Conservatives are hyping a new unfounded theory that once again shifts the blame for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot from supporters of President Donald Trump to the FBI.
In an 18,000-plus word article published on Monday, the independent blog Revolver attempts to suggest that a “Fed-Protected Provocateur” named Ray Epps is the true culprit behind the failed insurrection.
But the article, touted across social media by prominent right-wing figures, provides no actual concrete evidence for the claim and instead relies almost entirely on speculation.
Epps’ name was thrust back into the national spotlight last week after Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky) showed video of the Arizona man at the Capitol during an oversight hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Massie questioned Garland on whether federal agents had “agitated” Trump supporters into storming the Capitol while insinuating that Epps may have had ties to the FBI. Garland responded by stating that the Department of Justice (DOJ) does not comment on pending investigations.
Epps first became known in the days following Jan. 6 after he was seen in footage not only on the day of the riot but in video captured the evening prior. In the numerous videos, the former Marine Sergeant and former Oath Keepers militia member can be heard repeatedly calling for his fellow protesters to enter the Capitol “peacefully.”
The commentary from Epps was seen as suspicious by some, including several individuals who accused him on camera of acting like a “fed” during a gathering on the evening of Jan. 5.
Yet the evidence cited by Revolver never confirms Epps to be a federal informant.
One of Revolver’s arguments surrounds the fact that Epps’ name was removed from the FBI’s Capitol Violence Most Wanted List in July. The removal, Revolver argues, indicates that the bureau was almost certainly attempting to scrub their knowledge of Epps.
In reality, Epps removal only confirms that the FBI is no longer seeking the public’s assistance in locating the military veteran. Numerous scenarios, including the possibility that Epps was interviewed by the FBI, could just as easily explain the removal. No evidence has been made public, however, to prove any theory.
Revolver also suggests that a lack of public charges for Epps should also be viewed with suspicion.
“Ray Epps is a free man. He has never been arrested or charged,” the blog states. “Nearly 10 months after January 6, the FBI and Justice Department still refuse to comment on whether Epps has ever been served a search warrant.”
But in all the available footage, Epps never actually entered the Capitol or engaged in violence like those who have been arrested. Whether Epps could be successfully prosecuted for just telling people that they should enter the Capitol is questionable. Many others who did enter the Capitol that day still have not been arrested, as the FBI investigation is on going.
Other arguments made by Revolver include the fact that Epps could be seen calling on the rioters to not harm police. The anti-violence stance by Epps is painted as suspicious (ironic coming from right-wingers, but that’s neither here nor there) and part of a potential plot to protect “his apparently fellow officers.” But Epps’ attempts to stop the violent escalation could just as easily be used in his defense.
Revolver also goes on to accuse Epps of being “among the primary orchestrators of the very first breach of the Capitol’s police barricade.” Footage from the aforementioned barricade does show Epps present as protesters begin fighting police. Yet Epps at no point is seen fighting officers like his fellow protesters.
Revolver’s evidence that Epps must have instigated the confrontation boils down to a short clip where the marine can be seen pulling a protester back from the barricade before whispering in his ear. The whispering, Revolver argues, must have been insidious in nature.
Although the article in no way proves that Epps was working with the federal government, Revolver concludes its piece by suggesting that the case has all but been closed.
“In light of the overwhelming weight of evidence, this damning conclusion seems unavoidable,” the blog states. “We don’t expect a straight answer from AG Garland or FBI Director Wray on this matter just yet, and neither should you. Such answers only come with sufficient pressure, and such pressure only arises from repeated exposure.”
Despite its speculative nature, Revolver’s article made its way Monday evening to Fox News Host Tucker Carlson. Although Carlson admits that he can’t prove that “this Epps guy was working with the federal government,” the promotion of the piece was seen as vindication across social media.
Given how little is known, no conclusion can be made about Epps either way at this time. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Epps at some point has had a relationship with the FBI given his long history with far-right groups. But no one, especially Revolver, has actually provided evidence to prove that to be true.
Epps is just the latest individual of interest in an ongoing effort by Trump supporters to pass the blame for Jan. 6 onto outside groups such as the FBI and “antifa.” While the entire country is undoubtedly eager to learn all they can about potential foreknowledge or even involvement by either law enforcement or politicians, the notion that a handful of unproven infiltrators somehow forced hundreds of conservatives on Jan. 6 to attack police, break windows, and steal from the Capitol is outlandishly impractical at best.
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