To date, as Ryan J. Reilly notes, there have been over 465 arrests of insurrectionists from nearly all 50 states. Over 130 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding police officers; more than 40 are accused of doing so with a dangerous weapon. Nearly 200 defendants have been charged with obstructing an official proceeding of Congress, a felony.
The report issued Tuesday by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees found, among other things, that authorities has been in possession of a number of alarming clues from intelligence sources that they failed to act upon. Capitol Police had, for instance, seen information from the rabidly pro-Trump website thedonald.com that included such comments about the Capitol’s tunnel system as: “There are tunnels connected to the Capitol Building! Legislators use them to avoid press, among other things! Take note.”
The report also noted that a Capitol Police official had shared a tip the night before the riot of a “significant uptick” in new visitors to the website WashingtonTunnels.com. It was shared with the FBI National Threat Operations Center.
Other comments at thedonald.com made clear that rally attendees intended to come armed and primed for violence. Some encouraged demonstrators to bring weapons in order to subdue members of Congress and police with the intention of reversing the presidential election’s results. A sampling:
- “Exactly, forget the tunnels. Get into Capitol Building, stand outside congress. Be in the room next to them. They wont have time [to] run if they play dumb.”
- “Deploy Capitol Police to restrict movement. Anyone going armed needs to be mentally prepared to draw down on LEOs. Let them shoot first, but make sure they know what happens if they do.”
- “If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors.”
- “Bring guns. It’s now or never.”
- “If a million patriots who up bristling with AR’s, just how brave do you think they’ll be when it comes to enforcing their unconstitutional laws? Don’t cuck out. This is do or die. Bring your guns.”
The report also noted that acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman at times contradicted herself as she described the agency’s preparations for the day of the attack.
Pittman came under fire from the Capitol Police union, which issued a statement: “The time has come for those in senior leadership who failed us, to stand aside. It is not enough to scapegoat others. Those most responsible, including Acting Chief Pittman … need to step aside for the good of the department.”
The ranks of Capitol Police have remained in turmoil since the insurrection, especially as officers have wrestled with the reality that Republicans in Congress have been fighting against accountability for the people responsible, as WKBW reports:
“I served my country,” [Capitol Police officer Aquino] Gonell said. “I went overseas to protect our homeland from foreign threats, but yet here I am battling them in our Capitol.”
Gonell led members of the department’s civil disturbance unit. For hours, they battled the rioters attacking the Capitol.
“I got hurt. I would do it again if I have to, it’s my job,” Gonell said.
Gonell suffered a cut to his hand on Jan. 6. He also suffered a severe foot injury that later required surgery.
“They kept saying, ‘Trump sent me. We won’t listen to you. We are here to take over the Capitol, we’re here to hang Mike Pence,'” Gonell said. “They thought we were there for them and we weren’t, so they turned against us. It was very scary because I thought I was going to lose my life right there.”
The failure of a bill to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the riot left him devastated and gave him a reason to speak out.
“It hurts me that the country that I love, that I came in, that I have sacrificed so much for, doesn’t care about us. They don’t,” Gonell said.
The legal proceedings involving the indictees already arrested and charged have continued apace, dominated in their early stages by the accused insurrectionists’ pleas for pretrial release to supervised home confinement. Only a handful of judges have acceded to these requests, with most asserting that the threat they represent has not fully receded.
“The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away; six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention the near-daily fulminations of the former President,” wrote U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson recently in a ruling in which a Colorado indictee was refused bond.
Trump’s continuing insistence that the election was stolen played a key role in the judges’ thinking: In a similar ruling involving a Trump supporter from Michigan with a felony record, Jackson pointed out a text in which the man said he was in Washington on Jan. 6 because “Trump’s the only big shot I trust right now.”
The man’s “promise to take action in the future cannot be dismissed as an unlikely occurrence given that his singular source of information … continues to propagate the lie that inspired the attack on a near daily basis,” Jackson wrote.
Likewise, Judge Amit Mehta ruled in favor of detaining a man accused of throwing a hatchet and a desk during the riot under the same logic: “Unfortunately, the political dynamics that gave way to January 6th have not faded,” he wrote.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan similarly found that the threat of violence from a man charged with beating a police officer with a crutch and dragging him into a crowd remains intact: “The Court is not convinced that dissatisfaction and concern about the legitimacy of the election results has dissipated for all Americans,” Sullivan wrote April 20. “Former President Donald J. Trump continues to make forceful public comments about the ‘stolen election,’ chastising individuals who did not reject the supposedly illegitimate results that put the current administration in place.”
Sullivan took note of Trump’s Easter Sunday statement wishing a happy holiday to “the Radical Left CRAZIES who rigged our Presidential Election,” and noted a Trump speech to his donors criticizing other Republicans for not keeping him in the presidency.
In denying bond to physicist Jeffrey Sabol—who allegedly dragged an officer down the steps and used a baton to hold him down—Sullivan noted the same remarks. Sabol’s attorney had argued in court that his client now believes that he was “lied to” about the election. Sullivan responded that, given Trump’s recent comments, “There is ample reason to believe that fight is not finished for Mr. Sabol and others like him, making the threat of further violence present, concrete, and continuing.”
Not all judges have agreed. The Washington Post notes that at least half a dozen defendants have been released in recent weeks “in part by arguing that the insurrection was a singular event that could not be re-created. That argument was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found that the dangerousness of any individual defendant had to be considered in light of the fact that ‘the specific circumstances of January 6’ created ‘a unique opportunity to obstruct democracy.’”
Judge John D. Bates on April 12 agreed to release a former State Department employee who joined the mob pushing back against police in a tunnel under the Capitol, saying that “the specific concerns in the wake of the January 6 events over future protests and violent attacks on the government . . . have dissipated to some degree.” He noted that despite concerns, there was no attempt to attack President Biden on his Inauguration Day or to seize the government on March 4, the day some conspiratorial supporters believed Trump would retake office.
“The threat to public safety must be continuing and prospective,” Bates wrote.
There were several noteworthy developments in the ongoing investigation, including several fresh arrests:
- Kevin Creek, a Georgia roofing company owner who was captured on camera kicking and striking police officers, was arrested Thursday and charged disorderly conduct and assaulting and impeding officers, among other crimes. While it does not appear that Creek entered the Capitol itself, but was on the grounds Jan. 6 and was deterred by tear gas, and confessed to having been armed “with mace and a boot knife” at the time. Outside the building, Creek was captured in body camera footage striking one federal officer and kicking another. Creek admitted “the videos looked like him,” but said he “did not remember assaulting any officer.”
- Christian Kulas, a 24-year-old from the wealthy suburbs of Chicago, was arrested early Tuesday for taking part in the Capitol siege. He was charged with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct, misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in prison. Investigators had received multiple tips about Kulas based on social media posts appearing to show him wearing an expensive Burberry designer jacket and following crowds into the Capitol. In one Instagram video, Kulas had turned the camera toward himself, smiling wearing a “Keep America Great” hat and a dark designer jacket. At another point, a voice could be heard saying “storming the Capitol.”
- Rob Gieswein, a Colorado militiaman accused of assaulting an officer, interfering with a federal proceeding, and destroying property, filed a motion for release from jail that tried to argue that the 24-year-old was really a harmless fellow, and that his participation in a militia called the Woodland Wild Dogs that organized paramilitary training sessions was simply a kind of live-action role-playing game:
[T]his “militia” amounted to a group of friends who like to shoot guns, pretend to be in battles, and go camping to practice survival skills. Indeed, one of Mr. Gieswein’s closest friends, and the one who ordered “Woodland Wild Dog” patches for his friends, described it to the FBI as “more of a group of friends than anything else. There is no initiation, there are no membership rolls, and there are no dues. They are just a group of friends who like guns and Star Wars.”
Gieswein’s attorney also made the novel argument that “although Mr. Gieswein may have been holding a baseball bat, the defense has yet to see evidence of him ‘brandishing’ it in front of officers, let alone using it in a way so as to cause anyone great bodily injury or even an apprehension of imminent bodily injury.”