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How pro-Trump forces pushed a lie about Antifa during the Capitol riot

Ms Ingraham, who told Fox News viewers of “anti-fa sympathizers” during the riot, later sharing on Twitter that the Washington Times article she cited had been debunked; it did not broadcast a correction on the air. Mr Herman, Limbaugh’s guest host who speculated on the antifa, wrote in an email Saturday that “it was clear that a large group of Trump supporters entered the Capitol and assaulted people.” But he continued to claim, mistakenly, that anti-fa activists plotted to pose as Trump supporters.

Of the 290 people indicted in the attack, at least 27 are known to have ties to far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys. Others have ties to neo-confederate and white supremacist entities, or are clear supporters of the conspiratorial QAnon movement. The vast majority expressed a fervent belief that Mr. Trump was the rightful winner of the election.

On January 8, the FBI said there was no evidence that antifa supporters, known to aggressively counter protest white supremacist protests, participated in the Capitol mob. And on January 13, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, spoke at Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial and said: “Some say the riots were caused by antifa. There is absolutely no proof of this, and the Conservatives should be the first to say so.

But the next day, the arrest of a protester named John Sullivan sparked another wave in right-wing media about the antifa and the riot.

Mr. Sullivan referred to himself as an “activist” from Utah and CNN mistakenly portrayed him as a “leftist activist” when he appeared on the channel on January 6 (he had sold footage to CNN and other media that showed the shooting of Ashli ​​Babbitt, a rioter who died inside the Capitol.) The Gateway Pundit conspiracy site and Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, seized on Mr Sullivan’s arrest to again blame the antifa in posts that have garnered tens of thousands of likes and shared on Facebook and Twitter.

In reality, Mr Sullivan was an attention seeker whose politics were fungible and apparently changed depending on the protest he was attending at the time, according to activists in Seattle, Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon, who had Posted warnings about him months before the Capitol riot.

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How Trump’s focus on antifa diverted attention from far-right threat

All of this weighed on the counterterrorism section, which has only a few dozen prosecutors and, like other parts of the department, was reeling from the coronavirus. A senior FBI national terrorism official also expressed concern to Justice Department officials over the summer about the diversion of resources.

At the time, the counterterrorism section was working with prosecutors and agents across the country on cases involving people affiliated with the Three Percent, Oath Keepers, other militiamen and violent white supremacists. In parts of the country, agents who had investigated the violent white supremacists have pivoted to investigate anarchists and others involved in the riots, in some cases struggling to find a plot or other federal charges to bring against them.

At around the same time, the FBI was looking for disturbing threats from the far right. Michigan agents monitoring members of a violent, anti-government militia called Wolverine Watchmen received reports in June that the men were planning to recruit more members and kidnap state governors, according to court documents.

After six members of the group were accused in October of plotting to kidnap Ms Whitmer, one of Mr Trump’s most vocal opponents, the president insulted her and reiterated that the left was the real threat. “She calls me a white supremacist – as Biden and the Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, the anarchists, the looters and the mobs burning Democrat-run towns,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.

Dozens of FBI employees and senior executives have been sent on temporary assignment to Portland – including the Tampa Field Office chief, who was an expert on Islamic terrorism, according to current and former law enforcement officials. – where the left demonstrations had intensified since the tactics. the federal teams have arrived.

Some FBI agents and Justice Department officials have expressed concern that Portland’s work was a drain on the bureau’s efforts to tackle the deadliest strains of domestic extremism. At the time, the office had around 1,000 cases of domestic terrorism under investigation and only several hundred officers in the field were assigned to them. The Department of Homeland Security even sent officers to Portland who were typically tasked with investigating border drug cartels.

Mr Barr also formed a task force led by trusted American lawyers in Texas and New Jersey to prosecute anti-government extremists. Terrorism prosecutors working on investigations into the summer violence were not given advance notice of Mr Barr’s decision. They questioned the rationale for the task force as it appeared to duplicate their work and could create confusion, according to two people familiar with their pushback.

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