In Washington A week after the Jan. 6 assault, a top FBI officer received an email expressing worry that certain bureau staff members would not be particularly motivated to assist in prosecuting the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol and threatened lawmakers’ lives.
The person wrote in an email to Paul Abbate, who is now the bureau’s No. 2 official, “There’s no good way to say it, so I’ll just be direct: from my first-hand and second-hand information from conversations since January 6th there is, at best, a sizable percentage of the employee population that felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the Capitol,’ and that it was no different than the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer of 2020. “Several also complained that ‘political correctness’ is the only reason this violent action is receiving greater attention.”
The email, which was just made public in response to a FOIA request, addresses a problem that has dogged the Jan. 6 inquiry from the start: the idea that some bureau employees weren’t and still aren’t particularly motivated to file charges against the Capitol rioters.
The sender, whose identity has been obscured, was probably someone connected to the bureau or a former agent, according to the full email’s content, which mentions “my first unit,” and Abbate’s response. Since the email was marked as “external,” it was not sent from a working bureau account.
In the words of the person who wrote to Abbate, “I literally had to explain to an agent from a ‘blue state’ office the difference between opportunists burning and looting during protests that stemmed legitimate grievance to police brutality vs. an insurgent mob whose purpose was to prevent the execution of democratic processes at the behest of a sitting president. One is a small handful of crooks, while the other is a well-organized organization of homegrown terrorists.
More than 70% of the counterterrorism team and roughly 75% of the agent population in that FBI office disagreed with the violence, but could “see where the dissatisfaction was coming from,” an official in that office’s “red state” location said.
Abbate replied, “Thank you redacted> for providing everything below,” in his message.
Abbate was the assistant deputy director overseeing all FBI staff, the budget, administration, and infrastructure at the time he received the email. The highest-ranking employee under FBI Director Christopher Wray, he was promoted deputy director the following month.
Regarding the email, the FBI declined to comment.
FBI Agents appreciate the value of keeping their personal opinions apart from their professional work, according to Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, who also stated that his group “does not comment on active investigations.”
The FBI has achieved significant victories in what officials have repeatedly described as an unparalleled investigation, despite the apparent friction on Jan. 6 within the organization. On charges ranging from minor parading to criminal seditious conspiracy, more than 850 suspects have been detained. The inquiry has so far always performed flawlessly in front of jurors.
FBI special agents have obtained confessions from rioters, including one who shot a stun gun into the neck of a police officer who had been kidnapped by the mob, and they have provided compelling testimony about their actions on January 6 and how they escorted weeping lawmakers back into the building that evening.
However, NBC News has been informed by sources close to the inquiry that several special agents nationwide have opposed the Jan. 6 charges. According to the sources, some special agents have been quite proactive while others in different field offices have put forth sporadic investigative efforts and appear content to let things fizzle out.
One individual close to the investigation claimed that there were “certainly various degrees of enthusiasm” from agents around the nation. The source noted that many special agents at the FBI carried out their duties regardless of politics, but that it was “disappointing” to see some of them respond in such a weak manner.
Some of the FBI’s internal opposition has been made public.
Republican lawmakers hailed Florida-based FBI special agent Steve Friend for being “patriotic” after he was suspended shortly after telling a superior he would “refuse to engage in any J6 cases.” Friend decided to take a position by protesting to the arrest of a militia member who had connections to a former congressional candidate in Florida, as reported by NBC News in reported.
Friend joined Trump’s Truth Social platform this week after receiving support from 30 former FBI special agents. Kyle Seraphin, another suspended FBI special agent who joined Truth Social and conducted an interview with conservative firebrand Dan Bongino following his suspension, welcomed him. Seraphin has advocated a fundraiser for a Jan. 6 legal defense fund and stated in writing that the Jan. 6 cases keep him up at night.
In a video that was uploaded online, Seraphin claimed that he was at a shooting range with local law enforcement when the attack on January 6 occurred and believed that a group of “goofballs” was responsible.
There’s no other way to put it, we were joking about it, he remarked. People were genuinely laughing out loud as we said, “Nancy Pelosi’s podium is in the hands of someone. Is that how our nation is meant to behave? No, but these were a bunch of clowns; to me, that doesn’t appear like an uprising.
Seraphin claimed to have “literally hundreds of employees” standing behind him in another message on Truth Social. All you’ll see is me. However, you’ll hear them. And we are not pleased.
The email written to Abbate was made public on the same day that the House committee had its ninth open hearing on January 6, and it revealed some of the warning flags the FBI had gotten before to the attack on the Capitol. According to information provided by the committee, the FBI had informed the Secret Service on January 5 that right-wing organizations were forming armed “rapid reaction forces” and that organizations like the Oath Keepers were “standing by at the ready should POTUS request help.” The facts revealed in the ongoing Oath Keepers trial is consistent with those revelations.
Even more stark was a tip the FBI got about the Proud Boys prior to January 6 that was mentioned by the committee.
They intend to kill people off in the real world. Please examine deeper and take this tip carefully, according to the December 2020 tip.
It should be abundantly evident to FBI employees that the attack on the Capitol during the certification of the Electoral College vote was a very serious matter, Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI official and contributor to NBC News, said on MSNBC on Thursday.
“An FBI person needs to find another job,” he continued, “if they can’t tell the difference between Black Lives Matter violence and an attempt to overturn the government and halt a legitimate election.”