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The Disappearing Willard Hotel and the Accused Seditionists’ Other Interlocutors

Just as sedition bears down on Roger Stone, the government has put a curtain over what they know about his role in it. The government has moved on from Stone, it seems, to other interesting Oath Keeper interlocutors.

Way back in May, I noted how judicious DOJ was being with statements from Stewart Rhodes — referred to officially as Person One back in his halcyon pre-sedition charge days — in the charging documents for Oath Keepers. Within a few days that month, DOJ added to its insurrection narrative a December 14, 2020 Rhodes post calling for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act via James Breheny’s charging documents. The iteration of the Oath Keeper conspiracy released at the same time (the fourth) introduced Rhodes’ November 9 GoToMeeting discussion of the Insurrection Act that continues to appear in the indictments.

For eight months, in other words, DOJ has been engaged in a slow-reveal of its case against Rhodes.

Now, in the sedition indictment bearing Rhodes’ name, we get a whole lot more of what Rhodes was saying:

  • Calls for civil war as soon as a it became clear Biden should win
  • Rhodes’ adoption of a Serbian (!!!) model for his civil war
  • An oblique comment — dated to “around this time” of the Inauguration — about Rhodes messaging others to organize local militias to oppose Biden’s Administration

Most of the new comments aren’t as scintillating as the catalog describing the personal arsenal Rhodes was purchasing, though, and a few of the new Rhodes comments included were public before.

There are three comments about Rhodes’ communications, though, that I find intriguing because they seem to hint at other interlocutors with the accused seditionists that we may not know about yet.

The first doesn’t even involve Rhodes directly. Rather, it relays Roberto Minuta describing to someone else that 1) Minuta had spoken directly with Rhodes the night of December 18 and 2) Minuta was sharing with someone apparently outside the Oath Keepers how Rhodes felt.

28. Also on December 19, 2020, MINUTA messaged another individual, “Oath Keepers president is pretty disheartened. He feels like it’s go time, the time for peaceful protest is over in his eyes. I was talking to him last night.”

This wasn’t in the prior indictment and I don’t recall it appearing in any other filings in the case (Minuta was not detained, so there’s less about him in the public record). Unless this was originally on the Facebook account Minuta allegedly deleted, there doesn’t seem to be any reason DOJ wouldn’t have obtained this message when they exploited Minuta’s phone. If they’ve had it for months, then the simplest explanation for its inclusion is that this indictment is all about Rhodes, and the comment captures Rhodes’ commitment to violence. In addition, this comment exhibits a closeness between Minuta and Rhodes (which we’ve seen in earlier charging documents) that may be useful from an evidentiary standpoint.

But I suspect it serves an additional purpose. Minuta wrote it not long after the December MAGA March in DC. While there, he had been hanging out with Proud Boys, including Dominic Pezzola (who like Minuta is from upstate New York). It comes after Mike Flynn’s call for insurrection. After Trump tweeted out a promise for Wild Protests on December 19, a ton of aspiring insurrectionists, both organized and not, started making plans to come to DC. In short, this was a key time in the lead-up to the operation, and Minuta was surprisingly well-connected (for a tattoo artist!!!) within the movement. So I suspect his interlocutor here is of some interest (and it’s even possible the government obtained the text from that interlocutor, not Minuta).

An exchange that Kelly Meggs had with Rhodes on Christmas 2020 is similar.

34. On December 25, 2020, MEGGS messaged the OKFL Hangout Chat, in reference to the Joint Session, “We need to make those senators very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away.” RHODES then wrote, “I think Congress will screw him [President Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time is they don’t do the right thing. But I don’t think they will listen.”

As we recently saw in Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, using proximity to pressure members of Congress (and Pence), became well formulated enough that even a low-level Proud Boy would understand it by the day of the insurrection. Here, both Meggs (who is the Florida-based Oath Keeper who boasted of forging an alliance with the Proud Boys) and Rhodes enunciate this goal, but do so twelve days before the actual attack. As with the Minuta comment, my guess is that the his exchange reflects communication with (at a minimum) the Proud Boys about this shared goal of — in Rhodes’ formulation — terrorizing Congress. It certainly makes it clear that the intent of mobbing the Capitol was formulated well in advance of the event.

There’s one more example. For some reason, DOJ provides the exact time (without time zone) that Rhodes wrote, “There is no standard political or legal way out of this” on December 31, 2020.

40. RHODES and his co-conspirators used the Leadership Intel Chat and other Signal group chats to plan for January 6, 2021. On December 31, 2020, at approximately 10:08 p.m., RHODES wrote to the Leadership Intel Chat, “There is no standard political or legal way out of this.”

For the purposes of the indictment, this shows mens rea that the Yale Law grad leading this insurrection recognized what they were going to do next was not legal. But it also seems to reflect a response (thus the timing) to something — one I haven’t been able to guess yet. The comment comes before Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert’s lawsuit against Mike Pence, the last of a long series of ridiculous “legal” efforts, failed spectacularly. But it comes at around the same time that even Sean Hannity was beginning to give up.

For example, on December 31, 2020, you texted Mr. Meadows the following:

“We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. [sic] He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”

I’m not saying that Rhodes was in contact with Hannity: But something seems to have happened just before 10:08 PM (in whatever time zone) that elicited this response which is not dissimilar from where Hannity’s brain was at the time. And if it was non-public (as Hannity’s panic was), then it suggests Rhodes may have been responding to a well-connected interlocutor.

So it’s not so much that the sedition indictment quotes Rhodes as saying really interesting things. Rather, it seems to suggest he and others were saying things to some interesting interlocutors.

Even as the government is hinting at other interesting interlocutors of the accused seditionists, as I noted above, DOJ has entirely hidden the prior back-and-forth between the Oath Keepers and the Willard Hotel. This back-and-forth involving people who were guarding Roger Stone at the Willard that morning first started to show in the Third Superseding Indictment. Once Jonathan Walden — the guy now charged by himself — got added, the indictments included this exchange:

At 9:36 a.m., WALDEN texted JAMES, “Willard hotel?” At 9:51 a.m., WALDEN placed a phone call to JAMES, which is recorded as missed. At 9:52 a.m., WALDEN texted JAMES, “I’m here, awaiting instruction.” At 10:37 a.m., JAMES placed a phone call to WALDEN, which lasted 2 seconds.

Then last month, Kenneth Harrelson released Mike Simmons’ [Person Ten] 302s (purportedly in a desperate bid to adopt his lies, but possibly also to let others know what FBI had been investigation in May).

They revealed that Joshua James, who was in charge of the security detail at the Willard, called in several times to Simmons and seems to have cited Stone’s gripe about being treated poorly to Simmons.

This is what I was referring to in this post about the effect of disappearing Mark Grods, the one overt cooperator who was at the Willard that morning, from all last week’s indictments. Several decisions made in the structure of these most recent indictments — spinning Walden off by himself, disappearing Grods, focusing on the activities of two stacks in the sedition indictment (and thereby starting the narrative at a later point in time), remaining coy about the present status of Simmons, and eliminating James and Minuta in the Crowl indictment — had the effect of eliminating the coordination with the Willard from the sedition indictment altogether.

Poof! Where’s Roger?

Trust me. I don’t think DOJ has decided that the Oath Keepers’ presence at the Willard was unimportant. On the contrary. I think they’ve just decided to move onto making other people sweat about their communications with now-charged seditionists appearing in the indictment, while hiding how much more they’ve learned about the Willard in recent weeks.

The First Seditious Conspiracy Charges Drop

The government arrested Stewart Rhodes today and charged him with other Oath Keepers in a seditious conspiracy indictment. Effectively, this charges everyone who conspired — including by participating in the planning — to bring weapons to Virginia on January 6 (and spins the other Oath Keepers off onto their own indictment). The charges effectively incorporate the material from this post on the Quick Reaction Force and this post on discussion of an insurrection after January 6, with additional details on Rhodes and Edward Vallejo, the guy who organized the QRF.

The charges are, at once, no big deal, because they’re really just the same conspiracy charged in a different way with two conspiracies added. They’re a huge deal, because now Republicans will be hard pressed to continue to downplay January 6. And they’re a solution to some problems and a tool to move on.

First consider the problems DOJ was trying to solve:

  • How to split up an unwieldy 17-person conspiracy into two trials?
  • How to charge Stewart Rhodes (and Vallejo) for roles central to the conspiracy when they didn’t do anything like trespassing to make that easy?
  • How to backstop the sedition charges so white terrorists won’t go free?
  • How to add leverage to flip key witnesses to move beyond just the Oath Keepers?

Now consider how this works as a tool. For some reason, the government has moved Jonathan Walden to his own charges separately. And Mike Simmons, who in all earlier indictments was called “Person Ten,” here is just described as “operational leader,” which suggests he’s no longer treated as a co-conspirator, either.

Though Kenneth Harrelson released some of the key communications from the Willard Hotel from earlier in the day, those still don’t show up in this indictment. So the government is remaining coy about what it knows about coordination with people at the Willard Hotel. That’s probably because it still needs others to flip — Joshua James would be ideal, but Roberto Minuta might be useful as well — to confirm whatever Mark Grods and Mike Simmons (if he is cooperating) were able to offer about it.

But they are making it clear that they know more about some communications they’ve been talking about for some time. Here’s my favorite.

I noted in April that this was probably a conference call. They seem to suggest they may know the content of it.

In addition, this indictment confirms that Kelly Meggs hunted Nancy Pelosi down (and that the rest of the stack went towards the Senate, as if hunting for Pence).

As mentioned, they’ve added a bunch of charges:

  • Added Seditious Conspiracy tied to Rhodes’ repeated efforts to arm and train for war
  • Swapped the 18 USC 371 conspiracy charge for a 18 USC 1512k conspiracy; as I’ve noted, that provides additional enhancements for threats of assassination and kidnapping, as this indictment inches closer to alleging
  • Added a conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duty (18 USC 372)

What this does is raise the sentencing exposure for the co-conspirators from around 20 years to, with terrorism enhancements for the broken door, maybe 80. It backstops the sedition charges (with the original obstruction charge, but also with the 372 charge) so white terrorists won’t be able to beat the charges. It charges all the other efforts to obstruct this investigation.

But it’s the latter new charge I’m most interested in, even more than sedition:

If two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties, each of such persons shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six years, or both.

This is what Eric Swalwell has argued some of these same people did. But it is, more clearly, what Donald Trump did to Mike Pence.

This indictment will, presumably, impress all those who’ve been wailing the existing 20 year charges the Oath Keepers were facing were not adequate. But it may also clear a path to move up the chain.

Update: Correcting that Walden must be cooperating. I think that’s a misreading.

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.

Joshua James’ Frequent January 6 Updates on His Jilted VIPer

The other day, Kenneth Harrelson invented a premise to publish the 302s from Mike “Person 10” Simmons, the Oath Keepers’ still-uncharged field commander for January 6.

In a response (technically a surreply), AUSA Kathryn Rakoczy made it clear the government believes Simmons was being dishonest. She provides several data points to demonstrate that, contrary to what he told the FBI, Simmons was well aware about the breach of the Capitol … which raises questions why he hasn’t been charged, yet.

Person Ten, as an uncharged individual who was aware that others have already been charged, had a motive to downplay or disregard both his own involvement and any preplanning efforts. And documentary evidence contradicts Person Ten’s blanket denials. For instance, on October 8, 2021, the government disclosed a Signal chat thread named “Jan 5/6 DC Op Intel team,” which included Person One, Person Ten, codefendant Joshua James, and about seven other individuals. On the Signal thread, shortly before 2:00 p.m. on January 6, a participant posted a video titled “live stream of patriots storming capital.” Another participant asked, “Are they actually Patriots – not those who were going to go in disguise as Patriots and cause trouble[?]” Person Ten authoritatively answered, “[T]here [sic] patriots.” Person One added, “Actual Patriots. Pissed off patriots[.] Like the Sons of Liberty were pissed off patriots[.]” Codefendant Joshua James followed with, “Were coming to Capitol ETA 30 MIN[.]”

The Sixth Superseding indictment alleges that at 2:14 p.m. on January 6, Person Ten informed the “DC OP: Jan 6 21” Signal chat that “The[y] have taken ground at the capital,” and, “We need to regroup any members who are not on mission[.]” ECF 513 ¶ 125. At 3:05 p.m.— twenty minutes after Defendant Harrelson and other codefendants breached the Capitol, and ten minutes before Defendant James and his second wave of coconspirators breached the same doors—Person Ten also messaged another individual, “Were [sic] storming the capital.”

Particularly given the confirmation that the government believes he was lying, I’d like to point to some redacted references to a VIP that Joshua James was guarding who was bitching that he wasn’t getting VIP treatment.

This is likely Roger Stone. That’s true because — as Dan Friedman reported — James was “guarding” Stone that day (and Simmons guarded Stone the previous day), the name seems to fit, and Stone has publicly complained about his treatment that day.

While exchanging calls with Simmons, James traveled from the Willard Hotel, in downtown Washington—where he had been leading a security detail guarding Stone—to the Capitol.

What appears to be the first reference to this person also seems to fit the name, which would be the full name, Roger Stone, on first reference. Roberto Minuta, Jonathan Walden, and the now-cooperating Mark Grods were also guarding Stone.

Which brings us to the middle reference. Simmons claims that James called him every time his VIP moved.

Only, if that VIP was Roger Stone, he didn’t move. By his own account he stayed at the Willard before taking his bruised ego and leaving town.

If that’s right, it means Simmons was trying to explain multiple calls with James, and to do so, he offered the bullshit excuse that Stone, who by his own account never left the Willard, kept moving.

These calls are earlier than the ones that the indictments disclose. They would effectively serve to warn Roger Stone of this investigative interest.

But they also suggest that the Oath Keepers were keeping their operational lead closely informed of what some VIP — likely Roger Stone — was up to at the Willard that day.

Update: Way back in April — April!! — I argued that Person Ten — Simmons — played the role of a communication pivot that day, including at one point seemingly being on a 3-way call with Rhodes and Kelly Meggs.

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 calls that Harrelson — as a Floridian, someone with ties to Stone — revealed predated all these, to a period when Stone was at the Willard and everyone else was at the Ellipse.

How the FBI Missed Alleged January 6 Leader Joe Biggs

Let’s talk about how central Joe Biggs is to what we know of the implementation of January 6.

It explains a lot that — at least according to a claim Biggs himself made — two FBI agents were relying on him for information against Antifa in the lead-up to the terrorist attack.

By late 2018, Biggs also started to get “cautionary” phone calls from FBI agents located in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach inquiring about what Biggs meant by something politically or culturally provocative he had said on the air or on social media concerning a national issue, political parties, the Proud Boys, Antifa or other groups. Biggs regularly satisfied FBI personnel with his answers. He also stayed in touch with a number of FBI agents in and out of Florida. In late July 2020, an FBI Special Agent out of the Daytona Beach area telephoned Biggs and asked Biggs to meet with him and another FBI agent at a local restaurant. Biggs agreed. Biggs learned after he travelled to the restaurant that the purpose of the meeting was to determine if Biggs could share information about Antifa networks operating in Florida and elsewhere. They wanted to know what Biggs was “seeing on the ground.” Biggs did have information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks in other parts of the United States. He agreed to share the information. The three met for approximately two hours. After the meeting, Biggs stayed in touch with the agent who had called him originally to set up the meeting. He answered follow-up questions in a series of several phone calls over the next few weeks. They spoke often.

I don’t mean they were complicit. Rather, that they weren’t even aware that he was in the middle of plans to conduct a terrorist attack on the nation’s Capitol is a testament to and perhaps an explanation for how the FBI missed all this.

Joe Biggs is a former Army Staff Sergeant who did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before he left with a medical discharge and PTSD. After some troubled years, he started contributing to InfoWars, serving as a key proponent of the PizzaGate scandal that turned John Podesta emails stolen by Russia into an attack on a pizza restaurant in DC; he was formally ousted from InfoWars shortly after the Comet Ping Pong attack, but remained in the InfoWars orbit. Alex Jones claims he gave Biggs a big severance when he left. After that, Biggs was a key proponent of the Seth Rich conspiracy, posting the manufactured FBI Report that served as a basis for the Fox News story that had to be retracted.

According to one of Biggs’ own court filings, after he moved to Florida to take care of his mother in 2018, he contributed the same propaganda skills that fostered an attack on Comet Ping Pong and falsely impugned a murdered DNC staffer to the Proud Boys, ginning up events to sow violence in the name of Antifa.

The same year, 2018, after the move to Florida, Biggs became active as an organizer, event planner and thought leader in the Proud Boys. He used his platform as a radio and social media personality to promote Proud Boy events and ideas. In particular, he personally planned two major events: rallies in Portland, Oregon in both 2019 and 2020 designed as counterdemonstrations against Antifa, which had been active in and around Portland for over two decades.

His presence in Florida put him in close proximity to Enrique Tarrio and (as if his ties to InfoWars didn’t already do so) through him Roger Stone.

When Trump called out the Proud Boys in his first debate against Joe Biden, Biggs responded, “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA . . . well sir! we’re ready!!” (Note, this hasn’t shown up in DOJ filings.)

Immediately after and in the weeks after the election, Biggs kept declaring war. “It’s time for fucking War if they steal this shit.” “No bitch. This is war.” ““This is a war on Americanism. This is only the beginning.”

On December 11, the Proud Boys (at least Enrique Tarrio and Ethan Nordean) appeared prominently at a Stop the Steal event with InfoWars personality Owen Shroyer. There was coordination between the militias at a march the following day, after which Enrique Tarrio destroyed a Black Lives Matter banner from the Asbury United Methodist Church in DC.

In the days after both the DC even 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.

In the days after, both Tarrio and Biggs posted plans to dress like Antifa rather than in their signature yellow and black.

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

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

On December 30, Southern California 3%er Russell Taylor described a plan to meet at the Capitol and — in conjunction with Stop the Steal — 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]

This plan — surrounding the Capitol — was what Stop the Steal figures partially carried out on January 6.

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.

After all that, the Proud Boy leaders agree to meet at 10AM the next day.

As captured by the WSJ, the next day, after the Proud Boys met at the Washington Monument, they then marched the East side of the Capitol first, but then later approach it from the Northwest. Just before Trump started speaking and before a broader call to assembly tied to 1PM, at 12:52 Biggs said something to Ryan Samsel, who then kicked off the assault on a series of barricades, giving a police officer a brain injury in the process.

Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and Billy Chrestman were among the leaders of the next confrontation. After a series of fights, at 2:13, Dominic Pezzola broke through a window in the Capitol. Biggs followed him, with some other Proud Boys (in this picture, Paul Rae) in tow, a minute later.

Meanwhile, even as Biggs was leading a mob of people in a violent attack on the Capitol, Alex Jones — Biggs’ former employer — was leading a larger mob of people from the Ellipse, where they had just been instructed by their President that “we’re going to the Capitol, and we’re going to try and give…we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help. We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” Jones stopped when he got to the Capitol and gave a speech.

According to Stacie Getsinger, a woman from South Carolina who was arrested for trespassing in June who was listening to Jones at that first speech, Jones told his audience to go to the other side of the building (which would be the East side), because that’s where Trump’s next speech would be.

She and her husband did. Trump gave no speech, but they were among the first wave of people to breach the East entrance.

Alex Jones went to the other side of the Capitol, too. Even before he did, though, Oath Keeper Jason Dolan was on the stairs, waiting.

As Dolan waited, Jones and his entourage (including Ali Alexander and the recently arrested Owen Shroyer) pushed up the stairs stack-style.

Meanwhile, at some point, former InfoWars employee and Florida militia member reportedly joined in an alliance with the Oath Keepers by fellow Floridian Meggs, Biggs left the Capitol from one of the West entrances, walked around it, and assembled on the East Steps with Arthur Jackman, Rae, and two others (probably Kevin and Nathan Tuck, and possibly Edward George; the Tucks are both — now former — cops, and Jackman’s and one of the Tucks’ spouses still are cops).

At 2:39, Rae and Jackman can be seen approaching the East Door with Biggs.

At around 2:40, they entered the East door.

At almost exactly the same time, Jason Dolan and Kenneth Harrelson entered the door along with the Oath Keeper stack led by Kelly Meggs (this is believed to be a picture Harrelson took of Dolan filming the entry; if you watch the video you can see both signs visible in the Biggs photo, making it clear that the people kitted out with helmets in that picture are the Stack).

People like the Getsingers — who were brought there by Alex Jones — pushed through around the same time.

Something brought Joe Biggs, Florida Oath Keepers Kenneth Harrelson and Jason Dolan, along with former Biggs employer Alex Jones to the top of the East steps, along with the mob that Jones brought on false pretenses. Shortly thereafter, Florida Oath Keeper head Kelly Meggs would bring a stack of Oath Keepers through the same door and — evidence suggests — in search of Nancy Pelosi, whom Meggs had talked about killing on election day.

Joe Biggs kicked off the riot on the West side of the building.

Then he went over to the East side to join his former employer Alex Jones and a bunch of Oath Keepers, led by fellow Floridians, to lead a mob back into the Capitol.

West side. Joe Biggs. East side. Joe Biggs.

This is the guy a couple of FBI Agents in Daytona believed was a credible informant against Antifa.

[Thanks to Benny Bryant for continuing to help me sort through the Oath Keeper side of this, and thanks to gal_suburban for sharing the video of Jones on the East side.]

Joseph Hackett’s Detention Argument: Guns, Operational Security, and Involvement in Kelly Meggs’ Plans for Nancy Pelosi

In a status hearing in the Oath Keeper conspiracy case on August 10, Kathryn Rakoczy revealed the government had provided “certain information” to defendants that might limit or shape defense theories. She then mentioned uncharged individuals or unindicted co-conspirators.

How Person Fifteen became D-2

Then yesterday, in a memo supporting continued pretrial detention for Joseph Hackett, the government rolled out a new way to refer to those who’ve entered into cooperation agreements against their former co-conspirators (and siblings): D-1 and D-4, as opposed to Person One, Person Two, and Person Ten.

D-1, who shared details of the organizational structure of the Florida Oath Keepers, may be Graydon Young, whom the indictment describes getting operational security instructions from Hackett shortly after he joined the Oath Keepers and who lives about 30 miles from Sarasota.

According to a defendant who has pled guilty pursuant to a cooperation plea agreement (and who will be referred to as D-1), Defendant Hackett was the “leader” of the Oath Keeper CPT5 group of approximately five men from the Sarasota area. According to D-1, the organization’s hierarchy had D-1 reporting to the CPT team leader (here, Hackett), who would report to the State lead (here, Kelly Meggs).

5 D-1 did not know what CPT stood for, but other Oath Keeper materials suggest it stood for “community preparedness team.”

D-4, who shared details of what Hackett did on January 7, may be Caleb Berry, who drove to and from the insurrection from Florida.

According to a defendant who has pled guilty pursuant to a cooperation plea agreement (and who will be referred to as D-4), Defendant Hackett was one of the members of the Oath Keepers who deposited long guns at the Comfort Inn Ballston on January 5 and collected them on January 7.

[snip]

In other words, while Defendant Hackett had his phone with him at the Capitol – he is seen on surveillance video holding it up to take a picture or video, and he admitted to D-4 that he had recorded a video that he later deleted – he took substantial efforts to ensure that he would not be linked to the phone, and that the phone would not be linked to the Capitol attack.

[snip]

According to D-4, on January 7, 2021, while Defendant Hackett was in a car driving from Washington, D.C., to Florida, with co-defendant Kelly Meggs and others, he admitted that he had already deleted from his iPhone a video he had taken while inside the Capitol the prior day

But the numbering system is bound to make Oath Keepers and conspiracists like Darren Beattie, Tucker Carlson, and Glenn Greenwald more paranoid. That’s because, if my assumptions above are correct, the counting appears to start with Young, not the first Oath Keeper known to enter a cooperation agreement, Jon Schaffer, who did so on April 14 (Young was second, Mark Grods was third, and Berry was fourth; the subtitle of this section is based on a wildarse guess that in this scheme, Grods, who was described before he flipped as Person Fifteen, would become D-2). That suggests someone else may have flipped, possibly between June 28 (when Grods pled) and July 7 (when Berry did).

Checking the East Door

The detention motion includes a long description of Hackett’s attempts to use operational security while hanging out with a bunch of people who weren’t, such as this picture showing him using his customary face covering while hanging out with a bunch of people who didn’t.

It also elaborates on a narrative that had shown up in earlier detention motions. It describes Hackett moving inside the Capitol with (it says) Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson, from the Rotunda to outside of Nancy Pelosi’s door. From there, Hackett walked back to the East Door of the Capitol, as if he was waiting for someone, and then returned to (the government presumes, though they may have video of this now from other defendants) Pelosi’s door.

Attached as Exhibit 3 is a compilation of Defendant Hackett’s movements within the Capitol for the approximately 12 minutes he remained inside, as captured on surveillance video. Notably, he spent most of his time with his co-conspirators Kelly Meggs, Moerschel, and Harrelson. At around 2:45 p.m., Defendant Hackett left the Rotunda through the south door, headed towards the House of Representatives (and the office of Speaker Pelosi).

[snip]

Defendant Hackett was not visible on camera for approximately one minute. He then went to check on the exterior doors through which the group entered, before returning to his coconspirators south of the Rotunda, near the Speaker’s office, where he remained, off camera, for approximately 5 minutes. This is the area and the time that Kelly Meggs and Harrelson were similarly not visible on surveillance video.

Exhibit 3 consists of 26 photos showing which of his actions from inside the Capitol were captured on CCTV — far more detail than the three paragraphs describing Hackett’s movement included in the indictment.

146. After they penetrated the Capitol building, CROWL, WATKINS, SANDRA PARKER, Young, STEELE, KELLY MEGGS, CONNIE MEGGS, HARRELSON, HACKETT, DOLAN, ISAACS, MOERSCHEL, Berry, and the others in the Stack collectively moved into an area inside the building known as the Capitol Rotunda.

[snip]

155. At2:45 p.m, KELLY MEGGS, CONNIE MEGGS, HARRELSON, HACKETT, DOLAN, MOERSCHEL, and Berry walked southbound outof the Rotunda and towards the House ofRepresentatives.

[snip]

158. At2:54 p.m. HACKETT and MOERSCHEL exited the Capitol.

After milling about the Rotunda, Hackett walks across it to talk to Meggs and Harrelson. Berry — who may be D-4, but who definitely has agreed to tell the government everything he knows — was present.

The detention memo suggests they — apparently including Berry and Connie Meggs, though the detention motion doesn’t mention them — went from here to stand outside Pelosi’s office, and then Hackett — apparently by himself — came back through the Rotunda, stood outside the East Door, looking outward, as if waiting to meet with someone.

Hackett then enters back into the Capitol, goes back to where he (apparently) left Moerschel, Harrelson, and Meggs, along with Berry and Connie Meggs (though they aren’t mentioned) and then he and Moerschel exit the building.

Joseph Hackett’s detention motion is about Kelly Meggs

The government largely substantiates their argument that Hackett is too much a threat to be released with their evidence that he’s a leader of an organized militia, armed, and went to great lengths — both in real time and after the fact — to obscure his actions. Hackett’s actions inside the Capitol — unlike many of his co-defendants, he is not charged with an additional resisting cops or civil disorder charge for anything he did inside the building — would seem to add little.

The government gets there, repeatedly, by tying Hackett’s own actions to those of Meggs, to whom (D-1 has testified) he reported in the Oath Keeper hierarchy. In Hackett’s detention motion, for example, the government adds to a text they had included, in similar associative fashion, in Kenneth Harrelson’s detention motion showing Meggs admitting that “we looked for[] her.

In Hackett’s detention memo, they show that the night of the election (they get the conversation from UTC wrong and falsely claim this happened very late the night of the election; it would have happened before polls closed in much of the country), Meggs was threatening to “go on a killing spree … Pelosi first.”

And, almost gratuitously, the government uses a reference to the DC Circuit’s decision upholding Christopher Worrell’s detention as a way to remind Judge Amit Mehta that Meggs had purportedly orchestrated a plan with the Proud Boys.

In Worrell, the D.C. Circuit held that the “district court’s dangerousness determination was [not] clearly erroneous,” based in part on the defendant’s “membership in and alleged coordination with the Proud Boys, some of whose members have been indicted for conspiring to attack Congress.” 848 F. App’x at 5-6.8 The same heightened dangerousness applies here, as the actions of self-proclaimed members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are similarly situated in terms of their dangerousness based both on their personal actions and their coordination with their coconspirators. And not only have 18 Oath Keeper members and affiliates (Defendant Hackett included) been indicted in this case, but there is also evidence of coordination between the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. (See Gov’t Opp to Kelly Meggs’ Motion for Pretrial Release (ECF 98) at 8 (quoting December 22, 2020, Facebook message: “we have made Contact with PB and they always have a big group”)), and 10 (quoting December 25, 2020, Facebook message: “we have orchestrated a plan with the proud boys. I have been communicating with [redacted] the leader.”).)

It’s as if to say that Hackett is dangerous by himself, but he’s especially dangerous (or just as likely, important to flip) because he was part of what Kelly Meggs was involved with on the day of the insurrection.

The pictures included as an exhibit seem to suggest that not just Hackett — but also Connie Meggs (who would have spousal privilege but who also just got a new lawyer) and Caleb Berry, who may be D-4, a witness to efforts to try to destroy evidence about what happened during the insurrection — were witnesses to whatever Meggs was up to when he went to the office of the woman he threatened to kill on the night Biden won the election. What Hackett would know is why he went back to the door of the Capitol, as if awaiting someone.

According to the government, that makes him dangerous and likely to obstruct the investigation.

Update: This analysis adds to the evidence that Berry is the guy standing by the stair doors at the QRF hotel, and therefore almost certainly D-4.

“Stand Back and Stand By:” John Pierce’s Plan for a Public Authority or — More Likely — a MyPillow Defense

In a Friday hearing in the omnibus Oath Keeper conspiracy case, John Pierce — who only just filed an appearance for Kenneth Harrelson in that case — warned that he’s going to mount a very vigorous public authority defense. He claimed that such a defense would require reviewing all video.

Pierce is a Harvard-trained civil litigator involved in the more conspiratorial side of Trumpist politics. Last year he filed a lawsuit for Carter Page that didn’t understand who (Rod Rosenstein, among others) needed to be included to make the suit hold up, much less very basic things about FISA. As someone who’d like to see the unprecedented example of Page amount to something, I find that lawsuit a horrible missed opportunity.

John Pierce got fired by Kyle Rittenhouse

Of late, he has made news for a number of controversial steps purportedly in defense of accused Kenosha killer Kyle Rittenhouse. A recent New Yorker article on Rittenhouse’s case, for example, described that Pierce got the Rittenhouses to agree to a wildly inflated hourly rate and sat on donations in support of Rittenhouse’s bail for a month after those funds had been raised. Then, when Kyle’s mother Wendy tried to get Pierce to turn over money raised for their living expenses, he instead claimed they owed him.

Pierce met with the Rittenhouses on the night of August 27th. Pierce Bainbridge drew up an agreement calling for a retainer of a hundred thousand dollars and an hourly billing rate of twelve hundred and seventy-five dollars—more than twice the average partner billing rate at top U.S. firms. Pierce would be paid through #FightBack, which, soliciting donations through its Web site, called the charges against Rittenhouse “a reactionary rush to appease the divisive, destructive forces currently roiling this country.”

Wisconsin’s ethics laws restrict pretrial publicity, but Pierce began making media appearances on Rittenhouse’s behalf. He called Kenosha a “war zone” and claimed that a “mob” had been “relentlessly hunting him as prey.” He explicitly associated Rittenhouse with the militia movement, tweeting, “The unorganized ‘militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least seventeen years of age,’ ” and “Kyle was a Minuteman protecting his community when the government would not.”

[snip]

In mid-November, Wood reported that Mike Lindell, the C.E.O. of MyPillow, had “committed $50K to Kyle Rittenhouse Defense Fund.” Lindell says that he thought his donation was going toward fighting “election fraud.” The actor Ricky Schroder contributed a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Pierce finally paid Rittenhouse’s bail, with a check from Pierce Bainbridge, on November 20th—well over a month after #FightBack’s Web site indicated that the foundation had the necessary funds.

[snip]

Wendy said of the Rittenhouses’ decision to break with Pierce, “Kyle was John’s ticket out of debt.” She was pressing Pierce to return forty thousand dollars in donated living expenses that she believed belonged to the family, and told me that Pierce had refused: “He said we owed him millions—he ‘freed Kyle.’ ”

Possibly in response to the New Yorker piece, Pierce has been tweeting what might be veiled threats to breach attorney-client privilege.

Pierce assembles a collection of characters for his screen play

Even as that has been going on, however, Pierce has been convincing one after another January 6 defendant to let him represent them. The following list is organized by the date — in bold — when Pierce first filed an appearance for that defendant (I’ll probably update this list as Pierce adds more defendants):

1. Christopher Worrell: Christopher Worrell is a Proud Boy from Florida arrested on March 12. Worrell traveled to DC for the December MAGA protest, where he engaged in confrontational behavior targeting a journalist. He and his girlfriend traveled to DC for January 6 in vans full of Proud Boys paid for by someone else. He was filmed spraying pepper spray at cops during a key confrontation before the police line broke down and the initial assault surged past. Worrell was originally charged for obstruction and trespassing, but later indicted for assault and civil disorder and trespassing (dropping the obstruction charge). He was deemed a danger, in part, because of a 2009 arrest for impersonating a cop involving “intimidating conduct towards a total stranger in service of taking the law into his own hands.” Pierce first attempted to file a notice of appearance on March 18. Robert Jenkins (along with John Kelly, from Pierce’s firm) is co-counsel on the case. Since Pierce joined the team, he has indulged Worrell’s claims that he should not be punished for assaulting a cop, but neither that indulgence nor a focus on Worrell’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma nor an appeal succeeded at winning his client release from pre-trial detention.

2. William Pepe: William Pepe is a Proud Boy charged in a conspiracy with Dominic Pezzola and Matthew Greene for breaching the initial lines of defense and, ultimately, the first broken window of the Capitol. Pepe was originally arrested on January 11, though is out on bail. Pierce joined Robert Jenkins on William Pepe’s defense team on March 25. By April, Pierce was planning on filing some non-frivolous motions (to sever his case from Pezzola, to move it out of DC, and to dismiss the obstruction count).

3. Paul Rae: Rae is another of Pierce’s Proud Boy defendants and his initial complaint suggested Rae could have been (and could still be) added to the conspiracy indictments against the Proud Boys already charged. He was indicted along with Arthur Jackman for obstruction and trespassing; both tailed Joe Biggs on January 6, entering the building from the East side after the initial breach. Pierce filed to join Robert Jenkins in defending Rae on March 30.

4. Stephanie Baez: On June 9, Pierce filed his appearance for Stephanie Baez. Pierce’s interest in Baez’ case makes a lot of sense. Baez, who was arrested on trespassing charges on June 4, seems to have treated the January 6 insurrection as an opportunity to shop for her own Proud Boy boyfriend. Plus, she’s attractive, unrepentant, and willing to claim there was no violence on January 6. Baez has not yet been formally charged (though that should happen any day).

5. Victoria White: If I were prosecutors, I’d be taking a closer look at White to try to figure out why John Pierce decided to represent her (if it’s not already clear to them; given the timing, it may simply be because he believed he needed a few women defendants to tell the story he wants to tell). White was detained briefly on January 6 then released, and then arrested on April 8 on civil disorder and trespassing charges. At one point on January 6, she was filmed trying to dissuade other rioters from breaking windows, but then she was filmed close to and then in the Tunnel cheering on some of the worst assault. Pierce filed his notice of appearance in White’s case on June 10.

Ryan Samsel: After consulting with Joe Biggs, Ryan Samsel kicked off the riot by approaching the first barriers and — with several other defendants — knocking over a female cop, giving her a concussion. He was arrested on January 30 and is still being held on his original complaint charging him with assault and civil disorder. He’s obviously a key piece to the investigation and for some time it appeared the government might have been trying to persuade him that the way to minimize his significant exposure (he has an extensive criminal record) would be to cooperate against people like Biggs. But then he was brutally assaulted in jail. Detainees have claimed a guard did it, and given that Samsel injured a cop, that wouldn’t be unheard of. But Samsel seemed to say in a recent hearing that the FBI had concluded it was another detainee. In any case, the assault set off a feeding frenzy among trial attorneys seeking to get a piece of what they imagine will be a huge lawsuit against BOP (as it should be if a guard really did assault him). Samsel is now focused on getting medical care for eye and arm injuries arising from the assault. And if a guard did do this, then it would be a key part of any story Pierce wanted to tell. After that feeding frenzy passed, Pierce filed an appearance on June 14, with Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui releasing his prior counsel on June 25. Samsel is a perfect defendant for Pierce, though (like Rittenhouse), the man badly needs a serious defense attorney. Update: On July 27, Samsel informed Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui that he would be retaining new counsel.

6. James McGrew: McGrew was arrested on May 28 for assault, civil disorder, obstruction, and trespassing, largely for some fighting with cops inside the Rotunda. His arrest documents show no ties to militias, though his arrest affidavit did reference a 2012 booking photo. Pierce filed his appearance to represent McGrew on June 16.

Alan Hostetter: John Pierce filed as Hostetter’s attorney on June 24, not long after Hostetter was indicted with five other Three Percenters in a conspiracy indictment paralleling those charging the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Hostetter was also active in Southern California’s anti-mask activist community, a key network of January 6 participants. Hostetter and his defendants spoke more explicitly about bringing arms to the riot, and his co-defendant Russell Taylor spoke at the January 5 rally. On August 3, Hostetter replaced Pierce.

7, 8, 9. On June 30, Pierce filed to represent David Lesperance, and James and Casey Cusick. As I laid out here, the FBI arrested the Cusicks, a father and son that run a church, largely via information obtained from Lesperance, their parishioner. They are separately charged (Lesperance, James Cusick, Casey Cusick), all with just trespassing. The night before the riot, father and son posed in front of the Trump Hotel with a fourth person besides Lesperance (though Lesperance likely took the photo).

10. Kenneth Harrelson: On July 1, Pierce filed a notice of appearance for Harrelson, who was first arrested on March 10. Leading up to January 6, Harrelson played a key role in Oath Keepers’ organizing in Florida, particularly meetings organized on GoToMeeting. On the day of the riot, Kelly Meggs had put him in charge of coordinating with state teams. Harrelson was on the East steps of the Capitol with Jason Dolan during the riot, as if waiting for the door to open and The Stack to arrive; with whom he entered the Capitol. With Meggs, Harrelson moved first towards the Senate, then towards Nancy Pelosi’s office. When the FBI searched his house upon his arrest, they found an AR-15 and a handgun, as well as a go-bag with a semi-automatic handgun and survivalist books, including Ted Kaczynski’s writings. Harrelson attempted to delete a slew of his Signal texts, including a video he sent Meggs showing the breach of the East door. Harrelson had previously been represented by Nina Ginsberg and Jeffrey Zimmerman, who are making quite sure to get removed from Harrelson’s team before Pierce gets too involved.

11. Leo Brent Bozell IV: It was, perhaps, predictable that Pierce would add Bozell to his stable of defendants. “Zeeker” Bozell is the scion of a right wing movement family including his father who has made a killing by attacking the so-called liberal media, and his grandfather, who was a speech writer for Joseph McCarthy. Because Bozell was released on personal recognizance there are details of his actions on January 6 that remain unexplained. But he made it to the Senate chamber, and while there, made efforts to prevent CSPAN cameras from continuing to record the proceedings. He was originally arrested on obstruction and trespassing charges on February 12; his indictment added an abetting the destruction of government property charge, the likes of which have been used to threaten a terrorism enhancement against militia members. Pierce joined Bozell’s defense team (thus far it seems David B. Deitch will remain on the team) on July 6.

12. Nate DeGrave: The night before DeGrave’s quasi co-conspirator Josiah Colt pled guilty, July 13, Pierce filed a notice of appearance for Nate DeGrave. DeGrave helped ensure both the East Door and the Senate door remained open.

14. Nathaniel Tuck: On July 19, Pierce filed a notice of appearance for Nathaniel Tuck, the Florida former cop Proud Boy.

14. Kevin Tuck: On July 20, Pierce filed a notice of appearance for Kevin Tuck, Nathaniel’s father and still an active duty cop when he was charged.

15. Peter Schwartz: On July 26, Pierce filed a notice of appearance for Peter Schwartz, the felon out on COVID-release who maced some cops.

16. Jeramiah Caplinger: On July 26, Pierce filed a notice of appearance for Jeramiah Caplinger, who drove from Michigan and carried a flag on a tree branch through the Capitol.

Deborah Lee: On August 23, Pierce filed a notice of appearance for Deborah Lee, who was arrested on trespass charges months after her friend Michael Rusyn. On September 2, Lee chose to be represented by public defender Cara Halverson.

17. Shane Jenkins: On August 25, Pierce colleague Ryan Marshall showed up at a status hearing for Jenkins and claimed a notice of appearance for Pierce had been filed the night before. In that same hearing, he revealed that Pierce was in a hospital with COVID, even claiming he was on a ventilator and not responsive. The notice of appearance was filed, using Pierce’s electronic signature, on August 30, just as DOJ started sending out notices that all Pierce cases were on hold awaiting signs of life. Jenkins is a felon accused of bringing a tomahawk to the Capitol and participating in the Lower West Tunnel assaults on cops.

As you can see, Pierce has assembled as cast of defendants as if writing a screenplay, with Proud Boys from key breach points, leading members of the other conspiracies, and other movement conservatives. There are just a few more scenes he would need to fill out to not only be able to write his screenplay, but also to be able to get broad discovery from the government.

This feat is all the more interesting given a detail from the New Yorker article: at one point, Pierce seemed to be claiming to represent Enrique Tarrio and part of his “defense” of Rittenhouse was linking the boy to the Proud Boys.

Six days after the Capitol assault, Rittenhouse and his mother flew with Pierce to Miami for three days. The person who picked them up at the airport was Enrique Tarrio—the Proud Boys leader. Tarrio was Pierce’s purported client, and not long after the shootings in Kenosha he had donated a hundred dollars or so to Rittenhouse’s legal-defense fund. They all went to a Cuban restaurant, for lunch.

Enrique Tarrio would be part of any coordinated Florida-based plan in advance of January 6 and if he wanted to, could well bring down whatever conspiracy there was. More likely, though, he’s attempting to protect any larger conspiracy.

A public authority defense claims the defendant thought they had authority to commit a crime

And with his ties to Tarrio, Pierce claims (to think) he’s going to mount a public authority defense. A public authority defense involves claiming that the defendant had reason to believe he had authority to commit the crimes he did. According to the Justice Manual, there are three possible arguments a defendant might make. The first is that the defendant honestly believed they were authorized to do what they did.

First, the defendant may offer evidence that he/she honestly, albeit mistakenly, believed he/she was performing the crimes charged in the indictment in cooperation with the government. More than an affirmative defense, this is a defense strategy relying on a “mistake of fact” to undermine the government’s proof of criminal intent, the mens rea element of the crime. United States v. Baptista-Rodriguez, 17 F.3d 1354, 1363-68 (11th Cir. 1994); United States v. Anderson, 872 F.2d 1508, 1517-18 & n.4 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1004 (1989); United States v. Juan, 776 F.2d 256, 258 (11th Cir. 1985). The defendant must be allowed to offer evidence that negates his/her criminal intent, id., and, if that evidence is admitted, to a jury instruction on the issue of his/her intent, id., and if that evidence is admitted, he is entitled to a jury instruction on the issue of intent. United States v. Abcasis, 45 F.3d 39, 44 (2d Cir. 1995); United States v. Anderson, 872 F.2d at 1517-1518 & n. In Anderson, the Eleventh Circuit approved the district court’s instruction to the jury that the defendants should be found not guilty if the jury had a reasonable doubt whether the defendants acted in good faith under the sincere belief that their activities were exempt from the law.

There are some defendants among Pierce’s stable for whom this might work. But taken as a whole and individually, most allegedly did things (including obstruction or lying to the FBI) that would seem to evince consciousness of guilt.

The second defense works best (and is invoked most often) for people — such as informants or CIA officers — who are sometimes allowed to commit crimes by the Federal government.

The second type of government authority defense is the affirmative defense of public authority, i.e., that the defendant knowingly committed a criminal act but did so in reasonable reliance upon a grant of authority from a government official to engage in illegal activity. This defense may lie, however, only when the government official in question had actual authority, as opposed to merely apparent authority, to empower the defendant to commit the criminal acts with which he is charged. United States v. Anderson, 872 F.2d at 1513-15; United States v. Rosenthal, 793 F.2d 1214, 1236, modified on other grounds, 801 F.2d 378 (11th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 919 (1987). The genesis of the “apparent authority” defense was the decision in United States v. Barker, 546 F. 2d 940 (D.C. Cir. 1976). Barker involved defendants who had been recruited to participate in a national security operation led by Howard Hunt, whom the defendants had known before as a CIA agent but who was then working in the White House. In reversing the defendants’ convictions, the appellate court tried to carve out an exception to the mistake of law rule that would allow exoneration of a defendant who relied on authority that was merely apparent, not real. Due perhaps to the unique intent requirement involved in the charges at issue in the Barker case, the courts have generally not followed its “apparent authority” defense. E.g., United States v. Duggan, 743 F.2d 59, 83-84 (2d Cir. 1984); United States v. Rosenthal, 793 F.2d at 1235-36. If the government official lacked actual or real authority, however, the defendant will be deemed to have made a mistake of law, which generally does not excuse criminal conduct. United States v. Anderson, 872 F.2d at 1515; United States v. Rosenthal, 793 F.2d at 1236; United States v. Duggan, 743 F.2d at 83-84. But see discussion on “entrapment by estoppel,” infra.

Often, spooked up defendants try this as a way to launch a graymail defense, to make such broad requests for classified information to push the government to drop its case. Usually, this effort fails.

I could see someone claiming that Trump really did order the defendants to march on the Capitol and assassinate Mike Pence. Some of the defendants’ co-conspirators (especially Harrelson’s) even suggested they expected Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act. But to make that case would require not extensive review of Capitol video, as Pierce says he wants, but review of Trump’s actions, which would seem to be the opposite of what this crowd might want. Indeed, attempting such a defense might allow prosecutors a way to introduce damning information on Trump that wouldn’t help the defense cause.

The final defense is when a defendant claims that a Federal officer misled them into thinking their crime was sanctioned.

The last of the possible government authority defenses is “entrapment by estoppel,” which is somewhat similar to public authority. In the defense of public authority, it is the defendant whose mistake leads to the commission of the crime; with “entrapment by estoppel,” a government official commits an error and, in reliance thereon, the defendant thereby violates the law. United States v. Burrows, 36 F.3d 875, 882 (9th Cir. 1994); United States v. Hedges, 912 F.2d 1397, 1405 (11th Cir. 1990); United States v. Clegg, 846 F.2d 1221, 1222 (9th Cir. 1988); United States v. Tallmadge, 829 F.2d 767, 773-75 (9th Cir. 1987). Such a defense has been recognized as an exception to the mistake of law rule. In Tallmadge, for example, a Federally licensed gun dealer sold a gun to the defendant after informing him that his circumstances fit into an exception to the prohibition against felons owning firearms. After finding that licensed firearms dealers were Federal agents for gathering and dispensing information on the purchase of firearms, the Court held that a buyer has the right to rely on the representations made by them. Id. at 774. See United States v. Duggan, 743 F.2d at 83 (citations omitted); but, to assert such a defense, the defendant bears the burden of proving that he\she was reasonable in believing that his/her conduct was sanctioned by the government. United States v. Lansing, 424 F.2d 225, 226-27 (9th Cir. 1970). See United States v . Burrows, 36 F.3d at 882 (citing United States v. Lansing, 424 F.2d at 225-27).

This is an extreme form of what defendants have already argued. And in fact, Chief Judge Beryl Howell already addressed this defense in denying Billy Chrestman (a Proud Boy from whose cell Pierce doesn’t yet have a representative) bail. After reviewing the precedents where such a defense had been successful, Howell then explained why it wouldn’t work here. First, because where it has worked, it involved a narrow misstatement of the law that led defendants to unknowingly break the law, whereas here, defendants would have known they were breaking the law because of the efforts from police to prevent their actions. Howell then suggested that a belief that Trump had authorized this behavior would not have been rational. And she concludes by noting that this defense requires that the person leading the defendant to misunderstand the law must have the authority over such law. But Trump doesn’t have the authority, Howell continued, to authorize an assault on the Constitution itself.

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

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

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

Setting aside the question of whether such a belief was reasonable or rational, as the entrapment by estoppel defense requires, Cox unambiguously forecloses the availability of the defense in cases where a government actor’s statements constitute “a waiver of law” beyond his or her lawful authority. 379 U.S. at 569. Defendant argues that former President Trump’s position on January 6 as “[t]he American head of state” clothed his statements to the mob with authority. Def.’s Mem. at 11. No American President holds the power to sanction unlawful actions because this would make a farce of the rule of law. Just as the Supreme Court made clear in Cox that no Chief of Police could sanction “murder[] or robbery,” 379 U.S. at 569, notwithstanding this position of authority, no President may unilaterally abrogate criminal laws duly enacted by Congress as they apply to a subgroup of his most vehement supporters. Accepting that premise, even for the limited purpose of immunizing defendant and others similarly situated from criminal liability, would require this Court to accept that the President may prospectively shield whomever he pleases from prosecution simply by advising them that their conduct is lawful, in dereliction of his constitutional obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” U.S. Const. art. II, § 3. That proposition is beyond the constitutional pale, and thus beyond the lawful powers of the President.

Even more troubling than the implication that the President can waive statutory law is the suggestion that the President can sanction conduct that strikes at the very heart of the Constitution and thus immunize from criminal liability those who seek to destabilize or even topple the constitutional order. [my emphasis]

In spite of Howell’s warning, we’re bound to see some defense attorneys trying to make this defense anyway. But for various reasons, most of the specific clients that Pierce has collected will have a problem making such claims because of public admissions they’ve already made, specific interactions they had with cops the day of the insurrection, or comments about Trump himself they or their co-conspirators made.

And those problems will grow more acute as the defendants’ co-conspirators continue to enter into cooperation agreements against them.

Or maybe this is a MyPillow defense?

But I’m not sure that Pierce — who, remember, is a civil litigator, not a defense attorney — really intends to mount a public authority defense. His Twitter feed of late suggests he plans, instead, to mount a conspiracy theory defense that the entire thing was a big set-up: the kind of conspiracy theory floated by Tucker Carlson but with the panache of people that Pierce has worked with, like Lin Wood (though even Lin Wood has soured on Pierce).

For example, the other day Pierce asserted that defense attorneys need to see every minute of Capitol Police footage for a week before and after.

And one of his absurd number of Twitter polls suggests he doesn’t believe that January 6 was a Trump inspired [armed] insurrection.

I asked on twitter which he was going to wage, a public authority defense or one based on a claim that this was all informants.

He responded by saying he doesn’t know what the question means.

I asked if he really meant he didn’t know what a public authority defense is, given that he told Judge Mehta he’d be waging one for his clients (or at least Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson).

He instead tried to change the subject with an attack on me.

In other words, rather than trying to claim that Trump ordered these people to assault the Capitol, Pierce seems to be suggesting it was all a big attempt to frame Trump and Pierce’s clients.

Don’t get me wrong, a well-planned defense claiming that Trump had authorized all this, one integrating details of what Enrique Tarrio might know about pre-meditation and coordination with Trump and his handlers, might be effective. Certainly, having the kind of broad view into discovery that Pierce is now getting would help. One thing he has done well — with the exception of Lesperance and the Cusicks, if it ever turns into felony charges, as well as Pepe and Samsel, depending on Samsel’s ultimate charges — is pick his clients so as to avoid obvious conflict problems And never forget that there’s a history of right wing terrorists going free based on the kind of screenplays, complete with engaging female characters, that Pierce seems to be planning.

But some of the stuff that Pierce has already done is undermining both of these goals, and the difficulty of juggling actual criminal procedure (as a civil litigator) while trying to write a screenplay could backfire

“One if By Land, Two if By Sea:” What We Know of the Oath Keepers’ January 6 Quick Reaction Force

On Twitter yesterday, some folks asked me whether there’s any credibility to the government’s claims that the Oath Keepers had an armed Quick Reaction Force ready to rush to DC in case things devolved to armed battles on January 6.

At first, it appeared that the government might just be unduly crediting the wild boasts of Thomas Caldwell, who spoke repeatedly of arranging such a force in the days leading up to January 6. But over the course of a series of filings, the government has shown that after a sustained discussion about whether Oath Keepers should come armed to DC for the insurrection, it was decided to instead amass guns in (at a minimum) the Ballston, VA Comfort Inn. The evidence thus far submitted shows that multiple participants knew of the stash, called it the QRF, and deposited their own weapons at the stash. The record is less certain about what plans the Oath Keepers had to transport that arsenal to DC, but in a remarkable comment on January 3, Kelly Meggs — who appears to have played a key role in organizing security for Roger Stone, inter-militia negotiations, and The Stack that pushed into the Rotunda on January 6, and who may have paid for two rooms to use for the QRF — suggested two rally points to receive the weapons: “1 if by land North side of Lincoln Memorial 2 if by sea Corner of west basin and Ohio is a water transport landing !!”

This post will pull together the evidence shown to date.

On December 25, according to the Fourth Superseding indictment and other filings, Kelly Meggs noted on Facebook what a lot of other militia members were at the time: guns are prohibited in DC. “We are all staying in DC near the Capitol we are at the Hilton garden inn but I think it’s full. Dc is no guns. So mace and gas masks, some batons. If you have armor that’s good.”

But within days, on December 30, Thomas Caldwell (who is not a member of the Oath Keepers but who coordinated closely with, at least, contingents from Ohio and North Carolina) told Jessica Watkins that an Oath Keeper from North Carolina had committed to serve as the Quick Reaction Force in Virginia — he was aiming to get reservations at the Comfort Inn in Ballston. The idea was he’d bring weapons into Virginia in his truck.

As we speak he is trying to book a room at Comfort Inn Ballston/Arlington because of its close-in location and easy access to downtown because he feels 1) he’s too broken down to be on the ground all day and 2) he is committed to being the quick reaction force anf bringing the tools if something goes to hell. That way the boys don’t have to try to schlep weps on the bus. He’ll bring them in his truck day before

Over the course of that same conversation, Caldwell updated Watkins that the North Carolina Oath Keeper had indeed gotten reservations at the Ballston Comfort Inn. “Just got a text from him he WAS able to book a room in that hotel I recommended which is on Glebe Road in Arlington.”

The next day, Meggs seems to have come to the same understanding. On December 31, he asked someone else if they were bringing weapons to DC. “You guys Gonna carry?” After the other person said, “No,” they weren’t, Meggs explained that the Oath Keepers had a Quick Reaction Force 10 minutes away. “Ok we aren’t either, we have a heavy QRF 10 Min out though.”

The Comfort Inn in Ballston would be a 7-minute drive without traffic.

That same day, December 31, someone offered up to Joshua James assistance from friends close to DC if the Oath Keepers got in trouble. “i have friends not far from DC with a lot of weapons and ammo if you get un trouble i ca. Coordinate help.” James suggested they might not need it on account of the QRF, “That might be helpful, but we have a shitload of QRF on standby with an arsenal.” The next day an Oath Keeper asked James how to get the guns to VA if the Alabaman Oath Keepers were staying in DC. “Hey we told to bring guns and maybe stage them in VA?? But you are showing hotels in DC for Alabama. Are we bring guns or no if so how will that work?” James suggested a farm might still be in play. “Were working on a Farm location Some are bringing long rifles some sidearms… I’m bringing sidearm.” By that point, then, it appears the Oath Keepers had committed to keeping weapons in VA with a QRF. But the logistics of it remained uncertain.

On January 2, Kelly Meggs texted a Leadership Signal chat with those two proposed meeting points for the QRF in DC: the Lincoln Memorial if the bridge was still open, and south of there at Ohio and West Basin if the bridges did get shut. “1 if by land North side of Lincoln Memorial 2 if by sea Corner of west basin and Ohio is a water transport landing !! QRF rally points Water of the bridges get closed.” The next day, Caldwell sent out a text message to a Three Percenter looking for a boat to ferry weapons.

Can’t believe I just thought of this: how many people either in the militia or not (who are still supportive of our efforts to save the Republic) have a boat on a trailer that could handle a Potomac crossing? If we had someone standing by at a dock ramp (one near the Pentagon for sure) we could have our Quick Response Team with the heavy weapons standing by, quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms. I’m not talking about a bass boat. Anyone who would be interested in supporting the team this way? I will buy the fuel. More or less be hanging around sipping coffee and maybe scooting on the river a bit and pretending to fish, then if it all went to shit, our guy loads our weps AND Blue Ridge Militia weps and ferries them across. Dude! If we had 2 boats, we could ferry across and never drive into D.C. at all!!!!

But the next day, January 3, Caldwell sent an email with maps to the person in charge of the QRF with the subject line, “NEW MAPS RELATIVE TO HOTEL AND INGRESS FOR QRF,” that seemed to assume he would drive from the hotel to “the target area,” via a route that went nowhere near the Lincoln Memorial. “These maps walk you from the hotel into D.C. and east toward the target area on multiple roads running west to east including M street and P street, two of my favorites . . . .”

Similarly, it remained unsettled whether or not individual participants would contribute their own weapons to the stash. On January 2, for example, Mark Grods asked Joshua James if he should bring weapons to insurrection. “So, I guess I am taking full gear less weapons? Just reading through all the posts. Would rather have it and not need it.” James instructed him to leave his weapons home, because the QRF would have weapons. “Yeah full gear… QRF will have weapons Just leave em home.”

On January 3, Jessica Watkins told Bennie Parker that they didn’t need to bring weapons because the QRF would be there. “We are not bringing firearms. QRF will be our Law Enforcement members of Oathkeepers.”  But then that same day she reversed the instruction. “Weapons are ok now as well. Sorry for the confusion.”

On January 4, Stewart Rhodes made the Oath Keepers’ plan to have a QRF nearby public.

As we have done on all recent DC Ops, we will also have well armed and equipped QRF1 teams on standby, outside DC, in the event of a worst case scenario, where the President calls us up as part of the militia to to assist him inside DC. We don’t expect a need for him to call on us for that at this time, but we stand ready if he does (and we also stand ready to answer the call to serve as militia anytime in the future, and anywhere in our nation, if he does invoke the Insurrection Act).

Both Watkins and Grods appear to have brought their own weapons. On January 4, before she got to the Comfort Inn, Watkins asked the Florida Signal list where to drop weapons off before any operations. “Where can we drop off weapons to the QRF team? I’d like to have the weapons secured prior to the Op tomorrow.” According to Mark Grods’ Information, he “brought firearms to Washington, D.C.” — which may have exposed him to further criminal liability — “and eventually provided them to another individual to store in a Virginia hotel.”

Kenneth Harrelson also appears to have dropped guns at the Ballston Comfort Inn. On the 5th, Harrelson asked for the location of the “QRF hotel.” Kelly Meggs responded by asking for a DM. Three hours later, Harrelson showed up at the Comfort Inn for an hour.

Caldwell, too, appears to have dropped off a weapon to the QRF room, as this surveillance video from mid-afternoon on January 5 suggests (the government alleges he is holding the long sheet-wrapped item).

After Caldwell returned from the Capitol on January 6, the North Carolina Oath Keeper brought a similarly blanket-wrapped long item to Caldwell’s room.

The newly accused alleged Stack participant David Moerschel also appears to have left a gun at the Comfort Inn. Early on January 7, according to his complaint, Moerschel made two comments on the Oath Keepers’ “OK FL DC OP Jan 6″ Signal chat about leaving stuff for others at the QRF — the Ballston Comfort Inn.

“We have your bag, We will leave it with Kane at the QRF. We are en route there now.”

“Anyone else leave anything in the white van? We can leave it for you at QRF.”

Moerschel sent the first text, saying “we are en route” at 6:35AM. Twenty-four minutes later, a person that the government alleges is Moerschel appeared in Comfort Inn surveillance video carting a gun case around.

According to a detention memo for Joseph Hackett, he and Kelly Meggs, along with another person, showed up shortly thereafter.

Kenneth Harrelson got a later start than the others. At 8:55 on January 7, he texted to the Florida Signal chat, asking where his “shit” was at.

So we’re just leaving DC and I would like to know where my shits at since it seems everyone’s gone already.

In response, someone replied,

We are headed out now. Did you leave it [his shit] at Comfort Inn in that room?

Starting twenty minutes later, Harrelson was at the Comfort Inn along with Jason Dolan, with whom Harrelson drove in a rental car.

In Moerschel’s complaint, the North Carolinians alleged to have watched this QRF room while others were at insurrection are described without comment as co-conspirators. None have been charged (at least not publicly). But if and when they are, I imagine we’ll see still more video of weapons being moved around the Ballston Quality Inn.

Again, the precise plan for all these weapons remains unclear. But the government has provided evidence that at least six people already charged (Caldwell, Watkins, Moerschel, Harrelson, Grods, and Dolan) dropped off weapons. Given that Kelly Meggs paid for two hotel rooms there even though he stayed in DC, the implication may be that the same guy planning, “1 if by land, 2 if by sea,” paid for the rooms in question.

Update, August 18: Added footage with Hackett and Meggs.

The Oath Keepers Dilemma: The Government Has Threatened Yet Another Indictment

The remaining 15 Oath Keeper conspiracy defendants have a status hearing today.

A lot has happened since the last status hearing the bulk of them had on June 1, 2021. Most notably, Graydon Young — co-defendant Laura Steele’s brother — pled guilty on June 23, just over a week ago. His cooperation with prosecutors will implicate the entire Stack, especially Joseph Hackett, Jessica Watkins, his sister, as well as the participants on a OK FL DC OP Jan 6 listserv (in addition to Watkins and Hackett, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jason Dolan, and William Isaacs).

Then, on Wednesday, Mark Grods pled guilty. His cooperation will implicate fellow Alabaman Joshua James (who got Grods to delete some files), Meggs, Watkins, Robert Minuta, Stewart Rhodes, and others who were on chats Grods was part of, as well as everyone involved in the Golf Cart chase and prior events at the Willard Hotel, adding Jonathan Walden to the mix.

Yesterday (or today, depending on which defendant you ask) was a deadline that Judge Amit Mehta set on June 1 for all motions unrelated to discovery (with the expectation that the late added defendants would probably need more time).

Thomas Caldwell (who can be implicated primarily by the Ohioans, the still unindicted Person Three, Grods, and possibly some other VA militia members not charged in this conspiracy) has been filing motions. He filed a marginally serious motion to dismiss everything on June 15, and filed a frivolous motion to transfer venue yesterday.

Yesterday, the deadline, both Joshua James and Kenneth Harrelson filed some motions. The former filed a motion to dismiss an assault charge and an obstruction charge against himself, as well as for a Bill of Particulars. The latter filed a motion to dismiss the counts of the indictment charged against him. The Meggses had earlier filed a motion for a Bill of Particulars.

But thus far, almost everyone is asking for an extension to file their own motions. Here’s a summary of what’s on the books thus far (Dolan, Hackett, Isaacs, and Walden would have an extension in any case, on account of their late addition):

  1. Thomas Caldwell: Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Change Venue, Motion for Extension
  2. Dominick Crowl: Motion for 60 Day Extension, Motion to Adopt
  3. Jason Dolan: Motion for Extension
  4. Joseph Hackett
  5. Kenneth Harrelson: Motion to Adopt Caldwell and James Motions, Motion for Extension, Motion to Dismiss Charges against Him
  6. William Isaacs
  7. Joshua James: Motion to Adopt, Motion to Dismiss Counts 8 and 13, Motion for Bill of Particulars, Motion for Extension
  8. Connie Meggs: Motion to Join Caldwell’s Motion, Motion for 60 Day Extension
  9. Kelly Meggs: Motion to Adopt Caldwell’s Motion (including a cursory adoption of his obstruction charge)
  10. Roberto Minuta (Minuta’s attorney has had some health limitations so would need an extension anyway): Motion for 30 Day Extension
  11. Benny Parker: Motion for at least 60 Day Extension, Motion to Adopt Harrelson and Caldwell, though not adopting Caldwell’s “partisan surplusage”
  12. Sandi Parker: Motion to Join Caldwell Motion, Motion for Extension
  13. Laura Steele: Motion to be able to go on vacation, Motion to Join Caldwell, Motion for at least 60-Day Extension
  14. Jonathan Walden
  15. Jessica Watkins: Motion to Join Caldwell’s Dismissal, Motion for 60 Day Extension

Between these requests, the government has gotten defendants to waive Speedy Trial for at least 30 more days as they contemplate the legal dilemma they’re facing.

It’s true that most defendants cite the voluminous discovery before them. A few claim they have not yet had an adequate tour of the Capitol. Harrelson’s motion quotes several paragraphs of boilerplate from the government.

But a comment from James’ Motion for Extension is perhaps the most telling. It asserts that defendants have been told there’s still yet another indictment on the way.

Because the government has made clear that an additional indictment (which could include more charges or more defendants) is possible, and because Mr. James is unaware of which, if any, currently charged defendant will be proceeding to trial, it is impossible to assess, prepare, and file motions regarding severance of counts or defendants at this time.

It also suggests that it’s possible none of the currently charged defendants will actually proceed to trial.

Short of adding Stewart Rhodes, there are few places this indictment will go except to make the terrorism or insurrection claims more explicit.

Which may explain why James, one of the remaining key players who would be able to trade a lesser sentence for a cooperation deal, suggests no one may go to trial.

Darrell Youngers, Christopher Warnagiris, and Jason Dolan: Marines at the East Door

Among the many January 6 insurrectionists whose arrests became public yesterday were George Tenney, from Anderson, SC, and Darrell Youngers, who lives in Cleveland, TX. Tenney is involved with a right wing website, The PowerHouse Patriot. It’s not clear what Youngers does for a living, but according to a witness who IDed him, he has been involved with leadership courses. Ostensibly, they were charged via the same epic 30-page arrest affidavit because they traveled through the Capitol together on the day of the insurrection. They appear to have met that day.

In the weeks leading up to the insurrection, Tenney tried to figure out how to join an armed militia group.

Even prior to the January 6 riot, TENNEY discussed “armed militia patriots” and stated that “we” may siege the U.S. Capitol Building. On December 14, 2020, TENNEY wrote to Person1, “Where and how do I get involved or a part of one of these patriot revolution groups? Like proud boys, or any of the other American Patriot militias??” Person-1 responded that Person-1 would “ask around.”

By December 28, Tenney appeared to know that there was a plan to siege the Capitol.

On December 27, 2020, TENNEY wrote, “I heard over 500k armed militia patriots will be in DC by the 4th. And will start early waiting for the rest of us on the 6th. They already predict over [a] million people will be in DC the 6th.” The next day, he wrote, “We need to talk about the trip to D.C…It’s starting to look like we may siege the capital building and congress if the electoral votes don’t go right….we are forming plans for every scenario.” On December 29, TENNEY wrote a message that included the following: “I’ve been watching these pod cast things from this guy. He says Pence is a traitor and will betray the US on the 6th.”

Even before they entered the Capitol, Tenney and Youngers were moving together.

They entered the Senate Wing door at 2:19PM — the door first breached by former Marine Dominic Pezzola. The camera catches Youngers’ Marines jacket shortly after the two enter.

They went from there through the Rotunda into the East Foyer, with Tenney in the lead. Which means he was the first to get to the East Door to open it, letting the assembled rioters outside in as Youngers looks on.

Youngers, who’s involved in leadership training, lets Tenney do the hard work of wrestling with a cop and getting charged with civil disorder. They retreat for a bit, but then return to pushing cops again just as Marine Major Christopher Warnargiris is among the first to enter, as if he was just waiting for the door to open (I believe Youngers is standing to the right of the door).

Here’s Youngers and Warnargiris at that East door, standing within a few feet of each other, as both help to ensure rioters will succeed in keeping this door open.

Just outside that door, of course, is former Marine and Oath Keeper Jason Dolan, also standing at the top of the stairs as if he knew the door was going to open, waiting for a Stack of militia members to help force the door open.

This is believed to be a picture Kenneth Harrelson took of Dolan filming just after the doors opened.

At a time Dolan probably suspected he might be arrested, the government suspects, he went on Gateway Pundit to claim that he and everyone else couldn’t have been trespassing, because the magnetic doors couldn’t have opened unless someone unlocked it.

As part of this story, the anonymous source believed to be Dolan claimed that the Marine who opened the doors first went inside and then opened the doors from the inside.

Retired Marine: We’re on the top level now – about 15 feet from the doors just before they opened up. People are yelling and screaming. Everyone’s cheering, all kind of stuff. It’s chaotic. But we’re just kind of there. And then all of the sudden the doors open up from the inside. I have a picture taken about two seconds before the doors opened. And then I have a picture taken about six seconds later and the doors were open.

Jim Hoft: And they were not opened from the outside?

Retired Marine: They were opened from the inside. Now one of the stories I read recently was that some Marine, some Marine Major, went inside and managed to run around and open up the doors. And I think that was on your website, as well. But here’s what I can tell you about magnetic locks. If a door is locked by a mag lock it cannot be opened from the outside or the inside unless the person controlling that door opens that door by turning off the magnetic lock which those doors according to the photos I took are equipped with. [my emphasis]

The story doesn’t make sense if Dolan was talking about Warnargiris. But the government accuses Youngers, also a former Marine, of being one of the people who entered the West side only to go within minutes to the East side to open a second front.

That’s a lot of Marines who seemed to know that door was going to open.