One Man’s Flourish Is Another Man’s Seditious Conspiracy: DOJ’s Typo and the Brandon Straka Plea Deal

The government released their sentencing memo for Brandon Straka yesterday. It confirms that the propagandist got a ridiculously light plea deal because he “cooperated” with the government. But, particularly because of what must be a typo in the government filing, it raises more questions about the fairness of the prosecution for the first purveyor of the Big Lie to be sentenced in January 6 than it provides answers.

As I’ve laid out repeatedly, Straka was a speaker on January 5 and was slated to speak again on January 6 at one of the rallies that provided the excuse to bring more bodies to the Capitol. He also played a central role in riling up a mob at Michigan’s vote count at TCF Center in November 2020. In other words, he was instrumental in the effort to sow violence by leading people to believe false claims about the election.

As described in the sentencing memo, that’s precisely what Straka did at the East side of the Capitol, too.

Straka pleaded guilty to one count of 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(D), Disorderly Conduct in the Capitol Grounds. As explained herein, a four-month home detention sentence is appropriate in this case because: (1) the defendant has a significant public profile, which he utilized to promote his activity on January 6, (2) the defendant learned of the breach of the U.S. Capitol Building and went to join the rioters; (3) upon arriving at the U.S. Capitol, the defendant encouraged others to  storm the U.S. Capitol; (4) the defendant recorded video of the rioters entering the U.S. Capitol; (5) the defendant encouraged rioters to take an officer’s protective shield from the officer’s possession, and (6) the defendant took to social media and encouraged rioters who remained at the U.S. Capitol to “hold the line” even after he had left Capitol grounds on January 6.

[snip]

Here, Straka’s participation in a riot that actually succeeded in halting the Congressional certification combined with his celebration and endorsement of the unauthorized entry of the U.S. Capitol and violent conduct of the rioters to his hundreds of thousands of followers, his act of encouraging rioters to take a U.S. Capitol Police officer’s shield, and the need for deterrence renders a four-month home detention sentence both necessary and appropriate in this case.

Straka was originally charged with civil disorder and trespassing, but not the obstruction of the vote count that he was clearly part of. In October, he got a plea deal to plead only to the lesser of the two trespassing statutes, eliminating a felony civil disorder charge. As I previously noted, his plea agreement included the standard cooperation paragraph that usually suggests someone has not yet cooperated.

But DOJ, in their sentencing memo, claims he did, and even included a sealed filing describing the substance of the cooperation, as they would in support of a 5.1K letter that more formalized cooperators get.

7 The government will supplement this filing with a sealed addendum that will provide this Court with information related to Brandon Straka’s interviews.

But even the memo’s description of Straka’s initial “cooperative” interviews, the ones he did before getting that sweet plea deal, make it clear that, at least at the beginning, he was bullshitting them.

Straka was arrested on January 25, 2021. Straka voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by FBI. Straka’s initial interview occurred on February 17, 2021. Straka recounted what occurred on January 6. Straka denied seeing any police officers as he walked to the U.S. Capitol. He also denied seeing any barriers or signage indicating that the U.S. Capitol was closed. Straka denied removing the posts out of fear of getting arrested. Instead, he explained that he removed the videos because he felt “ashamed.” He denied knowing that people were “attacking, hurting, and killing people.”

Straka described seeing people “clustered” and “packed in” near the entrance to the U.S. Capitol. He admitted to video recording the event and later posting and removing the videos from Twitter. He also admitted knowing that the rioters were entering the U.S. Capitol without authorization and with the intent to interfere with Congress. Straka provided additional information to the FBI regarding the events leading up to and during January 6. After this initial interview, the FBI met with Straka a second time on March 25, 2021 with follow-up questions. Straka was cooperative during the interviews.

Indeed, later parts of the memorandum debunk claims Straka made in that interview, completely undermining the description of these as cooperative interviews.

Straka stood at the entrance of the East Rotunda Doors as rioters attempted to enter despite the presence of officers near the door. Alarms from inside the U.S. Capitol can be heard in the background as Straka approaches the doorway’s entrance: a loud, high-pitched, continuous beeping, similar to a smoke alarm. If Straka was unaware that his and the rioters’ presence was not authorized, he should have known it when he heard the sound of the alarms. Additionally, as Straka approached the doorway, he was met by the smell of tear gas that had been deployed by officers inside of the U.S. Capitol.

The memorandum also clearly shows that any remorse Straka has expressed was self-serving.

Straka has indicated that his decision to attend the U.S. Capitol breach was “stupid and a tragic decision.” In his interview with FBI, Straka stated that he did not know that violence and death would occur that day. He then expressed shame for participating in the event. Yet, it is worth pointing out that Straka believes that “the consequences for his actions this far have been quite extreme and disproportionate given his involvement.” Straka also believes that he is misunderstood. He has also expressed concern about how his business has been affected. ECF 28 ¶¶ 23-25. These statements indicate that Straka does not understand the gravamen of his conduct and that of the rioters on January 6.

And the memorandum obscures the chronology of Straka’s actions from the day and relies on his word for at least one key detail which the FBI could have (and did, for other insurrectionists) confirmed via more investigation. Straka went to Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. Videos show that he left the speech with Mike Flynn just as the speech was ending, walking unimpeded through the VIP section. Straka claims he took the Metro to the Capitol and arrived between 2 and 2:20, which given that everybody else was walking, is likely only possible if he killed a half hour somewhere before hopping the Metro, presumably getting on at Metro Center or Federal Triangle and getting off at Capitol South. That detail is critical, because it’s how Straka sustains a claim that:

  • He only learned of the assault on the Capitol as he was already traveling over there and not before
  • He arrived at the Capitol between the time he learned of the assault and when his speech was canceled (2:00 to 2:20)
  • He learned his speech was canceled at 2:33

Here’s how it looks in the sentencing memorandum, separated by several pages.

The next day, January 6, 2021, Straka attended the “Rally to Save America” on the White House Ellipse and then planned to travel to an area near the U.S. Capitol Building where he was going to give another speech. See ECF 1, p. 2 at ¶ 3 Straka used the Metro to travel to the U.S. Capitol. Id. While traveling to the U.S. Capitol, he received alerts on his telephone stating that former Vice President Mike Pence was “not going to object to certifying Joe Biden.” Id. Straka continued to make his way to the U.S. Capitol. Id. While walking, Straka learned that the U.S. Capitol had been breached. Id. Straka estimated that he got off of the Metro sometime between 2:00 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. before making his way to the U.S. Capitol grounds. See ECF 28, at ¶ 18.

[snip]

At 2:33 pm on January 6, 2021, Michael Coudrey, the national coordinator for Stop the Steal, sent a message to a group chat telling those in the chat that the event that Straka was scheduled to speak at would be delayed because “They stormed the capital[sic].” Joshua Kaplan and Joaquin Sapien, New Details Suggest Sernior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic, ProPublica (June 25, 2021) available at https://www.propublica.org/article
/new-detailssuggest-senior-trump-aides-knew-jan-6-rally-could-get-chaotic (last visited December 16, 2021). Straka responded, “I just got gassed! Never felt so fucking alive in my life!!!” Id. Later, as law enforcement was still working to clear rioters from Capitol grounds, Straka encouraged them to continue fighting:

It’s still totally inexplicable. Even if Straka didn’t have knowledge he was traveling into an active riot in advance (a really sketchy claim), he still marched right up the steps of the East side of the Capitol encouraging violent entry, and then stuck around for hours encouraging rioters to keep going. DOJ could have checked the timing of his story by — as they did with other Jan 6 defendants — checking for Metro card purchases, swipes, or surveillance video in the Metro. Instead, they seem to have taken his word for the chronology.

Thus far, then, it looks like Straka successfully bullshitted DOJ for a sweet plea deal.

That treatment is all the more problematic given the discomfort regarding Straka’s incitement in different places in the sentencing memo. In describing his January 5 speech at the Stop the Steal rally, DOJ dismissed his call to “revolution” as “flourishes.”

During his five-minute long speech, Straka again used common rhetorical flourishes, referring to the rally attendees as “patriots,” and referenced a “revolution” multiple times. Id. at 32:27-37:18 Straka directed the attendees to “fight back.” Id.

But in the sentencing memo, DOJ called the same kind of speech on social media before that, often on key days in the developing conspiracy, speech that “could reasonably have been interpreted by some readers as a call for more than just a figurative struggle.”

Following the election, Straka stoked the passions of his followers, frequently telling the “Patriots” that it was time to “rise up” as part of a “civil war.” Many of these messages contain rhetorical flourishes that are common in political speech. However, some of Straka’s references to concrete planning and action could reasonably have been interpreted by some readers as a call for more than just a figurative struggle. In early December 2020, Straka sent out messages informing them that they “could not allow” a presidential transition and encouraging his followers to prepare for a civil war

That is, DOJ admits in its sentencing memo that Straka was stoking violence during the entire transition period.

Thus it happened that, on the very same day DOJ rolled out a seditious conspiracy indictment against Stewart Rhodes for, in part, warning on November 5, “we aren’t getting through this without a civil war,” and then warning on December 11 that if Joe Biden were to assume the Presidency, “it will be a bloody and desperate fight,” DOJ made a case that a guy who, in the same weeks, was also calling for civil war, should get just home confinement.

To be sure, there’s no evidence Straka engaged in military training or purchased weapons. But if Stewie’s incitement counts as sedition, then surely Straka’s counts as obstruction of the peaceful transfer of power.

Which brings us back to DOJ’s claims about Straka’s cooperation and that sealed addendum. According to the memo, as written, Straka had three interviews: one on February 17, 2021, another on March 25, 2021, and a third on — it claims — January 5, 2022.

On January 5, 2022, Straka met with prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI a third time. The purpose of the interview was for the government to ask Straka follo-up [sic] questions. Consistent with his previous interviews, Straka was cooperative. The interviews were conducted in anticipation of the plea agreement that defendant would later enter.7

Except that makes no sense. He signed his statement of offense on September 14, 2021 and pled guilty in October. A January 5, 2022 interview couldn’t have “anticipat[ed] the plea agreement” he entered three months earlier. [Update: I’ve gotten clarification that the reference “the interviews” was meant to refer to the series of interviews. It still doesn’t make sense, but may reflect a late-date addition without correction of the antecedent.]

Moreover, DOJ offers no public explanation for details in this motion for a continuance, which the government attempted to seal after the fact, an attempt Judge Dabney Friedrich refused. It reveals that Straka told the government something new in December, and also that something unexpected came up in the Presentence report.

On December 8, 2021, the defendant provided counsel for the government with information that may impact the government’s sentencing recommendation. Additionally, the government is requesting additional time to investigate information provided in the Final PreSentence Report. Because the government’s sentencing recommendation may be impacted based on the newly discovered information, the government and defendant request a 30-day continuance of this case so that the information can be properly evaluated.

Given the timing of that continuance, it might explain a third meeting with Straka on January 5 — nine days ago. But that would suggest that the information wasn’t provided before Straka got this sweet plea deal.

There are any of a number of things going on. Perhaps it’s true that Straka provided useful information early in the investigation and in consideration for that got a sweet plea deal, as happened with Jacob Riles. Perhaps it’s true that Straka was more honest in those early interviews than portrayed in this memorandum.

Or, as seems more likely given the record and the rhetorical contortions AUSA Brittany Reed made in this sentencing memo, FBI let Straka bullshit them and based on that, he scored a ridiculous plea deal, and only after that, his presentence report disclosed things that FBI should have found last spring.

It may be that the belated discovery in December, in the end, makes the plea deal worth it. If Straka is willing to share honest details of how months of incitement led up to that attempted breach on the East steps; if Straka has provided details of what Mike Flynn was up to after Trump’s speech; if Straka belatedly confessed that there was a concerted plan to converge on the top of the East steps, then Straka’s preferential treatment may be worth it.

But DOJ really needs to provide more transparency on what went down, one that doesn’t include an obvious typo obscuring the timeline. If Paul Hodgkins has to serve eight months for obstruction because he wandered onto the Senate of floor and Jenny Cudd only got to plead from obstruction down to the more serious trespassing charge because she repeated the calls for civil war that people like Straka were making on January 5, then equity demands a far better explanation for Straka’s preferential treatment here.

As noted, Straka’s is the first sentencing for one of the organizer-inciters who will need to be held to account if DOJ wants to really pursue the people who master-minded this insurrection. If FBI screwed up (or tried to protect Straka), then DOJ needs to come clean on that and make it clear how they’ll avoid such problems in the future.

Presenting two inexplicable timelines is not the way to do that.

Update: Fixed reference to presentence report. And included clarification regarding “typo.”

The First Seditious Conspiracy Charges Drop

The government arrested Stewart Rhodes today and charged him with other Oath Keepers in a seditious conspiracy indictment. Effectively, this charges everyone who conspired — including by participating in the planning — to bring weapons to Virginia on January 6 (and spins the other Oath Keepers off onto their own indictment). The charges effectively incorporate the material from this post on the Quick Reaction Force and this post on discussion of an insurrection after January 6, with additional details on Rhodes and Edward Vallejo, the guy who organized the QRF.

The charges are, at once, no big deal, because they’re really just the same conspiracy charged in a different way with two conspiracies added. They’re a huge deal, because now Republicans will be hard pressed to continue to downplay January 6. And they’re a solution to some problems and a tool to move on.

First consider the problems DOJ was trying to solve:

  • How to split up an unwieldy 17-person conspiracy into two trials?
  • How to charge Stewart Rhodes (and Vallejo) for roles central to the conspiracy when they didn’t do anything like trespassing to make that easy?
  • How to backstop the sedition charges so white terrorists won’t go free?
  • How to add leverage to flip key witnesses to move beyond just the Oath Keepers?

Now consider how this works as a tool. For some reason, the government has moved Jonathan Walden to his own charges separately. And Mike Simmons, who in all earlier indictments was called “Person Ten,” here is just described as “operational leader,” which suggests he’s no longer treated as a co-conspirator, either.

Though Kenneth Harrelson released some of the key communications from the Willard Hotel from earlier in the day, those still don’t show up in this indictment. So the government is remaining coy about what it knows about coordination with people at the Willard Hotel. That’s probably because it still needs others to flip — Joshua James would be ideal, but Roberto Minuta might be useful as well — to confirm whatever Mark Grods and Mike Simmons (if he is cooperating) were able to offer about it.

But they are making it clear that they know more about some communications they’ve been talking about for some time. Here’s my favorite.

I noted in April that this was probably a conference call. They seem to suggest they may know the content of it.

In addition, this indictment confirms that Kelly Meggs hunted Nancy Pelosi down (and that the rest of the stack went towards the Senate, as if hunting for Pence).

As mentioned, they’ve added a bunch of charges:

  • Added Seditious Conspiracy tied to Rhodes’ repeated efforts to arm and train for war
  • Swapped the 18 USC 371 conspiracy charge for a 18 USC 1512k conspiracy; as I’ve noted, that provides additional enhancements for threats of assassination and kidnapping, as this indictment inches closer to alleging
  • Added a conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duty (18 USC 372)

What this does is raise the sentencing exposure for the co-conspirators from around 20 years to, with terrorism enhancements for the broken door, maybe 80. It backstops the sedition charges (with the original obstruction charge, but also with the 372 charge) so white terrorists won’t be able to beat the charges. It charges all the other efforts to obstruct this investigation.

But it’s the latter new charge I’m most interested in, even more than sedition:

If two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties, each of such persons shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six years, or both.

This is what Eric Swalwell has argued some of these same people did. But it is, more clearly, what Donald Trump did to Mike Pence.

This indictment will, presumably, impress all those who’ve been wailing the existing 20 year charges the Oath Keepers were facing were not adequate. But it may also clear a path to move up the chain.

Update: Correcting that Walden must be cooperating. I think that’s a misreading.

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

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

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

Person-2: Would be epic

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

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

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

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the movement operatives wandered to the Capitol too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are more known cooperators than straight felony pleas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Look at Michigan’s “Alternate” Electors [UPDATE-1]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Update(s) will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

David Waldman (a.k.a. @KagroX) made an interesting point on Twitter:

If you’re active in a political party this may seem obvious. Having been a party committee member and a delegate, I took for granted most folks would intuit this. A political party won’t have any Average Joe off the street attest to the party’s business; they’ll encourage and/or pick someone they trust who’s an insider.

And in the case of my home state, that’s exactly what happened. The MIGOP picked electors who are active in the party either on committees and/or public officials either elected or appointed.

Which means all these folks who signed the false certification attesting fraudulently to Trump’s win of a majority of Michigan’s votes are highly relevant to the party. They are:

Kathy Berden – Michigan Republican Party national committeewoman

Mayra Rodriguez – Wayne County Public Administrator, former MIGOP candidate for MI state house district 2, Michigan Republican Party 14th District chair for Grosse Pointe Farms

Meshawn Maddock – Co-Chair, Michigan Republican Party

John Haggard – Charlevoix County Republican chair

Kent Vanderwood – Wyoming City Council member

Marian Sheridan – Michigan Republican Party Grassroots vice chair

James Renner – Republican Delegate to County Convention (Watertown Twp, 2020) (replaced Gerald Wall)

Amy Facchinello – Grand Blanc Board of Education member, QAnon supporter

Rose Rook – Van Buren County Republican executive committee member

Hank Choate – Michigan Republican Party 7th District chair

Mari-Ann Henry – Greater Oakland Republican Club member

Clifford Frost – Michigan Republican Party State Committee and Macomb County Republican Party board member

Stanley Grot – Shelby Township Clerk, Michigan Republican Party 10th District chair

Timothy King – Washtenaw County Republican Party executive committee member, Michigan Republican Party 12th District committee member

Michele Lundgren – Wayne County Republican Party precinct delegate

Ken Thompson – TBD (replaced Terri Lynn Land, former MI Secretary of State)

These aren’t exotic fruit bats out in the far right-wing hinterlands; they’re the heart of the Michigan Republican Party.

There are several interesting tidbits about this roster. The first is that two of these folks were replaced by others even though they had been elected in November to their role as electors.

Gerald Wall is the Roscommon County Republican Party Chair. Granted, it’s a less populous county in northern central Michigan, but removing the county chair is a bit of a statement to a fairly red county.

The second replacement raised my eyebrows because Terri Lynn Land was Michigan’s Secretary of State for eight years. She’s had the support of the DeVos family — yes, including Erik Prince’s sister Betsey DeVos nee Prince — receiving campaign donations over multiple terms and candidacies for other public office.

Why were these two elected electors removed and replaced with “alternate” electors James Renner and Ken Thompson — the latter for whom I can find little information.

The slate of candidates running for the legitimate post of Republican electors — assuming a Republican won Michigan’s popular vote — had been contacted for profiles by the Detroit Free Press ahead of the November 2020 election. Several did not respond or refused to be interviewed; what’s indicated here was collected from the internet.

But there’s nothing about the swap of two electors for these new “alternate” electors. One might wonder if either Gerald Wall or Terri Lynn Land refused to serve as electors once a false certification was prepared.

The doozy out of this group is the Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock, wife of state representative Matt Maddock, by whom it has been said the MIGOP had been radicalized.

You’ll want to read this thread by Karen Piper, who profiles Meshawn while connecting more than a few dots:

Maddock’s relationship with Amy Kremer — she of the three-burner-phones and the Willard Hotel — and multiple right-wing protests at Michigan’s state capitol building is particularly interesting. It’s as if the April 15, 2020 drive-in gridlock protest rally and the armed militia protest rally inside the capitol on April 30 were practice runs for the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

If I thought I had standing and a reasonable chance at winning I’d sue each one of these “alt-electors” for attempting to steal the 2020 Michigan presidential election from me and every Michigander who voted for a candidate other than Trump. I’d sue because so many volunteers who are neighbors, friends, and family members honorably worked to ensure a safe and secure election, and these radical right-wing members of the MIGOP tainted their efforts, cast aspersions on our state, and nearly stole our civil rights after we had to put up with weeks of harassment to get to certification.

As former MIGOP leader and Project Lincoln senior advisor Jeff Timmer described Meshawn,

“She is nuts. Her husband is nuts. They are crazy, stupid, and mean,” Timmer tells Metro Times. “They think they are saving the world.”

Um, nope. Not saved, far from it.

Hope Meshawn has a good lawyer; for some reason I don’t think she’ll get much assistance from some of the old school MIGOP.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:30 P.M. 13-JAN-2022 —

Long-time community member WilliamOckham shared in comments last night some pointers about the false certification documents:

First, let me give a shout out to the folks over at AmericanOversight[.]org for liberating the fake electoral vote documents via a FOIA to the National Archives. Several folks have noticed the similarities between the documents. I believe we can make some reasonable judgments about the provenance of these documents that will contribute to our understanding of the overall election conspiracy. Even though all we have is a scanned images pdf, if we analyze the documents with attention to the similarities and differences, we can deduce something about how those documents were produced. If you want to follow along, head over to the American Oversight website and grab a copy of the pdf I’m referencing at /american-oversight-obtains-seven-phony-certificates-of-pro-trump-electors

TL;DR version: These fake electoral certifications all came from a single source and there’s a way to prove it.

First, note that for every state there is a page (pages 7, 17, 21, 25, 28, 30, 32, and 45) that begins with three centered and bolded lines that read:
CERTIFICATE OF THE VOTES OF THE
2020 ELECTORS FROM [STATE]
**********

The first thing to note is that each of those pages is using the same font (with one slight twist that’s very revealing): Baskerville Old Face. That’s a good choice if you want to give your documents a 1776 feel. You see, it’s a digital font based on a lead type design that was first appeared in 1766.

When you start looking closely, you’ll notice that each state’s wording following the title is slightly different. However, they’re all set in Baskerville. In particular, note the “For President” and “For Vice President”. Those are formatted as small caps (the lowercase letters are replaced with smaller versions of the uppercase letters). Do you suppose seven or eight different people all managed to correctly use small caps formatting? Me, neither.

Someone created a digital file (almost certainly a Microsoft Word document) and sent it to the fake electors to fill in. There’s no other explanation for the similarities in the documents. And it’s not just that page. There was even a template for filling vacancies (caused by some electors having, you know, integrity).

One more interesting thing. Look at the first page (page 7 of the pdf). Notice the asterisks. Count the “petals”. There are five. That’s just like the Baskerville Old Face that Microsoft ships with Office and some versions of Windows. Now, look at Wisconsin’s page (page 45). There are six “petals” on the asterisks. Looks like the same font. Except what’s up with the different asterisks? Looks very much like Microsoft Word performing a font substitution. Maybe Wisconsin used the Mac version of Word. Or OpenOffice. Or Google Docs.

Now, here’s how to prove my suppositions. If you have subpoena power or a team of people to do some investigating, start tracking down the people who signed these documents. Ask them for the Word document (or other digital template) that was sent to them. Ask them who sent them and what instructions did they give them.

Hello, conspiracy.

The Green Bay Sweep Is Inextricably Tied to the Violent Mob

Between yesterday’s hearing in the January 6 lawsuits — where Judge Amit Mehta noted that,”The conspiracy to sow distrust in the election is not illegal, no[] matter what we think about conduct,” — and something I’m working on, I’ve been thinking about all the stuff that happened between November and January, which the Select Committee is working aggressively on.

I’ve said that I believe the phone call to Brad Raffensperger is illegal on its own right. The Fulton County DA says she’s getting closer to a charging decision on it, and whatever she decides she can likely share her findings with DOJ. Politico reported on some of the other damning information that the Select Committee has received, including other calls to pressure Georgia officials.

I’ve laid out how Trump’s pressure on Mike Pence is already a key focus of both investigations (which the NYT wrote about yesterday).

But as to the rest of it, thus far, the vast majority of what has been made public is — as Judge Mehta qualified it — a legal conspiracy to undermine trust in elections. As I noted, the reason why Peter Navarro’s confessions aren’t enough to charge him with sedition is because as confessed, the coordinated effort to get Republicans to raise bad faith challenges to the vote certification is not illegal.

But there are two ways to think about these events leading up to the mob. The first, which I’ll lay out in more depth later, is as proof of mens rea. When Trump called up Raffensperger and asked for the precise number of votes he needed to win, it was a (recorded) admission that he knew he had lost the state.

To the extent DOJ and the Select Committee can substantiate that Trump knew the request was illegal, Trump’s sustained demands that Pence reject the legal vote count is also proof of kind of corrupt purpose that would be necessary to charge him with obstruction (as DOJ’s expert on this approach himself said fairly explicitly).

I’d like to go back to what I believe to be the third most compelling proof of corrupt mens rea. As I noted, when — in the wake of state certifications — Trump told Richard Donoghue to just say the election was corrupt and “leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen,” he effectively admitted he was asking DOJ to claim there were problems with the election when they were telling him there weren’t.

On December 27, Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue took notes from a call where Trump laid out the alleged fraud that merited DOJ involvement. Donoghue noted Trump saying, “You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do.” Donoghue recorded multiple times that DOJ officials told Trump his election claims were wrong, detailing the investigations that DOJ had already done into the allegations. He recorded Trump’s intimation that he might start replacing people with Jeffrey Bossert Clark if they didn’t back his claims of fraud.

At one point, Trump demanded, “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”

At the time I wrote that post in August, I believed it proved the mens rea that DOJ would need to show Trump was acting with corrupt intent.

But I look at it differently given Peter Navarro’s cover story about the subsequent effort. Navarro claims that he and Steve Bannon rolled out an (entirely legal) effort to provide members of Congress with enough election disinformation to sustain 24 hours of debate.

“The Green Bay Sweep was very well thought out. It was designed to get us 24 hours of televised hearings,” he said. “But we thought that we could bypass the corporate media by getting this stuff televised.”

Navarro’s part in this ploy was to provide the raw materials, he said in an interview on Thursday. That came in the form of a three-part White House report he put together during his final weeks in the Trump administration with volume titles like, “The Immaculate Deception” and “The Art of the Steal.”

“My role was to provide the receipts for the 100 congressmen or so who would make their cases… who could rely in part on the body of evidence I’d collected,” he told The Daily Beast. “To lay the legal predicate for the actions to be taken.” (Ultimately, states have not found any evidence of electoral fraud above the norm, which is exceedingly small.)

The next phase of the plan was up to Bannon, Navarro describes in his memoir, In Trump Time.

“Steve Bannon’s role was to figure out how to use this information—what he called ‘receipts’—to overturn the election result. That’s how Steve had come up with the Green Bay Sweep idea,” he wrote.

“The political and legal beauty of the strategy was this: by law, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must spend up to two hours of debate per state on each requested challenge. For the six battleground states, that would add up to as much as twenty-four hours of nationally televised hearings across the two chambers of Congress.”

The plan, as laid out in Navarro’s cover story, is entirely legal so long as you believe two key claims he makes: that he doesn’t know when this effort started and doesn’t remember Trump being personally involved.

Although Navarro told The Daily Beast he doesn’t remember when “Brother Bannon” came up with the plan, he said it started taking shape as Trump’s “Stop the Steal” legal challenges to election results in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin fizzled out. Courts wouldn’t side with Trump, thanks to what Navarro describes in his book as “the highly counterproductive antics” of Sydney Powell and her Kraken lawsuits. So instead, they came up with a never-before-seen scheme through the legislative branch.

Navarro starts off his book’s chapter about the strategy by mentioning how “Stephen K. Bannon, myself, and President Donald John Trump” were “the last three people on God’s good Earth who want to see violence erupt on Capitol Hill,” as it would disrupt their plans.

When asked if Trump himself was involved in the strategy, Navarro said, “I never spoke directly to him about it. But he was certainly on board with the strategy. Just listen to his speech that day. He’d been briefed on the law, and how Mike [Pence] had the authority to it.”

“Leave the rest to me and the R[epublican] Congressmen.” Navarro (claims he) doesn’t remember when this plan started.

But Trump already told DOJ (the people conducting this investigation, the ones that got a privilege waiver for this material back in the summer) when it started, all the way back in 2020. By December 27, he had a plan that required DOJ to claim fraud, so that Trump and Republican Congressmen could implement what would ultimately be called the Green Bay Sweep.

But even before he had done that, on December 19, he sent out the Tweet that insurrectionists great and small took as their cue to start planning to attend a riot.

Trump tweets: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election” and “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

DOJ has had, since before January 6, the proof that these two efforts worked in conjunction.

And that’s what changes the (as Judge Mehta described it) legal conspiracy to sow distrust in the election into an illegal conspiracy, with demonstrated mens rea of corrupt intent, to obstruct the vote count.

This is why DOJ has been pursuing a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count and not incitement. Because only the former can reach to those who helped Trump commit his crime.

After a Six Hour Hearing on Lawsuits against Trump, the Only Clear Thing is Don Jr Is in the Clear

We just finished a 6-hour hearing before Judge Amit Mehta in the consolidated lawsuits (by Bennie Thompson and other members of Congress, by Eric Swalwell, and by some cops) against Trump and others for January 6.

As the judge presiding over the Oath Keepers case, Mehta knows January 6 as well as anyone — and probably has seen a bunch that is not public.

And the only two takeaways about which he seemed certain are that, first of all, Don Jr’s attempts to get his Pop to call off the riot, on top of the fact that his incendiary speech wasn’t nearly as pointed as his Dad’s, likely puts him in the clear for tortious liability. Whether Trump himself is, Mehta said over and over, is a very difficult question.

He seemed to think the question of whether Trump abetted the riot is easier than whether he conspired with the criminals.

The one other thing about which Mehta seemed certain, based on the record before him (and possibly on stuff he has seen that’s not public) is that a claim that the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys conspired is not at all a stretch. He even noted, at one point, that Jonathon Moseley’s claim that some people who listened to Trump might have listened to his speech and then gone to lunch was not applicable here given that, as he knows well, the Oath Keepers did not go to lunch.

Here’s my thread on the rest, which I’ll presumably return to.

Because this case was for a conspiracy before a judge who knows January 6 as well as anyone, in suits arguing incitement more aggressively than a conspiracy that I think is becoming more evident (but that was not briefed before Mehta), his caution should caution others. These lawsuits are basically a dry run of any criminal charges against the Former, particularly for incitement. And, at least per Judge Mehta, the case is not as clearcut as many seem to believe.

Discovery Delays at the East Door: What Key January 6 Plea Negotiations Look Like

Lots of people have lost patience with the January 6 investigation based on misunderstandings about what it has discovered so far and where it may be heading. So I’d like to explain a delay that might tangibly hold up the investigation for two months: plea negotiations that might provide more information on the coordinated effort between the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Alex Jones, and an alarming number of Marines to breach the East front of the Capitol.

(Although who am I kidding? The people complaining don’t understand the investigation in this level of detail.)

When DOJ filed the existing superseding indictment charging the Proud Boy leaders last March, it made clear that the crowd of people assembled on the East steps before those doors were opened from the inside was of some interest, not least because we knew even then that Biggs and two other Proud Boys entered with the stack of Oath Keepers, which was led by Floridian Kelly Meggs, who had forged an alliance between Florida militia members in December 2020.

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.

That is, this reference and others suggested there was coordination between two of the main militia groups involved in the attack.

I noted in April that the arrest of  Florida Proud Boys Paul Rae and Arthur Jackman, two guys who followed Biggs everywhere he went that day, was likely an attempt to clarify how that assembly worked — an attempt that probably posed a risk for the two others included in a selfie Biggs and his co-travelers took from the top of the East steps.

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.

Those other two guys (actually there were three), Edward George and now-former Florida cops Kevin and Nathaniel Tuck, were arrested in July.

We’ve subsequently learned the inquiry into the East door is far vaster than that. The inquiry into how the East door got opened from the inside started at least by February; it figures prominently in Philip Grillo’s arrest affidavit. In May, DOJ arrested active duty Marine Chris Warnagiris for ensuring the East door stayed open once it had been breached. At the end of June, DOJ arrested Proud Boy Ricky Willden for his role in breaching the East side, without telling us what they knew about it. Also at the end of June, DOJ arrested Darrell Youngers and George Tenney; the former is a Marine, the latter is the guy who first opened the East door, before others like Grillo joined in. Leading up to Josiah Colt’s plea in July, DOJ likely learned more about how his co-conspirators, Nate DeGrave and Ronnie Sandlin, knew to head to the East door to fight with cops to keep it open. In September, the government revealed that Jerod and Joshua Hughes, brothers who were instrumental in helping to open the West door, who then occupied the Senate floor, had — like Biggs — exited the building and reentered via the East door breach along with the Oath Keepers.

Key arrests — those of Proud Boys Jimmy Haffner and Ron Loerhke — came in early December. Loerhke — another former Marine — played a significant role in focusing the mob on the West side of the building before he, along with Haffner, joined the others on the top of the East steps and allegedly helped break the police line to get in that East door. Just before Christmas, based on information discovered as late as October, DOJ added charges against the Johnson men, father Daryl and son Daniel, for their role in fighting to keep the East door open. Over the course of the year, then, DOJ has been charging many of those involved in the breach of the East door with felonies.

In August, DOJ started going after the Pied Pipers who brought extra bodies to the top of the stairs to fill the breach by arresting Alex Jones’ side-kick, Owen Shroyer. The judge presiding over the most important Proud Boys cases, Tim Kelly, is also currently considering Shroyer’s cover story for how he and Jones led mobs to the steps.

Along the way, DOJ also arrested MAGA tourists like the Getsingers, who attested that they followed Alex Jones’ lies all the way to the top of the East stairs only to push into the Capitol right along with the organized militias. They also arrested a bunch of people who took video footage that likely helps to clarify what happened there.

Over the course of a year, then, DOJ has slowly built up evidence of a coordinated assault, involving both major militia conspiracies and Trump’s designated Pied Piper, Alex Jones, largely orchestrated by former and one Active Duty Marines and one car salesman (Meggs), to open a second breach the Capitol.

We now know that it happened. What we’re waiting for is to learn how it happened: what kind of communications — and when — brought everyone to the East steps at the same time. Who knew about it, at the Capitol, or even down Pennsylvania Avenue?

In the wake of key decisions upholding DOJ’s application of obstruction to January 6, people from this crowd who might be able to offer more insight are reportedly considering pleading. For example, in a status hearing with the Hughes brothers on Friday, after Judge Tim Kelly orally rejected their challenge to DOJ’s obstruction application like he had done Ethan Nordean’s in December, both their attorneys talked like they were strongly considering a plea but just needed time to do their due diligence. If the Hughes were able to explain how they, with no discernible militia ties (though Jerod received travel funds from someone affiliated with a “Patriot” group), happened to be in all the most important places in the insurrection, it might be really useful for DOJ.

But it’s going to take two months for any kind of plea, cooperative or otherwise, to be negotiated, per the status hearing.

Similarly, at least some of Joe Biggs’ co-travelers are discussing a plea deal. In a joint status report for the men who posed with Joe Biggs on the East steps — Arthur Jackman and Paul Rae, who trailed Biggs all day on January 6, and Edward George, Kevin Tuck, and Nathaniel Tuck, the guys in the group arrested later — the parties asked for a two month continuance, citing discovery delays.

Second, since the last status conference in this case, the government has also produced six global productions, involving tens of thousands of files, to all Capitol Breach defendants. These productions have included, among many other things, thousands of files of U.S. Capitol Police Closed Circuit Video footage; over 1,000 files of body-worn camera footage; maps of the Capitol; reports of interviews and other information; and government work product aimed at assisting defense counsel in understanding the discovery in this investigation. Third, in this case in particular, the government produced on December 22, 2021 a significant quantity of cross-discovery that had been previously produced to defendants in the case of United States v. Ethan Nordean et al., No. 21-CR-175 (TJK).

The discovery process and negotiations with respect to a potential resolution of these cases are expected to continue past the first week of March.

Finally, the government and counsel for defendant Paul Rae note that a pretrial violation report was filed as to Mr. Rae on October 6, 2021. See Dkt. 68. This violation report stated that Mr. Rae was arrested for boating under the influence. Id. Mr. Rae’s BUI case is ongoing. Pretrial services is not recommending action at this point. Counsel for Mr. Rae notes that Mr. Rae was admonished for this incident, and states that there have been no further issues since that arrest. The government defers to the Court in terms of how it wishes to handle the violation report relating to Mr. Rae’s arrest. The government may affirmatively seek a change in Mr. Rae’s bond status or conditions if his ongoing BUI case results in a conviction.

Now, I’m skeptical that all five of these guys would plead guilty. I’m skeptical the three of them represented — with no conflict waver requested from DOJ — by John Pierce (Rae and the Tucks) would plead, because Pierce’s twin goals in representing an unsustainable number of January 6 defendants appears to be turning them into fundraising pawns and firewalling Joe Biggs. But obviously, the three prosecutors on this case believe two months might lead to plea deals where a hard deadline on any plea offer might not.

Generally, DOJ has required that militia defendants agree to cooperate with any plea. And while these five are not charged with conspiracy — they’re known mostly to have tagged along behind Biggs — they might be valuable witnesses to things DOJ might not otherwise have access to, such as Biggs’ side of phone conversations he had that day (there’s reason to believe, for example, he had calls with his former boss, Alex Jones).

Perhaps DOJ knows of some more cross-discovery that may make it worth their while to plead that will be coming in the days ahead.

Whatever it is, this selfie on the top of the East stairs is one small but seemingly significant detail in one of the tactically most important events of they day. And because of the very real delays in finalizing discovery in this case, this one won’t be resolved (if it is) before March. There’s no reason to believe DOJ could have done anything different to accelerate the process. The slow process is, in large part, due process overwhelmed by the difficulties of collecting all the evidence in this case.

I expect DOJ will continue to roll out new details about the breach at the East door in days ahead. Whether these men plead or not may not hold anything else up. They may be just five more bodies alleged to have worked to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power (two, George and Nathaniel Tuck are also accused of Civil Disorder; George is also accused of assault), along with two (the Hughes brothers) facing the possibility of terrorist enhancements for their role in obstructing the peaceful transfer of power.

But this is an example, however obscure, of the ways that the very due process we’re trying to uphold in preserving  our democracy slows down the quick resolution that everyone is demanding.

Update: On Wednesday, lawyers for Youngers and Tenney indicated that they’d probably take a plea offer from the government. That case, too, has been continued two months.

Also yesterday, DOJ finally moved for a conflict review, almost six months after John Pierce filed his appearance for both the Tucks in that case.

DOJ Is Treating January 6 as an Act of Terrorism, But Not All January 6 Defendants Are Terrorists

It turns out that Ted Cruz is (partially) right: Some of the people who participated in January 6 are being treated as terrorists. But not all January 6 participants are terrorists.

Though, predictably, Cancun Ted misstates which insurrectionists have been or might be labeled as terrorists — in part out of some urgency to avoid calling himself or Tucker Carlson as such.

While some defendants accused of assaulting cops will, I expect, eventually be slapped with a terrorism enhancement at sentencing, thus far, the people DOJ has labeled terrorists have been key members of the militia conspiracies, including a number who never came close to assaulting a cop (instead, they intentionally incited a shit-ton of “normies” to do so).

Ted Cruz wants to treat those who threatened to kill cops as terrorists, but not those who set up the Vice President to be killed.

The problem is, even the journalists who know how domestic terrorism works are giving incomplete descriptions of how it is working in this investigation. For example, Charlie Savage has a good explainer of how domestic terrorism works legally, but he only addresses one of two ways DOJ is leveraging it in the January 6 investigation. Josh Gerstein does, almost as an aside, talk about how terrorism enhancements have already been used (in detention hearings), but then quotes a bullshit comment from Ethan Nordean’s lawyer to tee up a discussion of domestic terrorism as a civil rights issue. More importantly, Gerstein suggests there’s a mystery about why prosecutors haven’t argued for a terrorism enhancement at sentencing; I disagree.

As numerous people have laid out, domestic terrorism is defined at 18 USC 2331(5):

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States; and

As both Savage and Gerstein point out, under 18 USC 2332b(g)(5) there are a limited number of crimes that, if they’re done, “to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct,” can be treated as crimes of terrorism. One of those, 18 USC 1361, has been charged against 40-some January 6 defendants for doing over $1,000 of damage to the Capitol, including most defendants in the core militia conspiracies. Another (as Savage notes), involves weapons of mass destruction, which likely would be used if DOJ ever found the person who left bombs at the RNC and DNC. Two more involve targeting members of Congress or Presidential staffers (including the Vice President and Vice President-elect) for kidnapping or assassination.

If two or more persons conspire to kill or kidnap any individual designated in subsection (a) of this section and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be punished (1) by imprisonment for any term of years or for life,

There’s very good reason to believe that DOJ is investigating Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs for conspiring to assassinate Nancy Pelosi, starting on election day and continuing as he went to her office after breaking into the Capitol, so it’s not unreasonable to think we may see these two laws invoked as well, even if DOJ never charges anyone with conspiring to assassinate Mike Pence.

Being accused of such crimes does not, however, amount to being charged as a terrorist. The terrorist label would be applied, in conjunction with a sentencing enhancement, at sentencing. But it is incorrect to say DOJ is not already treating January 6 defendants as terrorists.

DOJ has been using 18 USC 1361 to invoke a presumption of detention with militia leaders and their co-conspirators, starting with Jessica Watkins last February. Even then, the government seemed to suggest Watkins might be at risk for one of the kidnapping statutes as well.

[B]ecause the defendant has been indicted on an enumerated offense “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government,” the defendant has been charged with a federal crime of terrorism as defined under 18 U.S.C §§ 2332b(g)(5). Therefore, an additional basis for detention under 18 U.S.C § 3142(g)(1) is applicable. Indeed, the purpose of the aforementioned “plan” that the defendant stated they were “sticking to” in the Zello app channel became startlingly clear when the command over that same Zello app channel was made that, “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.” Id. [my emphasis]

DOJ has invoked 18 USC 1361 as a crime of terrorism for detention disputes with the central Proud Boys conspirators as well. It’s unclear how broadly DOJ might otherwise do this, because another key figure who is an obvious a candidate for such a presumption, Danny Rodriguez (accused of tasing Michael Fanone and doing damage to a window of the Capitol), didn’t fight detention as aggressively as the militia members have, presumably because his alleged actions targeting Fanone clearly merit detention by themselves. That said, I believe his failed attempt to suppress his FBI interview, in which he admitted to helping break a window, was an attempt to limit his exposure to a terrorism enhancement.

We have abundant evidence that DOJ is using the threat of terrorism enhancement to get people to enter cooperation agreements. Six of nine known cooperators thus far (Oath Keepers Graydon Young, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, and Jason Dolan, Proud Boy Matthew Greene, and SoCal anti-masker Gina Bisignano) have eliminated 18 USC 1361 from their criminal exposure by entering into a cooperation agreement. And prosecutor Alison Prout’s description of the plea deal offered to Kurt Peterson, in which he would trade a 210 to 262 month sentencing guideline for 41 to 51 months for cooperating, only makes sense if a terrorism enhancement for breaking a window is on the table.

You can’t say that DOJ is not invoking terrorism enhancements if most cooperating witnesses are trading out of one.

For those involved in coordinating the multi-pronged breaches of the Capitol, I expect DOJ will use 18 USC 1361 to argue for a terrorism enhancement at sentencing, which is how being labeled as a terrorist happens if you’re a white terrorist.

But there is another way people might get labeled as terrorists at sentencing, and DOJ is reserving the right to do so in virtually all non-cooperation plea deals for crimes other than trespassing. For all pleas involving the boilerplate plea deal DOJ is using (even including those pleading, as Jenny Cudd did, to 18 USC 1752, the more serious of two trespassing statutes), the plea deal includes this language.

the Government reserves the right to request an upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, n. 4.

That’s a reference to the terrorism enhancement included in sentencing guidelines which envisions applying a terrorism enhancement for either (A) a crime involving coercion other than those enumerated under 18 USC 2332b or (B) an effort to promote a crime of terrorism.

4. Upward Departure Provision.—By the terms of the directive to the Commission in section 730 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the adjustment provided by this guideline applies only to federal crimes of terrorism. However, there may be cases in which (A) the offense was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct but the offense involved, or was intended to promote, an offense other than one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B); or (B) the offense involved, or was intended to promote, one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B), but the terrorist motive was to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, rather than to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. In such cases an upward departure would be warranted, except that the sentence resulting from such a departure may not exceed the top of the guideline range that would have resulted if the adjustment under this guideline had been applied. [my emphasis]

The point is, you can have a terrorism enhancement applied even if you don’t commit one of those crimes listed as a crime of terrorism.

In a directly relevant example, the government recently succeeded in getting a judge to apply the latter application of this enhancement by pointing to how several members of the neo-Nazi group, The Base, who pled guilty to weapons charges, had talked about plans to commit acts of terrorism and explained their intent to be coercion. Here’s the docket for more on this debate; the defendants are appealing to the Fourth Circuit. This language from the sentencing memo is worth quoting at length to show the kind of argument the government would have to make to get this kind of terrorism enhancement at sentencing.

“Federal crime of terrorism” is defined at U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, app. note 1 and 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5). According to this definition, a “federal crime of terrorism” has two components. First, it must be a violation of one of several enumerated statutes. 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B). Second, it must be “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(A). By § 3A1.4’s plain wording, there is no requirement that the defendant have committed a federal crime of terrorism. All that is required is that the crimes of conviction (or relevant conduct) involved or were intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism.

[snip]

To apply the enhancement, this Court needs to identify which specific enumerated federal crime(s) of terrorism the defendants intended to promote, and the Court’s findings need to be supported by only a preponderance of the evidence. Id.17

The defendants repeatedly confirmed, on tape, that their crimes were intended to promote enumerated federal crimes of terrorism. They intended to kill federal employees, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114. Exhibit 19; Exhibit 20; Exhibit 28; Exhibit 33; Exhibit 34; Exhibit 44; Exhibit 45. They intended to damage communication lines, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1362. Exhibit 37. They intended to damage an energy facility, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1366(a). Exhibit 30; Exhibit 35; Exhibit 36; Exhibit 45. They intended to damage rail facilities, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1992. Exhibit 29; Exhibit 30; Exhibit 38; Exhibit 45. And they intended to commit arson or bombing of any building, vehicle, or other property used in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). Exhibit 45.

Furthermore, there can be no serious dispute that the defendants’ intentions were “to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion.” Coercion and capitulation were core purposes of The Base. And specific to the defendants, they themselves said this is what they wanted. Exhibit 39 (“Desperation leads to martyr. Leads to asking what we want. Now that’s where we would have to simply keep the violence up, and increase the scope of our demands. And say if these demands are not met, we’re going to cause a lot of trouble. And when those demands are met, then increase them, and continue the violence. You just keep doing this, until the system’s gone. Until it can’t fight anymore and it capitulates.”). It was their express purpose to “bring the system down.” Exhibit 36

Given how many people were talking about hanging Mike Pence on January 6, this is not a frivolous threat for January 6 defendants. But as noted, such a terrorism enhancement doesn’t even require the plan to promote assassinating the Vice President. It takes just acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States and an attempt to coerce the government.

Contra Gerstein, I think there’s a pretty easy explanation for why the government hasn’t asked for a terrorism enhancement yet. The way the government is relying on obstruction to prosecute those who intended to prevent the peaceful transfer of power sets up terrorism enhancements for some of the most violent participants, but we’ve just not gotten to most of the defendants for whom that applies.

Thus far, there have been just three defendants who’ve been sentenced for assault so far, the acts “dangerous to human life” most at issue: Robert Palmer, Scott Fairlamb, and Devlyn Thompson. But Palmer and Thompson pled only to assault.

Fairlamb, as I noted at the time, pled guilty to both assault and obstruction. Unlike the two others, Fairlamb admitted that his intent, in punching a cop, was to, “stop[] or delay[] the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion.”

When FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the Capitol building, armed with a police baton, he was aware that the Joint Session to certify the Electoral College results had commenced. FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the building and assaulted Officer Z.B. with the purpose of influencing, affecting, and retaliating against the conduct of government by stopping or delaying the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion. FAIRLAMB admits that his belief that the Electoral College results were fraudulent is not a legal justification for unlawfully entering the Capitol building and using intimidating [sic] to influence, stop, or delay the Congressional proceeding.

Fairlamb, by pleading to assault and obstruction, admitted to both elements of terrorism: violence, and the intent of coercing the government.

On paper, Fairlamb made a great candidate to try applying a terrorism enhancement to. But the sentencing process ended up revealing that, on the same day that Fairlamb punched a cop as part of his plan to overturn the election, he also shepherded some cops through a mob in an effort, he said with some evidence shown at sentencing, to keep them safe.

That is, on paper, the single defendant to have pled guilty to both assault and obstruction looked like a likely candidate for a terrorism enhancement. But when it came to the actual context of his crimes, such an enhancement became unviable.

I fully expect that if the January 6 prosecution runs its course (a big if), then DOJ will end up asking for and getting terrorism enhancements at sentencing, both for militia members as well as some of the more brutal assault defendants, both for those who plead guilty and those convicted at trial. But in the case of assault defendants, it’s not enough (as Ted Cruz says) to just beat cops. With a goodly number of the people who did that, there’s no evidence of the intent to commit violence with the intent of disrupting the peaceful transfer of power. They just got swept up in mob violence.

I expect DOJ will only ask for terrorism enhancements against those who made it clear in advance and afterwards that their intent in resorting to violence was to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

But until that happens, DOJ has already achieved tangible results, both in detention disputes and plea negotiations, by invoking crimes of terrorism.

The Six Trump Associates Whom DOJ Is Investigating

Because I keep having to lay out the proof that DOJ, in fact, has investigated close Trump associates of the sort that might lead to Trump himself, I wanted to make a list of those known investigations. Note that three of these — Sidney Powell, Alex Jones, and Roger Stone — definitely relate to January 6 and a fourth — the investigation into Rudy Giuliani — is scoped such that that it might include January 6 without anyone knowing about it.

Rudy Giuliani

As I said a month ago, the treatment of Rudy Giuliani’s phones single-handedly disproves claims that Merrick Garland’s DOJ wouldn’t investigate Trump’s people, because a month after he was confirmed and literally the same day that Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco was sworn in on April 21, DOJ obtained warrants targeting Rudy Giuliani.

The known warrants for Rudy’s phone pertain to whether, in the lead-up to Trump’s impeachment for trying to coerce Ukraine’s assistance in the 2020 election, Rudy was acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine.

But as this table shows, Judge Paul Oetken ordered Special Master Barbara Jones to conduct a privilege review for Rudy’s seized devices from January 1, 2018 through the date of seizure, April 28, 2021. That means anything on Rudy’s devices from the entire period when he was helping Trump obstruct Mueller’s investigation well past the time he played the central role on orchestrating a coup attempt would be available to DOJ if it could show probable cause to get it.

There’s good reason to believe DOJ could show probable cause to access Rudy’s phones from April 2018 (before he formally became Trump’s lawyer), because during that period he was attempting to buy Michael Cohen’s silence with a pardon. There’s equally good reason to believe that act of obstruction is one of the referrals still redacted in the Mueller Report.

On or about April l 7, 20 l 8, Cohen began speaking with an attorney, Robert Costello, who had a close relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, one of the President’s personal lawyers. 1022 Costello told Cohen that he had a “back channel of communication” to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the “channel” was “crucial” and “must be maintained.” 1023 On April 20, 2018, the New York Times published an article about the President’s relationship with and treatment of Cohen. 1024 The President responded with a series of tweets predicting that Cohen would not ” flip” :

The New York Times and a third rate reporter . . . are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip. ‘ They use nonexistent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media! 1025

In an email that day to Cohen, Costello wrote that he had spoken with Giuliani. 1026 Costello told Cohen the conversation was “Very Very Positive[.] You are ‘loved’ … they are in our corner … . Sleep well tonight[], you have friends in high places.”1027

Similarly, there’s good reason to believe DOJ could show probable cause to access Rudy’s phone for his involvement in Trump’s attempted coup, not least because Rudy himself tweeted out some texts he exchanged with a Proud Boy associate discussing specific insurrectionists in the aftermath of the attack.

We wouldn’t know if DOJ had obtained warrants for those separate periods, because those periods will be covered by Jones’ review one way or another.

In any case, the details of the Rudy investigation show, at a minimum, that Barr went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to kill this investigation (and may have even ordered that FBI not review the materials seized in 2019). It took mere weeks after Garland took over, however, for the investigation to take very aggressive steps.

It also shows that SDNY managed to renew this investigation without major leaks.

Tom Barrack

Just this Tuesday, in a Zoom hearing for Brooklyn’s Federal Court, lawyers for the guy who installed Paul Manafort as Trump’s campaign manager suggested that Merrick Garland had politicized DOJ because, after the investigation into Tom Barrack had apparently stalled in 2019, he was indicted as an unregistered agent of the Emirates in July 2021.

According to reporting from 2019, this investigation was a Mueller referral, so it’s proof that Garland’s DOJ will pursue such referrals. According to CNN reporting, the indictment was all ready to go in July 2020, a year before it was actually charged. That provides a measure of how long it took an investigation that was deemed complete at a time when Barr seemingly prohibited filing it to be resuscitated under Garland: at least four months.

Barrack’s prosecution proves that DOJ can indict a top Trump associate without leaks in advance.

Jury selection for Barrack’s trial is now scheduled to start on September 7.

Sidney Powell

Two different outlets have reported that there is a grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grifting off lies about election fraud. WaPo’s story on the investigation describes that Molly Gaston is overseeing the investigation (she is also overseeing the Steve Bannon referral). As I noted, Gaston was pulled off three prosecutions for insurrectionists by last March.

Gaston originally pulled three January 6 cases in the investigation’s early days, those of Robert Packer, Robert Gieswein, and Derrick Evans, just the latter of which, involving a then-West Virginia state politician, had any possible public corruption component. But, at a time of immense staffing shortages at DC’s US Attorney’s Office, she dropped off those cases on February 18 (in the case of Packer) and March 29 (in the case of Gieswein and Evans). I’ve long wondered what, in the weeks after Merrick Garland came in, became a higher priority for the DC US Attorney’s leading public corruption prosecutor. We now know one thing she picked up in the interim was the prosecution of Michael Riley, the Capitol Police Officer who advised rioter Jacob Hiles to delete Facebook posts about his role in the riot. And by September, Gaston’s grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grift had started taking overt steps like subpoenaing Powell’s nonprofit.

For at least the Michael Riley prosecution and the Steve Bannon prosecution, Gaston is using two of at least three grand juries that are also investigating insurrectionists. For at least those investigations, there is no separate grand jury for the public corruption side of the investigation and the assault on the Capitol. They are the same investigation.

The investigation into Powell will necessarily intersect in interesting ways with Trump’s pardon of Mike Flynn.

There have been a lot of complaints that DOJ is not following the money. Powell’s investigation is proof that DOJ is following the money.

Alex Jones

Over the last year, DOJ has collected a great deal of evidence that the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and an alarming number of former Marines worked together to open a second breach on the Capitol via the East doors. Instrumental to the success of this breach were a large number of MAGA tourists who joined in the breach. DOJ has proof that at least some of them were there because Alex Jones had lured them there by lying about a second Trump speech on the East side of the building.

DOJ has already arrested two of Jones’ employees: videographer Sam Montoya in April and on-air personality Owen Shroyer in August.

In a November DOJ response in the Shroyer case, Alex Jones was referred to as Person One, as numerous others believed to be under active investigation have been described. That filing debunked the cover story that Shroyer and Jones have used to excuse their actions on January 6. Judge Tim Kelly, who is also presiding over the most important Proud Boys cases, is currently reviewing Shroyer’s First Amendment challenge to his arrest.

This strand of the investigation has likely necessarily lagged the exploitation of former Alex Jones’ employee Joe Biggs’ iCloud and phone, which were made available to Biggs’ co-travelers in August. This post has more on the developments in the Montoya and Shroyer cases, including that a different prosecutor recently took over Monotya’s case.

Roger Stone

Roger Stone, who has close ties to both the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who coordinated the attack on the Capitol, has shown up repeatedly in the Oath Keeper conspiracy. In March, DOJ debunked Connie Meggs’ claim not to know her co-conspirators by including a picture of an event she did with Roger Stone and Graydon Young (this was close to the time that Connie’s husband Kelly organized an alliance between Florida militias).

In a May 25 FBI interview, Mike Simmons, the field commander for the Oath Keepers on January 6, appears to have been specifically asked why Simmons had so many conversations with Joshua James, who was providing security for Roger Stone at the Willard the morning of the insurrection. Simmons appears to have explained that James called him every time Stone moved.

In June, Graydon Young, the Floridian who attended that Stone event with Connie, entered a cooperation agreement. Also in June, Mark Grods, one of the Oath Keepers who had been at the Willard that morning, entered a cooperation agreement. In September, Jason Dolan, a former Marine from Florida who also interacted with Stone in advance of the insurrection and who was waiting there on January 6 as the other Oath Keepers, a number of Proud Boys (including former Alex Jones employee Joe Biggs) and Alex Jones himself all converged at the top of the East steps just as the doors were opened from inside, entered a cooperation agreement.

Anonymous

There’s one more grand jury investigation into a powerful Trump associate that I know of via someone who was subpoenaed in the investigation in the second half of last year. The investigation reflects a reopening of an investigation Billy Barr shut down in 2019-2020. What’s interesting about it is the scope seems somewhat different and the investigating District is different than the earlier investigation. That may suggest that, for investigations that Barr shut down, DOJ would need to have a new evidence to reopen it. But the existence of this investigation shows, again, that Garland’s DOJ will go after powerful Trump associates.

It baffles me why TV lawyers continue to claim there’s no evidence that Merrick Garland is investigating anyone close to Trump — aside from they’re looking for leaks rather than evidence being laid out in plain sight in court filings. One of the first things that Garland’s DOJ did was to take really aggressive action against the guy who led Trump’s efforts to launch a coup. Alex Jones and Roger Stone are clearly part of the investigation into how the breach of the East doors of the Capitol came together, and the two of them (Jones especially) tie directly back to Trump.

There are other reasons to believe that DOJ’s investigation includes Trump’s role in the assault on the Capitol, laid out in the statements of offense from insurrectionists who’ve pled guilty, ranging from trespassers to militia conspirators. But one doesn’t even have to read how meticulously DOJ is collecting evidence that dozens of people have admitted under oath that they participated in the attack on the Capitol because of what Trump had led them to believe on Twitter.

Because DOJ clearly has several other routes to get to Trump’s role via his close associates. I’m not promising they’ll get there. And this will take time (as I’ll show in a follow-up). But that’s different than claiming that this evidence doesn’t exist.

Update: I did a podcast where I explained how the misdemeanor arrests are necessary to moving up the chain.

“I Want to Thank My Two Closeted GOP Colleagues”

I listened to some of the series of speeches given by House members today, recalling their personal experiences of last year’s insurrection. I would catch a couple speeches, then make a pastoral visit, then hear a few more on my way to a meeting, then a couple more after the meeting was done. Even so, I was struck by how different these speeches were, compared with what usually is said by members of Congress.

The first difference that hit me was the use of first names. There was almost none of the usual congressional stylings of “the gentleman from . . .” or even “Representative so-and-so” but instead it was “Jason” and “Lisa” and “Pete.”

The second difference was the presence of language referring to the “Capitol Hill family.” It is rare that congressional staffers, food service people, janitors, and Capitol Hill police are recognized on the floor, but yesterday they were not only recognized but called out and praised by name as well. So too were media members who were there that day, who we celebrated for trying to do their jobs — reporting the story out on their laptops or taking photos and video with their cameras — in the midst of the insurrection. I expected to hear about the various police officers who died or were injured, but the thanks given to all these non-elected people was surprising, heartfelt, and stunning.

But the third thing that hit me came when Adam Schiff offered his remarks. He began by saying he had been focused on preparing to engage the arguments put forward by those objecting to the results coming out of six different states, and not on what was happening outside. Then he said this:

It was not until our leadership was swiftly removed from the chamber and police announced that we needed to take out our gas masks that I understood the full extent of the danger. When the order came to evacuate, I stayed behind for a while, until two Republicans came up to me. One of them said “You can’t let them see you. I know these people. I can talk to these people. I can talk my way through these people. You are in a whole different category.”

Notice what’s missing? The names. In this midst of all the thanks that all the speakers were extending to everyone, Schiff did *not* mention who those two Republican colleagues were, who were so concerned about his safety. This wasn’t a snub – far from it. This was Schiff declining not to out them as compassionate to a Democrat, even while he held up their behavior as laudable.

There is a strong — and I mean STRONG — culture in Congress of respecting things said in confidence between members from different parties. They recognize that they need to be able to speak frankly with each other if they want to get anywhere, and that only happens when both people can trust that their conversation will remain between the two of them until they are ready to reveal it. Break that rule, and no one will speak across the aisle with you again.

I have to wonder, though, how long such treatment will last in the current climate.

Beginning in the 1980s, gay activists outed a number of conservative politicians for their hypocrisy – cruising the gay bars at night, and then the next day voting against AIDS funding or LGBT rights or otherwise obstructing anything that might be seen as helping the LGBT community. These outings were by no means universally accepted within the activist community, as “working from within” had a place, as did the respect for being able to come out on your own terms. There was also a fear that outing people would backfire and only add to the public stigma of being LGBT. The reply by those doing the outing was “if this is what working from within gets us, we can do without it.”

Congressional Moderates in today’s GOP are living in deeper political closets than gays in the 70s or even communists in the 50s. “If anyone learns that I speak nicely with the Democrat who led Trump’s first impeachment trial, let alone warned him to flee from the mob, I’m toast.” Those closeted GOP members of Congress who warned Schiff about his personal danger may want to thank him for returning the favor this afternoon, by not putting them in danger by naming them publicly in his remarks today.

You can be sure that Trump and his followers are probably beating the bushes, trying to figure out who those two treasonous Republicans are, to drag them out of the closet and wreak their vengeance upon them. Perhaps these two ought to think about how to come out on their own terms, before angry Republicans do it for them.

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