It’s been two years since the infamous January 6th rally for President Trump. The subsequent rioting at the U.S. Capitol has become one of the most-prosecuted events in U.S. history. About 1,000 people have been charged with crimes. One side claims it was an “insurrection," a bigger threat to America than the 9/11 Islamic extremist terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000. Another side claims Trump supporters have been unfairly targeted. Today, we look at a little-reported facet of the fallout after J-6.
March 4, 2021. Surveillance video shows FBI agents, weapons drawn, surrounding the Texas home of Treniss Evans.
Sharyl: It looked like a dozen agents around your house?
Treniss Evans: Oh, it's a lot more than that. Yeah, so there was 20-plus agents there. They had snipers, they had vehicles to block off the street. I mean, it was insane.
Sharyl: And your 13-year-old son is out on the front deck with his hands up?
That’s his son, blue shirt, hands up. Considering the presence of a small army from the FBI, you might think Evans was a vicious criminal — armed and dangerous. In fact, he had no history of violence.
This was his crime. He's in the yellow hat, climbing through a window to enter the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6.
Evans: People were coming out of the building saying, "The police are letting us in. You can go in, you can just walk around. Everybody's taking videos, it's fine."
In videos, you can hear Evans, as he holds his camera at his chest, and urges fellow protesters to be peaceful. Most were.
Evans (January 6, 2021): Do not harm the police, do not hurt the buildings, do not destroy your own property.
Evans: And I took to the megaphone, "We back the blue, we support the police. Don't break, don't damage, don't harm, don't steal. This is a peaceful protest.”
Evans says the FBI had paid him a friendly visit just after January 6. He offered his full cooperation. They said they’d be in touch. So he was shocked by the armed raid on his home weeks later.
Evans: I mean, this was all part of the shock and awe they promised everybody. It wasn't only shock and awe in how they came to your house; it was shock and awe in the charging too, shock and awe across the board.
Evans is one of many who question the overnight, come-from-behind victory for Joe Biden. Tens of thousands attended the massive pro-Trump rally on January 6.
President Donald Trump (January 6, 2021): I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.
Evans: I didn’t go there for an insurrection. Where's my gun? You mean, the most armed populace on the face of the planet came for an insurrection, you know, by percentage, you know, came for an insurrection, and didn't bring any firearms?
Normally, the public has the right to watch Congress. But with overwhelming masses and fears of violence, the Capitol was made a no-go zone. Crowds pushing past barriers were breaking the law. There’s little dispute over prosecuting violent rioters. The controversy surrounds the FBI’s heavy-handed treatment of some peaceful demonstrators.
Steven Friend is among more than a dozen FBI agents reported to be blowing the whistle on the agency’s alleged political bias. He told me he was suspended after refusing to take part in SWAT raids of nonviolent January 6 suspects.
Sharyl: What did you think was so wrong about the raids?
Stephen Friend: I felt that there was definitely a harder hand in the way that the arrests and the searches were going to be carried out, regardless of the individuals' involvement in January 6.
January 6 has become one of the most aggressively-prosecuted events in U.S. history, with Trump’s enemies claiming it was an insurrection that threatened democracy.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (July 12, 2022): Donald Trump summoned a mob to Washington, D.C. and ultimately spurred that mob to wage a violent attack on our democracy.
Trump supporters lodge accusations of politically-driven investigations, and some Republicans are asking whether law enforcement may have been driving the January 6 chaos more than investigating it.
Sen. Ted Cruz (January 11, 2022): How many FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of January 6?
Jill Sanborn, FBI Asst. Director (January 11, 2022): Sir, I’m sure you can appreciate that I can’t go into the specifics of sources and methods.
Cruz: Did any FBI agents or FBI informants actively encourage and incite crimes of violence on January 6?
Sanborn: Sir, I can’t answer that.
The FBI’s role has come under increased scrutiny as their agents and informants have been revealed to be working undercover at high levels within the groups they’re investigating.
Take the 2020 domestic terror plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. According to court filings, there were more FBI agents and informants working undercover in the militia group than there were militia members who were arrested. Even the leader of the group who was driving the scheme was an FBI source.
There were also FBI agents or informants secretly working inside two major groups charged with planning the Capitol breach. A leader of the Proud Boys not present for the riots pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. It turns out the Proud Boys had up to eight FBI-linked people on the inside before the riots. And the number two officer in the Oath Keepers was an FBI informant, according to court records.
Full Measure has reviewed video evidence with more than a dozen current and former FBI Agents and law enforcement officials. They’ve flagged what they see as behavior among both law enforcement and people dressed as protesters that merits further investigation.
We wanted to ask the FBI about all of this, but they wouldn’t agree to an interview. At Congressional hearings, FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly declined to say much about the role of FBI agents and informants on January 6.
Christopher Wray, FBI Director (November 15, 2022): But to the extent that there’s a suggestion, for example, that the FBI’s confidential human sources or FBI employees in some way instigated or orchestrated January 6, that’s categorically false.
Rep. Clay Higgins (November 15, 2022): Did you have confidential human sources dressed as Trump supporters inside the Capitol on January 6 prior to the doors being opened?
Wray: Again, I have to be very careful.
Higgins: It should be a "no."
For his part, Treniss Evans says he’s not innocent, but insists he’s not the Most Wanted monster he’s been made out to be.
Evans: I want to own the fact that I broke the law, and I think we should all own the fact that we broke the law, but it's civil disobedience for 99% of the people there. For 90, you know, 90% of the people that went in that building, it's like a civil disobedience issue.
After the drama of the FBI raid, Evans ended up pleading guilty to simple misdemeanors: entering and remaining in a restricted building. In November, he was sentenced to 20 days in a minimum-security prison. Forever tarred as an “insurrectionist,” a label that he says is woefully misapplied.
Sharyl (on-camera): The Democrat-led Congressional investigation of January 6 recently recommended criminal charges against former President Trump. A special counsel appointed by President Biden’s attorney general is overseeing two other federal investigations into Trump.