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Questioned By Cruz, FBI Official Debunks January 6 Conspiracy Propaganda

In a development that perfectly illustrates the right-wing media’s collective moral incorrigibility and imperviousness to facts, conservative commentators are now digging in further on a conspiracy theory about the January 6 insurrection — right after it was thoroughly dispelled on Tuesday.

The claims surround an Arizona man named Ray Epps who, on the night of January 5, 2021, was seen on video telling a crowd of Trump supporters to enter the Capitol the next day, and was also seen outside the Capitol building during the siege. Epps was identified online and interviewed by The Arizona Republic in the days following the attack, and it does not appear that he ever actually entered the Capitol or personally committed any violent acts that day.

In a hearing Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked FBI official Jill Sanborn a series of leading questions aimed at making it appear that Epps was connected to the FBI — questions that Cruz had been urged to pursue by Fox host Tucker Carlson last week. There is no credible evidence that Epps was some kind of point man in leading the entire attack, but his name has been spread prolifically by Darren Beattie, a former Trump administration staffer who has worked with Carlson to spread a propaganda campaign that the riot had been a setup by elements in the federal government to entrap conservatives.

Sanborn had responded to Cruz’s questions by explaining that the FBI could not get into specifics on sources and methods of investigations. But toward the end of the exchange, he asked her: “Did federal agents or those in service of federal agents actively encourage violent and criminal conduct on January 6?”

She responded: “Not to my knowledge, sir.”

In response, former Trump adviser and far-right media personality Steven Bannon — who has his own record of incitement leading up to the January 6 insurrection — immediately accused Sanborn of having perjured herself.

Beattie appeared with Bannon as a guest and delivered something of a backhanded compliment to Cruz for his reversal from calling the rioters “terrorists” to now spreading the theory that the riot was a false-flag operation: “And so I have to give credit to Ted Cruz. I think this is a testament to the fact that constructive bullying does work.”



Later in the broadcast, Bannon delivered a tirade in response to the January 6 committee’s tweet explaining that it had spoken to Epps, who confirmed he was neither an FBI agent or informant.

“You're liars, and we're going to get to the bottom of all of it, and you're not going to be able to hide,” Bannon proclaimed. “Save your receipts, preserve your documents.”

Tucker Carlson, the man who arguably had done more than anyone else to pressure Cruz into parroting these conspiracy theories, followed up on this broad range of denials Tuesday night by asking new rhetorical questions to suggest the committee was lying: “Supposedly this interview was conducted in secret last November. If that is true — we don't know that it is, but let's say it is — then why did the committee wait months to tell us today in a tweet? … Can we see a transcript of this interview? If not, why not?”


The new pile of follow-up questions that Carlson asked were remarkably similar to tweets from Tuesday afternoon from right-wing commentator Julie Kelly, a frequent guest on Carlson’s January 6 conspiracy theory beat who has also claimed that a D.C. police officer testifying about his violent and traumatic experiences that day was a “crisis actor.” Kelly also claimed that the committee’s denial that Epps had ever worked at the direction of a law enforcement agency was “a pretty narrow denial, by the way.”

Cruz also appeared that night on Fox News, this time with prime-time host Sean Hannity, who said that Cruz had “asked the FBI very important questions about that day. Their answers, or lack thereof, are very telling.”

It is very much worth remembering that text messages released a month ago revealed that during the January 6 riot, Hannity sent text messages to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urging that Trump make a statement asking people to leave the Capitol. But later that same evening, the Fox host spread false claims that the Capitol rioters may have been left-wing militants disguised as Trump supporters — which had to have been a deliberate lie, because if he had actually believed that, then his private message for Trump to call off the mob would have been pointless.

Hannity and Cruz also claimed that Sanborn had failed to deliver a blanket denial of agency involvement in fomenting January 6 — even though she in fact did state that no such deeds occurred according to her knowledge, video of which was included right before that in the segment. Meanwhile, the segment chyron claimed that “Top FBI official dodges when Cruz asks if agents participated in Jan 6th.”


SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Senator, what an exchange that was. OK, so the FBI — this is the executive assistant director, says, “I can't answer that, we can't reveal sources and methods.” That doesn't prohibit, though, the FBI, senator, in my mind that they could have said the FBI did nothing illegal, the FBI did nothing unethical, the FBI would never encourage any type of violence or participate and such. That would be a broad sweeping generalization without giving out any sources, any methods, or any evidence whatsoever. Why couldn't there be a blanket denial that that's not who we are, that's not the way we act?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Well, there should have been and if they were doing their jobs, that was what they would have said.

Fox Nation host Lara Logan also retweeted a message from right-wing radio host Jesse Kelly, who continued to insist that Epps was “an FBI informant who was tasked by the FBI to get people to break the law so the FBI could attack Republicans.”

It may also be worth noting that Cruz’s persistent conflation of terms like “agent” and “informant” could have led to problems in Sanborn’s ability to answer his questions. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a member of the House select committee investigating January 6, explained in a Twitter thread that these terms are actually very different categories, with informants usually being “criminals that turn to save their own butt. An informant is not an agent. But Ted wants you to think it is.” (Kinzinger also reiterated that Epps was not even an informant.)

With that in mind, the sort of questions Cruz asked, such as, “Did any FBI agents or confidential informants actively participate in the events of January 6th? Yes or no?” were overly broad because they could have potentially covered anyone who became an informant in the period of time since the riot — that is, to “save their own butt” after the fact — something that law enforcement officials would not publicly comment about.

By contrast, Sanborn actually was able to answer Cruz’s final question on the topic. But that is not going to stop right-wing commentators from acting in extremely bad faith by continuing to spread false-flag conspiracy theories that shift blame for the Capitol attack — especially when they’ve got some serious skeletons in their own closets.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Select Committee Prepping For Most Public Phase Of Probe Yet

If you liked the January 6 headlines generated by Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming in the final month of 2021, buckle up for more to come as Congress returns to work in 2022.

The House Select oCmmittee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol is revving up for a more public phase of its probe, according to the Washington Post. The effort will include a series of public hearings at the outset of 2022 as the panel assembles a preliminary report of its findings for summer and a finalized version to be released before next year's midterms. The panel is also exploring the possibility of recommending the Justice Department bring charges against Donald Trump or anyone else who had a hand in trying to overturn the rightful results of the 2020 election. At the same time, they are weighing potential legislative fixes that could help safeguard future elections.

Expect surprises. Earlier this month, Cheney managed to captivate the D.C. press corps with a series of sensational day-of-riot texts between Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and certain unnamed GOP lawmakers, along with high-profile Fox News hosts. The committee is sure to have more previously unreleased information at the ready as it connects the dots between those who plotted to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and the deadly insurrection that unfolded on January 6.

According to the Post, the panel has loads of data to work from after "interviewing more than 300 witnesses, announcing more than 50 subpoenas, obtaining more than 35,000 pages of records and receiving hundreds of telephone leads through the Jan. 6 tip line."

The resulting narrative promises to be the most comprehensive to date. The select committee split investigative responsibilities into five separate working groups, with some that have pursued previously unmined territory. That includes how the "Stop the Steal" rallies were funded and by whom; the propaganda campaign to seed and spread misinformation about the election; the pre-insurrection preparations undertaken within certain governmental agencies; the concerted effort by Trump and his cronies to pressure election officials, lawmakers and other officeholders to delay certification of the results; and those who played key organizing roles in rallies and events intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

“We want to tell it from start to finish over a series of weeks, where we can bring out the best witnesses in a way that makes the most sense,” a senior committee aide told the Post. “Our legacy piece and final product will be the select committee’s report.”

A second committee aide added that Team Trump did "a pretty masterful job" of manipulating millions of Americans into doing his bidding.

“How do you get that many people screwed up that deeply? And continue to screw them up? Right? And what do we do about that? So there are some big, big-picture items that go well beyond the events of [January 6] that the committee is also grappling with,” said the aide.

The committee is also trying to determine what might have unfolded following Jan. 6 if Congress had failed to reconvene and certify the election. As the first committee aide put it, what would have taken place if "we ended up in a constitutional gray zone"?

Any legislative recommendations from the panel would presumably attempt to establish a set of procedures to be followed in the absence of circumstances that fell outside of definitive constitutional text. Those recommendations would likely be aimed at updating the Electoral Count Act, the outdated 19th-century statute that established congressional procedures for finalizing the electoral votes in a post-election joint session of Congress. The panel is also revisiting how to keep a sitting president from abusing the emergency powers currently afforded to them in the event of a contested election.

But arguably, none of the panel's considerations will amount to a hill of beans unless those who plotted, planned, and inspired the violence on Jan. 6 are held accountable for the assault they unleashed on the U.S. seat of government.

“This is the next progression—to see whether or not some of the things that we have uncovered or discovered rises to the level of a criminal referral,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chair of the select committee.

Legally speaking, such a referral is not binding on the Justice Department. But if the panel succeeds in laying out a damning throughline from the plotters and planners to the attack itself, Justice Department officials will be hard-pressed to entirely ignore the committee's findings.

That's where the stepped-up public information campaign comes in.

“We’re not a law enforcement investigation," the second committee aide told the Post, "but we are finding facts, and we expect to make our findings public at the appropriate time for everyone to see.”

What's clear is that the same plotters and planners of the coup attempt have now orchestrated a legal effort to block as much information as possible from flowing to the January 6 panel. Basically, everyone involved at the highest levels of the misinformation and pressure campaign to steal the election is now refusing to cooperate with the committee, along with filing legal challenges intended to delay and ultimately thwart the committee’s efforts. That includes Meadows, Trump lackey Steve Bannon, attorney John Eastman, and four organizers of the January 6 rally.

Next year, any number of GOP lawmakers might also punctuate that list. The select committee has already sought information from Republican Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Both have indicated an unwillingness to cooperate—tensions that will surely escalate next year as the panel makes its case to the public. Cheney will likely be at the forefront of that messaging campaign, skewering Jordan and all her GOP colleagues who “fucking did this,” as she reportedly rebuked Jordan amid the insurrection tumult on January 6.

The bigger the GOP rift, the better.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Former Trump Advisor Reveals New Details About Bannon's Role in Coup

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A former Trump White House advisor has revealed he collaborated with a right-wing agitator to execute a behind-the-scenes effort to halt the certification of President Joe Biden's election victory.

Speaking to The Daily Beast last week, Peter Navarro —ex-adviser to former President Donald Trump— touched on his role in the plans and how he and former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon collaborated with Republican lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ.) to halt the certification of the election results.

“We spent a lot of time lining up over 100 congressmen, including some senators. It started out perfectly. At 1 p.m., Gosar and Cruz did exactly what was expected of them,” Navarro told The Daily Beast. “It was a perfect plan. And it all predicated on peace and calm on Capitol Hill. We didn’t even need any protestors, because we had over 100 congressmen committed to it."

The commitment Navarro discussed came as lawmakers were affirming the presidential election certification highlighting Biden's victory over Trump. Although they failed to successfully overturn the election, their goal was to stall as much as possible in hopes of pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to send election results back to the six states Trump and his allies fought to overturn.

As reputable news outlets refused to circulate Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud, The Daily Beast noted that Navarro and Bannon "hoped to force journalists to cover the allegations by creating a historic delay to the certification process."

"The Green Bay Sweep was very well thought out. It was designed to get us 24 hours of televised hearings,” he said. “But we thought that we could bypass the corporate media by getting this stuff televised.”

Navarro went on to highlight what his exact role was in the plot. He was responsible for providing what has been described as "raw materials" such as the report he created with subtitles like “The Immaculate Deception” and “The Art of the Steal.”

“My role was to provide the receipts for the 100 congressmen or so who would make their cases… who could rely in part on the body of evidence I'd collected,” he told the Daily Beast. “To lay the legal predicate for the actions to be taken.” (Ultimately, states have not found any evidence of electoral fraud above the norm, which is exceedingly small.)

In his memoir titled, In Trump Time, Navarro also shed light on Bannon's role in the plot.

“Steve Bannon’s role was to figure out how to use this information—what he called ‘receipts’—to overturn the election result. That’s how Steve had come up with the Green Bay Sweep idea,” he wrote.

Navarro added, “The political and legal beauty of the strategy was this: by law, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must spend up to two hours of debate per state on each requested challenge. For the six battleground states, that would add up to as much as twenty-four hours of nationally televised hearings across the two chambers of Congress.”

During a segment on his podcast, "War Room Pandemic," Bannon also alluded to elements of the plot.

"We are right on the cusp of victory,” Bannon said on the show. “It’s quite simple. Play’s been called. Mike Pence, run the play. Take the football. Take the handoff from the quarterback. You’ve got guards in front of you. You’ve got big, strong people in front of you. Just do your duty."

Although Navarro had a role in the plot, he admitted that it was likely best that someone canceled his scheduled appearance to speak at the "Save America" rally shortly before the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

“It was better for me to spend that morning working on the Green Bay Sweep. Just checking to see that everything was in line, that congressmen were on board,” he said during the interview. “It was a pretty mellow morning for me. I was convinced everything was set in."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet


Bannon Furiously Denounces McConnell Over 'Direct Challenge To Trump'

Like many other Republicans, former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was not pleased with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for siding with Democratic lawmakers last week on lifting the debt ceiling.

On Friday Bannon again torched the top-ranking Republican lawmaker during the latest segment of his War Room podcast. Bannon's remarks were evidently a reaction to McConnell's recent interview on Spectrum News where he applauded the investigative work of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. In fact, McConnell even described the deadly day as "horrendous."

"I think the fact-finding is interesting. We're all going to be watching it," the top Senate Republican explained. "It was a horrendous event, and I think what they're seeking to find out is something the public needs to know."

For many Republicans, McConnell's remarks were baffling because it contradicts his previous opposition toward creating the investigative committee in the first place. "He is a direct challenge to President Trump, and Trump is trying to lead this country through these horrible times," Bannon said. "Mitch McConnell, that dirtbag right there, gave the Biden regime $2.5 trillion to fund their madness."

Although no Republicans voted in favor of the $2.5 trillion debt ceiling increase, McConnell and 13 additional Senate Republicans "voted to advance the deal that allowed Democrats to pass the increase with a simple majority vote," reports Newsweek.

According to Bannon, McConnell's latest actions would likely guarantee that he will not be the majority leader again if Republicans regain control of the Senate. Confident of his projection, Bannon said, he was "as sure as the turning of the Earth" as he labeled McConnell a "'little wimp,' claiming that he 'loves' being referred to as 'leader,'" reports Newsweek.

"Here's what your legacy will be. People are going to throw up in their mouth," Bannon said to McConnell. "You have betrayed the Republican Party. You've betrayed this movement. You're only there because of Trump. You never had any loyalty."

Bannon's latest remarks come months after McConnell weighed in on the Capitol insurrection as he acknowledged former President Donald Trump's role in the riots.


Another Trump-Backed Senate Candidate Vows To Dump McConnell

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Regardless of whether Republicans retake control of the upper chamber next year, the Republican caucus that emerges from the midterms will undoubtedly move to the right as GOP candidates across the country vie to out-MAGA each other in their primaries.

The Senate Republican caucus that emerges was already bound to be less beholden to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as Donald Trump plays kingmaker in some critical swing-state contests in, for instance, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

But in addition to those races, several Trump-aligned candidates in states where Republicans will almost certainly prevail are not only pledging their loyalty to Trump but also serving notice to McConnell that his days may be numbered.

Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her Alaska seat, is the latest GOP Senate hopeful to say she'll vote to send McConnell packing if elected, according to Politico.

"When I defeat Murkowski and become Alaska’s next U.S. Senator, I will not support Mitch McConnell as leader," Tshibaka told Steve Bannon in a Monday appearance on his War Room podcast. "It’s time for new, America First leadership in the Senate.”

Tshibaka's pronouncement sounds a similar note to that of Missouri Senate candidate and disgraced former governor Eric Greitens, who also appeared on Bannon's podcast to serve notice to McConnell.

"We've got to have new leadership in the Senate. The Republican Party is now the MAGA Party," Greitens said. "No more weak, woke, establishment Republicans!" Greitens added when he tweeted out the clip.

Another Trump toady, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who is running for that state’s open seat, has hinted at something similar.

"I will support the candidate for Senate majority leader who is the most conservative and best reflects the values of Alabama citizens," he told Politico early this month. Brooks was a bit cagey, saying McConnell “could” get his vote. But he wouldn’t commit, as if he were still hedging his bets on whether the McConnell or Trump wing of the party ultimately prevails. That type of slippery answer also isn't panning out well for Brooks, who is underperforming in his race despite Trump’s endorsement and recently shook up his campaign staff.

But expect to see more anti-McConnell pledges as GOP candidates continue to compete for Trump's endorsement in ruby-red states where whoever wins the primary is a shoo-in for the Senate.

If and when they get there, McConnell could have a real problem on his hands.

Schiff Warns Trump Coup Lawyer Against Defying January 6 Panel Summons

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

John Eastman, the far-right lawyer who authored Trump's "coup memo," announced on Friday that he would be defying a subpoena from the House January 6 Committee.

Appearing on CNN later in the day, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) made clear that Eastman is free to plead the Fifth if he has a good-faith reason to fear he could incriminate himself — but that doesn't entitle him to a free pass to ignore investigators.

"Eastman says the partisan makeup of the committee, he says makes it invalid and doesn't need to cooperate," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "What do you say to that?"

"Well, that was a frivolous argument," said Schiff. "If he uses that as a basis to refuse to answer questions, he will be in contempt of the committee, simple and straightforward. So we'll be seeing with each witness... whether they're properly invoking a privilege or to stall and delay for the former president, and will make the judgment as to what the repercussions should be once we see and hear the testimony.

"This comes after former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was indicted on contempt charges for ignoring the committee, and as former DOJ lawyer Jeffrey Clark faces an upcoming contempt vote by Congress.


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