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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘People’s Convoy’ Failed to Disrupt DC’s Roads but Very Successful at Meeting With Far-Right MAGA Congress Members

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The convoy of anti-vaccine-mandate, pro-Trump, and QAnon-conspiracy activists was determined to disrupt Washington, D.C., by circling the Beltway, the 64 miles of highway that’s generally a hellscape for commuters. Organizers of the “People’s Convoy” modeled their efforts after the trucker convoy in Canada that took over downtown Ottawa and shut down the bridge connecting Ontario to Michigan, disrupting trade and business in both countries. U.S. organizers demanded an end to vaccine and mask mandates and an end to the national emergency around COVID-19 that was declared under former President Donald Trump and extended under President Joe Biden.

On Monday, the truck convoy entered the Beltway with instructions to take up two lanes of traffic. By 2 p.m., the convoy was “struggling to occupy one lane of traffic let alone two,” The Daily Beast’s Zachary Petrizzo reported. Regular traffic separated convoy vehicles as it had on Sunday. With diesel hitting $4.75 this week, driving their gas-guzzlers slowly around the Beltway seemed like an expensive effort in futility, especially since D.C. had lifted its mask and vaccine mandate and the Biden administration and Congress had lifted their mask mandates.

Despite failing to disrupt Washington’s roads, members of the convoy were rewarded Tuesday with meetings with Republican members of Congress.

People’s Convoy co-organizer Brain Base and a representative from the American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedom, which has partnered with the People’s Convoy, met with Sens. Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson. Brase stated the convoy’s demands to “end the state of emergency, end the vaccine mandates” and to hold “our elected and unelected officials accountable for their actions that led to this,” according to Sara Aniano, a researcher of far-right rhetoric who has been following the convoy. The conversation also swung into QAnon rhetoric.

“This really is a spiritual war, and we’ve awakened a lot of people across the country,” the AFCLF representative told Cruz and Johnson. “We have a pendulum that’s swinging from ‘woke’ to ‘the great awakening’.”

Shortly thereafter, a larger group met with Reps. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Thomas Massie for a “trucker round table” on Capitol Hill. The truckers and adjacent activists complained about rising gas prices, mask and vaccine mandates, critical race theory, and government tyranny, with one trucker calling on the legislators to simply stop funding the government. When one convoy member from Michigan asked how to prevent stolen elections, Gaetz repeated debunked voter fraud claims about the state.

“Michigan, where they waited, the center in Detroit, to see how the rest of the state voted to figure out how many ballots they needed,” Gaetz said. “You want to be very suspicious of federalizing elections. If we federalize elections, then we have the swamp and the Washington, D.C., Beltway telling you how to count votes in Lansing, Michigan.”

Massie decided to focus on mail-in ballots—which Trump baselessly insists was a source of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election—warning that “they may have to find some excuse to go back to mail-in ballots.”

Greene was in agreement. “The last thing you want is the federal government to be involved in your election,” she said.

Gaetz tried to wrap up the questions, joking that if the group stayed over its allotted time in the room he reserved, they would be accused of “an insurrection.”

“We don’t want to be accused of that,” Greene said. “It’s frowned upon here.”

The meeting with far-right members of Congress and the focus on the Big Lie from a convoy demanding an end to COVID-19-related mandates might be surprising to those just tuning in. But the rhetoric exhibited on rally stages and social media throughout the convoy’s two-week trek across the country and the organizations supporting the convoy have always indicated that this was never just about public health mandates.

A new report from the nonprofit research organization Advance Democracy, Inc., details the ties that three organizations supporting the effort have to the so-called Stop the Steal movement, whose massive rallies to overturn the 2020 presidential election attracted many of the same elements featured in the People’s Convoy.

AFCLF, whose representative met with Cruz and Johnson, has faced scrutiny over its connections to dubious efforts to overturn 2020 election results in Michigan. It claims to have raised more than $1.6 million for the convoy as of Monday, but it’s unclear how that money has been used.

The People’s Convoy also partnered with Freedom Fighter Nation on strategic and logistical planning, Brase, the convoy organizer, said on a Feb. 12 livestream.

“We don’t want to end up on the news for weird money stuff, we’re making sure that accountants and attorneys are handling it personally through freedomfighternation.org. They have helped set up a lot of this infrastructure. They are working with us one on one to help guide us,” Brase said.

Freedom Fighter Nation is led by Leigh Dundas, a COVID-19 and election conspiracy theorist who was seen near the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection. The day before the attack, she told Trump supporters at a D.C. rally that they would be “well within our rights to take any alleged American who acted in a turncoat fashion and sold us out and committed treason, we would be well within our rights to take ’em out back and shoot ’em or hang ’em, because that is what we did when they tried to overthrow our government by way of assassinating Abe Lincoln, and it is not too good of an end for the guys who sold out our government on our own soil.” Dundas and Chris Marston of AFCLF say they are working together on the People’s Convoy.

Before the convoy left from California to make its way across the country, it was also supported by The America Project, an organization founded by election conspiracy theorists Mike Flynn and Patrick Byrne. The organization frequently promotes election fraud claims and contributed $3.2 million to fund the 2020 election audit in Maricopa, Arizona. The group was listed as a supporter of the convoy in a Feb. 20 press release, but by Feb. 23—when the convoy began its trip and stated it would not go into D.C. proper to disrupt traffic for fear of a “false flag” operation—Byrne announced The America Project was “stepping away” from the convoy, alleging that it had been “penetrated by the left.”

The convoy—which an estimated 1,000 people committed time and money to join—doesn’t appear to be penetrated by the left in the least bit. At a Sunday night convoy rally in Hagerstown, Maryland, speakers railed against tyranny, stolen elections, and the mainstream media. QAnon conspiracy theorists like Ann Vandersteel, Christian nationalists, members of the Proud Boys hate group, and Trump loyalists who were at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were all in attendance. Terry Bouton, a historian at University of Maryland Baltimore County who attended the convoy’s Sunday night, likened the rally to a “county fair,” with music, food, and speeches building community and connections among factions of the fringe right-wing.

The convoy continues its Beltway circling this week. It has yet to be as successful as its Canadian counterpart in bringing gridlock to the nation’s capital, but it has served a purpose for far-right organizers, attracting Republican star power and bringing activists from different factions of the movement together under the banner of “freedom.”

 

This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Whatever Side Bet on Stupid Won Big’: Steve Schmidt Scorches Marco Rubio for ‘Kernels of Imbecility’ on Balloongate

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The Chinese spy balloon traversing the United States last week with its intelligence-gathering systems disabled by the Pentagon until it was shot down over the ocean a few days later on orders of the Commander-in -Chief brought out the worst in Republicans, especially U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who serves as the Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee, says political strategist and Lincoln Project founder Steve Schmidt.

Rubio toured the Sunday shows yesterday, using the balloon to try to paint President Biden as weak over a balloon that multiple reports say posed no threat to the U.S.

Schmidt attacked Rubio’s “silliness and vapidity,” lamenting that, “a serious matter has been taken and twisted into kernels of imbecility by an American politician who routinely lies, dissembles and accuses his opponents of being enemies, while treating adversaries with delusion and disregard.”

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“Marco Rubio believes the balloon was a deliberate provocation aimed at showing the world that America is a decaying superpower that will never meet its treaty obligations and defend Taiwan, Japan, Korea or the Philippines. The proof of this is the helplessness of America as the balloon floated overhead. Rubio’s position seems to be rooted in pretending the balloon wasn’t actually shot down — which of course it was,” Schmidt said in his Substack newsletter, pointing to the Florida Senators appearance on ABC News Sunday morning.

Sen. Rubio also went on CNN, claiming that President Biden should have gone in national television to address the American people to talk about the balloon – which posed no threat to the U.S., especially after the Pentagon minimized its surveillance capabilities.

“I don’t understand why he wouldn’t do that, and that is the beginning of dereliction of duty,” Rubio claimed.

Rubio was part of the GOP attack on President Joe Biden over the balloon, which was not the first balloon to spy on the United States – several did during the Trump years, but that administration either kept it quiet or was unaware, The Washington Post reports.

READ MORE: Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) told CBS, ‘I think this entire episode telegraphed weakness to [President] Xi [Jinping] and the Chinese government,'” The Post noted.

On Saturday U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) unleashed a series of rapid-fire tweets, making remrks like, “Was Biden concerned with upsetting his friends and Hunter’s business partners over in China when assessing the Chinese spy balloon?” and, “Almost 48 hours after public discovery, the Chinese spying balloon has been shot down. It makes you wonder, would Biden’s Department of Defense have shot it down if the American people hadn’t found out?”

Observing Rubio had many topics to choose from on Sunday, Schmidt noted he “could have talked about the staggering Chinese naval arms race that has created a fleet with more warships than the US Navy, though with a fleet far less capable. He could have talked about the vulnerability of a US fleet carrier to a precision hypersonic missile, and questioned whether the age of the carrier might be ending, given its enormous capacity for staggering casualties. He could have talked about the Chinese submarine program, or they’re out of control espionage activities in the United States.”

“Rubio chose to do none of those things. Instead, he chose to fearmonger over a balloon.”

Schmidt continued.

“Maybe the ‘decline’ Rubio is talking about is evidenced by Rubio talking. Maybe the ‘decline’ that the Chinese were watching was America’s political and media ‘decline.’ Maybe they wanted to see the stupidity play out second by second like an MRI scanning a body injected with contrast dye. Maybe they wanted to settle a debate between two factions of American observers and predictors who disagreed on how we would respond. One thing is for sure: whatever side bet on stupid, won big.”

“The silliness and vapidity of Marco Rubio and his colleagues were certainly exposed by the balloon. They absolutely demonstrated a lack of capacity to measure up in a real crisis. They also demanded a response that will give the Chinese a chance to reciprocate the favor. That happened in 2001, in the months before 9/11. Like now, the event was regarded as a distraction, but was it?”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

ABC Host Pops Marco Rubio’s Balloon Rant: It ‘Happened Three Times’ Under Trump

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ABC host Jonathan Karl reminded Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that former President Donald Trump had failed to notify Americans on at least three occasions when Chinese balloons entered the country’s airspace.

During an interview on ABC, Karl asked Rubio if President Joe Biden should have gone against the advice of the U.S. military and instead shot the balloon down over populated land.

Rubio agreed that the debris could have “hurt, harmed or killed people.”

“If that was the case, then I think it really would have been helpful for the president of the United States to get on national television and explain to the American people, this is what we’re dealing with, this is what I’m going to do about it, and this is why I haven’t done it yet. None of that happened. And I don’t know why. I don’t know why they waited so long to tell people about this.”

But Karl pointed out that Trump had failed to disclose similar incidents at least three times.

“This happened three times under the previous president,” the host said. “Obviously, there were no public notifications there.”

READ: Trump’s wall is ‘morphing’

Watch the ABC video below or at this link.

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.

Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”

The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”

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Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.

The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.

“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.

After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.

Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.

READ MORE: Trump Spent 2020 Attacking Ballot Drop Boxes – but Now He’s Demanding They Be Deployed in Churches

“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”

“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”

“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.

National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”

Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”

Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”

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And yet another, wholly mocking Comer, who holds far-right anti-LGBTQ beliefs, said: “Or worse, what if it has woke trans undocumented drag queen athletes?”

Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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