The Justice Department and FBI are investigating whether Roger Stone and Alex Jones played a role in the Capitol siege, report says

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Roger Stone, left, and Alex Jones, right, spoke at pro-Trump rallies ahead of the Capitol siege on January 6, 2021.

  • Right-wing influencers are being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department, according to The Washington Post.
  • Investigators are exploring possible ties between Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and the insurrectionists.
  • The investigation wants to understand what the rioters were thinking when they ransacked the US Capitol.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Justice Department and FBI are looking into whether Roger Stone and Alex Jones played a role in the deadly insurrection on January 6, according to The Washington Post.

The right-wing influencers and ‘Stop the Steal’ organizer Ali Alexander, are being investigated to help gain a greater understanding of what inspired the rioters to ransack the US Capitol building, The Post reported.

Investigators intend to explore whether there is a link between those who stormed the Capitol and those who may have influenced them by promoting election fraud conspiracy theories, the paper said.

The investigation does not necessarily mean that the men will face criminal charges, people familiar with the case told The Post. 

“We are investigating potential ties between those physically involved in the attack on the Capitol and individuals who may have influenced them, such as Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and [Stop the Steal organizer] Ali Alexander,” an unnamed US official told the paper.

All three men made unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in the lead-up to the Capitol siege.

On one occasion, Stone baselessly claimed that North Korea had interfered in the presidential election by shipping in ballots through Maine ports.

The longtime friend of former President Donald Trump also spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court the day before the insurrection. He was reportedly flanked by extremists who later stormed the Capitol.

Jones, who also gave a speech at this event, posted a video on his website InfoWars.com of him telling a crowd: “We have only begun to resist the globalists. We have only begun our fight against their tyranny. They have tried to steal this election in front of everyone.”

He has publicly stated that his media company funded the Stop the Steal rally–  the precursor to the Capitol siege.

Alexander, who is also said to be under investigation, helped organize several rallies that preceded the insurrection.

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Giuliani is no longer currently representing Trump, per report, despite the former president’s ongoing legal battles

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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference about lawsuits contesting the results of the presidential election at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday Nov. 19, 2020.

  • Rudy Giuliani is no longer “currently” representing former President Trump in legal matters, per CNN.
  • A Trump adviser said Giuliani’s parting was only because there are no “pending cases” he’s involved in.
  • Trump faces a slew of criminal and civil cases targeting his campaign, administration, and business.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump has reportedly cut ties with his personal attorney and ally, Rudy Giuliani, according to CNN.

Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller told the outlet Tuesday that the former New York mayor is “not currently representing President Trump in any legal matters.” 

Miller later explained in a tweet that Giuliani is not representing the former president “simply because there are no pending cases” in which he’s involved. “The Mayor remains an ally and a friend,” Miller tweeted. 

After Trump was impeached for the second time last month, he was reportedly angry at his allies, whom he felt should have done more to stand up for him. He was said to be particularly upset with Giuliani and instructed his aides not to pay the attorney’s legal fees.

Insider reported that Trump was “offended” by some of Giuliani’s actions, including requesting $20,000 a day for his work fighting the election results. Though Giuliani vehemently denied he had requested the sum, he eventually acknowledged that one of his associates had asked campaign officials for a $20,000 a day fee to help Trump after his election loss.

Giuliani did not represent Trump in his impeachment trial because the attorney was a “witness” in the case and gave a speech at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the Capitol attack in which he told the crowd it was time for “trial by combat.” 

For months, Giuliani encouraged baseless conspiracy theories that challenged the integrity of the 2020 US election. He was also a part of several losing lawsuits that attempted to overturn the election results. 

Trump lost presidential immunity when he left office in January, and a “tsunami” of civil and criminal matters targeting his administration, campaign committee, business interests, and his own words await him, now without the protective powers of the presidency.

Though the Senate acquitted Trump for his role in the Capitol riots, federal prosecutors haven’t ruled out investigating the former president for inciting the attack that left five dead, according to Insider’s Dave Levinthal. 

“He’s worried about it,” one adviser told CNN.

The former president also faces potential legal repercussions for his January phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump pressured the official to “find” additional votes in an attempt to overturn the state’s election results. Prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, said earlier this month that they were launching a criminal investigation into Trump’s actions.

Giuliani remained one of Trump’s most loyal supporters throughout his presidency, even though his close relationship with the president has resulted in numerous legal troubles of his own.

On Monday, a newly elected district attorney in Georgia said he is looking into potential racketeering charges against Giuliani for his repeated false claims of election fraud.

Then Tuesday, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi filed a suit against Giuliani, Trump, and two extremist groups in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Giuliani also faces a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems and one from Smartmatic after he promoted baseless conspiracy theories that the voting technology companies were responsible for election fraud.

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At least 10 people charged in the Capitol siege are blaming Trump for their involvement in the attack

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Trump supporter and QAnon follower Jake “The Q Shaman” Angeli attends a “Stop the Steal” rally .

  • Of the nearly 250 charged in the Capitol attack, at least 10 have blamed Trump for their attendance.
  • Legal experts say the outcome of Trump’s impeachment trial could help rioters shift blame to Trump.
  • “The logical thinking was, ‘He invited us down,'” one lawyer said about Trump’s incitement.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As Donald Trump’s impeachment team prepares to argue this week that the former president did not play a role in inciting the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6, a growing group of his own supporters is claiming the exact opposite.

Lawyers for at least 10 people charged over their roles in the Capitol attack so far have blamed Trump directly for their clients’ involvement in the siege that left five dead. 

A month after the attack, nearly 250 people have been charged in connection with the pro-Trump riots. 

This week, Trump faces his second impeachment trial as House impeachment managers try to make the case that he incited the insurrection by telling a crowd to “fight like hell” right before a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last month.

Though it looks like Trump will have the votes he needs for an eventual acquittal, the result of the trial could have legal impacts beyond the former president’s political future. Criminal law experts told Insider’s Jacob Shamsian that the outcome of the trial could help Capitol rioters shift the blame to Trump in their own criminal cases. 

Trump has already faced accusations of blame for his role in the riots. Family members of Rosanne Boyland, a 34-year-old woman from Kennesaw, Georgia, who was one of four civilians who died during the Capitol attack, have blamed Trump for her death.

“I’ve never tried to be a political person, but it’s my own personal belief that the president’s words incited a riot that killed four of his biggest fans last night…,” Justin Cave, Boyland’s brother-in-law, told local Atlanta media.

Now, some of those charged in the riots have started to use Trump’s incitement as a defense for their own actions on January 6.

Here are the alleged rioters so far who are blaming Trump:

Jenna Ryan

Jenna Ryan, a Texas realtor who made headlines for flying to DC on a private jet, told Spectrum Local News her only mission in attending the protest was to support Trump. 

“Because our president, President Donald Trump, asked us to go to the march on the 6th. And he said, ‘Be there.’ So I went and I answered the call of my president,” she told the news station.

Riley Williams

Lori Ulrich, an attorney for Riley Williams, the 22-year-old who was accused of stealing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during the siege, said her client “took the president’s bait.”

“It is regrettable that Ms. Williams took the president’s bait and went inside the Capitol,” Ulrich said in a Pennsylvania court hearing last month.

Matthew Miller

An attorney for Matthew Miller, said the 22-year-old accused of discharging a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police, was “merely following the directions of then-President Donald Trump.”

“On January 6, 2021, Mr. Miller attended a rally in Washington, DC, where many speakers, including the then-President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, exhorted attendees to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of the vote count of the Electoral College for the 2020 Presidential Election,” Miller’s attorney wrote in a pre-trial release motion.

“QAnon Shaman” Jacob Angeli Chansley

Once one of the former president’s most loyal supporters, Jacob Chansely has apparently changed his tune.

His lawyer, Al Watkins, has said the “QAnon Shaman,” as Chansley became known, feels betrayed by the former president.

Watkins said his client acted on “months of lies and misrepresentations and horrific innuendo and hyperbolic speech by our president designed to inflame, enrage, motivate.” 

“Our president, as a matter of public record, invited these individuals, as president, to walk down to the Capitol with him,” Watkins told a local NBC News affiliate, adding that Chansley “regrets very very much having not just been duped by the president, but … allowed that duping to put him in a position to make decisions he should not have made. 

Chansley was one of many rioters who asked Trump for a presidential pardon in his final days but did not receive one. 

Robert Sanford

Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter charged with assaulting Capitol Police officers, told a friend that he had “followed the President’s instructions and gone to the Capitol,” according to the Justice Department’s statement of facts accompanying its criminal complaint.

Sanford’s lawyer, Enrique Latoison, told The New York Times that his client would not have been at the Capitol at all if not for Trump’s words.

“You’re being told, ‘You gotta fight like hell,'” Latoison told the newspaper. “Does ‘fight like hell’ mean you can throw stuff at people? Maybe.”

Emmanuel Jackson

Court filings say Emmanuel Jackson is a “recently homeless” man who voluntarily turned himself in to the FBI and identified himself in pictures and videos from the riots. Jackson allegedly struck a police shield with a metal baseball bat during the siege.

In a pre-trial release request, Jackson’s lawyer, Brandi Harden, argued that Trump “encouraged the crowd to walk down Pennsylvania Ave,” and “roused the crowd by telling them ‘we will stop the seal’ and ‘you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong…… if you don’t fight like hell you are not going to have a country anymore.'”

Harden wrote, “the nature and circumstances of this offense must be viewed through the lens of an event inspired by the President of the United States.”

Dominic Pezzola

An alleged member of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola is accused of using a Capitol Police shield to shatter a window in the Capitol, allowing rioters to enter the building, according to the Department of Justice.

Pezzola’s defense lawyer, Michael Scibetta, told Reuters that Trump encouraged the mob.

“The boss of the country said, ‘People of the country, come on down, let people know what you think,'” Scibetta, told the outlet. “The logical thinking was, ‘He invited us down.'”

Edward Lang

Edward Lang was arrested last month after he posted numerous incriminating videos and photos on social media documenting his time in the Capitol building, according to charging documents. 

CNN reported that Lang’s lawyers released a statement in January citing comments Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel made following the attack that Trump had” provoked” the violence.

“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said in January. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

Kenneth Grayson

The FBI received three separate tips regarding the same image of Kenneth Grayson, a 51-year-old Pennsylvania man, inside the Capitol on January 6, court documents say.

Charging records reveal Grayson sent multiple private messages before the siege discussing his travel plans and saying he would follow the president’s orders.

“I’m there for the greatest celebration of all time after Pence leads the Senate flip!! OR IM THERE IF TRUMP TELLS US TO STORM THE F***** CAPITAL IMA DO THAT THEN! We don’t want any trouble but they are not going to steal this election that I guarantee bro!!” Grayson wrote.

Garret Miller

A lawyer for Garret Miller, an alleged capitol rioter charged for his role in the siege who also reportedly tweeted death threats to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a Capitol Police Officer, said his client “certainly regrets what he did.”

“He did it in support of former President (Donald) Trump, but regrets his actions,” Attorney Clint Broden told CNN.

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A woman charged in the Capitol riot can take a trip to Mexico after a federal judge rules in her favor

Capitol Riot
A photo shared by the FBI, which it says shows Jenny Cudd in the Capitol during the January 6 riot.

  • A federal judge granted Jenny Cudd’s request to leave the country for a retreat in Mexico.
  • Cudd was charged last month for her participation in the Capitol insurrection on January 6.
  • Following the attack, Cudd told a local news outlet that she would “do it again.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Jenny Cudd, who was charged with participating in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, made headlines last week after asking a federal court to grant her permission to leave the country for a retreat in Mexico.

According to new court documents, she will get to take her trip.

A federal judge ruled in favor of Cudd’s request on Friday afternoon, granting the Texas florist’s motion to visit Mexico for a “planned and prepaid” four-day weekend retreat with her employees later this month in Riviera Maya.

Judge Trevor McFadden of the DC District Court signed the order, noting that Cudd has no prior criminal history. McFadden, a 2017 Trump appointee, also said there was no evidence suggesting she posed a danger to others or was a flight risk.

The motion said Cudd will have to provide her itinerary to her supervising pretrial services officer.

Cudd was charged in January with unlawfully entering a restricted building and with disorderly conduct after the FBI said video footage showed her inside the Capitol on January 6. FBI documents said Cudd walked around various parts of the Capitol and used social media to document her time in the building. 

“I f****** charged the Capitol today with patriots today. Hell yes, I am proud of my actions” she reportedly said in a Facebook video. 

Following the riot, Cudd remained unapologetic. She participated in an interview with a local news station where she confirmed she entered the building and said she would “do it again,” according to FBI documents.

Unlike other rioters charged in the attack, Cudd was put on pretrial release following her arrest. Her lawyer told CNN that she plans to plead not guilty to the charges.

In order to make the case to be allowed on the retreat, which was reportedly planned before her actions on January 6, Cudd’s lawyers described her as a “small business owner” and “established member of her community” who had followed all court orders so far and had no criminal history. 

Mexican tourist destinations have remained busy despite the pandemic. Last month, Insider reported that Mexico was seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases due to Americans vacationing and resettling in the country. 

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The Lincoln Project threatens Rudy Giuliani with legal action after he linked the group to the Capitol riot

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Former President Donald Trump (L), Rudy Giuliani (C), and former White House strategist, Steve Bannon (R).

  • The Lincoln Project threatened to sue Rudy Giuliani for defamation on Saturday.
  • The legal threat comes after Giuliani alleged that the group had helped organize the Capitol siege.
  • The anti-Trump group has given Giuliani until February 3 to apologize and retract his false statements.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Lincoln Project threatened to sue Rudy Giuliani for defamation on Saturday after the lawyer falsely claimed the group had helped organize the deadly Capitol riot.

During an interview on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast on Friday, Giuliani alleged that the Republican group had secretly disguised themselves as Trump supporters during the January 6 riot, which resulted in the deaths of five people including a police officer.

Bannon himself challenged Giuliani on that claim, repeatedly asking him during the interview where he got that information from.

“I don’t know if I can reveal his name,” Giuliani responded. “Because we have that from anonymous sources. But he worked in the past for [Utah Senator Mitt] Romney.”

Read more: Donald Trump didn’t pardon himself. A massive tsunami of legal peril now awaits him.

The founder of the Lincoln Project, Steve Schmidt, told MSNBC on Saturday he was “thrilled” at the prospect of not only suing Giuliani for defamation but also going after Trump and Bannon.

” Steve Bannon knows he’s going to get sued by us also, and he is, and so is Donald Trump who is Rudy Giuliani’s client, and Rudy Giuliani is acting on his behest,” Schmidt said, according to MSNBC.

“But look, it is very difficult to sue somebody for defamation or libel in the United States, but our lawyers are telling us that Rudy is well across the line so we’re thrilled about this,” he added.

On the same day, the group’s attorney posted a letter on Twitter warning of a lawsuit unless Giuliani publicly apologizes for his accusations.

 

“You committed a textbook case of defamation,” Matthew Sanderson wrote in the letter. “You publicly accused The Lincoln Project of an infamous and criminal act it had nothing to do with, as you very well knew. You lied.”

The group has given gave Giuliani until February 3 to retract his statement. 

Giuliani is already facing several legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which is seeking $1.3 billion in damages after he made a series of wild and baseless claims that the company was involved in rigging the presidential election.

The Lincoln Project was started in late 2019 by former GOP operatives, including political strategist Rick Wilson and Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway.

Over the months, the group has gained a reputation for its memes and ads bashing Trump, including billboards in New York City in October last year that mocked Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

After Giuliani’s interview with Bannon, the group took to Twitter to make fun of Trump’s former lawyer for going from calling for “trial by combat” to blaming them for the insurrection in a matter of weeks.

 

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‘Cowboys for Trump’ co-founder who stormed Capitol is in isolation for refusing COVID-19 test in detention

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Otero County Commission Chairman and Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin rides his horse on 5th avenue on May 1, 2020 in New York City.

  • ‘Cowboys for Trump’ founder and Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin demands release from federal custody.
  • He was arrested related to storming the Capitol and that day posted videos threatening lawmakers.
  • In one video, Griffin claimed rioters would return on January 20, and “blood will run out of the building.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“Cowboys for Trump” founder and Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin is asking to be released from isolation in federal custody. He was placed in isolation after refusing both a COVID-19 test and to show up to his first hearing, according to court documents.

Last week, Griffin was arrested by US Capitol Police in Washington, DC, and charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and “intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business.” 

According to documents, Griffin’s lawyer filed a motion for his client’s release, saying that he was struggling in isolation. In response, the judge said that “simply taking a COVID-19 test, something hundreds of millions of people have safely done across the world, will allow the defendant to exit isolation.”

The judge also added that Griffin must show up to a hearing on February 1 or remain in detention and that he could be held in contempt.

According to KOB4, Griffin posted a series of videos of himself in DC on January 6. In one video, Griffin called for more rioting, while in another he claimed rioters would return on January 20 and said “blood will run out of the building.” 

He also claimed he wanted to plant a flag on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk.

Prior to his arrest, Griffin attended an Otero County Commission meeting and stated his intention to show up to DC on inauguration day bearing arms. 

According to court documents, federal investigators said Griffin was a danger to the community and called for him to be held without bond. “The defendant has no established profession, whether as cowboy, cowboy actor, restaurateur, or otherwise,” filing charges said. 

In May, Griffin spoke at an event where he said, “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Later in the speech he claimed the quote was a metaphor.

At the time, Donald Trump retweeted the video and said, “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” 

In January, Donald Trump and Cowboys for Trump’s Twitter accounts were suspended.

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Special operators describe an overlooked vulnerability highlighted in the Capitol Hill riot

FireEye 2016 Black Hat expo
The FireEye booth at the 2016 Black Hat cyber-security conference in Las Vegas, August 3, 2016

  • The FireEye hack and the rioters who breached Capitol Hill were two more visible signs of a growing conflict in cyberspace being waged by state actors and private individuals.
  • Government and private entities, high-profile officials, and everyday people are all targets in that conflict, but there are many things that they can do to improve their security online and in real life.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the turbulent 2020 came to an end, US officials discovered that Russian intelligence had penetrated the US’s cyber armor for months without anyone noticing.

In December, FireEye, a private cybersecurity firm, revealed that Russian hackers had stolen hacking tools the company used during “Red Team” evaluations, which are used in the military and intelligence communities to test security and find potential vulnerabilities by simulating attacks.

FireEye’s discovery triggered an avalanche of revelations about the Russian intrusion. The NSA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and US Cyber Command were all caught unawares.

The Pentagon, several intelligence agencies, nuclear laboratories, and numerous Fortune 500 companies were compromised at varying degrees. US officials are still trying to determine the extent of the damage.

To make matters worse, in early January, during the intrusion in the Capitol, sensitive systems were stolen, including a laptop belonging to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

These are just the most recent and pronounced examples of an undeclared conflict in the cyber domain between the US and its near-peer adversaries, primarily Russia, which runs parallel to the competition between those adversaries, conducted by state and private actors, taking place around the world.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care

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A note left in the office of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi by a Trump supporter who entered the building during a riot, January 6, 2021

When it comes to tapping a government device in order to access sensitive networks and obtain classified information, there are many moving parts. The placement, accessibility, and vulnerability of a device or network play a big part.

“It really depends on how accessible the device or network is and [on] the methods used by the malign actors,” Jonathan, a former officer with joint special-operations and intelligence experience, told Insider.

“For example, take the recent intrusion in the Capitol building, where we have news that the FBI feared a rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop from her office may have intended to sell it to Russian security services,” Jonathan added.

“This makes a great case for both physical and digital security, an even more critical undertaking given the proliferation of mobile devices these days. You can’t have one without the other.”

Everyone’s concern

Wannacry cyberattack North Korea
Homeland Security officials at a briefing where they blamed North Korea for unleashing the so-called WannaCry cyberattack, December 19, 2017.

Digital security challenges often spill over from the military and intelligence domains into personal lives. Cyberstalking, cyberbullying, cybercrime, digital coercion, and doxxing – the unsolicited sharing of personal information – are a reality for many in an era of unprecedented connectivity.

Signature Management Unit (SMU), a risk, security, and intelligence consulting firm led by former special-operations and intelligence professionals, recently released a digital security guide that companies and private citizens alike can use to boost their cyber defenses.

Featuring six threat scenarios, ranging from cyberstalking to foreign intelligence, and 31 simple techniques, the guide arms those seeking to take their digital security to another level with the knowhow to do so. The authors’ special-operations and intelligence background adds a refreshing level of authenticity.

“We recognize that obtaining a timely, holistic, and coherent understanding of how to approach individual digital security and privacy is difficult and potentially inaccessible to the layman,” the authors write. “However, these matters do not just concern government spies, murky organizations, or those conducting corporate espionage.”

Some of the guide’s key takeaways for public and private audiences are the importance of preemptive action, physical security, situational awareness, and a layered defense plan.

Pelosi office
A Trump supporter in the office of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi amid a riot that breached the Capitol building, January 6, 2021

Even if a person is concerned that their data or devices have been compromised, there are still steps that can minimize the damage.

“For starters, don’t let your devices fall into the wrong hands – this could be leaving it unattended in a coffee shop or not letting it out of your sight when crossing a border, and everywhere in between,” Jonathan added.

“[Also] ensure your devices are fully encrypted, and limit unauthorized users from being able to access them physically through the lightning USB port (phones) or by messing with your firmware/boot options,” Jonathan said. “Use tools like the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature enabled which provides you with a remote wipe option should it be required.”

When it comes to personal devices, measures like two-factor authentication, fairly complex passwords, and network security are important.

The commercial aspect of digital security is perhaps as important and concerns a larger audience since companies and private citizens are also on the “target deck.”

“While malign nation states like Russia are a serious threat, we also have the insidious and less visible threat from corporate big-data companies (and many others like Lexis Nexis, Oracle) such as Google and Facebook, who traffic the sale of individual data for profit that results from targeted advertising,” Jonathan told Insider. “We should all be advocates of the right to privacy and severely limiting others’ ability to profit from the sale of your personal data.”

Although the extent of the Russian cyberattacks is yet to be determined, malign actors working on behalf of Moscow have shown that digital security threats are real and not only concern the military and intelligence communities but private citizens as well.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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Senators who backed Trump’s election challenge may rethink their stance on impeachment after losing corporate funding, experts say

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President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he departs on the South Lawn of the White House, on December 12, 2020.

  • The mass exodus of corporate backing could affect how senators vote on Trump’s impeachment trial, experts say.
  • Dozens of companies have pulled funding from the GOP lawmakers who voted against Biden’s certification.
  • CEOs say they increasingly have no choice but to bring politics into the boardroom.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Moral convictions may not be the only reason that GOP lawmakers are turning their back on former President Donald Trump.

Lawmakers who voted against certifying Joe Biden as president may also be rethinking their stance after losing corporate funding, experts told Insider.

After Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a desperate bid to overturn the presidential election results, which turned into a violent insurrection leaving five people dead, businesses have been quick to cut ties with Trump and the lawmakers who backed his baseless claims of election fraud.

Read more: Lawmakers, Hill staffers, and reporters recount the harrowing experience as a pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol to protest the electoral-vote count

Walmart, Amazon, and Morgan Stanley are among the companies that have cut off political funding to the 147 GOP lawmakers who voted against certifying Joe Biden as president. Hallmark went a step further, and asked Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall, who both voted against Biden’s certification, to refund its political donations.

This mass exodus of corporate backing could have an effect on politicians’ actions, experts told Insider.

“Cutting funding hits these politicians where it hurts,” Donald Hambrick, a professor of management at Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, told Insider.

Withholding donations is “probably the more profound of the actions that can be taken,” he added.

The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on January 13. It’s now up to the Senate to decide whether to convict him. If he gets the two-thirds majority required to be convicted, the Senate will then hold a vote on whether to bar him from ever holding public office again.

“I think senators are gonna be squirming,” Hambrick said.

As more FBI reports and video footage of the riots are released, more companies will take action, making “senators squirm all the more,” Hambrick added. This could ultimately affect how senators vote, he said.

“These corporations could have a substantial effect on senators’ votes,” he said.

“The Senate vote could be very much not in Trump’s favor.”

Trump’s closest political allies are under pressure from some members of the party to continue supporting Trump and from companies and other politicians to pull away from him, Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, told Insider.

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, may have begun back-pedalling in his support for Trump because of the corporate response, Hambrick said.

McCarthy/Trump
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy and former president Trump, in the Oval Office.

“People are saying it’s primarily because of the corporate cuts he faces and his party faces. Observers are tracing his own about-face to these corporate cuts,” Hambrick said, citing news reports he had read.

“People have traced it to all the cuts in corporate donations, specifically to him.”

Insider contacted McCarthy’s office for comment.

Companies aren’t just removing funding

Cutting funding isn’t the only action businesses can take to cut ties with Trump and his supporters.

In recent years, companies have been increasingly grouping together to write open letters, Hambrick said, but these may not have as big an influence on politicians.

“If the Business Roundtable wrote a letter, it would have some effect, but not as much as cutting political donations,” Hambrick said.

Companies have likely cut funding to specific politicians before, Hambrick said, but “nothing on this scale, nothing with as much fanfare or visibility.”

Businesses are also taking other actions in response to the siege, but these aren’t necessarily directed at politicians, Forrest Briscoe, a professor of management at Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, explained.

Twitter, for example, purged 70,000 accounts associated with QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory, and Amazon Web Services, Apple, and Google were among the companies who cut ties with Parler, a social media site popular with Trump supporters.

Briscoe also referred to the New York Stock Exchange. Jeffrey Sprecher heads up its parent company, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). Sprecher is married to Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, an avid Trump supporter who supported his baseless claims of election fraud.

Loeffler had been among the lawmakers planning to vote against Joe Biden’s certification as president, though she changed her mind after the siege. But her years of support for Trump could still cause businesses to rethink their relationship with the NYSE, Briscoe said.

As more information is released related to the siege, “it’s gonna be uglier and uglier, and employees and customers are gonna lean on these companies to do something and basically punish the Republicans who helped bring this about,” Hambrick said.

Companies are getting increasingly political

“A lot of us are hesitant to wade into political waters,” a CEO told Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, founder of Yale’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute, on condition of anonymity. “We don’t want to bring politics into the boardroom or to our employees.”

“But we need to recognize that threats to the rule of law are legitimate business issues,” they continued.”It’s totally legitimate and therefore also very important that we speak out on these issues.”

The number of companies responding to the Capitol siege will increase in the coming weeks, Briscoe said, and feeds into a longer-term trend of businesses becoming more political.

Their reasons for engaging in sociopolitical activism vary, he added.

“Sometimes it’s clearly in the interests of the firm, and sometimes it’s not, it’s just about values and beliefs and positions that people have as citizens or personally,” Briscoe explained.

Often, the companies decide to take action because of demand from their employees, Briscoe explained. Over recent years, staff have become increasingly vocal about their sociopolitical stances and have lobbied their companies to take action, he said. Google employees, for example, fought against Alphabet’s contract with the US government’s defense department on Project Maven, a drone warfare project – and, after months of protests, the company said it wouldn’t renew the contract.

But it’s not just employees who may have urged companies to respond to the Capitol siege.

CEOs are under pressure to consult their boards before they take actions such as cutting or limiting corporate funding, Hambrick said. And the directors may even have proposed the idea to the CEO in the first place, he added.

And here they have the backing of customers, too. Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of companies pausing funding, too, The Harris Poll found. In its survey of 1,960 Americans, nearly three in four said they support companies  pulling the plug on political donations for the time being.

Ultimately, what companies and CEOs do matters, Sonnenfeld told Insider.

“The business leaders right now are the most trusted pillar – over the clergy, public officials, even media and academic,” he said.

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Members of the far-right militia group, the Oath Keepers, used Facebook Messenger during the Capitol siege to hunt for lawmakers, FBI says

capitol siege breach
Smoke fills the corridor outside the Senate Chamber as rioters are confronted by police on January 6, 2021.

Thomas Edward Caldwell, leader of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers, has been accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of coordinating an effort to track down lawmakers during the siege of the US Capitol building.

Caldwell, 66, is cited with leading the effort to locate members of Congress, according to The Washington Post.

Two others, Donovan Ray Crowl and Jessica Marie Watkins, are also accused of having conspired with the Navy veteran, The Post reported.

Caldwell is said to have received Facebook messages updating him of the specific whereabouts of lawmakers while congressional offices were being ransacked, according to a sworn affidavit included in court filings obtained by the George Washington University Program on Extremism.

Read more: I went inside the US Capitol’s immense security bubble to cover the most surreal presidential inauguration of my lifetime. Here’s what I saw.

One message, the FBI said, read: “All members are in the tunnels under capitol. Seal them in, turn on the gas.”

While raiding the Capitol, Caldwell shared a post on Facebook. He simply wrote: “Inside.” After this, the intelligence agency said that he received a flurry of messages from unspecified senders.

“Tom take that b**** over,” read one message.

“Tom, all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3 floors down,” said another.

Some of the messages gave very specific directions about the locations of lawmakers. “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps,” court documents reveal of one message.

“Do like we had to do when I was in the core, start tearing out floors, go from top to bottom,” another is reported to have said.

The day after the insurrection, Caldwell sent a text to Crowl. It read: “Do you like the pictures of us storming the castle?”

Caldwell was arrested earlier this week on several charges, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and conspiracy to impede or injure an officer.

It was the first conspiracy charge filed against any of the rioters, according to the Daily Beast.

The investigation into the insurrection is underway but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that “a very considerable amount” of lawmakers “still don’t feel safe.”

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Tell us what Kamala Harris making history as vice president means to you – and the country

kamala harris
Kamala Harris will be sworn in as vice president on Wednesday.

  • On Wednesday, Kamala Harris will make history as she’s sworn in as the nation’s first female, Black, and South Asian American vice president. 
  • For millions of Americans, Jan. 20 will mark the first time they’ll see themselves reflected at the highest level of government.
  • Insider wants our readers to reflect on this unprecedented moment in American history — which takes place against the backdrop of a recent, violent insurrection, and a persisting threat of pro-Trump extremists heading to Washington, DC once again.
  • Tell us how it will feel to watch Harris get inaugurated. We’re gathering responses for a project about this historic day and what it means to them.
  • Scroll down to share your thoughts with Insider. We may contact you to follow up on your responses.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Inauguration Day will be a landmark moment in American history. Former California Senator Kamala Harris will become the first Black and South Asian American woman sworn in as vice president. With one oath, she will also become the highest-ranking woman in US political history. 

The symbolism of this moment could not be more profound. 

Harris takes office when America’s racial inequalities have been thrust to the fore by the pandemic, 2020 election, and months-long protests against police brutality. Millions of people who have never seen such representation in this country will now see themselves reflected in one of the country’s highest-ranking leaders. 

But Harris’s inauguration will take place under the watch of thousands of National Guard troops and behind a quickly-erected, city-wide fortress meant to stave off a repeat of January 6, when a racist, pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol.

There’s no doubt Harriss’ moment will be remembered by history. But how does this moment feel for Americans right now?

We want you to tell us how you’ll experience her Inauguration – and how you think history should remember this moment – using the form below. 

Will you watch her inauguration with your daughters? Will you get together on Zoom with friends and family to experience this day together? Who in your life will you think of at that moment? What will Inauguration Day mean to you and the country’s future?

Insider will use your responses to compile a story featuring your memories of this historic and symbolic day.

 

 

 

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