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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, grilled a senior FBI official on whether or not FBI agents or confidential informants played a role in the Capitol protest on Jan. 6, 2001, but she would not confirm nor deny anything.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled, “The Domestic Terrorism Threat One Year After January 6,” Cruz asked Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director for the FBI’s national security branch, about suspicions held by some that government officials encouraged lawless behavior during the protest.
“How many FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of Jan. 6?” Cruz asked.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks during a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing in Washington, on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Sanborn said in response that she could not discuss “the specifics of sources and methods” of the FBI.
Cruz then broadened his question by asking if any FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the riot.
“Sir, I can’t answer that,” she said.
Cruz then asked if any agents or confidential informants committed crimes of violence on Jan. 6. When he received the same answer, he asked if any agents or confidential informants “actively encouraged” crimes of violence on Jan. 6.
“Sir, I can’t answer that.”
Cruz then brought up Ray Epps, who was seen on video the day before the riot, telling a crowd, “Tomorrow, we need to get into the Capitol! Into the Capitol!” The crowd responded by shouting, “Fed! Fed! Fed!” at him.
Epps, later claimed that he was not encouraging wrongdoing.
“The only thing that meant is we would go in the doors like everyone else. It was totally, totally wrong the way they went in,” he told the Arizona Republic.
“Miss Sanborn, was Ray Epps a fed?” Cruz asked.
“Sir, I cannot answer that question,” Sanborn replied.
FILE – Assistant Director of FBI Counterterrorism Division Jill Sanborn testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021, in Washington. (GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Cruz asked more questions about Epps’ actions, and Sanborn said she could not answer.
Cruz, mentioning how there are those who suspect that the FBI participated in the riot, reiterated what he asked earlier.
“Did federal agents or those in service of federal agents actively encourage violent or criminal conduct on Jan. 6?” Cruz asked, noting that this was “not an ordinary law enforcement question” but “a question of public accountability.”
“Not to my knowledge, sir,” Sanborn said.
Despite the line of questioning, Cruz has spoken sharply about the riot in the past, calling the incident a “terrorist attack.” He later backtracked on that statement in a “Tucker Carlson Tonight” interview.
Earlier, Cruz had grilled National Security Division Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen about the number of people charged with crimes or incarcerated based on the events of Jan. 6. For each question, Olsen said he did not know.
Cruz said this claim of ignorance was in line with the Justice Department’s unsatisfactory response to questions he and other asked last June about this and about numbers of prosecutions of people stemming from Black Lives Matter protests.
“It has been 218 days since we sent you that letter. DOJ refused to answer the letter. Today, when Sen. [Mike] Lee and I asked you about it your answer to every damn question is, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.’ You’re under oath,” Cruz said. “You may believe at the Department of Justice that you are unaccountable to the American people, but that is not the case.”