Over the course of the last year, several hundred people have been charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Practically all of them have something in common: They're relatively unknown, low-level figures who responded to Donald Trump's dangerous call.
Last week, however, federal prosecutors took a qualitatively different approach, charging Stewart Rhodes, the founder of a far-right militia group called the Oath Keepers, with "seditious conspiracy."
It was a striking reminder that the Justice Department isn't just focusing on those who participated in the insurrectionist riot, it's also examining those allegedly responsible for helping plan and organize what transpired on Jan. 6. Indeed, it dovetailed with Attorney General Merrick Garland's remarks two weeks ago, when he said, "The Justice Department remains 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."
It was against this backdrop that The New York Times had an interesting report overnight.
For months, the Justice Department has provided little public indication of whether, or how seriously, it is investigating the role played by former President Donald J. Trump in the violent attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6. But on Tuesday, for the first time, evidence emerged in court papers that prosecutors have posed questions to at least one Jan. 6 defendant that were "focused on establishing an organized conspiracy" involving Mr. Trump and his allies to "disrupt" the work of Congress.
At issue is a court filing from Brandon Straka, a former hair stylist turned "Stop the Steal" activist, who spoke at a pro-Trump rally on Jan. 5 and was at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
A few months ago, Straka pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct and acknowledged playing a role in a confrontation with a police officer during the riot. The accused later cooperated with prosecutors, who recommended a four-month home-detention sentence.
His case generated a few headlines, but it took on greater significance yesterday when Straka's lawyer noted in a court filing that during his client's interview with prosecutors, "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 Jan. 6."
Or put another way, in at least one instance, the Justice Department pressed a Jan. 6 criminal on a possible "organized conspiracy" involving the former president and those who rioted in his name.
Straka's lawyer said his client "answered all questions truthfully and denied the existence of any such plot." That's good to know, though the existence of the questions themselves offer a possible hint about where the Justice Department's investigation may be headed.
As for the congressional investigation into the same events, there was also news on that front yesterday. NBC News reported:
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas Tuesday to Rudy Giuliani and three other allies of former President Donald Trump who were involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The committee said Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Boris Epshteyn "publicly promoted unsupported claims about the 2020 election and participated in attempts to disrupt or delay the certification of election results."
Around the same time, CNN reported that the bipartisan House panel has also "subpoenaed and obtained records of phone numbers associated with one of former President Donald Trump's children, Eric Trump, as well as Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is engaged to Donald Trump Jr." (Neither MSNBC nor NBC News has independently verified the accuracy of this report.)
Watch this space.