Donald Trump supporters were openly discussing bringing arms to the U.S. Capitol to launch a “revolution” on Jan. 6, according to FBI intelligence, NBC News reported Monday.
The information was revealed in a court filing last week, about the same time FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Oversight Committee that the agency “did not have actionable intelligence that indicated that hundreds of people were going to breach the Capitol or storm the Capitol.”
But an investigative report in February by FBI Special Agent Patricia Norden stated that “users in multiple online groups and platforms discussed traveling to the Capitol armed or making plans to start a ‘revolution’ on that day,” according to NBC. “Individuals participating in the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally were angered about the results of the 2020 presidential election,” the report added.
Talk of revolution was “found in a review of open source and social media posts leading up to and during the event,” according to Norden.
It wasn’t clear from the agent’s report when the FBI learned of calls for a revolution, but the information appeared to be easily obtainable before Jan. 6.
Wray appeared to be evasive in his House testimony last Tuesday on what social media intelligence the FBI may have collected.
“We have very specific policies … that govern our ability to use social media,” he said. “When we have an authorized purpose and proper predication, there’s a lot of things we can do on social media, and we do do, and we aggressively do. But what we can’t do … without proper predication and an authorized purpose, [is] just monitor ‘just in case’ on social media.”
Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) revealed during the hearing that the panel had obtained documents showing that the social media company Parler, a favorite of extremists, had referred evidence of planned violence at the U.S. Capitol to the FBI more than 50 times. The company said it “even alerted law enforcement to specific threats of violence being planned at the Capitol,” according to Maloney.
Maloney cited posts reading: “This is not a rally and it’s no longer a protest. This is a final stand where we are drawing the red line at Capitol Hill.” Another noted: “Everyone is coming with weapons.” One post stated: “Don’t be surprised if we take the Capitol.”
Wray responded that he was unaware or the posts or that Parler had reached out to his office ahead of the violence. He said branch offices may have known.
Wray’s testimony was attacked as “stingy and unenlightening” in a Washington Post opinion piece by New York University law professors Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann. Goodman previously worked as special counsel at the Defense Department, and Weissmann served as FBI general counsel.
“Like many Americans, lawmakers have been astonished that the FBI and other agencies did not pick up on the threats of violence broadcast for weeks on social media by Trump supporters and militia groups before Jan. 6,” they wrote.
“There were acts of violence and widely reported threats of more in the run-up to Jan. 6. FBI internal rules would have permitted an assessment of those dangers,” they added.
Norden’s report was cited in a court filing as part of the FBI’s rationale for opening an investigation into retired New York Police Department officer Thomas Webster, who was indicted in March on seven criminal counts after he admitted attacking a U.S. Capitol Police officer in the riot. Webster has pleaded not guilty, claiming he was struck first.
The Justice Department last week released body-camera footage of Webster at the Capitol. It can be seen here, but be warned, it’s disturbing:
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