Alan Zendell, March 5, 2021
Many people in Congress have been tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, but last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who at eighty, isn’t intimidated by speaking the truth, said, “The enemy is within.” When asked for a clarification by CBS News, she replied, “It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.” Some, like Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, refuse to pass through metal detectors at the Capitol. They just walk around them unchallenged, because the Capitol Police have not been ordered to confront them.
A 2,000 page report issued last week by California Representative Zoe Lofgren documented publicly reported contacts between members of Congress and individuals involved in the January 6th demonstration and the insurrection at the Capitol. Representatives Paul Gosar (AZ), Mo Brooks (AL), and Andy Biggs (AZ) were all reported to have been in contact with people who planned the rally in response to former President Trump’s call to action to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. We didn’t need a report to know that Senator Josh Hawley (MO) thrust his fist in the air exhorting the crowd in front of the White House to march on the Capitol and interfere with the constitutionally mandated process of declaring that Biden would be inaugurated two weeks later. We all saw and heard him.
Nancy Pelosi chooses her words carefully. She takes the threats from her colleagues seriously, as she should. People like Hawley, a lawyer smart enough to know where the line between free speech and insurrection is, are careful not to urge protesters to overthrow the government in so many words. They understand that the Constitution defines treason extremely narrowly – to be found guilty of treason one has to either physically participate in an attempt to overthrow the government or personally aid an enemy in time of war. So Hawley, Brooks, Donald Trump, Jr, and Rudi Giuliani, who all clearly incited the crowd to physically act to prevent Congress from on January 6th, cannot literally be charged with treason for their remarks at the rally. Does that absolve them of responsibility?
Both FBI Director Christopher Wray and soon to be Attorney General Merrick Garland have stated publicly that they consider the White Supremacist Groups who invaded the Capitol to be the most serious terrorist threats in the nation. Garland said DOJ will investigate thoroughly and follow wherever the evidence takes them, no matter how high it leads. All this brings us to the real question: how far are we willing to go and how much are we willing to risk to protect our so-called democracy? As badly divided as we already are, how do we balance the risk of doing nothing in the hope that this will all go away against the risk of pre-emptively removing the worst actors from the scene before they can do irreparable damage?
We need to decide those questions before we go too far down the road, because while it may be impossible to prosecute anyone for treason, it’s quite likely that the FBI will find enough evidence to charge several high-profile people with sedition. On January 14th, The Saturday Evening Post explained exactly what sedition is – a federal crime punishable by up to twenty years in prison:
According to Title 18, second 2384 of the Code of Laws of the United States, sedition can meet any of three conditions.
If two or more people in any place subject to U.S. jurisdiction:
- conspire to overthrow, put down, or destroy by force or wage war against the government
- forcefully oppose government authority, preventing, hindering or delaying the execution of any law of the U.S.
- seize, take, or possess any U.S. property contrary to its laws.
That sounds a lot like what the aforementioned individuals did. Could they be charged with sedition? Perhaps more important, if there is evidence to do so, will our leaders have the courage to act? If history has taught us anything, it is that failing to act preventively when the enemy is gathering at your gates is an invariably losing strategy. When the enemy is already within your walls, there is no choice at all.
What has occurred since the November election was not the protected expression of dissent by a loyal opposition. It is an attempt to undermine our Constitution. The people responsible, no matter who they turn out to be, must be prosecuted with zero tolerance if we expect our republic to survive.