RAY EPPS: The man that the MAGA GOP want to blame for the insurrection

RAY EPPS: The man that the MAGA GOP want to blame for the insurrection

Republicans have pointed fingers at just about everyone and anyone — except Donald Trump — to place the blame for the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol.

One of their favorite conspiracy theories, though, is that one member of the crowd, former Marine Ray Epps, was actually behind it all, and was secretly planted by the FBI or some other high-level government agency to incite the attack and make Trump look bad.

Epps can be seen in video clips of the attack, sometimes at the front of the crowd.

Of course, blaming everything on him would be a stretch at best, when there’s documented evidence of Trump himself inviting the mob to D.C. and directing them to the Capitol, and of various militia groups plotting in advance, but facts haven’t prevented the conspiracies from spreading.

Now that Epps’ testimony to the January 6th Committee has been made public, several House Republicans are cherry-picking it to again place all the blame for the attack on this individual, even though his own words directly contradict their claims.

Ultimately, while Epps confesses to participation, his actual involvement doesn’t seem to be at a higher level than perhaps hundreds of other participants who were not charged.

Still, there’s a point when the Committee questions him about a text he sent on the afternoon of January 6th — a text that he says was poorly worded and came when he wasn’t aware of the level of violence and destruction that took place.

In that text, he boasts that he “orchestrated it,” though he explains in his deposition that he was just bragging about helping arrange travel to Washington D.C. for the “Stop the Steal” rally.

Republicans, including Representatives Matt Gaetz, Troy Nehls, and Jim Banks, have all tweeted a screenshot showing a tiny fraction of the exchange.

In it, the Committee asks Epps about a text exchange in which his nephew advises him to be careful, and he boasts back:

“I was in the front with a few others. I also orchestrated it.”

Nehls’ post, retweeted by Gaetz, cuts off Epps’ response to the question, though.

He explains that his relationship with his nephew involves what seems to mean exaggeration and braggadocio, and says:

“What I meant by “orchestrate,” I helped get people there. At that point, I didn’t know that they were breaking into the Capitol.”

These elected representatives also don’t bother to share that the Committee pushed Epps further on that single word in his text, either, later asking him why he’d use the word “orchestrated” when he was talking about something he was walking away from, and pressing on exactly what he was trying to take “ownership” of:

“I just want to understand a little bit more your use of the word ‘orchestrated,'” one interagator probed. “It sounds to me like, at this point, when you sent this text, you had turned away in part because of seeing some things that you didn’t agree with and were moving back to your hotel…So I’m just trying to understand why that word ‘orchestrated’ was used because it sounds like you’re sort of adopting the whole thing, including the stuff that you were walking away from.”

Epps replies, saying that he didn’t know, at that time, just how bad things had gotten at the Capitol, explaining, “It’s just — yeah, I took credit for it, but I didn’t know what I was taking credit for.”

In fact, the Committee’s questioning and Epps’ explanations of that single text go on for around five pages of the deposition — so why are Nehls and others only sharing with their followers a tiny snippet that supports the accusation?

The screenshot below depicts Nehls’ post and Gaetz’s retweet of it.

[Screenshot via Matt Gaetz/Troy Nehls/Twitter]
Representative Banks’ retweet, at least, shows Epps’ initial reply, though it, too, neglects pages of explanation and discussion of the text.

Should Epps be facing charges for his role?

Opinions can vary, but if Republicans want everyone who participated at his level charged, they can expect the defendant list to grow significantly.

If they want everyone who organized transportation for others charged on grounds that they “orchestrated” the attack, they may want to consider that Turning Point USA boasted of providing buses to the event and that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, has been accused of also providing support and travel. (She denies this.)

Epps has openly admitted to a role — but focusing on his role to the exclusion of others, especially as the same Members of Congress hold rallies to defend and support participants charged with more serious crimes, like assaulting police officers — seems like a red herring.

Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.