Hard Questions About January 6
Hard questions about January 6 are being left unanswered because they might disturb the Democratic narrative. So let’s ask some.
Like the members of the Warren Commission before them, the people claiming the accepted narrative about January 6 is beyond reproach are the same ones blocking any investigation that might challenge it. Potential game-changers are wish-washed away as conspiracy theories. That is funny, given that so much Democratic flailing is built around a narrative of conspiracy—that Trump, in conjunction with a bunch of rednecks, worked to overthrow the Constitution through an elaborate scheme. In a divided America, not answering important questions simply gives those questions more credibility to the side asking them. So why just assign Seth Meyers to mock troublesome ideas when they could be factually disposed of?
The January 6 committee has not spent much time allowing for the possibility that the Capitol rioters succumbed to group think, like fans who swarm the field and tear down the goalposts. The only real cause of the day’s events that the committee has considered is Trump. The committee has no “Subject B.”
So let’s propose a Subject B: the FBI. It would take a simple series of questions from the committee: Mr. Attorney General, how many undercover people did you have on the ground on January 6? How many of them traveled to D.C. with groups they had elsewhere previously infiltrated? 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 of the agents stray from being after-the-fact accessories and instead become provocateurs?
You would think, at least, that the number of officers on the ground on January 6 would be an easy question to answer. Yet when Representative Thomas Massie asked A.G. 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 on 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. That is 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 federal agent. And Epps is still a free man. Why?
After Garland’s non-answer about undercover operatives failed to satisfy even the squishy mainstream media, the January 6 committee issued a statement claiming they “spoke” to Epps, who, by golly, said he was not a federal agent (there is no evidence he was under oath; Epps was scheduled to talk to the Committee again on January 21, though no one knows when or if information will be released publicly). The matter was dropped as cleanly as the “umbrella man” in the JFK assassination.
The always-helpful New York Times 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 “seditious conspiracy.” Without double standards, the prosecutors of January 6 would have no standards at all.
The Epps case raises two key points. Since Epps was talking about storming the Capitol the night before the riot, that would seem to be evidence that Trump’s speech had little to do with the Capitol riot—in other words, the plan would have already been 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. It isn’t a “conspiracy theory” to simply ask why, after some 737 cases have been brought against others involved in the January 6 riot, Epps has not even been charged. Or why Epps’ photo was included on the FBI Capitol Violence Most Wanted website at one point and then removed without explanation in July.
It is as simple as this: Under oath and before the January 6 committee, someone should ask FBI Director Wray, Attorney General Garland, and Ray Epps to give a yes or no answer to this question: Did Ray Epps work for or with the federal government? A yes or no answer moves the narrative forward and could even add to the credibility of the committee among skeptics. Why won’t they ask that question?
If Epps was working for the feds on January 6, we already know he was not alone. A Proud Boy who had been turned by the FBI was texting his handler from inside the mob. The New York Times also claims the FBI had a second informant in the crowd. The story has not received much play in the corporate press, because that 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 have claimed the attack on the Capitol was preplanned, that Trump incited them, or said anything to suggest their actions were born of anything but the events and passions on the ground. Quite the contrary; several of the rioters have stood up in court and admitted they felt betrayed by Trump and were deluded by his efforts to portray the election as having been rigged.
Undercover officers can legally commit crimes, including perjury. The same goes for paid sources, informants, and snitches. This practice of authorized criminality is secret, and its practitioners are unaccountable. It is in conflict with democratic theories of policing. It is carried out independent of an undercover agent’s ability to be listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. That fact is relatively meaningless anyway, as the easiest thing for the feds to do is simply not list the undercover agent on any charging documents. Is that what happened with Epps?
There are other simple questions whose answers could send the investigation down new and complex paths. While the Justice Department has called the inquiry into January 6 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, and why was the cop never even interviewed? Why, and on whose order, did 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? Why was he welcomed behind police lines once things got out of hand?
We would not need to ask all of these questions if the FBI and others did not have such an extensive history of infiltrating protests, provoking violence, and creating crimes. The Terrorism Era was littered with plots 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 agents pulling strings, it is hard to know if there even would have been a plot to kidnap Whitmer. For all the noise asking how high the January 6 investigation might go, no one seems to be looking lower—to people working that day among the protesters, just as they had in Michigan.
This is not to say 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 that some simple questions need to be answered. Because if even one FBI agent was part of yet another conspiracy to create conspiracists, or otherwise instigated, aided, or abetted what happened on January 6, that changes everything. If the January 6 narrative changes, so does 2024. It really does matter that the investigation go deeper, if only to rule out 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.