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Reprinted with permission from DailyKosSeveral House Republicans—exactly the ones you would guess—were involved in planning meetings for protests on January 6 as Trump supporters tried to block the certification of the 2020 election and with it, Donald Trump's loss, two sources have detailed to Rolling Stone.
Both sources are in contact with the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and both, let's be clear, are motivated to paint their own involvement in the most innocent and patriotic light possible. But they can still have valuable testimony, whatever the motivations.
The sources, identified as an organizer and a planner, say they participated in "dozens" of planning meetings, including some with the personal participation of or top staffers from the offices of Reps. Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Mo Brooks, and Louie Gohmert. (See, I told you you could guess.) "We would talk to Boebert's team, Cawthorn's team, Gosar's team like back to back to back to back," the organizer told Rolling Stone. Both were in contact with Boebert and Gosar on January 6 itself.
The meetings weren't purely informational: At least one member of Congress was urging them to put on a protest. The two sources are subjects of an unrelated investigation that Gosar used as incentive to get them to plan the Ellipse protest, telling them that Trump would give them "blanket pardons."
"Our impression was that it was a done deal," the organizer said, "that he'd spoken to the president about it in the Oval … in a meeting about pardons and that our names came up. They were working on submitting the paperwork and getting members of the House Freedom Caucus to sign on as a show of support."
The sources insist that they were involved only in planning the rally at the Ellipse, with the intention of pressuring Congress from that relatively safe distance to overturn the election. They wanted to overturn the election—they just insist they didn't think it would be violent.
"The breaking point for me [on January 6 was when] Trump starts talking about walking to the Capitol," said the organizer. "I was like, 'Let's get the fuck out of here.'"
The planner, too, pointed a finger at Trump, saying, "I do kind of feel abandoned by Trump."
And both pointed to the role of Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander, who previously bragged about planning January 6 events with the help of Biggs, Brooks, and Gosar. Alexander, the sources told Rolling Stone, had agreed to not hold his "Wild Protest" at the Capitol, leaving the Ellipse event as the major draw of the day. But then he went ahead with it anyway. "We ended up escalating that to everybody we could, including [then White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows," the organizer said. But Meadows—who they say was more broadly involved in planning January 6 events—apparently didn't intervene to stop Alexander's event.
A spokesman for Greene said her involvement was only in planning to object to the electoral certification in Congress, despite the fact that she was billed as a speaker at Alexander's Wild Protest, as were Gosar and Boebert. Presumably all of the congressional Republicans will claim that they were only expecting a peaceful if spirited protest while they tried to overturn the results of a presidential election based entirely on conspiracy theories and sore loserdom. But despite the refusal of some on Team Trump, like Steve Bannon, to respond to the House select committee's subpoenas, it sounds like the committee will be getting some valuable information about the planning process and the involvement of key Republicans.
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Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) is raising money for his legal defense fund by falsely claiming that he has been charged with "fake crimes" and that federal agents are targeting him because of his politics.
Fortenberry is facing a federal indictment on accepting a large campaign donation from a foreign national in violation of federal law, and for lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"Politically motivated FBI agents can and do lie in order to manufacture fake crimes against patriots," Fortenberry's wife, Celeste, wrote a fundraising email for her husband. "I'm writing you today because this has become my family's story."
The investigation stems from a $30,000 donation to Fortenberry's 2016 re-election campaign from a billionaire who is not American. Under U.S. federal law, candidates for political office are prohibited from accepting campaign contributions from foreign nationals.
On October 19, a federal grand jury charged Fortenberry with "concealing information and making false statements to federal authorities who were investigating illegal contributions made by a foreign national to the congressman's 2016 re-election campaign."
Fortenberry has resigned from his House committee roles as a result of the indictment.
On the day Fortenberry was indicted, he and his wife released a letter saying that the investigation had been going on since 2018 when former President Donald Trump was in office.
Now, however, Fortenberry's wife says the investigation is an effort to "stop his work and flip his seat."
Fortenberry represents a safe Republican seat in Nebraska, despite his wife's claims that the charges are an attempt to "flip his seat." In 2020, Trump carried Fortenberry's district by a 15-point margin, according to Daily Kos Elections.
"They can't call him crazy, so they're accusing him of a fake crime," Celeste Fortenberry wrote in the fundraising appeal.
The charges Fortenberry is facing are very real.
Federal law (18 U.S. Code § 1001) holds that it is a crime to lie to, conceal information from, or otherwise mislead federal investigators. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The Department of Justice claims to have evidence that Fortenberry not only knew about the illegal contributions but orchestrated a "scheme" to conceal his guilt from investigators.
From the agency's October 19 press release:
The indictment alleges a scheme in which Fortenberry, after learning this information, "knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts" about the illegal campaign contributions.
As part of the scheme, Fortenberry allegedly made false and misleading statements during a March 23, 2019 interview with investigators who specifically told him it was a crime to lie to the federal government. The indictment alleges that Fortenberry falsely told investigators that he was not aware of Baaklini ever being involved in illegal campaign contributions, that the individuals who made contributions at the 2016 fundraiser were all publicly disclosed, and that he was not aware of any contributions to his campaign from a foreign national.
Fortenberry is not the first member of Congress to face such charges.
In January 2020, a federal judge in New York sentenced former Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) to 26 months in prison and fined him $200,000 for insider trading and lying to federal investigators.
If convicted, Fortenberry is unlikely to enjoy a similar pardon from President Joe Biden.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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