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DOJ Prepares to Pull Multiple January 6 Threads Together

After Steve Bannon got indicted for defrauding thousands of Trump supporters, he complained to Charlie Kirk that 35 Trump associates had been raided the day before.

Bannon, unsurprisingly, was calling a legal request to provide information and testify truthfully, a raid.

But he appears to be right about the numbers. Over the last five days, multiple outlets have cobbled together the numbers that Bannon had ready at hand. Here are key reports:

  • NYT1, first reporting the focus on Trump’s PAC
  • NYT2, reporting 40 subpoenas and warrants for Boris Epshteyn and Mike Roman’s phones
  • CNN, reporting 30 subpoenas
  • CNN, story on scope of subpoenas
  • CNN, story on Mark Meadows
  • CBS, reporting 30 subpoenas
  • ABC, reporting 40 subpoenas

Between those reports, they describe the following having received legal process:

  • Boris Epshteyn, a key Willard participant (the NYT claims he served as an attorney)
  • Mike Roman, who played a key role in ferrying fake elector materials
  • William B. Harrison, an aide to Mr. Trump in the White House and after his presidency
  • William S. Russell, who served in the West Wing and now works for Mr. Trump’s personal office
  • Julie Radford, Ivanka’s Chief of Staff
  • Nick Luna, Trump’s body man
  • Sean Dollman, who was chief financial officer of Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign
  • Dan Scavino, Trump’s online brain
  • Bernie Kerik, who worked closely with Rudy on coup plans
  • Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager
  • Brian Jack, WH political director
  • Amy Kremer, head of Women for America First
  • Kylie Kremer, in charge of the Ellipse rally
  • Stephen Miller, Trump’s fearmongerer around race
  • Mark Meadows
  • Ben Williamson, Meadows’ aide
  • Poll watchers

In a potentially related development, the government moved to be able to share Brandon Straka’s sentencing papers with him and his lawyers. He avoided jail time by providing leads about some of the people subpoenaed, but likely wasn’t forthcoming about pre-January activities and aimed to limit visibility into his own finances, which (according to CNN) are included in the scope of this latest round of subpoenas.

There are several important takeaways from this news.

First, DOJ’s scope is broader than the fake electors, broader even then the financing of the coup attempt (which, remember, Merrick Garland said was under investigation as early as January 5). As CBS describes, some of these subpoenas cover events that have long been part of the investigation for rioters: how they networked at state riots and earlier MAGA rallies, and how they responded to Trump’s call for Stop the Steal in December 2020. Only, this time it asks for evidence about those who organized those events.

Virginia-based attorney David A. Warrington, who said he represents approximately a dozen clients who have been issued subpoenas, said the FBI was “very professional” when serving his clients. He added that the subpoenas his clients received are nearly identical, describing them as lengthy documents divided into sections and subsections. They cover issues related to “alternate” electors and election certification deadlines on December 14 and January 6, fundraising by the Save America PAC and the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally — but not the ensuing riot.

The subpoenas require individuals provide documents and any communication between themselves and Trump allies like Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell and Bernie Kerik, Warrington said. The subpoenas also demand recipients to provide any communication with dozens of individuals who appeared on slates of fake electors.

At least some of the subpoenas compel recipients to appear before a grand jury on September 23 at the Washington, D.C., district courthouse, Warrington said.

Mother and daughter Amy and Kylie Kremer were served subpoenas last week, according to Warrington. They are listed as “host(s)” on the National Park Service permit for the Ellipse rally on January 6, 2021.

As NYT describes, they also focused on speakers and security for the Ellipse rally and members of the legislative branch who were part of the planning.

According to one subpoena obtained by The New York Times, they asked for any records or communications from people who organized, spoke at or provided security for Mr. Trump’s rally at the Ellipse. They also requested information about any members of the executive and legislative branches who may have taken part in planning or executing the rally, or tried to “obstruct, influence, impede or delay” the certification of the presidential election.

As CNN notes, it also covers compensation and communications with DOJ.

Some of the subpoenas, including one reviewed by CNN, were broad in scope, seeking information on a range of issues, including the fake elector scheme, Trump’s primary fundraising and political vehicle, Save America PAC, the organizing of the Trump rally on January 6, and any communications with a broad list of people who worked to overturn the 2020 election results.

The subpoena reviewed by CNN seeks records related to compensation provided to or received from a list of people that included Trump lawyers and campaign staffers through January 20, 2021.

It also asks for communications with anyone in the Justice Department.

Many of these people have communications with members of Congress and as such will prepare DOJ to surpass Speech and Debate protections for relevant figures.

But there are ways that last week’s actions are still broader.

I assume that the probable cause that DOJ showed to seize Epshteyn and Roman’s phones tied to the fake elector plot. Ephsteyn was the focus of DOJ’s activities for some time and Roman played a key role ferrying materials between the players.

But it has become clear that DOJ is what I’ll call sheep-dipping phones: seizing them for one purpose and then getting separate warrants to obtain the same content for other investigations. That fairly clearly is what happened with John Eastman and Scott Perry, where DOJ IG seized their phones but (in Eastman’s case) Thomas Windom quickly got involved. The late date and the sustained focus on Victoria Toensing, whom Congress has never mentioned, suggests I was right when I argued that DOJ could use the seized material from Rudy’s phones for the January 6 investigation.

And in Epshteyn’s case, he has been centrally involved in another of Trump’s schemes for which DOJ has already shown probable cause: He has been centrally involved in Trump’s response to the investigation into stolen classified documents.

As a number of outlets have noted, this subpoena bonanza took place just before the 60-day period when DOJ will have to avoid any big public steps in its investigations. But they’ve just arranged to obtain plenty to keep them busy — and quite possibly, enough to emerge on the other side with the ability to start putting all these parts together: a scheme to attack our democracy and get rich while doing it.

Update: In a second CNN story on the subpoena bonanza, they describe that those who blew off the January 6 Committee are being instructed to turn over what the committee asked for.

The subpoenas also ask for the recipients to identify all methods of communication they’ve used since fall 2020 and to turn over to DOJ anything the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has demanded – whether they cooperated with the House panel or not.

I’ve been anticipating that (and DOJ will have seized the phone records people sued to keep away from J6C long ago).

Update: Added a third CNN story.

Rule of Law: DOJ Obtained Trump’s Privilege-Waived Documents in May

Last December, when the DC Circuit ruled that the Archives should share Donald Trump’s materials relating to January 6 with the January 6 Committee, it emphasized the “rare and formidable alignment of factors supports the disclosure of the documents at issue.”

On this record, a rare and formidable alignment of factors supports the disclosure of the documents at issue. President Biden has made the considered determination that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States given the January 6th Committee’s compelling need to investigate and remediate an unprecedented and violent attack on Congress itself. Congress has established that the information sought is vital to its legislative interests and the protection of the Capitol and its grounds. And the Political Branches are engaged in an ongoing process of negotiation and accommodation over the document requests.

It likewise pointed to the careful attention (and month-long reviews) the Biden White House gave to each tranche of materials at issue.

Still, when the head of the Executive Branch lays out the type of thoroughgoing analysis provided by President Biden, the scales tilt even more firmly against the contrary views of the former President.

Judge Patricia Millet’s opinion even found that the due consideration Biden exercised was enough to reject Trump’s claim that the Presidential Records Act had given him “unfettered discretion to waive” his own Executive Privilege claim.

Lastly, former President Trump argues that, to the extent the Presidential Records Act is construed to give the incumbent President “unfettered discretion to waive former Presidents’ executive privilege,” it is unconstitutional. Appellant Opening Br. 47. There is nothing “unfettered” about President Biden’s calibrated judgment in this case.

Citing Mazars, the opinion also noted SCOTUS’ deference to information-sharing accommodations between the Political Branches, the Executive and Legislative Branches.

Weighing still more heavily against former President Trump’s claim of privilege is the fact that the judgment of the Political Branches is unified as to these particular documents. President Biden agrees with Congress that its need for the documents at issue is “compelling[,]” and that it has a “sufficient factual predicate” for requesting them. First Remus Ltr., J.A. 107; see also Third Remus Ltr., J.A. 173. As a result, blocking disclosure would derail an ongoing process of accommodation and negotiation between the President and Congress, and instigate an interbranch dispute.

The Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of courts deferring to information-sharing agreements wrestled over and worked out between Congress and the President. See Mazars, 140 S. Ct. at 2029, 2031.

In other words, the request of a coequal branch of government, made with the assent of the incumbent President, presented a very powerful legal case for sharing Trump’s January 6 records with Congress.

When the Supreme Court considered the question, only Ginni Thomas’ spouse disagreed (Brett Kavanaugh did attempt to limit the decision).

The courts may well have come to this same conclusion had Merrick Garland’s DOJ subpoenaed records from the Archives for its own investigation of Donald Trump directly. A “subpoena or other judicial process issued by a court of competent jurisdiction for the purposes of any civil or criminal investigation or proceeding” is one of the three exceptions the Presidential Records Act makes to the parts of the law that restrict access to the materials for a period after the President’s Administration.

But constitutionally, it would have been a very different legal and political question.

Importantly, the only way to obtain a privilege waiver from Biden in that situation would be to violate DOJ’s Contacts Policy that firewalls the White House from ongoing criminal investigations, and so the request would either have lacked that waiver from the incumbent President, or would risk politicizing the DOJ investigation.

The Biden White House’s strict adherence to that Contacts Policy is what allowed Karine Jean-Pierre to make a categorical denial of any advance warning of the search on Trump’s home and to use that as a reaffirmation of the rule of law last week.

She’ll probably get similar questions today, and make the same categorical denial of any White House knowledge.

All that is the predictable background to the NYT report that, after the January 6 Committee subpoenaed these records, and after the Archives gave both Presidents an opportunity to weigh in, and after the DC Circuit and Supreme Court ruled against Trump’s complaints, DOJ subpoenaed all the same material from the Archives themselves.

Federal prosecutors investigating the role that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies played in the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have issued a grand jury subpoena to the National Archives for all the documents the agency provided to a parallel House select committee inquiry, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The New York Times.

The subpoena, issued to the National Archives in May, made a sweeping demand for “all materials, in whatever form” that the archives had given to the Jan. 6 House committee. Those materials included records from the files of Mr. Trump’s top aides, his daily schedule and phone logs and a draft text of the president’s speech that preceded the riot.

While the NYT doesn’t say it, it seems likely that the Archives gave these already privilege-reviewed documents to prosecutor Thomas Windom with nary a squeak, and we’re just learning about it — indeed Trump may have just learned about it, which is where the subpoena probably came from — four months later. We’re just learning about it, importantly, after the FBI seized another 27 boxes of documents that Trump had refused to turn over to the Archives, including records (if you can believe Paul Sperry) pertinent to January 6.

When I predicted this would happen in December, I went out of my way to ask constitutional lawyers if they had another solution to the puzzle of getting Trump’s documents without violating that Contacts Policy, and no one even engaged with a question — how to overcome Executive Privilege — that had been a real problem for Robert Mueller, when he was investigating Donald Trump.

People will wail about the timing of this request and others, including the NYT, will falsely claim this is proof that DOJ is following the January 6 Committee.

Asking the National Archives for any White House documents pertaining to the events surrounding Jan. 6 was one of the first major steps the House panel took in its investigation. And the grand jury subpoena suggests that the Justice Department has not only been following the committee’s lead in pursuing its inquiry, but also that prosecutors believe evidence of a crime may exist in the White House documents the archives turned over to the House panel.

There were covert steps taken before that, including the (admittedly belated) request for call records at least a month earlier.

In addition, Justice Department investigators in April received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter.

And we’ve already seen proof that the fake electors investigation, at least, has pursued leads that the Committee had not yet made public before DOJ was including them in subpoenas.

Furthermore, the subpoena was issued before the Committee started its public hearings on June 9.

There are a couple of other notable details about this timing.

First, in addition to coming after the SCOTUS decision, this subpoena came after Mark Meadows and Ivanka made efforts to comply with the Presidential Records Act by providing the Archives copies of official business they conducted on their own email and Signal accounts. It also came after any responsive documents from the 15 boxes of records that Trump did provide to the Archives earlier this year were identified. DOJ made its request at a time when the Archives were more complete than they had been when the Committee started identifying big gaps in the records.

The only thing we know remains missing from those Archives (aside from documents seized last week) is Peter Navarro’s ProtonMail account, which DOJ sued to obtain earlier this month.

The Archives’ request also came after Trump had largely given up the effort to fight individual releases.

As NYT correctly noted, DOJ only issued this subpoena at a time when it was issuing other subpoenas (the fact of, but not the substance, of Brandon Straka’s cooperation had been made public in January, and Ali Alexander’s excuses for his actions at the Capitol had already been debunked in January after Owen Shroyer, who was arrested a year ago, made the very same excuses).

The subpoena was issued to the National Archives around the same time that it became publicly known that the Justice Department was looking beyond the rioters who were present at the Capitol and trying to assess the culpability of people who had helped organize pro-Trump rallies in Washington on Jan. 6. In the spring, for instance, Mr. Windom issued a grand jury subpoena to Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer of “Stop the Steal” events who complied by submitting records to prosecutors and testifying before the grand jury.

We don’t know what steps DOJ took before May (aside from those that have shown in cases like Straka’s). We do know that at that point, DOJ started taking overt steps that would build on previous covert ones. We also know that we keep learning about steps that DOJ took months ago, when people were wailing that they would know if DOJ had taken such steps.

I can’t prove that this was always the plan from the time, 375 days ago, when I first observed how DOJ was getting privilege waivers from Biden without violating their new Contacts Policy. I can’t prove it was the plan when I wrote an entire post in December about the puzzle of Executive Privilege waivers. I had no idea that DOJ was issuing that subpoena when I stated that it was probably doing so in May, the month it occurred.

We should assume the same kind of [synthesis with a Congressional investigation as happened with Mueller] is happening here. All the more so given the really delicate privilege issues raised by this investigation, including Executive, Attorney-Client, and Speech and Debate. When all is said and done, I believe we will learn that Merrick Garland set things up in July such that the January 6 Committee could go pursue Trump documents at the Archives as a co-equal branch of government bolstered by Biden waivers that don’t require any visibility into DOJ’s investigation. Privilege reviews covering Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and John Eastman’s communications are also being done. That is, this time around, DOJ seems to have solved a problem that Mueller struggled with. And they did so with the unsolicited help of the January 6 Committee.

What I can say with no doubt, though, is that Merrick Garland’s DOJ solved one of the most challenging constitutional problems facing an investigation of a former President. And it solved that problem months ago.

And no one knew about it.

emptywheel Trump Espionage coverage

Trump’s Timid (Non-Legal) Complaints about Attorney-Client Privilege

18 USC 793e in the Time of Shadow Brokers and Donald Trump

[from Rayne] Other Possible Classified Materials in Trump’s Safe

Trump’s Stolen Documents

John Solomon and Kash Patel May Be Implicated in the FBI’s Trump-Related Espionage Act Investigation

[from Peterr] Merrick Garland Preaches to an Overseas Audience

Three Ways Merrick Garland and DOJ Spoke of Trump as if He Might Be Indicted

The Legal and Political Significance of Nuclear Document[s] Trump Is Suspected to Have Stolen

Merrick Garland Calls Trump’s Bluff

Trump Keeps Using the Word “Cooperate.” I Do Not Think That Word Means What Trump Wants the Press To Think It Means

[from Rayne] Expected Response is Expected: Trump and Right-Wing DARVO

DOJ’s June Mar-a-Lago Trip Helps Prove 18 USC 793e

The Likely Content of a Trump Search Affidavit

All Republican Gang of Eight Members Condone Large-Scale Theft of Classified Information, Press Yawns

Some Likely Exacerbating Factors that Would Contribute to a Trump Search

FBI Executes a Search Warrant at 1100 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL 33480

The ABCs (and Provisions e, f, and g) of the Espionage Act

Trump’s Latest Tirade Proves Any Temporary Restraining Order May Come Too Late

How Trump’s Search Worked, with Nifty Graphic

Pat Philbin Knows Why the Bodies Are Buried

Rule of Law: DOJ Obtained Trump’s Privilege-Waived Documents in May

Brandon Straka’s Cell

I first published this post on the revelations about Brandon Straka’s misdemeanor plea on August 5 at 2:10PM ET.

I posted it about 29 hours after Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered the Probation Office to provide a report by September 30 about Straka’s compliance with probation; during a status hearing a day earlier, Friedrich admonished Straka about saying things publicly that conflicted with what he had said to the FBI in interviews and said to her at his plea colloquy.

I posted it about 28 hours after FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to one of the only questions raised in an SJC oversight hearing about January 6 that, “And then, of course, I have to be a little bit careful about what I say here but we are continuing to develop some of the more complicated parts of the investigation in terms of conspiracy charges and that sort of thing.”

I posted it minutes before a CPAC panel (sponsored, in part, by a Viktor Orbán-tied NGO) featuring Andy Biggs, Straka, and Kash Patel warning that  “Soros prosecutors” were instituting a “Democrat Gulag.”

Straka spent most of the rest of that day, Friday — the day after the judge overseeing his probation ordered more scrutiny into the sincerity of claims he made under oath and to the FBI — in a cage, performing the role of a jailed January 6 defendant counting the days until his release, crying.

Some spectators wept. Some threw money into the cage. Others came up close to mutter words of comfort and support to the emotionally distraught man inside, who was alternating sitting on a bare cot with his head in his hands, and writing sad slogans on a blackboard like “Where is Everyone?” Among those in the audience was Zuny Duarte, mother of Enrique Tarrio, the jailed ex-chairman of the Proud Boys facing seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the Capitol. One man, wearing a T-shirt saying “Correctional Officers for Trump 2020” pointed at his chest, making sure the “jailed” activist saw, and said “”I know how it works, man.”

During Thursday’s performance in the J6 cage, the man in the prison had been an actor. But on Friday, the man was none other than Brandon Straka, a self-proclaimed former liberal who founded #WalkAway, a social media campaign encouraging Democrats to ditch their party for the GOP. Straka was a vocal Stop the Steal proponent and activist, and landed in hot water with the feds when he filmed himself from the steps of the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

All of which makes me really glad that, in that post, I reiterated all the concerns I’ve raised in the past about Straka’s treatment, including that the deal given to Straka would backfire.

Plus, it’s not entirely clear whether such pleas will backfire down the road, given that prosecutors have little ongoing means to ensure cooperation, as they would with felony cooperators hoping to benefit from 5K letters supporting leniency at sentencing.

[snip]

At the time, it looked like a shitty deal by the government, and multiple researchers I know grumbled that the government simply didn’t know what a central role Straka had when they interviewed him just weeks after the riot.

Even in December, there was good reason to question whether DOJ had made a decent deal when it traded information about Stop the Steal organizers in exchange for a misdemeanor plea, rather than building their case, including Straka in a conspiracy to obstruct the vote certification, and then flipping him.

Now, with Straka openly mocking the entire DOJ investigation, there should be real questions at DOJ whether Straka is replaying the Mike Flynn or Jerome Corsi play, reneging on purported cooperation to sabotage the investigation into Trump and his associates.

As a reminder, in Corsi’s case, in an initial interview with Mueller’s prosecutors, they caught him making claims that conflicted with communications records DOJ already obtained. Then, they got him to admit to a grand jury that Stone had asked him to establish a cover story for his “Podesta time in a barrel” tweet in real time, just days after Stone tweeted it. But then — at a time when, Corsi claimed, he was in communication with Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow, Corsi went on his podcast and amid a dramatic meltdown not dissimilar from the drama we’ve seen from Straka, revealed that prosecutors were trying to force him into a cooperation plea deal with the government. After that point, his interviews with Mueller were a conflicting mishmash that, whatever else they were, made his prior testimony largely useless in any prosecution. It’s likely that an investigation against him was among those referred by Mueller. But he’s also such a batshit crazy person, it’d be hard to hold him accountable for deliberately blowing up interviews with the government.

In Mike Flynn’s case, his competent Covington lawyers negotiated a ridiculously lenient plea deal (in my opinion, one of Mueller’s three greatest mistakes), one that would have gotten the retired General no jail time. During the period he was supposed to be cooperating, he remained in touch with SJC staffer Barbara Ledeen and her husband Michael and Nunes aide Derek Harvey, all of whom kept him apprised of Sara Carter-backed propaganda efforts and Republican Congressional efforts to discredit the investigation. In 2018, Flynn even sent Matt Gaetz a text pushing for more pressure on Mueller. Then, once Bill Barr was confirmed, Flynn fired his competent lawyers and replaced them with Sidney Powell, who with Barr’s collusion, invented a slew of reasons that undermined the investigation against Flynn (in the process, protecting Trump from any Flynn-related obstruction charges). The outcome for Flynn was probably worse. But in the process, Flynn convinced a lot of people who only too late came to understand that both he and Sidney Powell are completely unhinged when they claim that the investigation against him was not a sweetheart deal, but instead a gross abuse of prosecutorial authority.

In both cases, Trump associates or movement operatives identified a cooperating witness and instead turned them into a chaos agent undermining an ongoing investigation. Here, Straka is appearing on a panel with suspected participants in the coup attempt, Andy Biggs and Kash Patel, and cozying up with someone who called for “Marshall Law,” all at a time when DOJ seems to be working on charges arising out of his so-called cooperation.

Given Straka’s recent trajectory, two details of his case from after the time his limited cooperation was made public are noteworthy. First, while Stuart Dornan, a former FBI Agent located (like Straka) in Nebraska remains on Straka’s team, in January, Straka added Bilal Essayli to his legal team, who appears to have taken the lead since, with it striking a far more confrontational tone.

Additionally, Straka’s team specifically — and successfully — objected to the Probation Office’s recommendation that Straka’s social media be monitored.

Brandon also objects to the recommendation by the Probation Officer that he be subjected to a discretionary condition of Probation that monitors his electronic communications service accounts, including email accounts, social media accounts, and cloud storage accounts. Brandon also objects to his financial activity being monitored by the Probation Office. These discretionary conditions of Probation are not sufficiently relevant to the offense committed. In United States v. Taylor, 796 F.3d 788 (7th Cir. 2015), the Seventh Circuit reversed a restriction on the defendant’s computer ownership and internet access in a bank larceny case, stating that the restriction was not reasonably related to his prior conviction for incest. In Brandon’s case, emailing, using social media, and using cloud storage has nothing to do with his offense.

Thus, while Dabney Friedrich ordered the Probation Office to conduct a review of what Straka has been up to while he has been engaging in deceitful performance art attacking the case, when she sentenced Straka, she specifically declined to include review of Straka’s social media. Straka has spent the last six months making a mockery of what he said to Friedrich back in January, most often on social media.

Mike Flynn, especially, has become a movement hero for tanking his own case to create havoc for any case against Trump. And Straka seems intent on pursuing just that kind of notoriety.

And it’s not clear what tools DOJ has retained to prevent that from happening.

The Accidental Exposure of DOJ’s Misdemeanor Plea Deals

I’ve written a fair amount about the way DOJ is using misdemeanor cooperation deals with the January 6 defendants. The vast majority of misdemeanor plea deals, most often for parading, require the defendant to share their social media and sit down for an interview with the FBI. To the extent such interviews get described in sentencing documents, some result in the defendant lying more (DOJ has yet to charge anyone for doing so), some seem to provide the FBI a deeper sense of the organizing networks that contributed to convincing people to travel to DC and participate in a riot, and some seem to provide insight about what transpired in offices or other locations that weren’t well-surveilled. Every defendant was also a firsthand witness, and so some of these interviews appear to have been really important for a larger understanding of the event.

There’s another kind of misdemeanor plea offered to key defendants who could be charged with a felony (usually obstruction or civil disorder), but who instead get charged with one of the misdemeanor charges, often after a long delay. The understanding is that such defendants offer some cooperation on the front end, effectively working their way into a misdemeanor plea. There are two people who we can say, with high confidence, have received one: Brandon Straka and Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet. Some Proud Boys appear to have either received one or be working on them, with Zach Rehl co-traveler Jeff Finley the most prominent. I’ve got suspicions that maybe ten other defendants got such pleas. But beyond that, it is virtually impossible to distinguish someone who benefitted from really good lawyering from someone who got such a plea.

I’m sure the government loves that part of such plea deals: it accords their investigation extra secrecy and may provide cooperation sooner rather than later.

However, particularly given that there are just a handful of people tracking the cases who have a sense of the relative importance of some of these defendants, such plea deals likely add to the distrust of DOJ’s investigation. To those who know about important movement operatives getting misdemeanors, it looks like conspirators in a larger plot aren’t getting charged; to those who have no clue that movement operatives were arrested for their role in the attack, it feeds the mistaken belief that DOJ isn’t investigating anyone but trespassers. Plus, it’s not entirely clear whether such pleas will backfire down the road, given that prosecutors have little ongoing means to ensure cooperation, as they would with felony cooperators hoping to benefit from 5K letters supporting leniency at sentencing.

That’s why I’m interested in what transpired with Brandon Straka’s cooperation in recent weeks.

Straka, as I’ve covered in the past, was a key player in the Stop the Steal movement, most famously in his role riling up the crowd outside the Wayne County vote count in Michigan. He was a speaker at one the January 5 events, got stripped of his January 6 speaking spot as Katrina Pierson tried to cut out the crazies, and then watched Trump’s speech from his VIP seat right next to Mike Flynn. Straka stopped off at the Willard Hotel on his way to what he claims to have believed was another speaking slot on the East side of the Capitol, where he joined in the mob. He was originally charged with civil disorder for his role in encouraging others to steal a shield. But by the time he was first formally charged in September, he was charged just with the less serious parading count. His plea agreement — the standard misdemeanor one — lacked the standard cooperation paragraph (which has at times reflected such an interview already took place), though that in no way confirmed that his was a cooperation misdemeanor. It wasn’t until December, with a joint motion to continue the sentencing citing new information provided by Straka, that it was clear something more was going on.

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.

That was the first mistake; a recently unsealed filing revealed a belated request to put the filing under seal. After Judge Dabney Friedrich denied that request, the government tried again, citing contacts Straka had gotten in response to reports of his cooperation and concerns about his safety.

The government respectfully requests sealing because the motion to continue referenced the fact that the government was requesting a continuance of the sentence to evaluate newly discovered information provided by the defendant. Since the filing of the joint motion to continue, the defendant has been contacted by individuals who believe that he is cooperating with the government. Additionally, media outlets have also reported that the defendant is indeed cooperating with the government. The government has attached exhibits that have been provided to the government by defense counsel.

The United States respectfully submits that filing this pleading under seal is necessary because it references sensitive information related to sentencing. The request for sealing is based on the government’s desire to maintain the integrity of this investigation and protect the safety of the defendant.

The court filings associated with the delayed sentencing, in January, similarly requested sealing. The government’s public sentencing memo described three cooperative interviews — with the initial ones on February 17 and March 25, 2021 — and cited a sealed cooperation memo.

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.

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 folloup 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

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

At the time, it looked like a shitty deal by the government, and multiple researchers I know grumbled that the government simply didn’t know what a central role Straka had when they interviewed him just weeks after the riot.

On July 26, the press coalition that does these things moved to have Straka’s sentencing records unsealed. That day, Judge Friedrich issued an order to unseal the motions to seal, but (we subsequently learned) an error in the clerk’s office led Straka’s memo supporting substantial cooperation to be filed briefly in unsealed form.

At first, Judge Friedrich set a hearing to further unseal the docket, but what must be further sealed filings informed her the parties need to further delay any unsealing — the kind of thing that reflects ongoing cooperation or upcoming charges. At a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Friedrich (having already ceded to the request to delay further discussions of unsealing) worked out that the Straka filing had been released accidentally, then she basically blamed all parties — the government, Straka, herself, the clerks — for not taking better care of sensitive records describing cooperation.

She did, however, read Straka the riot act for comments he continues to make publicly that directly conflict with his comments to her at sentencing; she ordered semiannual reports from the Probation office on whether Straka continues to say things that might merit a False Statements charge.

In short, even a judge who presided over one of the most obvious of these pleas was pretty oblivious to the difference between the normal misdemeanor cooperation and this “substantial cooperation” one. And all the people complaining that DOJ wasn’t investigating organizers — they would know, the TV lawyers said — had absolutely no idea that FBI was getting information on key organizers with advance knowledge of Trump’s plans within weeks of the riot.

The one person who caught and wrote about the accidentally unsealed cooperation memo, Jordan Fischer, described what it said here (wayback version for those behind the GDPR wall).

In the memo, Dornan said Straka provided “significant information” to federal investigators over three interviews with the FBI following his arrest. In one interview on March 5, 2021, Straka, according to Dornan, provided information about “individuals who were inside of Nancy Pelosi’s office; individuals who were inciters at the Capitol; and organizers of the Stop the Steal movement.” He also listed the names of individuals Straka spoke to the FBI about. Those names include rally organizers Amy and Kylie Kremer, Cindy Chafian and Ali Alexander — who Dornan described as the “preeminent leader of the Stop the Steal movement.”

[snip]

Straka also gave contact information and other details about members of a “Stop the Steal” text thread that included, according to Dornan’s memo, Alexander and other right-wing personalities with large social media followings. As well, Dornan said, Straka provided unspecified information about Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin and anti-vax Dr. Simone Gold, who are both affiliated with America’s Frontline Doctors. Gold, like Straka, was charged in connection with the riot and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of entering and remaining in a restricted building. She was sentenced in June to 60 days in jail and a $9,500 fine. Martin posted a picture of herself on social media in the audience of the “Save America March” on Jan. 6 and public video shows her using a megaphone on the west lawn of the Capitol later in the day urging protestors not to climb on scaffolding. She has not been charged in connection with the riot.

As Fischer noted, the Kremers, Alexander, and Chafian were the key organizers for the parts of the rally that fostered violence; the January 6 Committee has quoted especially the Kremers for their foreknowledge of Trump’s plans to march to the Capitol.

In short, Straka’s attorneys at least claimed that he offered details — in March 2021 — about precisely the Stop the Steal and rally organizers and other influencers whom virtually all TV commentators claim DOJ hadn’t been investigating.

While we know that Baked Alaska got one of these deals because he blathered his mouth, from the outside, these deals are presumably supposed to look like just another trespasser plea.

One more comment about this: Perhaps a quarter of the overt cooperating plea deals came with witness protection language. The concerns about Straka’s safety are not hypothetical. The riot was created by people who already had threatened violence, including the militias Roger Stone cooperated with and QAnoners like the Mike Flynn fan who threatened DC judges presiding over earlier Trump-related cases.

Consider, Randy Credico’s first contact with the FBI in 2018, before he was interviewed by agents, was a Duty to Warn contact because they had learned the militias associated with Roger Stone — the same ones that have both been charged with seditious conspiracy in relation to January 6 — were discussing action against him.

Here, someone closely networked into the same crowd like Straka threatened to expose the literal overlap between those militias and some of the most powerful people in the country.

I’m still not sure whether Straka is a liar who provided limited cooperation to avoid prison time or whether his information was as useful as the government claimed at sentencing.

What I am sure is that my assertions that such misdemeanor plea deals exist has been confirmed, even if the government has learned how costly sealing mistakes can be for the secrecy of such cooperation.

Update: As Sandwichman suggests, there are reports that Straka is doing a performance of being a Jan6er in jail. This feels a lot like Jerome Corsi’s apparently successful efforts during the Mueller investigation to make his testimony useless.

If You Need to Panic about DOJ’s Investigation into January 6, Panic First about Doug Mastriano

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow reported the exciting news that Merrick Garland released the same memo that Attorneys General always do during election years.

“As in prior election cycles, I am issuing this memorandum to remind you of the Department’s existing policies with respect to political activities.” Rachel was really upset that Garland integrated the requirement for prior approval that was already the norm, but which Barr put into writing (which arose, in part, out of Michael Horowitz’s IG Report on Carter Page, which showed that not everyone had learned of the investigation into Trump’s flunkies in timely fashion). After months and months of inflammatory commentary suggesting that the decision on whether or not to investigate Trump rested exclusively with Garland (and not, as is the reality, a hierarchy of DOJ personnel, starting with a team of career AUSAs), Rachel wailed that the memo requires Garland to do what everyone has long assumed was true: that Garland would have to approve any investigation into Trump.

In response to her irresponsible sensationalism, people immediately concluded that by releasing the memo, Garland had nixed any further indictments before the election.

One reason I’m certain that’s not true is because after Garland released this memo, DOJ arrested declared candidate for Governor of Michigan, Ryan Kelley. Kelley never entered the Capitol on January 6. But in addition to charging him with entering restricted grounds (that is, entering inside the barricades set up around the Capitol), DOJ also charged him with vandalizing the scaffolding set up in advance of the Inauguration. The charging documents also cited some of his other efforts to undermine democracy in the lead-up and aftermath of the 2020 election.

In October of 2020, KELLEY attended the “American Patriot Council Nationwide Freedom March” in Allendale, Michigan. During that event, KELLEY wore a blue shirt, a black coat, a watch with a red watch band, and aviator sunglasses. Parts of this attire were also worn by KELLEY in photos and videos from the U.S. Capitol grounds on January 6, 2021. KELLEY appears at this event in the image below.

In November of 2020, KELLEY was a featured speaker and introduced by name at a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. During that event, KELLEY indicated that those attending the rally should stand and fight, with the goal of preventing Democrats from stealing the election.

He gave a speech while wearing a name tag and stated “Covid-19 was made so that they can use the propaganda to control your minds so that you think, if you watch the media, that Joe Biden won this election. We’re not going to buy it. We’re going to stand and fight for America, for Donald Trump. We’re not going to let the Democrats steal this election”.

Kelley was arrested on June 9, technically within the 60 day window in advance of the August 2 primary. But DOJ did arrest the gubernatorial candidate in time for voters to learn of his actions during the insurrection (it even was an issue at a recent debate), without creating last minute news before an election like Jim Comey did against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Kelley’s not the only one against whom DOJ has taken overt investigative steps in the wake of the memo, either. DOJ seized the phones of a number of high ranking subjects in the fake electors plot, including the Chair of Nevada’s Republican Party, Michael McDonald. Indeed, the likelihood a number of subjects of the fake elector plot would be covered by the DOJ policy may be why the January 6 Committee is finally making an exception regarding their refusal to share interview transcripts for that part of DOJ’s investigation: while they’ve been refusing, the window on pre-election indictments for fake elector plotters is closing.

Besides, all this panic-mongering seems really, really badly targeted.

I’m impatient to have some accountability for Trump and his flunkies, just like everyone else (even if, because I’ve followed the investigation, I know that DOJ is investigating Trump’s flunkies). I think, for the reasons I laid out here, a hypothetical Trump indictment wouldn’t come for some time yet, but I’m also confident that if the investigation isn’t open now or soon, Trump’s campaign roll-out would do nothing to thwart opening an investigation. It would require the same Garland approval that would be obtained in any case. Trump wouldn’t even be affected by the DOJ policy on pre-election actions, because he’s not on the ballot this year.

But there is a key player in January 6, someone known to have been under investigation, for whom the window to prosecute is closing as the election draws near, someone who presents a far more immediate threat to democracy than Trump: Doug Mastriano, the GOP candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania.

Mastriano technically could be charged, just for his actions on January 6. Like some other political figures — in addition to Kelley, Couy Griffin, and key influencers like Owen Shroyer and Brandon Straka (though Straka’s original complaint included civil disorder) — Mastriano appears to have been at the Capitol, inside the barriers, but did not enter the building.

The images, shared with NBC News, appear to show Mastriano holding up his cellphone as rioters in the front of the mob face off with police at the Capitol steps. Reconstructed timelines and other videos filmed nearby show rioters would breach this police line within minutes, ripping away a crowd control rope line and rushing past officers up the stairs. The timelines and videos, including unedited versions, that show Mastriano in the crowd were reviewed by NBC News.

A man who appears to be Doug Mastriano takes photos or video with his cell phone on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
 A man who appears to be Doug Mastriano takes photos or video with his cellphone near the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.@MichaelCoudrey via Twitter

Online sleuths also identified a video posted by “Stop the Steal” organizer Mike Coudrey on Jan. 6 that appears to show Mastriano taking photos or video with his cellphone as rioters face off with police on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Coudrey’s tweet celebrated the mob, which he said “broke through 4 layers of security at the Capitol building.

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Mastriano previously said that he “respected all police lines as I came upon them” and that he never stepped foot on the Capitol stairs. One of his campaign aides, Grant Clarkson, was near the front of the mob, NBC previously reported. There has been no evidence that Clarkson entered the Capitol that day and he has insisted he did not.

Mastriano has had ties with a number of the people charged for more serious roles in the insurrection, most notably Sam Lazar, who was arrested a year ago on charges of civil disorder and assaulting cops.

And perhaps to an even greater extent than some other influencers who were arrested for their presence inside the barricades at the Capitol, Mastriano spent the months leading up to the insurrection laying the foundation for it, actions that might make him susceptible to an obstruction charge. This article describes his key role in sowing The Big Lie, most notably arranging for the quasi-official hearing at which Rudy could spread false claims. Mastriano also spoke at the “Jericho March” on December 12, 2020, which was a key networking event in advance of the insurrection.

As laid out in the SJC Report on the topic, Mastriano also pressured DOJ to intervene to overturn the election. When Trump complained to DOJ that they were ignoring fraud claims on December 27, for example, Mastriano was — along with Jim Jordan and Scott Perry — one of the people whose complaints he directed Jeffrey Rosen to attend to.

Trump twice calls Rosen. During the second call, Rosen conferences in Donoghue, who takes extensive notes on Trump’s claims that the “election has been stolen out from under the American people” and that DOJ is failing to respond. Trump mentions efforts made by Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, and Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, and asks Rosen and Donoghue to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.” Trump also references Jeffrey Clark and potentially replacing DOJ’s leadership.

Mastriano also paid $3,000 to bus people into the event.

On paper, then, Mastriano is the kind of influencer-organizer that DOJ has been investigating for some time, but he has not yet been charged.

The FBI have carried out investigative steps with regards to Mastriano. A CNN report from last month says he was interviewed last summer (and sat for an interview with the January 6 Committee).

The FBI has been conducting an expansive investigation into the January 6 riot and questioned Mastriano last summer after photos emerged of him on Capitol grounds that day, according to the source familiar with the interview, which has not been previously reported.

Mastriano has not been accused of committing any crimes and cooperated fully with the FBI, according to the source. Asked about Mastriano’s interview, an FBI spokesperson told CNN that the bureau “cannot confirm the existence of an investigation or comment on details.”

The lapsed time since his FBI interview doesn’t mean he won’t be charged; such delays, even longer ones, are common for those arrested for January 6. Plus, Mastriano is someone whose communications, including with Rudy and probably John Eastman and Ali Alexander, have likely shown up in materials seized or subpoenaed by DOJ.

But if DOJ is going to charge Mastriano, they have slightly more than 50 days to do so in order to comply with the DOJ guidelines.

And when I say he poses a more urgent threat to democracy right now than Trump, that’s not just about the impending election. In addition to regressive policies that are typical of the GOP these days, such as a no-exception ban on abortion, he poses an immediate threat to democracy itself. He has publicly committed to attacking democracy itself.

Those concerns are made especially acute in Pennsylvania by the fact that the governor has the unusual authority to directly appoint the secretary of state, who serves as chief elections officer and must sign off on results. If he or she refuses, chaos could follow.

“The biggest risk is a secretary of state just saying, ‘I’m not going to certify the election, despite what the court says and despite what the evidence shows, because I’m concerned about suspicions,’” said Clifford Levine, a Democratic election lawyer in Pennsylvania. “You would start to have a breakdown in the legal system and the whole process.”

Mastriano’s backers appear well aware of the stakes. A video posted to Telegram by election denial activist Ivan Raiklin from Mastriano’s victory party on Tuesday showed the candidate smiling as Raiklin congratulated him on his win and added, with a thumb’s up, “20 electoral votes as well,” a reference to the state’s clout in the electoral college.

“Oh yeahhhh,” Mastriano responded.

Mastriano did not respond to a voice mail or an email sent to a campaign account for media.

But Mastriano told Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to Trump who now hosts a podcast popular on the right, that he had already selected the person he would appoint as secretary of state if elected.

“As far as cleaning up the election, I mean, I’m in a good position as governor,” he said in the April 23 appearance on Bannon’s “War Room” podcast. “I have a voting-reform-minded individual who’s been traveling the nation and knows voting reform extremely well. That individual has agreed to be my secretary of state.”

Mastriano has been buying followers from the far-right social media site, Gab. And he has ties to Russian-backed far-right propagandists.

A number of people have said, with no exaggeration, that a Mastriano win would virtually guarantee no Democratic candidate could win the state’s presidential votes in 2024.

If DOJ is going to expand its prosecutions to those who laid the groundwork for January 6, they are going to be charging people like Doug Mastriano. There’s little doubt that Mastriano, as much as anyone who went inside the building on January 6, as much as Trump, was trying to prevent the lawful transfer of power.

Yet DOJ only has seven weeks left to charge Mastriano before DOJ’s election guidelines would prevent that from happening.

If you want to panic, panic first about Mastriano. Because the threat he poses to democracy is far more imminent than the very real threat Trump poses.

Update: Politico has a piece on Mastriano talking about how close it is in PA, and NYT has a piece using Mastriano as illustration of the increasing embrace of conspiracism on the far-right.

Update: This thread from an online researcher tracks Mastriano’s movements around the Capitol on January 6.

The January 6 Militia Witnesses Are Cooperating with DOJ, Probably Not the January 6 Committee

Liz Cheney made a comment in Thursday’s public hearing that has attracted some attention. As part of her explanation that the January 6 investigation is ongoing, she said,

As we present these initial findings, keep two points in mind. First, our investigation is still ongoing. So what we make public here will not be the complete set of information we will ultimately disclose. And second, the Department of Justice is currently working with cooperating witnesses and has disclosed to date only some of the information it has identified from encrypted communications and other sources.

Some have wondered whether this reflects some kind of insight into where the DOJ investigation is headed.

I doubt that Cheney’s comment reflects any greater insight into where DOJ is headed than I’ve gotten from tracking DOJ’s investigation closely, though as I’ll explain below, the Committee undoubtedly has non-public insight into how the militias coordinated with those close to Trump. (One possible — and important — exception to this assumption might be Joshua James, the Oath Keeper who is known to have testified in an NYPD inquiry targeting Roger Stone associate Sal Greco.)

While the Committee showed clips of depositions it had with Stewart Rhodes (pleading the Fifth in response to a question about arming members), Enrique Tarrio (expressing regret he didn’t monetize the Stand Back and Stand By comment), and Jeremy Bertino (who is Person-1 in the sedition indictment charging the Proud Boy leaders and who told the Committee that membership tripled in response to Trump’s comment), the more substantive claims about the militias on Thursday always cited the indictments against them, not evidence independently gathered by the Committee.

For example, Cheney described how Trump’s December 19, 2020 tweet, “initiated a chain of events. The tweet led to the planning for what occurred on January 6, including by the Proud Boys, who ultimately led the invasion of the Capitol and the violence on that day.” In his questioning of documentarian Nick Quested, Bennie Thompson likewise cited the indictment against the Proud Boys for claims about the lead-up to the attack.

To be sure, Thompson laid out details of the attack that are not generally known, but which are public: the Proud Boys skipped Trump’s speech and kicked off their attack to coincide with the Joint Session, not Trump’s speech; the Proud Boys first attacked at the site where the mob soon to be led by Alex Jones would arrive. I’ve laid out some of these dynamics in this post, and the Sedition Hunters have developed two detailed timelines that show how this worked, one describing the phases of the attack, and another capturing key communications of those implicated in it.

I’ve likewise noted what Cheney has: The Proud Boys — and virtually everyone else who organized in advance — responded to Trump’s tweet as if it was an order. I’ve also described — in a post called, “Back Was Stood, And By Was Stood: The Passive Voice Behind the Top Down Structure of the Charles Donohoe Statement of Offense” — how in cooperating witness Charles Donohoe’s Statement of Offense, DOJ for the first time used the passive voice to describe how the riot was announced.

[T]he foundation of that hierarchy that is so remarkable.

On December 19, 2020, plans were announced for a protest event in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, which protest would coincide with Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

On or before December 20, 2020, Tarrio approached Donohoe and solicited his interest in joining the leadership of a new chapter of the Proud Boys, called the Ministry of Self Defense (“MOSD”). Donohoe understood from Tarrio that the new chapter would be focused on the planning and execution of national rallies and would consist of hand-selected “rally” boys. Donohoe felt privileged to be included and agreed to participate.

Close to every other filing in the January 6 case that mentions the announcement of these plans actually cites what was taken as the formal announcement: Trump’s tweet, in response to which hundreds if not thousands of rioters began to make plans to come to DC.

Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK . A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

The import of that December 19 tweet was clear even in real time; the NYT and WaPo recently returned to the central role it plays in a great number of January 6 cases.

But this statement of offense instead presents what was viewed as an order from Trump in the passive voice: “Plans were announced.” Trump announced those plans, as every other charging document makes clear.

And the next day, in response to that announcement, Tarrio started building that top-down hierarchical structure that would go on to intentionally assault the Capitol and cops.

There are many things this statement of offense does with that masterful use of the passive voice. It implicates, without mentioning, people like Peter Navarro and Ali Alexander, the former because he was mentioned in the tweet and the latter because he was organizing it. The statement of offense makes clear that Tarrio told Donohoe and other Ministry of Self Defense leaders about what their plan was, but doesn’t reveal what he has shared, particularly what he shared about direct planning with people close to Trump. Indeed, the language of the statement of offense leaves open the possibility that Tarrio was moving on this even before the public launch of the riot by Trump.

But most importantly, without naming him, this structure puts Trump at the head of that hierarchy that bears top-down responsibility for the intentional violence and damage in the service of obstructing the vote certification.

The implication from the Statement of Offense is that Donohoe learned certain things starting on December 20 that he has shared with prosecutors. One reason I’m pretty sure that prosecutors haven’t shared it with the Committee, yet, is because Donohoe’s cooperation does not show up in the discovery index provided to the defendants themselves on May 12, over a month after Donohoe flipped, which prosecutors filed publicly last week. Similarly, prosecutors have not yet explicitly told defense attorneys the person who shared a plan with Tarrio talking about occupying the Capitol, though they have the returns for Tarrio’s phone that should help defense attorneys learn that person’s identity.

(I do wonder whether a challenge to a very recent call records subpoena from the Committee by Russian-American Kristina Malimon, discovered by Kyle Cheney, not to mention the high profile former Trump impeachment lawyers representing her, means the Committee thinks they’ve figured out the person’s identity, though.)

The schedule of upcoming January 6 hearings explains one reason why Cheney referenced the ongoing investigation when citing DOJ’s cooperating witnesses:

  • June 13: The Big Lie
  • June 15: Decapitate DOJ
  • June 16: Pressuring Pence
  • June 21: Pressuring the States
  • Hearing 6: Trump Assembles a Mob and Sics it on Congress
  • Hearing 7: Trump Does Nothing as Capitol Is Attacked

The dates for the last two hearings, hearings that will include details about how the Proud Boys paused their attack to await reinforcements brought by Alex Jones, opened a second front in seeming coordination with the Oath Keepers and Jones, and considered a second assault until learning the National Guard had finally been deployed, are not known yet. Whenever they are, though, they’ll come after June 21, and therefore after the June 17 discovery deadline in the Proud Boy Leaders case. DOJ has said they won’t supersede the Leaders indictment beyond what it currently is (meaning no more co-conspirators will be added to it). But the fates of Persons-1 (Bertino), -2, and -3 are up in the air right now, as well as a number of charged Proud Boys (like Ron Loehrke), who played key roles in the tactical success of the attack but who have not yet been indicted. Similarly, the fates of those known to coordinate most closely with the militias — Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander — remain uncertain.

Who knows? Their fates may be less uncertain between now and the last Committee hearing!

To be clear: as Chairman Thompson told Jake Tapper this week, the Committee does know of some of the coordination. I’ve heard of a communication implicating Stone that I believe the Committee has. Alex Jones complained about how many communications the Committee — specifically those of Cindy Chafian and Caroline Wren — had obtained, and one or both of them also communicated with Tarrio. A key focus of the testimony of Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence — and surely, Katrina Pierson, whom Stone and his associates have tried to blame for the attack — described their panic after Trump told his mob to walk to the Capitol. That testimony must explain why Pierson fought so hard to keep Wren’s chosen speakers, including Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Brandon Straka, and others, off the stage. This fight also shows up in Mark Meadows’ texts. And Ali Alexander testified for eight hours; we’ll see how successfully the Committee debunked his already-debunked cover story, but Alexander lost his shit during the hearing on Thursday. The role of the Stop the Steal effort in delivering bodies to the right places at the Capitol is the most important known coordination from the day of the attack.

Rudy Giuliani also had communications with Proud Boy associate James Sullivan, Mike Flynn had some ties to militias (especially the First Amendment Praetorians), and Sidney Powell was paying for the defense of a number of militia members.

The Committee knows a great deal about how Trump’s mob got directed to the Capitol. But I suspect they’re still waiting to learn all the details that cooperating witnesses have provided.


Known cooperating witnesses

Oath Keepers

Jon Schaffer: The substance of Schaffer’s cooperation against the Oath Keepers is still not clear (and could well extend beyond them).

Graydon Young: Young interacted with Roger Stone in the weeks leading up to the attack, may know details of the alliance struck between Proud Boys and Florida Oath Keepers, and was part of the First Stack to bust into the Capitol; he also implicated his sister.

Mark Grods: Grods was the first Oath Keeper who was present at the Willard the day of the attack to flip, and likely provided details of the QRF and implicated Joshua James.

Caleb Berry: Berry would provide more details of Oath Keeper activities, potentially implicating Stone, in Florida, and also was witness to the attempt to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

Jason Dolan: Dolan would explain why he and Kenneth Harrelson were waiting at the top of the East Stairs when the First Stack, Joe Biggs and his co-travelers, and Alex Jones and Ali Alexander converged there before the door was opened from the inside.

Joshua James: James called in reports from someone who is almost certainly Stone the day of the attack, participated in key discussions with Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, and Mike Simpson during the attack, and was closely involved in Rhodes’ continued efforts after January 6.

Brian Ulrich: Ulrich would provide details of planning specific to Georgia Oath Keepers and the advance planning in December.

Todd Wilson:  Wilson would explain the mobilization of the North Carolina Oath Keepers; he also witnessed a call Rhodes made to someone close to Trump after the riot.

Proud Boys

Matthew Greene: Greene will explain details of the communications involved the day of the attack and the specific goal to pressure Mike Pence.

Charles Donohoe: Donohoe will provide prosecutors an inside understanding of how the leadership of the Proud Boys worked, including with whom Tarrio may have been working starting in December and details about Tarrio’s arrest, which led Donohoe to try to fill in.

Louis Colon: A Kansas City Proud Boy who received perhaps the most favorable deal will undoubtedly implicate his co-conspirators and describe how the cell structure of the Proud Boys worked on January 6; he may also provide important debunking of someone who had been an FBI informant the day of the attac.

Others

Gina Bisignano: Bisignano cooperated against her fellow SoCal anti-maskers, but in the light of Carl Nichols’ rejection of DOJ’s application of obstruction, is attempting to withdraw her guilty plea. A hearing on her attempt to withdraw her plea will be held on June 22. She has not withdrawn her stated intent, one directly influenced by Trump’s speech, to pressure Mike Pence.

Josiah Colt: Colt cooperated against his co-conspirators, Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave, describing how they armed themselves and helped open both the East Door and the Senate Gallery.

Klete Keller: The substance of Keller’s cooperation is not known.

Jacob Fracker: Fracker testified against fellow VA cop Thomas Robertson.

Robert Lyon: Lyon testified against his co-defendant, Dustin Thompson.

Misdemeanor cooperators

Virtually all plea deals require the defendant to share their social media and sit for an interview with the FBI. A handful of defendants are known to have convinced prosecutors to drop or hold off felony charges by providing limited cooperation (including sharing encrypted communications) in advance. They are believed to include:

Jeff Finley: Finley was a co-traveler of Proud Boy Zach Rehl on January 6.

Brandon Straka: Straka who was among those excluded from speaking on January 6,  was on Ali Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv, and spent time with Mike Flynn before heading to the Capitol.

Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet: Baked Alaska could share communications involving white nationalists like Nick Fuentes. But Gionet fucked up his plea colloquy, so prosecutors can charge him with a felony incorporating his cooperation if he doesn’t plead by July 10 (not like I’m counting days but that’s less than a month away).

Jacob Hiles: Hiles cooperated against Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley and his buddy James Horning.

Father and son Proud Boy pair Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace likely also avoided felony exposure by cooperating (though Jeffrey’s plea just got pushed back two weeks); they spent much of January 6 with Ron Loehrke.

Sedition Is the Foundation on Which the Trump Associate Investigation Builds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

On Enrique Tarrio’s Complex Password and Other Reasons the January 6 Investigation Can Now Move to Organizer-Inciters

A Wednesday filing in the Proud Boy leadership conspiracy revealed that, between cracking his password and conducting a filter review, DOJ had not been able to access Enrique Tarrio’s phone — which was seized even before the riot he allegedly had a central role in planning — until mid-January.

On January 4, 2021, Tarrio was arrested in Washington, D.C., and charged with destruction of property for his December 12, 2020, burning of a #BLACKLIVESMATTER banner and possession of two large capacity magazines. At the time of his arrest, Tarrio’s phone was seized by law enforcement. The government promptly sought a search warrant for that device in this investigation. Despite diligence, the government was not able to obtain access to Tarrio’s phone until December 2021. Thereafter, a filter team was utilized to ensure that only non-privileged materials were provided to the investigative team. The investigative team did not gain access to the materials on the phone until mid-January 2022, and it has worked expeditiously since that time to review these materials.

I can think of just a few other phones that have been this difficult for FBI to access (those of Zachary Alam and Brandon Fellows are others). The delay means that the very first phone DOJ seized pertaining to the January 6 investigation was one that, to date, has taken the longest to access.

This is the kind of delay — presumably due to the physics involved in cracking a complex password and the due process of a privilege review — that is unavoidable. Yet it stalled DOJ’s efforts in the most pivotal conspiracy case as it tries to move from rioters at the Capitol through organizer-inciters to Trump himself.

The delay in accessing Tarrio’s phone is one thing to keep in mind as you read the multiple reports that DOJ has sent out subpoenas to people who organized the rallies. WaPo reported that these subpoenas first started going out two months ago — so late January, shortly after the time DOJ accessed Tarrio’s phone content. NYT reported that the subpoenas focus on the rallies and the fake electors.

One of the subpoenas, which was reviewed by The New York Times, sought information about people “classified as VIP attendees” at Mr. Trump’s Jan. 6 rally.

It also sought information about members of the executive and legislative branches who had been involved in the “planning or execution of any rally or any attempt to obstruct, influence, impede or delay” the certification of the 2020 election.

And it asked about the effort by Trump supporters to put forward alternate slates of electors as Mr. Trump and his allies were seeking to challenge the certification of the Electoral College outcome by Congress on Jan. 6.

Another person briefed on the grand jury investigation said at least one person involved in the logistics of the Jan. 6 rally had been asked to appear.

None of this is a surprise or unexpected. Dana Nessel formally referred Michigan’s fake electors to DOJ for investigation (the kind of referral that may have been important to DOJ assuming jurisdiction in state elections) on January 18, and Lisa Monaco confirmed DOJ was investigating the fake electors on January 25.

As to the organizers, on December 16, I wrote a piece describing that DOJ would need to turn to “organizer-inciters” next — people like Alex Jones, who had a central role in turning rally-goers who imagined themselves to be peaceful protestors into an occupying force. We know of several other pieces of evidence that would have been important, if not necessary, to lock down before DOJ moved to those organizer-inciters.

For example, DOJ likely first obtained direct information about tensions involving VIPs in Brandon Straka’s first and second FBI interviews in February and March of last year, information that the government claimed during his sentencing provided valuable new leads. Straka was one of those VIPs who expected to have a speaking slot on January 6 only to discover all he was getting was a seat at the front, next to Mike Flynn. Access to his phone would have provided the government comms depicting growing tensions tied to the extremism of Nick Fuentes and Ali Alexander described in this ProPublica article.

“Is Nick Fuentes now a prominent figure in Stop the Steal?” asked Brandon Straka, an openly gay conservative activist, in a November text message, obtained exclusively by ProPublica. “I find him disgusting,” Straka said, pointing to Fuentes’ vehemently anti-LGBT views.

Alexander saw more people and more power. He wrote that Fuentes was “very valuable” at “putting bodies in places,” and that both Jones and Fuentes were “willing to push bodies … where we point.”

Straka, Fuentes and Jones did not respond to requests for comment.

Straka was part of a Stop the Steal listserv on which Michael Courdrey and Alexander were on the day of the riot.

The Stop the Steal group chat shows a reckoning with these events in real time.

“They stormed the capital,” wrote Stop the Steal national coordinator Michael Coudrey in a text message at 2:33 p.m. “Our event is on delay.”

“I’m at the Capitol and just joined the breach!!!” texted Straka, who months earlier had raised concerns about allying with white nationalists. “I just got gassed! Never felt so fucking alive in my life!!!”

Alexander and Coudrey advised the group to leave.

“Everyone get out of there,” Alexander wrote. “The FBI is coming hunting.”

The government described learning new information about Straka as recently as December 8 followed up in a January 2022 interview. Some of this appears to have been a late discovery of his own grift and, possibly, his role in inciting a riot at the TCF center in Michigan. But at sentencing, prosecutors reaffirmed that the sealed contents of his cooperation remained valuable.

Some other existing defendants whose phone and/or cooperation could provide such insight are Simone Gold (who pled guilty in early March but who had not yet done her FBI interview) and Alan Hostetter and Russell Taylor; prosecutors described still providing primary discovery in the latter case the other day, meaning they’re still getting phone contents there, too.

Tarrio’s phone would include comms with many of the people DOJ has turned its focus to; he had known communications with Alex Jones, Ali Alexander, and Cindy Chafian, to say nothing of his close ties to Roger Stone.

In addition to Tarrio’s phone, exploiting that of Stewart Rhodes — seized in May — took some time because he had so many Signal texts that it was an extended process sorting through the inculpatory and exculpatory ones.

The hold up on Rhodes’ phone is one of the things that held up his own arrest and charges for Seditious Conspiracy. In that superseding indictment, DOJ completely hid what new information they had learned about the Oath Keeper ties with the Willard planners.  But the seditious conspiracy charge (along with the cooperation of Mark Grods) appears to have persuaded Joshua James to flip. James’ cooperation would provide lots of new testimony about what Stone and other VIPs were doing on January 5 and 6, including an explanation as to why James felt he needed to call into Mike Simmons to report on what is almost certainly Stone’s anger about the sidelining of his extremist group at the main rally, something clearly at issue in these recent subpoenas.

James would have proffered before he pled guilty (meaning prosecutors would have know what he would say if he did plead), but they would hold off on using his testimony for legal process until he testified before a grand jury in conjunction with his plea on March 2.

Public reporting has revealed that both the January 6 and DOJ investigations have obtained at least some of the documentary footage implicating Tarrio and Stone from the day of the riot.

And if the January 6 committee works like the SSCI investigation into Russia, it could share transcripts from obviously problematic testimony with DOJ. Ali Alexander spent most of day telling a story to the committee that had already been debunked by DOJ.

On the anniversary of January 6, Merrick Garland explained that all of the arrests from the first year had laid the foundation for more complex cases.

We build investigations by laying a foundation. We resolve more straightforward cases first because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases.

Investigating the more overt crimes generates linkages to less overt ones. Overt actors and the evidence they provide can lead us to others who may also have been involved. And that evidence can serve as the foundation for further investigative leads and techniques.

In circumstances like those of January 6th, a full accounting does not suddenly materialize. To ensure that all those criminally responsible are held accountable, we must collect the evidence.

We follow the physical evidence. We follow the digital evidence. We follow the money.

This is the kind of thing he was talking about: working your way up through Mark Grods to Joshua James to Stewart Rhodes to Roger Stone, taking the time to crack and exploit Tarrio’s phone, exploiting early access to Straka’s comms to get to the organizers. The investigation “aperture” hasn’t changed; what has changed is DOJ has acquired information it needed before it could take the next step.

Brandon Straka Assures MAGAts That He Didn’t Share Evidence of Any Pre-January 6 Crimes

Brandon Straka released a post-sentencing statement announcing that he is self-deplatforming to Rumble and GETTR and claiming that the “left wing media” turned DOJ’s discussion of Straka’s cooperation into a narrative that “Trump Ally Turning Over Significant Information About January 6th.” [emphasis Straka’s] The closest to that phrase I can find (aside from Straka’s own comments posted to 4chan) is Politico, which is owned by right wingers, as well as the gay press.

Straka may in fact be more worried that the right wing press labeled him a snitch, not least because he uses the phrase later in his own statement.

The statement is interesting for several reasons.

First, Straka doesn’t deny the obstruction of the vote count that he should have been charged with. He explains asking his followers to “HOLD. THE. LINE” after he had been instructed by Ali Alexander, ““Everyone get out of there … The FBI is coming hunting,” that this was just about a peaceful protest, not physically occupying the Capitol to prevent Joe Biden’s win from being certified.

Some of my comments on January 6th and the following days have been highly scrutinized and my intent speculated. In particular, one stated to “HOLD. THE. LINE.” in addressing the people at the Capitol. You should all know that I was present on the East side of the Capitol and never witnessed any of the violence taking place on the West side that day. I shot video of the thousands of peaceful protestors standing on the East side singing songs and holding signs. This was the scene when I left the grounds. My statement was to encourage the thousands of peaceful protestors to stand their ground- after all, peaceful protests are still protected by our constitution, right?

Straka doesn’t deny being told about the violence on the west side. He falsely claims to have filmed only peaceful activities, when he in fact filmed himself encouraging rioters as they stole a cop’s shield.

More importantly, he doesn’t address that he was encouraging these “protestors” to continue to obstruct the vote certification.

And, again, he was doing so after he himself had left after having been warned about an incoming FBI presence.

Particularly given something that Straka said to Trump appointee Dabney Friedrich at sentencing (which I’ll return to once I find the best video), I find this comment from Straka of particular interest.

In the three and a half years that I have been working in the world of politics, I have not attained ANY INFORMATION of ANY KIND about any criminal wrongdoing of any person in the MAGA movement. That includes every person from the very bottom of up to Donald Trump and every person in between. It would be impossible for me to “snitch” or “turn people over” because I have NOTHING to share.

I do not believe that there was any kind of plot or scheme to initiate violence on January 6th. I do not believe that any kind of plot or plan or scheme will ever be discovered because I feel 100% certain no such thing exists. Like most of you, I’ve employed common sense and come to the conclusion that a very small percentage of people did some very bad things that day, and that this was a spontaneous riot that broke out without planning. If any evidence of anything ever comes to light, I will be as shocked as anybody else.

I have NO INFORMATION of any kind of share about any crime others in the MAGA movement have committed at any point, even prior to January 6th.

Straka denies there was a scheme to initiate violence. That’s not the accusation though. The scheme — laid out in writing by Ali Alexander’s associates in the Proud Boys — was to spark others to commit violence, and then blame Antifa for starting things.

But he, again, does not deny there was a plot to obstruct the vote certification.

More interesting, given DOJ’s apparently belated discovery of Straka’s activities leading up to January 6, is his statement denying knowledge of crimes “prior to January 6th.”

Particularly given the way Straka sees what came earlier as separate from January 6th, Straka’s plea deal might not cover crimes he committed in that earlier period.

“Let’s Go Brandon!” Straka’s Cow Manure

Update: Judge Friedrich sentenced Straka to 3 months home confinement and 36 months of probation. She repeatedly described his offense as worse than that of trespassers given that he encouraged them to breach the Capitol and defended the attack after the fact.

Brandon Straka did not start fundraising for the cops whose assault he cheered …

… Until a week after his second batch of leniency letters started coming in, and over 45 days after he pled guilty.

In fact, there’s no evidence in the public record that Straka ever gave any of that money to cops, not even the 75% he claimed to plan to donate, much less the 25% he was skimming from the top. There’s just a dated claim that it would be donated “at the conclusion” of a year that ended 20 days before the filing claiming it would be donated.

Since January 6, Brandon has spent a lot of hard time reflecting on his role in the events that took place that tragic day. He has offered strong condemnation for any violence used that day, especially the violence perpetrated against police. Additionally, Brandon has been actively using his platform to support law enforcement officers. Upon visiting the #WalkAway Foundation website, the first option presented is to donate to the “Refund the Police” initiative: “#WalkAway will donate 75% of the funds raised to pro-police organizations in [the fourteen (14) cities most affected by defunding initiatives]. The other 25% will be used for the cost of overhead for this campaign.”2 This initiative will close at the conclusion of this year; and is close to having raised over $18,000.00 at this time.

2 See #WalkAway Foundation Homepage last accessed Dec. 14, 2021, available at https://www.walkawayfoundation.org/.

That’s important because Brandon Straka really wants to continue doing such grifting as a public service in lieu of having Probation monitor his social media and finances, much less serve jail time for his role in inciting an insurrection. He even asks to pay $5,000 as a fine to be allowed to dodge further scrutiny of his grift.

The Defendant respectfully requests that he be sentenced to either a terminal disposition of time served for the two days he has already spent in custody, or in the alternate, a term of home confinement and community service. Defendant requests that he not be placed on probation. Defendant also requests that the Court impose the maximum fine permitted for this offense, which is $5,000.

[snip]

If the Court would allow Brandon to have included in his sentence a stronger portion of community service rather than a sentence of Probation, the country at large will be better served. The nature of Brandon’s job requires that he often travels, making supervision more difficult and costly—and to what end? Brandon has already been on Pretrial Release for nearly a year with no violations. He clearly has the capability to contribute to the greater good through fundraising and leading others into service with him. While the Probation Office’s Recommendation sees Brandon’s following as a reason for concern3, it is the Defendant’s belief, and Counsel for the Defendant’s belief, that his talents can be put to better use than verifying that he is in compliance with certain conditions of Probation—that if he is given true freedom, that he will use that freedom in service of his country.

[snip]

Brandon also objects to the recommendation by the Probation Officer that he be subjected to a discretionary condition of Probation that monitors his electronic communications service accounts, including email accounts, social media accounts, and cloud storage accounts. Brandon also objects to his financial activity being monitored by the Probation Office. These discretionary conditions of Probation are not sufficiently relevant to the offense committed. In United States v. Taylor, 796 F.3d 788 (7th Cir. 2015), the Seventh Circuit reversed a restriction on the defendant’s computer ownership and internet access in a bank larceny case, stating that the restriction was not reasonably related to his prior conviction for incest. In Brandon’s case, emailing, using social media, and using cloud storage has nothing to do with his offense.

3 The government has never alleged, and there is no evidence, that Brandon used his following to commit any criminal activity. Brandon is charged for conduct he committed at the Capitol in his personal capacity.

Whether or not there is evidence that Straka used his online presence to prevent the peaceful transfer of power (and there is, though DOJ may have discovered it after entering into this dud plea agreement), Straka’s own story materially conflicts regarding what he did on January 6, 2021.

Straka’s own letter to Judge Dabney Friedrich implies that he went directly from Trump’s speech to the Metro and because he did so he had no way of knowing there was a violent riot going on.

I sat in the front row at the Ellipse and listened to the President of the United States speak. He concluded by telling the crowd that we were all now going to march “peacefully” to the Capitol. Everything felt perfectly normal and exactly in accordance with the schedule of events for that day. I then walked to the DC Metro On the way to the Capitol, I began getting text messages from people I knew who were at home watching the news on television indicating that people were going inside the Capitol building. Shortly after, I started getting numerous messages from the other scheduled speakers, some asking if our event was still happening, if it was now cancelled- it was total confusion. I was of 2 minds at this point. Either,

#1) The event is still happening and I’m still speaking, and that’s what I came all the way to DC to do. Or

#2) The event may no longer be happening, but SOMETHING is going on at the Capitol right now, and I want to be there to capture footage of whatever it is that’s going on. [my emphasis]

His sentencing memo describes that he came to DC to speak on January 5, and only stayed over because he was one of the very inflammatory people who were offered speaking slots on January 6 but who got canceled (!!!) at the last moment.

Prior to the January 6, 2021 rally at which then-President Donald Trump was set to speak, Brandon was set to speak at a rally held at Freedom Plaza on January 5, 2021 and travelled to Washington, D.C. for that purpose. Brandon remained in Washington, D.C. after the rally on January 5, 2021, as he was a potential slated speaker at a rally the next day. On the morning of January 6, 2021, Brandon arrived at the Ellipse at 5:00 a.m. in anticipation of then-President Trumps’ rally to start. Up until the time Brandon arrived at the event, he believed that he might speak at that event.

More problematic still, Straka’s sentencing memo describes that in-between Trump’s rally and the riot, Straka went to the Willard Hotel, where a bunch of his associates were plotting to steal the election (he doesn’t mention that fact), and where his “security guards” alerted him that it was too dangerous to walk the 28 minutes to the Capitol, which is why he instead took the Metro to the far side of the Capitol, spending perhaps 38 minutes in transit.

When President Trump concluded his remarks around 1:00 p.m., a wave of protestors left the Ellipse and headed toward the Capitol. At this time, Brandon left the Ellipse and traveled to the Willard Hotel to meet with two of his employees who were designated as security guards. Upon the advice of his security guards, Brandon did not participate in the march to the Capitol and instead took the Metro to the Capitol. While riding on the Metro, Brandon began receiving push notifications on his phone about what was happening at the Capitol. The Metro did not stop at the Capitol, and Brandon got off at the next stop—which was roughly an 18-minute walk from the Capitol.

By the time Brandon arrived, at around 2:40 p.m. (a full twenty minutes after the Capitol had been cleared), the outer barriers and fencing that had previously surrounded the Capitol were largely displaced. Brandon arrived and approached the East side of the Capitol, where things were calmer; and Brandon did not notice anything out of the ordinary during most of his walk to the Capitol.

And that version is off by at least two and possibly 22 minutes off from Straka’s sworn statement of offense.

Straka got off the metro on January 6, 2021 sometime between 2 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. He then knowingly entered the restricted area at the U.S. Capitol Grounds.

The revised story would have him arriving to the Capitol seven minutes after (prosecutors noted in their own sentencing memo) he was informed his speech was delayed because “they stormed the Capitol.”

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].”

And that’s important, because Straka claims that when he said some inflammatory things on social media, he didn’t know about the violence.

Brandon made statements on social media that were in retrospect irresponsible and potentially inflammatory. Any statements Brandon made must be considered in context with the fact that Brandon had not witnessed the violence committed on the west side of the Capitol and he had not seen what was broadcasted on television. Once understanding the full context of the events, Brandon retracted and removed his prior statements.

Finally, it’s curious that DOJ is relying on a ProPublica story for the notice from Coudry (to say nothing of Ali Alexander’s warning, “Everyone get out of there … The FBI is coming hunting”). That’s because Straka claims to have provided prosecutors passwords to whatever phones he still had in his possession when the FBI searched his apartment.

Brandon cooperated fully with law enforcement, including providing two proffers and turning over the password to all devices seized as part of the search warrant executed on his apartment. Brandon provided information on individuals the government was investigating in separate cases and answered all questions posed by the government.

There’s abundant evidence that Straka is bullshitting prosecutors, and was bullshitting them when he got a sweet plea deal.

Indeed, with the inconsistencies between his letter to Dabney Friedrich and his own sentencing memo, the evidence shows he’s bullshitting Judge Friedrich.

I don’t know what excuses Probation scrutinizing Brandon Straka’s grift more closely than the FBI. I don’t know what targets DOJ was so desperate to implicate that they missed the target sitting in front of them.

But even his own sentencing package makes it clear he’s shoveling cow shit.