PART 2: TRANSIENT 1: INITIAL PROUD BOY ASSAULT, WESTERN PLAZA
INTRODUCTION: A JOHN BOYD LESSON
The purpose of Transient 1 was to fight a tactical, physical battle to fix the mental focus and manpower of the police forces on the Western terraces, and, if possible, pull the defending police forces apart.
John Boyd’s briefing on “Discourse on Winning and Losing” makes clear various battlefield tactics used to create in the enemy’s mind (the mental plane of conflict) a mismatch between what is happening (reality) and what they perceive to be happening (surprise or “hard shock”). This mismatch, in turn, creates the opportunity for a physical mismatch (physical plane of conflict) of strength against weakness. These two mismatches then create the conditions for the enemy’s will to resist to collapse—as they come apart at the moral plane of conflict.
Boyd explained: “The idea, here’s the key thing, ambiguity, deception, rapid/easy movement…. are the ingredients you use to generate surprise…. So these combinations permit the surprise, the other guy can’t cope, can’t keep up, so they become surprised. This is the action, this is the reaction, when you look at these operations.”
Boyd then noted that a “plan with several branches… [is] a form of variety, rapidity, form of harmony, dispersion/concentration…” Thus, the three transients are “several branches.”
Boyd then explained how using several branches or multiple transients allowed an attacking force to penetrate a defending force. Boyd introduces the idea of schwerpunkt or focus of effort as something that also arises out of fingerspitzengefül or fingerfeel. What Boyd is saying is that if the battlefield situation is fluid and your plan is not rigidly fixed, you can shift your focus of effort [schwerpunkt] from one transient to another transient and do this almost intuitively, as if you have this ability at your fingertips [fingerspitzengefül]. However a commander and a combat unit being able to operate with fingerfeel requires a tremendous amount of training and a military culture that fosters this flexible, intuitive mentality.
Boyd then brought the briefing to the topic of penetration: “Let’s say you’re going to penetrate a front—you want to go after your adversary’s weakness, strength against weakness. You may not know that exactly. One way of finding out, though, is multiple thrusts. Because some are going to get hung up. Some will leak through. The ones that are leaking through, you know they’re doing it. So then you can shift your schwerpunkt [focus of effort] and ram it home through those.” [emphasis added]
Boyd’s analysis throughout his briefing implicitly and explicitly assumes one commander with one mission, with a central plan, if you will, but decentralized execution. And as will be shown in the discussion of Transient 3 in Part 4 and “Planning and Coordination” in Part 5, this was a joint attack by the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—each with different operational cultures and historical experiences. Their joint plan certainly had a focus of effort correctly, up to a point, but they did not have fingerfeel. And that shows up in the discussion of Transients 2 and 3.
Transient 1 (see Figure 7), the initial Proud Boys assault on the U.S. Capitol Police (UCSP) barricades and personnel, to later include Metropolitan Police Department personnel, was the obvious deception, the cheng. Attackers would face a phalanx of police with some degree of depth and avenues of approach—the Pennsylvania and Maryland walkways starting at the Peace and Garfield monuments, respectively—that narrowed the frontage of the attack. Insurgents would then have to fight up steep steps to reach the West Door or the tunnel on the Lower West Terrace.
TRANSIENT 1 MENTALLY FIXES FOCUS OF POLICE
Transient 1 was probably meant to go faster than it did, but Donald Trump spoke for about 20-25 minutes too long. The New York Times timeline noted that Trump ended his speech at the Ellipse at 1312H. Had he ended his speech at 1245H—8 minutes prior to the first breach of police lines at the Peace Monument—the size and momentum of the crowd would have been larger—and the timeline for the real breaches of the Capitol building—Transient 2 and Transient 3—probably would have correspondingly happened sooner. Consequently, the danger and physical violence intended to be inflicted on members of the House and Senate might very well have been achieved by the joint attack. The New York Times timeline has the House and Senate starting to debates at 1330H.
In other words, as terrible as the situation was for the US Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department, the tactical situation might have been even more dire sooner.
Figure 8 below also shows how slow Transient 1 was.
At 1255H, a mere two minutes after breaching the USCP barricade at the Peace Monument, Transient 1 has reached the Lower West Plaza. The various reports I have relied upon for the Transient 1 timeline—January6Evidence website, DeTrumpify website, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Department of Justice filings—do not provide a high degree of specificity as to when each police line was breached. However, Figure 8 uses some of the time estimates reported by the Washington Post’s analysis which synchronized Metropolitan Police Department radio communications with videos of the attack.
But the expired time between when Transient 1 reaches the Lower West Plaza at 1255H until the West Door is breached at 1440H is 105 minutes of hell for the USCP and MPD officers. It would have been too slow for the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—which is why the Proud Boys’ main attack was on Transient 2 and the Oath Keepers main attack was on Transient 3. And it also highlights that had Trump stopped speaking sooner, the breach at Transient 1 may have also happened sooner with much more devastating consequences for the House’s Democrats.
The Washington Post’s analysis of the insurrection videos in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University estimated that 78 minutes after the first breach at the Peace Monument the mob had swelled to 9,400 rioters producing an attack ratio “more than 58 to one.” Thus, on Transient 1, rioters outnumbered police at least 9,400 to 157 officers, an actual ratio of 60:1. They estimated “at least 3,400 people on the northern half of the west side.” That number is important because Transient 2 starts on the insurgents’ left flank which is the northwest quadrant measured by the Post/CMU analysts. On the Capitol East Plaza, called Transient 3 in this intelligence analysis, they estimated “at least 2,000 people pushed past police lines.”
For example, ProPublica reported that at 1315H—22 minutes after the initial breach at 1253H—“dozens of officers in black riot gear” from the MPD arrived. A New York Times analysis, which synchronized video footage with MPD communications, reported that “five minutes” after Glover’s team had arrived “and already he’s calling in officer injuries.” Trump’s speech had just ended. By 1428H, the New York Times’ analysis stated that “sections of the police line are beginning to buckle…. [and] Glover finally has no choice but to order his [MPD] officers to retreat.” ProPublica reported that at 1445H, 90 minutes after the MPD had arrived, that “the rioters broke through the line.” The Department of Justice’s “Statement of Offense” [pdf via EmptyWheel] regarding Jon Schaffer, a lifetime member of Oath Keepers who pled guilty, noted that at 1440H Schaffer’s breach was through “a set of locked doors on the Capitol’s west side,” according to the DOJ’s press release.
TRANSIENTS 1 AND 2 PULL USCP LEADERSHIP APART
There are two police forces present at the West Capitol Plaza and Terrace areas: the US Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department. Analyses by major publications, based on interviews with USCP officers and analyses of MPD communications, demonstrates that the USCP’s leadership mentally came apart, while the MPD’s tactical leadership remained coherent and was beaten by the sheer numbers and violence inflicted upon its personnel.
While the USCP’s leadership appeared to have fallen apart under the strain of the Transient 1 attack, USCP and MPD leaders at the frontline were able to maintain the cohesion of the police forces and at no time did the police have their will to resist collapse. The police never quit defending the Capitol building.
CNBC reported the results of Associated Press’ interviews with 4 USCP officers. According to CNBC, “There was no direction. No plan. And no top leadership.” One officer reported that the USCP was attacked with “batons, flagpoles, sections of fencing, batteries, rubber bullets and canisters of bear spray that went further than the chemicals the officers themselves had.”
ProPublica interviewed 19 current and former USCP officers, along with new reporting from “confidential intelligence bulletins and previously unreported planning documents.” ProPublica’s conclusion, based upon a fusion of all its data, was that “failures of leadership, communication and tactics put the lives of hundreds of officers at risk and allowed rioters to come dangerously close to realizing their threats against members of Congress.”
Garret Graff, a historian, interviewed former law enforcement officials and concluded his analysis for Politico of the USCP by noting that “hour by hour, Wednesday’s events demonstrated a top-to-bottom failure by a key federal law-enforcement agency” and “most of all, police leadership.” Graff noted that “At every turn, officers seemed at a loss to respond, indicating both training lapses and catastrophic leadership failures.” Graff quoted an interview that former USCP chief Terrance Gainer had with a local radio station on the strategic importance of losing the Capitol West terraces: “‘When we lost the steps, and then lost the upper deck on the east and west side, that was whopping trouble—that’s not supposed to happen.’”
It is important to understand that in Transient 1, the attacking Proud Boys were the first ones to breach the barricade at the Peace Monument and then positioned themselves on the left flank of the USCP/MPD police (the right flank of the attack). The Proud Boys then shifted their position to the right flank of the USCP/MPD police (the left flank of the attack). In other words, the Proud Boys clearly shifted their focus of effort from their own right flank—to incite the crowd to breach the plaza barricades and to attack and penetrate the police lines—to their own left flank so that they could be positioned for a rapid penetration up the Northwest Stairs and begin Transient 2.
TRANSIENT 1: THE PROUD BOYS ATTACK IN PICTURES
At 1250H, the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of various videos shows Joseph BIGGS, one of the main leaders of the Proud Boys on January 6, huddling with Ryan SAMSEL (aka #WhiteHoodie) three minutes before the Proud Boys attack at Transient 1 begins. Picture 1A (below) shows Biggs on the Proud Boys reconnaissance march enjoying lunch. He is wearing a very distinctive jacket that he does not change during the attack. Picture 1B (below) shows the back of Samsel and the jacket of Biggs. The WSJ narration is that “Biggs huddles with an individual in a red hat and carrying a flag who just minutes later is the first to charge the barriers.”
Around 1250H—1253H, Ryan Samsel quick marches to the second USCP barricade (Picture 2A) and begins the Proud Boys assault (Picture 2B), as depicted in photos extracted from the Department of Justice’s “Statement of Facts” (pdf) filed on January 29, 2021. The first barricade to be breached is a flimsy plastic fence.
After the second barricade is breached, Dominic PEZZOLA and William PEPE, two indicted Proud Boys, approach (Picture 3A) and breach (Picture 3B) the third USCP police barricade, according to the “Government’s Memorandum in Support of Pretrial Detention,” (pdf) available via EmptyWheel.
The following pictures, taken from FBI filings and other sources, show that the Proud Boys are among the first insurgents to reach the Lower West Plaza and initially deploy to their own right flank. They then migrate to the center of the plaza. There are several pictures taken from the StatusCoup livestream showing the probable Arizona Proud Boys moving north and south, and east and west, until they become invisible. There are photos taken from the livestream in which Ryan Samsel shows up at the front line at least twice to successfully incite the crowd. There are pictures of Proud Boy leader Ethan Nordean conferring with Joseph Biggs and non-Proud Boy insurgent Robert Gieswein of the III%ers. All this activity is a prelude to the start of Transient 2. For brevity, not all pictures are shown in this analysis.
Pictures 4A and 4B show Dominic PEZZOLA, the Proud Boy who breached the Northwest Window in the Northwest Courtyard in Transient 2 on the right flank of the insurgent’s crowd, near the USCP police line. In Picture 4C, Pezzola has emerged with a USCP riot shield he would later use to break the window. No time is given in the government’s filing available through EmptyWheel.
In Pictures 5A and 5B, Ethan NORDEAN, the Proud Boys battlefield commander for the January 6 assault, is shown also on the right flank and conferring with III%er Robert Gieswein. Gieswein would later travel with Pezzola up the stairs to the Senate chamber following USCP officer Eugene Goodman. The pictures are taken from the Nordean’s arrest warrant available via EmptyWheel.
Pictures 6A and 6B show William Chrestman, leader of the “Kansas City Proud Boys,” at the January 6 insurrection conferring with Nordean, the Proud Boys’ battlefield commander, during the Proud Boys reconnaissance march that occurred between 1000H and 1253H. This march will be covered in detail under the discussion of Transient 3. In 6B, Chrestman is with fellow Proud Boy arrestees Cory KONOLD and his sister Felicia KONOLD. Also arrested and discussed in another section are fellow arrestees Christopher KUEHNE and Louis COLON. The “Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant” is available at the Department of Justice website.
Pictures 7A, 7B, and 7C show Proud Boys Marc BRU on Transient 1’s right flank. Picture 7A shows Bru with battlefield commander Nordean, probably on the right flank. Pictures 7B and 7C show Bru definitively on the right flank. Picture 7A was taken 30 seconds into the video, while 7B was taken at 5:19 and 7C was taken at 7:50, according to the Department of Justice’s “Statement of Facts.”
The next series of pictures, 8A through 8D, show Joseph BIGGS with Ethan Nordean, battle commander on reconnaissance march. They are both storming a barricade on Transient 1 and meeting up in the center of the crowd near the police line before Transient 2 starts. In fact, Zachary Rehl, the Proud Boy with the camouflage baseball cap with orange writing, also appears to be the same man in Picture 8D standing behind and to the right of both Biggs and Nordean.
Picture 8A is from Biggs’ “Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint” available through EmptyWheel. Picture 8B is from “United States Motion to Revoke Pretrial Release,” available through EmptyWheel. Pictures 8C and 8D are screenshots from Status Coup’s mirrored livestream video available through DeTrumpify.
Then there is the curious case of Christopher QUAGLIN from New Jersey who is not a known Proud Boy. He may have coordinated his alleged assaults on police with the Proud Boys or he may have been incited to do so. What is also curious is that the affidavit in support of his arrest warrant also claimed that he “rented six rooms at the Motto Hotel in Washington, D.C.” The government provides no information regarding who those rooms were for or what they did during the insurrection.
Marcy Wheeler noted that Quaglin did not livestream his activities during the Transient 1 attack and the only mention she makes linking Quaglin to the Proud Boys is a filing that Nordean’s lawyer made denying any knowledge of, or association with Quaglin. In a government filing on April 13 in support of pre-trial detention (pdf) of Quaglin (via EmptyWheel), the government’s Exhibit B states: “Directly to the right of Quaglin, in a black hat and sunglasses, is Nordean (also within the same red box), who grabs Quaglin by the shoulder after the push.” That is the only mention the government provides linking Quaglin to the Proud Boys.
Yet, Wheeler claimed based on this fact, probably correctly, that Quaglin’s destruction of his own electronic evidence “likely permitted the destruction of evidence pertaining to how closely Quaglin coordinated his efforts…with the Proud Boys.” Wheeler then claims that the government has “barely mentioned Quaglin’s association with the Proud Boys,” though she pointed to Exhibit B. Certainly the government has not claimed that Quaglin is linked to the Proud Boys and it is not clear that Wheeler has other information she has not published making this link clearer.
But I have reviewed the government’s filings related to Quaglin and Dominic Pezzola which shows three additional instances of Quaglin in the vicinity of a Proud Boy other than the government’s Exhibit B regarding Nordean, which is not included in the government’s public filing.
Pictures 9A and 9B are in Quaglin’s original assault charge filing (via DOJ). In Picture 9A, a possible Joseph Biggs in his patterned coat is standing behind Quaglin. In Picture 9B, Marc Bru is standing behind Quaglin. Picture 9C shows a noticeably clear picture of Quaglin with a barely visible Bru. However, in Picture 9D, an individual with the same blue jacket with stars, orange thingy around his neck (orange was the identifier for the Proud Boys), and gas mask is standing in front of Dominic Pezzola, identified by the FBI inside a red circle.
In short, Quaglin is the vicinity of Ethan Nordean, the Proud Boys’ battlefield commander; Dominic Pezzola, the Proud Boy that initiated the breach at Transient 2’s Northwest Courtyard; Joseph Biggs, the probable leader of the Transient 2 and Transient 3 attacks; and Marc Bru who is charged with obstructing Congress and obstructing law enforcement. I do not know if these four instances constitute coordination in a legal sense, and it may be that the Proud Boys maneuvered themselves wherever they believed some action against the police might take place and Quaglin just happened to be there, but there certainly appears to be some degree of coordination.
Finally, Picture 10 below shows the top four Proud Boys leaders identified by the FBI and indicted in the “First Superseding Indictment” of the Proud Boys. A fifth leader, Unindicted Co-Conspirator-1 (UCC-1) is also unidentified, and no one should rush to assume that Shannon Rusch, a retired Navy Seal Team 4 member, shown in Picture 10, is UCC-1, though his statements about that day are inconsistent with his actual behaviors.
For example, the Daily Beast in collaboration with John Scott-Railton, a researcher at the University of Toronto and the research collective known as the Deep State Dogs, identified Rusch, a “veteran of Seal Team 4” and a “fan of the Proud Boys” at the insurrection. Rusch “confirmed that he had been present” and stated that “he did not go inside the building itself.” The reporters then stated that there is “no imagery showing Rusch himself inside the building.”
That statement is rather curious because that can only be referring to videos posted by the insurgents themselves. It certainly does not pertain to surveillance footage inside the Capitol building or images from body worn cameras by the MPD.
The Daily Beast reporters also failed to understand the implications of where Rusch’s last known location was. The reporters stated, “Rusch is last visible in footage recorded and published by Getty Images moving with the crowd as it heads into scaffolding set up for the inauguration.” Yes, that is true, but also incomplete.
Rusch’s last known location is on Transient 2 heading towards the Northwest Courtyard. In fact, the same Getty video also shows what appears to be Pezzola walking up the same steps under the scaffolding holding a stolen riot shield on his way to smash the windows for the very first breach and be one of the very first insurgents to enter the Capitol building.
I do not know what Rusch did. But his last known location is the same transit route for the initial breach. Maybe, when he got to the Northwest Courtyard he realized, as he told the Daily Beast, that “he had a speaking engagement online that verified his timeline of events,” and thus he turned around and left. Or he did not turn around. Nevertheless, Rusch the “fan boy” is pictured with the four Proud Boys leaders indicted by the Department of Justice as they conducted their pre-attack Reconnaissance March.
There is one other aspect of the Transient 1 attack which shows the futility of trying to penetrate the Capitol through the series of glass doors at the Lower West Terrace (Figure 9). Several individuals have been charged for assaulting USCP and/or MPD officers in front of or inside “the tunnel” on the Lower West Terrace. Insurgents waged a prolonged battle against the police for about 155 minutes, from 1440H to 1715H, when the last of the rioters were cleared out of the tunnel.
The government’s pre-trial (via EmptyWheel) detention motion (pdf) for Federico KLEIN, one of eight charged in relation to the Lower West Terrace, described the fighting as “some of the heaviest violence” as “groups of rioters came in waves.” The first rioters entered the tunnel at 1443H, and the first wave was pushed out at 1521H. Christopher Quaglin’s affidavit (via DOJ) in support of the arrest warrant (pdf) stated that at 1440H officers “were maintaining a line at the second set of glass doors inside the tunnel” as rioters attempted to push their way through using chemical sprays and a “rotation of rioters.” This attack was brutal as police were bashed with poles as they lay prone on the ground and Officer Daniel Hodges was being crushed in the doors.
While the penetration ultimately failed, it did manage to tie down dozens of officers that could have been used to clear the building sooner (via DOJ) (Picture 11).
Transient 1, the insurgent attack on the West Capitol Plaza, was not the main attack for the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. It was a diversion. It was meant to focus the police manpower and mental effort on Transient 1. The attack on Transient 1 accomplished those twin tasks.
And it allowed the Proud Boys to launch their main attack on Transient 2 going up the Northwest Stairs, through the Northwest Courtyard, and breaching the facing windows and doors leading to the Senate Chamber one floor up.
Eventually, the MAGA rioters on Transient 1 were able to fight their way up to the Upper West Terrace doors and enter the Capitol building.
According to the government’s “Statement of Offense” for Jon Schaffer (pdf) (via EmptyWheel), a founding member of Oath Keepers who pled guilty, Schaffer was one of the first six rioters to enter the Capitol building via the West Door on the Upper West Terrace at 1440H. That is 27 minutes after the breach of the Northwest Courtyard at 1413H. It is roughly the same time that the Columbus Doors were breached on Transient 3 at 1439H. In the latter case, however, a rapid transit by the Proud Boys from the Northwest Courtyard breach to the Columbus Doors would have probably resulted in a breach on Transient 3 between 1425H and 1430H.
We now turn to the Proud Boys attack via Transient 2.