It comes as no surprise, of course, that several Republican members of Congress and White House staff were “intimately involved” in planning and executing the Jan. 6th Trump coup attempt. The detailed revelations published by Rolling Stone magazine this weekend, however, provide the opportunity to repeat something this publication has been saying ever since the day of the failed fascist insurrection: Expel the coup plotters from Congress, prosecute them, and jail them.
With the Jan. 6th House Select Committee’s inquiry into the coup heating up and the possibility of criminal consequences looming, some of Trump’s lower-level foot soldiers are running scared and turning state’s evidence. Two people involved with organizing and planning the Jan. 6th rallies that resulted in the storming of the Capitol are now spilling their guts to the press and will soon divulge what they know to House investigators. Turns out there’s no loyalty among (election) thieves.
The two anonymous figures remain Republican loyalists but, feeling abandoned by Trump, they are eager to point fingers at those they claim led them down the road of sedition. “They made us all look like shit,” one said. The other lamented, “I’m pretty pissed about it, and I’m pissed at him (Trump).”
It has long been known that GOP representatives and senators played a role in the Jan. 6th coup attempt—many of them gave advance Capitol tours to the terrorists, spoke at rallies and events, or defended rioters afterward. The information provided by these two organizers, however, directly implicates Republican politicians in ways that will be tough to deny. It proves that GOP leaders not only knew what might happen when the Electoral College results were being certified but also that they aided and encouraged the forces seeking to violently reverse Trump’s loss.
The organizers told Hunter Walker, writer for Rolling Stone, that in the weeks leading up to the attack they talked to “probably close to a dozen” members of Congress or their staff. “I remember Marjorie Taylor Greene specifically,” one of them said, referring to the gun-toting, QAnon-conspiracy-peddling, and COVID-denying representative from Georgia.
Also pinpointed is Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who has vigorously defended the coup attempt since it happened. Before the insurrection occurred, he allegedly went as far as offering the would-be Capitol rioters advance presidential pardons.
“Our impression was that it was a done deal,” one of them said, “that he’d spoken to the president about it in the Oval, in a meeting about pardons, and that our names came up.” Gosar reportedly assured them, “I was just going over the list of pardons, and we just wanted to tell you guys how much we appreciate all the hard work you’ve been doing.”
The list of Republican Congressional conspirators stretches on: Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.
“We would talk to Boebert’s team, Cawthorn’s team, Gosar’s team like back to back to back to back.”
Cawthorn and Brooks shared the stage with Trump when he sent his hordes marching toward Capitol Hill that afternoon. Clad in body armor, Brooks told the assembled “patriots” to start “taking down names and kicking ass.”
It’s not only members of Congress who are implicated. Top Trump administration officials also conferred regularly with the organizers in advance of the riot. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was “100 percent made aware of what was going on,” said one of the organizers. Even when the two planners warned Meadows that violence was being planned by some forces, no action was taken to stop it. If Meadows knew, then Trump knew.
Meadows has been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6th House Select Committee, along with Trump accomplices Steve Bannon, Daniel Scavino, and Kashyap Patel.
A direct connection to the Trump campaign was Katrina Pierson—“our go-to-girl”—who apparently served as the organizers’ primary advocate within the White House. She worked for Trump’s political operation in both 2016 and 2020.
The Republicans indicted in the Rolling Stone exposé, if they’re saying anything at all, are reacting as expected, refuting claims they participated in or encouraged illegal activities. Brooks said, “I don’t know anything.” Boebert said she “had no role” and accused the media of acting as a “messaging tool for the radical left.”
Several others, however, kept up their Jan. 6th denialism. Gohmert implied the FBI staged the whole affair, and Greene essentially re-endorsed the riot, saying the Declaration of Independence directs Americans to “overthrow tyrants.” She went on to minimize the Trump coup attempt using typical Red Scare racist propaganda, saying on Monday, “There’s a clear difference between Jan. 6th and the Marxist-communist revolution that Antifa, BLM, Democrat ground troops waged on the American people.”
It’s good that the Jan. 6th House Select Committee will be receiving this information, as it is essential to fully uncovering the truth of what happened that day and determining who was involved in it. But what power does a House committee have to indict, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators? None.
As Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said after the Rolling Stone revelations, “They tried to overthrow the government, they had a plan, they executed it, and they broke many laws along the way.” Only the formal legal system has the authority and capacity to pursue charges against those responsible. A Congressional report, on its own, is no substitute for prosecutorial action.
That’s why the Department of Justice should be conducting its own investigations and filing criminal charges against all those involved in the Jan. 6th coup attempt—not just the low-level rally participants and Capitol trespassers taken to court so far, but also members of Congress, White House staffers, and the big money interests who financed the operation (whom the two witnesses have promised to disclose).
If the likes of Greene, Gosar, Gohmert, and the rest are allowed to remain perched in Congress, they will be there to again lend their power and influence to future attempts to destroy democracy in this country.
But as the DOJ appears unwilling to drag the conspirators before a judge and cart them off to jail, the leadership in Congress would be wise to follow the advice of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The New York congresswoman was blunt and direct in prescribing an immediate remedy in a tweet Sunday night: “Any member of Congress who helped plot a terrorist attack on our nation’s Capitol must be expelled.”
Given how far the fascist rot extends in the Republican Party, that could mean nearly half of Congress will need to be kicked out. But for now, expelling those named in these latest revelations would be a good start. The rest will have to be taken care of by the voters.
C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.