The Structure of the January 6 Assault: “I will settle with seeing [normies] smash some pigs to dust”

Before 8AM on the morning of the insurrection, the Proud Boys had this discussion on their organizing Telegram thread.

UCC-1: I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today

Person-2: Would be epic

UCC-1: The state is the enemy of the people

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

Person-3: God let it happen . . . I will settle with seeing them smash some pigs to dust

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

Person-3 It’s going to happen. These normiecons have no adrenaline control . . . They are like a pack of wild dogs

UCC-1 has been reported to be Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, who cheered on the insurrection from Philadelphia and interacted with Zach Rehl and other Philly Proud Boys throughout the day. Persons 2 and 3 have not yet been publicly identified.

This discussion and others reveal a key part of the Proud Boy plan for January 6: to incite others — “normies” — to commit violence. And while a number of Proud Boys or close associates engaged in what I’ve called “tactical” violence that day, the vast majority of (and the worst) violence was done by others, mostly by people with either no known or just networking ties to militia groups (such as through anti-mask activism). The Proud Boys weren’t the only militia-linked people attempting to encourage others to engage in violence; it’s a key part of the anti-mask/3% conspiracy, for example. But a stated goal of at least some of the militia members who implemented the assault on the Capitol was to stoke others to engage in violence.

This detail is critical to understanding what DOJ has accomplished so far and where they might be headed. Many of those screeching that DOJ is not doing enough to investigate January 6 — like Elie Honig complaining that DOJ has arrested 700 indistinguishable “rioters” or Hussein Ibish claiming that “many foot soldiers” have “received mainly light prison sentences” but no “planners … have been held to account in any meaningful way” — seem not to understand it.

So I’d like to talk about what we know about the structure of the attack on the Capitol and how it related to things Trump and his minions were doing. Before I attempt to do that, let me rebut a straw man Honig and others have used in an attempt to ignore the facts I present. I share their alarm about the urgent need to respond to January 6 and Trump’s unlawfulness. I am not guaranteeing that Trump will be held accountable.

Where we differ is that I have read the public record on the investigation (and on other investigations that Honig, at least, has denied exist, like the investigation into Sidney Powell’s grifting).

It is not the case that all 700 people who have been arrested were mere “rioters,” — and calling some of these people rioters adopts the preferred label of those championing the coup. And unless you consider mere rioters “foot soldiers,” then very few witting foot soldiers have yet been sentenced. While it is true that no planners have been sentenced, it is also the case that DOJ has arrested some key ones, a small number of whom have been jailed since their arrest, and a great deal of DOJ’s overt investigative focus lies in arresting those who can illuminate how the organizers worked and how they coordinated with others.

Before I lay this out, keep in mind the three main theories of liability for Trump for January 6 (as opposed to his call to Brad Raffensperger, though as I’ve noted, the call to Raffensperger goes a long way to showing Trump’s corrupt mens rea on January 6). At first, people argued that Trump incited the mob. There were problems with that claim, which Trump’s defense lawyers successfully exploited during his second impeachment trial, most notably that the Proud Boys had already kicked off the assault on the Capitol before the former President finished speaking. Still, to prove he incited a riot, you’d need to prove that the people who rioted did so in response to his speech at the Ellipse. Then, after Liz Cheney raised it, TV lawyers discovered what I’ve been pointing out for months. Trump’s actions (and inaction) fit squarely within the application of obstruction of the vote count that DOJ applied from the start. Finally, last week, Congress watchers discovered that Trump might actually have entered a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count, “involv[ing] coordination between the ‘political elements’ of the White House plan communicated to Republican lawmakers and extremist groups that stormed the Capitol” — again, consistent with what I’ve laid out for months. That, though, would require mapping out how the various parties entered into agreements and how they communicated and coordinated (with conspiracy members as well as Congress and the mobsters). That’s why I keep pointing to the structure of the existing conspiracy charges: because what Trump did exactly mirrors the overt acts already charged, from getting bodies to DC, ensuring they get to the Capitol, and encouraging means to overtake it.

It’s all one networked conspiracy. Indeed, the judge presiding over the Oath Keeper conspiracy case, Amit Mehta, observed in the Trump lawsuit hearing the other day that there was evidence that militia conspired with the Proud Boys.

Which, if DOJ could ever prove that those Trump entered into an agreement with, like Alex Jones, also entered into an agreement with Alex Jones’ former employee Joe Biggs, it would network Trump right into the conspiracies that rolled out at the Capitol, potentially putting him on the hook for the things those at the Capitol did, including damaging the building (which brings the terrorism enhancement), potentially some tactical assaults, and (if it gets charged), possibly even Kelly Meggs’ effort to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

That may not be your preferred model of to hold Trump accountable, but I’m fairly certain that’s how DOJ would do so, in addition to whatever liability for him arises out of investigations into people like Sidney Powell or Rudy Giuliani.

What the evidence thus far shows is that Trump brought huge numbers of people to DC and convinced them that, to defend their country, they needed to march to the Capitol and pressure Congress, via one of a number of means, to not certify the election. Alex Jones and Ali Alexander then delivered these bodies to the Capitol, and once there, to a second breach on the East side. The Proud Boys, seemingly anticipating that this influx of “normies,” kicked off and carefully focused the riot just in time to create a real threat to Congress (and Mike Pence) just as they started to certify the vote count. (This Sedition Hunter timeline makes a compelling argument, one consistent with Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, that the Proud Boys paused their assault to wait for the mobs Alex Jones was bringing.)

The plan required six types of participants to make it work:

  • People (Trump, Rudy, and Mo Brooks) to rile up large numbers of normies
  • Someone (Alex Jones) to guide the normies to the Capitol, probably while communicating with the Proud Boys as they kicked off the riot
  • People at the Capitol (Proud Boys and associates) to tactically deploy the normies as a weapon, both to occupy the Capitol and to create a very real risk to the members of Congress
  • Members of Congress (Paul Gosar and others) willing to create conflict that could be exploited in any of a number of ways
  • Masses and masses of people who, starting even before the election, had been led to believe false claims that their country was under threat; those masses did two things:
    • Enter the Capitol, with a varied level of vocal enthusiasm for the mayhem occurring, and make it far more difficult for cops to put down the assault
    • “Smash some pigs to dust”

Had any of a number of things gone differently — had Ashli Babbitt not been shot and had the amped up Zach Alam chased just behind her through the Speaker’s Lobby door before members of Congress escaped; had Officer Eugene Goodman not done several things to prevent both Mitt Romney and Mike Pence from running into the mob; had counter-protestors come out in large numbers to create the excuse for street skirmishes made lethal by arsenals of weapons stashed nearby; had DOD delayed deployment of the Guard even further, allowing a planned second assault to take place — the coup might well have succeeded.

With that has background, let’s turn to the DOJ investigation thus far. Politico has done the best public accounting of sentences here (though I treat Zoe Tillman’s numbers, along with GWU’s, as canonical). As Politico shows, the vast majority of those who’ve been sentenced — and almost as significant a majority of those who’ve pled guilty so far — are trespassers.

The vast majority of people sentenced so far were MAGA tourists, lured to the Capitol by Trump’s speech and the momentum of the crowd. While a sizable number knew of plans to obstruct the vote certification in advance (and a significant number of people were permitted to plead down from obstruction), a bunch of them really did arrive for the speech and stay for the riot.

One example of that is Anthony Scirica, who followed the crowd to the Capitol and decided to enter the Capitol even though he heard a window breaking and alarms going off.

After listening to the speeches at the rally, SCIRICA, along with a group of individuals, walked to the U.S. Capitol from the West. 10. As SCIRICA approached the Capitol, he saw people on the steps and on the scaffolding outside of the Capitol. SCIRICA saw a large crowd in front of him, and he decided to push his way to the front to see what was happening. He watched as other individuals entered the Capitol. He decided that he want to see it for himself and see what was happening with his own eyes. He heard people yelling and shouting “U.S.A.” chants and “Stop the Steal.” He heard what he believed to be a window breaking. He also heard an alarm going off inside the Capitol. He decided to enter the Capitol any way.

Eliel Rosa went to DC as much for the anti-certification rallies as the Trump speech.

Eliel Rosa and Jenny Cudd traveled from Texas to Washington, D.C. to participate in “Stop the Steal” rallies or protests and to connect with other “Patriots.” Mr. Rosa and Ms. Cudd understood that on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. at the United States Capitol, elected members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate were meeting to certify the vote count of the Electoral College of the 2020 Presidential Election, which had taken place on November 3, 2020.

But even still, he attributed his trespassing to being swept up in “mob rule.”

Rosa blamed himself for his unauthorized entry into the U.S. Capitol and stated that he was caught up in “mob rule” at the time.

Kevin Blakely, who traveled to DC with friends, made new friends while waiting for Trump’s speech to start and then joined in to experience history (a common theme among some defendants).

The defendant and three others stood in the Ellipse for more than four hours before the rally started and met with other attendees. After President Trump’s speech, the defendant joined others as they began to walk toward the U.S. Capitol Building. [Blakely] made a detour and returned to the Hyatt Regency, where he was staying during his visit to Washington, D.C. From his hotel room, the defendant watched the crowd as they gathered outside the Capitol Building nad sometime between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m., [Blakely] decided to “get closer and more fully experience this ‘once in a lifetime’ event.”

Even those who did go to the Capitol from Trump’s speech knew, from communications including Trump’s, that it would be a mob. Here’s what Blakely’s friend Paul Conover, who just recently pled guilty, said he was doing.

Prior to January 6, on or about December 24, 2020, defendant posted a message on social media that states in sum and substance: GOING TO WASHINGTON DC WITH BLAKEY [SIC] TO JOIN THE MOB JAN 5TH CMON JOIN US.

Conover appears to be one of the misdemeanants whose arrest DOJ prioritized because they took videos in key locations. After he busted through the East doors closely behind the Oath Keepers and Joe Biggs, Conover narrated as he took a video panning the Rotunda:

This is it, boys and girls. This is the Capitol. Apparently, there’s some crazy shit going on in the Senate today and the certification. They’ve had enough. Well, uh, here we are! Ha ha ha! I pray to god that nobody does any damage to the stuff in here, ’cause I’m not down with that. But I’m kind of, kind of proud of the people that stood up and said you know what? Enough.

The statement of offense for Stacie Getsinger, who described on Facebook going to the East steps because Alex Jones told a crowd that Trump would speak, offered few details, describing only that she “walked to onto U.S. Capitol grounds and up the stairs of the U.S. Capitol with others, including her husband John Getsinger. Once Getsinger got to the outside of the Rotunda North doors, she observed others engaged with law enforcement who tried to stop individuals from entering the U.S. Capitol building.”

Adam Johnson described how he went from hearing Mo Brooks call for violence to running towards the Capitol.

At the rally, JOHNSON listened to several speeches, including by former President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and an unknown older member of Congress–the latter whom JOHNSON heard stating that it was time for action and violence. In response to these comments, JOHNSON saw members of the crowd nodding their heads in agreement.

Following these speeches, JOHNSON and. Person 1 began marching to the Capitol with the crowd. While marching, JOHNSON heard someone say “Pence didn’t do it.” JOHNSON also saw police running towards the Capitol and heard members of the crowd shout,”they broke into the Capitol!” JOHNSON and Person 1 started running towards the Capitol as well.

Others who came over from the Ellipse more explicitly discussed intimidating Congress. For example, here’s how Michael Stepakoff (who will be sentenced in coming days) narrated his approach to the Capitol.

So we’re marching up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol building. The Senate and House of Representatives are in session . . . There’s nothing like the presence of at least a million Americans who are fed up and pissed off and are not going to stand for having our vote stolen because it’s the sacred right of our people to be able to vote for our president . . . so a million strong, at least a million standing outside the Capitol, storming the gates, so to speak, is going to make them think twice about what they are going to do today . . . God bless America.

While some people cheered the violence and a few got away with violence DOJ only discovered after their plea, the majority of the almost 200 people who’ve pled guilty so far did not engage in violence. With a few exceptions, below, these people weren’t wittingly part of the more organized plans to storm the Capitol. They were the bodies turned into an orchestrated mob, in part by Trump’s tweets and other social media advertising, and in part by those channeling the mob at the Capitol.

If you want to prove Trump incited the riot, you would need to collect these individual stories to prove it. That’s not the only reason DOJ has prosecuted these people, but it does provide evidence showing how people responded to Trump’s calls after he riled them up.

Some of the movement operatives wandered to the Capitol too

Among those who’ve been permitted to plead to misdemeanors, even some that I’d call “movement operatives,” wandered to the Capitol.

For example, right wing podcaster William Tryon, plausibly described following the crowd to the Capitol after Trump’s speech. Frank Scavo, a local PA politician who arranged busses for 200 people to travel to DC, tied his decision to walk to the Capitol to Pence’s decision to certify the vote; he’s one of the defendants sentenced to a longer sentence than the government requested.

There are a few exceptions. America Firster, Leonard Ridge, unsurprisingly seemed to know there’d be an attempt to shut down the vote count ahead of time, telling a friend, “I think we are going to try to block the session of congress” (he was one of the people permitted to plead down from obstruction to the more serious trespassing charge).

Two cases defy explanation. Micajah Jackson, a Proud Boy who denied a pre-January 6 affiliation and continued to attend Proud Boy events during pretrial release, mentioned nothing about that in his statement of offense. We might find out more about this in February, when Jackson is due to be sentenced.

The statement of offense for Brandon Straka, who is perhaps the senior-most inciter-organizer to plead guilty thus far, describes only that Straka took the metro directly to the Capitol, where he was scheduled to speak: “Knowing that Congress was in session to certify the election results at the U.S. Capitol and that Vice President Pence intended to certify the election, Straka got off the metro on January 6, 2021 sometime between 2 p.m. and 2:20 p.m.”

It’s not clear how these men were given misdemeanor pleas, when they were clearly part of an organized attempt to prevent the transfer of power. There’s no sign either man cooperated before entering their pleas, though Straka’s sentencing has been held up because, “the defendant provided counsel for the government with information that may impact the government’s sentencing recommendation.” If the current schedule holds, Straka’s sentencing memos will come in tomorrow and he’ll be sentenced next week.

That said, movement operatives like Jackson and Straka are, thus far, the minority among those moving towards sentencing. Most were part of a self-described mob.

About half the felony pleas charged people who wandered to the Capitol

Even two of the three people who’ve pled guilty to assault thus far showed up without any pre-conceived plan to attack the Capitol. Devlyn Thompson, in an unsuccessful bid to use his autism diagnosis to get lenient treatment, described that he went to the Capitol because believed Trump would give another speech, a lie that motivated a good number of mobsters.

When I was leaving, my intention was to listen to another speech at the capitol. I had gotten text messages. I got a text that there was a planned speech. There was supposed to be two speeches at the capitol. One from an Arizona legislator and one from Women for Trump. I thought Alex Jones would be there and Trump.

After getting riled up by clashes between cops and rioters in the earlier part of the assault, Thompson joined in the Tunnel assault, eventually using a baton to hit one of the officers trying to help John Anderson respond to respiratory distress.

Robert Palmer similarly described being lured to the Capitol by a false belief in Trump’s claims.

In Mr. Palmer’s warped mind, on the day in question, he was acting as a patriot and for the good of the nation. While his intent was misplaced and his actions inexcusable, he sincerely believed that he was acting as a patriot on the day in question. Unfortunately, that mindset, coupled with the crowd mob effect, saw an otherwise law-abiding and successful father and business owner assault Capitol police.

Palmer was at the Capitol for hours, cheering the violence, before he got sucked in and participated in it by throwing a series of things at cops.

Just Scott Fairlamb, who was sentenced for punching a cop, clearly knew shit was going to go down in advance. He RTed a Steve Bannon prediction that “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” and asked, “How far are you willing to go to defend our Constitution?” Those statements are one of the reasons why Fairlamb, uniquely thus far, pled to both obstruction and assault and, if not for some mitigating circumstances that came out at sentencing, might have faced a terrorism enhancement.

There are two straight obstruction defendants sentenced so far, Paul Hodgkins and Jacob Chansley. Like many of the trespassers, Hodgkins simply followed the crowd after Trump’s speech (he was charged with a felony because he made it to the Senate floor).

Just Chansley, then, turned a central role in the right wing movement — importantly, as a celebrity in QAnon — into a key role obstructing the vote count and threatening Pence. There’s far more to say about the success QAnon had in mobilizing bodies to where they could be the most useful (and the Podcast Finding Q revealed that FBI was investigating that in the weeks after the attack). But the operational model by which people like Chansley got to the Senate floor is different than for other MAGA tourists who were turned onsite.

There are more known cooperators than straight felony pleas

To a great degree, this entire exercise is misleading, which is why pat comments from people trying to dismiss the investigation are so misleading. There are a number of reasons the stats skew where they are now: Obviously, people will plead to a misdemeanor more quickly than a felony. Virtually all of those charged with obstruction have been waiting for judges to rule on challenges to that application, and as those people move towards pleading out (as they have started to do), it still will take some weeks to finalize pleas. One reason for that hold-up: DOJ is only now making the final bits of global discovery available, without which many attorneys, for due diligence reasons, will not advise taking a plea.

A more important reason claims about who has been sentenced are misleading is that there have been more felony cooperators than straight felony pleas thus far. With two people convicted for making threats, there have been seven people who pled to a felony sentenced. There are nine overt cooperators (and presumably more we don’t know about). And while two cooperators — Josiah Colt and Gina Bisignano — are cooperating against their own limited network of more serious defendants, cooperation deals like Colt’s structured under 18 USC 371 networks into any larger conspiracy, potentially putting conspirators on the hook for the assaults of his co-conspirators. The other cooperating witnesses, though, have provided information about how the planners who’ve been in custody for most of a year — Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson for the Oath Keepers, Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean for the Proud Boys — and those who have not yet been arrested orchestrated the attack.

This was a fairly flat conspiracy, with Proud Boys on the scene implementing orders from Proud Boy leaders who are, themselves, just one degree from Donald Trump through people like Alex Jones and Roger Stone. In addition to the 17 plus four Oath Keepers charged in a conspiracy, there are several more Oath Keepers being prosecuted. In addition to the 16 Proud Boys plus one cooperator charged with conspiracy, there are a slew more arrested individually and in co-traveler groups (some of whom are at risk of being added to conspiracy charges once they’re formally charged) who can offer information about the funding for all this, what Proud Boy leaders were saying during the riot, and some key tactical organization. Some of the 3%ers charged so far networked with key right wing funders, January 5 speakers, and even Ted Cruz.

So yes, 700 people have been arrested so far, and half of those are normies whose non-violent presence was operationalized in a well-planned assault on the Capitol. Many of the 150 assault defendants were “normiecons [who] have no adrenaline control.” But 200 of the arrestees are accused of more witting participation in a plan to prevent the peaceful transfer of power and of those 100 have networked insight into how that worked. Those people haven’t been sentenced yet because discovery and legal challenges have delayed most from accepting plea offers.

The most chilling passage in any statement of offense, in my opinion, is Matthew Greene’s description of realizing — from his service in Afghanistan — the moment the mob turned into an insurrection.

Greene noticed that during and following the chanting, the mood in the crowd changed, and it reminded him of his time in Afghanistan while stationed there with the U.S. Army, when protests changed from peaceful to violent.

In the days and weeks after he recognized Americans turning insurgent in their own country, Greene returned home and started assembling a (seemingly illegal) arsenal and preparing for war.

He told another acquaintance in the days following the riot to be prepared to do uncomfortable things. He ordered over 2,000 rounds of assault-rifle ammunition and a gas mask. And he engaged in conversations with other Proud Boys on encrypted messaging platforms in which he stated a continuing desire to “take back our country” – in Greene’s own words, written in chat platforms post-January 6, “this is a 4th generation” war, and “we must stand together now or end up in the gulag separately.”

The effort to spark an insurrection at the Capitol was not one implemented by “foot solders,” but some highly trained veterans who were onsite, including an alarming number of Marines in most key tactical locations. And the network of people who stoked the normies to serve as useful bodies to this effort ties, via just one or two steps, right to Trump.

That’s the conspiracy DOJ has been investigating for a year.

Update: Took out detail that Straka was not at Ellipse. The key detail is he claims he took the Metro, didn’t walk.

100 replies
  1. Badger Robert says:

    Too many elements were left random. The planners had no experience in coups. They probably needed a few stochastic soldiers willing to die for the cause, which I think is an obvious observation.
    Something made them put aside their firearms, and somehow the antifa element, which was most likely going to be performative, never materialized.
    Thanks for publishing this, Ms. Wheeler.
    The TV lawyers will catch up at some point. But they have to spin the story out for months.

    • Theodora30 says:

      The Oath Keepers had weapons stashed at the Comfort Inn, ready to be brought in if needed. The head guy, Stewart Rhodes, was an army paratrooper and a Yale Law School grad but he doesn’t seem too bright if he thought that plan made sense.

    • timbo says:

      The fact is that they didn’t have enough conspirators nor enough backing to deal with a fully armed metro and DC police presence. Not this time anyways. Sadly, it looks like if there had been A-Team planning the breaching of the Capitol that, at a very minimum, the Congressional counting and certification of the 2020 Presidential election would have been delayed longer than it was, possibly substantially longer if they’d managed to get hostages. It really was shocking how ill-prepared the Capitol police and metro were prepared to deal with the Jan 6 rioters. But heartening that there was so little loss of life in DC that day, given the bombs that didn’t explode and the temptation to use more force on both sides of the police line no doubt.

  2. notjonathon says:

    For the sake of the nation, I hope that DOJ both can and will follow the investigation to encompass those who planned and incited this insurrection.
    I do personally know one Member of Congress (I was a classmate of her mother from grade school through high school), and through her mother I learned something of the fear most Members felt that day. How the Representatives from the Republican side can now be so indifferent to the revolt does not bode well for the future of the Republic.
    It’s also disheartening to think that DOJ needs to operate in a way that will prevent this notoriously right-wing Supreme Court from undoing all its work.

    • emptywheel says:

      Those doubting that DOJ would really really have no fucking idea what they’re talking about. These statements of offense are done in close conjunction with DOJ. There’s no way you’d see the emphasis you do if Trump’s role weren’t everywhere in this. Plus the judges are pretty fed up he isn’t more so.

      As to Republicans, I really think people forget how much fear and formal compromise goes on here. Take McCarthy. He cooperated in discussions about stripping Trump of power. In response, Trump threatened his leadership role and then brought him to Mar-A-Lago and reversed that model. Now, McCarthy has no way out without exposing himself to criminal charges.

      • Al Ostello says:

        100% Correct. And daily I remind myself that it took 2 long years of careful investigations (not made public for 2 years) before dozens of Nixon’s aides were indicted after the Watergate break-in. Many additional months for them to be jailed. And, FROM DOJ WEBSITE: “In general, the Department of Justice does not publicly announce investigations or investigative findings. There are several reasons for this policy. Announcing an investigation of some civil or criminal violations could make it more difficult to obtain witness cooperation or gather evidence.”

        • timbo says:

          No. This is not true. There were plenty of administrative aids and CREEP players, etc, indicted or convicted prior to the two year mark in Watergate.


          And the publicity surrounding all this was well in the public’s mind even before that happened. This is because Congress gave limited immunity deals to some of the participants…although there was so much lying going on that that didn’t stop many of the people who got them from later being indicted later for all sorts of things.

      • Duke says:

        Thank you!

        Your knowledge and skills in presenting the story of legal work taking place has repeatedly provided comfort when my cognitive dissonance becomes too heavy for me. Between the pandemic reality and organized misinformation and disinformation, Emptywheel is an oasis for rationality in a desert of fear.

        • MissingGeorgeCarlin says:

          I too want to thank Dr. Wheeler and everybody here for this work and conversation.

          I went to Spanish River H.S. with Kellie Meggs. We may have been at Boca Middle together as well. I didn’t know him very well.

          I do recall he was part of the band and the “popped collar” (Look! I’m cool!) crowd. I got the impression back in 1985-87 he was quite in love w/himself.

      • Theodora30 says:

        Rachel Maddow had an interview this week with a woman who runs a Democratic office in Texas that was attacked. She was upset that the Feds are not asking for a higher sentence for the man who set fire to a Dem office with a Molotov cocktail and said if that wasn’t an act of terrorism, what is?

  3. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Perhaps, Dr. Wheeler, if you spoke more slowly and with exaggerated enunciation. Once again—how many times now?—the point is made clearly, pointedly, and seemingly irrefutably. When does ignorance become willful ignorance? It. is. so. frustrating. Admittedly, these posts are long, full of detail, and less suited to quickly evoke blind outrage based on a simplistic view of reality. So there’s that.

    It strikes me that the persistent shade being thrown on Garland and the DOJ is in the same family as “democrats in disarray”. It is quite damaging to our country and enough of it is by design.

    • timbo says:

      Design? Or is it because the US “does not use torture, Senator—we use ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were okayed by DOJ Counsel in secret opinions!”

  4. Izzydog says:

    Thank you as always EW!

    Part of the problem is it’s complicated. I don’t know (yet) how to summarize the message to the American people that it wasn’t just random crazy shaman guy wearing Viking horns, but it was actually a highly coordinated effort to obstruct.

    The six types of participants list was super helpful, but it’s also a lot of moving parts for people to keep in mind — Susceptible to easy to digest (and motivated) messaging like the one you mentioned — How could Trump have incited the riot if it already started before he finished speaking?

    The fuller context of the obstruction is big and hard to keep straight. Further, when you try to explain it to someone who doesn’t follow the news closely, it sounds conspirational, making it easy to dismiss, susceptible to easy to follow talking points.

    At the end of the day, it’s a huge deal to go after a previous administration even if well earned. If justice is to peacefully prevail, the American people will need to have reached something of a consensus about what transpired. So what’s the best way to explain it?

    Also I spose, and I’m not a legal expert, seems like a lot of pieces would need to stand up in court for the highest to be held accountable — But the smart legal types here would have better insight as to how true that may or may not be.

    • timbo says:

      Do you think that the Colonists in the original Thirteen colonies that became the US eventually had such a consensus? The historical record shows that this is NOT the case, particularly initially during the Revolution. Approximately 1/3 of the populace was for Revolution, 1/3 were pro-British, and 1/3 were neutral/undecided. Similarly, it is about those who lead and lead well, rather than those who can unite a super-majority of the population. And that’s why Twitler and the Twisslerings are still here and still a threat. You can’t win automagically by just having a majority opinion. Getting a majority of US voters to agree with you doesn’t get you anything unless you’re willing to do what it takes to make sure that the Republic is saved (or fails).

  5. BobCon says:

    I know I’ve been banging this drum, but I have to wonder whether the mob violence against members of Congress and Pence was the end goal, or a pretext for even worse by Trump.

    Meadows wrote on 1/5 about using the National Guard to “protect” pro Trump forces. Defense Secretary Miller said Trump told him on 1/3 to “protect” his mob.

    Something alarmed every former DOD secretary, including Esper and Mattis, over the New Years weekend so much that they issued an unprecedented joint letter warning about military intervention in the 1/6 election certification.

    I have to wonder whether the only goal of inciting mob violence was obstructing the procedings. Was there also a plan to seize the levers of power in the name of “protecting” Trrump’s mob? What alarmed the former Defense secretaries so much?

    • Zirc says:

      I agree and would love to know what the SecDefs, led by Dick Cheney of all people, knew or thought they knew. And how did they come to know it?


    • harpie says:

      Was there also a plan to seize the levers of power in the name of “protecting” Trump’s mob?

      I think the answer to this might be a yes.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The point of obstructing the proceedings was to allow alternate and sometimes fraudulent proceedings to substitute for them, with the goal of keeping Trump in power and unaccountable for his many probable crimes. But I agree that increasing levels of violence was a constant theme in Trump’s attempts to illegally hold onto power.

      I think that letter by former SecDefs was more than a statement to the public. It was a warning to senior political leaders that they had better to do their job and assure a peaceful transfer of power. And it was a warning to active duty military that attempts by Trump to use them to stay in power were known, that support for them came largely from marginalized figures, however senior, and that, if no one else, military members who participated in them would be held to account. If you want a fictional dramatic example, think of the rapidly spreading cold feet that afflicted the generals after the president obtained evidence of their coup attempt in Seven Days in May

      • Peterr says:

        “it was a warning to active duty military that attempts by Trump to use them to stay in power were known, that support for them came largely from marginalized figures, however senior, and that, if no one else, military members who participated in them would be held to account.”


        And the fact that this was signed by all ten living defense secretaries — including Dick Cheney — made it impossible to paint this as a partisan statement.

        I would love to know what the reaction to this letter was in the offices of senior DOD leadership, both civilian and military — especially in the office of General Charles Flynn.

        • Fran of the North says:

          Well the first reaction was probably that the former SecDefs “Should stay the hell out of my AO!”, and then after further reflection was probably something along the lines of “This isn’t good, the cat is out of the bag. Time to find a foxhole and keep the head down.”

      • BobCon says:

        I agree that there was a generalized message to the armed forces about maintaining regular order. I’m wondering if there wasn’t also a much more targeted goal here — preventing something with enough visible elements that could be plausibly seen as a coup.

        Trump was unusually specific when he told Miller on 1/3 he wanted 10,000 National Guard troops to maintain order, and I have to wonder if there was an effort prior to that to mobilize them, which then pushed the former secretaries to act.

        Glenn Kessler, who has a history of being spun, tries to look at the issue from the angle of Meadows and Hannity crafting a narrative that Trump was genuinely trying to restore order.

        Kessler cites that really odd article by Adam Ciralsky and the suspect DOD IG’s report to back up his version, but it really doesn’t even imagine the opposite perspective — whetherTrump didn’t want the Guard moved in for order, he wanted them to take control.

        That the Guard was eventually slow to act on 1/6 doesn’t necessarily mean the plan ended with the intervention of the former secretaries. It seems plausible that escalated violence was seen as necessary to create the pretext for mobilizing and federalizing the nearby National Guard forces. The fact that the mob was a minute or so late doesn’t contradict this, and the delay may have been in the hopes that somehow the mob could still find ways to reach members of Congress.

        Would Miller have objected to federalization of nearby Maryland and Virginia Guard troops if things had escalated even more? If, somehow he had, what would stop Trump from firing Miller and putting Patel in charge?

        Like I said, I think it’s possible there were multiple approaches in play at once. Hoping to obstruct the proceedings and create a pretext for state legislatures to launch new tallies may have been Plan A. But I wonder if there was a backup Plan B as well, and something so well developed that it made the former Defense secretaries unite over the New Year’s weekend right before the attack.

        • Norskeflamthrower says:

          “…something so well developed that it made the former Defense secretaries unite…”
          Yes and does it involve a couple of Army generals (one inactive) from the same family? And, of course, how early did they get a whiff of it?

          • Benton says:

            Let me make a wild guess here… Christopher Miller would have much more to say about all this if he were put under oath by the Select Committee and confronted about his previous false testimony. After all, there’s a nice, little PR campaign circulating that has Miller saving the Republic by withholding the DC National Guard. Maybe the Select Committee should hear what else he knew at that time – assuming that’s how it really went down.

          • Theodora30 says:

            The Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was an army paratrooper and there were “an alarming number of marines in most key tactical locations. We have known about the problem of extremism in the military since it was revealed after Timothy McVeigh but have chosen to bury that inconvenient problem.
            In 2009 a secret report about extremism in the military was leaked by Republicans who then threw a hissy fit about the fact that the report identified the problem (correctly) as “right wing” extremism. The report was withdrawn and the media continued ignoring this growing threat.
            In 2009 a secret report about extremism in the military was leaked by Republicans who then threw a hissy fit about the fact that the report identified the problem (correctly) as right wing extremism. The report was withdrawn and the media and apparently the military continued ignoring this growing threat.

        • earthworm says:

          “If, somehow he had, what would stop Trump from firing Miller and putting Patel in charge?”
          those moves, re Miller & Patel, were made in Nov 2020, not Jan 2021, IIRC.

    • Badger Robert says:

      What happened seems like cover something much worse. The obstructers appear disorganized and not sufficiently committed. Their organizations appear new and open ended, and subject to surveillance. There seems to have been considerable caution involved. Large elements remained chaotic. I could be wrong. but it does not appear to be the work of a corp of committed ideologues with years of mutual commitment and mutual trust.
      The co-ordinators seem to be self appointed, and particularly incompetent.
      The basis of the plan sprung from the mind of a man who had failed at everything, except one election. All the competent people, who had real lives to sustain their self respect, had quit or been dismissed long before December 2020.
      I’ll defer to those who have more experience in covert operations, but these coup plotters don’t seem capable of success, to me.

    • matt fischer says:

      How fitting that Trump’s chosen pretext to garner a large DCNG presence for J6 was to protect his white nationalist mob. Surely in his mind this was a benign — noble even — cover story.

      • Leu2500 says:

        The cover was Antifa & BLM. It’s documented in orders given to the DCNG prior to 1/6 & is included in the reporting on why LE & the Guard were unprepared for 1/6.

        Thankfully, the left smelled a trap & stayed home.

        • matt fischer says:

          I could have elaborated: Trump’s chosen pretext to garner a large DCNG presence for J6 was to protect his white nationalist mob from “Antifa” and BLM, but that seemed superfluous to my point.

          Also, wouldn’t the expectation of clashes between Trumpsters and boogeymen have warranted a greater abundance of LEOs, yet somehow it’s supposed to explain “why LE & the Guard were unprepared for 1/6”?

        • timbo says:

          Why would that make the DCNG unprepared? You’d think that if they were prepared for one type of rioter from one sort of political persuasion that they’d be just as prepared for any other type of rioter, correct? No, what the issue was here was more about when to move and not to move. And that appears to have been directed at a level higher up than DCNG command in the case of Jan 6.

  6. WilliamOckham says:

    One thing missing from this is how the Proud Boys neutralized the Park Police on the morning of Jan 6. As far as I know, this has yet to come up in any of the cases. It was strategically important, I think.

    • harpie says:

      Mentions of the Park Police in the TL:

      9:00 AM At the WASHINGTON Monument, a mob of Trump supporters overrun Park Police “We have about 300 people up here, they’re all refusing to leave.” [] “There’s a large crowd that’s following us. We’re going back into the monument with the individual that’s under arrest. They’re breaking through the bike fence.” [] “Units are backed into the monument. Everyone’s breaking through the bike racks.”

      9:46 AM At the LINCOLN Memorial, Park Police officers radio in to say there were 500 to 800 people gathered “113, we have individuals with shields and gas masks at the statue.” [] “OK, they’re at the Lincoln statue with shields and masks?” [] “10-4, and taking pictures right now with a flag that says ‘F—antifa.’”

      9:46 AM Park Police at WASHINGTON Monument: “Just for safety, there’s a guy, a White male, walking around the flag circle with a pitchfork.”
      INSTRUCTIONS for Park Police officers: “A direct for the units at 141: Monitor only. Do not take any type of enforcement action. Let it happen.” [] “Yeah, we’re waiting on y’all.” [] “Even when react gets there, monitor only. Let it happen unless we have major, major issues.” An officer explained the strategy of restraint: “We’re not going to agitate them.”

      12:33 PM Park Police report that they detained a person with a rifle on 17th Street, near the WORLD WAR II Memorial

      4:09 PM [approx.] [Possible QRF sighting] Arlington County PD Emergency Communications Center receives a report of 9-10 males acting suspiciously and looking around on the IWO JIMA War Memorial property. The United States Park Police is notified to check the park area. ACPD patrol units checked Meade Street and Arlington property, nothing was located and the call was cleared. By nightfall, the men have dispersed.

      • harpie says:

        Two possibly related items from 1/5/21

        SecDef MILLER Testimony:

        “On the afternoon of January 5, I received a call from [TRUMP] in connection with a rally by his supporters that day at Freedom Plaza. The President asked if I was watching the event on television. I replied that I had seen coverage of the event. He then commented that “they” were going to need 10,000 troops the following day. The call lasted fewer than thirty seconds and I did not respond substantively, and there was no elaboration.

        5:25 PM TRUMP Tweets:

        Antifa is a Terrorist Organization, stay out of Washington. Law enforcement is watching you very closely! @DeptofDefense @TheJusticeDept @DHSgov @DHS_Wolf @SecBernhardt @SecretService @FBI

        @SecBernhardt was Secretary of the Interior – – Park Police is part of DOI.

  7. skua says:

    It is helpful having those who apparently set the stage, with law enforcement set-up to be over-run and the National Guard held back for hours, be considered seperately from those who organised/conducted the actual rioting.

    • Leoghann says:

      I agree. Once the assaulters and the ground-level conspirators and their direct leaders have been/are being dealt with, I’d like for the scum that rises to the top to have their own special place in the million-candle-watt sun of public scrutiny and scorn.

  8. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think the planning for this goes back before the election. I was struck by something Trump said during the first debate with Biden, so I reviewed his remarks again to refresh my memory. In response to Chris Wallace’s question whether he would denounce the violence of right-wing groups, Trump specifically called on the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”.

    I find it interesting that a man who has no interest in details would be able to specifically name that group.

    • Gerard Plourde says:

      I just saw this too. And it didn’t escape my notice that the DOJ just announced a new division to investigate domestic terror organizations.

    • Hoping4Better_Times says:

      WaPo has the actual indictment in frightening detail. Other Oath Keepers are also charged with Seditious conspiracy. 18 USC 2384. 20 years. They used the words of war in their various communications. Rhodes stocked up on guns and ammo after the election and after Jan 6.
      They planned to continue the struggle after Jan 6 failed as well. Why did it take a year to arrest Rhodes?

      • StuartC says:

        I’m not sure why anyone coming to this site wouldn’t understand that it took a year to arrest Rhodes because that’s the difference between a functioning legal system and a banana republic run by a dictator who does what he wants.

  9. harpie says:

    Oath Keepers Leader Charged With Conspiracy in Jan. 6 Investigation
    The F.B.I. arrested Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right militia, in a major step forward in the investigation into the attack on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump. Jan. 13, 2022 Updated 1:53 p.m. ET

    Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was arrested on Thursday and charged with seditious conspiracy for organizing a wide-ranging plot to storm the Capitol last Jan. 6 and disrupt the certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral victory, federal law enforcement officials said. […]

  10. Fran of the North says:

    It appears as though the bell now tolls for the first of the ‘Person Ones’. Not to mention that the charge changes the tenor of the investigation. Is it just possible that this charging will quiet the ‘Nothing is happening!’ crowd?

    Or is this a big nothing burger in their eyes, since the charged isn’t a commonly known pol?

  11. greenbird says:

    it’s active. i found it by accident.
    anyone have details.comments.thoughts?
    *(Rhee, Jeannie)* (Entered: 12/14/2021)”

    • Fran of the North says:

      Rhodes isn’t listed as a defendant, but it is dated 12-15-21 so they might have intentionally left him off while this most recent got wrapped up.

    • greenbird says:

      from the complaint:
      “pdf77 of Doc01 Complaint 12.14.21:
      “Section 1985 Conspiracy”
      42 U.S. Code § 1985 – Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights
      (1) Preventing officer from performing duties
      If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof; or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave any State, district, or place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties;”
      of possible interest to you, and its related cases:
      2 Dec 14, 2021 NOTICE OF RELATED CASE by DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. Case related to Case No. 1:21-cv-00400, 1:21-cv-00586, 1:21-cv-00858 & 1:21-cv-02265. (Rhee, Jeannie) (Entered: 12/14/2021)
      Main Doc­ument Notice of Related Case [PACER]

      • JamesJoyce says:

        Moderated again?


        I’m not yelling Fire, EW am I?

        They did!

        “Yelling” Fire 🔥 in a crowed theater is not free speech or political, specially when set the fire 🔥 was “set” Reichstag….


        Screaming voter fraud, when there is little if any, is a fraud, designed to incite a riot.

        It is all politics designed to deceive the gullible.

        There was no Jewish Problem in Germany 1933, as those claim voter fraud today.

        They were all following “his” orders as derelicts followed another “losers”
        Illegal orders, long before the current crop of “willing-so-gullibles” were even born.

        Gaslighting 101…

  12. crookedbowboy says:

    A minor typo:

    “With that has background”

    should probably be…

    “With that as background”

  13. graham firchlis says:

    Eleven Oathkeepers arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy.

    Can we call them traitors now?

    I’m OK with modifiers – alleged, suspected, &etc – pending conviction, but a term that accurately and powerfully describes thier charged actions shouldn’t be unilaterally restricted for fear that some of the ignorant might wallow in misinterpretation.


    Oh and, good on AG Garland for taking the time to wrap this indictment tightly in a bow, rather than rushing to satisfy critics.

      • graham firchlis says:

        They are both, see below, but seditious conspirator doesn’t sing, does it? Neither does it sting.

    • d4v1d says:

      per P J Evans, sedition (in this case the operative word is conspiracy). Treason is defined in the Constitution with precise specificity.

      • graham firchlis says:

        Treason is specified in the Constitution, but not with precision. For instance, what exactly was intended by “adhering”? What constitutes a “giving”? What are the bounds of “Aid and Comfort”?

        Multiple SCOTUS decisions have m/l brought clarity, and treason is appropriately tightly constrained as a legal concept. Treason charges should not be lightly thrown about, and do not apply to J6…so far as our current understanding extends.

    • graham firchlis says:

      Consider the terms traitor, treason and sedition as Venn sets.

      The set of all traitors is large, including traitorous behavior by unfaithful spouses, lying business partners, and a broad swath of other reprehensible human behavior.

      Treason and sedition are much smaller sets, tightly constrained with few participants. Both of these sets are contained within the larger set of all traitors.

      Therefore, all treason and sedition is traitorous, while nowhere near all traitors are guilty of treason or sedition.

      We should not unreasonably self-limit our use of language to oppose the forces of evil. Traitor is not a legal term. It is, however, a powerful rhetorical weapon, and we should not hesitate to wield it.

  14. Za says:

    I’m sorry, but what would a “successful” coup have looked like? What would they have done after they killed Pence and Pelosi? Pence and Pelosi are expendable. Those people are not required for the continuance of our democracy. If Pence couldn’t have done it, then the next in line would have. Whoever takes over when Pelosi is sick, etc., would have taken over the House side of things. You think Trump had all the next in line people all lined up for this coup?

    And how long could they have held any such coup, without the military? Without the DC police? Without the National Guard, who are not allowed to obey unconstitutional orders? Without the DOJ?

    There was no possible success to this “coup.” Because those who are not supporters of Trump are not beholden to any one person, but to the Constitution. Were you thinking that Trump could unilaterally suspend the federal gov’t? For how long?

    It’s simply ridiculous.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m letting your first comment here through because this point is fallacious — January 6 was not a “successful” coup — and it needs to be staked through the heart and buried immediately.

      The conspirators known so far may have intended to obstruct Congress’s and VP’s certification of the vote; they did, though temporarily. The obstruction achieved means the coup was successful.

      The conspirator’s may have intended to ensure Trump was inaugurated for a second term and in this respect the coup was not successful.

      But the foreign entities which originally sought Trump’s occupancy of the White House in 2016 have achieved their aims furthered still by the attempted overthrow of the government on January 6: a deepening destabilization of the United States in which Trump supporters and white nationalists are willing to conspire and carry out hostile acts against their own country. They continue to undermine governance at state and local level to support another attempt in 2024. This an ongoing coup which succeeds until the hostility is ended, perpetrators are brought to justice, and the gnawing at all levels of government halted — or until an autocratic leader has overthrown government as we know it under the existing Constitution.

      Lastly, you may believe the coup attempt did not have military support — and yet we’re in a slow-rolling coup attempt, with multiple retired generals having expressed concerns about the military potentially backing a coup after the 2024 election. Success may simply be a matter of when and where you measure.

      p.s. You’re not sorry whatsoever.

    • matt fischer says:

      The evening of January 6, after the assault on the Capitol:

      Rhodes: “Thousands of ticked off patriots spontaneously marched on the Capitol…You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

      Vallejo: “We have only begun to fight.”

      Meggs: “We aren’t quitting!! We are reloading!!”

      Rhodes: “Patriots entering their own Capitol to send a message to the traitors is NOTHING compared to what’s coming.”

  15. wolfess says:

    The one thing that worries me is that Trump will run for presidunce again and be re-elected, and will have learned enough during this ‘down time’ to figure out a quasi-legal way to declare himself ’emperor-for-life’ (I honestly cannot abide that possibility). I want him tried — publicly — for his J6 crimes, but I also want it to be truly impossible for him to ever get anywhere near the presidency again.

    • P J Evans says:

      The people around him may be even more dangerous. They have goals that extend beyond their own power and privilege.

      • wolfess says:

        That’s another part of the reason I want him tried and convicted — if he pays a heavy price for what he did I would hope that would discourage the next criminal from trying it out of fear of paying too dearly if he’s caught.

  16. timbo says:

    Re: “Still, to prove he incited a riot, you’d need to prove that the people who rioted did so in response to his speech at the Ellipse.” Couldn’t one argue that Twitler promised them “it will be wild!” almost a month previously? There’s plenty of other statements that appear to be incitement as well leading up to January 6, 2021 that Twitler made publicly as well…like talking in the same way as those who eventually spearheaded the riots, and doing so as far back as the 2020 Presidential debates…

  17. Bern says:

    “The Proud Boys, seemingly anticipating that this influx of “normies,” kicked off and carefully focused the riot just in time to create a real threat to Congress (and Mike Pence) just as they started to certify the vote count. (This Sedition Hunter timeline makes a compelling argument, one consistent with Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, that the Proud Boys paused their assault to wait for the mobs Alex Jones was bringing.)”
    I was there to witness American nazis, because I feel some responsibility to witness. What I saw prior to the physical attack on the criminally under-defended front of the Capitol was exactly the sort of dynamic that researchers say precedes a soccer hooligan riot going off. There’s an agitated bunch of people, but it takes agitation plus enough people close enough together for it to go off. What I observed was people climbing statues and the like, and looking back west, as if gaging the size/strength of the coming mob, to assess when the density and animus would be sufficient to set it off.

    Edited to add: I also saw tight little groups of hard men on the east side of the building, which when I was there (before things went off) had almost no uniformed police presence at all. It was pretty clear to me that some people were casing that side of the building for entry points.

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