Records show Trump fans fueled Capitol takeover

  • Associated Press Doug Jensen of Iowa was jailed early Saturday on federal charges, including trespassing and disorderly conduct, for his alleged role in the Capitol riot.

WASHINGTON — They came from across America, summoned by President Donald Trump to march on Washington in support of his false claim that the November election was stolen and to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden as the victor.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump tweeted a week before Christmas. “Be there, will be wild!”

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The insurrectionist mob that showed up at the president’s behest and stormed the U.S. Capitol was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, members of the military and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals.

Records show that some were heavily armed and included convicted criminals, such as a Florida man recently released from prison for attempted murder.

The Associated Press reviewed social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest or who, going maskless amid the pandemic, were later identified through photographs and videos taken during the melee.

The evidence gives lie to claims by right-wing pundits and Republican officials such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa thugs rather than supporters of the president.

“If the reports are true,” Gaetz said on the House floor just hours after the attack, “some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”

Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters that investigators had seen “no indication” antifa activists were disguised as Trump supporters in Wednesday’s riot.

The AP found that many of the rioters had taken to social media after the November election to retweet and parrot false claims by Trump that the vote had been stolen in a vast international conspiracy. Several had openly threatened violence against Democrats and Republicans they considered insufficiently loyal to the president. During the riot, some livestreamed and posted photos of themselves at the Capitol. Afterwards, many bragged about what they had done.

As the mob smashed through doors and windows to invade the Capitol, a loud chant went up calling for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, the recent target of a Trump Twitter tirade for not subverting the Constitution and overturning the legitimate vote tally. Outside, a wooden scaffold had been erected on the National Mall, a rope noose dangling at the ready.

So far, at least 90 people have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanor curfew violations to felonies related to assaults on police officers, possessing illegal weapons and making death threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Among them was Lonnie Leroy Coffman, 70, an Alabama grandfather who drove to Washington to attend Trump’s “Save America Rally” in a red GMC Sierra pickup packed with an M4 assault rifle, multiple loaded magazines, three handguns and 11 Mason jars filled with homemade napalm, according to court filings.

The truck was found during a security sweep involving explosives-sniffing dogs after two pipe bombs were found and disarmed Wednesday near the national headquarters of the Republican and Democratic parties. Coffman was arrested that evening when he returned to the truck carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and a .22-caliber derringer pistol in his pockets. Federal officials said Coffman is not suspected of planting the pipe bombs, though he was charged with having Molotov cocktails in the bed of his truck.

His grandson, Brandon Coffman, told the AP on Friday his grandfather was a Republican who had expressed admiration for Trump at holiday gatherings. He said he had no idea why Coffman would show up in the nation’s capital armed for civil war.

Also facing federal charges is Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., a Georgia man who in the wake of the election had protested outside the home of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump had publicly blamed for his loss in the state. Meredith drove to Washington last week for the “Save America” rally but arrived late because of a problem with the lights on his trailer, according to court filings that include expletive-laden texts.

“Headed to DC with a (s—-) ton of 5.56 armor-piercing ammo,” he texted friends and relatives on Jan. 6, adding a purple devil emoji, according to court filings. The following day, he texted to the group: “Thinking about heading over to Pelosi (C——‘s) speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.” He once again added a purple devil emoji, and wrote he might hit her with his truck instead. “I’m gonna run that (C—-) Pelosi over while she chews on her gums. … Dead (B——) Walking. I predict that within 12 days, many in our country will die.”

Meredith, who is white, then texted a photo of himself in blackface. “I’m gonna walk around DC FKG with people by yelling ‘Allahu ak Bar’ randomly.”

A participant in the text exchange provided screenshots to the FBI, who tracked Meredith to a Holiday Inn a short walk from the Capitol. They found a compact Tavor X95 assault rifle, a 9mm Glock 19 handgun and about 100 rounds of ammunition, according to court filings. The agents also seized a stash of THC edibles and a vial of injectable testosterone.

Meredith is charged with transmitting a threat, as well as felony counts for possession of firearms and ammunition.

Michael Thomas Curzio was arrested in relation to the riots less than two years after he was released from a Florida prison in 2019 after serving an eight-year sentence for attempted murder. Court records from Florida show that he shot the boyfriend of his former girlfriend in a fight at her home.

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Federal law enforcement officials vowed Friday to bring additional charges against those who carried out the attack on the Capitol, launching a nationwide manhunt for dozens of suspects identified from photographic evidence

The FBI has opened a murder probe into the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly. He died at a hospital.

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