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Two Years After Jan. 6, Capitol Attack Casts Long Shadow Over GOP That Allows Extremism to Fester

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Friday marks two years since the January 6 Capitol insurrection, when President Donald Trump incited thousands of supporters to violently storm Congress, attempting to overturn the 2020 election. The attack on the Capitol briefly shut down Congress as lawmakers fled for their safety from the mob, which included members of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and other violent extremist groups. Two years later, part of Congress has been effectively shut down again, this time because a group of far-right Republicans, including many who supported the January 6 insurrection, have blocked Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to become House speaker. We speak to Andy Campbell, senior editor at HuffPost and author of “We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism,” as the House speaker vote drags on and the Proud Boys face trial for seditious conspiracy over their involvement in the insurrection.

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

AMY GOODMAN: Today marks two years since the January 6th Capitol insurrection, when President Donald Trump incited thousands of supporters to violently storm Congress in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. The attack on the Capitol briefly shut down Congress as lawmakers fled for their safety from the mob, which included members of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and other violent extremist groups, many of them armed.

Two years later, part of Congress has been effectively shut down again, this time because a group of far-right Republicans, including many who supported the January 6th insurrection, have blocked Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to become House speaker. This means no member of the House of Representatives can be sworn in. Over the past three days, the House has held 11 votes to choose a speaker. McCarthy has failed each time to win the needed 218 votes to become speaker, despite making numerous concessions to his critics in the so-called Freedom Caucus. This is now the longest speaker election since 1859, just before the Civil War.

Meanwhile, President Biden is preparing to give a major speech today marking the second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection. He will also award Presidential Citizens Medals to 12 people who responded to the insurrection and Trump’s attacks on democracy after the 2020 election — among them, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, a mother-daughter pair of election workers from Georgia who received death threats and torrents of online abuse from Trump supporters. Another honoree will be former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten and electrocuted with a Taser by the right-wing mob. Fanone spoke Thursday and made the link between the January 6th insurrection and the congressional chaos playing out today.

MICHAEL FANONE: But if I could guarantee one thing about the new House majority, it’s this: This is just the beginning. This type of chaos will happen every single day in the House, as some of the most extreme politicians our country has ever seen hold our democracy hostage. I should know. Tomorrow marks two years since the day I almost died defending the Capitol from people who thought overthrowing the government was a good idea. The events of that day felt like a wake-up call for me and many others, that political violence is real. The worst part is that our elected leaders allowed this to happen.

And yet, this week, people who encouraged and even attended the insurrection are now taking their places as leaders in the new House majority — people like Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who said insurrectionists would have won on January 6th if she had been involved, or Representative Matt Gaetz, who encouraged voters to arm themselves at the polls.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone. On Thursday, the partner of the deceased Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died one day after responding to the insurrection, sued Donald Trump and two of the rioters who attacked Sicknick, for his wrongful death. Brian Sicknick died after suffering two strokes; the medical examiner said the events of January 6th “played a role in his condition.”

Biden will also honor Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a brain injury after being beaten by rioters. She testified before the January 6th House select committee in June.

CAROLINE EDWARDS: When I fell behind that line, and I saw — I can just remember my breath catching in my throat, because what I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I had seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. You know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up. They were — you know, they had — I mean, I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. You know, I was catching people as they fell. You know, I was — it was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t — I can’t even describe what I saw.

AMY GOODMAN: The second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection comes as five members of the far-right group Proud Boys are on trial for seditious conspiracy, opening arguments expected next week.

We’re joined now by Andy Campbell, senior editor at HuffPost and the author of We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism.

Andy, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. So, today is the second anniversary. Two years ago today, the violent mob attacked the Capitol. And it is so interesting, as they stopped congressional proceedings then, for a time, that today, two years later, we’re seeing the House paralyzed. No member of the House of Representatives can be sworn in, the new ones or the old ones. No one gets classified briefings — nothing — because of what’s happening here. Can you draw a parallel between who was involved two years ago and who is involved today?

ANDY CAMPBELL: Sure. And thanks, Amy, for having me on again.

Look, we are seeing a GOP that’s hoist by its own petard. I mean, this is a party that has built its identity around nationalism, around bigotry, around political violence, and particularly around trolling, not around policy necessarily. And so, now you have these 20 holdouts who are that directive personified. You have people like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene. And you have Paul Gosar, an avowed sort of white nationalist character who pals around with extremists and goes on — goes to white nationalist conferences to speak. And so you have these very extreme far-right voices throwing a wrench in the spokes, and this is exactly what the MAGA party has built for themselves. And so, they’re kind of seeing the consequences of their own actions when these holdouts are kind of holding Congress hostage.

But what they’re doing is they’re, you know, displaying power. The very far-right, very racist, very loud and popular troll wing of the GOP has sort of been building this parallel power structure alongside the GOP for years under Trump. And now with this four-vote majority that the Republicans have in the House, they’re able to exercise that power by holding the speaker hostage here.

And so, it’s interesting that this is happening on the anniversary of January 6, because those same people who are holding Congress hostage now are the same people who helped foment the insurrection and who, after the fact, still cast doubt on the 2020 election. Many of them are Trump loyalists and election deniers and voted to overturn the election. And so, what we’re seeing is that the spirit of January 6 is still very much alive, and we are seeing it play out in the halls of Congress today.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can talk about, since you wrote the book We Are Proud Boys, the connection between the pro-insurrectionist congressmembers and the Proud Boys? And talk about who they are. But I wanted to ask you about the people who are leading this movement right now. I mean, you have, what, Matt Gaetz, the congressman from Florida, who is under investigation for underage sex trafficking. You’ve got Lauren Boebert from — she ran a restaurant in, what, Rifle, Colorado, called Shooters Grill. It’s been shut down because the owners of the building wouldn’t renew her lease. She encouraged her waiters to openly carry guns as they served their customers. And now they’ve removed magnetometers — this was one of the demands of Boebert and the others in this ultraconservative so-called Freedom Caucus — from the House. She had originally — I think it’s the reason why House Speaker, at the time, Nancy Pelosi had put up magnetometers — said she was going to carry a Glock onto the floor of the House. Looking at the New York Post, they said she refused to say Tuesday if she plans to bring a gun into the House of Representatives as authorities removed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s magnetometers from the entrances. Go through these people one by one, and talk about their connection to Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and what happened two years ago today.

ANDY CAMPBELL: Sure. I mean, Lauren Boebert is sort of leading the charge here on this ultra-far-right group of holdouts. You know, she also called Ilhan Omar a terrorist. I mean, if you try to look at Boebert’s policies, they are few and far between. A lot of these guys want to push very nationalist policy. They want to push the anti-woke agenda. I think they want to criminalize doctors who give gender-affirming care. So, these are sort of cruel policies, if you look really hard.

But most of all, these are sort of bigoted trolls, very connected to the insurrection. You have Paul Gosar of Arizona, who, like I said, went on to speak at a white nationalist conference two years running, alongside Marjorie Taylor Greene. He said at one point that he fomented the revolution on January 6. You have Matt Gaetz, who has pushed white supremacist conspiracy theories about the replacement of white men and has also had Proud Boys work security at his events over the years. And so, you have — these characters are connected to the insurrection in the way that they believe it was justified, or at least believe that the election was stolen.

And then, the Proud Boys are these foot soldiers that act on behalf of the GOP’s grievances. And so, while the Boeberts and Gaetzes and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of America are pushing, you know, anti-LGBTQ sentiment, anti-immigrant sentiment, the Proud Boys are mobilizing on these grievances. And certainly, we know that dozens of Proud Boys joined hundreds of other extremists to make January 6 happen. And so, there is absolutely a connection there between the people sitting there in the House today and the Proud Boys. And, you know, I think it shows that what we are looking at happening out there isn’t — like, Boebert isn’t trying to make some real policy changes happen today. She’s trying to show power and show that this small group of ultra-far-right insurrectionists can wield power in the Republican Party.

And the Proud Boys, being those foot soldiers, are sitting in court today. The jury is being selected for their seditious conspiracy trial. And what’s interesting about that trial is that we’re going to learn more about their connections to the GOP leading up to January 6, because there are a number of Proud Boys who have already pleaded guilty, and they will be testifying against their own in that seditious conspiracy trial. So we may learn more about their connections to people like Roger Stone, Trump’s top confidant, who counts the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, as one of his friends and mentees. We may learn more about the security that they did for certain members of Congress. And we may learn more about their connection to Trump’s inner circle. So, this is going to be a huge trial, and it’s going to have big implications for the GOP going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us who the Proud Boys are, who Enrique Tarrio and the at least four other Proud Boys who are on trial are.

ANDY CAMPBELL: Right. So, the Proud Boys are a far-right street gang that were launched in late 2016, early 2017. They were created on the far-right talk show of Gavin McInnes, who was also the co-founder of Vice Media. And he built them to basically mobilize on Trump and the GOP’s grievances and go out there and do what crusty old Republicans can’t do, and fight people in the street, based on what the GOP is complaining about. And so, on any given day, the complaint might change. Sometimes it’s BLM, sometimes it’s antifa, sometimes it’s LGBTQ. Right now it’s very much LGBTQ. And sometimes it’s the election. And they have mobilized over the years, over and over, based on those grievances.

Now, there are five Proud Boys on trial for seditious conspiracy. The Justice Department believes that they had a hand not only in making the insurrection happen on the day, but planning it leading up. Trump, during a debate in 2020, said, “Proud Boys, stand back, stand by.” And there’s some debate over what he meant by that, but the Proud Boys immediately took it as marching orders. One of the guys on trial, Joe Biggs, posted a blog titled “The Second Civil War Is Coming.” He said, “Clean your guns, get ammo, and be ready, because it’s about to get really bad.” Enrique Tarrio started raising funds, amassing weapons, amassing people, recruiting. He said — he told me, in an interview, that he had never gotten so many recruiting calls than in the moments after Trump said, “Stand back, stand by,” at that debate. So they were gearing up for January 6, which they saw as their final stand for Trump. And they were doing what they do best, which is amassing all of these people, you know, different extremists from across the country, polling them, telling them to show up on January 6 for Donald Trump.

And then, of course, we know from the January 6 committee’s reports and the convictions that have already happened, that once the plan was in place, once the insurrection began, Trump did absolutely nothing to stop the mob, and, in fact, incited them throughout the day to continue on this parade of violence. The Justice —

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to YouTube video created by Vic Berger back in 2018, which features Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, discussing the group’s origins, as well as calling for violence in the streets.

GAVIN McINNES: I started this gang called the Proud Boys. And —

JOE ROGAN: The Proud Boys?

GAVIN McINNES: The Proud Boys.

JOE ROGAN: What is — what’s Proud Boys about?

GAVIN McINNES: We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys, in a nutshell. We will kill you. We look nice. We seem soft. We have “boys” in our name. But like Bill the Butcher and the Bowery Boys, we will assassinate you. Now, part of the reason I agreed to do the talk is because I’m allowed to bring all my guys, and we can fight our way in and fight our way out.

Beating the [bleep] our of these people, I think it’s our job to do it.

PROUD BOY: [bleep] you, mother [bleep]!

GAVIN McINNES: And the cops’, to turn a blind eye.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can talk about McInnes and also this latest headline this week, NYPD facing new backlash after officers escorted members of the far-right Proud Boys to a subway station, apparently helping them evade their fares, after they sought to disrupt Drag Story Hour, a popular reading event for children, at a Queens library last year? You know, you have them cracking down on fare evasion, flooding subway stations with police, but they’re escorting the Proud Boys?

ANDY CAMPBELL: Right, right. So, you know, who you heard right there is Gavin McInnes. That guy you just heard is expected to possibly be a character witness for his Proud Boys at their sedition trial. So, you can see what their ideology is. Their ideology is political violence. He put political violence in their rules set. And certainly the misogyny and anti-LGBTQ and racist sentiment is within their tenets. And so, he kind of created that worldview for the Proud Boys and unleashed them on the world.

But, like you said, with this incident in New York, the Proud Boys have shown resiliency time and time again, despite being involved in all sorts of domestic extremism events. January 6, and all of the hundreds of prosecutions that we’ve seen following that, has done almost nothing to tamp down our street-level political violent extremist sect. I mean, the Proud Boys are mobilizing today at rapid clip. You have Tucker Carlson on Fox News complaining about Drag Queen Story Hour, and the Proud Boys are going out in the street and harassing and attacking Drag Queen Story Hours. This isn’t just in New York; it’s all across the country, at public libraries and anywhere they have drag events.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I know, Andy, you’re headed down to Washington, D.C., to cover this seditious conspiracy trial of the Proud Boys, and we hope to have you back on. Andy Campbell, senior editor at HuffPost, author of We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism.

Coming up, the Russian president has declared a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine. We’ll hear from Bishop William Barber on why he supports a Christmas truce on both sides. Back in 30 seconds.

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