January 6 Is Unknowable

Dunbar’s number is a term that describes a presumed cognitive limit to the number of people with whom an individual can maintain social relationships. It’s a way of thinking about limits to our ability to understand a network. People argue about what the actual number is, though 150 is a good standard.

Using that figure, the number of people arrested in the January 6 attack is, thus far, 4 2/3 Dunbar numbers, with two more Dunbar numbers of assault suspects identified in FBI wanted photos. By my count, one Dunbar number of suspects are charged with assault. There were one Dunbar number of police victims from that day. There have been, Attorney General Garland revealed last night, one Dunbar number of prosecutors working on the investigation. One Dunbar number of Congresspeople backed challenges to the vote certification last year, and a significant subset of those people further enabled the insurrectionists in more substantive ways. The January 6 Select Committee has interviewed two Dunbar number of witnesses about the event, a group that barely overlaps with the suspects already charged.

I think about Dunbar’s number a lot, particularly as I review the DC court calendar each morning to review which court hearings I should call into on a given day. I can rattle off the names of the January 6 defendants in all the major conspiracy cases and some less obvious key defendants about whom I’ve got real questions. But for other hearings with a 2021 docket number (the January 6 defendants make up the majority of defendants in DC last year), I need to refer back to my master list to see whether those are January 6 defendants, and if so, whether the hearing might be of import. There are five January 6 defendants with the last name Brown, five with some version of the last name Kelly (all quite interesting), three Martins, and seven Williamses, so it’s not just recognizing the name, but trying to remember whether a particular Brown is one of the really interesting ones.

Court filings are the way I go about understanding January 6. Sedition Hunters, by contrast, have worked via faces in photos, from which they effectively create dossiers on suspects of interest.

From their home offices, couches, kitchen tables, bedrooms and garages, these independent investigators have played a remarkable role in archiving and preserving digital evidence. Often operating under the “Sedition Hunters” moniker, they’ve archived more than 2,000 Facebook accounts, over 1,125 YouTube channels, 500-plus Instagram accounts, nearly 1,000 Twitter feeds, more than 100 Rumble profiles and over 250 TikTok accounts. They’ve gathered more than 4.1 terabytes ― 4,100 gigabytes ― of data, enough to fill dozens of new iPhones with standard-issue storage.

Both approaches have come to a similar understanding of the attack: that the Proud Boys led a multi-pronged assault on the building, one that is most easily seen on the coordinated assault from the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, America Firsters, and Alex Jones on the East door. That assault on the East door appears after 22:30 on NYT’s Day of Rage on the riot, which remains the most accessible way for people to try to understand the riot. That assault on the East door, because of Pied Piper Alex Jones’ role in providing bodies, leads directly back to Trump’s request that Jones lead rally attendees from the Ellipse to the Capitol. And there are militia and localized networks that are also critical to understanding how all those bodies worked in concert on January 6. Here’s a summary of the Sedition Hunters’ understanding, which is well worth reviewing in depth.

But even though what we’re seeing is quite similar, there are gaps. Because I’m working from dockets, I’m aware of only the most important people who have yet to be arrested, whereas the Sedition Hunters have a long list, including assault suspects, prominent participants, and militia members, who remain at large. Meanwhile, I’ve identified a handful of defendants whose accomplices on January 6 are obviously of great interest to DOJ, but the Sedition Hunters aren’t always able to reverse engineer who those accomplices are based off their work.

And dockets are only useful for certain kinds of information. I track each arrest affidavit and statement of offense closely. I try to keep a close eye on changes in legal teams and developments (like continuances) that deviate from the norm, which are often the first sign that a case is getting interesting. You learn the most from detention hearings and sentencing memos. But for defendants charged by indictment and released pre-trial, the government can hide most of what it knows. And that’s assuming DOJ makes an arrest or unseals it, which it might not do if someone cooperates from the start.

The government has announced nine cooperation deals (one four months after it happened), and the subject of cooperation for two of them — Jon Schaffer and Klete Keller (whom I often get confused with the five Kellys) — is not known. It wasn’t clear that Jacob Hiles was the defendant who had gotten Capitol Police cop Michael Riley indicted until Hiles’ sentencing memo. And Hiles is not the only one being charged with a misdemeanor who cooperated to end up that way. It’s often not clear whether a delayed misdemeanor charge reflects really good lawyering or cooperation (and in the case of Brandon Straka, it seems to have been really good lawyer that nevertheless resulted in some key disclosures to DOJ).

There is a growing list of Person Ones described in court filings, Stewart Rhodes, Enrique Tarrio, Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, Alex Jones, and Morton Irvine Smith, all of whom were clearly involved in January 6 but haven’t been charged yet. Roger Stone never got referred to as Person One, but he is all over the Oath Keepers’ court filings. DOJ hasn’t named people like Mo Brooks and Rudy Giuliani when they include them in Statements of Offense, but they’re in there. So are other people who spoke on January 5.

It turns out that one means of accessing the January 6 is my forté, documents, and that of citizen researchers, collaborative research. But partly because Merrick Garland referred Michael Sherwin for an Office of Professional Responsibility investigation for publicly commenting on the investigation improperly, the normal way things get reported — by quoting sources — largely isn’t yet accessible for the criminal side of the investigation. That leads to misleading reporting like the famous Reuters article that didn’t understand the role of crimes of terrorism or a WaPo piece yesterday that unbelievably quoted Jonathan Turley claiming, “There’s no grand conspiracy that the FBI found, despite arresting hundreds of people, investigating thousands,” without labeling him as the former President’s impeachment lawyer, which is the only way Turley would be marginally competent to make such a claim. There are defense attorneys talking to the press — but the chattiest defense lawyers are the ones setting new standards for bullshit claims. The ones I’ve heard from are themselves drowning in their attempts to understand the larger investigation, both because of the sheer amount of discovery and because that discovery doesn’t tell them what is going on legally with one of the other Dunbar numbers of defendants. But in general, the ordinary sources for typical reporting aren’t talking, leading to a lot more mystery about the event.

One thing I find most striking from those who were present is their blindness. I’m haunted by something Daniel Hodges said in his testimony to the January 6 Committee: that the men and women who fought insurrectionists for hours in the Tunnel through which Joe Biden would walk to take the Oath of Office two weeks later had no idea, during that fight, that the Capitol had already been breached, and then cleared, as they continued to fight a battle of inches.

It was a battle of inches, with one side pushing the other a few and then the other side regaining their ground. At the time I (and I suspect many others in the hallway) did not know that the terrorists had gained entry to the building by breaking in doors and windows elsewhere, so we believed ours to be the last line of defense before the terrorists had true access to the building, and potentially our elected representatives.

There are similar accounts from other direct witnesses — like this chilling piece from Matt Fuller — who huddled feet away from where Ashli Babbitt was killed without knowing what was happening. Grace Segers, in her second telling of surviving that day, describes how there was no way to tell maintenance workers (there must be ten Dunbar numbers of support staff who were there that day) to take cover from the mobsters.

I have spent the better part of the year working full time, with few days off, trying to understand (and help others understand) January 6. I’ve got a clear (though undoubtedly partial) vision of how it all works — how the tactical developments in the assault on the Capitol connect directly back to actions Donald Trump took. Zoe Tillman, one of a handful of other journalists who is attempting to track all these cases (while parenting a toddler and covering other major judicial developments) has a piece attempting to do so with a summary of the numbers. But both those methods are inadequate to the task.

But thus far, that clear vision remains largely unknowable via the normal ways the general public learns. That’s why, I think, people like Lawrence Tribe are so panicked: because even beginning to understand this thing is, quite literally, a full time job, even for those of us with the luxury of living an ocean away. In Tribe’s case, he has manufactured neglect out of what he hasn’t done the work to know. To have something that poses such an obvious risk to American democracy remain so unknowable, so mysterious — to not be able to make sense of the mob that threatens democracy — makes it far more terrifying.

I know a whole lot about what is knowable about the January 6 investigation. But one thing I keep realizing is that it remains unknowable.

205 replies
  1. phred says:

    I think another factor that contributes to the sense of alarm and panic from the seemingly tepid response thus far is the history of the Durham (the first one where he was supposed to hold torturers to account) and the Mueller investigations utterly failed to hold the powerful to account for their actions.

    Elie Mystal referred to his lack of trust motivating his commentary of frustration with Garland and DOJ. And I think it was Rohde (David? from the New Yorker) in an interview with Maddow who said that Garland has complete faith in the judiciary but a lot of the public does not.

    We have too long of a history of powerful people skating, while powerless people get the book thrown at them. And worse, that white men always get off easier than everyone else.

    Nonetheless, I have taken great comfort from your work this year EW. As you have noted this is a massive investigation and I remain optimistic that the top down approach of the select committee along with the bottom up approach of DOJ will actually result in consequences.

    But here is the question I have… What is Congress willing to do about members of Congress who attempted to overthrow the election? Thus far, all I have heard is about the rioters, the organizers/planners/funders, and Trumpies who coordinated the assault. But what about their collaborators in the House and Senate? What will Congress do about them?

    It seems to me they should be removed. Period. But I haven’t seen any evidence that Congressional leadership has any inclination to hold their own members to account. I would like to hear from Pelosi on that.

    • Peterr says:

      Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to allow Jim Jordan to sit on the January 6 committee is a pretty clear indication that the leadership on the Democratic side wants accountability.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m really interested in the lack of reporting on deconfliction between the Select Committee and DOJ. It’s obvious it is occurring (and Liz Cheney knows the import of it as well as anyone). But there’s little analysis of what it seems to show.

      But what it DOES seem to show is that Select Committee is staying away from MANY people who are under investigation (Ali Alexander and Alex Jones are exceptions). And I find it telling that thus far Jan 6 is only asking for voluntary interviews with the MoCs who likely don’t have criminal exposure. No MTG, for example, or Gosar.

      • phred says:

        Excellent point, as always : )

        It’s a good thing that Congressional leadership does not screw up any potential criminal charges for members of Congress.

        But at the same time to allow coup participants to continue serving in the legislature, participating on their committees, voting on bills, having their hand on the wheel of federal governance is not just galling it is unacceptable.

        If a member has taken steps to overthrow our duly elected government, I don’t think they should be allowed to participate in government… section 3 of the 14th amendment comes to mind.

        What I’m getting at is the tripartite structure of our government. Criminal accountability comes from the Executive branch. As a co-equal branch of government Congress ought to have its own tools to deal with seditious members. If you vote to overturn an election, you should be suspended (removed from committees, not allowed to vote) until an investigation has been completed to affirm whether or not removal is appropriate.

        Why is it permissible to allow Cruz and Hawley to continue to participate in the Senate, if they attempted to overthrow the government? One doesn’t hire a bank robber to work as a guard at a bank that they robbed. It is crazy making that Republican members of Congress who tried to overthrow the election remain in a position to prevent anything from being done to prevent the next attempted coup.

        This should fall squarely in the domain of Congress, whatever Executive processes may be operating in parallel.

        • timbo says:

          Galling is correct. And also a reflection of how uncentered the country is when it comes to governance and stability; the situation is unstable. From what I can tell, the DP and DOJ are doing the best that they can under the circumstances and the law. Is that enough? Given that a coup was attempted exactly one year ago… and almost all the plotters beyond the actual rioters themselves remain free… well… at least Twitler’s supposed speech for today was maybe cancelled. Other than that…seems like there’s still plenty of failed-coup artists still wandering around free as birds.

          • bmaz says:

            Well, just ramrodding charges before the full case is ready would be stupid and counterproductive. I know that a LOT of people are clamoring for the stupid, but hopefully cases get worked up appropriately within DOJ guidelines.

            • timbo says:

              Indeed. Like letting John Yoo still walk the streets unsullied by any qualms of conscience. Good things there’s no winds of politics at DOJ when it comes to powerful people and decisions that might not quite meet international legal standards eh?

              • Dave_MB says:

                I think we should take his children and crush their testicles in a vice. You seems to think that’s good clean fun.

                Not really of course. The poor child didn’t ask to be born to You and I’ve never said that about another person.

                That’s not something you should walk away from and be a professor at a prestigious law school.

        • Leoghann says:

          Galling it is indeed. But expulsion from a House of Congress requires a 2/3 vote of that house. Currently, would mean that 62 GQP Representatives or 17 Senators would have to support any expulsion attempt of a Republican congresscritter. So not likely.

      • BobCon says:

        “Ali Alexander and Alex Jones are exceptions”

        Anything to do with possible DOJ procedural limits on investigating journalists that the House doesn’t need to observe?

        I recognize AA and Jones weren’t really there as journalists but still may have grounds to argue they were.

        • Rayne says:

          Being a journalist doesn’t give one carte blanche to crime nor does being an alleged spiritual guide in Alexander’s case.

          There’s simply no reporter’s shield for engaging in conspiracy and obstruction of government proceedings.

        • emptywheel says:

          I would be shocked if there weren’t an understanding that Jan 6 can make asks — such as of Hannity — that DOJ would have a harder time making, on a number of levels.

          But Alexander testifying was just plain Roger Stone levels of stupid, not least bc it’s only a matter of time until he is charged.

    • Ed Walker says:

      Your point about Congress’ willingness to punish its own members for participation in the planning and execution of the attempted coup is important.

      Senator Klobuchar was on Colbert last night. She talked about being in the safe room with Josh Hawley, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz during the evacuation. Colbert asked what it was like to have to work with them. She said it was difficult but it was her job. As if there was nothing she could or would do about these despicable people.

      • rip says:

        And based on Hawley’s, Cruz’s, Graham’s actions and words, their feeling for their Democratic colleagues is no better. It appears every (r)epuglicon holds anybody else in contempt.

        Sad state of affairs but obviously desired by certain groups. It makes us dysfunctional and easier to subvert.

      • Leoghann says:

        “As if there was nothing she could or would do . . . .” You’re reading a lot into what she said. It is indeed her job to work with the other Senators–an awareness that seems to escape Cruz, Johnson, and several others. Her stating that fact certainly does not mean she doesn’t believe they need to face consequences for what they did.

      • Riktol says:

        “As if there was nothing she could or would do about these despicable people.”

        Can you just clarify what exactly you expect Klobuchar to do about them (or the Dems overall if you prefer)? Leave the room every time they enter? Vote against anything they propose? Pass a 50 vote resolution condemning them? Call a fruitless vote to expel them? Or are you proposing she go full Boabert on them?

  2. Ruthie says:

    That panic is ratcheted up by a sense that the clock is ticking, and absent the kind of clear and thorough explanation that might rouse the persuadable public to pressure Congress to DO SOMETHING and protect democracy, the clock could run out.

    I understand that the complexity is unavoidable, and a methodical approach on the part of the DOJ is critical. You can’t protect the rule of law and democracy by engineering a kangaroo court. Yesterday, though, Elie Mystal made a comment on MSNBC that resonated with me – something to the effect that the investigation is large and/or opaque enough that it could be proceeding as aggressively and thoroughly as we would hope OR be fairly ineffectual in going after the organizers, and in either case it could look exactly as it currently does. As a student of this blog, I’d say that’s overly pessimistic. Unfortunately, being of a fairly anxious disposition, I still find it hard to dismiss completely.

    • emptywheel says:

      Elie is wrong. It’s infuriating that people like him make comments without trying to understand the investigation. It’s disinformation and willfully depressing.

      • bmaz says:

        Elie is a very nice and bright guy, but he knows little to nothing about the actual nuts and bolts of federal investigations and prosecutions.

      • Ken Haylock says:

        But… but… but… there are outrageously blatantly flagrantly criminal acts that occurred in plain sight. The phone call to the Georgia SoS for example. He hasn’t been indicted for that. Exactly how much investigation is required beyond listening to the tape & his public statements? If that was store CCTV of a teen pocketing a candy bar instead of a President stealing an election, they’d have been arrested within hour. How many millions of times do you need to play that phonecall before going out to slap the cuffs on the man that made it? If there’s no will to prosecute, you can set the evidentiary bar you assert that you need to clear high enough that it is literally impossible, then claim you really tried but sadly couldn’t quite make the case…

        • bmaz says:

          Uh, no, nothing is anywhere near that cut and dried, nor easy to prove.The kid shoplifting would be a state level offense if it was even prosecuted, and that is one hell of a lot different than prosecuting a former President with the coffers to fight everything tooth and nail. People are simply out of their minds with this type of nonsense. And you are consistently one of them.

          • Ken Haylock says:

            Your argument seems to be that the US justice system is now so corrupt & corrupted that you cannot even _indict_ rich white criminals even when they commit utterly heinous crimes in plain sight, on tape, with multiple unimpeachable witnesses, as part of a pattern of behaviour equally flagrant, let alone convict them, with the alacrity that you can force a poor black teenager to plead guilty to something relatively trivial he didn’t do & take years in prison just to avoid a decade in prison for something else he didn’t do.

            You are actually making a reasoned argument for tumbrils here. If institutions cannot bring justice to rich powerful white people who attempt to overthrow the government, then democracy is doomed because the coup plotters can just keep trying & refining their plan until they succeed. As long as they are rich enough to obstruct justice with nothing more than a withering look, of course…

            • bmaz says:

              You are full of it and do not have a clue what you are talking about. Again, you are consistent in that regard.

              • Ken Haylock says:

                Trump needs to know that his impunity is over. Know without a shadow of a doubt that he is going to jail. Have to surrender his passport, give pre-trial services extensive details of his finances, wear an ankle bracelet & provide a massive surety. Get busted at Mar a Lago after a dawn raid & driven to DC in the back of a panel van for a perp walk to his arraignment for one of those blatant plain sight crimes that you claim only a fool would indict him for. Partly because it would have an impact on his co-conspirators, but mostly because who knows what making Trump believe he was definitely going to jail for something he was bang to rights for would shake loose. Trump would throw every living human & several dead ones under a bus for an endless diet coke spigot in his future cell, for example.

                That means busting him early for a heinous thing you can easily prove, it doesn’t mean not investigating Jan 6 as methodically as necessary…

                • Rayne says:

                  So do the work. Lay out the case. What are you going to charge him with? What evidence will you use which will survive a grand jury? Go for it, spill it.

                  Because otherwise you’re asking for a suspension of habeas corpus when we aren’t in a state of open rebellion, operating as if the fundamental presumption of innocence which is a human right is null and void.

                  As if we are in an autocracy, the very thing we resisted during the Trump administration.

                • bmaz says:

                  Mr. Haylock, your relentless foaming at the mouth on this is both repetitive and beyond ill informed. Stop. Your desire to bastardize the DOJ as Trump would have done is seriously repulsive. And the DOJ will not be, and was never designed to be the savior of democracy. That is a political issue.

                • earthworm says:

                  “Know without a shadow of a doubt that he is going to jail. Have to surrender his passport, give pre-trial services extensive details of his finances, wear an ankle bracelet & provide a massive surety….”
                  heh — could be why tfg sticks to mar-a- lago. i insinuate (not really appropriate on this site):
                  personnel to carry out those actions could be hard to find.
                  political climate there seems so distorted, rule of law in FL not recognized there in the same way it mostly is in other states, or so it seems, that tfg probably feels safe there.

                  • Rayne says:

                    I suspect one of the other reasons Mar-a-Lago is so popular with TFG compared to his other courses is that it’s readily accessible from the ocean, far more so than the LA course or Ireland or Scotland. Lots of smaller vessels in relatively calm waters.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Even A Few Good Men got this point right. It’s not what you “know” that counts. That’s a starting point. It’s what you can prove.

        • Ruthie says:

          Uh, IANAL, but it seems obvious to me that it wouldn’t necessarily be prudent to charge TFG for that call as soon as there’s “enough” evidence; that call was, after all, part of the larger conspiracy. There are lots of moving parts that we know about, but the whole point of this post was to point out that the shape of the overarching whole is unknowable at this time. As others have pointed out, I think in response to a different post, the uncertainty of what DOJ knows can produce a ton of anxiety among those who have possible criminal exposure, which sometimes leads them to make mistakes – mistakes that can help prosecutors.

          • bmaz says:

            That is correct. You never piecemeal out smaller charges just because you “might” could. That would be bad strategy and bad ethics. Build the case against the higher ups and then when really ready, go with everything. I don’t know where it all ends up, and nobody does yet, including Marcy who has a better bead on it all than anyone.

            Frankly, it is a very good thing that DOJ is buttoned up on this and not flailing around impulsively as so many uninformed people pine for.

            • Reader 21 says:

              bmaz says it better than I could re the criminal investigation, and the need for DOJ to run a tight ship -but just to bolster that point from a slightly different angle, we all saw how trump and his enablers weaponized the Mueller report, which MW in particular painstakingly made clear, just how much damning evidence Mueller et al dug up, setting aside whether he felt it was all strong enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors (and of course the numerous criminal indictments, convictions and/or plea deals Mueller et al did bring, including many Russians tied to the Kremlin and over a dozen Russian military intelligence officers).

              In any case, I wish some of those presently criticizing Garland, would stop for a second and think, ok, if DOJ were to bring a charge against Individual 1 that somehow didn’t stick – how trump and crew would weaponize that – the mind reels.

          • njbill says:

            I share the frustration about the Georgia case in particular, but the fact that the state hasn’t brought charges in what, on the surface, seems to be a cut and dried case suggests to me something else is going on. I assume federal law was also violated. Perhaps the feds have asked the state to hold off as they build a more comprehensive case against Trump, which will include federal election law charges from the Ga. call.

            The evidence in the Ga. case (tape of call, Brad R. testimony) isn’t going anywhere. I would think those charges (state and federal) can easily be brought at any time up to the expiration of the SOL.

            Meadows was also on the call. Maybe the feds are trying flip him. One would think the tape alone would be sufficient for conviction, but adding favorable testimony from Meadows would be very helpful.

            I could be wrong, but I would be shocked if the Ga. case isn’t brought at some point.

            • bmaz says:

              There sure are a lot of internet commenters here, and elsewhere, that everything is easy peasy cut and dried. It is not.

                • bmaz says:

                  “I share the frustration about the Georgia case in particular, but the fact that the state hasn’t brought charges in what, on the surface, seems to be a cut and dried case…”

                  That is what you said.

                  • njbill says:

                    Nice try. LOL.

                    Playing your game, you said “everything is easy peasy cut and dried.”

                    Back to substance, what in your view may be going on that is holding up the Ga. case?

                    • bmaz says:

                      Lol right back at you. Perhaps not wanting to step on a an investigation far bigger that that podunk bunk. Maybe not listening to internet outrage fiends.

            • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

              To be technical it’s not a GA case. It is a Fulton County case because the state offices are in Fulton County. There are no State or Federal cases regarding the Trump phone call as far as I know.

              Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on what’s happened so far:

              On February 9, Raffensperger’s office opened an investigation of potential election interference in Trump’s efforts to overturn the results in Georgia, including the phone call, a step that could lead to a criminal investigation by state and local authorities.

              District Attorney Willis launched a criminal investigation on February 10 to enable her to decide whether to prosecute Trump. Her team includes a former special prosecutor considered a “national authority on racketeering”. Willis said in February that no Georgia official was currently a target of the investigation, but in September, she announced that state election officials were among the witnesses her team was interviewing. Subpoenas, if needed to gain information from uncooperative witnesses, had not yet been issued by September.

              I haven’t seen anything from Raffensperger’s investigation yet.

              • njbill says:

                I’m not admitted in Georgia and am unfamiliar with their court system. It appears they have a number of different trial courts.


                Don’t know which court would be the one in which any case against Trump would be filed. Of the courts listed, my guess is such a case wouldn’t be filed in the magistrate court or the municipal court.

                I suspect the case would be venued in one of the Fulton County “state” courts. And, yes, the Fulton Co. DA seems to be the one conducting the investigation.

                I, too, am not aware of any federal investigation, but that doesn’t mean one is not underway. It would seem that federal election law may have been violated.

                I also don’t know the status of Brad R.’s investigation, but I don’t think that is a criminal investigation (not to say he couldn’t refer a matter for criminal prosecution). Could be his investigation has given way to the Fulton Co. DA’s investigation.

                As I mentioned above, it could be that any Ga. state or local investigation is on hold to allow the feds first crack.

                I agree with the general position that we just have to wait and see.

            • bmaz says:

              Back to the Georgia investigation of the phone call(s) discussed above by Reader 21, NJBill and others, it is clear that said charges, if filed, would be handled in Fulton County Superior Court. DA Fani Willis was aggressively public initially, but has clammed up mostly since then. If I were a reporter, I would try to talk to George Jenkins, hew Criminal Chief, but he probably won’t talk right now either.

              It appears the hangup is on ability to establish mental state to the standard necessary. This AJC article is a pretty good capsule of where it all stands. There are many “experts” cited in it. There is the always irrationally exuberant Glenn Kirschner, yet another one of the excitable TV Former Federal Prosecutors, and I’m always wary of his claims, in this case he thinks it is a slam dunk. It is not. There is also some out of state law prawf that has injected himself.

              On the more sane side of things is very well known criminal defense atty Don Samuel, who is extremely good. Also, somebody I actually know a little because he used to blog with my friend Scott Greenfield, AS Fleischman. Andrew is very good. Both think, for varying reasons, that the case is far tougher and more fragile than people think. I would listen to them in this regard.

              • Reader 21 says:

                Echoing the thanks above – this is really helpful for understanding the complexities involved.

                My big takeaway – let’s try not to let a wannabe mob boss be president again.

              • Vicks says:

                Meadows showed up during an audit in Cobb County and tried to enter the room where they were examining ballot signatures, there is also a transcript of a call where Meadows tried to pressure a Georgia official into giving him access to private voter data.
                While in GA, Meadows got the cell number of the state investigator Frances Watson whom Trump later called and asked her to “find the dishonesty” and promised “when the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised”

                I’m not sure what they are hoping to charge Trump with but doesn’t showing a shady pattern that includes making up lies about voter fraud and using those lies to pressure election officials show a corrupt state of mind?

          • Leoghann says:

            One big problem that I’ve seen with a potential Georgia prosecution deals strictly with numbers. From what I’ve read, the pertinent law in Georgia deals partly with intent. Raffensperger had the amazing good sense to record the call, and he had a few others in his office listening. But the defeated President had a number of his cronies listening in too, as well as participating.

            If it were to turn into a he-said-she-said situation in testimony, there would be more people to testify in favor of Trump, including a few who are already on record saying “he wasn’t serious” or “he didn’t really threaten.”

            And considering the way he likes to turn non-prosecution and inaction into “exoneration,” that case would need to be absolutely air tight.

        • Kenster42 says:

          Have you actually listened to the entire phone call and then read the transcript? It’s classic Trump, filled with classic, deliberate language vagaries. I’ve never seen someone who is as good as he is who says things that on first blush when you hear it you think “oh, we got him”, then you go back and you read the transcript and you see how the language was constructed and you’re like “hmm, I see how he can explain his way out of this”. It’s like that brilliant scene in Law Abiding Citizen where Gerard Butler smokes Jamie Foxx through his careful use of language.

          Seriously, what crime are you going to charge Trump with? Intimidation? Interfering with an election proceeding (Title 52)? Good luck with that. Trump’s defense strategy writes itself and is going to be very difficult to prosecute. He’s simply going to say that he sincerely thought he won and was asking questions to better understand why Georgia went the way it did because his team had evidence that said otherwise. How are you going to prove intent? You’re going to say “but he said ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes'”, that’s illegal! And Trump’s going to say, “oh, I just meant that it’s so obvious that the election was poorly handled that it should be no problem to identify 11,780 votes that were illegally cast for Biden or improperly handled. I would never suggest that someone manufacture votes or commit a crime!”

      • obsessed says:

        There’s a middle ground here:

        1. The 1/6 investigation has to go at its own pace and is apparently being done remarkably well.

        2. The literally hundreds of crimes committed by Trump and his cabinet from 2016 onward have been swept under the rug.

        Have we all memory-holed 2016-2021? There was a new blatantly obvious, appallingly arrogant, democracy-damaging crime committed every day. Go back and look at the last 5 years of posts here. It’s an outrage. Of course Tribe and Mystal are mad as hell. The system has failed. Stop pretending that this started on Jan. 6th. I believe you that they’re doing a great job on that investigation, but they memory-holed mountains and mountains and mountains of the most outrageous, unthinkable, unprecedented abuses of power.

        • bmaz says:

          Lol, Tribe and Elie. Sure thing there. SCOTUS said emoluments cases were moot, the Ukraine phone call is flimsy, the Georgia efforts are under state level investigation as are tax cases in NY. What exactly are you caterwauling has been “swept under the rug”? Stormy Daniels? Get a grip and focus on what’s important. Also, as I noted to Haylock earlier, piecemealing out little crimes is a mug’s game.

          • timbo says:

            What’s ‘important’ is that Twitler has been skating where the law is concerned for much longer than he was in the WH. That’s actually, really really important. And it should not surprise you that there are people sick and tired of it. And that the law and the Constitution is ill-served by allowing more of this skating.

          • Zirc says:

            I’m with you for the most part Bmaz, but I do wonder about the Mueller report and the 10-11 incidents of obstruction he listed. Were none of them backed strongly enough with evidence to prosecute?


            • obsessed says:

              This rings true to me:

              George Conway: “Garland must not fear that prosecuting Trump would be viewed as a partisan act. He need only look to the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who, after voting against an impeachment conviction on the (meritless) ground that Trump had left office, all but called for Trump’s prosecution.”

              Said McConnell: “We have a criminal justice system in this country. President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office.”

              He added: He didn’t get away with anything yet. Yet.”

          • civil says:

            Possibilities include:
            * the obstruction charges outlined in the Mueller Report
            * willfully omitting required information on his financial disclosure form about his payments to Michael Cohen and then certifying that the form was true, complete and correct
            * per the SSCI Russia Report vol. 5, lying to Mueller under penalty of perjury in some of his written responses.

    • graham firchlis says:

      Elie Mystal has evolved from a thoughtful and interesting analyst into a performer. It happens. Fame is seductive, and often corrupting. A little more – a lot more – humility around what he doesn’t know would be helpful to him, and the rest of us. Meanwhile, when what he says does not comport with evident reality, I just ignore him and move on.

  3. Peterr says:

    Turley appears to be trying to goad the DOJ officials into tipping their hands, revealing more about what the DOJ knows and what they don’t. Failing that, he’s trying to goad unofficial underlings into leaking material to prove that “we are *too* doing important things” but that would accomplish the same end.

    You closed that paragraph with “in general, the ordinary sources for typical reporting aren’t talking, leading to a lot more mystery about the event.” Criminal conspirators do not like mystery, when it comes to knowing whether they should jump and run away or simply sit back and watch the DOJ run off in the wrong direction.

    There’s a knock at the door — is that the DOJ, or GrubHub?
    There’s a hiccup with your phone — is that a simple glitch, or is someone trying to listen in?
    It takes just a little longer for your laptop to boot up one morning – is that an ordinary tech thing, or have you been hacked by the cops?
    There’s that new car across the street again for the third day in a row — does your neighbor have a new friend with benefits, or is someone watching you?

    Mystery makes conspirators very very nervous.

      • Peterr says:

        Given the recently revealed conversations between Hannity, Meadows, and Trump, I wonder if Turley is more than a mere Trumpy troll but a more active, behind-the-scenes part of the Trump band of legal advisors, offering his thoughts along with one caveat: “don’t expect me to get out there and stand in the same camera shot with Rudy or Sidney.”

        • Rayne says:

          I would really like to know what Turley’s communications look like with the January 6 circle — but I’ve long wanted to know what his communications looked like with the persons involved in the Ukraine quid pro quo and the harassment and removal of former ambassador Yovanovitch. His op-ed in The Hill during the time frame Yovanovitch was being set up still raises my hackles.

          • BobCon says:

            I’ve long wanted to know how his communication networks in the press map out.

            While it’s possible get the bylines of reporters who are dumb enough to quote him, we don’t know who reaches out to him as a background source, who the producers are who bring him on shows or the opinion page editors are who publish him.

            He doesn’t make any sense from a journalism perspective or a ratings one — you can see why producers might bring Tom Hanks on the air to talk about Covid, audiences could be served up any other lawyer and not miss a beat. He’s a small fish.

            He only makes sense in networking terms, and it would be useful if some reporter someday peeled back the bark to show the beetle burrowings.

          • timbo says:

            Why would you guess ‘no’? Occam’s razor? Frankly, Trump is a creature of the media…and it would be odd if he had not been in contact with someone like Turley…or, rather, odd if Turley hadn’t contacted Trump at some point. Seems like all sorts of loons were able to sit down and chat with Twitler when Twitler so desired… so why not Turley too?

    • harpie says:

      CapitolHunters [in his/her personal capacity] is challenging Zapotoski and Barret to a substantial bet over this article:

      11:12 AM · Jan 6, 2022

      [THREAD] Yesterday WaPo published a story with 2 sources saying no organization. Jonathan Turley: “There’s no grand conspiracy that the FBI found….” But Turley believes SOME conspiracies – in Nov 2020 he claimed on Fox & Friends that the election was stolen. 5/ […]

      This account usually reports out for an entire community. But today, Jan 6, a personal message: I challenge WaPo reporters Matt Zapotsky and @DevlinBarrett – or anyone – to a wager, cash in escrow, up to $50K. If you believe your story, cash in your IRA and bet me. Options..7/ [BET OPTIONS OFFERED] [THREAD]

      • Rayne says:

        Wow. Good for CapitolHunters laying it on the line like that.

        Turley is part of the agitprop; I wish I knew he was going to get his butt kicked by DOJ for it.

        • civil says:

          If I were Turley’s law school dean, I’d have a serious talk with him about the DC Bar’s misconduct rule: “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: … (c) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” I don’t watch TV, but I know that he is regularly dishonest in his columns, and I think this is a terrible model for law students. I expect faculty to model academic integrity, and he does not. He regularly omits relevant information that undermines his arguments, he often refuses to correct false statements that are pointed out to him (something I’ve done both in blog comments on his site and via email), … It’s bad enough that he’s making the arguments he makes, but to me, it’s much worse for a law professor to do it.

  4. Epicurus says:

    I referenced Dunbar some time ago in another post although I forget the context.

    Dr. Wheeler may wish to consider Mandelbrot fractals as another complexity reference in her work.

    • Nord Dakota says:

      I had mentioned the fractal nature of all this in a post some days ago. Is that partly the effect of the social media tools, phone cameras, and lots of other data sources that would not have been available had this happened 100 years ago? Like, what WOULD have happened 100 years ago in such a situation?

        • Ed Walker says:

          The problem with fractals is that there is by definition no limit to the levels of complexity. That’s the kind of thing that perfectionists will use to justify giving up and doing nothing.

          • harpie says:

            My problem with fractals is that I can never remember if the denominator is on the top or the bottom. :-{

            • rip says:

              All I can remember from 60 years ago is that if the guy on the top is bigger than the guy on the bottom, it’s an improper fraction. I didn’t ask either of the guys.

              I’m much more into irrational numbers right now. And with more age a lot of imaginary ones.

            • P J Evans says:

              Denominator is on the bottom – it’s the bit that “names” the fraction. Numerator is on top – that’s how many of that fraction.

              • harpie says:

                heh. I knew I should put a snark tag on that, but felt like it would ruin the point. :-)

                I do have NO idea what a FRACTAL is and think it’s quite amazing how damn smart the Emptywheel Community is!

                I learn so much here!
                […even if it’s just what I don’t know].

      • BobCon says:

        One of the issues around dealing with fractals is that mathematicians and scientists have gotten very good at thinking about how to approximate them as if they were precisely bounded.

        So of course a materials scientist may know that the mass of crystals they’re studying doesn’t have a precisely knowable surface area, but they have established methods for approximating it and establishing confidence levels, and they may even have multiple models for interpreting data depending on what they are trying to accomplish.

        What is so frustrating about so much of the press is they have no models whatsoever except talk to three sources and repeat back what they say. And they are also so ad hoc as to their standards of evidence and sourcing that we have no idea how any of that works.

        They’re essentially looking at some crystals in a solution with a high degree of surface chaos and arbitrarily deciding nothing meaningful can be said — despite all kinds meaningful conclusions that can be drawn about them.

        And then what happens time and again is someone like Bill Barr swoops in with a nonsense interpretation that crystalizes the media interpretation because they have failed to do any kind of modeling on their own.

      • timbo says:

        I think that there’d be a lot less reliance on pictures and videos and a lot more reliance on old style sleuthing and testimony. There likely also would have been more people locked up and jailed in the first few weeks and months after Jan 6…that is assuming the coup had failed of course.

        About 100 years ago, Hoover called out the Army to fight WWI veterans in the streets of DC…not sure what happened in the courts after that on the investigation, jailing, legal side. Anyone know? Was there a Congressional investigation of that ever—guessing there might have been but it’s not my area of expertise.

        • Reader 21 says:

          The Bonus Army – I don’t know whether there was a Congressional investigation. I do know that Hoover sure had friends in the media – newspaper accounts differed sharply from first-hand and eyewitness accounts of the attack on those protesters, WWI vets as you point out, some there with their families. IIIRC MacArthur led that charge, although I could be wrong on that front.

      • Epicurus says:

        Sorry if this invokes Godwin’s (I think) Law. It was a different society technologically in 1933 and, of course, a different country but there are remarkable similarities between Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch and the events of 1/6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_Hall_Putsch

        One can imagine the complexity in resolution that would have ensued had the Putschters had the social media and technology we have today.

        • SlimSloSlider says:

          As of December 2015, Godwin himself suggested that Hitler references with respect to Trump ought not to mean one had lost the argument but begun the discussion.
          A Godwin’s Law exception, as it were.

          And, yes, I will use this name and not another when commenting.

    • Raven Eye says:

      Years ago I stumbled across Thinkmap through the Visual Thesaurus. To get a feel for visualization, you can look at a Visual Thesaurus demo: https://www.visualthesaurus.com/app/view Type in “beat” to get you started.

      Thinkmap appears to be slumbering a bit, but they used to have a demo that linked actors and movies — the kind of map construct that could be applied here.

      • Ed Walker says:

        There are legal software solutions for gigantic cases like this with mountains of discovery. I looked at some 20 years ago, I’m sure they’re better now. I just hope DoJ has them.

        • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

          DOJ had them 40 years ago, although it was called The Inslaw Software back when Ed Meese stole it by handing it out to all and sundry even though he wasn’t supposed to make any copies of the demo software. Inslaw won against the Feds and Meese was forces to resign. We call them Graph Databases now. Instead of linking up lots of tables with indexes as Relational Databases do you link up nodes (say persons) to other nodes and have information stored at each node like personal data, friends, relatives, companies they’re associated with, etc. Makes it easy to track relations between nodes. It’s how Amazon and other companies know quickly what kind of products you’re interested in. A relational DB would take many seconds to do the same thing.

          If EW isn’t using graph DBs she should or find someone who does know how to use them and sub that out.

    • matt fischher says:

      A fascinating aspect of fractals, to which you may be alluding, is the infinite complexity to be yielded from simple sets of instructions. In the case of the Mandelbrot Set: Zn+1 = Zn2 + C.

    • matt fischer says:

      For me a fascinating aspect of fractals, to which you may be alluding, is the infinite complexity to be yielded from simple sets of instructions. In the case of the Mandelbrot Set: Zn+1 = Zn2 + C.

  5. CaseyMac says:

    Heart of Darkness – do we Americans prefer it to remain unknowable? Hope not. Thx EW for this year of full time work!

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name; your previous comments were as “Casey McCarthy.” Please pick one name and stick with it. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  6. OmAli says:

    So why not start at the top, where live tv, video, text and email messages ARE knowable? To everyone?

    Why task THAT to what appears to be a toothless congressional committee, investigating in many cases their own members, unable to even enforce their own subpoenas? DOJ hasn’t even backed them on Meadows, yet.

    I fear that all we will get from them, in the end, is a highly redacted report, and Trump and his Co-conspirators screaming, as they did after Mueller, TOTAL VINDICATION!

    And won’t all the select committee appearances by these hundreds of interviewees then be subjected to all kinds of scrutiny by defense attorneys, in the event that DOJ eventually decides to investigate, indict, prosecute?

    Those are also things that I don’t understand.

    • bmaz says:

      Uh, DOJ “is” investigating, indicting and prosecuting. And, no, you do not blithely start at the top on a complex conspiracy case. No, you do not see all that DOJ is doing behind the scenes and with grand juries, nor should you.

      • BobCon says:

        And as MW has pointed out, DOJ moved early in Garland’s tenure to seize devices from Giuliani and Toensing. This is on top of data known to have been gathered from both in previous investigations.

        Which points to what she is arguing here — there are a lot of big unknown areas, but we have to assume some things around these facts. The odds of them stopping with just the phones are zero, which means they are following the trails of data in other ways and from other sides of communications.

        It’s possible everything Giuliani did was with perfect security. At which point it’s worth asking if that fits what we know about him….

        We can’t know whether they will tie his obvious lapses in one area into 1/6. But good reporters would be thinking a lot harder about the implications.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Why not ignore the little fish and start at the top? For one thing, big fish have the best lawyers and biggest budgets. Imagine how much Queen Elizabeth is paying her middle son, Andrew’s, lawyers to defend him in an Epstein-related civil suit. Then multiply it to guess what she’d be paying in defense of a criminal prosecution. Same goes for Trump, Hannity, or top MOCs. Trump is not a master at many things, but abusing and delaying via litigation is one of them.

      Beyond that, prosecutors need abundant proof of a big fish’s knowledge, intent, and active involvement in a crime. Most of them got to be big fish by ruthlessly using cutouts, intermediaries, to do their dirty work. Prosecutors need evidence and witnesses, and the best witnesses are usually the little fish who are caught between prosecutors and being abandoned by shits like Trump. It takes several witnesses regarding each critical point, willing to testify and thereby abandon their prior loyalties.

      Big fish also have the most loyal following and have created the most lasting impressions on the general public. Prosecutors want an overwhelming case in order to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt to twelve angry women and men, and to make it survive appeal.

        • Reader 21 says:

          Exactly! I could not agree more with this. People are seeking a judicial remedy to what really is a political problem IMO [ie don’t elect a mob boss indebted to some of the biggest villains on the planet – the Russian mafiya – to be president].

          • Rayne says:

            But there are legislative fixes to some of these political problems; Ex. just as minimum age and citizenship are mandatory, so, too, could requirements for audited financial reports going back 10 or more years before one is an authorized legitimate candidate.

            • Reader 21 says:

              Oh absolutely, agree 100 % on this–heck, if even the ‘norms’ had been enforced – as a smart parliamentarian taught, norms are really just unwritten rules, it drives me crazy they’re brushed off by many in the media – such as the requirement that candidates disclose their tax returns, no way Individual 1 could have withstood that scrutiny, IMO. You know with all the money laundering and such.

              Or if the media had treated him as a presidential candidate, instead of a celebrity – ie., Maggie NYT wrote over 90 articles re Beghazi and/or her emails in 2015-2016 alone, basically whenever she wrote about Hillary. I’m still waiting, albeit with unbated breath, for Maggie to mention, even a single time, Individual 1’s longstanding, notorious (and well-known certainly at the NYT if not unfortunately all of Middle America), ties to known, suspected and alleged associates of Russian and transnational organized crime.

            • Leoghann says:

              Selling said legislative fixes to constituents would be the rub. A fair portion of those constituents are those who have no trouble believing that the Democrats could manage to sneak a couple of non-citizens onto their presidential tickets.

  7. JohnForde says:

    So does DOJs 9 cooperation deals mean 9 conspiracy cases? Or 6-8?
    There are 5 “person 1s” that are identifiable, plus Stone, Brooks & Giuliani.
    Is the great unknowable of the moment the way DOJ is tying those person 1s directly to DJT?

    • Rugger9 says:

      Individual-1 would be the big fish for sure, but let’s also remember the third investigation by the Select Committee, which will be holding public hearings in a couple of months and which also has lots of documents. Like the note above about Pelosi’s refusal to allow Gym Jordan to sit on the proposed blue-ribbon committee being a sign of determination, Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney are sending signals that they are not willing to let this go quietly into the night either.

      If the Archives releases the records requested by the Select Committee, it will be catastrophic for the GQP (it’s merely wretchedly bad now) plus the public hearings will keep GQP peccadillos in the news all summer into fall. Moscow Mitch knows this as well, thus the shameless comment about the Ds “politicizing” the J6 commemoration which signals that he’s worried about the potential blowback. It’s not like he wouldn’t do the same if the situation was reversed. I don’t remember him telling the GQP to STFU about Benghazi, for example even when it was clear there was no HRC issue there.

    • emptywheel says:

      4 of the cooperators are on the Oath Keeper conspiracy. Two are cooperating against several others in a small conspiracy. One is the first Proud Boy to flip. Like I said, we don’t know about the other two.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I think the “flip rate” will rise once the Archives files are released, combined with the realization by the MAGA rubes that they’ve been folded, spindled, mutilated and left to take the fall for Individual-1 (and they’d better love him for it, dammit!).

        • timbo says:

          We’ll see. Right now there is little evidence that the fight over the archives has much to with current cases on the docket. More likely it has to do with as yet uncharged (and possibly even unidentified as yet) persons. Agreed that it is more about the higher up in this conspiracy but, again, there’s little need for these archives in most if not all of the current defendants cases. Certainly would like to see the higher-ups charged though and so we all hope those archives will be released to the Congress and DOJ without delay as undoubtedly there’s some ugly juicy bits in there methinks…

  8. BobCon says:

    You see a huge amount of knowledge issues popping up in a ton of reporting in other areas — Covid, military, the environment — because the press refuses to move to models for reporting that are anything but simplistic source-based rehashes.

    They can’t muster the basic tools of a historian, literary analyst, screenwriter, psychologist, MD, or detective. Things like thinking about the disconnects between stories and facts, interrogating the reliability of sources, developing models of motivation, and mapping out areas of known and unknown things.

    And so simple issues which they ought to be using to frame the story, like comparisons between the amount of bureaucratic resources brought to bear for 1/6 and 9/11 are almost impossible to find. Historical comparisons to organized crime prosecutions are rare. And there is seemingly no awareness that sources can be used in more than a superficial way.

    The Turley quote is a prime example of how reporters using a basic toolbox of analysis could have shifted the framework to talk about how GOP sources are trying to spin and frame the debate. They could have dug into Turley’s reliability and asked what it means when he is a defender instead of someone with a real track record.

    The same article simply quotes a former House attorney on the size of the investigation, when surely by now Post reporters should be able to cite facts about actual resources being brouht to bear — not only prosecutions, but activity in FBI field offices and signs of information gathering from data companies.

    Surface reporting with a high level of dependence on official sources may be valid with fast breaking stories like stranded motorists in a snowstorm where it is literally impossible for reporters to see much. But a year after 1/6 reporters need to be more like MDs. A medical condition may still be have significant unknown elements after a year, but any good doctor will have a much better idea how to weigh and evaluate test results than what reporters are doing now.

    • Ed Walker says:

      The kind of reporting you want isn’t always necessary in daily reporting. A smart reporter can come up to speed on a particular issue, like health care or taxation. The work Marcy does isn’t like that. It leads to books, not 900 words on deadline.

      You’d expect more from magazines, maybe, because people like Marcy could put together 15,000 words on the subject and give a good running start for actual understanding. Even that would take months of labor, as Marcy shows. Maybe we can’t get what we need in the near term, and are dependent on the people doing the work for the DoJ and the Select Committee.

      • BobCon says:

        The issue I’m trying to point to is when reporters like Zapotosky and Barrett speculate *yesterday* that there was no grand conspiracy, there seems to be massive failure in the press to establish even the basic analytical framework of the case after an entire year.

        It’s not an analysis of the legal difficulties of bringing charges, it’s an attempt to use the demographic background of the attackers to refute the simple existence of a conspiracy.

        After a year, that’s just not valid thinking. And these two are supposed to be point people for the Washington Post on potentially the biggest political story of the year, decade, or even century so far.

        MW has noted how painfully slow the press has been to pick on Cheney’s point about where obstruction charges come in, and while you could expect the press to be weeks behind the curve, or still including other possibilities in the mix, it’s nutty at this point to be struggling like this.

        It is, I think, ultimately an editorial problem, where editors are leaving reporters to follow a drip by drip approach to the case and never trying to put together any kind of overall framework. And the danger is when they leave all of that work to bad actors like Barr and the Mueller Report, the press swallows ludicrous spoonfed narratives because they have no idea what else might be true.

        • Raven Eye says:

          Editors. I remember my internship. Take a story up to the horseshoe desk, and watch that pencil fly (pre-computer days), my eyes getting wider and wider as the markups grow. He looks up at me. I gulp. He says “Good story” and puts the story in the tray for typesetting.

    • Leoghann says:

      I chalk much of that up to editorial neglect, bordering on malpractice. The focus these days seems to be on “make it live” right away, rather than any more than general accuracy.

  9. klynn says:

    Thank you for this post. You and Zoe amaze me and I am grateful beyond words for both your tireless efforts. I wish I could lend a research hand and be a part of a crowd sourced support but crowd sourcing would carry great risks with the seriousness of J6 cases and information. Just the process of trusting others to help could be overwhelming. And I have no idea how we begin to thank those working as Sedition Hunters. Probably the most amazing citizen/crowd sourcing effort I have ever witnessed.

    An item haunting me has been the discovery in recent court docs where you picked up “witness protection program,” notations.

    That knowledge has me concerned on multiple levels.

    Again, while so many are screaming “not enough done” after a year, I am actually amazed at the level of success despite the numbers. You say, “I know a whole lot about what is knowable about the January 6 investigation. But one thing I keep realizing is that it remains unknowable.”

    Despite a level of “unknowing” thank you for being a voice of clarity this past year with your heroic commitment to making sense of and tracking something larger than life. And, for pointing “connections” out that have clearly informed the judiciary as well as the committee.

  10. Rugger9 says:

    One wonders why Bill Barr hasn’t been invited to talk to the J6 Select Committee, given how he would have had his hands on all of the intel chatter leading up to the insurrection. I also do not recall invites for Senators Tuberville (DJT called for him specifically on J6, why?), Hawley, Cruz and RoJo.

    This adds to the “unknown” list for now, but needs to be dug out. Maybe Grisham knows something, and FWIW, Tuberville is probably idiotic enough (like Meadows and McCarthy) to say too much for DJT’s liking.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      per CNN Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tells CNN that during the attack on the Capitol, Trump was “gleefully” watching the riot from the White House dining room.

      She said he kept hitting rewind and saying, “Look at all those people fighting for me.”

      Asked about what questions the committee asked:
      “Planning things that were happening outside, conversations that were had broadly. Those were some of the things we talked about,” she said, adding that the committee also sought “any details I had with timelines and conversations that were happening, and intentions beforehand and during, what was going on.”
      Asked if she shared new information that committee did not know, Grisham replied, “There were a couple of things that they didn’t know. There were things that I was able to confirm. And I think there were things that I was able to kind of help put together like a puzzle.” She declined to go into further detail.

      The Daily Beast says Trump liked the riot so much, he watched it twice:

      There doesn’t seem to be much else published about her testimony yesterday, except that she “cooperated fully”

      • Rugger9 says:

        Well, much of this depends on whether Grisham is stand-alone credible, where independent confirmation of her testimony would not be necessary. I doubt that is the case, but would observe that she’d be a good source for where to dig. This particular “rewind” detail seems gratuitous by someone who really doesn’t like DJT, but it is certainly very plausible that DJT would act this way.

        She was also very clear that she was not done talking, so expect more to come. Given her priors as press secretary and her book, it would be unwise to use any information not confirmed independently.

    • Reader 21 says:

      It could be a mistake to assume this: Nicole Wallace yesterday asked Rep. Pete Aguilar [who sits on the J6 committee, IIRC] this very question, re interviewing Barr. He replied (perhaps not verbatim, but close to it), “I’m not going to comment publicly on whom we’ve talked to, or who we plan to talk to.” That he led with the past tense, struck me – on first listen anyway.

      Also, just as an FYI Jamie Raskin said they’ve already interviewed over 300 witnesses, or close to it – we hear about the recalcitrants, but many seem to have done their patriotic duty [agree it should have come earlier!].

      • Rugger9 says:

        You could be correct, but with as much as Barr has to answer for in related topics (i.e. Mueller Report misinformation, etc.) as well as his general demeanor I don’t think he’d go meekly and quietly to meet with the J6 Select Committee. However, I could be wrong.

  11. Pete T says:

    WRT to all other potentiall criminal conspiracy cases of which Jan 6 riot planning and execution is perhaps just a (big) piece, is there a “model” or framework of sorts that the DOJ uses to roll up criminal conspiracy cases for all of those that were involved in the higher level “master planning”?

    And, would that framework be similar to that used in the criminal conspiracy Mafia rollups of days past?

    And if that is true would understanding that past help provide a framework for better understanding that might be going on at DOJ now with respect to the big(ger) fish?

  12. WilliamOckham says:

    Random thoughts;

    Zoe Tillman is a national treasure.

    I think my personal Dunbar’s number is much smaller (maybe by a factor of 5). I once worked pretty closely for a couple of years with two people whose last name was Grentz and it never occurred to me that they might be related (they were husband and wife).

    I am seriously thinking about coming up with a 3-D force directed graph visualization for the insurrection. Something like this:


    (Imagine you can click on nodes to expand/contract the graph and you can see the graph build over time, etc.)

    • Rayne says:

      We definitely need a network map of some sort. I’ve been struggling with how to structure such a map and may simply be asking too much of one without enough data.

      NNDB comes close to the idea but we need the linkages between persons elevated/deprecated based on amount of two-way communication. The site has some profiles already created for nodes but yeesh, some of them

          • Rayne says:

            But that’s an interesting tidbit, isn’t it? The overlap between Stone-Trump-Rudy goes way, way back.

            They’re like an STD support group. ~shudder~

            I found Stone’s ancestry interesting, too, had no idea he was part Hungarian. Wonder what the network diagram looks like for Seb Gorka…

              • Joberly says:

                A neveket nem ismerem magyar
                (I did not know Stone and Pence were of Hungarian origin).
                But now I can’t stop thinking of them with their names translated back into Hungarian:
                Kő (pronounced „Kueh”) Roger
                Fillér Mihály (Mike Pence)
                –Joberly (holder of dual nationalities, US by birth and Hungarian by naturalization some years ago)

              • matt fischer says:

                As another American of Hungarian extraction, I humbly request that you don’t judge us too harshly for our association with that rogues’ gallery.


  13. harpie says:

    The J6 COMMITTEE is doing a [perfectly] timed twitter thread for the anniversary:

    8:08 AM · Jan 6, 2022

    On January 6th, 2021, our democracy was on the brink of catastrophe. The American people witnessed a violent attempt to overturn an election that came perilously close to succeeding.

    Today, we highlight some of the events that threatened the peaceful transfer of power. [THREAD]

  14. timbo says:

    Semi-OT? What ever happened to the bomber and the investigation into that? Garland seems to have skirted over that issue in his press conference… did anyone ask him about it at all?

    • Rayne says:

      It’s still under investigation; FBI still has a website up seeking information from the public.


      Last new info I saw was the video posted back in September:


      It was noted this past week that there was no security behind the Capitol Hill Club which is an independent adjunct of the RNC located next door.

      BUT THE BIGGER PROBLEM RIGHT NOW: Why are we only now learning VP-elect Harris was inside the DNC Building when the IED was found outside?


      • Molly Pitcher says:

        So, the Secret Service didn’t sweep the area before she went into the building ? If not why not ? It would be interesting to know who her security detail was, and if they are still with her.

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t even know where to start. We have even bigger problems now knowing this. Was there not only an attempt to kill Pence but the VP-Elect?

          I haven’t even thrown out here the possibility that conspirators were hoping the mob would be angry enough to wipe out the Democrats’ scant majority in the House and Senate.

          Is this why everything has been buttoned up so damned tightly at DOJ?

          • madwand says:

            This gives a little more info on the bombs.


            The description of the bombs ” authorities will discover a bomb made out of eight-inch galvanized steel pipe, an egg timer, and homemade black gunpowder.

            Both bombs presumably set in place the night before, neither exploded, possibly because the timer had been set up incorrectly or wires from the battery were misconnected.

            According to Lis Wiehl,

            Wiehl said. Because the Capitol Hill bomber wasn’t successful, they received much less attention than either the Unabomber or the anthrax attacker. But Wiehl wouldn’t be surprised if the pipe bomber tries again. “Usually in cases like this, they’re trying to send a message through killing people,” she said. “Because it wasn’t successful and they weren’t apprehended, you can bet they’re thinking about doing it again—and doing it better.”

                • cmarlowe says:

                  Depends on your definition of “fully functional.” I find this confusing and not very useful info. If they were really fully functional they would have gone off unless discovered before the timers ran out. If they were mis-wired (intentionally or due to lack of competence), or if the timers did not work right, then they might never have gone off. If so I don’t see how they can be called fully functional, maybe “almost fully functional”.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Oh, just reporting what was said at the time. Maybe “fully functional” was a mischaracterization or not. Perhaps I should have said “viable”, would that have been better?

                    • cmarlowe says:

                      Not being critical of you for sure. I have never been satisfied with how that aspect has been reported, but I would guess that if the authorities said too much it may compromise the investigation.

          • Molly Pitcher says:

            My question was based on the thought that it was deliberate that she was allowed in the building, that the location of the bomb was known and that those around her were a part of the plan.

            I think the smartest thing Pence ever did was to not get in the car with the Secret Service. I have been very concerned about who has been guarding both Biden and Harris, because I think there are people with compromised loyalties serving currently in all sorts of places in the government.

            • P J Evans says:

              We know, now, that some of the Secret Service were supporting the former guy. What we don’t know is how far they were willing to go with that support. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

      • timbo says:

        Well, that is indeed very interesting. And explains why Capitol and Metro PD went bonkers with sending folks down there on the day of possibly? Yeah, interesting how we’re just now learning about that is for sure an understatement! My guess then‚ given this new little neglected news story tidbitm is they ain’t talking much about that investigation because possibly it’s a national security operations directorate that is in charge of some or most of the current attempt to track down who planted those bombs… and who might have known that the VP elect was there/going to be there contemporaneous to those bombs…ah yes, “Excuse me, but did you know that the guy you talked with on the mall was attempting to kill the VP elect?” is not something made easier by having tons of reporters following one around…

      • harpie says:

        Here’s a CapitolHunters thread:

        9:32 PM · Jan 6, 2022

        [THREAD] […] The FBI is quite definite now that both items were bombs (see link). So do the discrepancies even matter? Yes, because they are too big to be a mistake or slip. And Sund was quite definite. Either Politico is wrong, or Sund is. And that matters. 6/

        Deceptions always matter. Did someone deceive Politico? Or was it Sund? The day before the article, Sund posted a Tweet: “There have been so many lies told about Jan 6, 2021. Incredible misinformation fed to a divided nation.” Sure sounds like something is up. 7/ [THREAD]

        • Rayne says:

          Thanks, harpie. Retweeting that thread into my timeline so I can recall it when I need it.

          The more I think about this situation, the less surprised I am that the DOJ has been silent about their investigation(s). This is some serious shit — the kind of thing adversaries foreign and domestic alike would glom onto if they could.

          One detail which may make a difference is that one of the bombs has been characterized as behind the RNC when some reports indicate it was behind the Capitol Hill Club. They may be adjacent facilities and the club has a financial relationship to the RNC, but security could be different behind one over the other.

    • skua says:

      I’m remembering the person who placed the bombs repeatedly stopping and waiting in the videos.
      The bombs, if not set to explode, apparently did a good job of weakening security at the Capitol by diverting forces.
      Why manual timers rather than remote-controllable?
      Altering the state of the bombs after placement would seem to invite capture/unlikely to succeed.
      Was the bombplacer waiting for instructions on whether to set the timers, and when for?
      If so, who from? If so, why was set/time not pre-decided?
      Would bomb explosions have triggered quick and successful LEO response to an attempted over-running of the Capitol? Or facilitated 45 declaring martial law?
      Why manual timers rather than remote-controllable?
      The bombplacer seemed to have shoulders more lightly built than suggested by their hips, though with no obvious bulge in profile views of their chest.

      • Rayne says:

        Yeah, that kind of raised my eyebrows. At least one “pipe explosive”? But this bothers me just as much:

        In affidavits, the arresting detective, under the “aggravating/mitigating” section of the report, notes “Antifa” and requests a high bail. In one of the reports, the detective wrote “Antifa/Anti gov/Extrem.” However, Gualtieri said it was too early to say with which group Smith may be affiliated. The Sheriff’s Office found no prior intelligence on him and is cooperating with the FBI on the investigation.

        Did the detective assume because this alleged perp was dressed in black that he was Antifa? Reeks of bias.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Yeah, it definitely seemed biased to me. It’s also interesting that his birthday is 1/6. But it’s good to know about this, nevertheless.

  15. Bay State Librul says:

    Waiting for Godot?
    In the play, he never showed.
    January 6th was our Republic’s gateway.
    We passed from light to darkness, from the sacred to the profane.
    I hope Garland delivers.
    Bobby Kennedy snatched mobsters “Tony Ducks” and .”Blinky” Palermo.
    May Garland do the same for our mobsters.
    As my mom used to tell me — Live in hope and die in despair (she was Irish)

  16. Ed Walker says:

    The context for all the demands for action is this: all of our institutions seem to be failing. Congress hamstrings itself with bullshit like the filibuster, and individual senators think their opinions are more valuable than anyone else’s. One worthless senator whose interests are aligned with the big money can stop any action. Courts sanction delay and let lawyers make bad faith arguments with no sanctions. SCOTUS knows no restraints on the power of the zealots to remake society.

    Biden doesn’t use his executive powers. Every effort by a rule-making agency is stymied by lawyers getting paid fortunes to crush or delay delay delay. Half or more of the Churches support rising authoritarianism. Crazy people are infecting the rest of us with diseases and stupidity. Cities can’t figure out how to do the basics, like make schools safe with decent HVAC. Guns are everywhere. School boards are inundated with screamers. States and cities are strangled by high debt and pension loads. Rich people aren’t held accountable for heinous crimes like the opioid crisis. People are dying from all this, and deaths of despair are rising and the medical system is shredding.

    It just doesn’t seem good enough to be told everything is going as it should.

    • DrFunguy says:

      …but aside from that, pretty good year amirite?
      Seriously I’m with you, and it extends to the biophysical world we inhabit. Here on Vancouver Island we had record heat last summer and record cold last week (partly due to the short length of the record, of course). As a field biologist I’ve been witness to devastation my whole life. Its hard to keep my usual sunny upbeat disposition, yet there I was most of today, on a ladder, clearing snow from my greenhouse roof. Keeping it ready for the coming season.
      A recently observed meme:
      What are you expecting in 2022, do expect a lot of bad stuff?
      I expect flowers.
      Flowers? Why flowers?
      I planted flowers!

    • earthworm says:

      “It just doesn’t seem good enough to be told everything is going as it should.”

      Especially in a society raised up on, and still under the influence of, the legends: the G men always get their man, and John Wayne.

      Dr emptywheel rightly cites TV lawyers.

      • bmaz says:

        No, of course not. It is SO MUCH easier to simply bitch and moan on the internet, isn’t it? I just love people that constantly scream about due process and the rule of law, and then get so worked up that they think it all ought be abrogated to satisfy their ill informed bloodlust for instant gratification. What a joke.

  17. Ed Walker says:

    For a more sanguine view than mine, here’s the excellent Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer. https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/house-january-6-committee-echoes-of-watergate-20220106.html

    I think we’re already seeing the fruits of the House Jan. 6 Committee and the way it is changing the political narrative. Is it really a coincidence that just hours after the committee released Hannity’s texts about Trump and his state of mind, the ex-president canceled his gob-smacking plan for a Jan. 6 news conference at Mar-a-Lago? Would Biden have delivered such a fiery speech to mark the one-year anniversary, with its forceful condemnation of the Big Lie promulgated by Trump, without some confidence that the House probers will be able to make the case that a former president’s actions that day were criminal?

    • timbo says:

      As pointed out above, there seems to have been little public info on the state of the investigation into finding the mall bomber from that day. Not sure why that is but let’s just say that if any info does come to light on that investigation, it’ll be very interesting to say the least to know exactly who was involved and who knew those who were involved even in passing…

        • Reader 21 says:

          Certainly not Garland’s DOJ, in any case it would seem – but defense lawyers don’t seem to be leaking either, does that surprise you at all? I mean, Turley is blabbing of course, but I’d put him firmly in the partisan hack category, as opposed to a legitimate criminal defense lawyer, defending clients whose liberty is on the line.

          • bmaz says:

            Yes and no. As Marcy pointed out, the loopy defense lawyers are chatting, but they are loopy. As to the decent lawyers, no, not surprised at all.

      • madwand says:

        Perhaps a good thing they didn’t detonate, as perhaps that would have been the signal to declare martial law and quell the quote “insurrection” and then who knows what would have ensued.

        • Dutch Louis says:

          I agree in thinking that the explosion of the pipebombs were meant to play a central role in the planned events on Jan. 6 2021. The updated documentary Frontline: American Insurrection (link see Jenny’s comment January 5, 2022, 10:45 am) has some clear examples of the ideas about and the use of (pipe)bombs by violent rightwing groups. Without doubt all traces possible around this subject will be followed in the investigation. And of course success in this matter depends on silence.

    • Badger Robert says:

      The committee has made some progress. But a significant change would be the Republican Senators deciding to rid themselves of the dead weight of Trump. They could bar him from office under the 14th Amendment. He’d run any way, but it would justify a third party challenger.

      • Marinela says:

        Republicans are not going to denounce Trump, if they didn’t do it by now.
        It’s a math problem. Trump and GOP are competing for the same 30% racist base. Base support for GOP comes with a pesky demand, GOP needs to stay in sync with Trump.
        Trump found a home under GOP party because they are either impressionable or racists.
        To win elections, Trump can squeeze by with just 46%, courtesy of the electoral college, like he did in 2016, as long as the other side (democrats, independents) votes are depressed.
        The 30% are going to show up to vote for Trump, or a Trump like candidate.
        Every four years election, essentially becomes existential threat election. It is just a matter of time until a Trump like candidate wins.
        Until some changes are happening first, maybe GOP splits, a new party gets created. Either way democrats need new leadership. Let some of the young talent shine.

    • Honeybee says:

      Echoes of Watergate, yes. What about echoes of the other overreach of an Imperial Presidency? I am suggesting, not Schlesinger’s historical version of that but what Charlie Savage had to say in “Takeover” about the (bush) Cheney presidency – ironic that Cheney has shown up to support his daughter when the later, trickier Dick left a pumped-up executive branch on steroids lying around like a loaded AR 15 for someone else to pick up and threaten our democracy with? Just wondering … does anyone else think about this more contemporary version?

        • Honeybee says:

          Sorry to be obtuse. Point: even if, as you say, some statutes of limitation have run, the Bush-Cheney Administration’s executive overreach set the stage for Trump’s power grab as surely as the Nixon Era foreshadows this moment. That part is not unknowable.

  18. cmarlowe says:

    Looking for a learned opinion – do the activities recently publicly revealed by Peter Navarro amount to a potential case of corrupt obstruction, at least against him?

  19. greenbird says:

    some drag knowables through cement walls in canoes harnessed to donkeys. and it IS hard.
    this paper about Parler’s dataset being examined is something to be strongly considered.
    i’m posting this way so all the links i used are in one place, for anyone interested, too.
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/2101.03820.pdf = link to the 9-pg abstract paper — followed by source tweets
    When researchers released a dataset of 183 million Parler 1.0 posts- before the site was booted off its hosting service and app stores- the files came with a warning: “content might be toxic, racist and hateful and can be overall disturbing.”
    Parler, the social media app that was temporarily booted from app stores in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, has raised $20 million in new funding
    Conservative social media app Parler raises $20 million
    New directors include Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon.

  20. Susan Harman says:

    For the record, and going waaaay back into these posts, Code Pink and others picketed torturer John Yoo’s house in the Berkeley hills and his classes for years, and are even today working on meeting with the Dean of the UCB Law School to demand his firing. I personally sat in Jay Bybee’s 9th Circuit courtroom for years, wherever on the West Coast he was sitting, and called him out – loudly. And I demand Feinstein (my Senator) publish the full torture report every time I call her (frequently). Of course, none of this has sent any of them to prison. Yet.

    • graham firchlis says:

      For the record, John Yoo isn’t likely going anywhere. He was tenured before the torture memos, and after much rancorous private and public debate the faculty senate decided, grudgingly, that preserving tenure from even the appearance of political bias was more important than sacking Yoo.

      But he is roundly shunned to this day, no faculty teas for him. His classes were severely compromised by protesters and students who signed up to harass him, so much so that his teaching was suspended for a while and when resumed the locations were not publically disclosed.

      He has two 2nd year constitutional law classes this semester starting Jan 10, both undersubscribed. Hard to know what penetrates Yoo, but Berkeley cannot be comfortable. He has no better – more prestigious – offer so here he squats, the crazy uncle no one wants to sit by.

      He is in an academic prison of his own making, his psychosocial debasement its own form of torture.

      • timbo says:

        Hmm… not quite adequate where justice is concerned. Think of all the folks tortured/”rendered” thanks to Yoo’s war criminal mindset? He basically should be more than just shunned. My guess is he’s smirking away at his undisclosed location classes. Ugh.

        • bmaz says:

          I talked to the Dean of Berkeley Law at the time, Chris Edley, when the full nature of Yoo’s OLC opinions became known. I did not previously know him, nor him me, but he engaged in a back and forth email conversation, and subsequently a phone call with me. Probably because a mutual friend hooked us up, but still he did not have to right then as he was in the middle of a firestorm. There was a LOT of pressure to terminate Yoo, involving letters from all over, daily protests, including by students in class.

          Don’t remember a lot of it at this point, but he, and by my recollection after consultation with some senior faculty advisor types, decided they would not can Yoo. He very much understood the situation, but that was it and he was not moving on it. That was like three computers ago, so I don’t have it saved anymore. And so Yoo is still there except for having a year or two of visiting residence at other law schools in the meantime, at least one of which was at Chapman Law, notably the former home of John Eastman.

          I do actually know the current Dean at Berkeley, Erwin Chemerinsky, a bit and there is no way he is going to change the original decision by a predecessor. So, sadly, Yoo’s location is very much disclosed and he is going nowhere.

  21. GKJames says:

    One curious element — knowable? unknowable? material? immaterial? — is the absence of reference to Kash Patel in the DOD IG’s report on the January 6 riot and the decision-making around the mobilization of the National Guard.

  22. KJAM says:

    May not a big difference but wondering your thoughts on Lawfare’s related piece (by Roger Parloff). He actually thinks Proud Boys are a bigger factor than Meggs/Oath Keepers re: 1/6. https://www.lawfareblog.com/conspirators-proud-boys-and-oath-keepers-jan-6

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name; your previous comments have been as “K-JAM”; the difference might be just a typo but the system sees it as a different identity. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  23. Tom R. says:

    Speaking of unknowns: The usual rule of thumb is “one conspiracy, one trial”, so one wonders why Stewart Rhodes has not yet been charged. I’ve considered about a dozen hypotheses, none of which make much sense. For example, I suppose he *could* be cooperating, but that would be wildly out of character. There’s a ton of evidence in the public record already, plus presumably additional tons we haven’t yet seen.

    At what point does it become too late to fold him into the existing Oath Keepers indictment?

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