Leaders of the far-right Proud Boys group, including its national chairman, Enrique Tarrio, have been charged with seditious conspiracy for plotting to storm the U.S. Capitol to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s election win over Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.
While this is certainly a move in the right direction, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol needs to make a full investigation of right-wing charges about government infiltration that could have involved inciting the mob to commit acts of violence.
This is crucial because the right, along with Trump, uses these charges to minimize or dismiss what happened on January 6th. If the government knew about what was going to happen or its agents played a role in directing and/or inciting acts of violence we need to know what happened and why.
One of the main instigators of the riot appears to be Ray Epps, a sixty-year old former Marine Sergeant from Queen Creek, Arizona, who has not yet been charged.
Epps had been put on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after the January 6 riot though was curiously removed from that list in July 2021—after Epps allegedly called an FBI tip line to tell them that he was trying to calm the rioters. A video, however, captured Epps provoking the rioters and even urging them to enter the Capitol building.
Trump Stirs Up Mob
Whether you label it a coup attempt or not, the January 6 riot was a criminal act that represents a failed effort to undermine the peaceful transition from one plutocrat to the next. The rioters broke into the Capitol building and U.S. Senate chamber unlawfully and threatened violence against elected government officials.
As the January 6 committee seems intent on demonstrating, Donald Trump played a key role in instigating the riot by stirring up his base with unverified claims of a rigged election.
Trump gave an incendiary speech on the Ellipse south of the White House fence in which he told his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” Right-wing militia groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who had been emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric throughout his presidency, served as the storm troopers.
Did the Deep State Try and Capitalize?
The question lingers, however, as to whether “deep state” forces were intent on capitalizing on the polarized political atmosphere and growth of right-wing extremism to try and advance their own interests. In addition to routine surveillance, might there be additional motives for planting provocateurs within the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other right-wing groups loyal to Trump who helped to instigate and carry out the riot?
The latter scenario is not hard to imagine given that The New York Times has reported on the presence of FBI informants within the Proud Boys who marched on the U.S. Capitol, and given the history of FBI infiltration of left and right wing groups and use of agent provocateurs.
The alleged plot to blow up the Michigan statehouse and kidnap and/or kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is only one of the more recent examples—in which the court threw out the FBI’s case and scathingly denounced its blatant entrapment and fomenting of a fake plot whose purpose was to burnish the Bureau’s reputation by thwarting a threat of its own fabrication.
The very fact that Epps had been mysteriously removed from the FBI’s Most Wanted list when he was caught on camera helping to provoke the riot raises reasonable questions as to whether the FBI was protecting one of its agents or had “turned” him, which is the way local police, no less than the FBI, procure their informants and assets.
Ray Epps and the January 6 Riots
On January 5, Epps was featured in a video dressed in army fatigues and wearing a red Trump hat, bragging to a crowd in Washington, D.C., about standing down Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists and urging people to march on the U.S. Capitol the next day. He even said: “we need to go in the Capitol.”
See video here: https://rumble.com/vo7gkb-ray-epps-quick-clip-compilation.html
The next morning Epps was videoed urging protesters to march on the U.S. Capitol while pointing them in the right direction. He said: “OK, folks, spread the word! As soon as the president is done speaking, we go to the Capitol. The Capitol is this direction.”
At approximately 12:50 PM, while President Trump was still speaking at the Ellipse, Epps was seen whispering in the ear of a man wearing a backwards Make America Great Again cap who then breached the police barricade, triggering the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
The man was identified as Ryan Samsel, who was later charged with unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol building, assaulting an officer and obstructing or impeding law enforcement.
In April 2021, he was “viciously and savagely beaten” by prison guards in a Washington, D.C., jail after they had zip-tied his hands. Samsel suffered a shattered orbital bone, and broken jaw and nose in the attack and lost sight in one of his eyes, according to one of his lawyers.
The New York Times Revelations and Their Limits
The New York Times reported that when Mr. Epps saw himself on a list of suspects from January 6, he called an FBI tip line and told investigators that he had tried to calm Mr. Samsel down when they spoke, according to three people who have heard a recording of the call.
Mr. Epps went on to say that he explained to Mr. Samsel that the police outside the building were merely doing their jobs, the people said.
Then in late January of last year, in an interview with the FBI, Mr. Samsel told investigators that a man he did not know came up to him at the barricades and suggested he relax, according to a recording of the interview obtained by The New York Times.
Samsel also stated that it was a Proud Boy, Joseph Biggs, who encouraged him to push down the barricade and not Epps, and that when he hesitated, Biggs “flashed a gun, questioned his manhood and repeated his request.”
The video, however, does not show any evidence of Biggs—who was on Samsel’s right—flashing any gun, or any hesitation on Samsel’s part. The video also shows Samsel—who could have easily been coerced into making false statements—pushing over the barricades very quickly after Epps whispered something in his ear; it does not show any evidence of Epps trying to restrain him in any way.
Epps—who could have called the FBI’s tip line in an attempt to protect himself from arrest or provide a cover story—appears generally to be encouraging Samsel and the rioters. He even looks in one fleeting shot to be physically pushing rioters towards the Capitol building after the barricade was pushed down by Samsel.
Testimony of Caroline Edwards
On Thursday June 9, Caroline Edwards, a U.S. Capitol Police officer who suffered traumatic brain injury after being trampled by rioters following the breaching of the barricade, told a nationally televised congressional hearing that what she experienced was “like in a war scene,” something out of the movies, with “carnage” and “chaos.”
During Edwards’ testimony, Liz Cheney (R-WY) showed the video in which Ray Epps whispered in Samsel’s ear and which then showed Samsel pushing down the barricades.
Edwards responded by acknowledging the role played by Samsel and said that Joseph Biggs, the Florida Proud Boys member who was recently indicted on sedition charges, had stirred up the crowd with a megaphone along with what she called the “Arizona group”— a reference to Epps and his associates who were wearing orange hats.
Edwards said that the Arizona group came out chanting “Fuck Antifa”—which is strange given that the purpose of the rally was to protest a stolen election and had nothing to do with Antifa.
House January 6 Committee Needs to Extend Investigation
If the House January 6 Committee is committed to exposing the truth, it should investigate the reason behind why the U.S. Justice Department has not as of yet indicted one of the main instigators of the January 6 riot and why he was removed from the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
By failing to investigate Epps and the mysteries surrounding him, the January 6 Committee leaves itself susceptible to the Republican charge that it is a partisan body (the committee consists of seven Democrats and two anti-Trump Republicans); investigating Epps would in turn add credibility to its efforts to hold Donald Trump accountable for stirring the rioters because it would erase the perception of a cover up that Trump and his followers will likely seize upon during election season.
Related to the mystery about Epps is a question about the numbers of FBI informants and possible provocateurs among the Proud Boys and rioters on January 6, which should also be investigated.
There is also the question about the delayed police response to the riots and lack of proper planning by law enforcement and the U.S. military when the threat of violence on that day was known to be real and telegraphed in advance.
Congress should additionally investigate the circumstances surrounding the beating of Ryan Samsel in prison, and as of yet unexplained death of Brian Sicknick, 42, whom the medical examiner claimed died of natural causes though was reported to have suffered from two strokes after allegedly being sprayed with some kind of chemical irritant.
Other oddities begging for more investigation are a) the death of police officers Kevin Greeson, 55, and Benjamin Phillips, 50, who were said to have died naturally of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; and b) the death of Rosanne Boyland from a drug overdose which seems very strange under the circumstances—especially given that Boyland looked to be in good health in a photo taken just before the riot started.
Finally, Congress should investigate the connection between the pipe bombs that were planted at Republican and Democratic Party headquarters on January 5 and the January 6 Capitol riot.
In November 2015, Epps curiously was arrested on trespassing charges in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, though after a summons was issued, the case was never followed up on. Police records do not specify that the case was dismissed only that the summons was undeliverable. What Epps was doing in Pennsylvania is uncertain. ↑
Proud Boys member Enrique Tarrio had been a one-time FBI informant. Thomas Caldwell, leader of the far-right Oath Keepers group, which was accused of being one of the chief organizers of the riot, was a former Naval Reserve intelligence officer and FBI agent. One of the unindicted co-conspirators was his wife. Another suspicious figure is John Sullivan, who filmed Ashli Babbitt being shot. He was exposed as an FBI provocateur who had infiltrated antifa and Black Lives Matters in order to cast them in a bad light and put them in jail. J. Michael Waller, a senior analyst for strategy at the Center for Security Policy, described the events of January 6 as a “political warfare operation.” He pointed to specific places where he “saw ‘agent provocateurs’ who attacked the Capitol with ‘a military-like precision,’ goading members of the crowd to cause trouble.” Journalist Taylor Hansen meanwhile stated that he witnessed “multiple agitators” on Jan. 6 changing out of black bloc clothing into what he referred to as “Trump gear.”
If Sicknick had no injuries, why would a 42-year-old man previously in great health suddenly die of natural causes? ↑
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).
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