Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Republicans adhere to debunked Capitol riot conspiracy theory

WASHINGTON. Republicans, who hinted last year that the man was a federal agent during the Capitol riot, are not backing down even after a colleague told them they were wrong.

Far-right Republicans such as Senator Ted Cruz (Texas), Rep. Matt Gaetz (Florida), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (Georgia) have suggested that the Trump supporter seen in the video that day could be a federal agent. or an informant. , implying that federal law enforcement tricked Trump supporters into looting the Capitol.

But on Tuesday, the House Riot Investigation Committee issued a rare statement that the man, Ray Epps of Arizona, had collaborated with the committee and told them he was not a federal agent or informant.

“Mr. Epps informed us that he was not hired, worked or acted under the direction of any law enforcement agency on January 5 or 6 or at any other time, and that he was never an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.” – reported in the committee through the press secretary.

Epps’ theory first settled on a website run by a former Trump White House speechwriter who stepped down in 2018 after CNN reported that he attended a 2016 conference with white nationalists.

Rather than abandoning Epps’ story on Wednesday, Greene and Cruz stuck to it. Green, who spoke out in support of outlandish conspiracy theories in the past, simply questioned the committee’s statement by asking if anyone had even seen Epps and asking if the committee’s interview had actually taken place.

“It’s not public,” she said. “They didn’t release him. There is no transcript. No video. There is not even any evidence that this happened. “

The committee chairman, Rep. Benny Thompson (D-Miss.), Said the committee interviewed nearly 300 witnesses last month; he did not publish the transcripts. The resolution establishing the committee requires it to investigate the attack and eventually issue a final report.

Cruz suggested there was something suspicious about the committee taking the time to expose the conspiracy theory.

“It’s totally weird that a fake House commission’s kangaroo court is spending more energy defending this person than anything else,” Cruz told HuffPost.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Cruise questioned Jill Sanborn, the FBI’s assistant director, about Epps. Sanborn simply said that the FBI doesn’t answer questions about “sources and methods,” an answer that probably won’t surprise anyone familiar with FBI standard practice – say, someone like Cruz, who has a law degree from Harvard University and has worked deputy deputy. Attorney General of the Ministry of Justice.

Cruz said Wednesday that this is still a good question, despite what Epps told the committee on January 6.

“The reason Ray Epps is known to many Americans is because in the video he actively and strongly encourages people to break the law,” Cruz said. “So much so that the crowd around him starts chanting ‘feed, feed, feed.’ An obvious and reasonable question is whether he did it on behalf of any government agency. Yesterday, Biden’s Justice Department declined to answer this question. “

In fact, the DOJ did not refuse to answer the question of whether any of its agents or assets encouraged criminal behavior. Sanborn did not say whether the FBI had informants in the Capitol or whether Epps was the informant. But when Cruz asked if federal agents, or those who serve federal agents, encourage criminal behavior, Sanborn gave a different answer: “As far as I know, sir.”

And even though Cruz mentioned “Biden’s Department of Justice,” the Trump administration was actually in power last January. There is also a very reasonable explanation as to why Epps was not charged: there is no evidence that he entered the Capitol, and there is no evidence that he did any things outside the Capitol that prompted accusations against the other members on January 6. for example, the assault law. law enforcement officers or destroy media equipment.

Immediately after January 6, Epps was added as number 16 to the FBI’s Information Search flyer. The FBI has not attributed any specific actions to him, as it does in other cases when it assigns an acronym to someone like AFO (assault on a federal officer) or AOM (assault on the media).

Other individuals, including a minor, were originally posted on the FBI website but were subsequently removed. It would have made sense for the FBI to remove Epps’ image from the FBI website if it was no longer “looking for information” about him, but was not going to press charges against him.

Cruise and Greene are not members of the Republican leadership in the Senate or House of Representatives, but they filled the leadership vacuum over the Capitol revolt. On the first anniversary of the attack last week, senior Republicans did not travel to Washington. Instead, Getz and Green held a press conference about Epps; Cruz brought up the topic this week.

Other Republicans seem to agree with their message. Like Green, Rep. Jim Banks (Indiana Republican) MP and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (California Republican) tried to put the name on the committee on January 6 before Pelosi rejected the appointment, said the committee cannot be trusted.

“I’m not sure why anyone would take this committee on January 6th on any issue, let alone this,” Banks told HuffPost.

Gatz, Green, and Cruz suggested that if he had not been an informant, Epps would have been charged with a crime for speaking on the 5th and 6th. The night before the attack, Epps said Trump supporters should “go to the Capitol,” and on January 6, he was seen telling the crowd to “go to the Capitol.”

This is a dubious statement. Donald Trump himself, shortly before the attack, told the crowd that they were going to “march to the Capitol building in order to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” later saying: “We are fighting like hell. And if you don’t fight with all your might, you will no longer have a country. ”

Given the unpleasant history of the US government’s persecution of disadvantaged political groups because of the content of their speeches, the courts have set a high legal bar for bringing criminal charges against anyone based on the claim that their speeches provoked unrest.

Member of the House of Representatives Adam Kinzinger (Republican from Michigan), Member of the House of Representatives Committee on January 6, wrote on tuesday on how Epps’ conspiracy theory was debunked, noting that Epps was not charged because he did not actually enter the Capitol and apparently “did not break the laws.”

Greene said Kinzinger essentially declared everyone in the Capitol that day innocent, including 225 rioters accused of assaulting or interfering with officers.

Ray Epps is an in the video telling people to go to the Capitol, organizing all these people to do it, ”Green said. “If Ray Epps is innocent, how can anyone be guilty?”

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