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Beryl Howell Takes an Early Swipe at the Trump Made-Me-Do-It Defense and Other Detention Standards

When DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell ordered Richard Barnett detained pending trial, the only record of her judgement — beyond her strong language at the detention hearing — was the order itself, including a paragraph about Barnett’s, “brazen conduct.” When she ordered Rachel Powell released to home detention, she released no opinion.

But when she ordered Proud Boy William Chrestman detained until trial, she wrote a 32-page opinion explaining her thinking. With regards to Chrestman — who threatened a cop, carried an axe-handle as weapon, and organized a cell of people who worked together to prevent police from expelling insurrectionists — Howell judged that his pre-trial detention wasn’t a close call: he poses a danger to the nation.

Defendant’s conduct on January 6 and blatant disregard for the law clearly show that he is a serious danger to the community and the nation, and that no condition or combination of conditions can be imposed that will ensure his compliance with the law pending trial in this matter.

But as one after another DC District judge struggles with the difficult pre-trial detention questions and just days after Judge Amit Mehta noted that some of these legal questions will pertain to a significant number of January 6 decisions, Howell used her decision on Chrestman to address three issues that have been and will continue to be litigated by insurrectionists:

  • Standards for review of magistrate decisions from other districts
  • The distinctions between different roles in the insurrection
  • The claim that Trump ordered or sanctioned insurrection

Magistrate decisions from other districts

As she did with a number of other defendants, after a magistrate in Kansas granted Chrestman pre-trial release, Judge Howell granted an emergency request from prosecutors staying that order for another review. And in at least one case where DC judges reviewed a magistrate’s decision (Dominic Pezzola), the defendant has tried to limit the scope of the review.

In most cases, January 6 defendants will have their cases initially reviewed by a magistrate local to their homes, only to be prosecuted in the DC District.

Perhaps to establish both the primacy and the scope of these District Court orders, in her opinion Howell reviews the requirements for granting a hearing on detention (both Jessica Watkins’ and Thomas Caldwell’s attorneys had argued their charged crimes did not merit a review).

As generally pertinent to charged offenses arising out of the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol, a detention hearing must be held on the government’s motion when the charged offense involves:

1. “[A] crime of violence,” id. § 3142(f)(1)(A), which is defined broadly as an offense having as an element the attempted, threatened, or actual use of physical force against a person or property of another, or a felony offense that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense, id. § 3156(a)(4)(A)–(B);

2. “[A]n offense listed in section 2332b(g)(5)(B) for which a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more is prescribed,” id. § 3142(f)(1)(A), which “list” includes “a violation of . . . [18 U.S.C. §] 1361 (relating to government property or contracts),” id. § 2332b(g)(5)(B)(i);4

3. “[A]ny felony that is not otherwise a crime of violence that involves . . . the possession or use of a firearm or destructive device . . . or any other dangerous weapon[,]” id. § 3142(f)(1)(E);

4. “[A] serious risk that such person will flee,” id. § 3142(f)(2)(A); or

5. “[A] serious risk that such person will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice, or threaten, injure, or intimidate, or attempt to threaten, injure, or intimidate, a prospective witness or juror,” id. § 3142(f)(2)(B).

A subset of the types of offenses requiring a detention hearing triggers a rebuttable presumption “that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the community if the judicial officer finds that there is probable cause to believe that the person committed” that subset of offenses. Id. § 3142(e)(3). As pertinent to charged offenses arising out of the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol, that subset of offenses includes “an offense listed in section 2332b(g)(5)(B) of title 18, United States Code, for which a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more is prescribed.” Id. § 3142(e)(3)(C).

4 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5) provides a definition for “the term ‘Federal crime of terrorism,’” when the offense is “a violation of” an enumerated list of Federal offenses set out in § 2332b(g)(5)(i)–(iv) and the offense “is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct,” id. § 2332b(g)(5)(A). While individuals involved in the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol expressed publicly the intent to disrupt a government function in certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential Election and to coerce such disruption by breaching the Capitol, to date, to the knowledge of this Judge, no person charged in connection with the assault on the Capitol has been charged with a “Federal crime of terrorism,” under chapter 113B of title 18, United States Code, but only with separate, predicate enumerated offenses, such as violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1361 (relating to government property or contracts).

Howell then reaffirms that when conducting such reviews, District Court judges conduct a de novo review (Dominic Pezzola’s attorney, for example, asked the District judge for a more limited review).

[B]oth the BRA and the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636, support the conclusion, reached by every circuit to have considered the question, that a district court reviews a magistrate judge’s release or detention order de novo.

[snip]

First, the BRA vests the authority to review and ultimately to “determine[]” a motion for review of a pretrial release or detention order in a “judge of a court having original jurisdiction over the offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 3145. Even when reviewing an order issued under § 3142, then, the district court exercises its original jurisdiction over the case as a whole, not appellate jurisdiction over the magistrate judge’s release or detention order.

Thus in the Chrestman case and in the hundred or so detention motions that will come, Howell lays out, the DC District judge will — if the government requests a review under the available offenses — decide the detention question.

Distinctions between different roles in the insurrection

Howell then turns to the difficult question of presiding over the detention reviews for hundreds of defendants involved in an unprecedented crime. Before assessing the question with respect to Chrestman, she addresses the question more generally:

The BRA, of course, requires a reviewing court to assess the specific conduct of each defendant, but the varying results in these cases raise the natural question, given the undeniably traumatic events of January 6, of the standard against which a particular defendant’s actions on that day should be evaluated. Before evaluating the nature and circumstances of defendant’s specific conduct, then, consideration of the differentiating factors that warrant pretrial detention of certain defendants facing criminal liability for their participation in the mob and pretrial release of others is helpful.

She lays out the kind of things judges might consider (all but one of which happen to work against Chrestman, but which provide useful guidelines for others). This analysis covers three pages, but the questions she asks (I’ve changed the order slightly) are:

  • Was the defendant charged with misdemeanor or felony offenses?
  • Did the defendant remain on the Capitol grounds or breach the building?
  • Did the defendant engage in planning before arriving at the Capitol, for example by obtaining weapons or gear?
  • Did the defendant carry or use a dangerous weapon?
  • Did the defendant coordinate with other participants before, during, or after the riot?
  • Did the defendant assume a formal or de facto leadership role?
  • Did the defendant injure or attempt to injure others?
  • Did the defendant damage or attempt to damage federal property?
  • Did the defendant threaten federal officers or law enforcement?
  • Did the defendant specifically promote the disruption of the electoral vote?

These questions aren’t surprising. Similar questions (excepting the first) seem to guide the government’s charging decisions. Still, as Howell says explicitly, they offer a “useful framework” to help contextualize each defendant’s actions.

Using these guidelines, she assesses that Chrestman’s actions pose a particularly grave threat to the country.

The nature and circumstances of defendant’s offenses evince a clear disregard for the law, concerted and deliberate efforts to undermine law enforcement, and an apparent willingness to take coordinated, pre-planned, and egregious actions to achieve his unlawful aims, all of which indicate that he poses a danger to the community. This first factor weighs heavily in favor of detention.

Without relying on the framework of terrorism (though she describes Chrestman as “terrorizing elected officials”), Howell places the danger in Chrestman’s pre-planning and coordination to undermine government.

Defenses claiming to be following Trump’s orders

As I noted, in his bid for pre-trial release, Chrestman suggested that he believed he was operating with Trump’s approval.

To prefigure how those offenses relate to the likelihood of Mr. Chrestman succeeding on pretrial release, we must start long before January 6.

It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did. They watched as their “pro-America, pro-capitalism and pro-Trump” rhetorical strategy “allowed the Proud Boys to gain entry into the Republican mainstream.”11 They watched as law enforcement attacked Black Lives Matter and anti-fascism protestors, but escorted Proud Boys and their allies to safety.12 They watched as their leader, Enrique Tarrio, was named Florida state director of Latinos for Trump.13 They watched the Trump campaign, “well aware of the organized participation of Proud Boys rallies merging into Trump events. They don’t care.”14 They watched when then-President Trump, given an opportunity to disavow the Proud Boys, instead told them to “stand back and stand by.”15 They understood that phrase as “a call to arms and preparedness. It suggests that these groups, who are eager to do violence in any case, have the implicit approval of the state.”16 Having seen enough, the Proud Boys (and many others who heard the same message)17 acted on January 6.

In the guise of addressing Chrestman’s claim that he has a viable defense, even in spite of the overwhelming evidence against him, Howell takes an early swipe at a defense many, if not most, defendants are offering: Trump invited or ordered the insurrectionists to take the illegal actions.

Howell admits she’s reviewing the particular form of the argument Chrestman presented before it has been sufficiently briefed (without also noting that one after another defendant is already trying some version of it).

This theory has not been fully briefed by the parties, and the question of former President Trump’s responsibility, legal, moral, or otherwise, for the events of January 6, 2021 is not before this Court.

Defendant presents this defense only for the limited purpose of counterbalancing the overwhelming weight of the evidence against him.

Nevertheless, Howell reviews the precedents Chrestman invokes to suggest that he might be excused for following Trump’s directions by distinguishing — first of all — between believing that a government official was describing the law accurately and, as happened here, believing that a government official could bless a “waiver of law.”

Nonetheless, in order to measure properly defendant’s potential privilege against liability against the government’s proffer, some exploration of the proposed due process defense is necessary.

Defendant invokes a novel iteration of a complete defense to criminal liability that arises when an individual criminally prosecuted for an offense reasonably relied on statements made by a government official charged with “interpreting, administering, or enforcing the law defining the offense” and those statements actively misled the individual to believe that his or her conduct was legal. United States v. Cox, 906 F.3d 1170, 1191 (10th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (outlining the elements of the defense). “The defense . . . is based on fundamental fairness concerns of the Due Process Clause,” United States v. Spires, 79 F.3d 464, 466 (5th Cir. 1996), and thus relies on an assessment of whether the challenged prosecution “offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental,” Patterson v. New York, 432 U.S. 197, 202 (1977) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), because of the lack of notice and fairness to the charged defendant. The Supreme Court recognized this defense, sometimes called “entrapment by estoppel,” in three cases, Raley v. Ohio, 360 U.S. 423 (1959), Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559 (1965), and United States v. Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corp. (“PICCO”), 411 U.S. 655 (1973). Examination of these decisions shows first, that entrapment by estoppel is a narrowly tailored defense, available in very limited circumstances, and second, that this defense does not excuse defendant’s conduct in the instant case.

[snip]

[T]his trilogy of cases gives rise to an entrapment by estoppel defense under the Due Process Clause. That defense, however, is far more restricted than the capacious interpretation suggested by defendant, that “[i]f a federal official directs or permits a citizen to perform an act, the federal government cannot punish that act under the Due Process Clause.” Def.’s Mem. at 7. The few courts of appeals decisions to have addressed the reach of this trilogy of cases beyond their facts have distilled the limitations inherent in the facts of Raley, Cox, and PICCO into a fairly restrictive definition of the entrapment by estoppel defense that sets a high bar for defendants seeking to invoke it. Thus, “[t]o win an entrapment-by-estoppel claim, a defendant criminally prosecuted for an offense must prove (1) that a government agent actively misled him about the state of the law defining the offense; (2) that the government agent was responsible for interpreting, administering, or enforcing the law defining the offense; (3) that the defendant actually relied on the agent’s misleading pronouncement in committing the offense; and (4) that the defendant’s reliance was reasonable in light of the identity of the agent, the point of law misrepresented, and the substance of the misrepresentation.” Cox, 906 F.3d at 1191 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

The Court need not dally over the particulars of the defense to observe that, as applied generally to charged offenses arising out of the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol, an entrapment by estoppel defense is likely to fail. Central to Raley, Cox, and PICCO is the fact that the government actors in question provided relatively narrow misstatements of the law that bore directly on a defendant’s specific conduct. Each case involved either a misunderstanding of the controlling law or an effort by a government actor to answer to complex or ambiguous legal questions defining the scope of prohibited conduct under a given statute. Though the impact of the misrepresentations in these cases was ultimately to “forgive a breach of the criminal laws,” Cox, 379 U.S. at 588 (Clark, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part), none of the statements made by these actors implicated the potential “waiver of law,” or indeed, any intention to encourage the defendants to circumvent the law, that the Cox majority suggested would fall beyond the reach of the entrapment by estoppel defense, id. at 569. Moreover, in all three cases, the government actors’ statements were made in the specific exercise of the powers lawfully entrusted to them, of examining witnesses at Commission hearings, monitoring the location of demonstrations, and issuing technical regulations under a particular statute, respectively.

In contrast, January 6 defendants asserting the entrapment by estoppel defense could not argue that they were at all uncertain as to whether their conduct ran afoul of the criminal law, given the obvious police barricades, police lines, and police orders restricting entry at the Capitol. Rather, they would contend, as defendant does here, that “[t]he former President gave th[e] permission and privilege to the assembled mob on January 6” to violate the law. Def.’s Mem. at 11. The defense would not be premised, as it was in Raley, Cox, and PICCO, on a defendant’s confusion about the state of the law and a government official’s clarifying, if inaccurate, representations. It would instead rely on the premise that a defendant, though aware that his intended conduct was illegal, acted under the belief President Trump had waived the entire corpus of criminal law as it applied to the mob. [my emphasis]

Moreover, the instructions Trump purportedly gave cannot be deemed part of his job. Howell argues that under both the Take Care Clause and the Constitution, Trump cannot sanction illegal or unconstitutional acts.

No American President holds the power to sanction unlawful actions because this would make a farce of the rule of law. Just as the Supreme Court made clear in Cox that no Chief of Police could sanction “murder[] or robbery,” 379 U.S. at 569, notwithstanding this position of authority, no President may unilaterally abrogate criminal laws duly enacted by Congress as they apply to a subgroup of his most vehement supporters. Accepting that premise, even for the limited purpose of immunizing defendant and others similarly situated from criminal liability, would require this Court to accept that the President may prospectively shield whomever he pleases from prosecution simply by advising them that their conduct is lawful, in dereliction of his constitutional obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

[snip]

[A] President cannot, within the confines of his constitutional authority, prevent the constitutionally mandated certification of the results of a Presidential Election or encourage others to do so on his behalf, nor can he direct an assault on the coequal Legislative branch of government. Were a President to attempt to condone such conduct, he would act ultra vires and thus without the force of his constitutional authority.

This gets close to the argument I keep making, that a key step Trump took that day (and riled up the mob when it didn’t work) was to give another Constitutional officer, Mike Pence, an unconstitutional order. And I was surprised that Howell didn’t mention pardons, a means by which Trump, at least, has forgiven the illegal obstruction of justice done for his behalf. Similarly, I would expect more focus on the separation of powers.

Still, it’s a framework for responding to what already is a sea of defendants claiming they can’t be held accountable for their crimes because Donald Trump invited or ordered them to commit the crimes. And does so within a broader framework that may provide DC District judges some way to approach the detention challenges with some measure of consistency.

The Broken Windows Terrorism Enhancement and Detention of the January 6 Insurrectionists

In this post, I described how Jessica Watkins’ defense attorney, Michelle Peterson, admitted how damning her client’s own description of her actions was, but then invented a false timeline to explain away those statements. Peterson also said that evidence about Stewart Rhodes’ plans for the Oath Keepers to replicate January 6 can’t be held against her client because Watkins was already in jail when Rhodes made those comments, but also says Watkins — who in November, before the Trump rallies that Watkins’ own lawyer cited to explain Watkins’ actions, said she’d go underground if Biden assumed the Presidency — can be released while those plans are ongoing. (Peterson is also arguing that Watkins should go back to running the bar where she recruited co-conspirator Donovan Crowl.)

I think Peterson’s argument fails because the evidence doesn’t match her claims. But she makes an argument that I think will be compelling for some other Oath Keeper defendants.

The government conspiracy charge against nine Oath Keepers alleges a conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding (the counting of the electoral vote), obstruction of that proceeding, and forcibly entering the Capitol while the Vice President was present. The evidence for those allegations is all clear cut.

But as I described in the post, the government also charges the nine Oath Keepers with destruction of government property and aiding and abetting such destruction.

The indictment only describes destruction in two places: in the general boilerplate description of the event used against all January 6 defendants, and describing the door through which The Stack entered the Capitol, around 40 minutes after the Capitol was initially breached.

In the course of these events, approximately 81 members of the Capitol Police and 58 members of the Metropolitan Police Department were assaulted. The Capitol suffered millions of dollars in damage-including broken windows and doors, graffiti, and residue from pepper spray, tear gas, and fire extinguishers deployed both by crowd members who stormed the Capitol and by Capitol Police officers trying to restore order. Additionally, many media members were assaulted and had cameras and other news-gathering equipment destroyed.

[snip]

The Capitol building doors through which CROWL, WATKINS, SANDRA PARKER, YOUNG, STEELE, KELLY MEGGS, CONNIE MEGGS, and the others in their group breached suffered significant damage.

The government implicates the Oath Keepers in this destruction via an aiding and abetting charge.

It’s on that basis that the government initially moved to detain Watkins.

Watkins made her initial appearance in the Southern District of Ohio on January 19, 2021, and the government moved for detention under 18 U.S.C § 3142(f)(1)(A), on the basis that 18 U.S.C. § 1361 is a crime of violence.

While they don’t explain it specifically in that motion (but the government does elsewhere for other defendants, such as for the Proud Boys’ Ethan Nordean), effectively the government is using the damage done to a government building to get presumption of detention under 18 USC 2332b‘s terrorism enhancement.

Peterson argues that the Watkins’ crimes are not crimes of violence.

The offenses charged are not crimes of violence. While violence was committed on January 6, 2021, and those responsible will be held accountable, that is not the issue before the Court in determining whether Ms. Watkins must be held in custody pending the outcome of her case. Rather the question is solely whether or not there are conditions that can reasonably assure the safety of the community and her appearance until this case is resolved in whatever manner it is resolved. Here, the government has not presented any evidence that Ms. Watkins committed any violence. Their evidence is that 40 minutes after the Capitol had been breached, she went to the Capitol and entered the building. By that time, the door had already been opened. The government acknowledges that “the crowd aggressively and repeatedly pulled on and assaulted” the doors of the building to get inside, causing damage. Ms. Watkins is charged with aiding and abetting this offense, but there is no evidence that this was something she had a criminal intent to do. She would have to have shared in the intent to destroy property, when in fact, she attempted to stop people from destroying property.

Peterson argues that the body cameras of some of the cops with whom Watkins interacted will show her trying to prevent damage (though, as noted, Peterson’s explanation for Watkins’ description of the beauty of breaching the Capitol is utterly inconsistent with the actual comments Watkins made, which framed that beauty specifically in terms of fighting cops).

Peterson’s argument here is important, and it will be very compelling for those Oath Keeper defendants who didn’t leave tracks of messages describing efforts to train a militia to take out the federal government even before Trump’s incitement to violence cited by the defense started. While there might be evidence from other Oath Keepers the government is investigating (remember there is a busload of Oath Keepers from NC who were coordinating with the charged co-conspirators, along with the Quick Reaction Force ready to bring additional weapons, as well as a few more known Oath Keepers who directly confronted cops), nothing in the record thus far shows The Stack had a direct role in the damage to the Capitol.

Compare with the Proud Boys to understand the significance of this. In that case, Dominic Pezzola, in fairly obvious coordination with others, was the very first person to break a window allowing the breach of the Capitol. While the other Proud Boys are not yet charged in a conspiracy with Pezzola, there’s every likelihood they will be, in which case a claim that they worked together to break that window will be reasonable and detention claims based on that property damage against co-conspirators substantiated.

In the apparent Proud Boys plot to breach the Capitol and delay the vote count, breaking that window was a fundamental part of the conspiracy.

This is the same problem the government has — and will face on appeal — with Zip Tie Guy Eric Munchel and his mother, Lisa Eisenhart. While mother and son clearly had intent to obstruct the counting of the vote and Munchel came armed with a taser, there’s no evidence that they were working in concert with those who committed the violence or did the damage to the Capitol.

In both the Munchel case and the Oath Keepers case, the government might believe or might have believed they could rely on another terrorism enhancement, attempted kidnapping of  congressional or cabinet targets (18 USC 351), kidnapping of Presidential staff (18 USC 1751a) or hostage taking (18 USC 1203). The government has argued, for example, that Munchel and his mom are the only ones who saw the Capitol Police zip ties sitting out in public and seized them, after which Munchel headed to where the vote was being counted in the Senate chamber, supporting a supposition he would have detained Senators if he had had the chance.

One of the Oath Keepers on the Zello channel Watkins was using (it’s unclear whether the government has IDed this person yet) told her she was executing a citizens arrest based on probable cause for treason and election fraud, implying a plan to detain members of Congress.

An individual directed, “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.” WATKINS responded, “We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here.” An individual responded to WATKINS, telling her to be safe, and stated, “Get it, Jess. Do your fucking thing. This is what we fucking [unintelligible] up for. Everything we fucking trained for.”

That is, in both cases, there’s reason to suspect the intent was to detain members of Congress — possibly even Mike Pence himself — but that hasn’t been charged against either Munchel and his mom or the Oath Keepers.

The government also may have reason to believe the Oath Keepers conspiracy will ultimately merge with the Proud Boys conspiracy, putting the former on the hook for the violence of the latter.

There’s evidence, for example, that Oath Keeper co-conspirator Thomas Caldwell was trying to coordinate between the militias. By December 23, he described to someone what he knew of the Proud Boys’ plans.

Okay. I got your msg that maybe a whole bunch of you will be going to the rally which is great. [Person Two] and I are going for sure and as of now a bunch of the Oathkeepers from North Carolina whowe hosted here on the farm for the Million Maga march are coming up on one or two buses so that will be neat. I am expecting a big turn out of the Proud Boys (didn’t know until the last march that they had a chapter in Charlestown) and of course the local Vietnamese will probably have at least 2 bus loads like last time. We will keep in touch. I gotta get off my ass and get on parler. I picked up Signal which is a free app that is encrypted talk and text. Thats how I do some secure comms with the Oathkeepers.

On December 30, he reached out to someone in the Three Percenter movement and asked to be included in their plans.

“[A]re you and any of your fellow 3-percenters having any kind of meetings coming up to discuss the 6th of Jan in d.c. or just getting together? I would like to meet some of the guys if you think I ‘m cool enough.” That individual responded, “You can join our group if you want but you have to be veted before you can attend any training events or zoom meetings. Ill get with ya this evening.” In part, Caldwell replied, “Outstanding!”

While there’s no sign yet of a conspiracy charge against the Three Percenters, one of the three people charged together in beating a prone cop, Thomas Lopatic, wore Three Percenter clothes. The father who threatened to kill his kids if they reported his involvement (who mounted the scaffolding used in a flanking move in the breach), Guy Reffitt, is a member. Most intriguingly, Robert Gieswein, who marched with and coordinated with the Proud Boys in the original breach and is also charged with assaulting cops while wielding a baseball bat and some kind of spray, also has ties to the Three Percenters.

There’s also reason to believe that the December MAGA March provided a key networking opportunity in advance of January 6 — for example, Pezzola spent time there with Roger Stone bodyguard, Robert Minuta.

Indeed, one of the likely nodes between the two main militia groups charged with conspiracy is Roger Stone, who was hanging out with both of them. Heck, even Rudy Giuliani, a key proponent of a very different theory of law enforcement involving broken windows, could be such a node.

So it’s possible that as FBI exploits more communications and starts to flip cooperators, they’ll tie the coordinated actions of the various militia together. But they’re not there yet. And until they do that, it’s not clear that the government has the evidence to detain Oath Keeper foot soldiers or random militia sympathizers pre-trial.

The government makes a very good case that the far right — particularly these three groups — have plans to follow up on January 6, plans for which the existing leadership arrested as part of January 6 could play a key role. This is what I’ve pointed to repeatedly (most clearly with Munchel). January 6 was an unprecedented insurgent attack on the country. But that unprecedented attack can look like either civil disobedience involving legally owned weapons or a threat to the Republic. Because of that, it’s not entirely clear how the government’s attempts to detain key figures pre-trial will work out.

Mike Lee Provides Key Evidence Implicating Trump in the Existing Criminal Conspiracy

Because Donald Trump’s Personal Injury lawyer, Michael Van der Veen, made a specious argument about the First Amendment to successfully give 43 Republicans cover to vote to acquit the Former President in his impeachment trial, the discussion about Trump’s potential criminal exposure for January 6 (which according to CNN he is concerned about) has largely focused on incitement charges.

That’s true even though the trial led Mike Lee to offer up evidence implicating Trump in the same conspiracy charges already charged against 10 defendants: conspiring to delay Congress’ official proceeding to certify the electoral college vote. As I have noted, DOJ has started mapping out conspiracy charges against both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys:

While there are differences in the scope of the conspiracy and overt acts involved, all three charging documents charge defendants with conspiring “to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote,” effectively conspiring to commit 18 USC 1512, tampering with the official procedure of certifying the electoral college vote, an official procedure laid out in the Constitution.

And in spite of their votes to acquit the Former President last night, both Tommy Tuberville and Mike Lee provided evidence that the FBI might use to investigate Trump in that conspiracy. As I noted days after the attack, during the attack, Trump twice attempted to reach out to Tuberville to ask him to delay the count. The second time, Rudy Giuliani even left a message specifically asking for a delay as such, precisely the object of the already charged conspiracy charges.

I know they’re reconvening at 8 tonight, but it … the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.

I know McConnell is doing everything he can to rush it, which is kind of a kick in the head because it’s one thing to oppose us, it’s another thing not to give us a fair opportunity to contest it. And he wants to try to get it down to only three states that we contest. But there are 10 states that we contest, not three. So if you could object to every state and, along with a congressman, get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot, but it would give us the opportunity to get the legislators who are very, very close to pulling their vote, particularly after what McConnell did today. [snip]

Over the last few days, both Tuberville and Lee offered up more details on the earlier call. Tuberville confirmed the content of the call, including that he told the President that his Vice President had been evacuated.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville revealed late Wednesday that he spoke to Donald Trump on Jan. 6, just as a violent mob closed in on the the Senate, and informed the then-president directly that Vice President Mike Pence had just been evacuated from the chamber.

“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,’” Tuberville (R-Ala.) told POLITICO on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night, saying he cut the phone call short amid the chaos.

And Lee — who twice demanded that references to this call be removed from the Congressional record — ultimately provided phone records showing that even after Pence had been publicly rushed to safety, Trump was still working on delaying the vote rather than addressing the danger. Trump tweeted about Pence at 2:24, specifically complaining that Pence hadn’t given states a chance to “correct” facts, effectively a complaint that Pence had not disrupted the orderly counting of the vote.

Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

And then, two minutes later, Trump attempted to call Tuberville and, after Lee turned over his phone to the former coach, spoke to him for four minutes. It matters that Tuberville told Trump about the evacuations, though it is highly unlikely he had not been informed both informally and formally at that point. But it matters just as much that even after the insurrectionists had breached the building, Trump took two overt acts to attempt to delay the vote.

A Trump defense might argue — as his Personal Injury Lawyer did this week — that he was just trying to count the votes, but Trump had already made an unconstitutional request of Mike Pence, something Trump’s team provided no defense for. And that’s before you consider the evidence that Rudy, at least, was in direct contact with James Sullivan, who is affiliated with the group, the Proud Boys, that has already been accused of conspiring to breach the Capitol (indeed, another conspiracy case, against Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, charges that they conspired to interfere with cops trying to keep protestors out of the Capitol, and the Chrestman indictment also includes that as a separate conspiracy).

I’m not saying this will definitely happen. The bar to charging a Former President remains high.

But DOJ has already charged ten people for doing what Trump was also demonstrably doing that day. And, partly because of Mike Lee’s desperate effort to avoid having the record of him implicating Trump in the congressional record, Lee ended up making the timeline of the events public without the FBI having to breach speech and debate concerns to obtain it. By doing so, Lee made it easier for the FBI to make a case against Trump if they ever attempt to do so.

Mike Lee may have helped prevent Trump from being barred from running for President again. But Mike Lee also made it easier to prosecute Trump for those very same acts.

Update: NYT just posted a story showing that six of the Oath Keepers Roger Stone was palling around with leading up to the attack entered the Capitol on January 6.

DOJ Moves Towards Parallel Conspiracy Prosecutions of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys

As noted, on January 27, DOJ indicted three Oath Keepers, Thomas Edward Caldwell, Donovan Ray Crowl, and Jessica Marie Watkins, in a conspiracy to hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote. FBI seems to be working on identifying the other people who were marching in formation with Watkins and Crowl on January 6, as well as building out a larger prosecution team (which includes, among others, one of the women who worked the Russian side of the Mueller cases).

Meanwhile, yesterday, DOJ announced the arrest of yet another Proud Boy — Ethan Nordean — and the indictment of two other Proud Boys, Nicholas DeCarlo and Nicholas Ochs, in a conspiracy to hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote. Of particular note, in DOJ’s request for detention with Nordean, they invoked the list of crimes that can merit a terrorist enhancement. (h/t FM)

They don’t say which of the terrorist enhancement crimes they have in mind, but several are possibilities:

  • 351 (relating to congressional, cabinet, and Supreme Court assassination and kidnaping)
  • 844(f)(2) or (3) (relating to arson and bombing of Government property risking or causing death)
  • 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a Federal facility with a dangerous weapon)
  • 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the United States)
  • 1203 (relating to hostage taking)
  • 1751(a), (b), (c), or (d) (relating to Presidential and Presidential staff assassination and kidnaping)
  • 2332f (relating to bombing of public places and facilities)

Update, 2/6: The detention memo for Nordean explains they’re using his 1361 charge to apply the terrorism enhancement.

That rebuttable presumption applies to Defendant because 18 U.S.C. § 1361 is specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B) and carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison where, as here, damage or attempted damage to property exceeds $1,000.

All of which is to say the government is treating Nordean’s arrest like he’s part of a terrorist group.

As suggested above, the DeCarlo and Ochs conspiracy indictment parallels the one obtained against the Oath Keepers.

The Object of the conspiracy is the same: “to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.” And several of the overt means are the same: agreeing to participate in a January 6 operation, taking planning steps together, and forcibly storming past the police barricades to enter the Capitol.

The conspiracy indictment of Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe effectively charged they conspired to achieve one of the means in the DeCarlo and Ochs indictment, to,

obstruct, influence, impede, and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds during the demonstrations planned for January 6, 2021.

The government has not, yet, charged Pepe with 18 USC 1512, obstructing an official proceeding (meaning the vote certification).

Meanwhile, the Nordean complaint cites the charges against Pezzola, Joe Biggs, and Robert Gieswein, tying all their actions together without (yet) claiming an agreement to act together.

But you can see where this is heading: to two parallel conspiracy prosecutions, each sharing the same object — to halt the vote certification — and each also sharing several of the same overt acts.

These conspiracy indictments are, for now, based off personal communication between the co-conspirators, for example the Zello communications that Watkins sent. But as I noted in the Oath Keepers post, there is someone with whom both these groups agreed with and pursued some of the same steps as: Donald Trump. These conspiracy indictments may build little by little based off what each group has done among themselves, but the framework for a much broader conspiracy is already in place.

The Role of Trump’s Incitement in Providing Violent Foot Soldiers [Updated]

As I’ve covered, in addition to a conspiracy charge tying Zip-Tie Guy’s actions to his mother’s cheering of violence, the government has thus far charged two sets of defendants from organized gangs in the January 6 insurrection — three members of the Oath Keepers and two of the Proud Boys. While Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola is charged with assault for his efforts to steal the police shield he used to bash open a window, his co-defendant William Pepe and most other defendants identified as Proud Boys were not charged with assault (Robert Gieswein, who was indicted on his own, did allegedly assault cops with a baseball bat; he appears in videos with the Proud Boys that day, though was not identified as such in his charging documents).

Thus far at least, the most violent actions from that day aren’t known to have been perpetrated by the right wing militias, members of which appear to have, instead, channeled the violence of others, possibly while pursuing more tactical goals (like locating members of Congress).

That makes the way in which the government describes that other violence important, as it may or may not tie everything together (and tie it back to those who incited the violence).

Take Emanuel Jackson, a 20-year old black guy from DC who was twice caught assaulting cops on video. First, he was caught on film punching a cop, an assault which charging documents describe helped break the police line allowing others to stream in.

The defendant, EMANUEL JACKSON, is observed on U.S. Capitol video surveillance footage making a fist and repeatedly striking a U.S. Capitol Police officer on his person while attempting to forcefully enter the building. United States Capitol Police officers are designated as officers of the United States under 18 U.S.C. 1114.

At approximately 2:48 p.m., the large crowd that was being restrained by law enforcement overpowered the officers and gained entry. One of the first individuals observed entering the doorway is the defendant.

Then, later that day, he attempted to get back into the Capitol wielding a baseball bat.

At 4:50 p.m., the violent and aggressive crowd continued to confront law enforcement at the West Terrace entrance. The crowd was armed with various weapons and multiple individuals are observed assaulting law enforcement in the entranceway. The defendant is clearly observed in surveillance video of this entrance, wearing the same clothing described above and observed in earlier footage, and armed with a metal baseball bat. The defendant is observed repeatedly striking a group of both U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan Police Department uniformed officers with the baseball bat.

These two alleged assaults happening two hours after each other, the first unarmed, the second armed, attest to the sustained violence of the riot, as well as a possible intensification of it as violence came to incorporate additional weapons. Over those two hours, Rudy Giuliani was calling Senators asking for delay.

While Jackson did have a backpack on him during the riot, there’s nothing in Jackson’s file that suggests any organizational affiliation with known extremist groups (nor is there any explanation of why a 20-year old black guy would ruin his life for Donald Trump). According to a government detention motion, in an interview, Jackson described attending Trump’s rally and going from there to the Capitol.

During the defendant’s post-arrest interview, he clearly articulated that he attended former President Trump’s rally earlier that day, and that he joined the thousands of individuals who descended on the U.S. Capitol to protest the election results.

That ties his later actions to the events at the rally.

That’s important, because Jackson confessed that his goal in storming the Capitol was to delay the counting of the vote (and he was charged with obstructing an official proceeding as a result, which itself carries a steep sentence if violence is involved).

During the interview, the defendant stated that his purpose in joining the violent mob was to enter the U.S. Capitol and disrupt the vote count of the Electoral College as it met to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Thus the defendant combined his criminal intention to interfere with the functioning of Congress with multiple violent assaults – one with a dangerous weapon – on the law enforcement officers trying to protect that function.

The detention motion describes how his initial assault made it possible for him and others to storm the building.

The defendant was part of a group that tore out windows, ripped open the blocked entrance, and then physically attacked law enforcement in an effort to gain entry. The law enforcement officers are in full uniform with the word “police” clearly visible. At approximately 2:48 p.m., the defendant is observed physically striking a law enforcement officer with his fist. The punching continues for several strikes and seconds later, the mob forces their way into the entranceway and overruns the group of law enforcement officers. The defendant’s assaultive behavior in part allowed the large mob of individuals to successfully breach the U.S. Capitol, putting additional law enforcement officers and members and staff of Congress at grave risk. The defendant’s actions allowed other rioters to commit multiple other criminal acts inside the building.

So at least on this thin record, it appears that Jackson went to the rally, got riled up to disrupt the certification of the vote, and then took repeated violent actions in service of doing just that. As the detention motion describes, Jackson was one spoke in a wheel that together thwarted democracy.

The defendant was a spoke in the wheel that caused the historic events of January 6, 2021,

On January 27, Jackson’s attorney asked for a one month continuance, with the government’s consent. That generally indicates the defendant is preparing to plead before indictment (which isn’t surprising given that, before he got a lawyer, Jackson confessed to his assaults).

That means it’s possible that by the time Trump’s impeachment trial starts, Emanuel Jackson will have pled guilty to being inspired by Donald Trump to halt the vote certification, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue and then assaulting two cops in an effort to help Trump steal the election.

Update:  Hunter Seefried, whose dad was the one caught carrying a Confederate flag through the Capitol, played a key role in cleaning out the window many streamed through. The father and son pair marched over after listening to Trump.

Defendant Kevin Seefried told law enforcement that he had traveled with his family from Delaware to the District of Columbia to hear President Trump speak and that he and Hunter Seefried participated in a march from the White House to the Capitol led by an individual with a bull horn.

Finally, I have reviewed video footage posted to Twitter which shows Hunter Seefried punching out glass in a window in the Capitol complex after people adjacent to him in the crowd broke it with a wooden 2 x 4. Kevin Seefried confirmed to law enforcement agents that Hunter Seefried was asked by an individual unknown to the Seefrieds to assist with clearing the window because Hunter Seefried was wearing gloves. After Hunter Seefried complied, people from the crowd outside, to include the Seefrieds, were able to access the interior of the Capitol Building.

Barton Wade Shively, a former Marine who admitted to assaulting several cops, also came down for the rally and then walked to the Capitol afterwards.

During the interview, SHIVELY admitted to driving to Washington, D.C. with friends to attend the Trump rally on January 6, 2021. SHIVELY further stated that he and his friends walked to the U.S. Capitol grounds and that a significant number of protestors broke through the first set of barricades. After which, SHIVELY explained that he was in the back of the crowd, but once the barricades were broken down by other rioters, SHIVELY walked over the broken-down police barriers and up the U.S. Capitol steps where law enforcement officers were standing protecting the U.S. Capitol. SHIVELY stated that when he confronted the law enforcement officers, he was pushed back, SHIVELY admitted he became angered at that time. SHIVELY admitted “I got caught up in the moment.” and grabbed a police officer by his jacket and began yelling at the officer.

[snip]

During the interview with agents, SHIVELY admitted to a second incident physical and assaultive encounter with law enforcement officers. SHIVELY stated he was walking down a line of officers who were protecting the U.S. Capitol from rioters, when an officer repeatedly pushed SHIVELY with his baton and commanded SHIVELY to move away. SHIVELY admitted to punching the officer on the officer’s riot helmet.

Spaz: More than Just a Thumb Drive [Updated]

The government released its motion for detention for Dominic Pezzola, AKA “Spaz,” the Proud Boy who was among the first to break into the Capitol.

As a Marine with ties to the Proud Boys, it’s easy to see why the government thinks he’s dangerous.

To support their claim he is, though, the government made two arguments that probably aren’t the main reasons. First, they treat his use of a police shield to break open the door of the Capitol as a crime of violence.

Felony destruction of government property is a crime of violence. For purposes of the bail statute, as relevant to these offenses, a crime of violence is defined as “an offense that has an element of the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another,” if that crime is punishable by ten years or more in prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A) & 16. Section 1361 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code meets those requirements. It is punishable by ten years if the property damage was greater than $1,000, and its elements include the use of physical force against the property of another.

More spectacularly, they point to the bomb-making materials they found at his home.

The FBI also executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence at the time of his arrest. Agents recovered, from a room that appeared to be used exclusively by the defendant, a thumb drive that contained hundreds of .pdf files. While some of those files are related to seemingly innocuous topics, a significant number of those .pdfs provide detailed instructions for making homemade firearms, poisons, and/or explosives. A sample of titles includes, but is not limited to: (1) multiple serials of a series entitled “Advanced Improvised Explosives,” those serials including “Explosive Dusts” and “Incendiaries;” (2) “The Box Tube MAC-11,” with subtitle, “The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol;” (3) “Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons;” and (4) “The Advanced Anarchist’s Arsenal: Recipes for Improvised Incendiaries and Explosives.” All of the above examples contain detailed instructions for how to make the subject matter reflected in their titles, and they are but four of hundreds of similarly titled .pdf files on the recovered thumb drive.

But I’m more interested, as is my wont, in the ways that the government points to something more.

It does so, first of all, by hinting at additional charges to come — though lays out charges that are likely not the ones DOJ has in mind for Pezzola.

The defendant currently stands charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1361, 1512(c)(2), and 1752(a), stemming from his role in the violent events that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

[snip]

The defendant is currently charged by complaint with one crime of violence—breaking the window of the Capitol with the shield—and the evidence as laid out above would establish probable cause to believe that he committed another crime of violence a short time earlier, robbery of U.S. government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2112.

[snip]

The evidence as laid out above would also establish that the defendant violated 18 U.S.C. § 2112, robbery of U.S. Government property, and § 111, assault on a federal officer, among other things. The government acknowledges that the defendant is not charged with these offenses at the time this memorandum is submitted.

More importantly, the government repeatedly talks about how he coordinated his actions.

The defendant’s actions show planning, determination, and coordination.

It uses the language of conspiracy — persons known and unknown — to describe his actions leading the mob towards the Capitol.

At around 1:00 p.m. EST, on January 6, 2021, known and unknown individuals broke through the police lines, toppled the outside barricades protecting the U.S. Capitol, and pushed past U.S. Capitol Police (“USCP”) and supporting law enforcement officers there to protect the U.S. Capitol.

The motion describes how he walked up to the barriers with others, including this guy in a flag bandana.

It shows how, at the moment he breaks in the window through which the Capitol was breached, he was wearing an earpiece.

The government describes how that first group of people immediately turned to “where they counting the votes?” (though were distracted from finding them by Officer Goodman).

Pezzola was part of a group that turned to the right and eventually confronted USCP Officer Eugene Goodman, demanding to know “where they meeting at, where they counting the votes?” It is unclear from the video which member of the mob shouted that question at Officer Goodman.

And the motion describes Pezzola talking about a “we” who had taken the Capitol.

“Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is f***ing awesome. I knew we could take this motherf***er over [if we] just tried hard enough.”

While the motion lays out its argument for detention by emphasizing other things, the argument it is really making is that Pezzola, as a key member of the conspiracy (and as someone with the operational security to flee), he needs to be detained.

It’s not surprising that the government points to evidence of a conspiracy. After all, he’s associated with the Proud Boys, a key focus of their attention (and the motion cites a W-1 who is clearly privy to their plans).

It’s just telling how the government only hints at that argument while pointing to other things that make Spaz dangerous.

Update: DOJ announced the conspiracy indictment of Pazzola with William Pepe, the guy in the flag bandana pictured above.

 Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, New York, and William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, New York, were indicted today in federal court in the District of Columbia on charges of conspiracy; civil disorder; unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds; and disorderly and disruptive conduct in restricted buildings or grounds. Pezzola was also charged with obstruction of an official proceeding; additional counts of civil disorder and aiding and abetting civil disorder; robbery of personal property of the United States; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; destruction of government property; and engaging in physical violence in a restricted buildings or grounds.

The prosecution team includes the guy who prosecuted Maria Butina, Erik Kenerson, along with a CT prosecutor from NSD.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason McCullough and Erik Kenerson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Taryn Meeks of the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Western and Southern Districts of New York. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance by the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office and the FBI’s New York Field Office.

Update: Here’s the indictment itself. It is very narrowly drawn, describing the conspiracy to cover just their successful entry past the cops at the second barrier.

The object of the conspiracy was to obstruct, influence, impede, and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds during the demonstrations planned for January 6, 2021.

I suspect DOJ did this, in part, to have a way to keep Pepe detained. He’s not even accused of entering the Capitol, nor is he charged with stealing anything or assaulting a copy. But by being charged in a conspiracy with Pazzola, he’s on the hook for Pazzola’s more obviously violent acts.

Some Key Gaps in the January 6 Story [Updated]

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

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

Arrests relating to over 100 police assaults

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

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

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

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

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

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

The murder of Brian Sicknick

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

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

The DNC and RNC bomber

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

Rudy’s interlocutors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stand Back and Stand By:” The Proud Boys Node of the January 6 Attack

As I and others have reported, a node of three people with ties to the Oath Keepers is, thus far, the first sign of a larger conspiracy charge in the government’s investigation of the January 6 insurrection.

It’s clear the government believes they can get there with the Proud Boys, either in conjunction with or parallel to the Oath Keepers. But they’re not there yet.

I want to lay out what they’ve shown about the Proud Boys operations thus far.

In addition to Enrique Tarrio (who was arrested before the riot for vandalizing a black church in December), the government has identified six people as Proud Boy adherents in affidavits (plus Robert Gieswein, who coordinated with them):

While some of these — notably, Bryan Bentancur, who lied to his parole officer about handing out bibles to excuse a trip to DC that day — were caught incidentally, it’s clear that Biggs and Pezzola were priorities, the former for his leadership role in the group and the latter for his appearance in videos breaking in a window with a police shield.

Between these affidavits, the government has provided evidence that the Proud Boys plan their operations in advance, with this quote from a Joe Biggs interview.

When we set out to do an event, we go alright, what is or main objective? And that’s the first thing we discuss. We take three months to plan an event. And we go, what’s our main objective? And then we plan around that, to achieve that main objective, that goal that we want.

In the case of the January 6 insurrection, that pre-planning involved creating a false flag to blame Antifa. The government showed this in a Tarrio message posted in December.

For example, on December 29, 2020, Tarrio posted a message on the social media site Parler1 about the demonstration planned for January 6, 2021. Among other things, Tarrio announced that the Proud Boys would “turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist… We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will be spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows….we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.” I believe the statement about dressing in “all BLACK” is a reference to dressing like the group known as “Antifa,” who the Proud Boys have identified as an enemy of their movement and are often depicted in the media wearing all black to demonstrations.

And the government showed agreement between Tarrio and Biggs with this similar message from Biggs.

On or around the same day, BIGGS posted a similar message to his followers on Parler in which he stated, among other things, “we will not be attending DC in colors. We will be blending in as one of you. You won’t see us. You’ll even think we are you . . .We are going to smell like you, move like you, and look like you. The only thing we’ll do that’s us is think like us! Jan 6th is gonna be epic.” I understand that BIGGS was directing these statements at “Antifa.”

Daniel Goldwyn, texting that day, addressed the claim of a false flag on texts.

The government provided evidence that members of the Proud Boys had followed the false flag plan, with pictures of the men marching through DC “incognito” before the insurrection.

On January 6, 2021, an individual that I have identified as BIGGS and a group of people that hold themselves out as Proud Boys were depicted on the east side of the U.S. Capitol. Consistent with the directive issued by organizers of the Proud Boys, including Tarrio and BIGGS, none of the men pictured are wearing Proud Boys colors of black and yellow, but are instead dressed “incognito.” Indeed, BIGGS, wearing glasses and a dark knit hat, is dressed in a blue and grey plaid shirt.

In Biggs’ affidavit (the most recent of the six), the government also provided evidence of communications between members during the attack.

Your affiant has reviewed additional footage from the events inside the U.S. Capitol. In one image, shown below, Pezzola appears to have what I believe to be an earpiece or communication device in his right ear. In my experience, such a device could be used to receive communications from others in real time. Your affiant also notes that multiple individuals were photographed or depicted on videos with earpieces, including other individuals believed to be associated with the Proud Boys. For instance, in the picture of the Proud Boys referenced above in Paragraph 13, an individual believed to be part of the group is pictured wearing a similar earpiece.

Your affiant has also identified certain Proud Boys at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, who appear to have walkie-talkie style communication devices. For instance, in the picture of the Proud Boys referenced above in Paragraph 13, both BIGGS and the individual next to him have such devices on their chests.

Gabriel Garcia is described as captain by another of the men (though it’s unclear whether thank rank was replicated in the group).

Additionally, on January 8, 2021, the FBI received information from the public regarding a separate subject (“S-1”). S-1 uploaded to Facebook pictures of himself inside of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. As FBI Agents reviewed the evidence related to that report, they discovered that S-1 posted a status on Facebook tagging GARCIA and calling him “El Capitan.” The caption reads, “El Capitan doing his duty. Gabriel Garcia.” Systems checks reveal that GARCIA is a former captain in the United States Army. GARCIA also uses the handle “Captain” as his display name on the social media platform Telegram

Affidavits provide two different descriptions of Pezzola being among the first to break into the Capitol.

One such video depicts an individual, now identified as Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola, breaking the window of the U.S. Capitol Building with a clear plastic shield at approximately 2:13 p.m.3 Shortly after the glass in the window is broken, an unidentified individual can be heard yelling words to the effect of, “Go, Go, Go!” Several individuals enter the building through the broken window, including Pezzola. A nearby door was opened and a crowd of people began to enter the U.S. Capitol.

This one comes from the Pezzola affidavit.

On January 8, 2021, FBI received a lead depicting publicly available photographs and videos of an unknown individual breaking the window of the U.S. Capitol Building, which is located in Washington, D.C., with a clear plastic shield, and then entering the Capitol building. According to time and date stamps, this occurred on January 6, 2021, at approximately 2:39 p.m.. Below are screen shots from one such video. In the video, soon after the glass in the window is broken, an unidentified individual can be heard yelling words to the effect of, “Go, Go, Go!” The individual with the shield is depicted in the video as entering the Capitol building, while still holding the shield. The screen shot on the left shows the individual breaking the window, and the screen shot on the right, which is taken seconds after the other screenshot, shows his face.

The government has provided some (albeit thus far, scant) evidence that one plan was to target members of Congress, which Garcia calling Pelosi out personally.

Approximately 35 seconds into the video, GARCIA says loudly, “Nancy come out and play.”

There is a witness (who may not be entirely reliable) describing the group to be armed.

W-1 stated that other members of the group talked about things they had done during the day, and they said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included “Spaz,” said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance. According to W-1, the group said it would be returning on the “20th,” which your affiant takes to mean the Presidential Inauguration scheduled for January 20, 2021, and that they plan to kill every single “m-fer” they can.1 W-1 stated the men said they all had firearms or access to firearms.

In Biggs’ affidavit, the government describes Biggs disclaiming having any advance plan.

On or about January 18, 2021, BIGGS spoke with agents of the FBI after video emerged online of him inside the U.S. Capitol. BIGGS stated, in substance and in part, that he was present in Washington, D.C. for the demonstration on January 6, 2021. BIGGS admitted to entering the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, without forcing entry. BIGGS informed the interviewing agent that the doors of the Capitol were wide open when he made entry into the building. BIGGS denied having any knowledge of any pre-planning of storming the Capitol, and had no idea who planned it.

And in two cases, the government has provided evidence that the group was responding to Trump’s orders.

On November 16, 2020, OCHS made a post to the social media site Parler, in which he forwarded a Tweet by President Trump declaring, “I WON THE ELECTION!” and OCHS stated, “Show this tweet to leftists and say they won’t do shit when he just keeps being president. Don’t say it was stolen or rigged. Just say we’re doing it and they won’t fight back. They are getting scared, and they don’t function when they’re scared.

In Goodwyn’s case, the government shows him adopting Trump’s avatar on Twitter and repeating Trump’s own line from the debate, “Stand back and stand by.”

Again, this is just what’s public two weeks after the attack, and just those whom the government identified as members. There are others (notably John Sullivan, whose brother has not been arrested but who has ties to the group), who would be obvious candidates to flip to learn more about the group, and there are some tangential figures not included here.

This route is one of the most likely ones via which the government will tie the violence to those close to Trump trying to undermine the election and — with Trump’s “Stand back and stand by” comment — possibly even Trump.

Update: Corrected how Pezzola broke in.

Update: Tarrio was also offering to pay for lawyers for people.

Update, 1/26: I’ve added Robert Gieswein to this list, based on this WSJ video showing him involved throughout the day with the Proud Boys.

Update, 1/27: I’ve added Andrew Bennett, who was described as wearing a Proud Boy hat in his affidavit.

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

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

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

It didn’t work out that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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