Internet Detectives Make Up To $1000 Identifying Pro-Trump Rioters. Some Have Already Been Fired
On Thursday, Navistar swiftly fired him.
He’s not alone among the rioters who wreaked havoc in Congress. While police and the FBI work to identify and arrest members of the mob, online detectives are also crowdsourcing information and doxing them — exposing the rioters to criminal prosecution, but also more immediate action from their bosses.
Since most of the rioters stormed the Capitol maskless, online detectives had a unique opportunity to easily identify them. And many made it even easier — they live-streamed their participation and later bragged about their escapades.
Using journalists’ photos and videos, as well as live-streamed videos from rioters, untold Twitter users and Instagram accounts have been feverishly working since Wednesday to ID and name the participants who stormed the halls of the Capitol, ransacking lawmakers’ offices and occupying the House Chamber.
Some, like the Instagram account @homegrownterrorists, amassed huge followings in a few hours. When posters believe they’ve identified someone, the images are updated with names and details about the person — like their social media handle, hometown or job title.
The FBI has been attempting a similar tactic. The Washington field office tweeted dozens of images of rioters on Thursday, asking the public to help identify people. Through early Thursday, police said they arrested 69 people from at least 20 states and the District for charges ranging from unlawful entry of public property, to violating curfew and assaulting a police officer. The department is also offering a $1,000 reward for tips that lead to an arrest.
But even for some who haven’t yet been charged with a crime, the consequences have been swift for their crowdsourced identifications.
Paul Davis, a Dallas-area lawyer, was fired on Thursday from his position as associate general counsel and director of human resources at Goosehead Insurance after a Twitter user posted his Instagram story, showing Davis live-streaming outside the Capitol and talking about wanting to get inside. Davis said in the video that he had been tear-gassed.
Goosehead confirmed Davis’s firing on Twitter. Davis could not be reached for comment.
A Chicago real estate brokerage firm confirmed that it had fired an agent, Libby Andrews, after receiving a “tremendous amount of outreach” regarding her posts on social media about “storming the Capitol.”
Andrews told the Chicago Tribune that she arrived at the Capitol after people had already broken in and didn’t realize what they were doing was illegal.
“I had no idea people were breaking in and that destruction was happening,” she told the Tribune.
Others have been suspended. A teacher in Allentown, Pa., was put on temporary leave while the school district completes an investigation into his participation in the melee. Brad Rukstales, the chief executive of Cogensia, a marketing data company in Chicago, was arrested on Wednesday for his involvement in the riots. In a statement on Twitter, Cogensia said it had placed Rukstales “on leave of absence while we assess further.”
Rukstales told WBBM that he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time and I regret my part in that.”
“Everything that happened yesterday I think was absolutely terrible,” Rukstales said.
A lieutenant sheriff in Bexar County, Tex., who has been on leave since October as the department investigates allegations of an inappropriate relationship with an inmate, is under a second investigation after she posted multiple images of breaking into the Capitol on her Facebook account, according to KSAT. A Sanford, Fla., firefighter is also on administrative leave and under investigation after he was spotted among the mob in photographs, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
By early Friday, other videos continued to go viral of rioters boasting about their participation and even identifying themselves.
A recording on Facebook Live from Jenny Cudd, a small-business owner who in 2019 mounted a failed mayoral campaign in Midland, Tex., went viral on Twitter, amassing nearly 4 million views as of early Friday. In it, Cudd boasted about breaking into the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“We did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door and somebody stole her gavel, and I took a picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera and that was on Fox News,” she said.
Anyone with information about those photos is asked to call 202-727-9099 or text 50411.
In D.C., unlawful entry is a misdemeanor, which, in this context, could lead to a $1,000 fine, a prison sentence between 90 days and six months, or both.
MPD seeks assistance in identifying persons of interest responsible for Unlawful Entry offenses that occurred yesterday on US Capitol Grounds, 100 block of 1st Street, NW.
More photos: https://t.co/i2Hbv1bkPh
Have info? Call (202) 727-9099/text 50411 pic.twitter.com/yWIPEaxxFW
— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) January 7, 2021
The FBI is calling on the public to send in tips and footage to help identify people who were involved in the riot Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol
“The FBI is seeking information that will assist in identifying individuals who are actively instigating violence in Washington, D.C.,” the bureau said in a news release Thursday. “If you have witnessed unlawful violent actions, we urge you to submit any information, photos, or videos that could be relevant.”
The FBI asks that images, videos and other multimedia files be submitted at fbi.gov/USCapitol. You may also call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) to report information related to the investigation. If you do not have an attachment but have information to provide, you’re asked to submit it at tips.fbi.gov.
The amount of evidence is already abundant, and the FBI’s job now is to shift through it all to identify
“The FBI is apolitical. It has been an apolitical organization for years. Certainly, over the last year, there have been some incidents and some debate about that. But by and large, the agents, the street agents that are conducting these investigations, are doing them based on the elements of criminal activity, the elements of a crime,” said Toni Chrabot, a retired assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office who’s now the CEO of Risk Confidence Group.
Chrabot said the investigation into Wednesday’s chaos will very likely be wide-ranging given that protesters were known to have traveled from all over the country.
“When we look at the fact that there were probably 100,000 people, maybe more, there’s people from all over the country that may have attended this rally, and with that in mind, this is going to impact every FBI jurisdiction in the United States,” Chrabot said.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., has posted photos of some of the rioters who forced their way into the Capitol on Wednesday, labeling them as “persons of interest responsible for unlawful entry offenses.”
Trump’s Role In Capitol Riot May Figure In Criminal Probe
The U.S. charged 55 people with crimes stemming from the siege of the U.S. Capitol and President Donald Trump’s actions ahead of the riot may be investigated by federal prosecutors.
Asked whether the U.S. Attorney’s office would scrutinize the president’s role in inciting the storming of the Capitol, Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. Attorney in Washington, said at a press conference that “all actors” are being looked at.
“Anyone that had a role, and the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged,” Sherwin said.
Trump addressed a crowd Wednesday and urged his supporters to go the Capitol, saying they would “never take back our country with weakness.”
The violent mob then stormed the Capitol, charging past police barriers, smashing windows and sending lawmakers fleeing for safety. The riot, which resulted in four deaths, forced members of Congress to temporarily abandon their formal certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. The lawmakers returned and completed the certification once the building was secured.
“The violence we saw yesterday at our nation’s capital was appalling, reprehensible and antithetical to the American way,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a briefing Thursday. “We condemn it, the president and this administration, in the strongest possible terms.”
One man who was arrested near the Capitol with a semiautomatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. Most of the others face charges like unlawful entry, though some were charged with more serious crimes like assault. More charges are expected in the coming weeks.
“That’s a good start, but in no regard is this the end,” Sherwin said.
He added that “all charges” are on the table, including insurrection and rioting. “We’re not going to keep anything out of our arsenal.”
Among those charged was Mark Leffingwell, who is accused of attacking an officer at the scene, according to a statement of facts filed in Washington federal court.
Leffingwell “attempted to push past me and other officers,” Capitol Police Officer Daniel Amendola said in the statement. “When he was deterred from advancing further into the building, Leffingwell punched me repeatedly with a closed fist. I was struck in the helmet that I was wearing and in the chest.”
According to the statement, Leffingwell later “spontaneously apologized” for striking the officer.
Christopher Michael Alberts was charged with possession of a 9-millimeter handgun and ammunition. According to court documents, an officer spotted a bulge on his right hip and notified two other officers.
Alberts tried to run but got caught and officers recovered the gun, which had one round in the chamber and a full twelve-round capacity magazine, as well as a full spare magazine, a gas mask, a pocket knife, a ready-to-eat military meal and a first-aid kit, according to the court filing.
He told police he had the gun for personal protection and that he didn’t intend to use it to hurt anyone.
Photos and videos of rioters brawling with police and ransacking lawmakers’ officers were widely circulated on social media Wednesday afternoon. Legal experts say a wide variety of crimes — everything from vandalism to sedition — occurred during the riot and that prosecutors could charge offenders even if they walked away from the incident without being detained.
“Yesterday, our nation watched in disbelief as a mob breached the Capitol Building and required federal and local law enforcement to help restore order,” Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said on Thursday. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our Government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law.”
Participants could be charged with the “willful injury of federal property,” as well as assaulting law enforcement officers and trespassing, legal experts said. Some could also face more serious charges, including sedition and insurrection, which would require proving an intent to disrupt or even overthrow the government.
Shortly after lawmakers certified the election results early Thursday, Trump said in a statement there would be an “orderly transition” of power to Biden on Jan. 20, noting that he continued to “disagree with the outcome of the election.”
Trump Concedes Biden Will Take Office, Condemns Capitol Attack
President Donald Trump, in a video message on Thursday night, condemned the storming of the U.S. Capitol — which occurred after he urged his angry supporters to take action — and said he would prepare for the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” Trump said of the violence, which left several people dead. “To those who engage in the acts of violence and destruction: you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law: you will pay.”
The video followed a wave of resignations from his administration and calls from top congressional Democrats, former White House aides, business leaders, and even the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal for Trump’s removal from office over his role in inciting the insurrection. Members of Congress have also discussed impeachment.
Before throngs of his supporters marched on the Capitol, overwhelmed police barricades and broke into the building, Trump, in a fiery address at midday Wednesday, exhorted them to “stop the steal” and make a stand for his presidency. In egging on the mob, he repeated false claims of voter fraud even as both houses of Congress were preparing to certify Biden’s victory in the Electoral College vote.
A U.S. Capitol Police officer died of injuries he sustained “while physically engaging with protesters” during the unrest, according to the department. The officer was the fifth person who died in connection to the storming of the Capitol.
But on Thursday Trump called for “healing and reconciliation” and said he would turn his focus to the transition, in a message that appeared designed to quell growing alarm among even his closest allies and aides.
“A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20th,” Trump said. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
The video was released late on a day of mounting demands for his immediate departure from office — even though his term ends on Jan. 20. They included calls for his resignation, a new impeachment inquiry and for Vice President Mike Pence to undertake extraordinary constitutional measures to oust him.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, said Pence and the Trump cabinet should invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which provides an avenue for the president to be removed. Pence hasn’t responded, and Democrats floated impeachment proceedings as an alternative.
Trump’s remarks in the video were a notable departure in tone from recent weeks, and the first instance of Trump condemning the violence without also expressing solidarity with his supporters or reiterating his many baseless charges of election fraud.
Shortly before the violence broke out, Trump told demonstrators he would “never concede” an election that he falsely claimed had been stolen.
The president also hinted at a possible second act in his political life, even as the consequences of Wednesday’s bloody riot continued to reverberate.
“Serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime,” Trump said, standing behind a lectern at the White House. “And to all my wonderful supporters I know you are disappointed but I also want you to know our incredible journey is only just beginning.”
The video was the first post to the president’s Twitter account since the social media network suspended him over his initial response to the violence Wednesday, in which he said he sympathized with the frustration of rioters.
While condemning the violence, the president was slow to call for his supporters to withdraw from the Capitol, even as congressional offices were ransacked and law enforcement officers were attacked.
Despite widespread frustration within the administration, many members of Trump’s inner circle signaled Thursday they planned to serve out the remaining two weeks of his term.
Trump And His Allies Set The Stage For Riot Well Before January 6
President Trump and high-level supporters for weeks urged followers to rise up against the outcome of a national election they said was rigged.
It took just a few hours for pro-Trump rioters to storm the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Before that were weeks of rhetoric and encouragement from the president and a circle of close allies, whose actions are certain to draw closer scrutiny.
In the weeks after the election, President Trump and a handful of key, high-level supporters urged in news conferences, speeches and social media posts that followers of the president should rise up against the outcome of a national election they said was rigged. In December, they started targeting Jan. 6, the day set by law to ratify the Electoral College vote in Congress, to air their grievances.
Lawmakers in both parties have faulted the rhetoric by the president and his allies, saying it helped set a course for the riot at the Capitol on Wednesday, which left five people dead.
Beginning hours after the polls closed on Nov. 3, the president, his family members and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed the vote was marred by fake ballots and election fraud. They were joined by lawyers L. Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, who blamed Mr. Trump’s loss on international conspiracies.
No evidence of widespread election fraud has emerged. In subsequent weeks, more than 50 legal claims filed by the Trump campaign or its supporters alleging election fraud were dismissed before state and federal courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the messages became more urgent after December 14, when Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory was formally sealed. “This Fake Election can no longer stand,” Mr. Trump claimed in a tweet early the next day. “Get moving Republicans.”
The president repeatedly touted a planned pro-Trump protest to his 88 million Twitter followers. “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Mr. Trump wrote on Dec. 19. “Be there, will be wild!”
Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. , warned those who didn’t back the pro-Trump efforts during a speech at the rally Wednesday: “We’re coming for you.”
From Election Day through Wednesday, the president’s family members, lawyers and a group of allies had posted more than 200 times about election fraud on Twitter, according to a Storyful analysis for The Wall Street Journal.
Those posts were retweeted nearly 3.5 million times and liked more than 9 million times, the analysis found. Ms. Powell sent the most tweets about election fraud—116—followed by Mr. Giuliani, who sent 32.
Twitter banned the president’s account Friday “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” The company also suspended Ms. Powell and former national security adviser Michael Flynn from the platform Friday, part of a purge of accounts that promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, a Twitter spokesman said. Mr. Wood’s account was banned Wednesday.
“I have never advocated violence or civil war,” Mr. Wood said Friday.
“Encouraging patriots to stand up for truth, justice, free speech and to make their voices heard are why we have a First Amendment,” Ms. Powell said.
The White House, Mr. Giuliani and a spokesman for Mr. Trump Jr. didn’t respond to requests for comment. On Friday, Mr. Flynn said he has “never encouraged violence” and had simply sought to “encourage the American people to stand up for truth and justice.”
In a video Thursday evening, the president condemned the violence but didn’t address who was responsible. In a tweet Friday morning, he promised that his supporters wouldn’t be “disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
Mr. Trump began laying the foundation for claims of voter fraud months ago. In July 2020, with polls showing him trailing Mr. Biden, the president tweeted: “The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In Voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it.”
The day after the presidential election, Mr. Wood, a well-known lawyer and Trump supporter, drew battle lines. “Country is on brink of civil war. Not North v. South but Truth v. Lies,” he posted on the social media site Parler. “Freedom Loving Americans are on side of truth. Socialists/Communists/Globalists are on side of lies.”
As news outlets declared Mr. Biden the victor on Nov. 7, Mr. Giuliani blamed voter fraud for Mr. Biden’s win in Pennsylvania during an appearance at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, one of several similar events Trump allies held in swing states that week.
In the following weeks, Mr. Wood kept up the war rhetoric, saying Trump supporters were fighting against local, state and federal government, as well as political parties infiltrated by China.
“Do you think our country is on the verge of an attempted coup/revolution in the disguise of a civil war or is it just me?” Mr. Wood wrote on Parler. “Don’t mistake a coup/revolution for a civil war.”
Mr. Flynn urged followers to defend America, using such hashtags as #fightlikeaflynn or #fightfortrump. “This is as serious a constitutional crisis as our nation has ever faced. We will only be the beacon of hope for the world if we are willing to stand with courage and integrity & defend our republic,” he tweeted on Nov. 13.
The same day, Ms. Powell said in a Fox Business Network interview: “This is essentially a new American revolution. And anyone who wants this country to remain free needs to step up right now.”
Mr. Flynn tweeted a link to a news release from an Ohio-based conservative group that called on Mr. Trump to invoke “limited martial law” and hold a new election. Mr. Wood on Parler agreed Mr. Trump “should declare martial law.”
On Nov. 19, Mr. Giuliani called for the Justice Department to get involved, saying at a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters: “What do we have to do to get the FBI to wake up?”
At a “Stop the Steal” rally around this time in Alpharetta, Ga., Mr. Wood told the crowd: “We’re going to slay Goliath, the communists, the liberals, the phonies. Joe Biden will never set foot in the Oval Office of this country. It will not happen on our watch. Never gonna happen.”
In a Dec. 9 interview on a pro-Trump TV station called New Tang Dynasty Television, Mr. Wood said, “I believe there will be violence in our streets soon.”
Ms. Powell answered a Twitter user who asked, “How do we rise up?” She suggested, among other things, to “swarm the state capital, Congress.” Mr. Flynn retweeted her response.
Four days after Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory was formally cemented on Dec. 14, Mr. Wood said in a podcast interview that Americans should keep extra provisions on hand in case of unrest.
The same day, Mr. Flynn, in an interview on Newsmax, said Mr. Trump could deploy the military to swing states and “basically re-run an election in each of those states.”
‘Trial by Combat’
Mr. Trump began promoting the Jan. 6 pro-Trump protest in Washington last month. The day after Christmas, he tweeted: “Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”
On Dec. 30, Mr. Wood said in a Parler post: “Each citizen must now make a decision. Will you sit quietly & allow Communists & Globalists to control every aspect of your lives? Or will you stand tall & #FightBack for your freedom? The choice is yours to make. Choose wisely.”
Two days later, Mr. Trump retweeted a post from a supporter that said: “The calvary is coming, Mr. President! JANUARY 6th.”
On Jan. 2, Mr. Flynn again urged on his twitter followers: “We are not going away and #WeThePeople will continue to #FightForTrump.”
On the eve of Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoff election, Mr. Trump held a rally in the state. Opening for his father, Mr. Trump Jr. told supporters as he urged them to vote: “We need to fight.”
In a speech that followed, the president said, “When you win in a landslide and they steal it and it’s rigged, it’s not acceptable. Not acceptable.” As he spoke, the crowd chanted “Fight for Trump!” The president responded: “They’re not taking this White House. We’re going to fight like hell.”
The day of the Georgia runoff, Eric Trump, the president’s middle son, tweeted: “Patriots—Who’s coming to Washington D.C tomorrow!!! Let’s #StopTheSteal.”
The president promoted the protest on Twitter, claiming the Georgia runoff was rigged. Early on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump tweeted, “The States want to redo their votes. They found out they voted on a FRAUD. Legislatures never approved. Let them do it. BE STRONG!”
Mr. Wood joined the call for action. “The time has come Patriots. This is our time. Time to take back our country. Time to fight for our freedom. Pledge your lives, your fortunes, & your sacred honor…TODAY IS OUR DAY.”
Speaking to Trump supporters on the National Mall, Donald Trump Jr. said the rally should “be a message to all the Republicans who have not been willing to actually fight.” He added, “According to the media, when you have a large gathering of protesters, they’re supposed to burn it all down. See guys, we can do it right.”
Mr. Giuliani took the microphone and pushed further. “If we are wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let’s have trial by combat,” Mr. Giuliani told the crowd.
“I’ll be darned if they’re going to take our free and fair vote,” he continued. “We’re going to fight to the very end to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
As the president finished his remarks at the rally, in which he called on Vice President Mike Pence to “come through for us,” he instructed the crowd to march to the Capitol. “I’ll be there with you.” he said. He instead returned to the White House.
Shortly after rioters swarmed the Capitol grounds, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Pence for declining to object to the certification of the election results. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” he tweeted at 2:24 p.m.
“Stay peaceful!” Mr. Trump tweeted at 2:38 p.m. At 3:13 p.m., he tweeted, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order—respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue.”
Later that night, Mr. Trump struck an empathetic tone with rioters. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Some CEOs Fire Rioters, Call For Trump’s Removal From Office
Statements denouncing violence at Capitol give way to more action.
In the wake of the riot at the Capitol, companies moved to cut ties with President Trump and his supporters and fired workers who participated.
Facebook Inc. banned Mr. Trump indefinitely and Canada-based Shopify Inc. closed online stores associated with Mr. Trump’s campaign and businesses. Publisher Simon & Schuster said it would drop a coming book by Sen. Josh Hawley, a key backer of Mr. Trump’s election claims. Dozens more executives and trade groups denounced the takeover of the Capitol and called for the removal of the president.
A number of companies said they fired employees who participated in the riot at the Capitol after seeing employees in photos and videos posted to social media.
Goosehead Insurance said Thursday that Paul Davis, an associate general counsel, was no longer employed by the company. In an email to employees Thursday, Goosehead CEO Mark Jones said the company was “surprised and dismayed to learn that one of our employees, without our knowledge or support, participated in a violent demonstration at our nation’s capital yesterday.”
A spokesman for Goosehead, a publicly traded company based in Westlake, Texas, said Mr. Davis had been hired in mid-2020.
On an Instagram account, a user identified as Paul M. Davis wrote that he was “peacefully demonstrating” Wednesday. The account, public earlier Thursday, is now private; Mr. Davis didn’t return a request for comment.
Managers at Navistar Direct Marketing, a printing company in Frederick, Md., saw on Twitter that a man wearing a company badge was among rioters inside the U.S. Capitol. After reviewing photos, the company said the employee had been “terminated for cause.”
“While we support all employees’ right to peaceful, lawful exercise of free speech, any employee demonstrating dangerous conduct that endangers the health and safety of others will no longer have an employment opportunity with Navistar Direct Marketing,” the company said. A spokesman for the company declined to name the employee.
In most states, employers have wide latitude to terminate employees, even for conduct outside the workplace.
Ron Shaich, former CEO of Panera Bread Co. and an investor in several other chains who’s involved in No Labels, a political group that supports centrist lawmakers, said executives have the right to fire workers believed to have engaged in illegal activities.
“There’s not unlimited freedom,” he said, adding that if one of his employees had illegally entered the U.S. Capitol, he would fire them. “I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t go to a Trump demonstration and you shouldn’t be in our company if you vote for Trump, but that’s not the same,” he said. “We as a society have got to repudiate this. This is not OK.”
Dave Petratis, CEO of Allegion PLC, a security products manufacturer with U.S. headquarters in the Indianapolis area, said he supported a statement from the National Association of Manufacturers that suggested Vice President Mike Pence consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.
“The middle, the saner part of America and the world’s got to step up and say: Enough,” he said, adding that this week’s events make him want to speak out more forcefully. “It just primes and motivates me for action.”
Companies might also face a backlash. The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans and former Republicans, said it’s planning “a brutal corporate pressure campaign” targeting companies, trade associations, CEOs and others that “serve as the financiers of the Authoritarian movement that attacked the US Capitol,” Steve Schmidt, a political strategist and a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, said in a tweet.
In an interview Thursday evening, Mr. Schmidt said he wasn’t ready to list specific companies that will be in the crosshairs, but said the Lincoln Project thinks there are plenty worth scrutinizing.
“It’s a time for choosing: it’s America, or autocracy,” he said. “There’s going to be a public discussion around it.”
Rich Lesser, CEO of Boston Consulting Group, said the business community must be clear-eyed about President Trump’s behavior, as well as those members of Congress who acted as enablers.
“If we look past these actions and treat them as an isolated event by engaging and supporting these individuals, then we also risk being complicit in encouraging future actions that destabilize our country,” he said. Mr. Lesser didn’t suggest specific actions businesses should take, but said companies have an important role to play.
More calls for removing the president came from groups as varied as National Nurses United, which represents 170,000 nurses in the U.S., and law firm Crowell & Moring LLP, which has about 1,100 employees. The Washington, D.C.-based law firm urged other firm leaders and lawyers to add their support to the firm’s letter.
“The president has proven himself unfit for office, and a reckless and wanton threat to the Constitution that he pledged to preserve, protect, and defend,” the firm said.
Crowell & Moring Chairman Phil Inglima, a Democrat, said that since the firm shared the letter, he’s heard from several leaders of law firms of different sizes who want to participate. He said the firm, which has support from Republicans and Democrats internally, plans to send the letter to Mr. Pence this week.
One CEO who has been a major Trump donor said that he was frustrated by the violence and wished the president more forcefully disavowed the rioters’ actions, though he also said Mr. Trump had been maligned by opponents and the media throughout his term. The CEO said he no longer plans to financially support Mr. Trump’s future political ambitions.
Some other business leaders continue to stand with Mr. Trump and the Republican senators. John Lodge III, CEO of Lodge Lumber Co. in Houston, said he remains a supporter, personally and financially, of Mr. Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, who objected Wednesday night to ratifying Mr. Biden’s electoral college votes in Arizona.
Mr. Lodge said he thinks the violence was staged to make Trump supporters look bad.
“I support everyone who supports the president and Ted Cruz,” he said, adding that he has a list of people who don’t support the president and they won’t get money from him in the next election, whether Republican or Democrat.
U.S. Army Secretary Says At Least 25 Domestic Terrorism Cases Opened
At least 25 domestic terrorism cases have been opened after Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, a Democratic lawmaker said, citing Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, released a summary on Sunday of a conversation he had with McCarthy about security planning for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“Long guns, Molotov cocktails, explosive devices, and zip-ties were recovered, which suggests a greater disaster was narrowly averted,” said Crow, a former Ranger and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Crow was photographed on Wednesday gripping Pennsylvania Representative Susan Wild’s arm as lawmakers took cover between rows of seats in the House chamber.
Earlier on Sunday, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser asked the Department of Homeland Security for enhanced security ahead of Biden’s inauguration ceremony following last week’s attack.
“The 59th Presidential Inauguration on January 20 will require a very different approach than previous inaugurations given the chaos, injury, and death experienced at the United States Capitol during the insurrection,” Bowser wrote in a letter to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf posted to Bowser’s Twitter account.
A mob of pro-Trump extremists overwhelmed the U.S. Capitol Police force on Jan. 6, storming into the Capitol and forcing their way into the House and Senate chambers and lawmakers’ offices. The failure to protect the seat of American democracy was unparalleled in modern times.
Crow said law enforcement and the Department of Defense had prepared for small-bore violence, such as stabbings and fist fights, similar to those at past rallies, as well as much smaller numbers of participants.
Bowser is asking that the FBI provide daily intelligence briefings to the agencies and officers responsible for securing the event, and that the National Park Service cancel all public gathering permits from Monday through Jan. 24, and not issue new ones.
“We have made this request repeatedly since June 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and this week demonstrated the National Park Service’s willingness to approve last-minute permits and major adjustments,” she said.
Bowser also asked DHS to extend the coordination of a special event period for the same days. The initial timeline would only have covered the days just before and after inauguration.
She also recommended that Homeland Security get permission from Congress to include the Capitol and its grounds in the security perimeter. And she said she’d ask President Donald Trump to issue a pre-emergency declaration for the district to allow for further federal coordination.
I strongly urge the United States Department of Homeland Security to adjust its approach to the Inauguration in several specific ways, and have outlined them in the following letter to Acting Secretary Wolf. pic.twitter.com/GaxUWfFbxk
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser)
January 10, 2021
“I will tell you that, given the events of last week, that this inauguration preparation has to be different than any other inauguration,” Bowser said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Crow, after his discussion with McCarthy, said he was concerned about reports that active duty and reserve members of the military may have participated in the Jan. 6 attack.
He asked McCarthy to have Army investigators review personnel who will be providing security to the inauguration to ensure they aren’t “sympathetic to domestic terrorists.” Crow said that McCarthy agreed to take additional measures.
FBI Has Opened 160 Cases Tied To Pro-Trump Capitol Riot
Prosecutors are looking at seditious conspiracy cases.
The FBI has opened more than 160 case files in connection with last week’s deadly pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol, officials said Tuesday, announcing that prosecutors are looking at bringing potential seditious conspiracy charges against members of the mob.
(Article below will update)
Officials from the FBI and Justice Department are giving lawmakers their first formal briefings Tuesday on last week’s deadly pro-Trump riot at the Capitol. Notably absent are their bosses—Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and FBI Director Christopher Wray —who have kept a very low public profile for almost a week.
The acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, and the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington office, Steven D’Antuono, who are running the sprawling probe, will speak by phone with lawmakers, people familiar with the matter said. The briefing comes as Washington grapples with ongoing security concerns and threats of future violence, and as agents fan out across the country to tackle an investigation with thousands of suspects and crimes ranging from murder to stealing national-security information.
It is also taking place as law enforcement agencies scrutinize their response to and planning for the demonstrations, including information that had been shared ahead of the protests by an FBI office in Virginia, warning of the possibility that extremists were traveling to Washington beginning on Jan. 6 to commit violence, people familiar with the document said.
FBI agents have been scouring social media and pursuing some 70,000 tips the agency has received in the days since the riot, with federal prosecutors in Washington already pursuing more than two dozen arrest warrants for members of the mob on charges of gun crimes, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, assaulting an officer and other offenses. More charges against individuals allegedly involved in the violence are expected to be unveiled this week.
Law-enforcement officials have also been planning for the possibility of more armed protests at every state capitol and in Washington in the days leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, with U.S. officials ordering thousands of extra National Guard troops to Washington, D.C., and halting public tours of the Washington Monument.
Mr. Wray on Monday night spoke to the top Democrat and Republican in the House and Senate, an official said, to provide an update on the status of the investigation. Tuesday’s more extensive briefing comes after the Democratic leaders of five House committees wrote to Mr. Wray on Thursday seeking urgent information on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s plans to investigate and prosecute those involved in the riot as well as how it tracks domestic terrorists and aims to disrupt any future plots.
Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were also scheduled to receive their first formal briefing Tuesday from FBI officials about the Capitol riot and preparations to protect the inauguration. The Senate Intelligence Committee has also asked the FBI to share all records related to the bureau’s intelligence ahead of the attack, the person said.
Top U.S. Capitol Police officials, who are primarily responsible for securing the building, have also maintained a minimal public presence.
‘If you’re talking about filling in gaps, providing information, soothing a troubled nation, that should come from leaders.’
— Chuck Rosenberg, a former top Justice Department official
Messrs. Rosen and Wray are known for their low-key personalities and have stayed out of the spotlight throughout most of their tenures. But some current and former Justice Department officials say their lack of visibility after the attack in which a police officer and a rioter were killed and three others died of medical emergencies is striking and that a public appearance would reassure observers of the investigation’s priority.
“If you’re talking about filling in gaps, providing information, soothing a troubled nation, that should come from leaders,” said Chuck Rosenberg, a former top Justice Department official in both Republican and Democratic administrations. “The attorney general has an obligation to speak to the nation if no one else is.”
Instead, Messrs. Rosen and Wray have issued written statements condemning the violence and promising to pursue those responsible, but have remained out of public view as federal law-enforcement agencies begin internally scrutinizing their own actions and how, at all levels, they miscalculated the threat of violence from what they estimated would be a largely peaceful political rally.
Accounts from inside the Capitol and elsewhere describe a disjointed response in which senior aides to congressional leadership frantically called current and former Justice Department officials seeking immediate help as the rioters stormed the building and barged into some lawmakers’ offices.
One senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell turned to former Attorney General William Barr’s chief of staff, Will Levi, who left the Justice Department in early December, seeking reinforcements for the badly outnumbered Capitol Police force. Mr. Levi responded swiftly, first connecting the aide with department officials and then calling Mr. Bowdich for an urgent response, according to people familiar with the conversation.
Mr. Bowdich, inside a command post at the FBI’s Washington Field Office, decided he couldn’t wait for a formal invitation from Capitol Police to send backup and mobilized bureau tactical teams, said the people familiar with the call, which the Washington Post reported earlier.
Mr. Wray left much of the operational planning to his No. 2 official, which people familiar with both men said wasn’t necessarily unusual given both their personalities and the nature of their roles.
Mr. Bowdich is a longtime FBI official well-versed in handling terrorist attacks and other high-profile cases, while Mr. Wray has spent more time as a corporate lawyer than a Justice Department official in a post- 9/11 world. He is no fan of speaking engagements, people close to him said, and has kept a low profile even amid bureau controversies.
A senior FBI official said that Mr. Wray, despite a limited public presence, was routinely briefed about the bureau’s plans ahead of the protest and made at least two lengthy visits to the command center at headquarters to monitor the unfolding situation. He was regularly in touch with Mr. Bowdich and others, the official said.
Mr. Rosen, too, is a longtime civil litigator, and has leaned heavily on his acting deputy, Richard Donoghue, for advice on criminal matters, people familiar with the department’s upper ranks said. His relative silence in the aftermath of the attack stands in contrast to the approach of the attorney general he succeeded, William Barr, who held an hour-long news conference as some protests this summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd turned violent.
Leadership has been in transition across Washington as Trump administration officials have departed ahead of Mr. Biden’s inauguration, including Mr. Barr who left late last month. The transitions complicated the response to the riot.
Both Mr. Wray and Mr. Rosen have at times over the past year been concerned about making public statements that could put Mr. Wray in the crosshairs of Mr. Trump, people familiar with the matter said. The president has publicly and privately threatened to fire his FBI director over the course of the past year.
Mr. Rosen assumed his post less than three weeks ago, as the department faced pressure from Mr. Trump to take action in the waning days of his administration on legal controversies of intense interest to him.
Since taking on the role, Mr. Rosen hasn’t made any moves to support Mr. Trump’s allegations of election fraud. Late last month, the Justice Department also worked with Vice President Mike Pence to reject a Republican congressman’s longshot bid to give Mr. Pence the power to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory.
Pro-China Accounts Use Capitol Riot Footage To Condemn Democracy
An network of hundreds of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube fake accounts devoted to spreading pro-China propaganda messages and videos used the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol to spread messages denigrating democracy, researchers found.
The accounts leveraged the event as evidence “that the democratic system practiced in the United States is in an irreversible state of disintegration and decline,” Graphika Inc., a social media analysis firm said, in a Thursday report.
Within 17 hours of the protests, the network of fake accounts had made a video with footage from the riot — the first of multiple related videos arguing that “the U.S. system is self-evidently too fragile, unable to handle 21st century challenges, and especially not suitable for ‘export’ to other countries,” Graphika found.
Graphika, which first found and exposed the network in 2019, hasn’t determined who is behind the accounts, but its “messaging tracks very closely with Chinese government messaging,” said Ben Nimmo, one of the authors of the report and the head of investigations at the firm.
For example, like China’s state media, the accounts posted content suggesting that America’s condemnation of the riot was hypocritical because U.S. leaders had praised pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Nimmo said.
The network of inauthentic accounts has “reconstituted itself after repeated takedowns,” by social media companies, according to Graphika. The Thursday report found that it has gained influence since 2019, leading Graphika to characterize it “a persistent and increasingly assertive online presence with a limited but growing ability to engage real users.”
The Legal Fallout Trump Still Faces From The Capitol Riots
The former president avoided conviction by the Senate for inciting insurrection, but he may not have escaped legal accountability.
While Congress has moved on from impeachment to probing the security failings leading up to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the legal threats to former President Donald Trump may be only just beginning.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the alternatives to impeachment in a Feb. 13 floor speech after Trump was acquitted in his Senate trial. “We have a criminal justice system in this country,” McConnell said. “We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”
Those legal threats to Trump are quickly taking shape. In his Monday confirmation hearing as President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, Merrick Garland didn’t specifically address the prospect of prosecuting Trump but said his Justice Department would “work our way up to those who are involved and further involved” in the Capitol riot. Defense lawyers for rioters facing charges have already begun framing the unrest as the result of Trump’s violent rhetoric.
Last week, a Democratic congressman filed the first in what is likely to be a series of lawsuits against Trump. In the coming months, those suits could produce a steady drumbeat of revelations about Trump’s role in the riot, as lawyers scrutinize his private communications and social-media pronouncements.
Here are the ways the former president could be held accountable for the siege of the Capitol.
Shortly after the riot, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, Michael Sherwin, pointedly refused to rule out an investigation into Trump or the other officials who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally. Sherwin’s top deputy later appeared to backtrack, saying he did not expect to charge the speakers. Sherwin’s office declined to comment.
The decision will ultimately rest with Garland, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week with bipartisan support, and whomever the Biden administration picks to replace Sherwin as Washington’s chief federal prosecutor.
A substantial obstacle to any prosecution is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 ruling in a case involving a Ku Klux Klan leader’s speech — the justices said the First Amendment protects inflammatory rhetoric unless it’s intended to produce “imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”
Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, said Trump knew what he was doing. “If I’m a prosecutor, I feel pretty good about this case,” said Eliason. “He knows who he’s talking to. He’s talking to supporters who come from around the country and use rhetoric like civil war, insurrection, violence.”
But Andrew Koppelman, a constitutional law expert at Northwestern University, said such a prosecution would set a bad precedent. “You can’t allow the government to lock up protest leaders whenever the protests produce violence,” he said. “The Trump speech was full of lies, but that’s not a crime. He told them to ‘fight like hell,’ but that’s familiar political language that does not ordinarily produce violence.”
The attorney general in Washington, Karl Racine, has said he’s investigating the speakers at the rally and considering charges against the president.
Given the capital’s unique political status, the local attorney general has only limited authority. The U.S. attorney acts as the city’s main prosecutor for felonies, with the attorney general responsible for prosecuting more minor crimes.
Racine has said Trump may have violated a local statute against inciting disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor charge carrying a maximum prison sentence of six months.
Racine, who was recently named the president of the National Association of Attorneys General, has spoken publicly about his desire to use that platform to combat hate groups like some of those that participated in the Capitol riot.
But his office is still weighing whether such a minor charge is the best way to hold the former president accountable, according to a person familiar with the probe, and some of Racine’s early statements were aimed in part at pressuring federal prosecutors to act. A local prosecution would also face the same legal burden of proving that the former president’s speech was intended to cause harm.
A spokeswoman for Racine said the attorney general’s office is “investigating whether former president Trump or any other individual violated District law and illegally incited violence on January 6.” She declined to comment further on the investigation.
Private lawsuits may have a better chance of holding Trump accountable than criminal prosecutions, said John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University. The standard of proof would be lower and Trump’s First Amendment argument would be weaker in a civil case as well.
“If somebody was injured as a result of the riot, they would have a cause of action,” Banzhaf said. “That would be true even if the injury was kind of indirect — if someone was running away from the rioters and tripped and fell and sprained an ankle or broke an arm.”
Last week, U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, filed the first major suit over the riot, claiming that Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani conspired to incite the riot in violation of an 1871 law enacted to combat Ku Klux Klan intimidation of voters and officials.
Many potential claimants, notably police officers, could face restrictions on their ability to sue over injuries suffered on the job. All lawsuits against Trump also face the hurdle that presidents are immune from litigation over their official actions. Trump would likely claim his Jan. 6 rally speech fell within his presidential duties.
Joseph Sellers, a lawyer for Thompson, said in an interview that he is preparing for that defense. “It was clear that his intention was to interfere with the ability of Congress to complete the ratification of the presidential election,” he said. “That could not conceivably be part of the official duties of a president.”
Sellers said he also hoped the case would uncover new details. “We want to inquire further about what was occurring with the president during the afternoon of Jan. 6,” he said. “Whether he intended or didn’t intend to whip up the crowd to engage in this kind of violence, he had ample opportunity to take steps to curb the violence.”
Some major legal risks to Trump are emerging from an unexpected quarter — his most fervent supporters. Of the more than 200 people now charged with storming the Capitol, many have moved quickly to cast blame on the president and his rhetoric.
A member of the far-right Proud Boys claimed in a court filing that he was “misled by the president’s deception.” A leader of the Oath Keepers told associates she was acting on Trump’s orders.
“My client among thousands of others operated under the good faith belief that they were going to the Capitol at the invitation of the president,” said Albert Watkins, the lawyer for ‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley, who stood at the Senate dais in a horned hat and fur robe. “There’s no secret about it.”
Rioters seem prepared to argue they weren’t at fault because they were following orders by the president — a so-called public-authority defense. Such assertions could eventually buttress a criminal prosecution or civil suits against Trump, while further undercutting his public claims that he did nothing wrong.
House impeachment managers quoted copiously from rioters who said they were acting at the his behest during his Senate trial. If Trump’s main defense to claims that he incited the riot is that he couldn’t have foreseen what his supporters would do, there may no better rebuttal than their own words.
“That would be very powerful evidence,” said Banzhaf.
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