Posts

Yes, It Turned Out January 6 Committee Endangered the DOJ Investigation by Withholding the Jeremy Bertino Transcript in June

I often get accused of being an uncritical booster for DOJ on the January 6 investigation. In reality, I have focused my criticism on real problems with the investigation.

In fact several of the criticisms I’ve raised have borne out in recent days, as an attorney-client conflict that should have been identified in June threatened (and still threatens) to bollox the Proud Boy Leader trial, and with it the larger effort to tie Trump’s immediate associates with the crime scene.

Twice, for example, I’ve discussed how central Joe Biggs’ actions the day of the attack were to understanding the larger event. In the first, I described how Biggs’ chumminess with FBI agents led them to overlook his plans for a terrorist attack on the Capitol.

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.

A month later, I described how problematic it was that an AUSA who played a part in Sidney Powell’s efforts to spread false claims about Mike Flynn and Joe Biden before the 2020 election had a role (now reportedly expanded) in overseeing the prosecution of Biggs.

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

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

All that was clear by September 2021.

In that same time period, I was complaining and complaining and complaining about DOJ’s lackadaisical approach to attorney conflicts, first as John Pierce racked up 20 clients, most who served as a firewall to Biggs and the other Proud Boy leaders, and later as DOJ waited three months before inquiring into Sidney Powell’s alleged role in funding some of the Oath Keeper’s defense teams.

The importance to the Trump investigation of getting the militia conspiracies that implicate Roger Stone and Alex Jones right is one of the reasons I argued, in June 2022, that it was urgent for the Proud Boys’ prosecution team to get Jeremy Bertino’s transcript sooner rather than later.

On June 6, DOJ charged the Proud Boy Leaders with sedition. As I noted at the time, the single solitary new overt act described in the indictment involved Jeremy Bertino, Person-1, seeming to have advance knowledge of a plan to occupy the Capitol.

107. At 7:39 pm, PERSON-1 sent two text messages to TARRIO that read, “Brother. ‘You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today.” TARRIO responded, “I know” At 7:44 pm. the conversation continued, with PERSON-1 texting, “1776 motherfuckers.” TARRIO responded, “The Winter Palace.” PERSON-1 texted, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” TARRIO responded, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” PERSON-1 stated, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.” These messages were exchanged before the Senate returned to its chamber at approximately 8:00 p.m. to resume certifying the Electoral College vote.

Just days earlier, as part of a discovery dispute, prosecutors had provided this (dated) discovery index. For several reasons, it’s likely that at least some these entries pertain to Bertino, because the CE ones are from the Charlotte office, close to where he lives, because he’s one of the three uncharged co-conspirators of central importance to the Proud Boys efforts, and because we know FBI did searches on him.

In a hearing during the day on June 9, the Proud Boys’ attorneys accused DOJ of improperly coordinating with the January 6 Committee and improperly mixing politics and criminal justice by charging sedition just before the hearings start. In the hearing there was an extensive and repeated discussion of the deposition transcripts from the committee investigation. AUSA Jason McCullough described that there had been significant engagement on depositions, but that the January 6 Committee wouldn’t share them. As far as he knew, the Committee said they would release them in September, which would be in the middle of the trial. Joe Biggs’ attorney insisted that DOJ had the transcripts, and that they had to get them to defendants.

Judge Tim Kelly ordered prosecutors that, if they come into possession of the transcripts, they turn them over within 24 hours.

Hours later, during the first (technically, second) January 6 Committee hearing, the Committee included a clip from Bertino describing how membership in the Proud Boys had tripled in response to Trump’s “Stand Back and Stand By” comment.

His cooperation with the Committee was not public knowledge. I have no idea whether it was a surprise to DOJ, but if it was, it presented the possibility that, in the guise of cooperating, Bertino had just endangered the Proud Boy sedition prosecution (which wouldn’t be the first time that “cooperative” Proud Boys proved, instead, to be fabricators). At the very least, it meant his deposition raised the stakes on his transcript considerably, because DOJ chose not to charge him in that sedition conspiracy.

Today, in response to a bid by Dominic Pezzola and Joe Biggs to continue the trial until December, DOJ acceded if all defendants agree (Ethan Nordean won’t do so unless he is released from jail). With it they included a letter they sent yesterday to the Committee — following up on one they sent in April — talking about the urgency with which they need deposition transcripts.

We note that the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (“Select Committee”) in its June 9, 2022 and June 13, 2022, hearings extensively quoted from our filings in active litigation and played portions of interviews the Select Committee conducted of individuals who have been charged by the Department in connection with the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

It is now readily apparent that the interviews the Select Committee conducted are not just potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions that have already commenced. Given this overlap, it is critical that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews. As you are aware, grand jury investigations are not public and thus the Select Committee does not and will not know the identity of all the witnesses who have information relevant to the Department’s ongoing criminal investigations. Moreover, it is critical that the Department be able to evaluate the credibility of witnesses who have provided statements to multiple governmental entities in assessing the strength of any potential criminal prosecutions and to ensure that all relevant evidence is considered during the criminal investigations. We cannot be sure that all relevant evidence has been considered without access to the transcripts that are uniquely within the Select Committee’s possession.

The discovery deadline for the Proud Boy case is tomorrow. If DOJ put Bertino before a grand jury and he said something that conflicts with what he told the Committee, it could doom his reliability as a witness, and with it the Proud Boys case, and with it, potentially, the conspiracy case against Trump.

Less than a week before I wrote that, there’s reason to believe, DOJ had flipped a key witness in the case.

It appears that DOJ did not get Jeremy Bertino’s transcript until around December 7. DOJ promised to give transcripts to the defendants within 24-hours after they received them, and DOJ provided 16-January 6 Committee transcripts on December 8.

And we now know the Bertino transcript was utterly critical to preparing for the trial, which is about to kick off. That’s because, in his deposition with the committee, Bertino explained at length both what appeared to be an attempt, by Joe Biggs’ attorney Dan Hull, to tie representation in a civil lawsuit to a deposition in the trial, and because Bertino had conversations with Hull on the day his girlfriend’s home was searched (which is probably when the FBI found the unregistered weapons described in Bertino’s plea paperwork).

A Yes. So I’m going to go back in my memory and try to remember the first time that I spoke with him. I believe it was after I received a civil suit from a church. I reached out to Enrique Tarrio and said, hey, I just got this subpoena or notice of civil suit. I think I need an attorney. And he’s like, oh, well, I’ll talk to Dan, my attorney, and I’ll see if he’ll take it for you. So I said okay. Couple of weeks went by, I didn’t hear anything. I got back in touch with Enrique and asked him, I said, hey, have you talked to your lawyer? And he’s, like, oh, yeah, Dan said he’ll do it for you pro bona because you were stabbed, but he wants to talk to you.

And so he sent me his phone number and I called Dan. I can’t remember when, what date, I don’t remember the specific details, but I do remember calling him and him basically asking me — or I was asking him about representing me in the case and he said oh, sure, sure, sure, we’ll get to that. But he was interested in possibly having me take the stand in the Joe Biggs’ trial about my stabbing to show why Joe was wearing body armor when he was in D.C. because there was a lot of talk after I was stabbed about guys making sure you had a stab proof vest on and stuff like that.

So I think his original intent was to get me on board to help his client. And then the next — I believe the next interaction I had was when I — Jay Thaxton reached out to me and was looking for representation for his deposition. And I said, hey, give this guy Dan a call. I sent him Dan’s number. And I guess Dan took care of his deposition, which I, you know, when I kind of heard what happened there, that’s when I became reluctant to have him represent me in this.

He didn’t seem very stable on the phone. I started to really listen to when he was talking and his rants, and I was, like, okay, this guy– I don’t think this guy’s great for me.

And then the morning that the FBI raided my girlfriend’s house I reached out to him because he was the only attorney that I knew and I was just kind of asking him for advice on how to handle everything.

And I specifically asked him for a retainer, like, can we sign a retainer paperwork, and he was, like, not right now, not right now. And I said okay.

Then a few days later, he asked — he called me — he would call me randomly late at night and go on, like, an hour rant about how the Proud Boys were little girls and just, I mean, off the rail conversations. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I was, like, my brain was popping trying to figure out what he was talking about. Then I believe he came to me and said, well, I’m going to — he said, do you want me to accept service on your behalf for the congressional thing, he said, but I’m not going to be able to be there because that date doesn’t work for me, so you’re going to have to go do it on your own.

I said no — and this was on a phone conversation, not a text conversation — I said no. He’s like, well, take 48 hours and think about it. This was on like a — I don’t even remember what day, but I believe it was the day before he actually accepted service from you guys. And he never got confirmation from me to accept service.

He said, well, just take 48 hours and think about it. I said, okay.

Next phone call I got from him was, hey, I accepted service, your date for your deposition is this day, and I’m not going to be there so you’re going to be on your own.

And that is pretty much when I cut off contact, I stopped responding to his calls and his text messages, and I hired Mr. Wellborn.

Bertino’s prior conversations with Hull were made all the more urgent because Norm Pattis, Alex Jones’ attorney, just got kicked off the case after having his license suspended in Connecticut for violating the Sandy Hook protective order, something we all knew was coming since November. [Update: Judge Tim Kelly is letting Pattis stay on the team, though it’s unclear in what role.]

Yesterday and today, Judge Tim Kelly hammered out some plan whereby Hull will be prevented from questioning Bertino, but that in no way eliminates the conflict. That in no way eliminates the risk of having Hull serve as the sole attorney in a case where he had privileged conversations with one of the key cooperating witnesses.

The J6C Committee is significantly to blame about this — at least by the time Bertino’s plea became public, they had to have recognized this conversation needed to be shared with prosecution.

But DOJ itself should have raised conflict issues with Pattis. At the time he joined Biggs’ team last summer, he was already representing Jones’ sidekick, Owen Shroyer, who had a bunch of calls with both Ethan Nordean and Biggs in advance of and during the attack.

Other, more prominent members of the Proud Boys appear to have been in contact with Jones and Shroyer about the events of January 6th and on that day. Records for Enrique Tarrio’s phone show that while the attack on the Capitol was ongoing, he texted with Jones three times and Shroyer five times.124 Ethan Nordean’s phone records reflect that he exchanged 23 text messages with Shroyer between January 4th and 5th, and that he had one call with him on each of those days.125 Records of Joseph Biggs’s communications show that he texted with Shroyer eight times on January 4th and called him at approximately 11:15 a.m. on January 6th, while Biggs and his fellow Proud Boys were marching at and around the Capitol.126

Meanwhile, the emergency motion to keep Pattis on the trial team claimed that both he and Hull are representing Jones.

He was suspended for disclosing confidential medical records to other lawyers working on related matters for our joint client, Alex Jones;

This is insanity! You’ve got two lawyers, both facing major ethical challenges, jointly representing Biggs, Jones, and Shroyer in prosecutions aiming to demonstrate that after Trump asked him to lead a mob to the Capitol, Jones coordinated the delivery of that mob to the Proud Boys.

And Pattis’ suspension will upend the prosecutions of both Shroyer — who at least claimed he would plead guilty at the end of this month — and a guy named Doug Wyatt, who has long been pegged by researchers as one of the rioters who seemed like he might be coordinating with others.

While a lot of people were wailing that J6C was way ahead of DOJ, I was raising concerns about the things that may upend the most important prosecution to date: that Bertino transcript and attorney conflicts.

It turns out I had reserved my complaints for the stuff that, as the trial kicks off, could be the thing that sinks it.

Norm Pattis’ Sandy Hook Fuckup May Roil January 6 Investigation

Connecticut judge Barbara Bellis suspended Alex Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, for sending the medical information of Connecticut Sandy Hook plaintiffs to lawyers from both sides of the Texas Sandy Hooks lawsuit.

“Simply put, given his experience, there is no acceptable excuse for his misconduct,” Judge Barbara Bellis said in a court decision released Thursday.

Pattis is one of the state’s most well-known defense attorneys. He said he plans to appeal the decision.

“We cannot expect our system of justice or our attorneys to be perfect but we can expect fundamental fairness and decency. There was no fairness or decency in the treatment of the plaintiffs’ most sensitive and personal information, and no excuse for the respondent’s misconduct,” Bellis wrote.

She goes on to say that because of this, the court agrees with the Disciplinary Counsel’s recommendation to suspend Pattis from practicing law for several months.

As Pattis noted in a statement to NBC, however, he’s not just Alex Jones’ attorney. He’s also one of two lawyers representing Joe Biggs in the Proud Boys case, which is in the final day of voir dire today. And he represents Jones sidekick Owen Shroyer, who is tentatively due to plead guilty at the end of the month.

The Proud Boy defendants are already asking for a delay of their trial so they can read the January 6 Committee transcripts (though note they’ve had 16 of those transcripts since early December). But this decision seems likely to cause a delay, because the case really is difficult for one attorney to manage, but Judge Tim Kelly will want to avoid any claim by Biggs that he was no competently represented by Pattis.

Update: Here’s the ruling, which among other things describes how it happened that Pattis shared such highly confidential information — after blowing the protective order early in the case!

The Roger Stone Convergence at the Winter Palace

There was a status hearing in the Owen Shroyer case last week that was so short it was over by the time I had entered the dial-in code. Shroyer, you’ll recall, is the Alex Jones sidekick who was charged for violating his specific prohibition on being an asshole at the Capitol. His lawyer, Norm Pattis, happens to be the lawyer who sent a large swath of Alex Jones’ data to the Texas Sandy Hook plaintiffs, and then presided over the $1 billion judgement in the Connecticut Sandy Hook lawsuit. On June 14, Pattis noticed his appearance on Joe Biggs’ legal team, effectively giving him visibility on how badly the discovery in the Proud Boy case implicates Shroyer and Jones and Ali Alexander. Shroyer appears to be stalling on his decision about whether he wants to enter a plea agreement — one that would presumably require some cooperation — or whether he wants to stick around and be charged in a superseding indictment along with everyone else.

Shroyer has until November 29 to make that decision, around which time I expect a Roger Stone convergence to become more clear.

The Roger Stone convergence has been coming for some time (I’ve been pointing to it for at 14 months). Yesterday, NYT reported that one means by which it is coming is in the dissemination of the We the People document laying out plans to occupy buildings — under the code “Winter Palace” — which the FBI found on the Enrique Tarrio phone it took over a year to exploit.

As I laid out here, the document is important because it shows Tarrio’s motive on January 6 in his assertion that “every waking moment consists of” planning for revolution.

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

And an exchange he had with now-cooperating witness Jeremy Bertino that they had succeeded in implementing the Winter Palace plan shows that Tarrio recognized that occupying buildings was part of his plan.

107. At 7:39 pm, PERSON-1 sent two text messages to TARRIO that read, “Brother. ‘You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today.” TARRIO responded, “I know” At 7:44 pm. the conversation continued, with PERSON-1 texting, “1776 motherfuckers.” TARRIO responded, “The Winter Palace.” PERSON-1 texted, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” TARRIO responded, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” PERSON-1 stated, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.” These messages were exchanged before the Senate returned to its chamber at approximately 8:00 p.m. to resume certifying the Electoral College vote.

The NYT story reveals that Eryka Gemma is the person who sent the document to Tarrio, but she was not its author.

As a part of the investigation, prosecutors are seeking to understand whether Mr. Engels has ties to a little-known Miami-based cryptocurrency promoter who may have played a role in the Capitol attack.

A week before the building was stormed, the promoter, Eryka Gemma, gave Mr. Tarrio a document titled “1776 Returns,” according to several people familiar with the matter. The document laid out a detailed plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a pressure campaign to demand a new election.

[snip]

The federal indictment of Mr. Tarrio says that the person who provided him with “1776 Returns” told him, shortly after it was sent, “The revolution is more important than anything.” That person was Ms. Gemma, according to several people familiar with the matter.

But Ms. Gemma was not the author of “1776 Returns,” which was written by others, first as a shared document on Google, the people said.

It remains unclear who the original authors were.

It may be unclear or detrimental to the sources for this story who originally wrote the document; it’s probably not to investigators who can simply send a warrant to Google.

And whether because investigators know who wrote the document or for some other reason (such as that they have just a few more weeks of pre-sentencing cooperation with Joel Greenberg), they’re trying to understand whether this document, laying out a plan to occupy buildings, had an analogue in the Florida-based riots that key Roger Stone associate, Jacob Engels, staged in 2018 in an attempt to thwart any delays in certification for Rick Scott (and Ron DeSantis, who gets a positive shout out by name in the Winter Palace document).

On Nov. 9, [2018] a group of about 100 angry protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, descended on the Broward County elections office, carrying pro-Scott and pro-Trump signs and protesting the recount.

The event drew support from several far-right activists in Florida linked to Mr. Stone — among them, Ali Alexander, who later organized Stop the Steal events around the 2020 election, and Joseph Biggs, a leader of the Proud Boys who has since been charged alongside Mr. Tarrio in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case.

The NYT describes this line of inquiry as happening via two different sets of prosecutors, which is a sign of either convergence or simply the networked structure that DOJ’s approach, using parallel and (through Stone) intersecting, conspiracy indictments clearly facilitated (Shroyer’s prosecution team, incidentally, features an Oath Keeper prosecutor and a key assault prosecutor).

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The prosecutors want to know whether Mr. Engels received any payments or drew up any plans for the Florida demonstration, and whether he has ties to other people connected to the Proud Boys’ activities in the run-up to the storming of the Capitol.

Different prosecutors connected to the Jan. 6 investigation have also been asking questions about efforts by Mr. Stone — a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump — to stave off a recount in the 2018 Senate race in Florida, according to other people familiar with the matter.

While the NYT describes (breaking news!) that Engels was one of the people who in 2019, along with Tarrio, crafted an attack on the judge presiding over Roger Stone’s case, Amy Berman Jackson, it does not note that the Stop the Steal effort dates back two years earlier than the 2018 riot, to voter intimidation efforts that Stone pursued that look similar to the current drop box intimidation effort being disseminated via Trump’s shitty social media website (NYT does mention the Brooks Brothers riots in 2000 and notes the participants “apparently work[ed] with Mr. Stone” — more breaking news).

Nor does it describe the backstory to how Biggs showed up in Florida in 2018, fresh off his ouster from InfoWars after playing a key role in both the PizzaGate and Seth Rich hoaxes, both part of a Russian info-op that Stone played a key role in. But it’s part of the prehistory of the Proud Boys that prosecutors are now tracing.

I have no idea whether the very clear 2016 precedent is part of this. DOJ wouldn’t need to do (much) fresh investigation of it because Mueller and DC USAO did quite a bit of investigation before Bill Barr torched the investigation all to hell and then Trump pardoned Stone to avoid being implicated himself. But if it was part of this, no one who would share those details with NYT would know about it unless and until it was indicted. That’s even true of the 2019 incident; DOJ did at least some investigative work into the funding of that, the same questions being asked now about how Engels organized the 2018 riot.

But whether this investigative prong extends no further back than 2018 or whether it includes the Stone Stop the Steal activity that demonstrably paralleled a Russian effort, it does seem that DOJ is investigating how the prior history of the Proud Boys parallels these efforts to undermine democracy and did so in the place — Miami — where the Proud Boys, schooled by the master rat-fucker, are increasingly taking on an official role.

That may not be an investigation about Engels’ actions, directly (though he has long been in the thick of things). Rather, it may be an investigation into resources that were consistent throughout these developments.

How Adam Schiff Proves that Adam Schiff Is Lying that It Is “Unprecedented” for Congress to Be Ahead of DOJ

I had imagined I would write a post today introducing Andrew Weissmann — who like a lot of other TV lawyers has decided to weigh in on the January 6 investigation without first doing the least little bit of homework — to the multiple prongs of the DOJ investigation that he complains is not investigating multiple spokes at once.

Department of Justice January 6 investigations interview with Andrew Weissmann and Rep. Adam Schiff from R G on Vimeo.

But as I was prepping for that, I watched another of the Ari Melber pieces where he replicates this false claim.

Let me correct that. Melber actually doesn’t present Weissmann’s argument that the multiple pronged DOJ investigation should have multiple prongs, perhaps because since Weissmann first made it, it became clear he missed the Sidney Powell investigation entirely, the status of the investigations into Roger Stone and Rudy Giuliani, the influencers that DOJ has already prosecuted as part of the investigation into the crime scene, and that DOJ actually started the fake electors investigation months before it was previously known.

Rather, Melber presents Adam Schiff’s claim that it is “unprecedented” for a congressional committee to be “so far out ahead” of DOJ.

Melber: We haven’t seen this kind of — he called it a breakdown, you might put it differently, but whatever it is, between the Justice Department and the Committee, but it also reflects that you’ve gotten some witnesses first. Do you share Mr. Weissmann’s concern? Could the DOJ be doing more quickly?

Schiff: I very much share his concern and have been expressing a very similar concern really for months no. It is so unprecedented — and I’ve been a part of many Congressional investigations that have been contemporaneous with Justice Department investigations — but it is unprecedented for Congress to be so far out ahead of the Justice Department in a complex investigation because as he was saying, as Andrew was saying, they’ve got potent tools to get information. They can enforce their own subpoenas in a way we can’t.

Let me introduce Adam Schiff to the House Intelligence Committee investigation into the 2016 Russian attack, on which a guy named Adam Schiff was first Ranking Member, then Chair, and the Mueller investigation into the same, on which Andrew Weissmann was a senior prosecutor.

Donald Trump Jr.

Interviewed by HPSCI on December 6, 2017

Never interviewed by Mueller’s team

Roger Stone

Interviewed by HPSCI on September 26, 2017

Never interviewed by Mueller’s team

Jared Kushner

First interviewed by HPSCI on July 25, 2017

First interviewed by DOJ on November 1, 2017

Steve Bannon

First interviewed by HPSCI on January 16, 2018

First interviewed by Mueller on February 12, 2018

John Podesta

Interviewed by HPSCI in June and December, 2017

Interviewed by Mueller in May 2018

Jeff Sessions

Interviewed by HPSCI on November 30, 2017

Interviewed by Mueller on January 17, 2018

JD Gordon

Interviewed by HPSCI on July 26, 2017

First interviewed by Mueller on August 29, 2017

Michael Caputo

Interviewed by HPSCI on July 14, 2017

Interviewed by Mueller on May 2, 2018

Michael Cohen

Interviewed by HPSCI on October 24, 2017

First interviewed by Mueller on August 7, 2018

Now, Schiff, who claimed it was unprecedented for a congressional investigation to precede a DOJ one, might say that the HPSCI investigation into Russia doesn’t count as a clear precedent because it wasn’t all that rigorous because it was led by Devin Nunes (that’s partly right, but there were plenty of Democratic staffers doing real work on that investigation too). But even on the January 6 Committee, there are already multiple instances where the Committee has interviewed witnesses before DOJ has (or interviewed witnesses that DOJ never will, before charging them), but gotten less valuable testimony than if they had waited.

One example, Ali Alexander, is instructive. He at least claimed he was going to tell the January 6 Committee a story that had already been debunked by DOJ. But before DOJ interviewed Alexander, at least two people with related information had gotten cooperation recognition in plea agreements, and several direct associates — most notably Owen Shroyer — had had their phones fully exploited.

Weissmann would likely point to good reasons why Mueller took more time, too: because later interviews with people like Michael Caputo or Jared Kushner required a lot more work on content acquired with covert warrants first, or because with people like Michael Cohen there was an entire financial investigation that preceded the first interview, or because DOJ was just a lot more careful to lay the groundwork with subjects of the investigation.

But the same is true here. DOJ will likely never interview Rudy on this investigation. But Lisa Monaco took steps on her first day in office that ensured that at whatever time DOJ obtained probable cause against Rudy, they had the content already privilege-reviewed. And DOJ did a lot of investigation into Sidney Powell before they started subpoenaing witnesses.

Many of the other witnesses that HPSCI interviewed long (or even just shortly) before DOJ did on Russia lied to HPSCI.

As both these men know, and know well, it is simply false that Congress never gets ahead of DOJ. But there are good reasons for that, and one of those reasons is precisely the one that Weissmann claims should lead DOJ to go more quickly: that it has far more tools to use to ensure that interviews that happen will more robustly support prosecutions.

As Ali Alexander Returns to DC in Wake of Grand Jury Appearance, Alex Jones’ Associates Owen Shroyer and Joe Biggs Share a Lawyer

In an attempt to quash rumors that he was the surprise witness before the January 6 Committee today (he’s not; former Mark Meadows assistant Cassidy Hutchinson is), Ali Alexander complained that the January 6 Committee didn’t let him testify publicly.

On at least four occasions, my legal counsel asked the Committee to allow my deposition to be taken publicly so that the American public could operate from a shared set of facts. The Committee denied our requests to make my testimony public again and again. Instead, they me behind closed doors for 8 hours, at my own expense, depriving me of meals or making my return flight back home. [emphasis original]

That follows a statement issued last Friday, after his (first?) grand jury appearance complaining that DOJ didn’t just use his transcript from the January 6 Committee.

I provided the documents requested and suggested they obtain my full transcript of my testimony from the January 6 Committee. They responded then that they cannot obtain those transcripts due to separation of powers and thus, they needed me to repeat my testimony here today.

I almost feel a little sorry for Alexander. This Roger Stone mentee has been sent out with the same lawyer, Paul Kamenar, who helped Stone evade real accountability for his Russian operation in 2016 (in that case, by helping Andrew Miller challenge a subpoena for a year before he ultimately joined Stone’s defense team). Perhaps Alexander thought he was going to replay that same Roger Stone script, with him playing the role that Jerome Corsi did, publicly releasing a cover story as a way to get everyone telling the same false story.

To be sure, Alexander was always fucked, because by the time he told his cover story in December, DOJ had already debunked that cover story when Owen Shroyer tried to tell it. So not only was Alexander stuck, Friday, trying to retell the same story that he told in December, but even if he succeeded, he’d be on the hook for a story that Judge Tim Kelly has already ruled to be inaccurate specifically as regards the choices that the Alex Jones retinue made after they arrived at the Capitol on January 6.

In any case, Alexander will be back in DC today talking to “officials” some more about January 6. It’s unclear whether this is a follow-up interview with DOJ, now that they’ve locked Alexander into a story, or whether the GOP will attempt to serve as a clearinghouse for stories, as HPSCI did with the Russian investigation.

But Ali Alexander, a key member of Alex Jones’ retinue, is not done telling his currently operative story yet. Perhaps, if he is interviewed further, Alexander will be asked about Stop the Steal communications first made available by Brandon Straka in spring 2021, and probably bolstered by Baked Alaska earlier this year, communications that also seem to be inconsistent with Alexander’s currently operative story.

Like I said, I almost feel sorry that Alexander agreed to play the role of Roger Stone’s patsy in this go-around, because DOJ is better situated to deal with Stone’s games this time around.

For all the focus on Alexander, that makes two other recent developments rather interesting.

First, in a status hearing on Thursday, prosecutors revealed that they had only recently received the content from Alex Jones sidekick Owen Shroyer’s phone. They were providing it, unscoped, to Shroyer’s attorney, Norm Pattis, so he can have a sense of what’s there in advance of DOJ providing him the “scoped” content (“scoped” content is the stuff that the FBI determines complies with the warrant). In that case, the sides at least claim they’re discussing a plea, with plans for a status or that plea in 45 days.

Which makes the other recent development more interesting. On June 14, Norm Pattis joined Joe Biggs’ defense team.

 

This means that Pattis formally represents two Alex Jones associates — one who currently works for InfoWars and one who worked for Jones until he got “fired” for pushing PizzaGate in 2016 — who converged at the top of the East steps on January 6; Pattis has a longtime affiliation with Jones too.

And unless and until DOJ raises conflict issues with the men (which they’re not likely to do unless and until Jones himself is charged), Pattis will have full access to what are believed to be both sides of conversations that took place in advance of and on January 6 which resulted in an Alex Jones-led mob arriving just as the carefully orchestrated Proud Boy attack on the Capitol needed large numbers of additional, unwitting “normies” to fill the building. That’s a pretty critical set of discovery.

So one member of the retinue is struggling quite obviously with his effort to come up with a consistent story (after telling one that has already been debunked), while the other members of the retinue have arranged to be in a position to share the most important discovery from the day back and forth.

Things have gotten downright interesting with the convergence of once and current Jones flunkies at the East side of the Capitol on January 6.

Amid Plea Discussions, Owen Shroyer Submits a Half-Hearted First Amendment Challenge

I came in just a few minutes late to the Owen Shroyer status hearing, and missed the better part of it, it went that quickly! That said, according to Shroyer lawyer Norm Pattis, things are quite chummy with prosecutors and they expect they might come to some kind of plea deal.

That makes the flimsiness of a motion to dismiss he submitted the other day far more interesting. He’s supposed to be arguing that because he’s a “journalist” who was covering the riot he was cheering, he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Most of his 1A argument, however, would apply to the hundreds of other people charged with trespassing that day, and doesn’t address the non-prosecution agreement that specifically prohibited Shroyer from being a loud asshole at the Capitol, uniquely among the thousands of rioters. Shroyer repeats false claims about trying to rein in the mob that Tim Kelly already rejected. He makes one half-hearted bid to press freedom:

News reporters and broadcasters often put themselves into harm’s way to cover political demonstrations. Robust public discourse requires free and unrestrained media. In New York Times v. Sullivan, 403 U.S. 713, 717 (1971), Justice Black opined

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

(Black, J. concurring.)

Yet he provides virtually no evidence that he was reporting.

That’s what makes Shroyer’s declaration, which he could be held to (though it is labeled as a draft), all the more interesting. In addition to claiming that he intended, “in substantial part, to report on my observations to our millions of listeners and viewers worldwide,” and repeating the already rejected claims that he attempted to calm the crowd, he included these details about his expectations of the Former President.

While in Washington D.C. on January 6, I accompanied Mr. Jones to the podium at which President Trump was speaking. It was my understanding that we were to follow Mr. Trump from there to the Capitol.

Mr. Jones and I were accompanied by a security detail comprised of fellow Infowars employees and off-duty police officers. We traveled together as a group, with Mr. Jones and I walking within a perimeter established by our security team.

When Mr. Trump did not appear to lead our group, I followed Mr. Jones and the security detail from the podium traveling in the direction of the Capitol building.

At no point as we walked this route did I see impediments or barriers of any kin [sic] suggestion [sic] that we were not free to enter the grounds.

None of this addresses the general details of his trespass or his specific prohibition on being a loud asshole at the Capitol. Indeed, his claim that he didn’t see any barriers as he “walked this route” “in the direction of the Capitol building” (even assuming it is a factual claim, and the Sedition Hunters say it is not), is largely true only because the march itself was unpermitted.

He’s describing thinking that President Trump was going to lead an unpermitted march to the Capitol, and then leading it himself (following along behind Alex Jones like thousands of others), right down Pennsylvania Avenue which had no barriers because there was no march planned.

This doesn’t help him, even ignoring the presence of Ali Alexander, who is not an Infowars employee.

Whatever else this declaration is (and it’s not the kind of declaration that would win a 1A motion to dismiss), it doesn’t protect Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the status hearing of the other Infowars employee who was supposed to have a status hearing today, videographer Sam Montoya, was continued so he, too, can continue to discuss a plea deal.

Sedition Is the Foundation on Which the Trump Associate Investigation Builds

As I laid out in this post, I’m impatient with those who claim the government has taken a new direction in the January 6 investigation with subpoenas to people like — most audibly — Ali Alexander. Alexander got a number of journalists who know better to repeat his claim that he was “cooperating” with the investigation rather than merely “complying” with a subpoena. Few of those journalists pointed out real holes in his cover story — including his silence about Roger Stone and Alex Jones, his disavowal of communications with militias before he arrived at the Capitol, his use of cover organizations to get his permits, and his seeming message to co-conspirators that if he once had evidence, it is no longer in his possession.

In his statement, Alexander sought to separate himself from the substance of the investigation, saying he did not coordinate with the Proud Boys and suggesting his contact with the Oath Keepers was limited to accepting an offer for them to act as ushers at an event that never took place: his own permitted event near the Capitol, which didn’t occur because of the mob attack on the Capitol. The Oath Keepers are the subject of conspiracy charges for their roles in breaching the Capitol that day.

“I did not finance the Ellipse equipment. I did not ever talk with the White House about security groups. Any militia working security at the Ellipse belonged to “Women for America First,” not us,” Alexander said. “I did not coordinate any movements with the Proud Boys or even see them that day. I did take Oath Keepers offer to act as ushers for the Area 8 event but all of that was lost in the chaos. I wasn’t in communication with any of the aforementioned groups while I was near the Capitol working to get people away from the building. Lastly, I’m not willing to presume anyone’s guilt.”

“I did nothing wrong and I am not in possession of evidence that anyone else had plans to commit unlawful acts,” Alexander said. “I denounce anyone who planned to subvert my permitted event and the other permitted events of that day on Capitol grounds to stage any counterproductive activities.”

This is classic Roger Stone-schooled disinformation and should be treated as such.

Reporters have, undoubtedly based on really good sourcing, emphasized the existence of a new grand jury focusing on Trump’s associates, and from that, argued it’s a new direction — though as I’ve documented, DOJ has availed themselves of at least six grand juries thus far in this investigation.

But how could an investigation of Alexander’s actions be new if DOJ successfully debunked much of his current cover story — that he was “working to get people away from the building” — last November? Alexander co-traveler Owen Shroyer attempted to offer the same false claim in an attempt to throw out charges — filed in August — against him, but Judge Tim Kelly rejected that attempt on January 20. How could this be a totally new direction if prosecutors would have obtained Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv as a result of Brandon Straka’s “cooperation” in early 2021? How could it be a new direction if DOJ has gotten guilty pleas from those who went first to the Capitol, then to the East front, and finally breached the building in response to lies about Alexander’s rally permits told by Alex Jones? DOJ has, demonstrably, been laying the groundwork for a subpoena to Alexander for over year.

And it’s not just Alexander. Steps DOJ took over the past year were undoubtedly necessary preconditions to going after Trump’s close associates. Those include:

These are efforts that started in January 2021. Some of the most important — the way DOJ seized Rudy’s comms and got a privilege review without revealing a January 6 warrant — started on Lisa Monaco’s first day in office.

But there’s a more important thing that DOJ probably believed they needed before going after Trump and his close associates: compelling proof that Trump wielded the mob in his effort to obstruct the vote count, obtaining the proof in the yellow boxes, below. That was one of the things I was trying to lay out in this post.

While there are specific things Trump and his associates did that were illegal — the call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake elector certificates, the illegal demand of Mike Pence — many of the rest are only illegal (at least under the framework DOJ is using) if they are tied to Trump’s successful effort to target the mob at American democracy. You first have to prove that Trump fired the murder weapon, and once you’ve established that proof, you can investigate who helped Trump buy the weapon, who helped him aim it, who loaded the gun for him, who was standing behind him with four more weapons to fire if his own shot failed to work.

And this is why I’m interested in the apparent two month process it appears to have taken DOJ to shift its main focus from the work of the January 8, 2021 grand jury, whose work culminated in the January 12, 2022 seditious conspiracy indictment against Stewart Rhodes, and the February 14, 2022 grand jury, the foundational overt act of which was the March 7 conspiracy charge against Enrique Tarrio.

The first grand jury proved that the vast majority of the rioters, whether trespassers or assault defendants, got there via one of three methods:

  • Responding to Trump and Alex Jones’ lies about Trump accompanying the marchers and giving a second speech
  • Acting directly on Trump’s “orders,” especially his December 19 tweet, often bypassing the Ellipse rally altogether
  • Coordinating with one of the militias, especially the Proud Boys

Judge Amit Mehta also seems to believe that the grand jury developed proof that many of those who assaulted cops were aided and abetted by Donald Trump. The first grand jury also proved that of those who — having been led to believe false claims about vote fraud based on over three months of propaganda — had the intent of obstructing the vote count, a great number had the specific goal of pressuring or punishing Mike Pence. While the intent of pressuring Pence came, for some rioters, from militia hierarchies, for most others, it came directly from Trump.

This is my hypothesis about the seeming shift from using the January 8 grand jury as the primary investigative grand jury to launching a new one on February 14. The January 8 grand jury has largely completed its investigation into what caused the riot, how it was orchestrated, who participated; the remaining prosecutions that don’t require and affect the larger picture will be and have been charged via the November 10 grand jury. But by indicting Tarrio and showing, with Charles Donohoe’s cooperation, that everything the Proud Boys did emanated from Tarrio’s orders and, by association, from whatever understanding Tarrio had about the purpose of the riot from his communications with people close to Trump, DOJ and the Valentine’s Day grand jury will move onto the next level of the conspiracy to obstruct the vote count. Again, that’s just a hypothesis — we’ll see whether that’s an accurate read in the weeks ahead. But it’s not a new direction at all. It is the direction that the investigation has demonstrably been headed for over a year.

Update: In a statement pretending the stories about his cooperation were leaked by DOJ, Alexander insists he is not cooperating, but complying.

After consultation with counsel, we provided a statement that established that I was not a target of this grand jury; I haven’t been accused of any criminal wrongdoing; and that I was complying, as required by law, with their probe.

[snip]

Useful idiots on the right, clinging to a New York Times headline that sensationalizes my compliance with a subpoena, will empower the Deep State which planted these stories to give their political investigation more legs to hurt our election integrity movement and Trump’s 2024 prospects. [my emphasis]

The rest of the statement should convince anyone that this is a replay of the same bullshit we saw from Stone and Jerome Corsi in the Mueller investigation.

Discovery Delays at the East Door: What Key January 6 Plea Negotiations Look Like

Lots of people have lost patience with the January 6 investigation based on misunderstandings about what it has discovered so far and where it may be heading. So I’d like to explain a delay that might tangibly hold up the investigation for two months: plea negotiations that might provide more information on the coordinated effort between the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Alex Jones, and an alarming number of Marines to breach the East front of the Capitol.

(Although who am I kidding? The people complaining don’t understand the investigation in this level of detail.)

When DOJ filed the existing superseding indictment charging the Proud Boy leaders last March, it made clear that the crowd of people assembled on the East steps before those doors were opened from the inside was of some interest, not least because we knew even then that Biggs and two other Proud Boys entered with the stack of Oath Keepers, which was led by Floridian Kelly Meggs, who had forged an alliance between Florida militia members in December 2020.

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

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

That is, this reference and others suggested there was coordination between two of the main militia groups involved in the attack.

I noted in April that the arrest of  Florida Proud Boys Paul Rae and Arthur Jackman, two guys who followed Biggs everywhere he went that day, was likely an attempt to clarify how that assembly worked — an attempt that probably posed a risk for the two others included in a selfie Biggs and his co-travelers took from the top of the East steps.

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

Those other two guys (actually there were three), Edward George and now-former Florida cops Kevin and Nathaniel Tuck, were arrested in July.

We’ve subsequently learned the inquiry into the East door is far vaster than that. The inquiry into how the East door got opened from the inside started at least by February; it figures prominently in Philip Grillo’s arrest affidavit. In May, DOJ arrested active duty Marine Chris Warnagiris for ensuring the East door stayed open once it had been breached. At the end of June, DOJ arrested Proud Boy Ricky Willden for his role in breaching the East side, without telling us what they knew about it. Also at the end of June, DOJ arrested Darrell Youngers and George Tenney; the former is a Marine, the latter is the guy who first opened the East door, before others like Grillo joined in. Leading up to Josiah Colt’s plea in July, DOJ likely learned more about how his co-conspirators, Nate DeGrave and Ronnie Sandlin, knew to head to the East door to fight with cops to keep it open. In September, the government revealed that Jerod and Joshua Hughes, brothers who were instrumental in helping to open the West door, who then occupied the Senate floor, had — like Biggs — exited the building and reentered via the East door breach along with the Oath Keepers.

Key arrests — those of Proud Boys Jimmy Haffner and Ron Loerhke — came in early December. Loerhke — another former Marine — played a significant role in focusing the mob on the West side of the building before he, along with Haffner, joined the others on the top of the East steps and allegedly helped break the police line to get in that East door. Just before Christmas, based on information discovered as late as October, DOJ added charges against the Johnson men, father Daryl and son Daniel, for their role in fighting to keep the East door open. Over the course of the year, then, DOJ has been charging many of those involved in the breach of the East door with felonies.

In August, DOJ started going after the Pied Pipers who brought extra bodies to the top of the stairs to fill the breach by arresting Alex Jones’ side-kick, Owen Shroyer. The judge presiding over the most important Proud Boys cases, Tim Kelly, is also currently considering Shroyer’s cover story for how he and Jones led mobs to the steps.

Along the way, DOJ also arrested MAGA tourists like the Getsingers, who attested that they followed Alex Jones’ lies all the way to the top of the East stairs only to push into the Capitol right along with the organized militias. They also arrested a bunch of people who took video footage that likely helps to clarify what happened there.

Over the course of a year, then, DOJ has slowly built up evidence of a coordinated assault, involving both major militia conspiracies and Trump’s designated Pied Piper, Alex Jones, largely orchestrated by former and one Active Duty Marines and one car salesman (Meggs), to open a second breach the Capitol.

We now know that it happened. What we’re waiting for is to learn how it happened: what kind of communications — and when — brought everyone to the East steps at the same time. Who knew about it, at the Capitol, or even down Pennsylvania Avenue?

In the wake of key decisions upholding DOJ’s application of obstruction to January 6, people from this crowd who might be able to offer more insight are reportedly considering pleading. For example, in a status hearing with the Hughes brothers on Friday, after Judge Tim Kelly orally rejected their challenge to DOJ’s obstruction application like he had done Ethan Nordean’s in December, both their attorneys talked like they were strongly considering a plea but just needed time to do their due diligence. If the Hughes were able to explain how they, with no discernible militia ties (though Jerod received travel funds from someone affiliated with a “Patriot” group), happened to be in all the most important places in the insurrection, it might be really useful for DOJ.

But it’s going to take two months for any kind of plea, cooperative or otherwise, to be negotiated, per the status hearing.

Similarly, at least some of Joe Biggs’ co-travelers are discussing a plea deal. In a joint status report for the men who posed with Joe Biggs on the East steps — Arthur Jackman and Paul Rae, who trailed Biggs all day on January 6, and Edward George, Kevin Tuck, and Nathaniel Tuck, the guys in the group arrested later — the parties asked for a two month continuance, citing discovery delays.

Second, since the last status conference in this case, the government has also produced six global productions, involving tens of thousands of files, to all Capitol Breach defendants. These productions have included, among many other things, thousands of files of U.S. Capitol Police Closed Circuit Video footage; over 1,000 files of body-worn camera footage; maps of the Capitol; reports of interviews and other information; and government work product aimed at assisting defense counsel in understanding the discovery in this investigation. Third, in this case in particular, the government produced on December 22, 2021 a significant quantity of cross-discovery that had been previously produced to defendants in the case of United States v. Ethan Nordean et al., No. 21-CR-175 (TJK).

The discovery process and negotiations with respect to a potential resolution of these cases are expected to continue past the first week of March.

Finally, the government and counsel for defendant Paul Rae note that a pretrial violation report was filed as to Mr. Rae on October 6, 2021. See Dkt. 68. This violation report stated that Mr. Rae was arrested for boating under the influence. Id. Mr. Rae’s BUI case is ongoing. Pretrial services is not recommending action at this point. Counsel for Mr. Rae notes that Mr. Rae was admonished for this incident, and states that there have been no further issues since that arrest. The government defers to the Court in terms of how it wishes to handle the violation report relating to Mr. Rae’s arrest. The government may affirmatively seek a change in Mr. Rae’s bond status or conditions if his ongoing BUI case results in a conviction.

Now, I’m skeptical that all five of these guys would plead guilty. I’m skeptical the three of them represented — with no conflict waver requested from DOJ — by John Pierce (Rae and the Tucks) would plead, because Pierce’s twin goals in representing an unsustainable number of January 6 defendants appears to be turning them into fundraising pawns and firewalling Joe Biggs. But obviously, the three prosecutors on this case believe two months might lead to plea deals where a hard deadline on any plea offer might not.

Generally, DOJ has required that militia defendants agree to cooperate with any plea. And while these five are not charged with conspiracy — they’re known mostly to have tagged along behind Biggs — they might be valuable witnesses to things DOJ might not otherwise have access to, such as Biggs’ side of phone conversations he had that day (there’s reason to believe, for example, he had calls with his former boss, Alex Jones).

Perhaps DOJ knows of some more cross-discovery that may make it worth their while to plead that will be coming in the days ahead.

Whatever it is, this selfie on the top of the East stairs is one small but seemingly significant detail in one of the tactically most important events of they day. And because of the very real delays in finalizing discovery in this case, this one won’t be resolved (if it is) before March. There’s no reason to believe DOJ could have done anything different to accelerate the process. The slow process is, in large part, due process overwhelmed by the difficulties of collecting all the evidence in this case.

I expect DOJ will continue to roll out new details about the breach at the East door in days ahead. Whether these men plead or not may not hold anything else up. They may be just five more bodies alleged to have worked to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power (two, George and Nathaniel Tuck are also accused of Civil Disorder; George is also accused of assault), along with two (the Hughes brothers) facing the possibility of terrorist enhancements for their role in obstructing the peaceful transfer of power.

But this is an example, however obscure, of the ways that the very due process we’re trying to uphold in preserving  our democracy slows down the quick resolution that everyone is demanding.

Update: On Wednesday, lawyers for Youngers and Tenney indicated that they’d probably take a plea offer from the government. That case, too, has been continued two months.

Also yesterday, DOJ finally moved for a conflict review, almost six months after John Pierce filed his appearance for both the Tucks in that case.

The Six Trump Associates Whom DOJ Is Investigating

Because I keep having to lay out the proof that DOJ, in fact, has investigated close Trump associates of the sort that might lead to Trump himself, I wanted to make a list of those known investigations. Note that three of these — Sidney Powell, Alex Jones, and Roger Stone — definitely relate to January 6 and a fourth — the investigation into Rudy Giuliani — is scoped such that that it might include January 6 without anyone knowing about it.

Rudy Giuliani

As I said a month ago, the treatment of Rudy Giuliani’s phones single-handedly disproves claims that Merrick Garland’s DOJ wouldn’t investigate Trump’s people, because a month after he was confirmed and literally the same day that Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco was sworn in on April 21, DOJ obtained warrants targeting Rudy Giuliani.

The known warrants for Rudy’s phone pertain to whether, in the lead-up to Trump’s impeachment for trying to coerce Ukraine’s assistance in the 2020 election, Rudy was acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine.

But as this table shows, Judge Paul Oetken ordered Special Master Barbara Jones to conduct a privilege review for Rudy’s seized devices from January 1, 2018 through the date of seizure, April 28, 2021. That means anything on Rudy’s devices from the entire period when he was helping Trump obstruct Mueller’s investigation well past the time he played the central role on orchestrating a coup attempt would be available to DOJ if it could show probable cause to get it.

There’s good reason to believe DOJ could show probable cause to access Rudy’s phones from April 2018 (before he formally became Trump’s lawyer), because during that period he was attempting to buy Michael Cohen’s silence with a pardon. There’s equally good reason to believe that act of obstruction is one of the referrals still redacted in the Mueller Report.

On or about April l 7, 20 l 8, Cohen began speaking with an attorney, Robert Costello, who had a close relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, one of the President’s personal lawyers. 1022 Costello told Cohen that he had a “back channel of communication” to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the “channel” was “crucial” and “must be maintained.” 1023 On April 20, 2018, the New York Times published an article about the President’s relationship with and treatment of Cohen. 1024 The President responded with a series of tweets predicting that Cohen would not ” flip” :

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

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

Similarly, there’s good reason to believe DOJ could show probable cause to access Rudy’s phone for his involvement in Trump’s attempted coup, not least because Rudy himself tweeted out some texts he exchanged with a Proud Boy associate discussing specific insurrectionists in the aftermath of the attack.

We wouldn’t know if DOJ had obtained warrants for those separate periods, because those periods will be covered by Jones’ review one way or another.

In any case, the details of the Rudy investigation show, at a minimum, that Barr went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to kill this investigation (and may have even ordered that FBI not review the materials seized in 2019). It took mere weeks after Garland took over, however, for the investigation to take very aggressive steps.

It also shows that SDNY managed to renew this investigation without major leaks.

Tom Barrack

Just this Tuesday, in a Zoom hearing for Brooklyn’s Federal Court, lawyers for the guy who installed Paul Manafort as Trump’s campaign manager suggested that Merrick Garland had politicized DOJ because, after the investigation into Tom Barrack had apparently stalled in 2019, he was indicted as an unregistered agent of the Emirates in July 2021.

According to reporting from 2019, this investigation was a Mueller referral, so it’s proof that Garland’s DOJ will pursue such referrals. According to CNN reporting, the indictment was all ready to go in July 2020, a year before it was actually charged. That provides a measure of how long it took an investigation that was deemed complete at a time when Barr seemingly prohibited filing it to be resuscitated under Garland: at least four months.

Barrack’s prosecution proves that DOJ can indict a top Trump associate without leaks in advance.

Jury selection for Barrack’s trial is now scheduled to start on September 7.

Sidney Powell

Two different outlets have reported that there is a grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grifting off lies about election fraud. WaPo’s story on the investigation describes that Molly Gaston is overseeing the investigation (she is also overseeing the Steve Bannon referral). As I noted, Gaston was pulled off three prosecutions for insurrectionists by last March.

Gaston originally pulled three January 6 cases in the investigation’s early days, those of Robert Packer, Robert Gieswein, and Derrick Evans, just the latter of which, involving a then-West Virginia state politician, had any possible public corruption component. But, at a time of immense staffing shortages at DC’s US Attorney’s Office, she dropped off those cases on February 18 (in the case of Packer) and March 29 (in the case of Gieswein and Evans). I’ve long wondered what, in the weeks after Merrick Garland came in, became a higher priority for the DC US Attorney’s leading public corruption prosecutor. We now know one thing she picked up in the interim was the prosecution of Michael Riley, the Capitol Police Officer who advised rioter Jacob Hiles to delete Facebook posts about his role in the riot. And by September, Gaston’s grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grift had started taking overt steps like subpoenaing Powell’s nonprofit.

For at least the Michael Riley prosecution and the Steve Bannon prosecution, Gaston is using two of at least three grand juries that are also investigating insurrectionists. For at least those investigations, there is no separate grand jury for the public corruption side of the investigation and the assault on the Capitol. They are the same investigation.

The investigation into Powell will necessarily intersect in interesting ways with Trump’s pardon of Mike Flynn.

There have been a lot of complaints that DOJ is not following the money. Powell’s investigation is proof that DOJ is following the money.

Alex Jones

Over the last year, DOJ has collected a great deal of evidence that the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and an alarming number of former Marines worked together to open a second breach on the Capitol via the East doors. Instrumental to the success of this breach were a large number of MAGA tourists who joined in the breach. DOJ has proof that at least some of them were there because Alex Jones had lured them there by lying about a second Trump speech on the East side of the building.

DOJ has already arrested two of Jones’ employees: videographer Sam Montoya in April and on-air personality Owen Shroyer in August.

In a November DOJ response in the Shroyer case, Alex Jones was referred to as Person One, as numerous others believed to be under active investigation have been described. That filing debunked the cover story that Shroyer and Jones have used to excuse their actions on January 6. Judge Tim Kelly, who is also presiding over the most important Proud Boys cases, is currently reviewing Shroyer’s First Amendment challenge to his arrest.

This strand of the investigation has likely necessarily lagged the exploitation of former Alex Jones’ employee Joe Biggs’ iCloud and phone, which were made available to Biggs’ co-travelers in August. This post has more on the developments in the Montoya and Shroyer cases, including that a different prosecutor recently took over Monotya’s case.

Roger Stone

Roger Stone, who has close ties to both the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who coordinated the attack on the Capitol, has shown up repeatedly in the Oath Keeper conspiracy. In March, DOJ debunked Connie Meggs’ claim not to know her co-conspirators by including a picture of an event she did with Roger Stone and Graydon Young (this was close to the time that Connie’s husband Kelly organized an alliance between Florida militias).

In a May 25 FBI interview, Mike Simmons, the field commander for the Oath Keepers on January 6, appears to have been specifically asked why Simmons had so many conversations with Joshua James, who was providing security for Roger Stone at the Willard the morning of the insurrection. Simmons appears to have explained that James called him every time Stone moved.

In June, Graydon Young, the Floridian who attended that Stone event with Connie, entered a cooperation agreement. Also in June, Mark Grods, one of the Oath Keepers who had been at the Willard that morning, entered a cooperation agreement. In September, Jason Dolan, a former Marine from Florida who also interacted with Stone in advance of the insurrection and who was waiting there on January 6 as the other Oath Keepers, a number of Proud Boys (including former Alex Jones employee Joe Biggs) and Alex Jones himself all converged at the top of the East steps just as the doors were opened from inside, entered a cooperation agreement.

Erik Prince

There’s one more grand jury investigation into a powerful Trump associate that I know of via someone who was subpoenaed in the investigation in the second half of last year. The investigation reflects a reopening of an investigation Billy Barr shut down in 2019-2020. What’s interesting about it is the scope seems somewhat different and the investigating District is different than the earlier investigation. That may suggest that, for investigations that Barr shut down, DOJ would need to have a new evidence to reopen it. But the existence of this investigation shows, again, that Garland’s DOJ will go after powerful Trump associates.

Update, 2/8/22: NYT just named the sixth person under investigation: Erik Prince.

Mr. Prince is separately under investigation by the Justice Department on unrelated matters, according to people familiar with the case. The scope of that investigation is unclear.

It baffles me why TV lawyers continue to claim there’s no evidence that Merrick Garland is investigating anyone close to Trump — aside from they’re looking for leaks rather than evidence being laid out in plain sight in court filings. One of the first things that Garland’s DOJ did was to take really aggressive action against the guy who led Trump’s efforts to launch a coup. Alex Jones and Roger Stone are clearly part of the investigation into how the breach of the East doors of the Capitol came together, and the two of them (Jones especially) tie directly back to Trump.

There are other reasons to believe that DOJ’s investigation includes Trump’s role in the assault on the Capitol, laid out in the statements of offense from insurrectionists who’ve pled guilty, ranging from trespassers to militia conspirators. But one doesn’t even have to read how meticulously DOJ is collecting evidence that dozens of people have admitted under oath that they participated in the attack on the Capitol because of what Trump had led them to believe on Twitter.

Because DOJ clearly has several other routes to get to Trump’s role via his close associates. I’m not promising they’ll get there. And this will take time (as I’ll show in a follow-up). But that’s different than claiming that this evidence doesn’t exist.

Update: I did a podcast where I explained how the misdemeanor arrests are necessary to moving up the chain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The import of January 5 in January 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

The organizer-inciters called for revolution on January 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Straka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3%er SoCal Conspiracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Jones, Owen Shroyer, and Ali Alexander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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