September 26, 2021 / by 

 

Where Were They Radicalized? Two Mike Flynn Supporters Guilty of Threatening Assassination

Yesterday, two Trump supporters were held accountable for threats of violence against Trump’s perceived opponents.

In DC, QAnoner Frank Caporusso pled guilty to threatening Emmet Sullivan because of his decisions in the Mike Flynn case. His statement of facts admitted that he called Sullivan’s chamber and warned,

We are professionals. We are trained military people. We will be on rooftops. You will not be safe. A hot piece of lead will cut through your skull. You bastard. You will be killed, and I don’t give a fuck who you are. Back out of this bullshit before it’s too late, or we’ll start cutting down your staff. This is not a threat. This is a promise.

Caporusso faces an 18-24 month sentence, though will get credit for time served since August.

In New York, a jury found Trump supporter Brendan Hunt guilty of making death threats against government officials, including calling for the execution of AOC, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi on December 6. On January 8, he called to return to DC with guns to “slaughter these motherfuckers.” On January 12, in response to a General Flynn Parler text calling on people to act responsibly, Hunt responded, “enough with the ‘trust the plan’ bullshit. lets go, jan 20, bring your guns.”

Hunt’s sentence will likely be longer given that he went to trial, not to mention some violent behavior committed while detained pre-trial.

This is one day. One day, and two Trump and Flynn supporters found guilty of the same crime for threatening political violence.


Is a Disorganized Militia January 6 Conspiracy in the Offing?

I’m working on a very long post about everyone known to have occupied the Senate on January 6. As part of it, I’m trying to lay out how a bunch of seemingly unconnected people who were present in the Senate network together many of the disparate groups that took part in the insurrection.

For a variety of reasons, I want to look at one node of that network — Josiah Colt, Ronnie Sandlin, and Nate DeGrave — that may soon become a non-militia conspiracy that parallels the militia ones, but is based on a more disparate ideology.

This network first attracted attention when its Idaho member, Josiah Colt was photographed hanging from the balcony level of the Senate, as well as another one showing him sitting in the presiding officer’s chair.

His January 9 arrest affidavit says little about how the FBI IDed him, beyond an interview he gave to CBS, and it charged him just with trespassing; he was arrested on January 12. His February 3 indictment added obstruction and abetting, but never described him as part of a network that worked together to halt the vote count.

Nor did Ronnie Sandlin’s arrest affidavit, approved on January 20 but not executed until January 28. It made just a small mention of his presence in the Senate gallery, showing a picture but not the surveillance footage of his efforts to keep the doors to it open. But mostly it made him sound (and was treated by much of the press) like someone who entered the Capitol and on a lark smoked a joint in there.

Two days after Colt was indicted, Sandlin was indicted, by himself, for assault and obstruction in addition to trespassing. And while the indictment provided the initials of the officers Sandlin allegedly assaulted, it didn’t really describe the significance of those assaults.

The hints that Colt, Las Vegas-based Nate DeGrave, and Ronnie Sandlin (who’s life was in transit before he ended up in DC jail) were all working together began to show in DeGrave’s arrest affidavit which (we now know) was obtained after the FBI, in search of Sandlin, discovered he was at DeGrave’s house in Vegas.

On January 28, 2021, cell-site data for Sandlin’s phone received pursuant to a search warrant led investigators in the FBI Las Vegas division to locate and visually identify Sandlin’s vehicle parked outside the Las Vegas apartment complex where DeGrave was confirmed to reside. That same day, Sandlin was spotted leaving the apartment and taken into custody by the FBI. Based on the defendant’s actions on January 6, 2021, a complaint and arrest warrant for DeGrave were issued on January 28, 2021, and DeGrave was arrested at his residence.

There are a lot of details in DeGrave’s arrest affidavit in there about their joint planning to travel to DC, as well as their boasts that violence might be necessary.

Even still, nothing in that affidavit explains the significance of the confrontation captured in this picture (and not yet described as involving serious contact); DeGrave is allegedly the guy with his fists raised.

And even though DeGrave was indicted the same day and on roughly the same charges as Sandlin, they weren’t yet joined in the same conspiracy.

A February 9 search warrant affidavit for Colt’s Facebook account that has only recently been unsealed reveals that the government was obtaining his Facebook content, in part, to learn more about the joint efforts of the three of them.

Here, Sandlin mentions boogaloo; elsewhere, he mentioned 3%. A bond filing described him as a QAnon follower and at other times he mentions the Rubicon. There’s no clear ideology here as opposed to the mishmash Trump supporters ingested online.

In response to the search warrant, Facebook returned posts and conversations in which the defendant discussed “stop[ping] the steal” and displayed an adherence to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. See CBS News, What Is the QAnon Conspiracy Theory? (Nov. 24, 2020), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-is-the-qanon-conspiracy-theory/. On December 10, 2020, he posted an image decrying the use of masks and facility closures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, accompanied by the hashtag “#WWG1WGA”—where we go one we go all—a QAnon refrain. See id. In response to some commenters’ criticism of this post, Sandlin wrote what would become his own rallying cry leading up to the riot on January 6: “tyranny always masquerades itself as safety and security. Freedom is paid for with blood, there is a reason why America was founded on the principles of give me liberty or give me death.” The government understands that Sandlin carried around a coin with the letter “Q” on it, apparently to demonstrate his proud affiliation with the QAnon movement.

We also now know that the FBI obtained this warrant, in part, in an attempt to reconstruct the Facebook content that Sandlin and DeGrave allegedly deleted.

A bond filing in DeGrave’s case was where I first started asking why these men weren’t being treated as a conspiracy in the same way the militias were. It described chats with in-depth planning for their trip.

Beginning on December 31, 2020, DeGrave, Sandlin, and Colt began a private group chat on Facebook to plan for the 6th. They discussed “shipping guns” to Sandlin’s residence in TN, where they would all meet before driving to D.C. Colt said he would try to fly with his “G43,” which the government understands to refer to a Glock .43 pistol. They filled up their Amazon shopping carts with weapons and paramilitary gear to take to the Capitol. For example, the defendant stated he was “looking at a 100w laser the thing that can instantly burn paper.” Sandlin responded: “Good god you want to burn these communists retinas?” The defendant replied: “I dont but would rather do that then have to shoot someone” and “would be totally possible though.” To minimize his prior statements, the defendant added, “all purely self defence might I add. but will be ready.” Sandlin stated he was bringing his “little pocket gun” and a knife. Later that evening, the defendant asked for Sandlin’s address and then wrote that he had “about 300 worth of stuff coming to you.” Sandlin appears to have reviewed the defendant’s list of Amazon purchases and then wrote: “Nate is really ready for battle hahaha.” Sandlin and Colt later posted pictures of their recent purchases, including a glock holster, gas masks, and a helmet. On January 3, 2021, the defendant posted a picture of various items of clothing with skulls on them, a helmet, and a face mask on Facebook, with the following caption: “Gearing up. Only a fraction of what I have. #fbappropriate #dc #jan6 #drdeath.” He also posted that he was “flying in with friends on the 6th. We’re ready to do what is necessary to save the country.”

The bond filing describes how the three of them armed themselves for their trip to DC on January 6.

DeGrave, Colt, and Sandlin ultimately brought the following weapons and other items with them in a rental car from Tennessee to the D.C. metropolitan area: one Glock 43 pistol, one pocket gun, two magazines of ammunition, bear mace, gas masks, a handheld taser/stun gun, military-style vests/body armor, two helmets, an expandable baton, walkie talkies, and several knives. Colt brought a gun to a rally in Washington, D.C. on January 5. While in the Capitol on January 6, Sandlin and Colt were armed with knives, and Colt had bear mace in his backpack. The defendant carried a walkie talkie, as did Colt.

Thus far, none of them have been charged with weapons possession nor even had their trespassing charges enhanced because they carried knives (though I bet whatever proof the government obtained that Colt brought a gun into DC and bear spray into the Capitol is being used to coerce Colt to flip in the same way it was with Jon Schaffer; note, too, there was a woman involved with them who thus far remains uncharged and unnamed who might be witness to these preparations).

Most importantly, the DeGrave filing described the significance of the two assaults he and Sandlin are accused of. The first served to create the opportunity to open what sounds like the East door of the Capitol (through which Joe Biggs and the Oath Keepers entered).

Surveillance footage from the entrance to the Capitol rotunda depicts a mob outside attempting to gain entry through a door. The door’s glass windows are damaged. Individuals already inside can be seen moving benches blocking the door to try to let the mob in, at which point three U.S. Capitol Police (“USCP”) officers move in to stand guard in front of the door. The defendant, Sandlin, and Colt are then seen entering the area, along with approximately twenty to thirty other individuals. The USCP officers are without backup.

Sandlin approaches the officers and appears to be yelling and pointing at them. Sandlin continues to yell, and DeGrave moves to his side. Immediately thereafter, the crowd, including DeGrave and Sandlin, begins pushing the officers and slowly forces the door behind the officers open, allowing the mob outside to begin streaming in. Rather than shy away, DeGrave continues to engage and records the ongoing attack on the officers. Sandlin can be seen attempting to rip the helmet off of one of the USCP officers, an apparent attempt to expose him and render him vulnerable as the mob surrounds him.

The second created the opportunity to get into the Senate.

DeGrave and Sandlin continue to engage with the crowd near the entrance, with at least one officer still trapped in the midst, until Colt taps the defendant on the shoulder and leads the two away and up nearby stairs. Around this time, Colt shouted something to the effect of “we have to get to the Senate” and “there’s no turning back now, boys, we’re here.”

They eventually made their way to the Senate. Additional surveillance video footage from the Capitol Senate Gallery provides a view of a hallway and several sets of doors, which lead to the upper balcony of the Senate Chamber, where shortly before the Senate and the Vice President had been convened for the Electoral College vote count certification. The beginning of the video clip shows several unidentified subjects in the hallway. A USCP officer (hereinafter “USCP1”) can be seen entering one of these sets of doors and is shortly joined by two other USCP officers (“USCP2” and “USCP3”). As part of their official duties, USCP1, USCP2, and USCP3 were clearing individuals out of rooms and securing the doors.

Approximately 27 seconds into the video clip, Sandlin enters the view of the security camera. Shortly thereafter, USCP2 and USCP3 move toward the second set of doors to start to usher people out, while USCP1 finishes locking the first set of doors. Sandlin can be seen walking next to USCP1 as he approaches the second set of doors, and while USCP2 is attempting to close the second set of doors. Sandlin cuts in front of USCP1 and attempts to wrestle the door away from USCP2. DeGrave then joins Sandlin in a shoving match with the USCP officers in an attempt to keep the door open. Following this assault on USCP officers, DeGrave bragged that he punched an officer “three or four times.” As the three USCP officers make their way away from the crowd, DeGrave, Sandlin, and several others are observed on the video footage acting in an aggressive manner towards the officers. DeGrave puts up his fists as if to begin boxing one of the retreating USCP officers. As the USCP officer steps away, DeGrave can be seen banging his chest.

Shortly thereafter, the defendant, Sandlin, and Colt entered the now open doors and reached the upper balcony of the Senate Chamber, which members and staff of Congress and the Vice President had already evacuated. Colt handed the GoPro, which he had been carrying and using to record the riot, to DeGrave, as he prepared to jump down to the floor of the Senate Chamber. After Colt jumped down, DeGrave was one of several individuals yelling at Colt to take documents and laptops.

In other words, these three guys, with closer ties to QAnon than to the military, played a key role in a pincer effect that created a second or third front inside the Capitol and succeeded in occupying the Senate floor.

As I said, when I read the DeGrave filing, I began to wonder why these guys aren’t being treated with the same seriousness as the militia groups, as a well-armed conspiracy.

The government was considering such a step earlier this month. In a bond filing in Ronnie Sandlin’s case, the government claimed (back on April 5) they anticipated superseding Sandlin (and, the implication is, DeGrave and Colt’s) indictments soon.

With respect to why the defendant was not charged in the same indictment as Mr. DeGrave, the other individual who traveled to D.C. with the defendant and was present with him inside the Capitol: Mr. Colt, the third individual who traveled with them, was indicted on February 3, 2021—the same day the defendant and Mr. DeGrave had their initial appearances in Las Vegas. The indictment timeline for these individuals thus varied. The government was and is still investigating them for conspiracy and anticipates superseding in this matter in the near future.

These men allegedly put in extensive planning to prepare for their assault on the Capitol. They explicitly planned for violence, and DeGrave and Sandlin are both accused of violence. The government further alleges (but has not yet charged) Sandlin and DeGrave with attempting to obstruct the investigation afterwards. For months, the government has seemingly focused on the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to the detriment of a focus on the more organic networks formed online or in in-person protests. That may be about to change.

I expect there will be further stories told about the Senate incursion, as I alluded to here. And I expect those stories will show how all these networks worked together to pull off a tremendous success on January 6.


Former Presiding FISA Judge John Bates’ Curious Treatment of White Person Terrorism

By chance of logistics, the men and women who have presided over a two decade war on Islamic terrorism are now presiding over the trials of those charged in January 6.

To deal with the flood of defendants, the Senior Judges in the DC District have agreed to pick up some cases. And because FISA mandates that at least three of the eleven FISA judges presiding at any given time come from the DC area, and because the presiding judge has traditionally been from among those three, it means a disproportionate number of DC’s Senior Judges have served on the FISA Court, often on terms as presiding judge or at the very least ruling over programmatic decisions that have subjected millions of Americans to collection in the name of the war on terror. Between those and several other still-active DC judges, over 60 January 6 cases will be adjudicated by a current or former FISA judge.

Current and former FISA judges have taken a range of cases with a range of complexity and notoriety:

  • Royce Lamberth served as FISC’s presiding judge from 1995 until 2002 and failed in his effort to limit the effect of the elimination of the wall between intelligence and criminal collection passed in the PATRIOT Act. And during a stint as DC’s Chief Judge he dealt with the aftermath of the Boumediene decision and fought to make the hard won detention reviews won by Gitmo detainees more than a rubber stamp. Lamberth is presiding over 10 cases with 14 defendants. A number of those are high profile cases, like that of Jacob Chansley (the Q Shaman), Zip Tie Guy Eric Munchel and his mother, bullhorn lady and mask refusenik Rachel Powell, and Proud Boy assault defendant Christopher Worrell.
  • Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is still an active DC District judge, but she served as FISC presiding judge starting way back in 2002, inheriting the difficulties created by Stellar Wind from Lamberth. She’s the one who redefined “relevant to” in an effort to bring the Internet dragnet back under court review. She is presiding over ten January 6 cases with 12 defendants. That includes Lonnie Coffman, who showed up to the insurrection with a truck full of Molotov cocktails, as well as some other assault cases.
  • John Bates took over as presiding judge of FISC on May 19, 2009. In 2010, he redefined “metadata” so as to permit the government to continue to use the Internet dragnet; the government ultimately failed to make that program work but FISC has retained that twisted definition of “metadata” nevertheless. In 2011, he authorized the use of “back door searches” on content collected under FISA’s Section 702. In 2013, Bates appears to have ruled that for Islamic terrorists, the FBI can get around restrictions prohibiting surveillance solely for First Amendment reasons by pointing to the conduct of an American citizen suspect’s associates, rather than his or her own. And while not a FISA case, Bates also dismissed Anwar al-Awlaki’s effort to require the government to give him some due process before executing him by drone strike; at the time, the government had presented no public evidence that Awlaki had done more than incite violence. Bates has eight January 6 cases with nine defendants (as well as some unrelated cases), but he is presiding over several high profile ones, including the other Zip Tie Guy, Larry Brock, the scion of a right wing activist family, Leo Bozell IV, and former State Department official Freddie Klein.
  • Reggie Walton, who took over as presiding judge in 2013 but who, even before that, oversaw key programmatic decisions starting in 2008, showed a willingness both on FISC and overseeing the Scooter Libby trial to stand up to the Executive. That includes his extended effort to clean up the phone and Internet dragnet after Bush left in 2009, during which he even shut down part or all of the two dragnets temporarily. Walton is presiding over six cases with eight defendants, most for MAGA tourism.
  • Thomas Hogan was DC District’s head judge in the 2000s. In that role, he presided over the initial Gitmo detainees’ challenges to their detention (though many of the key precedential decisions on those cases were made by other judges who have since retired). Hogan then joined FISC and ultimately took over the presiding role in 2014 and in that role, affirmatively authorized the use of Section 702 back door searches for FBI assessments. Hogan is presiding over 13 cases with 18 defendants, a number of cases involving multiple defendants (including another set of mother-son defendants, the Sandovals). The most important is the case against alleged Brian Sicknick assailants, Julian Khater and George Tanios.
  • James Boasberg, who took over the presiding position on FISC on January 1, 2020 but had started making initial efforts to rein in back door searches even before that, is presiding over about eight cases with ten defendants, the most interesting of which is the case of Aaron Mostofsky, who is himself the son of a judge.
  • Rudolph Contreras, who like Kollar-Kotelly and Boasberg is not a senior judge, is currently a FISC judge. He has six January 6 cases with seven defendants, most MAGA tourists accused of trespassing. There’s a decent chance he’ll take over as presiding judge when Boasberg’s term on FISC expires next month.

Of the most important FISA judges since 9/11, then, just Rosemary Collyer is not presiding over any January 6 cases.

Mind you, it’s not a bad thing that FISA judges will preside over January 6 cases. These are highly experienced judges with a long established history of presiding over other cases, ranging the gamut and including other politically charged high profile cases, as DC District judges do.

That said, in their role as FISA judges — particularly when reviewing programmatic applications — most of these judges have been placed in a fairly unique role on two fronts. First, most of these judges have been forced to weigh fairly dramatic legal questions, in secret, in a context in which the Executive Branch routinely threatens to move entire programs under EO 12333, thereby shielding those programs from any oversight by a judge. These judges responded to such situations with a range of deference, with Royce Lamberth and Reggie Walton raising real stinks and — the latter case — hand-holding on oversight over the course of most of a year, to John Bates and to a lesser degree Thomas Hogan, who often complained at length about abuses before expanding the same programs being abused. Several — perhaps most notably Kollar-Kotelly when she was asked to bring parts of Stellar Wind under FISA — have likewise had to fight to affirm the authority of the entire Article III branch, all in secret.

Ruling on these programmatic FISA applications also involved hearing expansive government claims about the threat of terrorism, the difficulty and necessity of identifying potential terrorists before they attack, and the efficacy of the secret programs devised to do that (the judges who also presided over Gitmo challenges, which includes several on this list, also fielded similar secret claims about the risk of terrorism). Some of those claims — most notably, about the efficacy of the Section 215 phone dragnet — were wildly overblown. In other words, to a degree unmatched by most other judges, these men and women were asked to balance the rights of Americans against secret government claims about the risks of terrorism.

Now these same judges are part of a group being asked to weigh similar questions, but about a huge number of predominantly white, sometimes extremist Christian, defendants, but to do so in public, with defense attorneys challenging their every decision. Here, the balance between extremist affiliation and First Amendment rights will play out in public, but against the background of a two decade war on terror where similar affiliation was criminalized, often in secret.

Generally, the District judges in these cases have not done much on the cases yet, as either Magistrates (on initial pre-indictment appearances) or Chief Judge Beryl Howell (on initial detention disputes) have handled some of the more controversial issues, and in a few cases, Ketanji Brown Jackson presided over arraignments before she started handing off cases in anticipation of her Circuit confirmation process.

But several of the judges have written key opinions on detention, opinions that embody how differently the conduct of January 6 defendants looks to different people.

Lamberth, for example, authored the original detention order for “Zip Tie Guy” Eric Munchel and his mom, Lisa Eisenhart. Even while admitting that Munchel made efforts to limit any vandalization during the riot, Lamberth nevertheless deemed Munchel’s actions a threat to our constitutional government.

The grand jury charged Munchel with grave offenses. In charging Munchel with “forcibly enter[ing] and remain[ing] in the Capitol to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote,” Indictment 1, ECF No. 21, the grand jury alleged that Munchel used force to subvert a democratic election and arrest the peaceful transfer of power. Such conduct threatens the republic itself. See George Washington, Farewell Address (Sept. 19, 1796) (“The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government. All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.”). Indeed, few offenses are more threatening to our way of life.

Munchel ‘s alleged conduct demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law. Munchel is alleged to have taken part in a mob, which displaced the elected legislature in an effort to subvert our constitutional government and the will of more than 81 million voters. Munchel’ s alleged conduct indicates that he is willing to use force to promote his political ends. Such conduct poses a clear risk to the community.

Defense counsel’s portrayal of the alleged offenses as mere trespassing or civil disobedience is both unpersuasive and detached from reality. First, Munchel’s alleged conduct carried great potential for violence. Munchel went into the Capitol armed with a taser. He carried plastic handcuffs. He threatened to “break” anyone who vandalized the Capitol.3 These were not peaceful acts. Second, Munchel ‘s alleged conduct occurred while Congress was finalizing the results of a Presidential election. Storming the Capitol to disrupt the counting of electoral votes is not the akin to a peaceful sit-in.

For those reasons, the nature and circumstances of the charged offenses strongly support a finding that no conditions of release would protect the community.

[snip]

Munchel gleefully entered the Capitol in the midst of a riot. He did so, the grand jury alleges, to stop or delay the peaceful transfer of power. And he did so carrying a dangerous weapon. Munchel took these actions in front of hundreds of police officers, indicating that he cannot be deterred easily.

Moreover, after the riots, Munchel indicated that he was willing to undertake such actions again. He compared himself-and the other insurrectionists-to the revolutionaries of 1776, indicating that he believes that violent revolt is appropriate. See Pullman, supra. And he said “[t]he point of getting inside the building is to show them that we can, and we will.” Id. That statement, particularly its final clause, connotes a willingness to engage in such behavior again.

By word and deed, Munchel has supported the violent overthrow of the United States government. He poses a clear danger to our republic.

This is the opinion that the DC Circuit remanded, finding that Lamberth had not sufficiently considered whether Munchel and his mother would pose a grave future threat absent the specific circumstances present on January 6. They contrasted the mother and son with those who engaged in violence or planned in advance.

[W]e conclude that the District Court did not demonstrate that it adequately considered, in light of all the record evidence, whether Munchel and Eisenhart present an identified and articulable threat to the community. Accordingly, we remand for further factfinding. Cf. Nwokoro, 651 F.3d at 111–12.

[snip]

Here, the District Court did not adequately demonstrate that it considered whether Munchel and Eisenhart posed an articulable threat to the community in view of their conduct on January 6, and the particular circumstances of January 6. The District Court based its dangerousness determination on a finding that “Munchel’s alleged conduct indicates that he is willing to use force to promote his political ends,” and that “[s]uch conduct poses a clear risk to the community.” Munchel, 2021 WL 620236, at *6. In making this determination, however, the Court did not explain how it reached that conclusion notwithstanding the countervailing finding that “the record contains no evidence indicating that, while inside the Capitol, Munchel or Eisenhart vandalized any property or physically harmed any person,” id. at *3, and the absence of any record evidence that either Munchel or Eisenhart committed any violence on January 6. That Munchel and Eisenhart assaulted no one on January 6; that they did not enter the Capitol by force; and that they vandalized no property are all factors that weigh against a finding that either pose a threat of “using force to promote [their] political ends,” and that the District Court should consider on remand. If, in light of the lack of evidence that Munchel or Eisenhart committed violence on January 6, the District Court finds that they do not in fact pose a threat of committing violence in the future, the District Court should consider this finding in making its dangerousness determination. In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors, and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way. See Simpkins, 826 F.2d at 96 (“[W]here the future misconduct that is anticipated concerns violent criminal activity, no issue arises concerning the outer limits of the meaning of ‘danger to the community,’ an issue that would otherwise require a legal interpretation of the applicable standard.” (internal quotation and alteration omitted)). And while the District Court stated that it was not satisfied that either appellant would comply with release conditions, that finding, as noted above, does not obviate a proper dangerousness determination to justify detention.

The District Court also failed to demonstrate that it considered the specific circumstances that made it possible, on January 6, for Munchel and Eisenhart to threaten the peaceful transfer of power. The appellants had a unique opportunity to obstruct democracy on January 6 because of the electoral college vote tally taking place that day, and the concurrently scheduled rallies and protests. Thus, Munchel and Eisenhart were able to attempt to obstruct the electoral college vote by entering the Capitol together with a large group of people who had gathered at the Capitol in protest that day. Because Munchel and Eisenhart did not vandalize any property or commit violence, the presence of the group was critical to their ability to obstruct the vote and to cause danger to the community. Without it, Munchel and Eisenhart—two individuals who did not engage in any violence and who were not involved in planning or coordinating the activities— seemingly would have posed little threat. The District Court found that appellants were a danger to “act against Congress” in the future, but there was no explanation of how the appellants would be capable of doing so now that the specific circumstances of January 6 have passed. This, too, is a factor that the District Court should consider on remand. [my emphasis]

The DC Circuit opinion (joined by Judith Rogers, who ruled for Gitmo detainees in Bahlul and a Boumediene dissent) was absolutely a fair decision. But it is also arguably inconsistent with the way that the federal government treated Islamic terrorism, in which every time the government identified someone who might engage in terrorism (often using one of the secret programs approved by this handful of FISA judges, and often based off far less than waltzing into the Senate hoping to prevent the certification of an election while wielding zip ties and a taser), the FBI would continue to pursue those people as intolerably dangerous threats. Again, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work, but that is how it did work, in significant part with the approval of FISA judges.

That is, with Islamic terrorism, the government treated potential threats as threats, whereas here CADC required Lamberth to look more closely at what could make an individual predisposed to an assault on our government — a potential threat — as dangerous going forward. Again, particularly given the numbers involved, that’s a better application of due process than what has been used for the last twenty years, but it’s not what happened during the War on Terror (and in weeks ahead, this will be relitigated with consideration of whether Trump’s continued incitement makes these defendants an ongoing threat).

Now compare Lamberth’s order to an order John Bates issued in the wake of and specifically citing the CADC ruling, releasing former State Department official Freddie Klein from pretrial detention. Klein is accused of fighting with cops in the Lower West Terrace over the course of half an hour.

Bates found that Klein, in using a stolen riot shield to push against cops in an attempt to breach the Capitol, was eligible for pre-trial detention, though he expressed skepticism of the government’s argument that Klein had wielded the shield as a dangerous weapon).

The Court finds that Klein is eligible for pretrial detention based on Count 3. Under the BRA, a “crime of violence” includes “an offense that has as an element of the offense the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.” 18 U.S.C. § 3156(a)(4)(A). The Supreme Court in Johnson v. United States defined “physical force” as “force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.” 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010); see also Def.’s Br. at 9.

[snip]

6 The Court has some doubts about whether Klein “used” the stolen riot shield as a dangerous weapon. The BRA does not define the term, but at least for purposes of § 111(b), courts have held that a dangerous weapon is any “object that is either inherently dangerous or is used in a way that is likely to endanger life or inflict great bodily harm.” See United States v. Chansley, 2021 WL 861079, at *7 (D.D.C. Mar. 8, 2021) (Lamberth, J.) (collecting cases). A plastic riot shield is not an “inherently dangerous” weapon, and therefore the question is whether Klein used it in a way “that is likely to endanger life or inflict great bodily harm.” The standard riot shield “is approximately forty-eight inches tall and twenty-four inches wide,” see Gov’t’s Br. at 13, and the Court disagrees with defense counsel’s suggestion that a riot shield might never qualify as a dangerous weapon, even if swung at an officer’s head, Hr’g Tr. 18:18–25, 19:1–11. See, e.g., United States v. Johnson, 324 F.2d 264, 266 (4th Cir. 1963) (finding that metal and plastic chair qualified as a dangerous weapon when “wielded from an upright (overhead) position and brought down upon the victim’s head”). But it is a close call whether Klein’s efforts to press the shield against officers’ bodies and shields were “likely to endanger life or inflict great bodily harm.” See Chansley, 2021 WL 861079, at *7.

But Bates ruled that there were certain things about the case against Klein — that he didn’t come prepared for combat, that he didn’t bring a weapon with him and instead just made use of what he found there, that any coordination he did involved ad hoc cooperation with other rioters rather than leadership throughout the event — that distinguished him from other defendants who (he suggested) should be detained, thereby limiting the guidelines laid out by CDC.

Bates’ decision on those points is absolutely fair. He has distinguished Klein from other January 6 defendants who, he judges, contributed more to the violence.

But there are two aspects of Bates’ decision I find shocking, especially from the guy who consistently deferred to Executive Authority on matters of national security and who sacrificed all of our communicative privacy in the service of finding hidden terrorist threats to the country. First, Bates dismissed the import of Klein’s sustained fight against cops because — he judged — Klein was only using force to advance the position of the mob, not trying to injure anyone.

The government’s contention that Klein engaged in “what can only be described as hand-to-hand combat” for “approximately thirty minutes” also overstates what occurred. See Gov’t’s Br. at 6. Klein consistently positioned himself face-to-face with multiple officers and also repeatedly pressed a stolen riot shield against their bodies and shields. His objective, as far as the Court can tell, however, appeared to be to advance, or at times maintain, the mob’s position in the tunnel, and not to inflict injury. He is not charged with injuring anyone and, unlike with other defendants, the government does not submit that Klein intended to injure officers. Compare Hr’g Tr. 57:12–18 (government conceding that the evidence does not establish Klein intended to injure anyone, only that “there was a disregard of care whether he would injure anyone or not” in his attempt to enter the Capitol), with Gov’t’s Opp’n to Def.’s Mot. to Reopen Detention Hearing & For Release on Conditions, ECF No. 30 (“Gov’t’s Opp’n to McCaughey’s Release”), United States v. McCaughey, III, 21-CR-040-1, at 11 (D.D.C. Apr. 7, 2021) (government emphasizing defendant’s “intent to injure” an officer who he had pinned against a door using a stolen riot shield as grounds for pretrial detention). And during the time period before Klein obtained the riot shield, he made no attempts to “battle” or “fight” the officers with his bare hands or other objects, such as the flagpole he retrieved. That does not mean that Klein could not have caused serious injury— particularly given the chaotic and cramped atmosphere inside the tunnel. But his actions are distinguishable from other detained defendants charged under § 111(b) who clearly sought to incapacitate and injure members of law enforcement by striking them with fists, batons, baseball bats, poles, or other dangerous weapons.

[snip]

Klein’s conduct was forceful, relentless, and defiant, but his confrontations with law enforcement were considerably less violent than many others that day, and the record does not establish that he intended to injure others. [my emphasis]

Bates describes that Klein wanted to use force in the service of occupying the building, not harming individual cops.

Of course, using force to occupy a building in service of halting the vote count is terrorism, but Bates doesn’t treat it as such.

Even more alarmingly, Bates flips how Magistrate Zia Faruqui viewed a government employee like Klein turning on his own government. The government had argued — and Faruqui agreed — that when a federal employee with Top Secret clearance attacks his own government, it is not just a crime but a violation of the Constitutional oath he swore to protect the country against enemies foreign and domestic.

Bates — after simply dismissing the import of Klein’s admittedly limited criminal history that under any other Administration might have disqualified him from retaining clearance — describes what Klein did as a “deeply concerning breach of trust.”

The government also argues that “Klein abdicated his responsibilities to the country and the Constitution” on January 6 by violating his oath of office as a federal employee to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Id. at 24–25 (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 3331). The fact that, as a federal employee, Klein actively participated in an assault on our democracy to thwart the peaceful transfer of power constitutes a substantial and deeply concerning breach of trust. More so, too, because he had been entrusted by this country to handle “top secret” classified information to protect the United States’ most sensitive interests. In light of his background, Klein had, as Magistrate Judge Faruqui put it, every “reason to know the acts he committed” on January 6 “were wrong,” and yet he took them anyway. Order of Detention Pending Trial at 4. Klein’s position as a federal employee thus may render him highly culpable for his conduct on January 6. But it is less clear that his now-former employment at the State Department heightens his “prospective” threat to the community. See Munchel, 2021 WL 1149196, at *4. Klein no longer works for or is affiliated with the federal government, and there is no suggestion that he might misuse previously obtained classified information to the detriment of the United States. Nor, importantly, is he alleged to have any contacts—past or present—with individuals who might wish to take action against this country. [my emphasis]

Bates then argues that Klein’s ability to obtain clearance proves not that he violates oaths he takes (the government argument adopted by Faruqui), but that he has the potential to live a law-abiding life.

Ultimately, Klein’s history—including his ability to obtain a top-level security clearance—shows his potential to live a law-abiding life. His actions on January 6, of course, stand in direct conflict with that narrative. Klein has not—unlike some other defendants who have been released pending trial for conduct in connection with the events of January 6—exhibited remorse for his actions. See, e.g., United States v. Cua, 2021 WL 918255, at *7–8 (D.D.C. Mar. 10, 2021) (Moss, J.) (weighing defendant’s deep remorse and regret in favor of pretrial release). But nor has he made any public statements celebrating his misconduct or suggesting that he would participate in similar actions again. And it is Klein’s constitutional right to challenge the allegations against him and hold the government to its burden of proof without incriminating himself at this stage of the proceedings. See United States v. Lawrence, 662 F.3d 551, 562 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (“[A] district court may not pressure a defendant into expressing remorse such that the failure to express remorse is met with punishment.”). Hence, despite his very troubling conduct on January 6, the Court finds on balance that Klein’s history and characteristics point slightly toward release.

In short, Bates takes the fact that Klein turned on the government he had sworn to protect and finds that that act weighs in favor of release.

Bates judges that this man, whom he described as having committed violence to advance the goal of undermining an election, nevertheless finds that — having already done that — Klein does not pose an unmanageable prospective threat.

Therefore, although it is a close call, the Court ultimately does not find that Klein poses a substantial prospective threat to the community or any other person. He does not pose no continuing danger, as he contends, given his demonstrated willingness to use force to advance his personal beliefs over legitimate government objectives. But what future risk he does present can be mitigated with supervision and other strict conditions on his release.

Again, it’s not the decision itself that is troubling. It’s the thought process Bates used, both for the way Bates flips Klein’s betrayal of his oath on its head, and for the way that Bates views the threat posed by a man who already used force in an attempt to coerce a political end. And it’s all the more troubling knowing how Bates has deferred to the Executive’s claims about the nascent threat posed even by people who have not, yet, engaged in violence to coerce a political end.

Bates similarly showed no deference to the government’s argument that Larry Brock, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who also brought zip ties into the Senate chamber, should have no access to the Internet given really inflammatory statements on social media, including a call for “fire and blood” as early as November. Bates decided on his own that Probation could sufficiently monitor Brock’s Internet use, comparing Brock to (in my opinion) two unlike defendants to justify the decision. Again, the decision itself is absolutely reasonable, but for the guy who decided the government could monitor significant swaths of transnational Internet traffic out of a necessity to identify potential terrorists, for a guy who okayed the access of US person’s content with no warrant, it’s fairly remarkable that he hasn’t deferred to the government about the danger Brock poses on the Internet (to say nothing of Brock’s likely sophistication at evading surveillance).

Again, I’m not complaining about any of these opinions. The outcomes are all reasonable. It is genuinely difficult to fit the events of January 6 into our existing framework (and perhaps that’s a good thing). Plus, there is such a range of fact patterns that even in the Munchel opinion give force to the mob even while trying to adjudicate individuals’ actions.

But either because these discussions are public, or because we simply think about white person terrorism differently, less foreign, perhaps, than we do Islamic terrorism, the very same judges who’ve grappled with these questions for the past two decades don’t necessarily have the ready answers they had in the past.

FISA Judges January 6 cases

Lamberth:

Kollar-Kotelly:

Bates:

Walton:

Hogan:

Boasberg:

Contreras:


Christopher Quaglin: Illuminating the Gaps in the January 6 Panopticon

In this post, I suggested several of the people recently arrested on trespass charges were likely arrested as a way to facilitate evidence collection about other insurrectionists. Collecting their recordings of events may be necessary to fill certain gaps within the government’s own evidence of the attack.

The court filings for Christopher Quaglin shows the significance of two of those gaps. They show how the failure to outfit the Capitol Police with Body Worn Cameras means there’s lower quality evidence for assaults on them than on DC cops, who wear BWCs. The Quaglin filings also show the limits of the Facebook and Google GeoFence warrants that have gotten a lot of attention.

Capitol Police weren’t protected by Body Worn Cameras

Quaglin was originally arrested on probable cause of assault, resisting cops during a civil disorder, and obstruction of the vote count — not the two trespassing charges charged against almost all defendants.

He’s actually accused of two sets of assaults. First, starting at 1:36, he yelled at some DC Metropolitan Police Department officers guarding one of the barriers. Then, before 2:40, he allegedly started shoving Capitol Police officers guarding the Lower West Terrace. Later, filings against him allege, he sprayed officers from both agencies guarding the Lower West Terrace tunnel with pepper spray.

In other words, he was such a prolific brute, he allegedly assaulted both MPD and CP officers in at least two different places, both outside the building and inside the Tunnel on the Lower West Terrace.

The narrative of the first assaults in his arrest affidavit switches from sourcing to MPD Body Worn Cameras to what those initial filings call Capitol Police surveillance footage.

For some of the interactions, the FBI admits that the evidence is inconclusive (here, whether after Quaglin pushed an unidentified CP officer he or she fell down).

In a subsequent USCP surveillance footage, QUAGLIN walks through the crowd and approaches the USCP Officers located at the police line. QUAGLIN then begins to verbally engage a USCP Officer. QUAGLIN continues to get closer to the USCP Officer while appearing increasingly agitated and pointing his finger towards USCP Officer. QUAGLIN then proceeds to hold and push USCP Officer by the neck, which appeared to contribute to USCP Officer starting to fall. (Note: Due to obstructions in the view of this portion of the event, it is unclear to the affiant whether USCP Officer completed the fall). A still from this video is shown below with a red arrow above QUAGLIN.

In a filing last night, the government described what previously had been called CP “surveillance video” as, “a video of the crowd believed to taken by a USCP officer around 2:14 p.m.” The other “surveillance video” is similarly described as video believed to be taken by USCP officers. In other words, for interactions like this one — where Quaglin shoves a Capitol Police officer — the FBI can’t say whether the cop falls as a result, because the evidence comes from someone generally filming the crowd rather than a BWC on the assaulted officer’s person.

At other times, these filings rely on fairly distant MPD BWC footage of assaults on CP officers.

Then, around 2:34 p.m., as captured on BWC footage, an unidentified rioter pushes down a USCP officer. Another officer steps in front of the fallen officer. QUAGLIN can then be seen lunging forward and pushing that officer down. Multiple officers then drop their shields as they begin to retreat backwards. QUAGLIN and other unidentified individuals can then be seen picking up the shields and passing them backwards, as captured in the stills below with a red box around QUAGLIN.

Compare that with the clear image, from a BWC video worn by an MPD officer,  showing him at the front of the pack mobbing the tunnel.

And here’s the MPD BWC still from which the FBI IDed what Quaglin was spraying.

The BOLO image that an acquaintance of Quaglin cited as one of the things — but not the primary thing — that placed Quaglin at the insurrection also came from a BWC.

Among the weaknesses in Capitol security that General Russel Honoré’s Capitol Security Review described was that BWCs were not, on January 6, part of Capitol Police gear on the day of the attack.

We also recommend the USCP be equipped with Body-Worn Cameras (BWC), an item not currently in their inventory, to improve police accountability and protect officers from false accusations of misconduct. BWC also provide visual and audio evidence that can independently verify what happened in any given situation, leading to better investigations and prosecutions when needed.

The Quaglin filings show pretty clearly how much easier it is to reconstruct some attacks on MDP officers than CP officers because of the differential equipment (though for some reason, later interactions with MDP officers inside the tunnel are sourced to two videos sourced to YouTubes posted to the Internet).

The real risks of such gaps are made clear by the filings against the men alleged to have sprayed Brian Sicknick with bear (not pepper) spray that may have contributed to his death. As with Quaglin’s alleged assaults, the evidence consists of fairly direct BWC (in this case from a named officer standing next to Sicknick and the other officers affected).

But to see what happened to Sicknick himself, you have to refer to “surveillance” video that happened to pick up the after-effect of the attack.

It’s no wonder it took so long to identify what happened to Sicknick: the government had to rely on other video to understand what had happened to him. These and other filings make it clear that CPD’s lack of BWCs has created key gaps in the understanding of what happened on January 6.

The limits of the Facebook and Google GeoFence warrants

As noted above, one of two Quaglin tipsters learned of his presence at the Capitol via several means, including the BOLO based off a MDP BWC.

But that tipster — and another anonymous one who contacted the FBI even earlier — also pointed to some livestreaming that Quaglin did of his participation. In addition to videos taken from his hotel after the event, an anonymous tipster shared and the acquaintance confirmed viewing a video of Quaglin approaching the Capitol and chanting Proud Boy slogans.

Law enforcement received a tip from an anonymous source providing four “Live” videos recorded from a Facebook account with the vanity name “Chris Trump.” The videos did not list the URL of the Facebook account or the official user name. (A Facebook user can display a vanity name that is different than their official user name and a Facebook user can change their vanity name without changing the official user name.) Each video was a selfie-style video showing an individual identified by the anonymous tipster as “Christopher QUAGLIN, NJ. Extremist.” In one of the Live videos provided by the tipster, QUAGLIN, as shown in the still below, can be seen walking towards the Capitol in the same outfit that QUAGLIN is seen wearing in the footage described above and holding a gas mask. QUAGLIN states “Trump is speaking and everyone is walking there. And I am walking there [showing Capitol building to camera]. And I am ready [showing gas mask in hand]. We will see how it goes. Proud of your boy.”

[snip]

In addition, law enforcement interviewed a witness, Witness 1, who has known QUAGLIN for years, although Witness 1 had not seen him in person for several years. Witness 1 has followed and corresponded with QUAGLIN on social media for years. Witness 1 saw QUAGLIN’s Live videos on January 6, 2021 on his account with the vanity name “Chris Trump.” Witness 1 confirmed that the Live videos described above are some of the same videos Witness 1 saw on January 6, 2021 and that those videos all show QUAGLIN. Witness 1 also stated that he/she saw a photograph that the FBI had published seeking additional information from the public and that he recognized that individual as QUAGLIN. (The photograph, “Photograph 58 AFO” below, was taken from BWC footage described in paragraph 40 above.)2

Witness 1 noted that QUAGLIN used multiple accounts on Facebook and Instagram and was frequently been banned for inflammatory posts online. Witness 1 indicated that QUAGLIN frequently posted on his social media accounts about the 2020 Presidential election, about going to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and pictures of firearms. Many of QUAGLIN’s posts were deleted on January 7, 2021. Witness 1 indicated that QUAGLIN posted multiple pictures of himself prior to the January 6, 2021 events where he was visible with a beard and consistent in appearance with the “Photograph 58-AFO.”

As I’ve described elsewhere, the government asked Facebook for information on everyone who livestreamed or uploaded video from the Capitol itself, and then they IDed the person who uploaded the video from the subscriber information.

The government received information as part of a search warrant return that Facebook UID 100047172724820 was livestreaming video in the Capitol during these events. The government also received subscriber information for Facebook UID 100047172724820 in response to legal process served on Facebook. Facebook UID 100047172724820 is registered to Chris Spencer (“SPENCER”). SPENCER provided subscriber information, including a date of birth; current city/state, and a phone number to Facebook to create the account. [my emphasis]

A recent arrest affidavit makes it clear that FBI obtained this warrant on January 11.

On January 11, 2021, a search warrant was served upon Facebook to identify Facebook accounts utilized to live stream video in a geographic area that included the interior of the United States Capitol building. One such account identified by Facebook was Facebook user ID 100009155779709, an account in the name of “Michael Joseph.”

But there’s good reason to believe that FBI obtained a preservation order on everything uploaded from the Capitol earlier than that, probably within a day.

As yesterday’s filing makes clear, Quaglin deleted his videos before the FBI could collect them directly from Facebook, even though they served warrants on his accounts to Facebook.

(Because the related social media account was deleted shortly afterwards, law enforcement was not able to determine the exact time this video was recorded, although it would have been presumably before he reached the line and was captured on the BWC in Exhibit A.)

More importantly, by description, he did no livestreaming from the Capitol (he was too busy fighting with cops). That’s the right choice from a civil liberties perspective; livestreaming from the Mall or a nearby hotel room is not proof a crime. But in this case, it likely permitted the destruction of evidence pertaining to how closely Quaglin coordinated his efforts — including sustained assaults on cops — with the Proud Boys.

The FBI got a ton of inculpatory evidence from a Facebook warrant. They even got the message on one social media account recording his deletion of the one he used to livestream that day.

A message sent on January 7, 2021 indicating that he had deleted his other account; and

But did not get those livestreams (or anything else he posted on that alternative account).

Likewise, a warrant to Google showed Quaglin in DC, but location data does not place him at the Capitol.

Google location data places the phone belonging to QUAGLIN in and around Washington, D.C. from January 5-7; specifically, at the Motto Hotel, at the Washington Monument, and at the United States Capitol. On January 5, 2021, QUAGLIN conducted multiple searches for “Motto by Hilton Washington DC City Center” and pulled up driving directions for two Chick-fil-A restaurants in Northeast Washington, D.C. On January 6, 2021 Quaglin conducted multiple Google Maps queries for areas near the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

There are many possible explanations for this: He never entered that far into the Capitol, so he may never have been included in the Google GeoFence at all. But given the mob of people inside that tunnel, it’s also likely that cell service (if Quaglin’s phone was on at all) was really overloaded.

That said, Quaglin’s Google searches do show that he was monitoring the news for references to himself.

QUAGLIN’s Google account history shows multiple Google searches indicating his involvement in the storming of the Capitol. For example, on January 8, 2021, it includes multiple searches for “guy gets bear sprayed at capital.” On January 20, 2021 QUAGLIN’s Google account history shows visits to a webpage titled, “Countries where you can buy citizenship, residency, or passport.” QUAGLIN’s Google account history shows eight visits to the FBI’s “seeking information” for Capitol violence between January 28, 2021 and January 31, 2021. Further, a review of QUAGLIN’s Gmail accounts show multiple purchase notifications from a Costco credit card in Washington, D.C. — specifically, multiple charges at the Motto Hotel on January 5, 2021, multiple charges at a Walgreens convenience store at 801 7th St NW, Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, and $128.80 spent at China Town Liquor in Washington, D.C. on January 7, 2021 – both businesses that are a short walking distance from the Motto Hotel.

There’s still a ton of evidence against Quaglin. But the video evidence of his multiple alleged assaults on cops are not terrifically clear (and thus far, they haven’t been IDed by name as some of the other officers assaulted have been). And the government has thus far barely mentioned Quaglin’s association with the Proud Boys, even though Ethan Nordean has pointed to his filing to suggest his attempts to hold off Quaglin’s assaults prove he wasn’t a leader of this riot. Nordean disclaims knowing Quaglin.

The January 6 insurrection was one of the most filmed events in history. It was tracked in damning detail across a range of social media platforms.

But even with a notably dressed, prolific user of social media like Quaglin there are gaps in that panopticon.


Three April 9 Arrests: Arresting Your Way to Evidence Collection

Jonah Westbury

On January 7, the FBI received a tip from a high school acquaintance of Jonah Westbury that he had posted video from inside the Capitol to TikTok and then, the tipster later relayed, also on Snapchat. The FBI interviewed the tipster on January 11.

But then the FBI did nothing for three months.

On Friday, the FBI finally got around to arresting Westbury. His arrest affidavit includes — among the only additional evidence collected since that early tip — two stills from MAGA tourism videos he posted to Snapchat.

The only other evidence collected in the last three months described in the affidavit are a list of videos posted to Snapchat. One, apparently sent by chat the day after the insurrection, shows him panning inside the Capitol and describing “First time” in the Capitol, but the video cuts off abruptly.

  • A chat media video dated 01-07-2021, 15-38-26UTC, 3,173 KB, of Jonah WESTBURY panning in a circle a selfie of himself laughing inside the Capitol and at the very end he says, “First time…” The video abruptly ends. [my emphasis]

Then there are five videos that — given the time and his other videos from the Rotunda — likely shows the breach of the east Capitol door at 2:40 on January 6, including what might be a longer (perhaps the complete) version of the panning video.

  • A video dated 01-06-2021, 19-33-37UTC, 641 KB, shows the door to what appears to be a federal building
  • A video dated 01-06-2021, 19-33-37UTC, 4,988 KB, shows the entryway columns and closed doors of what appears to be the U.S. Capitol
  • A video dated 01-06-2021, 19-40-57UTC, 2,122 KB, shows a selfie video of Jonah WESTBURY amidst a crowd that is now entering the U.S. Capitol building and WESTBURY says, “We made it.”
  • A video dated 01-06-2021, 19-40-57UTC, 4,528 KB, shows a selfie video of Jonah WESTBURY from inside the U.S. Capitol building. He says, “ We made it. This is our house. We got pepper sprayed, got abused…” and the video abruptly ends.
  • A video dated 01-06-2021, 19-43-07UTC, 5,031 KB shows a selfie video of Jonah WESTBURY from inside the U.S. Capitol building panning in a circle. He says, “First time in the Capitol. First time in the Capitol… I’m proud of every fucking one of you.” [my emphasis]

Westbury was charged with the two trespassing charges that virtually everyone who entered the Capitol got charged with and that’s likely all he’ll ever be charged with. But a number of people who entered the building with him and may show up in his videos — including Joe Biggs, two other Proud Boys, and the Oath Keeper stack — are among the defendants of most investigative interest at DOJ.

Les Little

A family member of Les Little called the FBI the day of the insurrection to let them know that Little had texted the person to boast that “We just took over the Capital!” [sic]. Little’s relative also shared a Facebook post showing that Little had been in the Capitol.

The FBI has done more investigation into Little — two interviews with Little’s family member and a warrant for his phone proving his presence at the Capitol — but the most interesting investigative development included in his arrest affidavit is that when the FBI interviewed him almost three months ago, he chose not to share all the photos he took from the Capitol, including from inside the Senate chamber.

On January 13, 2021, the FBI interviewed LITTLE at his residence in Claremont, NC. LITTLE told the FBI that he lived at that residence with his elderly mother.

LITTLE voluntarily provided the following information: LITTLE went to Washington, DC the day before the planned protest on January 5, 2021. On January 6th, LITTLE went to the protest.

Little stated that at some point, the police began using tear gas at the protest. LITTLE said that some people went into the Capitol, and he got caught up in the moment and went into the Capitol as well. LITTLE said that he had no intention of entering the Capitol when he went to the protest, but that he got caught up in the moment.

LITTLE said he walked around the Capitol, smiling and fist bumping other people who were also inside the Capitol. LITTLE walked around the Senate Chamber and took photographs of himself there. LITTLE stated that he sent these photographs to people that he trusted. LITTLE said that he must have gotten caught up in the moment when he sent a text about taking over the Capitol. LITTLE left the Washington, D.C. area and returned to North Carolina that evening.

LITTLE chose not to answer follow-up questions from the FBI Agents. LITTLE also declined to turn over the photographs that he took with his telephone of himself and others inside the Capitol.

Like Westbury, Little was charged only with trespassing crimes when he was arrested last Friday. But his arrest may lead to the FBI obtaining more information, including pictures on his phone from the Senate chamber, another of the locations of acute investigative interest.

Stephen Horn

Starting on January 11, two tipsters contacted the FBI that this photo, published by the NYT Magazine, showed Stephen Horn.

Horn claimed to be there to ensure an accurate version of events was captured and he filmed 2 hours of video from the event. He has no media credentials, but the only evidence from the arrest affidavit that he was there to support the mob came when he — once — chanted USA along with the crowd.

Horn was interviewed on February 24 and admitted stepping over a barrier.

But the more interesting detail may be that Horn witnessed what transpired in Nancy Pelosi’s office.

“I did not witness police doing any property damage, but I did see some in the crowd stop others in the crowd from doing property damage, or exhorting others not to do so, even in Nancy Pelosi’s office”; “I was on the front lines of the assault on the capitol”; “I thought it was important to document the event”; “I followed the crowd in. I was not there when they broke through most of the barriers around the outside of the capitol. I was not looking for Pelosi’s office, I guess it was just happened to be right there (probably gets one of the best offices).”

I’m less certain it’ll remain the case, but like Little and Westbury, Horn was charged only with trespassing crimes.

But like the other two, the government arrested on Friday another person who had filmed a scene of acute investigative interest.

To be clear: The evidence that these men trespassed is fairly strong. But at a time when the focus of more and more arrests are either those accused of assaulting cops or those with ties to the militia conspiracies, the FBI arrested a bunch of people on Friday who took video evidence of key sites of acute investigative interest.

Update: There are two more potential instances of this in recent days. The arrest affidavit for Michael Rusyn (h/t Zoe Tillman for the filing) describes a different video showing him videoing a confrontation with the police that he participated in. It also described the Geofence warrant served on Facebook (including the date, January 11), which is useful for other filings.

On January 11, 2021, a search warrant was served upon Facebook to identify Facebook accounts utilized to live stream video in a geographic area that included the interior of the United States Capitol building. One such account identified by Facebook was Facebook user ID 100009155779709, an account in the name of “Michael Joseph.”

More interesting, an InfoWars employee, Sam Montoya, was arrested. His arrest warrant describes how he posted a 44-minute video of the insurrection, recording himself cheering the rioters at each step.

9:55 – “We’re gonna crawl, we’re gonna climb. We’re gonna do whatever it takes, we’re gonna do whatever it takes to MAGA. Here we go, y’all. Here we go, y’all. Look at this, look at this. I don’t even know what’s going on right now. I don’t wanna get shot, I’ll be honest, but I don’t wanna lose my country. And that’s more important to me than—than getting shot.”

11:04 – “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! Folks, I am now on the steps of the Capitol. Here we go! Here we go! Having a good time!”

12:55 – “We are in the Capitol, baby! Yeah!”

15:40 – “We’re all being a little bit too rowdy for sure.”

16:07 – “Here we are in the US Capitol in Washington DC in the Capitol building, it has officially been stormed by Trump supporters. Again, the US Capitol building in Washington DC has officially been stormed by Trump supporters. And here we are, taking our—the people’s house back!”

17:38 – “I’m sure these officers are scared, but we’re here, we’re here to just show that we’ve had enough. We’ve had enough.”

34:05 – “We don’t hurt innocent people; we don’t tear down statues! We don’t tear down statues! We take our house back! We take the people’s house back!”

He was always identified as someone who recorded Ashli Babbitt’s shooting, and the arrest warrant describes that too. It also describes Montoya, days after the insurrection, trying to blame leftists for the violence.

Update: Here’s another example of an arrest of someone who took video of key scenes. Thomas Adams was charged with trespass and obstruction after filming everyone ransacking the senate.


Anatomy of a Potential January 6 Cooperation Agreement

I’ve written in passing about Jon Ryan Schaffer, the front man for the heavy metal band Iced Earth who was arrested for involvement with spraying bear spray during the January 6 insurrection, several times. In this post I noted that there must be something more to his case because Schaffer had been sitting, uncharged, in jail for months.

Jon Ryan Schaffer: The front man for the heavy metal band Iced Earth and an Oath Keeper lifetime member, Schaffer was arrested for spraying some police with bear spray. But two months after his arrest and detention, he has not been (publicly) indicted and only arrived in DC on March 17. The government has not publicly responded to his motion to dismiss his case on Speedy Trial grounds. All of which suggests there’s something more there that we can’t see.

Yesterday I included Schaffer among those likely to get cooperation agreements (rather than straight guilty pleas), then updated the post with yet another data point suggesting I was correct.

[A]t least some of the expected pleas may be cooperation agreements. For example, Ryan Samsel — who breached the west side of the Capitol in coordination with Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, knocking out a cop along the way — asked for a continuance to discuss a plea. One of the main Oath Keeper prosecutors, Ahmed Baset, asked for a continuance before indicting Oath Keeper associate Jon Schaffer, who was among the worst treated defendants and who agreed to the continuance in spite of remaining in pre-trial detention. Kash Kelly, currently charged with trespassing but also someone raised in discussions between Proud Boys affiliate James Sullivan and Rudy Giuliani, got a continuance to discuss a plea. Bryan Betancur, a Proud Boy who got jailed for a probation violation after he lied to his probation officer to attend the event, also got a continuance to discuss a plea to resolve his trespassing charges. The aforementioned Riley Williams, who was charged with obstructing the vote count and stealing a laptop from Nancy Pelosi, was filmed directing movement inside the Capitol, and has ties with Nick Fuentes, also got a continuance to discuss pleading before indictment. All five of these people likely have information that would be of use to prosecutors. All could limit their prison time (which would likely be significant for Samsel, who is accused of assault, played a key role in the insurrection, and has a criminal record) by cooperating with prosecutors. If any of these people sign plea deals — especially Samsel — it will likely provide new insight into how the conspiracy worked. Even with a plea deal, Samsel may still face a stiff sentence.

[snip]

Update: Meanwhile, Jon Schaffer just agreed to two more weeks in jail.

So the signs suggesting the government was pursuing a cooperation agreement in this case have been pretty clear.

But yesterday, DOJ made that even more clear by posting a filing to PACER — which was supposed to be sealed — making such negotiations explicit.

As stated in the Consent Motion to Continue, the government and counsel for the defendant have conferred and are continuing to communicate about this matter. This has entailed a series of debrief interviews with the defendant that began on March 2, 2021. Based on these debrief interviews, the parties are currently engaged in good-faith plea negotiations, including discussions about the possibility of entering into a cooperation plea agreement aimed at resolving the matter short of indictment. Among the contemplated plea terms upon acceptance of a plea are the defendant’s release pending sentencing.

[snip]

[T]he parties request that this filing be docketed under seal. Such an order is appropriate because the filing relates to sensitive information about the defendant’s cooperation with the government and ongoing plea negotiations that are not public. Accordingly, disclosure may reveal the existence, scope, and direction of the ongoing and confidential investigation. If alerted to this information, investigation targets against whom the defendant may be providing information about could be immediately prompted to flee from prosecution, destroy or conceal incriminating evidence, alter their operational tactics to avoid future detection, attempt to influence or intimidate potential witnesses, and otherwise take steps to undermine the investigation and avoid future prosecution. Accordingly, these facts present an extraordinary situation and a compelling governmental interest which justify sealing of this filing pertaining to this investigation that is being submitted at this time. [my emphasis]

You’ll recall that PACER was one of the targets of the Solar Winds hack, which raised concerns that sensitive documents detailing things like cooperation agreements and investigative targets might have been compromised. The Courts’ efforts to respond have bolloxed up PACER ever since, which has contributed to an unacceptable delay in postings of non-sensitive documents as the flood of January 6 filings hit.

One of the few things that DOJ has managed to post in timely fashion is this filing, which was supposed to be sealed.

This disclosure may make it harder to negotiate a cooperation agreement (or who knows? it might make it easier!). Certainly, it may present security concerns for Schaffer when he is released, whether or not he cops a plea, because he would get such a plea deal in exchange for testimony against a highly skilled armed militia, and they’ll assume he got a deal if he is released pre-trial.

Aside from the very real concerns about how this might affect the investigation into the Oath Keepers, however, the release of the filing is useful for the details it provides.

First, this cooperation deal, if it happens, will be the first of all 350+ defendants.

The government’s ongoing plea negotiations with this defendant are the first and most advanced plea negotiations involving any of the over 300 Capitol Riot defendants.

That would mean that others — like the cooperating witness with damning information on Dominic Pezzola and the un-indicted co-conspirator in the Proud Boys conspiracy — have not been charged at all (as descriptions of them in filings imply). It also suggests that for all the reporting about imminent deals, the cooperation agreements, at least, are two weeks or more away. Every other potential cooperation deal I named in this post follows the same pattern of filings that Schaffer’s does, but they have later deadlines for their continuance, though Ryan Samsel is the only other one who is in custody for January 6 (as opposed to other things), which adds urgency to any plea deal:

  • Bryan Betancur (in MD state custody): April 27
  • Ryan Samsel (in federal custody): May 7 (after being extended from April 1, moving to swap his attorney, then unmoving to do so, though currently he is represented by both)
  • Christopher Kelly (not in custody): May 10
  • Riley June Williams (not in custody): May 28
  • Kash Kelly (in Federal prison for gang-related drug crimes which he also cooperated on): indefinite

It looks like Samsel might have been the first plea deal, but an aborted swap of lawyers suggests he may have gotten cold feet. (Recall that Rick Gates did something similar before he flipped in the Mueller investigation; because of his criminal record, Samsel faces a stiffer prison sentence than Schaffer regardless of what happens).

Schaffer’s filing explains why cooperation agreements will be weeks away, too: First, plea deals are being reviewed “at various levels of government.”

Plea terms have thus required extensive review and approval at various levels of government necessitating more time than usual to approve and negotiate.

Given that Biden doesn’t have a confirmed US Attorney in DC, this likely means that at least Acting Deputy Attorney General and former National Security Division head under Obama John Carlin is reviewing these deals, if not Merrick Garland himself. Lisa Monaco should be confirmed as Deputy Attorney General imminently, and she’s likely to be interested in all this, too. That is, the level of review this filing suggests this plea deal is getting also hints at the (unsurprisingly) high level involvement in the investigation as a whole.

Perhaps one of the most damaging disclosures by the release of this document is that Schaffer’s attorneys have admitted, non-publicly, things they’ve argued against publicly. In a filing asking for pre-trial release, Schaffer’s lawyers argued that merely possessing bear spray did not make Schaffer enough of a threat to require pre-trial detention.

The Government sought “detention based on [Mr. Schaffer] carrying a dangerous weapon inside a restricted ground.” Reporter’s Transcript of Detention Hearing, p. 7: 8- 10.2 Magistrate Judge Faruqui detained Mr. Schaffer “Upon the Motion of the Government attorney pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1).” (Doc. 12, p. 1)

Mr. Schaffer cannot be detained pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142 (f)(1)(E) because the Government’s allegation Mr. Schaffer simply possessed bear spray does not support a finding his case involved a dangerous weapon. The Government cannot establish a can of bear spray is dangerous weapon when it is simply possessed.

Schaffer’s arrest warrant affidavit described him to be “among” a group of “rioters who sprayed” USCP with bear spray, but didn’t say he personally had used the bear spray to assault the cops, nor did it charge him with doing so.

SCHAFFER was among the rioters who sprayed United States Capitol Police officers with “bear spray,” a form of capsaicin pepper spray sold by many outdoors retailers, as part of their efforts to push the officers back inside the Capitol and breach the Capitol Building themselves.

According to this filing, however, Schaffer’s lawyers conceded during a closed session that he could be charged, presumably including assault for spraying the bear spray, right away.

The parties agree that maintaining the current detention posture, as well as the government forestalling return of a grand jury indictment against the defendant1 , are necessary at this stage to facilitate good-faith plea negotiations.

1 As acknowledged by the defense during the sealed portion of the April 2, 2021 status hearing, the government is in a position to rapidly obtain an indictment against the defendant should plea negotiations fail.

But the filing also suggests that the grand jury may be posing another bottleneck to this process.

Additional time may also be necessary in the event plea conditions require completion of certain requirements before entering into a formal agreement before the court, such as the defendant testifying before the grand jury.

That is, if and when a plea deal is agreed, they still may require Schaffer to provide any testimony to the grand jury before they finalize the plea and release him.

As noted, the unintentional release of this filing may undermine that process from the start. But it least it provides some clarity on how this process is working for Schaffer and others.

Update: Baked Alaska (real name Anthime Gionet) is another person in whose case the government got a consent motion to delay further proceedings. I’m less confident this would involve a cooperation agreement — it may be a way to forestall questions about whether he is media.


How Did the Proud Boys Have Better Lines of Communication about National Guard Reinforcements than the National Guard Did?

At 3:38 on January 6, according to the Proud Boy leaders conspiracy indictment, Charles Donohoe announced on the 60-member operational Telegram channel the Proud Boys used that day that, “we are regrouping.”

Sometime around that time, a bunch of Oath Keepers, having already entered the Capitol, were gathered together on the east side of the Capitol.

According to the most recent Oath Keepers indictment, two minutes after Donohoe announced the Proud Boy plan to regroup, at 3:40, Oath Keeper Joshua James called Person Ten — who was doing much of the coordination for the Oath Keepers that day — and had a 3 minute, 4 second phone call, their second longest call described in the indictment.

Roberto Minuta and Rhodes exchanged two calls just after 4:00 — 42 seconds, then 2 minutes 56 seconds. At 4:10, according to a Thomas Caldwell detention motion, someone on the Oath Keepers’ operational channel said, “Fight the good fight. Stand your ground.”

It seems the militias were preparing for a second, seemingly coordinated, operation of the day: resuming the assault on the Capitol.

Indeed, some of the fighting and attempted breaches at the Capitol did intensify about that time (for example, that’s shortly before, as some cops were trying to help Rosanne Boyland, who had been trampled, they were allegedly assaulted by James Lopatic, Jeffrey Sabol, Peter Stager, and Wade Whitten, with police officer BW being dragged down the steps prone and beaten).

But not the militias, at least not the Proud Boys.

According to the government’s detention memo for Donohoe, he subsequently — they don’t provide the time — sent out a message that the National Guard and DHS agents were incoming.

Donohoe’s intent to create mayhem and disrupt the proceedings at the Capitol continued well after the initial breach into the restricted grounds and up to the west terrace. Indeed, at 3:38 p.m., more than an hour after Pezzola and others had broken into the building, Donohoe indicated that he had left the Capitol grounds, but then announced over Telegram, “We are regrouping with a second force.” That plan appears to have been short-lived, as Donohoe subsequently advised the group that the National Guard and “DHS agents” were “incoming.”

This is fairly remarkable timing, as it came during the most inexplicable period of DOD’s delayed response with the National Guard. At 2:30, just before the second breach by militia-led groups, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller met with (among others) Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy about requests for help from the city and the Capitol Police. At 3, Miller determines the Guard is needed at the Capitol and McCarthy orders them to prepare to move. At 3:04, Miller provides verbal approval for the Guard to support MPD. At 3:19 and 3:26, McCarthy was on the phone with first Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and then Bowser, assuring them the Guard was on the way. At 3:48, McCarthy leaves to go to MPD headquarters, taking 22 minutes to transit, even as two trained militia groups full of military veterans prepared to make a second assault on the Capitol. At 4:32, after calls back and forth among the militia, Miller provided verbal authorization for the Guard to help the Capitol Police.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

But then, according to the guy DOD sent to the Senate to not answer questions like this, Robert Salesses, General William Walker, the guy in charge of the Guard, didn’t get that order for another 36 minutes.

Salesses: In fairness to General Walker too, that’s when the Secretary of Defense made the decision, at 4:32. As General Walker has pointed out, cause I’ve seen all the timelines, he was not told that til 5:08.

Roy Blunt: How is that possible, Mr. Salazar [sic], do you think that the decision, in the moment we were in, was made at 4:32 and the person that had to be told wasn’t told for more than a half an hour after the decision.

Salesses: Senator, I think that’s an issue.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

Somehow, it seems, Proud Boy Charles Donohoe knew that the National Guard was coming to reinforce the Capitol before DC Guard Commander General Walker.

Somehow, it seems, the militias assaulting the Capitol had better lines of communication than the US Department of Defense.

Timeline

2:30PM: Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy meet to discuss the requests for assistance from the MPD and CPD.

2:40PM: Oath Keepers and Proud Boys breach second front of the Capitol.

3PM: Miller determines the Guard is needed.

3:04PM: Miller authorizes Guard assistance to MPD.

3:19PM: McCarthy on the phone with Democratic leaders. Roberto Minuta enters Capitol.

3:26PM: McCarthy on the phone with Mayor Bowser.

3:38PM: Charles Donohoe announces, “we are regrouping.”

3:40PM: James calls Person Ten, speaks for 3:04.

3:48PM: McCarthy leaves for MPD.

4PM: Meeting with Stewart Rhodes on east side of Capitol.

4:04PM: Minuta calls Rhodes, speaks for 42 seconds.

4:05PM: Rhodes calls Minuta, speaks for 2:56.

4:10PM: McCarthy arrives at MPD. Proud Boy leader channel instructs, “Stand your ground.”

4:32PM: Miller provides the verbal order for the Guard to reinforce the Capitol Police

5:08PM: General Walker gets the order to reinforce the Capitol Police

Unknown time: Donohoe advises that National Guard and “DHS” are incoming.


Politico Claims It Embarrasses Joe Biden that Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Merits Little or No Jail Time

Last week, Politico reported as news that non-violent January 6 trespassers might get little to no jail time which — it further claimed — might embarrass the Biden Administration.

Many Capitol rioters unlikely to serve jail time

The cases could embarrass the Biden administration, which has portrayed the Jan. 6 siege as a dire threat to democracy.

I have tremendous respect for the reporters involved, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney. Yet the fact that experienced DOJ beat reporters could claim, as news, that non-violent civil disobedience might get no jail time made me really rethink the reporting on January 6, including my own. It’s crazier still that reporters might claim — generally, or in this situation — that a Democratic President might be embarrassed by DOJ treating civil disobedience as a misdemeanor offense.

In fact, Gerstein and Cheney are reporting on a subset of all the January 6 defendants, fewer than 60 of the 230 who had been formally charged by the time they wrote this, which they nevertheless describe as “many” of them.

A POLITICO analysis of the Capitol riot-related cases shows that almost a quarter of the more than 230 defendants formally and publicly charged so far face only misdemeanors. Dozens of those arrested are awaiting formal charges, even as new cases are being unsealed nearly every day.

Then, four paragraphs later, Politico explains why (they say) this might embarrass the Biden Administration: because both Biden himself and Merrick Garland called the larger event — in which 1,000 people, including 200 for assault and 100 for roles in a militia conspiracy, many still at large, must now be suspects — as a heinous attack.

The prospect of dozens of Jan. 6 rioters cutting deals for minor sentences could be hard to explain for the Biden administration, which has characterized the Capitol Hill mob as a uniquely dangerous threat. Before assuming office, Biden said the rioters’ attempt to overturn the election results by force “borders on sedition”; Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the prosecutions his top early priority, describing the storming of Congress as “a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

Nowhere in the article do they provide any evidence that the assault on the Capitol wasn’t a heinous attack.

They base their claim that Biden might be embarrassed on expectations that DOJ prosecutors set, without noting that the first charges were filed before Biden was inaugurated and long before Garland was confirmed.

Justice Department prosecutors sent expectations sky-high in early statements and court filings, describing elaborate plots to murder lawmakers — descriptions prosecutors have tempered as new details emerged.

Jacob “QAnon Shaman” Chansley was arrested on January 8 and indicted on January 11. Eric “Zip Tie Guy” Munchel was arrested on January 10 and indicted, with his mother, on February 12. Thomas Caldwell was arrested on January 19 and indicted along with Oath Keepers Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl on January 27. They (including Caldwell but not Watkins and Crowl) are the main defendants, of more than 350, about whom prosecutors can fairly be said to have tempered “sky-high” expectations. Their arrests and that expectation-setting happened under Jeffrey Rosen and Michael Sherwin, not under Biden and definitely not under Merrick Garland (under whom DOJ referred Sherwin to OPR for investigation after he did some expectation-setting on 60 Minutes). Even still, for all four (as well as other edge cases about whom the press set high expectations, like Riley June Williams), the investigation remains ongoing and there are reasons, including ties to the militia conspiracies, to believe there was some basis for the original suspicions about these people.

Likewise, the decision to arrest first and investigate later, a decision that led to the flood of arrests before prosecutors really knew who had done the most egregious things during the attack, also occurred under the prior Administration.

Indeed, under Garland (though not necessarily because of Garland or the departure of Sherwin), DOJ seems to have focused more of their ongoing misdemeanor arrests on suspects who might have video footage of interest to prosecutors or defense attorneys, with far more of a focus in recent weeks on arresting assault and militia suspects. And one of the reasons for the delays described in the story is that after Garland came in, DOJ asked for 60 days to catch up on discovery. We may yet learn that he and his subordinates decided to change the “arrest first, investigate later” approach adopted before he came in.

Sure, the press has claimed that the government has backed off some of its claims in the militia conspiracies. They did so, for example, when prosecutors backed off certain claims solely for the purpose of an Ethan Nordean detention hearing that, filings submitted weeks later suggested, may have been an effort to protect a pending conspiracy indictment and, probably, a cooperating witness. They’ve done so with the Oath Keepers, even though recent developments suggest even Jessica Watkins’ lawyer may now understand her role in what appears to be a larger conspiracy coordinated in Signal leadership chats is more damning than Watkins originally claimed. If anything, the Oath Keeper and Proud Boy conspiracies may be more sophisticated tactically than originally claimed, and that’s before any explanation about things like who paid for vans of Proud Boys to travel from FL and what happened at twin events in DC and Florida in December, in which conspirators (and key Trump figures) played central roles. That’s also while the person who laid a pipe bomb the night before the the attack remains at large.

To further back its claim that Biden might be embarrassed, Politico implies that all the plea deals expected in weeks ahead will be misdemeanor pleas without jail time, which will be “awkward” for DOJ to defend.

Prosecutors have signaled that plea offers for some defendants will be coming within days and have readily acknowledged that some of the cases are less complicated to resolve than others.

“I think we can work out a non-trial disposition in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Cole told Judge Dabney Friedrich last week in the case of Kevin Loftus, who was charged with unlawful presence and disrupting official business at the Capitol, among other offenses that have become the boilerplate set lodged against anyone who walked into the building that day without authorization.

The Justice Department will soon be in the awkward position of having to defend such deals, even as trials and lengthy sentences for those facing more serious charges could be a year or more away. [my emphasis]

Politico makes this claim even though at least some of the expected pleas may be cooperation agreements. For example, Ryan Samsel — who breached the west side of the Capitol in coordination with Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, knocking out a cop along the way — asked for a continuance to discuss a plea. One of the main Oath Keeper prosecutors, Ahmed Baset, asked for a continuance before indicting Oath Keeper associate Jon Schaffer, who was among the worst treated defendants and who agreed to the continuance in spite of remaining in pre-trial detention. Kash Kelly, currently charged with trespassing but also someone raised in discussions between Proud Boys affiliate James Sullivan and Rudy Giuliani, got a continuance to discuss a plea. Bryan Betancur, a Proud Boy who got jailed for a probation violation after he lied to his probation officer to attend the event, also got a continuance to discuss a plea to resolve his trespassing charges. The aforementioned Riley Williams, who was charged with obstructing the vote count and stealing a laptop from Nancy Pelosi, was filmed directing movement inside the Capitol, and has ties with Nick Fuentes, also got a continuance to discuss pleading before indictment. All five of these people likely have information that would be of use to prosecutors. All could limit their prison time (which would likely be significant for Samsel, who is accused of assault, played a key role in the insurrection, and has a criminal record) by cooperating with prosecutors. If any of these people sign plea deals — especially Samsel — it will likely provide new insight into how the conspiracy worked. Even with a plea deal, Samsel may still face a stiff sentence.

In other places, Politico conflates the discussions about the fate of misdemeanor defendants with discussions about detention (which prosecutors have only requested with a few accused trespassers), discussions about discovery, and Speedy Trial, all different things, many more urgent issues for misdemeanor defendants not included among those the story is purportedly about.

After I went on a rant about this story on Twitter, Gerstein defended the story by saying that people (none of whom were quoted in the story) seem to be surprised.

I agree with Gerstein that people have certain expectations. But that was clear before the end end of January. The record laid out here shows that such expectations did not come from Garland or Biden. Even Sherwin, with his totally inappropriate 60 Minutes interview, also explained from the start that DOJ was arresting the low hanging fruit at first while further investigating more serious suspects.

The fault, instead, lies with journalists, myself and these Politico journalists included, for not consistently and repeatedly explaining the various different roles people played on January 6, including that there were a number — though currently a shrinking fraction of the total set of defendants — who neither pre-meditated any effort to stop the vote count nor assaulted cops. I have tried to engage in this nuance (I included a list of such posts below), but given the sheer amount of court filings, much of the focus is currently on the militia conspiracies, suggesting a gravity that the MAGA tourists don’t merit. But in this article, rather than simply laying out the full range of defendants, describing how the MAGA Tourists played a key role in the success of the more serious conspirators (explicitly so for the Proud Boys, who talked about getting “normies” to do stuff they otherwise wouldn’t have done), describing how violence spread among participants and often as not among people who aren’t militia members, this Politico piece further distorts the record, not least by using this subset of “MAGA Tourists” — calling them “many” even though they represent just a quarter of defendants who have been formally charged — to stand in for the larger investigation, while minimizing the import of those charged with obstruction (likening that role to a CodePink interruption of a congressional hearing) because, evidence shows, they premeditated an attempt to undermine the election outcome.

So even while the piece describes how both judges and prosecutors understand that the mob as a whole posed a grave threat while some individual defendants did no more than provide cover for the more dangerous defendants (and many of the DC judges presiding over these cases have made such comments), Politico claims that there’s some embarrassment to this, including some kind of political risk for Biden.

Judges are also attempting to reckon with separating the individual actions of rioters from the collective threat of the mob, which they have noted helped inspire and provide cover for violent assaults, property destruction and increased the overall terror and danger of the assorted crimes committed.

That reckoning is coming sooner rather than later, lawyers say, putting prosecutors in the position of wrist-slapping many participants in the riot despite framing the crimes as part of an insurrection that presented a grave threat to American democracy.

If the MAGA tourists provided cover and helped overwhelm cops, thereby serving a useful role in the plans of those who had a more nefarious and organized purpose, then that’s the story that should be told, not some kind of both-sides political spin, particularly one that pits Biden’s claims about the seriousness of this on the footing as Trump’s outright lies about it. In spite of the overwhelming number of defendants, the record shows, DOJ is still assessing each one on the merits, which is what should happen. Declaring that politically embarrassing is an abdication of fair reporting on the legal system.

I believe DOJ has gotten it wrong, in both directions, in some cases. In addition to those listed above, I think DOJ has gone too harshly on some people who have openly supported far right, even Nazi views. But I also think DOJ has only considered whether militia members were members of premeditated conspiracies, focusing less on localized activist networks that have been implicated in violent (often anti-mask) pro-Trump actions in the past, taken on leadership roles at the riot, and engaged in ongoing communications about plans to shut down the vote, just like militias did. I think DOJ hasn’t come to grips with the organizational import of QAnon even while arguing that individual adherents of the cult must be jailed because they are delusional. And until DOJ decides how it will treat Trump’s actions and those of some close associates — something they likely cannot do without more investigation and cooperation deals from key participants — parts of this investigation will remain unsettled.

There are definitely things DOJ has reason to be embarrassed about: Gerstein has written more than any journalist about the unforgivable delays in moving defendants around the country and getting them arraigned. This piece also focuses on one of the handful of misdemeanor defendants who has been detained since being charged. While I understand the complexity of an investigation in which so much of the evidence — both exculpatory and inculpatory — remains in the hands of participants, defendants have a right to complain about the delay, especially those in detention. Defendants — particularly those in detention — are entitled to a Speedy Trial, even if DOJ moved too quickly to arrest them. While many of these things were exacerbated by COVID, they also largely arise from a decision to arrest first on those trespassing charges, and investigate later (which also has led to more defendants being charged with obstruction after the fact).

But none of those things have to do with Biden or Garland’s views about the investigation, or even the prosecutors who made decisions that created some of these problems in the first place (in part, probably, to avoid their own embarrassment at missing all warning signs, in part because they hadn’t investigated these threats aggressively enough and so had to make mass arrests to mitigate any immediate follow-on threats).

In short, this piece is an (uncharacteristic) mess, shoehorning complexity into a simplistic claim of political conflict, one inventing embarrassment out of thin air for Biden. If Politico has evidence that this wasn’t an unprecedented disruption to Congress, one that could have had a far worse outcome, including a threat to our democracy, or that this right wing violence is less of a threat than FBI says it is, by all means they should present that. At the same time, they can reveal the identity of the pipe bomber and the role (if any) that person played in the plot, without which no one can claim to actually know how serious this was.

Until then, they and all experienced DOJ beat reporters would be far better off by simply laying out a description of the different kinds of defendants we’re seeing, the different roles they played in disrupting the vote count and assaulting or undermining law enforcement, and explaining how those defendants are the same or different from defendants that have gone before them, on a spectrum of severity that stretches from CodePink to ISIS terrorists.

If people are going to be surprised when the subset of participants in January 6 who engaged in non-violent civil disobedience are treated as misdemeanor offenders, it’s not Joe Biden’s fault. It is a failure of journalism, my own included, for not making that more clear starting in January and reiterating it since then.

Update: Meanwhile, Jon Schaffer just agreed to two more weeks in jail.

Update: Corrected Munchel’s arrest date, which was January 10.

Update: Christopher Kelly (no relation to Kash) is another person with a consent continuance to discuss what would almost certainly be a cooperation agreement. He drove to and from the insurrection with some Proud Boys.


Posts attempting to contextualize the investigation

Here are some past attempts I’ve made at explaining how the parts of the January 6 investigation fit together:


DOJ Arresting Their Way to Clarity on Joe Biggs’ Two Breaches of the Capitol

The Proud Boys Leadership conspiracy indictment describes that Joe Biggs breached the Capitol twice.

He entered first on the west side through a door opened after Dominic Pezzola broke through an adjacent window with a riot shield.

At 2:14 p.m., BIGGS entered the Capitol building through a door on the northwest side. The door was opened after a Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, charged elsewhere, used a riot shield at 2:13 p.m. to break window allowed rioters to enter the building and force open an adjacent door from the inside. BIGGS and Proud Boys members Gilbert Garcia, William Pepe, and Joshua Pruitt, each of whom are charged elsewhere, entered the same door within two minutes of its opening. At 2:19 p.m., a member of the Boots on the Ground channel posted, “We just stormed the capitol.”

Then, Biggs left the building, walked around it, took a selfie from the east side, then forced his way in the east side and headed from there to the Senate.

BIGGS subsequently exited the Capitol, and BIGGS and several Proud Boys posed for a picture at the top of the steps on the east side of the Capitol.

Thirty minutes after first entering the Capitol on the west side, BIGGS and two other members of the Proud boys, among others, forcibly re-entered the Capitol through the Columbus Doors on the east side of the Capitol, pushing past at least one law enforcement officer and entering the Capitol directly in front of a group of individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers. [my emphasis]

Understanding Biggs’ actions — including whether they were coordinated with the Oath Keepers who entered at virtually the same time as him (including fellow Floridian Kelly Meggs, who had just “organized an alliance” with the Proud Boys in December) — is crucial to understanding the insurrection as a whole.

That’s particularly true given that Biggs re-entered the Capitol and headed to the Senate, where Mike Pence had only recently been evacuated. That’s also true given how Biggs’ actions coincide so neatly with those of the Oath Keepers.

At the moment Pezzola breaks the Capitol window with a shield, Person Ten contacts Joshua James (from Alabama but seemingly affiliated with the Florida Oath Keepers). At the moment Biggs enters the Capitol, someone on the Oath Keepers’ Signal channel informed the list that “The[y] have taken ground at the capital [sic]. We need to regroup any members who are not on mission.” This is a quicker response than the Proud Boys Boots on the Ground channel itself had to the initial breach.

And that’s what happened. Both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys regrouped and opened a new front on the assault on the Capitol.

Rhodes called Kelly Meggs. Person Ten called James. Then Rhodes had overlapping phone calls with Person Ten and Meggs. Around that time, The Stack started making their way to an entry of the Capitol on the other side of the building from where they were. And James and Minuta hopped in some golf carts and rushed to the Capitol (I’m not sure from where). During the period when The Stack, commanded by Kelly Meggs, was making their way to the Capitol and Biggs was walking around rather than through it, Roberto Minuta arrived and started harassing the cops guarding the door through which Biggs and The Stack would shortly enter, perhaps ensuring that the cops remained at their post rather than reinforcing the east side.

I had speculated here that Proud Boys in the initial breach — most notably former Army Captain Gabriel Garcia — were live streaming with the intent of providing tactical information to people located remotely who were performing a command and control function.

If you were following Garcia’s livestreams in real time — even from a remote location — you would have visibility on what was going on inside almost immediately after the first group of the Proud Boys breached the Capitol.

In a later livestream, Garcia narrated what happened in the minutes after the Proud Boys had breached the Capitol.

GARCIA states, “We just went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It’s about to get ugly.” Around him, a large crowd chants, “Our house!”

Then, as a standoff with some cops ensued, Garcia filmed himself describing, tactically, what was happening, and also making suggestions to escalate violence that were heeded by those around him.

At minute 1:34, a man tries to run through the line of USCP officers. The officers respond with force, which prompts GARCIA to shout, “You fucking traitors! You fucking traitors! Fuck you!” As the USCP officers try to maintain positive control of the man that just rushed the police line, GARCIA yells, “grab him!” seemingly instructing the individuals around him to retrieve the man from USCP officers. GARCIA is holding a large American flag, which he drops into the skirmish in an apparent attempt to assist the individuals who are struggling with the USCP officers.

USCP officers maintain control of the line, holding out their arms to keep the crowd from advancing. At least one USCP officer deploys an asp. GARCIA turns the camera on himself and offers tactical observations regarding the standoff. [my emphasis]

Garcia’s livestream was such that you would obtain crowd size estimates from it, as well as specific names of officers on the front line, as well as instructions to “keep ’em coming,” seemingly asking for more bodies for this confrontation.

At minute 3:26, GARCIA, who is still in extremely close proximity to the USCP officer line again yells, “Fucking traitors!” He then joins the crowd chanting “Our house!” At minute 3:38, GARCIA states, “You ain’t stopping a million of us.” He then turns the camera to the crowd behind him and says, “Keep ‘em coming. Keep ‘em coming. Storm this shit.” GARCIA chants with the crowd, “USA!”

Soon after, GARCIA stops chanting and begins speaking off camera with someone near him. At minute 4:28, GARCIA says, “do you want water?” Though unclear, GARCIA seems to be asking the person with whom he is speaking. GARCIA is so close to an officer that, as the camera shifts, the only images captured are those of the officer’s chest and badge. [my emphasis]

Remarkably, Garcia filmed himself successfully ordering the rioters to hold the line — which they do — and then filmed them charging the police.

GARCIA yells, “Back up! Hold the line!” Shortly thereafter, the crowd begins advancing, breaching the USCP officer line. GARCIA says, “Stop pushing.” The last moments captured in the video are of the crowd rushing the USCP officers.

A filing arguing for detention for Ethan Nordean confirms that Proud Boys located offsite were monitoring the livestream and providing instructions.

When the Defendant, his co-Defendants, and the Proud Boys under the Defendant’s command did, in fact, storm the Capitol grounds, messages on Telegram immediately reflected the event. PERSON-2 announced, “Storming the capital building right now!!” and then “Get there.” [Un-indicted co-conspirator-1] immediately followed by posting the message, “Storming the capital building right now!!” four consecutive times.6 These messages reflect that the men involved in the planning understood that the plan included storming the Capitol grounds. This shared understanding of the plan is further reflected in co-Defendant Biggs’ real-time descriptions that “we’ve just taken the Capitol” and “we just stormed the fucking Capitol.”

6 UCC-1 and PERSON-2 are not believed to have been present on the Capitol grounds, but rather indicated that they were monitoring events remotely using livestreams and other methods.*

So at least on the Proud Boys side, there was this kind of command and control.

And the government has been arresting their way to some clarity on this point.

Sometime before March 1, the government got access to both the leadership Telegram channel the Proud Boys used to coordinate the insurrection and the “Boots on the Ground” channel, meaning they’ve got monikers for around 35 active Proud Boy participants in the insurrection who have not yet been arrested. In the weeks since the Biggs and Nordean conspiracy indictment disclosed that the government had these chats, the government has arrested several people with ties to one or another of these men (though without saying whether they identified them from the Boots on the Ground channel or whether they arrested them at this time for investigative reasons).

Two of these men just happen to be two of Joe Biggs’ co-travelers the day of the insurrection, Paul Rae and Arthur Jackman, both also from Florida. The complaints for both are very similar, possibly written by the same FBI agent. Both complaints go through the greatest hits of the Proud Boy actions that day, listing all the conspiracies already charged. While the affidavits include the testimony of acquaintances of both men (in Jackman’s case, obtained after a January 19 interview with Jackman himself, meaning that testimony couldn’t be the lead via which they IDed him), the affidavits also focus on their entries with Joe Biggs, with Rae entering the west Capitol door right next to Biggs.

And Jackman walking up steps with his hand on Biggs’ shoulder.

Each affidavit includes the photo obtained from warrants served on Biggs showing the selfie mentioned in the Leader indictment (bolded above).

In Rae’s affidavit, they’ve redacted out all but his face and Biggs’.

They use the same approach in Jackman’s affidavit, redacting the others (including Rae, who had already been arrested).

If I were one of the two other guys in this picture, I’d be arranging legal representation right now.

The affidavits show both men entering the Capitol on the east side, along with Biggs. As he did on the west side, Rae walked in beside Biggs (you can see Jackman just ahead of Rae in this picture).

And as he did elsewhere in the Capitol, Jackman walked with his hand on Biggs’ shoulder.

Jackman’s affidavit shows him in the Senate (where we know Biggs also went).

The government arrested Rae on March 24. They arrested Jackman on March 30. Again, I’d be pretty nervous if I were one of the other two guys.

Because if the government can show that this second breach by Biggs was coordinated with the Oath Keepers, with The Stack led by the guy who arranged an alliance in December, Kelly Meggs, it will make these five separate conspiracies mighty cozy (in any case, the government is already starting to refer to the multiple Proud Boys conspiracies as one).

There’s at least one other action on which both militias may have coordinated: aborted efforts to launch a second wave after 4PM, something that Rudy Giuliani seems to have had insight into.

But for now, the government seems pretty focused on arresting their way to clarity about why Joe Biggs breached the Capitol, then walked outside and around it, and then breached it again.


* I had suggested in this post that UCC-1 might be Nicholas Ochs. But that’s not possible, because the government knows he was onsite. Moreover, the government is now treating defendants in one of the Proud Boys conspiracy indictments (most notably Dominic Pezzola) as co-conspirators with those charged in other conspiracy indictments (including Nordean), so Ochs would be an indicted co-conspirator. Another — far more intriguing possibility — is that it is James Sullivan (who might have a leadership role in Utah’s Proud Boys), who was in contact with Rudy Giuliani about the insurrection, and who inexplicably hasn’t been arrested. Certainly, Rudy seems to have had the information available on those chats in real time.


The Grand Theft Golf Cart Conspiracy: DOJ Backed Off Charges against Roberto Minuta

Yesterday, DOJ added Roberto Minuta and Joshua James — both of whom provided security to Roger Stone in advance of the insurrection — to the Oath Keepers conspiracy indictment, making a third superseding indictment (S3) against the militia. The showiest part of the indictment describes how Minuta and James rode in golf carts (from where, it doesn’t say, nor does it explain how it knows exactly what Minuta said while on the golf cart escapade) to the Capitol to join in the insurrection.

Between 2:30 and 2:33 p.m., MINUTA, JAMES, and others rode in a pair of golf carts towards the Capitol, at times swerving around law enforcement vehicles, with MINUTA stating: Patriots are storming the Capitol building; there’s violence against patriots by the D.C. Police; so we’re en route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now … it’s going down, guys; its literally going down right now Patriots storming the Capitol building … fucking war in the streets right now … word is they got in the building … let’s go.

At about 2:33 p.m., MINUTA, JAMES, and the others in their group parked the golf carts near the intersection of Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. They then continued on foot towards the Capitol.

But the golf cart vignette is not the most interesting detail in the S3 indictment. The additions on the most recent superseding indictment (S2) are interesting for what the government did and did not add with the inclusion of the two Oath Keepers who were not part of The Stack that breached the Capitol, Minuta and James.

The crimes not charged

In spite of Minuta’s self-description, the government did not charge Minuta with Grand Theft Golf Cart. It’s never actually explained where they got the carts, but the Oath Keepers had been using carts as part of their protection detail for people like Roger Stone. If they used golf carts owned or rented by Stop the Steal or some other organizer for the rally, however, it might implicate those owners in the conspiracy if they didn’t report the golf carts as being stolen as part of an effort to breach the Capitol.

But Grand Theft Golf Cart is only the beginning of crimes not charged against the newest additions to the conspiracy.

In the complaint against Minuta, the government had shown probable cause that Minuta obstructed the investigation by deleting his Facebook account on January 13.

Finally, on January 13, 2021, the week after he attacked the Capitol and after much media reporting on law enforcement’s investigation to bring the Capitol rioters to justice, Minuta deleted his Facebook account of over thirteen years.

[snip]

Evidence also demonstrates that one week after he participated in forcibly storming the Capitol, Minuta deleted a Facebook account he had maintained for 13 years to conceal his involvement in these offenses.

[snip]

On January 6, 2021, the FBI opened an investigation into the attack on the Capitol, and a grand jury of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia subsequently opened an investigation. Within the first week of the investigation, a number of subjects were arrested and many more subjects’ photographs were shared over the Internet by both the FBI and regular citizens who took it upon themselves to publicize and seek information about the Capitol attackers.

Records indicate that Roberto Minuta opened a Facebook account associated with phone number XXX-XXX-4147 (known to be associated with Minuta) on November 24, 2007. On January 13, 2021—one week after Minuta and others attacked the Capitol on January 6— Minuta deleted his account.

From the first iteration of this conspiracy indictment, the government had charged others for deleting their Facebook accounts — first Thomas Caldwell, and then Graydon Young. So it would have followed the pattern already set to include a Count 7 against Minuta for his deletion of Facebook.

It’s not in there.

But that’s not the only crime not charged.

The complaint against Minuta focused closely on his taunts against cops in the minutes before The Stack arrived (the government may suspect that Minuta did this to occupy the police while insurrectionists breached the Capitol from the west side, to ensure officers guarding the east side of the building could not go assist those being overrun on the west side).

The indictment adds this further interaction between the cops and Minuta.

At 3:15 p.m., inside the Capitol building, MINUTA and JAMES pushed past U.S. Capitol Police Officers who physically placed their hands on MINUTA and JAMES in an unsuccessful attempt to stop them from progressing toward the Capitol Rotunda.

Other January 6 defendants (not part of this Oath Keeper conspiracy) got charged with obstructing the police during a civil disorder for such physical interactions. Not Minuta and James.

Minuta and James got charged, along with the other members of the conspiracy, with one (but not both) of the trespassing charges used against virtually all the January 6 defendants. But Minuta entered the Capitol with a holster of bear spray (visible on his hip in the picture above). Others who entered the Capitol similarly armed had an enhancement added for carrying a deadly weapon, an enhancement that increases the potential sentence to 10 years. Minuta was not similarly charged (meaning, too, that the Oath Keepers who conspired with him were not charged with abetting his armed entry to the Capitol).

Finally, all the other conspirators, including Thomas Caldwell (who never entered the Capitol and was on the other side of it from where The Stack entered) were charged with abetting the destruction of the Capitol door through which The Stack entered. This is the charge that counts as a crime of violence for detention purposes, and also can merit (and is being treated as meriting, for the Proud Boy conspiracy cases) a terrorism enhancement. But neither Minuta nor James were charged with it, even though the indictment notes they entered the same door that The Stack went through.

At 3:15 p.m., inside the Capitol building, MINUTA and JAMES, together with others known and unknown, forcibly entered the Capitol building through the same east side Rotunda doors through which members of the stack had entered about 25 minutes earlier.

It’s unclear why DOJ wouldn’t treat Minuta and James the same way they treated Caldwell (and Kenneth Harrelson, who went in with The Stack but not part of it). I can think of several possible explanations. But they didn’t, which is notable (particularly in the wake of the DC Circuit decision that led to the release of Zip Tie Guy Eric Munchel and his mother).

In short, if Minuta (and James) were treated the same way other January 6 defendants were, they would be facing significantly more serious charges and significantly more prison time. They’re not.

One other, potentially related detail: The complaint that Minuta was charged with — which was obtained on February 24 but not executed until weeks later, seemingly in conjunction with the Joshua James arrest — is titled, “Affidavit in Support of Complaint Minuta (non conspiracy) 2021 02 23,” almost as if at that point DOJ wasn’t sure whether they were going to treat him separately from the rest of the Oath Keepers or not. They appear to have decided to do so, and along the way, thereby limit his potential criminal exposure.

Who is Person Ten and what role did he play with Stewart Rhodes?

Minuta and James complaints included new details about the role of Oath Keepers heard, Stewart Rhodes, described as Person One in all the Oath Keeper filings. Their addition to the conspiracy effectively added more on Rhodes to the conspiracy indictment.

At least as interestingly, the S3 indictment added a Person Ten. Minuta had been Person Five in the James complaint, it’s not clear who Person Four is, and Persons Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine are not described at all, but — along with Person Ten — are likely some of the people in this picture.

Rhodes paid for Person Ten’s hotel room in the Hilton Garden Inn in DC, but Person Ten arrived the day before Minuta and Rhodes, who also stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna.

Curiously, the S3 indictment leaves out some key communications, especially those from a leadership Signal chat that showed up in earlier filings. Between a Caldwell detention motion, a Watkins detention motion, James’ complaint, and the superseding indictment, this partial list of known Oath Keepers communications suggest that Person Ten might be the person coordinating deployments that day. Consider two details from the partial list of the known communications among Oath Keepers below (I’ll update this later, once I catch up on the week of filings).

Highlighted in yellow, Person Ten has a series of calls back and forth with Joshua James, pre-Golf Cart Grand Theft. Right in the middle of it all, someone — not described in this indictment — informs the Signal group as a whole that “the[y] have taken ground” and “we need to regroup any members who are not on mission.” Shortly thereafter, James and Minuta launch the Grand Theft Golf Cart to get to the Capitol, where Minuta taunts the police, preventing them from moving to reinforce the overrun Capitol on the other side, and the members of The Stack leave Trump’s speech prematurely and go to the Capitol. That is, Person Ten calls for reinforcements (Rhodes repeats his Signal text), and then Minuta and James in the golf carts and The Stack converge on the northeast side of the Capitol to breach a new entry point.

Now consider the pink highlight: Unless the government or I have made a mistake in the timing, Person Ten and Kelly Meggs are both on the phone with Stewart Rhodes together. Because of the length of Person Ten’s calls, it overlaps entirely with Rhodes’ call with Meggs (which — again, unless there’s an error of timing — means Rhodes either has two phones or either via conferencing or a hold, had both on the same phone at the same time).

In either case, Person Ten seems to have a key role as a communication pivot between different groups of Oath Keepers.

The communications not included

Finally, consider this: I have not included all known texts in the table above (most obviously missing are Watkins’ Zello texts). But after suggesting strong ties between James and Minuta, the government has included none of their multiple communications, neither on January 6 nor before that, in the superseding indictment. Similarly, the government has left out the Signal chats showing minute to minute deployments as the Oath Keepers launched a second front on the Capitol.

All these communications are tantalizing and hint at a good deal more coordination during the insurrection. And remember: Both Minuta and James were with Roger Stone for part of the day (earlier in the day, I think). But the government is still including just a fraction of the communications it knows about.

Update: Correct that the indictment said Minuta and James rode in the golf carts, didn’t drive and that the Meggses stayed at a different Hilton Garden than Rhodes and Minuta and Person Ten. Thanks to BB.

Update: I want to make clear that the reasons why DOJ backed off charges with Minuta may not all stem from the same reason, nor does this necessarily indicate he is cooperating. For example, in the wake of the DC Circuit decision in Munchel, the chances that DOJ could get pre-trial detention for either Minuta or James, are much lower. So charging them with abetting the damage doesn’t serve an investigative purpose at this time. And it’s possible after they seized Minuta’s phone, they discovered something to indicate he had deleted Facebook in response to Facebook’s decision to shut down Trump on the platform. To be honest, Minuta and James are an odd fit for this conspiracy as currently laid out, which suggests it’s likely to change in the near future.

Copyright © 2021 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/january-6-insurrection/page/10/