FBI finds no evidence Capitol riot was coordinated

Dozens of followers of far-right militias have been charged with conspiracy from the January 6 riots, but the FBI doesn’t believe the had a plan once they entered the US Capitol

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Friday 20 August 2021 16:50
Rep. Kinzinger gets emotional after officers' testimony during Jan 6 committee hearing

The FBI has reportedly found no evidence that far-right allies of Donald Trump conspired to overturn the presidential election during the January 6 assault on the US Capitol, according to law enforcement officers briefed on the investigation.

Reuters reported the FBI doesn’t believe the thousands-strong mob that stormed the Capitol was part of a coordinated effort, or that the rioters had planned what they would do once they breached the building.

The story was immediately seized on by supporters of Mr Trump as evidence that the mob that smashed their way into the Senate chamber had not been trying to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential results.

However, other commentators pointed out that the FBI investigation overlooked the fact dozens of members of far-right militias are facing conspiracy charges relating to the riot.

Or the role Mr Trump played in encouraging supporters to come to Washington DC on January 6, and then telling the riled-up crowds to march on the US Capitol buildings.

Charging documents show a member of a Proud Boys Telegram chat group “wrote that he wanted turn the ‘normies’ loose on Jan. 6 & hoped they would “burn that city to ash today”, wrote Alan Feuer, a legal reporter at the New York Times.

National security expert Marcy Wheeler said it appeared as though the law enforcement officers spoken to by Reuters were downplaying the large number of defendants facing conspiracy charges.

“There are a few more conspiracies out there likely to be charged. So you’re already over 60 people who were coordinating with EACH OTHER,” Ms Wheeler said on Twitter.

“So one thing that’s saying is that a huge number of people worked in concert without anyone directing them where to go,” she wrote on Twitter.

Mobs took control of the US Capitol building on January 6

Ms Wheeler, who has tracked each individual charge arising from the federal investigation, said members of both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were cooperating with the FBI investigation.

Mother Jones reporter Dan Friedman said it seemed “pretty evident the January 6 attack wasn’t centrally organized”.

“And focusing on whether there was some secret plot probably distracts people from how it was overtly incited by Trump and the Big Lie.”

Seven months into the largest investigations ever undertaken by the FBI, 570 alleged rioters have been arrested and more than 170 people have been charged with crimes including assaulting or impeding a police officer.

The FBI has charged 40 followers of far-right militias the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys with conspiracy relating to the riots.

But the report said the FBI had found little sign of a scheme on what they would do once they were inside.

Roger Stone, center, meets with supporters of Donald Trump

“There was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages,” a law enforcement official told Reuters.

Mr Stone, a Florida-based Republican dirty trickster, has been closely linked to the Proud Boys, the far-right militia.

Mr Jones runs the conspiracy theory site Infowars, which has been at the forefront of spreading election misinformation.

A January 6 Commission made up of nine lawmakers - seven Democrats and two Republicans - is investigating the events leading up to the riots, including the role Mr Trump played.

It has a broader remit than the FBI investigation, and is considering whether to subpoena Mr Trump’s phone records to show who he was speaking with on the day.

Four police officers who fought the rioters have died by suicide, while Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died of the next day from a stroke.

Ashli Babbitt was shot dead by a police officer as she tried to smash through a window inside the Capitol.

Earlier this month, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee for six hours about his former deputy’s attempts to convince top officials to release statements claiming that investigations of voter fraud cast doubt on the veracity of the 2020 election results.

Mr Rosen described multiple instances in which Jeffrey Clark, former head of the DOJ’s civil division, pressed colleagues such as himself to make statements they believed to be false concerning the 2020 election, a source familiar with the discussions told the New York Times.