“I Started the Fire:” DOJ Reveals Another Missed Advance Warning about January 6

In a motion laying out why accused insurrectionist Guy Reffitt is so dangerous he must be detained pre-trial, the government revealed that, in December, one of his family members (likely his son) contacted the FBI and warned them about Reffitt’s dangerous plans for legislators.

In late December 2020, one of Reffitt’s family members informed the FBI that Reffitt was “going to do some serious damage” related to federal legislators in Washington, D.C.

At around the same time, Reffitt was bragging on a Telegram chat with fellow militia members that he was going to go to DC in “full battle rattle.”

After FBI had received that warning, Reffitt put his AR-15 and a pistol into his car, and drove to DC from Texas promising to “drag[] those people out of the Capitol by their ankles” and install a new government. He sent messages on Telegram about coming to the riot armed and arranged for a “rendezvous point.” He donned body armor and a helmet and brought zip ties. According to comments he made to his kid, he brought the pistol to the Capitol. According to his own description of events, he resisted two officers trying to keep him from climbing the stairs they were trying to protect. He claimed he “started the fire” that allowed others to breach the Capitol. And, in days after the attack, Reffitt promised his kid that he was not done, that the attack on the Capitol was just the beginning. He attempted to recruit two other rioters to join the Three Percenter militia. He threatened both his children that he would kill them if they reported him to the FBI. His adult son has since moved out of his house.

The government has since discovered that Reffitt had an unregistered silencer in his home and had set up a company as a front to use to obtain law enforcement grade weapons to stockpile for his revolution.

The government now argues, persuasively and using his own claims, some of them made prior to the insurrection, that Reffitt, “presents a serious danger to the community—not only to his family and Congress, but to the entire system of justice.”

And yet — unlike the case of QAnoner Kevin Strong after an associate reported him as a danger in advance of his participation in the insurrection, into whom the FBI at least opened an investigation — there’s no sign that the FBI took any action in response to a specific warning about plans to target Members of Congress.

The FBI has claimed that the only warning it got of the insurrection planned for January 6 came via a pseudonymous threat made on TheDonald chat list, one they didn’t have a chance to verify before the attack itself. They have claimed they had no advance warning to share with the Capitol Police and DC Police.

Except someone in Texas shared a specific warning about a threat to Congress at least a week before the attack, a warning that might have corroborated a different tip FBI had received about plans for World War III, and — by all appearances — FBI did nothing with that warning.

53 replies
  1. dadidoc1 says:

    My initial thought on January 6th was that the police and national guard were under orders to stand down. I guess bad things happen when high level officials choose to look away.

    • John B. says:

      If that’s true, the order to stand down could have only come from the top which is what most suspect. Miller’s comments the other day linking Trump’s speech/rally directly to the attack on the Capitol is what everyone knows implicitly. I’m still a little surprised no one has come out this far and tied Trump directly to the orders to stand down.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Let’s remember who was in the WH then with his flunkies placed in key positions to affect the response, and there is no mystery. However, suspicion is not proof and to show stuff like conspiracy and intent and other actual legal concepts (unlike “collusion”) requires certain steps to be demonstrated clearly, otherwise the prosecution fails. Don’t miss when aiming for a kingpin, and I would think that as more of these yahoos realize that DJT is not going to help them (in their legal troubles) or harm them (by calling out the “flying monkeys”) they’ll start singing. It will be justified by saying DJT wasn’t the “real” prophet and they’ll search for the new one. Doonesbury covered the latter topic this morning.

      I speculated in an earlier thread that once Wray realized that AG Barr wasn’t going to prosecute any RWNJ / OK / PB / 3-p / etc. instead zooming in on “antifa” and BLM protestors he put the RW investigations on ice knowing that they have five years before the statute of limitations run out in most cases. Also, it will be interesting to see how soon Roger Stone gets wrapped up in this in a legally binding way, and how many GOPs get pinged too (like Hawley, Cruz, Boebert, MTG, etc.). After all, Lindsey’s already in trouble over GA’s attempted tampering.

      • PeterS says:

        So Lindsey Graham is in trouble about the Georgia thing is he? Raffensperger spoke about the call using these words: “It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road…”, and “I got the sense it implied…”, and “It was just an implication of…”.

        I’d be very happy for Graham and the other Trump toads to face some consequences but let’s keep our feet on the ground. 

      • skua says:

        Wray had responsibilities.
        Putting investigation of RWers on ice and not ramping those investigations up as extemist RW militias became involved in efforts to overturn the Constitution and have Trump continue as Pres would make Wray negligent, if not complicit.
        Did Wray take this couse or another? Americans need to know if they are to have confidence in Wray and the FBI.
        But answers to this question and a whole lot of other similar questions are years away.

    • BROUX says:

      It may have been something more ambiguous and diffusive than a direct order to stand down. A lot of vocal pressure to treat nearly seditious declaration as acceptable, stretching the concept of freedom of speech. It is even at play now, after the events, in how this is being investigated. It does not decrease the responsibility, but it certainly seems to make the legal guilt more difficult to establish.

      • LeeNLP says:

        Even if the phrase “stand down” wasn’t explicitly uttered, I’m guessing it was well understood. Michael Cohen described how Trump gave orders- never explicit, but never misunderstood.

          • PeterS says:

            I think that’s misleading. General Walker testified that he found it “unusual” that optics weren’t raised in summer about the NG deployment in Washington. I understood him to be saying that considering optics should be the norm when deployment of the NG against civilians is on the table. This is not to argue that things were handled well on the afternoon of 6 January!

            • timbo says:

              This is the position that the Twitler regime put the NG and military in. It made them less ready to protect the Constitution in effect, whether or not there was any direct intervention by Twisslerings DoD or White House, even the indirect effect was bad. And that effect was that the Army was reluctant to have the National Guard authorized to be in Washington DC that day.

  2. PeterS says:

    There’s a lot of detail in the government’s filing about the very serious tensions the Big Lie created within just one family. For example:

    “Reffitt told his children to “choose a side or die.”  When his children asked him what he meant, and whether he was threatening them, Reffitt cautioned his children not to cross a line that would make him feel compelled to do something he did not want to do. Reffitt’s son understood this “line” to be cooperating with law enforcement”.

    In a similar vein, I read an article recently about a woman who had lost her husband to QAnon. The abandonment of shared facts hasn’t just divided the country it’s divided countless families. I admire the Reffitt children for making the decision they made, but it’s all very sad (I mean that in a non-Trumpian way).

    • timbo says:

      Trump propagated viruses of the mind, the diseases of which we are still contending. One cannot easily stop a real virus with lies. Thus a the real irony that it was very likely a real viral pandemic that stopped him from retaining power in Washington DC, even as he sought to gin up insurrectionists to hold on to political power through his denial of the truth.

  3. harpie says:

    Where would the family member have lodged the warning with the FBI? I mean, would it have been in Texas or in DC?

    • Leoghann says:

      The early warning would have been made to the local Dallas office. There was early speculation in the local press (Dallas Morning News & Fort Worth Star-Telegram) that it might have been passed off as a family tiff, since it was the college-age son reporting the father.

  4. Norskeflamthrower says:

    “Sedition, insurrection, treason”, if our justice system can not deal decisively with these behaviors by the grunts in the trenches of this fascist coup, how the hell is it gunna lay a glove on the military, police and elected leaders who command them? The stink of decay is overwhelming. We are not outta this mess by a long shot.

    • PeterS says:

      If you’re serious about it being an attempted but failed coup, then please explain what a successful coup would have looked like.

      As yet, nobody seems to want to spell that out, which might suggest “coup” is the wrong word.

      (Or perhaps it was a soft coup, courtesy of MyPillow)

      • Leoghann says:

        At the point of the insurrection, a successful coup would have, out of necessity, been led by Mike Pence. It would have involved his doing the lame duck President’s bidding, rejecting the electoral votes of the contested states, and declaring Trump the winner of the election. Of course there would have been additional steps needed, and other collaboration from the military and the DOJ, in order for the coup to be completely successful, and for Trump to still be in the White House. And substantial bloodshed among members of Congress and their employees might have hastened that. Or, on the other hand, that might have hardened the resistance.

        • PeterS says:

          You are confirming that “coup” is the wrong word for what happened at the Capitol, because it was crystal clear before 6 Jan that neither the VP nor the military were on board. 

          The rather wonderful Fiona Hill had an opinion piece somewhere in which she argued that there was an attempted coup by Trump (she called it a self coup), but her words made clear that the coup was over long before 6 Jan. 

            • Nord Dakota says:

              It would be pretty if people in charge did things the way Hill describes:

              Whatever we do, it has to be done very clearly, very plainly with plenty of discussion and also legally by the book. Because we have to be able to defend these actions after the fact because that would be part of the mechanisms for reestablishing democratic norms.

              However, if we handle this correctly and we show that we can correct our mistakes, which the United States has done in the past, I think we can be an example to others of a democratic success. We can fix this, but only if we are very systematic, methodical about it, and very transparent.

              Which of course was not the case with Impeachment #2. I don’t know if the National Review (don’t remember which writer) had a solid argument when they said the House brought the wrong charges, partly because I doubt the outcome would have changed, but I wonder.

          • Rugger9 says:

            I’m not so sure that Pence wasn’t on board in some respect since he was a complete bootlicker during the term, combined with how he’s emerged on occasion to say he doesn’t have a problem with DJT. We’ll see if Pence visits Mar-A-Lago. However, I’m sure Pence could see that this idea wasn’t politically feasible either given that all 81 million Biden voters would not sit quiet (and yes, that’s more than the 74 million DJT got). So, Pence hunkered down and hoped nothing would happen and guessed wrong. Whether Pence considered that DJT still being POTUS would hurt his own chances we will not know but Pence did decline to run again as Governor of right-red IN because he knew he’d lose at that time.

            The military on the other hand had their “dress rehearsal” on public blowback after the Bible photo-op and the senior brass wanted no part of a repeat after that and the various jibes sent their way by DJT. It did not help DJT in this respect to call them “suckers” and “losers” and refuse to do his public duty in France in 2019 or attend funerals or even get his first casualty’s name right.

            On the other hand, I wonder what CBP or ICE was up to on 06 JAN (remember that ICE’s jurisdiction includes DC since it is less than 100 miles from the sea) since those organizations were being groomed to fill the Brownshirt role for DJT.

            I would not be surprised to find out that Jarvanka was the input for trying this (or maybe AG Barr too, before he skedaddled) since they were the SABI (source of all bad ideas).

            Bonus OT, it seems Lara is polishing her true Trump credentials by scamming off an animal rescue organization. How typical.

          • Mart says:

            If it turns out the Flynn and Rudy plan was for a real disaster with a few dead Congress folks and then Trump ordering marshall law in the chaos, I’d think that is a coup attempt. Not saying that was the plan.

          • timbo says:

            It was not crystal clear that the military were not on board until after the insurrection was in clear swing. It is only now that those of us not in the thick of things can begin to understand what was going on (or not going on) in the military. And we still don’t know a lot of specifically Barr and SoD resigned when they did, most of what is currently known publicly still being hearsay or spin.

      • Norskeflamthrower says:

        It really isn’t complicated PeterS: the coup is NOT over. As the stress on every single operation of government from local to federal slowly, irrevocably and unrelentingly increases, the fragile threads of civil society rot in the revealing light. Undemocratic and anti-democratic elements of the military, federal security, and state and local civil police are at critical mass. Add to that a large population of Republican elected officials from the senate and congress all the way down to local animal control who openly oppose democracy and universal suffrage and you have an ongoing coup.

        • timbo says:

          “The coup” is pretty much over in the near term here in the US. What is holding everyones interest at the moment is the vaccination program. Twitler’s power is waning daily, hourly. There really aren’t many military leaders that I can think of off hand that would risk it all in the current political climate to bring anyone from Twitler’s regime back to power via violent or extra-legal means at the current time. For more on this, I recommend that you perhaps rewatch or reread “7 Day In May”…for political opportunists, even those that plot diligently, can only act within certain confines, particularly when a democracy is a vibrant and tradition bound like our own.

          What made Trump dangerous is that he was not bound by any of these traditions. In fact, he reveled in denying they existed and/or proclaimed that he was the epitome of them. He’s gone from the serious stage now. His supporters, the arc of his rise to power in a weakened political moment in the GOP, etc, are still a stain that must be dealt with, sure, however, his moment is quickly fading. Unless you have a credible scenario to relate on how this “coup” might now be accomplished to relate…?

      • Mitch Neher says:

        A successful Trump self-coup would have looked as much as possible like what Lukashenko did in Belarus–only with American details–(which is probably why the State-level GOP balked at it).

        The plotters’ bottom-line was to deny and to overturn the election results so as to keep Trump in office by whatever means possible.

        It’s also possible that the public statement made by the ten former Defense Secretaries shortly before January 6th may have talked Trump out of declaring martial law. Or not.

        • PeterS says:

          Fair enough. My point is that if we’re calling what happened after the election an attempted (self) coup, which is perfectly valid, the coup was over long before the events of 6 January. And we have a good word for what did happen on that day: insurrection. 

          On the martial law thing, can you game out what would have happened if Trump had declared martial law on 6 January? 

          (The counter-argument to calling it a coup is that a lot of corrupt and highly dangerous flailing around creates enough dots that some of them can be connected to look like a thought-out strategy. But Fiona Hill is smarter than I am.)

        • timbo says:

          That certainly was a strong message sent to the various military branches and general officers that no one who had been at the top of the old guard in the Republic was backing Twitler and his Twisslerings.


    I would hope House and Senate committees with responsibilities for the FBI look at the reporting chain and structure related to “domestic violent extremists” or whatever concept is the flavor of the day for domestic terrorists.

    Your articles and newspaper reporting suggests that the reporting system is somewhat haphazard. There did not seem to be any concerted effort within FBI headquarters to collect, collate, fuse, and analyze reporting from around the country regarding January 6th. I know our Representatives and Senators only get 5 minutes to question witnesses, but they need GAO or CRS or somebody to take the time and go deep under the hood and understand this slipshod reporting and analysis chain.

    Part of the answer may be that after four years of Trump attacking high-level FBI officials and using Barr’s DOJ to persecute government officials, that the FBI was simply gunshy and did not focus on January 6th. There is a real intelligence failure in the failure to warn and to give that warning sufficient urgency and importance to key decisionmakers. The system for collection and analysis of domestic terrorism warning seems broken.

    • bmaz says:

      I “would hope” that people like you focus less on “reporting chains” and more on real admissible evidence.

      “Part of the answer” may be that too much shit is being blithely blown.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Did the gatekeeper just demand that FBI tipsters should provide “admissible evidence” to the FBI hotline???

        Now there’s some blithely-blown fecal-matter for ya, zambi.

        • bmaz says:

          There is no “gatekeeper”, just a gentle reminder that things are a lot different when in trial court than they are a blog’s comments section.

    • Rugger9 says:

      There is also the problem of “accidental” deletions and other “mistakes” when subject to court orders and/or preserve evidence orders. There’s news from CNN about the GA investigator Frances Watson being called on 23 DEC 2020 and moving the conversation to trash in violation of preserve evidence order issued by Fulton County DA Fani Willis. Watson said she didn’t feel pressured by DJT, and it was not clear to me that the movement of the conversation to the trash folder occurred before or after Willis had asked for its preservation, but the GA SoS office did tell CNN it didn’t exist before coming clean. I think that the airing of the tape has led to other conclusions by those who have heard it, since otherwise CNN wouldn’t have made a story about it.

      This is in line with how the mob-like messaging from DJT operates, whether it’s due to conspiracy or something that rhymes with “Tico” (someone from Costa Rica), because the minions know that they must bury the evidence. We were just lucky that the Trash folder did not have an auto-purge after two weeks.

      • timbo says:

        There will be a date stamp on the document indicating when it was moved to the trash in all likelihood (depending on OS version on the computer in question, plus assume that there are at least deferential backups being made of that system so that a ballpark time based on regular backup intervals can retrieve an estimated state change for that file/folder, etc).

  6. Leoghann says:

    As I mentioned to harpie, above, there was speculation in the local DFW press in early January that the initial report by Reffitt’s son was passed off as a family tiff gone particularly toxic. Reffitt’s wife told the press, after he was arrested, that family members didn’t feel threatened, even after his threats, because “he tends to talk that way when he gets excited.” Adult family members in denial can do a whole lot of damage control. And apparently she’s on hubby’s side, because the son was kicked out of the house almost immediately after the arrest, his phone service was stopped, and several other punitive measures were taken.

  7. Peterr says:

    Another aspect to what was going on in various govt departments and agencies is that a fair number of career folks were simply trying to keep their heads down and get through to Jan 20th. Decisions that would piss off the Trump White House were deferred if possible (like the DOD’s recommendation to promote 2 women to 4-star positions) or downplayed and minimized so as not to get any attention from the WH.

    For some lower-level folks, this might be simply self-preservation: keep your head down until Trump goes to Florida. For some mid-level folks, it may have been that as well, though it might also have been a way to begin preparing to mend the damage to their agency once Biden took office.

    I have seen no particular evidence of this, but I strongly suspect that various folks inside govt knew that anyone raising a big red flag pre-Jan 6 would get a lot of unwanted attention from the WH, and thus they waved a little flag or simply said a lot of prayers hoping nothing would actually happen.

  8. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Re: the above discussion of potential “stand down” orders.

    It is a challenge to assimilate into an overall understanding Miller’s claim that Trump told him on January 5 that he would need to deploy 10,000 National Guard. I bring this up because I read speculation that Miller could have feared that Trump wanted those troops to be deployed as part of his dastardly plans, so held back. To me it’s a far-fetched scenario but one that is not without historical precedent. We are in a house of mirrors, hence the need for time and caution in drawing conclusions. Was Miller lying? Was Trump bragging emptily? Were optics even a factor, a rather difficult pill to swallow given how little optics have hogtied law enforcement when engaging occupy Wall Street, BLM, etc.?

    I wonder what people here make of Miller’s claim. I certainly think we don’t know a lot, so time and caution are required.

    As a side note echoing an above comment, my acquaintance opened up to me yesterday that his wife has gone down a CT rabbit hole, is under the spell via the toobz of charlatans. One of them is dispensing medical advice, telling her she can discontinue her thyroid medication if she smokes Hindu Kush, had her living on apple juice for three weeks, other techniques deployed by cultists to control people. The husband gave her an ultimatum—him or the internet liars.. She has moved out. Gentle, caring people. Their thirty-year marriage may be destroyed. All politics is local, so to speak.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Donald Trump’s tactical acuity, or even ability to make and execute basic plans is difficult to underestimate, just as the role of highly capable Russian influence is hard to overestimate. Again, it’s hard to know.

    • vvv says:

      Miller seems desperate to rehab himself:
      “It seems cause-and-effect,” Miller said, referring to Trump’s speech before the riot. “The question is, did he know he was enraging people to do that? I don’t know.”

      Miller rejected criticism that he did not respond to the riot quick enough.
      “It comes back to understanding how the military works — this isn’t a video game…, it’s not Black Ops Call of Duty,” he said.

      • timbo says:

        Miller: “I don’t know whether he was insane or not! So I did my best!”

        I don’t know about Miller, but one must acknowledge that there were many folks in the DoJ and armed forces still trying to do the best jobs they could in upholding their oath to the Constitution and continuing to serve in good honor… at a time of Presidential nuttery.

    • skua says:

      CT = Critical Thinking?
      We’re all under a lot of stress what with 45 and Covid.
      In fact I’ll take this opportunity and go for a walk in the park – I can relate too strongly to both CT rabbit holes and ultimatums right now.

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