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Conservatives say former FBI director James Comey knew about the Orlando nightclub shooter long before the June 2016 rampage took place. Theories about the depth of that knowledge gained traction Monday after it was revealed that Omar Mateen’s father, a former FBI informant under criminal investigation, succeeded in encouraging authorities to dismiss his son’s pro-terror comments as nothing more than “stupid” in 2006.
Prosecutors said via email these new details are relevant in the ongoing trial of the attacker’s widow, Noor Salman, who is charged with aiding her husband in planning the June 2016 attack.
In the email, prosecutors acknowledged for the first time the relationship between the FBI and Seddique Mateen, the shooter’s father, who was a confidential FBI source between January 2005 until June 2016. He is currently under investigation for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan in early 2016 based on evidence found in his home after his son’s attack.
FBI Special Agent Juvenal Martin, who took to the stand on Monday, said that Omar Mateen, a security guard, had been reported to authorities by work colleagues for comments he’d made about his connections with terror groups. Comey had said this was the case in the aftermath of the Orlando attack.
“We first became aware of [Mateen] in 2013, while he was working as a security guard at a local courthouse,” Comey told reporters at the time. “He made inflammatory and contradictory statements about terrorism that raised concern with his coworkers, and claimed family connections to al-Qaida.”
Martin, who said that he was directly responsible for Seddique Mateen, claimed Omar Mateen was interviewed three times by law enforcement about the reports that had been made. According to Martin, FBI dismissed the reports after Mateen’s father explained away some of his family’s connections while insisting that his son “was being stupid.”
The father called Martin upset with his son, said something like “If he had done those things he was being stupid,” Martin testified.— Krista M. Torralva (@KMTorralva) March 26, 2018
After not finding connections to terrorism, Martin said he considered also cultivating Omar Mateen as an informant.
But three years later, Mateen would kill 49 people in a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. While doing so, he pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in a frantic 911 call.
That the FBI knew of Mateen has been established, and people on both the left and right have criticized this as an outrageous investigative failure. For conservative pundits and the pro-Trump right, Monday’s disclosure has reopened interest and proves a darker conspiracy.
James #Comey knew about the #Orlando Pulse terrorist before the attack.— Laura Loomer (@LauraLoomer) March 26, 2018
He also said an FBI informant told @FBI Omar Mateen wasn't radicalized anymore.
Today we found out Mateen's father was an @FBI informant.
Is he the same informant who misled the FBI?https://t.co/PtU7ZSfeLe
Let's be clear.— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) March 26, 2018
The dad of the Orlando Muslim terrorist who killed 50 people was on #Mueller and @Comey's FBI payroll, most likely being run or ultimately supervised by #McCabe.
Those three, and this entire thing, get dirtier by the minute https://t.co/t41XMHnc83
“[Seddique] Mateen was also being paid by the Mueller-Comey FBI,” Jim Hoft claimed on right-wing blog the Gateway Pundit.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller served as FBI director until 2013 and was replaced by Comey. Both men have found themselves on the wrong side of President Donald Trump and his supporters. Mueller, for his investigation into potential Trump campaign collusion with Moscow, and Comey, who was fired by the president last May after leading multiple investigations related to the 2016 election.
The burgeoning notion about Mateen could flourish in several directions, and it may well play into a wider established conspiracy that tied him to Trump’s Democratic presidential rival in the election, Hillary Clinton, after he was spotted at a rally.
But the news of Mateen’s relationship with the FBI could have a more immediate impact on the court.
The detail was entirely new to Salman’s defense team. Her lawyers filed a federal court motion on Monday asking for a mistrial, saying that the government withholding the disclosure violated Salman’s due process and that prosecutors should have disclosed the information earlier.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.