A former Navy SEAL who was pictured leading a Jan. 6 march on the Capitol alongside now-indicted Proud Boys told The Daily Beast that he and his son left the Capitol grounds before the building was breached. That’s not entirely true, The Daily Beast has learned.
Video footage shows his son picking up what appears to be a dropped police baton as scuffles with cops intensified outside the building. Later, he is seen with the baton inside the Capitol, minutes after the building was first breached.
And the ex-SEAL posted a video of himself on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 with other Proud Boys, one of whom announced that “we just stormed the fucking Capitol.” The ex-SEAL, Shannon Rusch, responds with approval.
Rusch is a former member of SEAL Team 4 who marched on the Capitol, but does not appear to have entered it, The Daily Beast previously reported. His son Trevor McDonald, however, appears to have picked up a police baton outside the building and entered around 2:15 pm, when a first wave of Proud Boys was breaching the building. McDonald told The Daily Beast he had not entered the Capitol, and had in fact been on a Webex call during the attack.
But photo and video evidence from inside the building—first compiled by a team led by John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and the investigative group Deep State Dogs—show otherwise.
A veteran of SEAL Team 4, Rusch has parlayed his military career into a role as a motivational speaker and author. He bills himself as a “High Performance Mind Master Coach” on Instagram and charges up to $10,000 for speaking engagements, according to one online biography. On a podcast late last month, Rusch described himself as joining the SEALs after a troubled youth, which led him, as a young man, to break into a family member’s home with the intent of killing people inside. “I had an interaction with God at this point,” Rusch said on the podcast. “I heard an audible voice of God speak to me at that point and tell me, basically, if you do this, you won’t get to do what you were born to do. You won’t live the life you were born to live It was so loud I thought it was going to wake up the people I was there to kill [...] That’s actually when I went to join the Navy, the SEAL team, because I knew that I didn’t want to go down this path.”
He said on the podcast that his SEAL career was cut short due to an other-than-honorable discharge after a flawed Navy background check incorrectly accused him of crimes. After a 17-year battle, he said, he was recently cleared and his discharge was changed to honorable.
More recently, Rusch also associated himself repeatedly with the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys, marching across a bridge alongside the group’s leadership in a tense August 2019 rally in Portland, Oregon. He has also appeared on the podcast of Joe Biggs, a Proud Boy leader.
In January, Rusch took McDonald, 21, to D.C. for a protest against the certification of Joe Biden’s election. On Jan. 4, Rusch tweeted a picture of himself and McDonald. “Headed to DC to stand with my son and millions of Americans in defiance of tyranny and to celebrate American freedom!” he said, tagging a number of conservative figures, including pillow salesman and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. In the picture, McDonald was wearing a red hoodie.
The following day, Rusch tweeted another picture of himself and McDonald, this time on the National Mall. McDonald was wearing a distinctive green plaid jacket.
“There is no one I'd rather be here with than my son for this historic event,” Rusch tweeted on Jan. 5. “The calm before the strom.... [sic]”
The following day, ahead of a scheduled pro-Trump demonstration, both men gathered near the Capitol with members of the Proud Boys. The duo was filmed by Eddie Block, a California-based Proud Boy who makes YouTube videos. In the clip, Rusch is holding a megaphone that he and Biggs would soon use as they marched on the Capitol.
McDonald is wearing both the red hoodie and the plaid jacket that he wore in his father’s public Twitter posts the two previous days. The distinctive outfit made him identifiable as the day’s protests dissolved into chaos.
Rusch did not return a request for comment on this story. He previously confirmed to The Daily Beast that he marched on the Capitol, stating that he was there to exercise his First Amendment rights, but said he had not entered the building.
The same could not be said of McDonald. Footage from a clash between demonstrators and police outside the Capitol before its breach shows McDonald picking up what appears to be a dropped police baton. He was later photographed on the Capitol steps holding the baton while another man scaled a wall in front of him.
Around 2:14 p.m., footage from inside the Capitol shows, he entered the building, still holding the baton. He was among the first rioters—many of them Proud Boys—to do so. Court filings allege the group first entered the building at 2:13 when a member broke a window with a riot shield and opened a door for Biggs.
One camera shows McDonald raise his baton, apparently in celebration, after entering through the doors. Shortly thereafter, he walked past a livestreamer and shouted “woo!” into the camera.
McDonald, who has not been charged with a crime, told The Daily Beast he did not enter the Capitol. He did not return further requests for comment after being presented with photographic and video evidence of himself in the Capitol.
“I don’t know what photo or videos your talking about but i have spoke with my father and that is not me in those images,” he said via email. “I was with my father when he was doing a speaking engagement via Webex to one hundred plus people (witness verified and time stamp verified), we left the Capitol grounds at 1:45 and did not return to the Capitol grounds because it was in lock down. (The breach of the Capitol happened around 2pm).”
The latter portion of the email was copied verbatim from an email Rusch previously sent The Daily Beast about his own actions at the Capitol. Neither men returned requests for evidence of the Webex.
After The Daily Beast’s publication of an article revealing Rusch’s attendance outside the Capitol, Rusch further confirmed on Instagram that he had been there, and added that “I STILL STAND WITH THE REAL PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP! Big things are happening behind the scenes folks.”
He pointed to a conspiracy theory about voter fraud in Arizona: one of several fringe claims on his social media. Elsewhere on his personal profiles, Rusch has recently shared posts claiming that children are being “eaten” in a “satanist” plot related to immigration.
For his part on Jan. 6, Rusch was filmed pushing on barricades with the Proud Boys, and entering a scaffolded area near the Capitol. He also filmed himself with Proud Boys who announced that they’d just stormed the building.
"The American people have stormed the Capitol. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people here,” Rusch says into his phone’s camera in a video reviewed by The Daily Beast. He is on the grass outside the Capitol, although the exact time of the video is unclear. He then adjusts the camera to include Proud Boys in the frame. Among them are Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, both of whom are accused of coordinating the Proud Boys’ assault on the Capitol.
Biggs announces that “we just stormed the fucking Capitol. Took the motherfucking place [...] January 6th will be a day that lives in infamy."
Rusch responds “yes, yes, love it!”
Meanwhile, Biggs’ announcement that “we just stormed the fucking Capitol” appears to have caught the eye of law enforcement. It’s cited in court filings against Nordean, as evidence that he and others who marched alongside him were carrying out a pre-planned mission.
“The men involved in the planning understood that the plan included storming the Capitol grounds,” the filing reads. “This shared understanding of the plan is further reflected in co-Defendant Biggs’ real-time descriptions that ‘we’ve just taken the Capitol’ and ‘we just stormed the fucking Capitol.’”
-Additional reporting by Adam Rawnsley