The Hybrid Hatchet Conspiracy: A Premeditated Plan to Surround the Capitol on January 6

Contrary to what you might read on Twitter, I have not been predicting that Trump will be held accountable for January 6. Rather, I am observing–based on actual court filings and the evidence in them–that if he or his associates were to be held accountable, that would happen via conspiracy indictments, indictments that have already reached within two degrees of Trump’s closest associates. In a hearing yesterday, Christopher Wray answered one after another question about holding Trump accountable by talking about conspiracy indictments, so it seems he may agree with me.

Just the other day, for example, I suggested we might see prosecutions of those involved in the rallies, as opposed to busting into the Capitol.

Together, those posts argue that if any kingpins will be held accountable, it will be through a conspiracy prosecution. I note that one of the conspiracies has already reached back to the Willard Hotel, where Roger Stone was staying and where the call patterns suggest possible consultation with people present at the hotel. And I suggest that not only will there will be further conspiracies (I’m pretty confident about that prediction) but there may be more complex prosecutions tied to people who were involved in the rallies rather than the riot or who were discussed explicitly with Rudy Giuliani (I’m far less confident about that possibility).

That doesn’t mean Donald Trump, or even Roger Stone or Rudy Giuliani, are going to prison. It’s not clear what kind of evidence is out there. It’s not clear how loyal these famously paranoid people will be without the constant dangle of pardons that Trump used to buy silence during the Mueller investigation.

Earlier in the week, I noted that DOJ had already charged one of the speakers on January 5, Brandon Straka, and has been holding him in a kind of limbo awaiting what look like possible charges of obstruction and civil disorder.

Then there’s the case of Brandon Straka. He’s the head of the Walkaway campaign, and was a speaker on January 5. There’s no allegation he entered the door of the Capitol, though at a time when he was on the stairs, he was involved in attempting to take a shield from an officer and for that got charged with civil disorder (in addition to the standard trespass crimes). He obviously could be charged with obstruction, but that hasn’t been charged yet.

Last night, DOJ rolled out a conspiracy indictment that alleges that Alan Hostetter, another of the speakers on January 5, conspired with five other Three Percenters to “corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, to wit: the Certification of the Electoral College vote.”

The indictment is slightly different than the other conspiracies charged against militias thus far (and therefore may be yet another degree more vulnerable to challenge), insofar as it charges 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k), the conspiracy charge tied to obstruction, rather than conspiracy itself 18 U.S.C. §371. Plus, just one of the accused defendants — Erik Warner — managed to enter the Capitol (another, Russell Taylor, chose not to enter because he didn’t want to do so while armed), so even the trespassing charges may be more vulnerable to challenge. Two of the men — Derek Kinnison and Warner — are also charged with obstruction for trying to delete the Telegram chat they used for organizational purposes.

But if this indictment withstands legal challenge, it is in some ways far more provocative than the existing militia conspiracies. That’s because it’s not just a militia conspiracy indictment.

The indictment is a hybrid: one that charges a group that is both a militia, the Three Percenters, but also men who played an organizational role in the larger event via an anti-mask turned into election conspiracy group, the American Phoenix Project. The conspiracy language of the indictment repeatedly describes the men flashing their Three Percenter signs or otherwise identifying themselves as such.

KINNISON attached a picture of himself, MARTINEZ, and WARNER with the following message: “From left to right, I’m Derek aka midnightrider the short guy, Tony aka blue collar patriot, Erik aka silvir surfer…. We are 3 percent so cal. Also coming with us is redline Ron [MELE].” In the photo, all three are flashing a hand signal that designates affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

[snip]

On January 2, 2021, KINNISON, MELE, WARNER, and MARTINEZ met at MELE’S house in Temecula, California. Before leaving in the SUV, the four men posed for a photograph in which they all made a hand gesture signaling affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

[snip]

MELE, MARTINEZ, KINNISON, and WARNER also congregated on the National Mall and posed for a photo there. In the photo, MARTINEZ, KINNISON, and WARNER made a hand signal showing affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

But the indictment also describes how Hostetter formed the Phoenix Project as an anti-mask group and then used it to sow violence against those who supported the democratic result of the 2020 election.

In Spring, 2020, ALAN HOSTETTER (“HOSTETTER”) founded the American Phoenix Project to oppose government-mandated restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. After the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, HOSTETTER, RUSSELL TAYLOR (“TAYLOR”), and PERSON ONE used the American Phoenix Project to support former President Donald J. Trump and protest what they asserted was a stolen or fraudulent election result. TAYLOR and PERSON ONE became directors of the American Phoenix Project in the Fall of 2020.

From at least in and around November 2020, HOSTETTER used the American Phoenix Project as a platform to advocate violence against certain groups and individuals that supported the 2020 presidential election results.

It describes how in a post on November 27, Hostetter demanded that “tyrants and traitors need to be executed.” It explains that at a rally in Huntington Beach on December 12, Hostetter gave a speech calling for executions.

The enemies and traitors of America both foreign and domestic must be held accountable. And they will. There must be long prison terms, while execution is the just punishment for the ringleaders of this coup.

This demand for long prison terms may come back to haunt Hostetter if he is ever sentenced for his attack on America.

Because of its hybrid structure, I suspect this indictment may serve as a node to connect other conspiracies together. Obviously, we should expect to see parallel Three Percenter conspiracies. Given how Guy Reffitt’s known actions that day parallel those of these conspirators, and given what prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said in a status hearing for Reffitt the other day, I would be unsurprised if the superseding indictment Nestler said was imminent was a conspiracy of the Texas Three Percenters Reffitt was organizing.

I also expect that some of the 30 other people described to have taken part in the The California-DC Brigade Telegram chat described in this indictment to be charged in their own conspiracy indictment.

This group will serve as the Comms for able bodied individuals that are going to DC on Jan 6. Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight. We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.

The indictment makes it clear that these Three Percenter defendants coordinated with other members of the DC Brigade using a coordinated radio channel, 142.422 on the day of the insurrection; they were conspiring with others, in addition to each other.

On the Telegram chat, Taylor explicitly talked about coming to DC armed.

I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing and plates as well.

Importantly, some of these other people from SoCal did engage in assault, and given Hostetter’s public statements plus the mention of “willing[ness] to fight” in this Telegram description and Taylor’s mention of weapons, the Three Percenter conspirators may be implicated by association in their violence (which, along with weapons charges that have not been charged, could serve as inducements for members of this conspiracy to flip).

So I believe this indictment will link in conspiracies with other Three Percenters and with other Southern Californian anti-maskers.

But the role of the rallies in the indictment is even more intriguing.

Hostetter set up an earlier organizational Telegram chat on November 10. It was used to plan travel to DC for the November Million MAGA March as well as the January 6 insurrection. In the language describing the overt acts in this conspiracy, the indictment focuses closely on posts and other events starting on December 19. It linked Trump’s Tweet calling for “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” It describes an Instagram post Hostetter posted under the Phoenix Project moniker the same day, calling for people to join him. It describes that Hostetter and Taylor reserved rooms in a Kimpton Hotel on December 20, earlier planning than many of the Oath Keepers. It describes how Taylor renamed the Telegram chat to “The Californian Patriots–Answer the Call Jan 6” on December 20.

Then, having tied the travel of these organizers of a network of radicalized Southern California Trump supporters to Trump’s call on December 20, the indictment describes that this group got booked to speak at the January 5 rally.

On December 30, 2020, KINNISON sent a text message to MELE, WARNER, and MARTINEZ in which he attached a flyer advertising the January 5, 2021 rally outside the Supreme Court, at which TAYLOR, HOSTETTER, and PERSON ONE were named speakers for the American Phoenix Project.

The indictment doesn’t describe how this happened, though the government obviously has enough comms to have some insight into it.

Then, that same day, December 30, Taylor posted his plans for the days of January 5 and 6. His post stated a clear plan to work with Stop the Steal to surround the Capitol.

Spread the word to other CALIFORNIA Patriots to join us as we March into the Capitol Jan 6. The Plan right now is to meet up at two occasions and locations: 1. Jan 5th 2pm at the Supreme Court steps for a rally. (Myself, Alan, [and others] will be speaking) 2. Jan 6th early 7am meet in front of the Kimpton George Hotel…we will leave at 7:30am shart and March (15 mins) to the Capital [sic] to meet up with the stop the steal organization and surround the capital. [sic] There will be speakers there and we will be part of the large effort for the “Wild Rally” that Trump has asked us all to be part of. [my emphasis]

This plan is structurally the foundation in the indictment for the leadership role these men played in the SoCal contingent of anti-maskers. For example, the next section describes how just after this post, the men created the DC Brigade chat, including its calls for anti-maskers from Southern California to come to DC armed to and expecting a fight.

DOJ has been working on this indictment for six months. That’s still lightning fast for a conspiracy indictment, but unlike the other militia conspiracies, it has not been jury-rigged together as one after another co-conspirators’ phones get exploited.

And what it does, at a minimum, is to tie the anti-mask community in Southern California into a network with the Three Percenters.

More importantly, it suggests the organizing surrounding the rally on January 5 included a premeditated plan to surround the Capitol on January 6.

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31 replies
    • John Lehman says:

      Hostetter …mmmm…good common Ohio Amish surname…
      Doesn’t quite seem like a good pacifist Amish man though…he might be a lost cousin.

      Doubt he’ll end up like the last Amish living in Germany when Hitler took over…..they were all executed by guillotine…can’t have people ruining the Nazi’s dream by dreams of justice and world peace.

      Reply
  1. BobCon says:

    It is encouraging to see more clear movement beyond simple disconnected charges for 1/6.

    Raising the stakes for criminal conspiracies helps fracture networks in ways that individual arrests do less. It’s relatively easy to keep thugs in the network by teaching them to use encrypted apps, but it becomes a lot harder when they start overtly worrying about what conditions make them vulnerable to conspiracy charges.

    Reply
  2. Rugger9 says:

    OT:

    The NYT revelations about the DJT WH reads like a mob novel, but the MAGA cult will of course scream that it’s perfectly normal to look into one’s enemies, and Obama did it anyhow (no, Obama didn’t). On the View today, I was surprised no one asked Joni Ernst what she thought of that NYT report, but at least Sunny hit her over shooting down the 1/6 commission. Given the prior WH’s and GQP’s penchant for leaking and projection, the predication of of the investigation was BS instigated by DJT’s minions, not Schiff, et al.

    What Garland needs to do now IMHO is to get all of the subpoenas and demand resignation letters from each DOJ lawyer who signed them. Fire them if they do not resign in order to set the standard and encourage the others to come clean. As I had noted before, this is AG Garland’s opportunity to avoid getting the slime on himself, and the actions taken (along with Ms. Monaco from EW’s prior reporting) indicate AG Garland’s willingness to let things go from the last administration. That window to keep the blame on DJT, Sessions, BDTS, Barr, Miller, …. where it should belong is closing fast with the delay and the actions to cover up institutional failures.

    Balloon Juice posted the video of then-AG Barr dodging the question about whether any investigations were opened.

    Reply
      • subtropolis says:

        Looking at all of the raging about Garland’s apparent inaction has me second-guessing whether I’m being naïve. Because i’m not at all surprised that he hasn’t acted swiftly. It seems to me that, regardless of how this looks, doing so would be rash.

        Of course, if this does end up going under the carpet, I suppose that I’ll have my answer. But it seems rather early days yet. That this latest news — about the Intel Cmte spying — was leaked, rather than revealed in an indictment, does not leave me concerned that it was being covered up.

        Reply
        • bmaz says:

          Acted swiftly on what? The 1/6 cases are flying along by all normal parameters. But these two defenses simply need not be. Not at all, and deciding so would not be “rash” whatsoever.

          Reply
          • Rugger9 says:

            I wonder what justification could be made for doing these subpoenas, aside from the “just following orders” defense. That didn’t work at Nuremberg, and shouldn’t work here.

            These are supposed to be attorneys trained in their civic duties, and since they signed the documents, there is no question whodunnit. If they are so dirty as to be willing participants, they need to be gone under code of conduct auspices.

            Reply
      • obsessed says:

        question 1: My lay perception is that the IG is toothless. Is that correct?
        question 2: If you (bmaz) were AG or DAG, would you appoint a special counsel?
        question 3: If no, why; if yes, who?
        question 4: Am I full of crap to feel that it’s inappropriate for DOJ to investigate itself?

        Reply
        • bmaz says:

          1) No, not necessarily, the IG has powers. But can be somewhat self indulgent and serving.

          2) I do not know, but maybe.

          3) Don’t know who either. But maybe Chuck Rosenberg.

          4) No, DOJ is infamous for its inability to investigate itself.

          Reply
    • P J Evans says:

      Latest news is that the subpoenas to Apple asked for everything back to the start of the account – long before the leaks – which makes it look even more like vindictiveness. Also, Joyce Ballentine was one of the lawyers involved for DOJ.

      Reply
  3. subtropolis says:

    I’m happy to see that the third group (after the OKs and PBs) now has its own conspiracy indictments. Given the way that the other two have continually had other participants added, I’m optimistic that that of the 3% will likewise grow.

    Some of the information in this one is rather damning, with the talk of weapons and surrounding the Capitol. That Taylor’s itinerary includes surrounding the Capitol early in the morning, though, and attending the rally afterward, is rather odd. There seems to be some miscommunication there. It’s suggestive of the PBs activity early that day, which was to begin congregating around the Capitol well before the rally had finished. (Though only beginning around 11.) it seems as though Taylor might have got some signals crossed, not realising that those who were in the advance parties would be skipping the rally altogether.

    Reply
    • Midtowngirl says:

      I think it is made obvious in the indictment’s narrative that there was never any pretense of attending Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. From day one of the conspiracy, the stated objective was the assault on the Capitol. The Jan 5th speaking engagement wasn’t even part of the initial agenda – they had to leave earlier than previously planned to accommodate it.
      It seems that the only reason they went to the area of the rally was to kill time until they got the go ahead to make their way to the Capitol. Which to me, (and this may be a stretch), suggests that they were taking direction from a coordinator outside the group.

      Reply
      • P J Evans says:

        Maybe they went to see what the crowd was like, in order to estimate how many would be at the Capitol later. They wouldn’t have wanted to plan an insurrection with few showing up.

        Reply
          • P J Evans says:

            Tacos! (If it were an L.A. truck, tacos, burritos, gorditas, and an assortment of other items that you wouldn’t recognize.

            Reply
  4. MinnesotaFaqs says:

    Is it true that as soon as Merrick Garland assumed leadership of DoJ he initiated a DoJ investigation of several Republican congressional members like Grassley, Graham, Gaetz, and Jordan using Barr’s investigation of Schiff and Swalwell as a precedent?

    Reply
    • Rugger9 says:

      Gaetz (as one example) got his investigation started under Barr’s DOJ, so it’s clear you’re a two-bit troll. Just remember that DJT doesn’t pay his people so I hope you got your pay up front.

      No DOJ announcements on Graham (who was being investigated by GA’s GOP SoS for interfering in the 2020 election), Jordan (OSU wrestling, not federal AFAIK), or Grassley (not even a state one AFAIK). So, troll, where is your link?

      So, the answer is NO.

      Reply
    • Midtowngirl says:

      As a precedent of what? You’re saying that the DoJ is currently investigating Grassley, Graham, Gaetz, and Jordan for suspected leaking to the press.
      *Insert LOL gif here*

      Trolls will be trolls. Go back to 4 Chan.

      Reply
      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        4 Chan?

        You’re being too generous…

        This is such low grade, cut rate material, I’m guessing this more likely a 2 Chan troll…

        Reply
  5. Leoghann says:

    A few observations:

    1. The hilarity of Kinnison, who is 39 Earth years old, acting like a high school kid, taking lots of pics of himself and his buddies in the militia, identifying them all by given names as well as their 3%-er handles, and posting it on Facebook.

    2. Who was Kinnison’s photographer, and what other involvement did they have?

    3. Hofstetter’s statement, “Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight. We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.” If they haven’t met before, that means the bigger group has never trained together. That, and “come together for this moment that we are called upon” indicates a New Agey type of magical thinking that one might expect from a yoga instructor. Serendipitously, they’d come together, as if guided by a divine hand, and just know what to do. Apparently his days as a police chief were untaxing.

    4. Hofstetter’s marching orders, a week before the “wild party,” “[m]arch (15 mins) to the Capital [sic] to meet up with the stop the steal organization and surround the capital [sic].” There was prior planning with a Stop the Steal group, thus further and wider conspiracy.

    5. In light of Trump’s Diapergate affair at the North Carolina GOP Convention last weekend, the phrase “leave at 7:30 shart” has a special prescience.

    Reply

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