Fireworks at the Select Committee on the Capitol Riot

Photograph Source: TapTheForwardAssist – CC BY-SA 4.0

The House select committee on the January 6 capitol riot finally kicked into gear. In August, the committee requested telecom companies to preserve phone and social media records of certain congress critters. Suddenly the likes of Mo Brooks, Marjorie Taylor Green, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar and Lauren Boebert quivered with anticipation: were they targets of investigation? Would they ultimately go to prison?

It all depends on what secrets those phone records unlock. For instance, were early reports accurate that Boebert texted with the rioters during the pandemonium? If so, what did she tell them? Did any of these Stop the Steal congresspeople reveal the location of the goons’ targets – potential victims like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence? Particularly Pence, whom the rioters vociferously apostrophized with the chant, “Hang Mike Pence!” Revealing his location to such a mob would seem to show some rather criminal, if not murderous intent. Phone records could answer such questions.

Certain things, however, are already known. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy had an infamous phone call with Trump on January 6, in which he reportedly pleaded with the Fuhrer to call off his thugs. Trump’s unforgettable reply was “well Kevin, I guess they’re a lot more upset about the election than you are.” Possible translation: I’m not calling them off until they do real damage or until not stopping them could harm ME. Trump may even have mulled invoking the insurrection act, thus suspending the transfer of power mandated by the election. But since members of the select committee won’t likely obtain McCarthy’s testimony – which he’d probably rather die than give – they may have to pursue the contents of that call otherwise. So ordering phone companies to preserve all records sounds pretty sensible.

Surprising no one, McCarthy promptly thundered at tech and telecom companies that they’d better ignore the committee’s request for records. Republicans, he warned, “will not forget” what they do. The committee had “asked 35 companies to retain phone records and other information related to the attack,” reported the Washington Post on September 1. “Several of the companies indicated this week that they intend to comply with the panel’s request, while only one so far has publicly said it will not do so.”

McCarthy wasn’t the only one growling and snarling. Marjorie Taylor Greene bellowed about “shutting down” telecom companies if they hand over Republicans’ digital and phone records to the select committee. Hello? Does Greene know which side her bread is buttered on? Big, powerful mega-corporations OWN the GOP. They fund Republican reptiles and thus call the shots. Unless things dramatically changed over the summer and I missed the memo, these conglomerates tell the GOP what to do, not the reverse. But Greene wants to hurl imprecations at those she’s beholden to. How stupid is that?

We still haven’t heard from Boebert, Brooks or any of the others, but as the legal noose tightens, expect a ferocious hullaballoo. After all, Brooks might have to explain why he wore body armor to the rally that became a capitol scrimmage, and he later mounted the highly unusual defense that he couldn’t be prosecuted since he’s a federal employee – an argument the justice department quickly slapped down, dryly observing that his fiery January 6 speech was not part of his federal duties. What those duties are, Brooks can hardly be expected to know, since he clearly thought it was fine to help incite violence against his fellow congresspeople.

Naturally when the select committee requested phone records, McCarthy blustered about the surveillance state and bombarded the companies with minatory braggadocio. But of course, he is one of many Republican reptiles only too happy to eviscerate fourth amendment protections against overbearing government seizures and searches, every time the Patriot Act comes up for renewal. So it’s kind of difficult to take his harangue seriously, reeking, as it does, of hypocrisy. Also, he is a rather interested party. But hey, who can blame McCarthy for the misconception that the bill of rights only applies to eminences such as himself, as opposed to your average American pleb? Being a congressional chieftain’s gotta have some perks, no? And who knows, this so-called misconception may yet turn out to be correct after all. So…

House counsel told the Post that some laws may prohibit companies from producing the “records voluntarily. But if a subpoena is issued, those companies would be legally obligated to respond.” Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. labelled McCarthy’s threats “treasonous.” Well, if McCarthy’s objections are treasonous, what about the whole January 6 kit and kaboodle? What about Trump’s speech inciting a riot to interfere with congress’ constitutionally ordained electoral transfer of power? Clearly the select committee exists to pass some judgement on these actions – whose treasonous intentions are already transparent to any reasonably intelligent 10-year-old.

Still, one wonders why the Republican Reich bothers to object to this committee’s doings, seeing as GOP schemes to steal the next election are so far advanced. Republican state legislators cranked out new laws months ago, to overturn the popular vote and appoint loyal Reich electors. GOP House members stand ready to do their part, if or when election results land in congress. And red state governors are so busy disenfranchising Dem voters that soon it will be illegal for anyone other than registered Republicans to cast a ballot. All this, even though the vast majority of Americans prefers the Dems, recognizing that dismal as they may be, they are not the utterly brainwashed, sadistic free-market fanatics who compose the Republican Reich, and who want to reduce most voters to destitution to solve corporations’ labor shortage.

Unfortunately, it’s more difficult after six months of Dem governance to get worked up about Trump’s failed fascist putsch than it was back in winter. That’s because despite a collapsing climate causing mega-fires, drought, multiple previously once-in-a-millennium floods, hurricanes and intolerable, unheard-of heatwaves, Biden still awards oil and gas drilling leases like there’s no tomorrow. Despite the eviction moratorium lapsing and thus ejecting 2 million renters onto the sidewalk, the Dems introduced zero laws to protect tenants (though to be fair, neither did Republicans, but everyone knows they’re hopeless monsters when it comes to ordinary people’s interests).

Indeed, the progressive Dem agenda is DOA, given the continued existence of the filibuster, which Biden and other Weimar politicos regard as sacrosanct. So, thanks to these centrist milquetoasts, there will be no voting rights legislation, no minimum wage hike, unemployment benefits expired and won’t be extended, and then we have Biden’s very personal contribution – no student debt relief or health care public option.

As any antifascist can tell you, taking on fascists is labor-intensive and dangerous. Who wants to do that for these hopelessly cowardly Dems, too scared of offending their Wall Street donors to deliver any substantial block of their promises to the progressive base that put them in office? Fascists and racists are results-oriented. They are winning. Fighting them involves grave risks. But don’t worry, Biden and the Democrats aren’t taking any. They’re leaving that to us, likely figuring progressive have no choice. But staying home on election day is, unfortunately, always an option.

What about a merger between the Green Party and Democratic Socialists of America? Any takers? Or maybe the Dems could risk offending Big Money and do what they were elected for. That would be best. Once a neoliberal doesn’t have to mean always a neoliberal. So here’s hoping the leopard can change its spots, as Biden appeared to attempt with his unlikely embrace of FDR’s social democracy, which flooded so many Dem hearts with hope, at the start of his otherwise inauspicious presidency.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.