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The Financial Times editorial board on January 5th, the day before the attack on the Capitol buildings wrote, “Extraordinary as it may seem, what amounts to an undeclared coup d’etat is being attempted in the US.”
The Financial Times wrote this after Trump loyalist, Michael Flynn, called for martial law and the holding of a new election. The F.T. editorial board referred to a letter from 10 former secretaries of defense calling on the military not to get involved in the outcome of the election. In other words, the Secretaries of Defense, F.T., and others took the possibility of a coup against Biden and the election results seriously.
Then, in the days leading up to the storming of Congress on January 6th, there was a great deal of intelligence advising that the riot was planned and organized to take control of the building, and what was done. Normal protocols for defending the buildings were not followed. It takes a deliberate decision not to set up a powerfully defended security perimeter around a building under such conditions.
Michael C. Stenger, who was the Sergeant of Arms of the Senate who has since been fired by Mitch McConnell, was the man to whom the Capitol Police answered. Under Stenger’s oversight, the Capitol Police took no extra measures to strengthen security around the building on June 6th. The Sergeant of Arms answers to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which is why he is the one who’s fired Stinger.
It’s beyond credulity that McConnell was not in on the discussions about how to secure the buildings on January 6th. Was it incompetence or was there a deliberate plan to allow the rioters into the buildings? And if that’s true, why?
My guest today is congresswoman from Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, which includes much of the western half of Detroit and is one of the poorest in the nation. Rashida Tlaib is starting her third year in Congress, amidst political chaos not seen in modern American history. Ms. Tlaib is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services. She’s also a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is the main investigative committee in the US House of Representatives. She’s also a member of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, and she’s vice-chair of the Subcommittee on the Environment.
I list all these committee appointments to say that the congresswoman and her Squad allies have forums to raise issues that rarely get discussed in the halls of Congress, given the thin majority the Democrats now hold in the House. This group of left-progressives that I say left because almost everybody is calling themselves a progressive these days. This group known as the Squad could have more clout than in the past.
First, Congresswoman, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
Accountability for the riots of January 6th started with President Trump, who’s now been impeached, and awaits trial in the Senate. But doesn’t this go much further than Trump, who will be out of office in a few days? Many of those who might have been involved are still sitting as members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate. What can be done to make those responsible for the events of January 6th accountable? And will you use your membership on the House Oversight Committee to investigate?
I think it’s very important that we understand that there is a 14th Amendment that allows us to expel colleagues that do not want to uphold the Constitution, but also part of a violent attack on our democracy to overturn the results of a fair election. And so from colleagues that live-tweeted on the House floor, the whereabouts of Speaker Pelosi, to others that gave these terrorists access into the facilities to plan out the attack.
All I can tell you is that this could have been so much worse, if not for many people that took proper measures to protect members, but also even to be able to move people through without there being an attack on some of the members. I would stress to those that are listening to fully understand the extent of this.
You’re talking about folks online publicly saying, bring your arms, come down, we’re about to take back our country. And literally, the leader of this attack was the most powerful person, not only in the country, but the world: the President of the United States who called on them to do exactly what they did. I think it’s very important for us to know we have tools and it has been done in the past where we can investigate and expel those that may have been inciting or aiding the violence.
And would you do that through your oversight committee?
It’s part of the committee process, but we also know just recently with the second impeachment of the President of the United States, we can go through the rules process and so forth. But to give folks due process, these are duly elected individuals and for transparency purposes, I do think all of that needs to be exposed through a hearing and through investigation so that folks can see it wasn’t just a tweet, it was access to the facility, it was the continuation to not respect the institution, and again expose members to violence. We know for a fact from the intelligence that we’ve received, they’re not done yet. They had, and still have plans to kidnap members of the United States Congress, and at some point even erected a noose to hang the Vice President of the United States. All of us may see this and say, well, it didn’t happen. We’re not going to wait till it happens y’all they said they’re going to do it and they want to do it, and that was their plan.
There’s a lot of focus and rightly so, on what happened in the buildings that day. But as I said in my introduction, there was a lot going on leading up to this, including what the Financial Times is calling an attempted coup. And they’re certainly not the only ones. The fact that these 10 former secretaries of defense write such a public letter. The investigation, one would think needs to also look into was there an attempted coup?Trump, Flynn and who else?
In other words, were there any members of Congress in on this? And what really came down there? Because people like these 10 Secretaries of Defense don’t write a letter like that unless there’s, you know, there’s a lot of smoke and perhaps some fire.
Yeah, I think through the investigations, Paul, you’ll see the Capitol Police Chief resigned, but prior to resigning, he gave the order to stand down. He told his officers, stand down. I just know from looking at the uprising Black Lives Matter, and even the previous protest to demand transparency and a fair and just process in appointing the Supreme Court justice, what they [protestors] saw was military aggression on the part of the United States government. But what we saw here was obviously violence towards certain police officers, but there was also, it looks like, collusion and participation on the part of Capitol Police. That all needs to be fully investigated. Also, the lies that were told to us as members of Congress about the engagement of National Guard. We were told they were being engaged. We later found out that was absolutely a blatant lie that was told to the Speaker of the House Pelosi, and others. That all needs to be exposed and seen who exactly participated in it.
I think people are waiting for that to have gotten far worse. Just to be clear how unbelievably close that we were. Minutes before they removed Speaker Pelosi from the House floor, they had barged in looking and chanting her name and went looking for her. They knew exactly where her office was. There’s just so much intelligence and information that’s coming out that says that this was too easy.
The person who’s actually responsible for Capitol Hill Police is the Sergeant of Arms of the Senate, as I said in my introduction. The Sergeant of Arms of the Senate answers to Mitch McConnell. I just cannot understand that it could be possible that there aren’t discussions in the couple of weeks leading up to January 6th between the Sergeant of Arms of the Senate and Mitch McConnell.
But he seems to be getting no attention in all of this, the press is giving him a bye, I guess, because he turned on Trump in the last few days, and refused to oppose the certification.
McConnell has to have had a meeting with the Sergeant of Arms about how to prepare. And then there’s a quote from the Chief of the Capitol Hill Police, I believe it’s in The Washington Post. Where he says he asked Stenger if he was calling in the National Guard and where was that at? And Stenger says, I have to go talk to my boss, Mitch McConnell. And the Chief of Police is quoted as saying, I never heard back from him again.
This investigation needs to get into McConnell and others’ role in this, because as I said in my introduction, you got to ask the question, was there some actual deliberate scheme here to let people into the Capitol?
An investigation, of course, is important but I do feel like there’s already information out there. What happens with investigations is people rationalize away their responsibilities and duty, obviously it’s very clear someone was responsible in saying we didn’t need the National Guard. Also in doing nothing is doing something. Let’s just be very clear. So not responding, not doing your due diligence to protect the members of the United States Congress, but more importantly our democracy, our country, was under attack.
We’re the epicenter of the democracy. We’re a branch of government that is critical to the democracy that we continue to say we uphold. But we’re making exceptions here or we’re dismissing in such a broad brush on the part of Mitch McConnell, many of his cronies and others in the Senate continue to look away. Even during the recent impeachment vote, as recently as two days ago, colleagues were still defending the attack.
They say they condemn violence and then they proceed to talk about people had a right or this wasn’t as bad as other protests, even enabling the continuation around these false election conspiracies. The President of the United States bullied the Secretary of State of Georgia publicly. There’s a recording. There are public statements on the part of the President. He’s not shying away that he called them to action.
He called them to come and bring violence to the Capitol. All of that to say is, of course, you want people to have an investigation, but how much more evidence, data, and information do we all need to start invoking the 14th Amendment? How much more do we need for the Senate to convict this president? For me there’s a sense of urgency. I need things to move quickly, because I find that when folks want to launch commissions and investigations, all of a sudden it gets so politicized, and not fact-centered, and based on the truth that there is this false premise to the American people that we’re doing everything we’re supposed to.
Well, how much more do we need? Because I’ll tell you, my neighbors in the 13th District get probably little to no evidence on them, and they’re in prison immediately. Standards that are so different to folks in my district that have done much less than what this president has done in jeopardizing the lives of Americans. And so I, I just would urge listeners and others to demand urgency and movement quickly.
What would be the mechanism of the 14th Amendment? How would that how does that happen?
Congresswoman Kerry Bush had introduced the bill to invoke the 14th Amendment. And I believe it’s a similar process of beginning to investigate colleagues that participated in this incitement of violence or participated in not what we would call upholding the oath that they took, they would be expelled, that we would have a vote to expel them from the United States Congress.
OK, let’s shift gears here, and start looking a little bit more into the future by also looking a little bit into the past.
When you look at who was on the Hill in that in those riots, from what I could see, it seemed like the majority of the people relatively activist Trump supporters, but not the organized militant fascist goons that really did the violence, and were also, it seemed, quite organized and perhaps trained for what they did. But if you go and you look at the 74-75 million people that voted for Trump, most of those people are not the people that were on the Hill. Whether they supported them or not, I don’t know.
So let me ask, in terms of the Democratic Party, what you as a progressive in the House are able to achieve. Start with the question. Why did so many people vote for Trump after, at the top of his list of crimes has to be his handling of the pandemic? Honestly, it’s worse even than what happened in the Hill in terms of the destruction of people’s lives in society. But 74-75 million people vote for him. What’s missing here? What’s what does that tell us about the Democratic Party?
I don’t think this is really about party politics, because many of those people that came out to vote for Trump are not really Republicans. And if you look at the people being arrested, they don’t have strong voting records for the Republican Party. They had a strong record to support Trump. Trump spoke to them in rhetoric around hate, racism, white supremacy, that no other person running for President was doing. We need to realize that because we’re lumping everybody together, but the things that Trump is saying to the millions of people that voted for him, that somehow resonates with them, maybe the anger.
I don’t know how to do it. But one thing that is hard for me is, thinking about my fellow Americans, trying to understand their way of thinking that they were OK. They were OK with the President of the United States bribing a foreign government. They were OK with the President not divesting in his business and pretty much as a crooked CEO running his businesses out of the Oval Office for the Trump Organization, not for the American people. The continuation of promoting this instability that continues to happen during a global public health crisis.
I push back on folks asking me why. Why was all of that still not enough? I know for many of my residents here, when they’re not inspired, they just don’t come out. They don’t come out and don’t vote for anybody on top of the ticket. They stay home. You can see it in the trends that you’ve seen of who’s on top of the ticket, who stayed home, who didn’t.
And the issue here is that many people felt so motivated, inspired to come out and vote for Donald Trump for the second time, and left the rest of their ballot blank. They came out for him. That is very concerning to me. I know for us as Democrats and even for myself, I know that there is more that we need to do. Absolutely. And I’m not giving them a pass at all. I can tell you that I hope that the uprising and the pushback and aggression of wanting meaningful change in our country doesn’t stop with Biden and Harris in the oval. President-elect Biden will still have to be protested, demanding change, all of those things that we’ve been trying to do in the last four years under the Trump administration is so critically important that we continue and not fall asleep and stay woke. One of the key things that I found this past election is that we weren’t engaging people. We continue to try to engage those that were wanting to support Trump instead of engaging our own people that understand our values, understand that Trump was un-American, that he didn’t reflect our values.
I always tell people on the ballot is not just names, it’s our values, it’s our principles. It is who is going to give us the door to a possibility of better in our country. And so many over 70 million thought that it was still Trump. This wasn’t even about Trump versus Biden to me, it was about is that what we want to continue on in our country?
And people still felt inspired by the current forever-impeached President to come out and vote for him, and again leave the rest of the ballot blank. And Paul, you should look at congressional races where some of my colleagues won, and Trump also won. What is going on in that dynamic? That people still, again, felt compelled to vote for this racist-in-chief.
And so I would just stress to us to ask the question to those individuals. They still didn’t reject his hate, reject his corrupted policies, and the lawlessness that we continue to see even in the last few days of his presidency.
I think there’s a section of that 74 million Trump vote. I can’t put numbers on it, but maybe it’s 20, 25 percent of it that are either people that are so imbued with a racist culture that they were born into and essentially trained into, which is a culture that comes right out of the slave society, and evangelical, right-wing evangelicals, because I think at least 20, 25 percent of evangelicals did not vote for Trump – I think it’s important that we recognize that.
But it’s a kind of religious fervor, but a significant number, and I, again, don’t know the number, but I think it’s significant of people that voted for Trump actually voted for Obama the first time he ran. I think the Democratic Party has has to have the will. It’s not about figuring it out. I think the policies that are needed are known, which kind of gets back to what the progressives can do in the party. But if life doesn’t get better, actually better for people, they’re going to continue to vote for, whether it’s a new version of Trump or a new version of Reagan. I don’t think in terms of policy, Trump was all that different than Reagan. And much of his racist messaging was Reagan’s messaging as well.
So I guess the question reduces itself to what can you the Squad inside and what can people outside, what are the critical demands and how can you leverage your position to push this Biden administration away from Wall Street and force it to actually take some serious progressive measures.
Paul, the way we’re going to do to speak the truth, no matter who’s the president of the United States. I specifically asked to become a permanent member of the House Oversight Committee because I’m not going to be afraid that it’s president-elect Biden in the Oval Office. If anything, I’m going to be as bold and if not more, because my expectations of him are higher than they were for Trump.
It’s important that there is a reality out there that even a family member of mine voted again for Trump and he’s just so angry. He grew up in the same household – UAW, Labor household – and is so infuriated with the Democratic Party that for him it was a vote against them. He’s also fell into the conspiracy theories because it seems to ease fear and other kinds of anxieties, and issues that people have. Again, I can’t explain it very clearly.
This is someone who grew up in a Palestinian household.
Yes. I’m very upfront. My brother continues to. We’re not allowed to talk politics in front of my mother anymore because it gets very heated. God rest his soul. My father is not alive to see this because I don’t think he would have allowed him to continue spewing the same again rhetoric coming out of President Trump.
But I think, Paul, it’s important to realize for many of us, my sisters in service and others that are in office, I don’t want us to fall asleep like we did when President Obama was elected. If anything, people want bold and meaningful change right. And I’ll tell you, it’s very bipartisan- supported to have access to health care. It’s so incredibly bipartisan support to have $2000, even re-occurring payments.
You know, 7 out of 10 Americans, both Republican, Democrat, support that. There’s so much bipartisan support to push up against corporate greed that has allowed so many of our neighbors to have lower wages, no protection in the workplace, struggling every single day. So we’re going to continue to be fearless. We’re going to continue to be bold. I know many of us are excited because we know now there’s not really a wall around the White House like it was with Trump, that now there’s a door, a door that we may have to knock down, not physically, but you know what I mean. I want to make it clear, especially with what happened recently, that it’s more of a metaphor of a door to possibility Because you know Biden is not our destination. He really isn’t. And if anything, he’s now become an opportunity to at least push the agenda around BOOST Act to uplift 45% percent of people out of poverty to really, truly combat what’s going on with mass incarceration in our country. All the for-profit schemes that we have in our healthcare industry and immigration system, so much more that we need to do.
And at the center of all of that is also the right to breathe clean air and the right to clean water. We’re going to continue to speak that truth and demand him to fit the needs of the American people. And again, I can find Republicans and Democrats that feel the same way around these issues.
You’re on a committee that has some oversight over the financial sector. What do you think of the appointment of BlackRock – the largest asset manager in the world – they’re now up to $8.7 trillion dollars of assets under management. BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, the other big players in the asset management field that apparently control the votes of 90% of the S&P 500. The concentration of ownership is just beyond imagining.
And then Biden appoints Brian Deese to run the National Economic Council and Wally Adeyemo, if I’m pronouncing it correctly, who is a former chief of staff to BlackRock’s chief executive. He was named number two at the Treasury Department. What does this tell us about what Biden’s economic policies are going to be?
I think now we’ve been put on notice and that we are going to have corporate greed at the essence of some of these policy decisions. And we’re going to have to continue to push back and speak the truth. We can’t allow these corporations. They may not have physically came and attacked our democracy, physically, came in and tried to stop the work of Congress, and certification of this election. But corporations have been infiltrating our government for a long time and swaying policies that are in favor of them versus the people.
And so we need to continue to expose that and push back. I’m not surprised by the continuation of corporate interest to infiltrate and to seep into American government at all levels. So if anything, it just makes me on notice. And it does obviously create that distrust of whether or not the Biden administration is going to come with a pure heart in leading with compassion that is again centered on people first, not corporations.
And so we’re just going to continue, myself and many others, including Senator Sanders, in pushing back against that and saying, no, enough, people are tired of waiting. And I’ve already told President-elect Biden in my last conversation with him, I said don’t take anything I do personally. I have the third poorest congressional district in the country. And my timeline is different, Sir, my folks can’t afford an hour, a week, a month, a year for change.
So we may have the same goals. But I think your timeline is going to be a little different than mine. Mine is going to be ASAP now. No more waiting. I just hope he just respects that and understands why I’m moving with that sense of urgency and pushing back against these compromises that, again, really are ways that are forcing my people to wait for that change to better their lives.
As I said in my introduction, the Squad may have more clout given the majority of the Democrats in the House is razor-thin in some ways. If I understand correctly, you voted with Tulsi Gabbard against the previous bailout package because it was so weak. Do you see you and other members of the squad perhaps even voting with Republicans sometimes against legislation that is such a compromise that it doesn’t deserve to pass?
Yeah, when I vote against or with it’s not with anyone. It’s not with the Republicans. It’s not with another colleague. It is the best interest of my district. And what I heard overwhelmingly for my district is that $600 wasn’t going to last a week because they were expecting direct payment months ago. It was eight months later and they get half of what was promised. And so for me, just to be clear, I’m not going to be voting with anyone.
I vote for my district. And as long as I’m centering on my district, I’ll continue to have the respect of my colleagues, including leadership, who understand. They weren’t surprised because I told them. This is the problem. I have people that can’t afford the water. I have people that can’t even get in-line to go get help with rent because they have landlords that refuse to put a land agreement in writing because they want to be off.
But I mean, there are just so many systems that are set up against people to stay in poverty and are so inhumane. And so for me, I need to get them human dignity. And that is direct payments. That is direct payments so they are able to have housing, they’re able to have water, they’re able to be able to take care of their children. One resident told me she grew up going to the food bank line with her mother and father, and then she was able to get an education, she was able to get a good job, and then the pandemic happened. She can’t believe she’s in a car with her own kids in the backseat doing the same thing her mother had to do. And just hearing her feel like she’s failed. She hasn’t failed. We failed her.
She did everything she was supposed to do. But for this pandemic, she would not be in that food bank line. And so I’m going to continue to speak that truth, Paul, and continue to ask my colleagues to support me by supporting their districts, because I’ll tell you, I am not the only district that is suffering at this level. And I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired. Compromise is honorable, but if the end goal is for people to wait more, wait longer for something else to happen, I mean, they’re tired, they’re exhausted.
And you wonder why they don’t want to vote. They wonder why. I keep reminding people my folks came out and voted for Biden and Harris after passing a school closure, after passing poverty on their street. They still had some spirit left in their souls to come out and say, I got to vote. I got to vote because I deserve better. And so let’s just give them better. That’s what we need to do.
Just one final question then, what do you know about the package Biden is proposing in terms of the infrastructure and direct payments and such? And is it is that this time going to be more direct payments and less defense of the stock market?
I hope that it is direct action for residents. So that’s payments, student loans, rent, water access, vaccine access, mobile access to vaccines, all of those things. And then state and local government, which really are the front line of stopping the spread of the pandemic. Biden will propose what he will propose. But, Paul, there’s still a Senate and there’s still a House of Representatives. And our proposals, I know are going to be bolder, and that’s OK.
I think he’s expecting us to move him to be even more aggressive and bold. But I’m at least pleased to hear that direct payments are still on the table. I was actually very worried that because of the vaccine that they were going to consider not even doing another payment because they think vaccines don’t fix bank accounts, they don’t fix when the moratorium is over with for evictions and for water shut off, those bills are still due. So I’m glad at least that they’re not putting it off the table.
What can you and your colleagues do, your Squad, your progressive colleagues, in terms of pushing a Medicare for All agenda? You know, there was some question of whether there’s some leverage could have been used around the Pelosi vote. What can be done to try to put that back on the agenda? Biden has said he’s not for Medicare for all, but he does say he supports the principle of health care for all.
It’s another way of asking our residents to wait. I think that just a reality check for all of those advocating, we only probably have one hundred votes. I don’t care what the co-sponsorship says. We probably have one hundred votes. I know this. I talk to people about around this issue. Help us, because I’ll tell you this. When you look at the Civil Rights Act that was signed, you look at even the movement around labor rights in organizing around that. All that happened because of the streets demanded it. All that happened because of organizing in the community.
And so we need more support for Medicare for All and more votes because 100 is not going to get us passed. If we ever put that up for a vote and it failed, that is a way out for Biden and many of the folks in leadership that might be right now hoping that Medicare for All would just go away.
All right, thanks very much, Congresswoman, thank you and thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news podcast.