J. Michael Luttig, a retired U.S. federal appeals court judge, is the conservative attorney who counseled then-Vice President Mike Pence he could not legally obey Donald Trump’s demands to not certify the Electoral College count on January 6 and overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Luttig will testify during the House Select Committee’s third public hearing, which will be televised at 1 PM ET Thursday. He has released his opening statement, a 12-page warning that states point-blank that America is at war with itself, and says only the Republican Party can put a peaceful end to it.
He calls the January 6 insurrection “a war for America’s democracy, a war irresponsibly instigated and prosecuted by the former president, his political party allies, and his supporters.”
His statement is far from optimistic but is getting a great deal of positive attention, although not by everyone.
Former U.S. Attorney and current MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst Joyce Vance offers this balanced perspective.
“Judge Luttig will testify today as a fact witness. He is a fact witness because he was close to people in Trump world. I appreciate the role he played in giving Mike Pence some spine, but that does not mean his views on our culture going forward should be given any weight.”
Here’s how Luttig’s statement begins:
“A stake was driven through the heart of American democracy on January 6, 2021, and our democracy today is on a knife’s edge,” Judge Luttig will say.
“America was at war on that fateful day, but not against a foreign power. She was at war against herself. We Americans were at war with each other — over our democracy.”
“January 6 was but the next, foreseeable battle in a war that had been raging in America for years, though that day was the most consequential battle of that war even to date. In fact, January 6 was a separate war unto itself, a war for America’s democracy, a war irresponsibly instigated and prosecuted by the former president, his political party allies, and his supporters. Both wars are raging to this day.”
“A peaceful end to these wars is desperately needed. The war for our democracy could lead to the peaceful end to the war for America’s cultural heart and soul. But if a peaceful end to the war for America’s democracy is not achievable, there is little chance for a peaceful end to that war. The settlement of this war over our democracy is necessary to the settlement of any war that will ever come to America, whether from her shores or to her shores. Though disinclined for the moment, as a political matter of fact only the party that instigated this war over our democracy can bring an end to that war.”
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Extremist expert predicts political violence during the 2022 midterm elections
Andy Campbell, a senior editor at The Huffington Post who is the author of the book We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered in a New Era of American Extremism has said that The Proud Boys and other far-right vigilante groups will likely commit violence during the next two upcoming elections.
In a recent interview, Campell noted the Proud Boys were founded by right-wing commentator Gavin McInnes to fight in ways that other straight-laced Republicans wouldn’t.
Campbell also noted former President Donald Trump’s ominous command for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during his final September 2020 debate against now-President Joe Biden.
Several Proud Boys members are currently on trial for sedition for their involvement in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“I think we might learn some bombshells about their connection to Trump’s inner circle,” Campbell said. “And the fact that several top-level Proud Boys have already agreed to testify against their own means we may learn a lot.”
Trump also recently said that the nation would face “problems … the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen” if he is indicted for taking classified documents after leaving office. His comment was widely seen as a call for his followers to commit violence if he’s ever criminally charged.
“I think Trump knows that everybody is going to react violently to this,” Campbell said. “The pipeline between the rhetoric and the violence in the street is so short now. How many hours was it between the time he was complaining about the FBI going through Mar-a-Lago and somebody showing up with a gun to an FBI field office? He knows he has people waiting to mobilize.”
Campbell added, “There will absolutely be Proud Boys violence in 2024 and I think in the 2022 election, too,” noting that Arizona Republicans have called for vigilante justice around ballot boxes.
“I think they are absolutely going to show up in force for Trump’s election regardless of what happens. I think we have to realize that the violence has trickled out to everyday Americans. It’s not just extremist groups anymore. Trump pointing to the back and calling the press the enemy, Trump glorifying Jan. 6 rioters,… that has come full circle.”
He concluded, “I think the spirit of January 6 is still here. All of the groups involved are still here, and everyday Americans have joined them… It’s going to be scary.”
Roughly 7 to 51 Million Americans Support Political Violence, Experts Say
On January 6, 2021, far-right groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers rioted at the U.S. Capitol to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president. Their members didn’t act alone, often relying on funders and others who supported their violent efforts.
This compelled The Hill to question how many U.S. residents actually support political violence. According to academics from institutions like John Hopkins, Stanford, Cornell, and the Universities of California and Chicago, the number could range anywhere from 3 to 20 percent of the U.S. adult population, signifying between 7 to 51 million people.
For comparison, the population of New York City is around 8.6 million and the population of California is 39.6 million. So, put another way, the U.S. has enough supporters of political violence to nearly fill New York City or to just under two Californias.
This may seem like a theoretical exercise. After all, if that many people actually supported political violence, why aren’t we seeing revolt in the streets or daily attacks on political leaders?
But, as the Army’s Counterinsurgency Manual points out, supporters of political violence offer all sorts of assistance which can aid the growth of violent insurgency movements.
“Active popular support often has the greatest impact on the insurgency’s long-term effectiveness,” the manual says. “Popular support results in safe havens, freedom of movement, logistic support, financial support, intelligence, and new personnel.… As the insurgent group gains in support, its capabilities grow.”
However, recent studies suggest that voters often misbelieve that members of their opposing political viewpoint approve of violence more than they do. This makes people more inclined to support using violence against them. Conversely, if someone is shown data to prove that their opponents don’t favor using political violence, their own support of political violence lowers.
Also, studies suggest that one’s own support of political violence also decreases the more serious the offense. So while some voters might support property damage or theft against an opposing political party, their appetite for violence decreases with more serious offenses, like death threats or actual physical assault.
GOP Rep. Kinzinger: “My Party Has Utterly Failed the American People”
Discussing bomb threats recently called into his home, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) — one of two Republicans in the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack — told ABC’s “This Week” that “My party has utterly failed the American people at truth.”
“It makes me sad, but it’s a fact,” he added.
Kinzinger’s comment came as “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked Kinzinger why, in a recent poll, only 20 percent of Republicans said that former President Donald Trump should be prosecuted for his role in inciting the Capitol riots and trying to overturn the 2020 election. The same poll found that 90 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of American voters felt that Trump should be prosecuted.
“It is leadership, lack of leadership in the Republican Party,” Kinzinger explained. “If you have people that don’t trust what they hear on the media, and they don’t trust what they hear from certain leaders…. Everybody has people they trust and where they get their information, that whole segment of leaders that Republican voters trust… If you’re going to stand up to those people and lie to him and tell him Donald Trump’s right, the election was stolen… We could have no doubt that 80 percent of the country is going to believe what their leaders are saying.”
Kinzinger added that he is not personally worried about the bomb and death threats that were recently mailed to his house. The threats promised violence against his wife and their five-month-old child.
“I’ve never seen or had anything like that,” he said, adding, “It was sent from the local area.”
He also said he expects threats of violence to increase leading into the 2024 presidential election as Trump’s supporters have also gained control of political positions that will enable them to contest or sabotage the next election’s results.
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