Mike Pence feared for his life on Jan. 6. Americans deserve to understand why.
The Jan. 6 committee owes Americans clarification of exactly how realistic Mike Pence’s fear of Trump was during the hours of the insurrection.

Forty feet. That’s the distance that separated Vice President Mike Pence from a violent angry mob at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. We learned this during Thursday’s hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, which provided additional riveting evidence of the real threats posed by then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn a free and fair election. For Pence, those threats were existential – to our democracy – and direct — to his life. But as we also learned Thursday, there may have been a threat much closer than 40 feet.

Pence’s former counsel Greg Jacob told the committee that he was present in a secure underground portion of the Capitol complex where the U.S. Secret Service whisked Pence in an attempt to avoid the mob that had breached the Capitol. The head of Pence’s Secret Service detail was there, and Pence’s armored limousine was also positioned in that safe space, just inches from the vice president. Still, it seems from Thursday’s testimony that the vice president wasn’t feeling all that safe.

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We were reminded today that the threat of the “big lie” penetrated into the personal lives — and even the lives of some family members — of officials who dared to act honestly regarding the 2020 election outcome. This includes Republican Al Schmidt, a former Philadelphia city commissioner, who testified today that he performed his duties under withering pressure from Trump and his team. He received death threats for simply doing his job, he said.

As Schmidt testified today, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office announced serious charges against the co-founder of Vets for Trump in connection with conduct that threatens our democratic process. The defendant, Joshua Macias, has been charged with attempted interference with primaries and elections, hindering the performance of a duty, criminal conspiracy, and violations of the Uniform Firearms Act.

The “big lie” has created a dangerous risk we’ll be addressing for the foreseeable future

Musk’s definition of free speech doesn’t come with any responsibility; that makes him the wrong person to lead a social media platform.

The intersection between the Buffalo mass shooting and its related online content provides more evidence that the lines between free speech, dangerous speech and unlawful speech are blurring at the speed of a keystroke.

It’s believed that 4Chan, the anonymous imageboard popular with far-right users, helped spoon-feed the “great replacement” theory (which suggests that a cabal of nonwhite immigrants are trying to replace white people and European culture by increasing the minority population) to the 18-year-old Buffalo shooting suspect. The suspect, accused of killing 10 people and wounded three at a Buffalo supermarket, most of them Black, livestreamed the massacre on the online platform Twitch (the platform removed the content) and posted a racist screed justifying his shooting online.

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Why a grand jury looking into secret White House docs at Mar-a-Lago is so serious
Grand juries aren’t impaneled to do damage assessments but to investigate crimes.

The New York Times, citing two people who’d been briefed on the matter, reported Thursday the convening of a federal grand jury that is investigating the handling of 15 boxes of classified White House documents that were squirreled away at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s Florida home. It’s easy to understand why this reporting didn’t lead most newscasts that day given the more dramatic story of the decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2001, attack on the U.S. Capitol to subpoena five sitting members of Congress. But that story shouldn’t distract us from the big news that a grand jury has reportedly been impaneled to find out how and why national secrets were packed up in Washington and parked in Palm Beach.

To borrow a concept from the world of classified information access, here’s what you “need to know” to process this development. First, a grand jury means the Justice Department believes a crime may have been committed. While some pundits have asserted that convening the grand jury is part of a routine damage assessment to explore the national security aspects of what the intelligence community calls a “spill” of classified documents, that’s a misleading explanation.

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Any intelligence in Trump’s hands is prone to manipulation
An inspector general’s report claims the Trump administration altered an intelligence report so Trump wouldn’t look bad.

A recent Office of Inspector General report from the Department of Homeland Security reads like a Charles Dickens novel in that it helps us to see the ghosts of Trump’s past, present and future, each one bringing bad tidings.

An April 26 report finding that former President Donald Trump’s DHS diluted and delayed a 2020 intelligence report that told of Russia’s plans to aid Trump’s re-election with propaganda casting doubts on candidate Joe Biden’s health is more than just official confirmation of what has already been alleged by a whistleblower. Its added value is that it provides a window into what the intelligence community was like under Trump, what it might have been like if he’d been re-elected and how it would likely operate in the event of a future Trump regime.

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Jan. 6 committee’s concerns about Insurrection Act should concern the rest of us
There may be no greater presidential power than the authority to send in troops.

We should always take note when Congress discovers that a long-standing law doesn’t address our current reality. But when those members of Congress happen to be sitting on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and they are privy to a mountain of evidence related to the planning and execution of a purported plot to overturn a presidential election, they should have our undivided attention.

According to an April 19 report in The New York Times, that committee is considering whether the 1807 Insurrection Act needs revision. That act empowers the president to domestically deploy our armed forces, including the National Guard and active-duty military, to stop a rebellion or uprising against the government. If the committee sees a need to change a law that provides absolute power to a president, it’s likely that they’re seeing evidence that a president – in this case former President Donald Trump — came close to abusing that power.

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Biden is trying to do something about gun violence. His Republican opponents are not.

Futility and fury. That’s what I experienced in the 24-hour period starting Monday morning. It began with President Joe Biden’s attempt to do something — anything — to counter gun violence and ended with a gunman in a Brooklyn, New York, subway firing 33 rounds, hitting 10 people, with another 13 injured.

I appeared on MSNBC on Monday to discuss Biden’s announcement of new restrictions on the manufacture and sale of “ghost guns” and the announcement of his second candidate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Tuesday, I was on the air once more, this time to discuss yet another mass shooting, this one occurring during the chaos of the morning rush-hour commute. I expressed how furious I am at those who remain unwilling to take commonsense steps against gun violence, and I was reminded of the seeming futility of piecemeal measures that fall short of broader federal legislation.

These chats suggest pro-insurrectionist rot has infiltrated America’s intelligence community
These men and women swear to defend the Constitution. But some may be cheering Jan. 6.

The disturbing depth to which MAGA-related lunacy has penetrated the institutions responsible for our protection continues to reveal itself. It was already known that at least 13 percent of defendants arrested in the Jan. 6 investigation have current or former law enforcement or military affiliation. Now we’re learning that the powerful cocktail of conspiracy theories and race-based hate has revealed itself among members of some of the U.S. intelligence community’s 18 agencies.

In a March 11 report in SpyTalk by veteran national security reporter Jeff Stein, he writes about internal intelligence community (IC) chat rooms associated with the classified Intelink system. According to that report, “by late in the third year of the Trump administration the system was afire with incendiary hate-filled commentary, especially on ‘eChirp,’ the intelligence community’s clone of Twitter.”

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Here’s what we know, and what we don’t know, about what lies beneath the battle for Ukraine

President Joe Biden on Wednesday pledged an additional $800 million in aid to Ukraine, following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s calls for a U.S. or NATO-led no-fly zone. It would be understandable, but a mistake, to think American support is limited to what we can see. Ukraine playing the role of David against Russia’s Goliath is impressive optics, but it’s not happening in a vacuum.

From my experience as head of counterintelligence at the FBI, I know that it’s likely that U.S. spies and spy-catchers have been hard at work providing Zelenskyy with advantages that may never see the light of day. We may never know the secrets regarding this silent war for Ukraine, and I’m OK with that.

How Putin’s Ukraine invasion could quickly threaten Americans at home
Biden should consider every feasible tool in his kit to counter Putin’s quest to conquer a free democratic nation.

NBC News reported Thursday that President Joe Biden was briefed on a “menu of options for the U.S. to carry out massive cyberattacks designed to disrupt Russia’s ability to sustain its military operations in Ukraine.” Reportedly, those options included disrupting the internet across Russia, turning off electricity and hacking railroad controls, all with the specific and limited aim to degrade Russia’s capacity to continue moving troops, equipment and supplies into Ukraine.

I’ve spent 30 years in counterintelligence, intelligence and security work, but I’ve never had to articulate the previous sentences as real-time, real-life scenarios. Contemplate, yes. Carry out, no. Yet here we are in completely uncharted territory.

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