DOJ Now Says There Was No Plot to Kill Elected Officials

Fevered reporting about efforts to abduct and even kill members of Congress and the vice president are without foundation, the Justice Department admitted, after prosecutors falsely asserted such a plot in court, Joe Lauria reports.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

The U.S. Justice Department has reversed an earlier assertion in court by prosecutors that protestors who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 had plans to  “capture and assassinate elected officials.” 

Instead, the head of the DOJ investigation into the Capitol siege admitted that federal prosecutors filed a misleading statement before a federal judge in Arizona that was intended to prevent Jacob Chansley, aka Jake Angeli, from being released on bail. 

The DOJ said that though there were calls to kill officials during the two-hour takeover of the Capitol, no evidence has been discovered yet to prove any serious effort to carry out such a plan.

“There is no direct evidence at this point of kill-capture teams and assassination,” Michael Sherwin, the Washington DC federal district attorney running the investigation of the attack, told reporters, Agence France-Presse reported.  Sherwin said it may be “appropriate” to raise it at trial, but at this point it could “mislead the court.”

The original story of intentions to kill officials has entered the media discourse and is likely to remain a Democratic talking point despite the DOJ reversal. The only major media outlets that reported the new story is NBC News and The Washington Post. It has not appeared in The New York Times or on CNN’s website, for instance.

Having saturated the public with days of lurid tales of intentions to hang Vice President Mike Pence and abduct House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it will be hard to shake such beliefs without reporting the DOJ’s reversal with the same intensity. 

The original statement filed in court said: “Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials of the United States government.”

There has been no suggestion that the prosecutors in Arizona who made the false claim are being investigated for misleading the court.

The ‘Coup’

Riot police at Capitol, Jan. 21, 2017 for Trump’s inauguration. (Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons)

The admission dramatically changes the story, repeated as Democratic Party talking points, and undermines the unquestioned certainty that what took place was an attempted coup against the United States government. The new DOJ stance might also weaken efforts to charge Capitol rioters and intruders with “seditious conspiracy” charges for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government.

Consortium News has been among the few media outlets to question the coup narrative from the start. 

Even if there were such murderous intentions it would not have amounted to a coup attempt without the backing of the military or paramilitaries, and without taking over the airport and radio and TV stations. These days it would probably mean taking over social media companies too. The U.S. government and media structures are vaster and more powerful than just the legislature.

Even if the protestors had intended and succeeded in hanging Vice President Mike Pence (presuming the gallows erected outside the Capitol was sturdy enough), and even if they had taken Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and others hostage would Donald Trump have said, “Okay, they didn’t certify Biden, I’m still president!”? 

No branch of government would have supported Trump in that case and the surviving members of Congress would have met elsewhere to certify Joe Biden as president. 

New Video Inside Capitol

Chansley, the far-right, bare-chested activist with fur headdress and Viking horns, became the symbol of the brief takeover of the Capitol by Trump supporters. He was arrested and faces a six-count federal indictment, charged with:

  • Civil disorder
  • Obstruction of an official proceeding
  • Entering and remaining in a restricted building
  • Disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building
  • Violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building
  • Parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building

He is not charged with insurrection or sedition to overthrow the government.

Jacob Chandsley/ Qananon Shaman. (TheUnseen011101/Wikimedia Commons)

In a new video released on Sunday by The New Yorker, Chansley is seen grunting primordial chants while playing to a photographer a few feet in front of him in a Senate balcony. Later he seats himself in Pence’s Senate chair.

After a single Capitol police officer pleads with the intruders to leave, Chansley leads the group in prayer and then files out with the others, but not before scrawling on a piece of paper on Pence’s desk: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”    

Before Chansley sat in it, the video shows one of the protest leaders, dressed in military gear, demanding that the others not occupy the vice president’s chair. He says: “It’s not our chair. I love you brothers, but we cannot be disrespectful. … It’s a PR war, okay? You have to understand it’s an IO war. We can’t lose the IO war. We’re better than that. It’s an Information Operation.”

The video shows a couple of dozen protestors rifling through senators’ desks looking for, in the words of one, “something we can fucking use against these scumbags” and taking photos of documents. At one point they thought they found evidence in Senator Ted Cruz’s desk that he was going to betray them on certification, but read further and realized he would not. 

The film is interspersed with very violent scenes of police in riot gear trying to prevent protestors from entering the Capitol.

The last scene in the video shows that the violent protest and takeover was about more than just the election.  After trashing media equipment, one man says, “We gotta change it. They fucking abuse us. They laugh at us. They steal our money.”

As journalist Chris Hedges said last Thursday, one can decry their politics, the racism among many, and their tactics, but their pain is real in a system that has shrunk the middle class and debased workers.

What happened at the Capitol cannot be condoned. But unless Congress defies its oligarchic backers and serves the interests of average Americans, who also fund them, a real insurrection may be inevitable.  Instead of the reforms to defuse that and bring more economic justice, we are witnessing a crackdown that will only further inflame the country.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

32 comments for “DOJ Now Says There Was No Plot to Kill Elected Officials

  1. P.Denault
    January 18, 2021 at 15:49

    Personally, I don’t believe most of this inane tangential headline-seeking foolishness would be going on if only Trump had overridden all rest of USGovt and DECLAS everything, let all USA and world know who are the real scumbags and corrupt power-grabbers selling out USA and actually genocide, murdering whistleblowers&court witnesses,threatening&harming innocents. My Opinion:Trump should have released all DECLAS Jan2017 with arrests immediately following thereafter. But apparently, he wanted to see where Everyone stood, for or against USA/USCitizens/US Constitution.

  2. Kristine Kubat
    January 18, 2021 at 15:48

    In response to the January 6 riot, I have begun reaching out to people who voted for Trump and are convinced the election was stolen. They are not all nut jobs. The people I have talked to are people who have ignored politics their entire adult lives and never felt the urge to get involved until Trump came along and appealed to their belief that white men are destined to rule the world at a time when white men are being forced to relinquish some of their power. Although they do know better than to trust MSM, as novices they are highly susceptible to propaganda, and have little but their fears to go on.

    We have to realize that this constituency was never going to relinquish control to the blacks, women and gays just because the latter finally managed to gain representation in the halls of power. Sharing power with them was always going to be a struggle, and a nasty one at that, because in their eyes power is not shared. It is taken and wielded against lesser folk. It is their deep seated belief in this that sustains their conviction that the election was stolen despite any and all evidence to the contrary.

    To me, even though there were certainly rioters with evil intent participating on that day, January 6 was, for the most part, a mass display of male aggression by people who believe such behavior is part of God’s plan for maintaining the natural order that puts “Him” first and them next. . . with the rest of humanity, the creatures and environment at their disposal.

    If they were there to defend democracy, if they were there in support of the argument that the 2020 election was invalid because the power granted state legislatures by the U.S. Constitution was usurped by governors and secretaries of state across America, then they would have called for all the Republicans who got elected alongside Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on those unconstitutional ballots to relinquish their victories as well. The fact that they didn’t says it all.

    Still this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make an effort to build relationships with Trump supporters. I understand their frustration, share it in many regards, and can’t help but wonder how different things might have been if leftist Democrats had rioted when Katherine Harris actually did steal the 2000 election.

  3. Anonymot
    January 18, 2021 at 15:34

    It will accrue, of course, to Trump’s deficit by showing this is just a bunch of people who got worked up on the spot and he triggered that. Therefore, the ones on the spot like Trump and Giuliani are in just that much deeper for they were the ones responsible and on the spot.

    However, it also let’s the organized groups like Proud Boys, QAnon, etc. off the hook. There’s just too much anger in the country for Biden’s upcoming war to calm it down.

  4. P. Michael Garber
    January 18, 2021 at 14:51

    Good luck getting Democrats to acknowledge the bland truth (Trump and his supporters are a soon-to-be-powerless minority) when the NYT and CNN have tasty victimhood on the menu.

  5. evelync
    January 18, 2021 at 14:49

    Democracy Now 1/12/21 WALDEN BELLO’S excellent historically based observations on what’s going on and why.

    “America Has Entered the Weimar Era: Walden Bello on How Neoliberalism Fueled Trump & Violent Right”
    h t t p s://www DOT youtube DOT com/watch?v=feneGtQHSnU&t=4s

    Walden Bello offers us his long historical perspective and his personal experience with the polarization and the takeovers in the streets that he expected “given the developments over the last few years which has really resulted in this move to the far right”

    January 18, 2021 at 14:37

    A main purpose of Consortium News is to lower the temperature and try to examine the facts of an event impartially and try to find a rational way out of such a crisis. That is what our reporting of this event is aiming to do, wrongly perceived as “downplaying.” When Chuck Schumer compared this to Pearl Harbor he was doing a serious disservice, the opposite of what should be done, namely, letting cool heads prevail.

  7. Sharon Brown
    January 18, 2021 at 14:12

    CNN reported the DOJ reversal 3 days ago, “US takes back its assertion that Capitol rioters wanted to ‘capture and assassinate’ officials.” The media coverup that fascinates me is that the woman who had “a medical emergency” was trampled to death and no one talks about it. It was horrific and scary.

    • ML
      January 18, 2021 at 18:33

      And, she was trampled to death while she was carrying a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. She fell and several fellow supporters walked right over her, crushing her to death.

  8. Alan
    January 18, 2021 at 13:30

    OK, I’m satisfied that the charges filed against the guy in the fur hat with horns were overcooked. But what say you, Joe, about the rioters inside the Capitol carrying zip ties, which one could reasonably presume were intended to be used in taking hostages? The point being that the invaders were not a uniform group, and some of them may have had more malicious intent than others.

      January 18, 2021 at 14:01

      The article does not say the charges against the guy in the fur hat were overcooked. They are relatively minor charges that are listed in the article. The false assertion that there was a plan to murder officials was used to deny him bail. He wasn’t charged with such offenses. It is up to the investigators to determine why there were plastic ties seen. As of now the DOJ has “no direct evidence” of a plot to murder anyone.

  9. rosemerry
    January 18, 2021 at 13:15

    It is interesting that both sides of the House and Senate manage almost all the time to arrange that other countries they have decided are enemies or rivals have real “coups” and takeovers helped by the mighty US . Iraq, Syria,Libya,Venezuela are just a few of the recent examples, but they are not “USA USA” so they do not count.

  10. rosemerry
    January 18, 2021 at 13:07

    No surprise that the “paper of record” NYT did not bother to mention this legal angle. The descriptions I have seen in European papers and in the Sycophant aka the Guardian hardly vary at all and scream the alleged danger to the poor Congress members.

    • Anne
      January 18, 2021 at 14:25

      Nor NPR….Indeed they didn’t bother to mention the 1954 shootings in the US Capitol (House) until AFTER the BBC World Service had and then a week later…

  11. January 18, 2021 at 13:02

    You know it is so obvious.
    This is the freaking “echo chamber” at work. It is a perfect example for all to easily recognize on its face.
    I believe if you go in the records there is an email that goes straight back to the DNC regarding the “echo chamber” tool, but they aren’t the only ones who utilize this tool. It has been the propaganda tool of choice for several decades now. One day at a time more and more see through the BS. Pretty soon I’m guessing there is gonna be a critical mass in opposition to these lies and fabrications that are being pushed out there to the expense of “the commons”.
    A reckoning is coming.
    It ain’t gonna be what you think it is is what I’m thinking, but, for the time being, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself regarding my visions on how this all may unfold because the reality is – and the Cleveland Browns know this – you never know how the ball is gonna bounce.
    Thank-you CN for your fine journalistic site. I’ve recommended this site to family members. You made $80,000 plus on this last fund drive, but think about this: One commercial during the Super Bowl cost what……half a million or more? Crazy how out of whack things have gotten. Turn, turn, turn is what I say – change is on the way.

  12. Tim S.
    January 18, 2021 at 12:54

    Anyone who has watched the video filmed by the arch-instigator’s would-be-journalist sidekick can see for themselves that these were not even serious rioters, much less coup plotters, who were surprised as everybody else about being allowed into the Capitol building.
    And despite some toy guns and one man with the slogan on the back of his jacket “God, guns, and Trump), it is obvious from their panicky reactions when a woman was killed that they felt deep down that this was all fun and games. She was trying to break down an interior door, starting with the window, but when an agent inside pointed a pistol at her, she ignored it. When he finally shot her, they all start yelling “She’s been shot!” and react rather like a bunch of bystanders.

    Does that sound like a gang planning to kill some Congressmen and taken others hostage?

      January 18, 2021 at 14:05

      The video was shot by a writer for The New Yorker.

  13. Adam Gladstone
    January 18, 2021 at 12:36

    This is a mis-representation of the facts. The facts are that they feel that they do not have an open and shut case to present to court about the proof behind the charge of abduction and plot of murder against US represntatives. It does not mean that there is no proof.

      January 18, 2021 at 12:48

      From the article: “There is no direct evidence at this point of kill-capture teams and assassination,” Michael Sherwin, the Washington DC federal district attorney running the investigation of the attack, told reporters, Agence France-Presse reported. Sherwin said it may be “appropriate” to raise it at trial, but at this point it could “mislead the court.” It remains that the prosecutors in Arizona falsely represented that they had direct evidence now in order to deny a suspect bail.

  14. Jonny James
    January 18, 2021 at 11:48

    Yes, once again the mainstream narrative stinks, and the fresh air is here on CN. That’s why we don’t breathe the miasma of the corporate media.

    The Divide and Rule strategies of the ruling classes are working nicely. We can’t have the “99%” get together to work against “the interests of Goldman Sachs” (Hedges). That is not allowed. The rub is that both the so-called right and so-called left work for the interests of Goldman Sachs.

    I remember very clearly how brutally the peaceful Occupy protests were smashed. The violent cops used armored vehicles and other military equipment, massive amounts of tear gas, flash-bang grenades, drones, surveillance etc. etc. , Scott Horton was nearly killed by a tear-gas canister fired directly at his head. You are not allowed to work against the interests of the real owners of this country. As George Carlin once said, “they own the f-in place”.

    • Anne
      January 18, 2021 at 14:31

      Mr James, It is a Janus Party…two heads, on one body…one blue faced head the other red, but as you indicate otherwise essentially the same workers for the corporate-capitalist-imperialist plutocratic rulers… the rest of us (the real tax-payers who fund their bloody – literally – adventures so many thousands of nautical miles from our shores) have no real say in who we are offered as “candidates” except to write in names (Karl coming to mind)…and then be over run…those in Congress (likely also in state ones) and the Pentagonal etc etc…are only in it to line their own pockets…Baksheesh elsewhere

  15. David Renton
    January 18, 2021 at 11:27

    If the people who broke into the Capitol building had been black, they would have been shot.

  16. robert e williamson jr
    January 18, 2021 at 10:57

    Interesting in 12 short days DOJ has an assessment of the events of January 6th. They seem to move swiftly when they are pandering to the mad man in the the white house.

    1. Question just exactly what were all those zip ties to be used for.

    2. 6 people died.

    • Anne
      January 18, 2021 at 14:35

      I have yet to hear NPR mention anything about the woman who was shot dead (no weapon on her)…let alone who shot and killed her…that she was ex-mil (thus trained to invade, destroy, devastate, slaughter peoples, cultures, societies far, far, from these shores…what you train for and then deploy will eventually come back home and bite

  17. January 18, 2021 at 10:27

    Best thing I have read or heard. Makes too much sense to be read or heard on most of our major networks. The firebrands I don’t know or sympathize with, but the rest I do. I am one of them.

  18. Dictynna
    January 18, 2021 at 09:53

    A fair assessment…thank you.

  19. robert e williamson jr
    January 18, 2021 at 09:42

    Interesting. In the county I live in if I said, spoke the words to anyone, that I intended to harm a law enforcement officer would be in jail. Words have meanings.

    This is nothing new from Bill Barr’s Justice department and Jeffery Rosen is no different. Him and all of the Trump appointed judges.

    DOJ, again shows it’s corruptness.

    Thanks CN

    • Barry Schaffner
      January 18, 2021 at 11:38

      Agree Mr. Williamson that this is a cover-up by Rosen and Thank God they will be gone January 20. Try convincing those Congressman and the Vice President that their safety was never in danger. Anybody with functioning vision and sound hearing and the understanding of the English language knows the truth.

      • robert e williamson jr
        January 18, 2021 at 12:33

        Thanks Barry. I have often been told I’m paranoid during the last 50 or so years. My stock reply ha always been, “Of course I am, but that is not the question, the question is am I paranoid enough.”

        We are in big trouble in this country. I have this gut feeling that something big is coming down the” beltway” and I wouldn’t have that feeling if I thought it might be good news.

        • Barry Schaffner
          January 18, 2021 at 13:41

          Thank you Robert E Williamson Jr. I am in a state of shock even though I was forewarned what to expect from Glenn Kirschner.
          Kirschner advised that Rosen and Sherwin are morons and will fortunately be on the way out Wednesday.
          Check it out below if you have a Facebook feed.


          Fondest regards,

      • John Drake
        January 18, 2021 at 13:37

        Agreed, I find the minimizing of this event truly putrid. What is it about an enraged crowd, chanting “stop the steal” breaking into a building full of legislators , assaulting, injuring police and scaring the …..t out of said elected legislators that is not an attempt to overthrow, interfere, interrupt, prevent a key governmental process? This a governmental process whose outcome they wanted to alter keeping the Orange Menace in power. A flight of ridiculous fancy, no doubt, but still attitude, behavior and intent count.

        Just because it doesn’t rise to the level of well known coups orchestrated by professionals (CIA): Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, Iran and hundreds more; doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong in the same family of nasty socio/political events. Can we compromise and call it a mini attempted coup or maybe mini coup-lite? Anyway the perpetrators and their enablers need to major consequences; especially those officials that violated their oath of office.

          January 18, 2021 at 14:10

          Reporting the known facts may seem like minimizing to an emotional view pumped up by heavily partisan media coverage. It doesn’t matter if a coup is well-known or not, it has certain features that were not present here.

          January 18, 2021 at 14:36

          A main purpose of Consortium News is to lower the temperature and try to examine the facts of an event impartially and try to find a rational way out of such a crisis. That is what our reporting of this event is aiming to do, wrongly perceived as “downplaying.” When Chuck Schumer compared this to Pearl Harbor he was doing a serious disservice, the opposite of what should be done, namely, letting cool heads prevail.

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