A Tennessee man was arrested on gun charges late last week after the FBI alleged that he was scheming to violently attack immigrants and Border Patrol agents at the southern border.
While the man, Paul Faye of Montgomery County, Tennessee, had allegedly been plotting a potential attack for the past year, he was spurred on by talk of an “invasion” at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the FBI — the very rhetoric Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been using publicly to justify his standoff with the federal government there.
The arrest was first reported by a senior researcher at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center, Seamus Hughes. You should go to his write up at Courtwatch for a summary of all the concerning details of the criminal complaint, but here are some top lines:
- Faye was arrested and charged with possession of an unregistered silencer, which was attached to a Creedmoor rifle.
- The FBI first became aware of Faye after its indictment last March of a man named Brian Perry, a Tennessee militia member who was plotting to “go to war with border patrol” and kill immigrants at the border. Faye had been in “extensive” communication with Perry, according to an FBI affidavit.
- Faye was arrested after he revealed to, unbeknownst to him, an undercover FBI agent that he hoped to recruit militia members in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee to go along with his attack plan. He also allegedly told the FBI employee he’d been in communication with the North Carolina Patriot Party, a group the affidavit describes as a militia group.
- Faye believed that the U.S. was being “invaded” by migrants, that the federal government was “training to take on its citizens” and that the Biden administration was letting undocumented immigrants into the country “to help the government” oppress citizens. He planned to travel to the border on Jan. 20, according to what he told an undercover agent over the course of in-person meetings and phone communications.
- He hoped his attack would be just the beginning: He told the undercover FBI employee that he wanted to “stir up the hornet’s nest,” and inspire others. “What’s going to happen. What I hope happens. Is called a domino effect,” he said, according to court documents.
The arrest happened in the hours leading up to what was billed as a planned, mass citizen standoff across three U.S.-Mexico border towns, where, according to some right-wing influencers, hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters, part of “God’s Army,” planned to show up in force and stage a protest against the supposed “invasion” at the border. In reality, only a few hundred members of “God’s Army” showed up at the three planned locations for the event, Eagle Pass, Texas, Yuma, Arizona, and San Ysidro, California.
Much like the trucker “Freedom Convoy” that was supposed to descend en masse in Washington, D.C. to protest COVID-19 vaccine rules in 2022, the event largely amounted to a much-hyped dud. About 700,000 protesters were expected to attend three separate “PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY & PRAYER” events, but crowds did not reach anywhere near those numbers, according to local media reports. The events were planned by a man named Robert Agee, who is affiliated with Mike Flynn’s grifty “ReAwaken Tour,” and, according to Vice, speeches delivered at the various locations were reportedly “a soup of grievances, anti-government conspiracies, and dehumanizing language about migrants.” The activities undertaken by the smaller-than-expected group of demonstrators reportedly had a Christian nationalist bent, and some of those gathered were even baptized.
Speakers included Abbott, Rep. Keith Self (R-TX), Jan. 6 defendants and Mark McCloskey, one-half of the St. Louis gun couple who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. Some speakers invoked right-wing Jan. 6 conspiracy theories as part of their addresses. Agee even at one point called upon any members of law enforcement in the crowd to “fully disclose their presence and purpose,” and demanded that anyone who is “being paid or coerced to be here” “leave the premises immediately or call me.” “You’ve been put on notice,” he said.
Local and national news outlets alike described the planned gathering as primarily a MAGA grifting opportunity for those in the biz and an eye-opening experience for the true believers buying Abbott’s, Trump’s and other Republicans’ rhetoric about the “crisis” at the border.
As one attendee named Misty Gregory told MSNBC of the supposed “invasion”: “It’s not what I expected, but then again I don’t know what I expected. I can tell you it’s not as bad as what I thought, so that’s kind of eye-opening in itself.”
While the latest MAGA mass protest proved underwhelming, it appears that Abbott, Trump and other Republicans’ immigrant demonizing-rhetoric and Civil War cosplaying at the Texas border has been successful in killing bipartisan legislation meant to clamp down on the influx of migrants. After days of attacks — as Trump and other Republicans tried to kill the bipartisan legislation to give Trump something to campaign on this fall — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) finally admitted defeat.
“We have no real chance here to make a law,” he told reporters Tuesday evening.
The Best Of TPM Today
Our breaking news coverage: Trump Not Immune From Prosecution, DC Circuit Rules