Commentary: Police Officer Who Killed Ashli Babbitt was Cleared of Criminal Wrongdoing Without Interview

When U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd went on “NBC Nightly News” to tell his side of shooting and killing unarmed Jan. 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt, he made a point to note he’d been investigated by several agencies and exonerated for his actions that day.

“There’s an investigative process [and] I was cleared by the DOJ [Department of Justice], and FBI and [the D.C.] Metropolitan Police,” he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt in August, adding that the Capitol Police also cleared him of wrongdoing and decided not to discipline or demote him for the shooting.

Byrd then answered a series of questions by Holt about the shooting, but what he told the friendly journalist, he likely never told investigators. That’s because he refused to answer their questions, according to several sources and documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations.

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Commentary: January 6 Is Looking Like a ‘Fedsurrection’

Close up of Capitol with Trump and America flag in the wind

Things are always worse than they seem.

That seems to be a good rule of thumb these days.

Take the FBI.

Every sentient person knows that the Bureau has had a rough couple years.

The Russia Collusion hoax revealed an agency shot through with corruption and partisan bias.

But the rot goes far beyond the large handful of top Bureau bad hats: the James Comeys, the Andrew McCabes, the Peter Strzoks, and Kevin Clinesmiths.

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Commentary: Justice Department Moves to Conceal Police Misconduct on January 6

After months of foot-dragging, Joe Biden’s Justice Department is preparing for the first set of trials related to its sprawling prosecution of January 6 defendants: Robert Gieswein, who turned himself in and was arrested on January 19 for his involvement in the Capitol protest, is scheduled to stand trial in February.

A week after his arrest, Gieswein, 24 at the time, was indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts including “assaulting, resisting, or impeding” law enforcement with a dangerous weapon that day. He has been behind bars ever since, denied bail while Judge Emmet Sullivan delayed his trial on numerous occasions. Gieswein is among 40 or so January 6 defendants held in a part of the D.C. jail system solely used to detain Capitol protesters.

Federal prosecutors accuse Gieswein of using a chemical spray against police officers and carrying a baseball bat. Clad in military-style gear, Gieswein climbed through a broken window shortly after the first breach of the building. He told a reporter on the scene that “the corrupt politicians who have been in office for 50 or 60 years . . . need to be imprisoned.” Democratic politicians, Gieswein complained, sold out the country to “the Rothchilds and the Rockefellers,” a remark the FBI investigator on his case described as an “anti-Semitic” conspiracy theory.

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Commentary: ‘Unprecedented’ Capitol Protest Sets New Precedents

Capitol protest

Unprecedented: It is the word most often applied to the events at the Capitol on January 6.

In his remarks that afternoon, as the chaos was still ongoing, Joe Biden warned that “our democracy is under unprecedented attack.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Attorney General Merrick Garland, and leaders of both political parties also describe the four-hour mostly nonviolent disturbance at the Capitol complex as something without precedent. 

“On January 6, 2021, the world witnessed a violent and unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Vice President, Members of Congress, and the democratic process,” wrote Republican and Democratic senators in a joint committee report released earlier this year.

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Commentary: New January 6 Stories That Complicate the Media Narrative

The Associated Press reported in August that Robert Reeder, a Maryland man, pleaded guilty to “parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.” He argued for leniency because, “he is a registered Democrat who wasn’t a supporter of former President Donald Trump.” So why did he join the incursion into the Capitol building? Because, he says, he was an “accidental tourist” with nothing better to do.

But an online group that calls itself Sedition Hunters recently tweeted a picture it says shows that same “accidental tourist” attacking a police officer. Curiously, the “accidental tourist,” who didn’t support Donald Trump, happened to be wearing a red “MAGA”-style hat. His attorney argued in court, “Mr. Reeder is not politically active, is not and has never been a member of any right-wing or anti-government or extremist group and has, unfortunately, been publicly grouped with many others (whose) views he abhors.”

The story reminds one of John Sullivan, a Black Lives Matter activist who infiltrated the January 6 incursion to encourage violence, bully police officers, and generally stoke mayhem. While many of the trespassers remain locked up without bail, Sullivan mysteriously received pre-trial release.

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Commentary: Jacob Chansley Pleads Guilty to Obstruction, Remains in Jail

Jacob Chansley, arguably the most iconic figure of the January 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol, today pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding.

Chansley, 33, turned himself in to law enforcement and was arrested on January 9. A grand jury indicted Chansley two days later on six nonviolent counts including obstruction, civil disorder, and “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.” The remaining counts will be dropped.

Judge Royce Lamberth accepted Chansely’s plea agreement with Joe Biden’s Justice Department, which continues to arrest and charge Americans for even minor involvement in the Capitol protest. Nearly 200 defendants face the obstruction charge, a felony added to mostly misdemeanor cases. (I explained the charge here in March.)

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Commentary: The Capitol Cover Up

United States Capitol at night

Judge G. Michael Harvey sounded floored.

During a detention hearing this week for Robert Morss, arrested last month for his involvement in the Capitol protest, a federal prosecutor told Harvey she needed permission from the government before she could turn over to him a slice of video related to Morss’ case. Joe Biden’s Justice Department continues to seek pre-trial detention for people who protested Biden’s election on January 6; prosecutors want to keep Morss, an Army ranger and high school history teacher with no criminal record, behind bars until his trial can begin next year.

But assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Jackson hesitated when Judge Harvey asked to see the footage captured by the U.S. Capitol Police surveillance system cited as evidence in government charging documents.

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Commentary: Naming the Capitol Police Officer Who Killed Unarmed January 6 Rioter Ashli Babbitt

US Capitol Police at The Supreme Court

Most police departments — including Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police — are required to release an officer’s name within days of a fatal shooting. Not the U.S. Capitol Police, which is controlled by Congress and answers only to Congress. It can keep the public in the dark about the identity and investigation of an officer involved in a shooting indefinitely.

Which is what happened with the Jan. 6 shooting of Ashli Babbitt, an unarmed protester in the U.S. Capitol riot who was fatally wounded by a plainclothes police lieutenant as she attempted to breach a set of doors inside the building. 

For the past six months, as Congress has proposed legislation to reform  police departments across the country, the Capitol Police has stiff-armed government watchdogs, journalists and even lawyers for Babbitt, who have sought the identity of the officer and additional details about the shooting. The USCP still refuses to release his name, in stark contrast to recent high-profile police shootings around the nation.

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