What To Know Today
FBI vetting leads to the removal of a dozen National Guard members from inauguration detail. A defense and intelligence official told the Associated Press that all 12 had links to right-wing militia groups or had expressed extremist views online. In separate reporting by The Washington Post, government officials said two of the guard members were removed because of possible extremist sympathies, and the remaining 10 for other reasons. The vetting of all 25,000 National Guard troops stationed in D.C. today came after defense officials expressed worry about security threats by service members.
Feds bring first conspiracy charges against militia over Capitol attack. Newly unsealed charging documents allege that Thomas Edward Caldwell, an alleged Oath Keepers leader from Virginia, and two associates from Ohio coordinated lodging, recruited militia members from other states, and planned in advance to forcibly rush the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors wrote that they are also aware of other conspirators: In an audio recording of the incursion, one of the three, Jessica Marie Watkins, said they had between 30 and 40 people involved. What may come next: National security expert Nicholas Grossman says the charges could signal that the Oath Keepers are facing an expanding law enforcement investigation. “You start with the really obvious ones, and then establish things in court, and then use those facts to charge other people with bigger crimes,” he told The Trace. “They will find out the numbers of people he [Caldwell] called within range of the attack. And it will not be especially hard for them to get warrants for those phone numbers because potentially those are other members involved in the attack.” More militia members face consequences for their involvement in the siege: After separate arrests in Colorado and Texas, at least seven people affiliated with pro-gun, anti-government extremist groups have now been charged, five of them connected to the Oath Keepers and two with the Three Percenters. — Chip Brownlee, investigative fellow
NEW from THE TRACE: Guns are banned at the Capitol, unless you’re a congressperson. Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert is one of a small cohort of newly elected firebrand gun rights advocates who have made a public show of wanting to be armed at work. In a new article, my colleague Jennifer Mascia looks at the 1967 law that bans civilians from carrying guns on Capitol Hill but carves out an exception for lawmakers. As she reports, a number of House Democrats — and even some Republicans — are now rethinking the status quo. Representative Jared Huffman, who is leading an effort to extend the Capitol gun ban to legislators, told us, “Whatever norms might have comforted people in the past, we have colleagues who are on team sedition right now.”
Impunity breeds insurrection: Lax responses by state authorities sent a message to right-wing radicals. ProPublica looks at what happened to members of the mostly white mobs of Trump supporters and mask opponents who forced their way into state capitols in Michigan, Idaho, and Oregon last year. Spoiler: Not much. The investigative news site draws a link between that lack of repercussions and the boldness of the crowd that tried to stop the election certification on January 6. “They couldn’t have done what they are doing without some notion of impunity around it,” a researcher who studies right-wing movements said.
QAnon-supporting congresswoman spread misinformation that the Parkland shooting was a “false flag” event. In a 2018 Facebook exchange, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, agreed with a commenter who falsely claimed that the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the product of a government conspiracy. In a separate post, Greene said: “I am told that Nancy Pelosi tells Hillary Clinton several times a month that ‘we need another school shooting’ in order to persuade the public to want strict gun control.” The comments were first unearthed by Media Matters.
As the investigation into the Capitol siege continues, federal prosecutors have now filed charges against people from 32 states and the District of Columbia. [George Washington University Program on Extremism]