Democratic lawmakers heading back home to their districts are concerned over their safety in light of the January 6 Capitol riot and continuing threats, The Washington Post reported.
Several Democrats have privately expressed concerns to leadership over their safety, while others have publicly spoken about the difficulty of balancing the need for public in-person events with the need for security, the Post reported.
“Obviously we’re going to return to more outward-facing live, in-person things and I’m thrilled about that. I want to do that,” Rep. Susan Wild told the Post. “I think we’re going to have to be very cautious. I think there’s going to have to be some ramped-up security. Hopefully it’s going to be low key, I don’t want people to feel like they’re walking into an armed event, but I imagine doing a lot of events in parks, in the daytime, staffers and local police are around.”
Earlier this month, the Capitol Police reported that threats against lawmakers increased by 107% in the first five months of 2021 compared to 2020.
“Provided the unique threat environment we currently live in, the Department is confident the number of cases will continue to increase,” the Capitol Police wrote earlier this month in response to an inspector general report.
While the House approved a bill that would allot $21.5 million for lawmakers’ safety while traveling and for district office security upgrades as part of a $1.9 billion proposal to strengthen security at the Capitol following the riots, it has stalled in the Senate, where Republicans are opposed to the cost. Democrats are also not fully committed.
A rapper is facing federal charges after his album cover featured a photo of him posing on a SWAT car during the Capitol riots.
Antionne DeShaun Brodnax, whose artist name is Bugzie the Don, released his album called “The Capital,” sharing photos of the cover on Twitter on February 8 and posting a photo on Instagram earlier in May.
The artwork on the cover featured Brodnax with a cigar in his right hand and an American flag behind him while he sits on a SWAT car. The blurred background captures pro-Trump supports storming the US Capitol as lawmakers voted to certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
A post shared by Bugzie The Don (@bugziethedon_)
Brodnax told federal investigators that he traveled to Washington, DC, to shoot a music video, according to an affidavit. The Virginia rapper claimed he followed the crowd into the Capitol building, walked around, and took pictures and videos of the architecture.
Brodnax said his friends reached out to him on social media saying they spotted him on CNN broadcast, and he left the building after about 40 minutes.
Brodnax was identified to investigators after people tipped off authorities with screenshots of him on the CNN broadcast and tagging his Twitter handle, as well as posting another photo of Brodnax sitting on the US Capitol Police SWAT truck.
He was charged on four counts, including unlawful entry and misconduct on restricted grounds and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building, according to court documents.
Brodnax is one of nearly 500 accused Capitol rioters who are facing charges in connection with the January 6 insurrection. Several other suspects have been identified in a myriad of ways, including family members turning over accused rioters, defendants testifying against each other, and even a woman helping the FBI identify an accused Capitol rioter, whom she matched with the dating app Bumble.
The House approved a bill to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol.
The measure passed by a vote of 252-175, with 35 Republicans voting in favor of the bill despite an active effort from House GOP leadership to marshal opposition.
The bill to form the commission, H.R. 3233, came out of a bipartisan deal with Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and ranking member Rep. John Katko, a Republican.
In Wednesday debate on the House floor, Katko called on his colleagues “to put down their swords for once, just for once,” and vote for the commission to cut through partisan politics and get to the facts.
Like the 9/11 Commission, the 10-member January 6 commission would have the ability to issue subpoenas for relevant information on the insurrection. The group is tasked with producing a final report by December 31 with “findings regarding the facts and causes of the attack” and solutions to prevent attacks on the Capitol and other “democratic institutions.”
Five members, including the commissioner’s chair, would be chosen by Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate, and the other five, including the vice chair, would be selected by their Republican counterparts.
The commissioners cannot be current government employees and “must have significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity” under the parameters of the bill.
Another House Republican, Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, said on the House floor that “there has been an active effort to whitewash” the “horrible events” of the day.
“If we avoid confronting what happened here a few short months ago, we can ensure that intimidation, coercion, and violence will become a defining feature of our politics,” he said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy publicly opposes the bill, citing its narrow scope on the insurrection itself that “does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America.”
House Republican leadership on Tuesday night formally began pressuring members to vote against it, Punchbowl News reported. The bill goes next to the US Senate, where it would need 10 Republican votes to overcome the filibuster to pass.
While the debate was ongoing in the US House, members of the US Capitol Police – but not the organization as a whole – released a statement conveying their “profound disappointment” with McCarthy and McConnell, citing the trauma that officers still face from that day.
A former Pentagon chief who served during the January 6 riot will defend the Pentagon’s delayed response to the Capitol in a congressional testimony later this week, the Associated Press and Reuters reported Tuesday
Christopher Miller, who served as acting defense secretary under former President Donald Trump on January 6, will appear before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday in his first public testimony about the insurrection.
Miller is expected to testify alongside former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and District of Columbia Police Chief Robert Contee III.
In prepared remarks reviewed by the AP and Reuters, Miller expressed concern over the possibility of a military coup if he deployed armed troops to respond to pro-Trump supporters storming the Capitol.
“I am keenly aware of the criticism regarding the Department of Defense’s response,” Miller’s remarks read, according to the Reuters report.
“My concerns regarding the appropriate and limited use of the military in domestic matters were heightened by commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup or that advisors to the President were advocating the declaration of martial law.”
In his remarks, Miller cites public “hysteria” as a factor in his decision of “limited use” of armed forces to “to support civilian law enforcement.”
He also wrote that the Defense Department has “an extremely poor record in supporting domestic law enforcement,” citing specific scenarios like civil rights demonstrations and protests against the Vietnam War, as well as the Kent State shootings. “And some 51 years ago, on May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops fired at demonstrators at Kent State University and killed four American civilians.”
“I was committed to avoiding repeating these scenarios,” he added.
Miller also notes that “logistical challenges” contributed to the delayed deployment of National Guard troops to the Capitol. National Guard troops arrived at the Capitol more than four hours after rioters breached the building as lawmakers worked to certify President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.
“This isn’t a video game where you can move forces with a flick of the thumb or a movie that glosses over the logistical challenges and the time required to coordinate and synchronize with the multitude of other entities involved, or with complying with the important legal requirements involved in the use of such forces,” the remarks continue.
In his opening statement, Miller wrote that he believes Trump “encouraged the protesters that day,” but it remains unclear if the former acting defense secretary thinks the former president is responsible for the insurrection at the Capitol.
Morgan traveled from Texas to attend the Capitol riot. His main source of income is tree removal which, according to his business’s website, he got into after struggling to keep a full-time job because of a “sleep disorder.”
He only became an arborist to bankroll the launch of his internet marketing career, he wrote on the website. This, so far, has been unsuccessful. Two businesses he set up now appear to be defunct.
In recent years, he has been dedicated to growing a YouTube following for his channel – “Political Trance Tribune” – posting ‘civil rights audits’ on it for nine years. The page has nurtured a small but reasonably engaged following; 3,600 subscribers and over 100,000 views.
Civil rights auditing, or First Amendment auditing, involves individuals recording government officials in action. Auditors go to post offices, city council meetings, and crime scenes to test how officials react when they get the cameras rolling.
If officials allow filming to take place on public property, they pass the audit. If they refuse, they fail the audit and they end up being exposed on YouTube channels. Auditors say they are there to exercise their First Amendment rights but, as the Daily Beast reported in 2019, dramatic confrontations can lead to YouTube fame.
Many of the run-ins published on Morgan’s channel involve tense, dramatic interactions with police officers.
Morgan, who is described in his affidavit as an “independent journalist and a civil rights auditor,” is often seen deliberately aggravating law enforcement officers. This aligns with his anti-cop views, as expressed in a now-deleted YouTube video seen by Insider. “I happen to think we need to abolish the police,” he said in the clip from January.
Other clips show him being threatened with prosecution for provoking officers. On one occasion, Texas’ Montgomery County Court records show that an incident led to his arrest.
He was placed in Montgomery County Jail on June 9, 202o, for “interfering with traffic control and scene securement efforts,” according to an arrest warrant seen by Insider.
He believes that 9/11 was an ‘inside false flag job’
Morgan’s anti-police views are part of a wider set of conspiratorial and far-right views.
On his private Facebook page, Morgan shared posts that denied the climate crisis, challenged the fact that former President Barack Obama was born in the US, and called 9/11 an “inside false flag job.” He also frequently shared posts by the far-right publication Breitbart News and conspiracist website InfoWars.
More recently on Political Trance Tribune’s Facebook page, Morgan showed allegiance to QAnon – the disproven and discredited conspiracy theory. Some posts are captioned with the hashtag #WWG1WGA, which stands for the QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all.”
A video of Morgan attending a rally for then-President Donald Trump in Houston in 2018 also uses this caption.
Despite attending Trump rallies, Morgan appears to have made a small donation to a Democratic cause a year later. A man of the same name and sharing the same zip code donated $5 to ‘Friends of Andrew Yang’ on September 17, 2019, via left-leaning fundraiser ActBlue, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.
However, the vast majority of his posts are supportive of Trump and critical of former President Barack Obama.
Before the January 6 riots, his last post shows Morgan attending dinner with fellow civil rights auditors, several of whom are believed to have traveled with him to Washington, DC.
Unauthorized press passes are being used to mount legal defenses
According to his affidavit, Morgan told an FBI special agent in March that he had traveled from Maxwell, Texas, to Washington, DC on January 6 to witness “something unprecedented.”
He claimed that he merely wanted to record the event, according to court documents.
“Me and several other auditors, we were gonna go, and I said I really want to be there to report,” Morgan claimed in a now-deleted video posted after January 6 and seen by Insider.
He traveled to the Capitol with five other civil rights auditors who sometimes referred to themselves as “independent patriots,” his wife, Sheila Morgan, told special agents.
One was Matthew Wrosch, also known as the Michigan Constitutional Crusader, who provided Morgan and several others with unofficial press lanyards before the riots. This was to show that the men were “journalists” who were “disseminating information to the public,” he told Insider.
The passes, however, were not authorized by any recognized body and do not count as media credentials. Nonetheless, these homemade passes and claims of being journalists are being used as evidence by several defendants to mount First Amendment free speech defenses in court, Insider previously reported.
Wrosch said that he had no intentions of actively participating in the riots. “In my eyes, we were just supposed to observe and record,” he said. “When it’s a government unrest kind of thing, we’re not supposed to say s–t. We’re just supposed to watch what’s happening and record it.”
But while Wrosch stayed “fifty feet away” at all times and “didn’t get up close and get in the fray,” Morgan joined the melee of rioters as they forced their way into one of the Capitol’s entrances.
In an hour of self-recorded videos seen by Insider, Morgan shows himself to be sandwiched between insurrectionists as they smash a Capitol window and fight with police officers. He can be heard throughout, encouraging them, yelling “keep moving” and “send helmets forward.”
Several times, Morgan can be heard begging to be shot and teargassed. “I’m here first, y’all gonna slide in right behind me,” he said. “I’m gonna take the bullet first. I want the bullet. Give me my bullet.”
He urged people to “hold the line” and repeatedly asked to be let into the Capitol. “Hell yeah, we’re going over. We’re going in that building,” he said.
‘I bought into the provocateurs’ trap.’
A couple of days after the deadly insurrection, Morgan did a two-hour-long live stream about why he joined in with the storming of the Capitol. Insider recovered the footage.
In the live stream, he explained to his subscribers what had initially inspired him to attend. “I went on January 6 with the knowledge and belief that the election was rigged,” he said.
He then spoke, at length, about the media being a “Nazi propaganda machine,” and ‘Q’ being right.
The 60-year-old did admit that he joined the mob in pushing their way into the Capitol. “When I got up to the doorway, I participated in the heave-ho, heave-ho,” he said. It felt like the “right thing at the moment,” he added.
Morgan apologized several times for falling into “antifa’s trap” and blamed his actions on “emotion” and “herd mentality.”
“I was wrong,” he said. “When I went on that Capitol grounds and ‘antifa’ sent that message out that what we’re there for is to take the Capitol, I bought into it. I bought into the provocateurs’ trap.”
There is no evidence of ‘antifa’ being responsible for the violence during the Capitol riots.
Morgan told his subscribers that he was prepared for any potential punishment. “If I did something heinous and wrong and I have to pay for it, I’m a grown man, I can pay for it,” he said. “I’m not gonna scream and holler and cry. I did what I did out of a pure heart and pure intent. I wish I hadn’t done it. I wish I hadn’t fallen into antifa’s trap.”
He is charged with aiding and abetting the insurrection
Morgan may soon “pay for it.”
His videos were supplied to the FBI on January 19 and he was then identified by special agents. On April 9, he surrendered to Austin agents and was charged for his role in the insurrection.
Morgan is now accused of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of an official proceeding, and aiding and abetting. If convicted, he could face several years in jail.
Experts say that a legal defense claiming to be a journalist is unlikely to stand in court.
Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, told the Associated Press that journalists need to be credentialed and cannot claim to be reporting if there is evidence to suggest they were encouraging the violent mob.
For Morgan, the lessons learned from the events of January 6 might have come too late.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said in his live stream. “From this day on, my auditing is gonna be a lot different.”
Several defendants charged in the Capitol riots have self-identified as journalists in a bid to justify their attendance at the deadly insurrection, according to the Associated Press.
Individuals who might have posted potentially self-incriminating photographs or videos of them storming the Capitol are claiming they were only there to “record history” and absolve themselves of criminal responsibility, AP reported.
At least eight of those charged with the Capitol siege have claimed to be journalists or documentary makers to mount a First Amendment free speech defense, experts told the news agency.
His YouTube page – “the Armenian Council for Truth in Journalism” – has just over 300 subscribers, his attorney told AP. Witzemann is charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Another defendant, Andrew Morgan, cited a small YouTube channel as justification for his attendance.
In his legal defense, Morgan referred to himself as “an independent journalist and civil rights auditor.” His YouTube page – “Political Trance Tribune” – has around 3,600 subscribers.
Morgan shared a video of himself participating in the insurrection on the page. In the clip, court documents show, he can be heard yelling, “send helmets forward.”
Other fringe platforms, such as”Insurgence USA” and “Thunderdome TV,” have also been named by defendants, AP said.
Nicholas DeCarlo claimed that he and another alleged rioter, Nicholas Ochs, are journalists for an online forum called “Murder the Media News,” the Los Angeles Times said.
A self-employed “documentarian,” John Earle Sullivan, has also used the legal defense that he was at the riots for journalistic reasons, the news agency reported.
Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, told the Associated Press that these legal defenses are unlikely to stand in court. Journalists need to be credentialed and cannot claim to be reporting if there is evidence to suggest they were encouraging the violent mob, she told the news agency.
Grady Douglas Owens, 21, from Winter Park, Florida, was arrested on April 1 after being caught on bodycam video using his skateboard, which bore the phrase “White Fang,” to hit a police officer over the head.
The officer, who has not been named, was left with a concussion and an injury to his finger, according to an affidavit released earlier this month.
The 21-year-old, who is a student at Full Sail University, has been charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, and violent entry of the Capitol building, among other things. He faces 36 years in prison if convicted.
The brotherhood of the Proud Boys is falling apart, as more than one of the Capitol riot defendants has turned on the group’s leadership.
According to a CNN report, prosecutors have struck deals with more than one Capitol riot defendant. In exchange for plea deals, cooperators may have to work with the Justice Department and prosecutors to build stronger cases and bring more serious charges against the pro-Trump far-right extremist group’s leaders.
Lawyers for Biggs said in a court filing that he regularly spoke to the FBI and law enforcement agents to tell them about protests that he was involved in, and that these back-channels he had with the authorities should keep him out of jail.
Enrique Tarrio, another well-known Proud Boys leader, was also revealed in February to have been working behind the scenes as an FBI informant. He was outed when Reuters published part of a 2014 court transcript, that said he was working undercover and was helping law enforcement crack drug and human trafficking cases.
Other groups who banded together to storm the Capitol in January are also seeing instances where defendants refuse to hold the line, and are now considering trading information to escape indictment.
Insider reported this week that prosecutors were negotiating a plea deal with Jon Schaffer – a heavy metal guitarist who was spotted storming the Capitol wearing an Oath Keepers hat, indicating his connection with the paramilitary group.
According to a now-deleted confidential court filing that was erroneously uploaded but seen by BuzzFeed News and Politico, Schaffer was involved in “debrief interviews” with prosecutors.
“Based on these debrief interviews, the parties are currently engaged in good-faith plea negotiations, including discussions about the possibility of entering into a cooperation plea agreement aimed at resolving the matter short of indictment,” the filing said.
Criminal defense attorney Martin Tankleff told CNN that he thought it likely that more cooperators would come forward and turn against the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and other groups involved in the riot.
“Whenever you have a large group of people arrested and in jail, prosecutors will typically observe the group and pressure defendants to flip on one another, Tankleff said. “They’re going to start talking. They’re going to start sharing information.”
A Capitol rioter’s lawyer, who helped secure his release from prison, said his client has not paid him for his work and isn’t returning any of his phone calls, The Daily Beast reported.
Mark Sahady, a computer programmer and Army veteran from Massachusetts, was arrested and charged in January with disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority.
He was first held in Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island but was later released under strict conditions, including a ban on organizing any demonstrations.
Sahady has apparently also not stopped attending rallies. He was recently spotted at an anti-mask “freedom rally” in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, despite being under indictment, the Daily Beast reported. Footage of the event, obtained by the Daily Beast, shows Sahady speaking on stage.
His lawyer, Rinaldo Del Gallo III, who helped secure Sahady’s release, told the Daily Beast he had not been paid for his work.
“I have a motion to disappear from the case because (1) my client hasn’t paid me at all for work performed in this case and (2) he is not returning my phone calls,” defense attorney Del Gallo III told the Daily Beast.
Del Gallo said he is frustrated by this outcome because he’s been tirelessly working on the case and even had to pull several all-nighters to prepare the defense that ultimately got Sahady out of jail. The defense attorney declined to specify how much money his client owes him.
“What particularly bothered me is that I had done a lot of pro bono work for Mark’s groups in the First Amendment area which seemed to count for nothing, and he clearly has the ability to pay,” Del Gallo added.
Sahaday is the leader of “Super Fun America,” a right-wing, anti-LGBTQ+ group that made headlines in 2019 for organizing a “straight pride” parade in Boston.
On the day of the Capitol insurrection, he organized 11 buses with other groups to go to Washington DC, posting pictures of the event on social media, according to WBUR News.
Insider reached out to Super Happy America for comment.
“Often, when clients are in trouble and in jail, they cry, ‘My kingdom for a horse,'” said attorney Del Gallo. “Once they have extricated themselves from the morass, there is an onset of amnesia regarding the trouble they were in.”
Sahady now has a new lawyer representing him and is due back in court on April 1. Legal experts told the Daily Beast that Sahady’s recent conduct could potentially constitute a violation of the bail conditions set by the court.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a theory about why his company keeps showing up in legal documents surrounding the attempted insurrection on January 6: it’s just doing a really good job helping out with law enforcement’s investigations.
Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democrat from New York, asked Zuckerberg whether he still denied Facebook was a “significant megaphone for the lies that fueled the insurrection” amid “growing evidence” suggesting it was, including the charging documents.
“I think part of the reason why our services are very cited in the charging docs is because we worked closely with law enforcement to help identify the people who were there,” Zuckerberg said, adding that such “collaboration” shouldn’t “be seen as a negative reflection on our services.”
Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have repeatedly downplayed the company’s role in the insurrection. COO Sheryl Sandberg said in mid-January the “Stop the Steal” rally, which immediately preceded the Capitol attacks, “were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, and don’t have our standards, and don’t have our transparency.”
But numerous media and research reports have emerged since then showing that, despite its talk about cracking down, Facebook still allowed misinformation to spread widely and violence-promoting groups to gather.
A report from the research group Avaaz, released this week, found 267 violence-glorifying groups, with a combined audience of 32 million people, had “almost tripled their monthly interactions – from 97 million interactions in October 2019 to 277.9 million interactions in July 2020.”
Avaaz said 188 of those groups remained active despite “clear violations of Facebook’s policies,” and that even after contacting Facebook, the company still let 97 groups continue to use its platform.
Facebook executives have long known its groups-focused features have been a hotbed of extremism. The Wall Street Journal reported in January Facebook’s data scientists told the company 70% of its 100 most active “civic groups” were rife with hate speech, misinformation, bullying, and harassment.
“Our existing integrity systems,” they told executives, according to The Journal, “aren’t addressing these issues.”
Zuckerberg and others at Facebook, such as policy head Joel Kaplan, even killed or weakened projects aimed at stemming the flow of such content, The Journal previously reported.
Yet Zuckerberg this week continued to deny Facebook has a serious issue with how it moderates content.
“There was content on our services from some of [the insurrectionists],” he said. “I think that that was problematic, but by and large, I also think that by putting in place policies banning QAnon, banning militias, banning other conspiracy networks, we generally made our services inhospitable to a lot of these folks.”
So far, the evidence doesn’t appear to support Zuckerberg’s claims.
The Tech Transparency Project said it has been warning Facebook about the surge in far-right groups since last April, but continued to find “numerous instances of domestic extremists discussing weapons and tactics, coordinating their activities, and spreading calls to overthrow the government on Facebook, up to and including the mob attack on the Capitol.”