. I disguised my appearance as much as I possibly could. But they were very gracious and gave me a half an hour or so. And that gave me the opportunity to get the layout of the office, to see that there were no alarms, to see that the file cabinets were not even locked, and to check out a second door that we might need to use to get through on the night of the burglary.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bonnie, you told Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer in a recent interview that "Fifty years ago, we were criminals, and now we're heroes." Could you talk about how — your decision to get involved in this? At the time, you were 29 years old, a mother of three.

BONNIE RAINES: Well, my husband and I, we had been involved in the draft resistance movement, the so-called Catholic left, previously, going into draft boards in the middle of the night and removing draft files to destroy the files and try to disrupt the draft system. So, we like to say that we got our burglary skills from nuns and priests.

But when all of the protests against the War in Vietnam were not making any difference and we realized that the government was lying to citizens about the war, we thought that we needed to take another — a different kind of step in civil disobedience and get proof to show what FBI agents were doing in the Philadelphia area, things that were unconstitutional, immoral and illegal. And the only way to do that was to get our hands on documents, so that it seemed like a rational thing to do to get the truth out to the American public.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I'd like to bring Paul Coates into the conversation and ask you, Paul: From your perspective, your involvement in the Black Panther Party at the time, what the group looked like and what the impact of this break-in, these revelations about COINTELPRO, had on you and your organization?

PAUL COATES: You know, the large impact, I think, at the time, was — we already knew that we were being infiltrated. We knew that provocateurs were all throughout. We knew that the FBI had us under constant surveillance. But I don't think anyone at the time really knew the full extent of the program, of COINTELPRO. We saw the surveillance, we saw the interference and the setups that were being done as acts that the government, as a broad government, was doing. But the break-in actually, I like to think of it as, put flesh to the bones of what became known as COINTELPRO. And they did it in a way that, like — I guess like they intended to do, they did it with the FBI's own documents. They named people. They named places. And that documentation not only served us then, but the documentation serves us — it continues to serve us today. And I think that's the major, major impact. It made visible what we knew was there but could not really see.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, in fact, this was the first time — wasn't it? — that COINTELPRO was being made known, Bonnie, these documents that you were putting out everywhere. And then, Paul, this whole story of not only the FBI's war on the Black Power movement, but specifically — and this directly related to you — Black-owned bookstores, why they saw Black-owned bookstores, like yours, as such a target?

PAUL COATES: Yeah, this is true, Amy. I think a lot of that comes out of certainly the FBI history in following socialist groups and knowing that the bookstores were critical information centers, as they were in our community. And the store we established certainly was, because that was its intent. It was intended to be an information center, particularly for people — not just Panthers, but people who were incarcerated in jail, coming out of jail and becoming contributing members of the community. We felt we could do that with information.

And certainly, we came under a lot of — a lot of pressure from the FBI, a lot of pressure from the state and the city at the time, who saw this, perceived this as a threat. The very thought that information, the very thought that knowledge, could equip people to be better in their community and contributors in their community was a threat to them.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Juan, at the beginning of this story, we talked about the people who were targeted — Black Panthers, antiwar movement, peace activists and the Young Lords. You're one of the co-founders of the Young Lords. Can you talk about what you understood at the time?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think what Paul is saying about, we understood that there were agents within our organizations, but we never understood how systematic and how widespread it was. And I recall, particularly — this is about a year before the break-in of the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania — I was traveling with another Young Lord member, we thought secretly, to Puerto Rico to look at the possibility of opening up new branches. And we're on the plane heading to San Juan. We suddenly see a young African American attorney who we knew from Legal Aid in East Harlem. And he came over, sat by us, started joking. And we said to him, "So, Bobby, what are you doing? You're in Legal Aid. Why are you going down to Puerto Rico?" And he said, "Well, I don't work for Legal Aid anymore. I work for the U.S. Justice Department. And I've been assigned to the two of you. And I want you to know" — he looked at us directly in the eyes, and he said, "I want you to know that every second that you are in Puerto Rico, you are going to be tailed by the agents of the CIC." That's the Puerto Rico equivalent of the Red Squad in Puerto Rico. "And wherever you go in Puerto Rico, we're going to be there." And, sure enough, they were always not only following us, but interviewing anybody who we talked to or we met with, because they saw the need to appear to be everywhere.

And I want to ask Paul, because people don't realize the psychological impact it had on these organizations to know that there were agents within them but not know who they were. And often people were targeted who were innocent people but were mistaken for agents, and the real agents were still providing information on a regular basis and creating dissension within the groups.

PAUL COATES: Yeah, Juan, you're so right. You're so on. It was like a double whammy, because, on the one hand, you would have agents who would make themselves known, and then you knew there were plenty of other agents who were unknown, but you would — let's say if you're doing something today, information on that would be broadcast in multiple ways the next day, and so you know someone from the inside did it.

And, Juan, you probably have this experience, as well. Certainly, COINTELPRO had its impact when the events were taking place. But now we're talking about 50 years later, five decades later, Juan, and we're still trying to figure out who were agents at the time. You have to — it's that going on, but also the rumors that were started, the identification of people who weren't — like you were saying, who weren't agents, but they were labeled as agents. And even today, among comrades in the Panther Party, you'll have a conversation with someone, a name will come up, and you say, "Well, you know he was a snitch, don't you? Or he was an agent, don't you?" And that may not be the case at all. We're still living through and picking through the rumors that literally split our movement at the time. We're still living through those rumors now, and they still split us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to also bring in Bonnie Raines to talk about the latest member of the Media 8, the burglars, including you, who has just come forward in a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, "50 years after an FBI office burglary, a San Rafael man reveals his role."

And it says, "Before the Pentagon Papers, before WikiLeaks, before Edward Snowden's NSA files, a group of eight Vietnam War protesters teamed up to steal FBI records from a Pennsylvania office." And it goes on to say, "Ralph Daniel squeezed himself through the door and looked around the dark room. They had cased this small FBI office in the Philadelphia suburb of Media for months. Now he was inside. Rows of file cabinets beckoned. This was the moment the group of eight had planned. They had long suspected FBI malfeasance and were convinced these records would prove it." Daniel was 26 at the time, "rolled out the first metal cabinet drawer, scooped up the files and threw them into a suitcase. His gloved hands shook. The burglars had to hurry. They had chosen March 8, 1971, because Muhammad Ali's title fight against Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden would keep most of the country and world — and most importantly, FBI agents and police — glued to closed-circuit screens and radios for a few hours. One of the intruders could hear the broadcast in nearby apartments."

So, they thought that the sound of the fight would cover your actions, is that right, Bonnie? And were you surprised to see that Ralph Daniel has come forward?

BONNIE RAINES: Well, I'm delighted that Ralph has. He played a key role in the burglary. And he was reluctant to come forward earlier because he was afraid that it would affect his professional life. But he's always been in communication with us, since 2014. And it's great to have him be able to tell his story now, which is significant.

We scooped up every single document, I think about a thousand documents. We didn't leave anything behind. And going back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago in the broadcast, one of the memos that we discovered, a document said that agents should increase the paranoia among the left to have them believe that there's an FBI agent behind every mailbox. So they wanted to give this impression that everyone everywhere was under surveillance and no one could believe that their constitutional rights would be protected.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bonnie, we only have about 30 seconds, but could you — the lessons for today, for the Black Lives Matter movement and other activists, of this COINTELPRO era?

BONNIE RAINES: Well, we've just come through a Trump era, and I think we saw the effects of a lack of transparency and accountability. And now we really have to insist that the powers that be are transparent and accountable. And it's up to the average citizen to pay attention, be informed and be vigilant, and then call the powers that be to account for their decisions.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there. And I thank you so much for being with us, Bonnie Raines, one of the 1971 break-in burglars at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and Paul Coates, founder and director of Black Classic Press. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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'Decades in the making': How mainstream conservatives and right-wing media fueled the Capitol attack

As more details emerge about those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, it's becoming clearer that the insurrection was not the work of a "fringe" group, but rather the result of a decades-long conservative effort to undermine democracy, according to author Brendan O'Connor. "The events of January 6 were not just months, but years, decades, in the making," says O'Connor, who notes that major Republican donors and prominent conservative groups were connected to the Trump rally that immediately preceded the Capitol riot.


‘Pathetic’ Republicans accidentally expose their own cancel culture hypocrisy

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has authorized a 9/11-style commission to further investigate the January 6 insurrection and the actions that led up to it, as calls grow for the criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump after his acquittal in his second Senate impeachment trial. The Nation's justice correspondent Elie Mystal says House impeachment managers presented "a fairly compelling case for criminal liability" for Donald Trump over the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. "I think there's a case for indictment. I think we should at least try," he says.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has authorized a 9/11-style commission to further investigate the deadly January 6th insurrection, as well as the actions that led up to it. This comes as calls are growing for the criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump as one of the last paths left to hold him accountable for the attack, after Saturday's vote in the Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to find him guilty. Seven Republicans voted with Democrats to convict. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell was not among them, but during his speech Saturday, McConnell intimated Trump could still be held criminally responsible in a court of law.
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: Put another way, in the language of today, President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run, still liable for everything he did while he was in office, didn't get away with anything yet. Yet.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we're joined by Elie Mystal, The Nation's justice correspondent, author of the magazine's monthly column, "Objection!" His recent column is headlined "Republicans Won't Convict Trump—Because They Won't Convict Themselves."

Elie, in the lead-up to this, you wrote another column headlined "I Don't Just Want Trump Impeached. I Want Him Jailed." And you argued, quote, "Trump should be charged with incitement of criminal acts, at the very least. … Trump is not a defeated politician; he is a criminal on the loose. He must be treated as such." Can you take that further?

ELIE MYSTAL: Yeah. So, I think that the House impeachment managers actually laid out a very good criminal case against Donald Trump. Now, criminal indictment was not the standard that they had to meet for impeachment. They just did that for funsies. The Senate could have convicted without finding criminal liability. But Jamie Raskin and the rest of the managers actually did lay out, to me, a fairly compelling case for criminal liability based on not just his speech on January 6, which was incendiary, but his actions leading up to January 6th and how that can potentially be enough to indict him for criminal incitement.

It's a tough case, I'm not going to lie. Like, it is difficult to — and it should be difficult to — indict and convict anybody for incitement based on just words. That is a fundamental part of the First Amendment's protection on free speech. But telling people "Let's go storm the Capitol," for instance, is not protected speech. And what Trump did is much closer to unprotected speech than it is to protected speech. So I think there's a case for indictment. I think we should at least try. Republicans have failed this country so completely that now it's up to law enforcement as the only place that can try.

AMY GOODMAN: So, speaking of law enforcement, the D.C. attorney general and U.S. attorney there are possibly weighing incitement of violence criminal charges against Trump. Can you explain what that would look like?

ELIE MYSTAL: Yeah. So, well, I want to roll back for a second, right? Because the D.C. attorney general, they still haven't arrested all of the people who stormed the Capitol, right? So I kind of almost want them to slow down, right? They've only arrested about 200 of the 800 people that stormed the Capitol. Every person who set foot in that building is a criminal. Every single person who set foot in that building at the very least committed federal criminal trespass. And the current law enforcement hasn't gotten around to finding and indicting all of those people. So they've got a lot of work to do beyond President Trump, beyond former President Trump.

However, once they do the bare minimum, which is finding and charging all 800 people who stormed the Capitol, then they can get around to Trump, who — yeah, again, the standard that they talked about at the impeachment trial is actually the right standard for a criminal case. It's called the Brandenburg test. It's how we determine whether or not speech is protected or unprotected. And Trump likely failed all three elements of the Brandenburg test. What he said was likely to cause violence, was likely to be interpreted by the crowd as a call to violence. It was likely to incite imminent lawless action. I mean, literally, he was telling them to march down the street that day, and, in fact, did cause imminent lawless action.

One thing that I like people to remember when thinking about this as a criminal case: What did he expect them to do at the Capitol? If you think about like a free speech rally or a protest rally, there was nothing organized at the Capitol. There was no slate of speakers at the Capitol. When he tells them to march down to the Capitol to cheer on their Republican colleagues, there was no way for those people to give — that was a closed session of Congress, right? So, when he tells people to march to the Capitol, where there is no event planned, where there's no permit gotten, to go see a closed session of Congress, the only thing they could do to carry out his wishes was to illegally trespass into the building and do what they did. So, that's going to be, I think — that is a key element for people to remember when trying to determine whether or not his speech was protected or should be protected or not.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about what Ron Johnson is now saying? The very close Trump ally, a Wisconsin Republican senator, who was mocking any claims that this was an armed insurrection, saying that — I mean, you have, of course, the images of the gallows that were erected, the zip ties, the hurling of fire extinguishers, using baseball bats to smash windows, throwing flags like spears at police officers and beating them with these flagpoles, the stun baton that's clearly in the waistband of the man who is sitting in Nancy Pelosi's office as they steal things from her office. But there you have Ron Johnson, just weeks later, saying, "Armed insurrection? You've got to be kidding."

ELIE MYSTAL: Look, Amy, to be honest, I can't explain what nearly any of these Republican senators say or think. I have never lived one day of my life as much of a coward as Ron Johnson. So I don't know what it's like to be that afraid of the truth that you're willing to lie to people about what they saw with their own eyes. So I can't explain what he's saying.

As you pointed out, it was clearly an armed insurrection. The first guy through the window was wearing tactical gear and carrying the Confederate flag — the first guy through the window, that he had to break down. This was an armed attempt at a rebellion. There is no denying that.

You know, Republicans are invested — and this is why you need — this is why — even though we can talk about the strategy of impeachment, this is why you need an impeachment trial to establish the record. This is why Nancy Pelosi has commissioned the investigation into what happened. You need to have a public record of what went on, because Republicans will try to memory hole the entire day. Like, it just — it doesn't work for them to acknowledge that that day existed, so, in the Republican mind, we had a — we didn't have a leap year, we had a skip year in 2021. We went from January 5th to January 7th, without anything between, according to Republicans. That's how they're going to try to make the rest of the country think. And that's why we need things like a commission, like the trial, to remember what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Very interestingly, you have Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, like many of the conservatives, saying that cancel culture is the biggest threat facing the United States — while one state party, Republican Party, after another censures those senators who voted to convict Donald Trump.

ELIE MYSTAL: It's actually a great way to expose the Republican hypocrisy about cancel culture, right? Because there is nothing more canceling than censuring people for what they voted on or what they said, when their job is to vote and say things, right? There is no lower form of canceling than what Republicans themselves do. And it's just another way to understand the Republicans are inveterate hypocrites that do not argue in good faith ever. So, yeah, what the Republicans are doing is pathetic, frankly.

And I do give — I do give, almost grudgingly, but I do give credit to the Republican senators and the Republican congresspeople, the few, the proud, who are saying, "Enough of this," and at least here at the end. I mean, it's late in the game. It's late in the game to join the side of truth and decency, but I do give, you know, the Bill Cassidys and the Mitt Romneys of the world and the Richard Burrs of the world, I guess, credit for, you know, at the very end at least, like doing the right thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's go to South Carolina's senator, the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, speaking on Fox News Sunday, where he falsely claimed there were grounds to impeach Vice President Kamala Harris, that she would be next.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I condemn what happened on January the 6th, but the process they used to impeach this president was an affront to rule of law. He's the first president to ever impeached — be impeached without a lawyer, without a witness, without ability to confront those against him. And the trial record was a complete joke, hearsay upon hearsay. And we've opened Pandora's box to future presidents. And if you use this model, I don't know how Kamala Harris doesn't get impeached if the Republicans take over the House, because she actually bailed out rioters, and one of the rioters went back to the streets and broke somebody's head open. So, we've opened Pandora's box here, and I'm sad for the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Graham seemed to suggest Vice President Harris could be punished for expressing support for a bail fund for Black Lives Matter protesters in Minnesota last summer who were protesting the police killing of George Floyd. Elie Mystal?

ELIE MYSTAL: It's interesting, right? It's interesting that he went straight for Harris, isn't it? I mean, I wonder why he went for the person who's vice president as opposed to the person who's president now. Oh, yeah, she's a Black woman! The racism of that man is so on display every day. And I get that he's from South Carolina, so people are just like, "Well, I guess it's South Carolina." But it's not OK. These people are so openly and bitterly racist. It's bothersome.

However, the other — there is funny here, right? And that is that Lindsey Graham wants to impeach a Black woman for a legal act, which is bail. Like, bail is legal. Like, whatever you think about why she bailed — and again, why they think that this was a bad thing is drenched and inseparable from their racism. But whether or not you think bail is legal — the reasons for bailing somebody out are good or bad, paying somebody's bail is clearly legal. That's why we have it. We have literally entire organizations, called bail bondsmen, whose — their whole job and whole business model is to pay people's bail. So, the thought of impeaching her for a legal act is just — aah!

But there's a political reality here, too, right? And it's something that I think Democrats are too easy to forget. Of course, if the Republicans take back control of the House, they will impeach people. Of course they will. They would have impeached Hillary Clinton, if she had won the presidency, for stuff that she did as secretary of state. They would have impeached her for Benghazi, which killed fewer Americans than the riots on January 6th, just fyi. They would have impeached her for Benghazi. If they didn't impeach her for Benghazi, they would have impeached her three other times for things I don't even know happened yet, right? The Republicans have no shame. The Republicans have no fealty to the rule of law. All the Republicans know is power, and they use that power completely, whenever they have the chance. So, make no mistake: If the Republicans ever control the House again, they will impeach whoever happens to be the Democratic president, if there is still a Democrat in office when they control the House. That will just happen.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we interviewed Ralph Nader on Friday, strong proponent of having witnesses. You, too, feel that the Democrats failed in that way, that having witnesses come forward could have made the difference.

ELIE MYSTAL: Well, see, OK, there's slight difference, right? I don't think that having witnesses would have made a difference in the outcome of a trial, because, again, Republicans are racist to the core, they are hypocritical to the core, they're intellectually dishonest to the core. Nothing was going to change the Republican mind. Witnesses, 10 witnesses, I think Jamie Raskin says — you could have called a hundred witnesses; they would have done the same thing. Jamie Raskin was absolutely right about that. You cannot change a Republican mind.

The difference is that I don't live my life based on what the Republicans think or don't think, right? If I only did what Republicans allowed me to do, instead of having a law degree, I'd be shining shoes at Grand Central, OK? So, like, I don't live in the paper bag that is "What will Lindsey Graham do next?" because I don't care about that. What I care about is the American people. And I do think that bringing witnesses, bringing live testimony to bear, would have highlighted even more, for even more Americans, the level of danger this country was placed in and exactly who placed them in it.

So, yeah, there are some procedural issues. Oh, well, Kevin McCarthy, he would have made you go for a subpoena. Fine, don't call Kevin McCarthy then. Put the cops on the stand. I want to hear Eugene Goodman. They gave him a medal. I want to hear his testimony of what he saw that day, what they called him that day, what happened to him that day. Put him on the stand. Put one of these staffers that had to spend two hours hiding under a desk — put one of them on the stand. Do everything you can.

And I've said this before. The point of this impeachment trial was not to convince Republicans. Republicans are unconvincible. The point was to expose Republicans for the dirt that they do. And witnesses would have done a better job doing that. Every prosecutor —

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it did — it did change some Republicans: the Louisiana Senator Cassidy, the North Carolina Senator Burr.

ELIE MYSTAL: OK. Look, I think the actions changed their minds; I don't think that the impeachment trial. Like, I don't think that if Jamie — Jamie Raskin was great. Stacey Plaskett was great. The impeachment managers were great. If they were average, I don't think that would have made a — like, I don't think it was the strength of their legal arguments that made Richard Burr — you know, I think that what happened is that Donald Trump sent a mob to kill congressmen to their workplace, and a couple of Republican senators were like, "That's not OK. That's not OK."

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about some of the information that's come to the surface about the insurrection participants, The New York Times reporting at least six people who were part of the mob that entered the Capitol worked as security for Trump ally Roger Stone, were linked to the far-right Oath Keepers, HuffPost reporting at least 57 state and local Republican officials were at the Capitol insurrection. Almost all have faced calls to resign; two have stepped down, I believe, at this point, both arrested for taking part in the riot. In one case, a Florida county commissioner, Joe Mullins, sponsored buses to transport people to D.C. In the lead-up to the January 6, he said on a local radio program, "Maybe there are some liberals I'd like to see their heads cut off."

But let's talk about, for example, the Oath Keepers and the actual number of law enforcement people, like Caldwell, who have had top security clearance, who worked for the federal government. In the end, they had to put National Guardsmen through the test and removed something like 12 of them, that they might have allegiances to the white supremacists who were rioting.

ELIE MYSTAL: I mean, Black people have been saying this for a while, right? White supremacy and law enforcement are kind of the same thing. They work for the same people. They are the same people in many cases. And it's not all of them, but enough of them to make a difference. You know, I always like to say the phrase is not "One bad apple means that we should just ignore it, and people should not care if that bad apple kills them." That's not the phrase. The phrase is "One bad apple spoils the bunch." And law enforcement in this country is spoiled by white supremacy. There are white supremacist terrorists in every police organization in this country. And until we weed them out, we cannot have justice in law enforcement — until we weed them out, not until we look over them, not 'til we flood them with — we'll add some 10 more cops, and nine of them will be good. That's not how you — you have to weed out the bad apples before they kill people.

And that's what the insurrection, the riot on January 6, just exposed, just how intertwined some in law enforcement are with very openly white supremacist and violent organizations. That's not an accident; that's a feature of our law enforcement system. And it's led to the death and brutality of Black people and Brown people. And we tell people this, and we complain about this.

You know, like, what's going happen now? Right? People — we'll prosecute some of them, right? We'll prosecute — we won't — for reasons passing understanding, we won't prosecute all. They'll come up with some excuse to not prosecute all of them. We'll prosecute some of them. And then the kinds of screening and whatever that went into the National Guard to make sure that none of the actual defenders of the inauguration were part of these white supremacist groups, are you going to keep doing that in the National Guard? Are we going to port that to local law enforcement? Is NYPD going to screen everybody through a white supremacy screener to make sure that none of them are members of Oath Keepers or Proud Boys or are on Facebook sharing memes from the Oath Keepers? Are we going to do that or not?

And the answer most often in this country is that white people will not do that, will not take it through, will not think it through, will not do what is necessary to protect us from them.

AMY GOODMAN: Elie Mystal, I want to thank you so much for being with us, The Nation's justice correspondent, author of the magazine's monthly column, "Objection!" his recent column headlined "Republicans Won't Convict Trump—Because They Won't Convict Themselves."

Next up, we speak with the Ecuadorian presidential candidate Andrés Arauz, a protégé of former President Rafael Correa. Arauz won the first round of the election after vowing to fight austerity, poverty and the pandemic. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: "Quimbara" by the late Celia Cruz and the Dominican salsa musician Johnny Pacheco, who died yesterday at the age of 85. He founded the Latin music label Fania Records, credited for bringing salsa to a worldwide audience.

We can’t just 'move on': AOC and Rashida Tlaib demand accountability for Trump's Capitol riots

As the U.S Senate prepares its impeachment trial of President Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, House lawmakers took to the floor Thursday to detail their experiences and demand accountability. We air excerpts from dramatic speeches by Democratic Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. "Some are already demanding that we move on or, worse, attempting to minimize, discredit or belittle the accounts of survivors," Ocasio-Cortez said. "In doing so, they not only further harm those who were there that day and provide cover for those responsible, but they also send a tremendously damaging message to survivors of trauma all across this country, that the way to deal with trauma, violence and targeting is to paper it over, minimize it and move on."

AOC & Rashida Tlaib Demand Accountability for Deadly Capitol Attack


AOC & Rashida Tlaib Demand Accountability for Deadly Capitol Attack www.democracynow.org

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman, as we turn to Capitol Hill. The U.S. Senate is preparing to begin its impeachment trial of President Trump for inciting the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Democratic House lawmakers warned on Thursday about the dangers of ignoring or minimizing the violence of the insurrection. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York organized a special session to give lawmakers a chance to talk about what happened that day.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Twenty-nine days ago, on January 6th of 2021, insurrectionists attacked our Capitol seeking to overturn the results of our nation's election. Twenty-nine days ago, the glass in and around this very chamber was shattered by gunshots, clubs, by individuals seeking to restrain and murder members of Congress, duly elected to carry out the duties of their office. Twenty-nine days ago, officer Sicknick, who just laid in honor yesterday in our nation's Capitol, was murdered on the steps just outside this hallowed floor. Two Capitol Police officers have lost their lives since, in addition to the four other people who died on the events of January 6th. Twenty-nine days ago, food service workers, staffers, children ran or hid for their lives from violence deliberately incited by the former president of the United States.
Sadly, less than 29 days later, with little to no accountability for the bloodshed and trauma of the 6th, some are already demanding that we move on or, worse, attempting to minimize, discredit or belittle the accounts of survivors. In doing so, they not only further harm those who were there that day and provide cover for those responsible, but they also send a tremendously damaging message to survivors of trauma all across this country, that the way to deal with trauma, violence and targeting is to paper it over, minimize it and move on.

AMY GOODMAN: That's New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking Thursday. Her sister Squad member, Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, also spoke.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: This is so hard, because, as many of my colleagues know, my closest colleagues know, on my very first day of orientation, I got my first death threat. It was a serious one. They took me aside. The FBI had to go to the gentleman's home. I didn't even get sworn in yet, and someone wanted me dead for just existing. More came later, uglier, more violent, one celebrating, in writing, the New Zealand massacre and hoping that more would come, another mentioning my dear son Adam — mentioning him by name. Each one paralyzed me each time.
So, what happened on January 6th, all I could do was thank Allah that I wasn't here. I felt overwhelming relief. And I feel bad for Alexandria, so many of my colleagues that were here. But as I saw it, I thought to myself, "Thank God I'm not there." I saw the images that they didn't get to see until later.
My team and I decided at that point we'd keep the death threats away. We try to report them, document them, to keep them away from me, because it just paralyzed me. And all I wanted to do was come here and serve the people that raised me; the people that told my mother, who only had eighth-grade education, that she deserves human dignity; people that believed in me. And so it's hard. It's hard when my seven brothers and six sisters beg me to get protection, many urging me to get a gun for the first time.
And I have to tell you, the trauma from just being here, existing as a Muslim, is so hard, but imagine my team, which I lovingly just adore. They are diverse. I have LGBTQ staff. I have a beautiful Muslim that wears her hijab proudly in the halls. I have Black women that are so proud to be here to serve their country. And I worry every day for their lives because of this rhetoric. I never thought that they would feel unsafe here.
And so, I ask my colleagues to please try not to dehumanize what's happening. This is real. And you know many of our residents, from the shootings in Charlottesville to the massacre at the synagogue — all of it. All of it is led by hate rhetoric like this. And so I urge my colleagues to, please, please take what happened on January 6 seriously. It will lead to more death. And we can do better. We must do better. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Detroit Congressmember Rashida Tlaib, speaking on the House floor. During her testimony, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came over and put her hand on her back to comfort her.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. When we come back, President Biden pledges to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen, describing it as a "humanitarian catastrophe." But will this end the war? Back in 30 seconds.

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Is far-right QAnon conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene the new face of the GOP?

Republicans face increasing pressure to strip Georgia Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene of her post on the House Education Committee. Greene was elected in November 2020 and is a far-right conspiracy theorist who has promoted QAnon, supported the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and claimed the school shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, were staged — as was the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. She also has a history of racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments. Bee Nguyen, a Democratic state representative in Georgia, recently joined other lawmakers in signing a resolution that calls on Greene to resign. "The congresswoman has proven to be dangerous, not just to our state, but to our country," says Nguyen. We also speak with Michael Edison Hayden, senior reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center, who says media discussions of QAnon and other far-right conspiracy theories tend to focus on how outlandish they are rather than on their hateful content. "While some of these ideas are crazy-sounding to people, I think it's very, very helpful to start reframing it in your mind as something that is part of this drift toward anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party," says Hayden.

Is Far-Right QAnon Conspiracy Theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene the New Face of the GOP?


Is Far-Right QAnon Conspiracy Theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene the New Face of the GOP? www.democracynow.org

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In Washington, D.C., Republicans are facing increasing pressure to strip newly elected Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her new post on the Education Committee. Greene is the far-right conspiracy theorist who supported the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and has claimed the school shootings at Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, were staged, as was the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. She also has a history of making racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments. At least 50 House Democrats have backed a resolution to remove her from office. Congressmember Greene was elected in November after Donald Trump called her a, quote, "future Republican star."

Recently resurfaced video shows Greene confronted one of the Parkland survivors, the teenager David Hogg, when he visited Capitol Hill in 2019 to lobby lawmakers to enact gun control.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Look, I'm an American citizen. I'm a gun owner. I have a concealed carry permit. I carry a gun for protection for myself. And you are using your lobby and the money behind it and the kids to try to take away my Second Amendment rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Greene has claimed the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that David Hogg survived was a false flag operation. In 2019, she liked a comment on social media that said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be taken out and that a, quote, "bullet to the head would be quicker," unquote. Greene has also publicly called for Pelosi's execution.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: She's a traitor to our country. She's guilty of treason. … It's a crime punishable by death, is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason, and we want her out of our government.

AMY GOODMAN: CNN reports Marjorie Taylor Greene recently removed that video from her Facebook page. In another resurfaced video, Greene talks about the QAnon conspiracy theory.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Is it going to be true that the child pedophilia and the elites in the Washington, D.C. — is that what we're really going to see come out? Is it true — is the type of corruption we're going to see come out — is it going to be satanic worship that possibly all these people are involved in? … Maybe that all these scary things that people talk about on what's considered conspiracy sites and conspiracy theories really may be true. But that's what Q has been telling everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2018, Marjorie Taylor Greene also claimed a laser beam from outer space started the deadly Camp Fire in California. Greene cited "Rothschild Inc" — a common anti-Semitic trope — as being responsible. In fact, Pacific Gas & Electric has pleaded guilty in the deaths of 84 people killed in the wildfire.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuked House Republicans for putting the far-right conspiracy theorist on the Education Committee.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Assigning her to the Education Committee, when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what could they be thinking? Or is "thinking" too generous a word for what they might be doing? It's absolutely appalling.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, newly elected Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush of Missouri said she's moving her office away from Marjorie Taylor Greene's office. Bush said the move was needed, quote, "for my team's safety."

To talk more about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, we're joined by two guests. Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, is joining us. And Bee Nguyen is with us, Democratic state representative in Georgia. Her district includes Atlanta. She's joined other lawmakers signing a resolution calling on Greene to resign.

State Legislator Nguyen, why don't we begin with you? Explain exactly what you're calling for. Marjorie Taylor Greene was popularly elected in your state of Georgia.

REP. BEE NGUYEN: Yes. My Democratic colleagues and I have signed an urging resolution to ask members of Congress to ask Marjorie Greene to resign. The congresswoman has proven to be dangerous, not just to our state, but to our country. And she continues, as you mentioned before, to continue to spread conspiracy theories. She continues to state her allegiance to the former president. And she has continued to incite violence on Democratic members and her colleagues.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, state Representative, you're from Georgia, as she is. Could you tell us a little bit about the district that she represents and her constituents, and what led them to elect her?

REP. BEE NGUYEN: She represents northwest Georgia. And she was able to win in November of 2020 without any opposition from a Democrat. It is a heavily Republican district, but the Democratic nominee dropped out before the general election because of personal reasons, so voters did not have a choice in terms of voting for somebody besides her, though she was popularly elected in that specific district. Her allegiance to the president has been something that she has used to continue her popularity in northwest Georgia, but the majority of Georgians did not vote for the former president. They voted for President Biden, they voted for Jon Ossoff, and they voted for Raphael Warnock.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about gerrymandering and how that affected her district?

REP. BEE NGUYEN: Yes. In the state of Georgia, we suffer from gerrymandering. It is a heavily Republican district. And so, there is no opportunity in the future to potentially unseat her in 2022. The numbers there are challenging. So, even if Democrats coalesced around a candidate, we know it's going to be an uphill battle.

On the other hand, with gerrymandering, what it causes is it causes extremism in the Republican Party. So, anybody running against her may feel that they have to run to the right of her. And that is what many Republicans struggle with in the state of Georgia: How far right do they go during a primary election? And then, once they go that far right, how do you begin to walk yourself back from that? And from somebody like her, it is hard to see that somebody would go to the right of her.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Democratic state Legislator Bee Nguyen, we thank you so much for being with us.

We want to turn to freshman Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush, who tweeted, quote, "A maskless Marjorie Taylor Greene & her staff berated me in a hallway. She targeted me & others on social media. I'm moving my office away from hers for my team's safety. I've called for the expulsion of members who incited the insurrection from Day 1. Bring H.Res 25 to a vote," she said.

We want to bring in Michael Edison Hayden into this conversation. You are senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Can you talk about what Marjorie Taylor Greene represents, starting on the issue of QAnon? Talk about her calling for the execution, a bullet to the head, of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And put it in the context of what we saw January 6th, the insurrection at the Capitol.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Thanks, Amy.

So, I think the easiest way for the audience to understand how we got here with somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene is to understand that she started sort of as a social media performer, who filled the vacuum left behind by the sort of intellectual rot of conservative media. Greene started to get likes and shares and so forth for promoting these kind of unhinged conspiracy theories, which are inherently hateful.

And I think one thing that people misunderstand when they talk about QAnon and stuff like that is that I think the media kind of gets on this topic of discussion about just like how crazy it is, that this is like, oh, you know, these nutjobs or whatever, something like that. And understand, this is really hateful stuff that we're talking about here. Marjorie Taylor Greene has embraced explicitly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. She once claimed that the Christchurch terror attack was a false flag. You can't get more anti-Muslim than that. And she aligns herself with anti-LGBTQ groups.

So, you know, while some of these ideas are crazy-sounding to people, I think it's very, very helpful to start reframing it in your mind as something that is just part of this drift toward anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party, that is something we need to take very, very seriously and something that's very concerning for me.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You've mentioned the impact of an algorithm-driven ecosystem of online right-wing commentary as helping to build a following for Marjorie Taylor Greene. Could you explain?

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Yeah, Juan. So, basically, these social media companies have — you know, almost like the tobacco industry — created these algorithms that are meant to make you addicted to their apps and their websites. And these things, like if you look at Twitter and stuff like that, it really serves as a radicalization engine for extremists. And you look around you, and you say, like, "Oh my god. Like, I don't remember things being like this 10 years ago or 15 years ago." Some of it has to do with the lies being pumped in by the Republican Party for years about things that we don't even cover, like climate change and stuff like that. But a lot of it has to do with this just radicalization engine on people's phones.

And again, Marjorie Taylor Greene is receiving likes and upvotes and so forth for giving voice to these grievances that people in the Republican Party have, or at least their base of support has. You look at where they get their news from. I mean, Jack Posobiec of One America News is — you know, his rise as a public figure is tied to the white supremacist movement. He has collaborated with neo-Nazis. These are the type of people they're getting their news from. And it has to do with these figures taking advantage of the infrastructure of social media to get people addicted and to continue to feed this radicalization engine on people's phones.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Michael Edison Hayden, if you can talk about the Republican leadership facilitation of Marjorie Taylor Greene? She believes what she believes, but not all congressmembers are put on committees. She has been elevated, even as Liz Cheney, number three in the leadership, is being attacked roundly for supporting the impeachment of President Trump. But what does this mean? And what do you think the Republican leadership needs to do? Apparently, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, is going to be meeting with Greene this week, after he just went down to Mar-a-Lago to spend time with Donald Trump.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Well, I mean, if you look at the Republican Party right now, they have this inability to disavow people. And if you recall, Southern Poverty Law Center published a very large investigation about Stephen Miller's private emails, showed him connected to groups like VDARE. And it used to be, in the past, that these types of investigations, Republicans didn't want anything to do with it, because it was too toxic. But as we got closer and closer to the 2020 election, we saw this total unwillingness to disavow.

And Marjorie Taylor Greene, I think, is going to be the most extreme test of this thought. They're going to — the issue is that she is of the base — right? — now that the base is now in power. And she's really a very — like a post-Trump extremist congresswoman, in the sense that — if you remember Steve King from Iowa, who espoused these kind of white nationalist ideas and was associated with extremist groups, he kept trying to cage his beliefs in ideas that would sound acceptable to what he perceived to be mainstream conservatives. Greene is extremely outspoken about her — the things that she hates, about her anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian views. I'm talking about executing politicians and so forth.

This is a new world. And the fact that they're unwilling to disavow, it's almost like there are kind of like these soft barriers that exist between violent, far-right extremists and your sort of mainstream, tea party type, you know, or at least your image of that sort of person. And these soft barriers eroded over the course of the Trump era, and eroded and eroded. And they really snapped on January 6th. And then you had these people who look like grandmothers or whatever standing with people wearing these "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt or whatever. I mean, this is really dark stuff. And I'm not particularly optimistic, to be honest with you, that McCarthy or anybody else is going to take a strong public stance and disavow, because this is what the Republican Party has become, unfortunately.

AMY GOODMAN: They stripped King of his appointments, and ultimately he would lose in Iowa, when he didn't have the clout that the people of Iowa in his district needed.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: That's correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see anything like that happening with Congressmember Greene?

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: I mean, it's theoretically possible. But the fact that Trump incited this insurrection — and, I mean, I think that's pretty clear; that's my perception of it — and they are still willing to kind of go to bed with Trump, I think, says something about their fear of the base, that the base is actually in control of the Republican Party in some ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Michael Edison Hayden, we're going to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for being with us, senior investigative reporter with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

When we come back, well, Black History Month has begun. We look back at the assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Chicago 51 years ago. New documents suggest J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, was involved with Fred Hampton's murder. And we'll speak to the director of a film that's premiering at Sundance called Judas and the Black Messiah. Stay with us.

Expert: GOP nutjobs have exposed the Republican Party's dangerous drift towards hard-right authoritarianism

Republicans face increasing pressure to strip Georgia Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene of her post on the House Education Committee. Greene was elected in November 2020 and is a far-right conspiracy theorist who has promoted QAnon, supported the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and claimed the school shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, were staged — as was the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. She also has a history of racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments. Bee Nguyen, a Democratic state representative in Georgia, recently joined other lawmakers in signing a resolution that calls on Greene to resign. "The congresswoman has proven to be dangerous, not just to our state, but to our country," says Nguyen. We also speak with Michael Edison Hayden, senior reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center, who says media discussions of QAnon and other far-right conspiracy theories tend to focus on how outlandish they are rather than on their hateful content. "While some of these ideas are crazy-sounding to people, I think it's very, very helpful to start reframing it in your mind as something that is part of this drift toward anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party," says Hayden.


Is Far-Right QAnon Conspiracy Theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene the New Face of the GOP? www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In Washington, D.C., Republicans are facing increasing pressure to strip newly elected Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her new post on the Education Committee. Greene is the far-right conspiracy theorist who supported the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and has claimed the school shootings at Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, were staged, as was the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. She also has a history of making racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments. At least 50 House Democrats have backed a resolution to remove her from office. Congressmember Greene was elected in November after Donald Trump called her a, quote, "future Republican star."

Recently resurfaced video shows Greene confronted one of the Parkland survivors, the teenager David Hogg, when he visited Capitol Hill in 2019 to lobby lawmakers to enact gun control.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Look, I'm an American citizen. I'm a gun owner. I have a concealed carry permit. I carry a gun for protection for myself. And you are using your lobby and the money behind it and the kids to try to take away my Second Amendment rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Greene has claimed the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that David Hogg survived was a false flag operation. In 2019, she liked a comment on social media that said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be taken out and that a, quote, "bullet to the head would be quicker," unquote. Greene has also publicly called for Pelosi's execution.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: She's a traitor to our country. She's guilty of treason. … It's a crime punishable by death, is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason, and we want her out of our government.

AMY GOODMAN: CNN reports Marjorie Taylor Greene recently removed that video from her Facebook page. In another resurfaced video, Greene talks about the QAnon conspiracy theory.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Is it going to be true that the child pedophilia and the elites in the Washington, D.C. — is that what we're really going to see come out? Is it true — is the type of corruption we're going to see come out — is it going to be satanic worship that possibly all these people are involved in? … Maybe that all these scary things that people talk about on what's considered conspiracy sites and conspiracy theories really may be true. But that's what Q has been telling everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2018, Marjorie Taylor Greene also claimed a laser beam from outer space started the deadly Camp Fire in California. Greene cited "Rothschild Inc" — a common anti-Semitic trope — as being responsible. In fact, Pacific Gas & Electric has pleaded guilty in the deaths of 84 people killed in the wildfire.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuked House Republicans for putting the far-right conspiracy theorist on the Education Committee.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Assigning her to the Education Committee, when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what could they be thinking? Or is "thinking" too generous a word for what they might be doing? It's absolutely appalling.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, newly elected Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush of Missouri said she's moving her office away from Marjorie Taylor Greene's office. Bush said the move was needed, quote, "for my team's safety."

To talk more about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, we're joined by two guests. Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, is joining us. And Bee Nguyen is with us, Democratic state representative in Georgia. Her district includes Atlanta. She's joined other lawmakers signing a resolution calling on Greene to resign.

State Legislator Nguyen, why don't we begin with you? Explain exactly what you're calling for. Marjorie Taylor Greene was popularly elected in your state of Georgia.

REP. BEE NGUYEN: Yes. My Democratic colleagues and I have signed an urging resolution to ask members of Congress to ask Marjorie Greene to resign. The congresswoman has proven to be dangerous, not just to our state, but to our country. And she continues, as you mentioned before, to continue to spread conspiracy theories. She continues to state her allegiance to the former president. And she has continued to incite violence on Democratic members and her colleagues.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, state Representative, you're from Georgia, as she is. Could you tell us a little bit about the district that she represents and her constituents, and what led them to elect her?

REP. BEE NGUYEN: She represents northwest Georgia. And she was able to win in November of 2020 without any opposition from a Democrat. It is a heavily Republican district, but the Democratic nominee dropped out before the general election because of personal reasons, so voters did not have a choice in terms of voting for somebody besides her, though she was popularly elected in that specific district. Her allegiance to the president has been something that she has used to continue her popularity in northwest Georgia, but the majority of Georgians did not vote for the former president. They voted for President Biden, they voted for Jon Ossoff, and they voted for Raphael Warnock.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about gerrymandering and how that affected her district?

REP. BEE NGUYEN: Yes. In the state of Georgia, we suffer from gerrymandering. It is a heavily Republican district. And so, there is no opportunity in the future to potentially unseat her in 2022. The numbers there are challenging. So, even if Democrats coalesced around a candidate, we know it's going to be an uphill battle.

On the other hand, with gerrymandering, what it causes is it causes extremism in the Republican Party. So, anybody running against her may feel that they have to run to the right of her. And that is what many Republicans struggle with in the state of Georgia: How far right do they go during a primary election? And then, once they go that far right, how do you begin to walk yourself back from that? And from somebody like her, it is hard to see that somebody would go to the right of her.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Democratic state Legislator Bee Nguyen, we thank you so much for being with us.

We want to turn to freshman Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush, who tweeted, quote, "A maskless Marjorie Taylor Greene & her staff berated me in a hallway. She targeted me & others on social media. I'm moving my office away from hers for my team's safety. I've called for the expulsion of members who incited the insurrection from Day 1. Bring H.Res 25 to a vote," she said.

We want to bring in Michael Edison Hayden into this conversation. You are senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Can you talk about what Marjorie Taylor Greene represents, starting on the issue of QAnon? Talk about her calling for the execution, a bullet to the head, of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And put it in the context of what we saw January 6th, the insurrection at the Capitol.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Thanks, Amy.

So, I think the easiest way for the audience to understand how we got here with somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene is to understand that she started sort of as a social media performer, who filled the vacuum left behind by the sort of intellectual rot of conservative media. Greene started to get likes and shares and so forth for promoting these kind of unhinged conspiracy theories, which are inherently hateful.

And I think one thing that people misunderstand when they talk about QAnon and stuff like that is that I think the media kind of gets on this topic of discussion about just like how crazy it is, that this is like, oh, you know, these nutjobs or whatever, something like that. And understand, this is really hateful stuff that we're talking about here. Marjorie Taylor Greene has embraced explicitly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. She once claimed that the Christchurch terror attack was a false flag. You can't get more anti-Muslim than that. And she aligns herself with anti-LGBTQ groups.

So, you know, while some of these ideas are crazy-sounding to people, I think it's very, very helpful to start reframing it in your mind as something that is just part of this drift toward anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party, that is something we need to take very, very seriously and something that's very concerning for me.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You've mentioned the impact of an algorithm-driven ecosystem of online right-wing commentary as helping to build a following for Marjorie Taylor Greene. Could you explain?

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Yeah, Juan. So, basically, these social media companies have — you know, almost like the tobacco industry — created these algorithms that are meant to make you addicted to their apps and their websites. And these things, like if you look at Twitter and stuff like that, it really serves as a radicalization engine for extremists. And you look around you, and you say, like, "Oh my god. Like, I don't remember things being like this 10 years ago or 15 years ago." Some of it has to do with the lies being pumped in by the Republican Party for years about things that we don't even cover, like climate change and stuff like that. But a lot of it has to do with this just radicalization engine on people's phones.

And again, Marjorie Taylor Greene is receiving likes and upvotes and so forth for giving voice to these grievances that people in the Republican Party have, or at least their base of support has. You look at where they get their news from. I mean, Jack Posobiec of One America News is — you know, his rise as a public figure is tied to the white supremacist movement. He has collaborated with neo-Nazis. These are the type of people they're getting their news from. And it has to do with these figures taking advantage of the infrastructure of social media to get people addicted and to continue to feed this radicalization engine on people's phones.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Michael Edison Hayden, if you can talk about the Republican leadership facilitation of Marjorie Taylor Greene? She believes what she believes, but not all congressmembers are put on committees. She has been elevated, even as Liz Cheney, number three in the leadership, is being attacked roundly for supporting the impeachment of President Trump. But what does this mean? And what do you think the Republican leadership needs to do? Apparently, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, is going to be meeting with Greene this week, after he just went down to Mar-a-Lago to spend time with Donald Trump.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Well, I mean, if you look at the Republican Party right now, they have this inability to disavow people. And if you recall, Southern Poverty Law Center published a very large investigation about Stephen Miller's private emails, showed him connected to groups like VDARE. And it used to be, in the past, that these types of investigations, Republicans didn't want anything to do with it, because it was too toxic. But as we got closer and closer to the 2020 election, we saw this total unwillingness to disavow.

And Marjorie Taylor Greene, I think, is going to be the most extreme test of this thought. They're going to — the issue is that she is of the base — right? — now that the base is now in power. And she's really a very — like a post-Trump extremist congresswoman, in the sense that — if you remember Steve King from Iowa, who espoused these kind of white nationalist ideas and was associated with extremist groups, he kept trying to cage his beliefs in ideas that would sound acceptable to what he perceived to be mainstream conservatives. Greene is extremely outspoken about her — the things that she hates, about her anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian views. I'm talking about executing politicians and so forth.

This is a new world. And the fact that they're unwilling to disavow, it's almost like there are kind of like these soft barriers that exist between violent, far-right extremists and your sort of mainstream, tea party type, you know, or at least your image of that sort of person. And these soft barriers eroded over the course of the Trump era, and eroded and eroded. And they really snapped on January 6th. And then you had these people who look like grandmothers or whatever standing with people wearing these "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt or whatever. I mean, this is really dark stuff. And I'm not particularly optimistic, to be honest with you, that McCarthy or anybody else is going to take a strong public stance and disavow, because this is what the Republican Party has become, unfortunately.

AMY GOODMAN: They stripped King of his appointments, and ultimately he would lose in Iowa, when he didn't have the clout that the people of Iowa in his district needed.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: That's correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see anything like that happening with Congressmember Greene?

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: I mean, it's theoretically possible. But the fact that Trump incited this insurrection — and, I mean, I think that's pretty clear; that's my perception of it — and they are still willing to kind of go to bed with Trump, I think, says something about their fear of the base, that the base is actually in control of the Republican Party in some ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Michael Edison Hayden, we're going to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for being with us, senior investigative reporter with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

When we come back, well, Black History Month has begun. We look back at the assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Chicago 51 years ago. New documents suggest J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, was involved with Fred Hampton's murder. And we'll speak to the director of a film that's premiering at Sundance called Judas and the Black Messiah. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: "Have You Been to Jail for Justice?" by the renowned folksinger Anne Feeney. Anne has been hospitalized with pneumonia related to COVID-19.

A former insider explains how the senate became a threat to American democracy

President Joe Biden has promised swift action on the pandemic, the economic crisis and more, but much of his agenda hinges on whether he can get enough support in the Senate, where an unprecedented number of bills in recent years has required a 60-vote supermajority in order to overcome filibusters. Many progressives and civil rights groups have urged Democratic leaders to kill the filibuster, warning that if they don't, Senate Republicans will obstruct Biden's plans just as they did with the Obama administration. Former Senate aide Adam Jentleson, author of the new book "Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy," says the filibuster has historically been used to stop racial progress and thwart majority opinion. "The framers … did not want the filibuster to exist," he says. "When they created the Senate, it was an institution that had no filibuster power. It was designed to be a majority-rule body."



Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

Democratic lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to hold an impeachment trial of former President Trump for inciting the deadly January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. House impeachment managers are walking the single article of impeachment to the Senate today. The Senate trial will begin the week of February 8th. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke Friday.

MAJORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER: Now, as I mentioned, the Senate will also conduct a second impeachment trial for Donald Trump. I've been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial. But, make no mistake, a trial will be held in the United States Senate, and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.

AMY GOODMAN: As senators prepare for the impeachment trial, lawmakers are also debating how to move forward on President Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. The Senate is split 50-50, but the Democrats control the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaking vote.

Schumer and former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are locked in negotiations over how the Senate will be run over the next two years. McConnell is pushing to preserve the filibuster, which allows any senator to block a bill's passage unless it's supported by 60 senators. Critics say the filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow era that preserves minority rule. A group of civil rights and social justice groups are pushing Democrats to eliminate the filibuster to limit McConnell's power and give Biden a chance to enact his agenda.

On Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders, who's the incoming Senate Budget Committee chair, appeared on CNN and promoted using a process known as reconciliation to quickly pass part of Biden's COVID relief plan.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months and months to go forward. We have got to act now. That is what the American people want. Now, as you know, reconciliation, which is a Senate rule, was used by the Republicans, under Trump, to pass massive tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. It was used as an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And what we are saying is, "You used it for that. That's fine. We're going to use reconciliation — that is, 50 votes in the Senate plus the vice president — to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now. You did it. We're going to do it. But we're going to do it to protect ordinary people, not just the rich and the powerful."

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the state of the Senate, we're joined by Adam Jentleson, the public affairs director at Democracy Forward, former deputy chief of staff to Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. Jentleson's new book is titled Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.

So, let's start with what's happening in the Senate right now. You say it's the most unequal body in the U.S. federal government. Explain why, and how that impacts everything from reconciliation to the filibuster.

ADAM JENTLESON: That's right. And thanks for having me here. It's great to join you today.

So, you know, the Senate was created to provide a counterbalance to the House, which was supposed to be — the House was supposed to be sort of the direct body that represented the people. And the Senate was always designed to provide sort of an elite counterweight. And it was designed to be a little bit anti-democratic, in its inception.

You know, in the House, apportionment is determined by population, so every district is about the same size, and every state has about the same number of House members proportional to their population, so the bigger states have a lot more representatives. California has many more representatives in the House than, say, Wyoming, which has one representative.

In the Senate, every state gets equal representation. So, Wyoming has two senators, and California has two senators. California's population is about 39 million people. Wyoming's population is about 600,000 people. So, by that proportionate representation, it actually creates a disproportionate voting power. So, every citizen in Wyoming has many more times the voting power than a citizen in California.

This was something that the framers were aware of when they created it, but some of them decried it at the time and said this is a big problem. Madison, who's often cited as the chief framer and constructor of the Senate, actually strongly opposed this kind of equal representation. And when I say "equal," I mean the same number of senators; the way it plays out is actually, you know, dramatically unequal representation for the actual voters. Madison, at the time, said that it would be a great source of — he used the word — "injustice" to give states equal representation. At the time that he called this an injustice, the biggest state was Virginia, and it was about 10 times as big as the smallest state, Delaware. Madison was right that it creates an injustice, but that injustice is several orders of magnitude bigger now than at the time. You know, Virginia was 10 times the size of Delaware in 1789. Today, California is about 70 times the size of Wyoming. So, it is an unequal body. The way this —

AMY GOODMAN: Seventy times the size. And for people who listen to this globally, each of them, because they're each a state, have two senators, have equal representation in the Senate.

ADAM JENTLESON: That's right. And because a lot of — and, you know, the way this plays out is that what that translates to is not just disproportionate representation geographically, but disproportionate presentation in terms of racial, ethnic, minority voting power. California, obviously, is an incredibly diverse state. Wyoming is an incredibly monolithic state demographically. But Wyoming has equal voting power to California. And this continues throughout, if you go down the chamber, because the general pattern is that the more rural states, the lower-population states, tend to be overwhelmingly white. And so, what that translates to in our modern era is a dramatically disproportionate amount of voting power to white conservatives in America.

AMY GOODMAN: So, take this to the history of the filibuster. I want to play just a clip of President Obama speaking about the filibuster at the funeral of the late Georgia Congressmember John Lewis.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that's what we should do.

AMY GOODMAN: "Another Jim Crow relic," says Obama. You take this back, Adam, to slavery.

ADAM JENTLESON: That's right. And Obama is 100% right. He's been consistent on the filibuster. He's always wanted to get rid of it. In his new memoir, he says he wishes he had started his first administration by rallying Democrats to get rid of it, so that he could have passed more and bigger things. But, yes, he's absolutely right about the history.

The history, you know, it's important to understand that the framers, for all their own racism and slaveholding status, even they did not want the filibuster to exist. When they created the Senate, it was an institution that had no filibuster power. It was designed to be a majority-rule body. It was designed to discourage obstruction. They were very clear about this; this wasn't just sort of a coincidence or sort of a gray area. The reason they were clear about it was that they created the Constitution in the shadows of the Articles of Confederation, and the widespread view at the time was that the reason the Articles of Confederation failed was that its Congress required a supermajority threshold to pass most major legislation. And so, the framers saw that that had been a disaster, and they created a Senate that was majority rule.

And they wrote very clearly in The Federalist Papers, in their own correspondence and other sources that they believed that a minority, a numerical minority, in the Senate should not be given the power to obstruct what the majority wanted to do. By all means, the Senate was supposed to be deliberative. It was supposed to be thoughtful. It was supposed to take things a little slower than the House. But there was a certain point at which debate was considered to have run its course. And at that point, a majority was allowed to end debate, bring the bill up for a vote and pass or fail it on a majority vote.

What happened was, over the course of several decades, after all the framers had passed away, other senators did use some obstructive tactics over the early decades, but it was very rare. John C. Calhoun came along, the "Great Nullifier," senator from South Carolina, sort of a grandfather of the Confederacy, and he innovated some of the tactics that became known as the modern filibuster. And he did it for the express purpose of increasing the power of the slaveholding class. What he saw at this time — this was around the 1830s and 1840s — was that slaveholders and slave states were becoming steadily outpowered in Congress. And so, he knew that if majority rule was allowed to continue, slavery was going to end. And they needed to — he felt a very compelling desire, from his perspective, to increase their power in the Senate.

And so, what he did was innovate what we would describe as the modern talking filibuster, the sort of Jimmy Stewart-style holding the floor, joining with allies, to delay a bill that he opposed, and, at the same time, doing it all in the service of this lofty principle of minority rights. And what he — the minority that he sought to protect was not a vulnerable population, by any means. It was the planter class, the slaveholders. And so, that was the origin of this essential principle of minority rights being tied to the filibuster. It was a desire to protect not a vulnerable minority, but the minority of the planter class against the march of progress, that Calhoun thought would progress under a majority-rule system.

AMY GOODMAN: So, take that to today and this battle over the filibuster in the Senate, the trajectory you see from slavery to Jim Crow to the new Biden administration and the Democratic majority, and what they're trying to do —

ADAM JENTLESON: Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: — whether we're talking about COVID relief or talking, for example, about impeachment.

ADAM JENTLESON: Sure. So, the key development in the history of the filibuster, from the time of Calhoun to now, is the transition from this talking filibuster, you know, the Jimmy Stewart-style holding the floor, into a supermajority threshold that can be applied to block any bill. And just to underscore, for the first 200 years of its existence or so, the Senate was majority rule. Even as the filibuster started to develop in Calhoun's time, all that senators could do was delay a bill. They had to talk on the floor, and eventually they had to give up. There was no ability to impose a supermajority threshold.

That didn't arise until after 1917, when the Senate put a rule on the books that, ironically, was designed to end filibusters. It implemented a supermajority threshold under the principle that after debate had gone for long enough, two-thirds of the body would be able to come together and say, "You know what? This is enough. Let's cut this off. Let's move to a final debate — a final vote on the bill."

It took a long time for this to happen, but Southern senators, in the Jim Crow era — and this gets back to what President Obama was talking about — started to reverse the purpose of that rule, and instead of using it to end debate, as it had been designed to do, started using it as a higher threshold for civil rights bills to have to clear. And it's important to underscore how transformative the power of racism was in this evolution. The only category —

AMY GOODMAN: And then, we just have a minute.

ADAM JENTLESON: Oh, OK.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute, but I wanted to take this forward to what's happening now and play a clip of the incoming Senate Budget Committee chair, Bernie Sanders, speaking on CNN, defending his call for using reconciliation to pass the COVID relief bill, and then ask how that fits into this paradigm you're describing.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: And I criticized the Republicans, yeah, for using reconciliation to give tax breaks to billionaires, to create a situation where large, profitable corporations now pay zero in federal income taxes. Yes, I did criticize them for that. And if they want to criticize me for helping to feed children who are hungry, or senior citizens in this country who are isolated and alone and don't have enough food, they can criticize me. I think it's the appropriate step forward.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Bernie Sanders, yes, Senator Mittens, for those who have been following the, to say the least, viral meme of him wearing his Vermont mittens at the inauguration. But, Adam Jentleson, if you could end by talking about what this means for the COVID relief bill, who gets helped, and who doesn't?

ADAM JENTLESON: Sure. So, what Sanders has done is accurately identify a process called budget reconciliation, that is an end run around this supermajority threshold that I was describing. That threshold has gone, from the Jim Crow era, from being only applied to civil rights bills to today being applied to every bill. And this is the primary source of gridlock in the Senate.

As the budget chair, Sanders can use reconciliation to go around it. That can be used for the COVID relief bill. He's absolutely right about that. That may be where we go. It will enable us to pass COVID relief over the objections of Republicans and not have to clear a 60-vote threshold.

Long term, though, the filibuster will rear its head, because anything involving civil rights, democracy reforms or those types of reforms cannot go through reconciliation. Reconciliation is a restrictive process that has tight rules. They have to be budgetary items to conform with its rules. So, ultimately, we're going to have to face this question of the filibuster, if we want to do things like D.C. statehood, Puerto Rico statehood, any kind of civil rights expansions, automatic voter registration. All of that stuff can't go through reconciliation. If we don't reform the filibuster, it will die by the filibuster. So, that's where this issue will really come to a head for Democrats.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Adam Jentleson, I want to thank you for being with us, public affairs director for Democracy Forward, former deputy chief of staff to the Democratic majority leader, Senator Harry Reid. His new book, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.

Next up, as the number of U.S. COVID cases hits 25 million, we'll speak to the Reverend Barber about the challenges ahead. He gave the homily at the post-inaugural prayer breakfast. We'll talk about inequality. And what does unity really mean? Stay with us.

'American Abyss': Fascism historian Tim Snyder on Trump’s coup attempt, impeachment and what’s next

The FBI warns there could be a repeat of the violent insurrection he encouraged on January 6, with Trump loyalists planning to hold armed protests nationwide ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration. We speak with Timothy Snyder, a historian of fascism, who says the riot at the U.S. Capitol was "completely and utterly predictable" given President Trump's record of stoking extremism and undermining democratic institutions. "The American republic is hanging by a thread because the president of the United States has sought to use violence to stay in power and essentially to overthrow our constitutional system," says Snyder.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, history is being made today in Washington, D.C., as the House is voting to impeach President Trump for a second time. That's one week after he encouraged a violent mob to "fight like hell" and attack the Capitol as members of Congress voted to ratify Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the 2020 election. The deadly siege so enraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he's now reportedly privately backing impeachment, along with a growing number of Republicans, including Congressmember Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House. On Tuesday, Vice President Pence rejected a call from the House to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.

Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers bypassed metal detectors to enter the House floor that were installed after last week's deadly attack, including the newly elected Colorado Republican QAnon supporter, Congressmember Lauren Boebert, who vowed in a viral video to carry a gun in the Capitol.

Far from the commotion, President Trump surrounded himself with supporters during a visit to the border wall in Alamo, Texas. In his first public appearance since the violence at the Capitol, he continued to deny any involvement with or responsibility for the violent insurrection.

This comes as The Washington Post reports the FBI explicitly warned of violence and "war" at the U.S. Capitol in an internal report issued one day before last Wednesday's deadly Capitol invasion, and police officers from Seattle to New York are under investigation for participating in storming the Capitol, along with members of the New York Fire Department and apparently seven Philadelphia transit police officers. Two Black officers who defended the Capitol during the attack confirmed to BuzzFeed News that some of the insurgents they came face to face with were off-duty cops. Others were reportedly former military servicemembers. On Tuesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a reminder to members of the armed forces that, quote, "The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection," unquote.

The FBI has opened some 170 cases on individuals involved in the assault and says hundreds more will be opened in the coming weeks. Over 70 people have been charged so far.

Now the FBI is warning Trump loyalists plan to hold armed protests nationwide ahead of Biden's inauguration next week. Screenshots of archived content appear to show plans for mass armed actions in Washington, D.C., this weekend.

For more, we're joined by Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University, fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, where he now joins us from. He is the author of several books, including On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. His new essay in The New York Times Magazine is headlined "The American Abyss: A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next."

Professor Snyder, welcome back to Democracy Now! We are glad that you are physically doing well. We'll talk about that later. But let's talk about what happened. From your vantage point in Vienna, Austria, if you can talk about what you watched last week and why you see race at the core of this Trump-inspired insurrection?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: Right. I mean, number one, it's kind of you, Amy, to mention the article. The reason why I could publish a big article about this part about the coup attempt right after it happened was that this was completely and utterly predictable. I already had the article drafted before the 6th of January because it was obvious to me what was going to happen. And so, I just want to underline the points you were suggesting earlier about just how strange it was that this kind of thing could happen so easily.

As to race, I mean, this is a classic historian's point. The point I make in the article is about the big lie. You know, I say that these are the kinds of things that happen if a charismatic leader with a big megaphone, with a lot of reach, is able to consistently tell one thing which is simply not true, but which deeply matters, like, for example, I won an election that I lost. That has to lead to violence. But as you rightly suggest, the big lie has to be rooted in a particular society. And in the United States, the big lie is going to be rooted in race. Let's count the ways.

Number one, what Mr. Trump is saying, when he won the election, is that there was fraud. And by fraud, he means the reality that African Americans are allowed to vote. When he speaks in Milwaukee or Atlanta or Detroit, what he's saying is Black voters, right? When he's saying, "I won," he's saying, "I won if you only count the votes of the real Americans."

Number two, think of Senator Cruz and his invocation of 1877. As every historian of the U.S. knows, and as lots of African Americans know, but maybe not everybody knows, the Compromise of 1877 is the very moment when the American South was allowed to build up a basically American apartheid. The Compromise of 1877 is what allowed American states to push African Americans away from the voting booths and into a Jim Crow condition, which was going to last for nearly a century and which we're still dealing with today.

Number three, look at the people who actually invade the Capitol. These are — and this has not been covered enough, this has not been hit hard enough — these people are basically white supremacists. The white supremacists are leading, right? They're leading the way, and they're making the argument that "this is our house." In other words, what we think is that American government should be in the hands of white people who are willing to be violent about Black people.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Professor Snyder, I wanted to ask you, in terms of — you characterize it more as an attempted coup than perhaps maybe insurrection, because a coup assumes that there was an actual — it seems to me, an actual plot afoot by the coup makers. And in this situation, it appears to be that Trump egged on the mob, clearly, and that it seems to me there's always been a right-wing, fascist movement in the United States in search of a leader. I mean, if you go back to Father Coughlin in the '30s, Huey Long, George Wallace, there's always been a significant portion of the American population that has lent itself or seen itself in right-wing and anti-democratic terms. And now they actually have a leader in the White House. So, to what degree was this really an opportunism that Trump took advantage of to unleash the mob, as opposed to a coup, where military leaders or key officials got together to plan an overthrow?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: Yeah, I take that point. I mean, I would emphasize, Juan, that it's important that we not get too lost in definitional disagreements about whether we're going to say "coup" or "putsch" or "insurrection." The American republic is hanging by a thread because the president of the United States has sought to use violence to stay in power and essentially to overthrow our constitutional system. There's broad agreement about that.

I've been calling it for a coup for a long time, actually, I mean, for months, for the following reasons — or a coup attempt, to be precise, because it's been clear for a long time, because Mr. Trump has said so himself, that he intends to stay in power after losing the election. That's been his language for more than six months. He has been trying to bring the military into it. That was clear on June the 1st, Lafayette Square. And it's also clear from these repeated statements, from today, the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a few days ago, the 10 former secretaries of defense. The reason why these people have to make these statements is that they're aware that Mr. Trump is trying to get or has a certain amount of support in the military, right? So, it's a coup attempt, in my view, because Mr. Trump has said he was going to try to change the nature of the American regime, and he's been trying to use instruments inside American institutions.

Now, beyond that, I would point out that this wasn't just a mob. I mean, as you know very well and as you just said, these aren't just people who happened to be there. These are several different kinds of white supremacist and extreme right-wing paramilitaries who are appearing at the Capitol. They are getting mixed in now with members of the police. And this is extremely dangerous, because it's that mixture of outside-the-state, outside-the-law paramilitaries and police forces, or policemen who start to go over on the other side, which is very characteristic of the way fascist regimes come to power.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to follow up specifically on that issue of the military, because, obviously, those who know the history of the rise of Hitler know that a lot of his base was embittered and disillusioned veterans of World War I who felt that they had been unjustly treated or had no economic opportunities under the Weimar Republic. The United States military today is 40% people of color. To what degree are the progressives of this country not paying enough attention to actually organizing and reaching out to the enlisted troops of our country in terms of what's going on? Because, clearly, back in the days of the Vietnam War, it was organizing among the military that really finally convinced this government that they could no longer continue to move forward with the war.

TIMOTHY SNYDER: That's a really interesting question. I mean, I think, looking back at the last half-century, 60 years of U.S. history, the integration of the military is one of the most significant things that happened, not just in terms of obvious justice — you know, as everyone knows, we fought the Second World War against racism with an Army which was organized by race — but not just ethically, but also politically. I mean, before even getting to the point that you're making, I think it's very much the case that the commanders of our armed services are perfectly aware what it means to have integrated services. It means that any kind of attempt to get involved in politics in a Trumpian way would be extremely divisive. But it also means that people in the military, perhaps more than other walks of life— or, to be specific, white people in the military, perhaps more than other walks of life, are actually in contact with, and sometimes share points of view of, folks who have different backgrounds and different experiences than themselves.

I would agree completely with your point. I mean, it's not always easy to be in contact with people who are in the military. They could be overseas. They could be on a base. But I certainly take your point that folks on the left sometimes have a certain tendency to pigeonhole all institutions and miss some openings.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Snyder, about who was involved in this attack. Some have called it the "Coup Klux Klan." That's C-O-U-P, Coup Klux Klan. And you make no apologies about referring to white supremacists leading this. Let's talk about the military and police involvement. It's just coming to light right now. It looked like this sort of disorderly array of people who took an opportunity last week. But now as more and more video is coming out, it may well be that the frontlines were quite well ordered, and now this latest news that the Seattle police were involved, that New York police officers were involved, that Philadelphia transit officers came down en masse, that a PSYOPS person, at least one, was involved, psychological operations. Talk about this.

TIMOTHY SNYDER: OK. Well, I mean, number one, when we talk about the coup plotters, just to make the obvious point, the most important is Donald Trump himself, who has been creating an — he's been creating the psychological and the moral environment that makes this possible by telling a big lie in which he is a victim and people who voted for him are victims.

I think, in the second rank, we have to put Senators Cruz and Hawley. It's extremely important that these senators decided to make of January 6th a kind of carnival of mendacity, in which they were going to exploit their official position in order to tell the big lie, in an occasion which should be formal and solemn. I think that makes them the second ranks of the plotters.

Number three, as you say, there was a good deal of organization taking place. And the Anti-Defamation League and other nongovernmental organizations were tracking this but not able to get very much of a hearing, it seems to me, from government institutions. I mean, as a spectator from a long way away, it was obvious to me, as I say, that something like this was going to happen.

I think, Amy, what follows from this is that in this interval between impeachment, which is going to now happen, and a trial, which I'm going to bet is going to happen after Biden's 100 days, there should be something like an independent blue-ribbon commission of forensics experts, digital forensics experts, historians, national security people, lawyers and activists, who put together a beautiful and organized and fact-based report about what happened, so that three months from now when there's a Senate vote, which I believe there will be, there will also be this document that makes it clear how people should vote, but also a document which can go down in history, because, I mean, other days in infamy, compared to this one, don't compare. I mean, this, the January putsch, is the day in infamy which we have to get right for historical purposes. If this becomes a myth of victimhood, if this becomes, as Mr. Trump says, something we should treasure, then the country is in trouble. We need to get the facts right and the history right and the story right on this one.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Snyder, where do you see the Republican Party and Donald Trump going after Biden is inaugurated? Clearly, the party had hitched its star to Trump, and now there is enormous upheaval within it in terms of the road ahead.

TIMOTHY SNYDER: Yeah, I mean, not many people think this, but, you know, I'll go out on a limb and say it: I think it's going to be hard for Mr. Trump to continue to reside in the United States of America. He has a lot of debt, and he's facing — even before the 6th of January, he was facing a number of criminal charges — or, not facing directly, but being investigated for a number of criminal charges in New York. I think it's going to be hard for him to keep his feet in the United States of America. Perhaps I'm wrong.

As for the Republican Party, I mean, my way of seeing it, as I lay out in that article, "American Abyss," is that the largest group of Republicans are people that you could call the gamers, the ones who work the system with the gerrymandering, with the dark money, with the voter suppression, who are in favor of the, quote-unquote, "democracy" that we have in America now, the unfortunately very limited democracy we have, because they know how to work it.

Then there's a smaller faction, which in the article I call the breakers. Those are people like Trump or Cruz or Hawley, who have understood that one could actually come to power in the United States by entirely nondemocratic means, by way of the mob, by way of throwing an election and lying about it. And I think that faction is going to be there.

Then there's a third, still smaller group, which you could call the honorable few, the people who have positions that I might disagree with, but who believe in the rule of law and who believe in telling the truth — right? — like Kinzinger or like Cheney or like Mitt Romney.

I think the interesting thing to watch for is whether the center of power in the Republican Party now shifts from being the breakers and the gamers together to being the gamers and the honorable few together. I think that's now likely to happen. And it would be, frankly, a very good thing for the Republican Party, because the Republican Party, by way of generations of voter suppression, has now got itself into a cul-de-sac. It's got itself into a dead end, where what's happening now is, honestly, the only thing which can happen. If you don't try to win campaigns with policy, but you try to win them by gaming the system, eventually there are going to be people who say, "Hey, let's not game the system anymore. Let's just break the system." And that happened in January 2021. And there's nowhere to go from there except further down into chaos and blood. So, I think — I mean, the Republican Party is not my party, but I think this is an opportunity for them to regroup. And I hope a number of them will see it that way.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about what's going to happen in the coming days, what you expect, the word of all 50 capitals, state capitals, deeply concerned about attacks, the FBI warning about those attacks right through Inauguration Day. Then you have congressmember — as you mentioned, third in line in the House Republican leadership, Congressmember Cheney, who said, "There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the President." Many are asking why it took her so long. But then, privately, McConnell speaking with Biden and working out what would happen. Like, today he will be impeached by the House. But then a trial could determine — if they convict President Trump, they could decide the sanctions, like he can never run again for public office or for president, could end the pensions and the millions of dollars — people don't realize former presidents get that kind of thing — but working out this bifurcation deal, where Senate will work both on approving Cabinet members but then also holding a trial, whether it goes from the leadership of McConnell to the leadership of Schumer. Can you explain what will be taking place and if you expect this time, unlike last time when Trump was impeached, that he will be convicted in the Senate?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: No, you know, you're asking a historian. I'm just going to answer as an American who doesn't know any more than you do, probably a lot less. I mean, my gut feeling about this is that it works very well for both Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell to have impeachment now and trial after a hundred days of Biden.

It works very well for Biden, because he's got a hundred days of stuff that he really needs to pass, and he needs to get his appointments made as quickly as possible, especially after this terribly chaotic transition.

It works well for McConnell, because it gets Republicans out of the heat of the moment, gives them some time to think about what happened. Right now, of course, Mr. Trump is very popular. Three months of Twitter silence, he probably will be less so. Probably some other things will happen in the meantime to make him less popular.

I mean, for me, as a historian, for someone who's concerned about facts, a very important element of this is, in three months, we could have a really good, nonpartisan, expert-based investigation of what happened in the Department of Defense, in Homeland Security, in the FBI, in police departments and on Capitol Hill that day, a report which could then be used in April, or whenever, when the trial happens, to make sure that people see, at least people of any amount of reasonability see, that what's happening is a trial based upon the finding of fact, and not some kind of emotional, partisan exercise.

So, I can see how both sides have an interest in working it that way: impeachment now and a trial later. And yes, I think the Republicans — what I feel is that the Republican gamers, as I think of them, I think they're shifting towards conviction. I think conviction is now a reality.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, I wanted to ask about your new book, Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary. In it, you write, "The word freedom is hypocritical when spoken by the people who create the conditions that leave us sick and powerless. If our federal government and our commercial medicine make us unhealthy, they are making us unfree." Since we last spoke, Professor Snyder, you almost died, on New Year/Christmas Eve in 2019. If you can link what happened to you then, and describe what happened, to what we're seeing — this was pre-pandemic — today?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: Well, I think there's a big misunderstanding in America about what freedom is. And you can see that in the behavior and comportment of a lot of the people who stormed the Capitol. A lot of us seem to think that freedom is just about believing whatever we want to believe, even if it's not true, and freedom is just about acting on our impulses. We don't seem to understand that you can't really be a free person unless there's some factual world that you share with other people. We don't seem to understand that you can't really be a free person unless there are values that you can talk about out in the world.

One of the things which has been clear for a long time in the U.S., and it's only been clearer — it's even been clearer in the last year, is that if you deny people healthcare, you're making them less free. If you put people in unnecessary risk and make them more subject to disease or the fear of disease, you're making them less free. You're also making them more vulnerable physically and mentally to various kinds of demagoguery.

So, what happened on January 6th is partly the result, I would say, of a sick country. When you look at the people who carried this out, I mean, when you have a hard look at their comportment, at their faces, at the way they carried themselves, I mean, apart from all moral judgments, you're not looking at a healthy society there.

So, I think part of the renewal of American freedom in 2021 has to be the concept that we all have health as a human right, that Americans, people living on this territory of the United States of America, should have access to health as a human right, that health is one of the things that should come before profit. If we do that, we'll not only feel better and be freer, we'll recognize each other better as Americans, because we'll be sharing in this together. So, that's a way to bring it together. Thanks for the question.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, thanks so much, Timothy Snyder, and thank God you recovered from your appendicitis, misdiagnosed, from where you were to right here in the United States. Timothy Snyder, Yale University professor, fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, where he's speaking to us from. He's got the cover story of New York Times Magazine, "The American Abyss: A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next." We will link to it at democracynow.org.

And when we come back, another record-smashing day of coronavirus in the United States. We go to Los Angeles. Stay with us.


Fascism expert: Strongman Trump radicalized his supporters -- turning this back will be very hard

Calls are also growing for Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to be expelled or to resign for supporting Trump's effort to overturn the election and fanning the flames ahead of last week's insurrection, and authorities are warning about more right-wing violence ahead of Inauguration Day on January 20. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University historian whose work focuses on fascism, authoritarian leaders and propaganda, says the storming of the Capitol was "a logical result" of Trump's legitimization and encouragement of right-wing extremism since 2016. "The threat to democracy is not outside our institutions only. It's coming from inside," Ben-Ghiat says.

This interview first appeared on January 11, 2021



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is threatening to quickly impeach President Trump if Vice President Mike Pence does not support invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. During an interview on 60 Minutes, Pelosi said Trump should be prosecuted for his role inciting last week's violent insurrection at the Capitol that left five people dead, including a Capitol Hill police officer.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Well, sadly, the person who's running the executive branch is a deranged, unhinged, dangerous president of the United States, and only a number of days until we can be protected from him. But he has done something so serious that there should be prosecution against him.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, House Speaker Pelosi spoke to the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, about ways to prevent Trump from launching nuclear weapons in the closing days of his presidency.

This comes as Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have become the first Republican senators to call for Trump to resign. Murkowski has also suggested she may leave the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, calls are growing for Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to be expelled or to resign for supporting Trump's effort to overturn the election and fanning the flames ahead of last week's insurrection.

Authorities are warning about more right-wing violence ahead of Inauguration Day on January 20.

Over the weekend, federal investigators arrested a number of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol, including two men who were photographed wearing tactical gear, holding plastic zip tie handcuffs — a sign that the domestic terrorists may have been intending to take lawmakers hostage.

Federal agents have also arrested a Georgia man named Cleveland Meredith for sending a text message threatening to kill Nancy Pelosi on live TV. At the time of his arrest, Meredith had a Glock handgun, a pistol, an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

On Sunday, CNN aired shocking video of Trump supporters grabbing a D.C. Metro police officer, pulling him down the Capitol steps, where he was beaten with American flagpoles. Investigations have also been launched into the role of active-duty soldiers and police officers in Wednesday's riots.

Even the president of the United States could face criminal charges for inciting the insurrection. Last week, the top prosecutor in Washington, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, refused to rule out charging the president.

President Trump made no public remarks over the weekend after being permanently banned on Twitter. On Friday, he announced he would not attend Biden's inauguration.

To talk more about the insurrection at the Capitol and the Trump presidency, we're joined by Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She's a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, author of the new book, Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall. Her new piece for CNN is headlined "Trump's end game? Power at all costs."

Professor Ben-Ghiat, if you can start off by responding to what happened last week, this violent insurrection? Still, the Department of Homeland Security, the president himself, the FBI, the attorney general, none have made comment, even though five people died, another police officer took his own life, and we know the violence that now is becoming increasingly vivid as video after video is released.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: So, the events of January 6 are the product of two long-term objectives that Trump has sought, successfully. One is, like all strongmen who arrive on the scene, they legitimize existing extremism and anti-democratic tendencies. They give validation to the worst criminal elements in society. And in fact, many strongmen, including Trump, either come to power with a criminal record or under investigation, so they are criminal elements themselves. So there's that. The other thing they do is — and Trump did this with the GOP — is they glamorize and legitimize lawlessness. So lawmakers become lawbreakers. And this has happened.

And what is particularly disturbing — and I think we'll have more of this — there's an AP investigation that has come out on, you know, who are these participants of the January 6 events. And though it's tempting to see them as — which is scary enough — as extremists and militia groups, white power, there were Republican donors. There were Republican officials. There were military. There were law enforcement. So this means the threat to democracy is not outside our institutions only. It's coming from inside.

And this is a logical result of a policy that Trump has followed very resolutely since he started signaling during his campaign to extremist groups, but also made that statement you played at the top of the show about shooting someone. What he was saying, in January 2016, is that he would be — he was above the law, and he was capable of violence, and he would get away with it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about his family's rally, that was held right before the marauders, the domestic terrorists, the insurrectionists — whatever you want to call them — right before they marched to the Capitol. By the way, Trump, saying he would be with them, of course, got in a car and safely watched this from the White House.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: But let's turn to the video obtained by CNBC of Trump and his family watching a live stream of the pro-Trump so-called Stop the Steal rally at the Capitol last week. This is Don Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle.

DONALD TRUMP JR.: I think we're T-minus a couple of seconds here, guys. So, check it out. Tune in. I'm going to live-stream it. It's going to be — Mark Meadows, an actual fighter, one of the few, a real fighter. Thank you, Mark. Kimberly?
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: Yeah. Have the courage to do the right thing! Fight!

AMY GOODMAN: And this is President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, addressing the crowd at Wednesday's so-called Save America rally in Washington, D.C.

RUDY GIULIANI: Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent. And if we're wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So, let's have trial by combat!

AMY GOODMAN: "Trial by combat." This is Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, who apparently will be hired by President Trump, along with Alan Dershowitz, to defend him if there is an impeachment trial. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, if you can talk about what this insurrection looks like in world history, you know, the revving on by not the people outside, but the people on the inside, the leader of a country who refuses to accept a democratic election?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah, this is classic. You know, it's really interesting because, in my book, it's the first book to put Trump in context of a hundred years of authoritarian history. And he's really using tactics from all three eras. He's got the fascist era, and of course I can't help but be reminded of the March on Rome, when Mussolini was, you know, trying to take over — trying to get into power, but used these Blackshirts. And he took a train, a first-class train, but all the Blackshirts were there in the streets intimidating the king into inviting him into becoming prime minister. And Mussolini is also important because he was a democratic prime minister for three years, eroding democracy from within. And then, when he thought he was going to lose power, he declared a dictatorship. But he had already had these Blackshirts who were threatening violence.

So, and then we have the age of military coups. And we know that Trump was investigating using the regular armed forces, before General Milley put a stop to that. And so he went with these extremists. But the other thing — which, as we see, are not only extremists, but people inside our institutions.

The other thing that he's left for the GOP is a roadmap on how to just nullify elections and treat your political opponent as a political enemy. And so, the GOP was already drifting toward being an authoritarian party when Trump came along. And he has legitimized lawlessness. And in a sense, the whole events leading up to, including the quotes you mentioned — you know, "trial by combat" — they distill this kind of macho lawlessness that's the essence of authoritarian rule and always has been. And it's our turn, as a country, to reckon with this.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a message posted on Twitter Sunday by the Terminator actor, the former Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which he compares last week's pro-Trump mob at the Capitol to Kristallnacht, when German Nazis launched a wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I grew up in Austria. I'm very aware of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys. Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can give us the background for this? And then we're going to play more of Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently for the first time in public talking about the complicity of his father and neighbors in Austria at this time. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, give us the history of Kristallnacht and Austria and the Anschluss.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: So, Kristallnacht was so tragically important because there had already been legal persecution of Jews and plenty of imprisonments of Jews who were leftists and beatings in the street. There was plenty of violence in Germany. And then Hitler annexed Austria and had a plebiscite — Austria had a plebiscite. But Kristallnacht was the first large-scale, coordinated attack on Jewish sites, whether they were stores, they were synagogues. And it was — you know, the Nazis allowed the violence to happen, but actually instigated it.

So, this is — this technique of lighting the match and already not addressing violence and egging on violence, and then letting it roll, is a classic authoritarian maneuver. And, of course, part of the effect was to lead some Jews to get out and emigrate, which is partly what the Nazis wanted. They wanted to get rid of the Jews that way, as well as with violence.

And the reason that Arnold Schwarzenegger —

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ben-Ghiat, I want to go back —

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: — to Arnold Schwarzenegger now.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yes, that's what I'm doing. So, Schwarzenegger is —

AMY GOODMAN: No, let me go — we're going to go back to play a little more of what he had to say.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I was born in 1947, two years after the Second World War. Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away the guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history. Not all of them were rabid anti-Semites or Nazis. Many just went along, step by step, down the road. They were the people next door. Now, I've never shared this so publicly, because it is a painful memory. But my father would come home drunk once or twice a week, and he would scream and hit us and scare my mother. I didn't hold him totally responsible, because our neighbor was doing the same thing to his family, and so was the next neighbor over. I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes. They were in physical pain from the shrapnel in their bodies and in emotional pain from what they saw or did. It all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that's the former Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, if you can talk about what he's referring to, everyday Austrians? And then take it back to the United States, as increasingly people around this country are asking questions about the senators and congressmembers who have aided and abetted what Donald Trump was trying to do — delegitimize democratic elections — people like Cori Bush calling for the expulsion — the new congressmember from Missouri — of congressmembers who supported this. But start back in Austria with the Nazis.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah. So, you know, what Arnold Schwarzenegger is referring to is that Hitler was supposed to be — and Hitler was the native child, having been born in Austria. He was supposed to be savior of Germany. And instead, he led it to defeat. I have quotes in my book about women in bomb shelters when Hitler abandoned his people and the Allies were bombing and the Soviets were invading, and she said, "Hitler promised us greatness, and he was really out to destroy us." So, there was this, you know, massive, massive tragedy and guilt that was experienced and caused violence, domestic violence. And this is this kind of terrible atmosphere post-Hitler, who killed himself, of course, because the — I have it in the conclusion to my book — the one constant with all these men is that they despise their people, and they blame their people when things go badly, and they leave them in the ditch. Their only loyalty is to themselves.

And the Republicans in America have seen this happening as Trump has turned on the people who enabled him at the beginning, like Jeff Sessions, who was the first person to bring him to a rally. And Trump said, "Oh, I'm being mainstream now." And then we know what happened to Jeff Sessions.

And so, Trump has had an enormous success, to a shocking degree, in domesticating and making as a personal tool the GOP, considering he didn't start his party, like Mussolini or — and Hitler was, you know, a head of the party very early on. Trump came in from the outside. And in only four years, through intimidation, bullying, buyouts — the usual autocratic methods — has completely wrapped the GOP around his finger. And this is how we get this complicity.

And so, those who had to wait for an armed assault with murderous intentions on the Capitol to do the right thing, like McConnell and Pence, I'm not so impressed. They were only reacting to their personal safety being jeopardized. So, any legacy reckoning with the Trump era has to actually focus on how successful he's been at getting people to be their worst selves.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Professor Ben-Ghiat, you tweeted, "Historian of coups and right-wing authoritarians here. If there are not severe consequences for every lawmaker & Trump govt official who backed this, every member of the Capitol Police who collaborated with them, this 'strategy of disruption' will escalate in 2021." If you would elaborate further and end by talking about what is deeply concerning to so many people right now, that this was just a first attack?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: So, when Trump says this, "Our beautiful" — or, "Our journey is just beginning," I had already been very worried that this would be — that Trump and the GOP — Trump will act as an outside agitator when he leaves. And this would be a strategy of trying to delegitimize the Biden administration — they've already been trying to sabotage it with nonaction on coronavirus, economic misery — but to make America so ungovernable and so difficult to govern, so chaotic, so violent, under Biden and Harris, that it creates more desire for law and order, and in come the Trumps back again, or Trump proxies.

So, I'm very worried that this — there's already a, quote, "armed march" being planned for January 17th around the nation. And once you legitimize and give a presidential imprimatur to extremism, and once you convince — you plant people throughout federal agencies, you know, you radicalize law enforcement, as Bill Barr, who stepped away but has a huge amount of responsibility for this, it's very hard to turn this back.

AMY GOODMAN: Ruth Ben-Ghiat, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, author of the book Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall. We will link to her new piece at CNN titled "Trump's end game? Power at all costs."

Next up, we look at Big Tech's response to the Capitol insurrection. Twitter has permanently banned Donald Trump. Parler is offline. We'll host a debate.

Blackwater’s youngest victim: 9-year-old Ali Kinani was among victims of Trump’s pardoned killers

President Trump's pardon of four former Blackwater contractors convicted for their role in a massacre in Baghdad has sparked outrage in Iraq. The Blackwater guards include Nicholas Slatten, who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the 2007 Nisoor Square massacre, when he and other Blackwater mercenaries opened fire with machine guns and grenades on a crowded public space in Baghdad, killing 17 unarmed civilians, including women and children. The youngest victim was a 9-year-old named Ali Kinani. We re-broadcast clips from a short documentary, "Blackwater's Youngest Victim," by The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill and filmmaker Rick Rowley, that first aired on Democracy Now! in 2010.


“Blackwater’s Youngest Victim”: 9-Year-Old Ali Kinani Was Among Victims of Trump’s Pardoned Killers www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

President Trump's pardon of four former Blackwater mercenaries convicted for their role in a massacre in Baghdad has sparked outrage in Iraq. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the decision violates, quote, "the values of justice, human rights and rule of law" and, quote, "ignores the dignity of the victims," unquote. The Blackwater guards included Nicholas Slatten, who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the 2007 Nisoor Square massacre, when he and other Blackwater mercenaries opened fire with machine guns and grenades on a crowded public space in Baghdad, killing 17 unarmed civilians, including women and children, the youngest victim a 9-year-old boy named Ali Kinani.

Later in the program, we'll be joined by a lawyer who sued Blackwater over the massacre, but first we turn to a short documentay by Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley that first aired on Democracy Now! in 2010. It features an interview with Ali Kinani's father, Mohammed Kinani. This is Blackwater's Youngest Victim.

MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] I'm not just remembering the scene. I'm reliving it as if it were happening now. I will never forget those few minutes. So whatever you ask me, I will answer with absolute clarity.
All I could hear from my car were gunshots and the sound of glass shattering and the sound of tires blown out with bullets. I started to scream, "They killed my son! They killed my son!" What can I tell you? It was like the end of days. With cold blood and stone hearts, they continued shooting.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Baghdad, September 16, 2007. Shortly before noon, a convoy of four armored vehicles departs the Green Zone, the heavily fortified U.S. base in Iraq. The men inside of the vehicles were elite private soldiers working for Blackwater. Their code name: Raven 23.
The men had defied orders from their superiors to remain in the Green Zone and proceeded on to the streets of Baghdad. As they departed, they were again told to return to base. They didn't.
Within minutes, Blackwater Raven 23 would arrive at the congested Baghdad intersection known as Nisoor Square. Fifteen minutes later, at least 17 Iraqi civilians would be dead, more than 20 others wounded, in a shooting that would go down in infamy as Baghdad's Bloody Sunday.
You probably have never heard his name, but you likely know something about how 9-year-old Ali Mohammed Hafedh Kinani died. He was the youngest person killed by Blackwater forces at Nisoor Square.
This is the story of the death of young Ali Kinani, and his father has provided us with the most detailed eyewitness account of the Nisoor Square massacre ever given to a U.S. media outlet.
Mohammed Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Kinani and his wife Fatimah lived with their three children in Baghdad. Mohammed ran his family's auto parts business, and he adored his youngest son Ali, whom the family affectionately called by his kid nickname, Allawi.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] He would sleep on my arm. He was nine-and-a-half years old, but still slept on my arm. He had his own room, but he never slept alone.
When he turned 9, I told him it was time to stop using my arm as his pillow. I said, "Son, you're getting older. Go sleep with your brothers, on your bed in your room. Your name is Ali. We used to call you Allawi, but you'll be a man soon." So he said, "As you wish, father." He always said that.
So I looked and saw his feet under the door. I called him in. He opened the door and said, "Dad, I'm Allawi, not Ali." He was telling me that he was still a child. After that, he kept sleeping on my arm. It was the only pillow he ever had.
JEREMY SCAHILL: When U.S. forces rolled into Baghdad in April of 2003, Mohammed proudly took his son to greet the men he called their liberators, the U.S. military. Mohammed was that rare personification of the neoconservative narrative about the U.S. invasion.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] The first day the American Army entered Baghdad, I handed out juice and candy in the street, to celebrate our liberation from Saddam.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Before September 16th, 2007, Mohammed had never heard of Blackwater. Now he thinks of them and that day every waking moment. He remembers that Ali was not supposed to be in his car that day. Mohammed had just pulled away from his family's home on his way to pick up his sister Jenan and her children for a visit. Ali came running out of the house.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] He was quiet the whole ride. But then we passed a newly built park, a garden. So he turned to me and asked, "Daddy, when are you going to bring us here?" I told him, "Next week, hopefully, if God wills it."
JEREMY SCAHILL: Mohammed and Ali picked up Jenan and her three children and made their way back home. The return journey would bring them through Nisoor Square. When Mohammed found himself in a traffic jam at the square that day, he thought it was a U.S. military checkpoint. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him when he saw the armored vehicles block off traffic.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] One of the guards gestured toward us with his hands. This gesture means "stop." So we stopped. I and all the cars in front and behind me stopped. We followed their orders.
At that point, I didn't even know they were Blackwater. I didn't know it was a security company. I thought it was some sort of American Army unit, or maybe a military police unit. In any case, we followed their orders.
JEREMY SCAHILL: As Mohammed and his family waited in the SUV, the man in the car next to them was frantic. "I think someone was shot in the car in front of you," he told Mohammed. It was then Mohammed watched in horror as Blackwater gunners, for no apparent reason, blew up a white Kia sedan in front of his eyes. Inside, Mohammed would later learn, were a young Iraqi medical student and his mother.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] There was absolutely no shooting or any sign of danger for us or Blackwater. No one was in the slightest danger.
Suddenly, in the flash of a second, they started shooting in all directions. And it wasn't warning shots. They were shooting as if they were fighting in the field.
By the time they stopped shooting, the car looked like a sieve. This is the only way to describe it, because it was truly riddled with bullets. They finished with the first car and turned their guns on us. It turned into the apocalypse.
JEREMY SCAHILL: As chaos and blood flooded the square, Mohammed remembers the fate of one man in particular who tried to flee the Blackwater gunmen.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] Everyone was trying to escape. Whoever wasn't shot dead in their car just wanted to escape somehow. When one man tried to run, they shot him. He dropped dead on the spot. He was on the ground bleeding, and they were shooting nonstop. They shot like they were trying to kill everyone they could see. He sank into his own blood. And every minute, they would go back and shoot him again, and I could see his body shake with every bullet. He was dead, but his body shook with the bullets. He would shoot at someone else and then go back to shooting at this dead man.
The man is dead in a pool of blood. Why would you keep shooting him?
JEREMY SCAHILL: As Mohammed sat in his SUV with his 9-year-old son Ali, his sister Jenan and her three children, he realized that, for them, attempting to escape was not an option. As the shooting intensified, Mohammed yelled for the kids to get down. He and Jenan did the same.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] Bullets were coming from the right and the left. My younger sister was trying to cover me with her body. So I pulled out of her grip and covered her with my body to protect her. I have pictures that show the headrest of my sister's seat is full of bullet holes. It was horrific, extremely terrifying. I still wake up from sleep, startled.
Why? I ask. Why would they do this? We were civilians sitting in our cars. Most of the cars had families in them. So why did this happen?
I kept hearing boom, boom, boom in my car. Bullets were flying everywhere. It was horrific, horrific. I don't know. I don't know how to describe it.
After they had killed everyone in sight, my sister and I kept still. I had her rest her head on my lap, and my body was on top of her. We would sneak to peek from under the dashboard. They continued shooting here and there, killing this and that one. Then it cleared. Nothing was moving on the street. Only the Blackwater men were moving. Then, they drove off.
JEREMY SCAHILL: It seemed to Mohammed like a miracle had blessed his car. "We're alive," he thought. As the Blackwater forces retreated, Mohammed told Jenan he was going to check on the man who had been repeatedly shot by Blackwater. It was then Mohammed's world crumbled.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] When I got out of the car, my nephew said, "Uncle, Allawi is dead." My sister started screaming, and I turned to look at Ali.
I turned and saw that his window was broken. It was shot. I looked at him, and his head was resting at the side of the door. I opened the door to see if he was OK. I opened the door, and he started falling out. I stood there in shock, watching him as the door opened and his brain fell to the ground between my feet. I looked at his brain on the ground, and I pushed him back into the car. I told my sister that they had blown his brains out.
I started to scream, "They killed my son! They killed my son!" I was turning and screaming. People were standing on the roof of a nearby building, saying, "Get out! Get out!" But I was in another world. They killed my son, and I was looking at his brain.
I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. I reached through the window to check his heart, and it was beating. I told my sister, who said, "Let's rush him to the hospital. Maybe he still can make it." But I knew. His brain was on the ground. He's gone.
I turned the car, which had no water, no tires, and I spun it around. I drove towards Yarmouk Hospital.
JEREMY SCAHILL: At the hospital, Mohammed was told that because of Ali's severe head injuries, an ambulance would need to rush him across town to a neurological hospital.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] Riding in the ambulance, I was completely destroyed. My son was dying in front of my eyes. He was suffering. His arms were shaking and almost pulled out the IVs. So I held his hands still.
He died. What can I say? My son. Up to the night before his death, my son never slept alone.
JEREMY SCAHILL: After Ali died, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad contacted Mohammed, offering his family a $10,000 condolence payment, making clear it was not a remedy for what happened and not a substitute for any potential legal action against the shooters. Initially, Mohammed refused the money, but the embassy pursued his family, urging them to take it. They eventually did, but with one condition: that half the money be donated to the family of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. Mohammed's wife Fatimah delivered the gift to the U.S. Embassy.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] This is a gift from Ali's family to whichever family you choose, the family of any soldier who lost his life for the sake of Iraq. I want you to give it as a gift. I know it is insignificant, but it is an emotional and moral gesture from us to them.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Mohammed carries around a letter sent his family by General Ray Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. "Your substantial generosity on behalf of the families of fallen American soldiers," Odierno wrote, "has touched me deeply."
While Mohammed and his family mourned the death of Ali, half a world away in Washington, D.C., Blackwater's owner, Erik Prince, was summoned before the U.S. Congress. Blackwater, Prince said, had been the victim of an armed ambush by Iraqi insurgents at Nisoor Square, and he defended the conduct of his men, saying they had, quote, "acted appropriately at all times."
REP. DANNY DAVIS: You do admit that Blackwater personnel have shot and killed innocent civilians, don't you?
ERIK PRINCE: No, sir. I disagree with that. I think there's been times when guys are using defensive force to protect themselves, to protect the package. They're trying to get away from danger. There could be ricochets. There are traffic accidents, yes. This is war. You know.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Mohammed watched those hearings live and was outraged.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] I wish they would ask the head of Blackwater: Did he think that this child was a threat to his company? This giant company with all the biggest weapons, guns and planes — was this boy a threat to them?
JEREMY SCAHILL: At the hearing, a State Department document was produced revealing that before Nisoor Square, the department had coordinated with Blackwater to set a low payout for Iraqi shooting victims, because, in the words of a department security official, if it was too high, Iraqis may try "to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family's future."
Despite Prince's brazen denials, the thought of suing Blackwater didn't cross Mohammed's mind. He didn't want anyone's money. He readily cooperated with the U.S. military and federal investigators, and he believed that justice would be done in America.
Then, he says, Blackwater stepped in.
In February of 2008, ABC News did a brief story about Mohammed. The day the story was posted online, Blackwater's attorney threatened to take legal action against the network, accusing ABC of defamation.
What outraged Mohammed was that Blackwater denied its forces killed Ali, claiming instead that he was killed by a stray bullet, possibly fired by the U.S. military an hour after Blackwater personnel had departed the scene. Blackwater claimed Ali was hit by a warning shot that ricocheted and killed him. It was not even possible, the Blackwater lawyer claimed, that Blackwater was responsible.
Shortly after that, Mohammed said an Iraqi attorney approached him. But he wasn't just any lawyer. Ja'afar al Moussawy was the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, which prosecuted Saddam Hussein. He was the Iraqi lawyer. Mohammed agreed to meet with Moussawy and Blackwater's regional manager. He says they offered him $20,000.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] I said, "I'm not taking a penny from you. I want nothing." I asked them if they wanted to resolve the problem. They said, "Yes." I said, "OK, get me a pen and paper." I said, "Look, I have the paper, and I can sign and waive all my rights. All of them. I will sign now, but under one condition: I want the head of Blackwater to apologize publicly to me in America and say, 'We killed your son, and we're sorry.' That's all I want." I told them, "I don't want $50 or $20,000. I just want him to publicly apologize. That would be enough for me."
Blackwater's regional manager said, "We do not apologize." I said, "You kill my son and go on TV and publicly accuse me and all Iraqis of being mercenaries who intentionally have you kill us for the compensation. And you were under oath in front of Congress, and you tell me you will not apologize. What did you want, then? Why did you bring me here?" He said, "No, we won't apologize."
JEREMY SCAHILL: Mohammed then confronted the Blackwater manager about the company's claim that the U.S. military, not Blackwater, may have killed Ali.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] I told the manager, "My son was killed in the car with me. How can you say it was the military? Do you want to stain the reputation the American Army? The American Army is innocent of this. Why would you blame this on them? Do you want us to hate them more? Aren't you an American company, and this is your national military? Why would you do this to your own?" I told them, "We love the American Army more than you do."
JEREMY SCAHILL: Mohammed threw the pen and paper at the Blackwater manager and left the meeting.
MOHAMMED KINANI: [translated] So I had no choice but to go the legal route and take things to court.
JEREMY SCAHILL: As we wrap up our time together, Mohammed Kinani shows us a cellphone video of young Ali hopping around a swimming pool with his cousins and siblings. With a smile ear to ear, Ali approaches Mohammed's cellphone camera and says to his dad, "I am Allawi."
ALI KINANI: [translated] I am Allawi. I am Allawi.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Blackwater's Youngest Victim, a short documentary by Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley that first aired on Democracy Now! in 2010.

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