Saturday, June 6, 2020

Undentified armed troops patrol DC. Are these Bill Barr's secret police

Unidentified, armed federal troops raise accountability concerns. In her June 5 program Rachel Maddow looks at the disturbing development in Washington, D.C. in which federal police are amassing with insignia, badges, nameplates or other identifying markings, risking confusion for civilians but also raising questions about what is behind the creation of this force.

Also from June 5:

Schmidt: Trump, Barr building ‘thugocracy’ with secret police. Steve Schmidt, former senior Republican strategist, talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump putting Bill Barr in charge of an unmarked collection of federal police.

Here is more that might expose some of what’s going on with these anonymized troops in DC.

Kerry Eleveld (Daily Kos Staff) reports that Unmarked, unidentified armed militia now patrolling Washington, D.C..

On the heels of law enforcement gassing peaceful protesters at the White House Monday, a rogue force of armed unmarked militia has been patrolling Washington, D.C. for days.

The militia members, likely numbering in the hundreds if not thousands, have been photographed guarding the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and on Wednesday were seen forming a perimeter outside the White House, as if it were under siege. …

Members of the unmarked force usually won’t identify themselves at all, but on one occasion claimed they were working on behalf of the “Department of Justice.” It seems only fitting that the nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General William Barr, would deploy an unidentified armed force to do his bidding, though it remains unclear exactly who these forces are answering to. What we do know is that Defense officials have told the AP that active-duty troops brought to the district in response to protests are returning to their home bases.

But the anonymity is what makes their presence so distressing in a moment where the nation is still trying to determine exactly which forces from what agency participated in perpetrating the attack on peaceful civilians outside the White House Monday night. If the militia carried out any similar actions, we wouldn’t even know on whose authority they were acting.

There is converging reporting on all this as it relates to the question of who gave the order to attack peaceful demonstrators when Trump wanted his St. Johns photo op.

Hunter (Daily Kos Staff) reports that the White House confirms Trump gave order resulting in assault on St. John’s Church.

In a typically lie-strewn White House press event, Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany gave a completely nonsensical answer to questions about just who ordered the attack on protesters around and at St. John’s Church in the minutes before Donald Trump announced he would be walking there. Did Trump give the order to attack? Did Attorney General Barr give that order? In a sign of just how very much nobody in the White House wants to be associated with what now seems self-evidently an illegal act, the empty-souled talking head McEnany was abstract about the precise details of who ordered that action.

McEnany, who lies repeatedly during each event, noted that Attorney General William Barr “decided that morning” to expand the perimeter around the White House. (Note: The United States attorney general is not in charge of the security configuration of the White House.) But she also confirmed that Trump gave “an order” indicating he wished to “go to the church.”

“When the president gives an order, people act. It’s not as if he needs to walk through every detail of how a plan goes about. He says ‘I want to go to the church,’ he goes to the church and everyone executes the plan and the order that the president puts into place.”

But was, pressed a reporter, “the plan still for the president to walk out there, even if the protesters were still there?”

“I’m not aware of the determinations that the Secret Service had as they arranged for the president to walk out there,” said McEnany, but "I would just note again that the decision to expand the perimeter was a decision made in the morning by Attorney General Barr." (Note: The United States attorney general is not in charge of the Secret Service and cannot give those orders, and something has gone extremely wrong if he has seized command of those forces. McEnany is either lying to the nation or confirming that a slow-rolling coup is currently taking place.)

Translation: Whatever the plan was, the plan turned out to be that in the minutes immediately after Trump’s short speech was to start, when news networks had already turned their cameras on the Rose Garden, it was exactly then that forces around the White House began firing flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets at the crowd in order to clear the peaceful protest immediately. Numerous reporters at the scene confirmed that there was no violence at the location and no warning was given before the attack.

Because protesters were assembled at the church he “wanted” to stand in front of, Donald Trump, a fascist and traitor to his oath and nation, had multiple options available to him. He could have decided not to go. He could have decided to meet with the protesters, walking through them with a full contingent of troops and Secret Service officers if that is what the lifelong coward needed to feel safe.

Or he could have simply delayed his carnival side show for a mere 30 minutes or so—Trump has repeatedly kept reporters waiting for long periods for no reason, or possibly because he could not be pulled away from a particular television show—to allow officers to push protesting Americans back more slowly, less violently, and without engaging in a no-warning history-shaking show of dictatorial paramilitary force. That is all it would have taken.

Trump chose to do none of these things because the obvious Trump intent, in delaying his short speech after gaining network attention and only at that moment ordering the immediate clearing of the park and church, was for the networks to broadcast his attack. There can be no question about that. Trump “ordered” federal personnel to take action he knew would include violence, and timed the attack so that the nation would be watching. William Barr “executed” that order, as did whichever federal officers were in the actual, non-Barr chain of command.

Charlie Sykes (The Bulwark) shared email from a National Guard soldier who was there.

Just sending a quick note about this morning’s newsletter item re: the military - I can’t comment publicly due to my position as a National Guard soldier currently responding to the DC protests, but there’s some interesting info on background that may help inform your analysis. I was standing in Lafayette Park on the day of the church incident when Gen. Milley and AG Barr suddenly walked past me; I saw them discussing the situation with the on-site commanders. Milley expressly waived OFF the use of force to clear away protesters, telling nearby soldiers, including me, that “peaceful protest is their constitutional right, and they are entitled to exercise it.” This wasn’t said grumpily or grudgingly; he clearly believed the protests were being conducted lawfully and properly.

Just a few minutes after he and the AG left, the order went out that the protesters would be pushed from the street using horses and smoke (but NOT tear gas or rubber bullets, btw - that never happened). When I asked why this was occurring despite Milley’s order, a higher-ranking officer said “well, this is a Park Police operation” and put on his gas mask. Having seen what happened, I am not surprised at all about Milley’s memo, though I completely understand why observers such as Bill Kristol find it startling. The military is backup (at most) to this operation, but we are being confused for more than that (e.g. George Will’s latest column) and having our standing heavily damaged as a result.

This helps resolve why General Milley was on that march to St. Johns and yet wrote his memo to DoD personnel reminding them of their oath to the Constitution.

But all this raises questions about who gave what order.

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