Parler is sued by co-founder Matze over ouster following U.S. Capitol riot

Parler, a social media app popular among right-wing users, is being sued by co-founder John Matze for wrongful termination and taking away his 40% stake after the app was taken offline following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In a complaint filed on Monday, Matze said Parler officials and investors conspired to steal his ownership stake and fire him as chief executive, including by leveling false accusations of misconduct, so co-owner Rebekah Mercer could co-opt the platform for “her brand of conservatism.”

He said this occurred after Parler resisted his efforts following the riot to ban “identifiable extremist groups like QAnon and neo Nazis,” while preserving the platform as a forum for free expression.

“Matze’s proposal was met with dead silence, which he took to be a rejection of his proposal,” the complaint said.

Lawyers for the Parler defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment or could not immediately be reached. Mercer’s father is the wealthy financier and Republican donor Robert Mercer.

Matze is seeking millions of dollars in his lawsuit filed in a Nevada state court in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Parler is based in nearby Henderson, Nevada.

The lawsuit did not say what Matze’s Parler stake was worth, but accused various defendants of fabricating misconduct claims to justify stripping it from him for $3.

Parler went dark for about one month after Amazon.com Inc suspended web-hosting services following the Capitol attack by supporters of then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

Amazon justified its action by accusing Parler of failing to effectively moderate violent content. Parler later sued Amazon, accusing it of trying to destroy its business.

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google also removed Parler from their online stores.

Founded in 2018, Parler claimed to have had more than 12 million users before going dark. It returned online with private cloud infrastructure from SkySilk, of Los Angeles.

Matze’s complaint was posted online by the Las Vegas Sun. A copy could not immediately be located in online court records.

Trump impeachment process: Who are the key players?

The US House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time over his alleged role in the 6 January deadly assault on the Capitol.

Jamie Raskin speaks to members of the media after he came out from the office of Speaker of the House
image captionDemocrats, including Jamie Raskin (centre), voted to impeach President Donald Trump, as did 10 Republicans

His impeachment for “incitement to insurrection” was approved by 232 representatives including 10 Republicans. 

Democrats led the effort to charge Mr Trump with encouraging the riots. 

But some Republicans had backed calls for impeachment.

So, who are these key players, and what do we know about them?

Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager for the Democrats

When the impeachment charges go to the Senate for trial, the case for the prosecution will be made by a team of lawmakers, led by Mr Raskin, a Democratic representative from Maryland since 2017 and a former professor of constitutional law.

The impeachment of Mr Trump represents the continuation of an extremely challenging start to 2021 for Mr Raskin, 58.

Jamie Raskin and Liz Cheney in the US Capitol
image captionJamie Raskin (left) helped to draft the article of impeachment against President Trump

The congressman’s 25-year-old son, Tommy Bloom Raskin, took his own life on New Year’s Eve and was laid to rest in early January.

A day after the funeral, Mr Raskin found himself hunkering down with colleagues, shielding from a violent mob that rampaged through the Capitol where lawmakers were meeting to certify November’s presidential election result.

View original tweet on Twitter

On the day of the assault, Mr Raskin helped to draw up an article of impeachment against President Trump.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Mr Raskin said his son, who was studying law at Harvard University, would have considered last week’s violence “the absolute worst form of crime against democracy”.

“It really is Tommy Raskin, and his love and his values and his passion, that have kept me going,” Mr Raskin said.

Madeleine Dean, Democratic impeachment manager

In total, nine Democrats, including Mr Raskin, have been named as impeachment managers. One is Representative Madeleine Dean, from Pennsylvania, who is one of three women on the team.

Ms Dean started her career in law, opening her own three-woman practice in Pennsylvania before teaching English at a university.

Having been active in state politics for decades, she was elected to the House in 2018, using her seat to champion women’s reproductive rights, gun law reform, and healthcare for all, among other issues.

Democratic Representative Madeleine Dean
image captionMadeleine Dean has called for a quick trial of President Trump in the Senate

In an interview with MSNBC, Ms Dean, 68, said she favoured a “speedy trial” in the Senate if Mr Trump was impeached.

“This isn’t about a party. This isn’t about politics. This is about protection of our constitution, of our rule of law,” Ms Dean said.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks to her office from the House floor
image captionNancy Pelosi has called President Trump “deranged, unhinged and dangerous”

As the Speaker of the House, Ms Pelosi has been in the spotlight since the riots in the Capitol.

Ms Pelosi leads the Democrats in the lower chamber of Congress, so the 80-year-old had a huge influence over the decision to introduce an article of impeachment against Mr Trump.

Ms Pelosi had the House proceed with impeachment after former Vice-President Mike Pence did not invoked constitutional powers to force out Mr Trump, who was then president.

Mr Pence said at the time he believed such a move was against the country’s interests.

“This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that,” Ms Pelosi said.

Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate minority leader

Mr McConnell, a 78-year-old Republican senator for Kentucky, is one to watch in the Senate.

The upper chamber’s former majority leader remains the man at the helm of the upper chamber’s Republican caucus.

Dubbed the “Grim Reaper” by Democrats, Mr McConnell was a thorn in the side of former President Barack Obama, often manoeuvring to frustrate his legislative agenda and judicial appointments.

He was also the driving force behind Mr Trump’s acquittal in his first impeachment trial in 2019.

In his last few weeks as Senate leader, Mr McConnell also delayed Mr Trump’s trial until after the former president left office, saying there was no time for a “fair or serious trial” ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration.

Mr McConnell has not publicly commented on whether he supports convicting or acquitting Mr Trump, but he has sent some mixed messages.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
image captionMitch McConnell had been loyal to President Trump until the Capitol riots

Though he spent the last four years in the president’s corner, the minority leader said the rioters were “provoked by” Mr Trump and that he plans to hear out both sides in the trial.

But later on in January, he also joined the majority of Republican senators to vote for a motion to toss out the impeachment case as unconstitutional now that Mr Trump is no longer in the White House.

Mr McConnell may no longer have the final say on all things impeachment, but as Democrats need Republican support to convict Mr Trump with the required two-thirds majority, he still has a key role to play in the upcoming proceedings.

Liz Cheney, Republican House Representative for Wyoming

Ms Cheney, 54, is third-highest-ranking Republican leader in the House. As the daughter of former Republican Vice-President Dick Cheney, she has a high profile in the party.

So, her support for impeachment is particularly significant.

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney
image captionLiz Cheney has accused President Trump of inciting the attack on Congress

Mr Trump had “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”, Ms Cheney said of the Capitol riots.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” the Wyoming representative said.

However, in a recent test of support for conviction on impeachment charges that Mr Trump incited his supporters to mount an insurrection at the US Capitol, 45 out of 50 Senate Republicans voted last week to consider stopping the trial before it even starts.

Ms Cheney survived a House Republican vote – 145-61 – to oust her from her leadership position after breaking ranks with other GOP lawmakers last month to impeach the former president.

She is also now facing a primary challenger for her Wyoming congressional seat after voting to impeach Mr Trump.

Ben Sasse, Republican Senator for Nebraska

Blocking Mr Trump from ever running for office again is one rationale that may motivate some Republicans to impeach the president.

That reasoning could be attractive to Republican senators like Mr Sasse, who is seen as a possible contender for the presidency in 2024.

Elected to the Senate in 2014, the 48-year-old has been an ardent critic of Mr Trump.

Ben Sasse
image captionBen Sasse refused to overturn the results of November’s presidential election in Congress

Mr Sasse was firmly opposed to a Republican effort – cheered on by Mr Trump – to overturn the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory in Congress.

On the question of impeachment, Mr Sasse said he would “definitely consider whatever articles they might move” in the House.

A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict Mr Trump in the Senate, meaning at least 17 Republicans – including Mr Sasse – would have to vote for it.

Patrick Leahy, Democratic Senator for Vermont

In Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, it was Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who presided over the proceedings.

This time, he declined to participate, handing the job over to the 80-year-old Vermont Democrat, who will take the gavel in this second impeachment trial.

Sen Patrick Leahy questions Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Mr Leahy was first elected to the Senate in 1974, and is the longest serving lawmaker in the upper chamber.

He will be presiding in his role as the Senate’s president pro tempore – a constitutional officer, responsible for presiding over the Senate in the absence of the vice-president.

In a statement, he said “the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws” when presiding over an impeachment trial. 

“It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.”

David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr, attorneys for Trump 

With just over a week to go before the trial, Mr Trump parted ways with his legal team, including attorneys Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier.

They were quickly replaced by David Schoen, a trial lawyer, and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney, who will lead the defence efforts for the former president. 

In a statement, both attorneys said they didn’t believe the push to impeach Mr Trump is constitutional. 

Mr Castor added: “The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history.

“It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always.”

Mr Schoen has previously represented Roger Stone, former adviser to Mr Trump. Stone received a presidential pardon in December. 

The lawyer also made headlines in the past for meeting with Jeffrey Epstein in his final days to discuss possible representation, and for later saying he did not believe the death of the US financier and sex offender was suicide. 

Mr Castor, a former Pennsylvania district attorney, is known for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby for sexual assault in 2005. The comedian was eventually convicted on three counts of sexual assault in a 2018 retrial of his case.

Capitol riots: Five takeaways from the arrests

The storming of the US Capitol last month left five people dead, over 100 police officers injured and millions of dollars in damage to the building.

Most of the rioters were allowed to leave the building without arrest, but a month-long search for offenders has resulted in charges against 194 people.

Among those arrested, there have been state lawmakers, military veterans and even a gold medal-winning Olympian.

Here’s a closer look at who conducted the siege and why.

1. Right-wing extremist links were rare

Far right insignia was spotted on the clothing, badges and flags of several insurrectionists, but the vast majority of the nearly 200 people charged so far are ordinary pro-Trump activists.

So far, only about 10 to 11% of those charged have been found to have ties to organised far right militias or other right-wing extremist groups.

“What we are dealing with here is not merely a mix of right-wing organisations, but a broader mass movement with violence at its core,” said Dr Robert Pape, who led a University of Chicago study – titled “Faces of the American Insurrection” – that takes a closer look at the arrested rioters.

The report found that FBI arrests of violent right-wingers over the past five years were almost five times as likely to uncover militia and gang connections as those arising from the violence on 6 January.

At least 12 people linked to the Proud Boys – an all-male group with a history of street violence against left-wing opponents – currently face charges.

It includes prominent members like a leading organiser of its Hawaii branch, a self-proclaimed “sergeant in arms” and a former US Army captain who ran for a seat in the state legislature.

Bomb-making manuals were located in the homes of one of the arrested Proud Boys. One was a self-professed white supremacist who had previously expressed his desire to become a “lone wolf killer”.

Pro-Trump protestors clash with police during the tally of electoral votes that that would certify Joe Biden as the winner of the US election
image captionArrests have been made across the country and across several walks of life

Other extremists had connections with militant anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the Aryan Nations, several of whom have military experience.

One arrested Three Percenter – Guy Wesley Reffitt, 48, a drilling rig worker from Texas – reportedly threatened his children, saying: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors…traitors get shot.”

2. More rioters came from ‘Biden counties’ than ‘Trump counties’

The mob was largely pro-Trump, but they came from all parts of the country.

The 194 people who face federal charges hail from 41 out of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia, according to the George Washington University extremism tracker.

The University of Chicago report finds that most of the insurrectionists came from large urban counties where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by slim-to-moderate margins in the 2020 election.

These counties typically contain big and racially diverse populations.

Only a few came from pro-Trump strongholds.

“This will come as a surprise to many Biden supporters, who presumably think that the insurrectionists are coming from red counties – rural, almost completely white, and with high unemployment – far from Biden strongholds,” said Dr Pape.

“This is fundamentally a political movement, one not only centered in “red” parts of the country, but also consisting of pro-Trump supporters who are in the political minority in many places.”

3. The crowd was not a young one

Much like other right-wing activists arrested for deadly violence since 2015, the protesters facing charges have been predominantly white and male.

But whereas the extremists charged from 2015 to 2020 were mostly under the age of 35, two thirds of those facing charges for the Capitol attack are over the age of 35.

The average age of the protesters was 40 years old, according to the GWU tracker.

More than four fifths of them are employed and come from various backgrounds, from business owners to white collar professionals.

There is Dr Simone Gold, 55, from Beverly Hills, California, who was among a group of doctors that last year spread misleading claims about the coronavirus, including that hydroxychloroquine – a drug touted relentlessly by Mr Trump – was an effective treatment.

Jenna Ryan – a real estate broker from Dallas, Texas – garnered attention on social media after she flew to DC by private jet to join the march to the Capitol.

Cogensia – an Illinois-based marketing company – fired its chief executive Bradley Rukstales, after he was federally charged for being a part of the violent mob.

4. Many of them say Trump motivated them

Some of those involved in storming the Capitol have suggested they were at least partially motivated by Donald Trump.

Jacob Chansley – the “QAnon shaman” from Arizona who wore a Viking pelt to the riot – told the FBI he was in DC “at the request of President Trump”.

A lawyer for Robert Bauer, a Kentucky man, said he “marched to the US Capitol because President Trump said to do so”.

In an FBI interview, Valerie Elaine Ehrke from Northern California said she heard President Trump tell the crowd to go to the US Capitol and “decided she wanted to be part of the crowd, and she walked to the US Capitol”, according to court documents.

Trump supporters near the U.S Capitol, on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC
image captionSome have argued in court that they went to the riot because Donald Trump told them to

Several have indicated they believed the election was not over and there was still a path to preventing the results from being certified.

This false claim was repeatedly made by Mr Trump since his election defeat and – prior to the riot – he told gathered supporters at a rally near the White House that he “won by a landslide”.

With the second impeachment trial of Mr Trump starting this week, these statements may form the backbone of the prosecution’s case as they try to prove the former president was “personally responsible” for inciting an insurrection.

5. Several threatened violence 

At least some of those who came to DC for the march on the Capitol may have had some very violent intentions.

Lonnie Coffman, 70, from Alabama, allegedly parked a vehicle packed with 11 “Molotov Cocktails”, several firearms and magazines loaded with ammunition near the building complex.

Police say Christopher Alberts, 33, from Maryland, fled when confronted for being in possession of a handgun.

Garrett Miller, 34, from Texas, took to social media on the day of the riot, bragging he had taken weapons to previous protests in DC and replied to a tweet from Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the words: “Assassinate AOC”.

Days after the attack, he expressed intent to find the police officer who shot a Trump supporter dead inside the Capitol and “hug his neck with a nice rope”.

In text messages, a Colorado man threatened to shoot and run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was dragged into the violent mob and repeatedly struck with objects, later succumbing to his injuries. One man used a flagpole “with a United States flag affixed to it” to “repeatedly strike” the officer who “remained prone” on the steps, according to a complaint filed with the authorities.

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What are the charges so far?

  • 169 charged with trespassing or disrupting Congress
  • 40 charged with interference with law enforcement
  • 25 charged with property crimes
  • 17 charged with assault
  • 17 charged with weapons crimes
  • 11 charged with conspiracy
  • 5 charged with threats

The plot (and spoilers) of Impeachment II

The rule of thumb in the cinema is that the original is invariably better than the sequel.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

But then you get The Dark Knight getting far more acclaim than Batman Begins. Or Godfather 2 being better than the first movie – and personally I thought Toy Story 3 was the best. And don’t get me started on Star Wars. 

So, what should we expect from Impeachment 2, Incitement of Insurrection, coming to a TV screen near you this week?

Some very general and obvious observations.

The plotlines in this second impeachment will be much easier to follow than the original. 

A presidential call to his Ukrainian counterpart asking questions about an obscure energy company on which Joe Biden’s son had served as a director, does not have the immediacy of the events of 6 January when a Trump supporting mob stormed Congress after listening to a speech delivered by the president. 

What is not in question is that the MAGA-mob tried to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Five people died following the mayhem. There will not be an American who doesn’t have a view on what unfolded.

The other quick observation I would make is this – the chamber where the Senate trial will unfold is also the crime-scene; the epicentre of this assault on America’s most sacred democratic sanctum. And the corollary of that is that some of the people who will be ‘trying’ the former president will have felt themselves to be victims of the crime that unfolded.

So what chance is there that Donald Trump will get a fair trial?

Well, the first thing I would say about that is though the language of impeachment is replete with quasi-judicial terminology, the jurors are the 100 Senators – Republican and Democrat. This is political. 

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021

How many of those who will weigh the evidence for and against Donald Trump will be swayed by the evidence presented? I find it hard to imagine there will be a single one.

Democrats, I would guess, will vote as a block to convict. Republicans are split three ways – and this is a political split, not a schism based on the evidence. 

There are those Republicans who remain firmly behind Donald Trump, and will not now, not ever, vote to find him guilty of “incitement of insurrection”, the three words on the article of impeachment.

There are those who would love nothing more to see the former president slip away from the national consciousness, and feel that he has been a corrosive force on the democratic norms and values of US democracy – but don’t want to pick a fight with him for fear of the consequences. Their worst nightmare is Trump rallying support behind a Republican rival the next time they’re up for election.

And there is a smaller number of Republicans who are ready to very publicly say they believe that the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan needs to be rid of the Trump legacy, that it is a cancer that needs to be cut out.

In other words, this will all be about political calculation. And the second order calculation will be how these senators will explain the decision to their voters.https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.39.15/iframe.htmlmedia captionDonald Trump’s second impeachment trial opens on Tuesday – but what’s it all about?

Which brings us to this next question, how will this play itself out?

Democrats will make a case that evokes the drama of the day and the fears some of them had – they thought their lives were in danger as they cowered in offices while the mob went room to room. The blame for that will be laid squarely at the defendant’s door.

The Trump defence will take two forms. 

On the substance of the “incitement of insurrection” charge, his lawyers will argue that he was exercising his free speech, First Amendment rights – and they will point out that in that address on 6 January, the president told his supporters to march on Congress “peacefully and patriotically”. 

But the speech was notable for all its “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” And telling his supporters that they have to be tough and not weak.

The US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC on January 22, 2018

And his case is not helped by the tweets and messaging around this time – urging his supporters to come to Washington on 6 January because it was “going to be wild”. 

In a video released on the night of the riots, Donald Trump told the mob that had descended on Congress that he loved them and they were special people. He tweeted that evening – seemingly to justify the actions of the insurgents – that this is what happens when you steal the result of the election.

He repeatedly claimed he had won the election by a landslide. There is no evidence for that.

He repeatedly claimed that the election had been stolen. Judge after judge – many appointed by Donald Trump – rejected those legal arguments put by his campaign lawyers. 

And the charges of fraud – again promoted by Mr Trump – were dismissed by the president’s own Attorney General William Barr; the head of election security – another Trump appointee – also said the election had been fair.

So don’t expect the president’s words to be the backbone of the defence.

Instead it will focus on the constitutionality of impeaching a president once he’s left office. The lawyers will argue that the weapon of impeachment is only to be used for a serving politician, not a private citizen (as Donald Trump now is).

How can you use the sanction of removing someone from office when they’ve already left office? And this is I suspect the justification (fig-leaf, I feel sure Democrats will insist) that Republicans will reach for as their justification for acquitting Donald Trump.

Former US President Donal Trump

Of course, Democrats will point out the offence took place while he was president, and you don’t get a free pass just because you’ve left office. Or as James Corden put it on his Late, Late Show, it’s like being pulled over by a traffic cop for speeding, and saying to the officer “I might well have been going at 50mph back then, but now as I speak to you I am stationary, so you can’t charge me now…”

Impeachment II will get big, big TV audiences – though they’d have been far greater if the president had testified, as Democrat impeachment managers had wanted.

But the outcome – and here I feel the need to issue a spoiler alert – is almost certainly going to be the same as Impeachment I. 

He will be acquitted.

Jon Sopel
North America editor

Big Tech: The role of social media in US Capitol riots

Social network executives have been grilled by MPs on the role their platforms played in recent events in Washington which saw a mob break into Congress.

US Elections protest: Jacob Chansley (C) with other Pro-Trump supporters, as they demonstrate ouside Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol after breaching security, January 6th 2021
image captionJacob Chansley (C), also known as the QAnon Shaman, has been charged over the US Capitol riots

All said that they needed to do more to monitor extremist groups and content such as conspiracy theories.

But none had any radical new policies to offer.

The government has recently set out tough new rules for how social media firms moderate content.

Facebook said it had removed 30,000 pages, events and groups related to what it called “militarised social movements” since last summer.

“We have a 24-hour operation centre where we are looking for content from groups… of citizens who might use militia-style language,” said Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, Monika Bickert.

She added: “We had teams that in the weeks leading up to the [events in Washington] were focused on understanding what was being planned and if it could be something that would turn into violence. We were in touch with law enforcement.”

Despite its efforts, half of all designated white supremacist groups had a presence on Facebook last year according to a study from the watchdog Tech Transparency Project.

Julian Knight MP, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, which is also scrutinising the big tech firms, asked Google’s global director of information policy Derek Slater what it was doing to fight conspiracy theories.

“Do you think that it would be wise for you to adopt a new policy where you kept money on your platforms in escrow prior to its distribution so that any cause in which disinformation to found to have taken place… you could perhaps withhold that money?” he asked.

Mr Slater replied that it was an “interesting idea” and that Google was always “re-evaluating its policies”, but he made no commitment to the idea.

trump shhh

MPs also quizzed Twitter on its decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump.

The firm’s head of public policy strategy Nick Pickles was asked if doing so undermined its insistence that it was a platform rather than a publisher.

It was, he said, time to “move beyond” that debate to a conversation about whether social networks were enforcing their own rules correctly.

Questioned why it had banned Mr Trump while still allowing other politicians to “sabre-rattle” on its platform, Mr Pickles added: “This is the complexity and challenge of these issues but generally content moderation is not a good way to hold governments to account.”

Mr Trump’s tweets were inciting violence “in real-time”, he added.

TikTok’s director of government relations Theo Bertram said that the video-streaming app had played less of a role in the violence in Washington and hosted fewer banned groups.

But that view was challenged by Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Home Affairs Committee.

It was, she said, in contrast to the Anti-Defamation League which found a significant amount of anti-Semitic content on the platform when it studied it last summer.

US Capitol riots: Trump supporter arrested after Pelosi ‘data theft’

A Donald Trump supporter suspected of stealing a laptop or hard drive from Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s office during the US Capitol riots has been arrested.

Riley June Williams, 22, was detained in Pennsylvania on charges of violently and illegally entering the building, and disorderly conduct.

A former romantic partner had said in an affidavit Ms Williams intended to sell the data to Russian intelligence.

Five people died after a pro-Trump mob stormed Congress on 6 January.

Ms Williams’ case is among more than 200 that have been opened since the president’s supporters forced their way into the Capitol building as lawmakers met to confirm Joe Biden’s election win.

Ms Williams was arrested on Monday in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, police records show.

Riley June Williams, FBI handout
image captionAllegations against Ms Williams were made by a former partner in an affidavit

Ms Williams had surrendered herself to authorities, sources told CBS News.

The charge sheet lists “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds”.

It makes no mention of the data allegations. The FBI is reportedly still investigating these claims, which were carried in a sworn statement presented by an FBI agent to a court.

View original tweet on Twitter

The affidavit says Ms Williams was seen in TV footage directing crowds who stormed the Capitol.

The FBI agent in the court filing says the agency was tipped off by a former romantic partner of Ms Williams who alleged she had intended to take a laptop or hard drive from the office of Ms Pelosi, the Democrat Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The witness “stated that Williams intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service”, the affidavit said.

The transfer of the device “fell through for unknown reasons”, the witness is alleged to have said, “and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it”.

Ms Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, tweeted two days after the attack that a laptop had been stolen from the speaker’s office but it was only used to give presentations.

The affidavit goes on to give details of an ITV News report from inside the Capitol building at the time of the siege, in which a woman identified as Ms Williams can be seen and heard directing the crowd to go up a staircase that leads to Ms Pelosi’s office.

View original tweet on Twitter

second ITV News report some days later has an interview with Ms Williams’ mother at their home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in which she confirmed her daughter was the woman in the TV footage. She said her daughter had left home without saying where she was going.

Security is tight ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday amid fears of further attacks by far-right groups and others who believe President Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him.

US Capitol on lockdown due to ‘security threat’

The Capitol building in Washington DC is on lockdown owing to a security threat, two days before Joe Biden is inaugurated as US president.

The Capitol, which is home to the US Congress, was attacked by a pro-Trump mob on 6 January, leaving five dead. 

Reporters at the scene say an emergency announcement is playing and a rehearsal for Mr Biden’s inauguration has been suspended. 

Security is tight, with thousands of National Guard members deployed.

Trump’s Christian supporters participated in Capitol riot

Christian supporters of President Donald Trump were among the thousands who descended on Washington DC last week. Their presence highlights a divide in American Christianity.

Before the march on the US Capitol began last Wednesday, some knelt to pray.

Thousands had come to the seat of power for a “Save America” rally organised to challenge the election result. Mr Trump addressed the crowd near the White House, calling on them to march on Congress where politicians were gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. 

The crowd was littered with religious imagery. “Jesus 2020” campaign flags flapped in the wind alongside Trump banners and the stars and stripes of the US flag. 

The throng did march to Congress, a protest that led to chaos at the Capitol. 

At least one group carried a large wooden cross. Another blew shofars – a Jewish ritual horn some Christian evangelicals have co-opted as a battle cry. Elsewhere a white flag featured an ichthys – or “Jesus fish” – an ancient symbol of Christianity.

For some Christians, seeing religious symbols alongside Confederate flags was shocking.

But for others, Mr Trump is their saviour – someone who was “defending Christians from secularists” as Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, told the BBC.

The day before the rally, a throng of fervent religious supporters of President Trump held a “Jericho March” in Washington. Brandishing crosses and singing Christian hymns, they marched around the Capitol re-enacting the biblical story of when the Israelites besieged the enemy city of Jericho.

The imagery on display was revealing of not just the racial and political divides in America, but the religious divides as well.

Exit polls suggest that in 2020, like in 2016, around four-fifths of white evangelicals – who make up a quarter of the American electorate – backed the Republican president. 

But the opposite is true of black Christians – around 90% intended to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, according to pre-election polling.

Ever since white evangelicals became a political force in the late 1970s, they have campaigned against access to abortions, sought to bolster religious liberty laws, and encouraged support for the state of Israel.

In all these areas the Trump administration has delivered: limiting government funds for groups supporting abortions, appointing more than 200 conservative judges to federal courts and three to the US Supreme Court, and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a long held desire among some white evangelicals.

They admit Mr Trump has flaws. In the words of one of his most loyal supporters, Texas megachurch leader Robert Jeffress, the president is “no altar boy”.

“He doesn’t pretend to be overly pious,” Mr Jeffress told me before the election.

“But that’s not why evangelicals turned out for him. It wasn’t for his personal piety. It was for his public policies.”

‘Christian nationalism’ in the US 

But aside from specific campaign issues, some academics say “Christian nationalism” was behind much of the religious support for Mr Trump’s campaign.

They say Christian nationalism merges Christian identity with national identity: to be American is to be Christian. Proponents believe that America’s success depends on its adherence to conservative Christian positions and warn, in Mr Trump’s words, of “an assault on Christianity” from political opponents.

“Voting for Trump was, at least for many Americans, a symbolic defence of the United States’ perceived Christian heritage,” the sociologist Andrew Whitehead wrote in a paper analysing the support for the president.

Academics such as Mr Whitehead and Philip Gorski, professor of sociology at Yale University, argue that throughout his presidency, Mr Trump explicitly played to Christian nationalist ideas by repeating the claim that the United States is abdicating its Christian heritage.

A Trump supporter prays in front of Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters rioted
image captionA Trump supporter prays in front of Capitol building

He promised “to protect Christianity” and for many supporters his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” could have been synonymous with “Make America Christian Again”. 

At a rally in Ohio last year he warned a Biden presidency would mean “no religion, no anything”. 

“Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God, he’s against guns,” he claimed.

But American Christianity is divided. 

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the US, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, described the riots as a “coup attempt” and “deeply disturbing”.

The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, the Right Reverend Mariann Budde, said the religious symbols on display were “the most heretical, blasphemous forms of Christianity”.

“This has been part of our nativist, racist Christian past from the beginning,” she told the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4. “What has been different in the Trump presidency has been the legitimisation of it.”

Next week, Mr Biden will be inaugurated as only the second US President who is openly Catholic.

In many ways he was a more suitable candidate for Christian voters than Mr Trump. 

He attends Mass at least once a week, his speeches are infused with biblical language, and he goes out of his way to describe the role faith has on his politics.

But many Christians, including some of Mr Biden’s fellow Catholics, refuse to see him as a “real” Christian because of his support for abortion access and for LGBT rights.

Quoting the biblical book of Ecclesiastes in his victory speech after the November election, Mr Biden said it was “a time to heal” in America.

So can Mr Biden persuade some of Trump-supporting Christians that – in his words – he will “restore the soul of America”? 

There is little evidence in the reactions of many evangelical leaders to last week’s riots that they are abandoning Mr Trump.

Some, like the prominent evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas, have promoted false conspiracy theories that it was the loose-knit left-wing antifa activists masquerading as Trump supporters who led the riot.

Others, like Franklin Graham and Mr Jeffress – who called storming the Capitol “a sin against God” – have condemned the violence but not Mr Trump’s role in provoking it. 

Mr Graham has also speculated without evidence that those who invaded the Capitol building were antifa, though the FBI has said it found no evidence of their involvement. 

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has also made it clear they were not behind the riots.

Among the few Trump supporters to have criticised the president is the Reverend Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. 

Supporters of President Donald Trump join in a mass prayer out front of the Michigan State Capitol Building to protest the certification of Joe Biden as the next president on January 6, 2021
image captionIn Michigan, President Trump’s supporters kneel in prayer in front of the State Capitol

He told the Houston Chronicle that Mr Trump “bears full responsibility for encouraging what amounted to an attempted insurrection”. 

Of people erecting crucifixes and waving religious banners on displa in Washington that day he said “it just adds to the scandal to have God dragged into this equation, as if there’s divine sanction for this kind of unconscionable activity”.

Mr Mohler is currently running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest protestant denomination in the US – and will hold significant sway if he wins.

Nevertheless, Mr Jones says Mr Biden has “his work cut out” for him when it comes to cooling the temperature and uniting America’s political, racial, and religious divides.

“I don’t see any movement here,” he said of Mr Trump’s evangelical supporters.

“Nothing that President Trump has done in the last four years has deterred white evangelical support at all.”

By Harry Farley

Capitol riots: What are far-right Trump supporters saying?

After initial calls from some Trump supporters for armed protests in the lead-up to inauguration day, many are now warning others not to take part – and claiming that the events are “a trap” set up by authorities.

Some of these discussions are happening on less popular and less public online platforms, where many Trump supporters from far-right and conspiracy groups have migrated after being kicked off Facebook and Twitter after the Capitol riot on 6 January.

One flyer shared on Gab, a Twitter-like platform popular with far-right groups, called for armed protests in Washington and 50 state capitals ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration. The plans prompted a warning from the FBI to national law enforcement officials.

But in recent days, other posts have pointed to a change of heart.

Posts on The Donald, a website full of extreme, violent content and pro-Trump conspiracy theories, have urged people not to attend rallies, describing them as “a set up… by those trying to destroy us.”

Its members are, unsurprisingly, furious about the president’s second impeachment, reserving particular anger for the 10 Republicans who voted in favour of it.

On messaging platform Telegram, the far-right, anti-immigrant Proud Boys group, some of whose members were identified among the crowd at the Capitol riot, issued a similar warning.

“If you see anyone dressed as a Proud Boy out at one of [the protests],” one post read. “They’re either a fed [FBI] or Antifa.”

However, another post urged supporters to “fight back against tyranny” and stated: “there is no political solution”.

Many of Trump’s extreme supporters are convinced that the Capitol protests were staged by militant left-wing Antifa protesters, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

There’s also an increasing sense of paranoia. Groups on alternative platforms that openly called for violence on 6 January now worry aloud that they have been infiltrated by government agents or left-wing activists. 

Owners and moderators of right-wing social media platforms have posted messages asking members not to post incitement to violence.

A smartphone screen featuring a number of messaging apps
image captionPro-Trump supporters banned from mainstreams apps are finding alternative online homes

But violent threats against House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and Republican Vice-President Mike Pence, whom the groups had hoped would overturn the election result, remain widespread.

The move away from mainstream platforms poses a risk, according to Mina al-Lami, jihadism specialist at BBC Monitoring, who sees parallels with Islamist militant groups who have been subject to similar crackdowns.

“Members of the fringe far-right may now slip under the radar into closed spaces which use end-to-end encryption,” a very secure method of exchanging messages, she says. “Their radicalisation goes unchecked and unmonitored.” 

And what about the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, which has been blamed for radicalising so many and whose members were among those that stormed the Capitol? 

The social media giants acted to purge QAnon groups after the violence in Washington, but they have quickly rebuilt themselves elsewhere. 

On Gab, one group dedicated to QAnon now has more than 165,000 users. A similar new channel on messaging platform Telegram has more than 50,000 subscribers. 

Believers of the theory are still convinced that something big will happen on inauguration day that will overturn the election and allow Donald Trump to stay in power and to vanquish his enemies in the “deep state”. 

A Trump supporter wears face paint at a protest in Washington, DC
image captionInfluential QAnon figures were among those who broke into the Capitol

Meanwhile, accounts spreading conspiracy theories and potentially inciting violence have emerged in surprising places. TikTok, the short-form video platform hugely popular among young people, has seen a flood of clips from pro-Trump militia groups.

TikTok videos from militia groups are concerning, says Ciaran O’Connor of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank focused on extremism and hate groups. 

Users have been sharing footage of members preparing firearms, and promoting false claims that President Trump has activated the Insurrection Act, a rarely used 1807 law that allows the president to deploy military forces inside the US. 

Extremist supporters have been taking advantage of TikTok’s slow moderation process, which means that videos can stay online for long periods of time before they are deleted for violating the network’s terms of service, Mr O’Connor says.

Some of the more violent and conspiratorial pro-Trump groups may have been scattered across the internet following purges at mainstream platforms, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone away. 

They realise they’re under close scrutiny from the US authorities, but they’re preparing to dig in for a long fight.

By Alistair Coleman

Man holding Confederate flag in Capitol arrested: FBI arrests so far

How many arrests so far?

FBI wanted poster seen in DC

The suspects in the Capitol riot are a varied group: they include a West Virginia lawmaker, a Florida firefighter and a left-wing activist from Utah.

It’s been over a week since the Capitol Hill riot – how much progress has law enforcement made bringing the perpetrators to justice?

More than 200 case files have been opened. According to the FBI, more than 100 arrests have been made in connection with the Capitol siege.

Michael Sherwin, US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said officials are looking at “significant felony cases” tied to sedition and conspiracy.

A man allegedly seen in viral photos carrying a Confederate flag in the Capitol during the riots was charged on Thursday.

Authorities named him as Kevin Seefried and he appeared with his son, Hunter, in a Wilmington, Delaware court.

They jointly face charges including entering a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct.

Man seen carrying a Confederate flag in the US Capitol

According to court documents cited by the Delaware News Journal, the duo got into the Capitol building through a window that Hunter helped break, before they “verbally confronted” US Capitol Police officers and the son took a selfie.

Mr Seefried Sr told investigators he normally flies the battle flag outside his home in Laurel, Delaware.

The Confederate flag is widely seen as a racist symbol as it was the banner of the slaveholding southern states that lost the US Civil War (1861-65).

Meanwhile, a left-wing activist has been arrested after tweeting video of himself inside the US Capitol as protesters breached security.

John Sullivan, 26, was charged with entering a restricted building and violent entry or disorderly conduct. He claimed in media interviews that he was just “documenting” the rampage, though the affidavit notes he has no press credentials.

John Sullivan
image captionJohn Sullivan said he was at the Capitol to “document” events

The court document says Mr Sullivan can be heard saying in a video he filmed of the Capitol riot: “Let’s burn this shit down.” He has identified himself in media interviews as a Black Lives Matter supporter, but rejects any association with antifa, a loosely affiliated group of far-left protesters.

Following the death of George Floyd last year, Mr Sullivan founded an activist group called Insurgence USA that advocates for racial justice. He was charged in July 2020 with felony riot and criminal mischief over civil unrest in Provo, Utah.

On Sunday, the Department of Justice announced the arrests of two men who were allegedly pictured bringing plastic restraints into the Capitol.

Man carrying plastic restraints in US senate

Authorities say Eric Gavelek Munchel is the individual seen carrying a number of plastic zip ties inside the Senate chamber. He was detained in Tennessee. Larry Rendell Brock, who is accused of entering the Capitol with a white flex cuff – a restraining device used by law enforcement – was arrested in Texas.

His ex-wife turned him in. “When I saw this was happening, I was afraid he would be there,” she told investigators, describing how she felt when she heard about the riots. Then she saw the images, and she recognised her former husband: “It is such a good picture of him.”

So far, neither has been accused of plotting to use the restraints, but face disorderly conduct and violent entry charges.

The FBI is still seeking dozens more individuals and has asked the public to help identify and locate them.

Officials have named the dangling rioter above as Josiah Colt of Idaho
image captionOfficials have named the dangling rioter above as Josiah Colt of Idaho

What are law enforcement saying about progress?

Steven D’Antuono, the head of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters this week that they have been inundated with information and tips from the public.

As of Thursday, the Justice Department has received about 140,000 videos and photos.

Officials said they are considering filing serious charges of seditious activity against some individuals who were involved in the siege on the Capitol.

According to federal criminal code, seditious conspiracy means an effort to conspire to overthrow the US government. The punishment is severe: up to 20 years in prison.

Some of the rioters were planning for a harrowing end to their attack on the Capitol: they intended “to capture and assassinate elected officials”, according to federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors provided this brief to a judge on Thursday in order to underscore the danger that the individuals posed to others and argue for their detention.

US Attorneys in Ohio, Minnesota, Kentucky and other states have also pledged to prosecute anyone who travelled from their regions to take part in the riot.

New details about how some of the rioters, or organisers of the assault, may have financed their operations have also been revealed by a cryptocurrency data firm, Chainalysis. According to the firm, a number of far-right activists received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments in Bitcoin before the assault on the Capitol.

Who are the key people charged so far?

Analysis by BBC Monitoring and BBC Reality Check

Robert Keith Packer

One of the most striking images from that day showed a man wearing a hoodie with the words: “Camp Auschwitz”. Auschwitz was a Nazi extermination camp where more than a million people, mostly Jews, were murdered during World War Two by Germany.

For many, the slogan showed some of the dark forces behind the protests.

Mr Packer was arrested in Virginia and has been charged with trespassing in a federal building and “violent entry and disorderly conduct” on Capitol grounds.

Mr Packer wore an outfit that appeared to pay homage to the Holocaust
image captionMr Packer wore an outfit that appeared to pay homage to the Holocaust

Jake Angeli – ‘Q Shaman’

Jacob Anthony Chansley, known as Jake Angeli or as he describes himself the “Q Shaman”, is a well-known follower of the unfounded QAnon conspiracy theory who lives in Glendale, Arizona.

QAnon supporters believe President Trump and a secret military intelligence team are battling a deep state cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles in the Democratic Party, media, business and Hollywood.

Known for appearing with a painted face, fur hat and horns while carrying a “Q sent me” banner in public, Mr Chansley, 33, has been charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct after appearing in multiple images inside the halls of Congress and the Senate chamber.

According to a local ABC news station, a judge has agreed that Mr Chansley should be “provided food in line with a shaman’s strict organic diet” after he refused to eat the meals provided at the jailhouse.

Through his attorney, the defendant has requested a pardon from Mr Trump, citing “the peaceful and compliant fashion in which Mr Chansley comported himself” during the riot.

A man in horns and a fur hat, alleged to be Jake Angeli, pictured inside the Senate chamber
image captionJacob Anthony Chansley is alleged to be the man seen wearing horns and a fur hat in photographs, including this from inside the Senate chamber

In videos posted to his social media accounts, he shouts about child-trafficking in front of government buildings or inside shopping malls, and attends pro-Trump or QAnon-linked “save our children” rallies.

Like many of his fellow QAnon followers, Mr Chansley says he believes Covid-19 is a hoax.

President Trump – viewed as a hero by the movement – has stopped short of endorsing the conspiracy theory but has described QAnon activists as “people who love our country.”

Officer Eugene Goodman confronts a pro-Trump rioter
image captionOfficer Eugene Goodman confronts Doug Jensen

Doug Jensen – QAnon 

Doug Jensen, 41, from Des Moines, Iowa, appeared in one of the most widely shared videos of the riots showing a lone African American officer holding back the mob.

Mr Jensen has been arrested and faces five federal charges, including violent entry and disorderly conduct and obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.

In it, he can be seen chasing a police officer up a flight of stairs inside the Capitol wearing a shirt with the QAnon slogan “trust the plan”.

Mr Jensen later identified himself on his Twitter account, tweeting: “You like my shirt?” and “Me…” under images of him inside the Capitol shared by fellow QAnon supporters.

On his Twitter, Mr Jensen regularly expresses support for President Trump, engages with well-known QAnon accounts, and tweets QAnon phrases such as WWG1WGA – short for “where we go one we go all” – a rallying cry for the conspiracy’s adherents.

Nick Ochs – Proud boys

Nick Ochs was arrested at an airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, by the FBI, as he returned home from Washington DC.

He’s accused of unlawful entry of restricted buildings or grounds, after he posted a picture smoking a cigarette inside the Capitol building, tweeting: “Hello from the Capital lol”.

Mr Ochs describes himself as a “Proud Boy Elder from Hawaii”. The Proud Boys is an anti-immigrant and all male far-right group founded in 2016.

President Trump addressed this group specifically in the first presidential debate. In response to a question about white supremacists and militias he said: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

Richard Barnett

Richard Barnett is the man pictured with his feet on a desk in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. He was also pictured outside the Capitol with a personalised envelope he took from her office.

He’s been arrested for unlawful entry, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and theft of public money, property, or records.

Richard Barnett, sits with one boot disrespectfully on a desk that is at the very centre of power in Congress.

Mr Barnett is 60 years old and from Arkansas.

Local media reports say Mr Barnett is involved in a group that supports gun rights, and that he was interviewed at a “Stop the Steal” rally following the presidential election – the movement that supports President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

Derrick Evans

Less than a month after he was sworn in as a Republican delegate in the West Virginia state legislature, Mr Evans filmed himself pushing through the crowd as he stormed the Capitol wearing what appears to be a motorcycle helmet.

“We’re going in,” he said in the now-deleted Facebook live stream. “We did it! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” he yelled, adding, “patriots inside, baby!”

His participation in the riot led lawmakers in his home state to consider cutting off his access to the West Virginia statehouse.

But within a week of the riot, he had resigned. He is facing federal charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Other arrests include:

  • Nicholas Rodean – The Maryland man was fired from his job after he was seen wearing his work ID badge to the riot
  • Aaron Mostofsky – The 34-year-old son of a Brooklyn judge was freed after posting a $100,000 bail. Pictures from the riot showed him wearing furs and a police tactical vest that he is accused of stealing
  • William Pepe – The New York City transit worker was suspended without pay after officials said he called out sick from work to travel to Washington and participate in the riot
  • Andrew Williams – The Florida firefighter was arrested after a picture online showed him wearing a Trump hat and pointing to a placard bearing the name of Democrat Nancy Pelosi
  • Josiah Colt – The Idaho man was pictured dangling from a Senate balcony after rioters stormed the chamber and is facing charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing
  • Adam Johnson, 36 of Florida, was photographed holding up the House speaker’s lectern and smiling during the Capitol siege. He has been charged with theft of government property and the lectern has since been returned
  • Jenny Cudd, the owner of a flower shop once ran for mayor in Midland, Texas. According to officials, she posted a video where she said: “We did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door”
  • Klete Keller, a two-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer, has been charged after online sleuths spotted that he wore his Olympic jacket to the Capitol
  • Robert Sandford, a recently retired firefighter from a Philadelphia suburb, is accused of assaulting officers by throwing a fire extinguisher at them
  • Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson, off-duty police officers from Rocky Mount, Virginia, are accused of trespassing and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds