A national security expert is noticing a pattern in the Department of Justice prosecutions of low-level defendants in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
It's common for prosecutors to target low-level offenders first in wide-ranging cases in hopes of turning up evidence against higher-level defendants, and journalist Marcy Wheeler tweeted out a theory she's developed about the Justice Department strategy against those who plotted and carried out the U.S. Capitol riot.
I talk a lot about how DOJ seems to be prioritizing trespasser arrests based off video they want to get from them.… https://t.co/UxuMb8eOqy— emptywheel (@emptywheel) 1629889858.0
"I talk a lot about how DOJ seems to be prioritizing trespasser arrests based off video they want to get from them," Wheeler tweeted. "Blas Santillan, arrested yesterday, seems to be a perfect example (tho he might be charged for theft eventually)."
Federal prosecutors already know the general movements of the Oath Keepers and other militia members they believe plotted and carried out the assault that swept other Donald Trump supporters into the Capitol, where the conspirators intended to halt the certification of Joe Biden's election win, but Wheeler said they are looking for more evidence to prove those cases.
"USG knows (in part from cooperator Caleb Berry's testimony) that some of the Oath Keepers came in the East door, dawdled in the Rotunda for a few minutes, then went to Pelosi's office," she wrote. "Kelly Meggs talked about assassinating Pelosi before that and said he went to look for her."
A recent detention hearing revealed some of the video evidence against Meggs, his wife and other Oath Keepers, and Wheeler said court filings in that case suggest another cooperating witness who hasn't been publicly revealed yet, but also shows a possible gap in the voluminous video evidence against the militants.
"CCTV screencaps released the other day as part of a [Joseph] Hackett detention fight show that both Meggses, [Kenneth] Harrelson, [David] Moerschel, and Berry were by [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi's office starting at 2:45, but they don't have video evidence (they've shown yet)," Wheeler tweetd.
"USG knows Santillan was in the Rotunda, taking a break from filming bc he was calling someone, at 2:46, then headed down the same hallway that Meggs and everyone else did," she added. "Santillan posted a bunch of videos, but on Snapchat, so they would need his phone to get the video."
That evidence will be easier for prosecutors to obtain now that Santillan has been arrested, and also shows part of their strategy in holding back some evidence from public view.
"Incidentally, this is probably one of the REAL reasons why USG doesn't want these CCTV videos widely released--bc it makes it easier to understand who is following whom down a hallway that is not visible," Wheeler tweeted.