POLITICO Playbook: The troubling future of political violence in America

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

Even though it was Halloween, two political extremists were unmasked yesterday, one on each coast.

What they said tells us a lot about the future of political violence in America.

In Washington, at the Oath Keeper trial, GRAYDON YOUNG, the first Oath Keeper to plead guilty to charges related to storming Congress on Jan. 6, broke down in tears as he apologized for his role. “I guess I was acting like a traitor against my own government,” he said.

In San Francisco, an FBI agent who specializes in investigations of domestic terrorism — that is, “primarily” Americans “who commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of their political or social ideology” — filed the criminal complaint against DAVID DePAPE in which we learned the horrific details of the attack on PAUL PELOSI.

We tend to think of the Oath Keepers and groups like it as the face of political extremism and violence in America. But domestic political terrorists are increasingly more like DePape. The big trend is what terrorism researchers call “ungrouping,” in which individuals need no formal organization to recruit and indoctrinate them with fringe ideas when they have easy access to them online — and major political figures endorsing them.

Both Young and DePape radicalized quickly. Young became obsessed with post-election conspiracy theories in November 2020, and was in Washington ready for violence by Jan. 6. DePape’s online writings suggest a recent explosion of interest in far-right conspiracy theories before he showed up at Pelosi’s house with a backpack full of zip ties, tape, rope, gloves and two hammers.

“If you comb through his social media posts and writings, his primary drivers are hatred of Jews, Holocaust denial, anti-Black, anti-BLM, anti-trans, anti-women, anti-communist, anti-liberal, anti-Antifa, anti-mainstream media, anti-higher-education, anti-cop, anti-foreign aid,” said J.J. MacNAB of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. “His list of things he likes is a bit shorter: [DONALD] TRUMP, Russian causes, QAnon, KANYE WEST, the Second Amendment, and the ‘it’s ok to be white’ fad.”

In an affidavit, the FBI agent provided these details of DePape’s recorded interview with San Francisco police:

“DEPAPE stated that he was going to hold NANCY [PELOSI] hostage and talk to her. If Nancy were to tell DEPAPE the ‘truth,’ he would let her go, and if she ‘lied,’ he was going to break ‘her kneecaps.’ DEPAPE was certain that Nancy would not have told the ‘truth.’ In the course of the interview, DEPAPE articulated he viewed Nancy as the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party. DEPAPE also later explained that by breaking Nancy’s kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions. DEPAPE also explained generally that he wanted to use Nancy to lure another individual to DEPAPE.”

None of this is particularly surprising to the people who study extremism in the United States. A 2020 paper from Rand documented that two-thirds of domestic terrorism from January to August that year came from far-right extremists and roughly one-fifth came from far-left extremists.

“Although incidents from the left are on the rise, political violence still comes overwhelmingly from the right, whether one looks at the Global Terrorism Database, FBI statistics, or other government or independent counts,” Carnegie’s RACHEL KLEINFELD wrote in a research paper on trends in political violence last October.

DHS warned in June that, as the midterms approached, “calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase,” especially from “racially or ethnically motivated or anti-government/anti-authority” extremists.

But politically, the rise of right-wing political violence is often met with a campaign of gaslighting to obscure the trend. That seems to be the most obvious explanation behind the attempt by some on the right to reinvent the Pelosi attacker as left-wing.

Sen. TED CRUZ (R-Texas) endorsed the idea that DePape couldn’t be a militant right-winger because he was once a Berkeley nudist (not mutually exclusive, as The Washington Post explains today). Rep. CLAY HIGGINS (R-La.) tweeted and deleted a baseless and salacious conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi (the same one tweeted and deleted by ELON MUSK). Appearing Monday night on TUCKER CARLSON’s show, Arizona gubernatorial nominee KARI LAKE, who had mocked the attack at the Pelosi residence during a campaign event earlier in the day, complained that the backlash to her comments showed she was being silenced.

“We can’t talk about all these issues because the media has told us they’re prohibited. You can’t talk about vaccines, you can’t talk about elections, you can’t talk about Paul Pelosi, and now you can’t talk about Nancy Pelosi,” Lake said.

Many other conservative commentators played the same game.

Watching this all unfold in such a predictable way suggests things will get much worse before they get better. The historian Matthew Dallek writes today in the Times, “We may be entering an even uglier phase in which assaults on lawmakers and their families become routine, and the ‘apostles’ of violence and bigotry gain power.”

Dallek’s piece came out around the same time last night that DONALD TRUMP reposted a QAnon meme on Truth Social with the former president’s photo.

The caption said, “The Storm Is Coming.”

Related reads: 

ALMOST THERE — 7 days left until Election Day. … 23,203,840 early votes cast as of 11:02 p.m. Monday, per the United States Elections Project.

Good Tuesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. We’re finalizing plans about where to be for the final days of this campaign. Drop us a line and tell us what races you want to read more about: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

After weeks of stories about momentum swinging in favor of GOP Senate candidates, “a spate of new polls arrived this week bearing a clear message for Democrats: They are still in the hunt for the Senate majority,” Steve Shepard writes this morning.

Yesterday, the New York Times/Siena College released poll results from four major swing states that immediately boosted Dem hopes — showing their candidates up in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and tied in Nevada.

How are the pros reading those polls? We asked Steve, POLITICO’s resident polling expert, on Monday night. Here’s what he said:

“Georgia (where the runoff threshold looms) and Nevada are tied. Democrats are ahead in Arizona and Pennsylvania — though both are firmly still toss-ups. That’s really how you should read the polls. One poll in Georgia shows RAPHAEL WARNOCK ahead by 3, and the other has HERSCHEL WALKER up by 1? The race is essentially tied. Five Nevada polls in a row have ADAM LAXALT up by 1-3 points (which was the case a few weeks ago)? The race is tight.

“NRSC Chair RICK SCOTT may very well be right when he predicts the GOP is going to win 52 Senate seats, but that’s only one more than a bare majority — and the margins in those final two races will be slim.

“And if Republicans don’t flip the Senate, despite their national tailwinds? Just look back to 2018, when Democrats netted 40 House seats, but Republicans expanded their Senate majority thanks to a favorable map.”


WHERE JOE WON’T GO — “Biden Avoids Some Battleground States in Midterms’ Final Stretch,” by WSJ’s Ken Thomas and Catherine Lucey: “Of the 14 states with some of the most competitive Senate and governor races, based on ratings from the Cook Political Report, Mr. Biden has visited six since Sept. 1. He hasn’t been to Arizona, Nevada or Georgia, three states with high-profile midterm races that also helped put him in the White House. Mr. Biden has made three trips to New York and two to Maryland — solidly Democratic states with some competitive races in November — but has visited Michigan and Wisconsin only once each. The only top presidential battleground he has visited repeatedly is Pennsylvania, his birthplace.”

THE EARLY VOTE REPORT —WaPo’s Marc Fisher and Meagan Flynn chat with some early voters in contentious Virginia districts to understand their motivations in heading to the polls before Election Day arrives. What they found: “Republican or Democrat, they’re straining to cope with sharply higher grocery and gas prices. And people on both sides of the partisan split say they’re deeply concerned about the state of American democracy; the harsh, even angry political divisions within families and among friends; and the sense that the people running the country have gotten too old, too stuck in their ways and too detached from the lives of regular folks. Those similar sets of grievances do not for a minute mean that Americans are putting aside their differences. Far from it.”

ANTISEMITISM ABOUNDS — “Jewish leaders call on GOP candidates to reject antisemitic comments,” by WaPo’s Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Isaac Arnsdorf: “Jewish leaders raised alarms Monday about antisemitism they say is increasingly normalized in American politics after a series of bigoted comments from associates or supporters of GOP candidates and growing calls for them to firmly reject such rhetoric.”

In Nevada: “The campaign of GOP Senate nominee Adam Laxalt on Monday denounced antisemitic tweets linked to a recently fired staffer who said Jews are part of a ‘cult’ rather than a religion.”

In Georgia: “Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker did not publicly reject a show of support from Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who has made a slew of comments attacking Jewish people in recent weeks.”

In Arizona: “The GOP candidate in a marquee House race, ELI CRANE, urged the audience to look up an antisemitic sermon at a recent campaign stop.”

In Pennsylvania: “Jewish Democrats call on Oz to disassociate himself from Mastriano,” by The Forward’s Jacob Kornbluh

THE NEW GOP — “Confident GOP unifies behind candidates once seen as risky,” by AP’s Steve Peoples


WOWZA — AdImpact Politics: “With $81.7M spent in the 2022 #GASen race, Raphael Warnock’s campaign has become the 8th highest spending candidate advertiser EVER for a singular office. The top 7 are all presidential campaigns. Warnock’s total expenditure for the last 2 cycles now stands at $176M. … Another 2022 candidate, #ILGov JB PRITZKER, has taken over 9th all time for candidate spending. This year, his campaign has spent $75.5M, adding to his $67M spent in 2018.”

SCOTT MAKES HIS PREDICTION —“Sen. Rick Scott: Republicans to win ’52-plus’ Senate seats, ‘clearly pick up’ Georgia, Nevada,” by Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser

MR. INDEPENDENT — “Democrats, tech leaders fund PAC to boost McMullin in Utah,” by AP’s Sam Metz in Salt Lake City: “The sheer amount of money pouring into the race reflects how [EVAN] McMULLIN has turned Utah from a political afterthought to a legitimate battleground. The outside spending supporting him also illustrates the traditional partisan dynamics at play in the independent-versus-Republican race and the emerging reality that some Democratic Party-aligned groups and donors see McMullin — an anti-abortion conservative — as one path toward preventing Republicans from retaking control of the Senate.”

FYI — “Company Backed by J.D. Vance Gives Platform for Russian Propaganda,” by NYT’s Danny Hakim


DEMS ON DEFENSE — House Majority PAC, Dems’ top House super PAC, is jumping in behind Rep. JOE MORELLE (D-N.Y.) in a late effort to shore up the Democrat’s reelection in a deep-blue district, Ally Mutnick reports, noting that it’s just the latest sign of a surge toward Republicans as Election Day nears. “It’s possible the late spending is only out of an abundance of caution — but it’s not a good sign for Democrats with just a week to go until the midterms.”

ET Q, BRUTE? — “A QAnon Democrat? Fierce 2022 Warfare Erupts in Deep-Blue California,” by NYT’s Ken Bensinger in Los Angeles: “The mailers and online ads vividly paint DAVID KIM as a right-wing extremist, accusing him of running for a House seat in California ‘with QAnon-MAGA support’ from ‘QAnon Republicans.’ But Mr. Kim is not a Republican. He’s a progressive Democrat who supports ‘Medicare for all’ and a Green New Deal. And the attacks come from a fellow progressive Democrat, Representative JIMMY GOMEZ, who is fighting to keep his seat in Congress.”

RUNNING WITH THE PAST — “Zinke’s Trump Cabinet days shape Montana race for US House,” by AP’s Matthew Brown in Bozeman, Mont.

TALES FROM THE CRYPTO — “Can Crypto Buy a Seat in Congress?” by CoinDesk’s Jesse Hamilton

THE CAVALRY ARRIVES — “South Carolina’s Mace gets boost from McCarthy, Gabbard,” by AP’s Meg Kinnard: Miami Mayor FRANCIS SUAREZ, former Democratic Rep. TULSI GABBARD and House Minority Leader KEVIN McCARTHY are all heading to the Palmetto State this week to give GOP Rep. NANCY MACE a boost in her race against Democrat ANNIE ANDREWS.


THE HEADS OF STATE — Republican election denier JIM MARCHANT is on the cusp of taking over as secretary of state in Nevada, and if he does so, he could fundamentally reshape elections in the state, Elena Schneider and Zach Montellaro report this morning from Reno. “And Marchant is not alone: He is a leader of a group of hard-right, election-denying candidates in Michigan, Arizona and elsewhere who have similar beliefs. At a rally with former President Donald Trump last month, Marchant promised that his class of pro-Trump secretaries of state would ‘fix the whole country and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024.’”

CALLING FOR BACKUP — “With Allies Nearby, Hochul and Zeldin Try to Spur Voters to Polls,” by NYT’s Michael Gold, Jeffery Mays and Brittany Kriegstein: “With the race for governor of New York closer than expected, the two candidates on Monday put their strategies and proxies front and center: Representative LEE ZELDIN, a Republican, held a campaign rally with Gov. GLENN YOUNGKIN of Virginia, and Gov. KATHY HOCHUL appeared with a pair of Black and Latino Democratic lawmakers.”

“Democrats to boost Hochul in tight New York governor’s race,” by AP’s Michelle Price: Dems have launched a new super PAC to support Hochul, and the governor has “brought on former President BARACK OBAMA to appear in a new radio ad on her behalf and is planning a Thursday rally with HILLARY CLINTON in New York City.”


Michigan: Gov. GRETCHEN WHITMER leads TUDOR DIXON among likely voters, 52% to 43%, per the Glengariff Group’s final Detroit News/WDIV poll before Election Day.

Georgia: Gov. BRIAN KEMP leads Democrat STACEY ABRAMS among likely voters, 50% to 45%, in a NYT/Siena College poll.

Nevada: Republican JOE LOMBARDO leads Gov. STEVE SISOLAK among likely voters, 49% to 45%, in a NYT/Siena College poll.

— Arizona: Gubernatorial hopefuls KATIE HOBBS and Kari Lake are tied among likely voters, 48% to 48%, in a NYT/Siena College poll.

Pennsylvania:JOSH SHAPIRO leads Republican DOUG MASTRIANO among likely voters, 53% to 40%, in a NYT/Siena College poll.


Via Steve Shepard

— South Dakota: Former Rep. TULSI GABBARD stars in GOP Gov. KRISTI NOEM’s latest ad. “Extremists like [Noem’s opponent] JAMIE SMITH are why I left the Democrat [sic] Party,” Gabbard says in the spot.

— Virginia: Democratic Rep. JENNIFER WEXTON’s latest ad lists “7 things you should know about extremist HUNG CAO,” the last of which is: “And he wants to punch Dr. [ANTHONY] FAUCI in the face.”

— Alaska: In her closing-argument ad, GOP Sen. LISA MURKOWSKI says, “I will work with anyone, from either party, to advance Alaska’s priorities.”



BIDEN’S BARK — Biden “accused oil companies of ‘war profiteering’ Monday after they posted record profits — and urged Congress to impose a windfall tax on the industry if it fails to lower consumers’ costs,” Josh Siegel writes. “Biden’s comments were his sharpest yet against the industry” so far this year.

What Biden said: “If they don’t, they’re going to pay a higher tax on their excess profits and face other restrictions. … My team will work with Congress to look at these options that are available to us and others. It’s time for these companies to stop war profiteering, meet their responsibilities to this country, give the American people a break and still do very well.”

But, but, but: Josh notes that Biden’s call is “mostly likely a futile one, since Congress won’t meet before the election next week that’s expected to deliver control of at least one chamber of Congress to Republicans, and the idea is unlikely to draw strong enough political support even among his own party.”


NIGHT OF THE HUNTER — Reps. JAMES COMER (R-Ky.) and JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio), who are poised to sit atop the House Oversight and Judiciary committees if the GOP retakes the House, told our colleague Olivia Beavers that they are “planning to hold a press conference a week after the midterms to share an update on the status of their investigation into HUNTER BIDEN.”


2024 WATCH — The shadow primary for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination is ready to “break wide open,” the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker writes, “with about a dozen 2024 contenders scheduled to showcase themselves to leading donors and activists attending an annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference.” The major absentee? Trump, who declined an invitation, Drucker writes.


MEADOWS REQUEST DENIED — U.S. District Judge CARL NICHOLS on Monday “dismissed the challenge former Trump White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS brought to a House January 6 select committee subpoena,” CNN’s Tierney Sneed reports.


READY FOR RELEASE — Penguin Random House is standing by its decision to publish Supreme Court Justice AMY CONEY BARRETT’s forthcoming book “despite a dissenting online open letter that has garnered more than 600 signatures, including many from the publishing world,” WSJ’s Jeffrey Trachtenberg reports. The book likely won’t be published until 2024, and our colleague Daniel Lippman has previously reported that it is expected to center on “how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into how they rule.”

BIG ANTITRUST MOVE — “Judge blocks Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster merger,” by AP’s Hillel Italie


HOT ON THE RIGHT — “Leaked Documents Outline DHS’s Plans to Police Disinformation,” by The Intercept’s Ken Klippenstein and Lee Fang


ON THE GROUND — “U.S. military now doing onsite weapons inspections in Ukraine,” by AP’s Lolita Baldor


FOR YOUR RADAR — “Top Biden envoy pushes back on criticism of Iran strategy,” by AP’s Aamer Madhani

I THINK I’VE SEEN THIS FILM BEFORE — “Bolsonaro hasn’t conceded to Lula. Is he following the Trump playbook?” by WaPo’s Anthony Faiola and Gabriela Sá Pessoa in Rio de Janeiro


WHOOPS — “ProPublica scrambles to check translation in COVID origin story,” by Semafor’s Max Tani: “In the days after ProPublica published a searing expose based on a close reading of Communist Party memoranda in Mandarin, it called in at least two translators, according to three people familiar with the exchanges. That’s right: In the days after.”


WORTH 6 SECONDS OF YOUR TIME — “Musk team working to reboot Vine this year,” by Axios’ Sara Fischer and Dan Primack

TRUTH BE TOLD — “Truth Social’s Influence Grows Despite Its Business Problems,” by NYT’s Stuart Thompson and Matthew Goldstein


IN CASE YOU WANTED MORE TO WORRY ABOUT — “‘Planet Killer’ Asteroid Spotted That Poses Distant Risk to Earth,” by NYT’s Robin George Andrews

Halloween round-up:

Mitt Romneyas Super Mario.

Lois Frankel’s office as the 12 appropriations bills, “because passing the FY23 budget would be a real treat.”

Buddy Carter as “the scariest thing I could think of”: $31 trillion in national debt.

Joe Manchin as a NASA astronaut.

Ursula Perano as the NYT election needle.

Alex Sanzas Billy Butcherson for trick-or-treating with his twins.

The Buttigiegs’ twins as NASA cadets.

The Swalwells as a Disney mashup.

Cory Booker with some scary-bad dad jokes.

CATCHING UP WITH KLEPPER — When “Daily Show” correspondent Jordan Klepper hit the campaign trail ahead of the midterm election, he did so with one key goal: To “see if America was still cool with this whole ‘democracy’ thing,” he tells Playbook.

After speaking to Republican voters in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan, he’s not so sure it is.

“Even though we’re still fighting about 2020, it feels as if many of the people I’ve talked to are already doubting what’s happening a couple weeks from now,” Klepper says. “My disappointment got even deeper in where we are as a country. I think, joking aside, my fear for where we are only heightened.”

It wasn’t just MAGA backers who gave Klepper concern. The comedian also met with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who “was very blunt and open about how we need to start talking about” the future of democracy and potential for violence, per Klepper. “To hear him say he sees trouble on the horizon when it comes to things like a civil war, you have to take that seriously.”

Tonight, those conversations will air in a new special, “Jordan Klepper Fingers the Midterms: America Unfollows Democracy,” that premieres at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. And if the subject matter sounds like it isn’t exactly a laugh riot, Klepper understands. “We try to find humor in these specials. We try to find hypocrisy that is all across America, but you see that these types of points of view and these types of opinions could have real world consequences.”

MEDIA MOVE —Brooke Lorenz is now a director at Artemis. She most recently was director of comms for CBS News and is a CNN and WaPo alum.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Nick Yaeger, Jon Potter, Mark Drapeau and Chris Grimm have launched RXN Group, an influence and advocacy firm. Yaeger is a tech startup founder and former VP at POLITICO, Potter founded the Digital Media Association and Developers Alliance, Drapeau is a former Microsoft director and is editor-in-chief at Data Catalyst Institute (now part of RXN) and Grimm led Fan Freedom and is an Orrick alum.

Charles Cooper and Madeline Wade have launched the boutique consulting firm Brumidi Group. Cooper most recently was a managing director and chair of advocacy at the Signal Group and Wade most recently was an EVP at the Signal Group.

NSC DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Sahar Hafeez is now a senior adviser at the Commerce Department. She previously was director for international economics for the NSC.

TRANSITIONS — Aaron Suntag is now a principal at Public Strategies Washington, leading the firm’s energy, environment and sustainability practice. He previously was senior policy adviser to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). … Kate Kiernan is now VP of state relations and regulatory affairs at Northwestern Mutual. She previously was VP of state affairs at Zurich North America.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Jay Sulzmann, of HLP&R Advocacy, and Sarah Anne Sulzmann, comms director for Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), recently welcomed Jay John Sulzmann III. “Tripp” came in at 10 lbs, 11 oz. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) … Senate Chaplain Barry Black Apple CEO Tim CookCharles KochDavid Bossie of Citizens United … former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Katie Walsh ShieldsVanessa Morrone Ambrosini … NYT’s Carlos Lozada … POLITICO’s Anthony Hatch, Jason Shervinski and Megan Wilson John Oxtoby of Ariel Investments … Jess Andrews … Business Roundtable’s Liz DoughertySuzanne Zurn of the National Security Innovation Network … Grace BelloneClare Steinberg Tyler HernandezChloe Taylor of HawkPartners … Bill Deere of the UNRWA … Leslie Pollner John Stipicevic … CNN’s Marshall CohenAlex Byers … former Reps. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) and John Spratt (D-S.C.) … Liz BowmanCami Bissen … American Conservation Coalition’s Lucero Cantu Sarakshi Rai of The Hill … Matthew Palmisano of Axiom Strategies

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

Source link