Sunday, January 29

Pro-Trump influencer upset after documents detailing ‘substantial’ cooperation with FBI are released


WASHINGTON — A pro-Trump social media influencer who was convicted of disorderly and disruptive conduct on Capitol grounds for his actions on Jan. 6 is upset over the release of court filings this week that were supposed to be sealed and detail the assistance he provided to federal authorities investigating the Capitol siege.

Brandon Straka, a self-described former liberal who founded the #WalkAway movement in support of Republicans, was sentenced to three months of home detention and a total of three years of probation in January. Straka’s relatively light sentence was in part due to what his lawyer described as “significant” cooperation with the FBI investigation into the Jan. 6 attack.

Documents detailing Straka’s cooperation were placed under seal when they were filed ahead of his January 2022 sentencing, but a coalition of media companies that includes NBC News filed a motion this week requesting they be unsealed.

Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ordered earlier this week that some of the documents be unsealed immediately, but asked for additional filings from both parties on whether the underlying attachments with the details of Straka’s cooperation should be unsealed.

But the documents provided to the media coalition, in an apparent error, included the underlying attachments that were meant to be kept under seal for the time being. Early Friday morning, Straka’s attorney filed a motion requesting a hearing on the release of the documents “without Court approval.”

After details of Straka’s cooperation began spreading on social media and a story on Straka’s cooperation ran on WUSA-9, Straka took to the right-leaning social media platform GETTR and posted a two-page letter expressing outrage at what he described as a “leak .”

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Brandon Straka at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Brandon Straka at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.US District Court of District of Columbia

According to the unsealed documents, some of the information that Straka provided to the FBI was derogatory in nature and could support criminal charges. But Straka’s GETTR post ignored that, and he instead wrote that the majority of the people he spoke to the FBI about him were his friends and that he did n’t say anything negative about them.

“There is NOTHING WRONG with talking to the DOJ and telling them your friends are innocent,” Straka said. “I hope at some point people pull their heads out and begin focusing on the ACTUAL horror here — that sealed court documents were leaked from within the DOJ to the liberal media.”

Among those named in the unsealed court documents: “Stop the Steal” organizers Ali Alexander, Amy Kremmer, Kylie Kremmer, and Cindy Chafian.

The list also featured Simone Gold, an anti-vaccine advocate who Straka specifically identified as a friend in his GETTR post.

“One of the names on the list was Simone Gold (now a friend of mine), and Simone was arrested and charged BEFORE I was. At the time of January 6th we barely knew each other,” he wrote.

According to prosecutors, however, Straka is really underselling the assistance he provided in their prosecution of the woman he now calls a friend. DOJ wrote in their own memo that Straka gave federal investigators critical information in the case because he “provided the government with voicemail messages that he received from Gold” that were “valuable in the government’s prosecution.” Gold was sentenced to two months in federal prison in June.

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Straka, according to the government, also provided “beneficial” information about a man who, like him, was also present outside the Capitol and “was not previously identified by the FBI prior to Straka’s identification.” Straka provided the information on the man, whose defense of him described as a convicted sex offender from Nevada, although though Straka’s defense memo noted that it was “unknown whether this individual actually did enter the Capitol.”

It isn’t the first time that Straka has attempted to scrub away the facts of his case.

Although Straka admitted in a signed court document as part of his plea, that it was “true and accurate” that he said “take it, take it” as rioters attempted to steal a US Capitol Police Officer’s shield, he’s since tried attempted to downplay the behavior he admitted, and strongly implied that he was lying when he signed the plea deal.

“I’m being accused of shouting ‘Take the shield, take the shield,’ which I can’t disprove,” Straka said in a YouTube interview last month, posted shortly after his home detention ended. “In the statement of offense, it was a condition that I basically confesses to all of the things that I originally accused me of… I told my attorney I cannot sign this… My option was take the deal as written or go to trial, and I took the deal.”

The facts that Straka admitted are inconvenient for his career, as he said during his sentencing hearing: “My followers don’t condone violence and all of them stand up to back the blue… My followers would never tolerate me advocating violence.”

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During his sentencing hearing, Judge Friedrich — a 2017 Trump appointee — said it was “very hard to accept what Mr. Straka wants me to believe,” given his extensive social media posts about Jan. 6, and that his story that he was “ completely oblivious” to the violence at the Capitol before he headed down to the building didn’t ring true.

“What does he mean by ‘Patriots… HOLD. THE LINE.’?” Friedrich asked his lawyer for him, citing a tweet that Straka posted at 5:33 pm on Jan. 6.

Straka said in his GETTR post that the real story was that “sealed court documents were leaked from within the DOJ to the liberal media.”

“I’ve suffered immensely at the hands of the DOJ for a year and a half,” Straka said. “The reason why these documents were leaked is because I didn’t go away and crawl in a hole and die after my case the way they wanted me to. I’m still not going to now.”

Back in January, Straka’s lawyer revealed that FBI special agents who questioned Straka werefocused 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 January 6.” Straka, he wrote, “denied the existence of any such plot.”


www.nbcnews.com

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