Q&A: Jesse Daniel
By David Loomis
INDIANA – Republicans come in two basic kinds – country-club and country. Donald Trump joined the two factions, urban and rural. But the linkage has crumbled from – where to begin? – his pandemic incompetence, economic carnage, reflexive mendacity, political ineptitude (loss of the U.S. House, loss of the U.S. Senate, loss of the White House, impeachment times two), and on and on ad nauseam.
Only a week to go. How much more damage can he do in what remains of his maladministration? On Monday, the FBI responded: The federal agency warned that armed protests are planned in all 50 state capitals between now and Inauguration Day, “stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol,” the Associated Press reported. (Trump today issued a belated statement calling for “no violence.”)
Meanwhile, the national Republican Party is fracturing, and its rural-urban, populist-establishment fault lines are showing. What’s the local reaction to the latest developments? What do largely rural, overwhelmingly pro-Trump Indiana County Republicans make of his finale and future?
Jesse D. Daniel, Indiana County Republican Party committee member, former local party chairman, Indiana attorney and election-law lawyer, scanned the local GOP landscape in a Jan. 12 phone interview. (His fellow county GOP committee members, Chairman Gilbert Woodley, of Blairsville, and Patricia Streams-Warman, former county recorder of deeds, register of wills and clerk of Orphans’ Court, did not respond to a message forwarded through an intermediary.)
Excerpts of Mr. Daniel’s interview follow, edited for clarity:
The HawkEye: What is your reaction to the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol?
Daniel: “It’s a national disgrace…. I hope rioters are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
HawkEye: And your reaction to the FBI warning about more of the same between now and Inauguration Day in all 50 state capitals?
Daniel: “I hope the FBI will aggressively go after those folks…. I think it’s fair to say there are people on all sides of the political spectrum who will do bad acts.”
HawkEye: That sounds like what the president said after the violence in Charlottesville.
Daniel: “I don’t mind that wording…. On Jan. 6, the vast majority were not intending to pillage, loot and destroy.”
Of possible protests between now and Inauguration Day, Daniel predicted “the vast majority will be peaceful” with “small little cells attempting to do bad things. I hope the FBI will go after them. I hope the highest preparations will deter them.”
“Minneapolis in any material way is no different from the people at the Capitol on Jan. 6…. Both sides have to be willing to acknowledge the bad actors on their side. I hope my Democratic friends will call out the people who attacked a police station” [in Minneapolis].
‘Both sides have to be willing to acknowledge the bad actors on their side.’
HawkEye: Do you believe that Trump won the 2020 U.S. presidential election, including Pennsylvania?
Daniel: “No. There is no evidence of outcome-determinative fraud. I am an election-law lawyer. Biden won. Were there problems? Yes, we need to do better.”
“To my Republican friends I would say, reconcile themselves that there was no fraud, yet Republicans won and picked up seats. If there was Democratic fraud, it would have been a sweep for Democrats.”
HawkEye: Is Trump responsible for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6?
Daniel: “No. I didn’t see his speech. But I don’t want to attach blame on him because crazy people do what crazies do. Let’s tone things down. Let’s be more responsible…. It’s a fascinating time to be alive.”
HawkEye: Should Trump be removed from office?
Daniel: “Impeach? No. And, no, I’m not a fan of the 25th Amendment. Resignation? I’m not going to tell the president what to do. Allow him to serve out his term and let history judge him…. There is no healing benefit from any of these. Let my Democratic friends have their schadenfreude when the New York attorney general prosecutes the president after he leaves office.”
HawkEye: Don’t our laws require punishment for wrongdoing?
Daniel: “Deterrence is a good concept. It has plenty of negativity. It will teach everybody that taking these actions is very, very bad…. [Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Sen. Patrick] Toomey’s call for the president to resign has deterrence capacity.”
“Democrats’ prosecution/persecution approach will hurt the country’s healing. They should exercise prosecutorial discretion. There are other forms of punishment. There is no need to hold the president’s feet to the fire for deterrence.”
“He has eight days left. There’s nothing he can do, unless he goes completely off the rails. I don’t think that will happen.”
HawkEye: If you were an elected official, how would you respond to the FBI’s warning about violence in all 50 state capitals in the coming days?
Daniel: “I would hope local law enforcement feeds the FBI. Law enforcement jurisdictions should work together and avoid the [information] silos of 911.”
“I would not warn against going. Go there peacefully and exercise your lawful First Amendment rights. I don’t want citizens to cow to threats of violence. I don’t want to hide because maybe an act of violence could happen – a fear of a kinda-sorta problematic event out there. Go protest. But be smart.”
HawkEye: Do you know any QAnon conspiracy-theory believers among Indiana County Republicans?
Daniel: “I have yet to meet anyone. If I did, I probably would nod my head and remove myself or tell them they are blooming idiots.”
ON WEDNESDAY, THE DAY AFTER the interview with Mr. Daniel, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump on one article of incitement to insurrection. U.S. Rep Glenn Thompson, R-15th Congressional District, representing Indiana County, voted against impeachment.
The original version of this article used the phrase “laughably belated” in the second paragraph regarding Donald Trump’s recent statement calling for no violence. At a reader’s objection, the article has been revised to remove the word “laughably.”
David Loomis, Ph.D., emeritus professor of journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is editor of The HawkEye.
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