As Trump trial opens, evidence mounts Capitol attack was planned

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Paul HANDLEY
·4 min read
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On December 19, Beverly Hills salon owner Gina Bisignano read a tweet from president Donald Trump: "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"

"We'll be there," replied Bisignano, one of tens of millions who saw the summons to Washington to battle Trump's election defeat.

Meanwhile Ethan Nordean in Washington state and Enrique Tarrio in Florida were online making their January 6 plans as leaders of the extreme-right Proud Boys.

Nordean, according to a court filing, on December 27 appealed to followers for funds to buy protective gear and communications equipment.

A week later he and Tarrio told followers in a podcast to wear black, and said they would have to be prepared to fight.

"We are looked at almost like soldiers of the right wing," said Tarrio. "This stuff is real. We are in a war."

In the ranks of the extremist Proud Boys or Oath Keepers, among QAnon conspiracists and hardcore fans of the Republican president, the message was clear weeks ahead: Trump wants you to head to Washington to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's election win on January 6.

As Trump stands trial in the US Senate for incitement of insurrection, increasing evidence in court filings shows the attack on the US Capitol was premeditated.

- 'Set to boil' -

After Trump's tweet many fans announced plans to travel to Washington, some simply for a final pro-Trump rally.

But others spoke of halting the certification itself and inflicting pain on "traitors" in Congress.

They prepared for it. Dozens brought combat helmets, stun guns, body armor, communications equipment, and bear and pepper spray. A handful had firearms.

The night before, someone planted pipe bombs at two different locations near to the Capitol. The bombs never went off, and may have simply sought to draw police away from the Capitol as the assault began.

The alleged leaders of the attack, those appearing most organized, according to court filings, were the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

In late December in Berryville, Virginia, some 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of Washington, Thomas Caldwell was allegedly organizing for serious violence.

Described as a "commander" of the Oath Keepers, a violent far-right group of mostly ex-military and police, Caldwell planned to meet just outside Washington with members of armed militia from around the region.

"Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil," he said on Facebook.

"They have morphed into pure evil even blatantly rigging an election and paying off the political caste. We must smite them now and drive them down," he added.

- Storm the Capitol -

In Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, QAnon and Proud Boy follower Kenneth Grayson, 51, was likewise preparing.

On December 23, court filings show, he texted to family and friends: "I'm there if Trump tells us to storm the fucking Capitol ... they are not going to steal this election."

In Georgia attorney William Calhoun was angry about Biden's alleged steal of the election. After the election he had already been reported to the FBI for calling for an armed attack on Washington.

On December 29 he posted: "Being physically present in Washington on January 6 is of key importance. We the people have no other realistic option to communicate our unwavering intent to demand fair elections now and forever -- or else."

A week later he announced he was on his way to Washington "to let them know this is their last chance to Stop The Steal -- or they are going to have bigger problems."

- 'The steal is stopped' -

The morning of January 6, Ronnie Sandlin of Memphis Tennessee and Nathan Degrave of Las Vegas, Nevada, made a video of their plans.

"I think it is time to take the Capitol and I don't say that lightly," said Sandlin.

"If we need to occupy the Capitol, we will occupy the Capitol....one o'clock is when it is all going to go down."

After the attack, participants declared success, having done what they planned to do.

"Today the American People proved that we have the power," Calhoun posted.

"We occupied the Capitol and shut down the Government -- we shut down their stolen election shenanigans."

Proud Boys Nicholas Ochs of Hawaii and Nicholas DeCarlo of Texas streamed a video from the scene.

"We came here to stop the steal," said Ochs.

"That's what I came down here to do. We fucking did it," said DeCarlo.

"It may resume, but the steal is for now stopped. You're welcome, America!" Ochs replied.

pmh/ec