Federal law enforcement officials on Tuesday remained tight-lipped in the face of senator’s questions about whether FBI informants were present during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Jill Sanborn, the assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch, said she could not “go into specifics of sources and methods” when confronted with a tense line of questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz at a Judiciary Committee hearing.
Of particular interest for Mr. Cruz was the presence of alleged FBI informant Ray Epps, who can be seen in a Jan. 5, 2021, video encouraging rallygoers to enter the Capitol the next day.
In a separate video from outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, a man Mr. Cruz identified as Mr. Epps was seen whispering to a rioter immediately before the individual tore down a police barricade outside of the Capitol.
Mr. Epps’ ties to the FBI have been an issue since the agency inexplicably removed his name from its list of people wanted for questioning in connection with the Capitol riot.
Mr. Epps was never charged with a crime stemming from his involvement in the riot.
“There are a lot of people who are understandably very concerned about Mr. Epps,” Mr. Cruz said. “Ms. Sanborn, was Ray Epps a fed?”
“Sir, I cannot answer that question,” Ms. Sanborn replied.
Later, Sen. Tom Cotton asked Matthew Olsen, the assistant attorney general for the National Security Division, why Mr. Epps had not been charged.
“Mr. Olsen, who is Ray Epps and why was he removed from the FBI’s most-wanted list?” Mr. Cotton asked.
Mr. Olsen replied: “Senator, I don’t have any information about that individual.”
The House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol chimed in after the hearing to say that Mr. Epps has denied being an FBI informant.
“The Select Committee 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,” a committee spokesperson wrote on Twitter.
“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,” the committee said.
Stop the Steal founder, Ali Alexander, said the committee’s statement only added to the intrigue.
“Why is the Democrat January 6th Committee so interested in trying to clear Ray Epps’ name?,” Mr. Alexander said.
Mr. Alexander was subpoenaed by the committee in connection with a pro-Trump rally he intended to hold near the Capitol on the day of the riot. Mr. Alexander also organized several rallies in the months leading up to Jan. 6 of last year.
“Ray Epps is the only person, caught on video, telling protesters on January 5th and January 6th to go inside the Capitol Building and prevent our permitted event from taking place,” Mr. Alexander said.
Mr. Alexander testified before the committee last month in an eight-hour deposition as required by the committee’s subpoena.
Several Republican lawmakers from both chambers have raised questions about whether Mr. Epps worked with federal law enforcement officials.
On the anniversary of the attack last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, called the attack a “fed-surection.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican and member of the House committee investigating the attack, followed the committee with his own explanations Tuesday evening of why Mr. Epps was not an informant and why there was nothing to the fact that charges being dropped.
“He didn’t enter the Capitol on Jan 6, and was removed from the most wanted list because apparently he broke no laws. I’m pretty sure the FBI wouldn’t be dumb enough to put their own agent on a wanted list,” he wrote in one of a several-tweet thread aimed at Mr. Cruz.
Mr. Kinzinger also noted that Mr. Epps‘ actions neither could have caused a riot of this scale nor would deflect all moral responsibility from the rioters.
“Let’s say Ray was an agent (HE IS NOT), the premise is that one agent can gin up a crowd to insurrection. That isn’t saying much about the intelligence of your voters is it Ted? The rioters had formal education, owned businesses etc.,” the Illinois lawmaker said.
• Joseph Clark can be reached at email@example.com.
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