During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked a high-ranking FBI official a series of questions meant to advance conspiracy theory that the January 6, 2021, insurrection had been fomented by FBI agents and informants — a public display that comes just a week after Cruz appeared with Fox News host Tucker Carlson and reversed himself on all his prior claims that the insurrectionists who assaulted police were “terrorists.”
In a key moment during Cruz’s appearance with Carlson last week, the two discussed claims involving an Arizona man named Ray Epps, who on the night of January 5, 2021, was seen on video telling a crowd to enter the Capitol the next day and was also seen outside on the Capitol grounds during the siege. There is no credible evidence that Epps was some kind of point man in leading the entire attack. But his name has been spread prolifically by Darren Beattie, Carlson’s main partner in spreading the false flag conspiracy theory, claiming that Epps should “expose his handlers” in the government. (Beattie is a former Trump White House staffer who previously left his job after reports surfaced that he had attended a white nationalist conference.)
During his appearance on Fox, the senator agreed with Carlson that the “obvious implication” was that Epps had been working with the FBI, though it was also “not conclusive.” And so on Tuesday, he asked FBI official Jill Sanborn questions that pushed forward the theory even though there are well-known explanations to debunk the claims.
As PolitiFact explained this past November, Epps’ removal from an FBI public list seeking information on individuals seen on video from that day “could also merely confirm that the FBI is no longer seeking help in locating him,” or that he “may have already been interviewed by investigators.” In addition, though Epps was on the Capitol grounds during the riot, there does not appear to be any evidence that he actually entered the building or personally committed violent acts, the two main categories that have led to charges against other individuals connected to the insurrection.
While Sanborn had answered Cruz multiple times in the hearing that she could not comment on claims about FBI sources or investigation methods, the Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted later in the afternoon that Epps himself has told the committee he is not (and has never been) an FBI agent or informant. In addition, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a member of the House select committee investigating January 6, pointed out in a Twitter thread: “I’m pretty sure the FBI wouldn’t be dumb enough to put their own agent on a wanted list. Ray Epps has cooperated with the Jan 6 committee and we thank him.”
On a side note, Cruz seemed to exhibit a lack of political self-awareness when he asked why certain individuals who may have been affiliated with the federal government and were on video “urging people to go to the Capitol” have not yet been charged with crimes — as some obvious examples would be Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and then-President Donald Trump.
Cruz’s line of questioning, however, has already been celebrated on Twitter by prominent voices affiliated with far-right media — and who are also frequent guests on Carlson’s show in discussions of January 6 — including in tweets from Darren Beattie, who declared that “constructive criticism works,” as well as right-wing commentator Julie Kelly.
But perhaps the most important endorsement of Cruz’s performance today — other than, perhaps, anything that Carlson might say tonight — is coming from far-right host Alex Jones, who has also embraced the false-flag claims about the Capitol riot. (This is rather convenient, considering that Jones funded and helped plan the march and claimed the day after that the White House had directed him to lead the crowd to the Capitol.)
On Tuesday’s edition of Jones’ show, he and co-host Owen Shroyer specifically discussed that Cruz’s public turn was the result of Carlson’s influence.
Jones has previously boasted of his own influence on Carlson, claiming that he helped shape Carlson’s worldview and that Carlson has personally told him that Infowars woke him up. Jones has also praised Carlson’s efforts to rewrite the events of January 6, 2021, declaring that Carlson’s efforts have “surpassed Infowars' greatest exploits.” And indeed, Carlson has praised Jones, appeared on his show, and defended him for years.