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Enrique Tarrio Really Doesn’t Want the FBI to Search His Laptop

While there has been a close focus on the federal charges against the terrorists who mobbed the Capitol on January 6, there has been less focus on the lawfare Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio has been waging in his DC case.

Tarrio likely avoided federal charges like those filed against Proud Boy leaders Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean by getting arrested two days earlier on charges associated with vandalizing a Black church and possession of a firearm. But Tarrio is complaining that his bail conditions — which prohibit him from entering DC except for reasons related to his prosecution — violate his First Amendment.

Thus, undersigned counsel invites the government to explain, at a hearing before the Court, what reasonable and credible justification it can offer for barring from the District of Columbia a person who is accused of a possessory felony offense (that does not even involve possession of bullets or a gun) and misdemeanor destruction of a Black Lives Matter flag.

[snip

This ban is especially harsh in Mr. Tarrio’s case, as: (1) he is an activist who needs to be in the District from time to time to organize and protest; (2) many American citizens are concerned about the policies of the Biden administration and thus have a right to redress by appearing at protests in the District; and (3) trials are extremely delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that the “temporary” ban from the District will likely, in effect, result in a long-term ban if this Court does not modify it.

More interesting still, Tarrio moved to require the court to have a hearing before granting a warrant to search the phone or laptop that were seized from Tarrio when he was arrested (and he’s particularly interested in getting his laptop returned to him if and when the DC cops image it in response to a warrant).

Given the privacy interests at stake and the important legal issues at play, Mr. Tarrio requests that any execution, or issuance, of a warrant be temporarily halted to provide undersigned counsel the opportunity to respond. Further, defense counsel should be notified of, and be allowed to attend, any government/police request/application for a search warrant of Mr. Tarrio’s electronic devices (including his cell phone and laptop computer), online accounts, or any other item in which Mr. Tarrio has a privacy interest.

The DC Superior court rejected both requests (Tarrio is appealing the bail motion). In the latter case, Judge Robert Okun did so because the court has not issued a warrant, and Tarrio has no right to make a pre-emptive challenge in any case.

If I understand the posture of the request, however, nothing happening in the DC Superior court would prevent the DC US Attorney’s office from asking the DC District Court for a warrant to serve on the DC police — which is where they’d go if they were seeking the contents of the laptop as part of its January 6 investigation.

When Tarrio assaulted the Asbury United Methodist Church in December, he did so knowing it would create a cause among the far right. The same may be true of his decision to bring two magazines to DC — it may have been deliberate provocation in an attempt to bring a Second Amendment challenge.

So that may be all that’s going on here — an attempt to play the victim.

That said, given first the WaPo and now a NYT report that the DC US Attorney’s office is considering opening an investigation into the role that Tarrio’s buddy Roger Stone played in the insurrection — conveniently timed leaks that will ensure this comes up in Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing tomorrow — I wonder whether Tarrio was stupid enough to bring a laptop to his insurrection with something genuinely sensitive on it.

Dominic Pezzola Suspects the FBI’s Cooperating Witness Is the Guy Who Recruited Him into the Proud Boys

A number of people are pointing to this motion to modify bond by Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, the guy who helped kick off an insurrection by breaking the window of the Capitol with a stolen police shield, reporting either that Pezzola is bidding to plead out or that that the Proud Boys are turning on themselves.

Both may be true.

But buried within the filing is a far more inflammatory allegation. Pezzola, the guy who kicked off the entire assault on the Capitol on January 6 in coordination with other Proud Boys, is suggesting that someone who came to serve as an FBI cooperating witness less than a week after an attack that purportedly took the FBI entirely by surprise, was actually the guy who recruited him into the Proud Boys and set him up with a thumb drive loaded up — unbeknownst to him, he maintains — with the Anarchist’s Handbook, including its bomb-making plans.

Pezzola makes the allegation by rebutting the claim he is dangerous, the basis by which Magistrate Robin Meriweather. came to deny him bail.

As Pezzola notes, Meriweather denied him bail not because of a presumption of detention or a concern he would flee. It was because he posed a danger to the public. Meriweather framed that presumed danger as arising from a thumb drive loaded with the Anarchist’s Handbook found at his home and the testimony of a witness.

In determining that Pezzola’s release presented “danger” to the community the Court cited 2 factors from the prosecution’s proffer: (1) the claim that Pezzola participated in a group conversation when others expressed an intention to return to DC with weapons to commit acts of violence; (2) recovery of a thumb drive with plans for making, bombs, poisons, etc.

Per Pezzola’s arrest affidavit, the witness was someone whom the FBI interviewed at least twice before obtaining an arrest warrant against Pezzola on January 13, just a week after the insurrection. The description of witnesses in the total universe of January 6 affidavits are totally inconsistent (in part because so many different FBI Agents wrote them), meaning we can’t conclude anything by the description an agent uses. Nevertheless, this one was always among the only ones that seemed to be an insider. The witness is someone who described Pezzola as “Spaz” right away (though elsewhere he is called Spazzo), described Pezzola as bragging about breaking into the Capitol, and he described the group — the Proud Boys — as capable of killing Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence, and planning more actions.

The FBI has spoken to an individual your affiant will refer to as “W-1” for purposes of this affidavit. W-1 stated that W-1 was in Washington, D.C., during the protests that occurred on January 6, 2021.

W-1 stated that after the events at the Capitol as described above, he or she spoke to an individual he or she knows as “Spaz,” along with other individuals. W-1 stated that during that conversation, “Spaz” bragged about breaking the windows to the Capitol and entering the building. In a subsequent interview W-1 clarified that “Spaz” said that he used a Capitol Police shield to break the window. W-1 said that “Spaz” can be seen on the cover of many newspapers and recognizes him from those photographs. W-1 stated that other members of the group talked about things they had done during the day, and they said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included “Spaz,” said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance.

I had thought this witness would be one of numerous Proud Boy hangers on who was hanging around in DC after the attack, but as we’ll see, Pezzola believes it’s the guy he commuted to insurrection with.

The witness first told the FBI that the Proud Boys were preparing an event on January 20th (which is consistent with other reports).

According to W-1, the group said it would be returning on the “20th,” which your affiant takes to mean the Presidential Inauguration scheduled for January 20, 2021, and that they plan to kill every single “m-fer” they can.1 W-1 stated the men said they all had firearms or access to firearms.

Then, in a later interview (again, remember that this is before January 13), the witness said maybe the next event wasn’t inauguration, but soon after. Whenever it was, it’d involve guns.

In a later interview, W-1 stated that the group had no definitive date for a return to Washington, D.C, but W-1 re-iterated that the others agreed there would be guns and that they would be back soon and they would bring guns.

The witness also misidentified Doug Jensen, the QAnon adherent who chased officer Goodman up the Capitol stairs, as someone else, presumably a member of the Proud Boys, only to clarify later that someone else was the individual in question.

In W-1’s initial interview with law enforcement, W-1 initially incorrectly the individual in the black knit hat in the foreground of this photograph as someone I will refer to as “Individual A.” W-1 later clarified that the person in the knit hat is not in fact Individual A and identified a different person in a separate photograph as Individual A.

Thus far, this witness sounds like he’s telling the FBI what he expects they most want to hear, something you often hear from informants trying to maximize their own value. By misidentifying Jensen, he may have falsely suggested the Proud Boys chose where to go in the Capitol. And by promising there would be more events, featuring violence (again, which is consistent with what public chatter was at the time), he heightened the urgency of case against the Proud Boys.

As Pezzola describes in his motion for bail, he suspects the person who said the Proud Boys had ongoing plans is a guy he drove home to New York with from DC.

Pezzola maintains no recollection of the referenced conversation but suspects if the conversation did occur in his presence it could have only occurred in the car on the return trip from Washington when Pezzola was asleep in the car. Upon information and belief, the CW is not detained. Rather he has reached an agreement where he is making allegations against others in order to avoid his detention for what is actually his greater involvement in the underlying events.

That would explain why William Pepe, also from NY, was named Pezzola’s co-conspirator: presumably both were in the same car speaking to the same guy, which is how the government had confidence that Pepe’s actions were coordinated with Pezzola’s and not, for example, the two other people charged with kicking off the attack on the Capitol, Robert Gieswein and Ryan Samsel.

As Pezzola describes, “it is alleged” that he’s just a recent recruit to the Proud Boys (something I don’t necessarily buy, but it seems to reflect Pezzola parroting back what he’s seen in discovery so far).

Pezzola’s alleged contact with the “Proud Boys” was minimal and short lived. It is alleged he had no contact prior to late November 2020. Upon information and belief, the prosecution alleges his first contacts occurred around that time. They principally amounted to meeting for drinks in a bar. Prior to January 6, 2020, there is no allegation that Pezzola took any action with the “Proud Boys” that was in anyway criminal or violent. His only event prior to January 6, 2021, was that he attended a MAGA rally in support of Donald Trump in December 2020. There is no allegation he was involved in any criminal or violent activity there.

He claims that the cooperating witness is actually far more involved in the Proud Boys.

Addressing these in turn: There is a claim as the prosecution pointed out that a “cooperating witness” claimed that Pezzola was present in a group when someone professed an intention to return on January 20, 2021, Inauguration day to instigate more violence. However, there is no claim Pezzola made those statements nor that he expressed a similar intent1 nor any intention to participate in any acts of violence, let alone murder. Although the defense cannot be certain it is believed the “cooperating witness” (CW) who has made these claims is actually someone who was a much more active participant in the “Proud Boys” than Pezzola, having been with the organization for a much longer time than Pezzola’s alleged association and much more active.

And Pezzola claims that the thumb drive showing possession of bomb making instructions was actually given to him by the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness.

What was unknown at the time of the prior hearing is that the thumb drive at issue was given to Pezzola, probably by the Prosecution’s CW5 when that person was making efforts to introduce Pezzola into the “Proud Boys.”

Finally, Pezzola further alleges that the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness confessed to spraying cops with pepper spray, an assault that has not been charged (only Giswein and Samsel were charged with outright assaults on cops).

Although it is impossible to know with certainty at this point, if the defense supposition about the CW is correct, that person admitted to spraying law enforcement with a chemical agent, likely “OC or Pepper” spray during the January 6 event.

It is true that Pezzola nods to making a plea deal in this filing.

Although the Court can play no role in disposition negotiations, via counsel Pezzola has indicated his desire to begin disposition negotiations and acceptance of responsibility for his actions. He seeks to make amends.

But there’s little chance DOJ can offer him a deal that will help him rebuild his life. Even in this filing, he admits he was attempting to stop the vote count, the goal of every overriding conspiracy charge thus far, which would be a key part of any seditious conspiracy case. He doesn’t deny he broke into the Capitol; he instead disingenuously downplays the import of being the first to do so, noting that numerous doors and windows were breached over the course of the day. His claim he has never used his Marine training since his service is inconsistent with the way he walked through the Capitol with much greater operational awareness than many of the other rioters. Plus, even in his first bail hearing, Pezzola insisted he was not a leader of the attack, which — if he was a recent recruit, makes total sense (and is consistent with Felicia Konold, someone else who played a key role, but who was just a recruit-in-progress). So he wouldn’t necessarily have that much information on anyone except those who gave him directions and the guy in the car, not necessarily enough to trade as the guy who kicked off the insurrection, even if he was acting on orders.

He’s likely fucked one way or another, not least because he’d be far less useful as a cooperator if everyone knew he had a plea deal.

But Pezzola’s allegation is troubling for several more reasons.

As noted, the FBI interviewed this cooperating witness at least twice before January 13, suggesting at the very least that the FBI reached out to him right away (or vice versa), rather than collecting more information on the person’s own role. And in spite of two variations in his story — misidentifying Jensen and equivocating about when the next operations were planned — his testimony was deemed credible enough to implicate someone he may have recruited and provided other the other damning evidence on.

The FBI knew that Enrique Tarrio and the rest of the Proud Boys were coming to DC for the January 6 events, which is how they were prepared to arrest him on entry in DC. They knew that during the Proud Boys’ previous visit, the group had targeted two Black churches. DOJ had investigated threats four members of the Proud Boys had made against a sitting judge in 2019.

And yet, not only didn’t FBI prevent the January 6 attack kicked off by the Proud Boys, they didn’t even issue an intelligence warning about possible violence.

It’s possible this witness genuinely did just reach out to the FBI and try to pre-empt any investigation into himself. It’s possible that as the FBI has done more review (including of video outside the Capitol, where a pepper spray attack on cops likely would have occurred), they’ve come to grow more skeptical of this witness.

But it’s also possible that the FBI has ties with witnesses — possibly this guy, and very likely Rudy Giuliani interlocutor James Sullivan, who said he was in contact with the FBI — who have more information on those who set up this insurrection, rather than just busting down the window. Particularly given the unsurprising news that investigators are scrutinizing the role that Roger Stone and Alex Jones might have played (Rudy is not mentioned, but not excluded either), it seems critical that the FBI not adhere to its counterproductive use of informants targeting a group (no matter how reprehensible) rather than action.

The FBI has a lot to answer for in its utterly inconceivable failure to offer warnings about this event. If their informant practices blinded them — or if they’re making stupid choices now out of desperation to mitigate that initial failure — it will do little to mitigate the threat of the Proud Boys.

Proud Boys “Cell Leader” William Chrestman Says He’s Not Organized Crime, Was Just Acting on Orders

I’m working towards posts on how DOJ is treating the different members of the Proud Boys charged with crimes relating to January 6 and how DOJ’s past history with the group makes their failure to warn about January 6 all the more damning.

But first, I want to look at what William Chrestman’s lawyers said in a memo arguing he should not be detained pre-trial.

As a reminder, Chrestman was charged with conspiring with four other people, all wearing orange tape, both to obstruct the counting of the electoral vote, and to impede law enforcement officers during a civil disorder. Of particular note, Chrestman and those with him physically prevented cops from shutting access to tunnels through which members of Congress had been evacuated.

The government’s detention memo calls Chrestman an “apparent leader of this particular cell” and describes that he recruited two people from Arizona (Felicia Konold, whom charging documents say the FBI interviewed, but from which interview they didn’t quote, and her brother Cory) to take part in the riot.

Defendant Chrestman readily recruited two individuals from Arizona to join the group of Kansas City Proud Boys, who then participated in the crime spree on U.S. Capitol grounds.

As such, the action of a group led by Chrestman directly ensured the ongoing threat to members of Congress, to say nothing of the difficulties they caused police trying to limit the incursion of the rioters.

In the memo, Federal Public Defenders Kirk Redmond and Chekasha Ramsey offered a more extended version of an argument other defendants have made, arguing that Chrestman had good reason to believe not just his actions — but the Proud Boys’ generally — must have been sanctioned by the President. [footnotes below replaced with links]

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

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

Their calculations were wrong. The five weeks since January 6 have broken the fever dream. The Proud Boys are “radioactive now.”18 Any “air of respectability is gone.”19 The Proud Boys are in “disarray, as state chapters disavow the group’s chairman and leaders bicker in public and in private about what direction to take the Proud Boys in.”20 Their leader was arrested, then “outed as a longtime FBI informant, a role he has now admitted to.”21 And not insubstantially, a number of their members have been arrested for their roles in the January 6 attack. [my emphasis]

The filing goes on to quote extensively from impeachment evidence and Mitch McConnell’s post-acquittal statement, reiterating Trump’s central role in all this.

Even before it gets there, though, the memo makes an argument I expect we’ll see more of, one which very much resembles the argument Bill Barr’s DOJ made to diminish prior threats from the Proud Boys.

Third, the government’s evidence is a far cry from what courts have found constitutes sufficient evidence of a serious risk of obstruction justifying detention. Threatening to kill a witness,4 injure a witness,5 or manufacture false evidence6 is the kind of stuff that gets one detained under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2)(B). More similar to our facts is United States v. Demmler, 523 F.Supp.2d 677 (S.D. Ohio 2007). There, the “Government allege[d] that Demmler talked about enlisting other defendants in the underlying Poulsen case in his and Poulsen’s scheme[.]”7 But whether the defendant “would have followed-up on these musings had he not been arrested, and whether he would do so now, are entirely speculative. It is just as likely, on this record, that Demmler’s arrest on federal charges has chastened, rather than emboldened, him.”8 So too here.

4 United States v. Fontanes-Olivo, 937 F.Supp.2d 198, 201 (D. P.R. 2012) (Authorizing detention based on potential obstruction where defendant told witness that “one of ‘his people,’ could ‘get rid of you’ based on a rumor that the UM was cooperating with authorities.”).

5 United States v. Ploof, 851 F.2d 7, 11 (1st Cir. 1988) (When “defendant, if released, will attempt to injure or intimidate other prospective witnesses (and if the evidence supports said conclusion) then, too, detention is authorized”).

6 United States v. Robertson, 608 F.Supp.2d 89, 92 (D. D.C. 2009) (“Given the extraordinary lengths that these defendants went to in their efforts to tamper with witnesses and manufacture utterly false, misleading evidence at trial—and in light of their proven success in achieving a hung jury in one trial already—this Court ultimately has no choice but to detain these defendants prior to trial.”).

7 Demmler, 523 F.Supp.2d at 683.

8 Id.; See also United States v. Simon, 760 F.Supp. 495 (D. V.I. 1990) (Detention inappropriate even when defendant attempted to speak with a juror in his brother’s murder trial; although “conduct is inexcusable, it is a far cry from the venality, corruption and violence of the sort common in organized-crime cases, designed to destroy the integrity of the criminal justice system.”)

A year ago, Bill Barr’s DOJ said threats from the Proud Boys might “technically” be obstruction, but such a sentencing enhancement, “typically applies in cases involving violent offenses, such as armed robbery.” Almost exactly a year later, Chrestman’s attorneys argue that threats from the Proud Boys and the threat of ongoing Proud Boys action, “is a far cry from the venality, corruption and violence of the sort common in organized-crime cases.”

This passage is far less persuasive than those invoking Trump. After all, Chrestman threatened police he would, “take your fucking ass out,” if they shot protestors, and further incited others to fight back.

Defendant Chrestman stood directly in front of Capitol Police officers who were attempting to guard the Capitol. Defendant Chrestman yelled at the Capitol Police officers, “You shoot and I’ll take your fucking ass out!” At a different point, Capitol Police officers attempted to arrest one person from the crowd, and Defendant Chrestman encouraged other members of the crowd to stop the Capitol Police from arresting him. Among other things, Defendant Chrestman said to other members of the crowd, “Don’t let them take him!”

Particularly backed — as Chrestman was — by mobs of thousands, that threat was every bit as serious as the one Chrestman’s lawyers cite in Fontanes-Olivo. And the Proud Boys have long been considered an organized hate group, so the allusion to organized crime is actually on point.

More importantly, Chrestman’s completed act — the success that he and others had at delaying the count of the electoral count vote — did grave damage to the integrity of our democracy, a point prosecutors made in their detention memo.

The nature and circumstances of the charged offenses weigh heavily in favor of detention. Defendant Chrestman, a member of a right-wing militia, knowingly and willfully participated in a riot that was designed to prevent the United States Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Not only did Defendant Chrestman participate in the riot, he assumed a leadership role by shouting “Whose house is this?” and encouraging the crowd to “Take it!”

Words alone may never communicate the true nature of the crimes that were carried out on January 6. It is an event that cannot be measured in the number dead, injured, or wounded, but rather in the destabilizing effect that it has had on this country. This destabilizing effect is precisely what Defendant Chrestman envisioned when he decided to travel to the Capitol, helped lead others into the U.S. Capitol, and participated in the Proud Boys’ participation in the riot at the Capitol building.

The problem is that not just Donald Trump but even his Department of Justice (to say nothing of the line law enforcement officers cited by Chrestman’s lawyers) have long minimized the risk fo such a threat.

That said, the fact that Donald Trump got precisely the destabilizing blow to democracy and the terror he wanted is no reason to let Chrestman go free. Instead, Chrestman makes a great argument that Trump should be treated as a co-conspirator.

Bill Barr Claimed a Threat Meriting a Four Subpoena Investigation Didn’t Merit a Sentencing Enhancement

In the aftermath of the Proud Boys-led insurrection, I’ve been reporting over and over on how Bill Barr’s DOJ treated threats by the Proud Boys against Amy Berman Jackson — which the probation office treated as the same kind of threat as the obstruction charge being used against many of the January 6 defendants — as a technicality unworthy of a sentencing enhancement.

Katelyn Polantz advanced that story last night, reporting that DOJ subpoenaed the four Proud Boys implicated by Roger Stone in his threat against ABJ for grand jury testimony.

Stone — testifying at a court hearing in 2019 to explain the post — said at the time that a person working with him on his social media accounts had chosen it.

Then, at another hearing the same year, Stone named names. Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, had been helping him ​with his social media, Stone said under oath, as had the Proud Boys’ Florida chapter founder Tyler Ziolkowski, who went by Tyler Whyte at the time; Jacob Engels, a Proud Boys associate who is close to Stone and identifies himself as a journalist in Florida; and another Florida man named Rey Perez, whose name is spelled Raymond Peres in the court transcript​.

A few days later, federal authorities tracked down the men and gave them subpoenas to testify to a grand jury, according to Ziolkowski, who was one of the witnesses.

Ziolkowski and the others flew to DC in the weeks afterwards to testify.

“They asked me about if I had anything to do about posting that. They were asking me if Stone has ever paid me, what he’s ever paid me for,” Ziolkowski told CNN this week. When he first received the subpoena, the authorities wouldn’t tell Ziolkowski what was being investigated, but a prosecutor later told him “they were investigating the picture and if he had paid anybody,” Ziolkowski said. He says he told the grand jury Stone never paid him, and that he hadn’t posted the photo.

Tarrio and Engels did not respond to inquiries from CNN, and Stone declined to respond to CNN’s questions. ​The FBI’s Washington, DC, office did not respond to requests for comment from CNN.

A person familiar with the case said it had closed without resulting in any charges.

For what it’s worth, given the interest Mueller showed in Stone’s social media work, given the close ties between Stone’s social media work and that of the Proud Boys, and given that parts of the investigation against Stone continued well after his trial, it’s possible prosecutors used Stone’s comments as a way to ask other questions: about whether Stone had paid four of his closest buddies in the Proud Boys (remember they were also looking for a notebook Stone used for his 2016 book that recorded all of his communications with Trump).

That said, DC’s US Attorney’s office paid for four witnesses to come to DC to testify about whether they had had a role in Stone’s threats against the judge presiding over his case.

That raises the stakes on the things Barr said publicly about this threat. As noted, in a sentencing memo written as Barr’s urging, DOJ claimed that the threat against ABJ “overlap[ped] … with the offense conduct in this case.”

Second, the two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice (§ 3C1.1) overlaps to a degree with the offense conduct in this case. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the defendant’s obstructive conduct actually prejudiced the government at trial.

And DOJ dismissed the import of a threat against a judge by suggesting that if it didn’t prejudice prosecutors at trial, it doesn’t much matter.

More problematic still was Barr’s testimony before House Judiciary Committee last July, just over two months before the President said the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by.”

When Congressman Ted Deutch asked Barr if he could think of any other case where threatening to kill a witness and then threatening a judge were treated as mere technicalities, Barr kept repeating, at least five times, that “the Judge agreed with me.”

Deutch: You said enhancements were technically applicable. Mr. Attorney General, can you think of any other cases where the defendant threatened to kill a witness, threatened a judge, lied to a judge, where the Department of Justice claimed that those were mere technicalities? Can you think of even one?

Barr: The judge agreed with our analysis.

Deutch: Can you think of even one? I’m not asking about the judge. I’m asking about what you did to reduce the sentence of Roger Stone?

Barr: [attempts to make an excuse]

Deutch: Mr. Attorney General, he threatened the life of a witness —

Barr: And the witness said he didn’t feel threatened.

Deutch: And you view that as a technicality, Mr. Attorney General. Is there another time

Barr: The witness — can I answer the question? Just a few seconds to answer the question?

Deutch: Sure. I’m asking if there’s another time in all the time in the Justice Department.

Barr: In this case, the judge agreed with our — the judge agreed with our —

Deutch: It’s unfortunate that the appearance is that, as you said earlier, this is exactly what you want. The essence of rule of law is that we have one rule for everybody and we don’t in this case because he’s a friend of the President’s. I yield.

That claim — that ABJ agreed with the analysis of Barr and his flunkies — was a lie, a lie made under oath. ABJ, a liberal judge without Barr’s lifetime authoritarian claims about crime, believed the sentencing guidelines are too harsh. She did not believe these enhancements were mere technicalities.

Indeed, in ruling that the enhancement for the threat against her applied — a threat against official proceedings, the same charge being used against many of the insurrectionists — she talked about how posting a threat on social media, “increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf.”

I suppose I could say: Oh, I don’t know that I believe that Roger Stone was actually going to hurt me, or that he intended to hurt me. It’s just classic bad judgment.

But, the D.C. Circuit has made it clear that such conduct satisfied the test. They said: To the extent our precedent holds that a §3C1.1 enhancement is only appropriate where the defendant acts with the intent to obstruct justice, a requirement that flows logically from the definition of the word “willful” requires that the defendant consciously act with the purpose of obstructing justice.

However, where the defendant willfully engages in behavior that is inherently obstructive, that is, behavior that a rational person would expect to obstruct justice, this Court has not required a separate finding of the specific intent to obstruct justice.

Here, the defendant willfully engaged in behavior that a rational person would find to be inherently obstructive. It’s important to note that he didn’t just fire off a few intemperate emails. He used the tools of social media to achieve the broadest dissemination possible. It wasn’t accidental. He had a staff that helped him do it.

As the defendant emphasized in emails introduced into evidence in this case, using the new social media is his “sweet spot.” It’s his area of expertise. And even the letters submitted on his behalf by his friends emphasized that incendiary activity is precisely what he is specifically known for. He knew exactly what he was doing. And by choosing Instagram and Twitter as his platforms, he understood that he was multiplying the number of people who would hear his message.

By deliberately stoking public opinion against prosecution and the Court in this matter, he willfully increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf. This is intolerable to the administration of justice, and the Court cannot sit idly by, shrug its shoulder and say: Oh, that’s just Roger being Roger, or it wouldn’t have grounds to act the next time someone tries it.

The behavior was designed to disrupt and divert the proceedings, and the impact was compounded by the defendant’s disingenuousness.

This warning about what happens when people post inciteful language on Instagram might well have served as a warning in advance of January 6. But Barr, in testimony under oath to House Judiciary Committee, pretended that his DOJ had not ignored such a threat.

While it didn’t make the sentencing guidelines, the Proud Boy-linked threats to Credico were sufficiently serious that under FBI’s Duty to Warn, they alerted Credico to the threats. Now we learned that line prosecutors treated the threat against ABJ as sufficiently serious that they obtained grand jury subpoenas to learn more about it.

And in testimony under oath, Bill Barr pretended that ABJ agreed — and it was reasonable for his office to treat — such threats as mere technicalities.

The Insurrection Affidavits Don’t Show Where the Insurrection Was Organized

The normally very rigorous Thomas Brewster has a piece purporting to fact-check Sheryl Sandberg’s claim, made days after the January 6 insurrection, that the insurrection wasn’t organized on Facebook.

“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer, shortly after the Capitol Hill riots on January 6.

The piece has led both bad faith and good faith actors to grasp on the story to claim that Facebook is responsible for the violence.

Brewster purports to measure that by seeing how many mentions appear in the charging documents for the 223 people included on GWU’s list of arrestees.

But a few paragraphs later, Brewster admits he’s not measuring on what platform the riot was organized, but instead which was most popular among rioters.

Whilst the data doesn’t show definitively what app was the most popular amongst rioters, it does strongly indicate Facebook was rioters’ the preferred platform.

Even that is not proven (though it may well prove to be true), but obviously which platform is most used among rioters to boast about the riot is a very different question than on which platform (if any) the insurrection was organized.

Here’s why:

  • At least half the existing affidavits are a measure of which riot attendees were most likely to be outed and how
  • Expect parallel construction
  • There are a lot of dangerous rioters who’ve not yet been charged
  • The currently accused in no way represent all the known people who might be considered organizers of the riot or the larger operation
  • The existing affidavits are no measure of what platforms actual organizers used to organize

At least half the existing affidavits are a measure of which riot attendees were most likely to be outed and how

The police made just a handful of arrests on January 6, with the biggest component being curfew violators who did not even provably enter the Capitol (and so those non-federal cases should not be included in the analysis of rioters, as Brewster did).

In the four and a half weeks since the riot, the cops have engaged in a kind of triage, arresting those whom they could easily identify and then, over time, prioritizing those who — from video evidence of the insurrection — appeared to have committed more dangerous crimes. That means in the days after the insurrection, arrests largely focused on the people who appeared the most outlandishly stupid in videos, those whose own social networks of family, work acquaintances, and high school friends disapproved of their participation in the riot and so called the FBI with a tip, or those who identified themselves in media interviews (which often led to family, work acquaintances, and high school friends to then alert the FBI).

To understand the affidavits, it’s important to realize that any person who entered the Capitol without a legitimate purpose on January 6 (that includes a number of people who videoed the event but had no media credentials) were committing two crimes, both tied to it being the Capitol. So all the FBI would need to charge someone is to prove that they entered the building.

About half the current arrestees were charged with just these trespassing crimes, yet many of these people were among the first arrested. These people are in no way the organizers of the riot, and many of them are just Trump supporters who were caught up in the crowd. Some even credibly described trying to de-escalate the situation (including one such guy who got arrested because he had the misfortunate to show up in videos of the guy who stole Pelosi’s lectern).

The measure of how these people were arrested is quite often a measure of the fact that they shared their memories of the day or were caught by others who did. And to the extent that this happened on Facebook, it likely happened because Facebook is the platform where people have their broadest social networks, making it more likely that a lot of people who don’t sympathize with the riot would have witnessed social media content talking about it. Facebook is where ardent Trump supporters still share networks with people who vehemently oppose him.

In other words, in this initial arrest push, the people who bragged on Facebook were among the most likely to be arrested precisely because the network includes a broader range of viewpoints. It’s a measure of reach — and the political diversity of that reach — and not a measure of the centrality of the platform to the planning or violence.

Expect parallel construction

As noted, in the weeks since the insurrection, some agents at the FBI have obviously shifted to a reverse approach: rather than arresting those against whom tips came in from aggrieved ex-wives and people who were owed money, the FBI started to identify which rioters were the most dangerous and prioritize figuring out who they were.

One type of more dangerous rioter would be those with institutional ties that lead the FBI to believe there might be something more going on. But these are just arrest affidavits, which the FBI is acutely aware will be publicly scrutinized. As every single one of them say, they don’t reflect the totality that an Agent might know about the person. And in those cases, we should expect the FBI to parallel construct what they know about people and how they came to know it.

Social media is a wonderful way to do that.

And it does seem that the FBI relied on social media to establish probable cause for such people. Take the Lebanese-born woman who started engaging in the 3% community in November, which the FBI cites to Facebook. Or consider how the FBI pretends they did not know who Nick DeCarlo was until he showed up in Nick Ochs’ Twitter feed. Both rely on social media (in the latter case, one piece of evidence is something researchers found on Telegram and posted on Twitter, and so should be chalked up in the “uses Telegram” column).

But measuring how the FBI parallel constructed other knowledge is not a measure of what social media platforms people primarily use.

There are a lot of potentially dangerous rioters who’ve not yet been charged

As noted, one way the FBI shifted focus after the initial arrests of people identified by their disapproving family members was by identifying people involved in assaults — first of officers (designated by AFO), and then the media (designated by AOM) — and trying to identify them, in part through the use of Wanted posters (BOLO).

To date, the FBI has released 223 BOLOs, of which 40 precede the shift of focus to those involved in assault (and so include people who caught attention for another reason, such as the use of a Confederate or Nazi imagery). The FBI has arrested around 35 people identified in BOLOs, thus leaving around 190 people that the FBI has identified to be of particular interest based off video images, that they have not yet arrested.

For what it’s worth, I suspect that the FBI has identified a goodly number of these people, and may even have sealed complaints against some of them but is holding off on an arrest to gather more evidence. That is, they can arrest them now, but would prefer not to until they shore up their case. In a number of cases where people were identified off of BOLOs, the people turned themselves into the FBI but denied any physical contact was anything but a love tap (here’s one example, but there are others), potentially making it harder to prosecute for the violence.

If and when these people are identified, they may well prove to have used Facebook. But thus far, this group of people has shown better operational security and (unsurprisingly) a greater likelihood to flee or to destroy evidence.

But whatever their Facebook use, when counting the numbers of the 800 people who committed a trespass crime on January 6 by entering the Capitol, of which 200 have been arrested, it’s worth noting that almost another 200 — some of the greatest concern — have not been provably identified by bragging Facebook posts yet.

The currently accused in no way represent all the known people who might be considered organizers of the riot or the larger operation

Thus far, the government has filed the bare outlines of conspiracy charges against both the Oath Keepers (who spoke of a plan they had trained for) and the Proud Boys (who moved in obviously coordinated fashion communicating via radio on January 6). But those conspiracy charges currently include just three and two people, respectively (with a sub-conspiracy charged against two more Proud Boys).

According to claims quoted in charging documents, there were anywhere from 30 to 65 Oath Keepers involved in the riot (including a busload from North Carolina). There are at least three other key Proud Boys that have not been arrested for the riot (Enrique Tarrio, of course, was arrested days earlier for a different racist attack), and about half of those that have were charged with just the trespassing crimes.

In general, these people are not currently identified in BOLO posters.

In other words, this is a set of people — perhaps another 40 on top of the 190 outstanding BOLO figures — that the FBI likely considers key suspects.

And that’s just the organizers of the riot. That doesn’t include James Sullivan, who appears to have been in communication — via text — with Rudy Giuliani.  It doesn’t include people like Ali Alexander and Rudy and possibly Roger Stone who would tie the riot to the larger effort to delay the vote (which is the object of both the Oath Keeper and Proud Boys conspiracy). We know from Stone’s prosecution, at least, that he was de-platformed long ago and learned to use encrypted apps by August 2016.

In any case, before you can make claims about what platforms were used to organize the insurrection, you first need to identify the universe of people believed to have organized it. Right now, perhaps as few as 20 of the 200 people who’ve been arrested should be considered leaders of it, and there are probably at least another 40 who might be considered organizers of the riot itself who have not been arrested yet.

The existing affidavits are no measure of what platforms actual organizers used to organize

To be sure, both of the groups identified in conspiracies (and Three Percenters) made use of Facebook. As Brewster cited, accused Oath Keeper conspirator Thomas Caldwell posted updates to Facebook during the siege, and the co-conspirators did use Facebook to communicate both publicly and privately before the event. Among those referencing the Proud Boys in affidavits, Andrew Ryan Bennett uploaded video to Facebook,  Gabriel Garcia uploaded video to Facebook, and Daniel Goodwin used Instagram and Twitter. As noted above, Nick Ochs had a campaign Twitter account.

But some of the more substantive public communications from both groups, including important communications from before the riot, was posted on Parler. And both groups used other means — Zello for the Oath Keepers and radios for the Proud Boys — to communicate operationally during the day.

With the Proud Boys, in particular, Facebook and Twitter have long tried to exclude them from the platform, both because their speech violated platform guidelines but also because after expulsion the group tried to bypass that expulsion.

Importantly, aside from some quotations from Jessica Watkins’ Zello account and those Facebook messages, the FBI hasn’t shown what it has of operational communications between these groups, and it’s unlikely to do so, either, until trial. The FBI is not going to share how much it knows (if anything) about the operational contacts of these groups until it has to. Which makes any conclusions drawn from what it is willing to show of questionable validity.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to argue that Sheryl Sandberg is one of a number of Facebook executives who should be ousted. I agree that Facebook has fostered right wing violence, not least with the settings of its algorithms (which is the opposite of what Glenn Greenwald wants the Facebook problem to be). Because it has such wide breadth, it is a platform where people not already radicalized might get swept up in disinformation.

But I know of little valid evidence yet about Facebook’s role in organizing the insurrection, nor is there likely to be conclusive evidence for some time yet.

Update: Changed language to describe Tarrio’s alleged vandalism of a traditionally black church to make it clear he is not accused of assaulting another person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one comes from the Pezzola affidavit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Corrected how Pezzola broke in.

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

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

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

Four Data Points on the January 6 Insurrection

The NYT and WaPo both have stories beginning to explain the failures to protect the Capitol (ProPublica had a really good one days ago). The core issue, thus far, concerns DOD’s delays before sending in the National Guard — something that they happened to incorporate into a timeline not long after the attack, before the Capitol Police or City of DC had put their own together (the timeline has some gaps).

I can think of two charitable explanations for the lapses. First, in the wake of criticism over the deployment of military resources and tear gas against peaceful protestors to protect Donald Trump in June, those who had been criticized were reluctant to repeat such a display of force to protect Congress (and Mike Pence). In addition, in both DOJ and FBI under the Trump Administration, job security and career advancement depended on reinforcing the President’s false claims that his political supporters had been unfairly spied on, which undoubtedly created a predictable reluctance to treat those political supporters as the urgent national security threat they are and have always been.

Those are just the most charitable explanations I can think of, though. Both are barely distinguishable from a deliberate attempt to punish the President’s opponents — including Muriel Bowser and Nancy Pelosi — for their past criticism of Trump’s militarization of the police and an overt politicization of law enforcement. Or, even worse, a plan to exploit these past events to create the opportunity for a coup to succeed.

We won’t know which of these possible explanations it is (likely, there are a range of explanations), and won’t know for many months.

That said, I want to look at a few data points that may provide useful background.

Trump plans to pardon those in the bunker

First, as I noted here, according to Bloomberg, Trump has talked about pardoning the four men who’ve been in the bunker with Trump plotting recent events, along with Rudy Giuliani, who is also likely to be pardoned.

Preemptive pardons are under discussion for top White House officials who have not been charged with crimes, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Stephen Miller, personnel chief John McEntee, and social media director Dan Scavino.

I like to think I’ve got a pretty good sense of potential legal exposure Trump’s flunkies have, yet I know of nothing (aside, perhaps, from McEntee’s gambling problems) that these men have clear criminal liability in. And yet Trump seems to believe these men — including the guy with close ties to far right Congressmen, the white nationalist, the guy who remade several agencies to ensure that only loyalists remained in key positions, and the guy who tweets out Trump’s barely-coded dogwhistles — need a pardon.

That may suggest that they engaged in sufficient affirmative plotting even before Wednesday’s events.

Mind you, if these men had a role in coordinating all this, a pardon might backfire, as it would free them up to testify about any role Trump had in planning what happened on Wednesday.

Trump rewards Devin Nunes for helping him to avoid accountability

Several key questions going forward will focus on whether incompetence or worse led top officials at DOD to limit the mandate for the National Guard on January 6 and, as both DC and the Capitol Police desperately called for reinforcements, stalled before sending them.

A key player in that question is Kash Patel, who served as a gatekeeper at HPSCI to ensure that Republicans got a distorted view of the Russian intelligence implicating Trump, then moved to the White House to ensure that Trump got his Ukraine intelligence via Patel rather than people who knew anything about the topic, and then got moved to DOD to oversee a takeover of the Pentagon by people fiercely loyal to Trump.

And a key player in coordinating Kash’s activities was his original boss, Devin Nunes. On Monday, Trump gave Nunes the Medal of Freedom, basically the equivalent of a pardon to someone who likely believes his actions have all been protected by speech and debate. The entire citation for the award is an expression of the steps by which Trump, with Nunes’ help, undermined legitimate investigations into himself. In particular, Trump cited how Nunes’ efforts had hollowed out the FBI of people who might investigate anyone loyal to Trump.

Devin Nunes’ courageous actions helped thwart a plot to take down a sitting United States president. Devin’s efforts led to the firing, demotion, or resignation of over a dozen FBI and DOJ employees. He also forced the disclosure of documents that proved that a corrupt senior FBI official pursued a vindictive persecution of General Michael Flynn — even after rank and file FBI agents found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Congressman Nunes pursued the Russia Hoax at great personal risk and never stopped standing up for the truth. He had the fortitude to take on the media, the FBI, the Intelligence Community, the Democrat Party, foreign spies, and the full power of the Deep State. Devin paid a price for his courage. The media smeared him and liberal activists opened a frivolous and unjustified ethics investigation, dragging his name through the mud for eight long months. Two dozen members of his family received threatening phone calls – including his 98 year old grandmother.

Whatever else this debasement of the nation’s highest award for civilians might have done, it signaled to Nunes’ team — including but not limited to Patel — Trump’s appreciation for their work, and rewarded the guy he credits with politicizing the FBI.

That politicization is, as I noted above, one of the more charitable explanations for the FBI’s lack of preparation on Wednesday.

Interestingly, Nunes is not one of the members of Congress who challenged Biden’s votes after law enforcement restored order.

Corrected: Nunes did object to both AZ and PA.

Trump takes steps to designate Antifa as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

The day before the insurrection, Trump signed an Executive Order excluding immigrants if they have any tie to Antifa. Effectively, it put Antifa on the same kind of exclusionary footing as Communists or ISIS terrorists. Had Trump signed the EO before he was on his way out the door, it would have initiated a process likely to end with Antifa listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, giving the Intelligence Community additional intelligence tools to track members of the organization, even in the United States (the kind of tools, not coincidentally, that some experts say the FBI needs against white supremacist terrorists).

The EO will have next to no effect. Joe Biden will rescind it among the other trash he needs to clean up in the early days of his Administration.

But I find it curious that Trump effectively named a domestic movement a terrorist organization just days before multiple Trump associates attempted to blame Antifa for the riot at the Capitol.

That effort actually started before the order was signed. Back in December, Enrique Tarrio suggested that the Proud Boys (a group Trump had called to “Stand by” in September) might wear all black — a costume for Antifa — as they protested.

“The ProudBoys will turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist…,” Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the group’s president, wrote in a late-December post on Parler, a social media platform that has become popular with right-wing activists and conservatives. “We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows….we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.”

The day after the riot, Matt Gaetz relied on a since-deleted Washington Times post to claim that the riot was a false flag launched by Antifa.

In a speech during the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden, Gaetz claimed there was “some pretty compelling evidence from a facial recognition company” that some Capitol rioters were actually “members of the violent terrorist group antifa.” (Antifa is not a single defined group, does not have an official membership, and has not been designated a terrorist organization, although President Donald Trump has described it as one.)

Gaetz attributed this claim to a short Washington Times article published yesterday. That article, in turn, cited a “retired military officer.” The officer asserted that a company called XRVision “used its software to do facial recognition of protesters and matched two Philadelphia antifa members to two men inside the Senate.” The Times said it had been given a copy of the photo match, but it didn’t publish the picture.

There is no evidence to support the Times’ article, however. An XRVision spokesperson linked The Verge to a blog post by CTO Yaacov Apelbaum, denying its claims and calling the story “outright false, misleading, and defamatory.” (Speech delivered during congressional debate, such as Gaetz’s, is protected from defamation claims.) The Times article was apparently deleted a few hours after Apelbaum’s post.

Rudy Giuliani also attempted to blame Antifa.

And Captain Emily Rainey, who resigned today as DOD investigates the PsyOp officer for her role in the insurgency, also blamed Antifa for the violence.

Her group — as well as most at Wednesday’s rally — were “peace-loving, law-abiding people who were doing nothing but demonstrating our First Amendment rights,” she said.

She even shared a video on Facebook insisting that the rioters were all Antifa, saying, “I don’t know any violent Patriots. I don’t know any Patriots who would smash the windows of a National jewel like the [Capitol].”

It is entirely predictable that Trump loyalists would blame Antifa for anything bad they do — Bill Barr did so as the formal policy of DOJ going back at least a year. But Trump seems to have prepared the ground for such predictable scapegoating by taking steps to declare Antifa a terrorist “organization” hours before a riot led by his supporters would storm the Capitol.

The White House makes DHS Secretary Chad Wolf’s appointment especially illegal

I’m most intrigued by a flip-flop that had the effect of making DHS Acting Secretary’s appointment even more illegal than it has already been at times in the last two years.

On January 3, the White House submitted Chad Wolf’s nomination, along with those of 29 other people, to be DHS Secretary. Then, on January 6, it withdrew the nomination.

Wolf himself was out of the country in Bahrain when the riot happened. But he did tweet out — before DOD mobilized the Guard — that DHS officials were supporting the counter-insurgency. And he issued both a tweet and then — the next day — a more formal statement condemning the violence.

It’s not entirely clear what happened between his renomination and the withdrawal, but Steve Vladeck (who tracks this stuff more closely than anyone), had a lot to say about the juggling, not least that the withdrawal of his resubmitted nomination made it very clear that Wolf is not now legally serving.

This could have had — and could have, going forward — a chilling effect on any orders Wolf issues to deploy law enforcement.

Thus far, we haven’t seen much about what DHS did and did not do in advance of the riot — though its maligned intelligence unit did not issue a bulletin warning of the danger.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and an intelligence unit inside the Department of Homeland Security didn’t issue a threat assessment of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump protests that devolved into violence inside the Capitol, people briefed on the matter said.

In the weeks leading up to the protests, extremists posted about their plans to “storm” the Capitol on social media.

The joint department bulletin is a routine report before notable events that the agencies usually send to federal, state and local law-enforcement and homeland security advisers. The reports help plan for events that could pose significant risks.

At the DHS unit, called Intelligence and Analysis, management didn’t view the demonstrations as posing a significant threat, some of the people said.

Last year, Ken Cuccinelli forced whistleblower Brian Murphy to change language in a threat analysis to downplay white supremacist violence and instead blame Antifa and related groups.

In May 2020, Mr. Glawe retired, and Mr. Murphy assumed the role of Acting Under Secretary. In May 2020 and June 2020, Mr. Murphy had several meetings with Mr. Cuccinelli regarding the status of the HTA. Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent “left-wing” groups. Mr. Murphy declined to make the requested modifications, and informed Mr. Cuccinelli that it would constitute censorship of analysis and the improper administration of an intelligence program.

Wolf had been complicit in that past politicization. But something happened this week to lead the Trump White House to ensure that his orders can be legally challenged.

Update: Jake Gibson just reported that Wolf is stepping down.

These are just data points. We’ll learn far more about Trump’s involvement as the FBI obtains warrants for the communications who have ties to both groups like the Proud Boys and Trump associates like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon. But these are a few data points worth keeping an eye on.

Bill Barr Keeps Pretending (Falsely) That He Didn’t Encourage Yesterday’s Insurrection

Disgraced former Attorney General Billy Barr has released two statements condemning yesterday’s terrorist attack on the Capitol. First, a comment released via his spox,

Then he released a statement to the AP’s Barr-chummy DOJ reporter:

Former Attorney General William Barr says President Donald Trump’s conduct as a violent mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, Barr said Thursday that “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable.”

Barr was one of Trump’s most loyal and ardent defenders in the Cabinet.

His comments come a day after angry and armed protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol, forcing Congress members to halt the ongoing vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election and then flee from the House and Senate chambers.

Barr resigned last month amid lingering tension over the president’s baseless claims of election fraud and the investigation into Biden’s son.

Of course, Barr himself encouraged the violence yesterday.

That’s because, less than a year ago, he treated a threat against a sitting judge issued by some of the men who organized yesterday’s actions as a “technicality” not worthy of a sentencing enhancement for Roger Stone.

Two years ago, after Roger Stone posted a picture of Amy Berman Jackson with crosshairs on it, Jonathan Kravis asked Stone who came up with the picture. The President’s rat-fucker named two of his buddies who are key leaders of the Proud Boys, Jacob Engles and Enrique Tarrio.

Amy Berman Jackson. How was the image conveyed to you by the person who selected it?

Stone. It was emailed to me or text-messaged to me. I’m not certain.

Q. Who sent the email?

A. I would have to go back and look. I don’t recognize. I don’t know. Somebody else uses my —

THE COURT: How big is your staff, Mr. Stone?

THE DEFENDANT: I don’t have a staff, Your Honor. I have a few volunteers. I also — others use my phone, so I’m not the only one texting, because it is my account and, therefore, it’s registered to me. So I’m uncertain how I got the image. I think it is conceivable that it was selected on my phone. I believe that is the case, but I’m uncertain.

THE COURT: So individuals, whom you cannot identify, provide you with material to be posted on your personal Instagram account and you post it, even if you don’t know who it came from?

THE DEFENDANT: Everybody who works for me is a volunteer. My phone is used by numerous people because it can only be posted to the person to whom it is registered.

[snip]

Jonathan Kravis. What are the names of the five or six volunteers that you’re referring to?

Stone. I would — Jacob Engles, Enrique Tarrio. I would have to go back and look.

Not only did Stone appear at the rally before yesterday’s insurrection, but Tarrio was arrested on his way to the riot for crimes he committed during the last demonstration in support of Trump, an attack on a historic Black church in DC and possession of weapons.

Prosecutors asked Judge Jackson to add a two-level sentencing enhancement for this action, in which Stone’s Proud Boys associates crafted a threat against her.

Finally, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, two levels are added because the defendant “willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the prosecution of the instant offense of conviction.” Shortly after the case was indicted, Stone posted an image of the presiding judge with a crosshair next to her head. In a hearing to address, among other things, Stone’s ongoing pretrial release, Stone gave sworn testimony about this matter that was not credible. Stone then repeatedly violated a more specific court order by posting messages on social media about matters related to the case.

This enhancement is warranted based on that conduct. See U.S.S.G. § 3C1.C Cmt. 4(F) (“providing materially false information to a magistrate or judge”); see, e.g., United States v. Lassequ, 806 F.3d 618, 625 (1st Cir. 2015) (“Providing false information to a judge in the course of a bail hearing can serve as a basis for the obstruction of justice enhancement.”); United States v. Jones, 911 F. Supp. 54 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (applying §3C1.1 enhancement to a defendant who submitted false information at hearing on modifying defendant’s conditions of release).

The sentencing memo that Bill Barr had drawn up to justify a more lenient sentence dismissed this enhancement which it admitted “technically” applied.

Notably, however, the Sentencing Guidelines enhancements in this case—while perhaps technically applicable— more than double the defendant’s total offense level and, as a result, disproportionately escalate the defendant’s sentencing exposure to an offense level of 29, which typically applies in cases involving violent offenses, such as armed robbery, not obstruction cases. Cf. U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(a)-(b).

[snip]

Second, the two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice (§ 3C1.1) overlaps to a degree with the offense conduct in this case. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the [defendant’s obstructive conduct actually prejudiced the government at trial.]

When ABJ gagged Stone in response to him posting the picture, she talked about the possibility that Stone’s post might incite his extremist followers to take action.

What concerns me is the fact that he chose to use his public platform, and chose to express himself in a manner that can incite others who may feel less constrained. The approach he chose posed a very real risk that others with extreme views and violent inclinations would be inflamed.

[snip]

The defendant himself told me he had more than one to choose from. And so what he chose, particularly when paired with the sorts of incendiary comments included in the text, the comments that not only can lead to disrespect for the judiciary, but threats on the judiciary, the post had a more sinister message. As a man who, according to his own account, has made communication his forté, his raison d’être, his life’s work, Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols. And there’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs.

She repeated that sentiment when she overruled the Barr-authorized memo, judging the enhancement was appropriate.

Here, the defendant willfully engaged in behavior that a rational person would find to be inherently obstructive. It’s important to note that he didn’t just fire off a few intemperate emails. He used the tools of social media to achieve the broadest dissemination possible. It wasn’t accidental. He had a staff that helped him do it.

As the defendant emphasized in emails introduced into evidence in this case, using the new social media is his “sweet spot.” It’s his area of expertise. And even the letters submitted on his behalf by his friends emphasized that incendiary activity is precisely what he is specifically known for. He knew exactly what he was doing. And by choosing Instagram and Twitter as his platforms, he understood that he was multiplying the number of people who would hear his message.

By deliberately stoking public opinion against prosecution and the Court in this matter, he willfully increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf. This is intolerable to the administration of justice, and the Court cannot sit idly by, shrug its shoulder and say: Oh, that’s just Roger being Roger, or it wouldn’t have grounds to act the next time someone tries it.

Effectively, ABJ was warning against precisely what happened yesterday: that Stone (and Trump) would rile up extremists and those extremists would, predictably, take violent actions. ABJ judged that you can’t let the incitement go unpunished.

Barr, on the other hand, suggested that unless there was proof the incitement had an effect, it was just a technicality.

Bill Barr had a chance to stand against the incitement-driven terrorism led by the Proud Boys last year. And he chose to use his authority, instead, to protect Trump.

The Proud Boys Have Already Been Used to Intimidate Those Holding Trump Accountable — and Bill Barr Has Protected Them

As a number of people have observed, in last night’s debate, Donald Trump not only refused to condemn white supremacist terrorists, but seemed to call on them to stand by to support him.

President Donald J. Trump: (42:10)
What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn.

Chris Wallace: (42:14)
White supremacist and right-wing militia.

President Donald J. Trump: (42:18)
Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing.

He named the Proud Boys explicitly.

Today, I noted that the reason why Randy Credico took Roger Stone’s threats seriously — the reason the witness tampering charge merited the full enhancement — was because of Stone’s ties to the Proud Boys. Credico confirmed that by posting a picture of Stone with his gang.

In Stone’s sentencing hearing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson described how Credico told the grand jury he was worried about Stone’s gang.

I note, since the defense has informed me that I can consider this material, that that is not consistent with his grand jury testimony, which was closer in time to the actual threats, at which time he said he was hiding and wearing a disguise and not living at home because he was worried, if not about Trump, about his — about Stone, but about his friends. So, I think his level of concern may have changed over time.

It’s not just Credico. When ABJ held a hearing to consider a gag on Roger Stone, she first got him to explain how his associates — whom he first declined to identify but then, when pressed by prosecutor Jonathan Kravis, named Proud Boys members Jacob Engles and Enrique Tarrio — had been working with him on that post but he couldn’t really describe who had picked the image of Judge Jackson with the crosshairs on it.

Amy Berman Jackson. How was the image conveyed to you by the person who selected it?

Stone. It was emailed to me or text-messaged to me. I’m not certain.

Q. Who sent the email?

A. I would have to go back and look. I don’t recognize. I don’t know. Somebody else uses my —

THE COURT: How big is your staff, Mr. Stone?

THE DEFENDANT: I don’t have a staff, Your Honor. I have a few volunteers. I also — others use my phone, so I’m not the only one texting, because it is my account and, therefore, it’s registered to me. So I’m uncertain how I got the image. I think it is conceivable that it was selected on my phone. I believe that is the case, but I’m uncertain.

THE COURT: So individuals, whom you cannot identify, provide you with material to be posted on your personal Instagram account and you post it, even if you don’t know who it came from?

THE DEFENDANT: Everybody who works for me is a volunteer. My phone is used by numerous people because it can only be posted to the person to whom it is registered.

[snip]

Jonathan Kravis. What are the names of the five or six volunteers that you’re referring to?

Stone. I would — Jacob Engles, Enrique Tarrio. I would have to go back and look

When she imposed a gag on Stone, she explained that his Instagram post amounted to incitement of others, people with extreme views and violent inclinations.

What concerns me is the fact that he chose to use his public platform, and chose to express himself in a manner that can incite others who may feel less constrained. The approach he chose posed a very real risk that others with extreme views and violent inclinations would be inflamed.

[snip]

The defendant himself told me he had more than one to choose from. And so what he chose, particularly when paired with the sorts of incendiary comments included in the text, the comments that not only can lead to disrespect for the judiciary, but threats on the judiciary, the post had a more sinister message. As a man who, according to his own account, has made communication his forté, his raison d’être, his life’s work, Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols. And there’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs.

Then, again at the sentencing hearing, ABJ talked about the risk that, “someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf.

Here, the defendant willfully engaged in behavior that a rational person would find to be inherently obstructive. It’s important to note that he didn’t just fire off a few intemperate emails. He used the tools of social media to achieve the broadest dissemination possible. It wasn’t accidental. He had a staff that helped him do it.

As the defendant emphasized in emails introduced into evidence in this case, using the new social media is his “sweet spot.” It’s his area of expertise. And even the letters submitted on his behalf by his friends emphasized that incendiary activity is precisely what he is specifically known for. He knew exactly what he was doing. And by choosing Instagram and Twitter as his platforms, he understood that he was multiplying the number of people who would hear his message.

By deliberately stoking public opinion against prosecution and the Court in this matter, he willfully increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf. This is intolerable to the administration of justice, and the Court cannot sit idly by, shrug its shoulder and say: Oh, that’s just Roger being Roger, or it wouldn’t have grounds to act the next time someone tries it.

Both Credico and ABJ, then, pointed to the white supremacist gang that Roger Stone hangs out with to explain why Roger Stone’s threats must be taken seriously.

And Bill Barr dismissed the seriousness of both those threats — the threats Roger Stone makes that might lead one of his associates to take violent action — when he undermined the sentencing recommendation on Stone.

Trump’s invocation of the Proud Boys is no idle threat. Because the Proud Boys have already been used to intimidate those holding Donald Trump accountable.