Ted Cruz last week begged for Tucker Carlson’s forgiveness last week after he called the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol a “violent terrorist attack.” Ted Cruz this week grilled the FBI about whether federal agents instigated the riot, an unfounded conspiracy theory Tucker Carlson brought into the mainstream last summer.
“How many FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of Jan. 6?” Cruz asked Jill Sanborn, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch.
“Sir, I am sure you can appreciate that I can’t go into the specifics of sources and methods — ” Sanborn began before Cruz cut her off to ask a series of similar questions, including whether the FBI or its informants “actively participate[d]” in the events of Jan. 6, or if they committed or incited any violent crimes. Sanborn again said she could not answer.
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“Ms. Sanborn, who is Ray Epps?” Cruz then asked, referencing a figure right-wing circles have pegged as a potential federal informant who helped instigate the riot.
“I’m aware of the individual, sir,” Sanborn said. “I don’t have the specific background to him.”
“Was Ray Epps a fed?” Cruz later pressed.
“Sir, I can’t answer that question,” Sanborn replied.
The conspiracy theory surrounding Epps started on a 4chan message board over the summer, according to The New York Times, where video was shared of Epps telling a crowd on Jan. 5 that they should “go into the Capitol” the following day. The crowd didn’t take kindly to the idea and started chanted, “Fed! Fed! Fed!” The 4Chan post described the video as a “Fed … caught on camera encouraging the crowd to raid the Capitol on the next day.” Darren Beattie, a former Trump speechwriter who was fired for appearing on a panel with a white nationalist, then published an article on the FBI’s potential involvement on his site Revolver News. Tucker Carlson picked it up and brought Beattie on his primetime show. The theory has since spread like wildfire, despite the lack of evidence Epps has any connection to the FBI.
Several lawmakers have floated it, at the least, before Cruz questioned Sanborn about it on Tuesday. Four months after the initial video was shared on 4chan, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) played it during an October congressional hearing. On the anniversary of Jan. 6, Greene and Gaetz, in their Republican “response” to events commemorating the day, told the media they believe the FBI orchestrated the insurrection by encouraging Trump’s followers to enter the Capitol. They placed particular focus on Epps, citing Revolver News as a source of their information.
What the right didn’t realize as it has been bashing Democrats for ignoring Epps is that the Jan. 6 committee questioned Epps back in November, as a spokesperson for the panel announced on Tuesday. He denied being an informant. “Mr. Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on January 5th or 6th or at any other time, and that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency,” the spokesperson said.
But for the GOP, Epps is a convenient scapegoat, a figure they can use to deflect blame from Trump and his supporters and onto the FBI. The FBI has a long history of orchestrated fake terrorist plots, as Mother Jones pointed out recently, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is no evidence Epps was an FBI informant, or that a mob of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
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