The DOJ made a lot of news yesterday when it alleged in court documents that various members of the mob that stormed the Capitol last week intended to “capture and murder elected officials.” Here’s how CNN originally reported it:
The federal prosecutor’s office offered the scariest description yet of the rioters who had seized the Capitol last week, writing in a new trial that the intent was “to catch and murder elected officials.”
This Norah O’Donnell clip from the CBS Evening News on Friday night shows how this was treated as the main story of the day:
The specific language on which all these reports are based comes from documents filed in the case of Jacob Chansley, the so-called Q shaman, who entered the Capitol with a horned cap and face pained in red, white and blue.
Around the same time this was gaining traction, the Associated Press released a separate report on retired Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr., one of the men in the Capitol who held flex cuffs, the type of cable ties used by law enforcement were holding people back. The AP reported the following:
A prosecutor said a retired Air Force officer who was part of the mob that stormed the US Capitol was wearing plastic zippered handcuffs in an attempt to “take hostages”.
Unspecified, US assistant attorney Jay Weimer said Brock “means taking hostages. He wants to kidnap members of the US government, hold them back, maybe try, maybe execute. “
In both cases it was alleged that there were plans to kidnap and execute members of Congress. But then something strange happened. The government suddenly decided to take it all back. It started when Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, DC, announced at a news conference that there was no evidence of a conspiracy to arrest / kill lawmakers:
So far, according to Sherwin, officials have not found “direct” evidence of a conspiracy to kill – as the federal prosecutor originally claimed in a court case that the Capitol rioters had attempted “to catch and murder elected officials.” But they are pursuing this possibility as part of the investigation based on the evidence, as CNN learned, and Sherwin added that the Counter-Terrorism Prosecutor is still looking into intergroup coordination.
There’s a pretty big gap between claiming that some of the rioters intended to catch and kill lawmakers and claiming that there is no evidence yet. Shortly after Sherwin’s statement, authorities went further and in fact requested that the allegation made in court documents in the Jacob Chansley case be removed from those documents:
An Arizona state attorney in a hearing on Friday asked a judge to cross the border in a recent lawsuit against defendant Jacob Anthony Chansley, a man who allegedly led some in the crowd in the first wave with one in the Capitol pass megaphone while wearing a spear and a fur headdress.
The entire line prosecutors seek to remove from their court records is: “Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the Capitol rioters’ intent was to trap elected officials in the United States government and murder. ” …
In court, Todd Allison, an Arizona Justice Department attorney, said that the DOJ may want to argue that type of claim if Chansley goes on trial, but is currently unable to say so.
“We don’t want to mislead the court by discussing the strength of specific evidence,” said Allison of his intent.
This is a complete recap of the history that led the evening news. It’s more than just a minor mistake. Regarding the claims about Larry Brock, the man with the flexible cuffs, he claimed in an interview that he did not bring them to the Capitol, but found them and picked them up there. He said he regretted doing that. Hopefully authorities can determine if this is true, that is, whether he bought these before the riot or found them inside. It’s the difference between a plan to do something and one not to have one.
The prosecutors seem to have been pretty sloppy here, and the media worked with the story because it’s sensational. It was correct to withdraw the claim, but questions remain as to how this became part of the documents in the first place if the evidence is not in place. None of this will help restore confidence in officials at a time when it is needed. Simply put, this is a huge mistake and someone should be held accountable for it.
On the other hand, I don’t think we can automatically reject the idea that some of these rioters were really dangerous. Whether or not he intended to take hostages in advance, there is evidence that Larry Brock believed he was part of a real insurgency.
Shortly after the November election, Brock posted on Facebook that if the election was stolen, the “fight will not be democratic,” said Moore.
On New Year’s Eve, Brock said on social media that the country was occupied by an enemy force, the agent testified.
“The castle is being stormed. The question is what then? “Brock said in another post, according to the FBI.
And Brock called a rioter who was shot dead by police in the Capitol last week as “the first patriot martyr in the second American Revolution,” said Moore.
Maybe this was all just big talk, but the fact that Brock ended up in the Capitol with flexible cuffs means it can’t be fired. Even if he hadn’t had a plan, maybe if things had gone differently, he would have been a real danger. What would Brock have done if he had met Mike Pence or Nancy Pelosi on the run from the Capitol? I’m not sure he knows the answer to that. It’s like the old saying about a dog chasing a car, meaning it wouldn’t know what to do if it caught one.
In that case, the dog would most likely be injured because the car is much more powerful. I think that would have happened to Larry Brock too. Had he and others got in a little quicker, they would likely have been shot by the Secret Service. Fortunately for everyone involved, it didn’t get to that point.