GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming on Tuesday blasted fellow Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for placing the blame for the death of Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt with the Capitol Police.
Cheney, one of the most prominent Republican critics of former President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, rebuked Gosar for his comments in a tweet.
“On January 6, as the violent mob advanced on the House chamber, I was standing near @RepGosar and helped him open his gas mask,” she wrote. “The Capitol Police led us to safety. It is disgusting and despicable to see Gosar lie about that day and smear the men and women who defended us.”
During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Tuesday, Gosar questioned FBI director Christopher Wray about Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol police officer.
After Gosar asked Wray if he knew who “executed” Babbitt, Wray said that he didn’t know the name of the officer who was involved in the shooting.
“It’s disturbing,” Gosar said at the hearing. “The Capitol police officer that did this shooting appeared to be hiding, lying in wait and then gave no warning before killing her.”
In April, the Department of Justice announced that they would not pursue charges against the officer who shot and killed Babbitt.
In a statement at the time, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said “the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber.”
On Tuesday, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a vocal Trump critic, also criticized Gosar for his comments regarding Babbitt.
“You’re sick Paul, sadly,” he tweeted. “Truth is, Ashli was manipulated by people like you and breached an area and put lives in danger despite being repeatedly warned not to. The real criminals are the liars abusing people for political power.”
Since the Jan. 6 riot, some of the most conservative House members have tried to downplay the severity of the attack, including Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, who described the harrowing scene at the Capitol as similar to a “normal tourist visit.”
Later on Tuesday, Gosar and 20 other House Republicans voted against legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to police officers who protected lawmakers during the riot.
The legislation easily cleared the House in a 406-21 vote.
A man accused of storming the Capitol and yelling at police officers for “protecting pedophiles” previously served jail time for the statutory rape of a teenage girl, according to a review of court records by CNN.
Footage obtained by the Metropolitan Police Department reveals that Sean McHugh used a megaphone at the Capitol riot to heckle police officers. “You guys like protecting pedophiles?” he said, according to federal prosecutors.
Yet, ironically, McHugh was convicted in 2010 on a California state charge of unlawful sex with a minor, CNN reported.
He was sentenced to 240 days in jail and four years of probation for the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl when he was 23, former prosecutor Todd Kuhnen told the media outlet. McHugh pleaded no contest to the charge, Kuhnen said.
The Californian has been in jail since his arrest on May 27.
He is charged with eight federal crimes relating to the Capitol riot, including physical violence on Capitol grounds and assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Videos from January 6 show McHugh pushing a large sign into a line of uniformed police officers, spraying an unknown chemical at officers, and encouraging others to be disruptive, federal prosecutors said.
At the time of the deadly insurrection, he was on probation for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license, the criminal complaint shows.
According to Insider’s searchable database, more than 500 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection so far.
John Earle Sullivan, a 26-year-old from Utah, recorded videos capturing the chaos of the Capitol riot, Reuters said. He claims to have been there as a “documentarian” but now faces a total of eight criminal counts relating to his involvement in the insurrection, Insider previously reported.
One of the videos he recorded, which included the shooting of Ashli Babbitt by a police officer, was sold to several unnamed news outlets for a total of $90,000, according to a seizure warrant seen by the news agency.
Sullivan licensed parts of the video footage to the Washington Post and NBC, The New Yorker reported in February.
Sullivan reportedly boasted about the value of the gruesome footage of Babbit- one of the five people who died during the unrest on January 6. “My footage is worth like a million of dollars, millions of dollars,” he said, according to the court filings.
“Dude, this s— is gonna go viral,” Sullivan crowed shortly after watching Babbitt fall to the ground in a pool of blood, The New Yorker reported.
GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on Friday said that she was “offended” by a number of House Republicans who have sought to minimize the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to CNN.
Murkowski, who voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial for his role in the riot, slammed revisionist attempts to label the insurrectionist mob’s actions as “a normal tourist visit.”
“I’m offended by that,” Murkowski told CNN. “This was not a peaceful protest. When somebody breaks and enters, and then just because you know they don’t completely trash your house once you’re inside does not mean that it has been peaceful. This was not a peaceful protest.”
She added: “We got to get beyond that rhetoric and acknowledge that what happened were acts of aggression and destruction towards an institution, and there were some people intent on (harming) the people that were part of that institution.”
Murkowski, who is also up for reelection next year and has been targeted for defeat by Trump, expressed a willingness to back a bipartisan commission in Congress that would examine the riot.
“I’m one that thinks that there should be an investigation regarding the events on the 6th,” she said.
“There have been things worse than people without any firearms coming into a building,” he expressed on the House floor, arguing that Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 attacks were more consequential events.
“When Pearl Harbor occurred, that was more of an attack on democracy than the protests of January 6,” he said. “When 9/11 occurred, and I know it’s been so long ago and a lot of people that have forgotten apparently about 9/11, 3,000 people killed, the Pentagon was hit, the two World Trade Centers were hit, thousands died.”
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona accused the Justice Department of “harassing peaceful patriots across the country.
A fellow conservative, Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, tried to dispute that the protestors were mostly in support of Trump, despite the rally held that day that sought to pressure Republicans to overturn the Electoral College victory of President Joe Biden.
“I don’t know who did a poll to say that they were Trump supporters,” he said.
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.
Timothy Hale-Cusanelli liked to impersonate Adolf Hitler. He would strut around his workplace sporting a Hitler mustache, spouting vicious anti-Semitism while his intimidated colleagues did not dare to confront him.
An Insider investigation can reveal what is shocking is that Hale-Cusanelli, a Navy contractor, held a secret-level security clearance at the Naval Weapons Station Earle and had received numerous honors for his service in the Army Reserves.
Hale-Cusanelli also has a history of arrests and antagonizing his local Jewish community, the investigation finds.
The insurrectionist’s disturbing world has only now come to light because he faces several criminal counts, including obstructing a law enforcement officer and civil disorder, relating to his role in the insurrection of January 6.
‘The makeshift weapon was inscribed with …. a drawing of a confederate flag’
Even the most cursory of background checks by the Navy or the Army would have revealed that Hale-Cusanelli began dabbling with white supremacist philosophy at least a decade ago.
Hale-Cusanelli lives in Colts Neck, New Jersey. He was arrested, nearby, in August 2010 on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and criminal mischief, Howell Municipal Court records show.
According to a March court filing, the incident involved Hale-Cusanelli and a friend using a “potato” gun to shoot frozen corn at houses. The crude weapon used was inscribed with the words “WHITE IS RIGHT” and a drawing of a confederate flag, the documents said.
Hale-Cusanelli was found guilty of criminal mischief, paid a $180 fine, and the other charges were dismissed. But this was the first of many brushes with the law and early indicators of far-right views.
Run-ins with the police
Since his first arrest in 2010, Hale-Cusanelli has been charged over 30 times, according to court records.
Prior to the January 6 siege of the Capitol, court records show a string of minor infractions and some more serious charges – but no felonies.
In 2011, Hale-Cusanelli was arrested for stabbing another man in the abdomen, Asbury Park Press reported.
He was accused of an aggravated assault attempt, causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, unlawful possession of weapons, and simple assault, Freehold Municipal Court records show.
“There was an altercation between his mother and her then-boyfriend who became violent when intoxicated,” Hale-Cusanell’s attorney wrote in the defendant’s motion for modification of bond. “Based upon information and belief, Mr. Hale-Cusanelli intervened to protect his mother and was subsequently arrested.”
The case was moved to the state Superior Court but records do not show that it resulted in a conviction.
A year later, Hale-Cusanelli was charged with breach of peace, found guilty, and fined $189, according to Howell Municipal Court records.
Hale-Cusanelli was arrested again in 2013 following an investigation into scrap metal theft, Freehold Patch reported in 2013. Most of the charges were dismissed but he was found guilty of loitering and failure to have his car inspected, Manalapan Municipal Court records show.
Hale-Cusanelli threatened Jews. He said he was going to show up at their homes on the Sabbath.
Between 2013 and 2020, Hale-Cusanelli added Jew-baiting to his resume of petty crime and delinquency.
He was found guilty and fined for littering on state property in 2014, according to Freehold Township Municipal Court records. He also pleaded guilty to driving an unregistered motor vehicle a year later, according to Mansfield Township Municipal Court records.
But a more serious charge against him emerged in early 2020. Hale-Cusanelli was reported to the police on two occasions for engaging in anti-Semitic harassment.
Members of New Jersey’s Jewish community had already felt the force of his Jew-hatred.
“Those who followed anti-Semitism in the area knew about Hale-Cusanelli,” a New Jersey rabbi, who wished to remain anonymous, told Insider.
The insurrectionist was a member of the ‘Rise Up Ocean County’ Facebook page – a controversial page rampant with anti-Semitism that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy eventually condemned.
In 2019, Murphy’s administration sent a letter to Facebook addressing concerns with “racist and anti-Semitic statements on the page, including an explicit goal of preventing Orthodox Jews from moving to Ocean County.”
Facebook eventually removed it.
During the height of its popularity, Hale-Cusanelli was ominously vocal on the ‘Rise Up Ocean County’ page.
The original group’s moderator, Richard Ciullo, told Insider that Hale-Cusanelli had made multiple “incendiary” comments on the page and was eventually banned. Insider has seen screenshots confirming Hale-Cusanelli’s involvement.
In February 2020, the insurrectionist got into an online argument with Jewish commenters.
“Hale-Cusanelli was making veiled threats, saying that he was going to show up to people’s houses on the Sabbath,” the New Jersey rabbi said.
One of the people impacted by the Facebook feud reported Hale-Cusanelli to the police for anti-Semitic harassment on February 29, 2020.
“Hale-Cusanelli made vague threats stating, ‘I’m not scared of people knowing my face, I’m happy to be a lightning rod. Make me famous as your own risk,'” a police report seen by Insider said. Hale-Cusanelli also included references to the individual’s address, it said.
A week later, another person reported Hale-Cusanelli for anti-Semitic harassment and cyberharassment.
Toms River Police Department confirmed both of these incidents.
County prosecutors were also aware of Hale-Cusanelli’s provocative anti-Semitic behavior. He was on their “radar,” a press officer at the Office of the Ocean County Prosecutor told Insider.
A social media troll
Hale-Cusanelli deleted his Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts in an attempt to “obstruct or destroy evidence” before his arrest, federal prosecutors said.
Insider, however, has seen verified screenshots of Hale-Cusanelli’s now-deleted Twitter posts. In one post, the insurrectionist refers to Jews as “locusts.” In another, he targeted New Jersey’s Orthodox Jewish community.
He used his Twitter account to promote his YouTube show, “Based Hermes,” which he also deleted after the Capitol riots.
However, special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were able to recover content relating to the show. One YouTube teaser, included in a court filing, showed the insurrectionist falsely claiming that Jewish people were behind 9/11.
Hale-Cusanelli’s lawyer, Jonathan Zucker, argued in the defendant’s pretrial release that the YouTube channel was “controversial” but was primarily about New Jersey politics. Prosecutors refute this.
Investigators also uncovered hundreds of anti-Black and anti-Semitic memes from his cellphone, the court filings show.
A 2019 photo of Hale-Cusanelli displaying the “OK” hand gesture – a hate symbol associated with the far-right and white supremacy – was retrieved too.
Several images of the young man sporting a Hitler mustache and haircut were also found.
Hale-Cusanelli received several honors for his service in the Army Reserves
These discoveries did not surprise Hale-Cusanelli’s co-workers at NWS Earle Security Forces.
Many who worked with him at the Naval base were aware of his anti-Semitic views, Insider previously reported.
One Navy Petty Officer said that it was “well-known” that Hale-Cusanelli did not like minorities or Jews. A Navy Seaman recalled an incident where he said that if he were a Nazi, he would “kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
An HBC contractor said that spoke about his “dislike of Jews every day” and that people were afraid to report him because he was “crazy.”
Despite a history of arrests and racist behavior, Hale-Cusanelli received several honors for his Army Reserves service.
He joined in May 2009 and is still serving in the 174th Infantry Brigade out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, an Army spokesperson said.
He has never been deployed but has received four Army awards; an Army Achievement Medal, an Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.
One honor bestowed upon him, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, is awarded for meritorious service. The criteria for receiving it are “exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity,” according to the Army’s website.
Insider, recognizing the discrepancy between Hale-Cusanelli’s problematic history and the criteria of this medal, asked the Army Reserves whether they were aware of his past behaviors.
“Sgt. Hale-Cusanelli’s leadership was not aware of his prior involvement with law enforcement, to include run-ins, arrests, or convictions, or of the videos posted on social media,” Simon B. Flake, the Army Reserve’s media chief, said.
Yet, despite the insurrectionist’s arrest for his involvement in the Capitol riots, he has not yet been discharged by the Army Reserves.
Flake told Insider: “The U.S. Army Reserve takes all allegations of Soldier or Army civilian involvement in extremist groups seriously and will address this issue in accordance with Army regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to ensure due process. Extremist ideologies and activities directly oppose our values and beliefs and those who subscribe to extremism have no place in our ranks.”
‘He was granted a secret-level security clearance’
Similarly, the Navy had a blind spot when it came to Hale-Cusanelli and employed him as a security contractor at Naval Weapons Station Earle. His open adoration for Hitler, his vocal racism and anti-Semitism, were no barrier to advancement, and he was granted a secret-level security clearance.
A secret-level security clearance allows individuals access to information which if disclosed without authorization could reasonably be expected to “cause serious damage to the national security,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations.
To receive this level of security clearance requires a background check and the provision of vast quantities of personal information. A history or pattern of criminality might raise concerns about granting security clearance but it is not an automatic disqualifier, according to Military.com.
Showing an “enthusiasm for another Civil War,” as federal prosecutors suggest the evidence indicates of Hale-Cusanelli, would almost certainly disqualify an individual from gaining clearance.
Since his arrest, Hale-Cusanelli has been “barred” from the naval base, according to federal prosecutors.
Insider contacted the Navy Office of Information to ask about Hale-Cusanelli’s secret-level security clearance in light of former arrests. The office confirmed receipt of the request for comment but did not provide one.
Extremism within US military ranks
Prior to Hale-Cusanelli’s arrest for his involvement in the Capitol riots, there were clues that he held a white-supremacist ideology and might later participate in a violent crime. These signs, however, were not picked up on by military officials.
Hale-Cusanelli was one of many active-duty military members involved in the deadly siege of the Capitol. Almost one in five rioters were active-duty members of veterans, Insider previously reported.