Prosecutors say Oath Keepers likely stored January 6 weapons at suburban Virginia hotel

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Jessica Marie Watkins (2nd from L) and Donovan Ray Crowl (Center), both from Ohio, march down the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. Both have since been indicted by federal authorities for their roles in the siege on the U.S. Capitol. Picture taken January 6, 2021.

  • Prosecutors say alleged Oath Keepers stored weapons in a “quick reaction force” outside of DC ahead of January 6.
  • In a new filing, they say members of the paramilitary group likely stashed weapons in a suburban hotel.
  • Twelve alleged Oath Keepers are defendants in a high-profile conspiracy case tied to the attack.
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Members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right paramilitary group involved in the January 6 Capitol insurrection, likely stored a cache of weapons in a suburban hotel outside of Washington, DC, in the lead-up to the riot, federal prosecutors say.

In a late Monday filing, prosecutors provided details for the first time on the alleged “quick reaction force” or “QRF” of stored weaponry outside of DC that they have claimed members of the Oath Keepers compiled ahead of the attack as part of their preparations for the possibility of even more violence.

Until the most recent filing, prosecutors had provided little evidence of the QRF’s existence, according to Politico. Despite Oath Keeper messages indicating the existence of a cache of weapons, Judge Amit Mehta, who is presiding over the group’s conspiracy case, has repeatedly pressed prosecutors for proof that the QRF actually existed.

Now, prosecutors say they have evidence that members of the Oath Keepers – 12 of whom are defendants in a high-profile conspiracy case tied to the insurrection – used a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, to store weapons ahead of January 6.

Monday’s filing is in part, an effort to deny pretrial release to alleged Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson, who prosecutors say can be seen in a photograph from the Comfort Inn on January 7, carrying what looks to be a weapon inside the hotel.

According to court documents, Harrelson texted a group chat on January 5 asking for the “QRF hotel address.” Another alleged Oath Keeper and defendant, Kelly Meggs, reportedly responded and told Harrelson to direct message him.

Prosecutors say about three hours after sending the text inquiring about the QRF location, Harrelson arrived at the Comfort Inn, where he stayed for about an hour, before driving to Washington, DC.

Cell phone data shows that Harrelson spent the rest of January 5, all of January 6, and the morning of January 7, in downtown DC. Meggs and other known Oath Keepers rented multiple rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in Washington, DC, where prosecutors say Harrelson spent the nights of January 5 and 6.

Prosecutors say it is “reasonable to believe” that Harrelson dropped his weapons off at the QRF at the Arlington Comfort Inn on January 5, then picked them up again on January 7, after asking in a group chat about the location of his “s—” the day after the siege. Another member responded by asking Harrelson if he had left it in the “Comfort Inn in that room.”

“Indeed, surveillance video from the Comfort Inn shows what appears to be Defendant Harrelson rolling what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator,” on the morning of January 7, prosecutors wrote in Monday’s filing.

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Surveillance video from the Comfort Inn shows what appears to be Defendant Harrelson rolling what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator.

Harrelson and other alleged Oath Keeper members who have appeared in court have pleaded not guilty, according to CNN.

Judge Mehta has kept some of the members in jail awaiting their trials, while releasing others because he said they didn’t pose an ongoing danger to the community, CNN reported.

Prosecutors have been fixated on proving the existence of the QRF, in part, to convince the judge that the defendants pose a more significant threat than the majority of their fellow Capitol rioters. Prosecutors have also been eager to disprove claims by the Oath Keeper’s defense attorneys that the group’s planning was actually about guarding against violence by antifa, and not storming the capitol, Politico reported.

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A Proud Boys member who allegedly pepper-sprayed police has been charged over his role in the Capitol riots

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Members of the far-right group Proud Boys make ‘OK’ hand gestures indicating “white power” as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building to protest against the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, US, January 6, 2021.

  • Another member of the far-right group the Proud Boys has been arrested following the Capitol riots.
  • Charging documents say Christopher Worrell pepper-sprayed police officers during the insurrection.
  • Worrell’s lawyer said he plans to plead not guilty and was only in DC because of Trump.
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More than two months after the deadly Capitol insurrection, the arrests keep coming.

Last week, the Justice Department filed charges against Christopher Worrell, an alleged Proud Boy, over his role in the January 6 riots, according to court documents.

Worrell is accused of pepper-spraying Capitol police officers during the chaos of the siege, among additional charges, including engaging in violence and disorderly conduct on restricted grounds, knowingly entering restricted grounds, violent entry onto Capitol grounds, and obstructing Congressional proceedings.

Prosecutors say the 49-year-old traveled from his home of Naples, Florida to Washington, DC, to participate in the pro-Trump rally on January 6. In photographic evidence from that day gathered by officials, Worrell can be seen wearing a tactical vest and radio earpiece and armed with pepper-spray.

Charging documents said a tipster acquainted with Worrell’s live-in girlfriend contacted FBI officials in mid-January to identify Worrell in pictures from the riot. The tipster reportedly said Worrell’s girlfriend told their mutual acquaintance that he was a member of the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys.

An agent then interviewed Worrell about his participation in the insurrection and inquired about possible planned violence for the upcoming January 20 presidential inauguration. According to the criminal complaint, Worrell was “extremely agitated and upset that the FBI was at his house.”

Worrell eventually acknowledged he had been in DC on January 6, but denied entering the building and any other wrongdoing, legal records said. When asked about his participation in the Proud Boys, he once again became “agitated.”

Worrell reportedly told the agent that the “Proud Boys were not a racist white supremacist group like the media tries to portray.”

Charging documents include photos of Worrell from January 6 pictured with other alleged Proud Boys and making the “OK” symbol, a hand motion associated with white nationalism. While the legal documents do not include any photos of Worrell inside the Capitol, one does depict him pointing his pepper spray at an out-of-frame target where officials say “law enforcement are positioned.”

The alleged Proud Boy was arrested Friday, March 13, according to Naples Daily News. A Florida judge released Worrell after his first court appearance, but the Justice Department immediately appealed the decision, and the chief judge of the federal court in Washington, DC, halted his release pending further review, CNN reported.

Worrell’s lawyer, Landon Miller, told the news outlet that his client plans to plead not guilty and denies using pepper spray against police. Worrell via Miller also joined the growing number of Capitol riot arrestees to blame former President Donald Trump for his participation in the insurrection.

“Mr. Worrell is overcharged without supporting evidence,” Miller told CNN. “Mr. Worrell adamantly asserts that at no time did he pepper spray toward any law enforcement personnel nor intended to spray any law enforcement personnel. He also asserts that he went to Washington, DC, and then the Capitol grounds at the direction of former President Trump.”

More than 315 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection so far.

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A pro-Trump Capitol rioter asked ‘Where’s the big Jew?’ while searching for Chuck Schumer in the Senate: NYT

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, united his caucus to pass $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

  • A rioter was heard asking “Where’s the big Jew?” while searching for Schumer’s desk amid the Capitol siege.
  • Schumer, the first Jewish person to lead the Senate, had been evacuated to a secure location.
  • He only later found out about the anti-Semitic rioter pursuing him, The New York Times reported.
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A Capitol rioter was heard asking “Where’s the big Jew?” while searching for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s desk during the deadly siege on January 6, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Schumer, the first Jewish person and New Yorker to lead the Senate, was evacuated to a secure location during the insurrection and only later found out about the anti-Semitic rioter pursuing him.

During former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, House managers showed security camera footage of Schumer’s bodyguards escorting him away from the rioters, who he nearly came in contact with.

Schumer became the senate majority leader on January 6, the same day that hundreds of Trump’s loyalists breached the Capitol during a joint session of Congress to finalize President Joe Biden’s victory. Earlier that day, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won their Senate races in Georgia, handing Democrats 50 seats in the upper chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking 51st vote.

Many of the rioters who breached the Capitol espouse or belong to groups, including the Boogaloos and the Proud Boys, that support neo-Nazism and white supremacist ideologies. A number of them displayed anti-Semitic hate symbols as they marched through the Capitol halls hunting for lawmakers, shouting death threats against then-Vice President Mike Pence, and disrupting Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The rioters also included supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a set of convoluted pro-Trump lies rife with anti-Semitism. One rioter, who was later arrested, wore a sweatshirt that said, “Camp Auschwitz,” referring to the Nazi concentration camp where more than a million people were killed during World War II. An insurrectionist, Bryan Betancur, told law enforcement officials that he’s a member of multiple white supremacist groups while another was identified by law enforcement as “an avowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer.”

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There were only 2 medics on site to treat wounded officers during the Capitol siege, according to new FOIA docs obtained by the AP

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A pro-Trump mob clashes with police on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.

A new investigation by the Associated Press showed that as Capitol Police were overrun by a violent pro-Trump mob at the Capitol on January 6, only two medics were on site to help and treat injured officers.

AP combed through materials received through 35 Freedom of Information Act requests made to law enforcement agencies in charge of securing the Capitol during and prior to the insurrection. The documents shed light on the disjointed nature of the security response on the sixth.

One of those documents was a memo from the only two medics tasked to help Capitol police officers in case things escalated. 

The AP reviewed the memo written after the insurrection by the two medics, Arlington county firefighters Taylor Blunt and Nathan Waterfall, where they recounted the scene and how they and Capitol officers were overwhelmed.

“We were among the first mutual aid teams to arrive and were critical to begin the process of driving protestors off the Capitol,” Blunt wrote in the memo. 

He added that Police officers were “being pulled into the crowd and trampled, assaulted with scaffolding materials, and/or bear maced by protesters.” 

In the documents obtained by the AP, Blunt said that alongside injured officers, rioters also sought medical assistance and that some members of the mob “feigned illness to remain behind police lines.”

During the storming of the Capitol, five people died, including one police officer, and two police officers died by suicide in the days after the attack.

More than 300 people have been charged in connection to the January 6 riot, with many facing federal and local charges. Insider created a searchable database of every riot suspect who has been charged.

According to the documents reviewed by AP,  the two Arlington firefighters were dispatched as medics after Washington Metro Police Chief Robert J. Contee requested help from Arlington County, Maryland, and Arlington County, Virginia, police departments.

Andy Penn, Arlington’s acting police chief,  said that their department would send backups for the “planned and unplanned first amendment activities.” 

The AP reviewed email exchanges between Federal Protective Service officers, who are in charge of securing federal property, on the day of the insurrection and Trump’s rally.

As Trump’s rally was concluding, a protective service officer whose identifying information was redacted sent an email saying, “POTUS is encouraging the protesters to march to capitol grounds and continue protesting there.”

Another colleague had noted that by noon, hours before the breach, at least 300 Proud Boys had gathered in front of the Capitol.

 The report made clear that alongside the Capitol Police’s security assessment about militia members and white supremacists, federal agencies also prepped for violence at the Capitol.

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Federal investigators are zeroing in on potential communications between lawmakers and Capitol mob in lead up to the insurrection

Christopher Wray
FBI director Christopher Wray testifies during a hearing about ‘worldwide threats to the homeland’ in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 17, 2020.

  • Federal investigators deepening their investigation into the riot on January 6, according to CNN.
  • Feds are looking at potential connections between lawmakers and alleged rioters ahead of the siege.
  • If a connection is established, lawmakers and staff may have to turn over personal communications.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Federal agencies in charge of investigating the January 6 insurrection in DC are reviewing communications between lawmakers and members of the pro-Trump mob, according to a new report from CNN.

According to a US official who spoke with CNN, investigators are trying to determine whether those who breached the Capitol were directly or indirectly aided by lawmakers ahead of the insurrection. 

The CNN report added that so far, there are indications of contact between lawmakers and rioters in the lead-up to the insurrection.

Some who planned or participated in the January 6 rally touted their relationships to members of Congress; as Insider previously reported “Stop the Steal’ organizer Ali Alexander says three congressmen helped him plan the rally that preceded the Capitol siege.

However, investigators have not yet sought warrants for lawmakers’ personal communications, nor have they found concrete proof that lawmakers instructed those in the mob.

Over 300 members of the mob on January 6 have been charged, with many more facing federal and local charges. Insider created a searchable database of every alleged rioter who has been charged so far.

According to CNN, the Justice Department has assigned more than 20 prosecutors to determine what groups organized the Capitol siege, who potentially funded rioters, and whether there is a link between lawmakers, their staffs, and alleged rioters.

Investigators have access to cell phone tower data, which they have been using to track down those who breached and left the Capitol on January 6 without being immediately arrested, according to CNN. And federally, the FBI is allowed to collect phone metadata as well as geolocator data for investigations.

According to the report, law enforcement officials have followed an “exclusion list” to track rioters who entered the Capitol, isolating approved mobile devices allowed in and zeroing in on the metadata of those not allowed in the building. 

The CNN report added that Democrats are pushing investigators to review Capitol Police security footage, to determine if any members of Congress gave tours to organizers of the Stop the Steal rally and breach prior to January 6, which has been alleged by some Democratic members of Congress.

Insider reached out to the FBI and Justice Department for comment.

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Proud Boys deployed tactical measures in coordinated attack on the Capitol, court documents say

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo Ethan Nordean, with backward baseball hat and bullhorn, leads members of the far-right group Proud Boys in marching before the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

  • Court documents detailed the weeks-long planning by Proud Boys members ahead of January 6.
  • Members of the far-right group were told to dress “incognito” and split up to avoid detection.
  • Prior to the siege, members discussed their hope to turn “normies” or non-Proud Boys loose on the Capitol. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As Donald Trump was delivering his now infamous speech to supporters on the afternoon of January 6, members of the far-right white nationalist group, the Proud Boys, weren’t among the thousands of pro-Trump demonstrators listening in the crowd, according to new court documents.

The Proud Boys had already set off for the US Capitol building. They arrived at the east side of the building before noon – more than an hour before Trump finished a speech that would later spur accusations of incitement. 

While the majority of Trump supporters in DC that day were listening to the incendiary words of the departing president, the Proud Boys, wearing dark colors, positioned themselves strategically across the Capitol campus to avoid detection, prosecutors say.

They “were not present for any part of the speech, because hearing the speech was not in their plan,” legal documents said.

Members of the neo-fascist group spent months fundraising for and planning the group’s participation in the Capitol assault, according to a pre-trial detention filing made on Monday for one of the organization’s leaders, Ethan Nordean. 

The court documents detail how the group, lacking their leader Enrique Tarrio – who was arrested in DC days before the siege – empowered new members, including Nordean.

A local and national Proud Boys leader based in Seattle, Nordean was reportedly nominated by fellow members to have “war powers” and to take “ultimate leadership of the Proud Boys’ activities on January 6, 2021.”

As early as November 4, Nordean and fellow Proud Boys leaders took to social media in anger over the election, which they believed was stolen, and encouraged both Proud Boys and Proud Boys supporters to join the group in preventing the certification of the Electoral College results, the filing said.

“We tried playing nice and by the rules, now you will deal with the monster you created. The spirit of 1776 has resurfaced and has created groups like the Proudboys and we will not be extinguished. We will grow like the flame that fuels us and spread like love that guides us. We are unstoppable, unrelenting and now….unforgiving,” Nordean posted on November 27.

Nordean also used his social media following to encourage his supporters to donate money, tactical vests, and other military-style equipment that Proud Boys members could use for the January 6 attack. For weeks leading up to the siege, Nordean communicated with various individuals who said they could provide funding, protective gear, and even bear mace to the group.

On the morning of January 6, the Proud Boys gathered at the Washington Monument, carrying Baofeng radios – devices made by a Chinese communication equipment manufacturer that are known for being more difficult to monitor or overhear than regular walkie talkies. The night before, members had been instructed to wear plain clothes and to avoid the colors typically worn by Proud Boys.

Nordean, dressed in all black and wearing a tactical vest, instructed his fellow members on how to use encrypted communications and the military-style equipment they had acquired. He then issued specific orders: “split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results,” prosecutors said.

When they reached the Capitol building, the Proud Boys did just as they had been instructed. Spread across the campus en masse, members of the organization – along with a growing number of other pro-Trump protesters – forced their way through Capitol Police officers and metal barriers.

It was a Proud Boy – Dominic Pezzola – who broke open a window with a riot shield he had taken from an officer earlier that day. Pezzola has been kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day while he awaits his trial, Politico reported. He is one of the growing number of Capitol rioters arrested that day who have publicly blamed Trump for their participation in the siege.   

According to court documents, prior to the assault, certain Proud Boys had discussed their hope to turn the “normies,” or non-Proud Boys, loose on January 6, “to incite and inspire them to ‘burn that city to ash today,’ and ‘smash some pigs to dust.'”

In the filing, prosecutors argue that Nordean poses a serious flight risk and danger to the community. Allowing him pretrial release, they argue, would allow him to plan, fundraise for, equip, and lead a group in another attack, a danger that is “unfortunately, quite real.”

When officials executed a search warrant against Nordean, they discovered a valid US passport issued to someone who looked like Nordean, the filing said, but none for Nordean himself. Prosecutors said Nordean’s explanation for the document’s existence in his home was “absurd.”

Nordean told the agents that his wife had kept her ex-boyfriend’s passport as a keepsake and brought the document to the home she now shared with Nordean, where she “just happened” to store the keepsake with her own passport on Nordean’s side of the bed.

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In Pennsylvania – an important swing state – thousands have quit the GOP since the US Capitol riot

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A crowd cheers as ex-President Donald Trump speaks during a ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign rally at Williamsport Regional Airport, May 20, 2019 in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.

  • Almost 19,000 people have quit the Pennsylvania GOP this year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
  • Nearly twice as many Republicans have become Democrats as compared to vice versa.
  • That is a marked shift from previous years.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Thousands of people have quit the Republican Party in Pennsylvania since the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday.

Of the 30,000 Pennsylvanians who have changed their party registration, nearly two-thirds – 19,000 – have been Republicans. Most have elected to become independents, but nearly 29% of party changes been members of the GOP switching their affiliation to Democrat, a reversal from the years 2008 to 2020. By contrast, just 14.5% of registration changes have been Democrats switching over to the Republican Party.

“Many Republicans are aggrieved and embarrassed by the angry mob that stormed the US Capitol,” Kimberly S. Adams, a political science professor at East Stroudsburg University, told the Inquirer.

Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground state. Since 2008, the winner has gone on to the White House, Donald Trump flipping it in 2016 and Joe Biden flipping it back in 2020.

One effect could be shifting the Pennsylvania GOP, which largely backed Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud, even further to the right. A leading figure in the party, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, for example, helped bus people from Pennsylvania to DC on the day of the US Capitol riot; a possible candidate for governor in 2022, he has campaigned against mask mandates and recently introduced legislation that seeks to prohibit mandatory vaccination.

Not all who have quit the party are necessarily opposed to Trump and his brand of politics, however. According to a report earlier this year, the former president is toying with the idea of launching a party of his own, which could attract support from Republicans who think the GOP – typified by US Sen. Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican who backed impeachment – did not go far enough in supporting efforts to overturn President Biden’s victory.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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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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