Proud Boys were in contact with White House before insurrection
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Federal law enforcement officials have uncovered cell phone data linking a Proud Boys member to “a person associated with the [Trump] White House” in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. While the names of the two people involved have not been released, the New York Times states that the incident is not a Jan. 2 call between Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Trump associate Roger Stone. The FBI has obtained a list of all phone numbers in contact with the Capitol’s cell towers during the riot, as well as a “geofence” warrant for all the Android devices within the Capitol building.
More on the Tarrio-Stone connection: Tarrio confirmed to the Times that he was in contact with Stone in the days before the insurrection. He admitted to calling Stone during a protest in front of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) house on Jan. 2, putting him on speakerphone to address the crowd. A month earlier, Tarrio and fellow Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean appeared on stage with Stone at a “Stop the Steal” event, calling for the crowd to “never surrender” and “fight to the bitter end” for “our revolution.” Nordean was later arrested for leading a group of Proud Boys into the Capitol to disrupt the electoral count.
The day before the December rally, Tarrio posted a picture of himself inside the White House gates, suggesting that he had a “last-minute invite to an undisclosed location.” The White House claimed that Tarrio was on “a public White House Christmas tour” and “did not have a meeting with the president.” His presence is suspect for numerous reasons, the first being that felons – like Tarrio – are denied tours unless a senior official intervenes.
In addition to the Proud Boys, Stone also has strong ties to another right-wing extremist group, the Oath Keepers. At least six members of the Oath Keepers who provided security for Stone were involved in the insurrection. In fact, just hours before the attack on the Capitol, Stone is seen on video in D.C. surrounded by Oath Keepers.
The FBI arrested former Trump appointee Federico “Freddie” Klein for participating in the insurrection, allegedly assaulting police officers and preventing them from protecting the building. Klein served as an aide to Trump’s 2016 campaign and worked as a mid-level State Department aide for the entirety of Trump’s administration. U.S. Magistrate Zia Faruqui ordered Klein be held in custody until trial, despite his complaints about cockroaches in the jail cell.
Federal prosecutors said the videos confirmed that Klein was in the tunnel of the Lower West Terrace, physically fighting against the front line of officers, even assaulting officers with a riot shield he’d stolen from them… [Court filings:] “Notably, one video captured Klein encouraging other rioters to attempt to breach the Capitol by shouting, ‘We need fresh people, we need fresh people’ multiple times.”
- Further reading: “Trump Official Charged in Capitol Riots Had a Rap Sheet and Still Got Top-Secret Clearance,” Vice News
Events of Jan. 6
The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard testified it took more than three hours for the Pentagon to grant him permission to send his nearby troops to the Capitol to assist officers during the insurrection. Maj. Gen. William Walker told the Senate that in the lead up to Jan. 6, “unusual” restrictions were placed on his ability to deploy his forces, requiring specific authorization from the Defense Dept. leadership to something as simple as moving the Nat. Guard a block away.
According to Walker’s timeline, events played out as follows (PDF):
The Secretary of the Army’s Jan. 5th letter withheld authority for me to employ the Quick Reaction Force. In addition, the Secretary of the Army’s memorandum to me required that a “concept of operation” (CONOP) be submitted to him before any employment of the [Quick Reaction Force]. I found that requirement to be unusual as was the requirement to seek approval to move Guardsmen supporting [Metropolitan Police Department] to move from one traffic control point to another…
At 1:49pm I received a frantic call from then Chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster.
Immediately after the 1:49pm call with Chief Sund, I alerted the Army Senior Leadership of the request. The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08pm – 3 hours and 19 minutes later. We already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20pm (in under 20 minutes) the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol.
Walker further testified that he received approval “within minutes” to deploy forces during racial justice protests last year. He could not explain why there was such a long delay on Jan. 6, laying blame at the feet of Army officials. including Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the younger brother of Michael Flynn. Walker identified Flynn as being on the phone that day expressing concerns over the “optics” of sending uniformed Guardsmen to the Capitol grounds.
- Reminder: The Army at first lied to the press when asked if Charles Flynn, deputy chief of staff for operations, was involved in the phone conversations on Jan. 6. After Donald Trump’s election loss, Michael Flynn publicly advocated for the president to declare martial law and use the military to “rerun” the election. The night before the insurrection Michael Flynn told a crowd of Trump supporters that “we the people are going to be here [tomorrow], and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.”
Ultimately, responsibility for the military’s unforgivably slow response lies with then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller – a former White House aide and Trump loyalist appointed by the president after firing Mark Esper. Of special note, Miller’s authorization to deploy the Guard came minutes after Trump told his “very special” rioters to “go home in peace” via Twitter.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): “There are three unarmed national guardsmen who are helping with traffic control … and they were not permitted to move a block away without getting permission from the secretary of the Army?” (Clip)
Walker: “That’s correct.”
Portman: “…That January 4 memorandum from Acting Secretary Miller to the Army Secretary required the personal approval of the secretary of defense for the National Guard to be issued riot gear, is that correct?”
Walker: “That’s correct…Normally for a safety and force-protection matter, a commander would be able to authorize his guardsmen to protect themselves.”
Robert Salesses, career Defense Dept. official: “Secretary Miller wanted to make the decisions of how the National Guard was going to be employed that day.”
- UPDATE: Further complicating the story, the Washington Post reported that the Army initially wanted to decline the DC Mayor’s request for a small contingent of Guardsmen to coordinate traffic in the city on Jan. 6, wanting law enforcement to handle the task instead. After pressure from Miller and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, “Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy agreed to support the request, so long as a lead agency was identified and all other federal agencies “exhausted their assets to support these events”.
A week after the hearing, Chris Miller said that he believes former President Trump was responsible for causing the attack on the Capitol. “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened,” Miller said in an interview with VICE on Showtime.
However, Miller did not accept responsibility for the 3 hour National Guard delay on Jan. 6, saying that critics do not understand “how the military works.”
Note: There is reason to question if Miller was even really in charge of the Defense Dept. at the time. According to reporting by Vanity Fair, an anonymous Trump administration official suggested that Miller’s Chief of Staff Kash Patel and Under Secretary Ezra Cohen-Watnick were actually “calling all the shots,” with Miller just acting as “the frontman.” Patel previously worked as an aide to Rep. Devin Nunes to discredit the Russia investigations; Cohen-Watnick was brought into the administration by Michael Flynn, fired by H.R. McMaster, and brought back by Trump in 2020. Trump ousted Defense Secretary Esper in November 2020, promoting Patel and installing Cohen-Watnick at the same time. It’s been suggested that Patel and/or Cohen-Watnick were involved in the delay on Jan. 6.
Notable arrests and cases
Federal prosecutors said the Capitol investigation is “one of the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence,” asking the courts for a 60-day delay for most cases in order to process the “complex case”. A filing in DC District Court reveals over 900 search warrants have been executed, more than 15,000 hours of footage collected, 1,600 electronic devices seized, and 210,000 tips received. However, District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, expressed doubts that the case fit the definition of “complex,” saying: “The complex cases that I‘m used to look very different.” Another judge on the same court, Chief Judge Beryl Howell (appointed by Obama), said the opposite: “The complexity of this case is enormous.”
- Reminder: Judge McFadden approved the request of one of rioters, Jenny Cudd, to travel to Mexico for a “weekend retreat with her employees”.
Despite the trove of evidence to be processed, U.S. Attorneys anticipate they’ll begin offering plea deals to some of those arrested Jan. 6 within the next two to three weeks. The teams are prioritizing the defendants still in custody, delaying the court dates of others.
The FBI arrested two men for assaulting Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and other officers with a chemical spray during the insurrection. George Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, WV, and Julian Khater, 32, of State College, PA, were arrested on Sunday and charged with conspiracy to injure an officer, assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, violent entry and disorderly conduct, and other crimes. Sicknick died the following day. Khater and Tanios are not charged with causing his death, as autopsy results are have not been released; it is unclear if evidence exists to definitively charge anyone with homicide.
…law enforcement discovered video that depicted Khater asking Tanios to “give me that bear s*it.” …Khater then retrieved a canister from Tanios’ backpack and walked through the crowd to within a few steps of the police perimeter. The video shows Khater with his right arm up high in the air, appearing to be holding a canister in his right hand and aiming it at the officers’ direction while moving his right arm from side to side… Officers Sicknick, Edwards, and Chapman, who were all standing within a few feet of Khater, each reacted to being sprayed in the face. The officers retreated, bringing their hands to their faces and rushing to find water to wash out their eyes.
An internal military investigation found that an Army reservist charged in the insurrection was a well-known White supremacist and Nazi sympathizer at the Navy base where he worked as a contractor. Timothy Hale-Cusanelli faces seven charges, including obstructing congressional proceedings and disorderly conduct. He allegedly interfered with Capitol police officers trying to hold back the mob and entered the Capitol building by climbing scaffolding to reach a door that had been kicked open by other rioters. According to the wealth of information provided by colleagues, anyone could have seen this coming from Hale-Cusanelli, who once wore a Hitler mustache to work and frequently praised the Nazis:
A Navy Petty Officer stated that Defendant talked constantly about Jewish people and remembered Defendant saying “Hitler should have finished the job.” …Another Navy Petty Officer stated that Defendant was a White Supremacist and remembered Defendant saying that “Jews, women, and blacks were on the bottom of the totem pole.” That same Petty Officer stated that s/he considered Defendant to be “unstable,” …Another Navy Petty Officer stated that Defendant referred to black people as “shit skinned minorities.” …[A] supervisor also noted that s/he had to correct Defendant for wearing a “Hitler mustache” to work. (Court filing with pics of said Hitler mustache)
The Justice Department is reportedly seeking to build a “large conspiracy” case against members of the Oath Keepers for their role in the insurrection. So far, at least 13 individuals associated with the group have been charged, 10 of them as co-conspirators indicted by a grand jury; prosecutors told the court “potentially up to five or six or even a few more” defendants could be added. According to the Washington Post, agents are “working to see if a conspiracy case can be made against” Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, and other senior members. Federal prosecutors revealed that Rhodes was giving directions before and during the insurrection, telling members what to bring and where to go via messages on the Signal app.
An investigation by The New York Times revealed details of law enforcement’s history of letting Proud Boys off the hook, often charging their victims instead. For example, insurrectionist Joseph Biggs admitted to jumping a police line and beating a man during a 2016 protest; his victim was charged with assaulting Biggs, despite the latter started the attack. The police force later reached a $225,000 settlement with the victim amid claims that the officers falsified their reports out of sympathy with Biggs. Insurrectionist Ethan Nordean (mentioned above), assaulted a counterprotester in Portland, knocking him unconscious; the counterprotester was charged and Nordean was let off.
The group’s propensity for violence and extremism was no secret. But the F.B.I. and other agencies had often seen the Proud Boys as they chose to portray themselves, according to more than a half-dozen current and former federal officials: as mere street brawlers who lacked the organization or ambition of typical bureau targets like neo-Nazis, international terrorists and Mexican drug cartels.