Posts

Pandora’s Presidential Archives, Couy Griffin Edition

The attorney for New Mexico politician and Cowboys for Trump founder, Couy Griffin, is a guy named Nick Smith.

He is laudably aggressive. And in a case in which Griffin was charged just with trespassing (18 USC 1752), Smith has fought the prosecution every step of the way, even though if Griffin were to get jail time, he already served time after his arrest and so likely would only get time served.

In July, DC’s Trumpiest judge, Trevor McFadden, soundly denied Griffin’s first attempt to get the 1752 charges thrown out, arguing that Smith’s legalistic interpretation of the required role of Secret Service didn’t accord with the statutory history.

While Griffin clings to this statutory history, it ends up being more cement shoes than life preserver. By 2006 Congress rewrote the statute, in the process eliminating reference to the Treasury Department and to any “regulations” from any executive branch agency. 5 18 U.S.C. § 1752 (2006). More, the new statute criminalized merely entering or remaining in a restricted area; the old statute required further action, such as impeding government business, obstructing ingress or egress, or physical violence. Compare 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(1) (2006) with 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a) (1970). But Congress did not stop there. In 2012 it reconfigured the statute, adding the term “restricted buildings or grounds” and then defining it under subsection (c), as it appears today. 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a) (2012). Congress did not take that opportunity to clarify who can or must do the restricting, leaving it open-ended. But Congress did lower the mens rea requirement, striking the requirement that a defendant act “willfully.”

So what should the Court gather from this foray into § 1752’s statutory history? “Not much” would be a fair answer. Perhaps better would be to recognize the direction of Congress’s legislative march, where at every turn it has broadened the scope the statute and the potential for liability. Even if Griffin were correct that earlier versions required Secret Service authorizations of restrictions, the Court cannot reconstitute provisions that Congress has jettisoned. And the Court cannot agree with Griffin that woven through these increasingly broad versions of the statute was a latent limitation that only the Secret Service could effectively post, cordon off, or restrict an area.

But in the wake of the description in Jon Karl’s book of where Mike Pence hid from the rioters, Smith tried again, arguing that the space where Mike Pence was evacuated was a garage for another building of the Capitol. Smith argued that meant Pence was not present (and therefore the necessary trigger for 1752 was absent). Smith wants the photos that the Secret Service assuredly wants to keep secret (because it reveals the location of a VIP security location), though the language he cites appears to prove him wrong.

The Senate garage, and underground tunnels leading to it, do not fall under the statutory definitions of the Capitol Building and Capitol Grounds. As shown above, all the features making up the “United States Capitol Grounds” are, appropriately enough, above ground. § 5102(a). As to whether the tunnels and Senate underground garage are part of the “Capitol Building” itself, Title 40 answers in the negative. “Capitol Buildings” are defined as follows:

[T]he term “Capitol Buildings” means the United States Capitol, the Senate and House Office Buildings and garages, the Capitol Power Plant, all buildings on the real property described under section 5102(c) (including the Administrative Building of the United States Botanic Garden) all buildings on the real property described under section 5102(d), all subways and enclosed passages connecting two or more of those structures, and the real property underlying and enclosed by any of those structures. 40 U.S.C. § 5101 (emboldening added).

As seen above, the definition of “Capitol Buildings,” plural, distinguishes between the tunnels and underground garages, on the one hand, and the “United States Capitol” building itself, on the other. The “subways,” underground “enclosed passages,” and “garages” are not part of the “United States Capitol” building (the “restricted” building) because they are set off from one another by commas in a list.

Photographic evidence showing that the Secret Service protectee was not present in the § 1752 “building” or “grounds” at the same time as Griffin is Brady material. It should be produced by the government. If it is not, the Court should dismiss the charges pursuant to Local Criminal Rule 5.1(g)(4), as Griffin would then be denied access to evidence going to the heart of his case.

The government response didn’t address the question posed by Smith’s filing, “what is a garage.”

Instead, in a footnote, DOJ says that the photos would not be exculpatory in any case.

The government rejects the Defendant’s contention that the photographs that are the subject of the Defendant’s motion have some exculpatory value. 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(1) and (2) criminalizes a person entering a restricted area “of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.” 18 U.S.C. 1752(c)(1)(B). 18 U.S.C. 1752 does not require the Secret Service protectee to be present on the grounds or in the building where the restricted area has been established at the time of an illegal entry into the restricted area. Therefore, the Vice President’s presence in an underground parking garage or tunnel does not exculpate the Defendant with respect to the charged conduct.

But the bulk of the response says that the photos are not Brady because the government doesn’t have possession of the photos.

Brady material is material in the government’s possession that has some exculpatory or impeachment value. United States v. Nelson, 979 F.Supp.2d 123 (D.C. Cir. 2013). The photographs requested by the Defendant from the official White House photographer are not in the government’s possession, therefore, they are not considered Brady and the Defendant cannot move to compel their production.1 United States v. Flynn, 411 F.Supp.3d 15 (D.C. Cir. 2019) (“Brady does not extend to information that is not within government’s possession…”). Similarly, the Defendant’s request for these photographs under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(E) should be denied, as Rule 16 only requires the government to disclose photographs within its possession. Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E).

It’s not clear exactly what DOJ means by this. But according to President Obama’s White House photographer, Pete Souza, the photos should be in the Archives.

The Presidential Records Act requires that all records including “photographs” be turned over to the National Archives at the end of each administration. This includes Vice Presidential records. Congress should determine why the Archives doesn’t have them.

My guess is that’s precisely where they are, but they don’t count as being in the Executive Branch’s possession because of the way the Presidential Records Act deals with Presidential files. As the National Archives explained in Trump’s lawsuit, Trump’s records count as Presidential records for a period.

In 1978, guided by the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Nixon v. GSA, 1 Congress enacted the PRA, which changed the legal ownership of the official records of the President from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which Presidents, and subsequently NARA, must manage the records of their Administrations. Under the PRA, records reflecting “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies” of the Presidency are “maintained as Presidential records.” 44 U.S.C. § 2203(a). When a President leaves office, the Archivist “assume[s] responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to” the Presidential records of the departing administration. Id. § 2203(g)(1). The Archivist generally must make records covered by the PRA available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) starting five years after the President leaves office. Id. § 2204(b)(2), (c)(1); see also 36 C.F.R. § 1270.38. However, the outgoing President may specify that access to records in six defined categories be restricted for up to twelve years after leaving office. 44 U.S.C. § 2204(a); see also 36 C.F.R. § 1270.40(a).

We know Trump is asserting that right with respect to January 6, because as we speak, Trump is asking the Supreme Court to uphold his claim that no one else can access his records without his permission.

Of course, Judge McFadden could order DOJ that it needs to search the Archives for matters pertinent to the investigation — this investigation, and January 6 generally.

I’m sure DOJ would love that! In the case of Griffin, that would give DOJ access to the meeting that Griffin had directly with Trump, and any other contacts that are stored as Presidential Records.

But in the case of Nick Smith’s other clients — most notably Ethan Nordean — it would make records of Trump’s contacts with Proud Boys available, including records on what Enrique Tarrio was doing at the White House in December 2020.

So by all means, let’s have the Trumpiest Judge order DOJ to search through Trump’s records to find discovery pertinent to the January 6 attack, including the pictures of Mike Pence hiding from Trump’s mobsters. But along with that, let’s have the records of Trump’s contacts with them in advance of the insurrection.

Update: Griffin’s lawyers have responded. After having submitted proof that where Pence was was in the Capitol, they now play word games to suggest that “will be” is the same as “is” (and yes, the government has submitted evidence Griffin knew this).

The government is mistaken in several respects. “[R]estricted buildings or grounds” means “any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area . . . of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.” § 1752(c)(1)(B). Thus, Griffin did not “knowingly enter[] or remain[] in any restricted building or grounds,” § 1752(a)(1), if the vice president was not also present and “temporarily visiting.”

Still, Griffin claims the government has not addressed their Rule 16 claim, and so DOJ must go to NARA and get the photos for him.

The government does not dispute that an official White House photographer took the photographs of the vice president as he passed time outside the “restricted area” on January 6. ECF No. 70. Accordingly, under the Presidential Records Act, the images are records documenting the “activities” of the vice president concerning his “constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties. . .” and are thus Presidential records. 44 U.S.C. § 2203(a). When a president leaves office, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assumes “custody [and] control” over Presidential records. § 2203(g)(1). Records of the vice president are transferred to NARA in the same manner. § 2207. NARA is an agency of the Executive branch. § 2102.

Therefore, the government has an obligation to obtain the photographs from NARA and produce them to Griffin, so long as they are merely “material to preparing the defense,” much less Brady material.1 Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E)(i). It is uncontroversial that satisfying this standard is “not a heavy burden.” United States v. Lloyd, 992 F.2d 348, 351 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Griffin must merely make a showing that the material will “play an important role in uncovering admissible evidence, aiding witness preparation, corroborating testimony, or assisting impeachment or rebuttal.” Id. Of course, if the requested material is “inconsistent with or tends to negate the defendant’s guilt as to any element . . . of the offense(s) with which the defendant is charged” it is also Brady material. LCrR 5.1(b)(1). “[B]urdensomeness and logistical difficulty . . . cannot drive the decision whether items are ‘material’ to preparation of the defense. Nor can concerns about confidentiality and privacy rights of others trump the right of one charged with a crime to present a fair defense.” United States v. O’Keefe, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31053, at *4 (D.D.C. Apr. 27, 2007).

As I said, I look forward to, on Trevor McFadden’s order, DOJ going to NARA and getting all the records pertinent to Griffin among Trump’s records. The government can supersede Griffin while he continues to dawdle, and Trump’s own records of Griffin’s relationship might change DOJ’s understanding of the case.

The same is all the more true for the militia defendants that the Smiths represent.

They’re doing this just as SCOTUS’ inaction is creating the opportunity for NARA to provide the first 4 pages of which Trump has claimed privilege over to the Select Committee.

The Structure of the January 6 Assault: “I will settle with seeing [normies] smash some pigs to dust”

Before 8AM on the morning of the insurrection, the Proud Boys had this discussion on their organizing Telegram thread.

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

Person-2: Would be epic

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

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

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

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

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

UCC-1 has been reported to be Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, who cheered on the insurrection from Philadelphia and interacted with Zach Rehl and other Philly Proud Boys throughout the day. Persons 2 and 3 have not yet been publicly identified.

This discussion and others reveal a key part of the Proud Boy plan for January 6: to incite others — “normies” — to commit violence. And while a number of Proud Boys or close associates engaged in what I’ve called “tactical” violence that day, the vast majority of (and the worst) violence was done by others, mostly by people with either no known or just networking ties to militia groups (such as through anti-mask activism). The Proud Boys weren’t the only militia-linked people attempting to encourage others to engage in violence; it’s a key part of the anti-mask/3% conspiracy, for example. But a stated goal of at least some of the militia members who implemented the assault on the Capitol was to stoke others to engage in violence.

This detail is critical to understanding what DOJ has accomplished so far and where they might be headed. Many of those screeching that DOJ is not doing enough to investigate January 6 — like Elie Honig complaining that DOJ has arrested 700 indistinguishable “rioters” or Hussein Ibish claiming that “many foot soldiers” have “received mainly light prison sentences” but no “planners … have been held to account in any meaningful way” — seem not to understand it.

So I’d like to talk about what we know about the structure of the attack on the Capitol and how it related to things Trump and his minions were doing. Before I attempt to do that, let me rebut a straw man Honig and others have used in an attempt to ignore the facts I present. I share their alarm about the urgent need to respond to January 6 and Trump’s unlawfulness. I am not guaranteeing that Trump will be held accountable.

Where we differ is that I have read the public record on the investigation (and on other investigations that Honig, at least, has denied exist, like the investigation into Sidney Powell’s grifting).

It is not the case that all 700 people who have been arrested were mere “rioters,” — and calling some of these people rioters adopts the preferred label of those championing the coup. And unless you consider mere rioters “foot soldiers,” then very few witting foot soldiers have yet been sentenced. While it is true that no planners have been sentenced, it is also the case that DOJ has arrested some key ones, a small number of whom have been jailed since their arrest, and a great deal of DOJ’s overt investigative focus lies in arresting those who can illuminate how the organizers worked and how they coordinated with others.

Before I lay this out, keep in mind the three main theories of liability for Trump for January 6 (as opposed to his call to Brad Raffensperger, though as I’ve noted, the call to Raffensperger goes a long way to showing Trump’s corrupt mens rea on January 6). At first, people argued that Trump incited the mob. There were problems with that claim, which Trump’s defense lawyers successfully exploited during his second impeachment trial, most notably that the Proud Boys had already kicked off the assault on the Capitol before the former President finished speaking. Still, to prove he incited a riot, you’d need to prove that the people who rioted did so in response to his speech at the Ellipse. Then, after Liz Cheney raised it, TV lawyers discovered what I’ve been pointing out for months. Trump’s actions (and inaction) fit squarely within the application of obstruction of the vote count that DOJ applied from the start. Finally, last week, Congress watchers discovered that Trump might actually have entered a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count, “involv[ing] coordination between the ‘political elements’ of the White House plan communicated to Republican lawmakers and extremist groups that stormed the Capitol” — again, consistent with what I’ve laid out for months. That, though, would require mapping out how the various parties entered into agreements and how they communicated and coordinated (with conspiracy members as well as Congress and the mobsters). That’s why I keep pointing to the structure of the existing conspiracy charges: because what Trump did exactly mirrors the overt acts already charged, from getting bodies to DC, ensuring they get to the Capitol, and encouraging means to overtake it.

It’s all one networked conspiracy. Indeed, the judge presiding over the Oath Keeper conspiracy case, Amit Mehta, observed in the Trump lawsuit hearing the other day that there was evidence that militia conspired with the Proud Boys.

Which, if DOJ could ever prove that those Trump entered into an agreement with, like Alex Jones, also entered into an agreement with Alex Jones’ former employee Joe Biggs, it would network Trump right into the conspiracies that rolled out at the Capitol, potentially putting him on the hook for the things those at the Capitol did, including damaging the building (which brings the terrorism enhancement), potentially some tactical assaults, and (if it gets charged), possibly even Kelly Meggs’ effort to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

That may not be your preferred model of to hold Trump accountable, but I’m fairly certain that’s how DOJ would do so, in addition to whatever liability for him arises out of investigations into people like Sidney Powell or Rudy Giuliani.

What the evidence thus far shows is that Trump brought huge numbers of people to DC and convinced them that, to defend their country, they needed to march to the Capitol and pressure Congress, via one of a number of means, to not certify the election. Alex Jones and Ali Alexander then delivered these bodies to the Capitol, and once there, to a second breach on the East side. The Proud Boys, seemingly anticipating that this influx of “normies,” kicked off and carefully focused the riot just in time to create a real threat to Congress (and Mike Pence) just as they started to certify the vote count. (This Sedition Hunter timeline makes a compelling argument, one consistent with Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, that the Proud Boys paused their assault to wait for the mobs Alex Jones was bringing.)

The plan required six types of participants to make it work:

  • People (Trump, Rudy, and Mo Brooks) to rile up large numbers of normies
  • Someone (Alex Jones) to guide the normies to the Capitol, probably while communicating with the Proud Boys as they kicked off the riot
  • People at the Capitol (Proud Boys and associates) to tactically deploy the normies as a weapon, both to occupy the Capitol and to create a very real risk to the members of Congress
  • Members of Congress (Paul Gosar and others) willing to create conflict that could be exploited in any of a number of ways
  • Masses and masses of people who, starting even before the election, had been led to believe false claims that their country was under threat; those masses did two things:
    • Enter the Capitol, with a varied level of vocal enthusiasm for the mayhem occurring, and make it far more difficult for cops to put down the assault
    • “Smash some pigs to dust”

Had any of a number of things gone differently — had Ashli Babbitt not been shot and had the amped up Zach Alam chased just behind her through the Speaker’s Lobby door before members of Congress escaped; had Officer Eugene Goodman not done several things to prevent both Mitt Romney and Mike Pence from running into the mob; had counter-protestors come out in large numbers to create the excuse for street skirmishes made lethal by arsenals of weapons stashed nearby; had DOD delayed deployment of the Guard even further, allowing a planned second assault to take place — the coup might well have succeeded.

With that has background, let’s turn to the DOJ investigation thus far. Politico has done the best public accounting of sentences here (though I treat Zoe Tillman’s numbers, along with GWU’s, as canonical). As Politico shows, the vast majority of those who’ve been sentenced — and almost as significant a majority of those who’ve pled guilty so far — are trespassers.

The vast majority of people sentenced so far were MAGA tourists, lured to the Capitol by Trump’s speech and the momentum of the crowd. While a sizable number knew of plans to obstruct the vote certification in advance (and a significant number of people were permitted to plead down from obstruction), a bunch of them really did arrive for the speech and stay for the riot.

One example of that is Anthony Scirica, who followed the crowd to the Capitol and decided to enter the Capitol even though he heard a window breaking and alarms going off.

After listening to the speeches at the rally, SCIRICA, along with a group of individuals, walked to the U.S. Capitol from the West. 10. As SCIRICA approached the Capitol, he saw people on the steps and on the scaffolding outside of the Capitol. SCIRICA saw a large crowd in front of him, and he decided to push his way to the front to see what was happening. He watched as other individuals entered the Capitol. He decided that he want to see it for himself and see what was happening with his own eyes. He heard people yelling and shouting “U.S.A.” chants and “Stop the Steal.” He heard what he believed to be a window breaking. He also heard an alarm going off inside the Capitol. He decided to enter the Capitol any way.

Eliel Rosa went to DC as much for the anti-certification rallies as the Trump speech.

Eliel Rosa and Jenny Cudd traveled from Texas to Washington, D.C. to participate in “Stop the Steal” rallies or protests and to connect with other “Patriots.” Mr. Rosa and Ms. Cudd understood that on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. at the United States Capitol, elected members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate were meeting to certify the vote count of the Electoral College of the 2020 Presidential Election, which had taken place on November 3, 2020.

But even still, he attributed his trespassing to being swept up in “mob rule.”

Rosa blamed himself for his unauthorized entry into the U.S. Capitol and stated that he was caught up in “mob rule” at the time.

Kevin Blakely, who traveled to DC with friends, made new friends while waiting for Trump’s speech to start and then joined in to experience history (a common theme among some defendants).

The defendant and three others stood in the Ellipse for more than four hours before the rally started and met with other attendees. After President Trump’s speech, the defendant joined others as they began to walk toward the U.S. Capitol Building. [Blakely] made a detour and returned to the Hyatt Regency, where he was staying during his visit to Washington, D.C. From his hotel room, the defendant watched the crowd as they gathered outside the Capitol Building nad sometime between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m., [Blakely] decided to “get closer and more fully experience this ‘once in a lifetime’ event.”

Even those who did go to the Capitol from Trump’s speech knew, from communications including Trump’s, that it would be a mob. Here’s what Blakely’s friend Paul Conover, who just recently pled guilty, said he was doing.

Prior to January 6, on or about December 24, 2020, defendant posted a message on social media that states in sum and substance: GOING TO WASHINGTON DC WITH BLAKEY [SIC] TO JOIN THE MOB JAN 5TH CMON JOIN US.

Conover appears to be one of the misdemeanants whose arrest DOJ prioritized because they took videos in key locations. After he busted through the East doors closely behind the Oath Keepers and Joe Biggs, Conover narrated as he took a video panning the Rotunda:

This is it, boys and girls. This is the Capitol. Apparently, there’s some crazy shit going on in the Senate today and the certification. They’ve had enough. Well, uh, here we are! Ha ha ha! I pray to god that nobody does any damage to the stuff in here, ’cause I’m not down with that. But I’m kind of, kind of proud of the people that stood up and said you know what? Enough.

The statement of offense for Stacie Getsinger, who described on Facebook going to the East steps because Alex Jones told a crowd that Trump would speak, offered few details, describing only that she “walked to onto U.S. Capitol grounds and up the stairs of the U.S. Capitol with others, including her husband John Getsinger. Once Getsinger got to the outside of the Rotunda North doors, she observed others engaged with law enforcement who tried to stop individuals from entering the U.S. Capitol building.”

Adam Johnson described how he went from hearing Mo Brooks call for violence to running towards the Capitol.

At the rally, JOHNSON listened to several speeches, including by former President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and an unknown older member of Congress–the latter whom JOHNSON heard stating that it was time for action and violence. In response to these comments, JOHNSON saw members of the crowd nodding their heads in agreement.

Following these speeches, JOHNSON and. Person 1 began marching to the Capitol with the crowd. While marching, JOHNSON heard someone say “Pence didn’t do it.” JOHNSON also saw police running towards the Capitol and heard members of the crowd shout,”they broke into the Capitol!” JOHNSON and Person 1 started running towards the Capitol as well.

Others who came over from the Ellipse more explicitly discussed intimidating Congress. For example, here’s how Michael Stepakoff (who will be sentenced in coming days) narrated his approach to the Capitol.

So we’re marching up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol building. The Senate and House of Representatives are in session . . . There’s nothing like the presence of at least a million Americans who are fed up and pissed off and are not going to stand for having our vote stolen because it’s the sacred right of our people to be able to vote for our president . . . so a million strong, at least a million standing outside the Capitol, storming the gates, so to speak, is going to make them think twice about what they are going to do today . . . God bless America.

While some people cheered the violence and a few got away with violence DOJ only discovered after their plea, the majority of the almost 200 people who’ve pled guilty so far did not engage in violence. With a few exceptions, below, these people weren’t wittingly part of the more organized plans to storm the Capitol. They were the bodies turned into an orchestrated mob, in part by Trump’s tweets and other social media advertising, and in part by those channeling the mob at the Capitol.

If you want to prove Trump incited the riot, you would need to collect these individual stories to prove it. That’s not the only reason DOJ has prosecuted these people, but it does provide evidence showing how people responded to Trump’s calls after he riled them up.

Some of the movement operatives wandered to the Capitol too

Among those who’ve been permitted to plead to misdemeanors, even some that I’d call “movement operatives,” wandered to the Capitol.

For example, right wing podcaster William Tryon, plausibly described following the crowd to the Capitol after Trump’s speech. Frank Scavo, a local PA politician who arranged busses for 200 people to travel to DC, tied his decision to walk to the Capitol to Pence’s decision to certify the vote; he’s one of the defendants sentenced to a longer sentence than the government requested.

There are a few exceptions. America Firster, Leonard Ridge, unsurprisingly seemed to know there’d be an attempt to shut down the vote count ahead of time, telling a friend, “I think we are going to try to block the session of congress” (he was one of the people permitted to plead down from obstruction to the more serious trespassing charge).

Two cases defy explanation. Micajah Jackson, a Proud Boy who denied a pre-January 6 affiliation and continued to attend Proud Boy events during pretrial release, mentioned nothing about that in his statement of offense. We might find out more about this in February, when Jackson is due to be sentenced.

The statement of offense for Brandon Straka, who is perhaps the senior-most inciter-organizer to plead guilty thus far, describes only that Straka took the metro directly to the Capitol, where he was scheduled to speak: “Knowing that Congress was in session to certify the election results at the U.S. Capitol and that Vice President Pence intended to certify the election, Straka got off the metro on January 6, 2021 sometime between 2 p.m. and 2:20 p.m.”

It’s not clear how these men were given misdemeanor pleas, when they were clearly part of an organized attempt to prevent the transfer of power. There’s no sign either man cooperated before entering their pleas, though Straka’s sentencing has been held up because, “the defendant provided counsel for the government with information that may impact the government’s sentencing recommendation.” If the current schedule holds, Straka’s sentencing memos will come in tomorrow and he’ll be sentenced next week.

That said, movement operatives like Jackson and Straka are, thus far, the minority among those moving towards sentencing. Most were part of a self-described mob.

About half the felony pleas charged people who wandered to the Capitol

Even two of the three people who’ve pled guilty to assault thus far showed up without any pre-conceived plan to attack the Capitol. Devlyn Thompson, in an unsuccessful bid to use his autism diagnosis to get lenient treatment, described that he went to the Capitol because believed Trump would give another speech, a lie that motivated a good number of mobsters.

When I was leaving, my intention was to listen to another speech at the capitol. I had gotten text messages. I got a text that there was a planned speech. There was supposed to be two speeches at the capitol. One from an Arizona legislator and one from Women for Trump. I thought Alex Jones would be there and Trump.

After getting riled up by clashes between cops and rioters in the earlier part of the assault, Thompson joined in the Tunnel assault, eventually using a baton to hit one of the officers trying to help John Anderson respond to respiratory distress.

Robert Palmer similarly described being lured to the Capitol by a false belief in Trump’s claims.

In Mr. Palmer’s warped mind, on the day in question, he was acting as a patriot and for the good of the nation. While his intent was misplaced and his actions inexcusable, he sincerely believed that he was acting as a patriot on the day in question. Unfortunately, that mindset, coupled with the crowd mob effect, saw an otherwise law-abiding and successful father and business owner assault Capitol police.

Palmer was at the Capitol for hours, cheering the violence, before he got sucked in and participated in it by throwing a series of things at cops.

Just Scott Fairlamb, who was sentenced for punching a cop, clearly knew shit was going to go down in advance. He RTed a Steve Bannon prediction that “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” and asked, “How far are you willing to go to defend our Constitution?” Those statements are one of the reasons why Fairlamb, uniquely thus far, pled to both obstruction and assault and, if not for some mitigating circumstances that came out at sentencing, might have faced a terrorism enhancement.

There are two straight obstruction defendants sentenced so far, Paul Hodgkins and Jacob Chansley. Like many of the trespassers, Hodgkins simply followed the crowd after Trump’s speech (he was charged with a felony because he made it to the Senate floor).

Just Chansley, then, turned a central role in the right wing movement — importantly, as a celebrity in QAnon — into a key role obstructing the vote count and threatening Pence. There’s far more to say about the success QAnon had in mobilizing bodies to where they could be the most useful (and the Podcast Finding Q revealed that FBI was investigating that in the weeks after the attack). But the operational model by which people like Chansley got to the Senate floor is different than for other MAGA tourists who were turned onsite.

There are more known cooperators than straight felony pleas

To a great degree, this entire exercise is misleading, which is why pat comments from people trying to dismiss the investigation are so misleading. There are a number of reasons the stats skew where they are now: Obviously, people will plead to a misdemeanor more quickly than a felony. Virtually all of those charged with obstruction have been waiting for judges to rule on challenges to that application, and as those people move towards pleading out (as they have started to do), it still will take some weeks to finalize pleas. One reason for that hold-up: DOJ is only now making the final bits of global discovery available, without which many attorneys, for due diligence reasons, will not advise taking a plea.

A more important reason claims about who has been sentenced are misleading is that there have been more felony cooperators than straight felony pleas thus far. With two people convicted for making threats, there have been seven people who pled to a felony sentenced. There are nine overt cooperators (and presumably more we don’t know about). And while two cooperators — Josiah Colt and Gina Bisignano — are cooperating against their own limited network of more serious defendants, cooperation deals like Colt’s structured under 18 USC 371 networks into any larger conspiracy, potentially putting conspirators on the hook for the assaults of his co-conspirators. The other cooperating witnesses, though, have provided information about how the planners who’ve been in custody for most of a year — Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson for the Oath Keepers, Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean for the Proud Boys — and those who have not yet been arrested orchestrated the attack.

This was a fairly flat conspiracy, with Proud Boys on the scene implementing orders from Proud Boy leaders who are, themselves, just one degree from Donald Trump through people like Alex Jones and Roger Stone. In addition to the 17 plus four Oath Keepers charged in a conspiracy, there are several more Oath Keepers being prosecuted. In addition to the 16 Proud Boys plus one cooperator charged with conspiracy, there are a slew more arrested individually and in co-traveler groups (some of whom are at risk of being added to conspiracy charges once they’re formally charged) who can offer information about the funding for all this, what Proud Boy leaders were saying during the riot, and some key tactical organization. Some of the 3%ers charged so far networked with key right wing funders, January 5 speakers, and even Ted Cruz.

So yes, 700 people have been arrested so far, and half of those are normies whose non-violent presence was operationalized in a well-planned assault on the Capitol. Many of the 150 assault defendants were “normiecons [who] have no adrenaline control.” But 200 of the arrestees are accused of more witting participation in a plan to prevent the peaceful transfer of power and of those 100 have networked insight into how that worked. Those people haven’t been sentenced yet because discovery and legal challenges have delayed most from accepting plea offers.

The most chilling passage in any statement of offense, in my opinion, is Matthew Greene’s description of realizing — from his service in Afghanistan — the moment the mob turned into an insurrection.

Greene noticed that during and following the chanting, the mood in the crowd changed, and it reminded him of his time in Afghanistan while stationed there with the U.S. Army, when protests changed from peaceful to violent.

In the days and weeks after he recognized Americans turning insurgent in their own country, Greene returned home and started assembling a (seemingly illegal) arsenal and preparing for war.

He told another acquaintance in the days following the riot to be prepared to do uncomfortable things. He ordered over 2,000 rounds of assault-rifle ammunition and a gas mask. And he engaged in conversations with other Proud Boys on encrypted messaging platforms in which he stated a continuing desire to “take back our country” – in Greene’s own words, written in chat platforms post-January 6, “this is a 4th generation” war, and “we must stand together now or end up in the gulag separately.”

The effort to spark an insurrection at the Capitol was not one implemented by “foot solders,” but some highly trained veterans who were onsite, including an alarming number of Marines in most key tactical locations. And the network of people who stoked the normies to serve as useful bodies to this effort ties, via just one or two steps, right to Trump.

That’s the conspiracy DOJ has been investigating for a year.

Update: Took out detail that Straka was not at Ellipse. The key detail is he claims he took the Metro, didn’t walk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Corrected McFadden’s first name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The import of January 5 in January 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

The organizer-inciters called for revolution on January 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Straka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On December 8, 2021, the defendant provided counsel for the government with information that may impact the government’s sentencing recommendation. Additionally, the government is requesting additional time to investigate information provided in the Final Pre- Sentence Report. Because the government’s sentencing recommendation may be impacted based on the newly discovered information, the government and defendant request a 30-day continuance of this case so that the information can be properly evaluated.

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

3%er SoCal Conspiracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Jones, Owen Shroyer, and Ali Alexander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, Everyone Is Talking about Trump’s Obstruction on January 6

Twice in the last 24 hours, Liz Cheney has read from texts that Mark Meadows already turned over to the January 6 Committee, showing that everyone from Sean Hannity to Don Jr were desperately contacting Meadows begging him to get Trump to do something to halt the assault on the Capitol.

After reading the names of all the people who’ve protected Trump since, Cheney then described that Meadows’ testimony is necessary to determine whether Trump, “through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceedings to count electoral votes.”

Hours passed without necessary action by the President. These privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes. And Mr. Meadows’ testimony will bear on another key question before this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceedings to count electoral votes?

With her forceful comments Cheney was, as TV lawyers have finally discovered, invoking the clause of the obstruction statute that DOJ has used to charge hundreds of the most serious January 6 rioters. Liz Cheney was stating that Trump’s actions on January 6 may demonstrate that he, along with hundreds of people he incited, had deliberately attempted to prevent the vote count.

Even as she was doing that a second time today, the judge presiding over most of the Proud Boys cases, Tim Kelly joined his colleague Dabney Friedrich in rejecting the challenge that Ethan Nordean had taken to that same application.*

Again, this issue is not over. There are 2 other ripe challenges to the application, and plenty more pending.

But for the moment, it seems that all three branches of government — prosecutors charging obstruction, judges affirming the viability of the application, and senior members of Congress invoking it as part of the January 6 investigation — agree that the events of the day may amount to obstruction.

Back when I begged TV lawyers to start focusing on this application, I laid out the things that Trump had or may have done, that might be proof of obstruction.

  • Agreeing (and ordering subordinates) to plan and participate in an effort to obstruct the vote certification
  • Encouraging the Proud Boys to believe they are his army
  • Personally sowing the Big Lie about voter fraud to lead supporters to believe Trump has been robbed of his rightful election win
  • Asking subordinates and Republican politicians to lie about the vote to encourage supporters to feel they were robbed
  • Encouraging surrogates and campaign staffers to fund buses to make travel to DC easier
  • Using the January 6 rally to encourage as many people as possible to come to DC
  • Applauding violence in advance of January 6 and tacitly encouraging it on the day
  • Recruiting members of Congress to raise challenges to the vote count
  • Asking members of Congress to delay evacuation even as the rioters entered the building, heightening the chance of direct physical threat (and likely contributing to Ashli Babbitt’s death)
  • Asking Mike Pence to do something unconstitutional, then targeting him after he refused, virtually ensuring he would be personally threatened
  • Possibly muddling the line of command on which civilian agency would coordinate response, ensuring there would be none
  • Possibly taking steps to delay any Guard response at the Capitol
  • Possibly ignoring immediate requests from help from leaders of Congress

The January 6 Committee has already collected evidence demonstrating many of these issues, for example, the efforts to sow the Big Lie, including coordination with Congress, reveling in the collecting mobs, directing Guard deployment in ways that would support the insurrection, the unbelievable pressure on Mike Pence to violate his oath to the Constitution. In the interim four months, the press and Committee have identified other potential means of obstruction, such as ordering Alex Jones to bring his mob to the Capitol.

This is not a guarantee that Trump will be prosecuted. But all three branches of government now agree on the framework with which he might be held accountable.

*As I now understand it, Kelly announced yesterday that he will be denying the motion to dismiss later this week. He has not done so formally yet, but announced it yesterday in conjunction with his denial of renewed bail motions from three defendants.

Have Ethan Nordean’s Hopes Been Semi-Colon’ed by Dabney Friedrich’s [Chapter and] Verse?

Back in June, I noted that Ethan Nordean’s lawyers were staking his defense on getting all the crimes charged against him thrown out — from the obstruction charge applied in an unprecedented manner, to the civil disorder tainted by its racist past, all the way to trespassing.

The biggest advantages that Ethan Nordean and the other men charged in the Proud Boys Leadership conspiracy have are a judge, Tim Kelly, who is very sympathetic to the fact that they’re being held in jail as the government fleshes out the case against them, and the 450 other January 6 defendants who have been charged with one or another of the same charges the Proud Boys were charged with. The biggest disadvantages are that, as time passes, the government’s case gets stronger and stronger and the fact that seditious conspiracy or insurrection charges not only remain a real possibility, but are arguably are a better fit than what they got charged with.

That’s why it baffles me that, minutes after Judge Kelly noted that every time Nordean files a new motion, Nordean himself tolls the Speedy Trial clock, Nordean’s lawyer, Nick Smith, filed a motion to dismiss the entirety of the indictment against Nordean.

[snip]

[T]actically, trying to throw out every single crime, up to and including his trespassing charge, charged against one of the key leaders of a terrorist attack that put our very system of government at risk trades away the two biggest advantages Nordean has on legal challenges that won’t eliminate the prosecution against Nordean.

[snip]

[I]f any of these challenges brought by others succeed, then at that point, Nordean could point to the appellate decision and get his charges dropped along with hundreds of other people. But launching the challenge now, and in an omnibus motion claiming that poor Ethan didn’t know he was trespassing, is apt to get the whole package treated with less seriousness. Meanwhile, Nordean will be extending his own pre-trial detention. The government will be given more time to try to flip other members of a famously back-stabbing group, possibly up to and including Nordean’s co-conspirators (whose pre-trial detention Nordean will also be extending). And Judge Kelly will be left wondering why Nordean keeps undermining Kelly’s stated intent to limit how much the government can draw this out.

As I noted, on Friday Dabney Friedrich became the first DC District judge to uphold the obstruction application. The decision comes as — predictably — DOJ seems to be closing in on a much more substantive description of the Proud Boy-led plan to assault Congress. All the while, Nordean has been sitting in SeaTac jail, and even got thrown into SHU (solitary) last week for as yet undisclosed reasons.

To be clear: Friedrich’s is in no way the last word. Judges Randolph Moss, Amit Mehta, and the judge presiding over Nordean’s case, Tim Kelly, are all due to rule on the issue as well, with a number of the other judges facing such challenges as well. I’d be surprised if all the judges ruled for DOJ.

And because these judges are likely to rule differently, as all the parallel challenges have been briefed, some of the lawyers in the key cases have kept the judges apprised of what was going on in other challenges. For example, after getting leave first, the government submitted filings they made in Nordean and Guy Reffitt’s challenges to obstruction in the Brady Knowlton docket. Defendants have occasionally used that opportunity to respond.

Yesterday, without first asking for leave to file it, Nordean submitted what was billed as a “notice of new authority” in the case, but which was, in fact, a 23-page point by point rebuttal of and which didn’t actually include Friedrich’s opinion. As part of that, purportedly to take issue with the grammatical claims that Judge Friedrich made but actually in an effort to attack an example Friedrich used rather than the law itself, Nordean lawyers David and Nick Smith use an Emily Dickinson poem to — they claim — make a point about line breaks and semicolons.

And the Court did not explain how a semicolon and line break somehow altered the meaning of (c)(2)’s “otherwise” phrase which, as the Court correctly noted, “links” it to the meaning of (c)(1). As Nordean has previously explained, the question of meaning involves grammar, not page format. Subsection (c)(2) is a clause dependent on (c)(1) for its meaning because the predicate “or otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to. . . .” is not a complete sentence.

[snip]

As the Court will see, each of the provisions in the case relied on by the Sandlin Court is a complete sentence, unlike subsections (c)(1) and (c)(2) of § 1512. Thus, they are grammatically independent in a way that (c)(1) and (c)(2) are not. The same grammatical point distinguishes Justice Scalia’s finding in United States v. Aguilar, on which the Sandlin Court relies, that the ejusdem generis canon did not apply to § 1503’s “omnibus clause.” 515 U.S. at 615-16 (finding that the omnibus clause is “independent” of the rest of § 1503 in a grammatical sense: it stands alone as a complete sentence).

Contrary to the Sandlin Court’s understanding, line breaks and semicolons do not necessarily alter the meaning of the clauses that follow in a sentence. One simple example would seem to suffice:

The reticent volcano keeps
His never slumbering plan;
Confided are his projects pink
To no precarious man.

In the sentence above, the line break between “The reticent volcano keeps/His never slumbering plan” does not indicate that the second line’s meaning is “independent” of the first line’s. To the contrary, the phrase containing the pronoun “his” cannot be understood without reference to its antecedent in the first line. Similarly, the same pronoun following the semicolon cannot be understood without reference to the first line. Just so with (c)(2)’s “; or otherwise obstructs . . .” We are concerned with meaning, not the surface of the page.

This is poetry!! It is fairly insane to liken poetry, much of the power of which stems from breaking the rules of grammar and which often strives to obscure meaning, to US Code, which aspires to use grammar in ways that clarify meaning.

There’s one more problem, too.

There’s some dispute, because there is no final manuscript for this poem, about whether Dickinson used a semicolon or a dash after “slumbering plan.” And Dickinson’s dashes — literary experts say with all the certitude that drove me from literary academics — put great stake in the ambiguity introduced by such punctuation.

“The dash is an invitation to the reader to make meaning,” Dr. Smith said. “It can also be a leap of faith.”

Moreover, these were handwritten works, and so dashes would not even be regular lines. The variation in such lines has been interpreted with various meanings as an immediate expression of Dickinson’s intent. [Note: I owe this observation to several people on Twitter but have lost those Tweets; h/t to them]

That is, Dickinson’s poem is not so much an apt comment on Friedrich’s examples. Rather, it’s an example of the uncertainty embodied by the artistic expression of another individual, almost the opposite of laws codified by Congress.

Bizarrely, the citation of Dickinson is among the parts of Smith’s brief that Brady Knowlton’s attorneys lifted and replicated in their own unsolicited notice and reply. Carmen Hernandez, who is Donovan Crowl’s attorney, not only remembered to include Friedrich’s opinion, but she didn’t include the Dickinson poem.

There have been many aspects of my own literary training that I’ve used in my coverage of the January 6 investigation. Reading Emily Dickinson (about which I have no expertise) is not one I’d expect to need.

Update: In a hearing today, Judge Kelly joined Friedrich in rejecting the challenge to the obstruction application.

Release the Kraken!! Two Degrees of Donald Trump at the East Doors

It was probably happenstance that Jimmy Haffner, who was arrested the other day for assaulting the cops guarding the East door of the Capitol on January 6, met “Sidney FRICKIN’ Powell” while she was on a bus tour spreading the Big Lie. The FBI included a picture of him apparently pictured with Powell (her face is redacted because she has not been arrested) purportedly to add validation for their identification of him.

The rest of his networking, however, seems absolutely central to the evidence the government is collecting to explain how the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and a mob led by Alex Jones all converged on the East steps of the Capitol just before it was breached, with the involvement of a number of Marines.

As the FBI explains, Haffner and his buddy Ron Loehrke — who lived in Washington State on January 6 but both of whom have moved since — were recruited to go to DC by then head of the Proud Boys in the Northwest, Ethan Nordean. On December 27, the complaint explains, Nordean texted Loehrke saying he wanted him “on the front line” with him. In response, Loehrke told Nordean he was bringing three “bad mother fuckers” with him.

Loehrke and Haffner’s phones were in contact 106 times between December 19 and January 7. Sometime on January 5, Nordean’s phone called Loehrke’s.

On the morning of January 6, Loehrke showed up at the Washington Monument, where Telegram chats sent the day before said the Proud Boys were meeting up. He and Haffner marched with Nordean and others towards the Capitol (though Haffner was pretty disciplined in keep his face hidden). Loehrke helped people over the initial barricades and waved people forward. He later encouraged rioters: “Don’t back down, patriots! The whole fucking world is watching. Stand the fuck up today!”

Both Loehrke and Haffner then moved to the East side of the Capitol, where Joe Biggs, the Oath Keepers, and Alex Jones would also go. The two men helped dismantle the barricades that enabled a mob to crowd the stairs in advance of the East doors being opened. “Let’s go! Get in there!” Loehrke exhorted.

The government alleges that Haffner sprayed the officers guarding the East doors with some kind of aerosol, which played a key role, they suggest, in the cops losing control of that entrance. Minutes later, the rioters breached the Capitol.

The arrest affidavit doesn’t say it, but Joe Biggs and the Oath Keepers were in the immediate vicinity as this happened; Alex Jones had been or was just yards away riling up the crowd he had lured there by falsely claiming that Trump would speak there, chanting “1776!” with his blowhorn.

The affidavit explains that Loehrke went to Merkley’s office once he breached the Capitol; it doesn’t say whether he met with Zach Rehl there.

There are lots of other details the FBI doesn’t provide either: the time on January 5 when Nordean called Loehrke, the hotel in downtown DC that Haffner checked into on January 5, the hotel at which Loehrke’s tattooed hand was videoed outside. It doesn’t reveal whether Haffner or Loehrke were at a meeting on January 5 that Nordean and Biggs — but not their alleged Proud Boy co-defendants — attended.

Even without those details, however, the arrest affidavit strongly suggests that guys Nordean personally recruited to attend the January 6 riot not only knew to converge on the East doors at the same time that Biggs, the Oath Keepers, and Jones were also doing so, but played a key role in successfully breaching that door.

Update: Here’s a video of Loehrke’s activities that day (look for his maroon hood) put together by online researchers. They also note he’s a Marine, just like many of the other key figures behind the breach of the East doors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

DONOHOE: Are you here?

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

DONOHOE: Well fuck man

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

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

Person-2: Would be epic

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

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

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

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

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

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

Person-2 Fuck it let them loose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

However, Whallon-Wollkind was not arrested or charged.

[snip]

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The FBI’s Proud Boy Informant Showed Up Late

The Proud Boys charged with the most serious assaults on January 6 — including (at a minimum) Dan “Milkshake” Scott and Christopher Worrell — are not charged with conspiracy, though both could easily have been included as co-conspirators. Nor is Ryan Samsel, who is not known to be a Proud Boy but spoke to Joe Biggs just before he kicked off the entire riot by allegedly knocking over a cop and giving her a concussion (this may change, especially since, after a long delay, DOJ charged Samsel individually in an indictment that, either via the assignment wheel or because it was identified as a case related to the Proud Boys leadership indictment, got assigned to Judge Tim Kelly). While Dominic Pezzola is charged with assault for stealing the riot shield he used to break into the Capitol and Billy Chrestman is charged with threatening to assault a cop, their co-defendants are not implicated in those assaults, except insofar as they are overt acts in a conspiracy.

That’s why I find this detail from NYT’s blockbuster report on what a Proud Boy informant who showed up late to the January 6 riot and then entered the Capitol has told the FBI about the investigation rather interesting.

At the same time, the new information is likely to complicate the government’s efforts to prove the high-profile conspiracy charges it has brought against several members of the Proud Boys.

On Jan. 6, and for months after, the records show, the informant, who was affiliated with a Midwest chapter of the Proud Boys, denied that the group intended to use violence that day.

[snip]

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

The government has never accused the Proud Boy conspirators of planning to use violence themselves, though there is evidence they knew their incitement could spark violence among “normies.” There’s even evidence that Ethan Nordean tried to rein in one attack (though only after he had presumably witnessed other assaults on cops).

That is, that claim is utterly irrelevant to the government’s conspiracy cases against the Proud Boys.

And yet the NYT offered it as one reason this informant’s report might, “complicate the government’s efforts to prove the high-profile conspiracy charges it has brought against several members of the Proud Boys.”

To be sure, there is one way this informant might undermine the existing conspiracy charges.

The informant’s interview reports affirmatively claim that he knew of no plans to storm the Capitol, nor did he hear any talk of the electoral college certification in his travels that day.

In lengthy interviews, the records say, he also denied that the extremist organization planned in advance to storm the Capitol.

[snip]

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

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

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

The records show that, after driving to Washington and checking into an Airbnb in Virginia on Jan. 5, the informant spent most of Jan. 6 with other Proud Boys, including some who have been charged in the attack. While the informant mentioned seeing Proud Boys leaders that day, like Ethan Nordean, who has also been charged, there is no indication that he was directly involved with any Proud Boys in leadership positions.

In a detailed account of his activities contained in the records, the informant, who was part of a group chat of other Proud Boys, described meeting up with scores of men from chapters around the country at 10 a.m. on Jan. 6 at the Washington Monument and eventually marching to the Capitol. He said that when he arrived, throngs of people were already streaming past the first barrier outside the building, which, he later learned, was taken down by one of his Proud Boy acquaintances and a young woman with him. [my emphasis]

This guy’s testimony absolutely poses a challenge to prosecutors prosecuting the Proud Boys this guy was actually interacting with.

That said, the NYT does not say whether he was interacting with those charged with conspiracy or even obstruction (still-active Proud Boys, like Jeremy Grace, have been charged only with trespassing). Even if he was interacting with people charged with conspiracy, the fact that he showed up late and (claimed that he) did not know that some of his own acquaintances were going to breach the barriers until after the fact would, at most, show that he wasn’t privy to the plans of lower level cells.

But the way in which DOJ has charged the Proud Boy side of the conspiracies is with one leadership conspiracy, and four subconspiracies that are effectively cells that allegedly worked together to achieve smaller objectives: to breach the West door, to breach the North door, and to keep the Visitor Center gates open (the NYT misses one of the charged Proud Boy conspiracies, against the Klein brothers, for opening a North door to the building, which has acquired more tactical import with the charging of Ben Martin).

Two main things matter to the viability of the larger Proud Boys conspiracy: First, whether the four charged in the leadership conspiracy did have an advance plan. And second, whether their conspiracy interlocks with the Dominic Pezzola conspiracy that ended up breaching the front door of the Capitol and with it exposed Pezzola, his co-conspirators, and by association, the Proud Boy leaders to terrorism enhancements.

The second point is one that the Proud Boy leaders are contesting aggressively. We have yet to see evidence proving a tie between those two conspiracies. But we also have yet to see any evidence from the December rally at which the ties to Pezzola appear to have been forged. Meanwhile, William Pepe is disclaiming knowing the others, suggesting a possible weakness in that conspiracy charge.

As to the first, what we’ve seen in public evidence is that, in the wake of the Enrique Tarrio arrest on January 4, the four leaders attempted to regroup, and then, on the night before the riot, Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean met with unnamed people and finalized a plan in seeming coordination with Tarrio, and avoided speaking of it even on their limited leadership Telegram chat.

On January 4, when Tarrio arrived in DC for the riot, he was arrested for his attack on the Black Church in December, whereupon he was found with weapons that are unlawful in DC. In the wake of Tarrio’s arrest, Ethan Nordean was supposed to be in charge of the operation. But around 9:08PM the day before the riot (these texts reflect Nordean’s Washington state time zone, so add three hours), someone said he had not heard from Nordean in hours.

Minutes later, Biggs explained that “we just had a meeting w[i]th a lot of guys” and “info should be coming out.” While redacted in these texts, the superseding indictment describes that he also notes he had just spoken with Tarrio.

He further explained that he was with Nordean and “we have a plan.”

Biggs then says he gave Tarrio a plan.

Ethan Nordean may have been in charge on January 6. But Biggs seems to have been the one working most closely with Tarrio, through whom at least some of the inter-militia coordination worked.

There’s little question they had a plan to do something (and that that plan did not include attending the Trump rally which was the primary innocent reason for Trump supporters to show up to DC that day). The question is what kind of evidence DOJ has substantiating that plan, especially after claimed efforts to flip Zach Rehl collapsed. (Nordean has also said he’ll move to suppress these texts because his spouse consented to the breach of his phone, which led FBI to obtain them, but it’s likely the FBI has a second set of the texts in any case.)

But it also is likely the case that the place to look for that evidence is not with a low-level Proud Boy who showed up late to insurrection, but with the others with whom Nordean and Biggs were meeting the night before the riot. And there’s no indication that these people were all Proud Boys, and in fact good reason to suspect they weren’t.

In the weeks before the riot, Kelly Meggs repeatedly talked about a Florida-based intra-militia alliance.

In the days after both the DC even[t] and an event involving Stone in Florida, Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs claimed he organized a Florida-based “alliance” between the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and 3%ers.

On Christmas Eve, Meggs specifically tied protection at the January rally, probably of Stone, and coordination with a Proud Boy, almost certainly Tarrio, in the same text.

And in the days after, the Southern California 3%ers laid out a Stop the Steal affiliated plan to surround the Capitol.

Spread the word to other CALIFORNIA Patriots to join us as we March into the Capitol Jan 6. The Plan right now is to meet up at two occasions and locations: 1. Jan 5th 2pm at the Supreme Court steps for a rally. (Myself, Alan, [and others] will be speaking) 2. Jan 6th early 7am meet in front of the Kimpton George Hotel…we will leave at 7:30am sharp and March (15 mins) to the Capital [sic] to meet up with the stop the steal organization and surround the capital. [sic] There will be speakers there and we will be part of the large effort for the “Wild Rally” that Trump has asked us all to be part of. [my emphasis]

Not only is this what happened on January 6, but Joe Biggs seemed to know that key Stop the Steal figures, including his former employer Alex Jones, would open up a second front of this attack and arrived to take part in it, entering the Capitol a second time virtually in tandem with the Meggs-led Stack.

This is one reason I keep presenting all these conspiracies together: because there’s good reason the Proud Boy conspiracies don’t just intersect with each other, but that the Proud Boy conspiracies intersect, in the person of Joe Biggs and others, with each other.

There are many reasons that the report of an FBI handler not understanding that his or her Proud Boy informant was describing the breach of the Capitol as it happened is important.

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

But, except to limited degree to which his testimony affects the case against the Proud Boys with whom he actually interacted, this report primarily provides yet more proof that the FBI, trained by Billy Barr not to investigate any subjects Trump claimed as his own tribe, had no conception of what they were looking at on January 6, not even as the Proud Boys led an attack on the Capitol.

The government has not yet publicly shown all of its evidence that the Proud Boy leaders, alone or in concert with other militias and Stop the Steal organizers, had a plan to attack the Capitol on January 6. Unless something disrupts the case, we won’t see that until next summer.

But one thing we know from the available evidence is that low-level Proud Boys who showed up late to insurrection are not the place to look for that plan.

DOJ Put Someone Who Enabled Sidney Powell’s Lies — Jocelyn Ballantine — in Charge of Prosecuting the Proud Boys

Because of Joe Biggs’ role at the nexus between the mob that attacked Congress and those that orchestrated the mob, his prosecution is the most important case in the entire January 6 investigation. If you prosecute him and his alleged co-conspirators successfully, you might also succeed in holding those who incited the attack on the Capitol accountable. If you botch the Biggs prosecution, then all the most important people will go free.

Which is why it is so unbelievable that DOJ put someone who enabled Sidney Powell’s election season lies about the Mike Flynn prosecution, Jocelyn Ballantine, on that prosecution team.

Yesterday, at the beginning of the Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs hearing, prosecutor Jason McCullough told the court that in addition to him and Luke Jones, Ballantine was present at the hearing for the prosecution. He may have said that she was “overseeing” this prosecution. (I’ve got a request for clarification in with the US Attorney’s office.)

Ballantine has not filed a notice of appearance in the case (nor does she show on the minute notice for yesterday’s hearing). In the one other January 6 case where she has been noticeably involved — electronically signing the indictment for Nick Kennedy — she likewise has not filed a notice of appearance.

Less than a year ago when she assisted in DOJ’s attempts to overturn the Mike Flynn prosecution, Ballantine did three things that should disqualify her from any DOJ prosecution team, much less serving on the most important prosecution in the entire January 6 investigation:

  • On September 23, she provided three documents that were altered to Sidney Powell, one of which Trump used six days later in a packaged debate attack on Joe Biden
  • On September 24, she submitted an FBI interview report that redacted information — references to Brandon Van Grack — that was material to the proceedings before Judge Emmet Sullivan
  • On October 26, she claimed that lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe had checked their clients’ notes to confirm there were no other alterations to documents submitted to the docket; both lawyers refused to review the documents

After doing these things in support of Bill Barr’s effort to undermine the Flynn prosecution (and within days of the Flynn pardon), Ballantine was given a confidential temporary duty assignment (it may have been a CIA assignment). Apparently she’s back at DC USAO now.

Three documents got altered and another violated Strzok and Page’s privacy

As a reminder, after DOJ moved to hold Mike Flynn accountable for reneging on his plea agreement, Billy Barr put the St. Louis US Attorney, Jeffrey Jensen, in charge of a “review” of the case, which DOJ would later offer as its excuse for attempting to overturn the prosecution.

On September 23, Ballantine provided Powell with five documents, purportedly from Jensen’s investigation into the Flynn prosecution:

I outlined the added date on the first set of Strzok notes here:

There was never any question that the notes could have been taken no earlier than January 5, because they memorialized Jim Comey’s retelling of a meeting that other documentation, including documents submitted in the Flynn docket, shows took place on January 5. Even Chuck Grassley knows what date the meeting took place.

But DOJ, while using the notes as a central part of their excuse for trying to overturn the Flynn prosecution, nevertheless repeatedly suggested that there was uncertainty about the date of the notes, claiming they might have been taken days earlier. And then, relying on DOJ’s false representations about the date, Sidney Powell claimed they they showed that Joe Biden — and not, as documented in Mary McCord’s 302, Bob Litt — was the one who first raised the possibility that Flynn may have violated the Logan Act.

Strzok’s notes believed to be of January 4, 2017, reveal that former President Obama, James Comey, Sally Yates, Joe Biden, and apparently Susan Rice discussed the transcripts of Flynn’s calls and how to proceed against him. Mr. Obama himself directed that “the right people” investigate General Flynn. This caused former FBI Director Comey to acknowledge the obvious: General Flynn’s phone calls with Ambassador Kislyak “appear legit.” According to Strzok’s notes, it appears that Vice President Biden personally raised the idea of the Logan Act.

During the day on September 29, Powell disclosed to Judge Sullivan that she had spoken to Trump (as well as Jenna Ellis) about the case. Then, later that night, Trump delivered a prepared attack on Biden that replicated Powell’s false claim that Biden was behind the renewed investigation into Flynn.

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.

In a matter of days, then, what DOJ would claim was an inadvertent error got turned into a campaign attack from the President.

When DOJ first confessed to altering these notes, they claimed all the changes were inadvertent.

In response to the Court and counsel’s questions, the government has learned that, during the review of the Strzok notes, FBI agents assigned to the EDMO review placed a single yellow sticky note on each page of the Strzok notes with estimated dates (the notes themselves are undated). Those two sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. The government has also confirmed with Mr. Goelman and can represent that the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

Similarly, the government has learned that, at some point during the review of the McCabe notes, someone placed a blue “flag” with clear adhesive to the McCabe notes with an estimated date (the notes themselves are also undated). Again, the flag was inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. Again, the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

There are multiple reasons to believe this is false. For example, when DOJ submitted notes that Jim Crowell took, they added a date in a redaction, something that could in no way be inadvertent. And as noted, the January 5 notes had already been submitted, without the date change (though then, too, DOJ claimed not to know the date of the document).

But the most important tell is that, when Ballantine sent Powell the three documents altered to add dates, the protective order footer on the documents had been removed in all three, in the case of McCabe’s notes, actually redacted. When she released the re-altered documents (someone digitally removed the date in the McCabe notes rather than providing a new scan), the footer had been added back in. This can easily be seen by comparing the altered documents with the re-altered documents.

The altered January 5, 2017 Strzok notes, without the footer:

The realtered January 5, 2017 Strzok notes, with the footer:

The second set of Strzok notes (originally altered to read March 28), without the footer:

The second set of Strzok notes, with the footer.

The altered McCabe noteswith the footer redacted out:

The realtered McCabe notes, with the footer unredacted:

This is something that had to have happened at DOJ (see William Ockham’s comments below and this post for proof in the metadata that these changes had to have been done by Ballantine). The redaction of the footers strongly suggests that they were provided to Powell with the intention of facilitating their further circulation (the other two documents she shared with Powell that day had no protective order footer). In addition, each of these documents should have a new Bates stamp.

DOJ redacted Brandon Van Grack’s non-misconduct

On September 24, DOJ submitted a report of an FBI interview Jeffrey Jensen’s team did with an Agent who sent pro-Trump texts on his FBI-issued phone, Bill Barnett. In the interview, Barnett made claims that conflicted with actions he had taken on the case. He claimed to be unaware of evidence central to the case against Flynn (for example, that Flynn told Sergey Kislyak that Trump knew of something said on one of their calls). He seemed unaware of the difference between a counterintelligence investigation and a criminal one. And he made claims about Mueller prosecutors — Jeannie Rhee and Andrew Weissmann — with whom he didn’t work directly. In short, the interview was obviously designed to tell a politically convenient story, not the truth.

Even worse than the politicized claims that Barnett made, the FBI or DOJ redacted the interview report such that all reference to Brandon Van Grack was redacted, substituting instead with the label, “SCO Atty 1.” (References to Jeannie Rhee, Andrew Weissmann, and Andrew Goldstein were not redacted; there are probable references to Adam Jed and Zainab Ahmad that are not labeled at all.)

The result of redacting Van Grack’s name is that it hid from Judge Sullivan many complimentary things that Barnett had to say about Van Grack:

Van Grack’s conduct was central to DOJ’s excuse for throwing out the Flynn prosecution. Powell repeatedly accused Van Grack, by name, of engaging in gross prosecutorial misconduct. Yet the report was submitted to Judge Sullivan in such a way as to hide that Barnett had no apparent complaints about Van Grack’s actions on the Flynn case.

I have no reason to believe that Ballantine made those redactions. But according to the discovery letter she sent to Powell, she sent an unredacted copy to Flynn’s team, while acknowledging that the one she was submitting to the docket was redacted. Thus, she had to have known she was hiding material information from the Court when she submitted the interview report.

Ballantine falsely claimed Strzok and McCabe validated their notes

After some of these alterations were made public, Judge Sullivan ordered DOJ to authenticate all the documents they had submitted as part of their effort to overturn the Flynn prosecution. The filing submitted in response was a masterpiece of obfuscation, with three different people making claims while dodging full authentication for some of the most problematic documents. In the filing that Ballantine submitted, she claimed that Michael Bromwich and Aitan Goelman, lawyers for McCabe and Strzok, “confirmed” that no content was altered in the notes.

The government acknowledges its obligation to produce true and accurate copies of documents. The government has fully admitted its administrative error with respect to the failure to remove three reviewer sticky notes containing estimated date notations affixed to three pages of undated notes (two belonging to former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, and one page belonging to former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe) prior to their disclosure. These dates were derived from surrounding pages’ dates in order to aid secondary reviewers. These three sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the relevant documents were scanned by the FBI for production in discovery. See ECF 259. The government reiterates, however, that the content of those exhibits was not altered in any way, as confirmed by attorneys for both former FBI employees. [underline original]

According to an email Bromwich sent Ballantine, when Ballantine asked for help validating the transcripts DOJ did of McCabe’s notes, McCabe declined to do so.

I have spoken with Mr. McCabe and he declines to provide you with any information in response to your request.

He believes DOJ’s conduct in this case is a shocking betrayal of the traditions of the Department of the Justice and undermines the rule of law that he spent his career defending and upholding. If you share with the Court our decision not to provide you with assistance, we ask that you share the reason.

We would of course respond to any request that comes directly from the Court.

And according to an email Goelman sent to Ballantine, they said they could not check transcriptions without the original copies of documents.

Sorry not to get back to you until now.  We have looked at the attachments to the email you sent yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.  We are unable to certify the authenticity of all of the attachments or the accuracy of the transcriptions.  To do so, we would need both more time and access to the original notes, particularly given that U.S. Attorney Jensen’s team has already been caught altering Pete’s notes in two instances.  However, we do want to call your attention to the fact that Exhibit 198-11 is mislabeled, and that these notes are not the notes of Pete “and another agent” taken during the Flynn interview.

Additionally, we want to register our objection to AUSA Ken Kohl’s material misstatements to Judge Sullivan during the September 29, 2020, 2020, [sic] telephonic hearing, during which Mr. Kohl inaccurately represented that Pete viewed himself as an “insurance policy” against President Trump’s election.

I have no reason to believe the content was altered, though I suspect other things were done to McCabe’s notes to misrepresent the context of a reference in his notes to Flynn. But not only had McCabe and Strzok not validated their notes, but they had both pointedly refused to. Indeed, during this same time period, DOJ was refusing to let McCabe see his own notes to prepare for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Nevertheless, Ballantine represented to Judge Sullivan that they had.

It baffles me why DOJ would put Ballantine on the most important January 6 case. Among other things, the conduct I’ve laid out here will make it easy for the defendants to accuse DOJ of similar misconduct on the Proud Boys case — and doing just that happens to be Nordean’s primary defense strategy.

But I’m mindful that there are people in DC’s US Attorney’s Office (not Ballantine) who took actions in the past that may have made the January 6 attack more likely. In a sentencing memo done on Barr’s orders, prosecutors attempting to minimize the potential sentence against Roger Stone suggested that a threat four Proud Boys helped Roger Stone make against Amy Berman Jackson was no big deal, unworthy of a sentencing enhancement.

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.

Judge Jackson disagreed with this assessment. In applying the enhancement, she presciently described how dangerous Stone and the Proud Boys could be if they incited others.

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.

The people at DOJ who claimed that this toxic team was not dangerous in the past may want to downplay the critical role that Stone and the Proud Boys played — using the same kind of incendiary behavior — in the January 6 assault.

Whatever the reason, though, it is inexcusable that DOJ would put someone like Ballantine on this case. Given Ballantine’s past actions, it risks sabotaging the entire January 6 investigation.

DOJ quite literally put someone who, less than a year ago, facilitated Sidney Powell’s lies onto a prosecution team investigating the aftermath of further Sidney Powell lies.

Update: DC USAO’s media person refused to clarify what Ballantine’s role is, even though it was publicly acknowledged in court.

We are not commenting on cases beyond what is stated or submitted to the Court. We have no comment in response to your question.

Update: Added links to William Ockham’s proof that Ballantine made the realteration of the McCabe notes.

Update: One more point on this. I am not claiming here that anyone at DOJ is deliberately trying to sabotage the January 6 investigation, just that putting someone who, less than a year ago, made multiple representations to a judge that could call into question her candor going forward could discredit the Proud Boys investigation. I think it possible that supervisors at DC USAO put her on the team because they urgently need resources and she was available (possibly newly so after the end of her TDY). I think it possible that supervisors at DC USAO who are also implicated in Barr’s politicization, perhaps more closely tied to the intervention in the Stone case, put her there with corrupt intent.

But it’s also important to understand that up until February 2020, she was viewed as a diligent, ruthless prosecutor. I presume she buckled under a great deal of pressure after that and found herself in a place where competing demands — her duty of candor to the Court and orders from superiors all the way up to the Attorney General — became increasingly impossible to square.

Importantly, Lisa Monaco’s chief deputy John Carlin, and probably Monaco herself, would know Ballantine from their past tenure in the National Security Division as that heretofore ruthless national security prosecutor. The only mainstream outlet that covered anything other than DOJ’s admission they had added post-its to the notes was Politico. And the instinct not to punish career employees like Ballantine would mean what she would have avoided any scrutiny with the transition. So her assignment to the case is not itself evidence of an attempt to sabotage the prosecution.