Center for Security Policy / March 5, 2021 – A top FBI official affirmed the eyewitness account of a Center for Security Policy senior analyst about the organized cadres responsible for attacking the US Capitol on January 6.
FBI Assistant Director Jill Sanborn told a Senate investigative panel that FBI findings “definitely” and “absolutely” comport with what J. Michael Waller, the Center’s Senior Analyst for Strategy, said he observed during the protest leading up to the riot.
Sanborn made the statement in response to a question during a joint hearing March 3 of the Senate Rules & Administration Committee and the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee.
In the article, Waller said that he observed four separate groups on the Senate side of the Capitol lawn during the march and protest:
- Plainclothes militants. Militant, aggressive men in Donald Trump and MAGA gear at a front police line at the base of the temporary presidential inaugural platform;
- Agents-provocateurs. Scattered groups of men exhorting the marchers to gather closely and tightly toward the center of the outside of the Capitol building and prevent them from leaving;
- Fake Trump protesters. A few young men wearing Trump or MAGA hats backwards and who did not fit in with the rest of the crowd in terms of their actions and demeanor, whom I presumed to be Antifa or other leftist agitators; and
- Disciplined, uniformed column of attackers. A column of organized, disciplined men, wearing similar but not identical camouflage uniforms and black gear, some with helmets and GoPro cameras or wearing subdued Punisher skull patches.
Waller wrote that he saw members of the first, second, and fourth groups directly involved in the events leading to the riot.
He specifically stated that he did not see the presumed leftists in the third group do anything wrong, and he did not accuse them or organizing the violence.
But that didn’t stop CNN, the Washington Post, and others from falsely asserting that he did, either directly or by accusing Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) of making false or baseless allegations in reading from Waller’s eyewitness account.
Waller told London’s Daily Mail that Johnson had read from and summarized his article fairly and accurately after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Johnson for spreading “mindless garbage.”
FBI counterterror chief testifies that the investigation ‘definitely’ corresponds with Waller’s report
FBI Assistant Director Sanborn, who heads the Counterterrorism Division, testified at the March 3 hearing.
Johnson used his allotted time to ask Sanborn about what Waller wrote that he witnessed. The senator read the section “Provocateurs Turn Unsuspecting Marchers Into an Invading Mob” from Waller’s article about the groups he saw that were directly involved in the attack. (The exchange starts at 5:08 in the video.) He asked Sanborn:
“Does that tie in to with what you’re uncovering as you investigate exactly what happened in the Capitol that day, that you had these armed militia groups that had conspired and organized to be there, maybe dozens, we don’t know how many, but that they were organized and knew how to use the mob to storm the Capitol? Is that kind of what you’re seeing?”
The FBI assistant director responded without equivocation. Here is the full text of her reply:
“We definitely so far are seeing a mixture of that, absolutely. We’re seeing people that got caught up in the moment, got caught up in sort of the energy, et cetera, and made their way into the Capitol, and those probably are the ones that you’re seeing the charges simply of trespassing. And then we’re definitely seeing that portion that you’re pointing out, which is small groups and cells now being charged with conspiracy that coalesced either on site or even days or weeks prior, and had sort of an intent that day, and they too probably caught people up in the energy.”
Sanborn thus put to rest the allegations in the press and among certain politicians that Waller’s account was dishonest or inaccurate, and that Johnson was spreading a false narrative.
Two bipartisan Senate panels unanimously admit Waller’s account as evidence
The controversy began during a joint hearing the week earlier of the same two Senate committees.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) co-chaired the February 23 hearing. Senator Johnson summarized Waller’s observations, read portions aloud, and asked that they be inserted into the official Senate investigative record.
All senators on both committees consented to having Waller’s eyewitness observation placed in the record as evidence.
In his two brief descriptions of the third group, Waller wrote carefully that he “presumed” but did not know the members to be Antifa or part of a like-minded movement, and that he did not see them participate in any violence.
In Waller’s words, “I presumed these fake Trump protesters were Antifa or something similar. However, that entire afternoon I saw none of them act aggressively or cause any problems. At least, not from my vantage point.”
Senator Klobuchar calls Waller’s account ‘disinformation’ and a ‘conspiracy theory’
After the hearing, Klobuchar (D-MN) falsely accused Waller’s article as being “disinformation” and a “conspiracy theory,” even though she did not read the article before making the allegation.
CNN, the Washington Post, and other outlets latched on to Klobuchar’s conspiracy theory comment and untruthfully reported that Waller accused Antifa of organizing or being responsible for the riot.
In one of the few accurate press accounts, the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal, editorially a harsh critic of Johnson, wrote a straight and balanced story of what Johnson said, based on Waller’s report:
“Johnson defended the Trump supporters gathered that day as overwhelmingly pro-police and suggested a small group of ‘provocateurs’ turned unsuspecting marchers into an invading mob.
“Johnson also suggested Tuesday that police actions — firing tear gas into the crowd — altered the psychology of a previously peaceful gathering, turning pro-law enforcement demonstrators against the police.”
Capitol Police intelligence expected Antifa
In testimony at the February 23 hearing, Steven Sund, who was Chief of the US Capitol Police on January 6, testified that his department had received intelligence from federal authorities, understood to be either the FBI or Department of Homeland Security, that Antifa would be present at the Capitol protest.
Sund cited a January 3 assessment by the Capitol Police Intelligence and Inter-Agency Coordination Division (IICD) that included “input from internal US Capitol Police intelligence officials, such as our Director of Intelligence John Donahue, who is an expert in right-wing extremism, as well as information provided by our partner agencies such as the FBI, US Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and the DC Metropolitan Police.”
“The assessment indicated that members of the Proud Boys, white supremacist groups, Antifa, and other extremist groups were expected to participate in the January 6th event and that they may be inclined to become violent,” Sund said in prepared written testimony. (Emphasis added)
FBI director: Haven’t seen Antifa evidence yet, but ‘we’ll continue to look’
In a separate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked FBI Director Christopher Wray about Antifa allegations. Wray told lawmakers, “We have not to date seen any evidence of any anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to ‘antifa’ in connection with the 6th. That doesn’t mean we’re not looking and we’ll continue to look, but at the moment, we have not seen that.”
Sund’s testimony confirms that intelligence anticipated an Antifa presence. Wray’s testimony confirms that the FBI takes concerns about Antifa seriously, holds out the possibility that evidence might surface and that the FBI will “continue to look” for it, and in effect validates Waller’s January 6 observation that leftist activists were present but were not seen committing any violence.