In 2002, David Frum, chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, coined the phrase “axis of evil” to describe the despotic regimes of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq during the nascent stages of the global war on terror.
Today, Frum is warning the country about a different axis of evil that he believes similarly threatens the security of America and perhaps even the world: Donald Trump, the Oath Keepers, and the Proud Boys.
“One after another, the foot soldiers of the January 6 attack on Congress are sentenced to prison terms, which for many will mean the lifelong loss of political rights,” Frum tweeted on May 8 in faux concern for the railroaded defendants. “Yet the commanders who plotted and ordered the attack are escaping with impunity—even running for high office.”
Frum, who hasn’t lost his touch as he’s transitioned over the past two decades from a neoconservative to a full-blown Marxist, was referring to the recent convictions of members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Last Thursday, a Washington, D.C., jury found four Proud Boys guilty of seditious conspiracy, a post-Civil War statute nearly synonymous with treason; six Oath Keepers also have been convicted of the same charge for their participation in the events of January 6. Individuals tied to the groups have pleaded guilty to that count or been convicted of other conspiracy and obstruction felonies.
Now, none of these so-called “foot soldiers” possessed nuclear material or starved millions of their countrymen or harbored foreign terror cells bent on the annihilation of the United States. To the contrary, several defendants associated with both groups fought in the very same wars orchestrated by Frum and his former boss. For example, Joseph Biggs, a Proud Boy convicted last week of seditious conspiracy and other offenses, is a Purple Heart recipient who was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
But in Frum’s tiny, vindictive mind, men like Biggs—who brought no weapons to the Capitol and did not assault police on January 6—are comparable to, perhaps worse than, al-Qaeda and ISIS.
After all, Osama bin Laden never expressed loyalty to the Bad Orange Man!
Trump’s most dependable political foes inveighed shortly after the verdicts were announced. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the now defunct January 6 select committee, burnished Frum’s “axis of evil” by describing the triumvirate of Trump, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers as an “overlapping concentric ring” of traitorous conspirators. “Are we going to become a country where the foot soldiers and the lower-down ring leaders go to jail but the masterminds and the real ringleaders at the top skate away free or go golfing in Scotland or Ireland,” Raskin, referring to Trump’s recent overseas golf excursion, asked MSNBCs Stephanie Ruhl.
His committee cohort Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), still driven by a psychotic desire to see Trump in handcuffs after multiple failed attempts, demanded that the “Department of Justice must also hold those who fomented the insurrection accountable, not just those who stormed the gates.”
Claiming, without evidence, there is a “huge domestic terrorism problem” in America, former federal prosecutor and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “pit bull” Andrew Weissmann told MCNBC’s Nicolle Wallace that “the question of should there be charges against the former president becomes one that I think answers itself when you see lower level people who were just convicted being brought to justice but you don’t see the leader yet being brought to justice.”
Weissmann said the convictions “amps the pressure up” on Special Counsel Jack Smith, now investigating Trump’s criminal culpability for January 6.
Unfortunately, for once, this cabal is probably right. As I explained here last month, the trial’s outcome could determine Trump’s legal fate, now in the grasping clutches of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s hand-picked special prosecutor.
Garland, in fact, took a victory lap the day after the verdicts were announced. Flanked by the Justice Department’s most powerful apparatchiks—including Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, National Security Division chief Matthew Olsen, and FBI Director Christopher Wray—Garland publicly praised the prosecutors and investigators involved in the case. “Our work will continue,” Garland pledged on May 5. “During my Senate confirmation hearing, I promised that the Justice Department will do everything in its power to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”
The top prosecutor in the country doesn’t assemble that show of force merely to boast that a jury picked from a city that voted 93 percent for Joe Biden scored another easy victory. He was sending a warning shot to Team Trump.
Garland also was joined by Matthew Graves, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who is handling more than 1,000 and counting cases involving January 6 defendants. That same day, Graves’ office filed a 183-sentencing memo related to the convictions of nine members of the Oath Keepers in two separate trials.
Graves, under fire in D.C. for failing to prosecute violent, repeat offenders in the nation’s capital as murder and carjacking rates skyrocket, wants Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, and Kelly Meggs to spend two decades in prison for their seditious conspiracy convictions and between 10 to 17 years in jail for four other defendants based on their “terroristic conduct” on January 6.
“For over two-hundred years, since President George Washington first voluntarily relinquished his executive power back to the people and set in motion a tradition that has formed the bedrock of our democracy, the American people have chosen their president through free and fair elections. Not force,” Jeffrey Nestler, an assistant U.S. attorney in Graves’ office, wrote. “The attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was a criminal offense unparalleled in American history. It represented a grave threat to our democratic norms; indeed, it was one of the only times in our history when the building was literally occupied by hostile forces. Every defendant here joined a conspiracy that contributed to this unprecedented attack on our democracy.”
To bolster his argument for excessive prison sentences, Nestler compared the defendants to terrorists responsible for the deadly World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and other cases involving foreign-born terrorists who traveled to the Middle East to train to fight with the Taliban or al-Qaeda.
“These other seditious conspiracy cases show that courts have imposed decades-long sentences of incarceration even for planning and preparing for violence (but not using actual violence) against the United States government,” Nestler wrote, presumably with a straight face.
Nestler and Graves should be disbarred for making such legally outlandish statements; nothing the American defendants did before, on, or after January 6 remotely comes close to what happened in those legitimate terror cases. (A man on the Proud Boys jury admitted to Vice News that nearly all of the evidence were messages posted in group chats.)
But the hyperbole, just like the Justice Department’s continued shameful comparisons between a four-hour disturbance on January 6 to lethal terror attacks such as 9/11, serves a greater purpose, one that the government is closer to achieving—the arrest and prosecution of Donald Trump.
And if anyone thinks it’s beyond the pale for this Justice Department to portray Trump as the American version of Osama bin Laden, think again.