Reality Check: 'Insurrection Without Accountability Is Practice'

Reality Check: 'Insurrection Without Accountability Is Practice'

John Avlon talks about how to prevent insurrection in the future on CNN’s New Day.

“Donald Trump doesn’t want you to see the White House documents about attempts to overturn the election around January 6th. That’s why his lawyers were back in court desperately trying to block the release from the National Archives and Record Administration,” he said.

“Keep in mind, these are your documents. They belong not to him but to the American people. What they are trying to avoid is not just legal accountability but transparency, knowing they will be judged not only in court but the eyes of history. We have never had a sitting president attempt to overturn an election before. That doesn’t mean we have never confronted insurrection and sedition before. The Civil War was sparked in part by refusal to accept the legitimacy of Abe Lincoln. In the aftermath of the war, the Civil War generation passed laws designed to protect America from insurrections in the future.

“Those laws might once have seemed like historic relics. Lately they’ve been getting another look, and with good reason. Last week, a jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, awarded $26 million in damages against the white nationalists who organized and participated in the violent Unite The Right rally, spearheaded by Integrity First For America demonstrated that the defendants, including neo Nazis and neo Confederates were guilty of conspiring to commit acts of violence. While the jury deadlocked on federal charges, it was significant that they invoked an 1871 KKK law. It makes it a federal crime to commit racially or politically motivated violence — for example, using force, intimidation or threat to prevent someone from voting or holding office.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise that this was the same law that Bennie Thompson invoked against Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, trying to stop Joe Biden’s win. While they dropped the suit with his co-chair January 6th committee, that same law is the basis for an NAACP lawsuit. That is not the only post Civil War law that could impose accountability for insurrection. The Fourteenth Amendment Section 3 was designed to bar people from holding elected or appointed office going forward. And this wasn’t supposed to be limited to the Civil War.

“As a senator explained at the time, being a permanent provision of the constitution, it is intended to operate as a preventive of treason hereafter, a measure of self-defense. But if that prohibition seems too high a bar, there is also a criminal penalty which specifically covers incitement. If that’s not enough, there is even a separate criminal statute for seditious conspiracy. While investigators indicated there would likely be seditious conspiracy charges, so far they have not emerged under AG Garland, even in the new case of a new conspiracy indictments against members of a group called Patriots 45 MAGA gang.

“One defendant messaged his crew, ‘We need to violently remove traitors. And if they’re in key positions, rapidly replace them with able-bodied patriots.’ So the line from the DOJ to date seems to be conspiracy yes, sedition no. But if January 6th wasn’t sedition or insurrection, what the hell is? These laws are on the books for a reason. They’re the tools we were given by the Civil War generation to defend our democracy and hold accountable. We are only inviting further escalation. because as Berman and Bree like to remind us, without accountability, an attempted insurrection is just practice.

“And that’s your reality check.”

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