There’s bad timing. There’s awful timing. And then there’s Brit Hume from Fox News. As The Washington Post reports, Hume went on the Twitter Thursday morning to continue Fox’s ongoing sneer at the seriousness of events on Jan. 6.
“Here’s a thought,” wrote Hume. “Let’s base our view on whether 1/6 was an ‘insurrection’ on whether those arrested are charged with insurrection. So far, none has been.”
For months, this refrain has been running on right-wing media and spewing from the mouths of Republicans on Capitol Hill: If the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was so serious, then why has no one been charged with a serious crime? Sure, the DOJ may have indicted over 700 people, but those who have been sentenced to date have faced only charges such as “entering and remaining in a restricted building” or “illegal picketing.” These relatively picayune crimes, and the small sentences attached, have been held up again and again as “proof” that what happened on Jan. 6 was no big deal.
After all, how could there be an “insurgency” if the worst someone was being charged with was a grab bag of misdemeanors? The constant hammering on this point helps to explain how an AP poll shows that fewer than half of Republicans believe that the Jan. 6 assault was “very violent.” A third of Republicans said that what happened that day wasn’t violent at all.
Less than four hours after Hume exercised his Twitter fingers, everything changed.
That’s because Thursday brought charges of seditious conspiracy against a group of Oath Keepers involved in the Jan. 6 attack. The indictment in that case explicitly names a conspiracy to “oppose by force” the final count of electoral votes and to use violence to provide cover so that Donald Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act as a prelude to overturning the election.
The last time anyone was convicted of seditious conspiracy was in 1995 when a group of terrorists led by “The Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman built bombs and planned a series of attacks on the United States. Abdel-Rahman died 22 years later. Still in federal prison. Those are the ranks that Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and his followers have now joined.
Which makes this tweet more than a little ironically satisfying.
As the Post points out, the strange thing about the whole “well if it’s so serious, why are there no serious charges?” tack from Republicans and their friends in media, was that it was clearly doomed to failure from the outset.
Yes, the people sentenced to this point might not be getting hit with crimes at the top of the felonies list, but the DOJ had always made it clear it was dealing with the simplest cases first—cases in which those involved were not directly connected to violent assault and had not been involved in the planning of events on Jan. 6.
Some of those already sentenced were highly visible jackasses like “Q-Anon shaman” Jacob Chansley (41 months in federal prison for Obstruction of an Official Proceeding). Others are still to face their day in court, like Richard “boots on Nancy’s desk” Barnett, who tried to convince the FBI that he had only entered the Capitol because he “was looking for a bathroom.” It’s likely Barnett will end up with similar to that of Chansley — though he could get longer, thanks to a charge of theft of federal property.”
But, despite how visible these people were in coverage of the day, they are still the little fish in the vast sea of Jan. 6 offenses.
As David Neiwert reported, the Oath Keeper crew indicted on Thursday spent months planning to bring their own brand of violence to Jan. 6. That included “organizing trainings to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics” as well as “bringing and contributing paramilitary gear, weapons, and supplies—including knives, batons, camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection, and radio equipment.” Rhodes told his followers to prepare for a “bloody” operation, and that they were going to “war.”
This is unlikely to be the last such indictment connected to Jan. 6. Other groups, including members of the Proud Boys and state militias were present, and it’s clear that many of these groups also engaged in advance planning and discussions of potential violence.
In addition to these groups, there are others like Alabama resident Lonnie Coffman who has already entered a guilty plea connected to showing up at the Capitol with firearms as well as a “cooler with Mason jars he filled with gasoline and melted plastic foam to produce a dangerous ‘napalm-like’ explosion of sticky, flammable liquid.” And there are Eric Munchel and Larry Brock, who prowled through the House chamber in tactical gear carrying Zip Tie restraints in hopes of taking members of Congress hostage. That pair is currently in custody facing only charges related to entering the Capitol—but the list of crimes attached to them will almost certainly grow.
Still to be sentenced are almost all of the insurgents who are known to have assaulted police with tear gas, batons, flag poles, tasers, and other weapons. Those who engaged in the destruction of public property, such as those who smashed through doors and windows to gain entry to the Capitol, are also still cooling their heels in what Marjorie Taylor Greene calls “patriot prison.” They may not get charges of sedition, but they will get some serious time in federal prisons.
But even when all the faces on the FBI’s photo list—which includes over 200 people still being sought—are arrested and charged, it still won’t be the last word on insurrection.
The big charges against the Oath Keepers aren’t coming because of things they posted on their Facebook accounts that day, or videos they made while spreading feces on the walls. Those charges are coming because they planned, communicated, and executed a scheme intended to interfere in the lawful duties of the Congress and the operation of the United States government. That communication between a group is what makes it a conspiracy. That intention is what makes it seditious.
And on that basis, even the Oath Keepers are tiny fish. There’s a big orange whale out there, surrounded by a lot of red sharks. And they should all be worried.
Oh, and one final point.
To bolster their claims about Jan. 6 being no big deal, Fox News has been turning to the internet’s most reliable professional troll, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald recently went on Laura Ingraham’s nightly propaganda and dismissed the whole idea that anyone would face serious charges over Jan. 6.
“What happened here, Laura,” said Greenwald, “is that [congressional investigators] know the Justice Department is not going to deliver on this narrative that they peddled for eight months, which was that this was an insurrection, these people are traitors, that they engaged in sedition. No one is charged with any of those things.”
Consider this your regular reminder: Greenwald is a troll. He’s only a troll. He contributes nothing to the national conversation and exists only because people follow him and give him power. Don’t do that.