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GOP freshmen reps offer cooperation to Biden but Donalds missing from letter
Jan. 21, 2021 by David Silverberg
After only 18 days in Congress, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) already has a challenger when he next faces election in 2022—Democrat Cindy Banyai, who opposed him last year.
Banyai announced her candidacy late on Tuesday evening, the night before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.
“It would be my great honor to serve the people of Southwest Florida in Congress,” Banyai stated in her announcement. “We need someone who will work for our community, not participate in political charades that destabilize our country. If we want unity and a government that works, we need someone who will put the people first. I am proud to announce I am running for US House of Representatives Florida 19 again in 2022. It’s time to make Trump’s crony, Byron Donalds, a one-term Congressman.”
Banyai, who holds a doctorate from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, runs her own consultancy based in Fort Myers, Banyai Evaluation & Consulting, LLC, specializing in assisting non-profit organizations. She is also an adjunct professor in political science at Florida Gulf Coast University.
The Donalds record so far
Donalds’ most important policy vote to date was to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Banyai noted that Donalds’ vote “placed him in what some are calling the ‘Sedition Caucus’ for participating in Trump’s political theater that in part inspired the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6,” she stated. “Donalds ran on unwavering support for Trump and has demonstrated that is his priority in his early days in office, despite Trump’s incitement of the attack on the US Capitol. We need true servant leaders, not sycophants, and I am ready to serve.”
Donalds attended the inauguration of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday. However, he did not sign a letter from 17 Republican freshman representatives to Biden stating that “we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.”
Three members of the seven-member Republican “Freedom Force,” signed the letter. The “Freedom Force” is a Republican imitation of the Democratic “Squad” of four progressive representatives. The three signers were Reps. Stephanie Bice (R-5-Okla.), Carlos Gimenez (R-26-Fla.) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-11-NY).
“Of course Byron Donalds is not a signatory,” tweeted Banyai. “He went to the inauguration today, but it wasn’t because he is ready to put partisan politics aside and work for the people.”
As of this writing, Donalds had not made a statement on his decision not to sign the letter.
According to local media reports, Republicans in the heavily conservative district have been leaving the Party since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which could be a factor in the election.
Further, while the candidates will be running in what is now the 19th Congressional District, which covers the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island, by the time of the election the district’s boundaries may change as well as its number due to redistricting following the 2020 Census. The 2022 election could feature a significantly different population and area.
The letter from the Republican freshmen to President Joe Biden:
Was the assault and riot at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 an elaborate plot by nefarious globalists using a tiny cadre of paid actors to create a scenario to cast President Donald Trump in a bad light? Or were the real inciters the legislators inside the building who were working to certify the presidential election?
Those are the views of two Southwest Floridians who were present at the Jan. 6 insurrection and have very vocally and publicly given their accounts of what occurred.
One is Francis Alfred Oakes III, better known locally as Alfie, a fervent Trumper and anti-mask activist, the owner of Seed to Table market, who transported demonstrators to Washington, DC.
The other is Christy McLaughlin, a 25-year-old conservative from Ave Maria who ran for Congress as a Republican candidate in the 19th Congressional District last year.
The riot at the Capitol was a defining and very public moment in American history. It was broadcast in real time. Millions of Americans either watched the attack as it happened or have seen some elements of it in some form of media.
So, do you think you know what happened? Compare and contrast your knowledge with what these two local activists say occurred. But first, let’s introduce our protagonists.
Alfie Oakes is well known in Southwest Florida as a farmer and grocer emphasizing organic produce—and lately as an outspoken political activist.
According to the Oakes Farms official history, it was Alfie’s father, Francis “Frankie” Alfred Oakes Jr., who opened a family produce stand and moved farming operations to Naples after 10 years of operating in east Fort Myers. His son Alfie opened a wholesale produce business in Immokalee until a frost killed his crops in 1989.
That disaster led Alfie to travel around the country and to Honduras to import tomatoes to Florida. Over the next eight years he brokered farm deals, expanded his wholesale business and began farming again.
Meanwhile, his father began experimenting with organic growing as a hobby. It went from a hobby to a business to an expanding enterprise to the point where in 2005 he opened Food & Thought as a “militantly” organic grocery in Naples that became a cultural center for shoppers seeking healthful products.
Frankie died in 2013. Alfie kept successfully expanding the business and branched out into other endeavors. He won contracts to supply the Lee and Collier County school districts and in October 2017 a $40 million federal contract to supply the southern district of Florida. In August 2018, Oakes announced that he had won a $46.8 million contract from the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to supply food to the US military.
Within days of the announcement of the DLA win, on Aug. 19 Oakes posted the first political manifesto to gain widespread attention on the Oakes Farms Market Facebook page.
In a lengthy screed, Oakes attacked the Democratic Party, the public education system, the mainstream media and the administration of President Barack Obama. [Editor’s note: spelling, capitalization, grammar and usage, his.]
“I along with many of my fellow Americans are shocked by the current actions of many of our younger generation along with the Democratic party recently morphing into all out socialism,” he wrote. “Unfortunately most of our younger generation have purposely never been exposed to the truth about history and the greatness of our founding fathers wisdom, even current events are censored from the MSM [mainstream media] to support their one world order narrative.”
He continued: “The puppeteers that orchestrate the MSM, most of our universities, the DNC [Democratic National Committee] along with the Obama administration have been pushing for a one world order that would ultimately destroy the opportunity for the individual.”
He concluded: “We must with all our might reject socialism and adhere to the genius of the christian principles that our founding father so masterfully created (through the hand of GOD in my opinion) so that we may continue to be the beacon of the world for individual prosperity and freedom.”
Coming as it did in the midst of Trump’s controversial and disruptive administration, the post created a furor, both driving supportive customers to his stores and at the same time driving away offended potential customers.
There was more controversy to come. Oakes had been renovating a 75,000-square foot facility in North Naples. After five years of work and a $30 million investment, he opened Seed to Table, a mega-grocery and deluxe supermarket in December 2019.
Seed to Table might have been a non-controversial business welcoming to all, except that Alfie continued his outspoken political pronouncements.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25, 2020, sparking demonstrations across the country and giving new impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement.
On June 6, 2020 Oakes posted on Facebook: “The COVID19 hoax did not work to bring down our great President and now this…the black lives matter race hoax…REALLY …how about ALL lives matter!!” He called George Floyd “a disgraceful career criminal , thief , drug addict , drug dealer and ex-con” and stated that people had “allowed themselves to be controlled by deceit and fear” by “the corrupt world powers and their brainwashing arms of the media.”
The post outraged people across Southwest Florida and led to a demonstration in front of Seed to Table. It prompted the Lee and Collier school districts to cancel their contracts, which in turn prompted Oakes to sue them for breach of contract.
Nor did Oakes confine himself to Facebook posts; he vehemently and actively fought anti-COVID mask mandates in Collier County and Naples and when the county did impose a mask mandate, he refused to honor it and sued the county in opposition. (A judge dismissed 11 of his 14 counts in November.) He called county commissioners who voted for the mandates “socialists” and “tyrants” and refused to comply with the mandates.
Seed to Table was a stronghold of pro-Trump/Pence sentiment and activity during the 2020 election. When Biden was initially named the winner, Trumpers demonstrated against the outcome on the corner outside the store. As Trump fought the results and baselessly declared them fraudulent, Oakes supported his claims of a rigged election.
So when Trump called on his supporters to contest the election results when they were scheduled to be certified on Jan. 6, Oakes rented two buses to transport about 100 demonstrators to what was expected to be a peaceful demonstration in Washington.
Oakes was there when, incited by Trump, the rally turned into a riot and an attack on the Capitol building. It is not certain from available accounts whether he was in the crowd that breached the Capitol and trashed the interior, although a video appears to show him exhorting the crowd that “It’s time to fight! They’re taking our freedom! Come on! Come on!”
“Unfortunately anyone that was not at the Trump rally on Jan 6th has to navigate through the lies and blatant and obvious deception perpetrated by the media, I was there …it was the most peaceful beautiful demonstration from well over one million people that I’ve ever witnessed.
“To be tarnished by .001% is really sad!
“As hard as it is for good and honest people to believe this was a total set up to make President Trump and his supporters look bad,I am assuring you it was just that! I have to hand it to them it was an incredibly clever tactic orchestrated by those that will stop at nothing to ensure the Globalist take over of our United States. I watched with my own eyes as Capitol police invited happy and enthusiastic Trump supporters into the Capitol. They were totally unsuspecting they would be part of the ruse.
“Leading the group was the obvious six or eight paid actors(used in other events such as BLM riots, hard to believe they would be that blatant and sloppy) … followed by a small group of aggressive Trump supporters caught up in the moment, these paid actors lead the charge. Out of nearly 1 1/2 million great loving peaceful Americans supporting Liberty, Freedom and our great President this small handful incited by the paid actors unfortunately chose to cross the line. Let’s not forget that one of these unfortunate souls a 15 yr military veteran and mother caught up in the moment, completely unarmed lost her life at point-blank range ALL for the sole purpose of legitimizing this planned event!
“I have now found ONE thing that I completely agree on with the ever corrupt main stream media on…..This is truly one of the lowest days in our country’s history!”
Christy McLaughlin is a Naples, Fla., native and a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University and Ave Maria School of Law. According to her official biography, she interned at the Florida state attorney’s office in the 20th District for two summers and for a judge of the 20th Circuit Court. In the summer of 2019 she interned in the office of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.). On her campaign website she stated that she sat for the Florida Bar but did not state if she passed the examination.
In March 2020 she announced her candidacy for Congress in the 19th Congressional District to replace the retiring Francis Rooney. At the time she was 24 years old—ineligible to serve in Congress—but she turned 25 during the summer, meeting the constitutional qualification.
McLaughlin ran on a vehemently pro-Trump platform, stating that she supported “all of President Trump’s agenda. I have supported President Trump since he descended the escalator.” She called him “the greatest president ever” and took positions against abortion and gun regulation.
Despite her overwhelming defeat in the primary, McLaughlin continued her conservative activism, particularly when it came to COVID mask mandates, opposing them in person and online.
McLaughlin kicked into high gear in November 2020 after former Vice President Joe Biden was called the winner based on preliminary results, pointing out that “the media cannot call an election. Only states can certify elections.”
She was active in denouncing efforts to conclude the election. “Cowardly Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell are going to push Trump to concede. These RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] are Deep State agents who only want to line their pockets and acquire more clout,” she complained—and she alleged that some of her Facebook posts were censored.
In the days after the election was called for Biden, she labeled herself a “constitutional warrior” and created a website around the term, hoping to attract adherents.
On Dec. 3, McLaughlin organized a fundraiser to support Republican Senate candidates in Georgia. The advertised speaker was John DiLemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal. But the real star of the show was Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, which The Washington Post has described as “a far-right group with a history of violence and a reputation for instigating roving street fights with counterdemonstrators.”
The event was held at The Counter restaurant in the Naples Mercato, where Tarrio spoke.
On Dec. 5, The Paradise Progressive submitted the following questions to The Counter’s management chain, Kahala Management, in Scottsdale, Ariz., since there was no e-mail address available for the local branch.
Did the Naples Counter serve as official host of the meeting or was it just the meeting location?
Was the Naples Counter aware of the meeting beforehand?
Does The Counter as a chain/company endorse the Proud Boys and their philosophy?
To date no response has been received.
“There is something good that has come out of the ‘contested’—in air quotes, contested—election,” he said. “There was obvious voter fraud. They’ve practically stolen this election. But we’re not going to let them. We’re not going to go quietly.”
He continued: “Proud Boys is just a regular group of guys. There’s nothing special about regular men. But there is something when those men have this passion and this love for this country” and “1776 will commence again.” He inducted the 20 or so people present into the Proud Boys by having them repeat: “I’m a western chauvinist. And I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world. We’re all Proud Boys.” (Tarrio was arrested in Washington, DC prior to Jan. 6 for burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a previous protest. He was not present during the Capitol riot or preceding rally.)
McLaughlin agreed with Trump and those echoing his claims of a fraudulent election—and the need to contest the results. “It is time we prepare for battle,” she stated on Dec. 14. “Only the true Patriots will be standing on the Frontlines metaphorically or not to protect this Country! SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] will not protect us, RINOs will not protect us. Only We The People can protect us.”
As is well known, Trump lost every legal challenge to the results of the election. The states certified their results and the Electoral College confirmed Joe Biden’s victory. The only act remaining was scheduled for Jan. 6, when Congress would certify the Electoral College results to finalize the election. Trump called for a rally in Washington to oppose the certification. “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.
“Trump is not going anywhere!!” stated McLaughlin. “If they steal the election (which we are fighting and marching against) he will lead us in a Revolution of a fair and free nation.”
McLaughlin headed up to Washington, DC, where on Jan. 5 she addressed a small crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court.
“We are all warriors here,” she said. “Some say that we’re at the beginning of Communism. I disagree. We are living it right now. And unless we take a stand tomorrow, one final stand, we will forever lose this country.”
She cited her family’s escape from Cuba in 1961 and charged that the US Department of Education “has worked with the mainstream media to indoctrinate our students so they bow to tyranny.” She said she was suing the department for what she alleged was discrimination against conservatives.
“Now, we have a revolution tomorrow,” she told the crowd. “Our representatives have exactly one job: and that means to be the voice of the people. I’m from Florida. We delivered a landslide victory for President Trump. I want my representatives and all representatives to object.”
After leading the crowd in chants, she said: “we are the chosen ones to deliver a free and fair election to the United States.”
The next day the mob assaulted the Capitol. It is not clear at this time from available sources whether McLaughlin was among the assailants who breached the building.
In the op-ed McLaughlin said that while she didn’t diminish the loss of life in the Capitol riot, she preferred to remember the demonstration’s more peaceful aspects.
“…The actions of the very few have sullied the narrative from a beautiful sight of patriotism and unity to mindless chaos and purposeless violence,” she complained. “But, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.”
In McLaughlin’s view, members of Congress “had a duty to transparently debate the substantive allegations of wide-spread voter fraud on the merits in a public forum. Congress failed the American people by cloaking the proceedings in secrecy.” The counting of the Electoral College ballots was a “charade” without debate or investigation. “A government that acts in the middle of the night under cover of darkness and curfews, cloaked in secrecy, with no transparency is no monument to democracy.”
Unlike the Trumpers, she charged, “The Democratic Party was united and held the line. Their coalition of Marxist, mainstream media, Big Tech, deep state operatives, anarchists, globalists, industrial war machine corporations and hostile foreign entities worked together like a symphony to wrest the will of the people from the people.”
Analysis: Facts and fiction
So, was the assault on the Capitol the work of a very few people, possibly paid actors, who led otherwise peaceful, patriotic Americans astray, as Oakes and McLaughlin allege?
On Jan. 14, Grace Segers, a political reporter with CBS who was in the Capitol during the attack, addressed a roundtable held by the Press Club of Southwest Florida and was asked that question.
The allegations of paid actors or a tiny minority leading the charge, she said, “are absolutely ridiculous. There’s absolutely no evidence of that.”
She continued: “A lot of these people were not militia members. They were normal people who came to the Capitol because they thought violence was a corrective. They were Trump supporters. Some said they were doing this at the president’s urging. They were wearing MAGA hats.”
The idea that the riot was the result of a conspiracy or outside forces “is really insidious. It allows people to cast off responsibility,” she said.
Oakes’ account of the Capitol siege is largely absurd on the face of it: it is clear both from the televised images and subsequent investigations that the assault on the Capitol was conducted not by a tiny minority or “six or eight” agitators but by thousands of agitated people attacking the building from all sides, smashing in doors and windows and breaching police lines. Further, if it was led by “paid actors” how would he even know they were paid actors? Did he ask them?
Oakes’ accounting of the crowd’s size is equally absurd: his varying estimates put the crowd at anywhere from a million to 2 million. The National Park Service, which has the responsibility for estimating crowds, expected the crowd at the Ellipse rally to be 30,000. While a definitive estimate of the numbers swarming the Capitol is not yet available, it was clearly in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.
(Author’s note: This author was in Washington during President Barack Obama’s first inauguration when the crowd size was officially estimated at 1.2 million, the largest inaugural crowd to ever gather. It is clear from the photos and television coverage that the Jan. 6 crowd was nowhere near that number.)
Did blame for the attack rest with the lawmakers inside the building, as McLaughlin maintains?
This too is absurd. The representatives of the House and the senators were following a legally prescribed procedure for certifying the Electoral College votes. They fully debated the objections to the count raised by members. Their count found Joe Biden the legal winner of the 2020 presidential election. The purpose of the attack was to stop that count and in a larger sense destroy the legislative branch of the American government.
Were the legislators acting “in the middle of the night under cover of darkness and curfews, cloaked in secrecy, with no transparency,” as she claims?
In fact the complete opposite was true. The counting procedure—and that’s what it was, a counting and certification procedure—was being done in the full light of day, in the full sight of the public, without any cover or secrecy at all. The only reason that the final certification occurred in the early hours of the next morning was because the insurrection interrupted the count, as it was intended to do.
These myths of the attack on American government being the work of a tiny, violent minority, paid actors, the victims, a vast conspiracy, a lying media, and an intricate setup are all lesser myths deriving from the one big lie perpetrated by Donald Trump: that the election was fraudulent and was stolen from him. These myths are not unique to Oakes and McLaughlin, they’re a collective justification and rationalization by the perpetrators for an unjustified, irrational and ultimately criminal act incited by a criminal president.
Like a hangover the day after a binge, the rioters now have a headache, some are shameful, they’re being condemned and they all have to wonder if they’ll be prosecuted. In the sober light of day they have to explain their behavior to themselves, their families and possibly the police. These myths are the way they do it while avoiding blame or responsibility.
In his book Disloyal, Trump’s fixer and attorney Michael Cohen described Trump’s dynamics, first in business and then as president.
Cohen writes: “I was sharing the Trump delusion. But that was the alchemy, and I see it traveling throughout the White House and beyond all the time. In defending the indefensible, you can’t resort to reason or facts or good business practices; you can’t appeal to conscience or justice or fairness. All that is left is what I resorted to, and what Trump displays so often: rage.”
On Jan. 6 Trump transmitted his rage to his followers, who then carried it to the Capitol of the United States where they vented it on a branch of government that checked Trump’s delusions and drive for total, unrestricted domination. The government of the United States was working as intended according to its Constitution. It was this that enraged Trump and that his followers channeled into a day of broken glass and violence and death.
Despite his and their efforts, the attack failed. The election was certified. Trump has been impeached. On Wednesday, Jan. 20 at noon, Joe Biden is scheduled to take the oath of office as president.
One can only hope that, like repairs to the Capitol building itself, conscience, justice and fairness will be restored to the nation.
While the US House of Representatives voted today to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and the legislative branch of government, Southwest Florida’s congressional representatives voted against impeachment to keep him in office.
Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted against impeaching the president and also against having Vice President Mike Pence invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.
As of this writing, none had issued statements explaining their votes. None made statements on the House floor. None addressed Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection.
Today the House passed one article of impeachment in House Resolution (HR) 24, approving it at 4:33 pm by a vote of 232 to 197. Ten Republicans voted to impeach the president, none from Florida. Four Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States,” stated the text of HR 24, after recounting Trump’s attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election and his incitement of the mob.
“Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
The article will now be sent to the Senate where, if voted upon, a two-thirds majority can remove the president from office. As of this writing, such a vote seemed doubtful for a variety of procedural and political reasons.
The first measure up for a vote, HR 21, urging Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, came at 11:24 pm last night and passed by a largely party-line vote of 223 to 205. Only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.) voted for it. Well before the vote Pence indicated that he would not invoke the amendment.
While Trump is the first president to be formally impeached twice on two separate occasions and in two different bills, it took three tries for Congress to impeach President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Johnson was ultimately acquitted by a single Senate vote.
Although the Southwest Florida congressional delegation did not address their impeachment votes, Steube did spend time commenting on other matters. He took time today to attack Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-15-Calif.), one of the House impeachment mangers, for comparing Trump to deceased terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
In an interview yesterday with the PBS News Hour, Swalwell stated that Trump himself must be held accountable for the attack, pointing out that while Bin Laden was not in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, “it was widely acknowledged that he was responsible for inspiring the attack on our country and the president, with his words, using the word ‘fight’ and with the speakers he assembled that day who called for ‘trial by combat’ and said ‘we have to take names and kick ass’ that is hate speech that inspired and radicalized people to storm the Capitol,” he said. “And when you read the indictments from the US attorney’s office, they cite that they were called there by the president. They were in the Capitol because the president told them to do so. So we must hold this president accountable. I’m comparing the words of an individual who would incite and radicalize somebody as Osama Bin Laden did to what President Trump did. You don’t actually have to commit the violence yourself but if you call others to violence that itself is a crime.”
Steube stated in a tweet: “Comparing Trump to Bin Laden is an insult to every American we lost on 9/11, their families, and all of our service members who put their lives on the line to protect us from terrorists. Swalwell is the one threatening our national security. Resign.”
Steube has not to date criticized or condemned Trump for his words at the rally preceding the attack on the Capitol.
President Donald Trump must be removed from office immediately.
He is a danger to the United States, he is completely unfit for office and he appears to have lost the capacity for rational thought. He publicly engaged in sedition, incited a riot and arguably committed treason by trying to overthrow the rightful government of the United States. He cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the country and he cannot be allowed to have any further authority over the vast, destructive powers of the United States military. He is actually a clear and present danger to all life on this planet.
It now appears that the Vice President and Cabinet will not remove him under Amendment 25 of the US Constitution. There is momentum in Congress to impeach him a second time and this time it could succeed in removing him. This might not seem necessary with only 12 days to go (as of this writing) but the threat is so great and his crimes so obvious that the effort should be made.
If he had any shred of decency, dignity or care for the country he would resign—but that is not likely from this sick and twisted man.
Southwest Florida’s role
The representatives and citizens of Southwest Florida did not cover themselves in glory during the current crisis.
Its congressional delegation—Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted to overturn the election of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris and negate the votes of 80 million Americans. Notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, they attempted on a legal and procedural basis to accomplish what the rioters tried on a violent and physical basis: to stop the proper functioning of government, cancel the results of a legal election, overturn democracy and install autocratic rule at the behest of a would-be dictator.
Trump’s more extreme supporters from Southwest Florida traveled to Washington, DC to register their protest—and some illegally entered the Capitol and participated in the riot and rampage that occurred there.
Now, in the bizarre and delusional mythmaking that characterizes Trumpism, they are asserting that the rioters who invaded the Capitol and battled police were somehow not Trumpers, were disguised anarchists, were a small minority, were agents provocateurs.
This is straight out of the George Orwell book. In fact, to quote his novel, 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Or, as Donald Trump himself said in 2018: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,”
Anyone who watched the horrendous invasion of the Capitol simply knows that this wasn’t true. This was a mass riot by tens of thousands of people attacking the legislative branch of the United States government in its own home at the incitement of a delusional president who had been defeated in an election.
No amount of mythmaking and self-delusion will change that fact, whether the mythmakers are in Southwest Florida or anywhere else.
It’s worth noting that there is also a Southwest Florida connection to the physical building: it is the Capitol Visitors Center, the secure underground entrance to the Capitol Building where visitors are normally screened and which includes an extensive museum, offices and educational facilities. As the acting Architect of the Capitol put when it opened on Dec. 2, 2008, it is “a respectful and dignified way to enter the people’s house.” It was built by Manhattan Construction Co., owned by retired congressman and Naples resident Francis Rooney. Being underground, the Visitors Center did not appear to be a target of the rioters and there are no reports at this time of damage to it.
On a personal note: For many years, this author covered Congress and spent a great deal of time in the Capitol Building. In fact it was love and respect for the institution, particularly the House of Representatives, that inspired him to write a comprehensive citizens’ guide to Congress.
To go to work in or around the US Capitol Building and its complex each day is to be awestruck anew by its dignity and majesty. Every corridor and room has its hallowed past and reminders of the people who served this republic with distinction. The whole building is a physical expression of the greatest democratic experiment in history and inspires respect and reverence.
There is no single word to express this author’s feelings as he watched insane, raging rioters rampage down hallways he intimately knew, defile the floors of the House and Senate, saw police overwhelmed in the Capitol Crypt or watched a pitched battle in the magnificent Rotunda, the sacred space between the House and Senate. Like their ignorant leader these people had no reverence, no piety and no patriotism for what that building represents.
Now one knows how it must have felt when the barbarians overwhelmed the defenses of Rome and went on a rampage through its precincts in the year 410. And in the Jewish tradition, one suddenly gets the sense of the impact of the defilement of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem by pagan invaders.
In the case of the Jewish Temple, in the year 164 before the Common Era, Greek invaders were expelled and the Temple reconsecrated. It was this reconsecration that is commemorated by Hanukah (which means “dedication” in Hebrew), the Jewish festival of lights. The story is that a small supply of the Temple’s hallowed oil miraculously burned for eight days.
Perhaps in our current context it is also an important reminder for everyone that reconsecration can occur and that wounds can heal and vandalism be repaired—with dedication.
The next stage of the American political drama will be played out in Washington among a handful of people with the institutional responsibilities for the functioning of government: the President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate majority and minority leaders and the bodies of the US House of Representatives and the Senate.
Citizens of the United States and Southwest Florida can make their lawful voices heard. They’ve already made their preferences known through their votes in the presidential election; it was this preference that Donald Trump attempted to steal.
Donald Trump has demonstrated that democracy and the machinery to implement it cannot be taken for granted; it has to be defended. Supporters of America’s democracy have acted and continue to act in a lawful and orderly fashion, in contrast to Trump and his followers, who have shown themselves riotous, seditious and disorderly.
Lawlessness and anarchy have to be suppressed and punished through legal, lawful means. The representatives of Southwest Florida have stated with their votes, actions and failure to criticize or condemn Donald Trump, which side they are on.
If America’s electoral machinery continues to function as intended, the next legal chance for citizens to make a difference will occur in two years when there is another election. In Florida, that election will include the office of governor, a senator and all representatives.
If America is to continue as a democracy, over the next two years lovers of democracy will have to mobilize, stay alert, be vigilant and active. The last election is over but the struggle continues. And as events at the Capitol demonstrated, everything—absolutely everything—remains at stake.
Despite a mob attack on the United States Capitol yesterday, Jan. 6, incited by President Donald Trump, when the roll was called all of Southwest Florida’s congressional representatives voted to aid and abet the president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
The roll call vote by the House of Representatives occurred at 3:00 am this morning. The motion was on objections raised to certifying the Electoral College results from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Had the objection been sustained the Electoral College vote would have been rejected and the election overturned.
While Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted to sustain the objection, it was defeated by a vote of 282 to 138.
At 3:26 am this morning, Vice President Mike Pence certified that Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won the 2020 presidential election by an Electoral College vote of 306 to 232.
Evolution of the day
Yesterday morning saw SWFL’s representatives confidently preparing to overturn the election through legal, procedural means.
“I’m walking into the Capitol to sign the objection to the Electoral College certification. It’s important we always uphold our laws and our Constitution, no matter what,” tweeted Donalds at 11:17 am.
“I’m objecting to the electoral votes of GA, PA, WI and MI,” tweeted Steube at 11:23 am. “If we fail to challenge the blatant improprieties that have marred the 2020 election, we let honest votes go uncounted. Anything less would fail our country now and into the future.”
The representatives were entering the Capitol at the same time a pro-Trump rally was taking place at the Ellipse in front of the White House. Trump addressed the rally and told rally-goers “we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you,” and “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” (Trump did not march to the Capitol.)
The Trumpers then marched from the area of the White House to the Capitol, which they attacked throughout the afternoon, breaching the perimeter and vandalizing the interior of the building before being evicted in the evening.
“On my fourth day as a United States Congressman, I followed Capitol staff into a safe room with a gas mask in hand rather than representing my constituents,” recounted Donalds in a statement on the events.
“I witnessed our law enforcement officers being injured, gassed from their own tear gas and afraid for their lives as they attempted to hold the line,” recalled Steube in his own statement. “I and three other Members were barricaded in a room surrounded by demonstrators until the hallway was clear for us to get out.” Steube expressed thanks to Kim Campbell with the House Sergeant at Arms office, Officer Reginald Cleveland of the Capitol Police and two other officers barricaded in the room.
During the worst moments of the protest Donalds condemned the violence: “Americans have the right to peacefully protest & demand their government works for them—that doesn’t mean we resort to violence. Rule of law must stand during our nation’s brightest & darkest hours & that includes right now. We are better than this. There is no place for anarchy,” he tweeted at 2:49 pm.
Once the violence was over, the rioters were ejected and the Capitol secured in the evening all three representatives condemned the violence.
Diaz-Balart issued a statement in both English and Spanish at 5:23 pm saying that the violence undermined the nation’s values and principles and lawbreakers should face the full consequences of their actions. At 5:39 pm Steube condemned the actions and called them “completely unacceptable.”
At 10:09 pm in a lengthy statement, Donalds called the rioters “lawless vigilantes” and condemned their actions as “thuggery.” Nonetheless, he tweeted, “they will not alter my decision to object to the Electoral College certification.”
None of the members criticized or condemned Trump for his role in inciting the assault.
In contrast, retired congressman Francis Rooney issued his own statement on Facebook as the violence peaked at 3:49 pm: “All of America should be saddened and sickened by today’s events at the US Capitol,” he wrote. “President Trump is complicit in inciting violence to contest an election that is over and adjudicated. This must stop now.”
Despite release of a phone call in which President Donald Trump blatantly attempted to overturn the legitimate outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) has reaffirmed that he will vote to decertify those results when Congress votes on the results on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
“Every Floridian & American deserves to believe that our elections result from a transparent & lawful democratic process,” Donalds announced in a 10:53 am tweet this morning. “I’m proud to stand with @Kat_Cammack [Rep. Kat Cammack (R-3-Fla.)] & @BrianMastFL [Rep. Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.)] to object to the certification process on January 6th & restore faith in our election system.”
Donalds was sworn into office yesterday, Jan. 3, with the rest of the 117th Congress.
After taking the oath of office, Donalds voted with 208 other Republicans for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23-Calif.) for Speaker of the House. He was defeated by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), who won with 216 votes.
Both of Southwest Florida’s other representatives, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), also voted for McCarthy.
Donalds’ affirmation of his challenge to the 2020 presidential election results follows release yesterday of an hour-long phone call between Trump and his lawyers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and lawyer Ryan Germany. In the call Trump tried to bully, cajole and plead that Raffensperger illegally alter the certified, audited and recounted results of the Georgia election to make him the winner.
In a major blow to President Donald Trump, the United States Senate voted this afternoon to override his veto of the Department of Defense appropriations bill by a vote of 81 to 13.
Both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted with the majority to override. As of this writing, neither had issued a statement explaining his vote.
Their votes were remarkable given both senators’ past vocal support for the President.
The override was also an indication of Trump’s rapidly eroding clout. He had called for an end to Section 230, a non-defense provision protecting Internet companies from liability for postings on their sites and objected to changing the names of military bases from those honoring Confederate generals. When the bill did not include those measures he vetoed it.
The National Defense Authorization Act (House Resolution 6395) provides $750 billion for US military operations and national defense including a pay raise for servicemembers. It will now go into effect.
The 13 members opposing the override included Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who had insisted that there not be a vote on the defense bill unless there was also one on providing Americans financially hurt by the pandemic with $2,000. House Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, opposed submitting that to a vote and finally proceeded with the override vote separately.
This was the first override of a Trump veto in his presidency.
Rep.-Elect Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) has announced that once sworn in as congressman, he will vote to decertify the results of the 2020 election.
Donalds made the announcement in a tweet at 12:42 pm today.
“Every Floridian and American deserves to believe that our elections result from a transparent and lawful democratic process,” he stated. “I will object to the certification process on January 6th and will ask legitimate questions to restore faith in our election system.” (Full statement below.)
Donalds and the rest of the 117th Congress are due to be sworn in next Wednesday, the same day the House of Representatives and the Senate are scheduled to certify the votes of the Electoral College in all the states, which established that President-Elect Joe Biden (D) had won the election. All legal challenges to the election results have been quashed in the courts.
To the best of this author’s ability to determine, Donalds is the first prospective House member to publicly state this position. In the Senate, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has stated he will challenge the election, opening the prospect of a debate and contested vote despite Republican leadership reluctance to spark the fight.
Democrat Cindy Banyai, who ran against Donalds in the 2020 congressional election, was critical of his position.
“It’s so unfortunate that Southwest Florida will soon have a congressional representative who values our democratic processes so little that he’s willing to participate in this theater of the absurd,” she stated in a message to The Paradise Progressive. “It’s particularly hypocritical of Donalds to vote to decertify an election where he won office, especially with an outstanding FBI investigation into election interference because of the primary day texts and an active [Federal Elections Commission] complaint with evidence that he violated the straw donor ban to the tune of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I wish he was more concerned with serving the people of our district than his political master.”
“On behalf of the people of Florida’s 19th Congressional District who elected me to serve them in Congress, I will object to the certification process on January 6th and will ask legitimate questions to restore faith in our election system. Unlike my Democratic colleagues, I refuse to turn a blind eye to the fact that several states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, neglected the oath of their constitution and the United States Constitution by their failure to follow their election laws.
“Democrats in Congress seem to have lost their devotion to election integrity and security, but make no mistake, I will not waiver. A free and fair election is key to protecting our Constitutional Republic. Every Floridian and American deserves to believe that our elections result from a transparent and lawful democratic process. For this reason, I cannot in good faith vote to support the certification of the Electoral College results on January 6th.”
Rooney votes for veto override and praises Pelosi, Steube votes against help for the unemployed
Dec. 29, 2020 by David Silverberg
Dec. 29, 9:00 am updated with Rooney statement, Steube statement, Senate developments
In a momentous night of legislating, the US House of Representatives last night voted to provide Americans who have lost jobs due to the pandemic with $2,000 in stimulus funds. It also overrode President Donald Trump’s veto of the US Defense appropriations bill.
Votes by members of the Southwest Florida delegation were mixed.
The additional relief funds were provided in the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Health (CASH) Act, House Resolution (HR) 9051. It passed by a vote of 275 to 134.
On this vote, Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted in favor of the resolution.
“Last night I supported an additional stimulus payment of $2,000 for the hard working Americans suffering financially from the deadly Covid virus,” tweeted Rooney this morning. “Thank you [House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.)] for swiftly bringing this to the House floor. It is my hope that [Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] will do the same in the Senate.”
Rooney’s praise for Pelosi was remarkable, coming from a conservative Republican.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against the bill, denouncing it in a tweet, stating: “Americans don’t need inadequate stimulus checks and forced government dependency to get them back on their feet—we need efforts to safely reopen and return back to normal.”
In addition, he issued a longer statement explaining his vote, in which he called the bill an “unnecessary redistribution of wealth.” His position put him at odds with President Donald Trump of whom he has been a vocal defender. Trump called the previous $600 stimulus payment “measly” and demanded the $2,000, which Republicans had been blocking.
The vote to override the president’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), HR 6395, was much more lopsided in the House, 322 to 87, demonstrating overwhelming bipartisan support for US military forces.
In that vote Rooney voted for the override, while Diaz-Balart and Steube opposed it, siding with the president.
As of this writing, none had issued statements explaining their positions on this bill.
Trump vetoed the defense bill because it did not strip protections from social media companies like Twitter, which have increasingly flagged his baseless and inaccurate charges of voter fraud and because he opposed changing the names of military bases from those of Confederate generals.
“With this overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House has upheld our sacred constitutional responsibility to keep our country and our people safe,” stated House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.). “The National Defense Authorization Act has been passed on a bipartisan and bicameral manner for 60 years, and it will become law, despite the President’s dangerous sabotage efforts.”
She concluded: “The President must end his eleventh-hour campaign of chaos, and stop using his final moments in office to obstruct bipartisan and bicameral action to protect our military and defend our security.”
After long negotiations on pandemic relief and overall government appropriations, Trump suddenly denounced the bill that both houses of Congress passed and demanded that it provide more than the $600 originally allotted for out of work Americans. Although Pelosi tried to get the increased amount passed immediately by unanimous consent, it was blocked by Republican members, necessitating a new bill and a new vote.
Both bills now go to the Senate. The NDAA previously passed in the Senate by a vote of 84 to 13, enough to override a veto. The Senate override vote may be taken today, Dec. 29.
On the CASH Act, it was not clear whether Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would allow it to come to a vote. As of this writing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is threatening to filibuster the Defense bill unless McConnell agrees to submit the CASH Act to a Senate vote.
Under immense pressure from both congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well 14 to 20 million desperate Americans whose unemployment benefits ran out last night, President Donald Trump relented tonight and signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which had been passed by Congress last week.
As of this writing, a formal statement from Trump, who spent the Christmas holiday playing golf at his resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, had not been issued.
The 5,593-page bill appropriates money for nearly all the government’s operations next year as well as providing Americans laid off by the pandemic with $600 in benefits. It also pays for purchasing and distributing the COVID vaccine.
After months of negotiations and passage by both houses of Congress, Trump suddenly chose to denounce the bill on Tuesday, Dec. 22, throwing the government into chaos and threatening much-needed relief for Americans unemployed by the pandemic. People who needed unemployment benefits were denied them for a week, since the president missed the deadline for aiding them. His action could have also shut down the government at a critical time.
House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a statement immediately following the signing: “The signing of the bipartisan, bicameral coronavirus relief legislation is welcome news for the 14 million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas Weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis.”
She continued: “Now, the President must immediately call on congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the Floor tomorrow. Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need.”
Comments from Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), who both introduced provisions to the bill, were not immediately available after the news broke.
However, yesterday, Dec. 26, Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) went on Fox News to blame the holdup on Pelosi.
“It is clear that Nancy Pelosi was playing politics with this bill,” said Donalds. “This is her fault. This is at her feet.” He called the bill “Pelosi’s wish list” and “a disaster” and said “It was awful, unconscionable, it was asinine and it has put everybody in the lurch.”
After Trump suddenly demanded that the $600 payment to individuals be increased to $2,000, Pelosi tried to increase the amount but was blocked by Republicans. A stand-alone bill increasing the amount is expected to be introduced in Congress tomorrow.