The January 6 Report:White Supremacy at the Heart of January 6 Events

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I assume you all know the basics about the report contents, but if you’d like a brief overview here you go. The January 6 report, like the televised hearings, is organized around the seven methods Trump and his allies used to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election:

  1. Spreading the lie that the election was stolen.
  2. Strong-arming Department of Justice into disputing the election results to give credence to the lies.
  3. Pressuring state and local officials to overturn their results based on the lies.
  4. The fake elector scheme (sending fake electors to Washington, D.C.) for the electoral count vote on January 6.
  5. Pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to accept the fake electors as real.
  6. Summoning an angry violent mob to Washington to pressure Pence and the Republicans in Congress to refuse to certify the election for Biden, and sending the mob to the Capitol.
  7. Sitting back in the White House dining room for more than three hours, watching the coverage of the violence on Fox News, and doing nothing to stop it, despite the ability to do so. 

Overview: White Supremacy at the Center of the January 6 Events

The January 6 Report appropriately puts Trump at the center of the complex, wide-ranging, multi-pronged plot to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

But from the report we also learn that putting the blame entirely at Trump’s feet means missing the larger picture: the growing threat of right-wing extremists who heeded Trump’s call to come to Washington and who were carrying out the attack. In Bennie Thompson’s words, these extremists “subscribe to racism, anti-Semitism, and violent conspiracy theories; those who would march through the halls of the Capitol waving the Confederate battle flag.” It is no coincidence that among the first to breach the Capitol building was a man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt or that the Confederate flag was carried through the Capitol.

Among the advance warnings received by law enforcement was an email entitled, “Neo-Nazi Calls on D.C. Pro-Trump Protesters to Occupy Federal Building” making clear who these actors were.

This danger posed by these groups predates Trump and will outlive him. Trump exploited these groups to his own ends, but he didn’t create the problem. (I won’t go into the history of these militia groups over the past few decades. That’s a separate post.)

These extremists share an ideology with Nick Fuentes, an America First leader who participated in the J6 events. Fuentes espouses “a belief that they are defending against the demographic and cultural changes in America.”

In other words, they resent the increasingly diverse electorate. I found a detail about the Proud Boys initiation rite telling. As part of their initiation, Proud Boys take the following oath: “I am a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” The oath echoes the Nazi belief in a master race that created all the great civilizations of the world. In other words, it’s about race and male dominance.

We learn from the report how Trump called these extremists to Washington and, at his bidding, they carried out a well-coordinated armed attack on the United States Capitol. The report stresses that various extremist groups who were not previously aligned pulled together to coordinate the attack: The Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, white nationalist Groypers and others. Their intent was to intimidate Pence and others into rejecting electors from states that Biden won or, should that fail, delay the certification of the election long enough to create chaos and buy Trump and his allies more time.

To take one example of how Trump transmitted his instructions to the leaders of these groups, Timothy Hale-Cusanelli—an avowed white supremacist—heard about Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet while in the Crypt. He knew it meant Pence had decided not to keep President Trump in power. He therefore understood it was time to storm the building.

The House Judiciary Committee in 2021 pointed out the problem:

“Over the course of the last four years, every corner of the United States has felt the impact of rise of domestic terrorism.

Communities of faith, peaceful protesters, and even the United States Congress itself have been attacked by domestic terrorists. The Executive Branch has an array of statutory authorities to prevent attacks and bring charges against domestic terrorists including those that are White supremacists.

And yet, the government’s response to these extremist groups in general has been inadequate.”

While the report gives details about all the warning intelligence had about the planned violence, the report failed to analyze the reasons for what has been widely called an intelligence failure, but in fact, was more like a “failure to heed the warnings.”

One reason, perhaps, for the failed government response is the number of people in key positions who sympathize with these extremists, or at the very least, share some of their views. Consider, for example, that as part of the group’s mission, Oath Keepers have directed their recruiting effort toward members of the military, law enforcement and other public-safety positions. Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, told the committee that in 2019, the Oath Keepers had roughly 40,000 dues-paying members—roughly 20% of whom worked in law enforcement. So it stands to reason that at least some of those who were supposed to protect the Capitol were sympathetic to the views of the attackers. By this point Trump had four years to move people sympathetic to these views into key positions.

Moreover, it’s comparatively easy for Americans to rally against foreign entities that seek to use force to impose their will on our country.

But when the people resorting to force are Americans with a different idea of what kind of country we should become, it becomes much more difficult to rally against them. This is particularly true if they hold official positions at various levels and/or if they include family, acquaintances, and neighbors.

If millions of Americans are sympathetic to these views, we have a problem not easily solved. This is particularly true when a major political party is aligning itself to the ideals espoused by these groups. For example, Christian Nationalism, according to Christianity Today, includes the belief that “America is defined by its “Anglo-Protestant” past and that we will lose our identity and our freedom if we do not preserve our cultural inheritance.”

People who believe that they will lose their “identity and freedom” if the United States does not preserve itself as  “Anglo-Protestant” cannot tolerate America’s electorate becoming more racially and culturally diverse.

This is the cultural clash that brought us the insurrection of January 6.

The catch is this: As we move closer to a true multi-racial democracy (which we’ve been struggling to do since the Civil Rights movement) these groups will get angrier and hence more violent.

Thus, while it was appropriate to put Trump at the center of the report, the larger picture is that we have a growing problem with extremism triggered by the increasingly diverse American electorate.

Some Impressions

As I read through the report, I grabbed screenshots of things that I found interesting. If you watched each of the televised hearings and have been reading the major DOJ indictments, not much was new, but some was, and some things struck me as particularly interesting. Because I am not looking for the major revelations (those have been talked about) this collection of observations may seem random.

Here we go. (The document is searchable, so you can search and land on any of these snippets.)

#1: Julie Fancelli, billionaire heiress to the Publix supermarket fortune, spent $3 million on the Stop the Steal rally.

# 2: This is a peek at an attempted cover-up: Katrina Pierson told Justin Caporale and Taylor Budowich in a text that Trump expected to send everyone over to the Capitol. Caporale tried to redact that text message in his original production of text messages to the committee. But when other witnesses revealed the text message, he too decided to reveal them.

What people try to conceal tells us what is important.

#3: “[P]eacefully and patriotically” was scripted for Trump by the White House speech writers. This is important because that was the phrase that Republicans used when defending him in his second impeachment to show that he didn’t intend the speech to incite violence. The argument, of course, that because he said “peacefully” his other phrases like “fight like hell” were intended to be figurative. Finding out how Trump edited the speech on the fly vs. what his scriptwriters insisted on adding pretty much debunks that defense.

We also learn that persuading Trump to include “peaceful” in the Tweets he sent after the violence began was not easy:

Notice that “stay peaceful” was a lie. Trump knew what was happening wasn’t peaceful (he had been watching the violence unfold on Fox News) which may explain why he liked it. The lie itself was a signal to his supporters who carried out the attack.

One of the more startling details to come out of the hearings was that Trump wanted to march to the Capitol with the insurrectionists and was furious that he wasn’t able to do so.

#4 Here we find out that he wanted the National Guard to accompany him (not defend the Capitol.)

For me, this was one of the most startling details. Trump wanted the National Guard to accompany him to protect him and his supporters. The argument was that “Antifa” and BLM protesters intended to be violent, and Trump needed protection from them.

The idea that Trump and his supporters needed protection from Antifa was silly from the beginning. The Democrats won the election. The next mandated step on January 6 was for Congress to certify the election for Biden. Why, then, would people who supported Biden’s election plan violence at the Capitol? In fact, what happened was that all the left-leaning Democratic voices told counter-protesters to stay home:

We know from DOJ filings that the extremist groups expected to confront counter-protesters. Given how heavily armed and trained these guys were, such a confrontation (1) would not have gone well for the counter-protesters and (2) would have changed the nature of what happened from an unprovoked attack on the Capitol to a battle between two opposing groups. Both sides would have appeared “guilty” of violence.

#5: The question is: what would have happened, had Trump accompanied the rallygoers to the Capitol? How would that have changed the nature of the events? Here you can see that an “employee” understood that Trump going to the Capitol would change what happened from a “normal democratic” event into something else.

#6: Whether Trump would go to the Capitol remained open even after he returned to the White House, which is interesting and confirms that he really wanted to go but was thwarted by people around him:

#7: There was quite a bit of stonewalling of the investigation. People just couldn’t remember or they were vague. Kushner in particular seemed to have a very poor memory. The reality is that there isn’t much investigators can do when this happens other than find evidence that they are lying, which isn’t always easy. That’s why on my FAQ page I explain that getting to the truth can be a time-consuming and painstaking process. The DOJ has more tools to use but also has a higher standard because the DOJ needs evidence to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A congressional committee can rely on innuendo and hints. “We all know he did it” works in the court of public opinion, but not a criminal court.

#8: Interestingly, the committee acknowledges that Meadows and Scavino may be cooperating with the DOJ:

There are reasons a witness might stonewall Congress but cooperate with the DOJ. First, Congress leaks. Everything is public because, well, it’s Congress. This isn’t a bad thing because Congress’s task is to make the truth known to the American people. The DOJ, on the other hand, has to follow strict rules including keeping grand jury proceedings secret.

We know that there were mafia-style threats against witnesses, including death threats. This could dissuade people from sharing information with Congress. For example, we know that initially, Mark Meadows was cooperating with Congress then abruptly stopped. It’s not unreasonable to assume that he stopped because of threats. Later, the DOJ declined to prosecute Meadows for obstructing Congress, which originally frustrated the committee, but obviously if Meadows said to the DOJ, “Look I’ll tell you anything you want to know but I couldn’t talk to Congress because I feared for my life,” they’re obviously not going to prosecute him for Obstruction of Congress (which is a misdemeanor anyway).

Also remember that the DOJ wields a considerable amount of power in these investigations. Cooperating with the DOJ could bring rewards that balance the danger of going against the mob.

I am not saying this is what happened, but it’s a possibility and the committee acknowledges that.

#9: This was the “OMG what have we done” moment between Brad Pascale and Katrina Pierson, when Parscale realized that Trump’s rhetoric caused a woman to be killed and he (at least in that moment) regretted supporting him:

#10: McEnany and Ivanka were trying to protect Trump, but McEnany’s deputy told a different story. (Pro tip: If you told your deputy a different story than you tell Congress you may find yourself in trouble.)

#11: The committee spent much time documenting what Trump knew as the violence unfolded:

After the attack, Trump considered issuing blanket pardons for everyone involved. It’s interesting to consider what would have happened, had he done that. The Constitution gives the president blanket pardon power, and while it might be possible to challenge a corrupt pardon, constitutional scholars warn that it would be difficult. One thing constitutional scholars agree on, though, is that a self-pardon is not allowable. So had Trump pardoned everyone else, the process for getting to the truth would have been easier. Nobody would be able to stand on the Fifth because nobody would have criminal liability. In fact, the only possible liability people would have would be lying to an FBI agent.

#12: Alex Jones was in more deeply than he cared to admit later.


Conclusion: These guys are stupid enough to be both stupid and dangerous.

The transcripts

I’ve dipped in, but haven’t had much time to read this week. Meanwhile, this Politico article offers highlights from the transcripts.

Originally published by Teri Kanefield  here.

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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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