Oath Keepers leader found guilty of seditious conspiracy, rise in anti-semitism: 5 Things podcast

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On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: Oath Keepers leader found guilty of seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack

What is seditious conspiracy? And what happens next? Plus, Yael Eisenstat, Vice President of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society, discusses the rise in anti-semitism.

Podcasts: True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 30th of November, 2022. Today, the leader of a right wing extremist group has been found guilty, connected to January 6th, plus President Joe Biden urges action on the national rail dispute, and we look at the rise in antisemitism.

The founder of the Oath Keepers, a right wing extremist militia group, has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges tied to the January 6th attack on the US Capitol. Stewart Rhodes and four other defendants were convicted by a Washington DC jury yesterday. During the trial, prosecutors outlined the Oath Keepers as leaders of a mob supporting former president Donald Trump that stormed the capital in early 2021, leading to multiple deaths and more than 100 injured law enforcement officers.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the group aims to defend its interpretation of the constitution against perceived enemies and if necessary, by force. But the militia members argued during the trial that there was no plan to invade the building that day and that the government had mischaracterized them. Seditious conspiracy is defined as opposing the government of the United States by force.

The Justice Department had not tried a seditious conspiracy case in a decade before this. And the last time the government won a guilty verdict on the charge was the 1995 prosecution of Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York City.

Two Oath Keepers were found guilty of the charge, which could serve as a warning to government dissenters that violent acts against the US will be punished. But acquittal of the charge for the three other defendants could undermine the Justice Department's narrative that events of January 6th endangered democracy.

In meetings with congressional leaders for the first time since midterm elections, President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to intervene in a labor dispute between unions and operators of the country's freight railroads.

President Joe Biden:

And Congress, I think has to act to prevent it. It's not an easy call, but I think we have to do it. The economy's at risk.

Taylor Wilson:

Before a December 9th strike deadline, Biden wants lawmakers to adopt an agreement brokered by the White House earlier this year between labor union leaders and rail operators. Four of the 12 rail unions have voted to reject the agreement, leaving Congress as the last option to avoid a shutdown. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican Sen. Roger Marshall weighed in yesterday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

In the first three quarters of this year alone, three quarters, the railroad industry made $21 billion in profit, record breaking profits. They gave in the last year $25 billion in stock buybacks to their wealthy shareholders. And yet, you have workers all over this country who work for the railroads. People who are working at dangerous jobs and inclement weather have zero paid sick leave. That is outrageous. And I think it's incumbent upon Congress to do everything that it can to protect these workers, to make sure that the railroad starts treating them with the respect and the dignity that they deserve.

Sen. Roger Marshall:

I would much prefer us not to intervene, but at the same time for this to shut down will be horrendous for Kansas as well as for Kansas agriculture, so I think all the cards are on the table right now. I haven't decided what I'll do.

Taylor Wilson:

In the House, speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber will take up legislation this week on the rail deal.

Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, a coalition of more than 400 business groups sent a letter to congressional leaders yesterday urging them to intervene.

A rising number of Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, are denouncing Donald Trump for hosting a dinner with white nationalists and antisemitic guests last week at his Mar-a-Lago home, including rapper Ye and white nationalist Nick Fuentes. McConnell said, "There is no room in the Republican party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, is highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States."

Producer PJ Elliott talked with Yael Eisenstat, who is the vice president of the Anti-Defamation League Center for Technology and Society, to discuss how antisemitism is becoming normalized in our country.

Yael Eisenstat:

Seeing a former president sitting down and having dinner with these two just shows that it's almost to the point where you have to ask, "Is this being normalized?" It's just setting a stage of a really dangerous point in this country. And what's really just very discouraging and very concerning to us is that antisemitism is being normalized in our society like it never has before.

PJ Elliott:

So, moving away from former President Trump, we're seeing antisemitism clearly showing a presence on social media as well. How serious are those threats? And you kind of touched on this in your first answer, is there a danger that antisemitism is becoming way too normalized?

Yael Eisenstat:

Yeah. Let me start by... So, we do this annual survey. It's called our Online Hate and Harassment survey. Let me just set the stage here as well by giving you just a few statistics from that, right? It's a nationally representative survey and we are showing that Jewish respondents were far more likely than non-Jews to report being harassed because of their religion. We had 26% of Jews surveyed were worried about future harassment. We have Asian Americans reported a dramatic increase in harassment in 2021, LGBTQ+ respondents for more likely than any other group surveyed to experience harassment.

I set all this stage to show that this is rampant online. I mean, even 68% of those harassed, they also say this vast majority of this harassment is happening on Facebook more than any other platform. And what we saw from some of the Facebook papers and linked documents of by the whistleblower was that they only remove actually 3% to 5% of the hate speech on their platform. And so, I say all this to saym Yes, it is being normalized online, and it's very clear that platforms are not doing enough to tackle it.

And I worked at Facebook, I spent time there in 2018 heading their elections integrity work. I know that there are the capabilities to take these threats more seriously, and it's just not happening with the severity that we need these platforms to make sure they're taking.

PJ Elliott:

So, I think it's fair to say racism and antisemitism are rising together, and obviously they're two different issues, but they are tied together. What more can people do to fight this growing hatred in real life and online?

Yael Eisenstat:

We always encourage and want people to speak out. I mean, for example, in the case where we saw the president, again, sit down with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, it is really important that people from his own parties speak out emphatically against this. But this goes for everyone. We want people to speak out against racism, against antisemitism, against all these forms of hate. Then we at ADL also, we work to make sure that policy makers also step up and are also looking for new solutions.

And then lastly, I'll just say on the tech side, which is what I work on most directly, we've really been pushing legislators both at the state and federal levels to do more, to tackle hate speech online, and to hold companies accountable for how they amplify these things, right? It's not just about the speech that's online, but it's about how the company's own tools are helping amplify hate speech.

PJ Elliott:

Yael, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for doing this.

Yael Eisenstat:

Thank you for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

New York City is instructing officials to involuntarily hospitalize people experiencing severe mental illness on the streets. The move from Mayor Eric Adams would give outreach workers, city hospitals, and first responders, including police discretion to hospitalize people against their will if they feel those people are a danger to themselves or unable to care for themselves. The mayor defended the controversial decision in his announcement yesterday.

Mayor Eric Adams:

I know some people may look at what we're doing saying that we are trying to do something to take away the right of people. No, we're not. The right is that people should be able to live in dignity.

Taylor Wilson:

Adams said he has begun deploying teams of clinicians and police officers to patrol the city's busiest subway stations. But advocates fighting homelessness have long argued that helping people with mental illnesses on the streets requires a combination of housing and clinical services. A housing policy researcher told USA TODAY that if there is no plan for permanent housing, the cycle of homelessness will continue after people are released from hospitals. The New York Times reported that despite an overwhelming demand for low income housing in the city, nearly 2600 apartments for people with mental illnesses or those who are unhoused sat vacant as of this month.

Black Americans zoned an estimated 16 million acres of farmland following the Emancipation Proclamation. But by 1990, Black farmers lost 90% of that land. Meanwhile, over the same period, white farmers lost only 2% of their acreage. Uneven Ground is a series from The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network, and the reporting shares the stories of some who remain despite the adversity they face. Producer PJ Elliott spoke with co-reporter Mackensy Lunsford to talk about what they discovered.

Mackensy Lunsford:

I feel like the discrimination against Black farmers, it has been well-documented. We began researching this project months and months and months ago. How do we want to tell these stories of these Black farmers who've worked so hard to gain land since the Emancipation Proclamation, but lost 90% of it or more. And we discovered that the story has been told plenty of times, but a lot of times the story's been told with numbers, with data, with these points that aren't exactly digestible for readers, right? So, we took all of that well-documented discrimination, and we put that in a timeline, so people could reference that and see that it's been proven. And with that out of the way, we set out across the South finding as many Black farmers with engaging stories as we could.

PJ Elliott:

Mackensy, you and fellow reporter Todd Price did an amazing job on this story. I'm wondering, what were some of the things that really stood out to you that you found in your reporting?

Mackensy Lunsford:

Yeah, I mean, as much as it is important for people to acknowledge years and years and years of discrimination that's been well-documented in just about every publication, we just really want people to understand that these are stories that do prove the resilience of Black farmers, that they will continue to persevere despite deep obstacles that they've faced over the years, and we intend to continue to cover their progress and their fight as we continue with other uneven ground projects. In the future, there will be a two, there will be a three, and on and on and on. So, we'll keep with it.

Taylor Wilson:

You can find a link to the full story in today's show notes.

And in case you missed it yesterday, the Senate passed legislation to put same-sex marriage rights into law. The Respect for Marriage Act had bipartisan support, and now moves to the house where it's expected to pass as early as next week.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. We're here every morning wherever you get your audio. I'll be back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Oath Keepers head found guilty, anti-semitism normalized?: 5 Things podcast