On Tuesday, in riveting testimony that had even the most grizzled lawmakers gasping in shock, Bill Taylor, the acting American ambassador to Ukraine, testified that Donald Trump indeed made military aid to Ukraine conditional on Kiev opening an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden. This is the strongest evidence yet that Trump’s attempt to strongarm Ukraine into getting dirt on a political rival was an impeachable offense. In a sane world, this would be more than enough to oust him for gross abuse of power.
It was to be expected that even this would not be enough for some of the most diehard Republicans. After all, even after the release of the “smoking gun” tape, a number of Republicans still insisted that Nixon’s role in the cover-up of the Watergate break-in was no big deal. But what we didn’t expect was what transpired on Wednesday–without a doubt, one of the worst moments in modern American political history.
On Wednesday morning, a gaggle of at least 42 Republicans led by Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Congressman Matt Gaetz barged into a secure hearing room in the House basement where Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper was giving a closed-door deposition about the Ukraine scandal. This was done with, at the very least, the tacit approval of the White House.
Scalise, Gaetz, and friends claimed that they had a right to see the proceedings–even though at least 12 of these toddlers were part of the committees taking part in the impeachment inquiry. In other words–this was a publicity stunt, and they knew it. It was a stunt that not only breached every standard of decency and comity that is known, but also was a major breach of House rules and national security protocol. So much for the Republican pearl-clutching about Trump being besieged by an angry mob.
As outrageous as this was to most of the reality-based world, this may have been only the second-most outrageous response we’ve seen from the right in the wake of the mounting calls to oust Trump. How do you get worse than barging in on a closed-door hearing taking place in a secure area? Quite easily, as it turns out–by suggesting that any attempt to oust Trump will result in Democrats being murdered.
Less than 24 hours before Scalise, Gaetz and friends beclowned themselves on national television, hard-right pastor and conspiracy trafficker Rick Wiles felt the need to warn the Democrats against moving any further in their drive to oust Trump. His explanation, as delivered on Tuesday night’s edition of “TruNews”? A lot of people will be very unhappy–mad enough to take matters into their own hands.
Wiles appears to have come full circle. For much of the last three years, he was one of the most obnoxious leaders of the religious right’s campaign to bully Americans into bowing down to Trump. For instance, he irately demanded that prominent Trump foes be arrested for “sedition.” After the Alexandria shooting later that year, he openly called for Trump to issue a real-life Order 66 and shut down MSNBC and the Democratic Party.
By the summer of 2018, however, Wiles appeared to have fallen out of love with Trump, going as far as to warn about “a chilling, autocratic tone” in Trump’s statements. But with his pronouncement on Tuesday, it can be safely assumed that Wiles has his proverbial MAGA hat back on. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
While discussing Taylor’s testimony with co-hosts Ed Szall and Doc Burkhart, Wiles claimed that if Democrats manage to impeach and remove Trump, it could get ugly. Really ugly.
There are people in this country. Veterans. There are cowboys, mountain men, guys that know how to fight. And they’re going to make a decision that the people that did this to Donald Trump are not going to get away with it, and they’re going to hunt them down. I’m serious. They’re going to hunt them down.
Wiles went on to say that the country would be “plunged into darkness” if the Democrats oust Trump–and they’ll only have themselves to blame “because they won’t back off.” He then went into what appears to be the standard Republican talking point on impeachment–it’s nothing more than the continuation of a “war” against the people who voted for Trump. He claimed that Democrats are out to overturn the 2016 election, and Trump supporters are getting “fed up.”
How fed up are they? Well, according to Wiles, some of Trump’s most diehard supporters are going to “go on a rampage, and you’re not going to be able to put it back in the bottle.”
I’ve heard some loony and unhinged things from religious right leaders over the years. But this is one of the most chilling things I’ve ever heard from a fundie. Wiles wasn’t even trying to sugarcoat it. With only the tiniest bit of plausible deniability, he was threatening Democrats with violence if they fulfill their constitutional duty to investigate Trump, and if need be, oust him via the impeachment process. This is the very definition of stochastic terrorism–a statement that can reasonably be expected to incite violent acts with no direct link between speaker and perpetrator.
This can’t be dismissed as the ravings of a wingnut podcaster. Wiles has a significant following among the most deplorable of the deplorables. He was speaking to the very people who were standing up and applauding when Scalise, Gaetz and friends burst into the hearing room.
Calling this grossly irresponsible would be being extremely kind to it. This comes less than a year after Cesar Sayoc got the bright idea to send bombs to several media and political figures because he felt Trump’s foes were “dangerous, unpatriotic and evil.” If you believe Wiles didn’t know exactly what he was doing, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn up for sale.
Wiles managed to maintain the tiniest shred of plausible deniability–enough that his screed wouldn’t be grounds to rack him up on criminal charges. But the bar for acceptable behavior is much higher than the bar below which you go to jail. Wiles should have long since been deplatformed for wrapping his ugly, vulgar and, yes, deplorable anti-Semitism.
And now he has crossed the line into calling for political violence. Report his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels for sanctioning violence, and get his iPhone and Android apps deleted. This cannot be allowed to stand.
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