This week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson had a critique of the January 6 report: there was no mention of the supposed federal provocateur that the right held responsible for the whole event!
Carlson was referring to Ray Epps, a former Oath Keeper who was caught on video on Jan. 5 urging the MAGA faithful to march on the Capitol, before wisely choosing not to enter on Jan. 6 itself.
Epps has become the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory which casts him as Exhibit #1 supporting the idea that Jan. 6 was a “fedsurrection,” as some call it — a government-instigated attempt at discrediting the Trump movement.
“Even by their own standards, they’re inconsistent because the committee did not send a criminal referral about Ray Epps,” Carlson said this week.
He then remarked that Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) “himself thanked Ray Epps,” before adding a trademark closer with his befuddled glare: “What is going on here?”
Now, thanks to the latest batch of transcripts from the January 6 Committee, we know.
The panel on Thursday released a transcript of its interview with Epps, alongside many other as-yet-unreleased key interviews, including testimony from Donald Trump Jr., White House advisor Stephen Miller and two Georgia election workers targeted by a Rudy Giuliani-boosted smear campaign. Epps was unique among the bunch, however, in that right-wingers have accused him for more than a year of being a federal agent inserted into the riot to instigate violence. Or, as Carlson put it, “if it’s not some sort of op, okay, then what is it?”
When asked repeatedly during his interview with the committee about whether he had ever worked with the FBI or whether any of his activities at the Capitol occurred at the direction or consultation of federal law enforcement, the transcript shows Epps continually said “no, sir.”
The panel also asked Epps if he was affiliated with any of the following agencies: the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. He answered no to them all.
As the committee continues to release the transcripts that underpinned its investigation, some right-wing media personalities have tried to suggest that Epps’s absence in the report and transcripts — until today — was evidence of some kind of conspiracy.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) suggested that the panel would “adjourn without fulfilling [its] year old promise to release Epps transcript.”
But in the transcript itself, Epps described genuinely believing that the election was stolen, and deciding to travel to Washington, D.C. to act on that belief. But when the big day came and he saw violence unfolding, Epps claimed that he then decided it was a bridge too far.
“I saw people crawling all over the Capitol, climbing the walls. It made me kind of ill to my stomach,” he told lawmakers. “There was no point in going back. It had gone beyond to what I wanted it to be.”
“They hijacked this cause,” he added later on. “When they hijacked it and it turned the other way, all credibility was lost.”
Epps said in the transcript that he wanted a “peaceful demonstration,” though the Jan. 5 video shows him exhorting Trump followers to “go into the Capitol.” Right-wing website Revolver News later published articles accusing Epps of being part of a federal “breach team” aimed at instigating the violence, and the theory took off.
Epps, a resident of Arizona, was only the latest scapegoat that the right-wing used to blame for the violence of January 6, following claims that Antifa caused the violence and theories about other potential provocateurs.
Ironically, the transcript suggests that Epps himself believed that Antifa may have been behind the violence at the Capitol.
“Who else would it be?” he said. “I didn’t know anybody else that would do it.”