Even in a nation where a significant percentage claim to believe in a scheme to sell children using pizza parlors connected by underground tubes, this immensely destructive conspiracy theory would seem to be way, way over the line.
Of course, the leaders of the Republican Party—Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz—are all over it. Gaetz has been retweeting a “breakdown of the involvement of FBI operatives who organized and participated in January 6 Capitol riot.” Greene has tweeted a demand for the names of ”the FBI operatives, who were involved in organizing and carrying out the Jan 6th Capitol riot.” She then goes on to claim that this was a “deep state” attack by the same people behind the Russia investigation.
One thing to note: when they’re blaming someone else, it’s a “riot.” When not blaming someone else, it’s a “visit.” Republicans have now moved past denial, never felt any guilt, and are fully marinated in anger. They’re ready to move on to the final stage—blaming the deep state for everything.
If what Gaetz and Greene are tweeting seems completely overboard and reckless, it’s not even a nit compared to what Tucker Carlson is already pushing on his Fox program. Here’s Carlson directly insisting that FBI operatives planned the insurgency, set up Trump supporters to take the fall, and are being protected by the DOJ.
Carlson: Strangely, some of the key people who participated on January 6 have not been charged. Look at the document. The government calls those people ‘unindicted co-conspirators.’ What does that mean? It means that in every single case they were potentially FBI officers. Really. In the Capitol on January 6.
If that seems an amazingly wrong-headed and dangerous statement, just wait. It gets worse.
Carlson: For example, one of those unindicted co-conspirators is someone government documents identify only as ‘person 2.’ According to those documents, person 2 stayed in the same hotel room as a man called Thomas Caldwell, in insurrectionist, a man alleged to be a member of the group the Oath Keepers. … person 2 and person 3 were organizers of the riot, the government knows who they are, but the government has not charged them. You know why. They were almost certainly working for the FBI.”
Person 2, who shared Caldwell’s hotel room and stormed the Capitol with him, was Caldwell’s wife.
What Carlson is purposely ignoring is that 1) many of those who are named but not indicted are those whose involvement was marginal and who have agreed to testify against the insurgents who were more violent or genuinely involved in conspiratorial planning, and 2) many more people are still to be indicted as the DOJ and local law enforcement complete their investigations. The investigation and prosecution of a criminal conspiracy involving an assault on the Capitol that involved literally thousands takes time to complete. Carlson is pushing a narrative that’s intended to short-circuit that investigation and delegitimatize the results.
As Dave Neiwert predicted, President Joe Biden has unveiled a reasonable plan to address right-wing white nationalist extremism, and for that reason everyone should “expect a Tucker meltdown.” What’s happening now with Carlson, with Gaetz, with Greene, and with Gosar is a direct response to the policies that Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Tuesday. Those policies show a dedicated focus to going after domestic terrorism forcefully, rather than giving it room to grow and the encouragement it received under Trump. In particular, this plan involves taking a hard look at how far-right extremists have infiltrated law enforcement and the military.
All of this is a direct threat to those who are actively supporting, and supported by, far-right white nationalists. That’s Gosar. That’s Greene. That’s Gaetz. That’s Carlson. That’s also Donald Trump.
Carlson’s actions are desperate. They’re also incredibly dangerous and destructive to the rule of law. What he is doing should be completely over the line for anyone. That Green and Gaetz are pushing this ugly claim should be enough to damn their political careers, at the very least. It won’t. Because Kevin McCarthy isn’t leading the Republican House; he’s barely even following. This—this claim that the FBI was behind the insurgency—is where the party of Trump is going. And it’s just the first step.
The second step is already in the portion of Carlson’s program that was tweeted by Gaetz. In that section, Carlson includes a snippet from an NBC appearance of former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi. In talking about dealing with the Jan. 6 events, Figliuzzi mentions that the people actually being arrested could be considered “low level” members of the conspiracy, and that to actually prevent further acts of domestic terrorism, “you’ve got to tackle the command and control element of the terrorist group, that may mean people sitting on Congress right now.”
The reference here is clearly to those members of Congress—from Sen. Josh Hawley to Rep. Lauren Boebert—who may have been involved in not just actively encouraging the insurgents, but could have had advanced knowledge about the attack, or even assisted in the planning. In response to the Figliuzzi clip, Carlson does his best imitation of slack-jawed astonishment, and proclaims it worse than anything Putin has done.
But it’s how Carlson phrases this that’s key. Carlson says that looking into how Republicans supported the insurgency amounts to “[rounding up] duly democratic elected members of Congress because they oppose the regime…” Which is, of course, not what anyone is saying.
Carlson is launching two overlapping narratives: that the FBI was actually behind the assault, and that any attempt to investigate involvement of Republican involvement in the insurgency represents President Biden going after political enemies rather than people engaged in criminal conspiracy. The net result of this is a claim that the FBI was setting up Republican members of Congress so that Biden could take them out—which is exactly in line with the claim Greene makes when she likens the investigation into the Russian “witch hunt.”
All of this is clearly a desperate ploy to make genuine investigation into Republicans in Congress and how they assisted the insurgency radioactive. And it should underscore why such investigations are urgent.
“Talk about rounding somebody up,” said Carlson, “why not round up the FBI operatives that rioted on January 6?” That’s where they are now. If this sounds like encouraging further violence, that’s because it is.