Before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the FBI had well-placed informants in the Proud Boys who the government hoped could glean information about the notorious far-right street-fighting gang’s inner workings.
Now, some of those same informants are being called as witnesses in the Proud Boys’ high-profile seditious conspiracy trial—by the defense, who think their testimony will help get their clients off the hook and prove they had no plot to storm the Capitol.
According to defense lawyers, those informants were privy to Proud Boys’ chats and even marched alongside them to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
After several delays, opening arguments finally got underway Thursday in the high-profile seditious conspiracy trial against the Proud Boy ‘s ex-“chairman” Enrique Tarrio, top organizers Joseph Biggs, Zach Rehl, and Ethan Nordean, and member Dominic Pezzola.
All five men are accused of entering into a secret agreement to storm the Capitol, with the ultimate goal of disrupting and even preventing the peaceful transition of power. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Each of the defendants has their own legal teams—an array of personalities and characters who are employing a grab bag of strategies and arguments they hope will exonerate their clients. But it’s clear that the biggest asset to the defense’s case, by far, could be the testimony of those government informants.
As the final days of the blatantly biased House Jan. 6 committee wound down, it posted online the rotten fruits of its labor — hundreds of documents gathered as part of its quest to quest to end former President Donald Trump’s political career.
According to a new report, included among the “massive cache” of materials were the Social Security numbers of nearly 2,000 high-profile people who visited the White House in December 2020.
On Friday, the second anniversary of the fateful events at the Capitol, The Washington Post reported that the “inadvertently” doxxed individuals include “at least three members of Trump’s Cabinet, a few Republican governors and numerous Trump allies.”
Many of the Social Security numbers listed in the logs were redacted, but The Post reports that roughly 1,900 of them were revealed, including those of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), her husband, and her three children.
A spokesperson for Noem, Ian Fury, said the Government Publishing Office (GPO), the original publisher of the file, did not even bother to give Noem a heads-up about the massive breach of privacy.
“To my knowledge, we were not notified,” Fury said. “The governor was not notified.”
Following the latest ‘TWITTER FILES‘ drop, which revealed that “Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary,” journalist Matt Taibbi commented that “Instead of chasing child sex predators or terrorists, the FBI has agents — lots of them — analyzing and mass-flagging social media posts.”
In response, California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu lashed out – telling Taibbi: “I’m on the House Judiciary Committee that has oversight over the @FBI and you are lying,” adding “The FBI has lots of agents chasing child sex predators and terrorists. Please stop undermining and lying about federal law enforcement.”
To which researcher Tracy Beanz asked FBI whistleblower Steve Friend to chime in.
Friend was suspended and stripped of his gun and badge in September for refusing to participate in SWAT raids against January 6th subjects accused of misdemeanor offenses, according to the NY Post.
An FBI whistleblower has accused bureau officials of cooking the books to conceal the number of man-hours devoted to the Jan. 6 investigation and inflate time spent on other cases.
According to the anonymous whistleblower, the subterfuge is intended to bolster the bureau’s budget requests to Congress when House Republicans control the purse strings next year.
According to a whistleblower disclosure submitted to Congress, a top official in the FBI’s counterterrorism unit at the Washington headquarters pressured the bureau’s field offices to stop agents from clocking hours when they are working on investigations related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The supervisors in the field offices were told the agents should instead claim they were working on international terrorism and other investigations when recording hours in the FBI’s time and attendance system, known as WebTA.
The Washington Times has reviewed a draft of the whistleblower disclosure.
The FBI told The Times that the allegations were inaccurate but did not elaborate.
The new allegations add to a flood of FBI whistleblower disclosures to Congress in recent months about widespread misconduct, mismanagement and politicized investigations at the bureau. As The Times has reported, the more than a dozen whistleblower disclosures will fuel congressional inquiries regarding the FBI and Department of Justice when Republicans take over the House in January.
The FBI has poured resources into investigations of crimes stemming from the pro-Trump mob storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Nearly two years later, at least 964 people have been charged.
One of the most high-profile cases resulted in the conviction last month of Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers militia, and his top lieutenant, Kelly Meggs, on rarely used charges of seditious conspiracy.
As reported earlier by The Gateway Pundit, the Jeremy Brown Trial taking place at the Middle District Court in Tampa, FL is controversial at best.
The attorney for Jeremy Brown, Mr. Roger Futerman, alleged on Wednesday that the FBI “planted” evidence in this case during his opening statements.
The accusation is understandable when the chain of custody and documentation of evidence presented at the trial is so atrocious.
The military grade M67 grenades found in Brown’s RV during the raid can only be tracked by lot number and where they’ve been, not the dates that they were there.
They also found human hair, dog hair, and textile fibers stuck to the tape on the grenades that had allegedly been in Brown’s possession for months, since Jan. 6, 2021, but none of the hairs or fibers matched Brown, Brown’s dog, or the carpet samples taken from his RV nor his girlfriend’s home.
The DNA found on the tape of one of the grenades was of two males but neither of the samples belonged to Jeremy Brown.
Brown maintains that the two illegal firearms are, in fact, his (more on that Friday) but the plate carrier (body armor) and grenades were planted.
The other remaining charges levied against Brown involve the possession of classified materials, most of which are contained on a compact disc (CD) that was “found” in his RV back in September 2021.
The only picture of the CD from that day was a tiny peek at the corner of the blue CD case sticking out from underneath a pile of other papers and folders. The total area of the corner that you can see may be the width of half of a credit card. You cannot in any way identify it as a CD case.
In fact, FBI Staff Operation Specialist Elyssa Gonzalez testified that she doesn’t recall the CD in the RV at all. One of her duties was to log all of the pictures that day as she was “attached at the hip” with the FBI photographer. The defense showed a log of the evidentiary pictures from that day. The CD was not on the list, according to Gonzalez. You’d think a trained FBI specialist would remember a CD (in 2022) with big red “CLASSIFIED” tape on the cover.
The only time that Gonzalez was not documenting evidence was when the FBI handed the evidentiary camera to Detective Charles George of Tampa PD who worked to secure the grenades for over 2 hours.
Also worth noting: the FBI’s photographer passed her camera off to another agent in, Agent Mund, in order to console Jeremy Brown’s girlfriend, since a female agent normally does that with a female on the scene.
A federal jury this week convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes of seditious conspiracy, concluding that he and Kelly Meggs, another member of the right-wing militia, plotted to keep Donald Trump in office “by force.” This is the first time that a jury has convicted participants in the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol of that crime, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The hundreds of Trump supporters who have been arrested in connection with the riot typically have faced misdemeanor charges such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, and unauthorized demonstrating.
Rhodes stands out from those other defendants because he was the leader of an armed organization that was allegedly determined to keep Joe Biden out of the White House by any means necessary. Yet Rhodes’ seditious conspiracy conviction is rather puzzling given the jury’s rejection of two other conspiracy charges against him. The jury acquitted Rhodes of conspiring to obstruct the congressional certification of Biden’s victory on January 6 and of conspiring to prevent members of Congress from discharging their official duties by completing that process.
The eruption of “Stop the Steal” violence on January 6 delayed the electoral vote count, thereby obstructing the peaceful transfer of power, which was the alleged object of the seditious conspiracy. The Oath Keepers’ actions that day, when several participated in the riot while others stood by at a nearby hotel where they had stashed weapons, were the most striking steps they took to advance that scheme. Yet the jury was not persuaded that Rhodes, the group’s ostensible leader, planned to disrupt the congressional ratification of the election results.
Rhodes was on the Capitol grounds during the riot but, unlike several of his codefendants, did not enter the building itself. One of the prosecutors, Jeffrey Nestler, likened Rhodes to “a general surveying his troops on the battlefield.” The jurors evidently did not accept that characterization. While they concluded that Rhodes did in fact obstruct an official proceeding, they found him not guilty of conspiring to do so.
By contrast, two Oath Keepers who did enter the Capitol, Meggs and Jessica Watkins, were convicted of conspiring to interrupt the electoral vote count. Meggs, Watkins, and Kenneth Harrelson, who also entered the building, were convicted of conspiring to interfere with legislators’ official work. Yet Harrelson, Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell, who trespassed on a Capitol balcony during the riot, were acquitted of participating in the seditious conspiracy, while Meggs was convicted of that charge along with Rhodes.
Three Oath Keeper defendants—Joshua James, Brian Ulrich, and William Todd Wilson—had previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. Two other members of the group, Jason Dolan and Graydon Young, pleaded guilty to other riot-related charges and testified during the trial of the five remaining defendants. “Dolan testified that he hoped to scare members of Congress and that he was part of a group that ‘would be willing to fight’ to keep [Trump] in office,” NBC News notes. “Young testified that he was ‘acting like a traitor’ on Jan. 6, 2021, and that he thought he was part of an event similar to the 1789 storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.”
Contrary to the picture painted by the prosecution, however, this week’s confusing combination of verdicts does not suggest that the Oath Keepers acted as a unified force under Rhodes’ command. Judging from the jury’s conclusions, Rhodes was not in on the plan to disrupt the electoral vote count, while Meggs, Watkins, and Harrelson were. Conversely, Rhodes and Meggs were bent on using force to keep Trump in power, while Watkins and Harrelson somehow were not. Caldwell likewise was not part of the seditious conspiracy, despite his role in coordinating and arming the “quick reaction force” (QRF) that remained at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, during the riot.
The FBI’s biggest-ever investigation included the biggest-ever haul of phones from controversial geofence warrants, court records show. A filing in the case of one of the January 6 suspects, David Rhine, shows that Google initially identified 5,723 devices as being in or near the US Capitol during the riot. Only around 900 people have so far been charged with offenses relating to the siege.
The filing suggests that dozens of phones that were in airplane mode during the riot, or otherwise out of cell service, were caught up in the trawl. Nor could users erase their digital trails later. In fact, 37 people who attempted to delete their location data following the attacks were singled out by the FBI for greater scrutiny.
Geofence search warrants are intended to locate anyone in a given area using digital services. Because Google’s Location History system is both powerful and widely used, the company is served about 10,000 geofence warrants in the US each year. Location History leverages GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth signals to pinpoint a phone within a few yards. Although the final location is still subject to some uncertainty, it is usually much more precise than triangulating signals from cell towers. Location History is turned off by default, but around a third of Google users switch it on, enabling services like real-time traffic prediction.
The geofence warrants served on Google shortly after the riot remained sealed. But lawyers for Rhine, a Washington man accused of various federal crimes on January 6, recently filed a motion to suppress the geofence evidence. The motion, which details the warrant’s process and scale, was first reported by journalist Marcy Wheeler on her blog, Emptywheel.
In a statement, a Google spokesperson defended the company’s handling of geofence warrants.
“We have a rigorous process for geofence warrants that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” the company said. “When Google receives legal demands, we examine them closely for legal validity and constitutional concerns, including overbreadth, consistent with developing case law. If a request asks for too much information, we work to narrow it. We routinely push back on overbroad demands, including overbroad geofence demands, and in some cases, we object to producing any information at all.”
Google requires a three-step process for geofence warrants to narrow their scope to only those most likely to be guilty of a crime. In the first and broadest step, the FBI asked Google to identify all devices in a 4-acre area, including the Capitol and its immediate surroundings, between 2 pm and 6:30 pm on January 6. Google initially found 5,653 active devices that “were or could have been” within the geofence at that time. When Google added in data from devices that only connected to its servers later that day, or the next, the number increased to 5,723. (Location History works in airplane mode because phones can continue to receive GPS satellite signals.)
The historic verdict — the most serious yet secured in relation to the events of Jan. 6 — was nonetheless mixed. Alleged co-conspirators Jessica Watkins, Thomas Watkins, and Kenneth Harrelson were found not guilty of sedition. Meggs and Watkins were, however, found guilty of the lesser charge of conspiring to disrupt the counting of the votes of the Electoral College. All five prosecuted members of the militia group were found guilty on charges of obstructing an official proceeding. Four of the five, including Rhodes, were found guilty of “tampering with documents or proceedings and aiding and abetting.”
Throughout the trial, which opened on Oct. 4, the government alleged that Rhodes and his subordinates committed “seditious conspiracy” by working to block, by force, the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The defendants also faced lesser charges that they conspired to disrupt the official proceedings of the joint session of Congress to certify the votes of the Electoral College.
Sedition is rarely prosecuted, and convictions are even rarer.
The Oath Keepers are a conspiratorial militia group that recruits heavily from former-military and law enforcement personnel. The militia began as fiercely anti-government, coping a defensive posture against fever-swamp-nightmares that federal authorities could turn entire cities into internment camps.
But the militia came to embrace Donald Trump as a hero figure and hoped and believed Trump might marshall them into battle against antifa and other perceived leftist threats. In its conspiratorial worldview, the group saw Biden’s win as a “ChiCom puppet coup” — a victory for the “deep state,” Communist China, shadowy globalists, and alleged “pedophiles” in Congress.