Video screenshot

Earlier this week, all eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff used serious language in rebuking the Capitol attack, writing that "[t]he rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the rights to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection."

When federal law enforcement finally held a damn briefing this week on the Trump riots, acting DC US Attorney Mike Sherwin announced he had created a "strike force" to look into the most serious cases, saying "We're looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy."

And Thursday, in "QAnon Shaman" (weird fur guy) Jacob Chansley's case, federal prosecutors described the MAGA riots of 1/6 as a "violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government." They also called Chansley "an active participant in" and "the most prominent symbol of" the insurrection.

In addition to having colloquial definitions, words like "insurrection" and "sedition" also have legal meanings. Sedition and insurrection aren't just descriptive words; they're also specific federal crimes.

Would you like to know more?


Let's talk sedition

Not THAT way, silly. Let's figure out what crimes these assholes can be charged with!

Seditious conspiracy, found at 18 U.S. Code § 2384, is defined as any time
"two or more persons ... conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof[.]"

Yeah, I would say that applies to "people who stormed the Capitol intent on stopping Congress from doing its job by force." And it's not just us over here at Wonkette; there are experts who agree.

"Anybody who broke in [to the Capitol] with the intent to stop the vote, that's sedition. That is textbook sedition," says law professor Michael McDaniel, a retired Army brigadier general who also held high-level federal and state homeland security posts. "I think there has to be successful criminal prosecutions of these individuals that were involved in seditious conspiracy."

McDaniel, who now directs the Homeland and National Security Law Program at Western Michigan University, says if sedition is not among those charges, it risks further normalizing the kind of political violence we've seen in the Trump era, from Charlottesville, Va., to the U.S. Capitol.

Sedition and seditious conspiracy come with a prison term of up to 20 years.

In recent history, the feds have been successful at convicting Muslims of sedition, while struggling to obtain convictions or even maintain charges against white rightwing white supremacists. Shocking, I know.

But it's possible that even white juries would be willing to consider sedition charges right now, with so many Americans reeling from what they watched unfold on TV last week.

And while sedition is a more serious crime, rebellion or insurrection are also federal felony charges that could come into play. In Thursday's filing in Q Bo Peep's case, in addition to mentioning sedition, the government described the Trumpy terrorism effort as an ongoing "insurrection movement."

Rebellion or insurrection, 18 U.S. Code § 2383, applies when a person "incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof" or "gives aid or comfort" to an insurrectionist. Insurrection and rebellion are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Naturally, federal law enforcement is very interested in finding the leaders of the coup attempt. At the same press conference where he first used the words insurrection and sedition, US Attorney Sherwin also talked about what looked to him like a planned attack with some sort of command structure.

"They look paramilitary almost, right? You've got the uniform, you've got communication, you have all the paraphernalia," he says. "Those show indications of affiliation and a command and control. So I believe we are going to find those hallmarks. I can't say when. It could be weeks, if not months."

Lock them up! Lock them up!

Even with Donald fucking Trump still technically at the head of the executive branch, we are already seeing massive federal investigations into this fuckery.

But the people who physically participated in storming the Capitol aren't the only ones who should be worried about potential legal liability. One of the hot topics on everyone's minds is whether Donald Trump or members of Congress could or will be charged with inciting this whole mess.It's far from certain that Donald Trump will face criminal charges after he leaves office ... but it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility, either. And the same goes for other elected officials and public figures who actively cheered this shit on. In the same way that horned wolf-man may be guilty of participating in an insurrection or seditious conspiracy, Trump and his cronies very well might be guilty of inciting one.

For good reason, incitement is a high legal bar to cross. But it's also not impossible. The standard of guilt for inciting violence based on speech is: What they said has to be both meant to and likely to get other people to break the law.

Before people took the Capitol and set off to murder the government, Trump told a crowd they would "never give up" and "never concede," even saying that if Biden was sworn in, "You will have an illegitimate president. That is what you will have, and we can't let that happen."

While a dangerous mob was trashing the Capitol — and in the midst of killing five people — Trump called the terrorists patriots and said he loved them.

Because of his actions last Wednesday, Donald Trump was deemed to be too dangerous for websites from Instagram to Shopify. It is not outrageous to suggest he should also face legal liability for what he did.

Like pretty much everything at this point, we're going to have to wait and see to find out who gets charged with what and whether Trump just tries to pardon every white supremacist in the country. But thanks again to the traitors for uploading so much photo and video evidence of all their crimes! That was really helpful.

[NPR / Vox / NYT / 18 U.S. Code § 2383 / 18 U.S. Code § 2384 / MTSU / BBC]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.
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