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Comings and Goings on the Proud Boy Leaders Prosecution

When DOJ finally added Enrique Tarrio to the Proud Boy leader conspiracy, I noted that the way DOJ has structured the prosecution team for the Proud Boys made it really hard to understand where things were headed.

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 [Matthew] 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.

That remains true. But on Friday, there were several minor structural changes worth noting. I’ve attempted to summarize the status of some key Proud Boy and related cases here (I’ve only listed a judge if it is someone other than Tim Kelly).

First, Trial Attorney Conor Mulroe filed a notice of appearance in the Proud Boy Leaders and the Biggs Co-Traveler cases. He hasn’t shown up on any January 6 cases before this. It’s likely he was added because on April 22, Judge Kelly set a trial date in the Proud Boy leaders for August 8. That is, it’s likely he was added to start preparing for trial. But the Biggs co-travelers, on whose case he also filed an appearance, won’t be going to trial anytime soon. That’s partly because three of the defendants have to work through the conflict created by John Pierce’s representation of three of them — Paul Rae, Kevin Tuck, and Nate Tuck (though Pierce recently ceded representation to William Shipley for the Tucks). In hearings, prosecutors have said that at least three of the defendants are considering plea deals.

Then Luke Jones, who has been part of the Leaders case from the start, dropped off the case (he recently dropped off an unremarkable misdemeanor case as well though remains on the Ryan Nichols and Alex Harkrider case). Jones had been focusing on Zach Rehl’s prosecution, and he remains on the Rehl co-traveler case, which has not yet been indicted. I don’t know what to make of his departure (perhaps a recognition that his efforts to flip Rehl won’t ever come to fruition?). Jones has, in the past, worked on national security cases, and in fact was listed as prosecuting Russian hacker Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh in the press release (though not the docket). That case will never go to trial (because the US is not about to get custody of Gladkikh anytime soon). But it suggests that Jones may have spent time last June helping co-counsel present that case to a DC grand jury.

I’m most interested in the addition of Nadia Moore to the Leaders case. She’s a Brooklyn-based prosecutor, among five or so prosecutors from around the country who’ve been working the Proud Boy cases (in this table, William Dreher is from Seattle, Alexis Loeb is from San Francisco, Michael Gordon is from Tampa, and Christopher Veatch is from Chicago). And as the table makes clear she has been working the Florida-based Proud Boy and related cases, as well as the case of Steven Miles and Matthew LeBrun, who spent January 6 with Florida Proud Boys AJ Fischer and friends, and the former of whom is accused of helping to bust open the other side window in the original breach of the Capitol. This may suggest the government believes they’ll obtain the testimony of multiple Floridians against Biggs and Tarrio.

Meanwhile, a slew of these cases have just one (listed) prosecutor, including the Kansas City case with its five remaining defendants.

We’ll still see some significant movements in the Proud Boys cases. But for now, the focus — as so much of the January 6 investigation is — may be on Florida.

Todd Wilson: The Seditious Conspiracy Grows Branches

Yesterday, Oath Keeper Todd Wilson pled guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction. He’s from North Carolina, and while the Sedition Hunters who have followed the Oath Keepers closely had been tracking him and had noticed Ed Vallejo did not redact Wilson’s name on a transcript submitted in Vallejo’s detention fight, Wilson’s information was rolled out just the morning before he pled. He went from being charged to pleading to sedition in a matter of hours.

(In other news, Judge Amit Mehta released Vallejo to home confinement yesterday.)

What we see in statement of offense — and, I suspect, what we’ll see going forward — is DOJ making little-noticed parts of a much broader network visible. As with Georgia Oath Keeper Brian Ulrich’s statement of offense, for example, Wilson’s provides hints of damning discussions that happened at the state level.

In November 24, 2020, in the “NC OK County Leaders” Signal chat, a group member advised, “we all need to be very careful about what we post here . . . While Signal is end-to-end encrypted, it’s always safest to operate under the assumption that someone is monitoring our conversations electronically.”

For sixteen months, the non-specialist focus on the Oath Keepers has been tracking The Stack and those directly associated with it (though Oath Keeper researchers always had a broader focus). But we’re going to increasingly see pieces of this conspiracy that were visible, but not seen, because the spectacle of The Stack attracted most of the attention. Some of those little-seen aspects of the larger network may prove far more important.

One testament to that is that Wilson showed up, but was not noticed, in photos already submitted to the docket in Oath Keeper cases.

Wilson’s presence in the Rotunda is actually one of the tactically most important parts of his statement of offense. Wilson entered the Capitol from the west side and then helped open the East doors from inside.

Even before he entered the building, though, Wilson was one of four people with Stewart Rhodes watching the building as it was first assaulted and he was with Rhodes as the Oath Keeper leader first entered restricted grounds.

Just before 1:30 p.m., in response to a claim by an Oath Keeper affiliate on the “Leadership Intel Chat” that Antifa had breached the Capitol, Rhodes replied: “Nope. I’m right here. These are Patriots.” Minutes later, Rhodes posted to the group that he was standing at the comer of the Capitol building with four people to include Wilson. Rhodes then posted to the “DC OP: Jan 6 21 Signal group chat: Pence is doing nothing* As I predicted.” Rhodes added, “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”

[snip]

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., Wilson, Rhodes, and others bypassed barricades and Capitol Police officers, and unlawfully entered the restricted grounds of the Capitol. While advancing, Wilson heard Rhodes proclaim that they were in the midst of a “civil war.” Through plumes of smoke, Wilson could see mobs of people climbing up scaffolding and descending on the Capitol. Rhodes soon directed his followers to meet him at the Capitol. [my emphasis]

From there, Wilson (who escaped notice in part because he wasn’t kitted out like the others and who was a member of the Oath Keepers Intelligence Signal chat) entered the building with the goal of gathering intelligence.

At 2:34 p.m., Wilson entered through the Upper West Terrace Doors of the Capitol—the first of the co-conspirators to breach the building. Wilson was armed with a pocketknife and wore a neck gaiter and beanie hat to mask his appearance. Wilson entered the Capitol with the goal of disturbing the Congressional proceeding and gathering intelligence. [my emphasis]

Four minutes later, Wilson was helping push open the East doors, thereby helping The Stack and others open a second front of the attack.

By 2:38 p.m., Wilson had marched through the Rotunda to the east side of the Capitol where he joined in the center of a mob of people trying to push open the Rotunda Doors from inside of the building. Two Capitol police officers stood in front of the closed doors attempting to keep the mob at bay.

[snip]

At approximately 2:39 p.m., the Rotunda doors were forced open, and a mob of people forcibly entered the Capitol through the doors. The entering mob included fourteen Oath Keepers co-conspirators—many of whom were wearing paramilitary clothing and patches with the Oath Keepers name, logo, and insignia—who had moved up and through the crowd on the east side of the Capitol in a military-style “stack” formation (“Stack One”), Wilson took cell phone video of them entering. The Rotunda Doors and surrounding facade suffered thousands of dollars worth of damage during the attack on the Capitol.

Wilson traveled with the others for a bit and may have accompanied the group that went to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

Wilson walked through the Capitol for the next fifteen minutes, at times interacting with Dolan, Harrelson, and other co-conspirators who were heading southbound toward the House of Representatives.

The Oath Keepers got to insurrection later than the Proud Boys that day. But Wilson’s path makes the Oath Keepers more central players in the pincer effect seemingly coordinated with the Proud Boys and Alex Jones than previously known.

That’s the tactically important part of his statement of offense.

The part that has attracted the attention, however, is that not long after 5PM, Wilson witnessed Rhodes make a call on speaker phone to someone who could directly access Trump.

At the Phoenix Hotel, Rhodes gathered Wilson and other co-conspirators inside of a private suite. Rhodes then called an individual over speaker phone. Wilson heard, Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power. This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump. After the call ended, Rhodes stated to the group, “I just want to fight.”

The Phoenix Park Hotel parking garage, remember, is where Enrique Tarrio met with Rhodes on January 5, more details of which were released Monday in a detention memo for the Proud Boys leader.

Tarrio claims that his surreptitious meeting with Elmer Stuart Rhodes III and others in an underground parking garage was “secondary to why he was there.” Defendant’s Motion at *5 Tarrio’s claim is plainly disproven by video of the event, but even if it were accurate, it misses the point.

First, Tarrio intentionally traveled to the Hall of States Parking Garage near the Phoenix Hotel where he met with others who were planning to remain in Washington, D.C. Tarrio’s decision to do so—even while at risk of violating the D.C. Superior Court stay-away order— demonstrates that even after his arrest, Tarrio remained engaged in planning for January 6. This point is further underscored by Tarrio’s efforts to rejoin encrypted communications and coordinate with Nordean and Biggs about the plans for January 6. Second Superseding Indictment (ECF 305) at ¶¶ 63-67 (Biggs: “I gave Enrique a plan. The one I told the guys and he said he had one.”).

Second, video from the documentary crew shows Tarrio making the conscious decision to travel to an underground downtown parking garage to meet with others rather than departing Washington, D.C., as he had been ordered to do. Specifically, filmmakers captured Tarrio preparing to enter the Phoenix Hotel. The next clip captured Tarrio standing outside the hotel near a truck. When asked what happened, Tarrio told the filmmaker, “We went in [the Phoenix Hotel] and somebody advised us that they’re going to call the cops.” Tarrio was then advised by a female companion, “I think we should leave.” The next clip showed Tarrio in a truck stopped outside the Phoenix Hotel, with Tarrio talking to two people standing on the sidewalk. Tarrio then directed the driver of the truck to travel around the corner from the hotel and enter the Hall of States parking garage—where he offered to pay for the entry. While driving down the ramp into the garage, Tarrio was filmed on a phone call advising the other communicant that he could not come back near the front of the hotel because “they’re already looking out the window.” Tarrio then provided directions to the underground garage. The same two people with whom Tarrio communicated in front of the Phoenix Hotel appeared less than five minutes later in the underground parking garage, along with a handful of others.

Going forward, I suspect it would be ill-advised to assume the word “co-conspirator” assumes the conspiracy in question is entirely self-contained in one militia.

That’s worth keeping in mind when trying to guess whom Rhodes called. The most obvious candidate would be Roger Stone, and I promise you, before this is done, we’ll learn that Stone or his flunkies were involved in similar conversations.

But by the time of this call, per this WaPo piece, Stone was already fleeing. (h/t William Ockham)

Stone had said he expected to attend a meeting with administration officials on pardons that had been pushed back to 6 p.m. because Trump had “ruined the schedule for the day.” But following the riot, Stone and Davis left D.C. for the private flight.

Before Stone leftthe Willard for Dulles around 5 p.m., he paused for a photo in front of a hotel TV showing coverage of the riot.

And Wilson’s statement of offense gives the kind of nod to Mike Flynn that earlier Oath Keeper filings had restricted to Stone.

In December 14, 2020, after reading an article posted by a group member in the “Leadership Intel Chat” titled, “General Flynn warns of unelected ‘tyrants,’ says ‘time for God-fearing Americans to fight,'” Wilson replied, “It is time to fight!” [link added]

And Wilson has ties to people who have ties to Flynn.

So who knows? It could be Stone, it could be Flynn, it could be someone else — like Rudy or Mark Meadows — who genuinely did have direct access to the President.

The point being, we’re very close to a point, if not already there, where this networked conspiracy is going to coalesce such that it’s no longer about discrete militia groups, but it’s about people sitting in hotel rooms blocks away from the direct assault on the Capitol.

Update: Corrected the date of the garage meeting.

Update: The correct name of the hotel is the Phoenix Park.

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.

The Valentine’s Day Massacre: How DOJ Lost Lucas Denney and Found Enrique Tarrio

The biggest publicly known fuck-up of the January 6 investigation thus far is when DOJ lost Lucas Denney. He’s the self-described President of the North Texas Patriot Boys. He was arrested in December with Donald Hazard and charged in another militia-related conspiracy.

Their conspiracy is interesting for several reasons:

  • Denney paid Hazard’s way to DC via fundraising that picked up after Trump announced the rally
  • At least as Denney told it, they coordinated with the Proud Boys
  • They did relatively more to arm themselves than other militias (and appeared relatively more focused on brawling with cops)
  • Denney was palling around with Ted Cruz during the summer

Hazard was charged for wrestling with some cops on the stairs under the scaffolding, which ended up knocking out one of them. Denney was grappling with cops for some time, and ultimately had a hand in pulling Michael Fanone into the crowd.

DENNEY then turned towards Officer M.F., swung his arm and fist at M.F., and grabbed M.F., pulling him farther down the stairs, as depicted below. DENNEY then himself fell backwards into the crowd. In the images below, DENNEY is circled in red; Officer M.F. is circled in yellow.

The FBI started investigating these guys from day one. By April, the government had obtained both men’s Facebook accounts. They were finally arrested on December 13. He was ordered detained by a magistrate judge in Texas. It took the Marshals until January 31 to get him to DC.

Just days earlier, Denney’s case had been moved from AUSA Benet Kearney to Jennifer Rozzoni. Between some confusion about when Denney’s initial appearance in DC would be, the shift of prosecutors, and the crushing schedule that both John Pierce and Rozzoni have, they simply never got his initial appearance scheduled. Around then, William Shipley, the far more competent attorney who does the actual lawyering for the Pierce boondoggle, joined the case and immediately started filing for release based on how long DOJ had left him sitting in DC.

On March 7, DOJ obtained a one count assault indictment against Denney alone based on his assault of a different cop, not Fanone, mooting some of the legal basis for his release. Then Shipley, thinking he was getting cute, advised his client to plead guilty to that charge as a way to stave off all the other conspiracy charges he was facing. As a result, Denney pled guilty right away to an assault charge that could get him 71 months. While his exposure on January 6 is probably eliminated with the guilty plea, it’s not for any plotting he did afterwards.

When he pled, Rozzoni was very careful to enter into the record how much of discovery Denney’s attorneys had seen and what they may not have when advising him to plead.

Losing Denney — a very-well connected militia member accused of assaulting cops — was a colossal mistake, though Shipley’s tactics saved the government from having to release him. It seemed, at the time, to be a symptom of just how overloaded the January 6 investigation has made DOJ.

And while that’s surely part of it, subsequent events make it clear that something else was going on at the time.

First, some details about grand juries. When the government is charging people with misdemeanors, they don’t need to get an indictment from a grand jury. But felonies require presenting the evidence to a grand jury.

When grand juries expire, DOJ can’t just tell a new grand jury about what the other grand jury did. They have to present all the evidence anew.

When people have asked whether DOJ will open a grand jury to investigate Trump, I have responded that they already had a grand jury. In fact, I noted, they had used at least five by the turn of the year. But as my lists below make clear, not all those grand juries were the same. Virtually every single important case — all the conspiracies, all the most important assault cases (both for import of victim or size), and most of the other cases — were presented to a grand jury seated on January 8, two days after the riot. (These lists are very incomplete but I will update them going forward.)

Most spectacularly, the relentless Oath Keepers conspiracy kept going back to the same grand jury superseding the initial charges, on February 19, 2021 (S1), on March 12 (S2), on March 31 (S3), on May 26 (S4). Then they started flipping people. Then they kept superseding, on August 4 (S5), on December 1 (S6), until, on January 12, 2022, just 369 days after the grand jury started investigating, the case split into several interlocked conspiracies, one of them charging Stewart Rhodes and others with seditious conspiracy. On March 2, DOJ got their first guilty plea to seditious conspiracy, from Joshua James, who not only knew what Rhodes was doing the day of the riot, but also knew (and reported back on) what Roger Stone was doing.

But even while that grand jury was marching relentlessly towards charging Rhodes with sedition, it was also charging the majority of hundreds of other January 6 defendants.

The Proud Boy march has not been that focused. While all the initial Proud Boy conspiracies were charged by the same group of anonymous private citizen who would ultimately charge Rhodes with sedition, when necessary, DOJ would use another grand jury with the Proud Boys as well. The Front Door conspiracy was first superseded by a January 11 grand jury (which might be the regularly seated one, but which picked up a lot of the flood in that period). When DOJ superseded Nick DeCarlo’s conspiracy with Nick Ochs, they used a grand jury seated on November 10.

The government seemed to use a regular May 25 and August 11 for similar necessities. But when the government wanted to charge Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave in a conspiracy, they waited for months — from April until September, a month and a half after Josiah Colt had flipped on them — to present it to that January 8 grand jury.

Oh shit, now I’ve forgotten about Lucas Denney, just like DOJ did.

The point I’m trying to make is that, for that relentless year while that grand jury was finalizing the sedition charges, it also charged almost all major January 6 felonies. That group of two dozen anonymous Americans saw all of this.

Until the Enrique Tarrio indictment. The indictment against the Proud Boy head obtained on March 7 was from a new grand jury, one seated on Valentine’s Day. The same grand jury from which DOJ got their last minute single count indictment against Denney.

I’m still testing this, but it appears that after its non-stop year of indicting insurrectionists, the last thing the January 8 grand jury may have done was charge the seditious conspiracy. Before February 14, other January 6 indictments (MacCracken, AJ Fischer, and Bilyard, for example) were handled by the August 11 grand jury. Then after February 14, new January 6 indictments (like Beddingfield, Johnson, and Bingham) were done by the November 10 grand jury.

Until March 7, when that February 14 grand jury started indicting people, starting with Enrique Tarrio.

The period when DOJ lost Lucas Denney appears to be the three-week period when DOJ was shifting from the January 8, 2021 grand jury to the February 14, 2022 grand jury.

DOJ ended their first grand jury with sedition. They opened their second grand jury with Tarrio — who may or may not have known about the riot before Trump announced it.

Update, May 6: In response to a Zach Rehl request for the exhibits the government will use in its case in chief against the Proud Boys, DOJ points to what must be how they read over the evidence from the one grand jury to the other:

In the meantime, the government has turned over information and materials that provide a clear roadmap regarding the government’s anticipated case-in-chief. Specifically, following the return of the Second Superseding indictment, the government turned over to defense counsel a 160-page grand jury transcript, with exhibits, and a detailed 96-slide PowerPoint presentation containing the evidence supporting the charges against the defendants.

January 8

  • All Oath Keeper
  • Proud Boy Leader
  • DeCarlo
  • Kuehne (KC Proud Boy)
  • Klein (North Door Proud Boy)
  • Pezzola (Front Door Proud Boy)
  • Hostetter (3% SoCal)
  • Rodriguez (SoCal Anti-Mask)
  • Sandlin (disorganized conspiracy)
  • Munchel
  • Khater (Sicknick)
  • Sibick (Fanone)
  • McCaughey (all)
  • Sabol
  • Horning (Jacob Hiles’ co-defendant, so tied to Riley)

January 11

May 25

August 11

November 10

February 14

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexander and Coudrey advised the group to leave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Enrique Tarrio Gets His Chance to Fit In or Fuck Off

Enrique Tarrio was finally indicted in the Proud Boy conspiracy. Effectively, this indictment adds Tarrio and Dominic Pezzola to the Leader conspiracy. William Pepe is not included, suggesting maybe he flipped.

Among the new lines in the indictment is one describing Tarrio trying to impose discipline.

On December 27, 2020, TARRIO created another encrypted messaging group to recruit potential members of the MOSD (the “MOSD Prospect Group”). TARRIO stressed that members of the chapter were expected to follow directions of MOSD leadership, which TARRIO and others emphasized by telling members, among other things, to “Fit in [] or fuck off.”

The indictment includes a meeting Tarrio had with Stewart Rhodes on January 5, before leaving DC.

It does not include any reference to his meeting at the White House.

One of the most interesting new additions is the description of Tarrio discussing a plan to occupy a few “crucial buildings” in DC with an unnamed person.

Between December 30 and December 31, 2020, TARRIO communicated multiple times with an individual whose identity is known to the grand jury. On December 30, 2020, this individual sent TARRIO a nine-page document titled, “1776 Returns.” The document set forth a plan to occupy a few “crucial buildings” in Washington, D.C ., on January 6, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, with as “many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People are in charge.” After sending the document, the individual stated, “The revolution is important than anything.” TARRIO responded, “That’s what every waking moment consists of . . . I’m not playing games.”

I’ll write more in a bit.

Trump’s Coup Attempts: A Tale of Five Pardon Dangles

In an analysis piece earlier this week, the NYT reported as newsworthy that,

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump also dangled, for the first time, that he could issue pardons to anyone facing charges for participating in the Jan. 6 attack if he is elected president again — the latest example of a yearslong flirtation with political violence.

Politico followed that with a report that Trump at least considered blanket pardons for those who might be implicated in January 6.

“Is it everybody that had a Trump sign or everybody who walked into the Capitol” who could be pardoned? Trump asked, according to that adviser. “He said, ‘Some people think I should pardon them.’ He thought if he could do it, these people would never have to testify or be deposed.”

Offering preemptive pardons is not a new idea for Trump. According to Michael Cohen, Trump also entertained bulk pardons with the Russian investigation before Jay Sekulow figured out that it would make it easier for people to testify against him.

Q What is – you had a conversation with Jay Sekulow about something called a pre-pardon?

A Yes.

Q How many conversations did you have with him about pre-pardoning

A One or two.

Q And what did he say to you?

A The problem with a pre-pardon is that you have to answer every question because technically you have immunity, so you can’t assert any Fifth Amendment privilege.

Q Let’s back up for a second, because that presupposes that you’ve already discussed the idea of you getting a pardon. Did Jay Sekulow tell you that the President was considering giving you a pardon?

A That’s not the way that he stated it, but we had a conversation, one at least – I believe it may have been two – and I am not 100 percent certain of the exact date that that occurred, but the concept of a pre-pardon was discussed, yes.

Q Okay. So if you said that’s not exactly how he said it, what do you remember him saying about the idea of you getting a pardon?

A Well, it wasn’t just me. It was globally, in order to, I guess, shut down, you know, this investigation. And I had said to him, you know, what .. well, you know, there’s always the possibility of a pre-pardon. And –

Q Let’s take your time, because it’s important for us to understand not just the gist of the conversation but who said what exactly. All right? So you mentioned something called a global pardon. Did he use that term?

A No.

Q Okay. What do you mean by a global pardon?

A Okay. That in order to shut this whole thing down, that this is how they were potentially going to do it, and everybody would just get a pardon. And said, well, it wouldn’t be a pardon, it would be a pre-pardon, because nobody’s been charged yet. So it ultimately just became, that’s not really something that could be accomplished, because then they’d have the right, again, to ask you questions, everyone on the team.

Q So when you say everyone, who do you mean?

A I guess whoever it is that you started to request to come in, testify, subpoenaed.

And in Trump’s last days in office, he considered pre-emptive pardons, but — in part because of Pat Cipollone’s opposition — he did not do so.

It is the case that Trump has now dangled pardons at a time he doesn’t have the power to grant them. Even that is not new, though, given that Roger Stone was brokering a Julian Assange pardon no later than November 15, 2016 and probably starting even before the election, in October 2016.

This latest dangle is more newsworthy, though — and for reporters who don’t want to enable Trump’s authoritarian power, ought to be reported as — an attempt to reclaim power he already lost after reneging on promises of pardons made while he still had the power to grant them.

It is not news that Trump used pardon dangles as one tool to attempt a coup on January 6. At least five people directly involved in the coup attempt benefitted from pardons, some awarded at key times in the planning process, with Steve Bannon’s issued at the last possible moment.

It is not news that Trump is making pardon dangles publicly to try to bend the will and buy the silence of others. This latest pardon dangle comes in the wake of five events, all of which pose a direct threat to Trump:

  • December 15: The Select Committee contempt referral for Mark Meadows that puts him at risk of Presidential Records Act and obstruction prosecution
  • January 12: The indictment on sedition charges of the Oath Keepers whose testimony could most directly damage Trump
  • January 19: SCOTUS’ refusal to reverse the DC Circuit order allowing the Archives to share Trump records
  • January 19: The delivery to prosecutors, on January 19, of a large number of texts and messages from Rudy Giuliani’s phones
  • January 20: The Select Committee request for Ivanka’s testimony, which strongly suggested she has violated the Presidential Records Act
  • January 21: The report from Sidney Powell’s attorney that she is “cooperating” in her own prosecution and the Select Committee

What’s newsworthy is that Trump is trying this tack after reneging on promises to three of the people involved (during the last days of his Administration, there were reports that Meadows, Rudy, and Ivanka all might receive pardons) that Trump made in the course of planning for the coup.

So I’d like to tell the story of five pardons — three granted, and two withheld — in the context of Trump’s attempted coup on January 6.

Michael Cohen pardon dangle

This first pardon necessary to understand what Trump is up to is one that didn’t happen: The pardon dangle to try to silence Michael Cohen. As the Mueller Report described. in the wake of a raid on Cohen, Robert Costello started reaching out as an envoy for Rudy Giuliani, offering pardons.

On or about April 17, 2018, Cohen began speaking with an attorney, Robert Costello, who had a close relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, one of the President’s personal lawyers. 1022 Costello told Cohen that he had a “back channel of communication” to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the “channel” was “crucial” and “must be maintained.” 1023 On April 20, 2018, the New York Times published an article about the President’s relationship with and treatment of Cohen. 1024 The President responded with a series of tweets predicting that Cohen would not ” flip” :

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

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

According to Cohen, Rudy Giuliani and Robert Costello were at the heart of Trump’s efforts to buy silence.

But Cohen couldn’t be silent about his own plight, and so facing prosecution from that and after a privilege review of his files discovered the recording Cohen made of Trump’s hush payments, he started cooperating with Mueller, helping them to understand what Trump was trying to hide about his ties with the Kremlin during the election.

Cohen paid for that decision, too. He did more time, for example, than Roger Stone, who (like Cohen) had kept blackmail material on Trump. As such, Cohen served as a useful example to Trump: if you cooperated against Trump, Trump would ensure that you suffered a worse outcome than those who had sustained the lies to protect him.

Roger Stone commutation

Roger Stone kept a notebook recording every conversation he had with Donald Trump during the 2016 election. After the election, according to an unreliable October 2018 interview that Steve Bannon had with Mueller’s team, Stone got a meeting to which he brought what appears to be that notebook. Trump asked Bannon to attend, it seems, to ensure that Stone would be kicked out after a short time.

While BANNON was at Breitbart in 2013-2015, BANNON had a strong relationship with [redacted]. BANNON heard from [redacted] STONE was still talking to Trump and was an advisor. STONE subsequently made those statements to BANNON as well. BANNON was suspect and upset. BANNON believed you had to eep TRUMP “on program.” While BANNON was on the Trump Campaign he never heard any mention of STONE from TRUMP or anyone else on the campaign. After the win, STONE tried a full court press in order to get a meeting with TRUMP. [redacted] eventually set up a meeting with TRUMP and STONE in early December 2016 on the 26th floor of Trump Tower. TRUMP didn’t want to take the meeting with STONE. TRUMP told BANNON to be in the meeting and that after 5 minutes, if the meeting hadn’t concluded, to throw STONE out. STONE came in with a book he wrote and possibly had a folder and notes. [full sentence redacted] TRUMP didn’t say much to STONE beyond “Thanks, thanks a lot.”. To BANNON, this reinforced STONE [redacted] After five to six minutes, the meeting was over and STONE was out. STONE was [redacted] due to the fact that during the meeting TRUMP just stared.

That was Bannon’s second-to-last interview with Mueller’s team. A week after his last interview, at which Bannon also appeared before the grand jury, the FBI raided Stone’s homes. One of the things they explicitly looked for was that notebook.

53. On May 8, 2018, a law enforcement interview of [redacted] was conducted. [redacted] was an employee of Stone’s from approximately June 2016 through approximately December 2016 and resided in Stone’s previous New York apartment for a period of time. [redacted] provided information technology support for Stone, but was not f0rmally trained to do so. [redacted] was aware that Stone communicated with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, and afterward, both in person and by telephone. [redated] provided information about a meeting at Trump Tower between Trump and Stone during the time [redacted] worked for him, to which Sterne carried a “file booklet” with him. Stone told [redacted] the file booklet was important and that no one should touch it. [redacted] also said Stone maintained the file booklet in his closet.

54. On December 3, 2018, law enforcement conducted an interview of an individual (“Person 1 “) who previously had a professional relationship with a reporter who provided Person 1 with information about Stone. The reporter relayed to Person 1 that in or around January and February 2016, Stone and Trump were in constant communication and that Stone kept contemporaneous notes of the conversations. Stone’s purpose in keeping notes was to later provide a “post mortem of what went wrong.”

In November 2019, Stone was convicted for lying about the nature and Trump’s awareness of his back-channel to the Russian operation. Billy Barr went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to minimize the punishment Stone would suffer for covering that up. He went so far as claiming threats against a federal judge by Roger Stone and the Proud Boys, threats which foreshadowed January 6, were a mere technicality.

But in July 2020, the moment when Stone would have to report to prison approached. Stone made several public appearances telling a story that was impossible as told, the gist of which was that prosecutors had promised Stone they would fight for leniency if he would testify about the content of a subset of the conversations he had with Trump during the election. That had the desired effect: Trump commuted Stone’s sentence before he reported for prison, protecting Stone in a way he had not done for Paul Manafort.

Billy Barr minimized the damage this should have done to Trump’s electoral chances. The Attorney General sat on a footnote of the Mueller Report that revealed when all this occurred, Roger Stone was still under investigation for the hack-and-leak with Russia. Barr released that literally on the eve of the 2020 election, and to this day no major outlet has reported that Stone was still under investigation for conspiring with Russia after the Mueller Report was released.

Mike Flynn pardon

As I laid out in this post, Mike Flynn got next to nothing out of his his two year attempt to renege on his plea agreement with Robert Mueller.

  • Replaced competent lawyers with incompetent TV grifters
  • Released evidence he lied to his lawyers doing the FARA filing
  • Consented to waive privilege so DOJ could find more proof he lied
  • Debunked a slew of conspiracy theories
  • Got really damning transcripts released
  • Served 708 days of supervised release
  • Joined a gang
  • Got one of his gang members prosecuted for death threats against Judge Sullivan
  • Got a ruling — and, later, a clear statement from DOJ — that no abuse occurred
  • Exposed his son to further prosecution
  • Exposed DOJ to further scrutiny
  • Proved Judge Sullivan’s point about selling the country out

After 18 months of making repeatedly debunked claims that he had been victimized by DOJ, however, he did get the most expansive pardon Trump gave, one pardoning not just his underlying crimes, but also the crimes he committed during the process of performing that victimization.

Given everything that has happened since, it’s worth considering Flynn’s performance as a victim as part of Trump’s reelection campaign.

That became most evident on September 29, 2020. Earlier in the day, in a status hearing, Sidney Powell confessed that weeks earlier, she had spoken to Trump about the case, and asked him not to pardon Flynn.

More curious still, she admitted she had spoken with Trump’s campaign attorney, Jenna Ellis.

THE COURT: Let me ask you this before you get to your other objections since we’re talking about — since I raised the issue about communications and correspondence with the Department of Justice. Have you had discussions with the President about this case?

MS. POWELL: I have not, Your Honor, while the case was pending pre-motion to dismiss or otherwise other than an update as to what happened in it.

THE COURT: I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand your answer. The question is whether you’ve had any discussions at all with the President of the United States about Mr. Flynn and about this case. Yes or no.

MS. POWELL: I’m sorry, Your Honor. I can’t discuss that.

THE COURT: What’s the reason why you can’t discuss that?

MS. POWELL: I would think any conversations that I had with the President would be protected by executive privilege.

THE COURT: Well, you don’t work for the government.

MS. POWELL: I don’t think the executive privilege is limited to people who work for the government.

THE COURT: So you’re purporting to invoke executive privilege not to answer the Court’s question about whether you discussed Mr. Flynn’s case with the President of the United States. Is that correct?

MS. POWELL: Yes. Other than the fact that after the government moved to dismiss or at some point in the last month or so, I provided the White House an update on the overall status of the litigation.

THE COURT: How did you provide that update? Was it in writing?

MS. POWELL: No, sir.

THE COURT: How did you provide that update? Who did you speak with?

MS. POWELL: I provided it in person to counsel for the President.

THE COURT: I mean the White House counsel or a deputy or who did you speak to?

MS. POWELL: Your Honor, I spoke with Jenna [Ellis] and I spoke with the President himself to provide a brief update of the status of the litigation within the last couple of weeks.

THE COURT: And did you make any request of the President?

MS. POWELL: No, sir. Other than he not issue a pardon.

THE COURT: All right. Prior to that discussion with the President — how many discussions with the President have you had about this case?

MS. POWELL: That’s the only one I recall.

THE COURT: So you’re not ruling out other — well, certainly, you would recall a discussion with the President of the United States, wouldn’t you?

MS. POWELL: Well, I’ve had a number of discussions with the President of the United States. I think the New York Times reported I’ve had five. So it seems like they probably have a number better than I know.

THE COURT: Are the New York Times’ representations erroneous?

MS. POWELL: I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve actually spoken with the President, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. About this case. But there’s been more than one though.

MS. POWELL: No, sir. I can tell you I spoke with one time to the President about this case to inform him of the general status of the litigation.

THE COURT: And was that within the last two weeks?

MS. POWELL: Time has a way of getting by for me, but it’s certainly well after the government moved to dismiss and probably if I recall correctly after the writ of mandamus was entered.

THE COURT: All right. Did you ever ask the President of the United States to request his Attorney General to appoint more attorneys in this case?

MS. POWELL: Oh, heavens, no.

THE COURT: All right. So very succinctly just so I have a clear understanding, what precisely — during the first time you spoke with the President of the United States, what precisely did you ask him to do in connection with this case? What did you ask him to do in connection with this case?

MS. POWELL: I never discussed this case with the President until recently when I asked him not to issue a pardon and gave him the general update of the status of the litigation. [my emphasis]

On the same day Powell admitted to speaking, some weeks earlier, to Trump’s campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, Trump delivered a pre-arranged attack against Joe Biden in the first debate.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

This false claim was based off misrepresentations based on altered Peter Strzok notes released as part of Bill Barr’s efforts to reverse the prosecution of Flynn. There were other altered documents released for wider dissemination in this period, as well, including additional Strzok and Page texts that newly violated the Privacy Act, though after DOJ had to confess that they had altered those documents, any further focus on the altered documents were dropped.

And then, Trump pardoned his Agent of Turkey along with the Thanksgiving bird.

At the moment Trump would have informed Sidney Powell of that news, she was at Lin Wood’s plantation plotting ways to steal the election Trump had lost. If Flynn was not already with Powell plotting away at the moment he learned of his pardon, he would join her within 24 hours.

Within weeks, the recently-pardoned retired General and foreign agent that had been plotting away with Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, someone who had been seduced by an admitted Russian agent, was calling for military intervention. Flynn’s calls for insurrection were reported in real time, but the news was buried and the fact that Trump had just pardoned the man calling for a coup did not make the coverage.

Roger Stone pardon

During the first half of December, Roger Stone was palling around with the accused terrorists who would help physically obstruct the vote certification on January 6.

Days later, one of the Oath Keepers that Stone palled around with, Kelly Meggs, bragged of arranging an alliance with other accused terrorists that Stone also palled around with, the Proud Boys that Trump had told to “Stand Back and Stand By” in that same debate on September 29 where Trump had used a campaign attack packaged up by Sidney Powell.

On December 23, Trump pardoned Stone for the crimes of which he was convicted (but not those that were still under investigation).

On Christmas, Meggs specifically tied protection, almost certainly of Stone, and coordination with a Proud Boy, almost certainly Enrique Tarrio, in the same text.

On December 26, Stone associate Kelly Meggs called this an insurrection (albeit in response to Trump’s order) explicitly.

On December 27, Stone went to Mar-a-Lago to thank Trump for the pardon directly and to discuss how he would “ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.”

Roger Stone, who received a Christmas week pardon from President Donald Trump, delivered a personal thank you to the president on Sunday at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

Stone wrote that he counseled the president on how he could “ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.”

[snip]

Stone said via text that he deleted the words and images after he was notified the golf club has “a policy of prohibiting photos of club members or guests out of respect for their privacy.” He said he didn’t have any additional comment.

A photo posted and then removed from Roger Stone's Parler social media page shows President Donald Trump, left, Kimberly Guilfoyle, an unidentified man and Roger Stone at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Sunday.
A photo posted and then removed from Roger Stone’s Parler social media page shows President Donald Trump, left, Kimberly Guilfoyle, an unidentified man and Roger Stone at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Sunday.

One picture showed four people talking: Trump; Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend; Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of the website and cable channel Newsmax, which is based in Boca Raton; and Stone.

“I thanked President Trump in person tonight for pardoning me,” he wrote. “I also told the president exactly how he can appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure that those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president #StopTheSteal #rogerstonedidnothingwrong.”

The next day, Stone deleted the pictures of his face-to-face meeting with Trump.

On January 5 and 6, Stone continued to interact closely with the Oath Keepers (and some Proud Boys). The morning of the insurrection, one of the Oath Keepers since charged with sedition, Joshua James, checked in with the operational leader for the Oath Keepers that day every time that someone — almost certainly Stone — moved.

Two days after the insurrection, Kristin Davis tweeted out a picture of Stone signing his pardon paperwork. (h/t gal_suburban)

Stone never hid it: His pardon was directly tied to his efforts to keep Trump in power. Given that Stone’s pardon was not as expansive as Flynn’s, he remains at some legal exposure for prosecution for his later efforts (including his June 2017 efforts to shut down the investigation into Julian Assange), so he had a real incentive to do anything he could to keep Trump in power.

Steve Bannon

Three days after Trump lost the election, Steve Bannon — in planning for an illegal second Trump term — threatened to assassinate Chris Wray and Anthony Fauci. The same day, his very competent lawyer, Bill Burck (the guy who got him through a bunch of serial lies in the Mueller investigation), fired him as a client, even as he was facing fraud charges for cheating Trump’s rubes.

It wasn’t until December 11, well into the plotting for a coup, that Robert Costello — the very same lawyer who dangled a pardon to Michael Cohen over two years earlier — noticed his appearance. Costello’s representation of Bannon also meant that the same lawyer represented both Rudy and Bannon, two of the masterminds in the Willard War Room.

December 11, when Costello formally filed as Bannon’s lawyer, is around the same time, according to Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, that Paul Gosar’s Chief of Staff tied a pardon for their own involvement in Bannon’s fraud to their efforts to overturn the election results.

In December 2020, as the tour rolled around the country, Stockton and Lawrence say they got a call from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and his chief of staff, Thomas Van Flein. According to Stockton, Van Flein claimed he and the congressman had just met with Trump, who was considering giving them a “blanket pardon” to address the “We Build the Wall” investigation.

“We were just in the Oval Office speaking about pardons and your names came up,” Van Flein allegedly said. Van Flein did not respond to a request for comment.

Gosar suggested the bus tour was helping Stockton and Lawrence build support for a pardon from the caucus and Trump. “Keep up the good work,” Gosar said, according to Stockton. “Everybody’s seen what you’re doing.”

So it was probably assumed that, so long as Bannon kept helping Trump try to steal the election, he would would get a pardon. That was true even though Roger Stone made it clear after his trial that Bannon had testified in the grand jury against him.

But on the last day, among the very last pardons Trump granted, Trump pardoned Bannon not just for the crimes he had already been charged with, but any others that might arise from the Build the Wall project federally.

Rudy Giuliani left dangling

Almost three years after Rudy started helping Trump out of his legal troubles, in part by shamelessly dangling pardons to (at least) Cohen and Paul Manafort, Rudy got nothing. He got no pardon even though he was represented by Robert Costello, who had started the pardon dangles with him. He got no pardon even after working relentlessly — and exposing himself to further criminal exposure — trying to help Trump steal an election. Rudy got nothing, even though it was known that Barr had failed in his efforts to kill the Ukraine influence peddling investigation into Rudy.

While there had been abundant discussion of pardoning people who weren’t yet charged in early 2021, after Trump’s coup attempt, that plan was scotched.

It might not have happened in any case, given the conclusion Jay Sekulow had come to years earlier, the preemptive pardons make witnesses more likely to testify against Trump.

But because of the insurrection, Pat Cipollone got a lot more involved in pardons. And the insurrection made it virtually impossible to pardon the mastermind of the insurrection, Rudy Giuliani, even while making it all the more important to find a way to keep Rudy silent.

Ten days after (we now know) SDNY first obtained a warrant targeting Rudy Giuliani in the investigation used to justify seizing all his phones, Rudy boasted that he had “very, very good insurance.” Rudy certainly believed Trump would protect him.

But he didn’t.

That’s the angle through which Trump’s latest attempt to dangle pardons should be viewed. Rudy may be the most important person Trump needs to silence. But Trump had a chance to pardon Rudy when he had the authority, and he failed to do so.

Update: Added the SCOTUS decision to the list of things that must have Trump worried. h/t Brian Pillion

Key pardons of January 6 participants

February 18. 2020: Bernie Kerik

November 25, 2020: Mike Flynn

December 22, 2020: George Papadopoulos

December 23, 2020: Roger Stone and Paul Manafort

January 19, 2021: Steve Bannon

January 6 Is Unknowable

Dunbar’s number is a term that describes a presumed cognitive limit to the number of people with whom an individual can maintain social relationships. It’s a way of thinking about limits to our ability to understand a network. People argue about what the actual number is, though 150 is a good standard.

Using that figure, the number of people arrested in the January 6 attack is, thus far, 4 2/3 Dunbar numbers, with two more Dunbar numbers of assault suspects identified in FBI wanted photos. By my count, one Dunbar number of suspects are charged with assault. There were one Dunbar number of police victims from that day. There have been, Attorney General Garland revealed last night, one Dunbar number of prosecutors working on the investigation. One Dunbar number of Congresspeople backed challenges to the vote certification last year, and a significant subset of those people further enabled the insurrectionists in more substantive ways. The January 6 Select Committee has interviewed two Dunbar number of witnesses about the event, a group that barely overlaps with the suspects already charged.

I think about Dunbar’s number a lot, particularly as I review the DC court calendar each morning to review which court hearings I should call into on a given day. I can rattle off the names of the January 6 defendants in all the major conspiracy cases and some less obvious key defendants about whom I’ve got real questions. But for other hearings with a 2021 docket number (the January 6 defendants make up the majority of defendants in DC last year), I need to refer back to my master list to see whether those are January 6 defendants, and if so, whether the hearing might be of import. There are five January 6 defendants with the last name Brown, five with some version of the last name Kelly (all quite interesting), three Martins, and seven Williamses, so it’s not just recognizing the name, but trying to remember whether a particular Brown is one of the really interesting ones.

Court filings are the way I go about understanding January 6. Sedition Hunters, by contrast, have worked via faces in photos, from which they effectively create dossiers on suspects of interest.

From their home offices, couches, kitchen tables, bedrooms and garages, these independent investigators have played a remarkable role in archiving and preserving digital evidence. Often operating under the “Sedition Hunters” moniker, they’ve archived more than 2,000 Facebook accounts, over 1,125 YouTube channels, 500-plus Instagram accounts, nearly 1,000 Twitter feeds, more than 100 Rumble profiles and over 250 TikTok accounts. They’ve gathered more than 4.1 terabytes ― 4,100 gigabytes ― of data, enough to fill dozens of new iPhones with standard-issue storage.

Both approaches have come to a similar understanding of the attack: that the Proud Boys led a multi-pronged assault on the building, one that is most easily seen on the coordinated assault from the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, America Firsters, and Alex Jones on the East door. That assault on the East door appears after 22:30 on NYT’s Day of Rage on the riot, which remains the most accessible way for people to try to understand the riot. That assault on the East door, because of Pied Piper Alex Jones’ role in providing bodies, leads directly back to Trump’s request that Jones lead rally attendees from the Ellipse to the Capitol. And there are militia and localized networks that are also critical to understanding how all those bodies worked in concert on January 6. Here’s a summary of the Sedition Hunters’ understanding, which is well worth reviewing in depth.

But even though what we’re seeing is quite similar, there are gaps. Because I’m working from dockets, I’m aware of only the most important people who have yet to be arrested, whereas the Sedition Hunters have a long list, including assault suspects, prominent participants, and militia members, who remain at large. Meanwhile, I’ve identified a handful of defendants whose accomplices on January 6 are obviously of great interest to DOJ, but the Sedition Hunters aren’t always able to reverse engineer who those accomplices are based off their work.

And dockets are only useful for certain kinds of information. I track each arrest affidavit and statement of offense closely. I try to keep a close eye on changes in legal teams and developments (like continuances) that deviate from the norm, which are often the first sign that a case is getting interesting. You learn the most from detention hearings and sentencing memos. But for defendants charged by indictment and released pre-trial, the government can hide most of what it knows. And that’s assuming DOJ makes an arrest or unseals it, which it might not do if someone cooperates from the start.

The government has announced nine cooperation deals (one four months after it happened), and the subject of cooperation for two of them — Jon Schaffer and Klete Keller (whom I often get confused with the five Kellys) — is not known. It wasn’t clear that Jacob Hiles was the defendant who had gotten Capitol Police cop Michael Riley indicted until Hiles’ sentencing memo. And Hiles is not the only one being charged with a misdemeanor who cooperated to end up that way. It’s often not clear whether a delayed misdemeanor charge reflects really good lawyering or cooperation (and in the case of Brandon Straka, it seems to have been really good lawyer that nevertheless resulted in some key disclosures to DOJ).

There is a growing list of Person Ones described in court filings, Stewart Rhodes, Enrique Tarrio, Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, Alex Jones, and Morton Irvine Smith, all of whom were clearly involved in January 6 but haven’t been charged yet. Roger Stone never got referred to as Person One, but he is all over the Oath Keepers’ court filings. DOJ hasn’t named people like Mo Brooks and Rudy Giuliani when they include them in Statements of Offense, but they’re in there. So are other people who spoke on January 5.

It turns out that one means of accessing the January 6 is my forté, documents, and that of citizen researchers, collaborative research. But partly because Merrick Garland referred Michael Sherwin for an Office of Professional Responsibility investigation for publicly commenting on the investigation improperly, the normal way things get reported — by quoting sources — largely isn’t yet accessible for the criminal side of the investigation. That leads to misleading reporting like the famous Reuters article that didn’t understand the role of crimes of terrorism or a WaPo piece yesterday that unbelievably quoted Jonathan Turley claiming, “There’s no grand conspiracy that the FBI found, despite arresting hundreds of people, investigating thousands,” without labeling him as the former President’s impeachment lawyer, which is the only way Turley would be marginally competent to make such a claim. There are defense attorneys talking to the press — but the chattiest defense lawyers are the ones setting new standards for bullshit claims. The ones I’ve heard from are themselves drowning in their attempts to understand the larger investigation, both because of the sheer amount of discovery and because that discovery doesn’t tell them what is going on legally with one of the other Dunbar numbers of defendants. But in general, the ordinary sources for typical reporting aren’t talking, leading to a lot more mystery about the event.

One thing I find most striking from those who were present is their blindness. I’m haunted by something Daniel Hodges said in his testimony to the January 6 Committee: that the men and women who fought insurrectionists for hours in the Tunnel through which Joe Biden would walk to take the Oath of Office two weeks later had no idea, during that fight, that the Capitol had already been breached, and then cleared, as they continued to fight a battle of inches.

It was a battle of inches, with one side pushing the other a few and then the other side regaining their ground. At the time I (and I suspect many others in the hallway) did not know that the terrorists had gained entry to the building by breaking in doors and windows elsewhere, so we believed ours to be the last line of defense before the terrorists had true access to the building, and potentially our elected representatives.

There are similar accounts from other direct witnesses — like this chilling piece from Matt Fuller — who huddled feet away from where Ashli Babbitt was killed without knowing what was happening. Grace Segers, in her second telling of surviving that day, describes how there was no way to tell maintenance workers (there must be ten Dunbar numbers of support staff who were there that day) to take cover from the mobsters.

I have spent the better part of the year working full time, with few days off, trying to understand (and help others understand) January 6. I’ve got a clear (though undoubtedly partial) vision of how it all works — how the tactical developments in the assault on the Capitol connect directly back to actions Donald Trump took. Zoe Tillman, one of a handful of other journalists who is attempting to track all these cases (while parenting a toddler and covering other major judicial developments) has a piece attempting to do so with a summary of the numbers. But both those methods are inadequate to the task.

But thus far, that clear vision remains largely unknowable via the normal ways the general public learns. That’s why, I think, people like Lawrence Tribe are so panicked: because even beginning to understand this thing is, quite literally, a full time job, even for those of us with the luxury of living an ocean away. In Tribe’s case, he has manufactured neglect out of what he hasn’t done the work to know. To have something that poses such an obvious risk to American democracy remain so unknowable, so mysterious — to not be able to make sense of the mob that threatens democracy — makes it far more terrifying.

I know a whole lot about what is knowable about the January 6 investigation. But one thing I keep realizing is that it remains unknowable.