President Trump: We're going to walk down and I'll be there with you.
Tanzina Vega: Authority said the dead include a woman who was shot by US Capitol Police as well as three others who died in medical emergencies.
Speaker 3: Threatening the safety of duly elected officials is not protest. It's insurrection.
Speaker 4: I call this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.
Speaker 5: Call it off. The election is over.
Speaker 6: The behavior that we are witnessing is shameful, unpatriotic and above all, it is unlawful.
Tanzina: A West Virginia lawmaker was among the supporters of President Trump who stormed the US Capitol.
Speaker 7: As the violence raged, aides urged him to respond, and he reluctantly tweeted his backer should stay peaceful and then posted a video message.
President Trump: We love you. You're very special.
Speaker 8: One of the great outrages in American history.
Tanzina: Facebook's vice president of integrity said the video contributes to the risk of ongoing violence.
Speaker 9: It was removed by Facebook and Twitter.
President Trump: I know your pain. I know you're hurt.
Speaker 10: I think Donald Trump probably should be brought up on treason for something like this. That's how a coup starts.
Nancy Pelosi: To those who engaged in the gleeful desecration of this, our temple of democracy, American democracy, justice will be done.
Speaker 12: It was the saddest day I've ever had as serving as a member of this institution.
Mitch McConnell: Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress.
Speaker 13: This will be a stain on our country, not so easily washed away.
Mitch McConnell: The votes for President of the United States are as follows, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr of the state of Delaware has received 306 votes. Donald J. Trump with the state of Florida has received 232 votes.
Tanzina: This is The Takeaway. I'm Tanzina Vega, and I'm back early from my break for a very heavy day in American history. The insurrectionist mob of Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol yesterday should have been a surprise to no one. Yesterday's events were the logical culmination of a long history of violence in this country, but especially under President Donald Trump. Under the Trump administration, we have witnessed the encouragement and the enabling of mobs of mostly white insurrectionists drunk on conspiracy theories and lies about the election spouted from the highest office in the land.
From far-right so-called militia groups threatening to overthrow and capture government officials in Michigan, to a lone gunman who killed 23 people in El Paso, Texas last summer. Yesterday's events should leave no doubt that in the United States, we have a domestic terrorism problem.
Will Sommer is a politics reporter at The Daily Beast following conservative media and he was outside the Capitol Building yesterday. Will, welcome to the show.
Will Sommer: Thanks for having me.
Tanzina: Will, who was on the ground yesterday? Who were these people? What do we know about them so far?
Will: Sure. The protesters outside and the rioters inside were a mix of people. We have some people who are what you might think of as run of the mill hardcore Trump supporters, we have militia members, QAnon supporters, and just straight-up white supremacists as well.
Tanzina: How long had this event been planned, Will? This was not a spontaneous protest.
Will: No, no, it wasn't at all. This had been planned at least since mid-December the last time the protesters were in DC and they didn't succeed in their attempt to overthrow the election then. The chatter about this has been going on for weeks and people were very open about online, about their plans to breach the Capitol and even take hostages.
Tanzina: Yet law enforcement and we're talking about this later in the show the specifics of where and whether law enforcement but there was no one there, at least it appeared. Now you were there. What did you see?
Will: Sure, yes. I was initially on the east side of the Capitol, and there were really just a handful of Capitol Police outside for what was even before Trump's speech ended at the White House was a couple of thousand people but I knew there would be likely tens of thousands more coming. I thought, "Geez, there should be a lot more police out here." Then, on the west side, they breached what were-- They covered a lawn and I thought, "Okay. That's not that big a deal."
Then suddenly, just 1000s of people surged in, and they were just calling for one another to just come up and just start laying into the Capitol Police. It really was chaos. There was teargas. There were flashbangs being thrown around and eventually, of course, they breached the Capitol.
Tanzina: They breached the Capitol and they went inside. I think what was stunning to all of us, so many of us, maybe not all of us, Will, was just how easily they were able to get into the Capitol. How easily they were able to access offices and personal equipment that is used, the files and computers. There was an image of someone sitting at Nancy Pelosi's desk with his feet up on the table. How was that able to go down? What was the mood of the crowd at that point?
Will: The crowd was furious. That's certainly clear. They were-- I think what's startling about the poor police response here is that it was clear that there was a focal point, which was the Capitol. That there was going to be a time the crowd got really rowdy, which was when the votes started to be counted by Congress and Mike Pence did not go along with some harebrained scheme to have a coup. I don't think anyone anticipated that the Capitol Police would perform so poorly. Certainly in post 9/11 in Washington, so many of the federal buildings we think of is very locked down, and to get anywhere near them, you're under police and law enforcement scrutiny. It just completely baffling what happened here.
Tanzina: Will, is it accurate? We saw images out of Washington that showed, at least from what we could see security, maybe potentially law enforcement opening the gates to the Capitol for these folks to access, the insurrectionists to get in.
Will: I do think there's been some dispute over that video of its meaning. I think it's a little unclear whether they were opening the gates, or whether they were trying to tag on them to keep protesters from overtaking the gates but certainly, I think, at the point where-- What is clear is that inside the Capitol after the breach, Capitol Police were taking selfies with the protesters. These are white supremacists who some at least certainly have plans to take hostages and maybe even kill our elected lawmakers, and the idea that the Capitol Police were just pounding around with them, I think it's disgusting.
Tanzina: I think what we should also note is that I think it depends on who the law enforcement was. There was an image of a Black Capitol police officer running up a flight of stairs as the mob descended upon him, and he was by himself. Did you notice any differences in terms of who the law enforcement representatives were and how they were interacting with the crowd, with the insurrectionists?
Will: I really wasn't close enough to identify individual officers but I do think that scene you talk about where you have just this mob of Trump supporters, many of them in QAnon conspiracy theory gear, and of course, QAnon is all about... Essentially Trump mass murdering his enemies, facing off with this one Black police officer who's completely overwhelmed. It's a very striking one, and I think really sums up the level of chaos that took place yesterday.
Tanzina: Will, how many are these groups? The federal government or I should say the national security apparatuses we have here in this country, including the CIA and the FBI, have been clear, at least prior to this, that domestic terrorism is a problem. They have noted that and yet this happened. How many of these groups are being watched by federal law enforcement at this point?
Will: Sure. It's certainly during the summer. It's been a very tumultuous summer last year and we saw a lot of these extremist groups, particularly the so-called Boogaloo people who were certainly there yesterday. These Boogaloo people who say they want a second American Civil War. They appear to have been infiltrated to some extent by the FBI because there were a series of indictments against them. Of course, the plot to rush the Capitol yesterday was very reminiscent of the plan to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, which also included a plan to rush the Michigan State Capitol and take hostages.
We know that the FBI and presumably other law enforcement are tracking these groups. The question is why no one did anything yesterday because there were-- Again, this stuff was all out in the open. There were people who were just following this stuff as amateurs. There were reporters just tweeting like, "The plan is to rush the Capitol," and law enforcement either didn't know or didn't care.
Tanzina: I don't know if they didn't know. Like you're saying whether or not they cared is a question that we're going to explore later. Will, you've covered these groups for a while and I've been shocked at the media, frankly, respond to how surprised people are by what is happening in front of them. I look at this as the logical culmination of events that did not start under President Trump, would have certainly been enabled by the president. I'm wondering how dangerous and widespread are these groups right now given the fact that they have been aided, abetted, and enabled by the highest office in the land?
Will: Sure. Certainly, I think all of these groups right now feel very empowered by Trump. During his speech, when he was saying-- He's saying, "Go down, march down to the Capitol. Protest this." Obviously, there's a lot of different factions here. They're the white supremacists. They're these militias. What I think might be most concerning is just how this idea has really seeped in across the broader, more mainstream right that if the election doesn't go your way, it must be fraudulent. Then you have the right to do whatever you want in response. Trump, we know has effectively endorsed QAnon believers whose entire theory is premised on a fascist takeover of the government. I think this ideology is really taking hold on the riot and it's very disturbing.
Tanzina: You mentioned the word fascist. A lot of people have been tiptoeing around that and whether or not President Trump has represented some authoritarian prototype here. What are your thoughts on that? You've covered this community of insurrectionists and white supremacists for years now. What are your thoughts on what this really is defined as at this point?
Will: Sure. Look, it's certainly not all Trump supporters are fascist. I wouldn't want to say that but I think this vanguard that stormed the Capitol. If you saw this happen in another country, there's no better textbook definition of fascism then. A group trying to launch a right-wing authoritarian dictatorship by interfering with the transfer of power. These are groups that they have different fantasies about the world they want to see, but they're all premised on the idea of a violent purge of their enemies on the left and in the media and culture, and a strong man leadership under Trump.
Tanzina: We'll be watching how this unfolds. This is definitely not the end of the conversation. Will Sommer is a politics reporter for The Daily Beast who follows conservative media. Will, stay safe out there and thank you so much for your reporting.
Will: Thanks for having me.
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