After he denied plans for a campaign fundraiser with a white nationalist who supported the Capitol insurrection, Republican US Rep Paul Gosar told supporters in a fundraising email that “the FBI might have had a hand in planning and carrying out” the attack on 6 January.
His baseless claims have been circulating among congressional Republicans who have sought to distance themselves from the false stolen election narrative that inspired the attack in the first place.
The conspiracy theory was shared across right-wing media – amplified by Fox News host Tucker Carlson – and has prompted GOP lawmakers to demand federal law enforcement to disclose whether undercover agents or informants were involved in the attack.
The Arizona congressman also said in the email that Ashli Babbitt – who was fatally shot by a US Capitol Police officer while trying to climb into the House of Representatives – “was executed in cold blood by an unidentified killer”.
He said that federal law enforcement – which has arrested more than 500 people on a range of charges in connection with the assault on Congress – is “harassing peaceful patriots across the country” after they violently stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of millions of Americans’ votes.
Right-wing figures, including Donald Trump on Thursday, have asked “who shot Ashli Babbit?” as congressional Democrats press for a comprehensive investigation into the causes and aftermath of the attack. Despite their questions and allegations, Republicans have nearly universally opposed an investigation while continuing to downplay the events on 6 January.
The FBI conspiracy theory suggests federal law enforcement, with support from Democratic officials, intentionally provoked the attack that injured dozens of law enforcement officers and threatened elected officials in order to entrap Trump supporters – an echo of the “deep state” narrative that has propelled far-right QAnon conspiracists, among others.
During a recent House committee hearing, Rep Gosar claimed that “outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law-abiding US citizens, especially Trump voters”.
The theory was promoted by Darren Beattie, a former Trump speechwriter who was dismissed from the White House in 2018 after it was discovered he appeared at a conference with white nationalists. Mr Trump later appointed him to serve on a commission tasked with preserving sites related to the Holocaust.
Mr Carlson brought him on a recent programme and asked him whether he believes the FBI and “unindicted co-conspirators” listed in charging documents were responsible for “organising” the riots.
Undercover agents and informants cannot be “co-conspirators” in establishing an agreement to break the law. Among reasons they are not indicted: prosecutors don’t know who they are, there is not yet sufficient evidence to indict them, or they are cooperating with investigators.
Despite the spurious legal argument, Republican US Rep Matt Gaetz asked FBI Director Christopher Wray a series of questions that mirrored claims that Mr Beattie wrote on his website Revolver News published two days earlier.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Mr Beattie appeared on Fox News to suggest that the increase in mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic would create “a very specific type of coup called the color revolution” that deliberately commits election fraud “to overturn the 2020 election”.
The former president repeatedly undermined mail-in ballots in the months leading up to the election and declared the outcome “corrupt” and a “hoax” before a single ballot was cast. The narrative fuelled conspiracy theories and a “Stop the Steal” campaign endorsed by several Republican members of Congress – including Rep Gosar – that culminated in the attack on 6 January.
The Independent’s requests for comment to his office and campaign were not returned.
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