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GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene held a press conference marking one year since the Capitol riot Thursday where they promoted a fringe conspiracy theory that the federal government was behind the deadly events that day.
They claimed that people added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list for breaking into the United States Capitol last year simply ‘fall off’ like Ray Epps, a military veteran who members of the far-right have claimed to be an ‘FBI plant’ goading Donald Trump’s supporters into violence that day.
‘Congresswoman Greene and I are not here to celebrate January 6. We’re not here to obsess about it, but we’re here to expose the truth, to ask key questions about what happened on January 6, what animated the violence, the extent to which the federal government had been involved,’ Gaetz said at the outset of their media event.
‘We know this — January 6 last year wasn’t an insurrection. No one has been charged with insurrection. No one has been charged with treason. But it may very well may have been a fed-surrection.’
The two firebrand Republicans countered Democrats’ solemn day of retrospection to with their own alternative slate of programming focused on questioning the security failures that occurred that day and undermining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s January 6 committee.
That included Greene appearing outside of the Capitol with the mother of Ashi Babbitt, the Air Force veteran who was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer when she was at the head of a mob breaking through a window near the Speaker’s Lobby.
Greene and Gaetz held a press conference fueling conspiracy theories that the federal government was involved in the Capitol riot
Greene and Gaetz sought to frame the Trump supporters who entered the Capitol as having been manipulated by undercover federal agents and those who were subsequently arrested over it as political prisoners.
‘We are very concerned that we have sent letter after letter to Attorney General Garland and FBI Director Wray to simply get to the bottom of unexplained circumstances where people are on the FBI Most Wanted List from January 6, and then they fall off of that list,’ Gaetz said during the press conference.
They played a series of videos that showed Epps, a Marine veteran who once ran a chapter of the far-right Oath Keepers group, directing people toward the Capitol on January 6.
There is no evidence that Epps ever entered the building himself that day and he was never arrested in connection with the storming.
In one video he’s seen in the street on January 5 saying: ‘I’m going to put it out there. I’m probably going to go to jail for it, OK? Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol. Into the Capitol…peacefully.’
At that point some in the crowd clearly believe he is a plant and begin to chant: ‘Fed! Fed! Fed!’
The following day, Epps can be seen in another clip dressed in military-style clothing and yelling to a crowd: ‘OK folks, spread the word. As soon as the president is done speaking, we go to the Capitol, where our problems are.’
They claimed Ray Epps (pictured wearing a red hat and directing people on January 6) is an FBI plant, a conspiracy theory that’s been circulating in right-wing circles
Pointing behind him, he adds: ‘It’s that direction. Please spread the word.’
‘Imagine if we actually had the powers of the January 6 committee, the powers of the federal government to understand why Ray Epps, the evening of the 5th is out telling people dispassionately, professionally, with laser focus that the objective is to enter the United States Capitol building?’ Gaetz said on Thursday.
He claimed Epps was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List but was mysteriously removed after right-wing blog Revolver labeled him a ‘Fed-protected provocateur.’
But rather than disband the committee, Gaetz said he would want to reshape it if Republicans took back the majority in 2022.
‘I would throw off the tyrants that are on that committee now. I would make Marjorie Taylor Greene the chair. I would make Darren Beattie the staff director, and then we would get the truth in front of the American people,’ he said.
Gaetz also lashed out at GOP Senator Ted Cruz, who yesterday branded the riot a ‘violent terrorist attack.’
‘The establishment will never love you, Ted,’ Gaetz quipped.
‘You can bend over — bend the knee for them, but they’re just not gonna love you.’
Cruz’s comments at a Wednesday Senate Rules Committee hearing are more in line with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reflections a year after the insurrection than with Trump’s, though like most allies of the former president he didn’t ascribe him any blame.
Greene also appeared alongside Ashli Babbitt’s mother Micki Witthoeft who came to the Capitol on the year anniversary of her daughter getting shot and killed while breaking into the facility
Greene and Witthoeft stood arm-in-arm as the grieving mother claimed her daughter was ‘executed’ and the election was ‘stolen’ from Donald Trump
‘I think that’s maybe an effort by the good senator — who we agree with on many, many things — to recast himself in the eyes of some of the folks in your profession,’ Gaetz told the journalists, adding: ‘But we didn’t find it particularly factual or sincere.’
Greene said she ‘completely disagrees’ with Cruz and criticized his comments as ‘irresponsible.’
Earlier in the day she appeared alongside Micki Witthoeft, who stood outside the Capitol and declared the riot where her daughter Ashli Babbitt was killed was a ‘protest’ and not an ‘insurrection.’
‘The mainstream media needs to stop pushing that narrative forward and at this point, that should be a libelous comment,’ Witthoeft said standing next to Greene.
‘My daughter was a proud American patriot, she served this country her whole adult life, she loved God, loved America, loved her family, and came to DC to hear Donald Trump speak about a stolen election.’
Babbitt’s mother said ‘she was murdered by a careless, reckless Capitol police officer, Michael Byrd, who should’ve been fired two years ago.’
Last year two separate investigations, one by the Justice Department and an internal Capitol Police probe, cleared Byrd of any wrongdoing.