At Lunchtime on March 15, 2017, Joshua Schulte Went Home and Got His Passport[s]

“Whoever committed the leak” of CIA hacking tools Joshua Schulte stands accused of, Schulte said in his first FBI interview on March 15, 2017, “was guilty of espionage and deserved to be executed.”

Schulte submitted the 302 from that interview to accompany a motion to suppress the initial search of his cell phone (remember, he went pro se last month, so he’s formulating this defense himself, and this challenge not one the supremely competent Sabrina Shroff mounted when she was in charge of his defense). Schulte based his motion to suppress on a claim that the FBI used a subpoena, not a warrant, to authorize the seizure of his phone.

Schulte’s challenge is, from a legal standpoint, transparent garbage. He claims that the FBI seized his phone with a subpoena. That’s not what the record he submits shows. It shows, instead, that the FBI handed him a subpoena for both grand jury testimony and his phone, then walked back to his apartment with him, then executed a search warrant that included his electronic devices among the items to be searched.

[Schulte, referred to as KP, for either Kinetic Panda or Kinetic Piranha] was presented with a subpoena to appear at a grand jury hearing, scheduled to occur on March 17, 2017. KP was also served with a subpoena, authorizing the FBI to seize KP’s phone. From PERSHING SQUARE, the interviewing Agents and KP walked to KP’s residence, 200 East 39th Street, Apartment 8C, New York, New York, where FBI personnel executed a search warrant.

[snip]

SSA HUI thereafter served KP with a subpoena to appear at a grand jury hearing on March 17, 2017 and a subpoena that authorized the FBI to seize KP’s phone. SSA HUI also stated the FBI would soon execute a search warrant at KP’s residence. KP read the documents and stated he did not know what it all meant. KP was told by the interview Agents that he had every right to seek legal counsel. KP was also told by the interview Agents that he could return to the residence and be present during the search. KP voluntarily agreed to return to the residence and provide access to the search team.

The FBI obtained two warrants to search items including Schulte’s electronic devices first one permitting a covert search and then a second one that permitted that overt search. He knew of the warrant before the search of the phone occurred.

Which means the other details of the 302, which don’t help Schulte but which provide new insight on him and the investigation, are the most interesting details of this new release.

Consider his comment that the leaker should be executed. In the interview, he places blame on “Karen,” for lax security. “KP stated he didn’t want to place blame on anyone in terms of being negligent, but her approach to security was lax.” Trial testimony makes it clear this is a reference to the second-level supervisor he blamed for being disciplined at CIA. So from the very first moment, he seemed to frame Karen as a target of a ruthless Espionage investigation. He would continue from jail, suggesting the “Information War” he launched from a jail cell was actually continuous with an earlier effort to blame Karen, contrary to what Schulte argued at his first trial.

Just as interesting, the comment claiming such a leaker would be guilty of espionage matches something he said to his co-worker, “Jeremy Weber” (whom he also tried to blame for the leak) in conversations about Edward Snowden.

Q. You don’t remember him ever discussing leakers with you?

A. I, I do remember talking about leakers.

Q. Okay. What do you recall?

A. There was discussion around Snowden.

Q. Okay. And?

A. Schulte felt that Snowden was a — had betrayed his country.

Q. That doesn’t, you know, he seems to have strong opinions on everything. You sure he didn’t say more?

A. He probably would have call him a traitor. Said he should be executed for sure. I don’t remember specific verbiage, but he did express his typical strong opinions.

Schulte made those comments to Weber, even though the government claims to have chat logs in which Schulte said that Snowden, unlike Chelsea Manning, didn’t endanger anyone with his leaks.

More recently, Schulte has been fighting to have a home server, including a selection of Snowden files on it, returned to him.

But I’m particularly interested in the comments Schulte made about his planned trip to Cancun.

KP advised that he planned to travel to Cancun, Mexico on Thursday, March 16, 2017 with his brother who lived in Dallas, Texas. KP stated he has three younger brothers who all lived in Texas. KP had discussed moving back to Texas at some point and running a business with his brother in Dallas. KP stated the trip cost him approximately $1,200.00 and they planned to stay at a resort. KP stated he had no plans to meet up with anyone other than his brother during the trip, and he planned to return to the U.S. on March 20, 2017. KP stated he and his brother wanted to take a trip to either Cancun or Denver, Colorado, but they ultimately chose Cancun.

KP stated he returned to his residence during lunchtime earlier in the day to retrieve his passport so he could check-in online. KP said his passport was currently located inside his backpack, which was on the floor next to KP at PERSHING SQUARE. KP said he printed out his travel documents earlier. (Agent Note. KP reached inside his backpack and showed SA DONALDSON the documents he printed for the Cancun trip.)

KP said he understood how his potential travel abroad could cause angst at high levels of government; however, KP said if he was guilty, then he would have already left the country. KP stated he booked the Cancun trip prior to the WIKILEAKS publication. [my emphasis]

According to the trial interview of Robert Evanchec, one of the agents who conducted this investigation, they already knew of this trip when then went to interview him (indeed, they included it in the warrant affidavits). “[W]e learned that within a week’s time he was planning to travel, for the second time in his life, outside the United States.” As described in that testimony, it was why they chose to interview Schulte so early in the investigation.

Q. I think you said earlier that early in the investigation, you learned that the defendant was traveling or planning to travel?

A. That’s correct.

Q. Where was he planning to travel to?

A. To Cancun, Mexico.

Q. When was the defendant scheduled to travel?

A. He was scheduled to depart on March 16, 2017.

Q. How, if at all, did that impact your investigation?

A. It accelerated our need to quickly understand what this defendant had done, and what his intentions were in traveling to Cancun. As I said earlier, it was only the second time in his life that he left the United States. And certainly his departure this close to the WikiLeaks release was of concern to us, and necessitated that we escalate our investigation and look into other ways to find out why he was traveling.

Q. What did you do as a result of that?

A. As a result of that, we had planned and actually ended up interviewing the subject Mr. Schulte.

While the 302 doesn’t record it, according to Evanchec’s testimony, after telling the FBI he had gone home at lunch to retrieve “his passport,” Schulte then told FBI Agents his diplomatic passport was back at his apartment.

Q. Did the defendant say anything about a diplomatic passport at the residence?

A. He did.

Q. What did he say about that?

A. He indicated that he had retained a diplomatic passport from his time at the CIA that he had not returned that was inside of his residence.

Schulte accompanied the FBI back to the apartment, let them in, hung around for a bit, then returned to Bloomberg, staying longer than he told them he would.

While he was at Bloomberg, FBI got far enough in their search of Schulte’s apartment to determine that the diplomatic passport was not there.

Q. You testified that the defendant told you that that diplomatic passport was in his apartment; is that correct?

A. That’s correct, sir.

Q. Was the diplomatic passport found in his apartment?

A. It was not.

When Schulte didn’t return when he said he would, Evanchec intercepted Schulte again as he was about to leave Bloomberg. The 302 redacts the reference to the FBI telling him they did not find his diplomatic passport at the apartment.

As Evanchec testified, when they intercepted Schulte on his way out, he admitted that he had stashed his diplo passport at his work station at Bloomberg, and they all went to his workstation and got both passports.

A. I believe it was just after midnight, around 12:15 p.m. We observed him again in the lobby of the Bloomberg building at 120 Park Avenue.

Q. Did you approach him?

A. We did.

Q. Who was with you at that time?

A. At the time it was myself, Special Agent Gary Ido, and Special Agent John Summers.

Q. What, if anything, did you say to the defendant at that time?

A. We indicated to him that we had obtained classified information or found classified information in his residence. And we also indicated that we had not recovered his diplomatic passport.

Q. What, if anything, did the defendant say in response?

A. He indicated the diplomatic passport was actually in his office at Bloomberg.

Q. Did he go anywhere after that?

A. Yes, he escorted us along with a security official from Bloomberg to his desk where we took possession of the diplomatic passport.

Q. Did you take possession of any other passport at that time?

A. Yes.

Q. What passport?

A. His personal passport.

Now, virtually all of this has previously been made public (presumably, Evanchec reviewed the 302s before testifying at the trial).

What’s new is that, at least per Schulte, he went home in the middle of the day to get his passport(s). His excuse for doing so might make sense — he was trying to check in online, which you can only do a day in advance. He might have been able to check in from his house, at lunch, unless he tried and discovered he could only check in 24-hours before his flight (he was scheduled to leave work before the end of the day on March 16).

Except none of that would require Schulte to bring two passports back to work, his regular passport and his diplomatic passport (the latter of which he should have but did not turn in when he left the CIA the previous November). Indeed, given the scrutiny Schulte had to have known he would be under, flying under the diplo passport would provoke alarm all by itself, so presumably he was checking in with his regular passport.

What I find particularly interesting, however, is the timing.

That’s because sometime between 10:50 AM and 3:30 PM that same day, Trump said the following in a recorded interview with Tucker Carlson, leaking classified information that would have alerted Schulte, if he had a way to hear it, that the government had determined that “a lot of things were taken” from the CIA under Obama, not under Trump.

Trump: Because I don’t want to do anything that’s going to violate any strength of an agency. You know we have enough problems. And by the way, with the CIA, I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years. That was not during, us, that was during the Obama situation. Mike Pompeo is there now, doing a fantastic job. But we will be submitting certain things, and I will be perhaps speaking about this next week. But it’s right now before the Committee, and I think I want to leave it at that. I have a lot of confidence in the committee.

If Schulte had some way of seeing this, then, he would have been alerted that FBI had learned enough to know that he was a likely culprit for the leak.

Around the time Trump said this, Schulte (by his own telling) left work and got the passport he needed to check in for his second-ever flight out of the country — he reserved the flight on February 27. He never showed which passport he had in his bag to the FBI Agents, so it’s possible he also got the diplo passport he shouldn’t have even had, much less needed to check in for a flight.

For what it’s worth, it doesn’t seem possible that Schulte would have gotten advance notice he was the suspect for the leak from Trump’s blabbing to Tucker Carlson. I’ve not found any evidence that that interview played live; rather, it appears to have first aired at 9PM, by which point Schulte would have already been intercepted by FBI Agents in the Bloomberg lobby as he left from work.

But the 302 shows that, at around the same time that Trump was blabbing non-public details of the investigation into Schulte to a cable TV personality, Schulte left work and got his passport, possibly even the diplomatic passport he shouldn’t have had.

How the FBI Missed Alleged January 6 Leader Joe Biggs

Let’s talk about how central Joe Biggs is to what we know of the implementation of January 6.

It explains a lot that — at least according to a claim Biggs himself made — two FBI agents were relying on him for information against Antifa in the lead-up to the terrorist attack.

By late 2018, Biggs also started to get “cautionary” phone calls from FBI agents located in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach inquiring about what Biggs meant by something politically or culturally provocative he had said on the air or on social media concerning a national issue, political parties, the Proud Boys, Antifa or other groups. Biggs regularly satisfied FBI personnel with his answers. He also stayed in touch with a number of FBI agents in and out of Florida. In late July 2020, an FBI Special Agent out of the Daytona Beach area telephoned Biggs and asked Biggs to meet with him and another FBI agent at a local restaurant. Biggs agreed. Biggs learned after he travelled to the restaurant that the purpose of the meeting was to determine if Biggs could share information about Antifa networks operating in Florida and elsewhere. They wanted to know what Biggs was “seeing on the ground.” Biggs did have information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks in other parts of the United States. He agreed to share the information. The three met for approximately two hours. After the meeting, Biggs stayed in touch with the agent who had called him originally to set up the meeting. He answered follow-up questions in a series of several phone calls over the next few weeks. They spoke often.

I don’t mean they were complicit. Rather, that they weren’t even aware that he was in the middle of plans to conduct a terrorist attack on the nation’s Capitol is a testament to and perhaps an explanation for how the FBI missed all this.

Joe Biggs is a former Army Staff Sergeant who did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before he left with a medical discharge and PTSD. After some troubled years, he started contributing to InfoWars, serving as a key proponent of the PizzaGate scandal that turned John Podesta emails stolen by Russia into an attack on a pizza restaurant in DC; he was formally ousted from InfoWars shortly after the Comet Ping Pong attack, but remained in the InfoWars orbit. Alex Jones claims he gave Biggs a big severance when he left. After that, Biggs was a key proponent of the Seth Rich conspiracy, posting the manufactured FBI Report that served as a basis for the Fox News story that had to be retracted.

According to one of Biggs’ own court filings, after he moved to Florida to take care of his mother in 2018, he contributed the same propaganda skills that fostered an attack on Comet Ping Pong and falsely impugned a murdered DNC staffer to the Proud Boys, ginning up events to sow violence in the name of Antifa.

The same year, 2018, after the move to Florida, Biggs became active as an organizer, event planner and thought leader in the Proud Boys. He used his platform as a radio and social media personality to promote Proud Boy events and ideas. In particular, he personally planned two major events: rallies in Portland, Oregon in both 2019 and 2020 designed as counterdemonstrations against Antifa, which had been active in and around Portland for over two decades.

His presence in Florida put him in close proximity to Enrique Tarrio and (as if his ties to InfoWars didn’t already do so) through him Roger Stone.

When Trump called out the Proud Boys in his first debate against Joe Biden, Biggs responded, “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA . . . well sir! we’re ready!!” (Note, this hasn’t shown up in DOJ filings.)

Immediately after and in the weeks after the election, Biggs kept declaring war. “It’s time for fucking War if they steal this shit.” “No bitch. This is war.” ““This is a war on Americanism. This is only the beginning.”

On December 11, the Proud Boys (at least Enrique Tarrio and Ethan Nordean) appeared prominently at a Stop the Steal event with InfoWars personality Owen Shroyer. There was coordination between the militias at a march the following day, after which Enrique Tarrio destroyed a Black Lives Matter banner from the Asbury United Methodist Church in DC.

In the days after both the DC even and an event involving Stone in Florida, Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs claimed he organized a Florida-based “alliance” between the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and 3%ers.

On Christmas Eve, Meggs specifically tied protection at the January rally, probably of Stone, and coordination with a Proud Boy, almost certainly Tarrio, in the same text.

In the days after, both Tarrio and Biggs posted plans to dress like Antifa rather than in their signature yellow and black.

9. For example, on December 29, 2020, Tarrio posted a message on the social media site Parler1 about the demonstration planned for January 6, 2021. Among other things, Tarrio announced that the Proud Boys would “turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist… We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will be spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows….we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.” I believe the statement about dressing in “all BLACK” is a reference to dressing like the group known as “Antifa,” who the Proud Boys have identified as an enemy of their movement and are often depicted in the media wearing all black to demonstrations.

10. On or around the same day, BIGGS posted a similar message to his followers on Parler in which he stated, among other things, “we will not be attending DC in colors. We will be blending in as one of you. You won’t see us. You’ll even think we are you . . .We are going to smell like you, move like you, and look like you. The only thing we’ll do that’s us is think like us! Jan 6th is gonna be epic.” I understand that BIGGS was directing these statements at “Antifa.”

On December 30, Southern California 3%er Russell Taylor described a plan to meet at the Capitol and — in conjunction with Stop the Steal — surround the Capitol.

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

This plan — surrounding the Capitol — was what Stop the Steal figures partially carried out on January 6.

On January 4, when Tarrio arrived in DC for the riot, he was arrested for his attack on the Black Church in December, whereupon he was found with weapons that are unlawful in DC. In the wake of Tarrio’s arrest, Ethan Nordean was supposed to be in charge of the operation. But around 9:08PM the day before the riot (these texts reflect Nordean’s Washington state time zone, so add three hours), someone said he had not heard from Nordean in hours.

Minutes later, Biggs explained that “we just had a meeting w[i]th a lot of guys” and “info should be coming out.” While redacted in these texts, the superseding indictment describes that he also notes he had just spoken with Tarrio.

 

He further explained that he was with Nordean and “we have a plan.”

Biggs then says he gave Tarrio a plan.

Ethan Nordean may have been in charge on January 6. But Biggs seems to have been the one working most closely with Tarrio, through whom at least some of the inter-militia coordination worked.

After all that, the Proud Boy leaders agree to meet at 10AM the next day.

As captured by the WSJ, the next day, after the Proud Boys met at the Washington Monument, they then marched the East side of the Capitol first, but then later approach it from the Northwest. Just before Trump started speaking and before a broader call to assembly tied to 1PM, at 12:52 Biggs said something to Ryan Samsel, who then kicked off the assault on a series of barricades, giving a police officer a brain injury in the process.

Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and Billy Chrestman were among the leaders of the next confrontation. After a series of fights, at 2:13, Dominic Pezzola broke through a window in the Capitol. Biggs followed him, with some other Proud Boys (in this picture, Paul Rae) in tow, a minute later.

Meanwhile, even as Biggs was leading a mob of people in a violent attack on the Capitol, Alex Jones — Biggs’ former employer — was leading a larger mob of people from the Ellipse, where they had just been instructed by their President that “we’re going to the Capitol, and we’re going to try and give…we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help. We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” Jones stopped when he got to the Capitol and gave a speech.

According to Stacie Getsinger, a woman from South Carolina who was arrested for trespassing in June who was listening to Jones at that first speech, Jones told his audience to go to the other side of the building (which would be the East side), because that’s where Trump’s next speech would be.

She and her husband did. Trump gave no speech, but they were among the first wave of people to breach the East entrance.

Alex Jones went to the other side of the Capitol, too. Even before he did, though, Oath Keeper Jason Dolan was on the stairs, waiting.

As Dolan waited, Jones and his entourage (including Ali Alexander and the recently arrested Owen Shroyer) pushed up the stairs stack-style.

Meanwhile, at some point, former InfoWars employee and Florida militia member reportedly joined in an alliance with the Oath Keepers by fellow Floridian Meggs, Biggs left the Capitol from one of the West entrances, walked around it, and assembled on the East Steps with Arthur Jackman, Rae, and two others (probably Kevin and Nathan Tuck, and possibly Edward George; the Tucks are both — now former — cops, and Jackman’s and one of the Tucks’ spouses still are cops).

At 2:39, Rae and Jackman can be seen approaching the East Door with Biggs.

At around 2:40, they entered the East door.

At almost exactly the same time, Jason Dolan and Kenneth Harrelson entered the door along with the Oath Keeper stack led by Kelly Meggs (this is believed to be a picture Harrelson took of Dolan filming the entry; if you watch the video you can see both signs visible in the Biggs photo, making it clear that the people kitted out with helmets in that picture are the Stack).

People like the Getsingers — who were brought there by Alex Jones — pushed through around the same time.

Something brought Joe Biggs, Florida Oath Keepers Kenneth Harrelson and Jason Dolan, along with former Biggs employer Alex Jones to the top of the East steps, along with the mob that Jones brought on false pretenses. Shortly thereafter, Florida Oath Keeper head Kelly Meggs would bring a stack of Oath Keepers through the same door and — evidence suggests — in search of Nancy Pelosi, whom Meggs had talked about killing on election day.

Joe Biggs kicked off the riot on the West side of the building.

Then he went over to the East side to join his former employer Alex Jones and a bunch of Oath Keepers, led by fellow Floridians, to lead a mob back into the Capitol.

West side. Joe Biggs. East side. Joe Biggs.

This is the guy a couple of FBI Agents in Daytona believed was a credible informant against Antifa.

[Thanks to Benny Bryant for continuing to help me sort through the Oath Keeper side of this, and thanks to gal_suburban for sharing the video of Jones on the East side.]

Zia Faruqui Doesn’t Want to be DOJ’s Fall-Guy for Media Policy Secrecy

As I noted, on Friday, InfoWars personality Owen Shroyer was charged — at this point, with just trespassing — in the January 6 insurrection. But as I also noted that his affidavit, “is interesting because it clearly lays out evidence — at a minimum! — that he could be charged with obstruction because he specifically talked about obstructing the vote certification on January 5.” As a general practice, the government has arrested many non-violent January 6 defendants on trespassing charges and then fleshed out any further charges afterwards (in part, because that maximizes the opportunity to get people to cooperate).

Tuesday, some documents were unsealed that reveal I’m not the only one who thinks so. So, apparently, does Zia Faruqui, one of three DC Magistrate judges dealing with all the January 6 cases as they come in (and, of note, until last year an Assistant US Attorney in the DC US Attorney’s Office).

Faruqui attempts to hold the government to public record standards

We know what Faruqui thinks because he has been trying to force the government to treat court records as the public documents they’re supposed to be, as he did here.

Not long after he became a Magistrate judge, Faruqui got stuck with government requests to collect journalists’ communications that were predictably controversial when they were disclosed. In an order issued in July, Faruqui scolded the government for suggesting they could seal the records request (along with its tactically unique approach to getting journalists’ records) indefinitely.

A sealed matter is not generally, as the government persists in imagining, “nailed into a nondescript crate, stored deep in a sprawling, uncataloged warehouse.” Leopold, 964 F. 3d at 1133 (citing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Lucasfilm Ltd. 1981)). Rather, it is merely frozen in carbonite, awaiting its eventual thawing. Cf. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Lucasfilm Ltd. 1980)

As Faruqui describes it in an order drafted last week along with the arrest warrant for Shroyer, but not released until yesterday, the government was trying to do the same with Shroyer’s arrest warrant. When the government asked for the arrest warrant, he asked if they would memorialize their basis for finding that Shroyer’s arrest met DOJ’s media guidelines. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey forced the FBI agent to include language addressing the issue earlier this year in the arrest warrant for Matthew Purse; in that case, the Agent simply included language explaining how he had determined that Purse was not a member of the media.

But, as Faruqui describes it in his order, in Shroyer’s case, the government was unwilling to assert that they had followed their media guidelines with Shroyer in the affidavit, much less explain their thinking surrounding it.

On August 19, 2021, the undersigned had a telephone conference with representatives of the USAO regarding the Complaint. The undersigned inquired as to whether:

  • the Department of Justice considered Shroyer to be a member of the media;
  • the USAO had complied with Department of Justice policies regarding the arrest of media members; and
  • the Assistant U.S. Attorneys would memorialize the answers to these two questions in the Complaint, consistent with their prior practice.

The USAO represented that it had followed its internal guidelines but was unwilling to memorialize that or explain the bases for its determinations

Afterwards, Faruqui sent a draft of his order to USAO (that is, to his former colleagues). One of his former supervisors, John Crabb, wrote back and said that DOJ doesn’t have to share this because it would reveal internal deliberations.

[A] requirement to proffer to the Court how and on what basis the Executive Branch has made determinations under these internal Department policies would be inconsistent with the appropriate role of the Court with respect to such policies and would risk disclosing internal privileged deliberations. Moreover, such inquiries could risk impeding frank and thoughtful internal deliberations within the Department about how best to ensure compliance with these enhanced protections for Members of the News Media.

Crabb further explained that the Shroyer case is distinguishable from the Purse case.

As the Court notes, Addendum Order at 7-8, this Office has conferred on previous occasions with the Court regarding certain aspects of the Department’s media polices. In the main, those situations are distinguishable; and, in any event, the government is not bound by those prior actions.

Probably, this situation is distinguishable because Purse was affirmatively shown not to be media. Shroyer clearly is, in some sense. Under DOJ’s media guidelines (assuming they’re not using the exception for a suspected foreign agent), that leaves two possibilities. Either they deemed some of the things for which Shroyer got arrested to be outside his newsgathering role. And/or they determined he had committed a crime in the course of his newsgathering activities, the equivalent of hacking to obtain source materials for journalism.

DOJ’s reliance on the Deferred Prosecution Agreement, including Shroyer’s failure to even begin paying off his community service debt before January 6, provided DOJ with an easy way to publicly establish a crime largely independent of his actions on January 6, which is one of the reasons I was so interested in how they had arrested him.

Faruqui’s probable cause determination

But Faruqui’s order may hint at what DOJ is really thinking.

Faruqui’s order is organized this way:

I. Introduction, explaining why he’s writing this order.

A. Events of January 6th, explaining the content of Shroyer’s propaganda (including propaganda from before he trespassed on January 6)

B. Prior Criminal Conduct, explaining Shroyer’s past disruption charge and his DPA

C. Statutory Violations, explaining the basis for the two misdemeanors Shroyer was charged with

D. Inquiry of the Court, explaining that Faruqui tried to make DOJ go on the record for how this complied with their media guidelines

II. Standard, explaining the reasons for treating the press with sensitivity and laying out the parts of the media guidelines that focus on protecting newsgathering

III. Analysis, describing how on two earlier occasions DOJ had provided more on the record than they had here, but were unwilling to do so here, then restating Shroyer’s actions

IV. Conclusion, finding that even a credentialed journalist committing the same actions Shroyer had would have reached probable cause for a crime but also finding that DOJ gave an unsatisfactory answer about how it applied its media guidelines [my emphasis]

It’s the last bit — the end of Section III and the short Section IV — I’m most interested in. In one paragraph, Faruqui explains that DOJ said something to him (presumably before he approved the warrant on the 19th) confirming they had followed the media guidelines, but were unwilling to put that they had done so or what their analysis was in writing. That’s what led him to draft this order and ask again for them to put it in writing.

Yet here the government is unwilling to address its compliance with its internal regulations regarding the press. When questioned by the Court, the USAO’srepresentatives respectfully stated that they had followed such guidelines but would not formally state this in their pleadings; nor would they memorialize the reasons underlying their determination that Shroyer was not “a member of the news media” who had committed the instant offenses “in the course of, or arising out of, newsgathering activities.” 28 C.F.R. § 50.10(f)(2). The events of January 6th were an attack on the foundation of our democracy. But this does not relieve the Department of Justice from following its own guidelines, written to preserve the very same democracy.

The next paragraph restates Shroyer’s alleged crime, but combines stuff that appears in sections I.A. and I.C., above, which results in a description of alleged crimes that go well beyond trespassing (though Faruqui does review how Shroyer knew he couldn’t “engage in disruptive and riotous behavior” at the Capitol).

Shroyer’s January 2020 arrest gave him clear notice that he could not engage in disruptive and riotous behavior at the Capitol Building and Grounds. Yet beginning on January 5, 2021, Shroyer began urging others to join him in protest at the Capitol Building and Grounds premised on the false claim that the election was “stolen.” Statement of Facts at 3. This conduct continued on January 6, 2021, when Shroyer made additional statements urging on the mob and personally entering the restricted area of the Capitol building in brazen defiance of his DPA. See Statement of Facts at 4–6. His stated goal was clear: to stop former Vice President Pence from certifying the election by “tak[ing] the Capitol grounds”. Id. at 6. Shroyer described his personal role in the riot: “We literally own these streets right now.” Id. at 6. On January 6th, Shroyer was “aid[ing], conspir[ing] with, plan[ning], or coordinat[ing] riotous actions.” United States v. Munchel, 991 F.3d 1273, 1284 (D.C. Cir. 2021).

In the bolded language, Faruqui describes obstruction as it is being charged in January 6. He then purports to cite from Munchel, the DC Circuit decision that DC judges have used to separate those who assaulted cops and those who masterminded the attack from those who pose less of a threat going forward. Only the quote doesn’t appear in the opinion, not even in other grammatical form. Faruqui’s citations should end before (or bracket) the word “riotous.” Here’s how the passage appears in Munchel:

In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors, and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way.

This is, as I noted, the language that District judges have used since Munchel in justifying detaining people. Faruqui is seemingly saying that Shroyer did things — and this language has primarily been used with militia leadership — that have gotten other people detained. Effectively, Faruqui has suggested that Shroyer is, like Kelly Meggs and Joe Biggs, one of the key leaders in this attack.

After having likened Shroyer to the likes of Meggs and Biggs, then, Faruqui says (in the conclusory section) that there is probable cause that Shroyer committed the crimes he has just described.

The undersigned finds there was probable cause to believe Shroyer committed the above-described violations.

Coming immediately after the sentence likening Shroyer to Meggs and Biggs, this language might not refer solely to the trespass charges approved in the warrant, but also to the broader language Faruqui used, encompassing obstruction and conspiracy.

And indeed, the affidavit does substantiate (at least) obstruction charges, even if it doesn’t include that among the charges (as I noted before all these documents were unsealed).

Who is making this case — Faruqui or DOJ?

As noted above: according to Faruqui’s order, it’s not that the government didn’t say whether it had adhered to its media guidelines. He explicitly says that they did.

The USAO represented that it had followed its internal guidelines but was unwilling to memorialize that or explain the bases for its determinations.

[snip]

When questioned by the Court, the USAO’s representatives respectfully stated that they had followed such guidelines but would not formally state this in their pleadings; nor would they memorialize the reasons underlying their determination that Shroyer was not “a member of the news media” who had committed the instant offenses “in the course of, or arising out of, newsgathering activities.” [my emphasis]

Rather, DOJ refused to put that it had in writing.

Which makes it unclear whether this extrapolation from Shroyer’s arrest affidavit, from the details that substantiate the two trespassing charges in it to the details that could not have any role in a trespassing charge but which show that Shroyer pre-meditated an attempt to stop the vote count, is Faruqui’s own extrapolation or something he heard in his discussions with DOJ last week, the things they’re not willing to put into writing.

Contrary to some analysis of this order, it is not a prospective order for anything — Faruqui had already approved the arrest warrant when he issued it. Nor is Faruqui saying that he doesn’t know if DOJ considers Shroyer a journalist (though he’s more oblique on that point than he is on others).

Rather, the reason he wrote this order was to memorialize what he understands, from conversations he had with DOJ, went on.

The Court issues this addendum opinion to ensure that the record accurately reflects: 1) the conversations between the Court and the Department of Justice; and 2) the Department’s break with its prior practice of confirming its adherence to these regulations.

[snip]

The Court issues this addendum opinion in response to the USAO’s break with prior practice, and to ensure that the judicial record accurately reflects: 1) the conversations between the Court and the USAO; and 2) the undersigned’s understanding of the steps taken by the Department to comply with 28 C.F.R. § 50.10.

What Faruqui doesn’t say, though, is where in this opinion DOJ’s representations (at a minimum, that they did, in fact, follow media guidelines) end and where his own analysis begins. That is, we don’t know whether the analysis that implies Shroyer is one of the key planners of this operation, just like Biggs and Meggs, is Faruqui’s analysis or what DOJ explained, verbally but not in writing, when they explained that they had complied with media guidelines.

Update: DOJ has unsealed an Information charging Shroyer just with trespassing.

Charlie Watts

Was sitting in an oral surgeon’s chair this morning, waiting for the anesthesia to take hold, when Mrs. Bmaz texted me that Charlie Watts had died. I managed some kind of “RIP” tweet before being totally out of it. But it seriously hurt.

For those that have been here a long time, you know my affinity for the Stones. It is only my opinion, but to my eye, they really are the Greatest Rock And Roll Band In The World. Certainly the most durable, and nobody can dispute that, irrespective of any other discussion.

The last Stone to die was Brian Jones, and that was 1969. Bill Wyman left the band in 1993, but is still alive and kicking. But Charlie is now gone. The Glimmer Twins, Mick and Keef, have always been the faces of the Stones, but Charlie Watts was the constant backbone. Charlie never missed a gig. Ever. Over effectively sixty years. That is something. Watts was not a loud and noisy drummer, he was understated and perfect until the end.

I first saw the Stones on a 15 inch or so black and white TV when they pissed off Ed Sullivan on American national CBS TV. I was hooked and never looked back. Saw them, and Charlie, live nine times, all of them spectacular. The last was two years ago tomorrow, and, yeah, they were still all that. Seriously great. Not going to post any video, but here is a link. The audio and video leaves very much to be desired, sorry about that, I did not take it, but was not far from where it was taken from.

But that video, while not horrible, still is kind of lousy. So I am attaching a high quality video that, while Charlie and the boys are already old, displays exactly how good they still were. Embiggen it by clicking on the You Tube option, because this is really good. Charlie is perfect. Cheers, and RIP Charlie Watts.

Stop the Steal: Hints of the January 5 Rallies in the January 6 Riot Investigation

With the charges against Owen Shroyer, the government has now charged three people who had a speaking part in several rallies tied to Stop the Steal the day before the insurrection: Brandon Straka, Russell Taylor and his co-conspirators, and Shroyer. Because I’m working on some gaps in the government’s story — gaps that must be intentional, for investigative or prosecutorial reasons — I want to look at how DOJ is beginning to fill in the story about January 5.

With Walk Away founder Brandon Straka, who was arrested on January 25, the mention of his speech at the Stop the Steal rally at Freedom Plaza in his arrest affidavit was almost incidental, included along with the rest of his incendiary speech directly tied to the riot (but the affidavit didn’t include his other public comments over a broader period — for example, it doesn’t mention Straka’s role in sowing suspicion of the Michigan vote tally).

My review of STRAKA’s Twitter account on January 11, also found a video he had posted of himself speaking at a “Stop the Steal” rally held at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. on January 5, 2021. As of January 13, STRAKA had removed this video from his Twitter account, but a video of the entire event had been posted to YouTube. The video showed that STRAKA was introduced by name and brought onto stage. STRAKA spoke for about five minutes during which time he repeatedly referred to the attendees as “Patriots” and referenced the “revolution” multiple times. STRAKA told the attendees to “fight back” and ended by saying, “We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!”

Though Straka was charged with civil disorder for encouraging others to strip an officer of his riot shield, he has not yet been indicted, with or without obstruction, which these statements would seem to support. Instead, the government has gotten two 90-plus day continuances in this case with Straka’s consent, offering the explanation that, “are continuing to communicate in an effort to resolve this matter.” Straka currently has a status hearing scheduled on August 25, Wednesday, though these things do get moved quickly.

The January 5 rally at the Supreme Court (which featured some of the same people as the Freedom Plaza one) appears in the So Cal Three Percenter conspiracy indictment in part for the logistical challenges it posed.

On December 30, 2020, KINNISON sent a text message to MELE, WARNER, and MARTINEZ in which he attached a flyer advertising the January 5, 2021 rally outside the Supreme Court, at which TAYLOR, HOSTETTER, and PERSON ONE were named speakers for the American Phoenix Project. After KINNISON set this message, MELE wrote, “We need to make sure we roll into town earlier on the 5th now,” to which KINNISON responded, “We can leave Saturday.”

But it still provided cause for DOJ to mention that by December 30, Russell Taylor knew of a Stop the Steal plan to “surround the Capitol.”

On December 30, 2020, TAYLOR posted to his “russ.taylor” Instagram account:

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

Mentioning this rally also gave DOJ an opportunity to describe Taylor promising to “fight” and “bleed” in his speech at the rally.

On January 5, 2021, TAYLOR spoke at a Virginia Women for Trump rally in front of the United States Supreme Court as part of a panel of American Phoenix Project speakers. In his speech, he stated:

I am Russell Taylor and I am a free American. And I stand here in the streets with you in defiance of a communist coup that is set to take over America. But we are awake and we are never going back to sleep. We are free Americans and in these streets we will fight and we will bleed before we allow our freedom to be taken from us. We declare that we will never bend a knee to the Marxists within Antifa, to the tyrannical Democrat governors who are puppets, and to the deep state commie actors who threaten to destroy America…. But now these anti-Americans have made the fatal mistake, and they have brought out the Patriot’s fury onto these streets and they did so without knowing that we will not return to our peaceful way of life until this election is made right, our freedoms are restored, and American is preserved.

That is, in the conspiracy indictment charging 3 percenters with organizing not just themselves to come armed to the Capitol, but others in Southern California, the earlier rally serves as both an organizational focus and a platform to sow violence.

Shroyer’s affidavit mentions several things he said on January 5

SHROYER traveled to Washington, D.C. in January 2021, and in advance of January 6, 2021, spoke of stopping the certification of the Electoral College vote. In a video1 posted to the Infowars website on January 5, 2021, SHROYER gave an address in Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C., during which he stated: “Americans are ready to fight. We’re not exactly sure what that’s going to look like perhaps in a couple of weeks if we can’t stop this certification of the fraudulent election . . . we are the new revolution! We are going to restore and we are going to save the republic!”

In another video2 posted to the Infowars website on January 5, 2021, SHROYER called into an Infowars live broadcast and said: “what I’m afraid of is if we do not get this false certification of Biden stopped this week. I’m afraid of what this means for the rest of the month . . . Everybody knows election was stolen . . . are we just going to sit here and become activists for 4 years or are going to actually do something about this . . . whatever that cause or course of cause may be?”3

In addition, SHROYER was featured in promotional material circulated by Infowars. One promotional video urged listeners to “come to the big D.C. marches on the 5th and 6th of January, I’ll see you there.”4 The video ended with an edited graphic of SHROYER and others in front of the Capitol building. That graphic is depicted below:

1 https://banned.video/watch?id=5ff4aebaa285a02ed04c4d6e.

2 https://banned.video/watch?id=5ff511bb5a212330029f5a9c.

3 https://banned.video/watch?id=5ff511bb5a212330029f5a9c.

4 https://www.banned.video/watch?id=5ff22bb71f93a8267a6432ee.

While Shroyer is circled in that graphic — which demonstrates that Jones had a plan to go to the Capitol (significantly, this is the East front) days in advance — it really is all about Jones.

As I noted, this is just a trespass arrest, like hundreds of other trespass arrests (though by charging Shroyer with violating a pre-existing Deferred Prosecution Agreement, they lessen any claims of persecution that will come as they investigate Shroyer further).

But what these three arrests together show is that those involved as speakers on January 5 seem to have had advance knowledge of what would happen the next day.

One of the other mentions of January 5 rallies thus far appears in the filings for Josiah Colt, Ronnie Sandlin, and Nate DeGrave, three random guys who hooked up on the Internet and armed themselves for violence in advance of January 6. Though they have no ties to any organized militia, the day after they went to a January 5 rally, they seemed to know there would be a second front opening at the East door, and Sandlin and DeGrave were among those charged with forcibly ensuring that door was opened.

John Durham Won’t Charge Any of Trump’s Favorite Villains

On Friday, WSJ had an article that might have been titled, “John Durham won’t charge any of Donald Trump’s favorite villains.” It reported that Durham is still considering charges against people outside of government and “lower-level FBI employees.”

Mr. Durham has been examining potential criminal charges against several lower-level Federal Bureau of Investigation employees, and people who aren’t in government, according to people familiar with the matter.

But it doesn’t note that, even if Durham does charge those involved in the dossier, it will still mean that many of Trump’s claims about the Russian investigation were investigated for longer than Mueller took, only to fall short of the crimes Trump claimed had happened.

Jim Comey was the FBI Director, not a low-level employee. In spite of Durham’s effort to prove that Comey leaked details of Trump’s efforts to protect Mike Flynn to get a Special Counsel appointed, if Durham is contemplating charges only against “lower-level” FBI employees, he has not found proof that Comey broke the law.

Andrew McCabe was the FBI Deputy Director, not a low-level employee. In spite of Durham’s apparent effort to insinuate that McCabe micromanaged the Russian investigation, pushing investigative steps FBI Agents didn’t support, if Durham is contemplating charges only against “lower-level” FBI employees, he has not found proof that McCabe broke the law.

Bill Priestap was the Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, not a low-level employee. In spite of Durham’s effort to interpret Priestap’s notes as proof that the FBI set up Mike Flynn, if Durham is contemplating charges only against “lower-level” FBI employees, he has not found proof that Priestap broke the law.

Peter Strzok was the Deputy Assistant Director when he opened Crossfire Hurricane, not a low-level employee. In spite of Durham’s extended efforts to suggest that Strzok sustained an investigation into Donald Trump out of some kind of animus or perhaps compensation for his role in Hillary Clinton’s defeat, in spite of Durham’s seeming efforts to suggest that Strzok pushed others to obtain legal process he refused to approve earlier in the investigation, if Durham is contemplating charges only against “lower-level” FBI employees, he has not found proof that Strzok broke the law.

Lisa Page was the Counselor to the Deputy Director, not a low-level employee. In spite of Durham’s efforts to suggest Page had some role in the investigation that DOJ IG already said she didn’t, if Durham is contemplating charges only against “lower-level” FBI employees, he has not found proof that Lisa Page broke the law.

Durham has interviewed few if any of these senior people, who’ve been targeted for years. Without even hearing their side, apparently, Durham has decided they’re not the villains Trump made them out to be.

But Trump’s chief villains aren’t the only targets that — if this report is correct — will not be charged.

The WSJ notes that Durham won’t charge anyone for concluding that Russia not only wanted to defeat Hillary, but affirmatively wanted Trump in power.

Beyond the role of outside tipsters, Mr. Durham’s investigation examined how the FBI first came to open the investigation, as well as a separate 2017 U.S. intelligence report that concluded Moscow interfered in the presidential election in part to help then-candidate Trump.

Mr. Durham’s team isn’t expected to bring any criminal charges in connection with that intelligence assessment, some of the people said.

So John Brennan won’t be getting charged either, in spite of calls for that to happen.

Then there are all the other hoaxes Republicans invented: Durham will not charge anyone for spying on Trump before the opening of the investigation, because it didn’t happen. Durham will not charge the FBI or CIA for setting Joseph Mifsud up to entrap George Papadopoulos, because it didn’t happen.

In spite of the seeming confirmation that four years of insinuations about these people were wrong, the right wing has responded to the seeming news that Peter Strzok won’t be charged with delight.

High Gaslighter Catherine Herridge posted the same partially unsealed footnote (footnote 350 discussed in this post) twice as well as a passage about what the FBI had learned by September 2017, three months after the last FISA order targeting Carter Page.

Jonathan Turley (who ignores the WSJ description that any FBI targets are low-level) claims that Durham’s current focus could “implicate some of the most powerful figures in politics” in his final report, while getting a slew of details (about Bruce and Nellie Ohr, especially) wrong.

The report in The Wall Street Journal said Durham is presenting evidence against FBI agents and possibly others in the use of false information or tips at the start of the Russia investigation in 2016. Those “others” could include a virtual who’s who of Washington politics, and even if they are not indicted, Durham could implicate some of the most powerful figures in politics in his final report, expected in the coming months.

[snip]

This cross-pollination between the campaign and the Justice Department was evident in the strange role of Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice official who was later demoted for concealing his meetings with people pushing the Steele dossier; his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS as a researcher on Trump’s purported connections to Russia. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz subsequently found that Bruce Ohr acted improperly and committed “consequential errors in judgment.”

[snip]

Durham also is reportedly looking into information concerning Alfa Bank, a privately owned commercial bank in Russia. That information led to possible access to the Trump campaign server. The Alfa Bank controversy is likely to make a number of powerful people particularly uneasy. Clinton campaign-linked figures such as Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson allegedly pushed the debunked claim that the Trump campaign had a server linked directly to the bank, which in turn was linked to Vladimir Putin and his cronies. The Alfa Bank conspiracy reportedly was pitched to the Justice Department, including in contacts with Bruce Ohr.

Glenn Greenwald, after spending years mocking the prosecutions of Trump’s Campaign and Deputy Campaign Manager, his personal lawyer, his National Security Advisor, a foreign policy advisor, and his rat-fucker — four for covering up what happened in 2016 — and after pushing the Hunter Biden laptop allegedly funneled to a different Trump personal lawyer who is currently being investigated for influence peddling with Russian assets — speaks gleefully of “already one guilty plea: seems like more criminal charges are coming.”

The pseudonymous TechnoFog[gy] highlights the claims of a Russian, Olga Galkina, who — if the dossier was indeed filled with disinformation (and I believe it was) — was the source for much of it, while complaining, in the same breath as they magnify Galkina’s claims, that Igor Danchenko might not be aware that those like Galkina who fed him garbage were doing so for Russian intelligence.

More and more, Durham appears to be chasing what an elaborate lawfare effort from the Alfa Bank oligarchs are throwing out. The effort, like the dossier itself, is transparently problematic, particularly given that FBI debunked it early. The dossier had little to do with the investigation of anyone but Carter Page; the Alfa Bank allegations were entirely a distraction from the investigation. If Durham wants to stake his report on that, it has the potential of making it an easily discredited piece of Russian propaganda.

A focus on the disinformation in the dossier and the way that some ways the Alfa Bank claim was packaged up has a real potential to backfire for Durham, because it can only shine a light on how Russia obfuscated its efforts to get Trump elected in 2016 with disinformation about efforts to get Trump elected.

Don’t Ignore What Trevor McFadden Has to Say about January 6

Tierney Sneed had a good article yesterday summarizing how starkly some of the judges presiding over January 6 cases have described it. For example, Sneed quoted liberally from the comments Randolph Moss made in sentencing Paul Hodgkins, comments that the government and other judges are quoting frequently.

“It means that it will be harder today than it was seven months ago for the United States and our diplomats to convince other nations to pursue democracy,” Judge Randolph Moss said at a July 19 sentencing hearing. “It means that it will be harder for all of us to convince our children and our grandchildren that democracy stands as the immutable foundation of this nation. It means that we are now all fearful about the next attack in a way that we never were.”

[snip]

Moss, a nominee of President Barack Obama, said that the attack “threatened not only the security of the Capitol, but democracy itself,” as he sentenced Paul Hodgkins, a rioter who pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding.

“Our elected representatives from both political parties came together that day to perform their constitutional and statutory duty to declare, in the word of the statute, the person elected president,” Moss said at the July 19 hearing. “The mob’s objective was to stop that from happening. They were prepared to break the law to prevent Congress from performing its constitutional and statutory duty. That is chilling for many reasons.”

She includes judges appointed by Democrats (in addition to Moss, Amy Berman Jackson and Beryl Howell) and Republicans (Reggie Walton and Royce Lamberth).

As someone who thinks January 6 was exceptionally dangerous, it’s comforting to hear some judges agree. But I think that, to make a case about how judges are interpreting January 6, you would need to include the statements of a judge like Trevor McFadden, as well.

Of the District Judges carrying the heavy January 6 case load, four — Carl Nichols, Dabney Friedrich, Tim Kelly, and McFadden — are Trump appointees. Unlike some of Trump’s DC Circuit appointees, they’re all serious judges, with time as prosecutors or in other DOJ roles. Trump appointees aren’t necessarily going to be more favorable for January 6 defendants. While Nichols may have burnished his right wing bonafides clerking for Clarence Thomas, for example, that means he spent a lot of time with a Justice who is generally awful for non-corporate defendants’ rights. Former public defender and Obama appointee Tanya Chutkan has already made decisions (on bail) that are more favorable to defendants than the Trump appointees, for example, and I expect that to continue (the judge presiding over the Oath Keeper conspiracy case, Amit Mehta, has also served as a public defender).

Still, as recent Republican appointees, the Trump judges are an important read and voice on this investigation. Both by disposition and record on the court, Friedrich is probably the Trumpiest judge, but thus far the most interesting case she has been assigned is that of Guy Reffitt, the III Percenter who threatened his kids if they revealed his role in the riot; in that case, she approved an order allowing prosecutors to use his face to open a laptop with pictures from the insurrection. Nichols has a bunch of cases, such as the Pollocks or former Green Beret Jeffrey McKellop, that may get interesting down the road, but thus far his most active cases have involved presiding over the plea deals of a group of people arrested on trespass charges on the day of the attack. Tim Kelly is presiding over the bulk of the Proud Boy cases, which by itself gives him a pretty full docket (but is also why DOJ really fucked up by treating Ethan Nordean’s invocation of the Kavanaugh protests so blithely); his decisions thus far have been totally fair. The decisions of Trevor McFadden, who is presiding over the omnibus Tunnel assault case, have also been fair.

I think McFadden’s statements should be included in any read of what these judges think of January 6 because he has pulled a number of the ones that, because the defendants’ political speech has been implicated in the cases against them, will provide an early read about how a Republican with solid political ties will view the balancing of political speech and threat posed by January 6.

In addition to the Hunter and Kevin Seefried prosecution (the latter of whom was pictured carrying a Confederate flag through the Capitol), McFadden is presiding over the prosecutions of American Firster Christian Secor, Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin, and Neo-Nazi Timothy Hale-Cusanelli.

In these cases, McFadden has expressed a fair amount of nuance in his views as he has presided over some genuinely difficult decisions.

He did take the way Hale-Cusanelli expressed his bigotry into account when he decided to hold him without bail (which was genuinely one of the most difficult detention decisions, in my opinion, and I was leaning towards release before McFadden made the decision), but in significant part because he may have acted on those views in the past and because his promises of action were alarming and intimidating his colleagues.

Having said all of that, we don’t typically penalize people for what they say or think. I think for purposes of my analysis, I need to — I’m trying to figure out whether this well-documented history of violent and racist language does suggest that the defendant poses a danger to the community.

[snip]

I also note the government’s evidence that the defendant appears to have surrounded himself, to a certain extent anyway, with people who have encouraged this behavior and people who may even agree with him. And I agree with the government’s concern regarding potential escalation of violence at this point given all that has occurred. And I am concerned for the safety of the confidential human source. I think given all of the facts here in the government’s motion, I mention it is pretty obvious to the defendant anyway who this person is. And I am concerned given all of the defendant[‘]s — all of the things he said in the past about committing violence against those who he feels are pitted against him. And given the sum evidence that the defendant has been willing to put these thoughts into action in the past, I think I do have a duty to protect that confidential source.

McFadden did, however, release someone with similarly repugnant views, Secor, even though Secor had been arming himself, in part because Secor had third party custodians — his parents — willing to vouch for him and put up a $200,000 bond. McFadden seems to be seeking to separate out hateful speech from where that speech turns violent and, if nothing else, that struggle deserves close attention.

But he’s also not viewing DOJ’s response to January 6 as driven predominantly by First Amendment issues. In a decision rejecting Griffin’s attempt to throw out one of the trespassing charges DOJ has used — which Griffin, because he did not enter the Capitol, was uniquely situated to challenge — McFadden dismissed Griffin’s claims of political discrimination.

The Government moved to detain Griffin before trial. It described Griffin’s political views as “inflammatory, racist, and at least borderline threatening advocacy.” Gov’t’s Mem. in Supp. of Pretrial Detention at 2, ECF No. 3. The Government also highlighted the gun rights advocacy of Cowboys for Trump, as well as allegedly violent statements made by Griffin.

[snip]

Finally, Griffin complains of discriminatory prosecution. He contends that he was targeted and “selectively charged . . . because the government loathed him and his politics.” Def.’s Reply at 3. “Few subjects are less adapted to judicial review than the exercise by the Executive of his discretion in deciding when and whether to institute criminal proceedings, or what precise charge shall be made, or whether to dismiss a proceeding once brought.” United States v. Fokker Servs. B.V., 818 F.3d 733, 741 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (cleaned up). So “the presumption of regularity” applies to “prosecutorial decisions and, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that prosecutors have properly discharged their official duties.” Id.

Griffin comes up short on providing the “clear evidence” required for this Court to surmount the presumption of regularity—and the separation of powers. He points to “hundreds or perhaps thousands of other individuals ‘remaining’ in the same area” as him on January 6 who have not faced charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1752. Def.’s Mot. at 24. The Court hesitates to credit these unsupported numbers, especially as the Government continues to charge new individuals with offenses related to January 6. Nor is the Court concerned by the Government’s statements about Griffin when seeking to detain him pretrial; detention hearings require the Court to consider the defendant’s history and personal characteristics, as well as his potential dangerousness.

Griffin highlights the Government’s dismissal of charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1752 in “the interests of justice” in United States v. Christopher Kelly, 21-mj-128 (D.D.C. 2021). According to news reports, the Government moved to drop the charges after determining Kelly did not enter the Capitol building. See Feds move to drop charges for Capitol riot defendant, Politico, June 1, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/01/feds-capitol-riot-defendant-491514 (“‘Since he was not inside, in the interest of consistency in the investigation, the charges were dropped,’ the official said.”). Even so, the Government could rationally forgo federal prosecution as to most trespassers while deciding that Griffin’s leadership role in the crowd, position as an elected official, and more blatant conduct at the scene merited him different treatment. Not all differences amount to discrimination. In any event, presumably Kelly and the other uncharged protestors surrounding Griffin on the Capitol steps share his “politics,” Def.’s Reply at 3, complicating his complaint of bias here.

Griffin also points to the numerous uncharged protestors who broke through USCP barricades to occupy the Capitol steps on the eve of Justice Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation vote. See Def.’s Notice at 2, ECF No. 39; see also Kavanaugh Protesters Ignore Capitol Barricades Ahead of Saturday Vote, Roll Call, Oct. 6, 2019, https://www.rollcall.com/2018/10/06/kavanaugh-protesters-ignore-capitol-barricades-ahead-ofsaturday-vote/. Disparate charging decisions in similar circumstances may be relevant at sentencing. Cf. 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)(c) (“the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct”). But this is not a basis to dismiss the charges. [My emphasis]

McFadden based his decision on this point in part on separation of powers (the basis for some of his decisions that have been deemed pro-Trump) and presumption of regularity, as well as basic facts. He deemed reasonable the possibility that prosecutors viewed Griffin’s leadership role to be more important to prosecute. He suggested he might sentence Griffin (if he were found guilty) leniently based on a comparison with similarly situated protestors against Kavanugh. But he also based his decision on the notion that Griffin’s threats of violence (raised in a detention challenge conducted before Michael Sherwin departed) could pose a genuine concern to the government.

McFadden is not treating this investigation as a witch hunt against people with right wing views.

But at the same time, McFadden has deviated from his colleagues’ more alarmist language to refer to January 6. At least twice in hearings (including on this Griffin challenge), McFadden admonished an AUSA who referred to January 6 as an insurrection. Have you charged anyone with insurrection, McFadden rightly asked. In a court room, these are not empty terms. They are also names of crimes. And DOJ needs to be careful not to accuse these defendants of crimes that — for whatever reason — they haven’t charged.

It’s not that McFadden thinks January 6 was not serious. In the same Hale-Cusanelli hearing, he described, “Obviously, the January 6th riot was a serious and sui generis threat to our country’s body politic.” But thus far (he has not presided over any of the six cases that have been sentenced yet), he has adopted a more moderate tone in discussing the event.

It’s true that, for the moment, some District Court Judges will frame how we think of January 6. In Munchel, the DC Circuit, too, described January 6 in grave terms (albeit in a passage of Robert Wilkins’ majority opinion not joined by Greg Katsas).

It cannot be gainsaid that the violent breach of the Capitol on January 6 was a grave danger to our democracy, and that those who participated could rightly be subject to detention to safeguard the community. Cf. Salerno, 481 U.S. at 748 (“[I]n times of war or insurrection, when society’s interest is at its peak, the Government may detain individuals whom the government believes to be dangerous.” (citations omitted)).

But ultimately, the six Republican appointees on the Supreme Court will have their say about what this event was — at least about whether hundreds of people committed felony obstruction in trying to halt the peaceful transfer of power. And with that in mind, commentators and DOJ would do well to watch carefully for the specific aspects of January 6 that Trevor McFadden finds most troublesome.

A Tale of Three Capitol Visitor Center Arrests: Why January 6 Is Different from Portland

By the end of the month, all of six January 6 defendants who were arrested in the middle of the riot will almost certainly have pled guilty to misdemeanor trespassing offenses.

The four guilty pleas, thus far, have led me to realize how thin their statements of offense are as compared to others who have pled guilty, even those pleading to the same trespassing offense:

The cornerstone to all these statements of offense is this paragraph describing how, shortly before 2:30 on January 6, after some Capitol Police officers told some rioters to leave and they didn’t, the officers started arresting people (the SOOs vary about whether the defendant claims not to have heard or, as with Curzio, admitted that he refused to leave).

10. Video surveillance depicted Sweet and Fitchett walking down a corridor in the Capitol Visitors Center, which is part of the Capitol building, shortly after 2:30 p.m., toward the end of the corridor area where U.S. Capitol Police officers had formed a defensive line. Other rioters also gathered in this corridor. The officers issued commands for the rioters to leave the building. Sweet maintains he did not hear those commands. When rioters refused their commands, the officers began arresting individuals who had unlawfully entered the building, including Sweet and Fitchett. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) uncovered no evidence that Sweet and Fitchett engaged in violent or disruptive conduct at the Capitol grounds or inside the building.

In Fitchett’s case, the government doesn’t even claim to know when she took a video of her approach to the Capitol with Sweet.

9. Sometime during the early afternoon of January 6, 2021, Fitchett recorded a video of herself and Sweet approaching an entrance into the Capitol with a large crowd around them yelling and making banging noises. Fitchett, with the camera turned on herself, stated in a raised voice, “We are storming the Capitol. We have broken in. Patriots arise.” Shortly after then, Sweet and Fitchett unlawfully entered the Capitol.

I find that interesting because these six arrests, almost alone of the the 560-some arrests so far, replicate a typical arrest from unrest in Portland where — according to a DOJ filing submitted in Garret Miller’s case last month — there’s just far less evidence with which to hold rioters accountable.

More fundamentally, the 45 Oregon cases serve as improper “comparator[s]” because those defendants and Miller are not similarly situated. Stone, 394 F. Supp. 3d at 31. Miller unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol and resisted the law enforcement officers who tried to move him. Doc. 16, at 4. He did so while elected lawmakers and the Vice President of the United States were present in the building and attempting to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election in accordance with Article II of the Constitution. Id. at 2-3. And he committed a host of federal offenses attendant to this riot, including threatening to kill a Congresswoman and a USCP officer. Id. at 5-6. All this was captured on video and Miller’s social-media posts. See 4/1/21 Hr’g Tr. 19:14-15 (“[T]he evidence against Mr. Miller is strong.”). Contrast that with the 45 Oregon defendants, who—despite committing serious offenses—never entered the federal courthouse structure, impeded a congressional proceeding, or targeted a specific federal official or officer for assassination. Additionally, the government’s evidence in those cases often relied on officer recollections (e.g., identifying the particular offender on a darkened plaza with throngs of people) that could be challenged at trial—rather than video and well-documented incriminating statements available in this case. These situational and evidentiary differences represent “distinguishable legitimate prosecutorial factors that might justify making different prosecutorial decisions” in Miller’s case.

In fact, the affidavit used to arrest the six January 6 trespassing defendants shows that the Capitol Police officer who wrote it within a day of fighting rioters for what was likely hours, actually got the time of the arrest wrong by half an hour, an error which would have made it hard to charge felony obstruction if DOJ had considered it with these defendants.

In this context, at or about 3:00 p.m., I responded along with other members of the Capitol Police to a disturbance involving several dozen people who were inside the United States Capitol without lawful authority, under the circumstances described above. I observed the crowd moving together in a disorderly fashion, and I observed members of the crowd engage in conduct such as making loud noises, and kicking chairs, throwing an unknown liquid substance at officers, and spraying an unknown substance at officers.

In a loud and clear voice, Capitol Police Officers ordered the crowd to leave the building. The crowd did not comply, and instead responded by shouting and cursing at the Capitol Police Officers. I observed that the crowd, which at the time was located on the Upper Level of the United States Capitol Visitors Center near the door to the House Atrium, included the six individuals who were later identified to be Cindy Fitchett, Michael Curzio, Douglas Sweet, Terry Brown, Bradley Rukstales, and Thomas Gallgher. These six individuals were positioned towards the front of the crowd, close to the Capitol Police Officers who were responding, and to the officer who issued the order to leave. The six individuals, like others in the larger crowd, willfully refused the order to leave.

Even though they were caught on surveillance video, the Capitol Visitors Center was one of the least filmed places in the riot. To make things worse, Capitol Police Officers were not equipped with Body Worn Cameras that day, so there’s no record of this arrest.

In other words, for six people who entered the building, the FBI may have remarkably little evidence of their doing so, but because they alone among the thousands who did enter were arrested onsite and so were prosecuted.

It’s worth comparing those six arrests and resolution with the prosecutions of three others who were also in the Capitol Visitor’s Center at almost precisely that time, because it demonstrates how the FBI had so much other evidence covering the actions of most defendants.

First, there’s Robert Gieswein. He was arrested quite early in the investigation — on January 19 — based largely on his presence, kitted out in tactical gear and carrying a baseball bat, in some of the most spectacular scenes of the assault on the Capitol, including the initial breach with Dominic Pezzola.

But his initial arrest affidavit written ten days after the riot did not mention Gieswein’s actions inside the CVC at all.

That was only revealed in detention filing submitted in June. It revealed that, at about the same time and place where Curzio and others were being arrested, Gieswein was allegedly assaulting cops to avoid arrest.

Gieswein later went near the Capitol Visitor Center, where he and other rioters encountered a group of U.S. Capitol Police officers, and he again deployed his aerosol spray on those officers. Although there is not video of this incident that undersigned counsel is aware of, the defendant is charged with spraying and then assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer in the Capitol Visitor Center. According to that Officer, a person matching largely matching Gieswein’s description took out an unknown chemical-type aerosol agent, which one officer likened to OC spray, and sprayed a group of officers, causing irritation of the eyes. One officer recalls the person who matches the defendant’s description throwing punches at police. When the Capitol Police took the defendant to the ground to arrest him, other individuals around the defendant advanced on the officers, pushed them back, and freed Gieswein, who fled the area. Parts of the aftermath of this incident, including the defendant and Capitol police on the ground, and the defendant fleeing, are captured on Capitol surveillance video.

This is one of the rare assaults charged in January 6 of which there is not (yet, as far as we know) video evidence. If that were all Gieswein were arrested on — if he wasn’t also charged with assaulting two other sets of officers and obstruction — then his lawyers might be pushing to dismiss or plead down the charges, as happened with many Portland defendants.

But the rest of his actions were spectacularly caught on film, including this scene where he sprayed cops with some toxin.

In other words, in Gieswein’s case, police tried, but failed, to arrest him on January 6, probably along with the six who pled to misdemeanors. It took some days to track him down to Colorado and the FBI never recovered the clothes he wore or his phone. But even though he may have succeeded in hiding or destroying evidence he himself controlled, and even though one of his alleged assaults occurred in one of the few blind spots in the riot, there’s still a lot implicating him in the attack on the Capitol.

It took far longer to track down Jamie Buteau, along with his wife, Jennifer. They weren’t arrested until June 23, in Jamie’s case on charges of assault and civil disorder on top of trespassing.

At the moment everyone else discussed in this post was either being arrested or allegedly assaulting cops to avoid arrest, the Buteaus were nearby, with Jamie allegedly throwing chairs at cops on several occasions. As with Gieswein, there appears to be no Capitol CCTV of one of his assaults, one of several times he threw chairs, either. But a video posted to Parler captured him picking up a chair.

And while the closing doors hid Buteau at the moment he allegedly threw that chair (as the door also hid Gieswein’s face in the photo above), the Parler video captured the chair he had just been holding flying through the air.

By the time of their arrest, FBI had tracked the Buteaus from the moment they entered the Capitol at 2:25, to their presence at between the Crypt and CVC from 2:29 to 2:31, to their entry into the CVC just behind Gieswein, back through the Crypt at 2:44, and then out the South Door at 2:46.

Like Gieswein, the Buteaus appear to have succeeded in destroying some evidence of their involvement in the riot. Jennifer was livestreaming onto Facebook the day of the riot, but she deleted that livestream and replaced it with a post blaming Antifa.

But several tipsters — including a former co-worker of another person with whom Buteau was at the riot — told the FBI about her live posts.

Jennifer also changed her Facebook profile to claim she was a Democrat, but one of her family members anonymously informed the FBI about that attempt to deceive — and also offered that both Buteaus had been in a HBO VICE show that another tipster (possibly one of the Sedition Trackers) found based off a BOLO picture showing Jamie’s face. Altogether, four different tipsters were able to provide the FBI information that the FBI (remarkably, in the case of the HBO appearance) wasn’t able to find on their own.

There were blind spots in the panopticon of the January 6 insurrection. But even defendants alleged to have committed assaults in one of those blind spots were still trackable by a slew of other evidence.

The Rebellion Rorschach: The Many Faces of the January 6 Investigation

Four different things happened yesterday to demonstrate how differently judges presiding over the January 6 trial view it, and how little they seem to understand the intersecting nature of this investigation.

DC Circuit ignores its own language about co-conspirators and abettors

The final event was the reversal, by a per curiam panel including Karen Henderson, Judith Rogers, and Justin Walker, of Thomas Hogan’s decision to hold George Tanios pretrial.

As a reminder, Tanios is accused of both conspiring and abetting in Julian Khater’s attack on three cops, including Brian Sicknick, with some toxic substance.

I’m not going to complain about Tanios’ release. By way of comparison, Josiah Colt has never been detained, and he pled out of a conspiracy with Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave in which they, like Tanios and Khater, planned to arm themselves before traveling to DC together, and in which Sandlin and DeGrave, like Khater, are accused of assaulting cops that played a key role in successfully breaching the Capitol. The main difference is that Khater’s attack injured the three officers he targeted using a toxic spray purchased by Tanios.

It’s how the DC Circuit got there that’s of interest. Tanios had argued that Hogan had used the same language from the Munchel decision everyone else does, distinguishing those who assault or abet in assaulting police which the DC Circuit has returned to in upholding detention decisions since, and in so doing had applied a presumption of detention for those accused of assault and abetting assault.

In assessing Tanios’s risk of danger, the District Court placed too much emphasis on this sentence from Munchel: “In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors, and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way.” Id. at 1284.

This is only one line in a ten-page opinion written by Judge Wilkins. It is dicta. It was not quoted or adopted by Judge Katsas’s separate opinion. This line does not create a new approach for evaluating detention issues in this Circuit. It does not mandate that defendants be placed in two separate categories. It does not require a separate, harsher treatment for defendants accused of specific violent offenses. Critically, it does not create a presumption of future dangerousness and should not create a presumption of detention. Rather, it seems that the line is merely intended to remind district court judges that violence is one factor to consider in making a determination about dangerousness. [my emphasis]

The DC Circuit specifically ruled against Tanios on his claim that Hogan had misapplied Munchel.

[A]ppellant has not shown that the district court applied a presumption of detention in contravention of the Bail Reform Act and precedent, see United States v. Khater, No. 21-3033, Judgment at *2 (D.C. Cir. July 27, 2021)

They had to! As their citation makes clear, just two weeks ago, a per curiam panel of Patricia Millet, Robert Wilkins, and Ketanji Brown Jackson upheld the very same detention order (which covered both defendants), holding that the same line of the Hogan statement that Tanios pointed to did not do what both Tanios and Khater claimed it had, presume that assault defendants must be detained.

Appellant contends that the district court misapplied our decision in United States v. Munchel, 991 F.3d 1273 (D.C. Cir. 2021), by making a categorical finding, based solely on the nature of the offense charged (assaultive conduct on January 6), that no conditions of release could ever mitigate the per se prospective threat that such a defendant poses. If the district court had proceeded in that fashion and applied some sort of non-rebuttable presumption of future dangerousness in favor of detention, it would have been legal error. See id. at 1283 (“Detention determinations must be made individually and, in the final analysis, must be based on the evidence which is before the court regarding the particular defendant. The inquiry is factbound.”) (quoting United States v. Tortora, 922 F.2d 880, 888 (1st Cir. 1990)). However, while the district court stated, “Munchel delineates an elevated category of dangerousness applied [to] those that fall into the category that necessarily impose a concrete prospective threat,” the district court also explained, “I think Munchel does not set a hard-line rule. I don’t think that the categories are solely determinative, but it creates something like a guideline for the Court to follow . . . .” Detention Hr’g Tr. at 42:21-24; 43:11-13, ECF No. 26 (emphasis added). In making its ruling, the district court discussed at length the facts of this case, and expressly noted that “we have to decide whether the defendant is too dangerous based upon that conduct to be released or is not,” “every circumstance is different in every case, and you have to look at individual cases,” and that “the government may well not overcome the concrete and clear and convincing evidence requirement.” Id. at 43:8-10, 43:16-18, 43:20-21. Based on our careful review of the record, we find that the district court made an individualized assessment of future dangerousness as required by the Bail Reform Act and that appellant has not shown that the district court applied an irrefutable presumption of mandatory detention in contravention of the statute and our precedent.

Yesterday’s panel cited the earlier affirmation of the very same opinion that detained Tanios.

It’s in distinguishing Tanios where the panel got crazy. The panel could have argued that the evidence that Tanios conspired with or abetted Khater’s assault was too weak to hold him — Tanios made a non-frivolous argument that in refusing to give Khater one of the two canisters of bear spray he carried, he specifically refused to join in Khater’s attack on the cops. But they don’t mention conspiracy or abetting charges.

Instead, the DC Circuit argued that Hogan clearly erred in finding Khater’s accused co-conspirator to be dangerous.

[T]he district court clearly erred in its individualized assessment of appellant’s dangerousness. The record reflects that Tanios has no past felony convictions, no ties to any extremist organizations, and no post-January 6 criminal behavior that would otherwise show him to pose a danger to the community within the meaning of the Bail Reform Act. Cf. Munchel, 991 F.3d at 1282-84 (remanding pretrial detention orders where the district court did not demonstrate it adequately considered whether the defendants present an articulable threat to the community in light of the absence of record evidence that defendants committed violence or were involved in planning or coordinating the events of January 6).

Munchel isn’t actually a precedent here, because that decision remanded for further consideration. The DC Circuit ordered Hogan to release Tanios. Crazier still, in citing the same passage from Munchel everyone else does, the DC Circuit edited out the language referring to those who abetted or conspired with those who assaulted cops, the language used to hold Tanios. It simply ignores the basis Hogan used to hold Tanios entirely, his liability in a premeditated attack he allegedly helped to make possible, and in so doing argues the very same attack presents a danger to the community for one but not the other of the guys charged in it.

If this were a published opinion, it would do all kinds of havoc to precedent on conspiracy and abetting liability. But with two short paragraphs that don’t, at all, address the basis for Tanios’ detention, the DC Circuit dodges those issues.

Beryl Howell has no reasonable doubt about January 6

Earlier in the day, DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell grew exasperated with another plea hearing.

This time, it was Glenn Wes Lee Croy, another guy pleading guilty to a misdemeanor “parading” charge. The plea colloquy stumbled on whether Croy should have known he wasn’t permitted on the Capitol steps — he claimed, in part, that because this was his first trip to DC, he didn’t know he shouldn’t have been on the steps, even in spite of the barricades. Croy was fine admitting he shouldn’t have been in the building, though.

Things really heated up when Howell started asking Croy why he was parading (Josh Gerstein has a more detailed description of this colloquy here).

Under oath, pleading to a misdemeanor as part of a deal that prohibits DOJ from charging Croy with anything further for his actions on January 6, he made some kind of admission that Howell took to mean he was there to support Trump’s challenge to the election, an admission that his intent was the same as the intent required to charge obstruction of the vote count.

When she quizzed AUSA Clayton O’Connor why Croy hadn’t been charged with felony obstruction for his efforts to obstruct the vote certification, the prosecutor explained that while the government agreed that contextually that’s what Croy had been doing, the government didn’t find direct evidence that would allow him to prove obstruction beyond a reasonable doubt, a sound prosecutorial decision.

O’Connor is what (with no disrespect intended) might be deemed a journeyman prosecutor on the January 6 cases. He has seven cases, five of which charge two buddies or family members. Of those, just Kevin Cordon was charged with the obstruction charge Howell seems to think most defendants should face, in Cordon’s case for explicitly laying out his intent in an interview the day of the riot.

We’re here to take back our democratic republic. It’s clear that this election is stolen, there’s just so much overwhelming evidence and the establishment, the media, big tech are just completely ignoring all of it. And we’re here to show them we’re not having it. We’re not- we’re not just gonna take this laying down. We’re standing up and we’re taking our country back. This is just the beginning.

O’Connor is prosecuting Clifford Mackrell and Jamie Buteau for assault and civil disorder. But otherwise, all his cases are trespass cases like Croy’s (including that of Croy’s codefendant Terry Lindsey).

This was the guy who, with no warning, had the task of explaining to the Chief Judge DOJ’s logic in distinguishing misdemeanor cases from felonies. Unsurprisingly, it’s all about what the government thinks they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, based on evidence like that which Cordon shared with a journalist or, just as often, what people write in their social media accounts. This process has made sense to the few of us who have covered all these cases, but like O’Connor, Howell is dealing primarily with the misdemeanor cases and my not see how DOJ appears to be making the distinction.

Howell also demanded an explanation from O’Connor in Croy’s sentencing memo why DOJ is not including the cost of the National Guard deployment in the restitution payments required of January 6 defendants.

Both according to its own prosecutorial guidelines and the practical limitations of prosecuting 560 defendants, DOJ can’t use a novel application of the obstruction statute to charge everyone arrested in conjunction with January 6 with a felony. It’s a reality that deserves a better, more formal explanation than the one O’Connor offered the Chief Judge extemporaneously.

Trevor McFadden believes a conspiracy to overthrow democracy is not a complex case

Meanwhile, the Discovery Coordinator for the entire investigation, Emily Miller, missed an opportunity to explain to Trevor McFadden the logic behind ongoing January 6 arrests.

In advance of a hearing for Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin, prosecutor Janani Iyengar submitted a motion for a 60-day continuance to allow for the government to work through discovery. She brought Miller along to a status hearing to explain those discovery challenges to McFadden, who had complained about them in the past and refused to toll the Speedy Trial Act in this case. Because Iyengar recently offered Griffin a plea deal, his attorney Nick Smith was fairly amenable to whatever McFadden decided.

Not so the judge. He expressed a sentiment he has in this and other cases, that the government made a decision to start arresting immediately after the attack and continues to do so. “There seems to be no end in sight,” McFadden complained, suggesting that if DOJ arrested someone in three months who offered up exculpatory evidence that affected hundreds of cases, those would have to be delayed again. In spite of the fact that several prosecutors have explained that the bulk of the evidence was created on January 6, McFadden persists in the belief that the trouble with discovery is the ingestion of new evidence with each new arrest.

Miller noted that the government could start trials based on the Brady obligation of turning over all exculpatory evidence in their possession, so future arrests wouldn’t prohibit trials. The problem is in making the universe of video evidence available to all defense attorneys so they have the opportunity of finding evidence to support theories of defense (such as that the cops actually welcomed the rioters) that would require such broad review of the video.

McFadden then suggested that because Griffin is one of the rare January 6 defendants who never entered the Capitol, Miller’s team ought to be able to segregate out an imagined smaller body of evidence collected outside. “Were that it were so, your honor,” Miller responded, pointing out that there were thousands of hours of surveillance cameras collected from outside, the police moved in and outside as they took breaks or cleaned the bear spray from their eyes so their Body Worn Cameras couldn’t be segregated, and the Geofence warrant includes the perimeter of the Capitol where Griffin stood.

McFadden then said two things that suggested he doesn’t understand this investigation, and certainly doesn’t regard the attack as a threat to democracy (he has, in other hearings, noted that the government hasn’t charged insurrection so it must not have been one). First, he complained that, “In other cases,” the government had dealt with a large number of defendants by giving many deferred prosecutions or focusing just on the worst of the worst, a clear comparison to Portland that right wingers like to make. But that’s an inapt comparison. After noting the data somersaults one has to do to even make this comparison, a filing submitted to Judge Carl Nichols in response to a selective prosecution claim from Garret Miller explained the real differences between Portland and January 6: There was far less evidence in the Portland cases, meaning prosecutions often came down to the word of a cop against that of a defendant and so resulted in a deferred prosecution.

This comparison fails, first and foremost, because the government actually charged nearly all defendants in the listed Oregon cases with civil-disorder or assault offenses. See Doc. 32-1 (Attachments 2-31). Miller has accordingly shown no disparate treatment in the government’s charging approaches. He instead focuses on the manner in which the government ultimately resolved the Oregon cases, and contrasts it with, in his opinion, the “one-sided and draconian plea agreement offer” that the government recently transmitted to him. Doc. 32, at 6. This presentation—which compares the government’s initial plea offer to him with the government’s final resolution in 45 hand-picked Oregon cases—“falls woefully short of demonstrating a consistent pattern of unequal administration of the law.”3 United States v. Bernal-Rojas, 933 F.2d 97, 99 (1st Cir. 1991). In fact, the government’s initial plea offer here rebuts any inference that that it has “refused to plea bargain with [Miller], yet regularly reached agreements with otherwise similarly situated defendants.” Ibid.

More fundamentally, the 45 Oregon cases serve as improper “comparator[s]” because those defendants and Miller are not similarly situated. Stone, 394 F. Supp. 3d at 31. Miller unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol and resisted the law enforcement officers who tried to move him. Doc. 16, at 4. He did so while elected lawmakers and the Vice President of the United States were present in the building and attempting to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election in accordance with Article II of the Constitution. Id. at 2-3. And he committed a host of federal offenses attendant to this riot, including threatening to kill a Congresswoman and a USCP officer. Id. at 5-6. All this was captured on video and Miller’s social-media posts. See 4/1/21 Hr’g Tr. 19:14-15 (“[T]he evidence against Mr. Miller is strong.”). Contrast that with the 45 Oregon defendants, who—despite committing serious offenses—never entered the federal courthouse structure, impeded a congressional proceeding, or targeted a specific federal official or officer for assassination. Additionally, the government’s evidence in those cases often relied on officer recollections (e.g., identifying the particular offender on a darkened plaza with throngs of people) that could be challenged at trial—rather than video and well-documented incriminating statements available in this case. These situational and evidentiary differences represent “distinguishable legitimate prosecutorial factors that might justify making different prosecutorial decisions” in Miller’s case. Branch Ministries, 211 F.3d at 145 (quoting United States v. Hastings, 126 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 1997)); see also Price v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 865 F.3d 676, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (observing that a prosecutor may legitimately consider “concerns such as rehabilitation, allocation of criminal justice resources, the strength of the evidence against the defendant, and the extent of a defendant’s cooperation” in plea negotiations) (brackets and citation omitted).

3 Miller’s motion notably omits reference to the remaining 29 Oregon cases in his survey, presumably because the government’s litigation decisions in those cases do not conform to his inference of selective treatment. [my emphasis]

McFadden ended with one of his most alarming comments. He said something to the effect of, he doesn’t feel that the January 6 investigation was a complex type of case akin to those (often white collar cases) where a year delay before trial was not that unusual.

This was a fairly breathtaking comment, because it suggests that McFadden sees this event as the magical convergence of thousands of criminals at the Capitol rather than the result of a sustained conspiracy to get a mass of bodies to the building, a conspiracy that started at least as early as the days after the election. While McFadden’s highest profile January 6 case is a sprawling assault case against Patrick McCaughey and others (the one that trapped Officer Daniel Hodges in the Capitol door), this view seems not to appreciate some larger investigative questions pertinent to some of his other defendants. For example, what happened to the laptops stolen from various offices, including the theft that Brandon Fellows may have witnessed in Jeff Merkley’s office. Did America First engaged in a conspiracy to gets its members, including Christian Secor, to the Capitol (and did a huge foreign windfall that Nick Fuentes got days before the insurrection have anything to do with that). What kind of coordination, if any, led a bunch of Marines to successfully open a second front to the attack by opening the East Doors also implicates Secor’s case. One of the delays in Griffin’s own case probably pertained to whether he was among the Trump speakers, as members of the 3-Percenter conspiracy allegedly were, who tied their public speaking role to the recruitment of violent, armed rioters (given that he has been given a plea offer, I assume the government has answered that in the negative).

It has become increasingly clear that one of the visible ways that DOJ is attempting to answer these and other, even bigger questions, is to collect selected pieces of evidence from identifiable trespassers with their arrest. For example, Anthony Puma likely got arrested when he did because he captured images of the Golf Cart Conspiracy with his GoPro. He has since been charged with obstruction — unsurprisingly, since he spoke in detailed terms about preventing the vote certification in advance. But his prosecution will be an important step in validating and prosecuting the larger conspiracy, one that may implicate the former President’s closest associates.

This is white collar and complex conspiracy investigation floating on top of a riot prosecution, one on which the fate of our democracy rests.

Melody Steele-Smith evaded the surveillance cameras

A report filed yesterday helps to explain the import of all this. Melody Steele-Smith was arrested within weeks of the riot on trespass charges, then indicted on trespass and obstruction charges. She’s of particular interest in the larger investigation because — per photos she posted on Facebook — she was in Nancy Pelosi’s office and might be a witness to things that happened there, including the theft of Pelosi’s laptop.

At a hearing last week, the second attorney who has represented her in this case, Elizabeth Mullin, said she had received no discovery, particularly as compared to other January 6 defendants. So the judge in that case, Randolph Moss, ordered a status report and disclosure of discovery by this Friday.

That status report admits that there hasn’t been much discovery, in particular because, aside from the surveillance photos used in her arrest warrant, the government hasn’t found many images of Steele-Smith in surveillance footage.

The United States files this memorandum for the purpose of describing the status of discovery. As an initial matter, the government has provided preliminary discovery in this case. On or about June 4, 2021, the government provided counsel for defendant preliminary discovery in this matter. This production had been made previously to the defendant’s initial counsel of record. Counsel for defendant received the preliminary production that had been provided to previous counsel. This preliminary production included the FBI 302 of defendant’s sole interview, the recorded interview of defendant which formed the basis of the aforementioned FBI 302, over one thousand pages of content extracted from defendant’s Facebook account, and thirty-nine photographs confiscated from defendant’s telephone.

The government is prepared to produce an additional discovery production no later than August 13, 2021. The production will include additional items that have been obtained by the government from the FBI. These items include, additional FBI investigative reports and the Facebook search warrant dated January 21, 2021. The FBI has provided the government with the full extent of the materials in its possession. While these items are few in number, the government is continuing to review body worn camera footage in an attempt to locate the defendant. Camera footage will be provided if it is located. The government has been diligent in its efforts to obtain all discoverable items in possession of the FBI.

That still leaves a thousand Facebook pages and 39 photos, some of them taken at a key scene in the Capitol a scene that — given the evidence against Steele-Smith and in other cases — is a relative blind spot in the surveillance of the Capitol. The interview described here is not reflected in her arrest warrant, and so may include non-public information used to support the obstruction case.

Beryl Howell might argue this is sufficient evidence to prove the government’s obstruction case. Trevor McFadden might argue that this case can’t wait for more video evidence obtained from future arrestees of what Steele-Smith did while “storm[ing] the castle” (in her own words), including the office of the Speaker of the House. But the theft of the Pelosi laptop — including whether Groypers like Riley Williams were involved — remains unsolved.

If a single terrorist with suspect ties to foreign entities broke into the office of the Speaker of the House and stole one of her laptops, no one would even think twice if DOJ were still investigating seven months later. But here, because the specific means of investigation include prosecuting the 1,000 people who made that break-in possible, there’s a push to curtail the investigation.

I don’t know what the answer is because the Speedy Trial issues are very real, particularly for people who are detained. But I do know it’s very hard for anyone to get their mind around this investigation.

Why Did DOJ Delay Seven Months before Letting Jeffrey Rosen Testify?

On January 22 — after Jeffrey Rosen was no longer Acting Attorney General but before Trump’s second impeachment trial — Katie Benner published a story describing Trump’s efforts to get Jeffrey Bossert Clark to undermine those at DOJ, including Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who refused to endorse Trump’s lies about the election.

As I noted the other day, that story included all the details that have been dribbling out from the House Oversight Committee in recent weeks: Trump’s efforts to get DOJ to intervene in Georgia, Rosen and Donoghue’s refusal, followed by Trump’s effort to put Clark in charge at DOJ on January 3. Benner had all that nailed in January.

The day after Benner’s January 22 story, the holdover members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to DOJ citing the story and asking for documents behind it.

On January 22, The New York Times reported astonishing details about an alleged plot between then-President Donald Trump and then-Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division Jeffrey Bossert Clark to use the Department of Justice to further Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.[1]  These efforts culminated on January 6, when Trump incited a violent mob that attacked Congress as it counted the electoral votes and prepared to affirm President Biden’s victory.  The information revealed by this story raises deeply troubling questions regarding the Justice Department’s role in Trump’s scheme to overturn the election.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct vigorous oversight of these matters.  As a first step, we seek your immediate assurance that the Department will preserve all relevant materials in its possession, custody, or control.  Please also produce the following materials as soon as possible, but no later than February 8, 2021:

  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, referring or related to the reported December 15 meeting between then-President Trump and then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and reported follow-up calls and meetings between President Trump and Mr. Rosen;
  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, referring or related to reported complaints President Trump made to Justice Department leaders regarding then-U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak prior to Pak’s resignation;
  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, regarding a reported draft letter that Mr. Clark prepared and requested be sent to Georgia state legislators; and
  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, involving the reported January 3 White House meeting involving Mr. Clark and Mr. Rosen.

That letter set a deadline of February 8, over a month before Merrick Garland was confirmed and over 70 days before Lisa Monaco was confirmed.

In May, House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney sent Rosen a request (which hasn’t been made public) for a transcribed interview.

Seemingly in response to that — though the letter cites both the January request and the May one — DOJ (in the guise of Bradley Weinsheimer, who was elevated from NSD to DOJ’s institutional accountability role at Associate Deputy Attorney General by Jeff Sessions, and so was a colleague of those DOJ officials), wrote Rosen and five other former top DOJ officials permitting them to testify about a carefully defined set of events. The testimony is basically limited to, “any efforts by President Trump or any DOJ officials to advance unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, challenge the 2020 election results, stop Congress’s count of the Electoral College vote, or overturn President Biden’s certified victory.” It is limited to events that happened after Attorney General Barr resigned on December 14. The letter specifically prohibits discussing any prosecutorial decisions the men made, or discussing investigations that were ongoing when they left.

Discussion of any pending criminal cases and possible charges also could violate court rules and potentially implicate rules of professional conduct governing extra-judicial statements.

But within that scope, the letter permits these former DOJ officials to answer questions that would otherwise be covered by executive privilege.

[T]he Department authorizes you to provide unrestricted testimony to the Committees, irrespective of potential privilege, so long as the testimony is confined to the scope of the interviews as set forth by the Committees and as limited in the penultimate paragraph below.

Of particular note, DOJ asked President Biden — via the White House Counsel — whether he wanted to invoke privilege; he chose not to.

Because of the nature of the privilege, the Department has consulted with the White House Counsel’s Office in considering whether to authorize you to provide information that may implicate the presidential communications privilege. The Counsel’s Office conveyed to the Department that President Biden has decided that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege with respect to communications with former President Trump and his advisors and staff on matters related to the scope of the Committees’ proposed interviews, notwithstanding the view of former President Trump’s counsel that executive privilege should be asserted to prevent testimony regarding these communications. See Nixon v. Administrator of General Servs., 433 U.S. 425, 449 (1977) (“[I]t must be presumed that the incumbent President is vitally concerned with and in the best position to assess the present and future needs of the Executive Branch, and to support invocation of the privilege accordingly.” see also id. (explaining that the presidential communications privilege “is not for the benefit of the President as an individual, but for the benefit of the Republic”) (internal citation omitted).

As Benner wrote in a story offering details of Jeffrey Rosen’s testimony, Rosen has been trying to get permission to testify for “much of the year.” As soon as DOJ gave it, he rushed to testify before Trump could intervene.

Mr. Rosen has spent much of the year in discussions with the Justice Department over what information he could provide to investigators, given that decision-making conversations between administration officials are usually kept confidential.

Douglas A. Collins, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said last week that the former president would not seek to bar former Justice Department officials from speaking with investigators. But Mr. Collins said he might take some undisclosed legal action if congressional investigators sought “privileged information.”

Mr. Rosen quickly scheduled interviews with congressional investigators to get as much of his version of events on the record before any players could ask the courts to block the proceedings, according to two people familiar with those discussions who are not authorized to speak about continuing investigations.

He also reached out directly to Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, and pledged to cooperate with his investigation, according to a person briefed on those talks.

The question is why. After all, these events were knowable to DOJ since they happened, and for the entirety of that time, DOJ has been conducting an investigation into efforts to obstruct the vote count. For some of that period, in fact, Rosen himself was in ultimate charge of the investigation, and he could have ordered or authorized himself to testify.

Benner didn’t specify whether Rosen might have been interviewed by the FBI, though the implication is he has not been asked.

Similarly, DOJ IG has been investigating related issues since then as part of a specific investigation into the BJ Pak firing and a general investigation into January 6. While Michael Horowitz could not subpoena Rosen, he could simply have asked Rosen to provide testimony. But Benner is quite clear that Rosen has not yet testified even to Horowitz.

During that period, too, there was an instance where DOJ IG asked someone for an interview, but the person quit to avoid the testimony.

During the course of an ongoing administrative misconduct investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) informed a then senior DOJ official, who was a non-career member of the Senior Executive Service, that the senior DOJ official was a subject in the investigation and that the OIG sought to interview the senior DOJ official in connection with the investigation. After several unsuccessful attempts to schedule a voluntary interview with the senior DOJ official, the OIG instructed the senior DOJ official to appear for a compelled interview and informed the senior DOJ official that neither the answers the senior DOJ official provided nor any evidence gained by reason of those answers could be used against the senior DOJ official in a criminal proceeding. The senior DOJ official failed to appear for the compelled interview and resigned from Department employment shortly thereafter.

The OIG concluded that the senior DOJ official violated both federal regulations and DOJ policy by failing to appear for a compelled OIG interview while still a DOJ employee. The OIG offered the senior DOJ official the opportunity to cure that violation by participating in a voluntary interview after leaving the Department, but the senior DOJ official, through counsel, declined to do so. The OIG has the authority to compel testimony from current Department employees upon informing them that their statements will not be used to incriminate them in a criminal proceeding. The OIG does not have the authority to compel or subpoena testimony from former Department employees, including those who retire or resign during the course of an OIG investigation.

Those events were reported on April 19.

There are two more dates of interest. First, DOJ only released its new contact policy — under which the request for a privilege determination may have been passed — on July 21. I’m curious whether the request for a  waiver of executive privilege waiver came after that. Executive privilege considerations were a key limitation on the Mueller investigation overseen in its final days partly by Rosen himself.

At least as interesting, however, is that DOJ sent the letter just one day before DOJ submitted a court filing in the Eric Swalwell lawsuit — speaking of members of Congress but using more generalized language — arguing that no federal officials can campaign in their official capacity and further noting that attacking one’s employer is not within the scope of someone’s job description.

The record indicates that the January 6 rally was an electioneering or campaign activity that Brooks would ordinarily be presumed to have undertaken in an unofficial capacity. Activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context—electioneering or campaign activities—are not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives. Like other elected officials, Members run for reelection themselves and routinely campaign for other political candidates. But they do so in their private, rather than official, capacities.

This understanding that the scope of federal office excludes campaign activity is broadly reflected in numerous authorities. This Court, for example, emphasized “the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection” in holding that House or Senate mailings aimed at that purpose are “unofficial communication[s].” Common Cause v. Bolger, 574 F. Supp. 672, 683 (D.D.C. 1982) (upholding statute that provided franking privileges for official communications but not unofficial communications).

[snip]

Second, the Complaint alleges that Brooks engaged in a conspiracy and incited the attack on the Capitol on January 6. That alleged conduct plainly would not qualify as within the scope of employment for an officer or employee of the United States, because attacking one’s employer is different in kind from any authorized conduct and not “actuated . . . by a purpose to serve” the employer. Id. § 228(1)(c). Brooks does not argue otherwise. Instead, he denies the Complaint’s allegations of conspiracy and incitement. The Department does not address that issue here because the campaign-related nature of the rally independently warrants denial of certification, and because the Department is engaged in ongoing investigations into the events of January 6 more generally. But if the Court were to reject our argument that the campaign nature of the January 6 rally resolves the certification question, the Court should not certify that Brooks was acting within the scope of his office or employment unless it concludes that Brooks did not engage in the sort of conduct alleged in the Complaint. [my emphasis]

It’s possible that this seven month delay is inexcusable.

It’s also possible that it reflects the time DOJ took to come to other determinations about whether privileged information could be used to investigate a former President and if so how to obtain it.

Update: On both June 24,

I assure the American people that the Department of Justice will continue to follow the facts in this case and charge what the evidence supports to hold all January 6th perpetrators accountable.

And July 6,

The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General encouraged the team to continue to follow the facts in this case and charge what the evidence supports to hold all January 6th perpetrators accountable.

Garland made statements reiterating his commitment to charge all perpetrators against whom the evidence supported charges.

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