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FBI Director Testifies Capitol Rioters Carried ‘All Sorts Of Weapons’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified under oath on Thursday that at least one person among the supporters of Donald Trump who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 carried a firearm, while many used other items as weapons, refuting GOP attempts to portray the insurrection as less violent than it was.

Asked by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee whether anyone involved in the riot had been armed with a firearm, Wray responded, "I can think of at least one instance where there was an individual with a gun inside the Capitol, but for the most part the weapons were weapons other than firearms."

Gohmert is one of several GOP lawmakers who have downplayed the attack that left five people dead and 140 law enforcement officers injured. Republicans like Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) falsely described the riot as a "normal tourist visit," while Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) described the Trump supporters who violently pushed their way into the Capitol and beat up police officers guarding the building as "peaceful patriots."

Gohmert, for his part, falsely claimed back in May that there was no evidence to suggest the attack was an "armed insurrection" and said the FBI was "unfairly" targeting Donald Trump supporters.

At the hearing, Wray said that nearly 500 people have been arrested and charged with crimes in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, when a mob of Trump supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

Wray said that the insurrectionists had "all sorts of weapons, you know, kevlar, tactical vests, bear spray."

A Senate report released on Tuesday detailed the brutal attacks law enforcement officers suffered at the hands of the pro-Trump mob, finding that insurrectionists used weapons such as flag poles, metal fence stakes, and chemical irritants that left some officers with burns that they are still recovering from months after the attack.

The report did not delve into how the attack was fomented, nor how a future one like it can be prevented.

Democrats — and a very small minority of Republicans — are calling for an independent probe of the attack.

But the Republican minority leaders in Congress, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are blocking the formation of a bipartisan commission to answer those questions. Reports say Republican leaders fear such a probe could be imperil their party's chances in the 2022 midterm elections, with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) telling CNN he was concerned the results of an investigation "could be weaponized politically and drug into next year."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Gohmert Repeats Debunked Claim That Jan. 6 Rioters Were ‘Anti-Trump’


Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Thursday advanced a long-debunked conspiracy theory that anti-Trump protesters wore pro-Trump gear and were part of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

While questioning FBI Director Christopher Wray during a session of the House Judiciary Committee, Gohmert claimed that on Jan. 5 he spoke to Capitol Police officers who he alleges told him they had been briefed on "online activity that there are people that are going to be coming that hate Trump, but they're going to dress up in red, MAGA, Trump paraphernalia to try to blend in and create trouble."

The allegation has frequently circulated in viral messages alleging a conspiracy about the attack.

In a Jan. 9 fact check, Reuters reported that viral images purporting to show antifa supporters infiltrating the Capitol were not real and noted that the FBI said there was "no indication at this time" that antifa supporters were part of the Capitol attack.

A fact check from FactCheck.org similarly described the claims as "bogus" and noted that the claims were part of "an unfounded conspiracy theory that anti-fascist activists in disguise orchestrated the event."

Fact checks from the Associated Press, Politifact, USA Today, and NPR have also debunked the allegation.

Wray did not get a chance to address Gohmert's claim, but in testimony given in March, Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that, up to then, he had not "seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th."

Gohmert has a history of boosting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and was recently a key speaker at a conference advancing the beliefs of QAnon supporters, who falsely allege that celebrities and politicians are involved in child trafficking, among other claims.

From a June 10 session of the House Judiciary Committee:

LOUIE GOHMERT: The night before Jan. 6, Jan. 5th, that evening I was talking to Capitol Police officers and I said, "You know, let's face it, most of the conservatives that come, they don't have any intention of being violent."
And they said, "Well, we've been briefed today that there's a good bit of, as I understand it, online activity that there are people that are going to be coming that hate Trump, but they're going to dress up in red, MAGA, Trump paraphernalia to try to blend in and create trouble."
We had Capitol Police Chief [Steven] Sund testify that they got no information from U.S. intel or from the DOJ, FBI, of any threat of the nature that came about. Did the FBI have information about the violent threat that occurred on Jan. 6 on Jan. 5th?

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

How Bill Barr Is Trying To Clean Up His Declining Reputation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Attorney General Bill Barr's record leading the Justice Department is coming into clearer light as Merrick Garland takes the reins of the agency, and new revelations are bringing the much-maligned Trump acolyte under new scrutiny. It's now clear that under his watch, DOJ obtained the communication records of multiple journalists, a disturbing use of government power that is supposed to face stringent restrictions. Some argue it should never happen at all. The news was revealed when the new administration contacted the journalists to inform them of what had happened.

And the public has also learned that Barr's DOJ sought to force Twitter to unmask an anonymous account critical of California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a close Trump ally. Shortly after Garland was sworn in as attorney general, DOJ dropped the subpoena against Twitter.

So how is the former attorney general reacting to the new administration airing his dirty laundry? From all appearances, it looks like he's trying to launder his reputation by anonymously giving Trump administration scoops to reporters.

There've previously been signs that Barr has a tendency to plant stories in the press when it serves his interest, but a recent piece in Politico may be one of the most blatant and transparent efforts from the former AG to manage and rehabilitate his reputation.

The piece is titled "Inside Trump's push to oust his own FBI chief," and it's sold as delivering an "explosive" story about scandal in the White House, a genre that's become quite common in the past four years. But read just a little bit between the lines, and what's happening is clear: Barr is personally pushing this story to sell a narrative about himself as principled and independent from Trump. It's not clear if it's coming in direct response to the other revelations about Barr mentioned above, or if he's just more broadly concerned about differentiating himself from Trump; perhaps both motivations are playing a role.

The story, like so many tales of White House intrigue, is sourced anonymously, so how am I able to confidently say it came from Bill Barr? Because without saying so directly, the story as written makes it unambiguously clear.

Consider this passage:

It all came to a head in late April, when Barr went over to the White House for a routine meeting in then-chief of staff Mark Meadows' office.
Instead, a staffer from his office intercepted Barr and told him he was actually going to meet in the Roosevelt Room, where such meetings were not usually held.
Barr found it strange to be put in that room, especially given that no one else was there when they entered it. Soon afterward, John McEntee, the powerful head of the presidential personnel office and a hard-core Trump loyalist, entered. Then [William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, also came into the room.
Barr asked McEntee, "What's this all about?" recounted one of the former Trump officials.
McEntee demurred and checked his phone. They were waiting on others, he told Barr.
Fuming, Barr walked out of the room and barged into Meadows' office. "What the f--- is going on?" he asked.

The story is clearly told from Bill Barr's point of view. We're told Barr "found it strange" to be in a room — who would know his feelings but Barr himself? Then when others enter the room, it's Barr who is active. His remarks come in direct quotes, and we're told they were recounted by "one of the former Trump officials." That leaves only three possibilities for the source of the information, and Barr is the only plausible candidate.

McEntee is described having "demurred and checked his phone." That's not how someone tends to talk about their own actions. And then when McEntee speaks, the words are not in quotation marks. This makes sense if Barr is telling the reporter the story — Barr can be directly quoted for his own past remarks that he recounts, but his recounting of any responses from others is more likely to be paraphrased, so these words don't merit quotation marks.

And here's the clincher: As the setting of the story changes, the narrative follows Bill Barr leaving the room and going to another room, where he talks to Mark Meadows. This is Barr's story, he's the protagonist, and it's being told from his point of view. He's the primary source for the narrative.

The story continued:

Then, in a meeting later that day with both Meadows and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Barr demanded to know what was happening. When told that Trump wanted to replace Wray with Evanina and make Patel the deputy director of the FBI, Barr calmly told them he couldn't stay in his job if Trump's preferred picks were installed at the FBI over his objection, two of the former officials familiar with the encounter said.
Cipollone, who also said he was completely unaware of what was going on until that day, sided with Barr: He told his two colleagues that the attorney general should be involved in the decision process about who should be FBI director, and that Wray should stay.
And that was it: The White House ultimately backed off on the plan once they realized Barr would quit, according to two of the former Trump officials.

Now we have two sources for the story. We know Barr is one of them. The other is Cipollone, Barr's ally in the story. He, like Barr, comes off looking like one of the "heroes" of the narrative after they take a stand together.

Further corroboration of these inferences comes near the end of the story, which noted:

A spokesperson for Trump didn't respond to a request for comment. Patel and Meadows also didn't respond to requests for comment. Evanina and McEntee declined to comment.

Politico doesn't say Barr or Cippolone declined to comment, because they did comment, anonymously. If they hadn't, the outlet would've felt compelled to reach out to them for comment on the story and note if they had declined to comment.

The opening of the story says it had three sources "familiar with the episode" in total — though the key passages only indicate two sources present for the events. This suggests there is a third source, perhaps a Barr aide, who was told contemporaneously about the events but didn't witness them directly.

In the end, it's not that revelatory a story. We know that Trump and many of his allies would've liked to see Wray gone, but many obstacles stood in his way. It's not clear this episode is really as dramatic as it was framed — it might have been more of a casual discussion than it seems in this recollection.

What we already know about Barr and Trump's relationship is frankly more interesting. Barr did indeed stand up to Trump in the end of his term in office, declaring that the DOJ hadn't found evidence of substantial fraud in the 2020 election. And Barr was sharply critical of Trump after the January 6 insurrection, pinning blame for the mob's actions on the then-president. Those public events don't erase Barr's complicity in many of Trump's worst actions in the prior two years — perhaps most notably, his eagerness to sow doubt in the 2020 election before it was carried out — but they're more significant than the episode recounted by Politico.

But the fact that he is trying to spread the story now does tell us something interesting about Bill Bar. He's tried to give the impression that he doesn't care what people think of him. When asked about the damage working for Trump had done to his reputation, Barr gave a memorable answer.

"I am at the end of my career," he told CBS in 2019 ."Everyone dies, and I am not, you know, I don't believe in the Homeric idea that, you know, immortality comes by, you know, having odes sung about you over the centuries, you know?"

As I've long argued, though, that isn't true. He cares deeply about his reputation. Barr was clearly obsessed with the media coverage of the Trump administration He saw it as his job to, in part, protect Trump from his critics in the press and sometimes bent or broke Justice Department rules to do it.

Now he's out of office, and perhaps he's abandoned the project of helping Trump. But he's still obsessed with what the media is saying.

Florida Man Confesses To Planning Capitol Breach On January 6

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

An Ocala, Florida man was turned in by his family after he admitted that he traveled to Washington, D.C., with full knowledge and intent on breaking into the U.S. Capitol, according to the Department of Justice.

The Orlando Sentinel has offered details about an affidavit surrounding the arrest of 58-year-old Kenneth Kelly. According to the paper, Kelly headed to the nation's capitol "knowing full well they were going to break in." Text message records have also revealed how he admitted that he had stormed the Capitol and entered by breaking windows.

"Inside the White house via breaking in windows," a text message reportedly said. "Tree of liberty was watered today."

Photos and surveillance footage from the U.S. Capitol were turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Investigators were reportedly able to confirm Kelly's attendance and involvement in the riots.

On Friday, April 23, Kelly arrived at the Middle District of Florida U.S. Attorney's Office in Ocala to turn himself in to authorities. He is now facing a string of charges in connection with "disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds."

Kelly's arrest comes as the investigation into the Capitol riots continues. So far, the FBI has managed to positively identify more than 200 individuals in connection with the deadly riots that ensued on Jan. 6 to hinder the Electoral College certification.

Back in January, FBI Director Christopher Wray noted that the federal bureau and other law enforcement agencies had taken "an 'aggressive' posture" to hold rioters accountable for their actions, which led to the deaths of five victims. While many of the alleged rioters may not serve jail time, a substantial number will face serious consequences for their actions.