Sen. Cruz presses assistant director on alleged role of bureau in Jan. 6 riot
In a Senate hearing Tuesday, the FBI’s assistant executive director for the national security branch, Jill Sanborn, repeatedly said she could not answer whether or not a man seen on video urging people to go into the Capitol the eve of Jan. 6 and then directing the initial breach of barriers was an FBI informant.
Finally Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Sanborn what he described as not a law enforcement question, but one of “public accountability.”
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“Did federal agents or those in service of federal agents actively encourage violent criminal conduct on January 6th?” the senator asked.
“Not to my knowledge, sir,” Sanborn replied.
Cruz began his questioning with: “How many FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of January 6th?”
Sanborn replied: “Sir, I’m sure you can appreciate that I can’t go into the specifics of sources and methods.”
The FBI official also said she could not answer whether or not any bureau agents or confidential informants committed or actively encouraged crimes of violence on Jan. 6.
Cruz then asked, “Who is Ray Epps?”
“I’m aware of the individual, sir. I don’t have the specific background to him,” Sanborn replied.
Cruz showed images of the video evidence as he recounted that a crowd surrounding Epps on the night of Jan. 5 chanted “fed, fed, fed” as Epps urged people to go inside the Capitol the next day.
The Texas lawmaker also showed an image of Epps whispering into the ear of a man who was seen five seconds later breaking down the barrier. And he noted that Epps was removed from the FBI Most Wanted list without explanation and never was charged.
“No one has explained why a person videoed urging people to go to the Capitol, a person who’s conduct was so suspect the crowd believed he was a fed, would magically disappear from a list of people the FBI was looking at,” Cruz said.
Later Tuesday, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol issued a statement regarding Epps. The committee said it had spoken with Epps and he denied being an FBI informant or working for law enforcement.
On Twitter, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the two Republicans on the committee, along with Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., mocked Cruz and others who point to the fact that Epps clearly was involved in inciting the riot yet has not been charged.
“One more @tedcruz conspiracy down. Ray Epps has cooperated and is nothing but a Jan 6 protest attendee, in his own words. Sorry crazies, it ain’t true,” Kinzinger wrote.
The committee said in its statement that it is “aware of unsupported claims that Ray Epps was an FBI informant based on the fact that he was on the FBI Wanted list and then was removed from that list without being charged.
“The Committee has interviewed Epps. Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on Jan 5th or 6th or at any other time, & that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.”