A group of right-wing militia members arrived in Washington bent on breaching the U.S. Capitol and booked a room for two in a motel in Arlington, Virginia, for at least six fellow Oath Keepers.
“This is a good location and would allow us to hunt at night if we wanted to,” commander Thomas E. Caldwell, 65, of Virginia, said via Facebook on the eve of then-President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, attorney McCall Calhoun Jr. was on the road heading from Americas, Georgia, to Washington. The FBI had gotten a call on Nov. 12 from an alarmed tipster who quoted a Calhoun social media post as saying, “We are going to kill every last communist who stands in Trump’s way.”
On Jan. 2, John Earl Sullivan (known on social media as Jayden X), one of the few left-wing extremists identified and arrested so far as a Capitol invader, told his followers: “Time to burn it all down.” His post featured the hashtags “blm” and “antifa” and the goal — “abolish capitalism.” (Black Lives Matters and Antifa want an end to capitalism.)
These snapshots of rioters are found in scores of law enforcement affidavits, the government’s first rough official histories of the calamitous Jan. 6 assault on Congress.
In more than 100 U.S. District Court affidavits, FBI agents, federal marshals and police officers justify arrest warrants on charges of conspiracy, violent entry, assaulting officers and disorderly conduct. They are helped by videos rioters took and posted of their own law-breaking.
The narratives create a picture of the Capitol invasion by a number of Trump supporters after hearing his speech on how the election was stolen for President Biden. Courts in five states dismissed election fraud complaints filed by Trump lawyers. Former Attorney General William P. Barr said he saw no major election fraud that changed the outcome.
Among the rally-goers wearing Make America Great Again hats were hard-core, violence-prone activists who had planned days earlier to breach the Capitol and block Congress from affirming Mr. Biden’s electoral victory. The accused urged the throng to advance on outnumbered Capitol Police officers. They came with all the tools: bullhorns, guns, tactical vests, crowbars, batons, body armor, gas masks, pepper spray, camouflage attire, Tasers and helmets.
Near Congress, police found a GMC Sierra 1500 stocked with Molotov cocktails, an assault rifle, handguns and ammunition. Officers arrested owner Lonnie Coffman of Alabama.
The Oath Keepers at the Virginia motel included Mr. Caldwell; Jessica Watkins, who says she commands the Ohio Regular Militia; and Donovan Crowl.
“Records obtained from Facebook indicate that Caldwell was involved in planning and coordinating the January 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol in which Watkins, Crowl and other Oath Keeper militia members participated,” the affidavit against them states.
On New Year’s Day, Mr. Crowl sent a Facebook message to Mr. Caldwell: “Happy New Year to you Sir!! Guess I’ll be seeing you soon. Will probably call you tomorrow … mainly because … Iike to know wtf plan is. You are the man Commander.”
Mr. Caldwell said on Facebook that day that he had not heard from the overall commander. “This one we are doing on our own,” he said. “We will link up with the north carolina crew.”
The FBI describes the Oath Keepers as a “large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights. Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, what differentiates them from other anti-government groups is their explicit focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first responders personnel.”
The “oath” refers to that taken by federal officeholders to defend the U.S. Constitution.
Video and social media posts show the three militia members who led the Capitol incursion.
Mr. Caldwell later posted a Facebook message and video: “Us storming the castle. Please share … I am such an instigator!”
All the way from Georgia
McCall Calhoun Jr., the attorney from Americus, Georgia, was more blunt in his plans for visiting Washington. He began issuing messages in November, according to a witness. He clearly planned for an invasion.
The affidavit against him quotes Mr. Calhoun as saying: “Some of you will live long enough to be exterminated with extreme prejudice” and “it’s going to be hard to buy a beer when Democrats are being shot on site …”
On the Parler messaging platform on Jan. 5, he wrote: “Headed to D.C. to give the GOP some backbone — to let them know this is their last chance to Stop The Steal — or they are going to have bigger problems than these coddled Antifa burning down their safe spaces. DC announced it is ‘banning guns’ when we storm the Capitol tomorrow. Very illegal. Whether the police can enforce their gun laws depends on how many armed Patriots show up.”
On the day of the rally, he posted on Facebook: “We’re going to get inside the Capitol before this ends.”
Once done, he posted: “Today the American People proved that we have the power. We physically took control of the Capitol Building in a hand to hand hostile takeover.”
Mr. Calhoun did not follow through with his violent threats. Prosecutors charged him with invading the Capitol and disorderly conduct.
Mother and son
Lisa Marie Eisenhart and Eric G. Munchel were a mother-and-son team on Jan. 6.
Mr. Munchel is one of the more infamous protesters. His gear included camouflage attire, zip-tie handcuffs used by police to detain suspects, a chest-mounted camera and a hip holster.
He and his mom entered together, and at one point, the two joined a mob chasing two police officers, the FBI affidavit against them states.
“Eisenhart and Munchel immediately follow behind the individuals pursuing the officers,” the document says. “Munchel and Eisenhart are seen holding flex cuffs in each of their hands during the pursuit. The footage reflects that both officers ultimately made good on their escape to a lower level of the building, as well as Eisenhart then appearing to shout at the officers while leaning over a banister.”
The affidavit quoted an online Times of London story with the headline, “Trump’s militias say they are armed and ready to defend their freedoms.”
Mr. Munchel was quoted: “We wanted to show that we’re willing to rise up, band together and fight if necessary. Same as our forefathers, who established this country in 1776.”
His mother said: “This country was founded on revolution … I’d rather die a 57-year-old woman than live under oppression. I’d rather die and would rather fight.”
Prosecutors charged the pair, who shared addresses in Georgia and Florida, with conspiracy and violent entry.
Assault on police
The Texas team of Ryan T. Nichols and Alex K. Harkrider instigated the invasion and carried items that indicated a plan to break into the Capitol, according to an affidavit. Mr. Nichols carried a bullhorn, a crowbar and pepper spray, the latter of which he unleashed on police; Mr. Harkrider brandished a baton.
On Dec. 24, Mr. Nichols posted a photo of a bullet on Facebook: “By bullet or ballot restoration of the republic is coming.”
At the Capitol, Mr. Nichols yelled into his bullhorn, “If you have a weapon, you need to get your weapon. This is the second revolution right here folks … [Vice President Mike] Pence better do the right thing or we’re going to MAKE you do the right thing.”
Mr. Pence, the presiding officer of the joint session of Congress that day, had angered Mr. Trump by refusing his demand to send the election results back to battleground states.
As the Capitol siege began, Mr. Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m.: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
The affidavit says that Mr. Harkrider posted a photo with the caption: “We’re in. 2 people killed already. We need all the patriots of this country to rally the f—k up and fight for our freedom or it’s gone forever. Give us liberty, or give us death. We won’t stand for it.”
The government charged Mr. Nichols and Mr. Harkrider with conspiracy, violent entry and assaulting a federal police officer “using a deadly or dangerous weapon.”
‘Victory smoke in the Capitol’
Mr. Pence’s vulnerability comes through in another FBI affidavit, this one on the actions of Dominic “Spaz” Pezzola of Rochester, New York, identified as a member of the far-right Proud Boys.
The bearded Mr. Pezzola is one of the more infamous alleged rioters. His photo and videos were splashed across the news media. They showed him wielding a police shield to bust out a Capitol window, letting in invaders.
Lighting up a cigar in a video, he implies he came to Washington to seize the Capitol: “Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is f——-g awesome. I knew we could take this motherf——-r over [if we] just tried hard enough.”
A witness who knows Mr. Pezzola and his Proud Boy contingent came forward to repeat alleged remarks they had made about that day.
The witness, the FBI affidavit said, “stated that other members of the group talked about things they had done during the day, and they said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included ‘Spaz,’ said that they would have killed Mike Pence if given the chance.”
Prosecutors charged Mr. Pezzola with destruction of government property and illegal entry. He was ordered detained at a Jan. 15 hearing.
John Earl Sullivan clearly planned to instigate a Capitol rebellion: He said so on his various social media accounts.
He also helped organize a violent demonstration in Provo, Utah, where he faces charges for allegedly blocking and threatening drivers and damaging cars.
Mr. Sullivan described himself as a video journalist, though he has no such credentials. He filmed much of his own activities on Jan. 6, wearing pro-Trump clothing and a ballistic vest and shouting for the crowd to break into the Capitol.
On his website he sells black-Antifa-type garb, and he often repeats the lingo of Antifa and its “anti-fascist” reason for being.
Under the Twitter handle @realjaydenx, Mr. Sullivan tweeted on Jan. 1: “We need numbers to sho up No Fascist in DC-March Against Fascism spread the word Comrades!” His hashtags were “F—k Trump” and “Antifa.”
In another post he urged followers (he heads a group called Insurgence USA) to meet up on the Mall on Jan. 6.
Under his online name Jayden X, Mr. Sullivan posted a video of himself on YouTube on Jan. 6.
The U.S. charged him with civil disorder and violent entry. A judge in Utah released him to house arrest with a number of restrictions, including staying away from online postings and weapons.
As for Mr. Coffman, the 70-year-old Alabama man with a truck loaded with 11 Molotov cocktails, he was indicted on Jan. 11 by a Washington grand jury on 17 illegal weapons charges.
A magistrate ordered him held without bond, and his next hearing date is Wednesday.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at email@example.com.
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