June 22, 2021 / by 

 

Thomas Webster’s Opening Electronic Communication: A Glimpse at How FBI Sees This Terror Attack, Not a Debunking of Christopher Wray

There’s an NBC story making the rounds — “FBI agent acknowledges in court filing that Trump backers discussed ‘revolution’ before Jan. 6” — which has been taken to suggest that an FBI agent submitted a declaration contradicting FBI Director Christopher Wray’s claims to Congress that open source intelligence didn’t tip off the Bureau to the January 6 attack before it happened.

The FBI director and other senior officials have consistently downplayed the intelligence value of social media posts by Trump supporters prior to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, suggesting the bureau had no “actionable” warning that the Capitol would be targeted by a mob.

But according to a document entered into court records last week, an FBI agent acknowledged in a February investigative report that angry Trump supporters were talking openly in the days before the riot about bringing guns to the Capitol to start a “revolution.”

The rest of the article is correct. Wray (who doesn’t have firsthand knowledge) has repeatedly suggested that the FBI did not have Open Source intelligence that should have led it to predict the January 6 riot. Democrats have recently focused on why FBI didn’t respond more aggressively to repeated warnings of violence from Parler. The famous Norfolk memo was based on a post from TheDonald, which is where a great deal of more explicit operational planning for the riot took place. And in addition to the existing extremists whom FBI warned not to show up on January 6 (Wray has suggested this includes Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio), there were at least three other January 6 defendants — the most dangerous of whom is Guy Reffitt — on whom the FBI had open investigations before the insurrection (though in Reffitt’s case they may not have regarded the warning from his son as enough to fully predicate an investigation).

There are very good reasons to ask why the FBI missed the large numbers of threads branded as Donald Trump support sites planning insurrection in plain sight (though the question, phrased that way, might answer itself).

That said, I’d like to look at the document on which this story is based, because it is not well described in the story and it provides interesting insight into the larger January 6 investigation.

The document in question is the opening Electronic Communication for Thomas Webster, the former NYPD cop accused of assaulting an officer at the Capitol (Webster’s attorney, Jim Monroe, redacted his own phone numbers in the document but not any of the more sensitive information relating to his client before uploading it to the docket). This is a piece of internal FBI paperwork necessary to document why, when, and how the investigation into Webster was first opened. For comparison, here are the opening ECs for the Crossfire Hurricane investigation and the Crossfire Razor investigation focused on Mike Flynn.

The paragraph of interest (which NBC only quoted in part) shows up at the end of a long section of boilerplate and is almost certainly itself boilerplate.

Social media and video footage of the event show rioters making statements consistent with Anti-Authority/Anti-Government (AA/AG) Extremism. A review of open source and social media posts leading up to and during the event indicates that individuals participating on the “Stop the Steal,” rally were angered about the results of the 2020 presidential election and felt that Joseph Biden had unlawfully been declared ‘President-Elect. Users in multiple online groups and platforms discussed traveling to the Capitol armed or making plans to start a “revolution” on that day. Participants in the riot used violence, which resulted in injuries to multiple law enforcement officers and damage to the United States Capitol building, all with the intent to subvert the certification of the electoral election ballots and thereby disrupt the election of the President of the United States in furtherance of their AA/AG ideology.

I say this is boilerplate because everything up to this paragraph in the “Summary of Predication” section shows up in most of the arrest warrants used in this investigation (much of it shows up in search warrant affidavits, though those include an even more complete story of the riot, including pictures). The paragraph immediately after this one describes why the FBI is opening a full investigation into Thomas Webster — because his lawyer called the FBI and said Webster was the person identified in BOLO 145 depicting someone assaulting a cop and Webster wanted to turn himself in. This, then, is probably the last paragraph used as boilerplate, not any reflection of investigative work its author, FBI Agent Patricia Norden, has done herself.

There’s no reason to believe that Agent Norden is calling our her boss for being less than forthcoming (while she took the lead in Webster’s interview, she’s not the FBI-based Agent who wrote Webster’s arrest affidavit). Rather, this is almost certainly something the FBI as a whole uses to describe the investigation. The introductory sentence that NBC left out — describing the statements of those at the riot — makes it clearer that the discovery of the social media claims was retrospective, a historical review of the speech that led up to a violent speeches and acts discovered after those violent acts (largely assisted by the FBI’s seizure and search of the phones of most of the arrestees). It is utterly consistent with what Wray has said about the investigation. By all appearances, then, this is not a debunking of the Director, but rather a final paragraph the FBI uses internally to explain why it is treating the January 6 attack as Domestic Terrorism.

Several other parts of the EC provide some insight into the investigation (and may hint at why this particular paragraph isn’t included in the standard arrest warrant boilerplate). This investigation came in as a counterterrorism investigation. Webster’s alleged assault is not even mentioned among the suspect crimes. Civil disorder is mentioned and Trespass in the Capitol are mentioned, both of which Webster was charged with. Rioting is mentioned, with which no one has been charged. The restricted building trespass count charged against virtually all January 6 defendants (18 U.S.C. § 1752), tied to the presence of Secret Service protectees Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, is mentioned in the introduction to the EC but not the later list of suspected crimes. The classification code used for the investigation — 176 — ties to anti-riot law, which in turn cites 18 U.S.C §245, attempting to interfere with a federally protected activity like voting, which also hasn’t been charged (though these codes are infuriatingly non-specific). The whole package is labeled here under Domestic Terrorism. This is a story told in bureaucratic code describing that the terrorism on January 6 was meant to intimidate people.

In other words, while NBC is correct that this paragraph shows that the FBI as a whole (and not just Agent Norden) recognizes, in retrospect, that the insurrectionists planned revolution in plain sight, this paragraph and the related EC is as interesting as much for the snapshot it gives about what kind of terrorism the FBI believes this was. The FBI has a whole, while clearly acknowledging that this is being treated as a terrorism attack, has been loathe to get into the details about what — besides some damage to the Capitol itself — makes it a terrorist attack. This presumed boilerplate paragraph describes that some of the planners of the terrorist attack planned to use violence and the riot to disrupt the election of the lawfully elected President of the United States.

There are a few more incidentally interesting details. Since his arrest, Webster has made much of the fact that he worked a detail for then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg. This EC reveals that FBI already knew that Webster served in a “uniformed security position at City Hall” even before Webster told them that in an interview three days later. NYPD delayed in its response to Webster’s subpoena for his own NYPD record and what has been released (which is not properly redacted so I won’t link to it) may not fully reflect that detail. But neither that detail nor the tie to the election makes Webster’s own investigative file a Sensitive Investigative Matter. Webster’s status as a former Marine decades ago, however, did trigger a DOD nexus out of concern that he might have access to DOD facilities.

We don’t normally get to see ECs from investigations, particularly not in mostly-unredacted form as Webster’s lawyer docketed it. This one is in no way a debunking of the FBI Director, but it is an interesting snapshot of how the FBI viewed this investigation four months ago.

Update: The site where everything was planned was The Donald Dot Win, not r/TheDonald.


Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald Are Outraged that Bill Barr Set Up Antifa!!!! [Just Kidding]

You’ve no doubt seen the conspiracy theory championed by Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald claiming that the unnamed Oath Keeper associates described in those indictments are actually FBI informants.


As happened with earlier propaganda campaigns (notably the one downplaying Brian Sicknick’s death), the conspiracy theory started with Revolver News, got magnified by Tucker Carlson, and got normalized by Glenn Greenwald (the latter of whose central role largely escaped attention because commentators don’t identify him, yet, as a right wing propagandist).In his first appearance, Carlson grotesquely accused Sharon Caldwell, who was described in later Oath Keeper documents as Person Two but was identified clearly in earlier documents by her first name and as Thomas Caldwell’s spouse, of being an informant who framed her husband.

Person Two and Person Three were organizers of the riot. The government knows who they are. But the government has not charged them. Why is that? You know why. They were almost certainly working for the FBI. So FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol on January 6, according to government documents. And those two are not alone! In all Revolver News reported there were, quote, “upwards of 20 unindicted co-conspirators in the Oath Keepers indictments, all playing various roles in the conspiracy, who have not been charged for virtually the exact same activities — and in some cases much, much more severe activities — as those named alongside them in indictments.”

Huh????

So it turns out that this white supremacist insurrection was, again, by the government’s own admission in these documents organized at least in part, by government agents.

This little campaign has led compromised members of Congress to embrace this excuse for the insurrection they previously have claimed was not an insurrection at all.


Thomas Caldwell’s wife, Sharon, is Person Two

To show that “Person Two,” whom Tucker Carlson alleges for framing Thomas Caldwell, is actually his wife, Sharon, you can compare this filing, where her name is not redacted, with this one, where “Person Two” has substituted for her name.

1. Sharon Caldwell is Thomas’ wife:

2. “Sharon and I are setting up shop there” (at the Comfort Inn Ballston) and then “Sharon and I are going our way.”

3. “Sharon was right with me!”

Later filings over release conditions confirm the selfies posted to Facebook were of Thomas’ wife, describe Thomas agreeing to be accompanied by his wife, Sharon, to Sunday Mass starting on Easter, expressing concern that his wife has to do all the chores on their 30-acre farm which has led to the loss of farm income, and describing that he rarely travels anywhere without his wife, Sharon Caldwell, and she’s willing to go with him every time he does leave their property.


Glenn and Tucker must be outraged that Billy Barr set up Antifa

Parts of this campaign are pathetic, even for the men involved, and may reflect a desperate attempt to repackage their own past claims.

For example, after parroting a bunch of obviously self-serving PR from Parler in the days after the attack (such as that the insurrectionists organized on Facebook, not Parler), Glenn now shows that Parler was actually sharing threats of violence with the FBI in advance, without noting that that undermines several things he said in the past, such as that the insurrectionists didn’t plan on Parler. This must be dizzying and embarrassing for Glenn.

And because Glenn has to package this — like he did his never-ending obsession with Hunter Biden’s laptop — as a failure of Democrats and liberal media, he remarkably claims that the left — which has so relentlessly asked why the FBI was caught unawares that Glenn even screen caps an example of Ryan Goodman linking to Carolyn Maloney doing so — is resistant to questioning the FBI’s role in the riot.

What accounts for this furious liberal #Resistance to questioning the FBI’s role in the January 6 riot and asking whether there are vital facts that are being concealed?

Maybe Glenn has a harder time getting CSPAN in Brazil than I do in Ireland, because when I’ve watched the multiple hearings Democratic Chairs of various committees (including Maloney) have had with FBI Director Chris Wray or now-National Security Branch EAD Jill Sanborn, they question the FBI about it over and over and over. Glenn literally made up this hash-tagged resistance out of thin air because he needs it to be true, when in fact the opposite is true.

But it’s important to look at what this propaganda campaign obscures.

Probably, this campaign got started because a number of people implicated in the investigation, now realizing that it won’t go away, are trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility. It has already happened with those charged for crimes committed on January 6. Dominic Pezzola suggested that a key witness against him was actually more involved in the riot than he was, only to learn he guessed wrong and that the government was going to invoke a terrorism enhancement with him. Similarly, top Proud Boys were hinting at challenges to the UCC-1 described in their indictment, before they grew conspicuously silent about it, as if they learned something that undercut such claims.

The other reason people are talking about informants is that (FBI’s failure to respond notwithstanding) it’s not that far-fetched. Importantly, multiple Proud Boys have claimed to be informants, though Glenn only mentions Enrique Tarrio. Maybe that’s because the implication of the claims from the others leads to a place Glenn and Tucker don’t want to go. Of the four Proud Boys that Aram Rostom described as being FBI informants prior to January 6, three claimed to be sharing information about Antifa.

Reuters interviewed two Proud Boys members who spoke on the condition of anonymity about some members’ interactions with the FBI. Reuters also interviewed Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, examined court records and interviewed sources close to the federal investigation.

The reporting showed:

– One Proud Boy left the group in December after telling other members he was cooperating with the FBI by providing information about Antifa, say Tarrio and two other Proud Boy sources. The former member, whom Reuters was unable to identify, insisted to group leaders that he had not revealed information about the Proud Boys, these people say.

– A second Proud Boy leader bragged in 2019 about sharing information with the FBI about Antifa, according to private chats leaked on social media. The chats’ authenticity was confirmed by a source familiar with the Proud Boys and the Jan. 6 case.

– A third Proud Boy leader, Joseph Biggs, who was indicted and charged with conspiracy in the January attack, has said in court papers he reported information to the FBI about Antifa for months. Reuters spoke to Biggs two days before the riot. In that interview, he said he had specific plans for Jan. 6, but declined to disclose them. But, he volunteered to Reuters in that call, he was willing to tell his FBI contact of his plans for the coming rally, if asked. Reuters wasn’t able to determine whether such a contact took place. [my emphasis]

What this suggests is not that the FBI set up the Proud Boys with paid informants, but the opposite: that under a President who “denounced” the Proud Boys by saying they should “Stand back and stand by,” and under an Attorney General who dismissed threats against a judge involving the Proud Boys as a technicality, the Proud Boys were viewed not as an equivalent (or greater) threat than Antifa, but instead were able to disguise their use of Antifa as a foil to sow violence by serving as informants against them.

If these three self-proclaimed informants are right (there’s good reason to doubt them), then it means under Bill Barr, the FBI was using informants not to set up the Proud Boys, but instead to set up Antifa.

If Tucker and Glenn were good faith actors and not paid propagandists, you would fully expect them to be outraged that the FBI set up Antifa.

Especially because of the possibility that the FBI didn’t take the Proud Boys threat seriously because (on top of being endorsed by the President and downplayed by the Attorney General), they prioritized investigating Antifa over investigating the Proud Boys. With that possibility in mind, read the framing of Glenn’s Substack post:

The original report, published by Revolver News and then amplified by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, documented ample evidence of FBI infiltration of the three key groups at the center of the 1/6 investigation — the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters — and noted how many alleged riot leaders from these groups have not yet been indicted. While low-level protesters have been aggressively charged with major felonies and held without bail, many of the alleged plot leaders have thus far been shielded from charges.

The implications of these facts are obvious. It seems extremely likely that the FBI had numerous ways to know of any organized plots regarding the January 6 riot (just as the U.S. intelligence community, by its own admission, had ample advanced clues of the 9/11 attack but, according to their excuse, tragically failed to “connect the dots”).

[snip]

What would be shocking and strange is not if the FBI had embedded informants and other infiltrators in the groups planning the January 6 Capitol riot. What would be shocking and strange — bizarre and inexplicable — is if the FBI did not have those groups under tight control.

It is fucking insane that Glenn claims to be mystified by the possibility that a group endorsed in the President’s first Presidential debate and dismissed by the Attorney General would not get the proper scrutiny by the FBI. Trump very effectively punished people — especially at the FBI — for investigating entities close to him. And on September 29, 2020, Donald Trump made it quite clear the Proud Boys should get special treatment. That’s all the explanation you need. Though it is, indeed, reason for closer scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that Democrats have been demanding, Glenn’s false claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

But if you want to raise the possibility that FBI had informants in the group, then the explanation may be equally as damning: That the FBI didn’t see January 6 coming because it was too busy treating Antifa as a terrorist threat.

Indeed, everything we know about the threat reporting on that day — which claimed the big risk of violence arose from the possibility of clashes between counter-protestors and right wing militias — suggests that may be what happened: that the FBI was looking the other way, possibly in conjunction with the militia that played a key role in planning the attack. That certainly accords with Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller’s claim that Trump told him to use the National Guard to protect Trump supporters.

Since Glenn claims to be very familiar with the role of informants, surely he knows that multiple terrorists — definitely David Headley and allegedly Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Omar Mateen — have planned attacks under the cover of serving as informants (or in the case of Mateen, his father doing so). There were also at least two former FBI informants that played key parts in the Russian operation in 2016. The most logical answer to the questions that Glenn pretends to entertain is that the FBI didn’t look too closely at what Joe Biggs was planning (as part of a Kelly Meggs-brokered Florida alliance of militia groups with ties to Roger Stone), because they treated him as a credible source of reporting on Antifa.

The propaganda that goes unnoticed

The absurdity of accusing Sharon Caldwell of entrapping her spouse has, justifiably, gotten all the attention from this campaign.

But there’s a piece of propaganda that it incorporates — one parroted by Members of Congress — that deserves focus of its own: in framing his piece, Glenn not only claims that the plot leaders have been shielded from charges, he also states as fact that, “low-level protesters have been aggressively charged with major felonies and held without bail.”

While low-level protesters have been aggressively charged with major felonies and held without bail, many of the alleged plot leaders have thus far been shielded from charges.

In making this claim, Glenn is mindlessly parroting something that appears in the original Revolver piece.

The first category is the group of mostly harmless tourists who walked through already opened doors and already-removed barricades, and at most were guilty of minor trespassing charges and light property offenses. The second group consists of those who were violent with police officers, broke down barricades, smashed windows, belonged to a “militia” group engaged in military-style planning prior to the event, discussed transporting heavy weaponry, and so forth.

Up until now, the overwhelming (perhaps exclusive) share of counter-establishment reporting on 1/6 has focused on absolving the first group. And this is a valuable thing. The notion that these harmless “MAGA moms” wandering around the Capitol were domestic terrorists engaged in an insurrection is absurd. That many of these people are being held in prison, without bail, under harsh conditions, amounts to an unacceptable and outrageous abuse of basic human rights.

The only way to sustain a claim that “low-level protestors” have been charged with major felonies and held without bail is to claim that alleged plot leaders — people like Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Billy Chrestman, and Kelly Meggs — were actually just protestors.

That’s because with perhaps two exceptions (people like Karl Dresch whose criminal records were cited as the reason for their detention), the only people who remain in jail are either those charged with planning the insurrection, or people who engaged in violence or came armed. And even many of those people were released. Just going in alphabetical order, Christopher Alberts brought a gun and a magazine to the insurrection but was released on bail. John Anderson is accused of assault but is out on bail. Richard Barnett, who entered Nancy Pelosi’s office with a high voltage stun gun, was initially jailed but has since been released. Bradley Bennett, whom the government argued went on the lam for weeks and destroyed his phone, got released on bail. Craig Bingert, involved in one of the conflicts with cops at a barricade, was released on bail. Gina Bisignano, accused of inciting violence and destruction with a bullhorn, was released on bail. Joshua Black, who was involved in confrontations with cops before heading to the Senate Chamber and said God ordered him to riot, was released on bail. James Breheny, an Oath Keeper who allegedly lied to the FBI and attended a key inter-militia planning event, is out on bail. Both men who brought zip ties to the Senate Chamber on the day of the riot, Eric Munchel and Larry Brock, are out on bail (and Brock isn’t even charged with a felony).

Even Brandon Fellows, charged with obstruction and present when Jeff Merkley’s office was trashed and laptop stolen, thus far remains out on bail, even after several bail violations.

Perhaps the only two people who remain in custody who weren’t either associated with a group being treated as a militia or involved in assault are Doug Jensen and Jacob Chansley. Both, though, played a kind of leadership role during the attack, both brought blades with them to the insurrection, both had direct confrontations with cops, and the government has argued (Jensen, Chansley) both exhibit the kind of fervor in their QAnon beliefs that pose a particular danger.

Given that QAnon had better success placing bodies where they were useful during the insurrection, I’m not sure it even makes sense to treat them differently than the more traditional militia.

Other than that, the men detained pre-trial are accused of leading the insurrection, precisely the people that this conspiracy theory falsely claims have been shielded from charges. Among the Proud Boys, Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Charles Donohoe, Zack Rehl, and Kansas City cell leader Billy Chrestman remain jailed. Among the Oath Keepers, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, and Jessica Watkins remain jailed. All are accused of playing key leadership roles in the insurrection.

There were some questionable detention decisions early on. At this stage, however, there are no cases where people still detained are simply protestors on the wrong side of the law.

And yet even Glenn makes that false claim without any evidence.

Donald Trump’s FBI Director and Bill Barr’s hand-picked US Attorney called these defendants terrorists

There’s one more aspect of this conspiracy that is confounding.

Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald suggest this is a Deep State plot to harm Trump and his supporters. Even Andrew McCarthy, who wrote a long and worthwhile piece debunking Tucker and Glenn’s conspiracies, nevertheless claims the prosecutorial decisions in this case reflect Democratic politicization.

Although Schaffer is plainly a member of the Oath Keepers conspiracy, the Biden Justice Department did not have him plead guilty to the conspiracy charge in the Oath Keepers indictment. That’s undoubtedly because, for the purposes of helping Democrats hype a white-supremacist terrorism narrative, the conspiracy charge is too minor. Although that charge has been portrayed by the media and the Justice Department as if it were a terrorism allegation, it actually involves a statute that criminalizes comparatively minor conspiracy offenses, fit for a maximum penalty of just five years’ imprisonment (with the possibility of no jail time at all).

So instead, DOJ had Schaffer plead guilty to a two-count criminal information, charging him with the substantive crimes of obstructing Congress and illegally carrying a dangerous weapon (bear spray) on restricted federal grounds. That allowed government officials to bray that Schaffer could be looking at 30 years in prison, which sure sounds a lot worse than five years. But it’s a feint. The 30-year level is just an aggregation of the maximum sentences prescribed by the two statutes in Schaffer’s guilty plea — i.e., the highest possible sentence that could potentially apply to anyone who violated these laws. The sentence a judge actually imposes within that 30-year range depends on the circumstances, with only the worst offenders getting the maximum sentence. Realistically, then, what matters in Schaffer’s case are the federal sentencing guidelines that apply specifically to him. In the plea agreement’s fine print, prosecutors concede that the guidelines call for a relatively paltry 41- to 51-month term, which may be reduced if his cooperation proves to be valuable.

I suspect that Schaffer is one of the unnamed, numbered “Persons” referred to in the Oath Keepers indictment.

[snip]

To be clear, Carlson is right that it is ridiculous for Attorney General Merrick Garland to portray the Capitol riot as if it were a terrorist attack and the people behind it as the most dangerous national-security threat we face. As noted above, the conspiracy allegation is not a terrorism charge: It carries a penalty of no more than five years. Carlson is right to point out that, despite the government’s and the media’s claims to the contrary, there is no indication that racism motivated the riot (the Oath Keepers, for example, are not a white-supremacist organization, and the indictment does not even hint that race had anything to do with January 6). Carlson is right that, even as congressional Democrats posture about the supposed need for a commission to fully expose the events of January 6, the government is withholding mounds of information — including the identity of the security official who killed rioter Ashli Babbitt, a concealment that would be unfathomable in a case where a police officer killed an African-American criminal suspect or a Black Lives Matter rioter. And Carlson was right to call out the ludicrous suggestion by Frank Figliuzzi, a former top FBI national-security official, that congressional Republicans who cynically supported Trump’s scheme to overturn the election result are the equivalent of a terrorist organization’s “command and control element.”

Christopher Wray — the FBI Director chosen by Donald Trump — has, from day one, called this a terrorist attack.

More importantly, the person leading this investigation for the first two months was the US Attorney Bill Barr installed with no input from Congress, Michael Sherwin. If Sherwin had his way, these people would be charged with seditious conspiracy. Under Sherwin, Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola’s crimes were labeled terrorism. Under Michael Sherwin, Jessica Watkins’ crimes were labeled terrorism. And while the Jon Schaffer cooperation agreement that McCarthy disdains was finalized after Sherwin left, signs of it were already evident before Sherwin left (note, McCarthy is probably wrong in his belief that Schaffer is one of the people identified thus far in the Oath Keepers conspiracy, and he misunderstands why prosecutors charged Schaffer like the did). A Sherwin-friendly article written after his departure quotes him stating these were not close cases (and also taking credit for making the bulk of the cases).

“These were not complicated cases,” Sherwin said of the Capitol breach probe. “What made these cases so unusual were the scope and scale of the crime,” reaching into almost every state in the country, including Florida.

Sherwin’s tour of duty as acting U.S. Attorney ended soon after the Biden administration took over the Justice Department. He was asked to stay on as the lead prosecutor in the Capitol breach probe, but Sherwin said it was time to move on after making the bulk of the cases in the investigation.

If you have a problem with the way this investigation unfolded, you have a problem not with Joe Biden’s DOJ, but instead with the guy Bill Barr installed into a politicized US Attorney role with no input from Congress.

Which may be why those who need to downplay the seriousness of the attack have instead resorted to baseless conspiracy theories.

Update: Because some dead-enders still don’t believe that Tucker Carlson has accused Sharon Caldwell of entrapping her husband Thomas, I’ve done an entire section showing how the same references to Person Two in a later filing show up as Thomas’ wife Sharon in an earlier one. I also describe all the efforts Sharon is making to keep her husband out of jail.


The Crimes of Violence Ashli Babbitt’s Mob Allegedly Committed

In the Oversight Hearing on January 6 the other day, Paul Gosar suggested that Ashli Babbitt, who was shot while jumping through the last door protecting House members, had been executed.

Paul Gosar: Do you know who executed Ashli Babbitt? … The Capitol Police officer that did that shooting, Ashli Babb — appeared to be hiding, lying in wait, and he gave no warning before killing her.

As it happens, the day after Gosar made these comments, yet another insurrectionist who was standing with Babbitt when she was killed, Kurt Peterson, was arrested in Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace of Hodgenville, KY. According to his arrest warrant, prior to the insurrection, Peterson had accused Democratic lawmakers of treason that should be penalized with death. Peterson claimed to have been at the insurrection with three former Special Forces guys, all in their sixties.

After the insurrection, on January 10, Peterson posted an account on Facebook almost certainly intended to minimize his actions. He claimed, for example, to have entered through a back door that had been opened, and further claimed that when he entered, he told people not to hurt anyone or anything. (He recorded this on voice recognition software so the bracketed corrections are my own.)

When at the back door that we were at open[ed] and there and there were no police to restrain the crowd many people entered at that time. I stood at the door and told everyone that we were not there to hurt anybody or damage anything but as a show of solidarity to right the wrongs of the past election.

In fact, a video cited in his arrest warrant shows someone the government alleges to be him breaking an exterior window to the Capitol screaming, “This is our house. Let us in.”

Peterson is accused of breaking that window, which cost $2,700 to repair. Causing more than $1,000 of damage under 18 U.S.C. §1361 can (and has been invoked to, in this investigation) carry a terrorism enhancement under 18 U.S.C. §2332(b)(g)(5). While it’s unlikely the government will do so with Peterson (they have done so primarily with militia members), given his politicized threats of violence in advance of the insurrection, Peterson could be charged with terrorism for breaking that window.

In the same self-serving account of the day, Peterson gave this account of witnessing Ashli Babbitt’s death.

I did stop men from trying to break down the large wooden doors to the house chamber. Then I saw chairs being brought into the corridor going to the speaker’s lobby. They also grabbed a large sign with a heavy metal base stating no photography. I pushed into the corridor yelling for them to stop trying to break through the doors into the speaker’s lobby. The woman who was shot used the leg of a chair to hit a glass panel on in the door. There were numerous police officers in the stair tower and hallway that I was in.

Before I could get to her the shot rang out from behind the doors in the speaker’s lobby through the glass which shattered hitting many [police] officers and people there. It was a young man in a suit who was supposedly a bodyguard for Chuck [S]chumer.

The bullet hit the woman in the neck which caused her to fall backwards [im]mediately. It could have hit numerous [police] officers that were there. Non lethal force could have been use[d] with out the lethal shot that was made by this body guard in the speaker’s lobby.

I had my 1st aid [gear] with me and asked numerous times to be allowed to render 1st aid to this woman. I was told that they were waiting for the fire department to [respond] and they would not let me give her 1st aid. She died on the floor within 10 minutes of the shot being made.

On the John Sullivan video, there’s no sound of Peterson warning anyone. Rather, there are cries of “Break it down!” with multiple calls before the shot that there was a gun just behind the door the mob was threatening to break down. Everyone in the front line, including Babbitt, should have heard warnings about, if not seen, the gun carefully aimed at the mobsters at the door.

Had non-lethal force been used, the mob might have become more inflamed than they already did. Indeed, many January 6 defendants excuse their behavior, including multiple people accused of assault, as retaliation to the use of non-lethal force.

Peterson suggests that police attending to Babbitt weren’t already giving her First Aid even as they were trying to clear the mob. It appears that another of the rioters, someone with a camera, responded even more quickly than Peterson, along with some of the cops. It is true that Peterson fumbled in his chest as if grabbing for gear. It’s also true that even before that, police were yelling at him to clear out so first responders could get to her. Another video shows that even more closely — as a long line of rioters were clearing a path, Peterson kept talking to the cops.

If the government’s accusations are true, one of the people accusing cops was, himself, dramatically understating his own involvement that day, including his alleged assault on the Capitol that could be (but has not) charged as terrorism.

Breaking down the door

But Peterson is not the only one. While DOJ has thus far charged only a relative handful of people who made up the mob screaming “Break it down!” who were present when Babbitt died, those present range from people accused of trespass to others whose damage to the Capitol could be charged with a terrorism enhancement.

Zach Alam: Zach Alam was the most determined of several men who broke the glass in the door through which Babbitt was trying to enter. Like Peterson, he is accused of damaging the building and obstructing the vote count. In addition, he is charged with assaulting police and civil disorder. A filing opposing his pre-trial release describes his action of the day as “agitated” and rightly notes he stood out among the mob during multiple confrontations with police (including one minutes earlier at the doors to the House Chamber). The video from the Speaker’s Lobby door shows him punching and then kicking the door, then using Christopher Grider’s helmet to hit the panes.

Alam went on the run after January 6 because — as he told a family member — he didn’t want to go back to jail again (he has some recent arrests in DC). During this period on the lam, Alam used at least one assumed name, stolen license plates, and false identification.

Lawfully obtained records show that the defendant has provided multiple false names to service providers, including at least one false name – “Zachary Studabaker” – for services since the events of January 6, 2021.

In addition, according to the government’s information, the defendant was at the time of his arrest driving a vehicle that he had purchased around September 2020 but never registered, and for which the defendant had used multiple license plates, including in recent months. These include a Washington, D.C. license plate, found inside the defendant’s vehicle in Pennsylvania, which was reported stolen in 2018 by an individual who indicated that the front license plate was taken off his vehicle while parked in Northwest D.C. D.C. traffic cameras captured a black Chevy truck matching the description of the defendant’s vehicle bearing this license plate as recently as January 4, 2021. Moreover, when agents located the defendant at the motel in Pennsylvania, they observed the defendant’s black Chevy truck parked outside and noted that it bore Pennsylvania license plates for a Mazda vehicle.

Upon arrest, moreover, the defendant had multiple identification cards in his wallet, including a D.C. driver’s license and a D.C. identification card for one male, a Permanent Resident card for a second male, and University student identification card for a female. Among the items agents seized from the defendant’s motel room nightstand, moreover, were two mobile phones – a Verizon flip phone as well as an iPhone.

Per the same filing, Pennsylvania state authorities are also investigating Alam in conjunction with the January 29, 2021 burglary of an antique store.

This is the kind of defendant whose violence Babbitt was part of. Had Babbitt survived, she might have been on the hook for abetting Alam’s actions at the Speaker’s Lobby.

Chad Jones: Along with Alam, Chad Jones helped to break the panes of the Speaker’s Lobby door. In his case, he hit the window with a flag pole holding a wrapped up Trump flag. Jones was charged with resisting officers and civil disorder on top of the damage to the door.

Christopher Grider: Like Alam, Christopher Grider ran to the Speaker’s Lobby after being turned back at the House Chamber. Like Alam, he is charged helping to break through the Speaker’s Lobby doors through which Babbitt jumped. He handed Alam his own helmet, which Alam used to continue beating on the doors. Even after handing Alam the helmet, Grider allegedly pushed and kicked on the doors himself.

Grider backed away from the door when people started to call out about the gun. But like Peterson, he didn’t leave the scene to let officers respond.

Grider is charged for the destruction to the door, obstruction, and trespassing.

Obstruction

Alex Sheppard: Like many others, Alex Sheppard ran from the stand-off at the House Chamber to the Speaker’s Lobby door, where he was picked up on Sullivan’s video. Presumably because he explained on social media he was driving from Ohio to DC to protest the RIGGED election, he was also charged with obstruction.

Trespass

Most of the others who directly witnessed Babbitt’s death have been charged with trespass, even though several badgered cops in ways that has gotten others charged with civil disorder or took affirmative steps to halt the vote count that has gotten others charged with obstruction.

Thomas Baranyi: Unlike some others, Thomas Baranyi (who was standing just behind her when she died) admitted that Babbitt died while attempting to breach a heavily guarded door.

We had stormed into the chambers inside and there was a young lady who rushed through the windows. A number of police and Secret Service were saying get down, get out of the way. She didn’t heed the call and as we kind of raced up to try to grab people and pull them back, they shot her in the neck, and she fell back on me.

Like many of the people at the door of the Speaker’s Lobby, he had recently been part of a mob that tried to storm the House side itself, only to try the Speaker’s Lobby next. Baranyi is charged with misdemeanor trespassing.

Ryan Bennett: Bennett was shouting “Break it down” while live-streaming the event as Babbitt was shot.

In Live Video 2, shot from inside the Capitol Building, at approximately the 1:40 minute mark, Bennett seemingly yells “no!” in the direction of a banging noise. In Live Video 4, Bennett seemingly yells “no destruction!” at approximately the 0:40 second mark when someone is seen kicking a door. However, in Live Video 3, Bennett seemingly chants “break it down!” along with the crowd at approximately the 2:47 and 3:54 minute marks. Based on my knowledge of the investigation and the events at the Capitol building, I believe the “break it down” chant was in relation to a door located in the Speaker’s Lobby that was barricaded by USCP and where a woman was later shot. A gunshot can be heard at approximately the 2:42 minute mark of Live Video 4.

Though he wore a Proud Boys hat the day of the riot, which was found when the FBI searched his home, he was charged only with misdemeanor trespass.

Phillip Bromley: According to his arrest affidavit, Bromley witnessed the shooting, and then appeared in a video posted to Parler describing it and stating he was 8 feet away.

In his narrative of events on Video 1, BROMLEY states: “listen…everybody needs to know the truth.” BROMLEY proceeds to describe how he “breached the right side,” “went in,” and “came to two large glass doors.” When he reached the doors, BROMLEY continues by stating he was talking with SWAT officers and reminding them “of their oath,” at which time “a gunshot went off” and a woman was “shot her in the neck.” BROMLEY continues by stating it “did not look like a survivable wound” and that “she [the woman who was shot] was eight feet in front of me on a line.” BROMLEY further describes the clothing he observed the woman to be wearing when she was shot and states “they shot her and she is dead.”

He was charged with misdemeanor trespass.

David Mish: David Mish called cops himself, on January 7, to describe what he knew about Babbitt’s shooting.

According to Mish, Babbitt was telling the cops to open the door before she died.

On approximately January 7, 2021, David Mish contacted the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) stating that he had information to provide about the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot inside the U.S. Capitol during the civil unrest. On January 8, 2020, Detective John Hendrick of the MPD contacted MISH by phone and recorded the ensuing conversation regarding the Babbitt shooting. MISH stated that he, together with several others, had entered the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. MISH asked “[b]ecause I entered the Capitol Building are you guys gonna take me to jail? I didn’t break anything. . . . I went in, yes.”

[snip]

In his interview with Detective Hendrick, MISH stated that a group of several individuals went into a bathroom adjacent to the Speaker’s Lobby and he objected when one of the group broke a mirror, stating, “we’re trying to get to the politicians because we wanna voice our . . . we wanna voice to ‘em.” MISH described Babbitt saying to the officer who was at the doorway, “Just open the door. They’re not gonna stop,” or words to that effect, referring to the crowd gathered at the doorway. MISH further stated that he had used his cell phone to record some of the activity that occurred within the United States Capitol. MISH told the detective, “from my video you can tell that I was one of the, I was the first group of people to hit that doorway,” referring again to the locked doorway leading to the Speaker’s Lobby that the rioters were attempting to breach.

That said, perhaps because he reached out to cops himself, perhaps because he claims to have tried to talk others out of damaging the Capitol, DOJ only charged Mish with misdemeanor trespass.

The videographers

Brian McCreary: Brian McCreary self-reported his presence in the riot by sharing video he had taken of the day, including from the Babbitt shooting.

After taking this picture; I decided to leave the building. Walking around the building, found a place to take a nice overhead shot of the crowd. Shortly after I made my way there and managed to take one clip of the crowd; people broke into that very side – so I followed them to see what they were doing. -Clip 20210106_144223 Following said crowd. -Clip 20210106_144434 Crowd breaks glass to Speakers Library, hear a shot fired. -Clip 20210106_144544 Crowd begins a game of telephone with Shot and killed a girl over here. At that point; I decided to leave the site. Walked to parking garage; jumped in my car and drove home. Im now just noticing that I am limited to 4 uploads; I will call and follow-up to provide the rest.

Perhaps because he reentered the building after leaving once, the government charged him with obstruction as well as trespassing.

Sam Montoya: Like John Sullivan, Infowar’s Sam Montoya’s video leads up to the Babbitt shooting. Like John Sullivan, Montoya eggs on the crowd as he films it. “We have had enough! We’re not gonna take your fucking vaccines! We’re not gonna take all your bullshit! The people are rising up!” But unlike Sullivan (and perhaps because of his tie to an actual media outlet), Montoya was charged only with misdemeanor trespass.

John Earle Sullivan: John Sullivan, whose name came up in texts between his brother and Rudy Giuliani, is the most enigmatic of January 6 defendants. Banned by lefty activists as a provocateur in the months leading up to the insurrection, Sullivan showed up on January 6 and caught key confrontations on video, while he could be heard egging on rioters in his own recording. At first, he was charged with trespass and civil disorder. His first indictment added obstruction and abetting. A second indictment enhanced his charges for carrying a knife during the protest (which he repeatedly asserted on his own video), false statements for denying it to the FBI, and a forfeiture allegation tied to the $90K he made by selling his video of the day (including Babbitt’s shooting). While Sullivan has been given a damage estimate in discovery — possibly tied to a window he seems to describe himself breaking in an office — he has not yet been charged for doing that damage.

The defendant approaches a window and states, “We did this shit. We took this shit.” The defendant also appears to break a window and says, “I broke it. My bad, my apologies. Well they already broke a window, so, you know, I didn’t know I hit it that hard. No one got that on camera.”

Sullivan used his knife — which the government claims he showed publicly in the mob before the House Chamber — both in that mob and later the Speaker’s Lobby to get others to let him up near the front of the mob.

In the moments before Babbitt’s shooting, Sullivan was, just as Babbitt was, cajoling the police to step away from their posts.

After Babbitt’s death, according to the government’s support of seizure of Sullivan’s funds, Sullivan repeatedly boasted both of riling up the mob and of having video he could — and in fact did — monetize.

The defendant also spoke to someone on speakerphone, stating, “I brought my megaphone to instigate shit. I was like, guys we’re going inside, we’re fucking shit up…. I’m gonna make these Trump supporters f—all this shit up…. But I mean you’ll see. I have it all, I have everything, everything on camera, everything I just told you, and I mean everything. Trust me when I say my footage is worth like a million of dollars, millions of dollars. I’m holding on to that shit.”

So while Sullivan has not been charged for breaking a window — which if he were, would make a fifth person present who could be charged with a terrorism enhancement — he was charged with wielding a knife, lying about it, and inciting those around him to riot.


The Model MAGA Tourist, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, and Evidence Collection

Today, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, a 49-year old grandmother from Indiana was supposed to be sentenced to probation on her misdemeanor trespass charges relating to January 6. That has been postponed on account of the Juneteenth holiday. But I suspect the courts and the government hope that other sentencing hearings — including that of Jessica and Joshua Bustle, who pled guilty on Monday — will take place after Morgan-Lloyd, so as to make hers the model of how to earn a (three-year) probation sentence for participating in the riot.

Five Factors

In their own sentencing memo, the government laid out five factors that presumably are the ones prosecutors are using to identify those who might be offered probation deals.

The first four may be the checklist the government has used to weigh whether to charge those originally arrested on trespass charges with a felony, each of which loosely correlates with one of the felony charges used against insurrectionists (which I’ve added in brackets).

First, the Government is not aware of any evidence that Defendant’s entry into the Capitol was preplanned or coordinated with anyone else, including any extremist or organized groups. [18 USC 1512, obstruction]

Second, the Government is not aware of any evidence that the Defendant incited others to commit acts of violence or destruction. [18 USC 231, civil disorder]

Third, the Government is not aware of any evidence that the Defendant engaged in any violence towards law enforcement. [18 USC 111, assault or resisting federal officers]

Fourth, the Government is not aware of any evidence that the Defendant destroyed or stole any property from the Capitol. [18 USC 1361, depredation of government property]

The fifth factor is more discretionary — but will be important in distinguishing MAGA tourists for those who got swept up into the effort to terrorize Congress. Morgan-Lloyd spent about 10 minutes in the Capitol, but she also didn’t go to any of the places — like the Senate floor or into a Member of Congress’ office — that suggests someone got caught up in the effort to delay the vote count or to hunt down members of Congress.

Fifth, based on the Government’s investigation, it appears that the Defendant remained in a limited part of the Capitol building for a limited period of time – i.e., in one hallway for a little over ten minutes. The Government is not aware of any evidence that the Defendant entered any rooms or offices in the Capitol, the Capitol Rotunda, or the Senate or House Chamber.

I suspect this will be used to distinguish those who committed misdemeanor offenses that merit some jail time (and it’s likely to be weeks, not months), from those who will get probation.

Respect for rule of law

There’s a section of the government memo that addresses respect for rule of law, including laying out the 3-year probation expected of Morgan-Lloyd that includes five factors:

  • The two days Morgan-Lloyd spent in jail after her arrest that gave her a taste of the criminal justice system
  • Three years of probation that, among other things, includes a discretionary condition that will prohibit her from possessing firearms
  • Cooperation with law enforcement, which I’ll return to
  • An expression of contrition, which I’ll return to
  • Both community service and the restitution of her share of the $1.5 million damage to the Capitol

While I doubt the probation sentence will be that onerous for Morgan-Lloyd (though the government notes it is twice as long as the supervised release as she’d get if she did do jail time), for others, the prohibition on owning guns will be. To the extent this is a model for others, it will serve to either disarm former insurrectionists or criminalize owning weapons for some years.

Contrition

One reason I suspect the government would prefer that Morgan Lloyd be sentenced before the Bustles is that even in Monday’s plea hearing, Jessica Bustle made a statement to insist that in addition to some horrible things she said online, she said we should pray for the country. That isn’t actually all that exculpatory, given that it may still reflect a belief that the country is in trouble because the democratic victor will become President. In any case, on Monday at least, the Bustles seemed more anxious to get this done than to express any remorse.

By contrast, Morgan-Lloyd did several things to express contrition. She watched several movies about diversity and wrote two movie reviews (for Schindler’s List and Just Mercy) showing an attempt to get out of her bubble; in the former she criticized her son-in-law’s Holocaust denialism. She also acknowledged that there are less privileged people who still suffer in the US.

I’ve learned that even though we live in a wonderful country things still need to improve. People of all colors should feel as safe as I do to walk down the street.

These may be just busy work a smart defense attorney will impose, but you never know when the process will lead someone to rethink their own bubble.

More importantly Morgan-Lloyd’s statement includes a very accurate description of how her participation in the riot helped those with violent intent.

I felt ashamed that something meant to show support for the President had turned violent. This is not the way to prove any point. At first it didn’t dawn on me, but later I realized that if every person like me, who wasn’t violent, was removed from that crowd, the ones who were violent may have lost the nerve to do what they did. For that I am sorry and take responsibility. It was never my intent to help empower people to act violently.

Again, this may reflect the work of a good defense attorney, but stating it is an important step in moving beyond the insurrection.

Cooperation with law enforcement

Finally, the government motion and Morgan-Lloyd’s statement describe the import of cooperation with law enforcement. In the government’s description, they noted she allowed her phone to be imaged and analyzed.

Third, one important aspect of promoting respect for the law is encouraging cooperation and truthfulness with law enforcement. Here, following her arrest, the Defendant fully cooperated with law enforcement and admitted to the full scope of her actions. In addition to waiving her rights and agreeing to be interviewed by law enforcement, she also allowed her mobile phone to be downloaded for substantive analysis.

Morgan-Lloyds statement described how she freely let the FBI get the contents of her phone.

I openly and honestly told them everything I could recall from that day. I gave them my phone freely to download what they needed. My phone was not locked so they didn’t need a password to get in. If it had a password I would have willingly provided it.

I have described how, especially more recently, the government seems to have been prioritizing the misdemeanor arrests of those who might have important evidentiary videos on their phone. Morgan-Lloyd describes seeing what may be the East Doors get opened from inside.

I saw the side doors being opened from the inside and assumed the door closest to me were also open because people who worked in the Capital Building walked past us. They didn’t look nervous or scared.

If she did see those East Doors open, and especially if she has some kind of video evidence, it may prove important to figure out who precisely initiated that and whether it was premeditated and coordinated with those outside the building (as seems likely).

When I first noted that the government seemed to be arresting those from whom they expected to get key evidence, I imagined that those people, especially, would get favorable terms for sentencing. The emphasis here on sharing her phone contents seems to accord with that.


The Delayed Trespassing Charges against Savanah McDonald and Nolan Kidd

Two MAGA tourists from Georgia, Savanah McDonald and Nolan Kidd, were arrested last Friday on charges of trespassing into the Capitol on January 6. They were two of the last remaining people captured in a photo of Jacob Chansley to be arrested.

There’s a detail of interest that may have some bearing on other cases.

People called in tips to the FBI on the two just days after the assault. On January 11, someone sent a screen cap of Kidd’s Facebook account full of pictures from inside the Capitol. Three days later someone sent a picture of McDonald in.

The FBI interviewed both shortly after receiving the tips. They told a story that many other insurrectionists have told since: they were let in.

On January 14, 2021, FBI agents interviewed MCDONALD in Elberton, Georgia. MCDONALD agreed to speak to the agents. When MCDONALD was shown the below picture, MCDONALD confirmed that the person circled was her.

MCDONALD stated that she and KIDD marched to the U.S. Capitol, and when they reached the U.S. Capitol, there were uniformed police officers near the doors telling them to come inside and showing them where to go.

On January 15, 2021, FBI agents separately interviewed KIDD in Athens, Georgia. KIDD agreed to speak to the agents. KIDD told the agents that the doors to the U.S. Capitol were wide open.

Nothing apparently happened for a while, until, on March 8, the FBI Agent on the case viewed video from the Northwest stairs leading to the door through which the two entered showing cops first attempting to rebuff an assault with tear gas, followed by the breach of the perimeter. She found that four minutes after that breach, in the wake of the tear gas, McDonald and Kidd rushed up the stairs.

The FBI agent explained that McDonald and Kidd entered via a door slightly to the side of the one that Dominic Pezzola first broke through, just 14 seconds after it was opened, “by unauthorized individuals” she doesn’t name.

MCDONALD and KIDD entered the U.S. Capitol through a Senate Fire Door approximately 14 seconds after it was breached from the inside by unauthorized individuals. The Senate Fire Door is marked in the above photo by an arrow.

That same day, she got search warrants for Kidd’s Facebook account and McDonald’s SnapChat, the former of which — in addition to admitting that he had removed his pictures to avoid arrest — showed McDonald and Kidd posing in front of a line of cops at the site of the Chansley confrontation, the latter of which depicted McDonald bragging about making it to the Senate.

The claim that that Northwest door was not strongly defended is true. It’s a claim that many defendants have made. But what seems to have happened here is that the FBI held off on applying for a probable cause warrant until they could show that before they walked in an unattended door, McDonald and Kidd were right in the middle of a crowd where cops were taking explicit measures to hold back the crowd.

This is not the first time we’ve seen something like this. When Brady Knowlton was arrested after they discovered him entering the building with Patrick Montgomery, his lawyers immediate demanded exculpatory evidence showing them walking right in this door. [Note,  this is believed to be a different door–the West central door; thanks to “Sansa Stark” for clarifying.]

Then the government indicted him along with Montgomery, charging the latter with assault along the way. Last DOJ reported, Knowlton was entertaining a plea offer.

Something happened at these doors that is both making it hard to hold people accountable for entering it, but also seems to be of investigative interest. Perhaps that’s why McDonald and Kidd got arrested — to obtain the video that Kidd, especially, shot.

But until then, prosecutors may be relying on confrontations outside the building to make it clear that defendants knew they shouldn’t have stormed the building.


A New Emphasis on Threats of Violence in the Latest January 6 Conspiracy Indictment

As I laid out the other day, the government charged six Three Percenters from California — American Phoenix Project founder Alan Hostetter, Russell Taylor, Erik Warner, Tony Martinez, Derek Kinnison, and Ronald Mele — with conspiracy. As I described, the indictment was notable in that just one of the men, Warner, actually entered the Capitol. But it was also notable for the way it tied Donald Trump’s December 19 call for a big protest on January 6 with their own public calls for violence, including executions, as well as an explicit premeditated plan to “surround the capital” [sic].

That’s one reason I find the slight difference in the way this conspiracy got charged to be of interest.

As I’ve been tracking over time, the now-seven militia conspiracies are structured very similarly, with each including coordinated plans to get to DC, some kind of plans to kit out for war, and some coordinated effort to participate in the assault on the Capitol. These conspiracies intersect in multiple ways we know of:

  • Thomas Caldwell’s communication with multiple militia to coordinate plans
  • Kelly Meggs’ formation of an alliance between Florida militias
  • Joe Biggs’ decision to exit the Capitol after the first breach, walk around it, and breach it again with two other Proud Boys in tow just ahead of the Oath Keeper stack
  • The attendance of James Breheny (thus far only charged individually), apparently with Stewart Rhodes (thus far not charged), at a leadership meeting of “multiple patriot groups” in Quarryville, PA on January 3, which Breheny described as “the day we get our comms on point with multiple other patriot groups”

All three militias mingled in interactions they’ve had with Roger Stone, as well, but thus far Stone only shows up in the Oath Keepers’ conspiracy.

In other words, while these represent seven different conspiracies (along with around maybe 15 to 20 identified militia members not charged in a conspiracy), they’re really one networked conspiracy that had the purpose of preventing the democratic replacement of Donald Trump.

Of particular note, what is probably the most serious case of assault charged against a militia member, that charged against Proud Boy Christopher Worrell, has not been included in any conspiracy. So while individual members of these conspiracies — including Joshua James, Dominic Pezzola, and William Isaacs, have been charged for their own physical resistance to cops — the conspiracies as a whole don’t yet hold conspirators accountable for the violence of their co-conspirators. The conspiracies only allege shared responsibility for damage to the Capitol, not violence against cops.

That said, the purpose and structure of the Three Percenter conspiracy is slightly different than the other six. The other six (Oath Keeper, Proud Boy Media, Proud Boy Leadership, Proud Boy Kansas City, Proud Boy North Door, Proud Boy Front Door) are all charged under 18 U.S.C. §371, conspiracy against the US. While the timeline of each conspiracy varies and while some of the Proud Boy conspiracies also include the goal of impeding the police, all six include language alleging the conspirators,

did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and others known and unknown, to commit an offense against the United States, namely, to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, that is, the Certification of the Electoral College vote, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2).

The purpose of the conspiracy was to stop, delay, and hinder the Certification of the Electoral College vote.

That is, those six conspiracies are charged (at least) as a conspiracy to violate the obstruction statute.

The Three Percenter SoCal conspiracy, however, is charged under the obstruction itself, 18 U.S.C. §1512(k).

Between December 19, 2020 and January 6, 2021, within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants … together with others, did conspire to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, to wit: the Certification of the Electoral College vote.

The object is the same — to impede the vote certification. But it is charged differently.

I’m still thinking through what the difference might mean. It might mean nothing, it might reflect the preference of the prosecutors, or it may reflect a rethinking at DOJ.

Nick Smith claims there’s no evidence Ethan Nordean corruptly influenced anyone else to violate their duty

But there are two things that may factor into it. First, since the government first started structuring its conspiracies this way, some defense attorneys have started challenging the applicability of the obstruction statute to the vote certification at all. For this discussion, I’ll focus on the argument as Nick Smith laid it out in a motion to throw out the entire indictment against Ethan Nordean. Smith makes two arguments regarding the conspiracy charge.

First, Smith argues that Congress only intended the obstruction statute to apply to proceedings that involve making factual findings, and so poor Ethan Nordean had no way of knowing that trying to prevent the vote certification might be illegal.

As indicated above, § 1512(c)(2) has never been used to prosecute a defendant for the obstruction of an “official proceeding” unrelated to the administration of justice, i.e., a proceeding not charged with hearing evidence and making factual findings. Moreover, there is no notice, much less fair notice, in § 1512(c)(2) or in any statute in Chapter 73 that a person may be held federally liable for interference with a proceeding that does not resemble a legal tribunal.

Of course, that argument ignores that Ted Cruz and the other members who challenged the vote claim they were making factual findings — so Nordean’s co-conspirators may sink this legal challenge.

Smith also argues that the obstruction charge fails under the findings of US v. Poindexter, in which John Poindexter’s prosecution for lying to Congress about his role in Iran-Contra was reversed, in part, because the word “corruptly” as then defined in the obstruction statute was too vague to apply to Poindexter’s corrupt failure to do his duty. Smith argues that the language remains too vague based on his claim that the government is trying to prosecute Nordean for his “sincerely held political belief that the 2020 presidential election was not fairly decided,” which prosecutors have no business weighing.

Here, the FSI’s construction on § 1512(c)’s adverb “corruptly” fails this Circuit’s Poindexter test. First, the FSI does not allege that Nordean obstructed the January 6 joint session “to obtain an improper advantage for himself or someone else. . .” Poindexter, 951 F.2d at 386. Instead, it contends he allegedly obstructed the session in support of the sincerely held political belief that the 2020 presidential election was not fairly decided. Such an interpretation of § 1512(c) is unconstitutionally vague because it leaves to judges and prosecutors to decide which sincerely held political beliefs are to be criminalized on an ad hoc basis. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. at 1223-24. Second, the FSI neither alleges that Nordean influenced another person to obstruct the January 6 proceeding in violation of their legal duty, nor that Nordean himself violated any legal duty by virtue of his mere presence that day.

As I noted in my post on this challenge, this might be a nifty argument for a defendant who hadn’t — as Nordean had — started calling for revolution on November 27,  well before the state votes were counted. But Nordean had already made his intent clear even before the votes were counted, so Smith’s claims that Nordean was reacting to the election outcome is fairly easily disproven. (As with this entire challenge, it might work well for other defendants, but for a long list of reasons, it is far less likely to work with Nordean.)

There’s another, far more important, aspect to this part of the argument though. Smith claims, without any discussion, that Nordean didn’t “influence” any other person to violate their legal duty. Smith wants Judge Timothy Kelly to believe that Nordean did not mean to intimidate Congress by assembling a violent mob and storming the Capitol and as a result of intimidation to fail to fulfill their duty as laid out in the Constitution, whether by refusing to certify Joe Biden as President, or by running away in terror and simply failing to complete the task.

Unlike conspiracy, obstruction has a threat of violence enhancement

As I understand it (and I invite actual lawyers to correct me on this), the other difference between charging this conspiracy under 18 USC 371 and charging it under 1512(k) is the potential sentence. While defendants can be sentenced to 20 years under their individual obstruction charges (the actual sentence is more likely to be around 40 months, or less if the defendant pleads out), 18 USC 371 has a maximum sentence of five years.

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

But 18 USC 1512(k) says that those who conspire to obstruct shall be subject to the same penalty as they’d face for the actual commission of the offense.

(k)Whoever conspires to commit any offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

And obstruction has special penalties tied to murder, attempted murder, and the threat of physical force.

(3) The punishment for an offense under this subsection is—
(A) in the case of a killing, the punishment provided in sections 1111 and 1112;
(B) in the case of—
(i) an attempt to murder; or
(ii) the use or attempted use of physical force against any person;
imprisonment for not more than 30 years; and
(C) in the case of the threat of use of physical force against any person, imprisonment for not more than 20 years.

Thus, anyone charged along with a co-conspirator who threatened to kill someone may be exposed to twenty or even thirty years in prison rather than just five years.

As noted, there are several things about the overt acts charged in the Three Percenter conspiracy that differentiate it from the other militia conspiracies. They were even more explicit about their intent to come armed to the Capitol than the Oath Keepers were with their QRF (and their stated excuses to be armed relied even less on what I call the Antifa foil, the claim they had to come armed to defend against people they fully planned to incite).

And Hostetter twice publicly threatened to execute people. He posted a YouTube on November 27 in which he said, “some people at the highest levels need to be made an example of with an execution or two or three.” And he gave a speech on December 12 in which he demanded, “There must be long prison terms, while execution is the just punishment for the ringleaders of the coup.”

In other words, I think by charging this conspiracy under the obstruction statute rather than the conspiracy one, the government has exposed all of Hostetter’s co-conspirators, along with Hostetter himself, to far longer sentences because he repeatedly threatened to execute people.

The Three Percenter conspiracy makes threats to intimidate Mike Pence and members of Congress an object of the conspiracy

My guess is that the government is going to argue that, of course, Nordean was trying to corruptly influence others to violate their legal duty to certify the electoral results. Every single militia includes at least one member who made explicit threats against Mike Pence or Nancy Pelosi, and the Proud Boys, especially, have no recourse by claiming they showed up to listen to Donald Trump, since instead of attending his speech, they were assembling a violent mob to march on the place where Mike Pence was going to enact his official duties.

The Proud Boys were there to intimidate Mike Pence and members of Congress in hopes they would fail to fulfill their duty as laid out in the Constitution. If these charges make it to trial, I think prosecutors will be able to make a very compelling argument that assembling a mob in anticipation of Pence’s official acts was designed to intimidate him corruptly.

But, if I’m right about the criminal penalties, with the Three Percenter conspiracy, the government is going one step further. This conspiracy is structured to hold each member of the conspiracy accountable for the threats of murder made by Hostetter, the threat posed by planning to be armed at the Capitol, as well as the violence of others in their networked conspiracy. And even for those who didn’t enter the Capitol but instead egged on violence from some rally stage or behind some bullhorn, this conspiracy seems to aspire to expose co-conspirators accountable to a twenty year sentence for their (unsuccessful) efforts to intimidate Mike Pence to renege on his duty.

Update: I should add that someone with no prior convictions who goes to trial and is found guilty would face closer to 7-9 years with a full threats of violence enhancement. It would not be the full 20 years.

Update: Thanks to harpie for helping me count to seven (I had the wrong total number originally).


The Hybrid Hatchet Conspiracy: A Premeditated Plan to Surround the Capitol on January 6

Contrary to what you might read on Twitter, I have not been predicting that Trump will be held accountable for January 6. Rather, I am observing–based on actual court filings and the evidence in them–that if he or his associates were to be held accountable, that would happen via conspiracy indictments, indictments that have already reached within two degrees of Trump’s closest associates. In a hearing yesterday, Christopher Wray answered one after another question about holding Trump accountable by talking about conspiracy indictments, so it seems he may agree with me.

Just the other day, for example, I suggested we might see prosecutions of those involved in the rallies, as opposed to busting into the Capitol.

Together, those posts argue that if any kingpins will be held accountable, it will be through a conspiracy prosecution. I note that one of the conspiracies has already reached back to the Willard Hotel, where Roger Stone was staying and where the call patterns suggest possible consultation with people present at the hotel. And I suggest that not only will there will be further conspiracies (I’m pretty confident about that prediction) but there may be more complex prosecutions tied to people who were involved in the rallies rather than the riot or who were discussed explicitly with Rudy Giuliani (I’m far less confident about that possibility).

That doesn’t mean Donald Trump, or even Roger Stone or Rudy Giuliani, are going to prison. It’s not clear what kind of evidence is out there. It’s not clear how loyal these famously paranoid people will be without the constant dangle of pardons that Trump used to buy silence during the Mueller investigation.

Earlier in the week, I noted that DOJ had already charged one of the speakers on January 5, Brandon Straka, and has been holding him in a kind of limbo awaiting what look like possible charges of obstruction and civil disorder.

Then there’s the case of Brandon Straka. He’s the head of the Walkaway campaign, and was a speaker on January 5. There’s no allegation he entered the door of the Capitol, though at a time when he was on the stairs, he was involved in attempting to take a shield from an officer and for that got charged with civil disorder (in addition to the standard trespass crimes). He obviously could be charged with obstruction, but that hasn’t been charged yet.

Last night, DOJ rolled out a conspiracy indictment that alleges that Alan Hostetter, another of the speakers on January 5, conspired with five other Three Percenters to “corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, to wit: the Certification of the Electoral College vote.”

The indictment is slightly different than the other conspiracies charged against militias thus far (and therefore may be yet another degree more vulnerable to challenge), insofar as it charges 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k), the conspiracy charge tied to obstruction, rather than conspiracy itself 18 U.S.C. §371. Plus, just one of the accused defendants — Erik Warner — managed to enter the Capitol (another, Russell Taylor, chose not to enter because he didn’t want to do so while armed), so even the trespassing charges may be more vulnerable to challenge. Two of the men — Derek Kinnison and Warner — are also charged with obstruction for trying to delete the Telegram chat they used for organizational purposes.

But if this indictment withstands legal challenge, it is in some ways far more provocative than the existing militia conspiracies. That’s because it’s not just a militia conspiracy indictment.

The indictment is a hybrid: one that charges a group that is both a militia, the Three Percenters, but also men who played an organizational role in the larger event via an anti-mask turned into election conspiracy group, the American Phoenix Project. The conspiracy language of the indictment repeatedly describes the men flashing their Three Percenter signs or otherwise identifying themselves as such.

KINNISON attached a picture of himself, MARTINEZ, and WARNER with the following message: “From left to right, I’m Derek aka midnightrider the short guy, Tony aka blue collar patriot, Erik aka silvir surfer…. We are 3 percent so cal. Also coming with us is redline Ron [MELE].” In the photo, all three are flashing a hand signal that designates affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

[snip]

On January 2, 2021, KINNISON, MELE, WARNER, and MARTINEZ met at MELE’S house in Temecula, California. Before leaving in the SUV, the four men posed for a photograph in which they all made a hand gesture signaling affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

[snip]

MELE, MARTINEZ, KINNISON, and WARNER also congregated on the National Mall and posed for a photo there. In the photo, MARTINEZ, KINNISON, and WARNER made a hand signal showing affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

But the indictment also describes how Hostetter formed the Phoenix Project as an anti-mask group and then used it to sow violence against those who supported the democratic result of the 2020 election.

In Spring, 2020, ALAN HOSTETTER (“HOSTETTER”) founded the American Phoenix Project to oppose government-mandated restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. After the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, HOSTETTER, RUSSELL TAYLOR (“TAYLOR”), and PERSON ONE used the American Phoenix Project to support former President Donald J. Trump and protest what they asserted was a stolen or fraudulent election result. TAYLOR and PERSON ONE became directors of the American Phoenix Project in the Fall of 2020.

From at least in and around November 2020, HOSTETTER used the American Phoenix Project as a platform to advocate violence against certain groups and individuals that supported the 2020 presidential election results.

It describes how in a post on November 27, Hostetter demanded that “tyrants and traitors need to be executed.” It explains that at a rally in Huntington Beach on December 12, Hostetter gave a speech calling for executions.

The enemies and traitors of America both foreign and domestic must be held accountable. And they will. There must be long prison terms, while execution is the just punishment for the ringleaders of this coup.

This demand for long prison terms may come back to haunt Hostetter if he is ever sentenced for his attack on America.

Because of its hybrid structure, I suspect this indictment may serve as a node to connect other conspiracies together. Obviously, we should expect to see parallel Three Percenter conspiracies. Given how Guy Reffitt’s known actions that day parallel those of these conspirators, and given what prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said in a status hearing for Reffitt the other day, I would be unsurprised if the superseding indictment Nestler said was imminent was a conspiracy of the Texas Three Percenters Reffitt was organizing.

I also expect that some of the 30 other people described to have taken part in the The California-DC Brigade Telegram chat described in this indictment to be charged in their own conspiracy indictment.

This group will serve as the Comms for able bodied individuals that are going to DC on Jan 6. Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight. We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.

The indictment makes it clear that these Three Percenter defendants coordinated with other members of the DC Brigade using a coordinated radio channel, 142.422 on the day of the insurrection; they were conspiring with others, in addition to each other.

On the Telegram chat, Taylor explicitly talked about coming to DC armed.

I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing and plates as well.

Importantly, some of these other people from SoCal did engage in assault, and given Hostetter’s public statements plus the mention of “willing[ness] to fight” in this Telegram description and Taylor’s mention of weapons, the Three Percenter conspirators may be implicated by association in their violence (which, along with weapons charges that have not been charged, could serve as inducements for members of this conspiracy to flip).

So I believe this indictment will link in conspiracies with other Three Percenters and with other Southern Californian anti-maskers.

But the role of the rallies in the indictment is even more intriguing.

Hostetter set up an earlier organizational Telegram chat on November 10. It was used to plan travel to DC for the November Million MAGA March as well as the January 6 insurrection. In the language describing the overt acts in this conspiracy, the indictment focuses closely on posts and other events starting on December 19. It linked Trump’s Tweet calling for “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” It describes an Instagram post Hostetter posted under the Phoenix Project moniker the same day, calling for people to join him. It describes that Hostetter and Taylor reserved rooms in a Kimpton Hotel on December 20, earlier planning than many of the Oath Keepers. It describes how Taylor renamed the Telegram chat to “The Californian Patriots–Answer the Call Jan 6” on December 20.

Then, having tied the travel of these organizers of a network of radicalized Southern California Trump supporters to Trump’s call on December 20, the indictment describes that this group got booked to speak at the January 5 rally.

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.

The indictment doesn’t describe how this happened, though the government obviously has enough comms to have some insight into it.

Then, that same day, December 30, Taylor posted his plans for the days of January 5 and 6. His post stated a clear plan to work with Stop the Steal to 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 shart 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 is structurally the foundation in the indictment for the leadership role these men played in the SoCal contingent of anti-maskers. For example, the next section describes how just after this post, the men created the DC Brigade chat, including its calls for anti-maskers from Southern California to come to DC armed to and expecting a fight.

DOJ has been working on this indictment for six months. That’s still lightning fast for a conspiracy indictment, but unlike the other militia conspiracies, it has not been jury-rigged together as one after another co-conspirators’ phones get exploited.

And what it does, at a minimum, is to tie the anti-mask community in Southern California into a network with the Three Percenters.

More importantly, it suggests the organizing surrounding the rally on January 5 included a premeditated plan to surround the Capitol on January 6.


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Metadata of Insurrection

Kevin Douglas Creek, whose arrest was announced yesterday, is your garden variety January 6 defendant accused of assaulting cops in the extended fighting on the West Terrace that day.

But his arrest affidavit is a lesson in all the ways that insurrectionists, or any other travelers, leave a path of metadata that can be tracked later.

While the FBI described that someone reported comments Creek made in a visit to the Northside Forsyth Hospital days after the riot — Creek said that, “he was gassed before in the military where he never experienced the types of effects he was experiencing this time” — it appears that no one tracked down that tip directly (many of those who were gassed on January 6 would have only weak trespassing cases against them).

It seems likely that Creek was identified anew based off his Be on the Lookout pictures captured from two alleged assaults against cops. The affidavit doesn’t say he was identified through facial recognition, but the inclusion of the two clearest BOLO pictures of him in the affidavit suggests that’s likely.

Investigators often use driver’s license pictures to match for facial recognition, and indeed, this affidavit describes validating Creek’s BOLO to his Georgia driver’s license (though not the use of facial recognition to get there).

Your affiant reviewed a driver’s license photo issued to Creek and the Facebook profile photos posted by Kevin Creek and also compared these to images and videos of AFO-296. By comparing these photographs to the videos and images from the U.S. Capitol, your affiant believes the images are all consistent with Kevin Douglas Creek.

Once they IDed Creek as a suspect, they started accumulating proof of his travel. While Creek drove to insurrection, Air Marshals at Atlanta’s airport nevertheless witnessed Creek entering his F-150 at the airport, which tied him to his license plate.

Your affiant reviewed records obtained from open sources and verified that a F-150 Supercrew with license plate ending in XXX5830 is registered to Creek. Federal Air Marshals have also observed Kevin Creek entering this vehicle at the Hartfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia.

Once they tied Creek to his license plate, they tracked his drive to DC.

This license plate was run by an FBI-Atlanta Task Force Officer through Leonardo, a Automatic License Plate reader in Georgia. Leonardo automatic plate reader captured Creek driving to D.C. from Georgia on at 8:44 am on January 5, 2021 and returning at 6:11 pm on January 7, 2021. On both occasions, the reader registered the license plate on I-85 in Franklin County, Georgia.

Given Franklin County’s location on the border with South Carolina, Georgia’s license plate reader probably picked up Creek on his way into South Carolina on I-85 on January 5 and on his way back into Georgia on January 7.

Along the way, his credit card purchases showed him buying gas going and returning.

For example, on January 5, 2021, Creek used his credit card at Shell Oil in Petersburg, VA, Quinns in Arlington, VA and at Panera Bread in Burlington, NC. On January 7, 2021, Creek used his credit card at QT in Anderson, SC and at BP in North Chester, VA.

His credit card not only placed him at what was then a Courtyard in Arlington, but showed that he took the metro into the city on January 6.

Travel records obtained from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority confirm that on January 6, 2021 at 8:15am, Creek’s credit card was used to purchase four metro cards. These metro cards were used to traveled from Rosslyn Station McPherson Sq Station at approximately 8:17 am. At 11:07 am, one metro card was used to return to Rosslyn Station from McPherson Station. The other 3 cards returned from Arch-Navy Memorial Station to Rosslyn Station at 4:37 pm.

This tipped off the FBI that three people were traveling with Creek. Creek told the FBI whom he traveled with in an interview on May 21, but if he hadn’t, the FBI would have been able to use surveillance video from the hotel and the Metro to figure out who the others were, especially the two that appear to have left the Capitol with him shortly before 4:37PM.

At the beginning of this investigation, there was a focus on how many rioters had IDed themselves on social media. In Creek’s case, he may have deleted his live streaming from the attack before anyone chased down the tip based off his hospital visit (FBI ran some kind of GeoFence off of people live streaming to Facebook from inside the Capitol, but it’s not clear Creek ever entered the building).

An open source search was conducted to identify any social media accounts in the name of Kevin Creek. A search of Facebook revealed an account with the handle Kevin Creek. This Facebook profile shared a photo of a “Nailed It Roofing and Restoration” business card. Nailed It Roofing and Restoration is registered with the Georgia Corporations Division with a registered agent of Kevin Douglas Creek.

[snip]

Initially, Creek told affiant he was live streaming January 6th and posted the stream and photos on his Facebook account. Creek deleted those photos once he returned home. Creek stated he may have heard about the protest from his twitter account (handle @KevinDCreek) but stated he could not remember for certain.

As described then, the only lead the FBI got from Creek’s Facebook was the tie to his business, “Nailed It Roofing and Restoration.”

But even without leaving boasts on Facebook for the FBI to find, Creek nevertheless left a clear trail of metadata in his wake as he traveled to insurrection.

Update, June 18: The government is not opposing a motion to revoke Creek’s detention order, citing (among other things), his “significant cooperation with law enforcement” since he was first interviewed.


The Gateway Pundit’s East Capitol Door Oath Keeper Conspiracy

In a motion arguing that accused Oath Keeper Jason Dolan should be held without bail, the government accuses Dolan of inventing an alternative story to explain how the East doors of the Capitol got opened on January 6.

Many of these detention motions aren’t all that convincing about the danger of the defendant; I find this one to be. The government shows the three gun cases that Dolan and fellow Floridian Kenneth Harrelson stashed at the Ballston Comfort Inn before the insurrection.

The government explains that Dolan spent a decade as a marksmanship instructor while serving as a Marine and that Dolan appears to have hidden at least two guns that his neighbor said he owned in advance of being arrested.

The motion describes that Dolan and Harrelson were “near” the Capitol on January 5, which the government suggests was, “likely to conduct surveillance for their operation the following day.”

It describes how, after busting into the Capitol, Dolan, Harrelson, and Kelly Meggs spent six minutes outside Nancy Pelosi’s office (note, I think the government misleadingly suggests this photo came from Harrelson or Meggs).

Hours later, Meggs talked about how “we” had looked for Pelosi.

The government also shows that the attorney that Dolan shares with the former President, Michael Van der Veen, was wrong when he claimed there was no ongoing contact between Dolan and the Oath Keepers; Dolan and Harrelson were in communication via Signal leading up to Harrelson’s arrest.

But that’s not the most interesting part of the detention motion.

The government argues that Dolan is the source for this Gateway Pundit story, which was set up with the involvement of the Oath Keeper’s PR attorney, Kellye Sorelle (and so would constitute another recent contact with the Oath Keepers to prove Van der Veen wrong). They point to this video seized from Harrelson’s phone, showing the person in front of him, whom other pictures identify as Dolan, taking a picture of the just-opened East door.

That’s almost exactly the picture that shows up in the Gateway Pundit article.

(Note, Gateway Pundit cropped that image, I didn’t.)

That makes the intent of the Gateway Pundit story more interesting. It claims that the existing explanation for how the East doors got opened is that a Marine Major “went inside and managed to run around and open up the doors.”

Retired Marine: We’re on the top level now – about 15 feet from the doors just before they opened up. People are yelling and screaming. Everyone’s cheering, all kind of stuff. It’s chaotic. But we’re just kind of there. And then all of the sudden the doors open up from the inside. I have a picture taken about two seconds before the doors opened. And then I have a picture taken about six seconds later and the doors were open.

Jim Hoft: And they were not opened from the outside?

Retired Marine: They were opened from the inside. Now one of the stories I read recently was that some Marine, some Marine Major, went inside and managed to run around and open up the doors. And I think that was on your website, as well. But here’s what I can tell you about magnetic locks. If a door is locked by a mag lock it cannot be opened from the outside or the inside unless the person controlling that door opens that door by turning off the magnetic lock which those doors according to the photos I took are equipped with. [my emphasis]

The point of the story is to argue — based on the source’s experience working at US Embassies overseas, which Dolan did — that it would be impossible to open doors secured by magnetic locks. That’s not true: for safety reasons it has to be possible to open such doors from the inside, which is what the government claims did happen.

It’s how Dolan inserts Marine Major Christopher Warnagiris into the story, claiming that Warnagiris opened the doors from the inside, that I find particularly interesting.

That’s not what he is alleged to have done though. Warnagiris is alleged to be the first person in the East door, as if he knew — standing there on the Capitol steps fifteen feet in front of where Dolan was standing at the same time — that they would be opened.

Then Warnagiris prevented the cops from closing the doors once they had been opened, all the while helping others (which would hypothetically include the Stack that Dolan entered with) get in.

Without the tie to Warnagiris, this story would seem like nothing more than a ham-handed attempt to claim that the Stack could not have “broken” in, because to open the magnetic doors, someone would have had to have let them in. Maybe that’s all it is.

But the story serves as much to obscure what fellow Marine Warnagiris did as what Dolan and the rest of the stack did. Given that both Marines seemed to know those doors would open, I find that an interesting story to tell.


The Hole in the Senate January 6 Report Created by DOJ’s Non-Cooperation

The Senate Rules/Homeland Security Report on January 6 is as helpful for the holes it identifies as it is for the questions it answers.

The most amazing hole pertains to the actions of the Secret Service. The report notes that the Secret Service attended a preparatory meeting on January 5, and like the FBI, Secret Service raised no warnings about the violent mob that their primary protectee was convening in DC.

He has stated that in a January 5 meeting with USCP leadership, members of the Capitol Police Board, and officials from the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and DCNG, no entity “provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists.”153

The Report notes that then-Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund called Secret Service and asked for help on the day of the riot.

At 1:01 p.m., Mr. Sund also requested assistance from the United States Secret Service.79

[snip]

Mr. Sund testified that he first contacted MPD, followed closely by the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division.457

But the language about the agencies that did come to help does not mention Secret Service.

After 3:00 p.m., additional reinforcements from federal agencies began to arrive, and USCP turned to extracting and securing congressional staff.111 A number of agencies and entities provided assistance, including DHS; the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Montgomery County Police Department; the Arlington County Police Department; the Fairfax Police Department; and Virginia State Troopers.112 With this help, USCP secured the Senate and House chambers, along with the basement, subways, first floor, and crypts by 4:28 p.m. 113 DCNG personnel began arriving at the Capitol at approximately 5:20 p.m.114 By 6:14 p.m., USCP, DCNG, and MPD successfully established a security perimeter on the west side of the Capitol building.115

We’ve been focusing for months on the delayed response from DOD, but all this time Secret Service’s role has gone little noticed (and I’m still interested in Park Police’s absence). The silence here suggests that Secret Service blew off an explicit call for help as a mob threatened both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.

As the report notes, Secret Service’s lead agency, DHS, has not yet fully complied with the Senate’s information requests.

Most entities cooperated with the Committees’ requests. There were notable exceptions, however: the Department of Justice and DHS have yet to fully comply with the Committees’ requests for information, the Office of the House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms did not comply with the Committees’ information requests, and a USCP Deputy Chief of Police declined to be interviewed by the Committees.

As to DOD’s slow response in deploying the Guard on the day of the attack, the report suggests that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had a key role in it.

There are multiple conflicting stories about what happened at DOD. It was clear from his testimony that former Acting Secretary Christopher Miller genuinely didn’t understand how much of a delay there was with the deployment of the National Guard. An important detail included in the report is that Miller believed the Guard had his okay to deploy by 3:04, but McCarthy dawdled until after 4:32, after other law enforcement had secured much of the Capitol.

By 4:32 p.m., Mr. McCarthy and his D.C. counterparts had agreed upon a “task and purpose” for DCNG, “identif[ied] link-up locations, and confirm[ed] key leaders at each site.”656 Accounts differ as to who within DOD needed to approve the final plan in order to deploy DCNG troops to the Capitol. Mr. McCarthy briefed Mr. Miller on the plan, who raised no objections.657 But Mr. Miller informed the Committees that he did not need to approve the plan—in his view, his 3:04 p.m. authorization was all encompassing and as soon as Mr. McCarthy and General Walker finished their mission analysis, DCNG had all necessary authorizations to deploy.658 General McConville informed the Committees that, although he did not know for sure, he believed Mr. Miller did need to approve the deployment plan.659

The reason why McCarthy dawdled is important, though.

After a bunch of conflicting excuses about the delay itself, there’s a section addressing why the Quick Reaction Force wasn’t deployed (ironically, given that the Oath Keepers seemed more prepared to release theirs than the entire DOD). After yet more conflicting excuses, McCarthy said that one reason the QRF couldn’t be deployed was because DOD needed to “link up with an organization and contact.”

General Walker also testified that the QRF was outfitted with all the equipment needed to go to the Capitol and was “ready to go” before 5:00 p.m.694 General McConville stated that “there was never an intent to have a quick reaction force going in to clear the Capitol.”695 Neither Mr. McCarthy nor Mr. Miller recalled whether the QRF had its civil disturbance gear available at Joint Base Andrews. Mr. McCarthy also noted that he was never informed that the QRF was at the Armory, equipped, and prepared to depart for the Capitol.696 When asked whether the QRF was properly equipped to respond to the Capitol, even if that was not the original intent, General McConville reiterated the importance of the assigned mission: “it depends on what the mission was.”697

Mr. McCarthy also acknowledged that, even if properly equipped, the QRF still needed to be briefed on the new mission.698 “I wanted to be clear of the concept for operations and how we were going to bring these [available DCNG personnel, including the QRF] together, make sure they ha[d] the right equipment, a clear understanding of their mission, and then link up with an organization and contact.

In other words, the reason the Pentagon couldn’t send a QRF to fight mobs prepared with their own QRF was because there was no lead agency to oversee them.

One of the most important sections of this report describes how Trump made DOJ — the same agency that had deployed even BOP officials during the summer — the lead agency on January 6. But DOJ did nothing. Miller explained that’s why he got so involved — because DOJ did nothing. “Somebody needed to do it,” he explained. And then McCarthy repeatedly used the lack of a lead federal agency as his excuse not to deploy the Guard. This discussion of DOJ’s disavowals of being the lead federal agency is one of the few areas where the report reiterates that an agency refused to cooperate with the Senate.

All DOD officials interviewed stressed the importance of the designation of a lead federal agency to support operations on January 6. The lead federal agency is “the nexus and locus for all information flow” and ensures that everything is coordinated and synchronized across federal agencies and departments.556 Mr. Miller noted that DOD “should never, ever be the lead federal agency for domestic law enforcement,” except for the establishment of martial law.557 Indeed, Mr. McCarthy required an agency to be designated before supporting the Mayor’s request for National Guard assistance. 558 According to Mr. McCarthy, on January 4, the White House designated DOJ as the lead federal agency for January 6: “Sunday evening, after Acting Secretary Miller and General Milley met with the President, they got the lead [f]ederal agency established, all of the pieces started coming together.”559 Mr. Miller also recalled that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency at some point prior to January 6, but he did not know what role the White House played in the decision.560

Although DOD understood that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency, there appears to have been no clearly established point of contact within the department, according to Mr. McCarthy, which he found “concerning.”561 Prior to January 6, Mr. McCarthy sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen outlining the Army’s operational plan in support of the Mayor’s request and reached out informally to David Bowdich, FBI Deputy Director, because the two had worked together previously.562 But Mr. McCarthy claimed, even during the attack, he was never provided an official point of contact at DOJ and had no contact with DOJ or FBI officials until approximately 4:00 p.m. 563 General McConville also stated that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency; however, he noted that DOJ did not conduct any interagency rehearsals or have an integrated security plan, as DOJ did during the summer 2020 protests when it had also been designated as the lead federal agency.564 General McConville stressed the importance of integrated security plans and acknowledged that had there been one on January 6, DOD’s response time would have been quicker.565

In contrast, Mr. Miller stated Richard Donoghue, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, served as DOJ’s operational lead on January 6.566 Notably, however, Mr. Miller acknowledged that, during the attack, he convened calls with Cabinet members to share information and ensure everyone was on the same page.567 When asked why he convened the calls, as opposed to the lead federal agency, Mr. Miller responded, “somebody needed to do it.”568 Mr. Miller was not familiar with any actions DOJ took to coordinate the federal response on January 6.569

On May 12, 2021, Jeffrey Rosen, the Acting Attorney General on January 6, testified at a House Oversight hearing that it was “not accurate” that DOJ was the lead federal agency for security preparations on January 6. 570 He stated that DOJ’s responsibilities were specific to intelligence coordinating and information sharing.571 DOJ has not acknowledged that it was designated the lead federal agency for January 6 and has yet to fully comply with the Committees’ requests for information. 572

In this post, I suggested the January 6 investigation hypothetically could (which is no guarantee it will) reach far more of the potentially criminal behavior than virtually everyone not following closely believes.

But in addition to the two areas where I expressed doubt that could happen — members of Congress, and DOD itself — this report makes it clear that DOJ remains a key subject that should be investigated.

It’s not at all clear that the FBI can or would investigate DOJ’s former top leaders.

Admittedly, DOJ — along with DOD, DHS, and Interior — is conducting a review of DOJ’s role that day and in weeks leading up to it (it’s not clear DHS’ review will include Secret Service, which has its own IG).

Review Examining the Role and Activity of DOJ and its Components in Preparing for and Responding to the Events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is initiating a review to examine the role and activity of DOJ and its components in preparing for and responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The DOJ OIG will coordinate its review with reviews also being conducted by the Offices of Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Interior. The DOJ OIG review will include examining information relevant to the January 6 events that was available to DOJ and its components in advance of January 6; the extent to which such information was shared by DOJ and its components with the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local agencies; and the role of DOJ personnel in responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The DOJ OIG also will assess whether there are any weaknesses in DOJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. If circumstances warrant, the DOJ OIG will consider examining other issues that may arise during the review.

The DOJ OIG is mindful of the sensitive nature of the ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the events of January 6. Consistent with long-standing OIG practice, in conducting this review, the DOJ OIG will take care to ensure that the review does not interfere with these investigations or prosecutions.

DOJ IG has suggested that it is looking into the late Trump term shenanigans. But it’s not clear that it would look at why DOJ let a violent mob assault the Capitol.

Which, given the Senate report, is an issue that needs far more scrutiny.

Copyright © 2021 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/january-6-insurrection/