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The Tactics of the Louis Enrique Colon Cooperation Agreement

As Capitol Police attempted to lower a barricade protecting the tunnels of the Capitol on January 6, Proud Boy Louis Enrique Colon reached out and prevented it from closing, then placed a chair to further obstruct the gate.

While inside the Capitol building, defendant observed co-defendants Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold at various points inside of the building, including in a downstairs area of the Capitol near where several retractable doors were being lowered by police officers in an attempt to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building. To prevent one of the doors from closing, defendant used his hands to stop the door and placed a chair in the door’s path, while co-defendant Kuehne and another individual placed a podium in the path of another door.

That’s the basis of the single charge to which Colon pled guilty as part of a cooperation agreement yesterday, 18 USC 231, Civil Disorder.

Defendant knowingly obstructed, impeded, and interfered with law enforcement officers while those officers were lawfully engaged in their official duties incident to a civil disorder that was occurring inside of the Capitol. Among other things, defendant prevented officers from closing a retractable door which was intended to prevent rioters from advancing further into a portion of the restricted Capitol building.

In my opinion, this is, by any measure, the most lenient overt plea deal a January 6 defendant has gotten (and a comment that one of the lawyers in the plea hearing yesterday made suggested that it had recently been sweetened). On top of this charge and trespassing, Colon was originally charged in a conspiracy with other members of the Kansas City Proud Boys, as well as individually with obstruction. With credit for cooperation, according to his plea deal, the former cop may avoid any prison time.

That’s all the more remarkable given that Colon’s statement of offense reveals that he went to the Capitol with a pocket knife and an axe handle.

Among other things, defendant purchased and modified an axe handle to be used as both a walking stick and an improvised weapon

[snip]

Defendant and the group ultimately made their way to the west side of the Capitol’s grounds, outside of the restricted, fenced-off perimeter which had barricades staffed by USCP officers. At the time, defendant was wearing a backpack, pocket knife, tactical vest, tactical gloves, boots, and a helmet adorned with orange tape.

While the knife may be too short to trigger enhancements, carrying an acknowledged weapon has been used to enhance the penalties of others, though it is also the kind of thing prosecutors have used to flip people.

In other words, either Colon’s cooperation is so valuable, or DOJ needed it so badly, that he got a really sweet plea deal even in spite of bringing an “improvised weapon.”

So I’d like to discuss what DOJ may be doing tactically.

First, some background. The Oath Keepers investigation has been marked by a relentless march of new cooperators, publicly unveiled: Jon Schaffer, Graydon Young, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, Jason Dolan, Joshua James. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. By contrast, just two of the overt Proud Boy cooperators have the kind of plea deal that implicates the wider conspiracy, Matthew Greene and Charles Donohoe. For whatever reason — apparently thinner staffing, greater numbers of participants, difficulties created by Enrique Tarrio’s arrest and delayed phone exploitation, investigative equities, corrupt lenient treatment, or a more important role in the overall investigation — DOJ has been using different tactics to get cooperation from Proud Boys and other key far right personalities. As an example, Jeff Finley (like Brandon Straka and likely, soon, Baked Alaska) seems to have cooperated in advance to avoid a felony altogether. So did Jeremy Grace, though his statement of offense implicated his far more complicit father who, if he ever cooperated, might implicate far more important tactical players. Ricky Willden’s statement of offense barely hints at what he knew that day.

Particularly given a reference made to Colon “continu[ing]” his cooperation in the hearing yesterday, this feels more like the kind of deal Finley got, where someone works their way out of more serious charges (which in Colon’s case would be obstruction with a weapons enhancement) ahead of time. That kind of cooperation makes it less visible, but also may make testimony harder to impeach down the road.

With that in mind, I’d like to look at four aspects of his statement of offense.

First, as virtually all conspirators who flip do, Colon implicated his co-conspirators, describing how:

  • Ryan Ashlock, Christopher Kuehne, and another individual traveled with Colon from Kansas City
  • Kuehne brought two AR-15 or similar assault rifles on the trip
  • Kuehne, at defendant’s suggestion, purchased orange, fluorescent tape so the group would be able to identify each other in a crowd
  • William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others met on January 5 to talk about safety
  • The Konold siblings joined their group on the way to the meet-up at the Washington Memorial
  • Colon saw Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold as police officers attempted to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building (though the statement of offense doesn’t describe their efforts to prevent it) [my emphasis]

That is, at one level Colon’s cooperation simply shores up the third major Proud Boy conspiracy, just like Donohoe, Greene, and Finley provided direct evidence against the Leader conspiracy.

But consider this big story from Alan Feuer from September. According to 302s that defendants have gotten, one of just two known actively-handled informants among the Proud Boys that day said he had no advance knowledge of plans to disrupt the vote certification.

After meeting his fellow Proud Boys at the Washington Monument that morning, the informant described his path to the Capitol grounds where he saw barriers knocked down and Trump supporters streaming into the building, the records show. At one point, his handler appeared not to grasp that the building had been breached, the records show, and asked the informant to keep him in the loop — especially if there was any violence.

[snip]

On Jan. 6, and for months after, the records show, the informant, who was affiliated with a Midwest chapter of the Proud Boys, denied that the group intended to use violence that day. In lengthy interviews, the records say, he also denied that the extremist organization planned in advance to storm the Capitol. The informant’s identity was not disclosed in the records.

[snip]

But statements from the informant appear to counter the government’s assertion that the Proud Boys organized for an offensive assault on the Capitol intended to stop the peaceful transition from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.

On the eve of the attack, the records show, the informant said that the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists — a narrative the Proud Boys have often used to excuse their own violent behavior.

Then, during an interview in April, the informant again told his handlers that Proud Boys leaders gave explicit orders to maintain a defensive posture on Jan. 6. At another point in the interview, he said that he never heard any discussion that day about stopping the Electoral College process.

As Feuer noted at the time, if you ignore that this Proud Boys showed up late, this informant’s testimony significantly undermines claims of prosecutors.

There are multiple clues in Feuer’s article and elsewhere — most notably the reference to a young woman (likely to be Felicia Konold) — that this informant was affiliated with the Kansas City cell.

He said that when he arrived, throngs of people were already streaming past the first barrier outside the building, which, he later learned, was taken down by one of his Proud Boy acquaintances and a young woman with him. [my emphasis]

In other words, until such time as DOJ secures testimony to contradict that of their informant, these interviews remain a weak point in the case against the Proud Boys.

They may have gotten that testimony yesterday.

Now consider what this particular cell of the Proud Boys did — and why that may have led DOJ to be satisfied with just the less serious 231 charge against Colon.

DOJ has charged conspiracy tied to January 6 in a bunch of ways: most spectacularly with some Oath Keepers, seditious conspiracy, also with those Oath Keepers (and the alleged Brian Sicknick assailants), conspiracy to injure an officer, and for most people charged with a conspiracy, either the conspiracy charge tied to the obstruction statute (18 USC 1512k, which carries greater penalties), or conspiracy under 18 USC 371.

But for a few of the Proud Boy conspiracies, including this Kansas City cell, the 371 conspiracy had two objects: to obstruct the vote count, but also to obstruct the cops. That’s basically a conspiracy to commit 18 USC 231, the charge Colon pled guilty to.

And the particular act of obstruction that this cell engaged in — preventing the cops from closing the gates leading to tunnels via which rioters correctly believed members of Congress had fled — is one of the most important tactically. That is, this may show not just a desire to mess with the cops, but a plan to go after members of Congress.

This cell is important for the means by which the Proud Boys made things work on January 6. And Colon may be a key witness to the tactical implementation of plans that went into that day.

Finally, consider the description, from Colon’s statement of offense, of this meeting the night before.

In the evening on January 5, 2021, defendant attended a meeting with co-defendants William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others during which group safety was discussed. At some point during the meeting, another individual said that he did not come to Washington, D.C., to just march around and asked, “do we have patriots here willing to take it by force?” Defendant was shocked by this and understood that the individual was referring to using force against the government. Co-defendant Kuehne responded to the question by saying that he had his guns with him and, in essence, that he was ready to go. The individual who posed the question said that they should “go in there and take over.” [my emphasis]

DOJ has been doing a lot of work unpacking the degree to which coordination happened at meetings on January 5 (I expect we’ll see it in more expected plea agreements going forward). These meetings were critically important for getting everyone on the same page, including a bunch of people who weren’t otherwise affiliated.

We have no idea what this meeting was — we’re still looking for details on a meeting that Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean attended around 9PM the night before, though I doubt that’s what this is.

The description is important for several reasons. First, the focus on “group safety” seems to match the informant’s claim that, “On the eve of the attack … the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists.” Except if it’s that same meeting, then the informant would have also heard someone express a desire to take DC by force, in response to which Kuehne, who is a former Marine, said he was ready to go. At the very least, this description could correct the informant’s claims; it may prove them false.

But it also significantly advances the evidence that some of the Proud Boys, like some of the Oath Keepers, were thinking of using force against the government.

That’s the kind of evidence that has, with the Oath Keepers, helped persuade others to plead out and cooperate.

Update: Note that Robert Gieswein also wore orange tape to insurrection; he allegedly sprayed cops trying to close that barricade.

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.

Back Was Stood, And By Was Stood: The Passive Voice Behind the Top Down Structure of the Charles Donohoe Statement of Offense

As I’ve been expecting for some time, Proud Boy Charles Donohoe pled guilty today — to one count of 18 USC 1512(k) (the obstruction conspiracy statute) and one count of assault.

There are few new details in his statement of offense. The most important ones are that:

  • Enrique Tarrio fast-tracked the membership of Dominic Pezzola, the Proud Boy who would be the first to break through a Capitol window with a stolen riot shield on January 6, into the Proud Boys, thereby putting Tarrio directly on the hook for Pezzola’s action
  • Donohoe originally didn’t intend to attend the riot, but did to fill in a leadership gap once he learned Tarrio would be arrested

Most of the rest of the statement of offense is designed to implicate the entire, strictly-enforced hierarchy of the Proud Boys in several kinds of criminal exposure.

First there’s the plan to use violence to obstruct the vote count — something that was planned before Tarrio was arrested, and so something in which he is clearly implicated.

At least as early as January 4, 2021, and prior to Donohoe’s decision to travel to D.C., Donohoe was aware that members of MOSD leadership were discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol. Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power. Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.

[snip]

Donohoe was not given details of the plan referred to by Biggs, but Donohoe understood from discussions among the MOSD and other Proud Boys that the objective in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, was to obstruct, impede, or interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote. Donohoe understood from discussions that the group would pursue this through the use of force and violence, in order to show Congress that “we the people” were in charge.

[snip]

Within minutes of arriving, members of the crowd breached the barriers and advanced onto Capitol grounds. Donohoe saw Nordean and Biggs advance onto Capitol grounds and followed them. Donohoe believed these actions were intended to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote.

This implicates everyone in the chain of command in using violence to obstruct the vote certification.

Then there’s the damage to the Capitol that Pezzola did with that riot shield — and all the damage that followed.

Shortly after throwing the water bottles at officers, Donohoe encountered Pezzola. Donohoe recognized Pezzola as a Proud Boys member and confirmed that fact with another Proud Boys member. Donohoe then grabbed the riot shield that Pezzola was holding and led Pezzola to the rear of the West Plaza. After reaching the rear of the concrete area of the West Plaza, Donohoe posted a message to MOSD leaders at 1:37 p.m. that read, “Got a riot shield.” While standing at the rear of the plaza, Donohoe took a picture of Pezzola holding the riot shield and making a hand gesture associated with the Proud Boys.

Donohoe then advanced back toward the Capitol in an effort to locate other Proud Boys members. Upon arriving near the base of a set of concrete stairs, Donohoe recognized a Proud Boys member known as “Milkshake” at the front of the crowd standing opposite a line of officers. Donohoe heard shouting and other discussion among those surrounding him indicating that the crowd was preparing to push toward the Capitol. Donohoe recognized that the concrete stairs offered a path to advance further toward the Capitol. Donohoe and others in the crowd pushed up the stairs. It was reasonably foreseeable to Donohoe that the use of force to advance toward the Capitol would involve property destruction by members of the Proud Boys who had been led to the Capitol by Nordean and Biggs.

[snip]

The attack on the Capitol resulted in substantial damage, requiring the expenditure of more than $1.4 million dollars for repairs.

This is important because 18 USC 1361, willfully doing more than $1,000 of damage to a government building, can carry a terrorism enhancement if done to coerce the government, which (very loosely speaking) can add roughly 10 years to any sentence imposed. Donohoe’s statement of offense says that the foreseeable damage the Proud Boys did with the goal of obstructing the vote certification was $1.4 million.

Finally, there’s the violence that happened, starting with Donohoe’s own water bottles but including Milkshake’s assault on cops and all the other violence that was foreseeable.

Donohoe threw two water bottles at a line of law enforcement officers engaged in the lawful performance of their official duties who were attempting to prevent the mob’s advance in the West Plaza at the Capitol building. It was reasonably foreseeable to Donohoe that members of the Proud Boys who had been led to the Capitol by Nordean and Biggs would engage in assaults on law enforcement.

[snip]

Donohoe intended to use force and did, in fact, use force to obstruct, impede, or interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote, and did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with, officers or employees of the United States.

In taking such actions, Donohoe intended to influence or affect the conduct of the United States government. He accomplished this by intimidating and coercing government personnel who were participating in or supporting the Congressional proceeding, including Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and law enforcement officers with the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department.

This language — and Dan Scott’s more serious assault and by association all the assaults that happened that day — is important because the conspiracy tied to obstruction, 18 USC 1512(k), can carry enhancements for things like attempted murder and attempted kidnapping, making the maximum penalty 30 years instead of 20.

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

Since this post is about the passive voice, let me note that murders were attempted on January 6.

As I said, what this statement of offense does is implicate the entire chain of a very hierarchical command in criminal exposure for the intentional use of violence and the foreseeable damage to the Capitol as part of a plan to coerce Congress to halt the vote certification. Everyone from Tarrio on down is implicated in this, and several specifics about Donohoe’s statement of offense will ensure that Tarrio can’t escape responsibility because he was absent and Donohoe filled in.

But it is the 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.

This is like announcing a plan to “Stand back and stand by” using the passive voice.

Update: Yesterday, WV Proud Boy head Jeffrey Finley pled guilty in what appears to be one of the misdemeanor pleas tied to advance cooperation. His statement of the offense strongly implicates Zach Rehl, with whom he co-traveled for part of the day.

Questions about the Proud Boys Superseding Indictment

As noted here, DOJ charged Enrique Tarrio, along with the existing leadership conspiracy defendants and Dominic Pezzola, This is just the second superseding indictment against the key Proud Boys. And while it’s good that Tarrio was finally included and there are hints of interesting coordination, unlike with the Oath Keepers conspiracy, where each superseding indictment pointed to a relentless march in one direction, where the Proud Boy investigation is heading is far less clear to me.

For now, I’ll assume that’s simply because they’re holding their cards close.

Who is missing

My first question pertains to the non-inclusion of certain people in this indictment.

The first is William Pepe, who had been charged with Dominic Pezzola on the indictment that got consolidated with this one. He has either flipped (which would be especially noteworthy given that he is represented by John Pierce), or he’s just sitting out there in a conspiracy with himself.

Another person not included here is Ron Loerkhe. With Jimmy Haffner, he was instrumental in breaching the East side of the Capitol and seems to have provided military structure to the attack. The two of them remain charged only by complaint and in February DOJ got a 3 month continuance on their case.

A third is Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, a close associate of Zach Rehl’s who kibbitzed the attack from Philadelphia that day. He was raided back in October, seemingly suggesting he too might get charged. The indictment doesn’t charge him. It also leaves out some of his statements that were in earlier court filings.

Who is cooperating and who is not

Thus far, there is only one overt cooperator in the Proud Boy cases: Matthew Greene, the former co-defendant of Dominic Pezzola (who has been moved onto this indictment) and Pepe (who has disappeared).

There are three senior Proud Boys — named as Person 1, Person 2, and Person 3 — whose status remains unknown. All three had key leadership positions. And they presumably were involved in a video chat Tarrio scheduled for December 20 to discuss Person 3’s comment that, “most of the protest will be at the capital building given what’s going on inside.” Person 1 is almost certainly Jeremy Bertino, who lives in SC; a number of well-informed people believe Person 2 is Wolkind. [h/t CH]

There are other Proud Boys who could be included in this indictment but who aren’t. Dan “Milkshake” Scott got a continuance in February for 120 days; that filing stated that he and the government had not yet even started plea negotiations. Joe Biggs’ co-travelers on the Arthur Jackman indictment are all still charged individually, even though two of them were literally touching Biggs at key moments during the day; the government is only now sorting through conflicts posed by John Pierce’s representation of three of them that would have to precede any plea discussions. Zach Rehl’s co-travelers also remain charged by complaint (and just misdemeanors, too); in February the government got a continuance until April. Jeff Finley, who also with Rehl and the others for part of the day, got a continuance in February until late March, to allow for “continued discussions about the case.” [Corrected to note Finley is a PB] Gabriel Garcia, who seemed to be one of the most useful people reporting back so others could coordinate from outside the riot, seems headed for trial by himself.

Father Jeremy and son Jeffrey Grace remain in uncertain status, too. After dad got busted for paling around with Proud Boys last summer, they’ve been in flux but still just charged (not even with each other!) with trespassing. In February Jeffrey’s case got continued until St. Patricks Day and Jeremy’s got continued to April.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Ricky Willden set a change of plea hearing for April 7, pretty far in advance as these things go. Because he was charged directly with indictment, it’s not clear what the government knows, but he has ties to the Proud Boys and others.

The inconsistent references

In addition to the three Person-Numbers, this indictment refers to people by all manner of convention.

It names Stewart Rhodes in describing the meeting he had with Tarrio in a parking garage after Tarrio was released from jail on January 5.

Then there are multiple people described as “an individual whose identity is known to the grand jury,” the most interesting of whom is the person who shared a 9-page document about occupying key buildings in DC.

But that’s also the way the indictment describes Ryan Samsel before explaining that he, “put one arm around BIGGS’s shoulder and spoke to him” before be broke through the first barrier in front of the Capitol. On Friday, Jia Cobb (who took over the Samsel case from Tim Kelly when several people were added), ordered Samsel transported from the State Jail in Pennsylvania he had been in to a the Federal jail where DC jail residents had been moved to. Since Samsel has been charged, there’s no reason not to name him, just as Rhodes is named.

Where is Trump

As I noted earlier, there’s no mention of Enrique Tarrio’s visit to the White House in December. The White House claimed that was no big deal, and maybe it is.

But this indictment also leaves out all mention of Proud Boys, including Tarrio, playing on Trump’s Stand Back and Stand By comment.

Where is the obstruction charge?

In some ways, this indictment charges more aggressively than the earlier one. As other indictments have, it swaps the 18 USC 371 conspiracy (with a maximum sentence of 5 years) for an 18 USC 1512(k) conspiracy (with a maximum sentence of 20 years).

It charges all the men for the assaults originally charged just against Donohoe and Pezzola.

But it doesn’t include an obstruction charge for Tarrio, in spite of his explicit efforts to prevent others from cooperating, recordings of which were publicly released.

Where does this go from here?

I’ve been expecting and predicting this indictment since December 28. But for the life of me, I’m not sure where DOJ expects to go from here.

This indictment describes the numbers of people massed at several stages of the operation. 65 members on the Ministry of Self Defense (MOSD) Members Group. 90 people in the New MOSD members group created on January 4. Approximately 100 Proud Boys who met at the Washington Memorial the morning of the attack. Donohoe bragging at 12:00PM on January 6 that “WE ARE WITH 200-300 PBS,” just before they kicked off the riot.

Perhaps this framework is meant to provide a way to implicate all those others, 300 people who agreed, by signing up, that they were following a plan that DOJ has now shown (and that Matthew Greene’s cooperation was designed to show) was a plan to occupy buildings from the start.

But otherwise, this still feels really dispersed, and the prosecution team (which consists of three visible members for the leadership conspiracy, including Erik Kenerson, Jason McCullough, and Luke Jones, and about four detailees from other offices for satellite cases; a fourth prosecutor who had been on the core cases, Christopher Berridge, left immediately after Greene pled) has a far harder caseload than the significantly larger team on the Oath Keepers.

Perhaps something will really start to crystalize as some of these continuances end in April. Or perhaps DOJ will be serially prosecuting Proud Boys for the foreseeable future.

Judge Tim Kelly Releases Opinion on Obstruction Affecting as Many as Two Dozen Proud Boys

Judge Tim Kelly released his order denying Ethan Nordean’s motion to dismiss the Proud Boys’ conspiracy indictment, a challenge largely focused on DOJ’s application of the obstruction statute to January 6 (here’s my Twitter thread on the opinion). The opinion cites Dabney Friedrich’s opinion in Sandlin seven times, Amit Mehta’s opinion in Caldwell three times, and Trevor McFadden’s opinion in Couy Griffin (on one of the trespassing charges) ten times, suggesting that DC District judges (three of them Trump appointees) are coming to a consensus approving the way DOJ has charged these January 6 cases.

Perhaps the most notable language in the opinion rejects a comparison Nordean tried to make with the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court protests.

Arguing that the statute invites discriminatory enforcement, Defendants repeatedly point to charging decisions and plea deals related to other January 6 defendants, see ECF No. 226 at 12– 13, and the uncharged protestors on the Capitol steps during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, see ECF No. 113 at 13–16. But neither provides evidence of vagueness. Both merely show “the Executive’s exercise of discretion over charging determinations.” United States v. Fokker Servs. B.V., 818 F.3d 733, 741 (D.C. Cir. 2016). And “Supreme Court precedent teaches that the presence of enforcement discretion alone does not render a statutory scheme unconstitutionally vague.” Kincaid v. Gov’t of D.C., 854 F.3d 721, 729 (D.C. Cir. 2017); see also United States v. Griffin, — F. Supp. 3d —- , 2021 WL 2778557, at *7 (D.D.C. July 2, 2021) (rejecting argument that defendant’s prosecution was discriminatory given large numbers of similarly situated, uncharged individuals from January 6 and uncharged protestors at Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings). “As always, enforcement requires the exercise of some degree of police judgment, but, as confined, that degree of judgment here is permissible.” Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 114 (1972).

That’s because eventually Kavanaugh will get to weigh in on this issue, and because DOJ’s response to Nordean’s comparison was weaker than it should have been.

In a feat of procedural wizardry, Nordean already appealed today’s decision, yesterday, by sticking it onto an appeal of Kelly’s refusal to reopen bail.

The denial of his motion to dismiss normally would not be appealable until after trial (at which point Kavanaugh can have his say).

One reason Nordean may have done that is to attempt to stave off a flood of Proud Boys rushing to join Matthew Greene in pleading out. That’s because Judge Kelly’s decision will also apply to the following groups of Proud Boys and Proud Boy adjacent defendants whose cases he is also presiding over, as well as a number of others who might get added in if — as I expect — DOJ consolidates its Proud Boy conspiracy cases in the weeks ahead:

  • Nordean (4 defendants)
  • Pezzola (2 remaining defendants after Greene’s change of plea)
  • Chrestman (6 defendants)
  • Jackman (5 defendants charged individually with obstruction, but not with conspiracy)
  • Hughes (2 defendants)
  • Pruitt
  • Samsel (2 defendants)*

All defendants charged with obstruction have been waiting for these opinions. But as it happens, almost two dozen people currently or potentially charged with obstruction will be covered by this opinion. And if the attorneys are seeing the same signs of an imminent superseding Proud Boy indictment, if they don’t think there’ll be any fresh uncertainty from another judge, they may rush for the exits before that happens.

Thus far, with assistance from Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys have prevented the kinds of (visible) defections we’ve seen from the Oath Keepers. But this decision — coming at the same time as Greene’s plea deal — may change that.

*DOJ has been talking about consolidating Samsel’s case with that of Paul Johnson and Stephen Chase Randolph, along with another not-yet arrested defendant. If they do that, it would normally be kept under Judge Paul Friedman since he had the case first.

Update: Corrected McFadden’s first name.

Update: Judge Randolph Moss has also issued his opinion, similarly upholding the application of obstruction. Here’s my thread on it.

Chekhov’s Riot Shield: How Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s Cooperation Helps Prove the Conspiracy

In a chat among the Central New York chapter of the Proud Boys on January 17, according to a June detention motion, Matthew Greene stated that, “we must stand together now or end up in the gulag separately.” Yesterday, Greene entered into a cooperation plea deal that may accelerate his transfer into a Federal prison and even contemplates witness protection.

The press has made much of Greene’s cooperation deal — and I agree that the first public cooperation agreement from a Proud Boy is newsworthy. But I think the press is overstating the singular importance of Greene’s plea deal, for two reasons.

Greene is the first (public) cooperator but there are probably more senior Proud Boys close to flipping

First, there is very good reason to believe there are other non-public Proud Boy cooperators (or people, like Greene, who have been discussing a plea deal for months but who have not yet publicly pled guilty). Tim Kelly, the Judge presiding over the most Proud Boy cases, only just revealed that he will uphold DOJ’s application of the obstruction charge (though he has yet to issue his opinion), which is likely to accelerate the public entry of plea deals from other Proud Boys close to flipping. In other words, Greene is the only cooperator we can point to docketed proof of, but there are others, almost certainly others who are better situated to expose the full contours of the senior Proud Boys’ plans for the Capitol.

The other reason Greene’s welcome cooperation is being overstated is because — as Greene’s statement of offense makes clear — the Proud Boys used a cell organization on January 6 and Greene was, by his own telling, just a “first-degree member of the Central New York chapter of the Proud Boys,” making him one of the “least senior members.” But as I show below, that also means his cooperation is a good way of showing that a low level Proud Boy was aware of and following the instructions of the most senior Proud Boys.

To be clear: Greene’s statement of offense states that it “is not intended to constitute a complete statement of all facts known by Greene.” But the things that he does and appears not to know illustrates how DOJ is either going to need to flip one of the most senior Proud Boys and/or get cooperators from multiple different parts of the network to get a full understanding (and proof beyond a reasonable doubt) to describe all that the Proud Boys did on January 6.

That said, even given what is public, Greene’s cooperation will be useful in the following ways:

  • Confirming intent to obstruct the vote count by intimidating Mike Pence and others
  • Providing first-hand evidence on the “Front Door” conspiracy
  • Tying the Front Door cell to the Leader conspiracy
  • Describing the lead-up to January 6

Confirming intent to obstruct the vote count by intimidating Mike Pence and others

As this post explains, Greene’s intent statement confirms that:

  • The goal that day was to intimidate Mike Pence and members of Congress to get them to help Trump’s cause
  • Trespassing was one way to serve that goal of obstruction because it was more intimidating
  • The damage to the Capitol was a foreseeable consequence of the plan to obstruct the vote count

These three intent statements will be important in prosecuting other Proud Boys — and indeed, other rioters in January 6. They show that even low level Proud Boy participants understood this — and not some bullshit cover story about Antifa — to be the goal.

Providing first-hand evidence on the “Front Door” conspiracy

As a reminder, Greene was indicted, along with Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, in what I’ve dubbed the “Front Door” conspiracy. The three were indicted together, it appears, because they’re all from NY (though Pepe is from a different chapter of the Proud Boys) and DOJ has a witness who spent time with them after the riot on January 6 who shared that they had said they would have gone after Pelosi or Pence had they found them.

The FBI also spoke to a witness, referred to as W-1 for purposes of this memorandum. W1 stated that Greene was one of a group of individuals who told W-1 about what they did on January 6. According to W-1, members of this group said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi.5 W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included Greene, said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance.

The Front Door conspiracy is utterly critical because the terrorism enhancement hanging over all the other Proud Boys charged with conspiracy goes through the stolen shield with which Pezzola broke a window in the first breach of the Capitol.

While I expect some consolidation among the Proud Boy cases in the near future, DOJ needs this prosecution to succeed because it gives them leverage over the other Proud Boys they’re using to get other conspirators to cooperate.

And Greene’s statement of offense does provide evidence that he and Pezzola and Pepe entered into an agreement to obstruct the vote count and took overt steps, in concert, to make that happen. It describes that Greene:

  • Made hotel reservations with his chapter of the Proud Boys and drove from Syracuse with them — including Pezzola — to DC.
  • Allowed Pepe, who showed up overnight, to sleep on his floor.
  • Programmed the Baofeng radios used by the Central New York Proud Boys (which also means Greene shared a channel with Pezzola and therefore heard what Pezzola was hearing).
  • Eschewed Proud Boys colors.
  • Traveled with Pezzola throughout the day, including through the first toppled barricade to a line of fences, away from there (in what researchers believe was a regrouping effort to wait for more numbers), then up the stairs.
  • Stayed at the same hotel as Pezzola and Pepe after the riot (as demonstrated by security footage from the hotel).

Tying the Front Door cell to the Leader conspiracy

As noted above, in the Proud Boys hierarchy, Greene was just a schlub, a first level Proud Boy just weeks into joining the organization.

But that makes him useful for showing that orders issued by Enrique Tarrio, Joe Biggs, and Ethan Nordean trickled down to him. The order not to wear Proud Boy colors, for example, is one Tarrio and Biggs issued publicly. Greene followed that order.

Similarly, around 9:30PM on January 5, the Leader co-conspirators agreed to set the meetup point on the side of the Washington Monument facing the White House at 10AM. This agreement is part of the proof they had entered into a conspiracy with each other.

The next day, Greene, this schlub from Syracuse, followed these instructions.

On the morning of January 6, 2021, Greene, along with Pezzola, Pepe, and the others he had traveled with from Syracuse, met up at the Washington Monument with members of the Proud Boys from across the country, as instructed by Proud Boys leadership. As also instructed by leadership, neither Greene, Pezzola, Pepe, nor any of the other individuals in their group wore the Proud Boys’ traditional colors of black and yellow.

Greene, Pezzola, and the others they traveled with from Syracuse, then followed the Proud Boys leadership in departing from the Washington Monument and marching on the National Mall towards the U.S. Capitol.

In other words, precisely because someone so low level was obviously following instructions developed in private by the Proud Boys’ top leadership, it ties the Syracuse cell with the Leadership cell in the same conspiracy.

And one remarkable moment of Greene’s testimony demonstrates this particularly well. His statement of offense describes that,

After Pezzola had stolen a riot shield belonging to the U.S. Capitol Police, Greene followed him away from the scene of the robbery, through the crowd, away from the Capitol, and to the back of the West Plaza. During this journey, Pezzola met up and traveled with at least two other individuals, one of whom jointly carried the riot shield with Pezzola.

It appears that Greene did not know — perhaps still does not know — who the person carrying the shield with Pezzola was. It was Charles Donohoe, one of the four people currently charged in the Leader Conspiracy.

This moment is like the Chekhov’s Riot Shield of the entire January 6, the moment where the crucial weapon (in this case, that would inflict the damage to the Capitol window that puts all the co-conspirators on the hook for terrorism enhancements) shows up early in the story as if foretelling where the story will (and in this case, did) go. Greene is a witness to this moment. But by witnessing it this way, with no idea of Donohoe’s seniority, Greene again demonstrates how the actions of low level Proud Boys tie directly up with its top leadership.

And Greene’s experience in DC tied to the most senior Proud Boy, Tarrio. His statement of offense notes that as Greene was setting the Baofeng’s, Pezzola told Greene that Tarrio would stop by to have his own radio programmed as well.

Pezzola told Greene that the National Chairman of the Proud Boys would stop by to have his radio programmed, but the National Chairman did not in fact stop by, nor did Greene program his radio.

This seems to prove that Pezzola was in touch, personally, with Tarrio on that confusing day as the Proud Boys attempted to regroup after Tarrio’s arrest, but not in such close touch that Pezzola knew immediately that Tarrio had moved to Baltimore after his release and stay-away order. It might suggest that Tarrio was on the Baofeng’s that day, in addition to participating in the Telegram chat. If DOJ can prove that, then it makes it a lot easier to charge Tarrio personally.

Describing the lead-up to January 6

As Greene’s statement of offense describes it, he only joined the Proud Boys after the December 12, 2020 MAGA March.

As of January 6, 2021, Greene was a first-degree member of the Central New York chapter of the Proud Boys. He had officially joined the group following a rally that took place in Washington D.C. in December 2020.

A detention filing for Pezzola suggests this was his first Proud Boy event as well.

[D]efendant’s only other “action” as a Proud Boy was that on December 12, 2020, he attended a “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) rally in support of then President Trump. There is no alleged criminal activity by defendant in relation to that event. This occurred shortly after defendant’s introduction to the Proud Boys. Upon information and belief, his only other activity as a Proud Boy was discussing politics over drinks at bars on occasion.

As Greene’s detention memo made clear, Greene met Pezzola in the early days of joining the group, possibly in DC.

The FBI also recovered a photograph of a group of Proud Boys, apparently taken inside a bar, which metadata indicates was taken in December 2020, that includes both Greene and Pezzola.

Greene’s statement of offense describes that he decided to attend January 6 in response to Trump’s call on December 19.

On December 19, 2021, when Greene saw then-President Donald Trump’s tweet referencing a “wild” protest to take place on January 6, 2021, he decided that he would attend the event, and he booked a hotel in Washington, D.C. for January 5-7, 2021.

On December 20, Greene ordered some AR-15 magazines that may cause legal trouble in NY (and was one of the key reasons why Greene was held in pre-trial detention). 

The FBI also located a camouflage tactical vest filled with eight detachable magazines for an AR-15 (Hr’g Ex. 2-4). Each of the eight magazines with loaded with 30 rounds of AR-15 ammunition. Although undersigned counsel does not practice law in the state of New York, I have been informed by a New York State Police officer, who is cross-designated to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and participated in the search, that Greene’s possession of the AR-15 and the detachable magazines was illegal under New York state law

FBI’s review of the defendant’s Gmail account as contained on his personal phone that was seized in connection with the January 18 search warrant, revealed that the defendant placed the following orders, among others: (1) six AR-15 magazines, ordered on December 20

Over the following weeks, Greene planned with the other NY State Proud Boys (presumably including Pezzola and, given that this appears to have been state-wide, Pepe).

In advance of January 6, 2021, Greene coordinated with Pezzola and other members of the Proud Boys to make plans to come to Washington, D.C. for the events surrounding January 6. Greene used an encrypted messaging application and was part of planning channel among Proud Boy chapters from New York State whose members planned to come to Washington, D.C.

As this was happening, Pezzola appears to have deepened ties to the national organization. A government response to a Pezzola detention motion shows that Tarrio used an image of Pezzola — labeled “Lords of War” — to advertise for J6 and J20.

I have repeatedly noted that DOJ has remained coy about the role that the December MAGA March and the January 5 events had as crucial networking and planning events to prepare for January 6. But Greene was obviously part of that. Greene, in part because he shows how someone could join up and then play a role that intersected with top leaders of the group, encapsulates that process personally.

And, importantly, he shows how Trump and Tarrio were key motivators in that process.

As a cooperator, Matthew Greene won’t be able to tell prosecutors what top Proud Boys were planning. Nor will he be able to reveal how top Proud Boys networked with Trump’s associates and coordinated a plan for January 6. But he does offer proof that low level Proud Boys were in a conspiracy with the group’s top leadership. And his testimony will make it more likely that others will also cooperate.

On January 17, Greene called for the Proud Boys to stand together. His cooperation with prosecutors will make it more likely that others will “end up in the gulag,” together.

The Pied Piper of Insurrection, and Other Challenges in Charging the January 6 Organizer-Inciters

In a post laying out what I called my “taxonomy” of the DOJ investigation of the January 6 crime scene, I noted that the next step in holding those who orchestrated January 6 responsible was to start holding the “organizer-inciters” responsible.

 I have argued that DOJ is very close to rolling out more details of the plot to seize the Capitol, a plot that was implemented (at the Capitol) by the Proud Boys in coordination with other militia-tied people. I have also argued that one goal of the misdemeanor arrests has been to obtain evidence showing that speeches inciting violence, attacks on Mike Pence, or directing crowds to (in effect) trespass brought about violence, the targeting of Mike Pence, and the breach of the Capitol.

If I’m right about these two observations, it means that the investigation has reached a step where the next logical move would be to charge those who incited violence or directed certain movement. The next logical step would be to hold those who caused the obstruction accountable for the obstruction they cultivated.

This is why I focused on Alex Jones in this post: because there is a great deal of evidence that Alex Jones, the guy whom Trump personally ordered to lead mobs to the Capitol, was part of the plot led by his former employee, Joe Biggs, to breach a second front of the Capitol. If this investigation is going to move further, people like Alex Jones and other people who helped organize and incite the riot, will be the next step.

Though you might not know it from the coverage, DOJ has charged several people who played a key role in creating and mobilizing the mob that seized the Capitol. This is where, however, the obscurity of the investigation and First Amendment protections raise real questions about whether DOJ will be able to move up the chain of responsibility.

I’d like to look at the prospects of accountability at three nodes of organizer inciters:

  • Walkaway founder Brandon Straka
  • SoCal anti-maskers Russell Taylor and Alan Hostetter
  • Alex Jones, Owen Shroyer, and Ali Alexander

The import of January 5 in January 6

Before I do so, though, a word about January 5. Though the general outline of the January 6 attack kicked off in November 2020 and was fine-tuned in December (the MAGA events in both months were critical both as dry runs and for networking among participants), the final outline of plans took place in the days before the riot. There seems to have been an intra-militia meeting planned on January 3 in Quarrysville, Pennsylvania where groups, “[got] our comms on point with multiple other patriot groups.”

After Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio got arrested on January 4, the Proud Boys frantically tried to regroup. As late as 9PM on January 5, Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean were meeting with some unnamed group, out of which came their plan for the 6th.

There were rallies organized for January 5 at which a number of leaders gave incendiary speeches. There’s some reason to believe that members of what I’ve called a “disorganized militia” conspiracy, Ronnie Sandlin, Nate DeGrave, and Josiah Colt, learned key details of the plan for the next day at that event, which allowed them to be tactically important in the breach. Other disorganized attendees, like Jenny Cudd, came away from those Janaury 5 speeches persuaded a revolution was inevitable.

On January 5, 2021, Ms. Cudd stated the following in a video on social media: “a lot of . . . the speakers this evening were calling for a revolution. Now I don’t know what y’all think about a revolution, but I’m all for it. . . . Nobody actually wants war, nobody wants bloodshed, but the government works for us and unfortunately it appears that they have forgotten that, quite a lot. So, if a revolution is what it takes then so be it. Um, I don’t know if that is going to kick off tomorrow or not, we shall see what the powers that be choose to do with their powers and we shall see what it is that happens in Congress tomorrow at our United States Capitol. So, um either way I think that either our side or the other side is going to start a revolution.”

As Robert Costa and Bob Woodward have described, Trump ratcheted up the pressure as the mobs formed the night of January 5 by falsely claiming that Mike Pence agreed he could ignore the true vote counts.

Yet, even in spite of the import of January 5 to what happened on January 6, DOJ has included remarkably few details about what January 6 defendants did that day.

The organizer-inciters called for revolution on January 5

The three organizer-inciters are a notable exception. As I noted in this post, DOJ focused on the January 5 speeches of Straka, Shroyer, and Taylor in their arrest affidavits. Straka’s described how he called for revolution on January 5.

STRAKA was introduced by name and brought onto stage. STRAKA spoke for about five minutes during which time he repeatedly referred to the attendees as “Patriots” and referenced the “revolution” multiple times. STRAKA told the attendees to “fight back” and ended by saying, “We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!”

The SoCal 3%er conspiracy described how Russell Taylor called for violence.

[T]hese anti-Americans have made the fatal mistake, and they have brought out the Patriot’s fury onto these streets and they did so without knowing that we will not return to our peaceful way of life until this election is made right, our freedoms are restored, and American is preserved.

And Owen Shroyer’s arrest affidavit described him calling for revolution, too.

Americans are ready to fight. We’re not exactly sure what that’s going to look like perhaps in a couple of weeks if we can’t stop this certification of the fraudulent election . . . we are the new revolution! We are going to restore and we are going to save the republic!

But the treatment of these three organizer-inciters, both in their charges, and the development of their prosecution so far, has been very different.

Brandon Straka

Originally, Brandon Straka was charged with trespassing and 18 USC 231, civil disorder, for egging on rioters as they stripped a cop of his shield.

At around the 3:45 mark of the video, an officer from the United States Capitol Police holding a protective shield could be seen in the crowd. As individuals pushed past the officer toward the entrance of the U.S. Capitol, the officer held his shield up in the air. At around the 3:59 mark of the video, STRAKA stated, “Take it away from him.” STRAKA and others in the crowd then yelled, “Take the shield!”

As several people in the crowd grabbed the officer’s shield, STRAKA yelled, “Take it! Take it!” The crowd successfully pulled the shield away from the officer as the officer appeared to be trying to move back toward the entrance of the building.

After his early arrest, his case was continued without indictment several times, first in February, then in May, then in August, each time invoking fairly standard boilerplate about a plea. “The government and counsel for the defendant have conferred, and are continuing to communicate in an effort to resolve this matter.” In September, Straka was finally charged, with just the less serious of the two trespassing misdemeanors. After a tweak in October reflecting that he never entered the Capitol itself, he pled guilty on October 6. His statement of offense says only this about January 5:

Brandon Straka flew to Washington D.C. to speak at a rally protesting the election results on January 5 and January 6, 2021.

It focuses entirely on his role in egging on rioters at the Capitol.

This plea could be one of the ones in which someone cooperating was able to plead to a misdemeanor (the only confirmed one of which, so far, was Jacob Hiles, who cooperated in the prosecution of Michael Riley). After all, he could provide valuable information not just on the plans for January 5, but also explain what he learned about why the scheduled rally on January 6, at which he was also supposed to speak, got canceled. And in fact, he posted the kind of self-justification in advance of pleading that might reflect cooperation.

[O]n Facebook this week he addressed 357,000 followers as “Dear Patriots,” thanked them for their patience, and urged them to tune out “negative press . . . likely coming down the pike” as he took the first meaningful step toward concluding “the perils of the situation I am in.”

“Hang on tight,” Straka wrote on the site, where he has asked for financial support and plugged a forthcoming “grand relaunch” of his campaign. “Let it come, and let it go. It means nothing. It’s just pointless noise. The best is yet to come. We’re almost there.”

But his plea agreement includes the boilerplate cooperation language that generally gets taken out when someone has already cooperated, which is one reason to believe his plea may just reflect good lawyering.

We may find out whether his plea included a cooperation component when we see the filings regarding his sentencing. He was originally supposed to be sentenced on Friday December 17, but that got bumped back (as many things are, these days) to December 22. His sentencing memos were due on December 15. But unless something happened with PACER overnight, they’re not there (PACER was particularly unreliable yesterday on account of the AWS outage, but the filings could also be sealed).

Update: The two sides have asked for 30 more days to make sense of some stuff that has recently come up.

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 Pre- Sentence Report. Because the government’s sentencing recommendation may be impacted based on the newly discovered information, the government and defendant request a 30-day continuance of this case so that the information can be properly evaluated.

The government is currently ordered to file its sentencing memorandum and any video evidence in support of its memorandum on December 17, 2021. The government respectfully requests that this deadline be extended based upon the reasons stated.

3%er SoCal Conspiracy

Calling the indictment against Alan Hostetter et al the “3%er SoCal conspiracy” is actually a misnomer, because it has more to do with how two men calling for violence helped organize Southern Californians largely mobilized around anti-mask politics.

The indictment provides evidence that some of the men charged–Erik Warner, Tony Martinez, Derek Kinnison, and possibly Ronald Mele– are 3%ers. Though the indictment shows Hostetter invoking the language of 3%ers in one place, he is the head of the American Phoenix anti-mask group and his anti-mask activism is one of the places Hostetter met Russell Taylor (the other is the QAnon conference in Arizona in October 2020). Hostetter and Taylor repurporsed a Telegram chat Hostetter was already using to sow violence to organize Southern Californians to travel to DC for the rally, then created a new one on January 1 called “The California Patriots-DC Brigade.”

Much of the conspiracy involves the planning of alleged conspirators for the trip, including discussions of how to bring weapons to DC.

Just one of these men, Warner, entered the Capitol; the rest skirmished around the West Terrace. Not all of the January 6 defendants whose arrest documents show them to be members of the California Patriots-DC Brigade Telegram chat are included as part of this conspiracy; Jeffrey Scott Brown and Ben Martin, who were each charged individually, are described to have been part of the chat, and it’s likely that Gina Bisignano and Danny Rodriguez and his co-conspirators were also part of that chat (among others). In addition, there’s a Person One described in the indictment, whom Hostetter has identified as big GOP donor Morton Irvine Smith, who wasn’t charged, though Irvine Smith’s actions appear distinguishable from Hostetter’s only in that he didn’t climb onto the West Terrace on January 6. So it’s not entirely clear why DOJ included the six people they did in this conspiracy.

As I laid out before, in addition to being charged individually with obstructing the vote count, the men were charged with conspiracy under the obstruction statute rather than the conspiracy statute, as most other January 6 conspiracies were charged (though a Patriot-3%er two person conspiracy unsealed the other day uses 1512(k) as well). Taylor was charged for civil disorder for an interaction with cops and his trespassing charges were enhanced because he was armed with a knife. Warner and Kinnison are separately charged for efforts to hide the Telegram chat.

In other words, this conspiracy ties together two guys publicly calling for violence with members of a militia who discussed arming themselves.

Hostetter says he wants no part of it, though. After getting permission to represent himself in October, earlier this month the former cop filed a motion to dismiss the entire indictment because of alleged government misconduct. The entire thing is the kind of batshit conspiracy theory you’d expect from Tucker Carlson or Glenn Greenwald, spinning what appears to have been inappropriate coddling of him by an Orange County Sheriff’s Sergeant into an FBI plot (that started in spring 2020) to get him, involving Yale’s Secret Society Skull and Bones, the Freemasons, Scientologists, Mormons, and a talented artist named Bandit who likes to mock him. (Read this thread if you want to laugh along.) In the wild yarn Hostetter spins, he argues both Irvine Smith and Taylor must be FBI informants and therefore he can’t be held accountable for any of the actions they induced him to take.

He asks to be severed from the other defendants and/or have his case thrown out because, he claims, he “has never knowingly met, nor has he ever knowingly communicated with, four of the co-defendants,” the 3%ers, and according to his feverish conspiracy theory, Taylor is an FBI informant who set him up (Taylor is Mormon, which is where that part of Hostetter’s conspiracy theory stems from). In a filing asserting as fact that, “the election of 2020 was actually stolen from a duly elected President whom was elected in one of the biggest landslide victories in the history of our country,” Hostetter complains that his actions to prevent the vote count of the actual winner do not amount to a crime.

On January 6, 2021 defendant did not commit one act of violence. Defendant did not commit one act of vandalism. Defendant never entered the U.S. Capitol Building. Defendant never conspired with anyone to do anything illegal, immoral or unethical. The government has not provided anything, that defendant has yet seen in discovery, that contradicts these claims by defendant. Yet, defendant is charged with federal felonies that could result in his imprisonment for up to twenty years.

Particularly given the scope of Dabney Friedrich’s ruling on the application of obstruction, with its caveats regarding whether legal activities can be deemed part of an effort to obstruct the vote count, Hostetter’s claims may have some success (Royce Lamberth is presiding over the case).

His motion to dismiss doesn’t, however, mention a number of overt acts described in the conspiracy to obstruct the vote count:

  • His participation in the November 14, 2020 MAGA event in DC
  • His own November 27, 2020 call to execute “traitors”
  • A December 12, 2020 Stop the Steal rally in Huntington Beach
  • His own calls for people to travel to DC starting on December 19, 2020

Rather than addressing most of the overt acts alleged against him, Hostetter provides what appear to be cover stories for two key December 2020 events in this timeline.

After Taylor and Hostetter spoke at an Orange County event on December 15, they met with Irvine Smith the next day, and Taylor gave both axes.

On December 15, 2020, defendant and co-defendant Russell Taylor both spoke at an Orange County Board of Supervisor’s Meeting. This was only three weeks prior to January 6th. As usual at the Board Meeting, the topics to be discussed related to Orange County issues to include Covid-19 related issues, which is what we typically spoke out about. For some reason, while Taylor was speaking during this particular board meeting, he made the following comment to the Board which was completely unrelated to any of the topics on the agenda: “Week after week, I and others are with thousands in the street all up and down the state of California. You know what they are saying? Revolution. Storm the Capitol.”

[snip]

On December 16th, the day following Taylor’s comments to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, co-defendant Russell Taylor met defendant and “Person One” Morton Irvine Smith at a Mexican restaurant in San Clemente, CA called “El Ranchito.” Taylor was the organizer of this meeting and had requested, planned and organized it a few days prior. While at the restaurant, Taylor told defendant and Irvine Smith that he had purchased gifts for them. Taylor reached under the table and pulled out two boxes and gave them to defendant and Irvine Smith.

Inside these boxes were the axes that have been referred to in the indictment as proof of defendant’s nefarious intent to attack the Capitol using the axe as a weapon of some sort. Until receiving this “gift,” defendant had never personally owned an axe in his life. As he gifted it to us, Taylor described the axe metaphorically as a “battle axe” representing the battles we had already fought in support of freedom and the many battles yet to come.

Upon leaving the restaurant, either (informant) Taylor or (informant) Irvine Smith requested one of the restaurant employees take our photograph in front of the restaurant holding the axes. Defendant liked the photograph and thought it looked quite masculine and “tough” so he posted the photograph to Instagram with a somewhat provocative comment attached to the photograph. Defendant’s comment was, “The time has come when good people may have to act badly, but not wrongly.” Defendant continued in this post with, “Thank you @russ.taylor for the gift of the #thebattleaxe representing the many battles yet to come.”

Defendant had read this quote about good people possibly having to act “badly but not wrongly” in a meme very close in time to when Taylor gifted the axe to him. Defendant had no thought whatsoever about January 6 or the U.S. Capitol when creating this Instagram post. Defendant had been making public speeches regarding the fact that the U.S. was and had been “at war” with the Chinese Communist Party and domestic enemies for approximately 8 months prior to receiving this axe from Russell Taylor

Hostetter posted the photo not as a call for war, he claims, but because it made him look manly. And his caption to the photograph wasn’t a prospective call to war on January 6 in response to Taylor’s call for revolution, but to the prior 8 months of political unrest.

Particularly given Hostetter’s description of the December 16 meeting, which he helpfully tells us was actually planned, “a few days prior” (and so possibly the same day that Irvine Smith, but not Hostetter, returned from the DC MAGA March), I find the description Hostetter gives for his involvement in the January 5 event of interest. He learned of it from Irvine Smith at around the same time as that same December 16 meeting at El Ranchito and before — the indictment alleges but Hostetter ignores — he started recruiting people to attend the event.

January 5, 2021: Defendant’s non-profit organization, American Phoenix Project (APP), cohosted a rally with a group called Virgina Women for Trump. The VWT group was headed by Alice Butler-Short, a well-known and well-connected woman in the DC area.

This event, and APP’s ability to co-host it was brought to defendant’s attention in mid-December after informant Morton Irvine Smith returned to California after attending the December 12, 2020 Stop the Steal rally in Washington DC. Defendant did not attend this event. Irvine Smith claimed to have met Ms. Butler-Short for the first time at this 12/12/2020 event and the two of them agreed to APP becoming involved in co-hosting the event together.

Irvine Smith arranged for defendant to participate in a conference call with Ms. Butler-Short and two members of another group identified as Jericho March as they were a nationally known group also supporting election integrity. Once this conference call was completed, defendant told Irvine Smith that he was not interested in having American Phoenix Project co-host the event as it was too far away from California to be able to properly assist in putting it together and defendant had also gotten a bad vibe / feeling from some of the other participants in the conference call.

Irvine Smith was highly disappointed and notified defendant that he, Irvine Smith, would then just continue to help Butler-Short on his own time as they had developed a good relationship and he wanted to be personally helpful to her. Within a week or two, Irvine Smith notified defendant that Butler-Short had lined up some very big-name and popular conservative speakers for the event to include Roger Stone, Alex Jones, General Michael Flynn’s brother Joe Flynn, among several others. Irvine Smith notified defendant that ButlerShort was continuing to hold out the invitation for APP to co-host this event with her group, to include flying the APP banner at the event. Irvine Smith told defendant the only thing Butler-Short requested of APP was to help her with finding security staff to cordon off an area in front of the Supreme Court because it was a “first come, first served” policy as far as finding a location to set up a stage and microphone.

[snip]

After hearing from Irvine Smith about the high-quality speakers involved and the relative ease with which APP could co-host such a high-profile event, defendant agreed to co-host the event under the APP banner. Were it not for the individual efforts of Morton Irvine Smith, neither defendant nor APP would have been involved with this event at all.

Irvine Smith’s role in getting him this gig certainly raises more questions about why he wasn’t charged, but it doesn’t change Hostetter’s own exposure.

Hostetter adds to the questions about Irvine Smith’s treatment by revealing that Irvine Smith was not searched until the day before this indictment (Hostetter also makes much of what appears to be FBI’s choice to image Irvine Smith’s devices rather than seizing them).

On 1/27/2021 when Taylor and defendant had search warrants served on them, Irvine Smith did not. It wasn’t until nearly five months later, on June 9, 2021 that Irvine Smith finally had a search warrant served on him. This was one day before defendant’s indictment was unsealed. The timing of Irvine Smith’s “raid” is transparently obvious and laughable. It was intended to “clean him up” as an informant.

Hostetter’s questions about Irvine Smith, who funded much of his actions, are as justified as questions from the Oath Keepers about Stewart Rhodes not being charged yet. But I expect this crazypants motion to be dismissed and the conspiracy prosecution to continue to hang on whether all six members of the conspiracy entered into an agreement to help stop the vote count on January 6.

But Hostetter’s motion does suggest that the conspiracy indictment uses the involvement of the 3%ers as a way to raise the stakes of both Hostetter and Taylor’s own public calls for violence. That is, DOJ seems to have charged these organizer-inciters (but not the guy funding it all, yet) by exploiting their ties to an organized militia.

Alex Jones, Owen Shroyer, and Ali Alexander

The way that DOJ appears to have used militia ties to charge organizer-inciters Alan Hostetter and Russell Taylor makes their treatment of far more important organizer-inciters, Alex Jones, Owen Shroyer, and Ali Alexander, more interesting.

Ignore for a moment Ali Alexander’s crucial role in setting up explicitly violent protests.

It is a fact that the guy leading the coup, Donald Trump, asked Alex Jones (personally, as Jones tells it) to lead the mobs Trump had incited at the Ellipse down the Mall to the Capitol. As Jones was doing this, his former employee, Joe Biggs, was kicking off the entire riot. It is also a fact that Jones lured rioters like Stacie Getsinger to the East side of the building, to where Biggs and the Oath Keepers were also gathering, by promising a second speech from Trump.

There’s reason to believe that Jones and Biggs remained in contact that day, evidence of which DOJ would presumably have from Biggs’ phone, if not his phone provider (based on whether the contact was via telephony or messaging app). If it was the latter, getting it may have taken a while. While DOJ obtained Ethan Nordean’s phone when they searched his house (because his spouse provided the FBI the password), and obtained the content of Biggs’ Google account quickly (which included some videos shared with his co-travellers), it may have taken until July 14 to exploit Biggs’ phone (this Cellebrite report must pertain to Biggs because it is not designated Highly Sensitive to him). While the content of any calls Biggs had with his former boss would not be captured, some of it is also likely available from videos shot of him. If his co-travellers wanted a cooperation deal they might be able to provide Biggs’ side of any contacts with Jones too, though several of Biggs’ co-travelers are represented by John Pierce, who may be serving as a kind of firewall for Biggs or even Enrique Tarrio.

Nevertheless, if DOJ has in its possession evidence that one of the guys accused of masterminding the plan to breach the Capitol from two sides was in contact during that process with Jones, who lured unwitting rioters to the second breach by lying to them, then DOJ would appear to have far more evidence tying Jones to militia violence than they used to charge Hostetter in a conspiracy with 3%ers. And Jones got just as far inside the restricted area of the Capitol — to the top of the steps on the East side — as Hostetter did.

Of course, two things have made it harder to charge Jones: he is a media figure, one who very quickly disseminated a cover story claiming his intent for joining the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers at the site of the second breach was to de-escalate the situation, not to escalate it.

DOJ has been chipping away at both those defenses. It already arrested two of Jones’ employees, videographer Sam Montoya and on-air personality Owen Shroyer.

DOJ arrested Montoya for trespassing on April 13 and charged him with misdemeanors on April 30. The arrest warrant cited a number of things Montoya said that were captured on his own footage making it clear he viewed himself as part of the mob.

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

And DOJ noted that Montoya had no press credentials for Congress (a really shitty distinction for an event where legitimate journalists chased mobsters inside).

At times during the video, Montoya describes himself to others inside the Capitol Building as a “reporter” or “journalist” as he attempts to get through crowds. The director of the Congressional press galleries within the Senate Press office did a name check on Samuel Christopher Montoya and confirmed that no one by that name has Congressional press credentials as an individual or via any other organizations.

Montoya’s case has been continued on his own initiative since then. Given the discovery notices he has gotten — from AUSA Candice Wong — he had been treated as part of the mob most closely involved in the scene at Ashli Babbitt’s shooting. On December 10, Montoya got discovery from the Statutory Hall Connector that other defendants in that group did not get, and a different prosecutor, Alexis Loeb, took over his case. Loeb’s January 6 caseload is eclectic, but in October she started taking over the case of Proud Boys Joshua Pruitt, and Nicholas Ochs and Nicholas DeCarlo, and she has always been in charge of the prosecution of the pair that played a key role in opening the East doors from the inside, George Tenney and Darrell Youngers.

In August, Shroyer was arrested. His arrest was opportunistic, relying on the fact that he had a still-unsatisfied Deferred Prosecution Agreement arising from his attempts to disrupt Trump’s first impeachment making his loud presence inside the restricted are of the Capitol uniquely illegal. He filed a motion to dismiss his case, which was basically the cover story about de-escalation that Jones offered up immediately after the riot and Ali Alexander prepared to deliver to Congress last week. In a filing debunking that cover story, the government noted that calling for revolution — as Shroyer and Jones did from the top of the East steps — does not amount to de-escalation.

Even assuming the defendant’s argument is true and the defendant received permission to go to the Capitol steps for the limited purpose of deescalating the situation, the defendant did not even do that. Quite the opposite. Despite the defendant’s arguments today that “Shroyer did nothing but offer his assistance to calm the crowd and urge them to leave United States Capitol grounds,” Dkt. 8-1 at 14, the defendant himself said otherwise in an open-source video recorded on August 21, 2021: “From the minute we got on the Capitol, the Capitol area, you [referring to Person One] started telling people to stand down, and the second we got on there, you got up on stacks of chairs, you said, ‘We can’t do this, stand down, don’t go in.’ … And I’m silent during all of this” (emphasis added).11 Moreover, as seen in other videos and described above, the defendant forced his way to the top of Capitol Building’s east steps with Person One and others and led hundreds of other rioters in multiple “USA!” and “1776!” chants with his megaphone. Harkening to the last time Americans overthrew their government in a revolution while standing on the Capitol steps where elected representatives are certifying a Presidential Election you disagree with does not qualify as deescalation.

Shroyer let the due date to reply to this debunking, November 22, pass without filing anything. A status conference that had originally been scheduled for Tuesday, December 14 has been rescheduled for Monday December 20.

As I said in my taxonomy post, the government seems to be very close to being able to demonstrate how that the breach of the second front worked, an effort on which the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Alex Jones seemed to coordinate.

Doing so will be very important in demonstrating how the militia conspiracies worked. But if DOJ finds a way to charge Alex Jones for his role as the Pied Piper of insurrection, the organizer-inciter who provided the bodies needed to fill that second breach, it would bring the January 6 investigation up to an order issued directly by the former President.

The investigation of three InfoWars figures — Montoya, Shroyer, and Jones — who all have legitimate claims to be media figures happens even as DC judges are getting more insistent that DOJ adhere to Merrick Garland’s own media guidelines. In November, for example, Chief Judge Beryl Howell required prosecutors to acknowledge the media guidelines if they sought orders and warrants targeting news media.

Of course, Alexander has no such press protection, and his decision to go mouth off to Congress for seven hours last week may prove as self-destructive as the similar decision by his mentor, Roger Stone, four years ago.

The government seems to have a pretty good case about how the multi-front breach of the Capitol worked. The question is whether First Amendment protections will shield those who made that breach possible from prosecution.

Mark Meadows Promised the Kind of National Guard Protection that Proud Boy Charles Donohoe Seemed to Expect

I argued last week that any contempt report for Mark Meadows will serve as much as a draft warrant affidavit for the FBI as it would the basis for a criminal contempt indictment.

The committee released their report last night and, as I expected, it describes some of the more damning evidence already obtained regarding Meadows. It includes 12 bullet points (included below), many derived from documents already turned over, describing Meadows’ role in sowing disinformation about the election and his early knowledge of the violence that might result.

As Politico reported, one of those bullets described Meadows emailing someone and saying that the National Guard would “protect pro Trump people.”

Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘‘protect pro Trump people’’ and that many more would be available on standby.

Former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller told Congress that’s what Trump ordered him to do on January 3. But if Meadows passed on that privileged order the President gave to Miller, either directly or indirectly, to people involved in the riot, it might have helped them to plan.

And that’s interesting, because when Proud Boy Charles Donohoe saw a public report about the Guard being called in at 3:45 PM of on the day of the riot (these texts reflect the Washington State time zone in which Ethan Nordean’s phone was seized), he responded with surprise that the Guard would “attack … Trump supporters.”

If Meadows had a hand in alerting the Proud Boys that they would not face any response from the Guard, it would go a long way to explaining how they planned their operation in the way they did.

It also might explain why, minutes after Donohoe had just reported, minutes earlier, that “we are regrouping with a second force,” that second assault was abandoned.

As some of the bullets make clear, Mark Meadows had advance warning from organizers that things would get violent on January 6. And as the riot developed, he was in constant communication with Kash Patel, the Chief of Staff at the Defense Department that proved unwilling to deploy to protect the Capitol.

And it’s just possible he shared information that was central to the expectations of and plans by the militia that organized the assault.


Mr. Meadows was one of a relatively small group of people who witnessed the events of January 6 in the White House and with then-President Trump. Mr. Meadows was with or in the vicinity of then-President Trump on January 6 as he learned about the attack on the U.S. Capitol and decided whether to issue a statement that could stop the rioters.28 In fact, as the violence at the Capitol unfolded, Mr. Meadows received many messages encouraging him to have Mr. Trump issue a statement that could end the violence, and one former White House employee reportedly contacted Mr. Meadows several times and told him, ‘‘[y]ou guys have to say something. Even if the president’s not willing to put out a statement, you should go to the [cameras] and say, ‘We condemn this. Please stand down.’ If you don’t, people are going to die.’’29

Moreover, Mr. Meadows reportedly spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was then the chief of staff to former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, ‘‘nonstop’’ throughout the day of January 6.30 And, among other things, Mr. Meadows apparently knows if and when Mr. Trump was engaged in discussions regarding the National Guard’s response to the Capitol riot, a point that is contested but about which Mr. Meadows provided documents to the Select Committee and spoke publicly on national television after President Trump left office.31

Beyond those matters, the Select Committee seeks information from Mr. Meadows about issues including the following:

  • Mr. Meadows exchanged text messages with, and provided guidance to, an organizer of the January 6th rally on the Ellipse after the organizer told him that ‘‘[t]hings have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.’’32
  • Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘‘protect pro Trump people’’ and that many more would be available on standby.33
  • Mr. Meadows received text messages and emails regarding apparent efforts to encourage Republican legislators in certain States to send alternate slates of electors to Congress, a plan which one Member of Congress acknowledged was ‘‘highly controversial’’ and to which Mr. Meadows responded, ‘‘I love it.’’ Mr. Meadows responded to a similar message by saying ‘‘[w]e are’’ and another such message by saying ‘‘Yes. Have a team on it.’’34
  • Mr. Meadows forwarded claims of election fraud to the Acting leadership of DOJ for further investigation, some of which he may have received using a private email account and at least one of which he had received directly from people associated with Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.35
  • He also reportedly introduced Mr. Trump to then-DOJ official Jeffrey Clark.36 Mr. Clark went on to recommend to Mr. Trump that he be installed as Acting Attorney General and that DOJ should send a letter to State officials urging them to take certain actions that could affect the outcome of the November 2020 election by, among other things, appointing alternate slates of electors to cast electoral votes for Mr. Trump rather than now-President Biden.37
  • Mr. Meadows participated in meetings and calls during which the participants reportedly discussed the need to ‘‘fight’’ back against ‘‘mounting evidence’’ of purported voter fraud after courts had considered and overwhelmingly rejected Trump campaign claims of voter fraud and other election irregularities. He participated in one such meeting in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump and Members of Congress, which he publicly tweeted about from his personal Twitter account shortly after.38 He participated in another such call just days before the January 6 attack with Mr. Trump, Members of Congress, attorneys for the Trump re-election campaign, and ‘‘some 300’’ State and local officials to discuss the goal of overturning certain States’ electoral college results on January 6, 2021.39
  • Mr. Meadows traveled to Georgia to observe an audit of the votes days after then-President Trump complained that the audit had been moving too slowly and claimed that the signature-match system was rife with fraud.40 That trip precipitated Mr. Trump’s calls to Georgia’s Deputy secretary of state and, later, secretary of state.41 In the call with Georgia’s secretary of state, which Mr. Meadows and an attorney working with the campaign also joined, Mr. Trump pressed his unsupported claims of widespread election fraud, including claims related to deceased people voting, forged signatures, out-of-State voters, shredded ballots, triple-counted ballots, Dominion voting machines, and suitcase ballots, before telling the secretary of state that he wanted to find enough votes to ensure his victory.42 At one point during the call, Mr. Meadows asked ‘‘in the spirit of cooperation and compromise, is there something that we can at least have a discussion to look at some of these allegations to find a path forward that’s less litigious?’’43 At that point, Mr. Trump had filed two lawsuits in his personal capacity and on behalf of the campaign in Georgia, but the United States had not filed—and never did file—any. Mr. Meadows used a personal account in his attempts to reach the secretary of state before.44
  • Mr. Meadows was chief of staff during the post-election period when other White House staff, including the press secretary, advanced claims of election fraud. In one press conference, the press secretary claimed that there were ‘‘very real claims’’ of fraud that the Trump re-election campaign was pursuing and said that mail-in voting was one that ‘‘we have identified as being particularly prone to fraud.’’45

29Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production); Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, I Alone Can Fix It, (New York: Penguin, 2021), p. 476.

30 Adam Ciralsky, ‘‘‘The President Threw Us Under the Bus’: Embedding with Pentagon Leadership in Trump’s Chaotic Last Week,’’ Vanity Fair, (Jan. 22, 2021), available at https:// www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/01/embedding-with-pentagon-leadership-in-trumps-chaotic-lastweek.

31Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production); Transcript, ‘‘The Ingraham Angle,’’ Fox News, (Feb. 11, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/transcript/ biden-warns-china-could-eat-our-lunch-after-phone-call-with-xi; Transcript, ‘‘Hannity,’’ Fox News, (Feb. 12, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/transcript/new-yorker-who-lostmother-in-law-in-nursing-home-blasts-disgrace-cuomo; Testimony of Hon. Christopher C. Miller, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, (May 12, 2021), available at https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/Miller%20Testimony.pdf.

32Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production).

33Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production).

34Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production).

35Documents on file with the Select Committee.

36Michael Bender, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2021), p. 369.

37Documents on file with the Select Committee.

38Marissa Schultz, ‘‘Trump meets with members of Congress plotting Electoral College objections on Jan. 6,’’ Fox News, (Dec. 21, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/politics/members-of-congress-trump-electoral-college-objections-on-jan-6; Tweet, @MarkMeadows, (Dec. 21, 2020 at 6:03 p.m.) (‘‘Several members of Congress just finished a meeting in the Oval Office with President @realDonaldTrump, preparing to fight back against mounting evidence of voter fraud. Stay tuned.’’).

39 Caitlin McFall, ‘‘Trump, House Republicans held call to discuss Electoral College rejection: Brooks,’’ Fox News, (Jan. 2, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/politics/gop-splits-electoral-college-certification; Tweet, @RepMoBrooks, (Jan. 2, 2021 at 7:17 p.m.) (‘‘Our fight for honest & accurate elections gains momentum! @JimlJordan & I co-lead conference call w 50+ Congressmen who join & fight for America’s Republic! . . . President Trump & CoS Mark Meadows speaking. Morale is HIGH! FIGHT!’’); Paul Bedard, ‘‘Exclusive: Trump urges state legislators to reject electoral votes, ‘You are the real power’,’’ Washington Examiner, (Jan. 3, 2021), available at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/exclusive-trump-urges-statelegislators-to-reject-electoral-votes-you-are-the-real-power.

40Linda So, ‘‘Trump’s chief of staff could face scrutiny in Georgia criminal probe,’’ Reuters, (March 19, 2021), available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-georgia-meadows-insight-idUSKBN2BB0XX.

41 Id.

42 ‘‘AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s made-up claims of fake Georgia votes,’’ Associated Press, (Jan. 3, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/ap-fact-check-donald-trump-georgia-elections-atlantac23d10e5299e14daee6109885f7dafa9; ‘‘Here’s the full transcript and audio of the call between Trump and Raffensperger, Washington Post, (Jan. 2, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-raffensperger-call-transcript-georgia-vote/2021/01/03/2768e0cc-4ddd-11eb-83e3- 322644d82356—story.html.

43 ‘‘Here’s the full transcript and audio of the call between Trump and Raffensperger, Washington Post, (Jan. 2, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-raffensperger-calltranscript-georgia-vote/2021/01/03/2768e0cc-4ddd-11eb-83e3-322644d82356—story.html.

44Documents on file with the Select Committee.

45Transcript of November 20, 2020, White House Press Conference, available at https:// www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/press-secretary-kayleigh-mcenany-white-house-press-conferencetranscript-november-20.

FBI Searches the Home of the Guy Who Said, “I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash” on January 6

I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today — Telegram text from person described as UCC-1, January 6, 2021

According to NYT’s Alan Feuer, the person who participated in the Proud Boy leadership Telegram chat planning for January 6 who was described as “Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1” (UCC-1) in the Proud Boy Leaders indictment is Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, the Vice President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Proud Boys.

As described in the indictment, in Telegram chats obtained from Nordean’s phone, UCC-1 made a comment on January 4 reflecting an existing plan. And he played a key role in setting up the radio communications that would be used on the day of the riot.

41. On January 4, 2021, at 8:20 p.m., an unindicted co-conspirator (“UCC-1”) posted to New MOSD channel: “We had originally planned on breaking the guys into teams. Let’s start divying them up and getting baofeng channels picked out.”1

42. On January 5, 2021, at 1:23 p.m., a new encrypted messaging channel entitled “Boots on the Ground” was created for communications by Proud Boys members in Washington, DC. In total, over sixty users participated in the Boots on the Ground channel, including D.C. NORDEAN, BIGGS, REHL, DONOHOE, and UCC-1. Shortly after the channel’s creation, BIGGS posted a message to the channel that read: “We are trying to avoid getting into any shit tonight. Tomorrow’s the day” and then “I’m here with rufio and a good group[.]”

[snip]

47. UCC-1 the At 9:09 p.m., broadcast a message to New MOSD and Boots Ground channels that read: “Stand by for the shared baofeng channel and shared zello channel, no Colors, be decentralized and use good judgement until further orders” UCC-1 also wrote, “Rufio is in charge, cops are the primary threat, don’t get caught by them or BLM, don’t get drunk until off the street.” UCC-1 then provided a specific radio frequency of 477.985.

UCC-1 also warned the others not to write their criminal plans in Telegram texts.

Specifically, the person identified in the Superseding Indictment as Unindicted Co-Conspirator (“UCC-1”) advised that participants “[s]houldn’t be typing plans to commit felonies into your phone.” UCC-1 later directed that, “if you’re talkin[g] about playing Minecraft2 you just make sure you don’t use your phone at all or even have it anywhere around you.”

2 Minecraft is a video game. Based on information provided by the FBI, the government understands that it is common for persons discussing criminal activity online to refer to such activity as occurring “in Minecraft” to conceal the true nature of the activity.

The full context of UCC-1’s comment about burning DC to ash includes a comment reflecting his belief that “the state is the enemy of the people” and a response from Person 2 describing that “normiecons” have no adrenaline control, a recognition that shows up elsewhere that the Proud Boys could and did inflame non-Proud Boy members.

DONOHOE: Are you here?

UCC-1: No I started a new job, don’t want to fuck it up yet

DONOHOE: Well fuck man

UCC-1: There will be plenty more I’m sure lol

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

Person-2: Would be epic

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

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

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

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

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

DONOHOE: I’m leaving with a crew of about 15 at 0830 to hoof it to the monument no colors

Person-2 Fuck it let them loose

Person-3 I agree . . . They went too far when the [sic] arrested Henry as a scare tactic

A detention memo for Ethan Nordean revealed that UCC-1 was monitoring livestreams and using other methods to track the riot (I’ve written about how useful former Army Captain Gabriel Garcia’s live streams would have been for that purpose; given Whallon-Wolkind’s role in setting the channel for the Baofengs, it’s likely he tracked that too).

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

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

The centrality of UCC-1 in the indictment against the Proud Boy leaders — along with Aram Rostom’s reporting on Whallon-Wolkind’s past efforts to share information on Antifa with the FBI — fed conspiracies about the FBI seeding the entire January 6 riot.

In January 2019, a member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Proud Boys who called himself “Aaron PB” was on a Telegram chat with fellow members to gather information about Antifa, according to leaked chat screenshots whose authenticity was confirmed by a source familiar with the Proud Boys and by a lawyer for Aaron PB. Aaron PB said in a chat that he was gathering “info we want to send our FBI contact.”

A source close to the federal investigation told Reuters that “Aaron PB” is a Philadelphia Proud Boy leader named Aaron Whallon-Wolkind.

Whallon-Wolkind did not respond to phone calls or questions sent via text. Reached by a Reuters reporter, he hung up.

Patrick Trainor, a New Jersey lawyer for Whallon-Wolkind in an unrelated lawsuit, said Whallon-Wolkind and other Philadelphia Proud Boys had talked about inconsequential matters with the FBI over the years. Those contacts did not amount to anything substantive, Trainor said. Trainor represents other Proud Boys as well.

“They’ve all been approached at different times at different rallies in the city of Philadelphia,” he said. “Plainclothes FBI guys wanted to talk to them. You know: ‘We heard this happened. This happened so let’s talk about it.’”

Trainor acknowledged Whallon-Wolkind made the comments about “our FBI contact” on the Telegram chat, but believes they were not meant to be taken seriously. “I think he was just breaking balls,” Trainor said. “I think there was no contact with the FBI.”

In a May Motion for a Bill of Particulars, Ethan Nordean’s attorneys professed to need the identity of UCC-1 because key allegations in the conspiracy were attributed to him.

The government uses the statements of a person identified as “UCC-1” in the FSI to detain Nordean and to establish a conspiracy. The government has not produced evidence identifying this individual.

[snip]

The FSI cites a “UCC-1” who allegedly makes various conspiratorial remarks. FSI, ¶¶ 41, 42, 47. The government has not produced evidence identifying this individual.

But by July 15 (not long before Enrique Tarrio called Zach Rehl’s wife to sound out whether Rehl was flipping), when Judge Tim Kelly asked whether Nordean lawyer Nick Smith still wanted that identity, Smith instead emphasized a greater need for evidence linking Dominic Pezzola to his client. Smith did complain that the Proud Boys were left speculating on the identity of the person, ridiculously suggesting that his client didn’t know the identities of the around six other people with whom he was in a leadership Telegram channel. Smith then noted that there was public information (Rostom’s reporting) that UCC-1 had been a government informant. Prosecutor Luke Jones then confirmed that UCC-1 was not a CHS — that is, a paid informant of the sort that FBI might use to entrap others.

Nevertheless, in July, it appeared that prosecutors had a cooperating witness who could attest to an advance plan to storm the Capitol.

On Friday, according to a filing purporting to argue that Zach Rehl should be released on bail, FBI agents raided Whallon-Wolkind’s home.

Rehl’s attorney, Jonathon Moseley, claimed that because (he said), “Aaron Whallon-Wollkind did not join the events in the District of Columbia on January 6, 2021, whether the peaceful demonstrations or the violent attacks by a very, very few against U.S. Capitol Police … the Government has no basis for investigating or charging Whallon-Wollkind other than his connection to Zachary Rehl” [all three forms of emphasis Moseley’s], which in turn Moseley claimed was proof that the government still did not have any evidence against Rehl.

It’s a colossally stupid argument, almost as stupid as Moseley’s last two filings, in which he admitted that the Proud Boys “‘circle[d]’ (in a rectangle) the region around the Capitol to monitor the risk from counter-demonstrators,” an encirclement plan that had been publicly tied to obstructing the vote count in advance, and then argued that because Ali Alexander, a brown person who took credit for organizing the Stop the Steal rallies, had not been arrested yet, his [white] client should not have been either.

In the guise of arguing that a warrant that Judge Kelly likely knew about — if not authorized — in advance did not substantiate probable cause, Moseley laid out anything a co-conspirator might want to know about the raid of one of another co-conspirator, including the date of the search, the items listed in the warrant, the crimes under investigation, the items seized, and Whallon-Wolkind’s [wise] refusal to answer questions without an attorney present.

Before dawn on the morning of Friday, October 8, 2021, approximately 20 law enforcement agents heavily armed and wearing riot police gear, raided the home rented by Aaron Whallon-Wollkind near the Pennsylvania border. Aaron was awakened to threats, commands, and intimidation from an extremely loud loud-speaker (far more powerful than a hand-held bullhorn) ordering him to come out of his rural house with his hands up. He walked out of the door to find his girlfriend already handcuffed outdoors without any pants being guarded by the riot-gear wearing FBI agents.

On his lawn he found an armored personnel carrier which he understands to be a “Bear Cat.” The tank-like armored personnel carrier and other vehicles had torn up his lawn. There was also a roughly 15 foot long battering ram mounted on a vehicle. They were apparently all agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or at least led by the FBI with supporting officers.

[snip]

In the pre-dawn of Friday, October 8, 2021, Whallon-Wollkind was also handcuffed and held outside while the agents ransacked his house along with his half-naked girlfriend. After some of the roughly 20 agents had searched his house inside, some of the agents brought Whallon-Wollkind back inside where they had moved a single chair in the middle of a room like an interrogation scene from a war movie. They sat him down and began to interrogate him. He told them that he refused to say anything without the advice of an attorney.

The FBI took all of his computer and computer devices and phones, including an old broken phone.

However, Whallon-Wollkind was not arrested or charged.

[snip]

They had staked out his house and taken photographs. The only thing they did not already have is evidence of Zachary Rehl planning, organizing, or leading a poorly-defined “Stop the Steal protest” which Ari [sic] Alexander takes credit for being the National Organizer of. Counsel has reviewed the search warrant and documents given to Whallon-Wollkind yesterday morning, which was sent by text message from his girlfriend.

Counsel understands that when freely given to Wollkind and his girlfriend, the documents lost their sealed character. The paperwork was freely provided to Wollkind and his girlfriend at their house, with no instructions that any restrictions applied to them. There is nothing in the search warrant that orders anything with regard to the person whose property is being searched. We are not talking about the underlying affidavit, which was not provided and remains under seal. But the deprivation of Zachary Rehl’s liberty, being incarcerated for months of his life he will never get back, for things he did not do, outweighs any interest of the Government in continuing to perpetuate a baseless conspiracy theory against Zachary Rehl.

The search warrant is authorized to be executed by October 14, 2021, corresponding to the motions schedule for the next hearing of this Court.

The search warrant was issued on either October 1, 2021, or October 4, 2021 (the text message version is blurry).

[snip]

The SUBJECT OFFENSES are the same criminal charges for which Zachary Rehl was indicted in the First Superseding Indictment. The items to be searched and seized include:

a. Clothing items associating AARON WOLKIND with the Proud Boys organization, as described in the affidavit in support of the search warrant application.

* * *

d. Records and information relating to the identification of persons who either (i) collaborated, conspired or assisted (knowingly or unknowingly) the commission of the SUBJECT OFFENSES; or (ii) communicated about matters relating to the SUBJECT OFFENSES, including records that help reveal their whereabouts.

* * *

f. Records and information … any efforts to or questions about the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election, the certification process of the 2020 Presidential Election, or otherwise influence the policy or composition of the United States government by intimidation or coercion.

* * *

h. Records and information relating to the state of mind of the subjects and/or co-conspirators, e.g. intent, absence of mistake….

Moseley makes much of the fact that the FBI had correctly identified in which judicial district Whallon-Wolkind’s house is located, which he says is in a rural area close to the PA border, as well as that the FBI had a serial number and type for Whallon-Wolkind’s smart phone.

Indeed, while counsel is not revealing the judicial district where the search warrant was issued, where Wollkind resides, and where the search warrant was executed, the FBI would have to already know everything imaginable about Wollkind in order to apply to the correct judicial district, which is not what one would expect, and to include (thankfully, to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes) three photographs of Wollkind’s rented house. Thus, the FBI did not need to learn about Wollkind. They wanted to scrounge around for evidence against Rehl that they still do not have. The FBI already knew the precise type and serial number of the smart phone used by Wollkind.

It’s as if this attorney has never seen a probable cause warrant affidavit before, which describe both these things to establish probable cause for the warrant.

Moseley’s conspiracy theory is that the FBI obtained this warrant between the time Rehl first renewed his bid for pretrial release and days before the time there’ll be a status hearing exclusively to obtain evidence to use to prove what the DC Circuit Court has already said is adequate basis to detain Rehl’s co-conspirators.

Perhaps the most interesting detail in this filing, however, is a stray sentence that seems to indicate that Whallon-Wolkind may have traveled to DC in January after the riot.

Aaron Whallon-Wollkind never travelled to the District of Columbia until after the protests were over.

Whatever else Moseley argues, this filing comes after months in which his client’s alleged co-conspirators have suggested that Whallon-Wolkind either was cued by the FBI to incite the entire riot with really incriminating statements (which Jones effectively denied) or had only avoided charges for those far more damning statements because he was cooperating. That is, for months, other Proud Boys have argued that Whallon-Wolkind’s statements were badly incriminating. Now Moseley wants the judge who has been hearing that for months (Moseley repeatedly states that this investigation has been going on ten months rather than nine) to believe there’s nothing incriminating about Whallon-Wolkind’s actions leading up to and during the riot.

If Whallon-Wolkind had been cooperating before — presumably under a proffer agreement that would have prohibited the government from using his statements against him so long as they were honest — it appears that cooperation has ceased. Or perhaps the government has gotten more useful cooperators who’ve implicated Whallon-Wolkind more deeply in the planning for that day.

Whatever the reason, the FBI has recently shifted its focus to the guy who expressed his desire on the morning of the insurrection that there would be an insurrection.

The Eight Month Investigation into the January 6 Investigation Didn’t End in March

I was going to hold off responding to this Spencer Ackerman op-ed in the NYT — which attempts to superimpose conclusions of his book onto ensuing events that have disproven some of his predictions — until I finish a half-written review of the book itself (tl;dr: it’s a great history of the war on terror, but entirely unpersuasive as to its main argument and especially sloppy when it attempts to discuss politics). But I got a bit fed up by the way he claims to be speaking about the response to January 6 with an op-ed that doesn’t incorporate anything more recent than March.

“Eight months later, there is no political response to the insurrection at all,” — Spencer claims, linking an article dated March 26 reporting, “Dem Hearings Bend Over Backward to Ignore GOP Complicity in Capitol Riot –“only a security response aimed at its foot soldiers.” That’s his most recent reference in the entire op-ed, as demonstrated by the links he uses:

Elissa Slotkin: 2/1/21

Somali plot: 1/25/19

Somali plot: 10/14/16

Mike Flynn: 7/9/16

Trump on terrorism: 8/15/16

Trump’s birtherism: 9/19/15

How the January 6 insurrectionists saw themselves: 1/5/21

Veterans: 2/4/21

Non-veteran Mariposa Castro declaring war: 1/21/21

Describing the Jan 6 investigation based on what Michael Sherwin’s comments about sedition, while ignoring what he said about holding everyone accountable: 1/13/21

[Sherwin’s resignation: 3/23/21]

Trump sent them: 1/9/21

Opting against 14A: 2/3/21

Dems on empowering the FBI: 2/5/21

DOJ seeking new domestic terror powers: 2/26/21

Slotkin again on monitoring domestic extremists: 3/23/21

“I am not a terrorist:” 1/13/21

Spencer makes no mention of any of the developments you’d look at to understand how the Biden Administration was responding to January 6, including:

  • A new domestic terrorism response that includes social media monitoring of the sort that might have prevented the attack on the Capitol, but few of the other things Spencer and others have never stopped predicting since January 6.
  • A discussion of the actions of the January 6 Select Committee, on which committee Elissa Slotkin (the Democrat Spencer quoted twice and on whom his book focuses) doesn’t sit. The committee has provided a way around the need to placate Republicans trying to avoid angering Trump, to say nothing of committees (like the House Oversight Committee) packed with key figures in the events of January 6. The committee has already moved to obtain the records of the people that Spencer claims have escaped accountability.
  • A description of Merrick Garland’s repeated comments, starting in his February 22 confirmation hearing and continuing since, that DOJ would go where the evidence leads, including to those who incited it. Garland’s DOJ has also found important ways to avoid sheltering Mo Brooks (and by association all other people who were Federal employees the day of the riot, as Trump was), and to waive executive privilege to allow multiple investigations into Trump’s actions to proceed.
  • How DOJ under Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco has approached the January 6 investigation, notably with its use of the unpoliticized obstruction statute to charge felonies rather than (thus far at least) sedition, the use of interlocking conspiracies that have already started incorporating some organizers and which could easily be used with Trump and his flunkies, and the possibility of terrorism enhancements that would be decided at sentencing, by judges, rather than by categorical application at the start of investigation.

There are definitely ways that the two decade war on terror played a big role on January 6.

More important than the 22 veterans charged by early February is which figures in the organizing conspiracies applied their military experience to ensuring the success of the operation. Key among those is former Staff Sargeant Joe Biggs, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before he went on to play a key propaganda role in the 2016 election; as I’ve described, Biggs was at the head of both major fronts (East Side, West Side) of the attack, and his network incorporates the key organizers of the larger event. Charles Donohoe, Dominic Pezzola, Gabriel Garcia, Jessica Watkins, and Joshua James are other veterans who allegedly turned their war on terror training to play key roles leading an attack on the Capitol. The second front of the attack on the Capitol that Biggs seemed to have anticipated was opened — either coincidentally, or not — by a bunch of Marines, including one on active duty.

If you’re going to talk about the import of the war on terror on January 6, you also have to talk about the mental scars that veterans have brought back. That was made spectacularly clear by Landon Copeland’s PTSD-driven meltdown in a detention hearing. But even Jacob Chansley’s mental illness has ties to his service. These two are not alone among the men and women whose service scars led them to embrace the false promises Donald Trump was offering.

In his book, Spencer rightly complains about the Wanted Dead or Alive rhetoric motivating the War on Terror. He also complains about an, “obsession with the baroque, fragmentary details of what became #Russiagate,” (mistaking the equally baroque counter-propaganda hashtag for those focusing in varying degrees of obsessiveness on the investigation itself) that nevertheless ended with Bill Barr corruptly intervening to protect Trump. But Spencer apparently feels the best way to deal with something else — a plodding, but ambitious, attempt to conduct a law enforcement investigation from the attack itself to its kingpins — is to largely ignore it even while claiming to speak for it.

The January 6 investigation, even in conjunction with the Select Committee, will not fix all the problems with the War on Terror. The two together may not hold the most powerful culprits for January 6 accountable — but that’s not for lack of ambition to do just that. But — in large part because this is an investigation of mostly-white people, which goes to the core of how America’s racism and other demons almost brought down its democracy and still could — it looks more like how the US should have responded to the 9/11 attack and not the caricature that Spencer arrives at by ignoring the last six months.

Following 600 cases as DOJ meticulously obtains the camera footage to see how Alex Jones lured unwitting participants to a second front or attempts to document whether key militia members made an attempt on Nancy Pelosi’s life is not sexy. But it’s what Spencer claims we should have done in response to 9/11.