FBI arrests GOP Michigan gubernatorial frontrunner for participating in the insurrection

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A curtain-raiser for tonight’s January 6 committee hearing, reminding us why Liz Cheney can’t just “move on.” She can’t move on because the party won’t move on from trying to subvert elections. If anything, with 2020 truthers on the ballot in swing states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Michigan, the threat is only building.

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The next time Trump tries to overturn an election, it won’t be via a mob beating cops with flagpoles. It’ll be done “legally,” courtesy of authoritarians elected at the state level.

Ryan Kelley is aiming to fill that role in Michigan. He’s leading the race for the Republican nomination for governor there although his “frontrunner” status comes with an asterisk. It’s based on one poll, in which he notched a measly 19 percent. Why is the field so unsettled, you may ask? It’s because five Republican candidates, including former Detroit police chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson, were disqualified after it turned out that too many of the signatures on their petitions to enter the race were fraudulent. That left the primary in chaos, with Kelley the main beneficiary for the moment.

Emphasis on “for the moment.”

Ryan Kelley, one of the Republican candidates for Michigan governor, has been arrested on charges in the January 6th riot, the FBI confirmed to News 8.

Kelley was charged in federal court on Thursday for knowingly entering U.S. Capitol or its grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in that space, knowingly engaging in any physical violence against persons or property on U.S. Capitol grounds and willfully injuring or attacking property of the United States, court documents say…

He has also been questioned about his connection to militia groups and for encouraging prospective poll workers to tamper with voting machines during a January 2022 livestream.

“My message was if individuals working the election expect fraud, that they repair the injury,” Kelley told News 8 after that stream. “I stand by that 100%. The left is mad that we are taking control of the narrative and we will not let them steal another election.”

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Allegedly this is him at the Capitol on January 6:

The criminal complaint accuses him of knowingly entering restricted property without lawful authority and knowingly engaging in an act of violence against a person or property in a restricted building. Kelley claimed in an interview last March that “As far as going through any barricades, or doing anything like that, I never took part in any forceful anything. Once things started getting crazy, I left.” Did he? Supposedly this is him en route to entering the building that day:

Between the boost to his name recognition and the extra shot of populist cred he’ll receive from today’s news, his arrest may vault him into legit frontrunner status in the primary. A party whose sense of civic duty has rotted to the point where it’s willing to nominate Doug Mastriano for governor in Pennsylvania is rotten enough to nominate Kelley in Michigan too. E.g.:

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That’s particularly true when the party’s leader is now extolling January 6 as “the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again.”

We’re not still pretending that Trump distinguishes meaningfully between the rally that preceded the riot and the riot itself, are we? There are too many reports of him exulting in the violence to believe that.

But it was nice of him to hand the committee a post like the one above to show off in tonight’s primetime presentation. Anyone wondering why they should still care about something that happened 17 months ago need only follow Trump on Truth Social for daily reminders. Particularly as he gears up to run for president again.

The FBI’s going to need to explain why it took them 17 months to arrest Kelley when evidence of his participation in the riot has been floating around for a year, though. The decision to haul him in on the day of the first January 6 committee hearing smells like politics, especially coming so soon after Kelley landed in first place in a primary poll. And he’s surely going to note that in the aftermath to build support, something the Bureau should have anticipated when deciding when to arrest him.

I’ll leave you with new audio of Kevin McCarthy shortly after January 6, insisting that the GOP can’t just sweep the insurrection under the rug. He’s spent every day since trying to sweep it up under the rug. Remember, the Pelosi-appointed January 6 committee wouldn’t even exist if the original plan for an independent January 6 commission hadn’t been blocked by Senate Republicans — and opposed by McCarthy himself.

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David Strom 4:30 PM | May 28, 2024
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