Another MAGA conspiracy theory implodes: Arizona man was not an FBI plant to stage Jan. 6 attack after all

On Thursday, The New York Times revealed new evidence debunking a longtime conspiracy theory among Trump supporters about the January 6 Capitol insurrection: that an Arizona man named Ray Epps was deputized as an FBI informant to instigate the attack.

"The claims, made in congressional hearing rooms, on Fox News and at Mr. Trump’s political rallies, have largely been based on a video taken just before violence erupted at the Capitol, showing Mr. Epps at the barricades outside the building whispering into the ear of a man named Ryan Samsel," reported Alan Feuer.

"Within moments of the brief exchange, Mr. Samsel, a Pennsylvania barber, can be seen moving forward and confronting the police in what amounted to the tipping point of the riot. Despite lacking proof for their claims, many Republicans have surmised that Mr. Epps instructed Mr. Samsel to antagonize the officers. They have also pushed the notion that because Mr. Epps has not been arrested, he must have been working for the government."

However, according to the report, not only is there no evidence that Epps was acting on orders from the FBI, he did not tell Samsel to attack officers either. In fact, he did the opposite.

"Just two days after the attack, when Mr. Epps saw himself on a list of suspects from Jan. 6, he called an F.B.I. tip line and told investigators that he had tried to calm Mr. Samsel down when they spoke, according to three people who have heard a recording of the call. Mr. Epps went on to say that he explained to Mr. Samsel that the police outside the building were merely doing their jobs, the people said," said the report. Samsel himself corroborated this story, telling FBI agents, "He came up to me and he said, 'Dude' — his entire words were, 'Relax, the cops are doing their job.'"

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The January 6 Committee itself provided evidence against this conspiracy theory earlier in the year. It has been pushed even by some members of Congress, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).

More broadly, claims that the attack on the Capitol was instigated by "agent provocateurs" has been pushed, without any evidence, by Sen. Ron Johnson.