“I would submit that weaponizing the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the intelligence community all against one administration was an attack on democracy,” Gohmert said to applause, suggesting that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was somehow comparable to the Jan. 6 event.
This was an event at which the QAnon slogan was part of the logo, so the crowd was certainly likely to be receptive to wild, unfounded conspiracy theories.
But Gohmert’s specific claim — that left-wing actors helped foment the violence that day — was eroded significantly a day later as the government unveiled a new superseding indictment targeting members of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing group that had a heavy presence that day.
According to the indictment, the founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, allegedly posted a message to the group on Jan. 4.
“It is CRITICAL that all patriots who can be in DC get to DC to stand tall in support of President Trump’s fight to defeat the enemies foreign and domestic who are attempting a coup, through the massive vote fraud and related attacks on our Republic,” it read. “We Oath Keepers are both honor-bound and eager to be there in strength to do our part.”
More than a dozen Oath Keepers are accused by the government of participating in a conspiracy that included, among other components:
... e. Traveling to Washington, D.C., for the January 6 operation;f. Bringing and contributing paramilitary gear and supplies — including firearms, camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection, and radio equipment — for the January 6 operation;g. Donning clothes with the Oath Keepers insignia for the January 6 operation;h. Changing into paramilitary gear — including helmets — before participating in the January 6 operation; ...j. Forcibly storming past exterior barricades, Capitol Police, and other law enforcement officers, and entering the Capitol in executing the January 6 operation ...
The idea that the group might need to engage in violence in Washington was established early in former president Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine confidence in the results of the 2020 election. On Nov. 9, Rhodes allegedly stated that “our posture’s gonna be that we’re posted outside of D.C., awaiting the President’s orders. … We hope he will give us the orders. We want him to declare an insurrection, and to call us up as the militia.”
This of course harks back to Trump’s clumsy statement during the first presidential debate that he was calling on members of the Proud Boys, another far-right group with a history of violence, not to stand down but to “stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys took that to heart, embracing the idea that Trump was asking them to be ready to act on his behalf.
Another indictment obtained by the government details an alleged conspiracy involving members of the Proud Boys and centered on Jan. 6. In December, the group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, allegedly declared the group would be in Washington on that day “not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow” but instead “incognito and we will be spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows … we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion” — suggesting that the group would try to pass itself off as members of antifa, an anti-fascist ideology whose adherents typically wear black.
The conspiracy indictment against the Proud Boys alleges that members of the group were at the forefront of the effort to breach the Capitol on that day. We say “alleged” because the charges haven’t been proved in a court of law, but there is a great deal of photographic and video evidence showing the indicted individuals breaking Capitol windows and entering the building.
The indictment targeting the Oath Keepers repeatedly quotes alleged references to the “plan” undergirding their presence. At one point, Rhodes is quoted allegedly commenting that all Trump was doing that day was “complaining.”
“I see no intent by him to do anything,” Rhodes allegedly wrote. “So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”
On a public radio channel, one member of the group allegedly offered guidance to the group at the Capitol: “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.”
Half an hour later, the indicted members of the Oath Keepers “maneuvered in an organized fashion up the steps on the east side of the Capitol — each member keeping at least one hand on the shoulder of the other in front of them,” according to the indictment. This action was also well documented.
One of the Proud Boys, meanwhile, was quoted taunting Capitol Police.
“We ain’t stopping! We ain’t [expletive] stopping! [Expletive] you!” the indictment alleges that Dominic Pezzola shouted. “You think antifa’s [expletive] bad, just you wait!”
It’s important to remember that the storming of the Capitol was a function of scale: Had there been only a few dozen people engaged in the effort, it’s clear that the Capitol Police and the metropolitan D.C. police could probably have repelled it. It took the thousands of people at the scene to overwhelm law enforcement, which gave the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys the opportunity to engage in the acts of violence for which they had allegedly come prepared.
In his comments over the weekend, Gohmert tried to deflect from this obvious pattern.
“I played in the Judiciary Committee, because I was sick of hearing it was nothing but right-wing extremists, a video of John Sullivan, who hated Trump and there he was, in the Capitol, bragging to this girl that — about how I told you we would be able to do this,” Gohmert said at the QAnon event. “And then he’s egging the crowd on and especially after Ms. Babbitt was shot. Trying to encourage them. To inflame them. It wasn’t just right-wing extremists in there.”
The “Ms. Babbitt” to whom Gohmert is referring is Ashli Babbitt, the woman fatally shot by U.S. Capitol Police as she tried to enter the Speaker’s Lobby. The shooting was captured on video by John Sullivan.
Sullivan’s presence at the scene has consistently been cited by Gohmert and others as evidence that “antifa” was on the scene. Within 10 days of the attack, The Washington Post had already explored the unclear motivations that brought Sullivan to the scene. His brother, James Sullivan, had claimed that John was a member of antifa back in October — while James was speaking as part of a Proud Boys rally in Portland, Ore. But left-wing groups had long seen him instead as a provocateur whose goal was, in the words of one activist who spoke with The Post, “to chase clout and get those media headlines.”
John Sullivan was also indicted in connection with his presence at the Capitol. The government obtained video that it alleges showed Sullivan at a rally in D.C. at some point telling a crowd that “we about to burn this [expletive] down” and arguing that “we got to rip Trump out of office.”
Sullivan turned over his video to the government, according to the indictment, and it includes his making similar exhortations on Jan. 6.
“SULLIVAN can be heard in the video saying at various points: ‘There are so many people. Let’s go, ’ ” the indictment alleges. “ ‘We accomplished this [expletive]. We did this together.’ ”
At another point, Sullivan admits to breaking a window in the Capitol.
It may be the case that Sullivan is an anarchist; the evidence certainly suggests that he had an affinity for chaos. It may also be the case that Sullivan, as his brother alleged while seeking to establish his credentials with the Proud Boys at that rally in Portland, identifies as a member of antifa. But to present Sullivan as culpable while ignoring the actions of people like Pezzola or Rhodes, much less the organizations they represent, is an obvious deflection.
Put another way, the argument that those who stormed the Capitol weren’t “right-wing extremists” depends either on defining the Trump supporters who participated using some less-stringent descriptor, which is fair, or presenting Sullivan as a stunningly successful provocateur.
The image from the Pezzola complaint presents a pair of images that the government argues shows the suspect breaking a window at the Capitol.
The image from the Sullivan complaint purports to show Sullivan entering the Capitol through what appears to be that same window.
This suggests that Pezzola’s role was perhaps of more significance than Sullivan’s.
That Gohmert and other Republicans blame the left for the violence at the Capitol has always been unjustified. As the weeks pass, though, and as more indictments are made public, efforts to divert attention away from the important role played by the far right on Jan. 6 become more egregiously weak.