Image for Halloween Ghosts and Goblins Embrace Nation’s Capital

Halloween 2021 is approaching and ghosts and goblins are getting a head start in the nation’s capital. Congressional Democrats still haven’t reached a deal on President Biden’s infrastructure proposals. New information surfaced implicating several GOP Members of Congress of involvement in planning the January 6 Capitol attack. And Facebook came under heavier attack because of insider leaks indicating Mark Zuckerberg refused to block misinformation to sustain ad revenues.

There was more scary stuff. The House voted to enforce a subpoena for Steve Bannon, a key figure in the January 6 committee investigation. Joe Biden’s poll numbers kept slipping. In addition to announcing a new social media platform named “Truth”, Donald Trump filed a lawsuit to prevent disclosure of his January 6 White House communications. The Supreme Court again refused to block the Texas abortion law. A Republican congressman predicted his own federal indictment for lying to the FBI.

This is the kind of material the writers of The West Wing television series would have rejected as too wildly improbable. Andy Borowitz, who writes satire for The New Yorker, would have viewed it as beyond satirical. Even Beetlejuice might be shocked.

No question there is a lot of bad mojo in the air. Every news cycle seems to bring news of another plank sawed off from Biden’s infrastructure plan, even as Democratic leaders hint that a final deal is near. Free community college, childcare tax credits, climate change initiatives and tax-the-wealthy schemes have become smashed pumpkins.

Rolling Stone published an account quoting organizers of the January 6 Capitol attack describing how several GOP congressmen and White House officials participated in planning sessions. One congressman allegedly assured organizers of blanket immunity from any charges resulting from the effort intended to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s presidential election victory. A video circulated showing Georgia GOP Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene emerging from a meeting she said pertained to the January 6 protests. Skeletons were rattling out of the closet. 

Facebook has been under the gun from the right and left for a long while. Now the pressure is intensifying as whistleblowers and leaked insider information claim the social media giant has relied on online conflict to stimulate engagement. Zuckerberg has been branded the bad witch of the internet for personally preventing steps to curb disinformation that incited angry engagement.

The House is widening its examination of events leading up to and including January 6, which includes issuing subpoenas to Trump associates suspected of involvement in planning events that spiraled out of control. Bannon, who has fingered himself as the captain of a “war room” in the Willard Hotel just blocks from the White House, has declined to appear under oath before the January 6 committee, claiming his communications fall under executive privilege, even though he wasn’t on the presidential payroll. He now faces potential criminal contempt charges, which could land him behind bars in the Capitol basement by Halloween.

Trump is feuding with Biden who has refused to shield Trump’s January 6 communications from disclosure to the House January 6 committee. Trump is suing to protect from public view what he said and did on a fateful day linked to violent actions intended to maintain him in office. Presidents are usually wary of opening the book of the private deliberations of their predecessors or their own. Like refusing to give a treat to a rude kid on Halloween, Biden has made an exception in the case of January 6 communications.

On another front, Trump announced the November launch of a new social media platform called Truth. The former president is still banned from Twitter, his previous online megaphone, for not telling the truth. Apparently, Trump minions were unable to launch Trump’s Great Pumpkin Party by Halloween.

Trump announced the November launch of a new social media platform called Truth. The former president is still banned from Twitter, his previous online megaphone, for not telling the truth

For the second time, the US Supreme Court declined to block the Texas abortion law that has as a practical matter banned abortions in the state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued another blistering dissent, describing a dystopian situation where women with means traveled to adjacent states to obtain abortions and poor women were left with only zombie options. The Court did promise a speedy review of a constitutional challenge of the law, which could take some time to move through lower federal courts.

The most Hallowesque event in the capital was Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry predicting on a video his imminent indictment for lying to the FBI about a 2016 campaign contribution from a foreign national. Fortenberry’s prediction came true before Halloween. A federal grand jury indicted him on three counts of falsifying a $30,000 contribution from a Nigerian construction billionaire and he was arraigned in federal court in Los Angeles.  In his video, Fortenberry denied any wrongdoing. Each of the three charges against him could result in a five-year prison sentence, a real nightmare before Halloween.