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DOJ Arresting Their Way to Clarity on Joe Biggs’ Two Breaches of the Capitol

The Proud Boys Leadership conspiracy indictment describes that Joe Biggs breached the Capitol twice.

He entered first on the west side through a door opened after Dominic Pezzola broke through an adjacent window with a riot shield.

At 2:14 p.m., BIGGS entered the Capitol building through a door on the northwest side. The door was opened after a Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, charged elsewhere, used a riot shield at 2:13 p.m. to break window allowed rioters to enter the building and force open an adjacent door from the inside. BIGGS and Proud Boys members Gilbert Garcia, William Pepe, and Joshua Pruitt, each of whom are charged elsewhere, entered the same door within two minutes of its opening. At 2:19 p.m., a member of the Boots on the Ground channel posted, “We just stormed the capitol.”

Then, Biggs left the building, walked around it, took a selfie from the east side, then forced his way in the east side and headed from there to the Senate.

BIGGS subsequently exited the Capitol, and BIGGS and several Proud Boys posed for a picture at the top of the steps on the east side of the Capitol.

Thirty minutes after first entering the Capitol on the west side, BIGGS and two other members of the Proud boys, among others, forcibly re-entered the Capitol through the Columbus Doors on the east side of the Capitol, pushing past at least one law enforcement officer and entering the Capitol directly in front of a group of individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers. [my emphasis]

Understanding Biggs’ actions — including whether they were coordinated with the Oath Keepers who entered at virtually the same time as him (including fellow Floridian Kelly Meggs, who had just “organized an alliance” with the Proud Boys in December) — is crucial to understanding the insurrection as a whole.

That’s particularly true given that Biggs re-entered the Capitol and headed to the Senate, where Mike Pence had only recently been evacuated. That’s also true given how Biggs’ actions coincide so neatly with those of the Oath Keepers.

At the moment Pezzola breaks the Capitol window with a shield, Person Ten contacts Joshua James (from Alabama but seemingly affiliated with the Florida Oath Keepers). At the moment Biggs enters the Capitol, someone on the Oath Keepers’ Signal channel informed the list that “The[y] have taken ground at the capital [sic]. We need to regroup any members who are not on mission.” This is a quicker response than the Proud Boys Boots on the Ground channel itself had to the initial breach.

And that’s what happened. Both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys regrouped and opened a new front on the assault on the Capitol.

Rhodes called Kelly Meggs. Person Ten called James. Then Rhodes had overlapping phone calls with Person Ten and Meggs. Around that time, The Stack started making their way to an entry of the Capitol on the other side of the building from where they were. And James and Minuta hopped in some golf carts and rushed to the Capitol (I’m not sure from where). During the period when The Stack, commanded by Kelly Meggs, was making their way to the Capitol and Biggs was walking around rather than through it, Roberto Minuta arrived and started harassing the cops guarding the door through which Biggs and The Stack would shortly enter, perhaps ensuring that the cops remained at their post rather than reinforcing the east side.

I had speculated here that Proud Boys in the initial breach — most notably former Army Captain Gabriel Garcia — were live streaming with the intent of providing tactical information to people located remotely who were performing a command and control function.

If you were following Garcia’s livestreams in real time — even from a remote location — you would have visibility on what was going on inside almost immediately after the first group of the Proud Boys breached the Capitol.

In a later livestream, Garcia narrated what happened in the minutes after the Proud Boys had breached the Capitol.

GARCIA states, “We just went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It’s about to get ugly.” Around him, a large crowd chants, “Our house!”

Then, as a standoff with some cops ensued, Garcia filmed himself describing, tactically, what was happening, and also making suggestions to escalate violence that were heeded by those around him.

At minute 1:34, a man tries to run through the line of USCP officers. The officers respond with force, which prompts GARCIA to shout, “You fucking traitors! You fucking traitors! Fuck you!” As the USCP officers try to maintain positive control of the man that just rushed the police line, GARCIA yells, “grab him!” seemingly instructing the individuals around him to retrieve the man from USCP officers. GARCIA is holding a large American flag, which he drops into the skirmish in an apparent attempt to assist the individuals who are struggling with the USCP officers.

USCP officers maintain control of the line, holding out their arms to keep the crowd from advancing. At least one USCP officer deploys an asp. GARCIA turns the camera on himself and offers tactical observations regarding the standoff. [my emphasis]

Garcia’s livestream was such that you would obtain crowd size estimates from it, as well as specific names of officers on the front line, as well as instructions to “keep ’em coming,” seemingly asking for more bodies for this confrontation.

At minute 3:26, GARCIA, who is still in extremely close proximity to the USCP officer line again yells, “Fucking traitors!” He then joins the crowd chanting “Our house!” At minute 3:38, GARCIA states, “You ain’t stopping a million of us.” He then turns the camera to the crowd behind him and says, “Keep ‘em coming. Keep ‘em coming. Storm this shit.” GARCIA chants with the crowd, “USA!”

Soon after, GARCIA stops chanting and begins speaking off camera with someone near him. At minute 4:28, GARCIA says, “do you want water?” Though unclear, GARCIA seems to be asking the person with whom he is speaking. GARCIA is so close to an officer that, as the camera shifts, the only images captured are those of the officer’s chest and badge. [my emphasis]

Remarkably, Garcia filmed himself successfully ordering the rioters to hold the line — which they do — and then filmed them charging the police.

GARCIA yells, “Back up! Hold the line!” Shortly thereafter, the crowd begins advancing, breaching the USCP officer line. GARCIA says, “Stop pushing.” The last moments captured in the video are of the crowd rushing the USCP officers.

A filing arguing for detention for Ethan Nordean confirms that Proud Boys located offsite were monitoring the livestream and providing instructions.

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.” [Un-indicted co-conspirator-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.*

So at least on the Proud Boys side, there was this kind of command and control.

And the government has been arresting their way to some clarity on this point.

Sometime before March 1, the government got access to both the leadership Telegram channel the Proud Boys used to coordinate the insurrection and the “Boots on the Ground” channel, meaning they’ve got monikers for around 35 active Proud Boy participants in the insurrection who have not yet been arrested. In the weeks since the Biggs and Nordean conspiracy indictment disclosed that the government had these chats, the government has arrested several people with ties to one or another of these men (though without saying whether they identified them from the Boots on the Ground channel or whether they arrested them at this time for investigative reasons).

Two of these men just happen to be two of Joe Biggs’ co-travelers the day of the insurrection, Paul Rae and Arthur Jackman, both also from Florida. The complaints for both are very similar, possibly written by the same FBI agent. Both complaints go through the greatest hits of the Proud Boy actions that day, listing all the conspiracies already charged. While the affidavits include the testimony of acquaintances of both men (in Jackman’s case, obtained after a January 19 interview with Jackman himself, meaning that testimony couldn’t be the lead via which they IDed him), the affidavits also focus on their entries with Joe Biggs, with Rae entering the west Capitol door right next to Biggs.

And Jackman walking up steps with his hand on Biggs’ shoulder.

Each affidavit includes the photo obtained from warrants served on Biggs showing the selfie mentioned in the Leader indictment (bolded above).

In Rae’s affidavit, they’ve redacted out all but his face and Biggs’.

They use the same approach in Jackman’s affidavit, redacting the others (including Rae, who had already been arrested).

If I were one of the two other guys in this picture, I’d be arranging legal representation right now.

The affidavits show both men entering the Capitol on the east side, along with Biggs. As he did on the west side, Rae walked in beside Biggs (you can see Jackman just ahead of Rae in this picture).

And as he did elsewhere in the Capitol, Jackman walked with his hand on Biggs’ shoulder.

Jackman’s affidavit shows him in the Senate (where we know Biggs also went).

The government arrested Rae on March 24. They arrested Jackman on March 30. Again, I’d be pretty nervous if I were one of the other two guys.

Because if the government can show that this second breach by Biggs was coordinated with the Oath Keepers, with The Stack led by the guy who arranged an alliance in December, Kelly Meggs, it will make these five separate conspiracies mighty cozy (in any case, the government is already starting to refer to the multiple Proud Boys conspiracies as one).

There’s at least one other action on which both militias may have coordinated: aborted efforts to launch a second wave after 4PM, something that Rudy Giuliani seems to have had insight into.

But for now, the government seems pretty focused on arresting their way to clarity about why Joe Biggs breached the Capitol, then walked outside and around it, and then breached it again.


* I had suggested in this post that UCC-1 might be Nicholas Ochs. But that’s not possible, because the government knows he was onsite. Moreover, the government is now treating defendants in one of the Proud Boys conspiracy indictments (most notably Dominic Pezzola) as co-conspirators with those charged in other conspiracy indictments (including Nordean), so Ochs would be an indicted co-conspirator. Another — far more intriguing possibility — is that it is James Sullivan (who might have a leadership role in Utah’s Proud Boys), who was in contact with Rudy Giuliani about the insurrection, and who inexplicably hasn’t been arrested. Certainly, Rudy seems to have had the information available on those chats in real time.

The Grand Theft Golf Cart Conspiracy: DOJ Backed Off Charges against Roberto Minuta

Yesterday, DOJ added Roberto Minuta and Joshua James — both of whom provided security to Roger Stone in advance of the insurrection — to the Oath Keepers conspiracy indictment, making a third superseding indictment (S3) against the militia. The showiest part of the indictment describes how Minuta and James rode in golf carts (from where, it doesn’t say, nor does it explain how it knows exactly what Minuta said while on the golf cart escapade) to the Capitol to join in the insurrection.

Between 2:30 and 2:33 p.m., MINUTA, JAMES, and others rode in a pair of golf carts towards the Capitol, at times swerving around law enforcement vehicles, with MINUTA stating: Patriots are storming the Capitol building; there’s violence against patriots by the D.C. Police; so we’re en route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now … it’s going down, guys; its literally going down right now Patriots storming the Capitol building … fucking war in the streets right now … word is they got in the building … let’s go.

At about 2:33 p.m., MINUTA, JAMES, and the others in their group parked the golf carts near the intersection of Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. They then continued on foot towards the Capitol.

But the golf cart vignette is not the most interesting detail in the S3 indictment. The additions on the most recent superseding indictment (S2) are interesting for what the government did and did not add with the inclusion of the two Oath Keepers who were not part of The Stack that breached the Capitol, Minuta and James.

The crimes not charged

In spite of Minuta’s self-description, the government did not charge Minuta with Grand Theft Golf Cart. It’s never actually explained where they got the carts, but the Oath Keepers had been using carts as part of their protection detail for people like Roger Stone. If they used golf carts owned or rented by Stop the Steal or some other organizer for the rally, however, it might implicate those owners in the conspiracy if they didn’t report the golf carts as being stolen as part of an effort to breach the Capitol.

But Grand Theft Golf Cart is only the beginning of crimes not charged against the newest additions to the conspiracy.

In the complaint against Minuta, the government had shown probable cause that Minuta obstructed the investigation by deleting his Facebook account on January 13.

Finally, on January 13, 2021, the week after he attacked the Capitol and after much media reporting on law enforcement’s investigation to bring the Capitol rioters to justice, Minuta deleted his Facebook account of over thirteen years.

[snip]

Evidence also demonstrates that one week after he participated in forcibly storming the Capitol, Minuta deleted a Facebook account he had maintained for 13 years to conceal his involvement in these offenses.

[snip]

On January 6, 2021, the FBI opened an investigation into the attack on the Capitol, and a grand jury of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia subsequently opened an investigation. Within the first week of the investigation, a number of subjects were arrested and many more subjects’ photographs were shared over the Internet by both the FBI and regular citizens who took it upon themselves to publicize and seek information about the Capitol attackers.

Records indicate that Roberto Minuta opened a Facebook account associated with phone number XXX-XXX-4147 (known to be associated with Minuta) on November 24, 2007. On January 13, 2021—one week after Minuta and others attacked the Capitol on January 6— Minuta deleted his account.

From the first iteration of this conspiracy indictment, the government had charged others for deleting their Facebook accounts — first Thomas Caldwell, and then Graydon Young. So it would have followed the pattern already set to include a Count 7 against Minuta for his deletion of Facebook.

It’s not in there.

But that’s not the only crime not charged.

The complaint against Minuta focused closely on his taunts against cops in the minutes before The Stack arrived (the government may suspect that Minuta did this to occupy the police while insurrectionists breached the Capitol from the west side, to ensure officers guarding the east side of the building could not go assist those being overrun on the west side).

The indictment adds this further interaction between the cops and Minuta.

At 3:15 p.m., inside the Capitol building, MINUTA and JAMES pushed past U.S. Capitol Police Officers who physically placed their hands on MINUTA and JAMES in an unsuccessful attempt to stop them from progressing toward the Capitol Rotunda.

Other January 6 defendants (not part of this Oath Keeper conspiracy) got charged with obstructing the police during a civil disorder for such physical interactions. Not Minuta and James.

Minuta and James got charged, along with the other members of the conspiracy, with one (but not both) of the trespassing charges used against virtually all the January 6 defendants. But Minuta entered the Capitol with a holster of bear spray (visible on his hip in the picture above). Others who entered the Capitol similarly armed had an enhancement added for carrying a deadly weapon, an enhancement that increases the potential sentence to 10 years. Minuta was not similarly charged (meaning, too, that the Oath Keepers who conspired with him were not charged with abetting his armed entry to the Capitol).

Finally, all the other conspirators, including Thomas Caldwell (who never entered the Capitol and was on the other side of it from where The Stack entered) were charged with abetting the destruction of the Capitol door through which The Stack entered. This is the charge that counts as a crime of violence for detention purposes, and also can merit (and is being treated as meriting, for the Proud Boy conspiracy cases) a terrorism enhancement. But neither Minuta nor James were charged with it, even though the indictment notes they entered the same door that The Stack went through.

At 3:15 p.m., inside the Capitol building, MINUTA and JAMES, together with others known and unknown, forcibly entered the Capitol building through the same east side Rotunda doors through which members of the stack had entered about 25 minutes earlier.

It’s unclear why DOJ wouldn’t treat Minuta and James the same way they treated Caldwell (and Kenneth Harrelson, who went in with The Stack but not part of it). I can think of several possible explanations. But they didn’t, which is notable (particularly in the wake of the DC Circuit decision that led to the release of Zip Tie Guy Eric Munchel and his mother).

In short, if Minuta (and James) were treated the same way other January 6 defendants were, they would be facing significantly more serious charges and significantly more prison time. They’re not.

One other, potentially related detail: The complaint that Minuta was charged with — which was obtained on February 24 but not executed until weeks later, seemingly in conjunction with the Joshua James arrest — is titled, “Affidavit in Support of Complaint Minuta (non conspiracy) 2021 02 23,” almost as if at that point DOJ wasn’t sure whether they were going to treat him separately from the rest of the Oath Keepers or not. They appear to have decided to do so, and along the way, thereby limit his potential criminal exposure.

Who is Person Ten and what role did he play with Stewart Rhodes?

Minuta and James complaints included new details about the role of Oath Keepers heard, Stewart Rhodes, described as Person One in all the Oath Keeper filings. Their addition to the conspiracy effectively added more on Rhodes to the conspiracy indictment.

At least as interestingly, the S3 indictment added a Person Ten. Minuta had been Person Five in the James complaint, it’s not clear who Person Four is, and Persons Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine are not described at all, but — along with Person Ten — are likely some of the people in this picture.

Rhodes paid for Person Ten’s hotel room in the Hilton Garden Inn in DC, but Person Ten arrived the day before Minuta and Rhodes, who also stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna.

Curiously, the S3 indictment leaves out some key communications, especially those from a leadership Signal chat that showed up in earlier filings. Between a Caldwell detention motion, a Watkins detention motion, James’ complaint, and the superseding indictment, this partial list of known Oath Keepers communications suggest that Person Ten might be the person coordinating deployments that day. Consider two details from the partial list of the known communications among Oath Keepers below (I’ll update this later, once I catch up on the week of filings).

Highlighted in yellow, Person Ten has a series of calls back and forth with Joshua James, pre-Golf Cart Grand Theft. Right in the middle of it all, someone — not described in this indictment — informs the Signal group as a whole that “the[y] have taken ground” and “we need to regroup any members who are not on mission.” Shortly thereafter, James and Minuta launch the Grand Theft Golf Cart to get to the Capitol, where Minuta taunts the police, preventing them from moving to reinforce the overrun Capitol on the other side, and the members of The Stack leave Trump’s speech prematurely and go to the Capitol. That is, Person Ten calls for reinforcements (Rhodes repeats his Signal text), and then Minuta and James in the golf carts and The Stack converge on the northeast side of the Capitol to breach a new entry point.

Now consider the pink highlight: Unless the government or I have made a mistake in the timing, Person Ten and Kelly Meggs are both on the phone with Stewart Rhodes together. Because of the length of Person Ten’s calls, it overlaps entirely with Rhodes’ call with Meggs (which — again, unless there’s an error of timing — means Rhodes either has two phones or either via conferencing or a hold, had both on the same phone at the same time).

In either case, Person Ten seems to have a key role as a communication pivot between different groups of Oath Keepers.

The communications not included

Finally, consider this: I have not included all known texts in the table above (most obviously missing are Watkins’ Zello texts). But after suggesting strong ties between James and Minuta, the government has included none of their multiple communications, neither on January 6 nor before that, in the superseding indictment. Similarly, the government has left out the Signal chats showing minute to minute deployments as the Oath Keepers launched a second front on the Capitol.

All these communications are tantalizing and hint at a good deal more coordination during the insurrection. And remember: Both Minuta and James were with Roger Stone for part of the day (earlier in the day, I think). But the government is still including just a fraction of the communications it knows about.

Update: Correct that the indictment said Minuta and James rode in the golf carts, didn’t drive and that the Meggses stayed at a different Hilton Garden than Rhodes and Minuta and Person Ten. Thanks to BB.

Update: I want to make clear that the reasons why DOJ backed off charges with Minuta may not all stem from the same reason, nor does this necessarily indicate he is cooperating. For example, in the wake of the DC Circuit decision in Munchel, the chances that DOJ could get pre-trial detention for either Minuta or James, are much lower. So charging them with abetting the damage doesn’t serve an investigative purpose at this time. And it’s possible after they seized Minuta’s phone, they discovered something to indicate he had deleted Facebook in response to Facebook’s decision to shut down Trump on the platform. To be honest, Minuta and James are an odd fit for this conspiracy as currently laid out, which suggests it’s likely to change in the near future.

Days after an Oath Keeper Event with Roger Stone, Kelly Meggs Described Having “Organized an Alliance” with the Proud Boys

I had been waiting for the moment when DOJ would unveil some of the Facebook content that Graydon Young attempted to delete when he shut down Facebook on January 7. I had similarly been waiting to see how DOJ rolled out Roger Stone as a key pivot between the Florida Oath Keepers (which Kelly Meggs led, and which Stone bodyguards Roberta Minuta and Joshua James were part of) and the Proud Boys (whose key leaders Enrique Tarrio and Joe Biggs live in Florida).

Overnight, in its response to Meggs’ attempt to get bail, the government did both. Ostensibly, they did so to show that Meggs’ interview with the FBI had not been entirely truthful about (among other things) being in DC to protect the cops and vetting Oath Keeper members.

On the first point, yes, Defendant Meggs made a statement to the FBI in the hours following his arrest. But that fact was known at the time of Defendant Meggs’s first detention hearing, and, regardless, simply speaking with law enforcement does not mean that a person is not a danger. This is especially so when some of the statements Defendant Meggs made to the FBI appear to be in conflict with the evidence.

[snip]

This sentiment appears in conflict with Defendant Meggs’s allegation in his motion (and what he stated to the FBI upon his arrest) that he was at the Capitol to help “protect” police officers. (ECF 82 at ¶ 15.)

[snip]

On the evening of January 3, 2021, co-defendant Steele sent an email to Defendant Meggs’s email account at Proton Mail,8 copying co-defendant Young. Steele attached her application and vetting form, and wrote: “My brother, Graydon Young told me to send the application to you so I can be verified for the Events this coming Tuesday and Wednesday.” Defendant Meggs appears to have provided instructions to co-defendant Steele, because the following day (January 4), Steele again sent her application and vetting form to another Oath Keepers email address at Proton Mail. On her email, she copied Defendant Meggs. In contrast to this evidence, Defendant Meggs inexplicably told the FBI that “the only person I’ve ever vetted” was a man six months earlier. Interview Tr. at 28-29.

In a filing that revealed details of Meggs’ Facebook, Signal, ProtonMail, and GoToMeeting use, it described Meggs writing on December 19 — five days after his wife and Young did “security” for Roger Stone at a Stop the Steal rally, evidence of which the government presented (the picture below) in their response to Meggs’ wife’s bid for bond — that he had “organized an alliance between the Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys” to “shut this shit down.”

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

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

DOJ included some (not all though: there was one called ““florida dc op planning chat” they don’t seem to have included) of the planning meetings on GoToMeeting.

A week ago, DOJ was content to prove that Connie Meggs’ claims that she didn’t know any of these people by introducing the picture where she and Graydon Young posed with Stone on December 14.

And Defendant Meggs obviously was acquainted with other members of the Oath Keepers group who stormed the Capitol with her on January 6; the photo below, which was shared on Facebook on December 15, 2020, shows Defendant Meggs (red oval) posing at a book signing with several other individuals, including co-defendant Graydon Young (green oval):

Yesterday, prosecutors in this case had to get chewed out because former Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin blabbed his mouth (completely inappropriately) on 60 Minutes, discussing what at that point had been merely a suggestion, that DOJ’s conspiracy case would integrate three different militia groups.

And the bulk of those cases are federal criminal charges, and significant federal felony charges. Five, 10, 20-year penalties. Of those 400 cases, the majority of those, 80, 85%, maybe even 90, you have individuals, both inside and outside the Capitol, that breached the Capitol, trespassed. You also have individuals, roughly over 100, that we’ve charged with assaulting federal officers and local police officers. The 10% of the cases,  I’ll call the more complex conspiracy cases where we do have evidence, it’s in the public record where individual militia groups from different facets: Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Proud Boys, did have a plan. We don’t know what the full plan is, to come to D.C., organize, and breach the Capitol in some manner.

By the end of the day (having had their secret blown), DOJ showed that not only had the guy in charge of the Stack been thinking in terms of “insurrection” for over a week, but was also thinking about coordinated action among the different militia.

There’s still a problem with this conspiracy, as constructed. The Oath Keepers had a plan — which DOJ has now presented evidence they coordinated with two other militia groups. But the plan wasn’t limited to preventing vote certification (in part, because when they traveled to DC, they still believed that Trump or Mike Pence might make such an action unnecessary). The plan was insurrection.

But that only makes it more likely DOJ will be forced to charge it as such.

The State of the Five Now-Intersecting January 6 Militia Conspiracies

Paragraph 64 of a new conspiracy indictment including Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, and the newly arrested Proud Boys Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe includes a seemingly gratuitous reference to the Oath Keepers. The paragraph describes how Biggs, after having entered the Capitol once already from the northwest side, then moved to the opposite side of the building and forced his way in on the east side. He did so right in front of a group of Oath Keepers.

Thirty minutes after first entering the Capitol on the west side, BIGGS and two other members of the Proud boys, among others, forcibly re-entered the Capitol through the Columbus Doors on the east side of the Capitol, pushing past at least one law enforcement officer and entering the Capitol directly in front of a group of individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers.

This would have been around 2:44 PM. The Oath Keeper “stack” went in the east side of the Capitol at around 2:40.

That reference, along with the common use of the Zello application, brings two parallel conspiracies laid out over a month ago closer together, arguably intersecting. As of right now, DOJ has charged 25 people in five different conspiracy indictments, four of which share precisely the same goal: to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote, with many similar means and methods. Three conspiracy indictments also share roughly the same goal of obstructing law enforcement. Those indictments are:

Here’s what a simplified version of the five different conspiracies looks like:

This is not the end of it: there are three Oath Keepers not included in that conspiracy, and a random bunch of Proud Boys who might eventually be included, as well as anyone else who coordinated this effort [wink]. But these conspiracy indictments will remain separate only for prosecutorial ease. They are, for all intents and purposes, now-intersecting conspiracies.

Update: Last night, NYT’s visual team released new videos showing that the Oath Keepers Stack was involved in forcing entry into the East entrance of the Capitol. These videos depict what happened moments after Biggs reentered the Capitol, as described above.

Update: To see how the other pieces of any coordinated action fit, I will list the other Oath Keepers and Proud Boys that have played a part in this operation.

Oath Keepers

Stewart Rhodes: The Oath Keeper President. He is not charged, but implicated in the existing Oath Keepers indictment and the Minuta complaint.

Roberto Minuta: Minuta was arrested on March 8. An SDNY Magistrate judge released him on bail (he almost put up silver bars for his security, but ended up coming up with the money itself), ignoring the government request he stay the order. Minuta’s arrest affidavit–which was written 12 days before James’ but executed roughly the same day–focuses primarily on Minuta’s harassment of cops. It doesn’t mention, as James’ affidavit does, Minuta’s role in providing security, including for Roger Stone. Minuta also deleted his Facebook account on January 13, for which he was charged with obstruction.

Joshua James: James was arrested on March 9 and held without bail (in part because of a past arrest associated with claiming to be a military police officer in 2011). His arrest affidavit makes it clear he was a close contact with Minuta as well as Kelly Meggs. The affidavit repeatedly describes James offering security to VIPs we know to include Roger Stone. According to public reporting, James received payment for his “security” services on January 6, which Stone was publicly fundraising for in advance (then denied spending).

Jon Ryan Schaffer: The front man for the heavy metal band Iced Earth and an Oath Keeper lifetime member, Schaffer was arrested for spraying some police with bear spray. But two months after his arrest and detention, he has not been (publicly) indicted and only arrived in DC on March 17. The government has not publicly responded to his motion to dismiss his case on Speedy Trial grounds. All of which suggests there’s something more there that we can’t see.

Person Four: The James affidavit refers to Minuta as “Person Five.” It uses that number, it says, because “Persons Two [Caldwell’s spouse], Three [the NC-based Oath Keeper who might serve as a Quick Reaction Force], and Four are not included in this affidavit, but are already-numbered individuals associated with United States v. Thomas Caldwell, et al, Case No. 21-cr-28 (APM). To maintain consistent nomenclature, the referenced individual here will be defined as ‘Person Five.'” I haven’t been able to find the reference to Person Four (though it might be Watkins’ partner, references to whom are inconsistent).

Three more Stack participants and four others who operated with Minuta and James on January 6: This image, from James’ complaint, identifies three other Stack members (the second, third, and last yellow arrow) and four others who interacted with James and Minuta during the day on January 6.

Proud Boys

Enrique Tarrio: Tarrio is the head of the Proud Boys, but got arrested as he entered DC on January 4 on charges relating to vandalizing a Black church in December, onto which possession charges were added. He is referred to in all the Proud Boy conspiracies, repeatedly in the Leader one (because they scrambled to figure out what to do after his arrest). While it’s unlikely he was on the Telegram channels used to organize the insurrection, he was in touch with members via other, thus far unidentified channels.

Joshua Pruitt: Pruitt was arrested for a curfew violation on the night of the insurrection. He told the FBI he hadn’t engaged in any unlawful activity and was just trying to deescalate the situation. But he was indicted on his own weeks later for obstructing the vote count and interfering with cops, and abetting the destruction of property, along with trespassing. The Nordean conspiracy indictment notes that he went in the West entrance shortly after Dominic Pezzola breached it (suggesting the government may now know he was part of a cell with Pezzola). Pruitt is being prosecuted by the same prosecutor as on most Proud Boy cases, Christopher Berridge, and before the same judge, Timothy Kelly.

Gabriel Garcia: Garcia, a former Army Captain, appears to have originally been identified by the Facebook order showing who livestreamed from the Capitol. It’s possible his livestreams were intended to serve as live reporting for those coordinating outside (he catches the names of cops, the size of the crowd, and instructs, “keep ’em coming.” He incites a big push through a line of cops. Later, he calls for “Nancy” to “come out and play” and calls to “Free Enrique” [Tarrio]. He was charged by complaint on January 16 and by indictment on February 16 with obstruction and resisting cops during civil disorder. The Nordean conspiracy indictment notes he went in the West entrance shortly after Pezzola breached it.

Christopher Worrell: The government originally charged Worrell, a committed Proud Boy who traveled to DC in vans of Proud Boys paid for by someone else and wore comms equipment, with trespass crimes on March 10. Among his criminal background, he pretended to be a cop to intimidate a woman. He lied in his first interview with the FBI, hiding that he sprayed pepper spray on some police who were the last line of defense on the West side of the Capitol. According to a witness who knows him, he also directed other likely Proud Boys. After first being released, he was subsequently detained and is awaiting indictment on what the government suggests are likely to be assault charges.

Robert Gieswein: Ethan Nordean spoke to Giswein shortly before he and Pezzola launched the attack on the Capitol suggesting that Gieswein, who had known ties to the 3% movement, was coordinating with the Proud Boys that day. Over the course of breaking into the Capitol, he allegedly assaulted 3 cops with a bat or pepper spray, and broke a window to break in. He was first charged on January 16, indicted on January 27. His docket shows none of the normal proceedings, such as a protective order, but his magistrate’s docket shows two sealed documents placed there in recent weeks.

Ryan Samsel: There’s no indication I know of that ties Samsel to the Proud Boys. But he marched with them and initiated the assault on the West side of the Capitol with Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe. He was charged with assault and obstruction on January 29 and arrested on February 3. In his case, he allegedly did so by assaulting a cop at the first line of barriers, knocking her out. He and the government are in talks for a guilty plea.

Ryan Bennett: Bennett was IDed off his own Facebook livestreaming, while wearing a Proud Boys hat, of the event, including his direct witness to the shooting of Ashli Bennett, with his voice yelling “Break it down!” in the background. He was arrested on January 26 and charged in a still-sealed March 17 indictment over which James Boasberg will preside.

Bryan Betancur: Betancur was busted by his Maryland Probation Officer, to whom he had lied about distributing Bibles to get permission to go to DC. He wore a Proud Boys shirt to the insurrection and is a known white supremacist who espouses violence. He was charged with misdemeanor trespass charges. His defense attorney is already discussing a guilty plea.

Daniel Goodwyn: Goodwyn’s online identity is closely associated with the Proud Boys. He was identified via an interview he did with Baked Alaska during the insurrection and texts sent to an associate; he was arrested on January 29. He was originally charged with trespass, with obstruction added in his indictment on February 24. Charles Berridge was originally the prosecutor on this case but has been replaced on it.

Christopher Kelly: Kelly revealed on Facebook before he headed to DC that he would be going with, “ex NYPD and some proud boys.” While inside, he bragged that they had “stopped the hearing, they are all headed to the basement.” He was originally charged with trespass and obstruction on January 20; he has yet to be (publicly) indicted yet. He has the same defense attorney, Edward McMahon, as Nicholas Ochs.

Around 40 other people who used the Proud Boys “Boots on the Ground” Telegram channel: As I noted here, the government must have at least monikers for — and likely email and/or device identifiers — for around 40 people who used the organizing channel set up less than a day before the operation. It will be interesting to see if they attempt to track all of them down.

Rolling Updates:

Marc Bru, a Proud Boy with ties to Nordean, was charged on March 9.

Paul Rae, a Proud Boy from Florida who trailed Biggs both times he entered the Capitol.

Arthur Jackman: a Proud Boy from Florida who trailed Biggs both times he entered the Capitol, including into the Senate.

 

Thomas Caldwell’s “Storming the Castle” Ploy Succeeds

Judge Amit Mehta just released Thomas Caldwell to home confinement in the Oath Keeper conspiracy case.

Caldwell’s attorney, David Fischer, made some easily rebuttable arguments about Caldwell’s honesty, which I’ll return to. Fischer also tried to convince Judge Mehta that Caldwell was operating out of a sincere belief that he was defending against Antifa, not arming against the US government; I’ll return to that too (Judge Mehta had no patience for that ploy). While Mehta did come away believing Caldwell had been more cooperative than prosecutors had suggested, that’s not why he released Caldwell.

It’s important background, that in Fischer’s motion to reconsider Caldwell’s detention dismissed several references Caldwell made to “storming” the Capitol as an allusion to the fictional narrative of The Princess Bride.

Some of the lines that the Government cites in its papers are straight from Hollywood. The best example is “storming the castle” and “I’m such an instigator.” These are classic lines from the 1980s classic movie The Princess Bride.

Fischer suggested Caldwell’s own use of the same word everyone else used to describe assaulting the Capitol was just fiction.

The claim is important because the key reason that Caldwell got bailed is because of a feint that Fischer made in his motion for reconsideration. He argued that there is no evidence that Caldwell planned in advance to storm the Capitol.

On January 6th, at the urging of former President Donald J. Trump, hundreds of thousands of disgruntled, patriotic Americans came to Washington to protest what they viewed as an unfair election. Caldwell joined this protest to exercise his First Amendment right, a right he defended for 20 years in military service. Caldwell absolutely denies that he ever planned with members of the Oath Keepers, or any other person or group, to storm the Capitol. Caldwell absolutely denies that he obstructed justice. 3 The word of a 20-year military veteran with no prior criminal record is evidence, and it is strong evidence, of his innocence.

[snip]

In short, despite having an army of federal agents working around the clock intensively investigating for almost three months, the Government has not provided the Court with a confession, witness statement, or physical evidence backing up their claim that any person or group had a premeditated plan to storm the Capitol. Caldwell asks rhetorically: Doesn’t the Court find it odd that the Government hasn’t outlined the specifics of the premeditated plan? What time was the “invasion” scheduled to begin? Who would lead the attack? What was the goal once the planners entered the Capitol?

[snip]

The Government’s fanciful suggestion that right-wing tactical commandos were waiting in the wings to storm the Capitol is one for the ages.

In response to Judge Mehta’s questions about this claim, AUSA Kathryn Rakoczy conceded that the alleged co-conspirators didn’t have hard and fast plans as to what would happen before the event. This was a plan made of “possibilities,” which included the possibility (the facetious excuse offered by Caldwell) that other groups would resort to violence if Vice President Pence threw out the vote and the Oath Keepers would have to respond with force, or that President Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act and the Oath Keepers would come in to institute martial law. As Rakoczy described, they were “watching and waiting to see what leadership did” to achieve the goal of preventing the vote count, which goal the “government submits was unlawful and corrupt.”

They were waiting to see what leadership did. When leadership did what they referred to as “nothing,” they did take matters into their own hands. They were waiting and watching to see what was happening.

So when asked to respond to Caldwell’s misrepresentation that he was charged with conspiring to storm the Capitol, Rakoczy responded that it wasn’t certain they would storm the Capitol; the group was prepared to act, they just weren’t sure how — given the uncertainties of the day — they would act.

Based on that response and his conclusion that Caldwell actually had never entered the Capitol, Judge Mehta ruled that Caldwell was differently situated than the other defendants insofar as the evidence that he participated in the conspiracy (to storm the Capitol, Fischer said) was weaker given that he never did enter the Capitol.

Only later, after Judge Mehta had announced his decision, did Rakoczy point out the problem with this argument: Caldwell is not charged with conspiring to storm the Capitol. As she noted, the language Fischer kept quoting about storming the Capitol came from a background paragraph of the superseding indictment:

23. As described more fully herein, CALDWELL, CROWL, WATKINS, SANDRA PARKER, BENNIE PARKER, YOUNG, STEELE, KELLY MEGGS, and CONNIE MEGGS, planned with each other, and with others known and unknown, to forcibly enter the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and to stop, delay, and hinder the Congressional proceeding occurring that day.

The actual conspiracy as charged was to impede the certification of the Electoral College vote.

24. [… the defendants] did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and others known and unknown, to commit an offense against the United States, namely, to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, that is, Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote, and to attempt to do so, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2).

Purpose of the Conspiracy

25. The purpose of the conspiracy was to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

This is a problem I saw going in (though I doubted that Fischer would be able to confuse Mehta as well as he did).

But the results of this hearing, particularly given Rakoczy’s answers, reveal something about the way this conspiracy is charged (and the ones most of the Proud Boy are charged).

They assume the any action conspirators took would be effectuated on Congress, that that was the only eventuality conspirators were planning for.

The conspiracy is all built off an obstruction charge which itself, while valid, is fairly inapt. It likens the counting of the vote to a trial, which legally holds, but doesn’t get at the scope of what co-conspirators (and Trump) were trying to accomplish. The focus — Caldwell’s, as well as those who actually did storm the Capitol — was all on Congress, because that was the next event in question (just as the previous December mob had been focused on the electoral certifications in the states). But the goal was not (just) to stop the certification of the vote count on Congress. The ultimate goal was to ensure that Trump would remain President, via whatever means. And as Rakoczy acknowledged, one possibility that co-conspirators Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins believed might happen was that Trump would declare martial law, and the Oath Keepers would become the glorious army to save their fantastic dreams. That would have had the effect of preventing the certification of the electoral vote, but it would have (if successful) been a more direct route to the actual goal of the conspiracy: to keep Trump in power and prevent the lawfully elected President from taking over.

That’s why Fischer’s ploy worked: because all the planning wasn’t primarily about the Capitol. It was primarily about Trump.

This charge is built like it is, I’ve always been convinced, because no one has yet made the commitment to charge seditious conspiracy (ideally in parallel with this conspiracy). The real goal, after all, was to overthrow the democratic system, and impeding the vote count was just one means to achieve that conspiracy. The conspiring that started even before the election was about overthrowing democracy, not just January 6.

This may not be a fatal weakness for these conspiracy charges. Now that prosecutors have seen Fischer work this feint so well, they’ll be better prepared for it from others.

But one reason it worked is because the real goal of the conspiracy — the one that Caldwell’s lawyer all but conceded to today — was to do whatever it took to prevent the lawfully elected President from taking power.

An Inventory of the January 6 Investigation on Merrick Garland’s First Day

Overnight on the day that Merrick Garland got his first briefing on the January 6 investigation, DOJ asked for a 60-day extension of time in the Oath Keepers’s conspiracy case. As part of the motion, they cite what has been done on the investigation so far. That inventory includes:

  • Over 900 search warrants, executed in almost all fifty states and the District of Columbia
  • More than 15,000 hours of surveillance and body-worn camera footage from multiple law enforcement agencies
  • Approximately 1,600 electronic devices
  • The results of hundreds of searches of electronic communication providers
  • Over 210,000 tips, of which a substantial portion include video, photo and social media
  • Over 80,000 reports and 93,000 attachments related to law enforcement interviews of suspects and witnesses and other investigative steps
  • Involvement of 14 law enforcement agencies, including:
    • U.S. Capitol Police
    • DC Metropolitan Police Department
    • FBI
    • DHS
    • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
    • US Secret Service
    • US Park Police
    • Virginia State Police
    • Arlington County Police Department
    • Prince William County Police Department
    • Maryland State Police
    • Montgomery County Police Department
    • Prince George’s County Police Department

As the filing lays out, the government and the DC Public Defender’s office are trying to set up a system making available the general set of evidence to all defendants, while providing more specific evidence directly to the defendant. Some of that has started in this case.

The government has already provided defense counsel with preliminary discovery, including: arrest paperwork; recordings of custodial interviews, where available; paperwork and photographs relating to premises search warrants; data extracted from several of the defendants’ cellular telephones and social media accounts; some defendants’ hotel records; and some photographs and video recordings, from publicly available sources, of the defendants participating in the alleged offenses.

But most of the defendants in this case have already opposed a continuance, including Donovan Crowl, Kelly and Connie Meggs, Graydon Young, and Thomas Caldwell.

Not only must they be aware that others will get added to the conspiracy, broadening the scope of their potential criminal exposure under the conspiracy. But the government also clearly envisions the potential of more charges (possibly including seditious conspiracy).

Some of the conspiratorial activity being investigated, such as the activity under investigation in this matter, involves a large number of participants. The spectrum of crimes charged and under investigation in connection with the Capitol Attack includes (but is not limited to) trespass, engaging in disruptive or violent conduct in the Capitol or on Capitol grounds, destruction of government property, theft of government property, assaults on federal and local police officers, firearms offenses, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, possession and use of destructive devices, and conspiracy. [my emphasis]

Given Amit Mehta’s inclinations in any case, he might grant the continuance but put several of the defendants on home detention. We’ll know more about his inclinations at a hearing at 3.

GoToInsurrection and Other Astounding Oath Keeper Social Media Habits

DOJ has now charged the following Oath Keeper associates:

Between all the charges, prosecutors have laid out a breathtaking scope of social media use by the militia:

  • A leadership list on Signal they appear to have obtained from either Watkins and/or Kelly Meggs
  • Open channels on Zello, possibly separate ones for each large event
  • Telephony chats and texts, including during January 6
  • MeWe accounts
  • Way too much blabbing on Facebook, followed by a foolish belief they could delete such content
  • Parler for further blabbing
  • Stripe for payment processing (possibly for dues)
  • GoToMeeting for operational planning

Plus, most of the people arrested thus far had their cell phones on, pinging cell towers, while they were in the Capitol (thus far, two of the accused did not enter the Capitol).

It’s the GoToMeeting revelation, in Harrelson’s affidavit, that gets me:

Pursuant to legal process, the government obtained records from Go To Meeting showing that a user named “gator 6” was the organizer for a meeting titled “dc planning call” on January 3, 2021. The user “gator 6” accessed the meeting from a mobile device using the same IP address ending in 158 [as Harrelson used to access Apple servers], and the user listed themselves as living in Titusville, Florida. Between September 30, 2020, and January 3, 2021, the user with the same IP address ending in 158 attended or organized approximately 30 meetings on Go To Meeting affiliated with the Oath Keepers, using the names “gator 6,” “hotel 26,” or kenneth harrelson.”

GoToMeeting is basically spyware for your computer, because it has to access so many features of your computer to work. As a default it collects a great deal of data on participants, and can be set to collect more. It is end-to-end encrypted, but with legal process FBI might be able to get a great deal of information from GTM, if the Oath Keepers kept it.

Between these twelve people, then, DOJ has served legal process on enough databases to create a veritable dossier on the Oath Keepers. While some of these comms (such as the Zello comms) are ephemeral, Facebook and GoToMeeting and Stripe are data vacuums.

With a database like this, the government can be choosy about which Oath Keepers they arrest. Reportedly, DOJ says they may add 6 more people to their collection of Oath Keeper defendants.

Indeed, it’s not really clear why they’ve charged the last three — Minuta, James, and Harrelson — before charging the last several members of the Stack that entered the Capitol together.

Harrelson was not part of the Stack, but the affidavit justifying his arrest shows him — and another guy — in communication as the Stack came up the Capitol steps, with Harrelson interacting with Graydon Young inside the Capitol. But his organizing efforts in Florida would put him in close touch with the Meggses (Kelly leads the Florida chapter) and James (who lives in Alabama but seems to be tied to the Florida chapter), along with Young (who lives in Titusville).

These Florida Oath Keepers were providing “security” for Roger Stone well before the January insurrection, including an event in Florida. (MoJo had a summary of who provided security when yesterday.)

As for Minuta, in addition to serving as Stone’s security on January 5 and 6, he also was abusive to cops before entering the Capitol and on his way out, when he promised the Second Amendment option came next. Like Young, Minuta is also accused of deleting Facebook, probably just as unsuccessfully.

In James’ case, DOJ seems particularly interested in the communications he had with Minuta, called Person Five in the affidavit even though he was already arrested by the time it was approved.

While James stood with the other Oath Keepers, at least one of them (who will be referred to below as “Person Five”)2 aggressively berated and taunted U.S. Capitol police officers responsible for protecting the Capitol and the representatives inside.

[snip]

Records indicate that phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged a number of phone calls throughout November and December 2020 with a person who will be referred to herein as Person Five.

On November 13 and 14, 2020, for example, phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged approximately eight calls with the number associated with Person Five. Your affiant is aware that certain Oath Keepers attended rallies in Washington, D.C., held on November 14, 2020, at which some Oath Keepers, to include Person Five, operated as a personal security detail for one or more speakers at the events.

Later, on or around November 20 and December 11, 2020, records indicate that phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged two phone calls with Person Five. Your affiant is aware that certain Oath Keepers attended rallies in Washington, D.C., held on December 12, 2020, to protest the results of the 2020 election—at which some Oath Keepers, to include Person Five, operated as a personal security detail for speakers at the events.

Finally, records indicate that, on or around January 5, 2021, phone number XXXXXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged six calls with the number associated with Person Five. That day, James, Person Five, and other individuals wearing apparel with the Oath Keepers name and/or insignia provided security to a speaker at the “Stop the Steal” events planned for that day.

Note that Minuta was hanging out with Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola in that December MAGA event.

James’ affidavit ends with this group photo, identifying Connie Meggs, two still uncharged Stack participants, four uncharged people who tracked with James and Minuta during the insurrection, Kelly Meggs, and another Stack member.

Both the Minuta and James affidavits focus on Oath Keeper head Stewart Rhodes, described as Person One, as does this detailed filing opposing bail for Caldwell.

James stayed in touch with others during the time of active investigation:

Since January 6, 2021, phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (known to be associated with James) has exchanged multiple phone calls and text messages with the number associated with Person Five. The number associated with James has also placed at least one call as recently as February 2021, to a phone number known to be associated with Kelly Meggs, the now-arrested self-described Florida Oath Keeper leader.

Thus far, DOJ isn’t explaining why Minuta, James, and Harrelson were arrested in the weeks after FBI started exploiting the Signal chats that organized Oath Keeper efforts on January 6 and, particular, Kelly Meggs’ communications.

But because the Oath Keepers were such promiscuous users of all kinds of social media tools, the FBI has a remarkable collection of data about the group’s activities since last fall. And they’ve picked these guys to arrest.

Update: In his detention hearing today, the FBI focused on James’ providing security for Stone.

The FBI agent who testified at Thursday’s hearing said several firearms were found during a search warrant executed at James’ home. All of the firearms were legal, and none were confiscated. They included a shotgun, a hunting rifle, a few “AR-15 style rifles,” and two pistols, the agent said.

James was paid $1,500 for security at two events, including a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, according from testimony from his wife, Audrey James. Stone and other pro-Trump figures held several events in Washington in addition to the official rally that Trump spoke at shortly before the attack.

Audrey James said she was sent “around $1,500 total” directly from the Oath Keepers over a mobile app. She stated the funds were paid out over a couple of months to assist her and her children during Joshua James’ absence to Texas and Washington, DC, while he was providing security. She said she didn’t know where the money originated from.

This story, by itself, presents real problems with the story Stone told. He raised funds for “security” in advance of the insurrection, but then said he couldn’t find paid security so relied on volunteers.

Josh Hawley Shocked and Alarmed to Discover the FBI Would Follow the Money behind Right Wing Terrorists

There wasn’t much useful oversight in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray today. Democrats got him to repeat, over and over, that there is no evidence that Antifa or people only pretending to be pro-Trump were behind the January 6 insurrection. But there was almost no mention of Trump as the unifying force behind the disparate groups there. Instead of talking about how the Former President’s lies riled up the insurrection, Ben Sasse focused on people in their mother’s basement and grandmother’s attic.

There was a lot of focus on how a January 5 FBI report predicting that Congress might be targeted got disseminated, but none on why the FBI didn’t know what the rest of us did much earlier than that: that these unhinged terrorists were coming to DC in large numbers. No one raised QAnon until Wray dodged Richard Blumenthal’s questions about whether members of Congress pushing QAnon conspiracies exacerbate the problem.

Lindsey Graham and John Kennedy tried to score points because someone didn’t activate the National Guard in time, all the while pretending not to understand that the single person in DC who had unquestioned authority to order the Guard to the Capitol, but did not, was the Commander in Chief at the time.

Things got really weird when Republicans expressed concern about surveillance.

Mike Lee — who actually is a champion of civil liberties — suggested the only reason why right wingers might have been interviewed by the FBI would be by geolocating those who attended the rallies, even if they didn’t enter the Capitol. Then he bizarrely asked if the legal process behind such surveillance was FISA, which targets foreign threats, or National Security Letters.

Crazier still was Josh Hawley’s follow-up to Mike Lee’s questions.

Hawley, who’s not a champion of civil liberties and normally likes to beat up social media companies, asked a series of questions that seemed utterly ignorant — shocked really — how over the course of arresting almost 300 people, the FBI would show probable cause to obtain geolocation data, metadata, financial data, and social media data.

Hawley: Can I just go back to a series of questions that Senator Lee asked you? He asked you about the geolocation and metadata aspect gathering related to, gathering of metadata, that is, related to your investigation of the January 6 riot. You said you weren’t familiar with the specifics. Can I just clarify your responses to him. So when you say you’re not familiar, are you saying you don’t know whether the Bureau has scooped up geolocation data, metadata, records from cell phone towers. Do you not know. Or are you saying that the Bureau maybe has or hasn’t done it. Just tell me what you know about this?

Wray: So when it comes to geolocation data specifically — again, not in a specific instance, but even the use of geolocation data — I would not be surprised to learn but I do not know for a fact that we were using geolocation data under any situation in connection with the investigation of January 6. But again, we do use geolocation data under specific authorities in specific instances. Because this is such a sprawling, that would not surprise me. When it comes to metadata, which is a little bit different, obviously than geolocation data, I feel confident that we are using various legal authorities to look at metadata under a variety of situations. But, again, the specifics of when, under what circumstances, with whom, that kind of thing, I’m not in a position to testify about with the sprawl and size of the investigation. And certainly not uh in a, you know, Congressional hearing.

Hawley: What authorities do you have in mind? You say that you’re using the relevant authorities, what authorities are they?

Wray: Well, we have various forms of legal process we can serve on companies that will allow us to get acc–

Hawley: And that’s been done?

Wray: We’re using a lot of legal process in connection with the investigation, so, yes.

Hawley: But, specifically, serving, serving process on companies, using, invoking your various legal powers to get that data from companies, that’s been, that’s been done, of gathering this data?

Wray: In gathering metadata? I, I,

Hawley: Yeah.

Wray: Again, I don’t know the specifics, but I feel confident that that has happened because metadata is often something that we look at. And we have a variety of legal tools that allow us to do that under certain circumstances.

Hawley: What about the cell tower data that, uh, was reportedly scooped up by the Bureau on the day, during, in fact, while the riot was underway. What’s happened to, what’s happened to that data? Do you still have it. Has it been retained? Uh, do you have plans to retain it?

Wray: Again: whatever we’re doing with cell phone data, I’m confident we’re doing it in conjunction with our appropriate legal tools–

Hawley: Well, how — here’s what I’m trying to get at, I think it’s what Senator Lee was trying to get at. How are we going to know what you are doing with it, and how are we going to evaluate the Bureau’s conduct if we don’t know what authorities you’re invoking, what precisely you’re doing, what you’re retaining. I mean, this is, you said to him repeatedly you weren’t familiar with the specifics, you’ve now said it to me. I don’t know, I’m not sure how this committee is supposed to evaluate anything that the Bureau is doing — you’re basically saying just “trust us.” I mean, how are we gonna know? Do we have to wait until the end of your investigation to find out what you’ve done?

Wray: Well, certainly I have to be careful about discussing an ongoing investigation, which I’m sure you can appreciate. Uh, but, uh, all the tools that we have done in conjunction with prosecutors and lawyers from the Justice Department. Now, if there’s information we can provide you, before an investigation’s completed that goes through what some of the authorities we have, the tools we have, etcetera we could probably provide some information like that that might be useful to you to help answer the question.

Hawley: That would be helpful. Thank you. I’ll hold you to that. Let me ask you about some other things that have been reported, um in the press, particularly there have been a series of reports that the Bureau has worked with banks in the course of the investigation into the January 6 riot, both before and after, and that some banks, particularly Bank of America, may have handed over data for 200 plus clients who may have used their credit or debit cards to make purchases in the DC area. What do you know about this? Has Bank of America voluntarily turned over information to the Bureau about its customers?

Wray: I don’t know of any of the specifics so I’d have to look into that.

Hawley: And so has the FBI requested similar information from any other companies to your knowledge?

Wray: Again, sitting here right now, I do not know the answer to that question. I do know that we work with private sector partners, including financial institutions in a variety of ways, all the time, in a variety of investigations. But exactly the specifics of what may or may not have happened here? That I don’t know sitting here as we’re talking today.

Hawley: As I’m sure you can appreciate, my concern here is that 12 USC 3403 prohibits financial institutions from turning over confidential client records, unless of course they’ve got reasonable suspicion that there’s a crime being committed. Now the news reports on this have reported that financial institutions were doing this in cooperation with the Bureau without any such indication of a crime, they’re just turning over reams of consumer data. That obviously would be a major legal problem. A major legal concern. Can you try and get me some answers to these questions? I appreciate you say you don’t know today, you’re not aware of what’s going on, but can you look into this and follow-up with me on this?

[Wray acknowledges that the FBI has many authorities]

Hawley: What about the, some of the technology companies, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, Amazon. Has the the FBI had contact with those tech platforms following the events of the Sixth?

Wray: We’ve certainly had contact with a number of the social media companies in connection with the Sixth. So that much I know.

Hawley: Has the Bureau sought to compel any of those companies to turn over user data related to the Sixth?

Wray: Well, again, I can’t tell you the specifics here, but what I will tell you is that we, I feel certain that we have served legal process on those companies which we do with some frequency and we have received information from some of those companies. And whether that’s true from every single one of the companies you listed I can’t say for sure but I suspect it is, because we work with the Social Media companies quite a lot.

Hawley: Are you aware of any of the companies voluntarily turning over data to the Bureau in relationship to the events of the Sixth?

Wray: Sitting here right now, I can’t say for sure.

I knew when I read The Intercept piece making thinly sourced allegations that this would happen, that right wingers trying to protect right wing terrorists and possibly even themselves would profess shock that the FBI used very basic investigative techniques to investigate an attack on the Capitol (Hawley seems to be relying, as well, on Fox News reports, including Tucker Carlson).

But I find it shocking that the former Attorney General of Missouri, with an office full of staffers, can’t review the arrest documents for the 270 people publicly arrested so far to answer these questions. Had he done so, he would have seen that affidavit after affidavit talks about obtaining warrants, including (for non-public data) from Facebook. And the single reference to Bank of America I can think of — describing Kelly Meggs paying for rooms in VA and DC in conjunction with the attack — makes it clear that the FBI used some kind of legal process.

Records obtained from the Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, show that a credit card belonging to Kelly Meggs was used to pay for a room at the hotel on the nights of January 5 and 6, 2021.21 The room, with two queen beds, was booked in the name of a different person suspected of being affiliated with the Oath Keepers.

21 Pursuant to legal process, the government obtained records from Bank of America, which show two charges to the Comfort Inn on January 5, 2021, each for $224. The records also show that on January 7, 2021, Kelly Meggs paid a charge of $302 to the Hilton Garden Inn, located at 1225 First Street NE, Washington, D.C.

A grand jury has already found that these credit card charges — the coordinated spending of people who forced their way into the Capitol wearing tactical gear after providing “security” for right wing figureheads — was evidence of a conspiracy, “to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.”

And the Senator from Missouri who shared that goal seems awfully concerned that the FBI is using very routine legal process to investigate the larger conspiracy.

Oath Keepers Learn the Hard Way: Don’t Plan an Insurrection on Facebook

“For every Oath Keeper you see, there are at least two you don’t see.” – email from Oath Keeper head Stewart Rhodes forwarded from Oath Keeper Graydon Young to his sister, Laura Steele, on January 4, 2021

I want to look at filings from the Oath Keepers investigation to show how FBI is juggling to move quickly enough to prevent obvious subjects from obstructing the investigation without tipping off others to the substance of the investigation. The filings confirm that the FBI will get sealed arrest warrants against subjects who are obviously obstructing the investigation, but may not use them right away, so as to obtain more evidence against them and their immediate co-conspirators. The filings also show how hard it is to delete evidence in an age of social media while conspiring with dozens of other co-conspirators.

The investigation from Watkins to Caldwell to the Parkers, Youngs, and Biggs

There’s a story about the Oath Keepers investigation that arises from the nature of the first publicly charged defendants. According to that story, the founder of an Ohio militia affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Jessica Watkins, boasted on Parler about “forcing entry into the Capitol” on the day of the attack. Videos of the Oath Keeper Stack showed up in videos posted within a day of the attack. Then, on January 13, the Ohio Capital Journal posted an interview with Watkins where she described it “the most beautiful thing” until she started hearing glass smashing — which she blamed on an Antifa false flag attack (a subsequent filing suggests Watkins wanted the Oath Keepers to get good press from the attack, threatening to sue some male journalist if he portrayed the Oath Keepers negatively).

That’s the evidence the FBI showed to obtain an arrest warrant on Watkins on January 16.

Meanwhile, as the investigation was closing in on Watkins, her recruit Donovan Crowl did an interview with the New Yorker for a story loaded with more images of coordinated movement from the Oath Keepers. Crowl offered similarly contradictory excuses for his action as Watkins.

On January 17, the FBI tried to conduct an interview with Watkins, only to be told by her partner, Montana Siniff, that she left Ohio on January 14 to stay with her friend and fellow Oath Keeper, “Commander Tom.”

At some point, the FBI obtained information from Facebook — they don’t explain when or on whom it was served, which I’ll return to. The return showed that Caldwell coordinated hotel reservations at the Comfort Inn/Ballston, not just with Watkins, but also others from North Carolina, as well as speaking with Crowl. This content may not have been obtained via Caldwell yet, because Caldwell’s private messages don’t show up in filings until January 19 (alternately they may have delayed that reveal until Caldwell was arrested).

But the FBI used that public Facebook information to obtain a warrant for Crowl on January 17. Watkins and Crowl turned themselves into Urbana, OH police that day, where the FBI took them into custody.

On January 13, the Guardian did a story on Watkins’ use of Zello.

“We are in the main dome right now,” said a female militia member, speaking on Zello, her voice competing with the cacophony of a clash with Capitol police. “We are rocking it. They’re throwing grenades, they’re frickin’ shooting people with paintballs, but we’re in here.”

“God bless and godspeed. Keep going,” said a male voice from a quiet environment.

“Jess, do your shit,” said another. “This is what we fucking lived up for. Everything we fucking trained for.”

The frenzied exchange took place at 2.44pm in a public Zello channel called “STOP THE STEAL J6”, where Trump supporters at home and in Washington DC discussed the riot as it unfolded. Dynamic group conversations like this exemplify why Zello, a smartphone and PC app, has become popular among militias, which have long fetishized military-like communication on analog radio.

On January 19, the government obtained an amended conspiracy complaint against Watkins, Crowl, and Caldwell. It included the following new information:

  • Quotations from the Zello messaging
  • Facebook messaging from Caldwell pictured standing outside the riot calling everyone in Congress a traitor
  • Facebook messages showing planning between Watkins, Crowl, and Caldwell between December 24 and January 8
  • Instructions for making plastic explosives found at Watkins’ house

Of particular interest, the complaint included the first hint that the Oath Keepers had intelligence — shared using Facebook — about the movements of Members of Congress.

On January 6, 2021, while at the Capitol, CALDWELL received the following Facebook message: “All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in . Turn on gas”. When CALDWELL posted a Facebook message that read, “Inside,” he received the following messages, among others: “Tom take that bitch over”; “Tom all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3floors down”; “Do like we had to do when I was in the core start tearing oit florrs go from top to bottom”; and “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps.”

Having arrested the two Oath Keepers blabbing to the press and the guy they hid out with, there’s not much more overt sign of the investigation until February 11, when the government submitted filings supporting pre-trial detention for both Watkins and Caldwell.

Arrest affidavits submitted on February 11 and February 12 (but sealed until after February 16) also refer to Watkins’ cell phone returns, including address book information describing Bennie Parker as a recruit, texts between Watkins and Parker coordinating plans for the insurrection and reassuring him the FBI would not prosecute them after the insurrection, and a picture of his wife Sandi Parker. Watkins’ cell phone returns also show a contact for Kelly Meggs in Florida, which she associated in her address book with the Oath Keepers.

Those initially sealed arrest affidavits also rely on surveillance footage and financial records from the Comfort Inn where all the Ohioans  stayed. It shows the Ohioans together in the lobby. It reveals that Kelly Meggs paid for a room that night registered under another suspected Oath Keeper’s name (according to credit card records showing a $302 charge, Meggs apparently stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn the night of January 7). [Update: The indictment clarifies that Meggs paid for two rooms at the Comfort Inn and booked two at the Hilton, of which he paid for one. h/t bb]

The initial affidavit against Kelly and Connie Meggs and Graydon Young and Laura Steele also includes a picture taken — by some unidentified person — from the van from North Carolina.

The same affidavit includes testimony from a witness who interacted with the Oath Keepers on January 6 and was on a text message chain including Young and Steele, who was introduced to them as Gray and Laura and learned they had taken the Metro into DC. It relies on surveillance video from the Metro. It includes returns from Steele and Young’s Google accounts, including Steele’s application to join the Oath Keepers.

It includes location data showing Graydon Young’s phone traveling from Englewood, FL to Thomasville, NC to Springfield, VA, to DC, then back to Thomasville and ultimately, on January 8, back to Englewood. It includes his round trip flight records from Tampa to Greensboro, consistent with the movement of his phone. The affidavit also uses location data to place Steele and the Meggses in a “geographic area that includes the interior of the United States Capitol building.”

It includes subscriber records for Steele, Young, and Kelly Megg’s MeWe accounts, as well as subscriber records for Facebook accounts for everyone. Of particular note, the affidavit used to arrest Young and the others shows advanced legal process for Young, but mostly subscriber information for the others. They also use Young’s Google data to establish probable cause against the Meggs but do not, yet, use it against Young.

It’s likely in the five days between the affidavit and the arrest, more warrants were served for materials on the others.

There wasn’t much added in a February 25 memo supporting Watkins’ pretrial detention — except that aforementioned Watkins text with Stewart Rhodes complaining about media reports making the Oath Keepers look bad (which, because of the timing of the coverage, likely happened almost a week after the insurrection, or later).

If he has anything negative to say about us OATHKEEPERS, I’ll let you know so we can sue harder. Class action style. Oathkeepers are the shit. They rescued cops, WE saved lives and did all the right things. At the end of the day, this guy better not try us. A lawsuit could even put cash in OK coffers. He doesn’t know who he is playing with. I won’t tolerate a defamation of character, mine or the Patriots we served with in DC. Hooah?!

But in a hearing held February 26, prosecutors told Judge Amit Mehta something in an ex parte hearing to support their argument that there really was a Quick Reaction Force outside of DC on the day of the insurrection ready to bring weapons into the Oath Keepers already in DC, which is one of the reasons he denied Watkins’ motion for release.

The earlier investigation into Graydon Young

It took a while for DOJ to unseal all the filings from the other co-conspirators, particularly the long affidavit for the four southerners. But a docket unsealed last week tells another side of that story. On January 15, a tipster identified Graydon Young, one of the Floridians added to the Caldwell and Watkins conspiracy. Based off that tip, the FBI prepared and got authorization for an arrest warrant by January 18. But they didn’t use it, perhaps because FBI was chasing down two false positives based off pictures of Young, as described in the later affidavit (the first of which may have been based off facial recognition).

First, on or around January 14, 2021, after receiving an internet tip and viewing similar photographs and video of Young from the civil unrest on January 6, 2021, an FBI agent drafted an arrest warrant for an individual (Subject-1) other than Young, based on a review of Subject-1’s driver’s license photo and the fact that Subject-1 was affiliated with the Oath Keepers. An FBI agent in Kansas City, Missouri, who was familiar with Subject-1, then determined that Subject-1 was not the individual depicted in the photos at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The government did not pursue charges against Subject-1. Second, on or around January 15, 2021, a concerned citizen provided the FBI with a tip that the photograph of Young in the Rotunda was a photograph of Subject-2, who was a co-worker of the concerned citizen in Illinois. On January 18, 2021, SA Wren spoke with the concerned citizen, who stated that Subject-2 had quit the job and moved to Colorado, and “seemed like the type” who would have gone to the Capitol. SA Wren reviewed Subject-2’s driver’s license photo and determined that Subject-2 is not the person depicted in the photographs of Young at the U.S. Capitol.

In other words, FBI was prepared to arrest Young by January 18, within a day of the initial Watkins arrest. But they did not. They kept that arrest warrant sealed while they obtained his location records, travel records (including evidence he drove home from North Carolina rather than flying, and had his sister’s car towed back to North Carolina afterwards), and subscriber information for other social media.

At some point (as noted), FBI obtained Young’s Google account. But on February 11, they used that “solely as evidence against Kelly Meggs. At this time, the government is not seeking to use this email against Young,” suggesting they still needed legal process to use it against him.

Don’t launch an insurrection with a still-active Facebook account

Given that the FBI was ready to arrest Graydon Young on January 18, it’s worth looking more closely at the Facebook evidence in this conspiracy.

The FBI learned on January 15 that Young was probably at the insurrection, had been tagged in planning for the event on January 4, and had attempted to delete his Facebook account on January 7 (it went into effect the next day). Young didn’t delete his related Instagram account until January 13.

At some point, the FBI also learned that Caldwell attempted to unsend messages on January 8, the same day Young shut down his Facebook account.

Nevertheless, Facebook still had Young’s data, including a post from January 6 boasting, “We stormed and got inside.”

The government also obtained highly damning Facebook content from much earlier, including a message he posted to a group, the “War of Northern Aggression,” on November 7. In it, he clearly acknowledges Joe Biden’s victory.

Will this group consider migration to MeWe and Parler? I think censorship is going to get worse with Biden win.

On November 9, he asked again to move from Facebook to MeWe and Parler.

On November 30, he pushed MeWe and Parler again.

I already have MeWe and Parler … waiting for this drama to end before I delete my FB account.

Hey Graydon?!?! The drama for you is just beginning.

Meanwhile, Caldwell didn’t succeed in deleting all his evidence either. As early as January 17, in Crowl’s affidavit, they had a message (it’s unclear whether it’s public or private)

Here is the direct number for Comfort Inn Ballston/Arlington 1-571-397-3955 I strongly recommend you guys get one or two rooms for a night or two. Arrive 5th, depart 7th will work. She says there are five of you including a husband and wife new recruits. This time of year especially you will need to be indoors to set up, etc. Really, press this home, just get somebody to put it on a credit card. Even if you tell the hotel its double occupancy, you can STILL get a couple of people on the floor with bedrolls and the hotel won’t know shit. Paul said he might be able to take one or two in his room as well. I spoke to the hotel last night (actually 2 a.m. this morning) and they still had rooms. This is a good location and would allow us to hunt at night if we wanted to. I don’t know if Stewie has even gotten out his call to arms but it’s a little friggin late. This is one we are doing on our own. We will link up with the north carolina [sic] crew.

The later affidavits include Caldwell Facebook messages sent in November predicting violence.

I am very worried about the future of our country. Once lawyers get involved all of us normal people get screwed. I believe we will have to get violent to stop this, especially the antifa maggots who are sure to come out en masse even if we get the Prez for 4 more years.

On January 6, Caldwell continued to use Facebook, receiving a message informing him,

All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas.

And,

Tom all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3floors down

Between Young and Caldwell, Facebook evidence shows that this operation clearly targeted legislators even after they knew Joe Biden had been elected. It turns out that neither of them successfully deleted this Facebook content before the drama really got started.

The delayed reveal

As noted, it took some time for the affidavit for the southern Oath Keepers to be unsealed. In the interim period, the FBI would have been able to investigate the Oath Keeper whose name was on the hotel room Young paid for, and all the other people on the bus on which Young and his sister were pictured. The FBI surely has reviewed any role the War of Norther Aggression Facebook group had in the insurrection. The accounts for which the FBI just had subscriber information on February 11 are probably now being fully exploited (including the WeMe accounts on which they may have been more open about their plotting).

There are still members of The Stack at large, the others on the bus, the group from Mississippi those who provided “security” for Trump’s closest associates. We don’t know where the next Oath Keepers to be arrested are. We do know where the FBI was, 17 days ago.

Timeline of Oath Keeper conspiracy

January 4: Young travels from Englewood, FL to Thomasville, NC. Young tagged in planning messaging for the attack.

January 5: Young travels from Thomasville to Springfield, VA, then heads to DC for the evening.

January 6: Young travels into DC, then back to Thomasville that night. Watkins posts to Parler and Caldwell posts to Facebook. Young posts, “we stormed and got inside” on Facebook.

January 7: Young deleted Facebook content going back to March 2019 (per Facebook record it goes into effect on January 8).

January 8: Caldwell unsends Facebook messages continuing evidence. Young returns to Englewood. Young writes an email saying that his “team leader” during the insurrection was “OK Gator 1” with Kelly Meggs’ phone number.

January 9: Watkins texts Bennie Parker telling him not to worry about the FBI investigating them.

January 11: Young has a vehicle registered to Steele’s address towed from a location near his home to Steele’s home in NC. Young deletes his Instagram account.

January 13: Watkins interview in Ohio Capital Journal. Guardian story on Watkins’ use of Zello. Young closes Instagram account.

January 14: Donovan Crowl story in New Yorker. Watkins and Crowl travel to Caldwell’s property in VA; he gives them OpSec tips for the drive. Bennie Parker texts Watkins asking if she put Sandi “out there” in the Capitol. FBI chases a false positive for Young on an Oath Keeper who lives in Kansas City, MO.

January 15: A tipster who has known Young for 35 years identified Young in an image published by NBC, informs the FBI that on January 4, other people had tagged Young in a discussion about traveling to DC. The tipster further revealed that on January 7, Young deleted his Facebook content going back to March 2019, then deleted the whole thing. FBI chases a false positive for Young to someone in CO.

January 16: Arrest warrant for Watkins.

January 17: Search of Watkins’ house discovers gear and other military items. Interview of her partner reveals she has left to stay with a friend, Commander Tom, and provides a phone registered to him at his VA property as the way to reach Watkins. Arrest warrant for Crowl. Search of a location where Crowl stays finds his tactical vest. Arrest warrant for Caldwell. Both Watkins and Crowl turn themselves in to the Urbana Police, where the FBI takes them into custody.

January 18: First arrest warrant for Graydon Young.

January 19: Caldwell, Crowl arrested by FBI, and Watkins arrested. Amended criminal complaint makes conspiracy charges against Watkins, Crowl, and Caldwell more formal. Search of Caldwell’s property finds Death List targeting election official from a different, a Gadsden flag signed by Crowl and Watkins, and a sales invoice for a weapon designed to look like a phone.

Janaury 21: Stewart Rhodes declares Biden’s “not a constitutional government.” Kelly Meggs closes his Facebook account.

January 27: Indictment for Watkins, Crowl, and Caldwell.

January 29: NYT does video analysis showing the movements of the Oath Keepers from the Ellipse to the Capitol.

February 11: Counterterrorism prosecutors Justin Sher and Alexandra Hughes join team. Motions for pre-trial detention for both Watkins and Caldwell. Sealed complaint filed against Kelly and Connie Meggs, Graydon Young, and Laura Steele.

February 12: Government moves for protective order against the original conspirators; Caldwell objects. Sealed complaint filed against Bennie and Sandi Parker.

February 16: Graydon Young arrested.

February 17: The Meggs and Laura Steele arrested.

February 18: The Parkers arrested.

February 23: Thomas Caldwell appeals detention.

February 26: Amit Mehta grants government motion to detain Jessica Watkins.

Update: I clarified that the email quoted at the top is from Stewart Rhodes, not Graydon Young.