Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager John Podesta is scheduled to go before Congress and testify about his role in the alleged meddling in the U.S.…
The people who helped spread the original conspiracy theory, meanwhile, still have the president’s ear.
The man who fired a rifle inside a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant, after being inspired by internet conspiracy theorists convinced it was the center of a child sex trafficking ring that involved Hillary Clinton, has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Prosecutors had asked a judge to put Edgar Welch behind bars for 4.5 years in order to “deter other would-be vigilantes” similarly inspired to acts of violence. The four-year term handed down Thursday followed both a guilty plea and a public letter of contrition from Welch.
Welch will also be on supervised release for three years following the completion of his sentence, during which he must undergo a mental health evaluation. He was also ordered to pay about $5,700 in restitution for property damage he caused, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The so-called “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory was stoked in large part by the right-wing website Infowars and its fringe leader Alex Jones, whose foaming coverage of U.S. politics has been promoted for years by more mainstream conservative media figures — and, starting last year, by then-President Elect Donald Trump. (Trump, whose credibility war against what he calls “fake news” has been a damaging central tactic throughout his campaign and tenure as president, later gave Infowars a press credential.)
Welch was not the first Pizzagate believer to show up in person at D.C.’s Comet Ping Pong. Groups of right-wing internet detectives bent on proving that Clinton and her close associates had moved child pornography and underage sex slaves through Comet’s doors had protested outside and even entered the restaurant on occasion last summer and fall.
But while Welch wasn’t the first to take the wild-eyed fervor of the Pizzagate web mob out of the comments section, he was the first to engage in physical violence in pursuit of his imagined truth. Welch drove up from North Carolina with a gun, walked into Comet brandishing the weapon, and fired a shot into a door striking no one. He surrendered to police shortly afterward outside.
Others on the right who amplified the false story — in which powerful liberal politicians were not only child-raping fiends, but also ones who communicated about their activities through email using a verbal code so simple that internet detectives had cracked it from a glance at hacked emails released during last year’s election — have not shown such contrition. Other prominent Trump boosters like Mike Cernovich and Mike Flynn, Jr. have muted their coverage of the story, but continued to insist there’s something sinister going on.
Welch himself, meanwhile, seems ashamed now of what he did.
“I am really sorry for anything I caused,” Welch said in court Thursday according to reports from the room. In his earlier written apology, Welch wrote that his attack was “motivated, at least in part, by unfounded rumors about a child sex-trafficking ring… that involved nationally-known political figures.”
‘Pizzagate’ shooter sentenced to 4 years in prison was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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The POTUS is tweeting himself into more problems.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the special investigation into the Trump campaign and the Russian hacking of the 2016 election now also encompasses whether President Donald Trump might be guilty of obstruction of justice.
That investigation, the report says, likely stems from Trump firing FBI director James Comey, who was in charge of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt in a televised interview that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he decided to fire Comey.
“And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’” Trump said.
Those disclosures — paired with Comey’s testimony under oath before the Senate last week that Trump had asked him for loyalty and tried, in Comey’s estimation, to cultivate an inappropriate relationship — raise the question of whether the president was attempting to influence an ongoing investigation, which could constitute obstruction of justice.
Immediately after the report, Trump lashed out on Twitter — calling the investigation a “WITCH HUNT” by “some very bad and conflicted people.”
He also insinuated that the obstruction charge was meaningless, because the original crime under investigation — that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian election hacking — hadn’t been proven.
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice
Notably, Trump does not spend time arguing that he did not attempt to obstruct the investigation, suggesting he assumes that is impossible if there is no underlying crime.
His assumption roughly echoes the RNC talking points issued about the Washington Post report, which allege that the obstruction charge is just a cover for the lack of evidence of collusion.
Both of these, however, glide over one fundamental fact: It’s not necessary for the underlying crime to have been committed by the person — or even to exist — for that person to commit obstruction of justice.
In this case, if Trump intended to interfere with the investigation into the Russian collusion, even if ultimately the special counselor concludes no Russian collusion occurred, Trump could still be found guilty of attempted interference of an ongoing investigation.
One way we know that? It’s happened before.
Obstruction of justice is a particularly fraught charge for presidents, because it’s been the charge most often levied in impeachment proceedings. Most recently, it was one of the two charges cited in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
Clinton was impeached by the House for obstruction of justice and perjury for lying under oath about his sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinksi.
Those charges, however, were completely beside the subject of the original investigation — which was whether the Clintons had broken the law in a land deal they’d made in Arkansas, known as Whitewater.
Three separate investigations failed to find evidence of such a crime on the Clinton’s part. Nonetheless, as part of the wide-ranging investigation, Bill Clinton testified about allegations of sexual harassment. And as a result of his answers under oath, special prosecutor Kenneth Starr concluded that Clinton had obstructed justice — even though there was no evidence of Clinton having committed the original crime.
“If you lie under oath, if you intimidate a witness, if you seek otherwise to obstruct the process of justice, it doesn’t matter who wins and who loses in the civil case. What matters, from the criminal law’s perspective, is were crimes committed?” Starr said in a news conference at the time, explaining why his findings in the obstruction of justice probe wouldn’t be affected by the findings on the original matter.
Starr’s findings came after a wide-ranging investigation into the Clinton’s finances, personal relations, and most of their staff, at a $70 million taxpayer price tag. The investigation, and subsequent impeachment proceedings were championed by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — who is now one of Trump’s staunchest defenders.
Mueller is setting up a dragnet of obstruction, financial questions and every aspect of Trump’s life and his associates lives.very dangerous
Gingrich, in 1998, accused Clinton of “undermining the law in the most systematic obstruction of justice cover-up we’ve ever seen in American history,” and insisted repeatedly that the public had a “right to know” whether Clinton had broken the law in his testimony about Monica Lewinsky.
On Thursday, however, Gingrich tweeted that the shift of Mueller’s investigation to include obstruction of justice was an example of “the deep state” trying to undermine the Trump presidency.
The brazen redefinition of Mueller’s task tells you how arrogant the deep state is and how confident it is it can get away with anything
Gingrich, in 1998, also repeatedly attacked Clinton for public criticism of Starr’s investigation.
“I think it is disgraceful that official representatives of the executive branch are undermining a legitimate, legal investigation of the Department of Justice,” he said in March 1998.
“I think the president should bring all of his staff into a room and say, ‘No more spinning. No more fun and games. No more vicious attacks. Why don’t we slow down and tell the truth and let the American people know what happened and let the chips fall where they may,” he said in May 1998.
Now, however, Gingrich is one of Trump’s top attack dogs against Mueller — accusing him of being partisan, conflicted, and the “anti-Trump special counsel.”
Dear President Trump: ‘Obstruction of justice’ doesn’t mean what you think it means was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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