'Today is the day': Here's why the 1st Amendment Praetorian is under scrutiny by Jan. 6 committee

In his letter to the National Archives on behalf of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol on Wednesday, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), signaled that the committee is interested in learning more about a man named Robert Patrick Lewis.

The letter requests "all documents and communications concerning the 2020 election and relating to Lewis and others as part of a probe into "recruitment, planning, coordination, and other preparations for the rallies leading up to and including January 6th and the violence on January 6th."

A Special Forces veteran and author with combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lewis founded a group called 1st Amendment Praetorian in September 2020 that provided security for three Washington DC rallies that helped build momentum over the two-month period building to Jan. 6. Lewis has described 1st Amendment Praetorian in an Oct. 11 Facebook post as a "group of military, law enforcement and intelligence community veterans" who "provide pro bono intelligence and security services to patriotic and religious events."

Beyond 1st Amendment Praetorian's role as "demonstration marshals" for the DC rallies that built momentum for Jan. 6, Lewis was also tapped to provide security for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn during the "Jericho March" from the National Mall to the Supreme Court. A former intelligence director for US forces in Afghanistan who briefly served as national security director under President Trump and was later pardoned after lying about his contact with the Russian ambassador, Flynn emerged in December as a major figure in the campaign to thwart the transfer of power. He endorsed a public call on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and order the military to conduct a new election.

Flynn's name is also on the list of Trump allies whose communications are sought by the January 6th committee.

"Being on the Personal Security Detail today for many of our personal hero and motivation in this fight — @GenFlynn — takes the cake," Lewis tweeted on Dec. 12. "This man & his family have given so much for this Republic and it's an honor to even share the air he breathes as he keeps us driving the 2nd American Revolution forward."

Lewis voiced similarly militaristic rhetoric elsewhere that day in an interview with Epoch Times affiliate New Tang Dynasty. Commenting on conservatives who felt that their ability to voice support for Trump, express religious feelings and watch an election process that was supposedly rigged, Lewis said, "A lot of people are angry. And so, we've been tracking this on the intelligence side for quite a while as a low-level conflict."

The event permit for the Nov. 14 Million MAGA March at Freedom Plaza, which was secured by Cindy Chafian on behalf of Women for America First, notes that 25 1st Amendment Praetorian members wearing black T-shirts would act as "demonstration marshals."

The group won the praise of Tracy Diaz, an early QAnon promoter who spoke at the event.

"There aren't any words to explain how absolutely life saving the guys of @1st_praetorian are," Diaz tweeted. "They protected us during the March. These are absolute heroes." Diaz's Twitter account has since been suspended.

1st Amendment Praetorian's performance on Nov. 14 appears to have caught the attention of Flynn, who retweeted Diaz, writing, "Thank you @tracybeanz for all you do & @RobertPLewis for your team of professionals." Flynn went on to make a fundraising appeal on 1st Amendment Praetorian's behalf, tagging conservative media personalities Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.

Lewis returned the compliment to Diaz in a late-night YouTube video filmed from his hotel room, in which he also mentioned providing security for Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander.

"I get to hang out with Tracy Beanz often, which is pretty cool," Lewis said. "We got Ali Alexander — we were tight at the hip with him all day today — and a lot of different conservative influencers."

1st Amendment Praetorian also provided security at the Jan. 5 "Rally to Revival" — likewise listed as 25 "demonstration marshals" wearing black T-shirts in the permit application. The event was organized by Cindy Chafian, apart from Women for America First, which is headed by Amy Kremer. Chafian obtained the permit for the Jan. 5 event, but partnered with Alexander and Brian Gibson, a Kentucky pastor. The eight-hour event was divided into three blocs emceed by the three partners.

Chafian, Alexander, Gibson and Diaz are all on the list of Trump allies, alongside Lewis and Flynn, whose communications members of the January 6th committee want to examine in their effort to understand preparations for the rallies that set the stage for the violence at the Capitol. Others include Trump confidant Roger Stone; InfoWars host Alex Jones; Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio; and Tom Van Flein, chief of staff for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). Two individuals on the list — InfoWars host Owen Schroyer and #WalkAway organizer Brandon Straka — face federal charges related to the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.

Although Lewis had cultivated a prolific social media presence across multiple platforms, Jan. 5 was his first time stepping into the spotlight as a speaker during the series of rallies that mobilized Trump supporters behind the false claim that the election was stolen.

Chafian mentioned 1st Amendment Praetorian as an "organization [that] is near and dear to my heart" in her introduction of Lewis, also giving shoutouts to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, at the Jan. 5 rally on the eve of the storming of the Capitol.

Lewis told the crowd that he was "willing to get up here and walk into danger if we need it, if we need to be there, to make sure that we don't cede this country, and I have my kids grow up in a communist hellhole. And I need each of you to fight as hard as you can to ensure that that does not happen."

Following his public appearance alongside Chafian, Lewis' public profile receded considerably on Jan. 6. But at 2:18 p.m. that day, the 1st Amendment Praetorian leader tweeted: "Today is the day the true battles begin."

Whether Lewis was aware of it or not, only five minutes earlier, Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola had used a stolen police riot shield to bash out a window, breaching the Capitol to allow the first wave of rioters to stream into the building. The incident was live-streamed on Twitter and widely shared.

Lewis told the Daily Beast that he was at the Willard Hotel, which is several blocks away from the Capitol, at the time he made the tweet.

By 5:32 p.m., Lewis had joined a brace of far-right influencers, including Rep. Gosar, in promoting a conspiratorial view that the mayhem at the Capitol was not the work of unnamed bad actors rather than Trump supporters.

"Getting a lot of reports that the Capitol bum rush was staged & not MAGA," Lewis tweeted. "Fits the color revolution play book to a T. Going to look at the @1st_praetorian intel shed, but seems pretty likely — we've already IDd some people we've been tracking."

Lewis could not be reached for this story.

While distancing himself from the assault on the Capitol, Lewis' rhetoric before and after Jan. 6 has remained consistent, reflecting a view that "patriots" need to be prepared to fight against sinister foreign actors that have supposedly infiltrated the US government and civil society.

"Americans are standing up," Lewis announced in an Oct. 11, 2020 Facebook post. "We're taking our country back. We've activated the counter-insurgency."

In a Fox News interview a couple weeks later, Lewis specified a logical adversary in his promised domestic "counter-insurgency."

"Our intelligence shows that no matter who wins the election, they are planning a massive 'Antifa Tet Offensive,' bent on destroying the global order; they are not beholden to any one party," Lewis said. "Their sole purpose is to create havoc, fear and intimidation."

In his Dec. 12 interview with New Tang Dynasty, Lewis vaguely alluded to foreign interference in the 2020 election while warning about potential violence.

"China, Iran, Pakistan — we saw some other outside adversaries that had a part in this — that's my biggest fear is that if they try to do that , if we do come to a point where there's violence in this country, our adversaries will start to come in, and it will be a battleground — the United States," he said. "That's what really worries me the most, because that's when chaos — I was in the Army, I was a Green Beret, so I've been in warzones. I don't want to see that here. I've got a family. I've got kids. I hope we can stop it before it comes to that point. But if we don't, there's a lot of people, they're not gonna go back to sleep, they're not gonna sit down, and they're not gonna allow it to happen."

Lewis' articulated fear in his interview with New Tang Dynasty echoes the central theme of his fiction writing in his 2019 book The Pact II: Battle Hymn of the Republic, described on Amazon.com as following "Rob and the men of ODA 022 from their battles against the invaders (China, Russia, Iran & Hezbollah) in Colorado to joining the resistance to take back the nation."

Meanwhile, Lewis has remained in contact with Flynn.

1st Amendment Praetorian provided security at the QAnon-organized "For God & Country Patriot Roundup" in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend, in which Flynn appeared to endorse a Myanmar-style coup in the United States.

Lewis commemorated the event by tweeting a photo of himself flanked by Flynn and former congressman Allen West holding an "Appeal to Heaven" flag.

1st Amendment Praetorian is actively recruiting military veterans and former law enforcement on its website. The site also includes an "Intel" page that cites "corruption as one of the greatest threats to our Republic," while directing visitors to visit the group's Telegram channel and inviting them to "stay tuned if you want to see the dirty underbelly of the current war for our Republic." But the group's Telegram channel mainly reshares content from QAnon accounts ("TheStormHasArrived17" and "They Praying Medic"), one that promotes Invermectin ("The Library"), and Flynn. A recent Telegram post by "The Library," meanwhile, praises Diaz for "doing groundbreaking reporting on Covid, Invermectin, vaccines & more."

On his personal Twitter account, many of Lewis' posts address the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Reacting to the Kabul Airport bombing on Thursday, Lewis reflected on the advance evacuation from Bagram Airfield, hinting darkly at betrayal by the US military command. If the decision was the result of malfeasance, Lewis tweeted, "get the engineers working on the gallows immediately."

In another tweet in late June, Lewis invoked the idea that an elite force must be willing to deploy "wrath" and "destruction" to "take back" the republic.

"Do you really want to take back and keep this Republic?" Lewis tweeted. "Truly? Because the answer is relatively simple…. But it will require Sunday school, turn the other cheek American Christians & Patriots to turn into Old Testament, full wrath of God, destruction of their house and salt the earth beneath them Christians.

"And it won't take that many of us," he added. "Just the ones who understand & have the temerity to do what needs to be done."