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The hallmark of any authoritarian regime is politicized justice. Under that system, your opponents go to jail, your supporters can do whatever they want and this reveals that the state exists not to serve the people who live in it, but to preserve itself and to crush all dissent. Hate to think we’ve reached a point anywhere near that here in the United States because there’s nothing worse than that or scarier or harder to fix, but in fact, we have reached that point. That’s where we are.
Yesterday, for example, a man leaped on stage at a campaign event and tried to stab Lee Zeldin. Zeldin is sitting member of Congress. He’s challenging the unelected incumbent, Kathy Hochul, in the governor’s race in New York.
So ordinarily, attempting to assassinate a federal officeholder would be considered a big deal. But Lee Zeldin is a Republican, so it’s not a big deal anymore. The man who tried to murder Lee Zeldin was released immediately with no bail. Less than 24 hours later, by contrast, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was convicted of crimes that until recently were not crimes at all, for which he now faces a prison term of two years. Bannon has been declared guilty of something called contempt of Congress. That may strike you as an unintentionally hilarious term, since most of the time Congress invites our contempt. But the point is, this is a crime the Democrats are not convicted of ever.
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Attorney General Eric Holder and IRS executive Lois Lerner were once found to be in contempt of Congress, both of them, and for real crimes. In Holder’s case, it was gunrunning in Mexico. In Lerner’s case, it was targeting conservatives for audits, but neither one went to trial. Holder claimed executive privilege, which was enough, even after a judge ruled that executive privilege did not apply in Eric Holder’s case, but it didn’t matter. He walked. Lois Lerner cited the Fifth Amendment. It was as simple as that. Both of them, today, Lerner and Holder are free and richer than ever, but these standards do not apply to Steve Bannon.
Steve Bannon was subpoenaed by the January 6 committee despite the fact he had literally nothing to do with January 6. We know that because he left the White House three years before it happened, but it didn’t matter. He annoyed the wrong people, so he’s going to jail. Now, this shouldn’t surprise you, really, because we’ve been building toward this moment for some time. You might recall Greg Craig, that would be Barack Obama’s former White House counsel. He was acquitted of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, FARA. Back in 2019, he’d been working for Ukraine. Now at almost exactly the same moment. Paul Manafort, who hired Greg Craig to work on Ukraine, was convicted of violating the same law, FARA, on the same account for Ukraine. How does that work exactly?
It seems like a double standard and indeed it is a double standard. But it’s a consistent standard. We’ve seen it again and again and again. Former Clinton attorney Michael Sussmann was just acquitted by a D.C. jury of lying to the FBI. That happened in May. The theory was that really who knows what Michael Sussmann told the FBI about nonexistent Russian servers in Trump Tower. Okay. As long as you’re using that theory, does it work for everyone? Well, it didn’t work for George Papadopoulos, didn’t work for Michael Flynn. On the other hand, neither one of those guys had a key card to FBI headquarters like Michael Sussmann did and that came in handy, that relationship.
But Mike Flynn didn’t have that relationship. His life was destroyed. Why? Because of handwritten notes by Peter Strzok, you can now see on MSNBC about their conversation in the White House about Russian sanctions. “Get him to lie,” the head of counterintelligence of the FBI wrote to Strzok, speaking of Flynn.
So, on the basis of that, the setup, they hounded Mike Flynn into poverty. The same thing happened to George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos’ crime? Not being as forthcoming as possible about his job status with the Trump campaign, unpaid. That’s what the DOJ told the court in a filing, “The defendant did not provide substantial assistance.” Oh, that’s the standard. So, Papadopoulos went to prison, so did the 69-year-old grandmother recently call Pam Hemphill. She’s currently serving a two month sentence in federal prison. Why? Because she, “paraded in the Capitol on January 6,” didn’t hurt anyone. She’s got breast cancer. She’s going to prison.
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A judge in Washington had no problem issuing that sentence at exactly the same moment the U.S. attorney for D.C. dropped all charges against Stephen Colbert’s production crew for doing the same thing, but worse. So, Stephen Colbert’s team may have lied to federal authorities when they said they’d stay out of restricted areas. But they didn’t lie to federal authorities in quite the same way, apparently and of course, they had the right politics, unlike Roger Stone.
Roger Stone got a three-year prison sentence. He had a SWAT team show up at his house at dawn with a CNN crew in tow tipped off by the Justice Department for maximum humiliation. What was his crime? No one can remember because there wasn’t one. So, if you’ve been paying any attention at all to our justice system, particularly under Merrick Garland, you had some sense of where this was going. It was moving toward the authoritarian system we now have where justice is an illusion. Offend the people in charge, get punished. Support the people in charge, do whatever you want.
Still, even knowing that today’s conviction of Steve Bannon is an escalation. There was not even a pretense in his trial that the prosecution of Steve Bannon was lawful. So, the Constitution requires equal protection. Heard that phrase? That means that selective prosecution is not allowed. It’s unconstitutional. If you don’t try one person for a crime, you don’t get to charge another person for the same crime because that’s selective. It’s political, but under Merrick Garland, that’s the new rule. Offend us, go to jail. At his trial, Steve Bannon was not permitted to say that his attorneys had counseled him against bending the knee of the January 6 Committee. He couldn’t even say that. Nor was he allowed to argue the subpoena was legally invalid.
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Why couldn’t he argue that? All Steve Bannon was allowed to do was shut up. He had to remain silent and await his conviction and that’s what he did. Outside a federal court today, Steve Bannon pointed out that he subpoenaed members of the January 6 Committee to testify at his trial. Why can’t you face your accusers? Isn’t that guaranteed under our system? Not in this case because having the January 6 Committee members show up would expose them to the one thing they cannot tolerate, which is cross-examination. So, they refused. Watch.
STEVE BANNON: I want to thank the jury for what the effort they did, the judge, particularly the court administration here, everybody. I only have one disappointment, and that is the gutless members of that show trial committee, the J. Six Committee didn’t have the guts to come down here and testify in open court.
Did you expect Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger to show up? They don’t have to testify. They never do anything they don’t want to do. They can just send their enemies to jail.
So, their behavior is really not that surprising because the January 6 committee itself does not allow cross-examination during its hearings. You may have noticed this. It doesn’t even allow the identification of many witnesses. They do it anonymously. How do you define show trial? That’s how you define show trial. So, these are not hearings in any recognizable sense. This is a show trial. That is exactly what it is. That’s not overstatement.
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The committee did not allow the cross-examination of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, for example. Even after she made claims that were insane, they made no sense. She claimed that Donald Trump tried to carjack his own presidential limo and drive it to the Capitol.
So, if she’d been cross-examined – which in any hearing is permitted under the Western system of justice, not the woke system of justice that Liz Cheney has brought us, but her the conventional system that all of us grew up with – you would have a cross-examination and someone might have pointed out that the Secret Service agents in that limo denied her account. But if you were watching on MSNBC or CNN, which have taken this propaganda live and then bragged about it, “We’re doing the bidding of the state. We’re so proud. We’re calling it journalism” we’ve refused to do that because we have dignity and we’re not liars, unlike them, but if you’re watching us on those channels, you have no idea that the Secret Service denied this account.
The Secret Service was never contacted by Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger before the testimony and that’s bizarre because if the committee wanted to get to the truth of the Trump grabbed the wheel of the limo allegation, they would have talked to people who were there, but they didn’t. Republicans, if they’d been allowed to cross-examine, if they demanded to cross-examine (We’re not defending Republicans. They’ve fallen down on the job. That’s an understatement.)
But if someone had been allowed to ask adult questions of the witness, we might have learned what CNN viewers will never know and that’s that Hutchinson reportedly tried to get a job at Mar-a-Lago afterward, but none of that was allowed because it’s pure propaganda. It’s been going on for months now.
Last night, the January 6 committee put on testimony from an anonymous official (Can you imagine, an anonymous official?) claiming that Secret Service agents assigned to Mike Pence were using their radios to tell their families goodbye like they’re on the deck of the Titanic because they assumed they would die in the Capitol because some guy in Viking horns on mushrooms was spinning and round in circles and talking about peace. They were so afraid. Watch this nonsense.
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SECURITY OFFICIAL: The members of the VP detail at this time, were starting to fear for their own lives. There were a lot of, there was a lot of yelling, a lot of, a lot of very personal calls over the radio, so it was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it, but there were calls to say goodbye to family members, so on and so forth. It was getting, for whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail tells us that this was about to get very ugly.
It’s just absolutely shameful, absolutely shameful, that the other channels played this c— without pushing back in even the mildest way. “Oh, it’s news.” It’s not news and your job in journalism is to hold the powerful accountable. It’s not to do their bidding or put their lives on TV unedited in primetime, which is what every other channel has done except Fox News and we are proud of that. “Well, you should be ashamed.” Yeah, you should be ashamed.
But there was no cross-examination allowed in any of this because this committee would not allow it, no rebuttal of any kind. So, course, there was no inquiry as to why a Capitol Hill police officer with a documented history of recklessly mishandling firearms shot an unarmed woman in the neck, an Air Force veteran. He shot her in the neck. Why? You’re not allowed to ask.
What happened to those thousands of hours of surveillance footage? Why can’t we see those? You’re not allowed even to ask why we’re not allowed to see them. We can’t know why police are on video letting people into the Capitol complex on January 6. Why is that? Not allowed to ask. And this is going to continue. As Adam Kinzinger said, this charade, which really does corrode the heart of our system, this will continue all the way until the midterms because as Kinzinger, who’s dumb enough to see the quiet part out loud, admitted this is a political exercise. Watch.
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REP. ADAM KINZINGER: This investigation is not winding down. We may be towards the end of this tranche of hearings. We may have more hearings in the future and the investigation is still ongoing. So, we’re getting to the bottom of what we need to know.
Yeah. Okay. We’re getting to the bottom of this. Actually, you’re preventing legitimate, obvious questions from being asked. And just in point of fact, no matter how long these hearings go on, they could go on forever and Adam Kinzinger will still be a sad, tormented, tiny man with a miserable personal life. So, you know, that’s some comfort, but the prosecutors here working for Kinzinger and Cheney and the rest of this committee, just like the school boards and the teachers unions last year, worked in tandem with the Justice Department to punish the enemies of the Democratic Party. What is that? Well, it’s the single greatest threat to the rule of law in the history of United States. That’s true.