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Three Tea Leaves in Judge Tim Kelly’s Matthew Greene Detention Decision

Judge Tim Kelly, the judge presiding over most of the Proud Boy cases, just ruled that Matthew Greene must remain detained until his trial as a threat to the community. Greene’s defense attorney Michael Kasmarek made a compelling argument that the things Greene did at the Capitol weren’t as bad as some other defendants and a witness who testified that Greene had suggested they would have killed Nancy Pelosi if they had found her is unreliable (here is his brief). Prosecutor Erik Kenerson argued that the things Greene did since January 6 — such as stocking up on ammunition and calling for war — were the things that merited detention (here’s the government brief).

It didn’t help Greene that since these filings New York State indicted him because some of the guns he possessed when the FBI showed up were not legal in NY.

But I found the hearing most interesting for how Kelly got to the decision and something he said along the way.

First, after Kenerson said that two of the defendants were at least considering pleading, Kelly said he didn’t think he’d rule on the co-defendant William Pepe’s pending motions — a motion to dismiss the obstruction count, a motion to sever Pepe from Greene and Dominic Pezzola, and a motion to transfer the case out of DC — until after defendants decided they were going to trial.

Given my focus on pending challenges to the obstruction count, it’s significant that Kelly would defer ruling on it. According to a list of all the pending 1512 challenges submitted to Judge Randolph Moss by Brady Knowlton, Kelly has similar challenges from Ethan Nordean (which I wrote about here) and Joshua Pruitt.

But two other comments Kelly made suggest it may not matter.

As he began his analysis of the detention decision for Greene, he noted that the obstruction charge he and the others face may carry a sentence of up to 20 years; he characterized the charged crime as the obstruction of the peaceful transfer of power and described it as a gravely serious crime.

That doesn’t sound like the language of a judge who finds the obstruction charge inapt.

And then from that discussion Kelly described how the damage to the window of the Capitol he is charged with as a co-conspirator of Pezzola carries a terrorism enhancement.

It does — I’ve written about it several times, and such allegations have been before Kelly since a detention dispute for Pezzola in February. But I don’t remember Kelly emphasizing it as much in the past.

To be very clear: Kelly was talking about these legal implications in terms of what the grand jury had decided to charge these Proud Boys with. He wasn’t judging that the Proud Boys are terrorists; rather, he is noting that the grand jury charged them in such a way to be treated as such.

Still, it reflected a thought process I don’t recall him expressing in the same way before. And that’s of particular interest, because Kelly ruled Greene should stay in jail almost entirely because of the risk he — and the Proud Boys — posed going forward.

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

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

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

John Pierce got fired by Kyle Rittenhouse

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

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

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

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

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

Pierce assembles a collection of characters for his screen play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or maybe this is a MyPillow defense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Adding Matthew Greene to a Conspiracy with Dominic Pezzola, DOJ Formally Alleges the Proud Boys Committed a Crime of Terrorism

At a detention hearing for Charles Donohoe yesterday, Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey asked a long series of questions, including what a “normie” is, what Telegram is (it is stunning that a DC Magistrate doesn’t know that, but that’s a testament they won’t accept US legal process), and whether “Milkshake,” who had been described saying a lot of really damning things in an organizational channel, was part of the conspiracy. AUSA Jason McCullough said that DOJ is still assessing Milkshake’s — whose real name is Daniel Lyons Scott — criminal liability, but since he was filmed fighting with some cops, I’d be arranging legal representation if I were him.

Along the way, however, the questions led McCullough to provide several new details on the Proud Boy conspiracy. One question he didn’t answer is whether the government knows that Donohoe succeeding in “nuking” some texts describing organizational efforts, as he described wanting to do after Enrique Tarrio got arrested.

McCullough also revealed something that was not yet public: the government had rounded up another Proud Boy, Matthew Greene, and indicted him in what I call the Proud Boy “Front Door” conspiracy along with Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe. In doing so, they did something more important for their larger case. First, they changed the purpose of the conspiracy from what it was originally charged to match all the other militia conspiracies (from busting through the first door to obstructing the vote count). Here’s what the militia conspiracies currently look like as a result:

It was probably fairly urgent for DOJ to do this (and Greene’s inclusion may have been just a convenient rationale). Here’s how the indictment changed from the original Indictment to the Superseding one (S1):

In general, the government is charging Pepe and now Greene with more than they originally charged Pepe with based on a theory that they abetted Pezzola’s alleged crimes. But the critical change is highlighted. Originally (marked in pink), just Pezzola was charged for breaking the window through which the initial breach of the Capitol happened. But in this indictment (marked in yellow), DOJ charges Pepe and Greene for abetting Pezzola in breaking that window.

The reason they did this is because 18 USC 1361 is the crime for which DOJ is arguing that all key Proud Boy defendants can be detained pre-trial, not just Pezzola, but also Joe Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zach Rehl, and Charles Donohoe. In detention hearings, the government has argued that it counts not just as a crime of violence that allows the government to argue that a defendant is eligible for detention, but also that, because it was done to coerce the conduct of government, it triggers a terrorism designation for detention purposes.

This is how the argument looks in detention memos:

As it did before, the United States moves for detention pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3)(C), which provides a rebuttable presumption in favor of detention for an enumerated list of crimes, including Destruction of Property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1361. The United States also seeks detention pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A), because Destruction of Property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1361, is a crime of violence. Moreover, when Destruction of Property is “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion,” it also qualifies as a federal crime of terrorism. See 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B).

This was an issue in the Monday detention hearing before Judge Tim Kelly for Biggs and Nordean. After the hearing, he required the government to submit a picture of Pezzola breaking that window.

And it will likely become an issue when Joe Biggs, at least, appeals his detention, as he noticed he would do yesterday (it would be a still bigger issue in Nordean or Donohoe’s case).

In fact, the government has been making this argument for some time.

But it wasn’t until this supserseding indictment that the government formally aligned Pezzola’s actions — including spectacularly breaking that first window with a riot shield — with the rest of the Proud Boy indictments, in fact making them (as the government has already argued) the same conspiracy, a conspiracy involving terrorism.

Anatomy of a Potential January 6 Cooperation Agreement

I’ve written in passing about Jon Ryan Schaffer, the front man for the heavy metal band Iced Earth who was arrested for involvement with spraying bear spray during the January 6 insurrection, several times. In this post I noted that there must be something more to his case because Schaffer had been sitting, uncharged, in jail for months.

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

Yesterday I included Schaffer among those likely to get cooperation agreements (rather than straight guilty pleas), then updated the post with yet another data point suggesting I was correct.

[A]t least some of the expected pleas may be cooperation agreements. For example, Ryan Samsel — who breached the west side of the Capitol in coordination with Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, knocking out a cop along the way — asked for a continuance to discuss a plea. One of the main Oath Keeper prosecutors, Ahmed Baset, asked for a continuance before indicting Oath Keeper associate Jon Schaffer, who was among the worst treated defendants and who agreed to the continuance in spite of remaining in pre-trial detention. Kash Kelly, currently charged with trespassing but also someone raised in discussions between Proud Boys affiliate James Sullivan and Rudy Giuliani, got a continuance to discuss a plea. Bryan Betancur, a Proud Boy who got jailed for a probation violation after he lied to his probation officer to attend the event, also got a continuance to discuss a plea to resolve his trespassing charges. The aforementioned Riley Williams, who was charged with obstructing the vote count and stealing a laptop from Nancy Pelosi, was filmed directing movement inside the Capitol, and has ties with Nick Fuentes, also got a continuance to discuss pleading before indictment. All five of these people likely have information that would be of use to prosecutors. All could limit their prison time (which would likely be significant for Samsel, who is accused of assault, played a key role in the insurrection, and has a criminal record) by cooperating with prosecutors. If any of these people sign plea deals — especially Samsel — it will likely provide new insight into how the conspiracy worked. Even with a plea deal, Samsel may still face a stiff sentence.

[snip]

Update: Meanwhile, Jon Schaffer just agreed to two more weeks in jail.

So the signs suggesting the government was pursuing a cooperation agreement in this case have been pretty clear.

But yesterday, DOJ made that even more clear by posting a filing to PACER — which was supposed to be sealed — making such negotiations explicit.

As stated in the Consent Motion to Continue, the government and counsel for the defendant have conferred and are continuing to communicate about this matter. This has entailed a series of debrief interviews with the defendant that began on March 2, 2021. Based on these debrief interviews, the parties are currently engaged in good-faith plea negotiations, including discussions about the possibility of entering into a cooperation plea agreement aimed at resolving the matter short of indictment. Among the contemplated plea terms upon acceptance of a plea are the defendant’s release pending sentencing.

[snip]

[T]he parties request that this filing be docketed under seal. Such an order is appropriate because the filing relates to sensitive information about the defendant’s cooperation with the government and ongoing plea negotiations that are not public. Accordingly, disclosure may reveal the existence, scope, and direction of the ongoing and confidential investigation. If alerted to this information, investigation targets against whom the defendant may be providing information about could be immediately prompted to flee from prosecution, destroy or conceal incriminating evidence, alter their operational tactics to avoid future detection, attempt to influence or intimidate potential witnesses, and otherwise take steps to undermine the investigation and avoid future prosecution. Accordingly, these facts present an extraordinary situation and a compelling governmental interest which justify sealing of this filing pertaining to this investigation that is being submitted at this time. [my emphasis]

You’ll recall that PACER was one of the targets of the Solar Winds hack, which raised concerns that sensitive documents detailing things like cooperation agreements and investigative targets might have been compromised. The Courts’ efforts to respond have bolloxed up PACER ever since, which has contributed to an unacceptable delay in postings of non-sensitive documents as the flood of January 6 filings hit.

One of the few things that DOJ has managed to post in timely fashion is this filing, which was supposed to be sealed.

This disclosure may make it harder to negotiate a cooperation agreement (or who knows? it might make it easier!). Certainly, it may present security concerns for Schaffer when he is released, whether or not he cops a plea, because he would get such a plea deal in exchange for testimony against a highly skilled armed militia, and they’ll assume he got a deal if he is released pre-trial.

Aside from the very real concerns about how this might affect the investigation into the Oath Keepers, however, the release of the filing is useful for the details it provides.

First, this cooperation deal, if it happens, will be the first of all 350+ defendants.

The government’s ongoing plea negotiations with this defendant are the first and most advanced plea negotiations involving any of the over 300 Capitol Riot defendants.

That would mean that others — like the cooperating witness with damning information on Dominic Pezzola and the un-indicted co-conspirator in the Proud Boys conspiracy — have not been charged at all (as descriptions of them in filings imply). It also suggests that for all the reporting about imminent deals, the cooperation agreements, at least, are two weeks or more away. Every other potential cooperation deal I named in this post follows the same pattern of filings that Schaffer’s does, but they have later deadlines for their continuance, though Ryan Samsel is the only other one who is in custody for January 6 (as opposed to other things), which adds urgency to any plea deal:

  • Bryan Betancur (in MD state custody): April 27
  • Ryan Samsel (in federal custody): May 7 (after being extended from April 1, moving to swap his attorney, then unmoving to do so, though currently he is represented by both)
  • Christopher Kelly (not in custody): May 10
  • Riley June Williams (not in custody): May 28
  • Kash Kelly (in Federal prison for gang-related drug crimes which he also cooperated on): indefinite

It looks like Samsel might have been the first plea deal, but an aborted swap of lawyers suggests he may have gotten cold feet. (Recall that Rick Gates did something similar before he flipped in the Mueller investigation; because of his criminal record, Samsel faces a stiffer prison sentence than Schaffer regardless of what happens).

Schaffer’s filing explains why cooperation agreements will be weeks away, too: First, plea deals are being reviewed “at various levels of government.”

Plea terms have thus required extensive review and approval at various levels of government necessitating more time than usual to approve and negotiate.

Given that Biden doesn’t have a confirmed US Attorney in DC, this likely means that at least Acting Deputy Attorney General and former National Security Division head under Obama John Carlin is reviewing these deals, if not Merrick Garland himself. Lisa Monaco should be confirmed as Deputy Attorney General imminently, and she’s likely to be interested in all this, too. That is, the level of review this filing suggests this plea deal is getting also hints at the (unsurprisingly) high level involvement in the investigation as a whole.

Perhaps one of the most damaging disclosures by the release of this document is that Schaffer’s attorneys have admitted, non-publicly, things they’ve argued against publicly. In a filing asking for pre-trial release, Schaffer’s lawyers argued that merely possessing bear spray did not make Schaffer enough of a threat to require pre-trial detention.

The Government sought “detention based on [Mr. Schaffer] carrying a dangerous weapon inside a restricted ground.” Reporter’s Transcript of Detention Hearing, p. 7: 8- 10.2 Magistrate Judge Faruqui detained Mr. Schaffer “Upon the Motion of the Government attorney pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1).” (Doc. 12, p. 1)

Mr. Schaffer cannot be detained pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142 (f)(1)(E) because the Government’s allegation Mr. Schaffer simply possessed bear spray does not support a finding his case involved a dangerous weapon. The Government cannot establish a can of bear spray is dangerous weapon when it is simply possessed.

Schaffer’s arrest warrant affidavit described him to be “among” a group of “rioters who sprayed” USCP with bear spray, but didn’t say he personally had used the bear spray to assault the cops, nor did it charge him with doing so.

SCHAFFER was among the rioters who sprayed United States Capitol Police officers with “bear spray,” a form of capsaicin pepper spray sold by many outdoors retailers, as part of their efforts to push the officers back inside the Capitol and breach the Capitol Building themselves.

According to this filing, however, Schaffer’s lawyers conceded during a closed session that he could be charged, presumably including assault for spraying the bear spray, right away.

The parties agree that maintaining the current detention posture, as well as the government forestalling return of a grand jury indictment against the defendant1 , are necessary at this stage to facilitate good-faith plea negotiations.

1 As acknowledged by the defense during the sealed portion of the April 2, 2021 status hearing, the government is in a position to rapidly obtain an indictment against the defendant should plea negotiations fail.

But the filing also suggests that the grand jury may be posing another bottleneck to this process.

Additional time may also be necessary in the event plea conditions require completion of certain requirements before entering into a formal agreement before the court, such as the defendant testifying before the grand jury.

That is, if and when a plea deal is agreed, they still may require Schaffer to provide any testimony to the grand jury before they finalize the plea and release him.

As noted, the unintentional release of this filing may undermine that process from the start. But it least it provides some clarity on how this process is working for Schaffer and others.

Update: Baked Alaska (real name Anthime Gionet) is another person in whose case the government got a consent motion to delay further proceedings. I’m less confident this would involve a cooperation agreement — it may be a way to forestall questions about whether he is media.

Politico Claims It Embarrasses Joe Biden that Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Merits Little or No Jail Time

Last week, Politico reported as news that non-violent January 6 trespassers might get little to no jail time which — it further claimed — might embarrass the Biden Administration.

Many Capitol rioters unlikely to serve jail time

The cases could embarrass the Biden administration, which has portrayed the Jan. 6 siege as a dire threat to democracy.

I have tremendous respect for the reporters involved, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney. Yet the fact that experienced DOJ beat reporters could claim, as news, that non-violent civil disobedience might get no jail time made me really rethink the reporting on January 6, including my own. It’s crazier still that reporters might claim — generally, or in this situation — that a Democratic President might be embarrassed by DOJ treating civil disobedience as a misdemeanor offense.

In fact, Gerstein and Cheney are reporting on a subset of all the January 6 defendants, fewer than 60 of the 230 who had been formally charged by the time they wrote this, which they nevertheless describe as “many” of them.

A POLITICO analysis of the Capitol riot-related cases shows that almost a quarter of the more than 230 defendants formally and publicly charged so far face only misdemeanors. Dozens of those arrested are awaiting formal charges, even as new cases are being unsealed nearly every day.

Then, four paragraphs later, Politico explains why (they say) this might embarrass the Biden Administration: because both Biden himself and Merrick Garland called the larger event — in which 1,000 people, including 200 for assault and 100 for roles in a militia conspiracy, many still at large, must now be suspects — as a heinous attack.

The prospect of dozens of Jan. 6 rioters cutting deals for minor sentences could be hard to explain for the Biden administration, which has characterized the Capitol Hill mob as a uniquely dangerous threat. Before assuming office, Biden said the rioters’ attempt to overturn the election results by force “borders on sedition”; Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the prosecutions his top early priority, describing the storming of Congress as “a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

Nowhere in the article do they provide any evidence that the assault on the Capitol wasn’t a heinous attack.

They base their claim that Biden might be embarrassed on expectations that DOJ prosecutors set, without noting that the first charges were filed before Biden was inaugurated and long before Garland was confirmed.

Justice Department prosecutors sent expectations sky-high in early statements and court filings, describing elaborate plots to murder lawmakers — descriptions prosecutors have tempered as new details emerged.

Jacob “QAnon Shaman” Chansley was arrested on January 8 and indicted on January 11. Eric “Zip Tie Guy” Munchel was arrested on January 10 and indicted, with his mother, on February 12. Thomas Caldwell was arrested on January 19 and indicted along with Oath Keepers Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl on January 27. They (including Caldwell but not Watkins and Crowl) are the main defendants, of more than 350, about whom prosecutors can fairly be said to have tempered “sky-high” expectations. Their arrests and that expectation-setting happened under Jeffrey Rosen and Michael Sherwin, not under Biden and definitely not under Merrick Garland (under whom DOJ referred Sherwin to OPR for investigation after he did some expectation-setting on 60 Minutes). Even still, for all four (as well as other edge cases about whom the press set high expectations, like Riley June Williams), the investigation remains ongoing and there are reasons, including ties to the militia conspiracies, to believe there was some basis for the original suspicions about these people.

Likewise, the decision to arrest first and investigate later, a decision that led to the flood of arrests before prosecutors really knew who had done the most egregious things during the attack, also occurred under the prior Administration.

Indeed, under Garland (though not necessarily because of Garland or the departure of Sherwin), DOJ seems to have focused more of their ongoing misdemeanor arrests on suspects who might have video footage of interest to prosecutors or defense attorneys, with far more of a focus in recent weeks on arresting assault and militia suspects. And one of the reasons for the delays described in the story is that after Garland came in, DOJ asked for 60 days to catch up on discovery. We may yet learn that he and his subordinates decided to change the “arrest first, investigate later” approach adopted before he came in.

Sure, the press has claimed that the government has backed off some of its claims in the militia conspiracies. They did so, for example, when prosecutors backed off certain claims solely for the purpose of an Ethan Nordean detention hearing that, filings submitted weeks later suggested, may have been an effort to protect a pending conspiracy indictment and, probably, a cooperating witness. They’ve done so with the Oath Keepers, even though recent developments suggest even Jessica Watkins’ lawyer may now understand her role in what appears to be a larger conspiracy coordinated in Signal leadership chats is more damning than Watkins originally claimed. If anything, the Oath Keeper and Proud Boy conspiracies may be more sophisticated tactically than originally claimed, and that’s before any explanation about things like who paid for vans of Proud Boys to travel from FL and what happened at twin events in DC and Florida in December, in which conspirators (and key Trump figures) played central roles. That’s also while the person who laid a pipe bomb the night before the the attack remains at large.

To further back its claim that Biden might be embarrassed, Politico implies that all the plea deals expected in weeks ahead will be misdemeanor pleas without jail time, which will be “awkward” for DOJ to defend.

Prosecutors have signaled that plea offers for some defendants will be coming within days and have readily acknowledged that some of the cases are less complicated to resolve than others.

“I think we can work out a non-trial disposition in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Cole told Judge Dabney Friedrich last week in the case of Kevin Loftus, who was charged with unlawful presence and disrupting official business at the Capitol, among other offenses that have become the boilerplate set lodged against anyone who walked into the building that day without authorization.

The Justice Department will soon be in the awkward position of having to defend such deals, even as trials and lengthy sentences for those facing more serious charges could be a year or more away. [my emphasis]

Politico makes this claim even though at least some of the expected pleas may be cooperation agreements. For example, Ryan Samsel — who breached the west side of the Capitol in coordination with Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, knocking out a cop along the way — asked for a continuance to discuss a plea. One of the main Oath Keeper prosecutors, Ahmed Baset, asked for a continuance before indicting Oath Keeper associate Jon Schaffer, who was among the worst treated defendants and who agreed to the continuance in spite of remaining in pre-trial detention. Kash Kelly, currently charged with trespassing but also someone raised in discussions between Proud Boys affiliate James Sullivan and Rudy Giuliani, got a continuance to discuss a plea. Bryan Betancur, a Proud Boy who got jailed for a probation violation after he lied to his probation officer to attend the event, also got a continuance to discuss a plea to resolve his trespassing charges. The aforementioned Riley Williams, who was charged with obstructing the vote count and stealing a laptop from Nancy Pelosi, was filmed directing movement inside the Capitol, and has ties with Nick Fuentes, also got a continuance to discuss pleading before indictment. All five of these people likely have information that would be of use to prosecutors. All could limit their prison time (which would likely be significant for Samsel, who is accused of assault, played a key role in the insurrection, and has a criminal record) by cooperating with prosecutors. If any of these people sign plea deals — especially Samsel — it will likely provide new insight into how the conspiracy worked. Even with a plea deal, Samsel may still face a stiff sentence.

In other places, Politico conflates the discussions about the fate of misdemeanor defendants with discussions about detention (which prosecutors have only requested with a few accused trespassers), discussions about discovery, and Speedy Trial, all different things, many more urgent issues for misdemeanor defendants not included among those the story is purportedly about.

After I went on a rant about this story on Twitter, Gerstein defended the story by saying that people (none of whom were quoted in the story) seem to be surprised.

I agree with Gerstein that people have certain expectations. But that was clear before the end end of January. The record laid out here shows that such expectations did not come from Garland or Biden. Even Sherwin, with his totally inappropriate 60 Minutes interview, also explained from the start that DOJ was arresting the low hanging fruit at first while further investigating more serious suspects.

The fault, instead, lies with journalists, myself and these Politico journalists included, for not consistently and repeatedly explaining the various different roles people played on January 6, including that there were a number — though currently a shrinking fraction of the total set of defendants — who neither pre-meditated any effort to stop the vote count nor assaulted cops. I have tried to engage in this nuance (I included a list of such posts below), but given the sheer amount of court filings, much of the focus is currently on the militia conspiracies, suggesting a gravity that the MAGA tourists don’t merit. But in this article, rather than simply laying out the full range of defendants, describing how the MAGA Tourists played a key role in the success of the more serious conspirators (explicitly so for the Proud Boys, who talked about getting “normies” to do stuff they otherwise wouldn’t have done), describing how violence spread among participants and often as not among people who aren’t militia members, this Politico piece further distorts the record, not least by using this subset of “MAGA Tourists” — calling them “many” even though they represent just a quarter of defendants who have been formally charged — to stand in for the larger investigation, while minimizing the import of those charged with obstruction (likening that role to a CodePink interruption of a congressional hearing) because, evidence shows, they premeditated an attempt to undermine the election outcome.

So even while the piece describes how both judges and prosecutors understand that the mob as a whole posed a grave threat while some individual defendants did no more than provide cover for the more dangerous defendants (and many of the DC judges presiding over these cases have made such comments), Politico claims that there’s some embarrassment to this, including some kind of political risk for Biden.

Judges are also attempting to reckon with separating the individual actions of rioters from the collective threat of the mob, which they have noted helped inspire and provide cover for violent assaults, property destruction and increased the overall terror and danger of the assorted crimes committed.

That reckoning is coming sooner rather than later, lawyers say, putting prosecutors in the position of wrist-slapping many participants in the riot despite framing the crimes as part of an insurrection that presented a grave threat to American democracy.

If the MAGA tourists provided cover and helped overwhelm cops, thereby serving a useful role in the plans of those who had a more nefarious and organized purpose, then that’s the story that should be told, not some kind of both-sides political spin, particularly one that pits Biden’s claims about the seriousness of this on the footing as Trump’s outright lies about it. In spite of the overwhelming number of defendants, the record shows, DOJ is still assessing each one on the merits, which is what should happen. Declaring that politically embarrassing is an abdication of fair reporting on the legal system.

I believe DOJ has gotten it wrong, in both directions, in some cases. In addition to those listed above, I think DOJ has gone too harshly on some people who have openly supported far right, even Nazi views. But I also think DOJ has only considered whether militia members were members of premeditated conspiracies, focusing less on localized activist networks that have been implicated in violent (often anti-mask) pro-Trump actions in the past, taken on leadership roles at the riot, and engaged in ongoing communications about plans to shut down the vote, just like militias did. I think DOJ hasn’t come to grips with the organizational import of QAnon even while arguing that individual adherents of the cult must be jailed because they are delusional. And until DOJ decides how it will treat Trump’s actions and those of some close associates — something they likely cannot do without more investigation and cooperation deals from key participants — parts of this investigation will remain unsettled.

There are definitely things DOJ has reason to be embarrassed about: Gerstein has written more than any journalist about the unforgivable delays in moving defendants around the country and getting them arraigned. This piece also focuses on one of the handful of misdemeanor defendants who has been detained since being charged. While I understand the complexity of an investigation in which so much of the evidence — both exculpatory and inculpatory — remains in the hands of participants, defendants have a right to complain about the delay, especially those in detention. Defendants — particularly those in detention — are entitled to a Speedy Trial, even if DOJ moved too quickly to arrest them. While many of these things were exacerbated by COVID, they also largely arise from a decision to arrest first on those trespassing charges, and investigate later (which also has led to more defendants being charged with obstruction after the fact).

But none of those things have to do with Biden or Garland’s views about the investigation, or even the prosecutors who made decisions that created some of these problems in the first place (in part, probably, to avoid their own embarrassment at missing all warning signs, in part because they hadn’t investigated these threats aggressively enough and so had to make mass arrests to mitigate any immediate follow-on threats).

In short, this piece is an (uncharacteristic) mess, shoehorning complexity into a simplistic claim of political conflict, one inventing embarrassment out of thin air for Biden. If Politico has evidence that this wasn’t an unprecedented disruption to Congress, one that could have had a far worse outcome, including a threat to our democracy, or that this right wing violence is less of a threat than FBI says it is, by all means they should present that. At the same time, they can reveal the identity of the pipe bomber and the role (if any) that person played in the plot, without which no one can claim to actually know how serious this was.

Until then, they and all experienced DOJ beat reporters would be far better off by simply laying out a description of the different kinds of defendants we’re seeing, the different roles they played in disrupting the vote count and assaulting or undermining law enforcement, and explaining how those defendants are the same or different from defendants that have gone before them, on a spectrum of severity that stretches from CodePink to ISIS terrorists.

If people are going to be surprised when the subset of participants in January 6 who engaged in non-violent civil disobedience are treated as misdemeanor offenders, it’s not Joe Biden’s fault. It is a failure of journalism, my own included, for not making that more clear starting in January and reiterating it since then.

Update: Meanwhile, Jon Schaffer just agreed to two more weeks in jail.

Update: Corrected Munchel’s arrest date, which was January 10.

Update: Christopher Kelly (no relation to Kash) is another person with a consent continuance to discuss what would almost certainly be a cooperation agreement. He drove to and from the insurrection with some Proud Boys.


Posts attempting to contextualize the investigation

Here are some past attempts I’ve made at explaining how the parts of the January 6 investigation fit together:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oath Keepers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proud Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rolling Updates:

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

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

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

 

Dominic Pezzola Suspects the FBI’s Cooperating Witness Is the Guy Who Recruited Him into the Proud Boys

A number of people are pointing to this motion to modify bond by Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, the guy who helped kick off an insurrection by breaking the window of the Capitol with a stolen police shield, reporting either that Pezzola is bidding to plead out or that that the Proud Boys are turning on themselves.

Both may be true.

But buried within the filing is a far more inflammatory allegation. Pezzola, the guy who kicked off the entire assault on the Capitol on January 6 in coordination with other Proud Boys, is suggesting that someone who came to serve as an FBI cooperating witness less than a week after an attack that purportedly took the FBI entirely by surprise, was actually the guy who recruited him into the Proud Boys and set him up with a thumb drive loaded up — unbeknownst to him, he maintains — with the Anarchist’s Handbook, including its bomb-making plans.

Pezzola makes the allegation by rebutting the claim he is dangerous, the basis by which Magistrate Robin Meriweather. came to deny him bail.

As Pezzola notes, Meriweather denied him bail not because of a presumption of detention or a concern he would flee. It was because he posed a danger to the public. Meriweather framed that presumed danger as arising from a thumb drive loaded with the Anarchist’s Handbook found at his home and the testimony of a witness.

In determining that Pezzola’s release presented “danger” to the community the Court cited 2 factors from the prosecution’s proffer: (1) the claim that Pezzola participated in a group conversation when others expressed an intention to return to DC with weapons to commit acts of violence; (2) recovery of a thumb drive with plans for making, bombs, poisons, etc.

Per Pezzola’s arrest affidavit, the witness was someone whom the FBI interviewed at least twice before obtaining an arrest warrant against Pezzola on January 13, just a week after the insurrection. The description of witnesses in the total universe of January 6 affidavits are totally inconsistent (in part because so many different FBI Agents wrote them), meaning we can’t conclude anything by the description an agent uses. Nevertheless, this one was always among the only ones that seemed to be an insider. The witness is someone who described Pezzola as “Spaz” right away (though elsewhere he is called Spazzo), described Pezzola as bragging about breaking into the Capitol, and he described the group — the Proud Boys — as capable of killing Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence, and planning more actions.

The FBI has spoken to an individual your affiant will refer to as “W-1” for purposes of this affidavit. W-1 stated that W-1 was in Washington, D.C., during the protests that occurred on January 6, 2021.

W-1 stated that after the events at the Capitol as described above, he or she spoke to an individual he or she knows as “Spaz,” along with other individuals. W-1 stated that during that conversation, “Spaz” bragged about breaking the windows to the Capitol and entering the building. In a subsequent interview W-1 clarified that “Spaz” said that he used a Capitol Police shield to break the window. W-1 said that “Spaz” can be seen on the cover of many newspapers and recognizes him from those photographs. W-1 stated that other members of the group talked about things they had done during the day, and they said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included “Spaz,” said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance.

I had thought this witness would be one of numerous Proud Boy hangers on who was hanging around in DC after the attack, but as we’ll see, Pezzola believes it’s the guy he commuted to insurrection with.

The witness first told the FBI that the Proud Boys were preparing an event on January 20th (which is consistent with other reports).

According to W-1, the group said it would be returning on the “20th,” which your affiant takes to mean the Presidential Inauguration scheduled for January 20, 2021, and that they plan to kill every single “m-fer” they can.1 W-1 stated the men said they all had firearms or access to firearms.

Then, in a later interview (again, remember that this is before January 13), the witness said maybe the next event wasn’t inauguration, but soon after. Whenever it was, it’d involve guns.

In a later interview, W-1 stated that the group had no definitive date for a return to Washington, D.C, but W-1 re-iterated that the others agreed there would be guns and that they would be back soon and they would bring guns.

The witness also misidentified Doug Jensen, the QAnon adherent who chased officer Goodman up the Capitol stairs, as someone else, presumably a member of the Proud Boys, only to clarify later that someone else was the individual in question.

In W-1’s initial interview with law enforcement, W-1 initially incorrectly the individual in the black knit hat in the foreground of this photograph as someone I will refer to as “Individual A.” W-1 later clarified that the person in the knit hat is not in fact Individual A and identified a different person in a separate photograph as Individual A.

Thus far, this witness sounds like he’s telling the FBI what he expects they most want to hear, something you often hear from informants trying to maximize their own value. By misidentifying Jensen, he may have falsely suggested the Proud Boys chose where to go in the Capitol. And by promising there would be more events, featuring violence (again, which is consistent with what public chatter was at the time), he heightened the urgency of case against the Proud Boys.

As Pezzola describes in his motion for bail, he suspects the person who said the Proud Boys had ongoing plans is a guy he drove home to New York with from DC.

Pezzola maintains no recollection of the referenced conversation but suspects if the conversation did occur in his presence it could have only occurred in the car on the return trip from Washington when Pezzola was asleep in the car. Upon information and belief, the CW is not detained. Rather he has reached an agreement where he is making allegations against others in order to avoid his detention for what is actually his greater involvement in the underlying events.

That would explain why William Pepe, also from NY, was named Pezzola’s co-conspirator: presumably both were in the same car speaking to the same guy, which is how the government had confidence that Pepe’s actions were coordinated with Pezzola’s and not, for example, the two other people charged with kicking off the attack on the Capitol, Robert Gieswein and Ryan Samsel.

As Pezzola describes, “it is alleged” that he’s just a recent recruit to the Proud Boys (something I don’t necessarily buy, but it seems to reflect Pezzola parroting back what he’s seen in discovery so far).

Pezzola’s alleged contact with the “Proud Boys” was minimal and short lived. It is alleged he had no contact prior to late November 2020. Upon information and belief, the prosecution alleges his first contacts occurred around that time. They principally amounted to meeting for drinks in a bar. Prior to January 6, 2020, there is no allegation that Pezzola took any action with the “Proud Boys” that was in anyway criminal or violent. His only event prior to January 6, 2021, was that he attended a MAGA rally in support of Donald Trump in December 2020. There is no allegation he was involved in any criminal or violent activity there.

He claims that the cooperating witness is actually far more involved in the Proud Boys.

Addressing these in turn: There is a claim as the prosecution pointed out that a “cooperating witness” claimed that Pezzola was present in a group when someone professed an intention to return on January 20, 2021, Inauguration day to instigate more violence. However, there is no claim Pezzola made those statements nor that he expressed a similar intent1 nor any intention to participate in any acts of violence, let alone murder. Although the defense cannot be certain it is believed the “cooperating witness” (CW) who has made these claims is actually someone who was a much more active participant in the “Proud Boys” than Pezzola, having been with the organization for a much longer time than Pezzola’s alleged association and much more active.

And Pezzola claims that the thumb drive showing possession of bomb making instructions was actually given to him by the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness.

What was unknown at the time of the prior hearing is that the thumb drive at issue was given to Pezzola, probably by the Prosecution’s CW5 when that person was making efforts to introduce Pezzola into the “Proud Boys.”

Finally, Pezzola further alleges that the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness confessed to spraying cops with pepper spray, an assault that has not been charged (only Giswein and Samsel were charged with outright assaults on cops).

Although it is impossible to know with certainty at this point, if the defense supposition about the CW is correct, that person admitted to spraying law enforcement with a chemical agent, likely “OC or Pepper” spray during the January 6 event.

It is true that Pezzola nods to making a plea deal in this filing.

Although the Court can play no role in disposition negotiations, via counsel Pezzola has indicated his desire to begin disposition negotiations and acceptance of responsibility for his actions. He seeks to make amends.

But there’s little chance DOJ can offer him a deal that will help him rebuild his life. Even in this filing, he admits he was attempting to stop the vote count, the goal of every overriding conspiracy charge thus far, which would be a key part of any seditious conspiracy case. He doesn’t deny he broke into the Capitol; he instead disingenuously downplays the import of being the first to do so, noting that numerous doors and windows were breached over the course of the day. His claim he has never used his Marine training since his service is inconsistent with the way he walked through the Capitol with much greater operational awareness than many of the other rioters. Plus, even in his first bail hearing, Pezzola insisted he was not a leader of the attack, which — if he was a recent recruit, makes total sense (and is consistent with Felicia Konold, someone else who played a key role, but who was just a recruit-in-progress). So he wouldn’t necessarily have that much information on anyone except those who gave him directions and the guy in the car, not necessarily enough to trade as the guy who kicked off the insurrection, even if he was acting on orders.

He’s likely fucked one way or another, not least because he’d be far less useful as a cooperator if everyone knew he had a plea deal.

But Pezzola’s allegation is troubling for several more reasons.

As noted, the FBI interviewed this cooperating witness at least twice before January 13, suggesting at the very least that the FBI reached out to him right away (or vice versa), rather than collecting more information on the person’s own role. And in spite of two variations in his story — misidentifying Jensen and equivocating about when the next operations were planned — his testimony was deemed credible enough to implicate someone he may have recruited and provided other the other damning evidence on.

The FBI knew that Enrique Tarrio and the rest of the Proud Boys were coming to DC for the January 6 events, which is how they were prepared to arrest him on entry in DC. They knew that during the Proud Boys’ previous visit, the group had targeted two Black churches. DOJ had investigated threats four members of the Proud Boys had made against a sitting judge in 2019.

And yet, not only didn’t FBI prevent the January 6 attack kicked off by the Proud Boys, they didn’t even issue an intelligence warning about possible violence.

It’s possible this witness genuinely did just reach out to the FBI and try to pre-empt any investigation into himself. It’s possible that as the FBI has done more review (including of video outside the Capitol, where a pepper spray attack on cops likely would have occurred), they’ve come to grow more skeptical of this witness.

But it’s also possible that the FBI has ties with witnesses — possibly this guy, and very likely Rudy Giuliani interlocutor James Sullivan, who said he was in contact with the FBI — who have more information on those who set up this insurrection, rather than just busting down the window. Particularly given the unsurprising news that investigators are scrutinizing the role that Roger Stone and Alex Jones might have played (Rudy is not mentioned, but not excluded either), it seems critical that the FBI not adhere to its counterproductive use of informants targeting a group (no matter how reprehensible) rather than action.

The FBI has a lot to answer for in its utterly inconceivable failure to offer warnings about this event. If their informant practices blinded them — or if they’re making stupid choices now out of desperation to mitigate that initial failure — it will do little to mitigate the threat of the Proud Boys.

Mike Lee Provides Key Evidence Implicating Trump in the Existing Criminal Conspiracy

Because Donald Trump’s Personal Injury lawyer, Michael Van der Veen, made a specious argument about the First Amendment to successfully give 43 Republicans cover to vote to acquit the Former President in his impeachment trial, the discussion about Trump’s potential criminal exposure for January 6 (which according to CNN he is concerned about) has largely focused on incitement charges.

That’s true even though the trial led Mike Lee to offer up evidence implicating Trump in the same conspiracy charges already charged against 10 defendants: conspiring to delay Congress’ official proceeding to certify the electoral college vote. As I have noted, DOJ has started mapping out conspiracy charges against both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys:

While there are differences in the scope of the conspiracy and overt acts involved, all three charging documents charge defendants with conspiring “to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote,” effectively conspiring to commit 18 USC 1512, tampering with the official procedure of certifying the electoral college vote, an official procedure laid out in the Constitution.

And in spite of their votes to acquit the Former President last night, both Tommy Tuberville and Mike Lee provided evidence that the FBI might use to investigate Trump in that conspiracy. As I noted days after the attack, during the attack, Trump twice attempted to reach out to Tuberville to ask him to delay the count. The second time, Rudy Giuliani even left a message specifically asking for a delay as such, precisely the object of the already charged conspiracy charges.

I know they’re reconvening at 8 tonight, but it … the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.

I know McConnell is doing everything he can to rush it, which is kind of a kick in the head because it’s one thing to oppose us, it’s another thing not to give us a fair opportunity to contest it. And he wants to try to get it down to only three states that we contest. But there are 10 states that we contest, not three. So if you could object to every state and, along with a congressman, get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot, but it would give us the opportunity to get the legislators who are very, very close to pulling their vote, particularly after what McConnell did today. [snip]

Over the last few days, both Tuberville and Lee offered up more details on the earlier call. Tuberville confirmed the content of the call, including that he told the President that his Vice President had been evacuated.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville revealed late Wednesday that he spoke to Donald Trump on Jan. 6, just as a violent mob closed in on the the Senate, and informed the then-president directly that Vice President Mike Pence had just been evacuated from the chamber.

“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,’” Tuberville (R-Ala.) told POLITICO on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night, saying he cut the phone call short amid the chaos.

And Lee — who twice demanded that references to this call be removed from the Congressional record — ultimately provided phone records showing that even after Pence had been publicly rushed to safety, Trump was still working on delaying the vote rather than addressing the danger. Trump tweeted about Pence at 2:24, specifically complaining that Pence hadn’t given states a chance to “correct” facts, effectively a complaint that Pence had not disrupted the orderly counting of the vote.

Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

And then, two minutes later, Trump attempted to call Tuberville and, after Lee turned over his phone to the former coach, spoke to him for four minutes. It matters that Tuberville told Trump about the evacuations, though it is highly unlikely he had not been informed both informally and formally at that point. But it matters just as much that even after the insurrectionists had breached the building, Trump took two overt acts to attempt to delay the vote.

A Trump defense might argue — as his Personal Injury Lawyer did this week — that he was just trying to count the votes, but Trump had already made an unconstitutional request of Mike Pence, something Trump’s team provided no defense for. And that’s before you consider the evidence that Rudy, at least, was in direct contact with James Sullivan, who is affiliated with the group, the Proud Boys, that has already been accused of conspiring to breach the Capitol (indeed, another conspiracy case, against Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, charges that they conspired to interfere with cops trying to keep protestors out of the Capitol, and the Chrestman indictment also includes that as a separate conspiracy).

I’m not saying this will definitely happen. The bar to charging a Former President remains high.

But DOJ has already charged ten people for doing what Trump was also demonstrably doing that day. And, partly because of Mike Lee’s desperate effort to avoid having the record of him implicating Trump in the congressional record, Lee ended up making the timeline of the events public without the FBI having to breach speech and debate concerns to obtain it. By doing so, Lee made it easier for the FBI to make a case against Trump if they ever attempt to do so.

Mike Lee may have helped prevent Trump from being barred from running for President again. But Mike Lee also made it easier to prosecute Trump for those very same acts.

Update: NYT just posted a story showing that six of the Oath Keepers Roger Stone was palling around with leading up to the attack entered the Capitol on January 6.

The Role of Trump’s Incitement in Providing Violent Foot Soldiers [Updated]

As I’ve covered, in addition to a conspiracy charge tying Zip-Tie Guy’s actions to his mother’s cheering of violence, the government has thus far charged two sets of defendants from organized gangs in the January 6 insurrection — three members of the Oath Keepers and two of the Proud Boys. While Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola is charged with assault for his efforts to steal the police shield he used to bash open a window, his co-defendant William Pepe and most other defendants identified as Proud Boys were not charged with assault (Robert Gieswein, who was indicted on his own, did allegedly assault cops with a baseball bat; he appears in videos with the Proud Boys that day, though was not identified as such in his charging documents).

Thus far at least, the most violent actions from that day aren’t known to have been perpetrated by the right wing militias, members of which appear to have, instead, channeled the violence of others, possibly while pursuing more tactical goals (like locating members of Congress).

That makes the way in which the government describes that other violence important, as it may or may not tie everything together (and tie it back to those who incited the violence).

Take Emanuel Jackson, a 20-year old black guy from DC who was twice caught assaulting cops on video. First, he was caught on film punching a cop, an assault which charging documents describe helped break the police line allowing others to stream in.

The defendant, EMANUEL JACKSON, is observed on U.S. Capitol video surveillance footage making a fist and repeatedly striking a U.S. Capitol Police officer on his person while attempting to forcefully enter the building. United States Capitol Police officers are designated as officers of the United States under 18 U.S.C. 1114.

At approximately 2:48 p.m., the large crowd that was being restrained by law enforcement overpowered the officers and gained entry. One of the first individuals observed entering the doorway is the defendant.

Then, later that day, he attempted to get back into the Capitol wielding a baseball bat.

At 4:50 p.m., the violent and aggressive crowd continued to confront law enforcement at the West Terrace entrance. The crowd was armed with various weapons and multiple individuals are observed assaulting law enforcement in the entranceway. The defendant is clearly observed in surveillance video of this entrance, wearing the same clothing described above and observed in earlier footage, and armed with a metal baseball bat. The defendant is observed repeatedly striking a group of both U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan Police Department uniformed officers with the baseball bat.

These two alleged assaults happening two hours after each other, the first unarmed, the second armed, attest to the sustained violence of the riot, as well as a possible intensification of it as violence came to incorporate additional weapons. Over those two hours, Rudy Giuliani was calling Senators asking for delay.

While Jackson did have a backpack on him during the riot, there’s nothing in Jackson’s file that suggests any organizational affiliation with known extremist groups (nor is there any explanation of why a 20-year old black guy would ruin his life for Donald Trump). According to a government detention motion, in an interview, Jackson described attending Trump’s rally and going from there to the Capitol.

During the defendant’s post-arrest interview, he clearly articulated that he attended former President Trump’s rally earlier that day, and that he joined the thousands of individuals who descended on the U.S. Capitol to protest the election results.

That ties his later actions to the events at the rally.

That’s important, because Jackson confessed that his goal in storming the Capitol was to delay the counting of the vote (and he was charged with obstructing an official proceeding as a result, which itself carries a steep sentence if violence is involved).

During the interview, the defendant stated that his purpose in joining the violent mob was to enter the U.S. Capitol and disrupt the vote count of the Electoral College as it met to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Thus the defendant combined his criminal intention to interfere with the functioning of Congress with multiple violent assaults – one with a dangerous weapon – on the law enforcement officers trying to protect that function.

The detention motion describes how his initial assault made it possible for him and others to storm the building.

The defendant was part of a group that tore out windows, ripped open the blocked entrance, and then physically attacked law enforcement in an effort to gain entry. The law enforcement officers are in full uniform with the word “police” clearly visible. At approximately 2:48 p.m., the defendant is observed physically striking a law enforcement officer with his fist. The punching continues for several strikes and seconds later, the mob forces their way into the entranceway and overruns the group of law enforcement officers. The defendant’s assaultive behavior in part allowed the large mob of individuals to successfully breach the U.S. Capitol, putting additional law enforcement officers and members and staff of Congress at grave risk. The defendant’s actions allowed other rioters to commit multiple other criminal acts inside the building.

So at least on this thin record, it appears that Jackson went to the rally, got riled up to disrupt the certification of the vote, and then took repeated violent actions in service of doing just that. As the detention motion describes, Jackson was one spoke in a wheel that together thwarted democracy.

The defendant was a spoke in the wheel that caused the historic events of January 6, 2021,

On January 27, Jackson’s attorney asked for a one month continuance, with the government’s consent. That generally indicates the defendant is preparing to plead before indictment (which isn’t surprising given that, before he got a lawyer, Jackson confessed to his assaults).

That means it’s possible that by the time Trump’s impeachment trial starts, Emanuel Jackson will have pled guilty to being inspired by Donald Trump to halt the vote certification, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue and then assaulting two cops in an effort to help Trump steal the election.

Update:  Hunter Seefried, whose dad was the one caught carrying a Confederate flag through the Capitol, played a key role in cleaning out the window many streamed through. The father and son pair marched over after listening to Trump.

Defendant Kevin Seefried told law enforcement that he had traveled with his family from Delaware to the District of Columbia to hear President Trump speak and that he and Hunter Seefried participated in a march from the White House to the Capitol led by an individual with a bull horn.

Finally, I have reviewed video footage posted to Twitter which shows Hunter Seefried punching out glass in a window in the Capitol complex after people adjacent to him in the crowd broke it with a wooden 2 x 4. Kevin Seefried confirmed to law enforcement agents that Hunter Seefried was asked by an individual unknown to the Seefrieds to assist with clearing the window because Hunter Seefried was wearing gloves. After Hunter Seefried complied, people from the crowd outside, to include the Seefrieds, were able to access the interior of the Capitol Building.

Barton Wade Shively, a former Marine who admitted to assaulting several cops, also came down for the rally and then walked to the Capitol afterwards.

During the interview, SHIVELY admitted to driving to Washington, D.C. with friends to attend the Trump rally on January 6, 2021. SHIVELY further stated that he and his friends walked to the U.S. Capitol grounds and that a significant number of protestors broke through the first set of barricades. After which, SHIVELY explained that he was in the back of the crowd, but once the barricades were broken down by other rioters, SHIVELY walked over the broken-down police barriers and up the U.S. Capitol steps where law enforcement officers were standing protecting the U.S. Capitol. SHIVELY stated that when he confronted the law enforcement officers, he was pushed back, SHIVELY admitted he became angered at that time. SHIVELY admitted “I got caught up in the moment.” and grabbed a police officer by his jacket and began yelling at the officer.

[snip]

During the interview with agents, SHIVELY admitted to a second incident physical and assaultive encounter with law enforcement officers. SHIVELY stated he was walking down a line of officers who were protecting the U.S. Capitol from rioters, when an officer repeatedly pushed SHIVELY with his baton and commanded SHIVELY to move away. SHIVELY admitted to punching the officer on the officer’s riot helmet.

Spaz: More than Just a Thumb Drive [Updated]

The government released its motion for detention for Dominic Pezzola, AKA “Spaz,” the Proud Boy who was among the first to break into the Capitol.

As a Marine with ties to the Proud Boys, it’s easy to see why the government thinks he’s dangerous.

To support their claim he is, though, the government made two arguments that probably aren’t the main reasons. First, they treat his use of a police shield to break open the door of the Capitol as a crime of violence.

Felony destruction of government property is a crime of violence. For purposes of the bail statute, as relevant to these offenses, a crime of violence is defined as “an offense that has an element of the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another,” if that crime is punishable by ten years or more in prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A) & 16. Section 1361 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code meets those requirements. It is punishable by ten years if the property damage was greater than $1,000, and its elements include the use of physical force against the property of another.

More spectacularly, they point to the bomb-making materials they found at his home.

The FBI also executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence at the time of his arrest. Agents recovered, from a room that appeared to be used exclusively by the defendant, a thumb drive that contained hundreds of .pdf files. While some of those files are related to seemingly innocuous topics, a significant number of those .pdfs provide detailed instructions for making homemade firearms, poisons, and/or explosives. A sample of titles includes, but is not limited to: (1) multiple serials of a series entitled “Advanced Improvised Explosives,” those serials including “Explosive Dusts” and “Incendiaries;” (2) “The Box Tube MAC-11,” with subtitle, “The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol;” (3) “Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons;” and (4) “The Advanced Anarchist’s Arsenal: Recipes for Improvised Incendiaries and Explosives.” All of the above examples contain detailed instructions for how to make the subject matter reflected in their titles, and they are but four of hundreds of similarly titled .pdf files on the recovered thumb drive.

But I’m more interested, as is my wont, in the ways that the government points to something more.

It does so, first of all, by hinting at additional charges to come — though lays out charges that are likely not the ones DOJ has in mind for Pezzola.

The defendant currently stands charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1361, 1512(c)(2), and 1752(a), stemming from his role in the violent events that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

[snip]

The defendant is currently charged by complaint with one crime of violence—breaking the window of the Capitol with the shield—and the evidence as laid out above would establish probable cause to believe that he committed another crime of violence a short time earlier, robbery of U.S. government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2112.

[snip]

The evidence as laid out above would also establish that the defendant violated 18 U.S.C. § 2112, robbery of U.S. Government property, and § 111, assault on a federal officer, among other things. The government acknowledges that the defendant is not charged with these offenses at the time this memorandum is submitted.

More importantly, the government repeatedly talks about how he coordinated his actions.

The defendant’s actions show planning, determination, and coordination.

It uses the language of conspiracy — persons known and unknown — to describe his actions leading the mob towards the Capitol.

At around 1:00 p.m. EST, on January 6, 2021, known and unknown individuals broke through the police lines, toppled the outside barricades protecting the U.S. Capitol, and pushed past U.S. Capitol Police (“USCP”) and supporting law enforcement officers there to protect the U.S. Capitol.

The motion describes how he walked up to the barriers with others, including this guy in a flag bandana.

It shows how, at the moment he breaks in the window through which the Capitol was breached, he was wearing an earpiece.

The government describes how that first group of people immediately turned to “where they counting the votes?” (though were distracted from finding them by Officer Goodman).

Pezzola was part of a group that turned to the right and eventually confronted USCP Officer Eugene Goodman, demanding to know “where they meeting at, where they counting the votes?” It is unclear from the video which member of the mob shouted that question at Officer Goodman.

And the motion describes Pezzola talking about a “we” who had taken the Capitol.

“Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is f***ing awesome. I knew we could take this motherf***er over [if we] just tried hard enough.”

While the motion lays out its argument for detention by emphasizing other things, the argument it is really making is that Pezzola, as a key member of the conspiracy (and as someone with the operational security to flee), he needs to be detained.

It’s not surprising that the government points to evidence of a conspiracy. After all, he’s associated with the Proud Boys, a key focus of their attention (and the motion cites a W-1 who is clearly privy to their plans).

It’s just telling how the government only hints at that argument while pointing to other things that make Spaz dangerous.

Update: DOJ announced the conspiracy indictment of Pazzola with William Pepe, the guy in the flag bandana pictured above.

 Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, New York, and William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, New York, were indicted today in federal court in the District of Columbia on charges of conspiracy; civil disorder; unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds; and disorderly and disruptive conduct in restricted buildings or grounds. Pezzola was also charged with obstruction of an official proceeding; additional counts of civil disorder and aiding and abetting civil disorder; robbery of personal property of the United States; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; destruction of government property; and engaging in physical violence in a restricted buildings or grounds.

The prosecution team includes the guy who prosecuted Maria Butina, Erik Kenerson, along with a CT prosecutor from NSD.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason McCullough and Erik Kenerson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Taryn Meeks of the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Western and Southern Districts of New York. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance by the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office and the FBI’s New York Field Office.

Update: Here’s the indictment itself. It is very narrowly drawn, describing the conspiracy to cover just their successful entry past the cops at the second barrier.

The object of the conspiracy was to obstruct, influence, impede, and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds during the demonstrations planned for January 6, 2021.

I suspect DOJ did this, in part, to have a way to keep Pepe detained. He’s not even accused of entering the Capitol, nor is he charged with stealing anything or assaulting a copy. But by being charged in a conspiracy with Pazzola, he’s on the hook for Pazzola’s more obviously violent acts.