Home > Uncategorized > January 6 has historical precedent – posted 12/11/2022

January 6 has historical precedent – posted 12/11/2022

The sedition convictions of Oathkeepers’ leaders, Elmer Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, returned focus to the events of January 6. While the January 6 Committee has done an excellent job ferreting out facts, there remain unexplored areas of inquiry.

One area of possible inquiry is the role of Congress members in the planning of the January 6 insurrection and the effort to object to Biden’s electoral cerification. Rolling Stone has reported that multiple members of Congress participated in “dozens” of planning meetings ahead of the Capitol insurrection. Based on reports by two people who organized “Stop the Steal” rallies, Rolling Stone identified Republican Reps. Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo), Mo Brooks (Ala), Madison Cawthorne (N.C.)Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (Tx) as activists in these events.

Rep. Gosar dangled “blanket pardons” to participants, implying he had spoken to Trump. He left the impression that Trump was on board with granting a wide range of pardons. That ultimately did not happen. On the morning of January 6, Rep. Gosar tweeted:
“Biden should concede. I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there.#Stop the Steal 2021@ali.”

Many Democrats raised concerns about reconnaissance tours of congressional offices led by Republican Congress members before January 6. Republicans deny the tours. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the January 6 Committee sent Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk a letter requesting information and cooperation. Thompson’s letter said that Loudermilk gave a tour on January 5. Loudermilk denied the tour and refused to advance the discussion.

Congress members have commented on how January 6 rioters appeared to know the layout of the Capitol complex in advance. The Capitol is a maze to the uninitiated. Rioters knew the location of both hideaway offices and the underground tunnel network beneath the Capitol. The question of how the rioters knew so much remains open. As does the question of whether Congress people who aided the insurrectionists should face some discipline or criminal charges.

Of course, so much remains murky. Republicans have maintained a veil of silence. Possibly the January 6 Committee’s final report will reveal more or possibly there was a decision made not to stir up a hornet’s nest about Congress members’ January 6 participation.

Readers might think January 6 was unprecedented historically but that is not true. American history is a vast tableau and historical episodes have been excised from popular memory. Such is the case with the American fascist movement from the 1930’s-1940’s. Truly shocking parallels and stories have been forgotten.

Members of Congress who hated President Franklin Roosevelt and far right wingers were connected to a Nazi plot to overthrow the U.S. Government. The plot involved killing prominent political leaders and influential Jews. A mass movement of far right Catholics, the Christian Front, who were sympathetic to Nazism, and the Silver Shirts, homegrown fascists, spread virulent antisemitism across America. The government responded with sedition trials against many of the far right leaders.

This story is told in Rachel Maddow’s new podcast, Ultra. The podcast shows how the American fascists of the New Deal era were predecessors of our modern-day Trump-led MAGA movement. They laid the groundwork for the current incarnation of Christian nationalism and right wing extremism.

In the late 1930’s many Americans opposed any involvement in the war that was shaping up in Europe. Fascism was advancing in Germany and Italy but the America First movement and the Christian Front opposed American engagement on the side of Britain. They wanted to keep the U.S. out of the war and they also sought to soften up Americans toward Nazi Germany.

Maddow shows how an agent of Hitler’s government, George Sylvester Viereck, paid many Congressmen to distribute Nazi propaganda. The German Nazis saw Viereck as a key operative in America and they gave him a big bankroll.

The scheme Viereck devised was quite ingenious. He began by compromising Sen. Ernest Lundeen (R.-Minn), who was an isolationist. Viereck became Lundeen’s ghostwriter. In exchange for cash (Lundeen was financially strapped and desperate for money), Sen. Lundeen allowed Viereck to write his speeches and articles. Although crafted by Viereck, both speeches (including national radio addresses) and articles appeared under Lundeen’s name.

When Sen. Lundeen gave speeches on the floor of Congress, he had them inserted into the Congressional Record. Then Sen. Lundeen ordered his staff to print off millions of copies to be paid for by the U.S. government under Congressional franking privileges. Viereck literally set up shop in Lundeen’s office. He had the U.S. government covering the cost of spreading Nazi propaganda to millions of American citizens.

Sen. Lundeen died in a mysterious plane crash in 1940 but Viereck expanded his operation to include many other members of Congress including Rep. Hamilton Fish (R.-NY) and Sen. Burton K. Wheeler (R.-Mont). Viereck expanded his franking scam with them and others.

PM, a New York newspaper published an expose of Viereck two weeks before Lundeen died. Drew Pearson, a prominent reporter, also helped expose the Nazi congressional scam. Viereck was later indicted and convicted for failing to register as a foreign agent.

Federal prosecutors in the early 1940’s brought two major sedition cases against the far right extremists. Both ended unsuccessfully. The Great Sedition trial of 1944 was a circus with 29 pro-Nazi defendants. The judge totally lost control of the proceedings. The case ended in a mistrial when the trial judge died.

The federal prosecutor who tried that case, O. John Rogge, was quite an interesting figure. He came into possession of important evidence from Germany that corroborated his case and showed the extent of the Nazi penetration of Congress. Rogge wanted to publicize his findings after the mistrial but he was blocked by both the Attorney General and President Truman. Rogge had to struggle mightily to share what he had learned about the American fascists because of American government opposition.

Maddow shows how it was ordinary citizens who played the central role in advancing the fight against fascism in the 1930’s and 1940’s in America. Activist citizens, lawyers and writers did more to oppose the fascists than officials in the government. In comparing then to now, that lesson still resonates. January 6 was not the first insurrection and history demands continued vigilance about the ongoing fascist threat.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. jlewandohotmailcom
    December 11, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    So interesting—as always! I’d understood the anti-Communism of the 30s to be at least partly a cover for pro-fascism, but not that the movement was so organized and ambitious. The players are essentially the same as now, aren’t they—fascists, the Christian right (now more evangelical than Catholic), deep-pocketed funders, white supremacists, anti-Semites, and ambitious politicians. I’m glad Maddow has gone into the blog business!

    I didn’t hear back from the Monitor when I sent in my column, so I’m guessing it wasn’t published. I’ll attach it for you to read at your leisure. It is featured in Saturday’s Telegraph, so I’ve decided it’s not quite time to call it a hopeless cause. The previous two weeks were a barren wasteland.

    Our friend up the street fell and broke her arm last week, so my husband and I took a little walk in the falling snow to deliver homemade gingerbread cookies and fruitcake to her. There was an informal party of neighbors and their dogs milling around in the street. I feel like I should pitch this as a story starter for a sappy Hallmark holiday movie, but it definitely put us in the spirit.

    Cheers,

    Jean ________________________________

  2. O'Brien Stanley
    December 24, 2022 at 2:36 am

    Hey–I just wanted to say your article about the insurrection planners in the Willard Hotel room war is incredibly important. I still need to read the Jan 6 report… but I was wondering if you have had the chance to learn more about the planning that went on in the Willard room. Were there connections to the White House? Thanks! O’Brien

    • December 24, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks O’Brien! Like you I wish I had more information about what went on at the Willard Hotel. I think the information released so far has been pretty minimal. In my article I was mostly asking questions based on what has been published. I have no special sources. I just have questions. Maybe some of the insiders will talk but they are probably scared of criminal liability. I know much information has just been released. I have not seen it yet. This is definitely a good area for more inquiring.

      • OBrien Stanley
        December 27, 2022 at 6:03 am

        Thanks for the fast reply!  Although I think there is a damning case to be made on the four counts that the January 6th committee referred to DOJ, I still think we need to keep digging.  More info about the war room group at the Willard hotel could provide the nexus between the terrorists on the ground and the coup plotters in the White House.  Your blog makes for good reading on all sorts of things, so I will check back!  Thanks for all you do! 

        O’Brien

      • December 29, 2022 at 4:26 pm

        I do think there is much more to be learned about the connections between Trump, people at the Willard and the insurrectionists. I am speculating but I think Trump, Bannon and Roger Stone all had a plan that day. If Mike Pence failed to cooperate as he did, I think Trump planned to lead the mob into the capitol. He probably would have declared some national emergency and tried to take over. I am surprised he went back to the White House although supposedly he was upset because he wanted to go to the Capitol. I wonder why trump didn’t have more of a contingency plan to get to the Capitol when he was blocked by the secret service.

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