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‘The FBI was involved’: Reporter pushes back on Trump supporter’s wild claim

<i>Brent Stirton/Getty Images</i><br/>
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Brent Stirton/Getty Images

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

“Thank God for a free press — which is doing the investigating and reporting that Congress should have done way before now,” Asha Rangappa wrote Wednesday.

She was talking about this brand new New York Times video investigation titled “Day of Rage,” based on thousands of videos from the January 6 riot, plus radio dispatches, interviews with witnesses, and other material. The extraordinary Times production was widely praised by reporters on Wednesday.

But Rangappa could have also been talking about CNN’s “Assault on Democracy” documentary; the news media’s efforts in court to obtain riot footage; or ProPublica’s recent investigation that indicated “Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic;” or Just Security’s new “clearinghouse” for riot research. Her broader point is spot on: Newsrooms have been putting the January 6 puzzle pieces together, creating a detailed rough draft of history, in spite of partisan efforts to bury that history.

Now the House is creating a select committee to investigate the deadly attack. The front page of Thursday’s Washington Post sums it up this way: “House, in partisan split, votes to create panel to probe Jan. 6.” Karoun Demirjian’s lead focuses on the “political challenges that face Democrats” as they investigate the attack, acknowledging that the lopsided vote showed how “Republicans have rallied against scrutinizing an attack they once strongly condemned.”

“Just two Republicans joined with Democrats to support its formation — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois,” CNN’s story notes.

Multiple things are happening at the same time. Pro-Trump media outlets are becoming increasingly brazen about excusing the insurrectionists. Legit reporters are bringing new info about the attack to light. And government agents are locking more alleged rioters. “Prosecutors have also been targeting those who allegedly attacked members of the media or damaged their equipment,” WaPo’s Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner noted Wednesday…

Meet the “Sedition Hunters”

HuffPost senior justice reporter Ryan Reilly has spent much of the past six months covering the crowdsourced FBI manhunt for the rioters. On Wednesday he came out with a new story about the “anonymous online sleuths who tracked down the digital breadcrumbs that Capitol suspects had often unknowingly sprinkled across the internet.”

These sleuths call themselves “Sedition Hunters” — and they’ve been “generating leads, making connections, and keeping the feds on their toes.” Now Reilly is expanding his reporting to book form: Ben Adams at Public Affairs has acquired his work, tentatively titled “Sedition Hunters,” about both the online investigators and “the probe’s implications on civil liberties and 21st century policing.”

This is the first book deal I’ve seen that is specifically pegged to January 6 and the aftermath. Many of the upcoming books about Trump’s final year in office will contain new reporting about the riot, though…

PolitiFact’s angle

Why are reporters for a fact-checking website reviewing court filings about January 6? Because they want to document what role misinformation played in the attack. Bill McCarthy published “initial findings” on Wednesday and promised more to come.

Documents pertaining to about half of the 430 defendants arrested through June 1 “shed light on how misinformed beliefs influenced the defendants’ lives ahead of the riot,” McCarthy wrote, from a music teacher in DC “who amplified false conspiracy theories on his podcast and YouTube channel” to a “woman from Pennsylvania who suggested on Facebook that people who ‘start researching’ will find that Democrats ‘have been trafficking children for years'” to a “man from Ventura, Calif., who said in videos posted on YouTube and other platforms long before Jan. 6 that the Smithsonian Institution is hiding evidence of giants, and that we may be living in a simulation.” Read the full report here. It really was a riot of lies…

Fresh fears about August, all because of a loony theory

Speaking of misinfo, here’s the latest reporting from CNNers Zachary Cohen and Geneva Sands: “DHS officials are warning that the same sort of rhetoric and false narratives that fueled the January 6 attack on the US Capitol could lead to more violence this summer by right-wing extremists. A growing belief among some Donald Trump supporters that the former President will be reinstated in August, coupled with relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, has DHS officials concerned that online rhetoric and threats could translate into actual violence in the coming months as more people are out and in public places.” Read on…

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