Sen. Mike Lee perpetuated an unfounded conspiracy theory that federal agents or informants were among the rioters on Jan. 6 and that one may have flashed a law enforcement badge during the attack (in reality, it was a vape). In two posts to X (formerly Twitter) over the weekend, the Republican indulged in a MAGA disinformation campaign.
Lee quoted a post from former Jan. 6 committee member Liz Cheney that contained footage of the Capitol attack, writing, “Liz, we’ve seen footage like that a million times. You made sure we saw that—and nothing else. It’s the other stuff—what you deliberately hid from us—that we find so upsetting. Nice try.”
He then added, “P.S. How many of these guys are feds? (As if you’d ever tell us).”
Then on Saturday, Lee quoted a post from a Republican former West Virginia legislator Derrick Evans who asked if an image from a Jan. 6 video inside the Capitol shows a rioter “flashing a badge?”
“If so, this would prove there were undercover federal agents disguised as MAGA,” Evans wrote.
Lee quoted Evans’ post and wrote, “I can’t wait to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray about this at our next oversight hearing. I predict that, as always, his answers will be 97% information-free.”
You might pause and wonder, is the person behind the account with the handle @BasedMikeLee really a U.S. senator? But it is. Lee confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune in 2022 that the account is his.
The man pictured with the alleged badge is Trump supporter Kevin Lyons, who is shown in a separate photo carrying a vape in his hand. Twitter appended two fact checks to the tweets, writing that Lyons “is not a police officer and is not holding a badge. He is carrying a vape and a photograph and wallet stolen from Pelosi’s office.”
Even if Lyons were a federal agent, he would certainly be going to great lengths to disguise his affiliation. Lyons is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for his actions in the Capitol, which include stealing a wallet and taking a framed photo of the late Rep. John Lewis from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
Before his sentencing, Lyons told the judge, “I’m an idiot, I realize that. I was stupid. I don’t know what came over me. … I apologize to you, the country and my family.”
Fox News host Maria Bartiromo brought up the conspiracy theory on her show Sunday, asking former speaker Kevin McCarthy about the rumors that federal assets were involved. “Speaker, I want to be real specific,” she said. “There are questions regarding FBI informants that were in Trump clothing around the Capitol on that day, throughout the crowd. Do you have any insights for us regarding their role in those events, the FBI’s role?”
Bartiromo: Questions regarding FBI informants that were in trump clothing around the capital that day throughout the crowd. Do you have any insights for us regarding their role in those events. The FBI’s role. pic.twitter.com/0kp5gcPjMc
— Acyn (@Acyn) November 19, 2023
McCarthy said he was not aware of it. “I personally don’t. That’s the committee. I would make sure to look at that and see all that and get more information,” he said. “I know the director of the FBI has been asked this question numerous times. [Republican Rep.] Thomas Massey is the one working on this, and I think he’d have greater insight for you.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson said Friday that he intends to release all 44,000 hours of Jan. 6 footage to the public, which would fulfill a vow he made to appease his party’s right-wing while campaigning for the speakership. By Friday afternoon, 90 hours of the footage was posted to the House Administration Committee’s website.
GOP Rep. Clay Higgins asked FBI Director Christopher Wray about the conspiracy theory last week during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee. Wray has long denied federal agents being involved in the riot or its planning.
“If you’re asking whether the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was part of some operation orchestrated by FBI sources and/or agents… the answer is an emphatic no,” Wray said.
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