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86 Minutes: Two Arrests Thwarted and Three Cops Disabled by “Bear Shit”

In the 86 minutes after the Capitol Police first asked for help from the National Guard on January 6, police had to drop two arrests of violent rioters, and three cops — including Brian Sicknick — were temporarily disabled after being sprayed with “bear shit.”

At 1:49 on January 6, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund asked the Commander of the DC National Guard, General William Walker, for urgent help pushing back the riot attacking the Capitol. According to Walker’s testimony, he loaded Guardsmen onto busses to be able to respond as soon as he got authority, but that approval was not granted and communicated to him for over three hours. Walker testified that he could have reinforced the Capitol within 15 minutes, and indeed, once DOD granted approval, according to Walker’s testimony the Guard arrived within 20 minutes (DOD says it took almost 40 minutes).

At 1:49pm I received a frantic call from then Chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster.

Immediately after the 1:49pm call with Chief Sund, I alerted the Army Senior Leadership of the request. The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08pm – 3 hours and 19 minutes later. We already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20pm (in under 20 minutes) the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol.

Had DOD worked the way they had in the past then, the Capitol Police might have had reinforcements from the Guard at the Capitol by around 2:10 PM.

About five minutes after the time General Walker says the Guard could have arrived, around 2:15, Hunter Ehmke allegedly started trying to punch through a window from a ledge outside the Rotunda.

Officer Fluke observed Ehmke pointing towards the window, followed by looking at the crowd to his south and waving his hand as if to summon others over to his position. Ehmke repeated the sequence of gestures again. Officer Fluke shouted out, “They’re going to break the window” during this time in hopes to bring attention from fellow officers.

An officer who saw what Ehmke was doing looked at the hundreds of rioters he was trying to repel then back towards Ehmke, only to see that Ehmke had punched the window and broken it.

Officer Fluke looked east to focus back on the crowd pushing on the shields and gave orders for the growing crowd to get back. Officer Fluke turned to look north again and observed Ehmke with a balled fist, pulling his arm back and twisting his upper body. Ehmke then swung forward striking a pane of the window about shoulder level of Ehmke. Officer Fluke began to run toward Ehmke while continuing to hold his shield in both hands.

Officer Fluke managed to knock Ehmke down and two other officers came to help arrest him. Others attempted to set up a perimeter to protect the now-broken window and create space for an arrest. But as confrontations elsewhere grew more urgent and a crowd started demanding that the cops let Ehmke go, police released him and told him not to come back.

As the officers discussed an action plan, the disturbance caused individuals of the crowd facing the Rotunda doors to divert their attention towards the approximately 10 officers in the northwest corner of the landing. Individuals in the throng began to show aggression by pointing fingers and shouting obscenities. One unidentified individual threatened Officer Fluke and the other officers, stating “you’re not leaving with him”, while pointing in the direction of Officer Fluke and Ehmke. Due to the growing aggression of the large crowd that far outnumbered the officers and the exigent circumstances at the time, officers made the decision to allow Ehmke depart under his own power.

Eight minutes after the confrontation with Ehmke began, at 2:23, Julian Khater and others were wrestling with police over a set of bike rack barriers. Khater appears to have sprayed what he had called, “bear shit” towards the cops. Three cops, including Brian Sicnick, withdrew from their position. All three took at least 20 minutes recovering from the toxic spray before they could return to the fight against the insurrectionists.

Officer Chapman’s BWC shows that at 2:23 p.m., the rioters begin pulling on a bike rack to Chapman’s left, using ropes and their hands to pull the rack away. Seconds later, KHATER is observed with his right arm up high in the air, appearing to be holding a canister in his right hand and aiming it in the officers’ direction while moving his right arm from side to side. Officer Chapman’s BWC confirms that KHATER was standing only five to eight feet away from the officers.

[snip]

In reviewing the surveillance footage and BWC video, your affiant observes that Officers Sicknick, Edwards and Chapman, who are standing within a few feet of KHATER, all react, one by one, to something striking them in the face. The officers immediately retreat from the line, bring their hands to their faces and rush to find water to wash out their eyes, as described in further detail below and as captured in the following screen shots.

While Sicknick returned to his work, that spray may have contributed to his death.

About eight minutes after Khater sprayed Sicknick and two others, starting at 2:31, Mark Ponder appears on camera beating an officer’s shield with a pole. After he broke that pole, he found another more substantial one.

Moments later, shortly before 2:32 p.m. PONDER reemerges from the crowd holding another long pole. This second pole appears to be thicker than the first pole and is colored with red, white, and blue stripes.

17 minutes after Ponder first grabbed the pole, at 2:49, he started swinging it more aggressively at individual cops, striking one.

As PONDER swings the pole in the direction of the officers, he struck Officer #3 once in the left shoulder.

Officer 3 and others tackled Ponder and started moving to arrest him. They found his ID at 3:03, but Ponder apparently lied about where he currently lived. By 3:15 — 86 minutes after Sund first requested assistance — the officers learn there’s no transport available to complete the arrest of Ponder at that time. So, as happened with Ehmke less than an hour earlier, the cops let him go, instructing him not to come back.

Ponder remained at the riot for almost two more hours.

At 4:32, according to DOD’s timeline, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller approved a deployment of the Guard to help at the Capitol. General Walker didn’t receive that order for another 30 minutes. Sometime between 5:20 (per Walker) and 5:40 (per DOD), the Guard arrived at the Capitol and started to help.

That is, in the first 86 minutes of the three hour period between when Sund asked for help and the Guard showed up, police moved to arrest two violent insurrectionists, only to be forced to let them go, and (as NYT had noted in a story some time ago), Brian Sicknick was sprayed with a toxic substance that may have led to his death.

It took 70 days for the FBI to track Ponder down after he was first released, and almost as long — 67 days — to arrest Julian Khater (likely delaying efforts to identify of the substance used against Sicknick in the process). Part of that delay must be attributed to the three hours it took DOD to provide relief to the Capitol Police.

The FBI Was Still Collecting Evidence Yesterday that Might Explain Brian Sicknick’s Death

I want to make some observations about timing that may help to explain why the government wasn’t prepared to charge Julian Khater and George Tanios in Brian Sicknick’s death, if indeed they ever will be able to, when they arrested the men yesterday.

The investigation really seems to have come together in recent weeks and the FBI seems to have spent much of the last ten days investigating Tanios, who brought the substance Khater allegedly sprayed at Sicknick to the Capitol.

The arrest affidavit suggests it would have been difficult to have IDed Khater (much less establish probable cause) without the footage from MPD Officer Chapman’s body camera.

On the video, KHATER continues to talk animatedly with TANIOS. At approximately 2:20 p.m., KHATER walks through the crowd to within a few steps of the bike rack barrier. KHATER is standing directly across from a line of law enforcement officers to include U.S. Capitol Police (“USCP”) Officers B. Sicknick and C. Edwards, and Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) Officer D. Chapman, who was equipped with a functioning body worn camera (“BWC”) device.

Officer Chapman’s BWC shows that at 2:23 p.m., the rioters begin pulling on a bike rack to Chapman’s left, using ropes and their hands to pull the rack away. Seconds later, KHATER is observed with his right arm up high in the air, appearing to be holding a canister in his right hand and aiming it in the officers’ direction while moving his right arm from side to side. Officer Chapman’s BWC confirms that KHATER was standing only five to eight feet away from the officers.

That’s some of the video that has taken longest to exploit (or longest for the FBI to be willing to share publicly), not least because there wasn’t a publicly curated set like the Parler videos released by ProPublica that allowed open source investigation.

Chapman’s BWC video would permit the FBI to ID Khater (the guy who actually used the spray). Still, he’s got a fairly late FBI Be On the Lookout number: 190, meaning it took some time for the FBI to isolate a still to release.

Once the FBI IDed Khater, though, they would have seen that he was clearly working in tandem with Tanios (which is effectively what the arrest affidavit says). Not only was Khater working with him, but Tanios was the guy carrying the bear spray, and so is more likely to be the guy who’d have another can of the substance in his backpack at home or receipts to identify precisely what was used.

The FBI tweeted out Tanios’ BOLO on March 4 (they released it with the pictures of two other guys; I’m not sure what to make of that).

The arrest warrant for the two men was approved on March 6, which would be quick work if they really were working off a BOLO released March 4 (though they likely got a warrant as soon as they obtained probable cause in case they had to arrest the men quickly).

That said, the arrest warrant wasn’t executed until March 14. That’s not that surprising–the FBI would have wanted to get this arrest right, coordinating teams so that both men would be arrested at the same time. This warrant for Tanios’ house, business, car, and devices, shows that the FBI was physically surveilling Tanios from March 5 through March 8 to identify his movements, his home, his business, and his car.

As late as March 14, the day FBI obtained the warrant, they were still waiting to receive returns from a warrant served on AT&T for Tanios’ phone records. Interestingly, Tanios called Khater at 2:42PM on January 6, less than twenty minutes after Khater allegedly sprayed Sicknick and others (another cop sprayed Khater, so he may have been recovering from pepper spray himself, but Tanios didn’t stick around to help Khater — they were separated by then).

Still, the FBI has been working all of these January 6 cases on an arrest first, further investigate later basis, partly because of the timing of the attack, and partly because FBI had done so little investigation into almost all the subjects of investigation. As Chris Wray said in testimony recently, the arrest of these subjects (sometimes just for trespass crimes) is often just the beginning of the investigation into them. With virtually all the defendants, the FBI is getting enough to arrest them, then doing the kind of investigation that normally precedes in an arrest, such as subpoenaing social media, to say nothing of searching the smart phones where subjects store much of the evidence about intent.

All of which is to say that the FBI likely only obtained evidence that would be needed to charge Khater and Tanios in Sicknick’s death yesterday — including, possibly, identifying what substance Khater allegedly sprayed at Sicknick — and that will take some weeks to fully exploit.

So it’s too soon to know whether the FBI will be able to tie that bear spray to Sicknick’s death.

Two Arrested in Officer Sicknick Assault

On Sunday, the government arrested two men, Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios, on charges of conspiring to attack three police officers, including Brian Sicknick.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Khater and Tanios were at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and were observed in video footage working together to assault law enforcement officers with an unknown chemical substance by spraying officers directly in the face and eyes.  During the investigation, it is alleged that law enforcement discovered video that depicted Khater asking Tanios to “give me that bear s*it.” Tanios replied, “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it’s still early.”  Khater then retrieved a canister from Tanios’ backpack and walked through the crowd to within a few steps of the police perimeter.  The video shows Khater with his right arm up high in the air, appearing to be holding a canister in his right hand and aiming it at the officers’ direction while moving his right arm from side to side.  The complaint affidavit states that Officers Sicknick, Edwards, and Chapman, who were all standing within a few feet of Khater, each reacted to being sprayed in the face.  The officers retreated, bringing their hands to their faces and rushing to find water to wash out their eyes.

The substance Khater allegedly sprayed caused scabs on the face of one of the officers hit, Officer Edwards, for weeks. All struck with it said the substance was as strong as anything they’ve encountered in their experience as police officers. In addition to assault charges, both were charged with conspiracy to assault police reflecting a degree of planning and intentionality.

Some Key Gaps in the January 6 Story [Updated]

DOJ continues to roll out arrests of people involved in the January 6 coup attempt.

But there are some obvious gaps in the (public) story so far.

Arrests relating to over 100 police assaults

In a filing submitted over the weekend, the government asserted that 139 cops were assaulted during the insurrection.

In the course of the insurrection, approximately 81 Capitol Police and 58 MPD officers were assaulted,

In its website tracking the people arrested so far, DOJ describes assault charges being filed against 12 people (updated on 2/1 to total 17 people):

  1. Daniel Page Adams, whose arrest affidavit describes engaging in a “direct struggle with [unnamed] law enforcement officers” (his cousin, Cody Connell, described the exchange as a “civil war”).
  2. Zachary Alam, who pushed cops around as he was trying to break into the Speaker’s Lobby.
  3. Matthew Caspel, who charged the National Guard.
  4. Scott Fairlamb, who was caught in multiple videos shoving and punching officers (one who whom is identified but not named); Cori Bush has said she was threatened by him last summer.
  5. Kyle Fitzsimons, who charged officers guarding the doorway of the Capitol.
  6. Alex Harkrider, who after being filmed fighting with police at the door of the Capitol, posted a picture with a crowbar labeled, “weapon;” he was charged with abetting Ryan Nichols’ assault.
  7. Michael Foy, a former Marine who was caught on multiple videos beating multiple cops with a hockey stick.
  8. Robert Giswein, who appears to have ties to the Proud Boys and used a bat to beat cops.
  9. Emanuel Jackson, whom videos caught punching one officer, and others show beating multiple officers with a metal baseball bat.
  10. Chad Jones, who used a Trump flag to break the glass in the Speaker’s Lobby door just before Ashli Babbitt was shot and may have intimidated three officers who were pursuing that group.
  11. Edward Jacob Lang, who identified himself in a screen cap of a violent mob attacking cops and who was filmed slamming a riot shield into police and later fighting them with a red baseball bat.
  12. Mark Jefferson Leffingwell, whom a Capitol Police officer described in an affidavit punching him.
  13. Patrick Edward McCaughey III, who was filmed crushing MPD Officer Daniel Hodges in one of the doors to the Capitol.
  14. Ryan Nichols, who was filmed wielding a crowbar and yelling, “This is not a peaceful protest,” then spraying pepper spray against police trying to prevent entry to the Capitol.
  15. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy who stole a shield from cops.
  16. Ryan Samsel, who set off the riot by giving a cop a concussion; he appears to have coordinated with Joe Biggs.
  17. Robert Sanford, who was filmed hitting Capitol Police Officer William Young on the head with a fire extinguisher.
  18. Peter Schwartz, a felon who maced several cops.
  19. Barton Wade Shively, who pushed and shoved some police trying to get into the Capitol, punched another, then struck one of those same cops later and kicked another.

While a number of these men — Fairlamb, Jackson, Nichols, Shively, among others — allegedly assaulted multiple cops, that’s still far below the total of 139 alleged assaults.

That says the FBI is still looking for a significant number of people in assaults on police. Over the weekend, the FBI released BOLO posters showing 12 other men believed to have assaulted police — including two targeting individuals specifically.

The murder of Brian Sicknick

Of particular note, while the FBI has released a BOLO poster focused on the men who assaulted MPD Officer Michael Fanone, no such post has identified suspects as those suspected of killing Brian Sicknick (though note that Robert Sanford did assault a different officer with a fire extinguisher). There are many possible explanations for why his murder might be treated differently (not least that the culprits are more likely to flee).

But we haven’t seen anything to suggest who assaulted Sicknick badly enough to lead to his death.

The DNC and RNC bomber

On January 21, the FBI increased their reward for information leading to the guy believed to have planted pipe bombs at the DNC and RNC. But there’s no sign they’ve found the guy yet.

Rudy’s interlocutors

On January 15, Rudy Giuliani posted texts involving “James Sullivan” claiming he was going to blame the riot on “John,” that he had gotten “my agent out of trouble along with three other” Utahans, and mentioning “Kash.”

“John” is James’ brother, John Sullivan, someone long ago IDed by leftist activists as a provocateur who had been charged two days earlier. He was arrested on January 14, but bailed the next day.

“Kash,” is Kash Lee Kelly, whose parole officer IDed him at the scene. His bail in the gang-related drug conviction he was awaiting sentencing for in IL was revoked on January 14.

John Sullivan is the only Utahan that GWU identifies as being from Utah, meaning the three Utahans, in addition to James Sullivan, he claims to have gotten out of trouble thus far are (publicly at least) still not in trouble. No one yet arrested is identifiable as his “agent,” either.

That means, key people who might be a pivot between the rioters and Rudy Giuliani, who was coordinating events in Congress with an eye to how much time the rioters would give him, remain (again, publicly at least) at large.

There are around 73 sealed cases in the DC District, many of which probably having nothing to do with the January 6 insurrection and some of which are surely defendants already publicly charged whose cases have not yet been unsealed in the DC docket. The reasons for unsealing could vary — though the most common would be that someone hasn’t been arrested yet). Still, some of these sealed cases may be people who’ve already moved to cooperate.

Update, 2/1: I’ve updated the list of those charged with assault.

OpSec Shaming Misses the Terrorists for the Forest of Bozos They Hid Behind

It has been amusing reading the affidavits justifying the arrest of the January 6 insurrectionists to see how easy many of them made it for the FBI.

Yesterday’s favorite example is Samuel Camargo. He posted a picture with some kind of trophy stolen from the Capitol building to his Instagram account and a confession that he had been in the riot on Facebook. After some of his associates reported him and then an FBI agent interviewed him, Camargo posted to his Facebook account claiming — notwithstanding the agent’s view that, “Camargo [had become] uncooperative, questioning your affiant’s loyalty to the constitution, and advised the interviewing agent he had no information to provide” — that he had been cleared of any crime related to the insurrection.

It didn’t work out that way.

InfoSec and cyber journalists are beginning to report on it, too. This happens to be one example, though I’m seeing a number of examples.

But while federal law enforcement has significant legal and technical resources at its disposal — like the ability to get warrants to phone or tech companies to see whose phones were in an area at a specific time, for instance — that’s proven unnecessary for a number of people who have been charged so far.

It goes on to review the OpSec failures of nine different coup-conspirators (and Camargo is not one of them).

I get the sense of schadenfreude that the seeming certainty among insurrectionists that they would not only be victorious but their victory celebrations would be risk-free has instead led to their arrests. I’m especially sympathetic to communities of color for whom similar behavior might have gotten them killed.

But with a few exceptions, notably the identification of “zip tie guys” Larry Rendall Brock (by his ex-wife) and Eric Munschel, as well as the identification of Proud Boys member, “Spaz,” as the retired Marine Dominic Pezzola (the latter of whom was arrested with the help of two seeming insider cooperating witnesses), few of the arrests so far have been of the most dangerous insurrectionists.

For example, even though the FBI posted this image of the person suspected of placing bombs at both the RNC and DNC on the day of the attack, there’s no public indication that the FBI has any leads on who it is.

According to former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, the discovery of the bombs distracted his leadership team from the growing riot at a key moment on January 6.

Sund told NPR on Friday that he increasingly believes the insurrection was part of a coordinated, planned attack on the Capitol. Specifically, Sund believes that reports of pipe bombs planted at the headquarter offices of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee in southeast Washington were part of an effort to distract police as the violent mob approached the Capitol complex.The Justice Department said it has “no direct evidence of kill or capture teams” but is still looking into what kind of planning there was.

Sund said moments before those reports came through, he was in the operations center for Capitol Police and watching the rally with President Trump at the Ellipse.

“We had the volume up a little bit so I can kind of hear what was going on, listening for anything — anything that was going on down there,” Sund said. Then “we had to turn the volume down to, you know, again, to direct our attention toward the first pipe bomb that was over at the Republican National Committee.”

The FBI has said the first pipe bomb was reported at 1 p.m. ET at the RNC in southeast Washington, followed by a report of a second pipe bomb at the DNC at 1:15 p.m. A suspect in that case has not be identified.

“I think that’s all part of the concerted and coordinated efforts that led to the violent attack,” Sund said. “Those were diversionary tactics to pull resources away from the Hill in advance of that attack. I honestly believe that.”

Likewise, I’ve seen no indication that the FBI has leads on members of a team of men who quietly snaked through the loud mouths on the stairs and into the Capitol in military formation, even though they wore insignia from the Oath Keepers, one of the most closely watched right wing terrorist groups.

As President Donald Trump’s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week and sang the national anthem, a line of men wearing olive-drab helmets and body armor trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the one ahead.

The formation, known as “Ranger File,” is standard operating procedure for a combat team that is “stacking up” to breach a building — instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did.

[snip]

A close examination of the group marching up the steps to help breach the Capitol shows they wore military-style patches that read “MILITIA” and “OATHKEEPER.” Others were wearing patches and insignias representing far-right militant groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and various self-styled state militias.

Thus far, most of the charges involve involve illegal entry and interfering with cops. It would be easy for law enforcement to focus on the chum along with the murderers of Brian Sicknick, while concentrating less closely on the people whose good OpSec has not only allowed them to delay capture, but seems to have succeeded in ensuring the Capitol would be as vulnerable as possible. Worse still, with limitations on resources in the DC District Court — most notably a scarcity of grand jury time because of COVID — the flood of idiots entering the system might delay the pursuit of more dangerous terrorists.

Yes, let’s have our fun. Let’s use the ease with which some have been caught as a way to scare the terrorism tourists from showing up on Inauguration Day or in their state capitals, to say nothing of exposing them to shame in their communities.

But let’s remember that, to a significant extent, the people taking selfies and trophies from the Capitol building were largely the camouflage behind which more dangerous men appear to have hidden.

Update: After I posted on Sunday, the government arrested several more more dangerous people. Most were all still identified via public videos. But working through these networks will likely lead to those who avoided closer video scrutiny.

Investigate Tommy Tuberville’s Pre-Speech and Debate Actions

There has been a lot of press focus in the last two days on the role that Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz played in Wednesday’s insurgency. Hawley even lost his book deal for playing a part in inciting the mob.

There should be more focus, in my opinion, on Tommy Tuberville.

I say that for two reasons.

First, by all appearances, Hawley and Cruz were just being disgusting opportunists. They saw the populist mantle, which until Wednesday was assumed to be critical to winning a 2024 presidential primary, and ran to claim it. It’s unknown how closely they coordinated with Trump in their cynical attempts to exploit the moment.

Tuberville, however, appears to have been actively coordinating with Trump during the uprising.

And his involvement in this conspiracy dates to mid-December, weeks before he was sworn in, and so a time when his activities would have somewhat less investigative protection under the speech and debate clause. After he first floated serving as the then sole Senator who would challenge the certification of the vote, Trump reached out to Tuberville directly.

On Sunday, Trump said in a radio interview that he had spoken with Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) about challenging the electoral vote count when the House and Senate convene on Jan. 6 to formally affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“He’s so excited,” Trump said of Tuberville. “He said, ‘You made me the most popular politician in the United States.’ He said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ He’s great. Great senator.”

Tuberville’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Trump’s statement, which the president made in an interview with Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on New York’s WABC radio station.

Trump’s conversation with Tuberville is part of a much broader effort by the defeated president to invalidate the election. He is increasingly reaching out to allies like Giuliani and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for ideas and searching his Twitter feed for information to promote, according to Trump advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

And we know that Tuberville remained in direct contact with the conspirators because on Wednesday, the geniuses trying to pull of this coup tried to call him twice. First, literally at the moment Senators were being evacuated because rioters had breached the building, Trump attempted to call Tuberville directly but instead dialed Mike Lee’s cell phone.

With a mob of election protesters laying siege to the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Mike Lee had just ended a prayer with some of his colleagues in the Senate chamber when his cellphone rang.

Caller ID showed the call originated from the White House. Lee thought it might be national security adviser Robert O’Brien, with whom he’d been playing phone tag on an unrelated issue. It wasn’t O’Brien. It was President Donald Trump.

“How’s it going, Tommy?” the president asked.

Taken a little aback, Lee said this isn’t Tommy.

“Well, who is this? Trump asked. “It’s Mike Lee,” the senator replied. “Oh, hi Mike. I called Tommy.”

Lee told the Deseret News he realized Trump was trying to call Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected Republican from Alabama and former Auburn University football coach. Lee walked his phone over to Tuberville who was talking to some colleagues.

“Hey, Tommy, I hate to interrupt but the president wants to speak with you,” Lee said.

Tuberville and Trump talked for about five to 10 minutes, Lee said, adding that he stood nearby because he didn’t want to lose his cellphone in the commotion. The two were still talking when panicked police ordered the Capitol to be evacuated because people had breached security.

As police were getting anxious for senators to leave, Lee walked over to retrieve his phone.

“I don’t want to interrupt your call with the president, but we’re being evacuated and I need my phone,” he said.

Tuberville said, “OK, Mr. President. I gotta go.”

Then, hours after Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat,” after the mob had already breached the building, after one of the insurgents had been killed, hours after Trump had released a video pretending to oppose the violence, possibly even after Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered injuries that would ultimately kill him, Rudy attempted to call Tuberville. He also dialed the number of a different [unidentified] Senator. Rudy left a message suggesting that he expected Tuberville would heed his requests, a message that seemed to suggest the entire process was an attempt to buy President Trump’s disinformation teams a day to put together new false allegations.

Senator Tuberville? Or I should say Coach Tuberville. This is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you. And I know they’re reconvening at 8 tonight, but it … the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.

I know McConnell is doing everything he can to rush it, which is kind of a kick in the head because it’s one thing to oppose us, it’s another thing not to give us a fair opportunity to contest it. And he wants to try to get it down to only three states that we contest. But there are 10 states that we contest, not three. So if you could object to every state and, along with a congressman, get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot, but it would give us the opportunity to get the legislators who are very, very close to pulling their vote, particularly after what McConnell did today. It angered them, because they have written letters asking that you guys adjourn and send them back the questionable ones and they’ll fix them up.

So, this phone number, I’m available on all night, and it would be an honor to talk to you. Thank you.

This message is the most direct piece of evidence, thus far, that Trump and his co-conspirators planned to use the insurgency as a delay tactic to buy time to try to concoct new claims about the results. It shows that Rudy remained engaged with the attempt to obstruct the lawful counting of the vote after the violence that had delayed it.

Admittedly, both of these calls, like all communications involving either Hawley or Cruz, would be otherwise (if Trump and Rudy hadn’t fucked up) difficult to access given Tuberville’s speech and debate protections. But his communications with the President prior to being sworn in just days earlier would not have the same presumptive protections. And since Rudy was calling him directly, that wouldn’t be privileged either.

The place to start the investigation into Trump’s role in the coup attempt is not with Hawley and Cruz. It’s with Tuberville.