Brandon Straka, a self-described former liberal who became one of former President Donald Trump’s most visible online supporters, was arrested Monday for his alleged role in the Jan 6. Capitol insurrection.
Straka, 44, was arrested in Omaha, the FBI’s Omaha office said in a release Monday. He has been charged with impeding a law enforcement officer during civil disorder, knowing and entering restricted grounds, and disorderly conduct with intent to disturb a Congressional hearing.
Straka is the founder of the #WalkAway campaign, a right-wing social media campaign that aimed to convince liberals to leave the Democratic Party. He was a speaker at the pro-Trump Stop the Steal rallies in D.C. on Jan. 5 and 6. As recently as a few months ago, Trump was sharing Straka’s social media posts, and Straka was speaking at events alongside members of Rep. Don Bacon, an Omaha Republican who has a reputation as a moderate. (A request for comment on Straka’s arrest to Bacon’s office was not immediately returned.)
Straka posted a nearly-hour long video on Twitter the day after the riot, claiming to have not known about anything violent happening there, a sworn affidavit by an FBI special agent assigned to the case said. In the video, Straka said that he heard that “patriots had entered the Capitol,” and that he thought to himself: “Wow, so they’re going to basically storm and try to get into the chamber so that they can demand that we get the investigation that we want,” according to the complaint.
A witness identified as a relative of Straka tipped the FBI off on the existence of a nearly nine-minute long YouTube video showing Straka pushing and encouraging other people to storm the Capitol, at one point yelling at other rioters to grab a riot shield away from a Capitol police officer working his way through the crowd.
“At around the 3:59 mark of the video, Straka stated, ‘Take it away from him,’” according to the complaint. “Straka and others in the crowd then yelled, ‘Take the shield!’ As several people in the crowd grabbed the officer’s shield, Straka yelled, ‘Take it! Take it!’”
At no point does it appear Straka was actually successful in entering the Capitol, but not for lack of trying. Near the end of the video, a man says, “We got hit hard, man.” Straka taps him on the shoulder and says, “We got hit hard?” and the man responds, “Yeah.” Then another man says, “Let’s get out of here.” The video ends with Straka still outside of the building.
Straka maintained in his online posts that he didn’t see any incidents of vandalism or violence during the riot in which five people died, and as a result of which well over a hundred people have been arrested. Still, he defended the riot that day, according to tweets referenced in the complaint.
“I’m completely confused,” Straka said in a Jan. 6 tweet referenced in the complaint. “For 6-8 weeks everybody on the right has been saying ‘1776!’ & that if congress moves forward it will mean a revolution! So congress moves forward. Patriots storm the Capitol – now everybody is virtual [sic] signaling their embarrassment that this happened.”
Straka’s Twitter account, which has over 530,000 followers, is now locked. His most recent Instagram post was a screenshot of his own tweet promising a pro-Trump takeover of the Republican Party by 2024. “They’re going to have a hell of a time fighting all of us,” Straka said.
Straka is set to make an initial court appearance Monday.