Earlier this morning Anne Laurie highlighted that the House of Representatives would be taking today off because of a threat assessment, based on intelligence collected from social media and other sources, that some group of right wing violent domestic extremists – white supremacists, neo-NAZIs, armed and illegal paramilitary groups (aka “militias” and “patriot” groups), and/or other anti-government extremists – working off of a historically bonkers QAnon drop that is itself rooted in sovereign citizen (anti-government extremist) bullshit that 4 March is the real inauguration day and that since today is 4 March, Donald J. Trump is going to be inaugurated for his second term today. And that to celebrate, these anti-American violent domestic extremists were planning on attacking the Capitol again to kill as many members of Congress as possible. Or as members of the Bundy family call it: Thursday.
Just a few minutes ago, not realizing that he’d fallen for my nefariously cunning plan to turn him into my warm up routine, Mistermix asked the following question:
My second question is why the Capital is not ringed with soldiers, why every member and staffer doesn’t have an armed escort, and why some kind of armored vehicles aren’t patrolling streets around the building so the House can meet today? (The Senate is in session, which makes little sense if you’re closing the House for a threat.) Is not capitulating to terrorists reserved for foreign terrorists only?
There are two reasons that the House decided to cancel, even though the Capitol is nominally open for business given the pandemic protocols and the US Senate – the world’s greatest deliberative country club – is in session. Both reasons are different types of insider threats. An insider threat is defined as:
An insider threat is any person with authorized access to any U.S. Government resources, including personnel, facilities, information, equipment, networks, or systems, who uses that access either wittingly or unwittingly to do harm to the security of the U.S.
This threat can include damage to the U.S. through espionage, terrorism, unauthorized disclosure of national security information, or through the loss or degradation of government, company, contract or program information, resources or capabilities.
The first of these insider threats is from within the Capitol Police specifically and Federal law enforcement in general. Right now there are six officers from the Capitol Police Department that are suspended and another twenty-nine who are under investigation as part of the ongoing investigations into the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol. As a result, there is a very real worry that members of the Capitol Police may be sympathetic to these violent domestic extremists or, even worse, actually subjectively or objectively affiliated with them. It was reported yesterday that a DEA agent from LA has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into his activities during the insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January. There is a credible threat of both specific insider threats within the Capitol Police Department and a general concern that there may be additional insider threats within and throughout other Federal law enforcement agencies. This means that those who work in the Capitol – from elected members of both chambers to their staffs to the committee staffs to the staff that just keep the building running for everyone else – may be at risk from those who are supposed to be protecting them.
The second insider threat is from members of the House Republican Caucus and/or members of their staff. Within hours of the attack on the Capitol, Democratic members of the House, led by Congresswoman Mikie Sherill, alleged that Republican members of the House and/or their staff gave reconnaissance tours to the insurrectionists in the days leading up to the attack. Congressman Tim Ryan, who chairs the sub-committee with oversight over the Capitol complex itself, indicated last week that this question is now under active investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Colombia:
Ryan also told reporters the issue of “reconnaissance tours” given by members of Congress to alleged rioters before the attack was now “in the hands of the U.S. attorney here in D.C.”
He said they were “reviewing the footage.”
In this case the concern is that there are members of the House of Representatives, specifically the House Republican caucus, or members of their staffs who aided and abetted the insurrectionists in planning and facilitating the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol on 6 January. One of the reasons that this investigation has to be done by reviewing footage and not reviewing visitor log details is because there are no visitor logs right now as the Capitol is closed to visitors under the pandemic control protocols that have been put into place. Ordinarily everyone who enters for one of these member or member’s staff given tours has to provide a significant amount of personally identifying information (PII) that would be logged into the system and cross referenced against who was escorting them, for what purposes, and the day, date, and time of entry and departure. That information isn’t available for this investigation because none of the members or their staffs are supposed to be giving tours, which makes it a perfect time to aide and abet surveillance ahead of a domestic terrorist attack by taking advantage of the normal record keeping process being suspended.
Given these two potential and suspected insider threats, it is perfectly understandable why the House would go into recess for the week a day early. It is also a terrible decision for all that it makes perfect sense. Every time one or more of these specific domestic extremists, domestic extremist group, or the members of the Republican House or Senate caucus who have decided to either represent them or indulge them in the hopes of electoral success (Senator Micro Rubio is definitely in the latter category), make a threat and get a response to them that is a rewards for making a threat, they win. Moreover, they learn that making a threat or actually carrying out a threat – stalking, harassing, and verbally assaulting members of the House or Senate, attacking the Capitol or a member’s office back in their districts and states, doing the same thing at the state and municipal levels, etc – they receive reinforcement not just for their revanchist, reactionary anti-American, and anti-constitutional beliefs, but for the actions they take to make those beliefs real. The more rewards and reinforcement they receive, the more they will engage in these behaviors and others will be inspired and motivated to adopt these beliefs and behaviors for themselves.
And that is why this moment is very different and uniquely dangerous compared to previous moments of hyper-polarization in US politics. Normally we would all want to try to make a distinction, painting with a very fine brush if you will, between those who hold ideologically extreme views, but work within the existing political system and processes to achieve their goals and those who hold those same views, but advocate and undertake the use of violence to achieve the same goals. We would want to do this because by channeling even those with ideologically extreme views through the existing political system and process it keeps them both in touch with those that don’t hold their views, exposes them to counter-arguments, and uses the system to temper their extremism by using the systems and processes to prevent their extremist beliefs from becoming extremist outcomes. This moment is unique, however, because that is both not possible and because the system is not working to do that. Hawley, Cruz, Cotton, Lee, Johnson, Grassley, McConnell, Graham, Tuberville, and almost thirty other Republicans in the Senate and Greene, Boebert, Cawthorne, Gaetz, Jordan, McCarthy, Scalise, and almost 140 other Republicans in the House have all made it explicitly clear that if the existing political system and processes won’t produce the outcomes that they prefer, that they are perfectly happy to subvert them and if that doesn’t work destroy them to achieve their objectives. Moreover, they are using the threats of and actual violence and terrorism by the violent domestic extremists to justify their actions and achieve their objectives. This is not one or two ideological fellow travelers that happened to just get elected and are not able to accomplish much. This is an insider threat from within the Republican House and Senate caucuses that make up a majority of the GOP caucus in the House and between a third and half of the Republican caucus in the Senate.
These two insider threats are the answer to MisterMix’s question.