A composite image showing Straka in 2018 (R) and a screenshot sent to the FBI, allegedly showing him at the Capitol riot.
FBI / Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
- A Capitol rioter said DOJ was focused on establishing an ‘organized conspiracy’ with Trump.
- Brandon Straka spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally the day before joining the January 6 attack.
- DOJ said Straka used his public profile to promote his involvement in the Capitol siege.
Federal investigators focused their questioning of a high-profile Capitol rioter on establishing an “organized conspiracy” between former President Donald Trump and his political allies to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.
The tantalizing detail may provide a small potential window into any DOJ investigation of Trump tied to the mob that attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. It comes from an attorney for Brandon Straka, a New York City hairstylist who is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday for his role in the riot.
Straka’s lawyer, Bilal Essayli, wrote in the 14-page court filing that his client’s cooperation with federal investigators Tuesday included voluntarily submitting to three government interviews.
“During the interviews the government was focused on establishing an organized conspiracy between defendant, President Donald J. Trump, and allies of the former president, to disrupt the Joint Session of Congress on January 6,” Essayli wrote, while adding that Straka had “answered all questions truthfully and denied the existence of any such plot.”
The attorney also asserted that the FBI had found no evidence of a centralized effort to interfere with the peaceful handoff of power, citing an August 2021 Reuters story with the headline, “Exclusive: FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated – sources.”
A spokesperson for the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC, declined to comment. Essayli did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Essayli’s filing came nearly two weeks after Attorney General Merrick Garland, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Capitol attack, said the Justice Department was “committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”
President Donald Trump arrives at the “Stop The Steal” Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Trump-appointed judge to sentence January 6 rioter
Straka pleaded guilty in October to a single disorderly conduct charge stemming from his role in the Capitol attack that left five dead and more than 100 police officers injured. He also spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington and on January 7 posted a nearly hour-long video recounting his role in the Capitol siege, according to an FBI affidavit.
“The plan was always to go to the Capitol. We were going to march from that event … to the Capitol, and there was going to be another rally. I was one of the speakers slated to speak at the Capitol,” Straka said in the video.
More than 700 people have been charged in the year since the Capitol breach, but Straka is among the few speakers at pro-Trump events leading up to the attack who has faced prosecution so far.
The special House committee investigating the January 6 attack has also taken an interest in Straka. The panel named him in a request to the National Archives seeking records from the Trump White House.
Tuesday’s submission from Straka’s lawyer came in response to the Justice Department’s recommendation that he receive a sentence including four months of home detention and three years of probation. DOJ argued that its recommendation should be handed down because Straka is a social media influencer with a “significant public profile,” which prosecutors said he used to promote his conduct on January 6.
Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, is set to sentence Straka on Thursday. His attorney argues Straka should receive a sentence with a brief term of house arrest and community service.