A Couple of Things To Keep In Mind as Mark Meadows Just Desserts Are Being Considered and, Perhaps, Prepared For Him

As Mark Meadows travails continue, I want to focus on a couple of related things. They both deal directly with the memo he was pushing, and which has become a focus of his contempt of Congress hearing, but in different ways.

The memo raises a number of overlapping issues that we need greater clarity on:

  1. Trump and several members of his White House senior staff like Meadows were clearly in on this.
  2. Meadows read an unknown number of GOP members of the House and the Senate on to the strategy delineated in the memo. The only one we know explicitly from the news reporting is Mike Lee. We don’t know, but can guess at some of the rest. We also don’t know if Meadows read in Trump’s lickspittle acting appointees at DOD: Miller, Patel, MacGregor, Cohen-Watnick. I’ve now seen reporting that Meadows or someone else sent the memo to Ratcliffe at ODNI, but he denies ever seeing it. And We don’t know if that Assistant AG Clark got it, but given his behavior we have to assume he did.
  3. NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM – Republican members of the House and Senate and/or their staffers, members of the administration, outside surrogates and allies – bothered to actually alert the authorities. Or even leak it it the news media as a way to try to prevent it and cover their own asses. Not that I think the news media would have covered it. They’d have held it for a book to be published later.
  4. The referenced in the reporting as partially responsible for creating the memo, COL (ret) Waldron is a 37A MOS. For the non-military/not veterans that’s a Psychological Operations officer. Allegedly his role in all of this is he’s Mike Flynn’s PSYOPer in whatever it is Flynn is actually doing.
  5. The news media, especially the political reporters that cover the White House, Congress, and what Trump is doing don’t seem too interested in actually reporting this. They comment about it on Twitter. In the case of Costa he refers, via Twitter, to his book. But it hasn’t been on the nightly network broadcasts until tonight’s contempt hearing. It’s certainly not been on FOX. CNN has covered it a bit. MSNBC has and will continue to cover it. It hasn’t on the front page of the NY Times or WaPo and it certainly isn’t in the Wall Street Journal. We now have as close to a smoking gun as possible that senior members of the Trump administration, in coordination with his personal attorneys and people working with them, developed an actual plan to overthrow the Constitution and they read in an unknown number of Republican senators and representatives. And the news media has decided to instead focus on whatever it is they’re focusing on.

Here’s a copy of the memo as a pdf:


I do want to make one point before getting to the other related item. This contempt hearing is not just intended to hold Meadows in contempt, it is intended to disturb the network around Trump and see what happens without disrupting or taking down that network. Basically, the House Select Committee on the events of 6 January is running an influence operation on Trump and Trump world. How do I know? This is how I know:

Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity have now all been exposed as not being fully supportive of Trump and his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and overthrow the constitutional order. Donald Trump, Jr. has as well. And Meadows agreed with each of them. Reading those tweets during a live broadcast of the committee hearing is intended to incense Trump setting him up to lash out at Kilmeade, Ingraham, Hannity, Meadows, and Jr for insufficient fealty and commitment to him. It is also designed to see what Kilmeade, Ingraham, Hannity, Meadows, Jr, and others do as a result. Panic will be setting in right now about just what, exactly, Meadows turned over to the committee and just who else he implicated before he stopped cooperating. And the results of this will be observable. I don’t know if it will work, but it is an excellent and most unexpected strategy.

The final item I want to discuss as a result of what we’re learning not just about Meadows role in the run up to and on 6 January, but the actual plan itself as delineated in the memo he was circulating is the attempt to create or instigate enough violence to seemingly justify the declaration of a National Security Emergency to stop the electoral vote certification in Congress. I specifically want to focus on this part from Barton Gellman’s excellent long form piece in The Atlantic that was published last week (emphasis mine):

Robert a. pape, a well-credentialed connoisseur of political violence, watched the mob attack the Capitol on a television at home on January 6.

Watching how the Great Replacement message was resonating with Trump supporters, Pape and his colleagues suspected that the bloodshed on January 6 might augur something more than an aberrant moment in American politics. The prevailing framework for analyzing extremist violence in the U.S., they thought, might not be adequate to explain what was happening.

“The thing that got our attention first was the age,” Pape said. He had been studying violent political extremists in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East for decades. Consistently, around the world, they tended to be in their 20s and early 30s. Among the January 6 insurgents, the median age was 41.8. That was wildly atypical.

Then there were economic anomalies. Over the previous decade, one in four violent extremists arrested by the FBI had been unemployed. But only 7 percent of the January 6 insurgents were jobless, and more than half of the group had a white-collar job or owned their own business. There were doctors, architects, a Google field-operations specialist, the CEO of a marketing firm, a State Department official. “The last time America saw middle-class whites involved in violence was the expansion of the second KKK in the 1920s,” Pape told me.

Yet these insurgents were not, by and large, affiliated with known extremist groups. Several dozen did have connections with the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or the Three Percenters militia, but a larger number—six out of every seven who were charged with crimes—had no ties like that at all.

Pape’s team mapped the insurgents by home county and ran statistical analyses looking for patterns that might help explain their behavior. The findings were counterintuitive. Counties won by Trump in the 2020 election were less likely than counties won by Biden to send an insurrectionist to the Capitol. The higher Trump’s share of votes in a county, in fact, the lower the probability that insurgents lived there. Why would that be? Likewise, the more rural the county, the fewer the insurgents. The researchers tried a hypothesis: Insurgents might be more likely to come from counties where white household income was dropping. Not so. Household income made no difference at all.

Only one meaningful correlation emerged. Other things being equal, insurgents were much more likely to come from a county where the white share of the population was in decline. For every one-point drop in a county’s percentage of non-Hispanic whites from 2015 to 2019, the likelihood of an insurgent hailing from that county increased by 25 percent. This was a strong link, and it held up in every state.

Trump and some of his most vocal allies, Tucker Carlson of Fox News notably among them, had taught supporters to fear that Black and brown people were coming to replace them. According to the latest census projections, white Americans will become a minority, nationally, in 2045. The insurgents could see their majority status slipping before their eyes.

The CPOST team decided to run a national opinion survey in March, based on themes it had gleaned from the social-media posts of insurgents and the statements they’d made to the FBI under questioning. The researchers first looked to identify people who said they “don’t trust the election results” and were prepared to join a protest “even if I thought the protest might turn violent.” The survey found that 4 percent of Americans agreed with both statements, a relatively small fraction that nonetheless corresponds to 10 million American adults.

In June, the researchers sharpened the questions. This brought another surprise. In the new poll, they looked for people who not only distrusted the election results but agreed with the stark assertion that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” And instead of asking whether survey subjects would join a protest that “might” turn violent, they looked for people who affirmed that “the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.”

Pollsters ordinarily expect survey respondents to give less support to more transgressive language. “The more you asked pointed questions about violence, the more you should be getting ‘social-desirability bias,’ where people are just more reluctant,” Pape told me.

Here, the opposite happened: the more extreme the sentiments, the greater the number of respondents who endorsed them. In the June results, just over 8 percent agreed that Biden was illegitimate and that violence was justified to restore Trump to the White House. That corresponds to 21 million American adults. Pape called them “committed insurrectionists.” (An unrelated Public Religion Research Institute survey on November 1 found that an even larger proportion of Americans, 12 percent, believed both that the election had been stolen from Trump and that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”)

Let’s take Pape’s numbers as the starting point. Based on his survey data that I’ve copied and pasted above from Gellman’s reporting last week, the results indicate 21 million Americans who are thoroughly bought into and locked into Trumpism, MAGA, what Bannon calls the America First agenda, and all the conspiracy theories that go along with them. They’re overwhelmingly white and either evangelical Christian or traditionalist Catholic. When they’re not, they’re orthodox/ultra-orthodox Jews, white hispanics, or not white hispanics who identify as white (think proud boys leader Enrique Tario, who is afro-Cuban and, as such, at the bottom of the highly racialized Cuban-American pecking order in Miami).

So that’s 21 million Americans who are radicalized. The question we need to answer is how many of these folks are really willing to use violence? 10%? 20%? I’ve spent a good chunk of the past week looking through the low intensity warfare literature to see what the estimate is for figuring that out as I didn’t recall their being one off the top of my head. Or, rather, I recall being taught it was 10%, but I’d never actually seen that figure in any of our doctrinal publications. Or anyone else’s for that matter. And I was right. Our doctrine doesn’t have one. Just a formula to estimate how many counterinsurgents you need. So I emailed a former boss who is a retired Green Beret colonel, because I was sure I’d seen or been taught that the estimate was 10% of a radicalized population. He replied that he recalls being taught in his Special Forces officers course in the late 1970s that 10% is the estimator. He cautioned, however, that it is a rough one and will depend on what type of low intensity conflict is going on or possible. So revolutions and rebellions and insurgencies and terror campaigns may not all be estimatable the same way. It also explains where I learned it as I was trained and mentored by retired Green Berets who served in Vietnam.

Regardless, let’s take the 10% estimator. What this means, using Pape’s survey data numbers, is 2,100,000. Which is still a substantial number and problem. Our active duty military, across all branches, is currently 1,489,567. If you throw in the Guard and Reserve, you’ve got about another 600,000 or so. And some of that manpower will be useless. You can’t really use submariners to fight off a domestic rebellion and insurgency.

The real question here is how many of these 2.1 million would actually fight? And that I can’t answer. And I’m not sure anyone else can either. But what we’ve got, to paraphrase Mao, is a 21 million American sea for the actual violent fish to swim in. And that threat environment is more affluent and older that what we’d normally see. And it has deep pocketed, well healed backers. And the bulk of them are not nutbags like Mike Lindell or Patrick Byrne, but very bounded rational actors like the Koch’s, the Mercers, the DeVos/Prince family, the Uhliens, the Murdochs, the Bradleys, etc. And in the case of Bannon, his well heeled benefactor Miles Guo. Guo is alleged to actually be controlled opposition of the Peoples’ Republic of China meaning he is being run by the PRC’s Ministry of State Security to do exactly what he’s doing: infiltrate the Trump movement and help Trump and Bannon further cement control over the GOP and movement conservatism pushing it farther and farther into reactionary authoritarianism.

Open thread!

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