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Bennie Thompson to Ivanka: Come In from the Conspiracy

Even though you read this site, you may not recognize the names Brad Smith or Marshall Neefe. Even though I’ve focused some attention to his case, you may not remember the significance of Ronnie Sandlin. You might not even remember that the Oath Keeper conspiracy was named after retired Navy officer Thomas Caldwell before he was spun off into the sedition conspiracy named after Stewart Rhodes.

But those are all references of import to understand this footnote in the letter Bennie Thompson sent to Ivanka Trump, inviting her to testify voluntarily.

The Select Committee is aware of the motivation of many of the violent rioters from their posts on social media, from their contemporaneous statements on video, and from the hundreds of filings in federal court.11

11 For example, many defendants in pending criminal cases identified President Trump’s allegations about the “stolen election” as a motivation for their activities at the Capitol; a number also specifically cited President Trump’s tweets asking that supporters come to Washington, D.C. on January 6th. See, e.g., United States of America v. Ronald L. Sandlin https://www.justice.gov/opa/page/file/1362396/download: “I’m going to be there to show support for our president and to do my part to stop the steal and stand behind Trump when he decides to cross the rubicon.” United States of America v. Marshall Neefe and Charles Bradford Smith https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/case-multi-defendant/file/1432686/download: “Trump is literally calling people to DC in a show of force. Militias will be there and if there’s enough people they may fucking storm the buildings and take out the trash right there.” United States of America v. Caldwell et al. https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/case-multi-defendant/file/1369071/download: “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!! ! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your shit!!”

The Select Committee could have chosen any number of individual defendants to support the claim that Trump was the motivating force for the participants of the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.

It did not.

Instead, without saying that it had, it cited three conspiracy indictments: a conspiracy that involved totally random guys who met online coming armed to DC and assaulting officers to break open the East doors and break into the Senate chamber, a conspiracy where guys armed themselves to come to DC based on a motivation that, “Why shouldn’t we be the ones” to kick off war, and a conspiracy that has now officially been charged as sedition.

What the Select Committee just said to Ivanka, very subtly (and without the hotlinks to these court filings to make it easy) is that multiple organizers across multiple conspiracies — all involving arming themselves before traveling to DC — acted on Trump’s comments in December and January as instructions.

What the Select Committee has laid out in this footnote is that key members of conspiracies that led to violent assaults on January 6 entered into an agreement with Donald Trump to engage in violence.

Other coverage of this letter has focused on the many other scathing details included in it:

  • Proof that Trump knew he was making an illegal request of Mike Pence (and that Ivanka knew such pressure was wrong)
  • Proof that multiple people attempted to get Trump to call off the violence (and that staffers repeatedly asked Ivanka to intercede to get him to do so)
  • Proof that advisors including Kaleigh McEnany and Sean Hannity attempted to get Trump to disavow these efforts

In response to the letter, Ivanka issued a statement making it clear that on January 6 she disavowed the violence caused by her father.

Ivanka Trump just learned that the Jan. 6 Committee issued a public letter asking her to appear. As the Committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6 rally. As she publicly stated that day at 3:15pm, “any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable. The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.”

But that doesn’t account for another detail of the letter that has gotten far less attention than the eye-popping new details about Trump’s actions: Chairman Thompson reminded Ivanka (in a paragraph that seemingly addresses another topic) not just of the requirements of the Presidential Records Act, but also that she got formal notice of those requirements in 2017.

The Select Committee would like to discuss this effort after January 6th to persuade President Trump not to associate himself with certain people, and to avoid further discussion regarding election fraud allegations. We also wish to share with you a memorandum from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn (attached), regarding the legal requirements on White House personnel to turn over to the National Archives any work-related messages from personal devices. We wish to be certain that former White House staff are fully aware of these obligations.

Ivanka, of course, is not just the former President’s daughter. She’s also someone legally obliged to share all the communications conducted while performing whatever role it is she played in the White House — up to and including begging her Daddy to call off a violent mob — with the National Archives.

Thompson would not have mentioned this if the committee had been able to obtain Ivanka’s side of many of these communications from the Archives (or at least seen them in documents Trump was attempting to claim privilege over). Thompson seems to know that Ivanka is not in compliance with the Presidential Records Act specifically as it pertains to her role on January 6.

Here’s the thing about conspiracies. Once you join them, you’re in them — you’re on the hook for what all other co-conspirators do, from acquiring weapons to bring to DC, to assaulting cops, to planning to overthrow the government — unless you make an affirmative effort to leave the conspiracy.

Ivanka might well point to that comment in her statement — The violence must stop immediately — as an effort to leave a conspiracy.

Except if she is covering up some of the things she knows by withholding records from the Archives, she’s going to have a hard time arguing that she didn’t remain in the conspiracy with all those people plotting violence by helping to cover it up.

The Disappearing Willard Hotel and the Accused Seditionists’ Other Interlocutors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poof! Where’s Roger?

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

Stewie’s Assault Rifle: Comings and Goings in the Sedition Militia

I’d like to return to what DOJ did with the Oath Keeper indictments.

As I explained, one thing the sedition indictment did is provide DOJ an easy way to split the unwieldy 17-person indictment into two trials. The first, the sedition trial, includes a barely manageable 11 people, all of whom played a leadership role and/or an active role in putting together the Quick Reaction Force stashed at the Comfort Inn in Ballston.

The second, with seven people charged, named “Crowl” after Donovan Crowl, is still just a conspiracy to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power, though charged under the obstruction statute (18 USC 1512(k)), making the potential sentence for the conspiracy charge higher even for those who, like James Beeks, really just hopped on a stack at the last minute. On top of everything else, these defendants now face the prospect of going to trial after what will surely be a high profile sedition trial, which will make it a lot harder to convince a jury of one’s innocence.

In addition, curiously, DOJ charged Jonathan Walden by himself with just obstruction and trespassing.

Whether DOJ charged Walden by himself in preparation of a plea from him or for some other reason, charging him by himself makes a change in naming convention a lot easier.

In past Oath Keeper conspiracy indictments, DOJ referred to charged defendants in all-caps, those who entered cooperating plea deals in standard text, and those who hadn’t been charged yet using a number system, with Person One being Rhodes, as in this paragraph from the December indictment.

The Crowl indictment generally adheres to this practice, listing both those charged in Crowl and those charged with sedition at the beginning to make it clear it’s all one conspiracy.

But because of the way the Crowl indictment is scoped — focusing on what the sedition indictment calls “Stack One” (the one that busted into the Capitol in spectacular fashion) — certain people are not named at all. Roberto Minuta and Joshua James from the sedition indictment aren’t there, Walden, now spun off on his own is not there.

And cooperating witness, Mark Grods, is not there, at all. Whatever references there are to him just refer to him as a co-conspirator.

It’s not just Grods. A bunch of people, formerly numbers, are just co-conspirators now. Perhaps DOJ did that to sow as much paranoia as possible, so that the defendants have no idea who has flipped and who hasn’t. But I’m particularly interested in Grods’ absence for reasons I’ll explain in a follow-up.

Anyway, this naming convention is most notable with the treatment of Person Ten, who has been identified as Michael Simmons by Mother Jones and others, but who is referred to in the sedition indictment as “the operation leader.”

As with Walden, it’s not entirely clear what’s up with Simmons. It cannot be the case that DOJ decided he had no criminal exposure. As prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy noted in December, Simmons’ attempts to pretend he didn’t know about the insurrection in May FBI interviews “lack credibility.”

Person Ten’s Statements Are Lacking in Credibility

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

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

So something had to have happened with Simmons, with a cooperation deal a likely explanation. That’s why I’m interested in a few details laid out in the sedition indictment.

The main QRF for the people charged in the sedition indictment was (as I never tire of saying) in the Ballston Comfort Inn. Here’s what these guys looked like toting their gun cases around on luggage carts on the surveillance footage.

But before Kelly Meggs and Thomas Caldwell and others settled on the Ballston Comfort Inn for the QRF, Rhodes offered to store weapons for Meggs in the trunk of Simmons’ car.

50. On January 2, 2021, RHODES messaged MEGGS on Signal, “If you want to stow weapons with [the operation leader] you can. He’ll have a secure car trunk or his hotel room (or mine).” MEGGS responded, “Last night call … we discussed a QRF RP so we may do that. As well as the NC team has a hotel room close by.” RHODES messaged, “Ok, We WILL have a QRF. this situation calls for it.” [my emphasis]

The sedition indictment seems to describe Joshua James dropping off weapons at the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna, VA.

68. On January 5, 2021, JAMES dropped off firearms and ammunition that he, ULRICH, and other co-conspirators had transported to the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna, Virginia, where RHODES, JAMES, MINUTA, and others were staying.

One of the “others” staying at the Hilton Garden Inn referred to in this paragraph, the earlier indictment makes clear, was Simmons.

On January 4,2021, PERSON TEN checked into the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna, Virginia. The room was reserved and paid for using a credit card in PERSON ONE’s name.

Anyway, it’s not entirely clear whether that paragraph 68 means that James dropped off weapons he had driven to Vienna at the Comfort Inn, or whether he brought those weapons to the Hilton Garden Inn and they stayed there. It’s worth noting, though, that by leaving Grods out of the sedition indictment, DOJ left out this paragraph from earlier indictments.

On January 2, 2021, Grods messaged JAMES on Signal and asked, “So, I guess I am taking full gear less weapons? Just reading through all the posts. Would rather have it and not need it.” JAMES responded, “Yeah full gear… QRF will have weapons Just leave em home.”

That is, by leaving Grods out, DOJ got to leave out some details about the fate of James’ weapons, too.

And while the sedition indictment has a ton of new details about Rhodes serially arming himself as he drove to insurrection…

On January 3, 2021, RHODES departed Granbury, Texas, and began traveling to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. While traveling, RHODES spent approximately $6,000 in Texas on an AR-platform rifle and firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, triggers, slings, and additional firearms attachments.

[snip]

On January 4, 2021, while still traveling toward the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, RHODES spent approximately $4,500 in Mississippi on firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, an optic plate, a magazine, and various firearms parts.

… The sedition indictment provides not one detail of where Stewie’s personal arsenal ended up once he got to VA. It doesn’t say he kept all those weapons at the Hilton Garden Inn in Vienna. It doesn’t say the weapons got moved to the Comfort Inn in Ballston.

The sedition indictment does, however, explain that Rhodes and Simmons drove to DC together the morning of insurrection.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., RHODES and the operation leader, and others departed a hotel in Virginia for Washington, D.C., and drove to the Capitol area.

So Rhodes and Simmons traveled to DC in something that had a trunk, like the one days earlier where, Rhodes said, Meggs could stash his weapons.

And I find that interesting because Rhodes and Simmons weren’t together when the insurrection kicked off. Earlier indictments make clear that Rhodes was trying to meet up with Simmons as everyone started converging on the Capitol.

At 2:06 p.m, PERSON ONE sent another message to the Leadership Signal Chat asking for PERSON TEN’s location before stating, “I’m trying to get to you.”

And in fact, Rhodes kept trying to get people to come to the south side of the Capitol, even though all the action was happening north of there.

At 2:25 p.m. PERSON ONE forwarded PERSON TEN’s message (“The have taken ground at the capital[.] We need to regroup any members who are not on mission.”) to the Leadership Signal Chat and instructed: “Come to South Side of Capitol on steps” and then sent a ‘photograph showing the southeast side of the Capitol.

Rhodes’ 2:06 text got cut from the sedition indictment, though his 2:25 one made the cut.

At 2:32, as the Stack was assembling outside the East steps of the Capitol, Kelly Meggs called Rhodes and got conferenced into an already existing call with Simmons.

At 2:32 p.m., MEGGS places a phone call to RHODES, who was already on the phone with the operation leader. RHODES conferenced MEGGS into the call.

Minutes later, after Kelly Meggs and the first stack busted into the Capitol, and Meggs walked towards the office of Pelosi (whom he threatened to kill on election day) with Joseph Hackett and others, Hackett came back out to the entrance as if he was trying to meet up with someone, only to give up and leave.

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

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

Neither Rhodes nor Simmons entered the Capitol.

To be clear: we have no idea what happened to Simmons and it’s not clear whom Hackett was looking for as Kelly Meggs attempted to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

But I think it distinctly possible that Simmons drove Stewie’s weapons into DC. Which — particularly if there were a plot to assassinate Nancy Pelosi — would increase Simmons’ exposure significantly.

Update: I just re-read Mike Simmons’ 302s. And he claims that he parked by the Jefferson Memorial.

That’s the location of the “sea” landing point for the QRF teams.

On the evening of January 2, 2021, at about 5:43 p.m., KELLY MEGGS posted a map of Washington, D.C. in the Leadership Signal Chat, along with the message, “1 if by land] North side of Lincoln Memorial[,] 2 if by sea[,] Corner of west basin and Ohio is a water transport landing 11” KELLY MEGGS continued, “QRF rally points[.] Water of the bridges get closed.”

January 6 Deconfliction: “This Is Part of a Much Bigger Conspiracy”

In a Detroit Free Press article on the forged electoral certificate presented from Michigan, the state’s awesome Attorney General Dana Nessel explained why, after investigating for almost a year, she is now referring the matter to the Grand Rapids US Attorney’s Office.

Nessel told Maddow that her office has been evaluating charges for almost a year but decided Thursday to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan.

“We think this is a matter that is best investigated and potentially prosecuted by the feds,” Nessel said.

The signatories of the failed attempt to award Michigan’s Electoral College votes to Trump include Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, national Republican committeewoman Kathy Berden and Michigan GOP grassroots vice chair Marian Sheridan, among other pro-Trump activists in the party.

The decision does not preclude possible charges against the Republicans who falsely claimed that they cast Michigan’s Electoral College votes for Trump, Nessel said. And her office might still bring charges, she added.

“Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense,” Nessel said.

“But, obviously, this is part of a much bigger conspiracy and our hope is that the federal authorities and the Department of Justice and United States Attorney General Merrick Garland will take this in coordination with all the other information they’ve received and make an evaluation as to what charges these individuals might (face),” she said.

Consider what happened to lead to this federal criminal referral. After electors sent fake certifications to the National Archives, NARA then sent them to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

Vice President Mike Pence the winners of both Michigan and Arizona and their electors after the 2020 election. Public records requests show the secretaries of state for those states sent those certificates to the Jan. 6 panel, along with correspondence between the National Archives and state officials about the documents.

Spokespeople for the Michigan and Arizona secretaries of state declined to comment on the documents. The offices confirmed that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, both Democrats, and their staff met with the panel in November.

“They mostly discussed election administration in Arizona, the 2020 elections, threats/harassment directed toward the office, and the Cyber Ninja’s partisan ballot review,” said Hobbs’ spokesperson C. Murphy Hebert.

Benson and her staff took questions from the committee on the 2020 election and events leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, according to Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Benson.

The National Archives sent emails to the Arizona secretary of state on Dec. 11, 2020, passing along the forged certificates “for your awareness” and informing the state officials the Archives would not accept them.

Arizona then took legal action against at least one of the groups who sent in the fake documents, sending a cease and desist letter to a pro-Trump “sovereign citizen” group telling them to stop using the state seal and referring the matter to the state attorney general.

“By affixing the state seal to documents containing false and misleading information about the results of Arizona’s November 3, 2020 General Election, you undermine the confidence in our democratic institutions,” Hobbs wrote to one of the pro-Trump groups.

Arizona took immediate action; given Nessel’s comments, Benson appears to have referred the matter to Nessel. Some of these details were made public last March after American Oversight obtained them. But after the January 6 Committee put them all in context and focused renewed attention to how the fake certificates fit into a larger effort, it led Nessel to hold off on pursuing potential 14-year charges against some of the most powerful Republicans in the state, and instead to formally refer the investigation to the Feds, based on the logic that the obviously coordinated effort to forge fake electoral certificates is part of a larger whole.

This is not dissimilar from how legal action from Florida’s charity regulator led to state action as well as a grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grifting.

For months, a federal investigation running out of Washington, D.C., has been demanding documents and asking potential witnesses questions about Powell, according to three people familiar with the matter. Similarly, a separate investigation into Powell’s anti-democratic activities took place in the Sunshine State earlier this year—and has already produced results, and punished Powell and her far-right group.

The federal probe, which has not been previously reported, is examining the finances of Defending the Republic, an organization founded by Powell to fund her “Kraken” lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election, the sources said.According to two of the people familiar with the matter, a grand jury was empaneled, and subpoenas and documents requests have gone out to multiple individuals as recently as September.

Defending the Republic’s finances have already prompted an investigation and a settlement with Florida’s charity regulator. The group paid a $10,000 fine in September as part of a settlement agreement related to its solicitation of contributions and failure to register as a charitable organization in the state.

[snip]

Defending the Republic’s finances first attracted the scrutiny of regulators in Florida shortly after Powell founded the group in November 2020 when authorities received a complaint and subsequently issued a subpoena to internet hosting service GoDaddy for information about the group’s website.

In a June press conference, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Defending the Republic was “found to be soliciting contributions from the State of Florida or from persons within the State of Florida” on the internet “without having filed in the State of Florida” as a charitable organization.”

On Aug. 24, Defending the Republic paid a $10,000 fine as part of a settlement agreement with Florida authorities over its fundraising.

As part of that agreement, Powell’s group agreed to register as a charity in Florida and submitted a projected budget of over $7 million. The settlement agreement also required Defending the Republic to submit an audited financial statement for the group’s operations between December 2020 and July 2021 by Nov. 30, including a balance sheet and a list of expenses and revenue.

Meanwhile, Fulton County’s DA, Fani Willis, has been investigating Trump’s call to pressure Brad Raffensperger to cheat and will reportedly make a prosecutorial decision in the months ahead.

The prosecutor weighing whether Donald Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory said a decision on whether to bring charges could come as early as the first half of this year.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that her team is making solid progress, and she’s leaning toward asking for a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid the investigation.

“I believe in 2022 a decision will be made in that case,” Willis said. “I certainly think that in the first half of the year that decisions will be made.”

[snip]

Willis declined to speak about the specifics, but she confirmed that the investigation’s scope includes — but is not limited to — a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a November 2020 phone call between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the abrupt resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during December 2020 Georgia legislative committee hearings on the election.

Regardless of what Willis decides, she can also refer actions to the Feds because it, like the forged electoral certifications, “is part of a much bigger conspiracy.”

The point is (besides that we should be grateful that Democrats elected a lot of smart, fearless women in recent years) that there are lots of moving parts to this “much bigger conspiracy.” And all those moving parts have, as an option, referring their investigative findings to DOJ to drop it into the “much bigger conspiracy.”

So during the year when DOJ has been laying what Merrick Garland called “the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases,” states and local authorities have been conducting investigations that can be joined to that evidentiary foundation.

These are all parts of a much bigger conspiracy.

All these moving parts require coordination, however, or “deconfliction,” both in an effort to maximize cross-fertilization between the investigations and to ensure no investigation screws up the criminal investigations that might lead to real consequences. While there has been no reporting on how this is being done at DOJ, we can be sure it is, not least because DOJ and the Committee are muddling through the Executive Privilege questions in tandem.

Robert Mueller, for example, had his own congressional liaison, and referrals from the Senate Intelligence Committee led directly to plea deals with Sam Patten and Michael Cohen that, in turn, led to information both (and in the latter case, Trump’s lawyers) had shielded from the Committees.

Adam Schiff, now a member on the Select Committee, knows well that Mueller also used a House Intelligence Committee interview with Roger Stone as a basis for an obstruction prosecution against Trump’s rat-fucker. While the details are less clear, I also suspect that Steve Bannon’s interviews with HPSCI served to tee up the fruitful grand jury appearance for him in January 2019 about which Stone is still furious.

Liz Cheney brings a different knowledge base to the challenge of deconfliction. Her dad played a central role in screwing up the Special Prosecutor investigation into Iran-Contra by offering key witnesses immunity. He’s one reason why congressional committees hoping to preserve criminal investigations tread carefully. Hopefully, Congresswoman Cheney can apply lessons learned from her evil genius father to the forces of good on the Select Committee. She has the most to lose if this Committee doesn’t succeed.

As noted above, the most visible sign of this deconfliction has come on privilege reviews. In July, at the same time that DOJ established their contact policy fire-walling President Biden from learning about any ongoing investigations, DOJ got privilege waivers for former DOJ personnel to appear before Congress. After that, when the Select Committee, as an independent branch of government that is also fire-walled from the criminal investigation, asked for investigative materials from the Archives, Biden conducted privilege reviews of that material and waived privilege over much, but not all, of it. If and when that material is released, however, it would be available to anyone with a need, including DOJ.

In fact, the back and forth between the Committee and DOJ has likely already made investigative materials available to DOJ. That’s because, after the Select Committee made it clear Mark Meadows had violated the Presidential Records Act with regards to some of the materials he shared with the committee, Meadows undertook efforts to fix that. To the extent he is able to provide his personal emails and Signal texts to NARA (some of the latter are likely are unavailable), that material would become available to DOJ without subpoenaing Meadows. And to the extent this process reveals that materials of investigative interest to a grand jury were deleted when Meadows obtained a new phone, it will give DOJ reason to use legal process to either hold Meadows accountable for obstruction, or reason to get it from others, like Jim Jordan. To say nothing of the fact that Meadows can’t prevent DOJ from subpoenaing the call records that led him to renege on efforts to cooperate with the January 6 Committee. That’s why I doubt DOJ will hold Meadows in criminal contempt, because they would be better served to get that information — and coerce cooperation, if he chooses that route — via their own legal process. Effectively, then, Bennie Thompson wrote a rough draft of a warrant affidavit for the FBI.

It’s in the subpoenas for witnesses, however, that I’m most curious about with regards to deconfliction between the DOJ and Select Committee investigation. Consider: There are two Trump associates who were key in sowing the Big Lie, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who are known to be under criminal investigation right now. That’s a topic the Select Committee is focusing closely on. But in spite of the fact that Bennie Thompson has expressed an interest in interviewing Rudy, thus far Thompson remains coy about how he’ll reach out to get Rudy’s testimony. There has been no public mention of getting Powell’s testimony or, for that matter, Lin Wood or Patrick Byrne, who — based on public reports — are part of that grifting investigation as well (and Byrne would be interesting of his own accord because he was honey-potted by a Russian spy). And for that matter, at least by the time he sued the committee, Mike Flynn’s call records hadn’t been subpoenaed either.

I’m equally interested in the timing of the Stewart Rhodes subpoena: November 23. That was after DOJ obtained an arrest warrant for James Beeks, the last member of The Stack, on November 18, but the day before they arrested him. By that point (probably long before), DOJ had to have known they were going to pursue sedition charges against him. But for some reason, they held off on the sedition charges when they superseded the Oath Keepers indictment on December 1 (before they otherwise would have needed to charge Beeks) to include him and tweak the Civil Disorder language in the indictment. There may be very good reasons they needed to wait: They needed to find Rhodes; they needed to finish exploiting his phone; they needed to resolve how they were going to treat the field commander, Mike Simmons, whose status in the investigation changed pretty dramatically between the December indictment and the Sedition one. But in that period while they held off, the Select Committee tested whether Rhodes wanted to go lie under oath to Congress. He declined.

It was worth a shot!

I find it equally curious that the Select Committee chose to target colleagues who played a more ambivalent role in the insurrection on January 6, rather than people like Paul Gosar or Mo Brooks, who have clear ties to organizers and other insurrectionists.

Similarly, I share Justin Hendrix’s curiosity why — especially in the wake of his article showing that The Donald isn’t being used in FBI affidavits — the Select Committee isn’t pursuing the role of the post-Reddit social media site in the insurrection, even while they expand their prior requests on more traditional social media.

In short, DOJ and the Select Committee are necessarily deconflicting their efforts, even if the Committee remains fire-walled from what DOJ has planned in the weeks ahead. But understanding that raises interesting questions about the Select Committee choices.

These pieces are all parts of a much bigger conspiracy. And until we see all those pieces we won’t see how they all work together.

But there are increasing signs that others are putting those pieces together.

Update: On January 18, the committee subpoenaed Rudy, Sidney Powell, and two others.

Select Committee Witness Requests

One Man’s Flourish Is Another Man’s Seditious Conspiracy: DOJ’s Typo and the Brandon Straka Plea Deal

The government released their sentencing memo for Brandon Straka yesterday. It confirms that the propagandist got a ridiculously light plea deal because he “cooperated” with the government. But, particularly because of what must be a typo in the government filing, it raises more questions about the fairness of the prosecution for the first purveyor of the Big Lie to be sentenced in January 6 than it provides answers.

As I’ve laid out repeatedly, Straka was a speaker on January 5 and was slated to speak again on January 6 at one of the rallies that provided the excuse to bring more bodies to the Capitol. He also played a central role in riling up a mob at Michigan’s vote count at TCF Center in November 2020. In other words, he was instrumental in the effort to sow violence by leading people to believe false claims about the election.

As described in the sentencing memo, that’s precisely what Straka did at the East side of the Capitol, too.

Straka pleaded guilty to one count of 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(D), Disorderly Conduct in the Capitol Grounds. As explained herein, a four-month home detention sentence is appropriate in this case because: (1) the defendant has a significant public profile, which he utilized to promote his activity on January 6, (2) the defendant learned of the breach of the U.S. Capitol Building and went to join the rioters; (3) upon arriving at the U.S. Capitol, the defendant encouraged others to  storm the U.S. Capitol; (4) the defendant recorded video of the rioters entering the U.S. Capitol; (5) the defendant encouraged rioters to take an officer’s protective shield from the officer’s possession, and (6) the defendant took to social media and encouraged rioters who remained at the U.S. Capitol to “hold the line” even after he had left Capitol grounds on January 6.

[snip]

Here, Straka’s participation in a riot that actually succeeded in halting the Congressional certification combined with his celebration and endorsement of the unauthorized entry of the U.S. Capitol and violent conduct of the rioters to his hundreds of thousands of followers, his act of encouraging rioters to take a U.S. Capitol Police officer’s shield, and the need for deterrence renders a four-month home detention sentence both necessary and appropriate in this case.

Straka was originally charged with civil disorder and trespassing, but not the obstruction of the vote count that he was clearly part of. In October, he got a plea deal to plead only to the lesser of the two trespassing statutes, eliminating a felony civil disorder charge. As I previously noted, his plea agreement included the standard cooperation paragraph that usually suggests someone has not yet cooperated.

But DOJ, in their sentencing memo, claims he did, and even included a sealed filing describing the substance of the cooperation, as they would in support of a 5.1K letter that more formalized cooperators get.

7 The government will supplement this filing with a sealed addendum that will provide this Court with information related to Brandon Straka’s interviews.

But even the memo’s description of Straka’s initial “cooperative” interviews, the ones he did before getting that sweet plea deal, make it clear that, at least at the beginning, he was bullshitting them.

Straka was arrested on January 25, 2021. Straka voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by FBI. Straka’s initial interview occurred on February 17, 2021. Straka recounted what occurred on January 6. Straka denied seeing any police officers as he walked to the U.S. Capitol. He also denied seeing any barriers or signage indicating that the U.S. Capitol was closed. Straka denied removing the posts out of fear of getting arrested. Instead, he explained that he removed the videos because he felt “ashamed.” He denied knowing that people were “attacking, hurting, and killing people.”

Straka described seeing people “clustered” and “packed in” near the entrance to the U.S. Capitol. He admitted to video recording the event and later posting and removing the videos from Twitter. He also admitted knowing that the rioters were entering the U.S. Capitol without authorization and with the intent to interfere with Congress. Straka provided additional information to the FBI regarding the events leading up to and during January 6. After this initial interview, the FBI met with Straka a second time on March 25, 2021 with follow-up questions. Straka was cooperative during the interviews.

Indeed, later parts of the memorandum debunk claims Straka made in that interview, completely undermining the description of these as cooperative interviews.

Straka stood at the entrance of the East Rotunda Doors as rioters attempted to enter despite the presence of officers near the door. Alarms from inside the U.S. Capitol can be heard in the background as Straka approaches the doorway’s entrance: a loud, high-pitched, continuous beeping, similar to a smoke alarm. If Straka was unaware that his and the rioters’ presence was not authorized, he should have known it when he heard the sound of the alarms. Additionally, as Straka approached the doorway, he was met by the smell of tear gas that had been deployed by officers inside of the U.S. Capitol.

The memorandum also clearly shows that any remorse Straka has expressed was self-serving.

Straka has indicated that his decision to attend the U.S. Capitol breach was “stupid and a tragic decision.” In his interview with FBI, Straka stated that he did not know that violence and death would occur that day. He then expressed shame for participating in the event. Yet, it is worth pointing out that Straka believes that “the consequences for his actions this far have been quite extreme and disproportionate given his involvement.” Straka also believes that he is misunderstood. He has also expressed concern about how his business has been affected. ECF 28 ¶¶ 23-25. These statements indicate that Straka does not understand the gravamen of his conduct and that of the rioters on January 6.

And the memorandum obscures the chronology of Straka’s actions from the day and relies on his word for at least one key detail which the FBI could have (and did, for other insurrectionists) confirmed via more investigation. Straka went to Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. Videos show that he left the speech with Mike Flynn just as the speech was ending, walking unimpeded through the VIP section. Straka claims he took the Metro to the Capitol and arrived between 2 and 2:20, which given that everybody else was walking, is likely only possible if he killed a half hour somewhere before hopping the Metro, presumably getting on at Metro Center or Federal Triangle and getting off at Capitol South. That detail is critical, because it’s how Straka sustains a claim that:

  • He only learned of the assault on the Capitol as he was already traveling over there and not before
  • He arrived at the Capitol between the time he learned of the assault and when his speech was canceled (2:00 to 2:20)
  • He learned his speech was canceled at 2:33

Here’s how it looks in the sentencing memorandum, separated by several pages.

The next day, January 6, 2021, Straka attended the “Rally to Save America” on the White House Ellipse and then planned to travel to an area near the U.S. Capitol Building where he was going to give another speech. See ECF 1, p. 2 at ¶ 3 Straka used the Metro to travel to the U.S. Capitol. Id. While traveling to the U.S. Capitol, he received alerts on his telephone stating that former Vice President Mike Pence was “not going to object to certifying Joe Biden.” Id. Straka continued to make his way to the U.S. Capitol. Id. While walking, Straka learned that the U.S. Capitol had been breached. Id. Straka estimated that he got off of the Metro sometime between 2:00 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. before making his way to the U.S. Capitol grounds. See ECF 28, at ¶ 18.

[snip]

At 2:33 pm on January 6, 2021, Michael Coudrey, the national coordinator for Stop the Steal, sent a message to a group chat telling those in the chat that the event that Straka was scheduled to speak at would be delayed because “They stormed the capital[sic].” Joshua Kaplan and Joaquin Sapien, New Details Suggest Sernior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic, ProPublica (June 25, 2021) available at https://www.propublica.org/article
/new-detailssuggest-senior-trump-aides-knew-jan-6-rally-could-get-chaotic (last visited December 16, 2021). Straka responded, “I just got gassed! Never felt so fucking alive in my life!!!” Id. Later, as law enforcement was still working to clear rioters from Capitol grounds, Straka encouraged them to continue fighting:

It’s still totally inexplicable. Even if Straka didn’t have knowledge he was traveling into an active riot in advance (a really sketchy claim), he still marched right up the steps of the East side of the Capitol encouraging violent entry, and then stuck around for hours encouraging rioters to keep going. DOJ could have checked the timing of his story by — as they did with other Jan 6 defendants — checking for Metro card purchases, swipes, or surveillance video in the Metro. Instead, they seem to have taken his word for the chronology.

Thus far, then, it looks like Straka successfully bullshitted DOJ for a sweet plea deal.

That treatment is all the more problematic given the discomfort regarding Straka’s incitement in different places in the sentencing memo. In describing his January 5 speech at the Stop the Steal rally, DOJ dismissed his call to “revolution” as “flourishes.”

During his five-minute long speech, Straka again used common rhetorical flourishes, referring to the rally attendees as “patriots,” and referenced a “revolution” multiple times. Id. at 32:27-37:18 Straka directed the attendees to “fight back.” Id.

But in the sentencing memo, DOJ called the same kind of speech on social media before that, often on key days in the developing conspiracy, speech that “could reasonably have been interpreted by some readers as a call for more than just a figurative struggle.”

Following the election, Straka stoked the passions of his followers, frequently telling the “Patriots” that it was time to “rise up” as part of a “civil war.” Many of these messages contain rhetorical flourishes that are common in political speech. However, some of Straka’s references to concrete planning and action could reasonably have been interpreted by some readers as a call for more than just a figurative struggle. In early December 2020, Straka sent out messages informing them that they “could not allow” a presidential transition and encouraging his followers to prepare for a civil war

That is, DOJ admits in its sentencing memo that Straka was stoking violence during the entire transition period.

Thus it happened that, on the very same day DOJ rolled out a seditious conspiracy indictment against Stewart Rhodes for, in part, warning on November 5, “we aren’t getting through this without a civil war,” and then warning on December 11 that if Joe Biden were to assume the Presidency, “it will be a bloody and desperate fight,” DOJ made a case that a guy who, in the same weeks, was also calling for civil war, should get just home confinement.

To be sure, there’s no evidence Straka engaged in military training or purchased weapons. But if Stewie’s incitement counts as sedition, then surely Straka’s counts as obstruction of the peaceful transfer of power.

Which brings us back to DOJ’s claims about Straka’s cooperation and that sealed addendum. According to the memo, as written, Straka had three interviews: one on February 17, 2021, another on March 25, 2021, and a third on — it claims — January 5, 2022.

On January 5, 2022, Straka met with prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI a third time. The purpose of the interview was for the government to ask Straka follo-up [sic] questions. Consistent with his previous interviews, Straka was cooperative. The interviews were conducted in anticipation of the plea agreement that defendant would later enter.7

Except that makes no sense. He signed his statement of offense on September 14, 2021 and pled guilty in October. A January 5, 2022 interview couldn’t have “anticipat[ed] the plea agreement” he entered three months earlier. [Update: I’ve gotten clarification that the reference “the interviews” was meant to refer to the series of interviews. It still doesn’t make sense, but may reflect a late-date addition without correction of the antecedent.]

Moreover, DOJ offers no public explanation for details in this motion for a continuance, which the government attempted to seal after the fact, an attempt Judge Dabney Friedrich refused. It reveals that Straka told the government something new in December, and also that something unexpected came up in the Presentence report.

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 PreSentence 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.

Given the timing of that continuance, it might explain a third meeting with Straka on January 5 — nine days ago. But that would suggest that the information wasn’t provided before Straka got this sweet plea deal.

There are any of a number of things going on. Perhaps it’s true that Straka provided useful information early in the investigation and in consideration for that got a sweet plea deal, as happened with Jacob Riles. Perhaps it’s true that Straka was more honest in those early interviews than portrayed in this memorandum.

Or, as seems more likely given the record and the rhetorical contortions AUSA Brittany Reed made in this sentencing memo, FBI let Straka bullshit them and based on that, he scored a ridiculous plea deal, and only after that, his presentence report disclosed things that FBI should have found last spring.

It may be that the belated discovery in December, in the end, makes the plea deal worth it. If Straka is willing to share honest details of how months of incitement led up to that attempted breach on the East steps; if Straka has provided details of what Mike Flynn was up to after Trump’s speech; if Straka belatedly confessed that there was a concerted plan to converge on the top of the East steps, then Straka’s preferential treatment may be worth it.

But DOJ really needs to provide more transparency on what went down, one that doesn’t include an obvious typo obscuring the timeline. If Paul Hodgkins has to serve eight months for obstruction because he wandered onto the Senate of floor and Jenny Cudd only got to plead from obstruction down to the more serious trespassing charge because she repeated the calls for civil war that people like Straka were making on January 5, then equity demands a far better explanation for Straka’s preferential treatment here.

As noted, Straka’s is the first sentencing for one of the organizer-inciters who will need to be held to account if DOJ wants to really pursue the people who master-minded this insurrection. If FBI screwed up (or tried to protect Straka), then DOJ needs to come clean on that and make it clear how they’ll avoid such problems in the future.

Presenting two inexplicable timelines is not the way to do that.

Update: Fixed reference to presentence report. And included clarification regarding “typo.”

The First Seditious Conspiracy Charges Drop

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

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

First consider the problems DOJ was trying to solve:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“its really difficult to determine whats real and what’s fake;” At Least Three Oath Keepers Believed Trump Invoked the Insurrection Act on January 10

In a government filing responding to a request from Joshua James to have his bail conditions relaxed, the government provided a number of new details about the investigation (as well as noting that, since James’ wife has made almost $200,000 in a fundraiser tied to his arrest, his claim to need to work to provide for his family is unpersuasive).

The filing reveals (possibly based off reconstructed James texts), that on January 10, at least three Oath Keepers had come to believe that Trump had invoked the Insurrection Act, but was being prevented from releasing it.

Kelly Meggs knew about it — but said his guys from Florida were “stay[ing] home until shots fired.”

Kelly Meggs: Insurrection act appears to be signed and we shall se [sic] what tomorrow brings.

James: Yes..

Kelly Meggs: Stay safe

James: You too! Are you coming to TX?

Kelly Meggs: Nope Fl stays home until shots fired !

In addition, James spoke about it with Brian Ulrich.

Ulrich: We heard [Person One] might be disseminating information to all of us is that true?

James: Hes gone comms dark. Im with him.

Ulrich: Oh? Lol well there was talk that he was announcing. Can you guys at least tell me or us is trump going to do something is up with this is all about is he actually doing something?…

Ulrich: Been hearing since this AM that trump signed EO and he was going to have a speech but nothing confirmed.

James: That’s correct. The Insurrection act has been signed but not published to the public. They are keeping him locked away.. theres so much bad information coming from all angles its really difficult to determine whats real and what’s fake.

Ulrich: But is it coming that’s all I want to know…

James: Everyone needs to stay calm, and let’s see what POTUS does.. Yes Its already happening.

Ulrich: Ok. [Person One] ok? You guys needs to stay below the radar.

Since James was with Stewart Rhodes (and armed) when he wrote this, it seems likely Rhodes believed this as well.

If nothing else, the fact that at least three people independently came to believe that Trump had invoked the Insurrection Act will give DOJ probable cause to obtain the communications that might reveal why — and via what channels — they believed that to be true.

Update: The January 6 Select Committee just released their document requests. They ask for any discussions about the Insurrection Act from a variety of departments, including DOJ and DOD.

From November 3, 2020, to January 20, 2021, all documents and communications relating to the possibility of invoking the Insurrection Act, including but not limited to documents and communications concerning that possibility with respect to preparation for the events of January 6, 2021, or responding to the January 6, 2021, attack.

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

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

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

This post will pull together the evidence shown to date.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In response, someone replied,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person Fifteen (AKA Mark Grods), Another Roger Stone Security Staffer, Flips

Sometime in the recent history of Tucker Carlson’s fever dreams, he claimed that the long list of numbered unindicted co-conspirators in the Oath Keepers case were actually paid FBI informants setting up the militia members.

I guess with the news that Person Fifteen, AKA Mark Grods, will plead guilty and enter into a cooperation agreement with prosecutors today, Tucker gets partial credit: the government asked and received permission to keep Grods’ charges sealed so he could testify to the grand jury before pleading guilty today.

Delaying the government’s need to notify other defendants about Mark Grod[’]s related case between the filing of the criminal Information on June 28 and his public plea hearing on June 30, 2021, will ensure the defendant’s safety while he cooperates pursuant to his plea agreement and testifies before the grand jury.

So, it turns out, Grods was informing on his buddies. But not for pay, but in hopes of lenience at sentencing for a conspiracy and an obstruction charge.

Here are all the things — based on comparing the Fourth Superseding Indictment with Grods’ Statement of Offense— to which Grods is a direct witness:

55. At least as early as December 31, 2020, [Jessica] WATKINS, KELLY MEGGS, [Joshua] JAMES, [Roberto] MINUTA, PERSON ONE [Stewart Rhodes], PERSON THREE, PERSON TEN, and others known and unknown joined an invitation-only encrypted Signal group message titled “DC OP: Jan 6 21” (hereinafter the “Leadership Signal Chat”).

[snip]

58. On December 31, 2020, KELLY MEGGS and JAMES attended a 4-participant GoToMeeting titled “SE leaders dc 1/6/21 op call.” KELLY MEGGS was the organizer of the meeting.

[snip]

67. On January 2, 2021, [Grods] messaged JAMES on Signal and asked, “So, I guess I am taking full gear less weapons? Just reading through all the posts. Would rather have it and not need it.” JAMES responded, “Yeah full gear… QRF will have weapons Just leave em home.”

[snip]

95. MINUTA, using his personal email address and his personal home address, reserved three rooms at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., under the names of MINUTA, JAMES, and PERSON TWENTY. A debit card associated with [Grods] was used to pay for the room reserved under MINUTA’s name. A credit card associated with JAMES was used to pay for the room reserved under JAMES’s name.

[snip]

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

165. Shortly after 4:00 p.m., individuals who breached the Capitol, to include YOUNG, STEELE, KELLY MEGGS, CONNIE MEGGS, HARRELSON, MINUTA, JAMES, WALDEN, HACKETT, DOLAN, and ISAACS, among others, gathered together with PERSON ONE and PERSON TEN approximately 100 feet from the Capitol, near the northeast corner of the building.

[snip]

195. On January 8, 2021, JAMES instructed [Grods] to “make sure that all signal comms about the op has been deleted and burned,” and [Grods] confirmed [Grods] did in fact do so.

In addition, Grods entered the Capitol shortly after others allegedly assaulted the cops.

And because he was at the Willard with Roberto Minuta, Joshua James, and Jonathan Walden, he may have been witness to the James side of key conversations involving Person Ten.

And Grods is one of nine Oath Keepers who provided security for Roger Stone, and the second to have entered a cooperation agreement.