Hard questions about January 6 are left unanswered because they might disturb the Democratic narrative. So let’s ask some.
As sure as the Warren Commission before them, the people claiming there is no evidence for non-narrative things are the same ones blocking any investigation which would reveal evidence. Potential game-changers are wish-washed away as conspiracy theories. That is funny, given the Democrat flailing is built entirely around a narrative of conspiracy, i.e., Trump working in conjunction with a bunch of rednecks to overthrow the Constitution with some Calvinball-level scheme. In a divided America, not answering important questions simply gives them more credibility among their believers. So why just assign Seth Meyers to mock troublesome ideas when they could be factually disposed of?
The Committee has not spent much time allowing for anything along the lines of group think, like when fans swarm the field and tear down the goalposts; the only real cause the Committee is considering is Trump. The Committee has no Subject B.
So let’s propose a Subject B, the FBI. It is a simply question from the Committee: Mr. Attorney General, how many undercover people did you have on the ground January 6? How many of them traveled to DC with groups they had previously infiltrated elsewhere? What was their purpose on January 6? What were their rules of engagement? In other words, what were they allowed to say or do? Could they scream “Yeah, let’s go!” and lead people forward? Could they give statements to the media misrepresenting the aims and mood of the crowd without revealing their identity? Did any stray from being accessories after the fact into Agent Provocateurs?
You would think at least the number of officers on the ground would be an easy one, yet when Representative Thomas Massie asked AG Merrick Garland if any Federal agents or assets entered the Capitol or incited others to riot, Garland refused to answer. Massie played a video of a man January 5 saying “we have to go into the Capitol,” and asked Garland if that man was a Fed. No comment, said Garland.
The man in the video is Ray Epps, president of the Arizona Oath Keepers, who is also seen on video organizing the first group to breach the Capitol, and that just one minute after a pipe bomb had been found, as if the acts were themselves a conspiracy. This all appears to have happened even before Trump finished his “incitement” speech. Epps refuses to answer journalists’ questions about whether or not he is a Fed. And Epps is still a free man. Why?
After Garland’s non-answer about undercover operatives failed to satisfy even the squishy MSM, the January 6 Committee issued a statement claiming they “spoke” to Epps (no evidence he was under oath) who by golly said he was not an agent and the matter was dropped as cleanly as the Umbrella Man was in the JFK assassination.
The always-helpful NYT said “while it remains unclear why Mr. Epps was encouraging people to go into the building, a person cannot be charged with incitement unless his statements present an imminent threat of unlawful action.” That too is funny, because a week later Oath Keeper Stewart Rhodes, who also did not enter the Capitol, was indicted on the legal pastiche of “seditious conspiracy.” Without double standards there would be no standards at all.
The Epps case raises two key questions. Since Epps was talking about storming the Capitol the night before, that would seem to be exculpatory evidence, that Trump’s speech had little to do with it, that the plan was already in motion. And of course if Epps was working in any way with law enforcement, that would suggest he played a role in getting the crowd to attack. You can’t just call it conspiracy theory to simply ask why after some 737 cases of others involved with January 6, Epps has not even been charged. Or why Epps’ photo was at one point included on the FBI Capitol Violence most wanted website and then removed without explanation in July.
It is as simple as this. Under oath and before the Committee, ask FBI Director Wray, AG Garland, and Ray Epps to answer yes or no: did Ray Epps work for or with the Federal government? Yes or no moves the narrative productively forward and could even add to the credibility of the Committee among skeptics. Why won’t they do this?
If Epps was working for the Feds on January 6, we already know he was not alone. A Proud Boy turned by the FBI was texting his handler from the mob (the NYT also claims the FBI had a second informant in the crowd.) The story has not received much play in the MSM, because the informant was adamant the Capitol attack was not planned in advance. In fact, none of the 737 people charged so far with January 6 related crimes claimed the attack was preplanned, that Trump incited them, or anything to suggest anything but that what happened happened because of events on the ground. Quite the contrary; several have stood up in court and admitted they felt betrayed by Trump and were deluded by his efforts to portray the election as rigged.
Undercover officers can legally commit crimes, including perjury. Same for paid sources, informants, and snitches. This practice of authorized criminality is secret, unaccountable, and in conflict with democratic policing when any lives matter. It exists independently of whether or not the undercover can be listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. That is relatively meaningless anyway as the easiest thing is simply to not list the undercover on any charging documents at all. Like Epps?
There are other simple questions whose answers could send the investigation down complex paths. While the Justice Department has called the inquiry one of the largest in its history, why has no information come to light on the pipe bomber? Official Washington is one of the most heavily surveilled spots on earth; why hasn’t the Justice Department allowed the release of more than a few minutes of the 14,000 hours of security camera footage? Social media only shows the riot in process. The surveillance video would show what happened before.
Why has the report on the cop who gunned down unarmed protester Ashli Babbit and faced no charges not been released (the cop was never even interviewed)? Why and on who’s order did the Capitol Police allow 300 people to simply walk into the building without resistance on the afternoon of January 6? And who was the man in a bicycle helmet whom video shows initiating the window-smashing that ended in the shooting of Ashli Babbitt and why was he welcomed behind police lines once things got out of hand?
We would not need to ask all these questions if the FBI and others did not have such a clear and present history of infiltrating protests and provoking violence. Hand-in-hand is the FBI’s history of creating crimes. The Terrorism Era was littered with plots that were built around the FBI recruiting “terrorists,” supplying them with money and fake explosives, and then busting them.
A more recent example involved a plot, falsely portrayed by the MSM as a precursor to January 6, to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. At least 12 confidential informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than just snitching. They had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. Without them pulling strings it is hard to say if there even would have been a conspiracy. For all the noise made asking how high the January 6 investigation might go, no one seems to be looking lower, to people who were working that day among the protesters just as they had in Michigan.
This is not say claim Ray Epps is this year’s version of the Grassy Knoll, or that the FBI laid on a Mr. X-style operation to destroy Donald Trump. It is to say the narrative needs to be expanded to answer some simple questions. Because if even one FBI person was part of yet another conspiracy to create conspiracists, or otherwise assisted, instigated, aided, or abetted in any way what happened on January 6, that changes everything. And with the January 6 narrative changed, 2024 changes. It really does matter that the investigation look deeper, even if to disprove any Federal involvement.
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.