Militias with Badges

Here come the sheriffs of MAGA-town

Yes, it could get worse.

The Claremont Institute — the home of John Eastman, author of the blueprint for overthrowing the presidential election — has a new initiative for undermining the rule of law.

And if you are not alarmed, you ought to be.

The Trumpian institute is launching a program to weaponize "patriotic law enforcement officers" to counter "the perversion of the justice system by which the revolutionary left seeks to advance its totalitarian agenda."

In announcing its new "Sheriff’s Fellowship" the institute tied together last year’s urban disorders, Covid-19 lockdowns, and “the electoral disaster of 2020,” and declared that “our nation's conservative movement needs a countervailing network of uncorrupted law enforcement officials.”

Specifically, Claremont envisions a cadre of sheriffs “not beholden to bureaucratic masters, and whose geographic boundaries, jurisdictional latitude, and - most important - direct connection and responsibility to citizens, places them on the frontlines of the defense of civilization.”

Think of it as militias with badges, guns, and formal law enforcement powers. Or, if you like, secession-by-sheriff.

Indeed, Claremont is late to the game. The so-called Constitutional Sheriffs have been a thing for quite a while now.

“Although the Oath Keepers, another anti-government extremist group that recruits from law enforcement, have garnered more media attention in recent years,” the Anti-Defamation League said in their report, the Constitutional Sheriff movement “has arguably had more success infiltrating law enforcement, including at the executive level.”

 The central tenet of [the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association], borrowed from the anti-government extremist sovereign citizen movement, is that the county sheriff is the ultimate authority in the county, able to halt enforcement of any federal or state law or measure they deem unconstitutional. 

This is no longer simply a fringe movement confined to a few rural counties.

Trump and members of his administration cultivated and encouraged the sheriffs’ movement, and openly embraced leading figures like Arizona’s Joe Arpaio. Former Attorney General Sessions famously praised what he called “the Anglo-Saxon heritage” of the office.

“Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process,” Sessions said. “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office.”

Milwaukee’s Sheriff David Clarke — who was named Constitutional Sheriff of the year in 2013 — became a prominent Trump surrogate and was, reportedly in line for a position in Trump’s Department of Homeland security.

More recently, Clarke urged January 6 participants to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

"ALERT!!!," Clarke wrote. "If you attended the Trump rally in Washington DC last Wednesday and are contacted by the FBI or they come to your home, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TALK TO THEM. DON'T LET THEM IN YOUR HOME EITHER. POLITELY TELL THEM TO LEAVE AND CLOSE THE DOOR."

"If you did not go into the US Capital (sic) you do not have to explain why you exercised your Constitutional right to assemble," Clarke wrote. "TRUST NO GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL right now."

Clarke has since fallen into well-deserved obscurity, but the hot new face of the movement is Mark Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona.

In a new Politico profile, Lamb calls himself ‘America’s Sheriff,’ who “fashions himself as more of a vigilante resister, with a heavy dose of anti-government, sometimes militant rhetoric.”

Sheriff Lamb is the very model of the modern Trumpian law enforcement official. Politico reports:

Lamb supported the “stop the steal” campaign in Arizona and has expressed sympathy for the Jan. 6 rioters. He has called vaccine mandates “garbage” and spoke at a recent anti-vaccine rally in Phoenix, where he told supporters, “We’re going to find out what kind of patriots you are. We’re going to find out who is willing to die for freedom.” He also makes direct appeals to citizens, an effort that looks more dangerous after former President Donald Trump riled up supporters on Jan. 6. For example, Lamb, an ardent defender of the Second Amendment, has spoken in support of the formation of private militias — “well within the Constitution,” he told a group of supporters in March — and emphasized the power of sheriffs in Arizona, an open-carry state, to call local civilians into service to “suppress all affrays, insurrections and riots that comes to the attention of the sheriff.” Last year, as Black Lives Matter protests swept across the country, he formed a local civilian “posse” to assist his office with law enforcement, even though there were no such protests in Pinal County.


Now, fresh off its role in trying to overthrow the 2020 election, Claremont wants a piece of that action. Here is how a recent fund-raising letter for Claremont described the Trumpian think tank’s new program:

• The current revolution against the American regime, involving as it does both crime and political malfeasance, requires a coordinated response from patriotic law enforcement officers. Those whose "chain of dependency" is directly to the people of their region - officers not beholden to the centralized ( and often corrupt) bureaucracies of federal or state governments, nor the vicissitudes of easily pressured city officials.

• Sheriffs are appropriate for this response. Since their beginnings as "shire-reeves" ("county watchmen") centuries ago in England, sheriffs have been intimately connected with, and answerable to, the people of their "shires" and therefore the first layer of protection, and last line of defense, for the people's rights.

• Our project will equip sheriffs with strategic knowledge and end their isolation. Their efforts will be supported, enhanced, and multiplied through a reliable like-minded network of fellow sheriffs and others with complementary areas of expertise and potency.

(Here is a screen shot of the letter.)

If Claremont gets its way, there will be sheriffs like Joe Arpaio, David Clarke, and Mark Lamb all across the country.

You are not worried nearly enough about what that might mean.

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Colin Powell Was Nearly the Future of the GOP Before Trump

Matt K. Lewis writes:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who sadly passed away from COVID complications, will be remembered for many accomplishments and failings. His legacy will have detractors on the right (he was a sellout who endorsed Obama) and the left (he misled us about WMDs), but I can’t help thinking what if he had been the future of the Republican Party?

Counterfactuals are always messy, but bear with me. There is reason to believe that Powell was Ronald Reagan’s vision of the Republican Party’s bright future. And Powell might well have defeated Bill Clinton in 1996. That would have made Powell America’s first Black president. Assuming re-election, he would have been president when 9/11 happened. Everything thereafter would, likely, have been very different.

And, of course, it’s hard to imagine a starker contrast than what eventually happened to America (and the GOP): President Donald J. Trump.

This actually could have happened. Fourteen months before the 1996 presidential election, a Time/CNN poll found that “If the 1996 presidential election were held today, Colin Powell, running on the GOP ticket, would beat Bill Clinton 46 percent to 38 percent…”


Flash forward: Colin Powell says he ‘can no longer call himself a Republican.’

In an interview on CNN, the host, Fareed Zakaria, asked Mr. Powell if Republican Party members “realize that in a sense they caused, that they encouraged at least this wildness to grow and grow,” referring to Mr. Trump’s chaotic governance, which culminated in the violence last week.

Mr. Powell, 83 and a longtime Republican Party member, replied, “They did, and that’s why I can no longer call myself a fellow Republican.”…

He added that Republican officials, “should have known better” than to support Mr. Trump, but “they were so taken by their political standing” and “none of them wanted to put themselves at political risk” by speaking out against him.

“We need people that will speak the truth,” Mr. Powell added.

“Dying From COVID Is A Good Thing”

FFS. This latest piece from Ben Domenech’s Federalist is beyond parody. Joy Pullmann, the publication’s executive editor, writes “God Decides When We Die, Not COVID.”

For one thing, Christians believe that life and death belong entirely to God. There is nothing we can do to make our days on earth one second longer or shorter: “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” says the Psalmist. “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s,” says Saint Paul in Romans 14:8.

For another thing, for Christians, death is good.

I’ll leave it theologians to parse out the sophistry here, but I imagine that even St. Paul would have seen the value of things like seat-belts, medicine, surgery, and vaccines.

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Some personal news.

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Quick Hits

Steve Bannon Out in the Open

Your must-read in today’s Bulwark: Thomas Lecaque and J.L. Tomlin write that the erstwhile Trump adviser is refusing to talk to the Jan. 6 committee, but most of his energetic anti-democratic activities are in plain sight.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, has made it clear that the committee intends to enforce its subpoena. Last night, the committee published its report and resolution recommending Bannon be held in contempt. In addition to spelling out why Bannon’s claims of executive privilege don’t hold up, the report briefly describes some of what is known about Bannon’s connections to the events of January 6th:

  • Bannon was involved in the “Stop the Steal” efforts during the post-election period.

  • Bannon’s remarks on his podcasts on January 5 suggest possible foreknowledge of the next day’s disruptions: “You made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day. So strap in. Let’s get ready. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” he said. “It’s all converging, and now we’re on the point of attack tomorrow.”

  • On the days surrounding January 6, Bannon was apparently part of a clique of Trump advisers gathered at the Willard Hotel near the White House. The participants in those meetings—Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, and John Eastman were among the others present—reportedly “discussed plans to stop or delay the January 6th counting of the election results and persuade Members of Congress to block the electoral count.”

As intriguing as the committee’s brief account is, it is worth noting that Bannon’s troubling activities did not stop after January 6. Far from it. He is still out in the streets, at rallies, on conference calls, and on his podcast trumpeting it to the heavens: The insurrection isn’t over, it’s only just begun.

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Cheap Shots

Idiocracy update.