It is unquestionably satisfying to see the January 6 House select committee issue subpoenas to some of the notorious extremists who led the mob to invade the U.S. Capitol a year ago but who have not yet been called to account, mainly because they did not go inside the building—people like Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Ali Alexander. Last Wednesday’s subpoena of notorious white nationalists Nicholas Fuentes and Patrick Casey—leaders of the so-called “Groyper army” under the banner of Fuentes’ America First operation—was particularly so.
However, whatever accountability may arise from the subpoena also carries a hidden danger—namely, that Fuentes and his “Groypers” will exploit any appearance before the committee for publicity and increased fame, while turning any hearing in which he participates into a mockery, and taint the committee itself by extension. It’s the kind of thing at which they excel.
The committee has numerous solid reasons to seek testimony from Fuentes and Casey. Their white nationalist organization, America First, mobilized to support the “Stop the Steal” campaign that organized around Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that he had won the 2020 election. Fuentes and his “Groypers”—an ad-hoc “army” of anti-Semitic white nationalists whose symbol is an alt-right-style cartoon frog—turned out for pro-Trump rallies in Washington on November 14 and December 12, 2020, at which Fuentes spoke.
The letter sent by the committee to Fuentes also spells out a potentially important financial question: “Less than a month before the Capitol attack, you reportedly received a large donation of Bitcoin, worth more than $250,000, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly is scrutinizing to assess whether the money was linked to the Capitol attack or otherwise used to fund illegal acts,” it said.
Fuentes spoke to the crowd on the Capitol steps during the January 6 insurrection, urging the mob to keep the building occupied:
We have just got word that they have stopped the vote of the Electoral College in Congress! I say that we should not leave this Capitol until Donald Trump is inaugurated president! We the American people will not let this fraudulent election go forward one more step! Because the truth is that Donald Trump won the election on November 3 by a landslide! And we will accept nothing less than four more years of Donald Trump!
A number of America First members were among the people who did invade the Capitol and now face charges because of it. One of them is Riley Williams, the 22-year-old woman from Pennsylvania believed to be the person who emerged from the Capitol siege with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop in her possession.
A Bellingcat report made clear Williams was not just a Trump fan who got “carried away,” as her mother tried to tell an interviewer. In the process of identifying her as the woman with her face concealed in a TikTok video featuring a masked woman giving a Nazi salute, it followed a long trail of evidence of her avid participation in far-right “accelerationist” online spaces, including on Parler and Telegram.
Williams also was a fan of Fuentes. When Fuentes helped lead the “Stop the Steal” protest in Washington, D.C., on December 12, Williams took a fan shot with him that day, posting it on Twitter: “Thank you Nick!!” she wrote, adding a laughing emoji. “King of America!”
Another of Fuentes’ followers, a California college student named Christian Secor, has been charged with breaking into the Capitol. Secor, who had earlier posted a photo on Twitter of himself with Fuentes before the attack with a caption reading, “Kinda epic doe?”, also entered the Senate floor with an America First flag.
The political agenda that Fuentes promotes is nakedly white nationalist, though he eschews the term because of the “baggage” that accompanies it, insisting that he’s only an “American nationalist”—thereby ignoring his group’s replication of white nationalist ideas (particularly “white genocide”), as well its unrepentant anti-Semitism. As Ben Lorber explained at Political Research Associates, “Fuentes seeks to secure a place for white nationalist concerns within the shifting consensus that defines movement conservatism. His momentum both accelerates and reflects the mainstreaming of white nationalism in U.S. politics, and highlights the challenges posed to existing ‘counter-extremism’ strategies in the face of an increasingly normalized far right.”
Fuentes explained this strategy on one of his podcasts:
My job, and the job of the Groypers and America First, is to keep pushing further. We—because nobody else will—have to push the envelope. And we’re gonna get called names. We’re gonna get called racist, sexist, antisemitic, bigoted, whatever…and when the party is where we are two years later, we’re not gonna get the credit for the ideas that become popular…but that’s ok. That’s our job. We are the right-wing flank of the Republican Party, and if we didn’t exist, the Republican Party would be falling backwards all the time, constantly falling backwards, receding into the Center and the Left. So we have got to be on the Right, dragging these people kicking and stream—kicking and screaming into the future, into the right wing, into a truly reactionary party. And it’s incremental—we’re not gonna drag them all the way over—but if we can drag over the furthest part of the Right further to the Right, and we can drag the Center further to the Right, and we can drag the Left further to the Right, then we’re winning.
Fuentes and the “Groypers” specialize in alt-right-style trolling that promotes white nationalist ideas and memes, such as when they began turning up at events featuring campus conservative Charlie Kirk and his Turning Point USA organization, who they deemed insufficiently “red-pilled.” Groyper audience members—including, at an Ohio State rally, Patrick Casey—would roil these events by asking Kirk and other speakers openly antisemitic, racist, and homophobic questions.
Andrew Anglin, editor/publisher of the explicitly neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, explained to his readers how deniability was built into all these public expressions of support for white nationalist beliefs: “If you say any of the things said in OSU on Tuesday night, you can just say ‘no, of course, I’m not an ALT-RIGHT NEO-NAZI RACIST WHITE SUPREMACIST, I’m just an America First nationalist and MAGA supporter.’”
Since the insurrection, Fuentes has voiced his solidarity with Anglin and compared himself to the unrepentant Nazi. “I’m trying to get out a very important message about white genocide and the destruction of our people,” he explained in a recent livestream responding to the subpoena.
Fuentes has also been spreading his influence. After being banned from Southwest Airlines for refusing to follow their masking protocols—and then fantasizing on his podcast about killing flight attendants in retaliation—he claimed groundlessly that he had been placed on a federal no-fly list. Rising to his defense was Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona, one of the Republicans with his own deep connections to the Jan. 6 insurrection, who demanded that federal authorities explain Fuentes’ supposed ban.
Shortly afterward, Gosar was the keynote speaker at America First’s annual convention in Miami. Fuentes followed Gosar on stage and delivered a speech neck-deep in white nationalist cant, saying that if the U.S. "loses its white demographic core, then this is not America anymore." He warned that “white people are done being bullied” by groups like Black Lives Matter. Such groups, he claimed, want to create “a new racial caste system in this country, with whites at the bottom.”
Moreover, Fuentes has emphatically promoted the idea that the January 6 insurrection and the attempt to keep Trump in office were not just justifiable but events to be positively celebrated. That was the line he adopted the day after the siege on his podcast.
“At every step of the way, the Republican Party could have kept Trump in office,” Fuentes claimed. “Whether it was the party apparatus — the Republican Party itself, the RNC — stopping the voter fraud on Election Day. You could’ve had Republican state legislatures take their own electors and appoint them and send them to D.C. You could’ve had Trump-appointed justices intervene and make this right.”
“And ultimately tomorrow you could’ve had Republican senators and House representatives object to and throw out enough votes that we could’ve forced a contingent election and gotten President Trump inaugurated that way,” he said.
“Frankly, I think it was completely justified,” he added. “And, if I’m being totally honest, I loved what happened yesterday. And we will see what the consequences will be of yesterday, and we will deal with them, and we will adapt to them, and they’re not gonna be good. … But what I saw yesterday was beautiful. It was righteous. It was American. Our ancestors from our founding smiled upon us yesterday. And I have nothing to apologize for.”
On the event’s anniversary earlier this month, he went even further. “I started out the show earlier saying, ‘Happy January 6,’” Fuentes said in a livestream. “This is a holiday. This is a historic moment for us. We should celebrate that it happened, absolutely. And I said this on Telegram late last night, after midnight so it was technically January 6, I don’t regret a thing about my actions on January 6, and I don’t regret … anything that I did leading up to it in the three months prior, since Nov. 3, 2020.”
“We need to celebrate January 6. This is part of our new heritage. This is part of our new history,” he added.
Fuentes almost certainly sees the subpoena as an opportunity to further publicize his group and its agenda, and moreover is unlikely to answer any questions from the committee in good faith, hoping instead to make the proceedings into a mockery. So the committee would be wise to take that into account while hearing whatever testimony Fuentes might have to offer.
And while the committee is considering televising its hearings in prime time, it would be a decidedly bad idea to give Fuentes an opportunity to troll them with the nation watching.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos