On Monday, the January 6 Committee issued another set of subpoenas, bringing the total now to 40. Among the individuals served was conspiracy theorist and ally of the former president, Alex Jones, who claims to have lined up "eighty percent" of the funding for the rally at the Ellipse on January 6. While it's not surprising that Jones's name was included in the list, a deeper look into the information the Committee already has on him is revealing.
Before diving into that, some context. A fundamental question at the heart of the inquiry is whether the White House and Republican leaders in Congress planned, knew about, and/or participated in the violent insurrection at the Capitol. It's important in unpacking this to talk about the two separate but related events that day: the rally at the Ellipse that was lawful, followed by a march down to the Capitol which turned into the deadly attack. The Committee is seeking to understand how deeply key figures within the Trump administration, including the former president himself, were involved in the latter. It was, after all, former president Trump who urged the gathered masses at the Ellipse to march down to the Capitol, where he said (falsely) that he would meet them.
The question of White House involvement in the second part of the day, i.e. the storming of the Capitol, matters a great deal because any plan to delay or stop the counting of Electoral College votes by illegal means could comprise a conspiracy against the United States. If the plan itself involved the use of force (which is of course ultimately what happened), it could rise to a charge of conspiring to use force to obstruct an official proceeding, which is what some of the main organizers of violent insurrection will face in a trial set for April of next year. They each could be sentenced up to 20 years on this charge alone.
What does this have to do with Alex Jones? The Committee's subpoena cover letter to him is chock-full of information that much of the public likely did not yet know. The information relates directly to what seems like an increasingly apparent conspiracy.
For example, on December 29, 2020, Jones said on his show, "Now I know some incredible information that I am not at liberty to tell you. But I am at liberty to give you a hint, which I don't think is too hard. You notice Trump said, 'January 6th will be wild in D.C.?' Well, it will be wild."
A natural set of questions arise from this. With whom had he been speaking about this "incredible information"? Did it include members of the administration? What did they tell him? The information had to be something other than the basic notion that people were going to attend a rally at the Ellipse where then President Trump would be speaking, which was already commonplace information. These statements, while self-aggrandizing, could tie him criminally to a conspiracy; they can't logically be much other than an admission that official higher-ups were informing him of a real plan. That plan, as the facts seem to demonstrate more and more, depended on large numbers of people assembling on the Ellipse, being whipped into a frenzy by rally speakers, and then unleashed upon the Capitol. Jones was at the heart of this by urging his followers to show up in Washington, D.C. and by lining up the financing to fund the Ellipse rally.
The cover letter also notes that on Jones's show on December 31, he had host Matt Bracken stand in for him. Bracken told listeners:
"We're not going to be saved by anybody above us. We're only going to be saved by millions of Americans moving to Washington, occupying the entire area, if necessary storming into the Capitol. We know the rules of engagement. If you have enough people, you can push down any fence or wall."
Again, some key questions arise. Did Jones discuss a plan with Bracken? If so, was it the same plan discussed by the White House? It would be highly unusual for Bracken to make such incendiary statements without Jones's prior consent, and in any event there is no evidence that Jones did anything to edit or censor him afterwards. Bracken was effectively speaking for Jones on his show. And what he was calling for, a week before it actually happened, was a mob takeover of the Capitol by force.
Of further and direct relevance is another fact: Jones, on his own show on January 7, 2021, stated that the White House had instructed, on or around January 3, that he "was to lead a march to the Capitol" where "President Trump would meet the group." If this is true, then it follows that the White House had planned all along to have Trump and his cohorts (such as Rep. Mo Brooks, who somehow had the foresight to wear body armor) instruct an angry mob to march to where the votes were being counted. If this was part of the White House's "wild" plan all along, then there could be serious legal jeopardy for all those involved. After all, if the underlying crime is to obstruct or impede an official proceeding, the conspiracy to do the same could sweep up all those who were any part of the plan.
A few further thoughts: It's tempting to assume that someone like Alex Jones, who trades in false claims and conspiracies including around the child victims of Sandy Hook Elementary, will simply thumb his nose at the law and try to run out the clock. But that tactic hasn't always proven effective for him. The law finally caught up to Jones in the Sandy Hook defamation cases, for example, after he repeatedly refused to provide discovery. The court responded recently by awarding a default judgment; the juries in two states will now limit their inquiry to the amount of damages he inflicted upon the families.
Whether Jones shows or not before the Committee also may not matter, and even if he did, he likely would plead the Fifth as he appeared to indicate in a ranting, conspiracy-laden video statement about the subpoena. After all, the Committee already has collected a great deal of damning information from its investigation into Jones's own statements on his show, as well as from over 200 cooperating witnesses. Those witnesses include people who likely could place him in discussions around the Ellipse rally that morphed, apparently by design, into the attack on the Capitol. Based on his own statements and those of these witnesses, as to the question "Did Alex Jones conspire with others to send an angry mob from the Ellipse to the Capitol in order to disrupt the official proceedings?" a jury could find him guilty just on the facts already known.
Alternatively, Jones may conclude that it's ultimately better to cooperate. Any claim that he had no knowledge that the Capitol march would turn violent already is belied by statements of a guest host on his very own show. Jones also doesn't know who might be ratting him out while he ponders what to do. If he delays, he may lose leverage. Finally, faced with crushing judgments and the loss of income from his once lucrative social media platforms, Jones may simply not be able to afford a long court battle, especially with the specter of huge defamation judgments against him next year.
For more political analysis, check out the Status Kuo newsletter.