And the thing is, the writing has been on the wall for some time that this day could come. Yet for months, those who have sought to downplay the Capitol riot decided to cite the lack of such criminal charges as some kind of proof that Jan. 6 wasn’t that bad. In the most dubious cases, they suggested the lack of certain indictments legitimized conspiracy theories that some people involved were actually federal agents who fomented the Capitol riot. (These theories, which have included ones about Rhodes himself, have routinely fallen apart.)
They did so even as a former top federal prosecutor who handled the cases suggested in March last year that sedition-related charges could indeed be on the way.
It’s been a feature of Fox’s coverage.
“Oh, it was an ‘insurrection,’” Tucker Carlson said in May in his trademark scare-quote voice. “So how many of the participants in that insurrection had been charged with insurrecting? With sedition? With treason? Zero.”
Fox host Will Cain cited the same thing in June.
“But you know what? No one has been charged with sedition,” Cain said, adding: “Instead, people like Kelly and Connie Meggs walked into the Capitol — no vandalism, no violence — but instead, were guilty of being members of the Oath Keepers. … They walked in while being a member of the wrong group.”
Kelly Meggs was among those who now face a seditious-conspiracy charge.
By July, Fox host Pete Hegseth asked a guest: “And, effectively, they’re building a gigantic case for insurrection, yet no one in particular has been charged with that. Am I correct?”
He and a guest agreed that this meant those arrested for nonviolent offenses were generally something amounting to political prisoners.
“Thus, no one has been charged with sedition or insurrection,” host Greg Gutfeld said on the network. “Most have been hit with charges like parading. Parading. Who knew that was a crime? By the way, it should be. I hate parades.”
In November, journalist Glenn Greenwald appeared on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox and pitched the whole thing as a flop with no sedition charges in the offing.
“What happened here, Laura, is that [congressional investigators] know the Justice Department is not going to deliver on this narrative that they peddled for eight months, which was that this was an insurrection, these people are traitors, that they engaged in sedition,” Greenwald said. “No one is charged with any of those things.”
If those members of Congress indeed thought they knew that, they would’ve been wrong.
Added Mark Levin, another Fox host, a few days later: “Has anybody been charged with sedition? Nobody. Has anybody been charged with treason? Nobody. So why do they keep calling it an insurrection?”
As with Hume, this would seem to suggest the I-word, which clearly applies, is now fair game.
Ingraham also made this a focal point last week, the anniversary week of the insurrection.
“Do you know how many people have been charged with inciting insurrection or sedition or treason or domestic terrorism as a result of anything?” Ingraham asked. “Zero. Exactly — just like Robert Mueller never indicted anybody for criminally conspiring with Russia. They live in this fantasy world that never corresponds to the reality. And they just think if they keep feeding on it, one day it might come true.”
Just days later, it came true.
Two days after the above segment, on the actual anniversary of Jan. 6, Ingraham brought up the lack of sedition charges again. She suggested the lesser crimes charged were a “tell.”
“Are they not,” she asked, “about what the DOJ actually thinks about this case?”
Guest Jonathan Turley agreed.
“Well, ‘insurrection’ means something,” Turley said. “It’s a legal term. And the FBI arrested hundreds. They investigated thousands. And they did not find a conspiracy for insurrection or rebellion. They didn’t charge those crimes. They didn’t charge anything like them.”
In fact, it appears they had found what they believed to be a conspiracy — a seditious one, in fact — and even at that moment, they were putting the finishing touches on charging it.
And that’s the point here: It takes time to build such cases. Declaring the lack of big, early charges to be anything other than a symptom of the slow-moving cogs of justice and working small-to-big is a recipe for having egg on your face later on.
Even the day between the two Ingraham segments, Attorney General Merrick Garland alluded to the necessarily deliberate pace of things. “We resolve more straightforward cases first because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases,” Garland said. It was evident that Garland was pointing to bigger things on the way, and now they’ve arrived.
The question now is what those who have spearheaded downplaying a violent attempt to overturn an election will do about it. Will those who suggested that the lack of sedition charges proved the situation wasn’t serious acknowledge that, by the standard they set out, it appears potentially quite serious?
In all likelihood, not. They’ll note that these are merely charges — not proven crimes. They’ll note these particular charges don’t implicate Donald Trump or those around him. They’ll suggest this might be a response to the criticism Garland received from the left for not moving more quickly (ignoring how difficult and arduous it is to build such a case over many months). Some might even be tempted to pitch these people as further victims of overzealous political persecution, as Cain did with Meggs, and as Carlson did with Thomas Caldwell, who was the subject of multiple sympathetic segments on his show and is now among those charged with seditious conspiracy.
As with their comments about the previous lack of sedition charges, it might be more advisable to wait and see how things actually shake out.