Fresh from a Tucker beatdown, Ted Cruz flogs Carlson’s Jan. 6 ‘false flag’ theory in Senate hearing

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Cruz’s rhetorical attack in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Domestic Terrorism Threat One Year After January 6” followed the announcement by Matthew Olsen, head of Department of Justice’s National Security Division, at the session’s outset of the formation of the new unit.

Noting that the number of FBI investigations of suspected “domestic violent extremists” had more than doubled since 2020, Olsen told the committee that the new unit would “augment our existing approach.”

“This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country,” Olsen said.

Cruz was having none of that. He barraged Olsen with a series of technical questions about the numbers of people arrested for their Jan. 6 activities and how many were for violent offenses, comparing them to prosecutions for “BLM and antifa” violence in the summer of 2020—none of which Olsen was able to answer.  

“Your answer to every damn question is ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,’” Cruz ranted.

He reserved his more serious vitriol for Jill Sanborn, head of the FBI’s national security branch, after she similarly failed to answer his questions—particularly regarding Carlson’s “false flag” theory. Cruz even brought out screenshots taken from Darren Beattie’s coverage for Revolver News (Carlson’s primary source for his conspiracy theory) showing an Arizona man associated with the Oath Keepers named Ray Epps and his actions that day at the Capitol.

But as Politifact explains, Beattie doesn’t even confirm that Epps is an FBI informant, but rather speculates broadly that he is. His actions on Jan. 6, videos show, are wholly consistent with those of the outspoken Trump supporter he has been for years (notably as a spokesman for the Arizona Oath Keepers). And as with all of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who had informant relationships with the FBI, if Epps was also himself an informant, the information he was providing was intelligence on their “leftist” opponents, not on their own organization.

Nonetheless, after ranting about Epps at length and insisting he was an FBI informant, Cruz demanded to know whether FBI agents or informants were in the crowd that day, whether they had participated in any criminal activity, or whether they had encouraged “violent criminal conduct” on Jan. 6. Sanborn replied that she was unable to even discuss those matters.

“Ms. Sanborn, a lot of Americans are concerned that the federal government deliberately encouraged illegal violent conduct on Jan. 6,” Cruz said, demanding to know if that was true.

“Not to my knowledge, sir,” she answered.

In fact, Cruz was repeating almost word for word the narrative spun by Carlson in his conspiracist gaslighting campaign, which Cruz eagerly and abjectly embraced on Carlson’s Jan. 6 Fox News show after Carlson eviscerated the senator for describing the insurrection as “terrorism,” which Carlson called “a lie.”

As Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld observed regarding that segment, Cruz not only bought into Carlson’s conspiracist nonsense, he made it clear that he intended to champion it henceforth. The two also discussed Epps at length:

CARLSON: So who is Ray Epps, by the way? Since you are a senator like there — he and this other guy are clearly encouraging the crowd to commit crimes. Neither one has been arrested or charged. What is that, do you think?

CRUZ: So, I think that is a very good question. I don’t know who Ray Epps is. I’ve seen that video multiple times.

CARLSON: Right.

CRUZ: It is disturbing. He is clearly urging the crowd to violate the law. When you see the crowd start chanting, “Fed, Fed, Fed.” For him to appear on the FBI’s most wanted list and come off, it certainly suggests he was working for the FBI. That’s not conclusive, but that’s the obvious implication.

Cruz concluded the segment by assuring Carlson that he would promote the narrative: “They want to paint us as Nazis! Yes, that is what they are trying to do. And I just—look, I’m the one leading the fight in the Senate against this garbage. And it’s what I have been doing and what I’ll continue doing.”

Wednesday afternoon, the Jan. 6 committee’s Twitter posted a response to the theories about Epps:

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.

Nonetheless, Carlson went on his Fox show Wednesday night and claimed that Sanborn’s refusal to answer, Cruz’s questions were evidence that, in fact, “DOJ had some role in the events of Jan. 6,” and then speculated baselessly about the Jan. 6 committee’s tweet:

When exactly and under what circumstances did the committee talk to Ray Epps? Supposedly this interview was conducted in secret last November. If that is true—we don’t know that it is, but let’s say it is—then why did the committee wait months to tell us today in a tweet? When the committee got its hands on Mark Meadows’ text messages, we seem to remember they leaked those to the media within hours. And by the way, was this Ray Epps interview conducted under oath? Did Democrats subpoena his electronic communications as they did with Meadows and so many others? Will the information Epps revealed to the committee be available to the many January 6 defendants who are now awaiting trial? Can their lawyers see a transcript of the interview? Can we see a transcript of this interview? If not, why not?

Carlson went on to claim that even though “Epps is a longtime right-wing activist” who “urged protesters to riot,” Democrats on the committee have become “protective” of him. “So what’s going on here? Something is, that’s for sure,” he concluded.

This is how Carlson’s gaslighting campaign has proceeded from the start: Toss odd factoids that in most cases are either wildly distorted or patently untrue into a cauldron brimming with visceral denialism along with an endless stream of conspiracist speculation, and voila! A fresh round of Kool-Aid for his millions of viewers to gulp down heartily.

And now he knows he can count on Ted Cruz to help hand out the cups.





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