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The insurrectionist Bible study vs. the conspiracy theories

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The FBI has infiltrated a “Bible study” group in Virginia that after the January 6 riot had members discussing surveilling the US Capitol and their wish for secession from the US, and investigators closely followed one member’s plans to build and test Molotov cocktails, according to recently unsealed court records.
So. In case you were wondering, there appear to be people out there still casing the Capitol and thinking about setting things on fire. The insurrection is far from over. That’s the first takeaway.
The gist is that an undercover DC police officer encountered a Virginia man, Fi Duong, on January 6 at the Capitol, when he was dressed in black to appear as though he was antifa, according to court records. An undercover FBI agent subsequently attended his “Bible study,” where insurrection was discussed.
More from the story:
Duong told the FBI agent that his group tried to be “cloak and dagger” and wanted to “build resistances,” according to court records. The agent then attended what the group members called a “Bible study” meeting at an Alexandria, Virginia, house in February, where the group members discussed the Bible and secession, weaponry and combat training, and using methods to make their communications private, according to court records.
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Where is Duong now? He faces charges tied to taking part in the riot, although not with committing any acts of violence. He has not yet entered a plea but appeared in federal court in DC last Friday, though his court record indicates he was released.
More than 500 people have been charged in connection to the riot and FBI Director Christopher Wray has suggested that more serious charges could be coming for the leaders of extremist groups that took part. Duong is not connected with any of the known groups but did associate with some of them, according to court documents.
An elaborate trap. Duong’s case will obviously have to play out in court. But this story will fit very snugly into the brewing conservative conspiracy theory that the January 6 events were actually an elaborate FBI trap rather than an insurrection.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen wrote about this last month when it was pushed on Fox News by Tucker Carlson, who amplified a cockeyed story published on a fringe website.
Fact-check: Fox News and Republican lawmakers push new false flag conspiracy that FBI orchestrated US Capitol attackFact-check: Fox News and Republican lawmakers push new false flag conspiracy that FBI orchestrated US Capitol attack
The crux of the conspiracy. Per Cohen: “Several indictments against Capitol rioters who are accused of planning the attack with extremist groups include references to unindicted co-conspirators. The article claimed these co-conspirators could actually be FBI informants or undercover agents who infiltrated the groups, played a leading role in planning the attack, and stormed the Capitol.”
That’s not exactly what’s described in the Duong documents, but skepticism about federal law enforcement is viral among conservatives.
Proving the error. I asked Cohen for his perspective on the Duong documents and he argued they further disprove the conspiracy fallacy.
“This case demonstrates why Tucker Carlson’s crackpot theory was so wrong. His theory was based on a bad misreading of court documents — claiming that ‘unindicted co-conspirators’ were actually undercover FBI agents. But look at the filings in Duong’s case. This is how prosecutors ACTUALLY describe undercover agents. … The DOJ clearly said that ‘undercover employees’ from the FBI and from DC police were involved in the Duong investigation. This was disclosed upfront and in clear terms.”
Conspiracy theories beget conspiracy theories. Carlson has also said he’s convinced, although he’s offered no proof, that the government is spying on him.
Reimagining the riot. Republicans like Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin senator who may or may not run for reelection, have similarly tried to numb the truth of January 6.
“We’ve seen plenty of video of people in the Capitol, and they weren’t rioting,” Johnson said during a Fox News interview in June. “It doesn’t look like an armed insurrection when you have people that breach the Capitol — and I don’t condone it — but they’re staying within the rope lines in the Rotunda. That’s not what armed insurrection would look like.”
Here’s CNN’s fact check of Johnson’s comments, which ignore the truth about that deadly day.
What to do? Republican leaders have struggled over how to move past the insurrection attempt — to be clear, the rioters tried to stop Congress from counting electoral votes.
After Senate Republicans killed an effort to make a bipartisan commission to write the definitive report on the day, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has apparently decided to take part in a special committee Democrats created instead.
He’s working on his list of finalists for the panel, including Trump allies. Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has called out the insurrectionists and former President Donald Trump for whipping them up, will sit on the panel at the invitation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Stern warnings about misinformation. Republican media personalities and policy makers might be trying to rewrite what happened six months ago, but the Department of Homeland Security is warning about the possibility of a fresh wave of violence in August.
DHS officials briefed lawmakers in June and warned that misinformation, including the bizarre idea that Trump could be reinstated as president, is contributing to the situation. They issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies even though there is no evidence of a specific threat.
The court documents relating to Duong included the allegation that he orchestrated surveillance of the Capitol after the riot. Capitol Police instituted a number of immediate security changes after the riot, but they have not yet engaged in a systemic review, which has concerned some lawmakers, according to a CNN report this week.
Whether threats from Trump supporters are real or on the fringe is clearly not a chance US law enforcement is willing to take after watching the Capitol be overrun six months ago.
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