Despite the violent insurrection in Washington D.C., local and regional news has not slowed down. Here are a few quick highlights. The Texas Legislature is back in town. The Austin area has reached a dangerous new level in the COVID-19 pandemic. The group conducting the initiative to change Austin to a strong mayor form of government filed its petitions with the City Clerk and maintains that they have enough signatures to force an election in May. A counter group has also formed to oppose the effort. Meanwhile the City Council continues to jockey over who will be Mayor Pro Tem with their first Council meeting set for January 27 — giving citizens and the City staff something of a merciful break. And, the Austin American-Statesman got a new editor, Manny Garcia.
In an update, a settlement agreement in the Hamilton Pool Road/Provence Development saga (covered here several times) was approved by the West Travis County Public Utility Agency (WTCPUA) Board late last year.
We’ll have more on these subjects in the days to come, but today let’s look at the insurrection in Washington with a particular focus on the role of Texans — some famous, others not until now.
The good news for Texans is that it was not a Texas official who made perhaps the most pathetic post insurrection remark. That distinction, at least in the view here, goes to Missouri Senator Roy Blunt. In explaining why he doesn’t support invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump, or a second impeachment, Blunt said, “My personal view is that the president touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again.” Among other things, this echoes Maine Senator Susan Collins statement rationalizing her vote against the first impeachment, saying that she felt Trump had learned his lesson. We’ve seen how that worked out. And, of course comparing an insurrection where some of the participants aimed to kill Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” to touching a hot stove is, well, pathetic.
To be totally fair, however, if one thinks about Blunt’s statement long enough — not necessarily advised — it could be concluded that he is at least acknowledging that Trump incited the insurrection. So, in a cowardly, indirect, do nothing about it, risk letting it happen again way Blunt acknowledged Trump’s culpability.
That is more than we can say for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who hasn’t acknowledged Trump’s culpability or his own. But, then nobody can do hypocrisy like Ted. As we reported here a day before the insurrection Cruz was “clawing desperately to be right up at the front of the potential coup.” He did it. Cruz is being mentioned virtually everywhere, along with Josh Hawley (the other Senator from Missouri). The two 2024 presidential hopefuls helped set off the coup attempt by advancing Trump’s false claims of election fraud and challenging Congressional acceptance and approval of the certified electoral vote from the states — specifically several swing states where Trump lost. This action was in lock step with what the insurrectionists were demanding. Cruz and Hawley stuck with that position even after the insurrection was put down and Congress reconvened.
It is far from clear whether Cruz’s actions will help him with Trump’s base four years from now, but it certainly didn’t help him with the Houston Chronicle whose editorial board called on Cruz to resign. Acknowledging that they were not particularly fond of him in the first place, the editorial board wrote: “We’re done with the drama. Done with the opportunism. Done with the cynical scheming that has now cost American lives. Resign, Mr. Cruz, and deliver Texas from the shame of calling you our senator.”
Cruz of course didn’t resign. In fact he had the gall to piously call for “unity,” as opposed to removing Trump from office or prosecuting him. Unity quickly became a Republican talking point, but, even compared to the rest of Republicans, it sounded particularly smarmy and odious coming from Cruz. Cruz not only refuses to resign, he has four more years in his second Senate term, after Texas voters reelected him in 2018.
Now, let’s talk about some lessor known Texans who participated in the insurrection, like Larry Rendall Brock Jr. of the Dallas area. Brock is an Air Force veteran and graduate of the Air Force Academy. As Ronan Farrow described it in a New Yorker article, “clad in a combat helmet, body armor, and other tactical gear, (Brock) was among the group that made it to the inner reaches of the building. Carrying zip-tie handcuffs, he was captured in photographs and videos on the Senate floor and with a group that descended on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite.”
Farrow actually reached Brock after the failed coup. Brock told Farrow that he witnessed no violence during his time at the Capitol and that when he arrived he just assumed it was OK to walk in. He denied that he entered Pelosi’s suite, but Farrow reports, “he is seen (on video footage) standing against a wall adjacent to Pelosi’s office, his face covered by a bandana. At another point, he appears to exit the suite, face exposed, pushing his way through the crowds of demonstrators.”
While Brock denies having been in Pelosi’s suite there is no denying that he was holding zip-ties as seen in the footage of him in the Senate chamber. Brock had an explanation for that. He saw zip ties on the floor and picked them up with the intent of handing them off to a law enforcement officer at the first opportunity. But, then he put them in his pocket and forgot.
And, why was he there? “The President asked for his supporters to be there to attend, and I felt like it was important, because of how much I love this country, to actually be there.” Brock also said that he was not affiliated with any organized group.
Farrow also talked to some of Brock’s friends and family. For instance a long time friend from his Air Force days said he had broken off contact with Brock because his old friend had “gotten extreme.” An unidentified family member described “weird rage talk, basically, saying he’s willing to get in trouble to defend what he thinks is right, which is Trump being the President, I guess.”
The New Yorker later added an “Update” at the beginning of the article about Brock: “Two days after the publication of this piece, Brock was arrested in Texas and charged in federal court, in the District of Columbia, with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority, and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.”
Then there’s Jenny Cudd of Midland. The 36-year-old florist and former Midland mayoral candidate is still roaming free despite having live streamed from the Capitol, with a Trump flag draped over her shoulder: “We did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door. And somebody stole her gavel and took a picture sitting in the chair, flipping off the camera and that was on Fox News.”
The Washington Post led with Cudd in a January 10 story headlined, “The Capitol mob: A raging collection of grievances and disillusionment.” The Post also quoted Heather Bredimus of Midland. Bredimus is a graphic designer in Midland and is married to an official at a local hospital. She leads a group that advocates for the wearing of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. This drew the attention and ire of Cudd, a vehement mask opponent. The Post reported that in December Midland anti-maskers “began circulating photos” of Bredimus’s “van and license plate number, leading to anonymous death threats.” Plus, “Cudd stood outside of Bredimus’s residence — with Bredimus’s four children inside and home alone — and began live-streaming to her followers. Bredimus said she alerted the Midland Police Department to voice concerns over what she viewed as Cudd’s erratic and potentially threatening behavior but was told there was nothing they could do.”
Despite all that, Bredimus told the Post, it was still somewhat surprising to see footage of Cudd inside the national Capitol: “You don’t think the people from your hometown are going to be the crazy ones on TV and in the news.”
That’s an understandable feeling coming from Bredimus in Midland. Here in Austin though, we are somewhat more accustomed to seeing our local residents on the national news. So it wasn’t all that surprising to hear that world famous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is claiming that he funded Trump’s rally on the Ellipse. Actually this was a local story first reported by the Austin American-Statesman. The Statesman reported that the day after the insurrection Jones “said he paid close to $500,000 to book the Ellipse, the park where Trump’s supporters initially gathered, and other areas near the Capitol. He said 80% of the money came from an unnamed donor.”
The Statesman drew its report from a video Jones posted on his site the day after the insurrection. As the Statesman described it, “Jones said he was asked by the White House to lead the march to the Capitol three days before the event. In the video, Jones said the Secret Service would pull him out of the front row during the president’s speech, about 30 minutes before it ended, so he could go to the place where he would start the march. Jones said he ultimately did not end up leading the march because there was already a crowd ahead of him.” The Statesman also reported that Jones said he told people trying to breach the Capitol, in the Statesman’s summary, “to stop so the events didn’t end the debate over the investigation.” Jones also claimed that Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) members infiltrated the protests, a claim for which, the Statesman noted, there is “no evidence.”
You can’t blame the Statesmen for running with what they had, but this seems the kind of story that features some initial information with a lot more yet to come; plus one that raises as many questions as it answers. For example it comes to mind that this might possibly be something of a preemptive statement by Jones, but with him it’s impossible to tell — and probably not best to spend much time trying to figure out.
Another person claiming Antifa infiltration was the indicted and under FBI investigation Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton spoke at the Washington rally before the storming of the Capitol and the next day maintained that “those who stormed the capital yesterday were not Trump supporters. They have been confirmed to be Antifa.” PolitiFact assessed that claim and issued Paxton its Pants on Fire rating; not that Paxton cares. He was likely just in town pardon shopping.
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