There are Republican ties with terrorist groups under investigation
A number of Congress members have ties to organizations and movements that played a role in the Capitol assault on Jan. 6.
The title of the video was posed as a question, but it left little doubt as to where the men who filmed it were standing. "They called it "The Civil War Coming? and Jim Arroyo, who heads the Arizona chapter of Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, declared in his opening seconds that the fight had already started.
Mr. Arroyo cited Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, one of the most far-right members of Congress, to back up his assertion. A few years ago, Mr. Gosar had paid a visit to the local Oath Keepers chapter, Mr. Arroyo recalled, and when asked if the United States was heading for a civil war, the response of the Congressman to the party was just flat out:' We're in it. We just haven't begun to fire at each other yet."
Members of the Oath Keepers were among those with ties to terrorist groups from around the world who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol less than two months after the video was released, sparking fresh criticism of the links between members of Congress and a number of organizations and campaigns that promote far-right views.
The baseless claims made by President Donald J. Trump that the election had been stolen from him were supported by nearly 150 House Republicans. But Mr. Gosar and a handful of other House Republican representatives had deeper relations with fringe organizations that promoted violent ideas and theories of conspiracy and whose members were popular among those who stormed Congressional halls in an attempt to avoid certifying the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Their ranks include Arizona Representative Andy Biggs, who was linked to the "Stop the Steal" campaign including Mr. Gosar, backing Mr. Trump's bid to reverse the results of the election.
Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert has strong ties to militia groups, including the so-called Three Percenters, an extremist offshoot of the gun rights movement that had at least one participant who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents were among the most visible of those who stormed the building, was promoted by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and she appeared at a rally with militia groups. She used social media in 2019 to support the assassination of top Democrats before being elected to Congress last year and indicated that the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a staged "false flag" attack.
Florida representative Matt Gaetz participated last year at an event also attended by representatives of the Proud Boys, another extremist group whose position is being investigated by the F.B.I. in the Jan. 6 attack, such as that of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
Whether any elected officials played a role in directly facilitating the assault on the Capitol is not clear, other than helping to incite violence through false statements about Mr. Trump being stolen from the election. Officials also said they are investigating Democratic claims that on Jan. 6, a number of House Republicans gave tours of the Capitol and other information to individuals who may have gone on to be part of the mob. No evidence has surfaced publicly so far to back up those allegations.
In a tweet, Ms. Boebert said she had "never done a U.S. tour." Capitol for my swearing-in to anyone besides family members in town," and she called accusations from Democrats that she gave a "irresponsible lie" to insurgents a "recognition tour." After the Capitol riot, she said she did not support "illegal acts of violence.
Mr. Biggs has declined to associate with Stop the Steal organizers and criticized "any sort of" violence.
Are you aware of any planned protests or disturbances in the United States? Capitol to be held on Jan. 6, 2021 after the rally? No," said Mr. Biggs in a statement.
Ms. Greene's spokesperson said she was now refusing QAnon, and he was seeking to distance her from members of the militia.
Her communications director, Nick Dyer, said of QAnon, "She has nothing to do with it." "She thinks it's disinformation." As for the members of the militia, he said, "Those individuals were independent of Congresswoman Greene at one event."
In response to requests for comment, Mr. Gosar did not respond.
"On his podcast, Mr. Gaetz said the Proud Boys were at the event he was attending to provide security, and that "just because you're taking a picture with someone," it doesn't mean "you're tied to every point of view they've ever had or they're ever going to have in the future.
But a small but vocal band of Republicans now serving in the House, in signaling either open or tacit support, gave legitimacy and publicity to extremist groups and movements as they built on their role in supporting Mr. Trump's efforts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election and the attack on Congress.
Aitan D. Goelman, a former federal prosecutor who helped prosecute Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, said that when elected officials or even candidates for office took acts such as posing with militia groups or other right-wing groups, it "provides them with an added legitimacy imprimatur."
A study of many of the most influential elected Republicans with ties to right-wing groups also reveals how on Jan. 6, at the Capitol, different strands of populism came together.
The members of Congress have, to a degree, mirrored the signals sent by Mr. Trump.
He nodded to the Proud Boys during a presidential debate in October, asking them to "stand back and stand by." Two months earlier, Mr. Trump described QAnon supporters, some of whom were accused of murder, domestic terrorism, planned abduction, and most recently storming the Capitol, as "people who love our country," adding that "they supposedly do like me."
Few Republicans have been more linked than Mr. Gosar to terrorist groups.
"Anti-Muslim groups and hate groups have been involved," said Mr. Gosar's brother, Dave Gosar, a lawyer in Wyoming. Anti-Semitic diatribes are made. He's twisted up with the Oath Keepers so close that it's not even funny.
As he stood for Congress in 2018, Dave Gosar and other Gosar siblings ran advertisements denouncing their brother as a radical extremist. They are now appealing to Congress to remove him.
Dave Gosar said, "We warned everybody how dangerous he was."
Mr. Gosar and Mr. Biggs helped turn Arizona into a crucible for the Stop the Steal campaign in the days after the 2020 election, seeking common cause with hard-liners who, including Ali Alexander, had toiled in obscurity until then. A video, "This Election Is A Joke" was filmed by the two congressmen, which was viewed more than a million times and spread misinformation about widespread voter fraud.
With Mr. Gosar, Mr. Biggs and another outspoken supporter of Stop the Steal, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, Mr. Alexander said he "schemed up" the Jan. 6 rally. The portrayal of the position of the members of Congress by Mr. Alexander is exaggerated, Mr. Biggs said, but the politicians were part of a broader network of individuals who helped organize and facilitate the rally as part of the attempts of Mr. Trump to reverse the will of the electorate.
Mr. Alexander emerged after the election as a vocal supporter of the stolen election allegations of the president, setting up on Nov. 4 a Stop the Steal website and making incendiary remarks. He tweeted on Dec. 8 that he was ready to abandon his life in order to hold Mr. Trump in office.
The Republican Party of Arizona followed up, retweeting a post from Mr. Alexander and adding: "He is." You are? "Since then, Mr. Alexander has been banned from Twitter.
Ten days later, at a rally in Phoenix that Mr. Alexander helped organize, Mr. Gosar was one of the headliners. To give a call to action, Mr. Gosar used the rally, telling the audience that they intended to "conquer the Hill" to return Mr. Trump to the presidency.
Mr. Alexander dubbed Mr. Gosar "my captain" during his time onstage and said, "One of the other heroes was Congressman Andy Biggs."
While Mr. Biggs played down his role in the Stop the Steal movement, on Dec. 19, at an event where participants yelled inflammatory slogans against politicians, Mr. Alexander played a video message from Mr. Biggs to an angry audience. Mr. Biggs' mom, Cindy Biggs, was seen at the event twice embracing Mr. Alexander and speaking in his ear.
Mr. Biggs spoke at an event in 2019 sponsored by the Patriot Movement AZ, AZ Patriots and the American Guard, all classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups, according to The Republic of Arizona. He was quiet at an event in 2015, when the founder of the Oath Keepers called for Senator McCain to be hanged, calling him a traitor to the Constitution. At the time, Mr. Biggs told The Republic that he thought it was not his place to speak up and condemn the remarks.
Mr. Arroyo, of Arizona's Oath Keepers, said Mr. Gosar had attended two of their meetings, a year or so apart. Mr. Arroyo said his group "does not advocate breaking the law" and that he was "saddened to see the display of a few out-of-control individuals trespassing on the Capitol building."
Like Mr. Gosar's family, he was publicly condemned by Mr. Biggs' two brothers, who claimed he was at least partially responsible for the Jan. 6 attack. "Furthermore, Athena Salman, a Democratic state representative in Arizona, has called on the Department of Justice to investigate Mr. Gosar and Mr. Biggs' actions before the riot, saying that they "encouraged, supported, collaborated and probably helped to organize this anti-democratic rebellion.
'I Am The Militia'
Hundreds of demonstrators descended on the Colorado Statehouse in December 2019 to condemn a proposed state law designed to take weapons out of the hands of mentally troubled individuals.
Among those at the rally were members of the Three Percenters, identified by federal prosecutors as a "radical militia group," and Lauren Boebert, who was courting their votes, a Congressional hopeful with a history of arrests. Trained with her own handgun, she posed with militia members for photos and defiantly vowed to fight the legislation.
Militia organizations would emerge as one of Ms. Boebert's vital political partners in the months that followed. She wrote on Twitter, "I am the militia," as her campaign got underway last year.
For her campaign activities, Militia members provided security and frequented the restaurant she owns, Shooters Grill in Gun, Colo. A member of the Three Percenters was filmed giving Ms. Boebert a Glock 22 handgun in a newly released video.
Another party member, Robert Gieswein, who posed in front of Ms. Boebert's restaurant last year for a photograph, faces federal charges of storming the Capitol and threatening the police.
Photographs from the attack show him dressed in protective clothing, goggles and a mask, struggling to remove metal barricades with Capitol Police officers and brandishing a baseball bat. A video of Mr. Gieswein urging other rioters has also been cited by investigators as they shattered a window at the Capitol.
Once inside, Mr. Gieswein was pictured with another witness, a former Marine and a Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, who was also charged in the Capitol assault.
"Benjamin Stout, Ms. Boebert's communications director, said in an email that she "has condemned all forms of political violence and consistently made it clear to those who stormed the U.S. To the full extent of the statute, the Capitol should be tried.
"He added, "Just because she takes a picture of someone asking for one does not mean that she endorses any single opinion they have or agrees with any other public statements or causes they support.
The Caucus for QAnon
The movement known as QAnon was one of the driving forces behind the assault on the Capitol, and QAnon has a few more high-profile followers than Ms. Greene.
QAnon is a campaign based on the fantastic claim that Mr. Trump was elected to smash a conspiracy of Democrats, foreign financiers and "Deep State" officials who worship Satan and rape children, secretly supported by the military. An apocalyptic showdown between Mr. Trump and his opponents, known as "the Storm," was prophesied. Their rivals would be arrested and executed during the Hurricane, including Mr. Biden and several Democratic and Republican members of Congress.
Many apparent QAnon supporters wearing "Q" shirts and waving "Q" flags were part of the crowd that invaded the Capitol.
Among them, Mr. Angeli, whose real name is Jacob Chansley, stormed the Capitol in horns and animal furs, and left a note threatening Vice President Mike Pence, was Jake Angeli, a QAnon devotee who styled himself the 'Q Shaman.'
Also among them was Ashli Babbitt, a QAnon believer who was shot and killed as she tried to climb through a window in a barricaded door near the House Chamber by a Capitol Police officer.
"In recent years, many of her Facebook posts reflected the language used by the movement, talking about hanging prominent Democrats or executing FBI agents. Ms. Greene was an early adherent, calling QAnon "a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take out this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles.
Ms. Greene has also shown a fondness for some of the paramilitary groups whose founders, including the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, were captured on camera assaulting the Capitol. Speaking at a pro-Trump rally in Washington in 2018 at the Mother of All Protests, she lauded militias as organizations that can defend citizens against "a tyrannical government."