Reuters Doesn’t Mention Terrorism When Claiming DOJ Won’t Charge Serious Offenses in the January 6 Investigation

Reuters has a story claiming to report that, “FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated,” that has elicited a lot of consternation. I’d like to look at what it does and does not say. Most of it is true — and not news — but somewhere along the way someone (either the reporters or the sources) misunderstood parts of what they’re looking at.

Reuters or its sources don’t understand how DOJ is charging this

One detail shows this to be true.

The Reuters piece makes much of the fact that DOJ is not charging what it calls “serious” charges.

Prosecutors have filed conspiracy charges against 40 of those defendants, alleging that they engaged in some degree of planning before the attack.

They alleged that one Proud Boy leader recruited members and urged them to stockpile bulletproof vests and other military-style equipment in the weeks before the attack and on Jan. 6 sent members forward with a plan to split into groups and make multiple entries to the Capitol.

But so far prosecutors have steered clear of more serious, politically-loaded charges that the sources said had been initially discussed by prosecutors, such as seditious conspiracy or racketeering.


More than 170 people have been charged so far with assaulting or impeding a police officer, according to the Justice Department. That carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

But one source said there has been little, if any, recent discussion by senior Justice Department officials of filing charges such as “seditious conspiracy” to accuse defendants of trying to overthrow the government. They have also opted not to bring racketeering charges, often used against organized criminal gangs.

Not once does the story mention obstruction, which also carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. If you don’t mention obstruction — and your sources don’t explain that obstruction will get you to precisely where you’d get with a sedition charge, but with a lot more flexibility to distinguish between defendants and a far lower bar of proof (unless and until judges decide it has been misapplied) — then your sources are not describing what is going on with the investigation.

Furthermore, Reuters purports to rule out “more serious, politically-loaded charges,” but it never mentions terrorism.

One reason it wouldn’t, though, is because for domestic terrorists, you don’t charge terrorism, you charge crimes of terrorism or you argue for an enhancement under U.S.S.G. §3A1.4 at sentencing. And that has and will continue to happen. For example, both the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys  conspiracies include 18 USC 1361 charges (damage to a government building exceeding $1,000, a charge that is a bit of a stretch for the Oath Keepers) that constitutes a crime of terrorism, and the government has raised that and noted it is a crime of terrorism in a number of bail disputes. Effectively, DOJ has already called the leaders of the militia conspiracies terrorists. But Reuters doesn’t think that’s worth noting.

Similarly, for both the assault pleas DOJ has obtained thus far, the government has reserved the right to invoke a terrorism enhancement at sentencing. In the case of Scott Fairlamb, who also pled guilty to obstruction, which effectively amounts to pleading guilty to having a political purpose for his assault, I suspect such an enhancement is likely.

Somehow this entire story got written without mentioning what DOJ is using instead of seditious conspiracy: obstruction (which has been charged against over 200 defendants) and terrorism enhancements; civil disorder is likewise not mentioned, but has been charged against around 150 defendants. DOJ isn’t using seditious conspiracy because it doesn’t need it (again, unless and until the courts reject this use of obstruction).

Reuters mis-describes the Proud Boys’ role in the riot

Much of the rest of the story includes details that are true, and public, but arguably misleading.

A “former senior law enforcement official” (most former senior people who had visibility on the investigation have been gone for some time) claims that 90 to 95% of these cases are “one-off” cases, seemingly distinguishing between the 40 people Reuters describes to have been charged in conspiracy from the 540 or so who have not been charged with a conspiracy.

“Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,” said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. “Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”

On paper, that’s true, and in key places a really important detail. But in other places it doesn’t mean what Reuters suggests it says.

For example, consider the nine men charged in the assault of Daniel Hodges. None of them knew each other before they started beating the shit out of some cops in the Tunnel of the Capitol. But several of the men charged nevertheless managed to orchestrate the assault (indeed, that’s most of what David Mehaffie did do — make other assailants more effective) and so, even while these individuals did not conspire to beat the shit out of cops, they worked in concert when they did so. The same is true for the men jointly accused of assaulting Michael Fanone (though Daniel Rodriguez has not been charged with the other men involved, many people believe because he’ll be charged in a conspiracy with others from Southern California).

Plus, the number cited to Reuters is probably wrong. Ten percent of the 580 people charged would be around 60. There were that many people on the Proud Boys’ organizational Telegram channel that day (though not all those people were present). There are a bunch of Proud Boys already charged individually, including some (like Dan Scott) who could easily be added to existing conspiracy indictments, others charged as groups (like the five Floridians on the Arthur Jackman indictment), and a father-son pair Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace who just got a terrorism prosecutor added. There are five Oath Keepers not included in that conspiracy (four cooperating against the others). And DOJ is only beginning to unwind the 3%er networks involved. So even just considering militias, the number is likely closer to 80.

And there are other important affiliations represented at the riot — with QAnon and anti-maskers being two of the most important — that actually created networks that were in some ways more effective than the militias. The QAnoners didn’t conspire with each other but they sure as hell were directed from the same place. And anti-mask protests were actually one place where a goodly number of rioters were radicalized, and those localized networks manifested as cells of cooperation in some key incidents in the riot.

More importantly, this claim can only have come from people who misunderstand what the investigation has shown:

Prosecutors have also not brought any charges alleging that any individual or group played a central role in organizing or leading the riot. Law-enforcement sources told Reuters no such charges appeared to be pending.

Conspiracy charges that have been filed allege that defendants discussed their plans in the weeks before the attack and worked together on the day itself. But prosecutors have not alleged that this activity was part of a broader plot.

It’s true that the Proud Boys are not known to have had a detailed plan describing who would move where in the Capitol. But it’s also true that both before and after the riot, the Proud Boys discussed mobilizing the “normies,” because normies have no adrenalin control. And the Proud Boys’ success at doing this is what made the initial assault on the West side of the Capitol work (and therefore the attack generally). The Proud Boys weren’t ordering the 1,000 rioters what to do at each step (though probably 100 people at the riot had some interaction with the Proud Boys), but they did give the riot a kind of structure that was crucial to its success.

Maybe Roger Stone isn’t involved?

Because of the other problems with this article, I don’t know what to make of the single piece of news in it. As noted above, a former senior law enforcement official claims that, “there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.” That makes sense with respect to Alex Jones; his videographer was arrested long ago and remains charged only with trespass.

But Stone has continued to appear in Oath Keeper filings long after the time that someone very senior would have left. And the two cooperators who might confirm or deny Stone’s involvement — Graydon Young (who did an Oath Keeper event with Stone in Florida) and Mark Grods (who was present with the Oath Keepers who were with Stone the day of the attack) — only pled guilty at the end of June, meaning if they confirmed Stone wasn’t involved (even in the planning for the attack known to have taken place in December, in Florida), it wouldn’t have happened all that long ago.

Particularly given the mention of kidnapping — which was a real question at the beginning of the investigation because of the zip ties that Larry Brock and Eric Munchel picked up inside the Capitol — this seems like a denial of a very dated misunderstanding of what happened.

I don’t think this story is meant maliciously. For example, I’m unimpressed with concerns raised about Tass’ ownership; this is Mark Hosenball and he’ll do the same reporting regardless of who signs his paycheck. Nor am I all that concerned by the anonymity of the sources; I’m more interested in how dated some of this information might be and which corners of the sprawling investigation those who actually worked on it were personally involved with.

It reads like the end result of a game of telephone asking questions that were raised in January, not a report about the investigation as public filings reveal it to be in August.

Update: DOJ just charged InfoWars host Owen Shroyer. The initial charges are just trespassing (leveraging a prior charge and Deferred Prosecution Agreement he entered), but he’s likely to be charged with obstruction based on stuff in his arrest affidavit.

60 replies
    • Charles Wolf says:

      Exactly. They will choke on crow feathers when the serious indictments are revealed against the worst of the worst and ripen into major trials.

  1. Charles says:

    Great analysis, Marcy. I wrote to Reuters to complain about this story.

    One point that I think is important is that DoJ officials are not supposed to be talking about an ongoing investigation. While the press is able to function largely because people do talk even when they’re not supposed to be, a number of former and current DoJ officials are implicated in potential crimes having to do with the larger conspiracy to corruptly overturn the election. It’s understood that sources are interested parties. But because so many DoJ sources have exposure to prosecution, the reader is entitle to know whether these sources are among them.

  2. Peterr says:

    Shroyer tearing up his DPA is probably going to aggravate his situation a great deal. There’s no “I didn’t understand” or “I didn’t know” possible, and it increases the likelihood that any DOJ presentation alleging preplanning and coordination will be accepted by the Court.

    I look forward to the Court, speaking at some time in the future at sentencing (on whatever charges are ultimately filed and proven), saying something like this:

    This Court has a certain amount of discretion when it comes to imposing sentence and the terms under which that sentence will be served. More leniency might be extended to defendants who provide cooperation to the Department of Justice in other cases, or those who express remorse and a willingness to make restitution in some fashion. You should be well aware of this, as you received just such lenience in the past, at the time of your sentencing for the December 9, 2019 disruption of a House Judiciary Committee meeting.

    Since then, you have shown that your word is worthless.

    On January 6, 2021, you broke the promises you made at that time. After listening to the arguments on both sides in this case, this Court has no reason to assume you would do any differently in the future. By your own actions, you have shown the Court the contempt with which you hold the judicial system. By your own actions, especially your disregard for your own Deferred Prosecution Agreement, you have given this Court no reason to do anything but sentence you to the longest sentence possible for the crimes for which you have convicted.

    I am quite ready to give you exactly what your own actions tell me you want. Mr. Shroyer, please stand as I pronounce your sentence . . .

    Or words to that effect.

      • Peterr says:

        So what *does* a judge say, when a defendant not only violates a DPA in a hugely visibly and public fashion, but goes so far as to post multiple videos of himself on his employer’s website demonstrating that he is violating the DPA? Does the judge give a Sternly Worded Lecture, with lots of Finger Wagging, then send him on his way with a “don’t screw this up again”?

        • Peterr says:

          I don’t doubt that it will get addressed.

          I’d simply like to hear, given how you said “yeah, no” to my thoughts about it, HOW you think it will get addressed.

        • bmaz says:

          Can’t predict the words, but it will be at some point unless there is an acquittal at trial, which is very unlikely

        • Peterr says:

          It will be what?

          Throw the book at him? Let him slide? Something in between?

          You’re the lawyer, though perhaps you’ve never had a client disregard a DPA as wildly as Shroyer did. What would you expect a judge to say/do when confronted with a defendant like this?

          You seized on my words, but my bottom line was that I would expect the judge to throw the book at him for flipping off the legal system. If you disagree with that, then tell me what you expect.

          Call it “Legal Trash Talk” – what’s the end result going to be for Shroyer, given what Marcy put in the post?

        • Leoghann says:

          Bmaz, do you see a possible initial set of consequences in the terms of a new DPA or bond conditions?

  3. Katherine M Williams says:

    Is there an investigation about who built-raised the gallows outside the Capitol? I haven’t Read or heard anything about that affair. Very frightening image: terrifying image. Who did it?

  4. OldTulsaDude says:

    It may only be me fighting my personal biases, but this Reuters story makes me feel as if MAGA moles still infect the FBI and DOJ.

  5. Rayne says:

    Interesting to me: the Reuters article doesn’t mention the names of three individuals who had contact with persons involved in the lead up to the January 6 insurrection. Bannon, Flynn, and Giuliani appear nowhere (although to be fair they haven’t (yet) been charged with any offense related to the January 6 insurrection.) It’s as if the sources were redirecting attention away from the ongoing investigation and calling it a “nothing burger.”



    Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn all participated in efforts to promote the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” event that ultimately devolved into a riotous and deadly melee at the United States Capitol, leaving five dead and causing Trump to become the only president to be impeached for a second time.

    Source: Longtime Trump advisers connected to groups behind rally that led to Capitol attack, ABC January 15, 2021, 10:13 AM
    The article elaborates further on Flynn’s role undermining the vote along with Sidney Powell. Further,

    Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor and expert in homegrown terror groups, said Flynn emerged as a hero among extremists. She said Flynn “riled up” the groups ahead of the Jan. 6 election protest, and “incited the most extreme among the crowd to do something about it.”


    Giuliani’s “hyperbolic” language the day of the insurrection minutes before the assault began was enough to get his law license suspended.

    Knowing we’re nowhere near done with these three characters alone, Reuters’ hed “FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated – sources” begins to sound like the NYT’s fateful Halloween 2016 headline, “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia.

    Almost spooky in their parallel construction.

    • Eureka says:

      I’d like to pivot from McCord’s comment to an aspect neither centered nor discussed enough, that Flynn is specifically using his *expertise* against his own country.

      And he didn’t merely “emerge” (quoting here your ABC excerpt, though the word recurs in the NYT title, next) like some Trump-adjacent nutter with perhaps more originating cred than the likes of Powell — they long cultivated this. FFS his Qanon+-related venture Digital Soldiers is — if after his supporters’ long-standing pet “autonym” (those are scarequotes) — a bit on the nose with how they (/us/US) earlier identified, e.g., ME terror networks/ recruitment cells:

      Michael Flynn Re-emerges Pushing QAnon, Stolen 2020 Election Lies
      By Matthew Rosenberg Feb. 6, 2021 | Ken Vogel and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

      Mr. Flynn, who did not respond to an interview request for this article, spent 33 years as an Army intelligence officer, earning a reputation for being outspoken and unconventional and, in the years that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, for being unusually good at unwinding terrorist networks.

      Much of that work involved mapping out loose webs of ideological fellow travelers, [1] figuring out who gave voice to extremist ideas and [2] who committed the violence — two groups that were not always directly tied to each other. If a similar attempt was made to map the network of people who spread Mr. Trump’s stolen-election lie that led to the storming of the Capitol, Mr. Flynn himself would probably appear as one of those leading voices for his part in riling up Mr. Trump’s supporters without taking part in the attack.

      [emphasis and numbering added]

      The article’s worth a (re)read in light of how rhetoric surrounding the war in Afghanistan radicalized subsets of Americans (with some help from Russia et al. — see esp. the part where former DIA Flynn’s “…position was vindicated with the rise of the Islamic State…”).


        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Agreed. Thanks, eureka, for reminding us of Flynn’s centrality and venality. I’ve been tracking him for years (it’s an obsession, honestly) and I can’t decide even now whether he’s more opportunist or psychopath.

        • subtropolis says:

          I think you’re missing the point. That was his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency. And, it appears that he used that professional experience domestically.

    • harpie says:

      “FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated – sources” begins to sound like the NYT’s fateful Halloween 2016 headline, “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

      Almost spooky in their parallel construction.

      Such an IMPORTANT observation, RAYNE!

      • harpie says:

        I think it relates to Marcy’s thread today:
        2:12 AM · Aug 24, 2021

        […] But there are former and current FBI sources who would have a very big incentive to lie about Proud Boys coordination with Roger Stone and Alex Jones: Those at the FBI who believed the Proud Boys were legit sources to “investigate” Antifa, a priority that came from Bill Barr. […]

        …though, I think it was Trump’s priority, enacted by Barr.

      • harpie says:

        More parallels?
        11:55 AM · Aug 21, 2021

        To show how media disinfo is used, here’s the same-day InfoWars spin on the Reuters story: “FBI clears Alex Jones and Roger Stone”.

        Right now the tactics are pretty crude, entry-level stuff, but rev up your BS detector – as arrests continue they might get more sophisticated. 29/ [screenshot]

  6. Eureka says:

    Meanwhile as we’re focused on 1/6 we need to keep sight on where they’re going with this movement: door-to-door to your home, perhaps with arms and offenders which they may or may not have weeded out (as below). Eh, it’s all +/-:

    Mark Pitcavage: “If this is not illegal, it sure seems as if it ought to be. “Colorado Election Conspiracy Group Going Door-to-Door in Search of ‘Phantom Ballots’” [link to the below]”
    10:21 AM · Aug 18, 2021

    Colorado Election Conspiracy Group Going Door-to-Door in Search of ‘Phantom Ballots’

    See the ^ embedded yt video for some flavor of their excitement over precinct-level data:
    “Colo Election Conspiracist & “Three Percenter” Leads USEIP’s Door-to-Door Voter Verification Effort”

    The (national) “U.S. Election Integrity Plan (USEIP)” group’s motto:

    “We Are The Plan,” a QAnon consp iracy slogan intended to encourage followers to stay active despite Trump no longer holding office.

    [internal link removed, emphasis added]

    • Eureka says:


      Some may recall I described similar door-knocking efforts in metro Philadelphia here (shared gurus cited in Colorado Times Recorder):

      See also replies to Pitcavage re similar efforts in AZ (screenshot of a tweet by Scott Presler — more to follow on him, next).

      I’d suggest consulting CNN’s August 5, 2021 report on Mike Lindell which shows the fifteen US counties over which they are most fixated (and which are highlighted at Trump rallies and in Qanon fora), or taking heightened awareness if you live in a swing state, but I think we may be beyond all that, that their mission has crept and will creep on.

      • Eureka says:

        On that Scott Presler of going to people’s homes in AZ to find “fraud”, and looping back to the ME wars / anti-Islam rhetoric in the US (6:06 AM reply to Rayne), Sollenberger’s latest finds Presler snuggled up with Elise Stefanik, spreading hate while operations “stationed” in NY:

        Roger Sollenberger found true love, suckers: “NEW: Months into her new Republican leadership role, Elise Stefanik is teaming up with a MAGA conspiracy theorist with a hate group past. Me @thedailybeast [DB link]”

        The article’s a harrowing tour through our #geopoliticalnightmare at home.

        • bmaz says:

          I have no idea who Scott Presler is, but if there were concerted home to home door knocking going on here in Maricopa County, the only jurisdiction at issue, I would know. There is not.

        • bmaz says:

          Don’t call me “counselor”, This is not some fuck ass Law and Order episode. And no, they are not doing that here nor anywhere, that I am aware of.

        • Leoghann says:

          A few weeks into the audit, both Ken Bennett and spokescreatures for CyberNinjas said part of the audit would include door-to-door canvassing of voters. They refused to say how they would choose who to canvass. After a number of federal lawyers pointed out how clearly that resembled voter intimidation, Karen Fann released a statement in mid-May that the Senate had decided it was unnecessary, and wouldn’t happen. But Doug Logan and his CyberNinjas continue to assert that it’s necessary for the audit, and as late as mid-July, Logan stated that it was going to happen.

        • P J Evans says:

          As a voter – not in AZ – my response would be “Yes, I voted. But you don’t need to know more than that.”

        • Eureka says:

          You’re polite. I would tell them to fuck off or gather all of their personal info, then tell them to eff off, depending on the day.

          To the general conversation: it’s also quite likely that some of these groups are claiming that they have done/are/will be doing this yet are just making stuff up. Depending on local publicity and circumstances, the mere spectre may be intimidating for some.

          Oh, and the areas of their interest expand by the day (recall they are chasing vapor, so…) so I’d not rule out one’s “uncontroversial” locale as pertinent to their cause, nor rule in one’s locale just because it is or was a hot topic.

        • Eureka says:

          I’m still pissed about being harassed while voting.

          Can’t wait to see what these actors will get up to in future election seasons, tho current behavior suggests these are continuous variables/not discrete events to them. Wonder when they’ll cool the marks /s

    • emptywheel says:

      Hosenball is an excellent journalist. He was thrown out of the UK because he is an excellent journalist. Garland is not an excellent journalist.

      • klynn says:

        He did not tick the “excellent” box on this article from a critical persoective.

        It’s worth asking why. With as long as he has been a journalist, doing in-depth reporting, he missed some vital points and concerns as you note.

        By now, with his career, I expect more from him.

    • bmaz says:

      I will second Marcy, Mark is excellent. None of this reportage is easy, but he has always been accessible and honest as far as I am concerned.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Anybody willing to out the existence of Britain’s GCHQ in the mid-1970s has a lot of balls. It was a busy and vulnerable time across the globe for British spooks and their CIA counterparts.

        A few examples, among many, for context. Post-Vietnam, the spy business was in turmoil. The Cold War was still hot. The CIA had just suffered through the revelation of its crown jewels to Congress, during Ford’s administration, followed by the even more open Carter administration. The existence of the CIA’s not so master counter-spy, James Angleton, was outed as part of those revelations. An “excess of democracy” was worrying the entire industry.

        Britain, presumably amply encouraged by the US, had ousted Australian PM, Gough Whitlam (through an arcane constitutional provision, a leftover of empire), purportedly for threatening to audit his government’s version of GCHQ. The US considered it its signals intel redoubt for SE Asia after the US’s ouster from Vietnam. I’m glad that the young Hosenball wasn’t suicided and zipped into his own gym bag and left in his flat.

  7. Tyler says:

    I’m confused about your comment on TASS ownership. My understanding is that the connection between TASS & Reuters is that Reuters now offers TASS digital content (along with content from BBC, Australian Broadcasting, Libyan News Agency, etc) as part of their Reuters Connect subscription.

    That’s it. Anything else is essentially a conspiracy theory.

    Is that wrong?

  8. biff murphy says:

    IANAL, but.
    We witnessed the pb shooting up Portland this weekend and I wondered, is there something that prevents our government form declaring them terrorists or a “most significant threat to domestic security” like Canada did?
    The Portland pd issued a statement about not coming to Portland to start trouble, but then don’t even bother to show up amidst shootouts, violence, and car tippings in their city
    Seems these mad dogs should be put down before they cause any more violence or mayhem, and they already have an advert up for some future b/s Jan 6/21

  9. harpie says:

    [I’m bringing this information about the 1/5/21 RALLIES over here from yesterday’s post so as to not gum up the new comment section.]

    1] Rally to Revival; Freedom Plaza; Eighty Percent Coalition [Cindy Chafian]

    1-2 PM, March to Save America [the permit notes, there will be no marching]
    3:30-5 PM Stop the Steal
    5-8:30 PM the Eighty Percent Coalition

    “Confirmed speakers” listed on permit [I tried to highlight all of the typos]:

    Cindy CHAFIAN, Founder Eighty Percent Coalition // Pastor Greg LOCKE, Head of Global Vision Church // Robert Patrick LEWIS, 1st Amendment Praetorian // Chris LIPPE, 1776 Forever Free // Tracy DIAZ, Uncover DC // Alex PHILLIPS, American Priority // KENNY and KEITH, MAGA Drag the Highway // Bianca GRACIA, Latinos for Trump // Ali ALEXANDER, Stop the Steal // Brandon STRAKA, Walkway [sic] // Scott PRESSLER, Influencer // Rose TENNET, Women for Trump // Ed MARTIN, Eagle Forum [Schlafly] // Vernon JONES // Dr. Cordie WILLIAMS, 1776 Forever Free Founder // Joe FLYNN // Alex JONES and Owen SCHROYER [sic], Attorney/Influencer // Karyn TURK, iHeart radio show // Scott PRESSLER, Influencer / Rogan O’HANDLEY, Influencer // Christie HUTCHERSON, Women Fighting for America // Dr. Gina LOUDON, Real America’s Voice // Jack POSOBIAC, [sic] Anchor OAN // Bryson GREY, Rapper // Angela STANTON KING, Former Congressional Candidate for Georgia, Real Housewives of Atlanta alum // Pastor Brian GIBSON // George PAPADOPOLIS [sic], Former Trump Campaign Staff // Congresswoman Lauren BOEBART [sic], Congresswoman // Julio GONNZALEZ, CEO Engineered Tax Services, Member of Trump’s Tax Roundtable // Bernard KERIK, Former Police Commissioner of NYC // Pastor Mark BURNS, CEO of Now Network // Robert [sic] STONE, Former Trump Advisor // George FLYNN

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