America’s Political Prisoners First

In September 2019, Couy Griffin, founder of Cowboys for Trump, met with President Trump in the Oval Office.

His group, according to its website, believes “securing our border, protecting our Second Amendment, and protecting the lives of the unborn are the most vital and key aspects in America’s Greatness.” Trump supporters riding on horseback—often carrying American flags and Trump banners—participated in rallies across the country to show support for the president.

Today, Griffin sits in a jail cell denied bail.

Prosecutors charged Griffin with one minor count of trespassing as part of the Justice Department’s sweeping investigation into the events of January 6. Griffin, who is a county commissioner in New Mexico, never entered the Capitol but investigators scoured his social media account to find evidence that he was “well within the restricted area” of the building.

Griffin did not assault a police officer or break any windows or even steal an important leader’s laptop. His real crime, of course, is that he’s a supporter of Donald Trump—and his real threat to society, according to U.S. prosecutors and a federal judge, is that Griffin dares to doubt the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. (In his post-arrest interview, Griffin told the FBI “the election was stolen.”)

Arguing that Griffin is a flight risk and should remain in jail throughout his trial, government lawyers claimed his refusal to accept Joe Biden as the legitimately elected president would cause him to also “deny the authority of the judicial officers appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.”

Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui, who was neither appointed by the president nor confirmed by the Senate, concurred. “This is an offense that, at bottom, was an attempt to stop democracy from moving forward because people were unhappy about the results of the election,” Faruqui preached during a February 1 hearing. “I don’t think that the defendant will follow my conditions if he believes I am part of this machine of the democratic process.”

The judge added that refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election is like “not believing facts or science.” (Faruqui, it’s worth noting, was appointed a federal magistrate last year after a 12-year career at the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office, the same office overseeing every January 6 related case. This is the swamp in action.)

So, facing just one federal misdemeanor, Griffin will remain locked up for the foreseeable future.

He is, for all intents and purposes, a political prisoner. In fact, some FBI filings refer to unnamed protestors as “insurrectionists.” The seditious cake is baked. [Editor’s note: Late Friday, after this column already posted, a chief district court judge overturned Faruqui’s ruling in a “surprise order.”]

“Only the Beginning”

While official Washington fixates on the plight of an anti-Putin Russian political dissident, American supporters of Donald Trump are being rounded up, imprisoned, transported to the nation’s capital, and likely bankrupted over relatively minor crimes to stoke the narrative that an “insurrection” occurred last month.

More than 200 people have been charged so far; the FBI has described its effort as a “24/7, full bore extensive operation” and warned that agents from its 56 field offices will be fully engaged.

“The scope and scale of these investigations . . . is really unprecedented not only in FBI history but in DOJ history,” acting Attorney General Michael Sherwin said during a press conference on January 12.

Since all cases will be adjudicated in Washington, D.C., it’s a sure bet that defendants will be shown no mercy in the Trump-hating Beltway legal system also responsible for prosecuting Roger Stone and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn—just a few of the Americans targeted by law enforcement solely based on their ties to Donald Trump.

Authorities admit that the Justice Department’s various sedition strike forces will leverage minor offenses in an attempt to manufacture bigger cases against Trump allies. 

“Some of the misdemeanors we’re filing, these are only the beginning, this is not the end,” Sherwin warned. “We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy. Their only marching orders from me are to build sedition and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol, and these are significant charges that have felonies with prison terms of up to 20 years.”

Law enforcement, as promised, isn’t dragging its feet. A federal grand jury already has issued a trove of indictments against several people; charges range from serious assault allegations to silly “obstruction of an official proceeding” technicalities. Some defendants appear to suffer from mental health problems: the so-called “QAnon Shaman” and “Helmet Boy” clearly have issues—neither can organize a cogent sentence let alone a coup.

Political Discrimination

Without question, dozens of people acted badly that day. Conduct that resulted in bodily injury or severe property damage should be punished accordingly.

But what’s most disturbing is that several defendants are being held without bail for versions of the same crimes unpunished thousands of times during the Black Lives Matter/Antifa riots last year.

“Judges have agreed with prosecutors in more than two dozen cases to hold defendants because there are no release conditions that would ensure the safety of the community,” BuzzFeed News reported last week. “Even when judges have ordered home detention, prosecutors have argued it’s not enough to prevent future violence and interference with ongoing investigations.”

For example, Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter, has been in a Pennsylvania county jail since his arrest January 14. He’s charged with four counts including assaulting officers; the FBI alleges he threw something resembling a fire extinguisher at a group of Capitol police.

Sanford will remain behind bars until his trial. Government lawyers accused Sanford of belonging to an “extremist” group because when Sanford’s home was raided after he turned himself in, “agents found a T-shirt worn by members of the white supremacist group the Proud Boys.” (Sanford denied the association.)

A judge agreed, condemning Sanford as a “danger to democracy and our legislators.”

Was he wrong to throw something at cops? Yes. Is he being treated differently because of his political affiliation? Doubtless.

Both the so-called “zip-tie” agitator and his mother are being held without bail and will be transferred from their homes in Tennessee to Washington, D.C. for trial. Eric Munchel and Lisa Eisenhart face various charges including conspiracy and disorderly conduct; despite the media narrative, they did not bring the zip-tie constraints into the Capitol but rather found them in the building.

The Sedition Hammer 

Prosecutors handling the case suggested Munchel and Eisenhart could be the first people charged with the “exceedingly rare” crime of sedition.

Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee and chief judge of the D.C. district court, last week overruled a lower court decision that permitted Munchel to be released pending trial. (Howell was a fierce critic of the Trump Administration who also oversaw the Mueller probe’s grand jury. The swamp, again, in action.)

“Hundreds of people came to Washington, D.C. to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” Howell said during a separate hearing January 28. During that proceeding, Howell ruled that Richard Barnett, the man photographed sitting at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, also would remain in jail throughout his trial.

Barrett, who hails from Arkansas and has no criminal record, faces eight counts including theft of government property, demonstrating in a Capitol building, and possessing a “deadly” weapon on government grounds. (Barrett had a hiking stick that also is a stun gun, which can be purchased on Amazon.)

His conduct enraged Judge Howell. “His entitled behavior . . . shows a total disregard for the law and for officials’ directives,” she raged. “A total disregard for the U.S. Constitution. Brazen, entitled, dangerous.” 

In her rant, Howell claimed five people died because of the chaos—a common prejudicial claim not backed by evidence—and blamed Barrett and others for the military-like presence in Washington during Biden’s inauguration. “Shockingly, this risk of violence was caused by fellow Americans.”

Putin Smiles

Those are just a few examples of how Trump supporters are being treated in this investigation; it stands in stark contrast to the way the same law enforcement authorities handled Black Lives Matter rioters in Washington, D.C. last year—prosecutors dropped nearly all charges against hundreds of rioters for more severe crimes including destruction of property and assaulting police officers. That sort of selective treatment played out in cities across the country, and still does.

One set of Americans, based on their political allegiance, not only escape punishment but are heralded as heroes of democracy. The other group is demonized as traitors, harassed by the news media, denied bail for minor offenses, and presumed guilty until proven innocent by partisan judges and prosecutors.

Meanwhile, the putative leaders of the Republican Party purposely ignore these injustices, far more worried about the fate of Alexei Navalny than their own countrymen. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out this week in defense of Navalny after he was sentenced to prison by a Russian court. “Just the latest in Putin’s long campaign to subvert democracy and the rule of law,” McConnell tweeted February 2.

Apparently, the dangerously politicized rule of law here in the United States is of no concern to McConnell; scalp-hungry partisan prosecutors, working right under his nose and egged on by his colleagues, are poised to build virtually unheard of sedition cases against regular Americans.

Putin, undoubtedly, would smile in approval.

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