A former intelligence official, Clint Watts, on Tuesday defended Antifa when discussing the role of various groups in the violent January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that resulted in five people dead.
His comments came after FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier on Tuesday testified before senators about the bureau’s sweeping investigation into the events of January 6, saying that there wasn’t “any evidence” Antifa staged the riot and framed it on Trump supporters, as a number of Trump allies have alleged. So far, over 300 people have been charged in connection with the attack, which Wray called “domestic terrorism.”
Watts, who has served on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and has been affiliated with other counterterrorism groups, made the comments Tuesday evening on MSNBC.
“There is no equivalency by any measure between Antifa or any political-left terrorism right now and what’s going on on the political right,” said Watts, who is currently a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
During the summer, a number of individuals with ties to Antifa committed acts of violence and vandalism at various Black Lives Matter protests across the country, especially in Portland, Oregon. In recent months, Antifa extremists have carried out vandalism in that city—such as on the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, when Antifa members damaged a Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building as well as the Democratic Party of Oregon’s headquarters.
“And I always like to remind people when they hear ‘Antifa,’ that means ‘anti-fascist,’ which in response to another,” Watts continued. “So if you have Antifa, you have ‘fa,’ or as in ‘fascist,’ which comes down to white supremacy.”
He went on to say that white supremacy is “the No. 1 issue in the country in terms of domestic terrorism and terrorism overall, and it’s followed up very closely behind by anti-government militia groups,” then citing Wray’s comments about far-right militia groups from that day’s hearing.
“We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with [January 6],” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “That doesn’t mean we’re not looking, and we’ll continue to look, but at the moment we have not seen that.”
The FBI director also said that the number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations has doubled since he assumed his role in 2017 to over 2,000. During his tenure, the number of probes into white supremacists has tripled, with the number of investigations into anarchist extremists having considerably risen too, Wray mentioned.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Watts tweeted a couple of his thoughts expressing his displeasure with the hearing and the discussion of Antifa.
“Cannot wrap my head around how Senator Grassley can compare what happened on January 6 and years of white supremacist mass shoutings being equivalent in any way to left wing extremism,” he posted at 10:28 a.m.
And, a little over half an hour later, Watts wrote: “Almost an hour into hearing, Antifa has been mentioned many times and there’s not been a single mention of QAnon, Proud Boys, III%er or Oathkeepers – all surfaced in Jan 6 charges. Antifa as of now has not surfaced in Jan 6 & Wray said he’s seen no evidence of it.”
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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WSJ: Corporate Dirty Pool in Washington’s Senate Race
The Wall Street Journal’s, Kimberly A. Strassel wrote a piece identifying how the Democrats are so worried about Washington Senator Patty Murray’s re-election “that Seattle’s corporate heavyweights are playing dirty pool on her behalf.”
Murray, a leftwing progressive, has faced little competition while in office; until now. Tiffany Smiley, a Republican nurse and entrepreneur “is pummeling Ms. Murray from every direction and laying out her own detailed reform agenda” adds the WSJ.
A RealClearPolitics average has Ms. Murray winning by 8 points. Another poll has Smiley within 2 points. Regardless, It’s close enough that “Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently transferred $500,000 of his own campaign cash to Ms. Murray’s campaign.”
Money from Schumer isn’t the only liberal panic dough. “Starbucks, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Seahawks—are actively attempting to sabotage the Smiley campaign, albeit in a distinctly underhanded fashion” writes the WSJ. “Their targets are two effective Smiley campaign ads.”
At the center of the fight are two of Smiley’s ads: “Game Day” and “Cup of Coffee.”
In “Game Day” the Republican is in a kitchen preparing to watch a football game, hitting Ms. Murray and Democrats for the spiraling cost of food. In “Cup of Coffee,” she stands in front of a derelict building. Barely visible at the top, and seen backward, is the store’s faded Starbucks sign. Ms. Smiley hits Ms. Murray for rising crime, while the ad flashes two Seattle Times headlines, one of which reads: “Starbucks to Close 5 Seattle Stores Over Safety Concerns.”
“Game Day” hit the airwaves Sept 1. Five days later, according to documents I obtained, the Smiley campaign received a terse email from the Seahawks claiming a trademark violation. The ad briefly shows Ms. Smiley’s husband, Scotty—a retired U.S. Army Ranger who was blinded by shrapnel in Iraq—expressing alarm that “even beer” prices are rising. You only see his shoulders above a tall couch—and if you get a magnifying glass you might make out a letter or two from the word “Seahawks.” The letter insisted the Smiley campaign “immediately cease” its “unauthorized commercial use.” Nothing like your local sports franchise dumping cease-and-desist orders on wounded veterans.
“Cup of Coffee” went live on Sept. 20. The next day, the Seattle Times sent an email to the “Jane Smiley” campaign—apparently without running it past its fact-checking desk—accusing it of “unauthorized use of The Seattle Times logo and two headlines” in violation of the paper’s “copyright and trademark.” It demanded the campaign remove any references to the paper not only in its own ad, but in an NBC News article about the ad’s launch.
Two days later, Starbucks sent a certified letter saying the campaign was appropriating its intellectual property, and complaining it might “create an unfounded association in the minds of consumers between Starbucks and your campaign.” It insisted the campaign either pull the ad or alter it to strip both the (barely visible, backward) sign and the Seattle Times headline referencing Starbucks.
One such letter may be the product of an overzealous lawyer, but three in a row looks like more than a coincidence. One might even wonder if some Murray staffer was putting bugs in Seattle business leaders’ ears. And while corporate political-action committees routinely play politics by making donations, it’s something else for individual companies to go to bat for a candidate via behind-the-scenes threats based on tenuous legal claims. These letters were bound to cost the Smiley campaign money and headaches and might have pushed it off the airwaves.
The campaign didn’t roll over. It made a painless accommodation to the “Game Day” ad, blurring the jersey colors to obscure anything distinct. In a legal letter sent Thursday to Starbucks, the campaign rebutted the company’s infringement claims, running through political speech protections and noting that no reasonable person would ever think a factual ad about shuttered Starbucks stores amounted to a coffee-chain endorsement. It suggested Starbucks focus on its own problems, like its recent union woes.
The Seattle Times also received a letter refuting its claims, but it got something in addition. The Smiley campaign on Thursday filed a Federal Election Commission complaint, charging the paper with providing the Murray campaign a prohibited in-kind contribution. It turns out that Ms. Murray has also used a Seattle Times headline in her ads. Her “First 2016 Ad” sports the newspaper’s logo under the headline: “Patty Murray’s and Paul Ryan’s Teamwork Is a Model for Congress.” It seems the Times has a different legal standard for candidates it endorses.
As the FEC complaint notes, the Smiley campaign would have to spend an estimated $5,000 to remove and update the ad—“costs that Patty Murray does not have to accrue.” It cites FEC regulations that provide “if a corporation makes its resources available for free, it must do so for all candidates.”
Don’t expect the Seattle corporate set to do anything on behalf of Ms. Smiley soon. But it shouldn’t be too much to ask that they do their politicking straight—and out in the open.
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