Sedition Is the Foundation on Which the Trump Associate Investigation Builds

As I laid out in this post, I’m impatient with those who claim the government has taken a new direction in the January 6 investigation with subpoenas to people like — most audibly — Ali Alexander. Alexander got a number of journalists who know better to repeat his claim that he was “cooperating” with the investigation rather than merely “complying” with a subpoena. Few of those journalists pointed out real holes in his cover story — including his silence about Roger Stone and Alex Jones, his disavowal of communications with militias before he arrived at the Capitol, his use of cover organizations to get his permits, and his seeming message to co-conspirators that if he once had evidence, it is no longer in his possession.

In his statement, Alexander sought to separate himself from the substance of the investigation, saying he did not coordinate with the Proud Boys and suggesting his contact with the Oath Keepers was limited to accepting an offer for them to act as ushers at an event that never took place: his own permitted event near the Capitol, which didn’t occur because of the mob attack on the Capitol. The Oath Keepers are the subject of conspiracy charges for their roles in breaching the Capitol that day.

“I did not finance the Ellipse equipment. I did not ever talk with the White House about security groups. Any militia working security at the Ellipse belonged to “Women for America First,” not us,” Alexander said. “I did not coordinate any movements with the Proud Boys or even see them that day. I did take Oath Keepers offer to act as ushers for the Area 8 event but all of that was lost in the chaos. I wasn’t in communication with any of the aforementioned groups while I was near the Capitol working to get people away from the building. Lastly, I’m not willing to presume anyone’s guilt.”

“I did nothing wrong and I am not in possession of evidence that anyone else had plans to commit unlawful acts,” Alexander said. “I denounce anyone who planned to subvert my permitted event and the other permitted events of that day on Capitol grounds to stage any counterproductive activities.”

This is classic Roger Stone-schooled disinformation and should be treated as such.

Reporters have, undoubtedly based on really good sourcing, emphasized the existence of a new grand jury focusing on Trump’s associates, and from that, argued it’s a new direction — though as I’ve documented, DOJ has availed themselves of at least six grand juries thus far in this investigation.

But how could an investigation of Alexander’s actions be new if DOJ successfully debunked much of his current cover story — that he was “working to get people away from the building” — last November? Alexander co-traveler Owen Shroyer attempted to offer the same false claim in an attempt to throw out charges — filed in August — against him, but Judge Tim Kelly rejected that attempt on January 20. How could this be a totally new direction if prosecutors would have obtained Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv as a result of Brandon Straka’s “cooperation” in early 2021? How could it be a new direction if DOJ has gotten guilty pleas from those who went first to the Capitol, then to the East front, and finally breached the building in response to lies about Alexander’s rally permits told by Alex Jones? DOJ has, demonstrably, been laying the groundwork for a subpoena to Alexander for over year.

And it’s not just Alexander. Steps DOJ took over the past year were undoubtedly necessary preconditions to going after Trump’s close associates. Those include:

These are efforts that started in January 2021. Some of the most important — the way DOJ seized Rudy’s comms and got a privilege review without revealing a January 6 warrant — started on Lisa Monaco’s first day in office.

But there’s a more important thing that DOJ probably believed they needed before going after Trump and his close associates: compelling proof that Trump wielded the mob in his effort to obstruct the vote count, obtaining the proof in the yellow boxes, below. That was one of the things I was trying to lay out in this post.

While there are specific things Trump and his associates did that were illegal — the call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake elector certificates, the illegal demand of Mike Pence — many of the rest are only illegal (at least under the framework DOJ is using) if they are tied to Trump’s successful effort to target the mob at American democracy. You first have to prove that Trump fired the murder weapon, and once you’ve established that proof, you can investigate who helped Trump buy the weapon, who helped him aim it, who loaded the gun for him, who was standing behind him with four more weapons to fire if his own shot failed to work.

And this is why I’m interested in the apparent two month process it appears to have taken DOJ to shift its main focus from the work of the January 8, 2021 grand jury, whose work culminated in the January 12, 2022 seditious conspiracy indictment against Stewart Rhodes, and the February 14, 2022 grand jury, the foundational overt act of which was the March 7 conspiracy charge against Enrique Tarrio.

The first grand jury proved that the vast majority of the rioters, whether trespassers or assault defendants, got there via one of three methods:

  • Responding to Trump and Alex Jones’ lies about Trump accompanying the marchers and giving a second speech
  • Acting directly on Trump’s “orders,” especially his December 19 tweet, often bypassing the Ellipse rally altogether
  • Coordinating with one of the militias, especially the Proud Boys

Judge Amit Mehta also seems to believe that the grand jury developed proof that many of those who assaulted cops were aided and abetted by Donald Trump. The first grand jury also proved that of those who — having been led to believe false claims about vote fraud based on over three months of propaganda — had the intent of obstructing the vote count, a great number had the specific goal of pressuring or punishing Mike Pence. While the intent of pressuring Pence came, for some rioters, from militia hierarchies, for most others, it came directly from Trump.

This is my hypothesis about the seeming shift from using the January 8 grand jury as the primary investigative grand jury to launching a new one on February 14. The January 8 grand jury has largely completed its investigation into what caused the riot, how it was orchestrated, who participated; the remaining prosecutions that don’t require and affect the larger picture will be and have been charged via the November 10 grand jury. But by indicting Tarrio and showing, with Charles Donohoe’s cooperation, that everything the Proud Boys did emanated from Tarrio’s orders and, by association, from whatever understanding Tarrio had about the purpose of the riot from his communications with people close to Trump, DOJ and the Valentine’s Day grand jury will move onto the next level of the conspiracy to obstruct the vote count. Again, that’s just a hypothesis — we’ll see whether that’s an accurate read in the weeks ahead. But it’s not a new direction at all. It is the direction that the investigation has demonstrably been headed for over a year.

Update: In a statement pretending the stories about his cooperation were leaked by DOJ, Alexander insists he is not cooperating, but complying.

After consultation with counsel, we provided a statement that established that I was not a target of this grand jury; I haven’t been accused of any criminal wrongdoing; and that I was complying, as required by law, with their probe.


Useful idiots on the right, clinging to a New York Times headline that sensationalizes my compliance with a subpoena, will empower the Deep State which planted these stories to give their political investigation more legs to hurt our election integrity movement and Trump’s 2024 prospects. [my emphasis]

The rest of the statement should convince anyone that this is a replay of the same bullshit we saw from Stone and Jerome Corsi in the Mueller investigation.

39 replies
  1. Dr Noisewater says:

    Such a good article doc! Makes me imagine a room somewhere in DC with tfg’s picture on a corkboard wall with different colored strings tied to pictures of his close associates. That wall must be huge.

  2. StuartC says:

    Wow. So much clarity in all the confusing noise! Thank you, Dr. Wheeler.

    If Mr. Alexander really believes he’s going to spin this the way he seems to be trying to, and doesn’t realize the extent of the proof in texts the Jan. 6th Committee must already have, he’s in for quite the wake up call. The arrogance of how many of these guys think the lies they tell the base will hold up against the actual, electronic records is quite astounding.

    How close does Alexander get the Committee to exposing Roger Stone or Alex Jones’s involvement? And how much closer to TFG?

  3. Gibson Haines says:

    There’s literally no one I trust on this issue more than Marcy. She’s repeatedly deviated from the standard positions on the Steele Dossier, Russian collusion, and now January 6, but I can’t think of a time that she’s been wrong.

    Brilliant work, Marcy. Thank you.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    While there are specific things Trump and his associates did that were illegal — the call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake elector certificates, the illegal demand of Mike Pence — many of the rest are only illegal (at least under the framework DOJ is using) if they are tied to Trump’s successful effort to target the mob at American democracy.

    I have a somewhat different take on this. That parenthetical “(at least under the framework DOJ is using)” is, as far as I can tell, both accurate (in that DOJ seems to think that the attack is an essential element of the conspiracy) and extremely problematic because the conspiracy to obstruct the vote count pre-existed the attack on the Capitol and continues to this day.

    Seriously, even though we’re over 15 months past January 6, 2021, John Eastman and other conspirators are still trying to obstruct the count by falsifying documents:

    Every overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy would be illegal even if the attack on the Capitol had never happened. That’s true because the three other illegal acts you describe “the call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake elector certificates, the illegal demand of Mike Pence” is enough to establish that a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count was already in progress before Trump’s speech.

    The purpose of the conspiracy was to obstruct the vote count, not to attack Capitol police officers. Think about this in terms of the bank robbery where the ringleader (Trump) shoots and kills a security guard (sends the crowd to the Capitol). In this scenario, Cleta Mitchell is one of the robbers inside the bank (on the call to Raffensperger). Ginni Thomas is a getaway car driver. Like driving a car, none of the stuff that Ginni Thomas did was illegal. However, if she was part of the planning for the bank robbery, she was aiding and abetting (or conspiring). And I there are plenty of indications that Ginni Thomas was part of the planning.

    Obligatory acknowledgements: I’m not a lawyer; culpability for acts of co-conspirators is complicated; all of this would be hard to prove in court.

    My main point is this. There was a conspiracy of individuals and organizations who aided and abetted or conspired with Trump to obstruct the vote count on January 6 because they would have benefited from Trump claiming a second term that they all knew he didn’t win. Even if they weren’t directly involved in the attack on the Capitol, our polity would be greatly improved if these folks were prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    • Paulka says:

      Not to pick a nit but, “The purpose of the conspiracy was to obstruct the vote count,…”

      I don’t think is exactly precise. I think the purpose of the conspiracy was to have Trump continue as President despite losing the election. Subtle distinction, but applicable I think, as it encompasses other aspects that may not be part of the discussion. One example that jumps to mind was General Flynn’s calls to seize the voting machines and declare martial law

      Again, I just think that the picture is larger than simply obstructing the 1/6 vote certification. The goal of the conspiracy was in essence to illegally seize control of the presidency

      • WilliamOckham says:

        I agree with you about the true purpose of the conspiracy. My aim is to describe how the conspiracy might be charged under federal law.

        Illegally seizing control of the presidency isn’t a specific federal crime, although presumably a conspiracy to do that would be covered by the statute defining a conspiracy to defraud the federal government (which is sometimes called ConFraudUS around here).

        Obstructing an official proceeding has stiffer penalties, so that’s a bonus.

        The conspirators themselves focused repeatedly on the importance of obstructing the vote count and the “seize the voting machines and declare martial law” also would have had the effect of obstructing the vote count.

        And that’s a long-winded answer that’s mostly the same as “Naw, that is the same set of acts.”

    • emptywheel says:

      I agree that the conspiracy pre-dated Jan 6. It does, as well, in what was already charged. One of Trump’s most important overt acts was his December 19 tweet.

      But much of what happened — the three enumerated crimes aside — was not independently illegal. Asking Congress to do stupid unethical things is unfortunately quite routine.

      Two of the three crimes I’ve laid out likely needed/need a state jurisdictional waiver (which I’ve argued that Dana Nessel formally gave DOJ in January). And the request of Pence is far easier to prove as a crime when you add in conduct from Jan 6.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        I agree with all that except that I am arguing that the fake elector scheme as executed in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia was, in and of itself, a conspiracy and a series of violations of 18 U.S. Code § 1512(c)(2)*, irrespective of any state laws that were violated.

        This matters to me because I think it’s more important to take down Cleta Mitchell, et. al. than it is to take down Trump. As usual, I suspect I’m in a minority of one in this regard.

        *Even Carl Nichols should agree with this because the scheme was an attempt to obstruct the proceeding by doing something with a document that’s not covered in 1512(c)(1)

          • bmaz says:

            Maybe! Said text messages are pretty alarming though. Roy is a lawyer, but Lee is (like Cruz) supposedly a legal scholar. And then you see them at work and it is pretty ugly. Does not make them easy to prosecute and convict, but the insanity of where they were is amazing.

            • WilliamOckham says:

              Right. If this was, say a drug cartel, I’m pretty sure the feds would be putting all sorts of pressure on Lee and Roy to cop a plea. Co-conspirators who get cold feet when the nastiness happens are prime targets for cooperation.

              Obviously, they aren’t going to do that in this case. Which means the case against the bigwigs is going to be that much harder to make.

        • civil says:

          Re: the conspiracy, perhaps also 18 U.S. Code § 371, conspiracy to defraud the US.

          MI AG Dana Nessel has said that if the DOJ doesn’t indict the fake MI electors on federal charges, she plans to file state charges. I don’t know about the other state AGs.

          • WilliamOckham says:

            Yeah, that would work also. However, there are stiffer penalties for 18 U.S. Code § 1512(c)(2). It’s healthier for our democracy if trying to autogolpe the U.S. government is taken more seriously than simple fraud.

        • P J Evans says:

          I think if the people who enabled that stuff are out of circulation, it would help a lot, since they seem to be true believers in it.
          I don’t think the former guy believes in anything other than himself and his own perfection.

  5. Jenny says:

    Thank you Dr. Marcy. Sedition! Sedition! Sedition! Comes to mind from Tradition song in Fiddler on the Roof.

  6. Thomas says:

    I’m very grateful for your articles. Thank you.

    I have this nagging memory that I read that Ginni Thomas coordinated funding and logistics for busloads of people coming to DC. I noticed that this role is on your chart but Ginni Thomas is not.

    • P J Evans says:

      ISTR that she talked about it, but didn’t follow through – or that no one has been able to find evidence that she did anything like that.

  7. joel fisher says:

    As you say,”The vast majority of the rioters, whether trespassers or assault defendants, got there via one of three methods”. Definitely a few turned and headed for the Capital and brought the droolers with them. But we mustn’t leave out the garden variety Trump moron who got sucked up into the group–perhaps, as you say, by Trump’s idiotic promise of going along–and gave in to the gravitation of the crowd. Certainly, they were aware of what they were doing in a legal sense–lock ’em up!–but as for responding to the likes of Alex Jones, I think for the people td entering and sacking the Capital, the crowd-not Jones-was doing their thinking.

  8. Makeitso says:

    Slightly OT but DOJ confirmed today they are investigating the theft by Trump of classified materials he took to Mar Largo.

  9. TimB says:

    emptywheel is a national treasure. I continue to be amazed at the amount that you can learn from highly detailed and analytical reading of incomplete documentary records. This post focuses my mind on at least 3 processes playing out over time. From time to time there is a grand jury. Prosecutors slowly and steadily learn things from ordinary hard work of sweating numerous individually unimportant conspirators. Prosecutors learn bigger chunks of info from more important conspirators losing their efforts to delay in the courts or as the fruits of the ordinary hard work and of the many other matters (States, Private, Congress) flying about. Alexander seems to fall into that third process. To me, this suggests that the amount of things known to and — smaller but very important category — likely provable by — DOJ is still growing rapidly (if not steadily). It makes me want to gripe less about the DOJ pace.

  10. Tom R. says:

    We agree that DoJ has been following a certain framework. That’s all good.

    We agree that this framework makes sense. It is the path of least resistance for bringing the cases that they have brought so far.

    We agree that TV pundits have been getting this wrong nonstop for more than a year.

    Even so, we know that DoJ can walk and chew gum at the same time. It is widely and credibly reported that they are investigating the fake electors. I reckon there is a felony case to be made there, quite apart from any mob violence, so this could be considered a separate framework.

    Similarly, there’s a case to be made around the Raffensperger call, quite apart from any mob violence. It appears this has been delegated to Fani Willis, but if she were to drop the ball DoJ could pick it up.

    I’m OK with multiple frameworks. Surely overthrowing the government by force is bad, but IMHO overthrowing democracy by fraud, forgery, and perjury is also bad.

    Maybe eventually they will charge all this as one big conspiracy, as WO and others have suggested. In that case all the frameworks merge together. On the other hand, if one of the frameworks runs into trouble, perhaps another can carry on.

    We are looking at a churning ocean of crime. Not all the sea-monsters are the same.

  11. harpie says:
    3:52 PM · Apr 14, 2022

    VERDICT COMING: Jury has informed the judge it has reached a verdict in the Jan. 6 case of Dustin Thompson. […]

    Jan. 6 defendant Dustin Thompson GUILTY on all charges. including felony obstruction of Congress.

    WOW: After the verdict, Judge Walton goes on a tear about Jan. 6 and Trump:

    “I think our democracy is in trouble because unfortunately we have charlatans like our former president who doen’st in my view really care about democracy but only about power.” [THREAD]

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