Social media platform Parler said it had referred violent content from its platform to the FBI ahead of the breach at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Parler made the disclosure in a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in response to the panel’s request for documents. The company said that it had referred “violent content and incitement” from its platform to the FBI over 50 times before Jan. 6. It also warned the bureau about “specific threats of violence being planned” about the Jan. 6 incident.
“Parler now writes to set the record straight and provide new information about the positive role Parler played in the days and weeks leading up to January 6th, which should finally put an end to the spurious allegations against the Company,” the letter, penned by Parler’s attorney Michael S. Dry, stated.
The information is the latest in an ongoing feud between Parler and big tech companies that had sought to terminate the platform’s operation following the Jan. 6 incident. Apple and Google removed Parler from its app stores, while Amazon removed the platform from its web hosting service. All three companies took issue with the company’s alleged lax approach to violent content posted by its users and “repeated violations” of their terms of service related to such violent content.
Parler has denied the allegations and argued that the big tech companies had colluded against it as it had not taken action against competitors like Twitter and Facebook, which had similar content on their platforms regarding Jan. 6. Parler has also sued Amazon for a breach of contract, defamation, and anticompetitive behavior.
“There is no truth to the absurd conspiracy theories that have been put forth by Big Tech and its media allies to unfairly malign the company and which were referenced in the Committee’s Letter,” Parler said, according to the letter. “Contrary to what has been reported, and as explained in more detail below: the company is and always has been American-owned and controlled; Parler has never engaged in any collusion with ‘the Russians’; and Parler never offered President Donald J. Trump an ownership interest in the company.”
In its letter, Parler said that the company recognizes “legal limits to free speech” and that its policies “have always prohibited threats of violence and incitement on its platform.” It said that it had developed a “strong working relationship with the FBI” to foster cooperation with law enforcement, and ensure that unlawful incitement and violent threats were reported in a timely manner.
The company added that it had formalized its working relationship with the FBI in November 2020 and began to regularly forwarding screenshots of unlawful posts that called for violence or merited additional investigation for public safety. Such posts include users threatening to kill politicians and former Attorney General Bill Barr.
Parler said it had also alerted the FBI in December to content about specific threats of organized violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The company also sought to underscore the alleged unbalanced scrutiny of the platform, arguing that, out of 270 Justice Department charging documents it had perused, 80 percent of social media references related to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while only 5 percent mentioned Parler.
The letter also denied other accusations that had been lodged against the platform, including alleged collusion with Russian businesses and alleged discussion with former President Donald Trump aides to offer the former president an ownership interest in the company.
“This is also false,” the letter states. “Based on our review of documents and interviews of relevant individuals, we have identified no evidence that Parler ever negotiated with anyone to provide former President Donald Trump with a personal ownership interest in the company.”
Parler went under leadership restructuring following its dispute with big tech. Former Parler CEO John Matze, who co-founded the company, said he was fired following a dispute with one of Parler’s investors, Rebekah Mercer, over content moderation. Matze said this week that he has filed a lawsuit against the company.
According to a report in The Washington Post, the FBI had warned that extremists were preparing to come to Washington, attack Congress and engage in “war.”
The report says the warning was issued internally by the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, Virginia, a day before the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The warning directly contradicts statements from the Justice Department and FBI officials that they had no intelligence to suggest a storming of the Capitol.
The Post says the memo described how people had been sharing maps of the Capitol’s tunnels and discussing rallying points to meet up to travel to Washington. The newspaper reported that the document detailed posts calling for violence, including that “Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Antifa slave soldiers being spilled.”
It also said to “go there ready for war.”
The Associated Press has not obtained the document. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Charged & uncharged
The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia has brought federal charges against about 20 people so far, while 40 others have been charged in D.C.’s Superior Court. The people charged in Superior Court are mainly accused of things like curfew violations and gun crimes. Those being tried in federal court, where prosecutors can generally secure longer sentences, are charged with offences such as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, assaulting a federal law enforcement officer and threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On Sunday, federal authorities arrested two men who were photographed with plastic restraints inside the Capitol. Investigators said they used social media and livestream videos to identify Eric Munchel of Tennessee as the masked person seen in photos shared widely over social media carrying plastic hand restraints in the Senate chamber.
Retired Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. of Texas was photographed on the Senate floor carrying zip-tie handcuffs and wearing a military-style helmet and vest, authorities said. Brock’s ex-wife helped authorities identify him, according to court documents. He confirmed to The New Yorker that he was the man in the photographs and claimed he found the zip-tie handcuffs on the floor. “I wish I had not picked those up,” he said.
Authorities are working to identify more suspects and more charges are expected.
Many people were allowed to leave the Capitol freely the day of the attack, so investigators have to sort through a sea of photos, video, social media posts and tips from the public to see who was there and track them down.
Federal prosecutors across the U.S. have also said people could face charges in their home states if they traveled to Washington and took part in the assault.
Latest developments: 2:35 p.m. EST
Vice President Mike Pence has told governors on a call about the coronavirus that “our time” is coming to an end and a “new administration” is taking over.
Pence said Tuesday that the administration is in the middle of the transition and is working “diligently” with President-elect Joe Biden’s team. He thanked the governors for their leadership on the coronavirus and promised them a “seamless transition.”
He says the objective “is that there is no interruption in our continuous efforts to put the health of the American people first.”
Pence’s comments come as the U.S. House moves forward toward impeachment or other steps to forcibly remove Trump from office after a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol last week to stop Congress from affirming Biden’s victory. Trump has falsely claimed widespread voter fraud cost him the election
Within a span of about 24 hours, three House Democrats have announced they tested positive for COVID-19, prompting concern that last week’s insurrection at the Capitol has also turned into a super-spreader event threatening the health of lawmakers and their staffs.
Those who have tested positive were among the dozens of lawmakers whisked to a secure location when pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.
While it’s not certain where and when lawmakers caught the illness, the Capitol’s attending physician notified all House lawmakers of possible virus exposure and urged them to be tested. Dr. Brian Moynihan said that members who were in protective isolation last Wednesday “may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
The three Democratic lawmakers directed their anger toward some House Republicans who were also in the secure room and declined opportunities to wear a mask, despite their role in blocking the spread of COVID-19. Video surfaced of multiple Republican lawmakers refusing to wear a face mask even when they were offered one.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the violence at the Capitol shows the need for the Senate to swiftly confirm Joe Biden’s national security team on the first day of his administration.
Schumer said in a letter to colleagues that the deadly Capitol riot by a mob loyal to President Donald Trump last week was “one of the darkest days in all of American history.”
He said Biden will need “key national security positions on Day One.”
The Senate often confirms some nominees on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, but this year the Senate will also likely be convening Trump’s impeachment trial. The House is set to impeach Trump this week on a sole charge of inciting insurrection in the violent riot.
Schumer wants the chamber to swiftly take up those nominees for secretary of defense, secretary of homeland security, secretary of state, attorney general, and others.
Schumer outlined the party’s agenda, vowing to push ahead on Democratic priorities.
A total of 15,000 National Guard members have now been activated and will deploy to Washington, D.C., to help provide security in the run up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The number of Guard members coming in from other states has been growing, amid escalating fears of more violent protests in the wake of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, was given the authority to tap up to 15,000 Guard, but he has said that requests for assistance from the Secret Service, the U.S. Park Police and the Capitol Police have been increasing this week.
The Army also said Tuesday that officials are working with the Secret Service to determine which Guard members may need additional background screening. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Co., had asked Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to have the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command screen Guard members coming in to ensure they were not “sympathetic to domestic terrorists.”
The Army said CID will not be reviewing all the Guard, but some members may be subject to additional background screening. Traditionally, those who get within close proximity to the president — or in this case the president-elect — are checked more closely.
So far, officials said they have not yet identified any Guard members who participated in the protests, but investigations are ongoing.
In a statement, the Army said the D.C. National Guard is also giving troops additional training as they arrive in the city, so they know to identify and report any extremist behavior to their commanders.
The Army also said it is working with the FBI to identify people who participated in Capitol attack, adding, “any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a breach of peace may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on the FBI to add anyone identified breaching the Capitol during last week’s violent riot to the federal no-fly list.
Schumer sent a letter Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, saying the attack on the Capitol as Congress was voting to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win was “domestic terrorism.” He said those who stormed the Capitol should qualify as “insurrectionists for the No-Fly List.”
Schumer told Wray that they must also be fully prosecuted to the full extent of federal law. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press.
The federal no-fly list is part of the U.S. government’s Terrorist Screening Database and prohibits anyone who “may pose a threat to civil aviation or national security” from boarding a commercial aircraft. Generally, in order to be placed on the list, the government must have information that the person presents “a threat of committing terrorism” to the aircraft or the U.S. homeland or U.S. facilities.
The no-fly list is one of the government’s most controversial post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism programs.
President Donald Trump is taking no responsibility for his role in fomenting a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.
A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot a woman during the violence. Three others died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.
Speaking to reporters before traveling to Texas on Tuesday, Trump says his remarks to supporters last week were “totally appropriate.”
Minutes before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump encouraged them to march on the seat of the nation’s government where lawmakers were tallying Electoral College votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump, for months, had also spread baseless claims that the November election was fraudulent, despite his own administration’s findings to the contrary.
As rioters were still in the Capitol, Trump released a video seemingly excusing the events, saying of the rioters: “We love you. You’re very special.”
President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday at the White House that the prospect of impeachment is causing “tremendous anger” in the nation. But he said he wants “no violence.”
The president spoke as he left for Texas to survey the border wall with Mexico. His remarks were his first to reporters since the Capitol attack.
On impeachment, Trump said it’s “a really terrible thing that they’re doing.” But he said, “We want no violence. Never violence.”