Imagine the FBI knocking on your door to question you about your participation in the deadly pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol. You’re foolish enough to invite them, without your legal counsel present, into your home, at which point the feds show you a photo—of you, rioting. You think you can wiggle your way out of this. You lie, and tell them that it’s not you in the photo.
Now, imagine your wife or girlfriend then stepping into the room and, unprompted, identifying you as the man in the photo, unintentionally snitching you out to the feds in your own house.
As more and more MAGA rioters have gotten caught or charged in the months-long fallout from the Jan. 6 mob violence, that is the kind of story that has followed so many of the indictments and federal investigation—suspects have been identified or busted in so many of the dumbest possible ways that you’d expect the whole saga to be a scene out of Step Brothers.
On this week’s episode of The Daily Beast’s Fever Dreams podcast, hosts Will Sommer and Asawin Suebsaeng sit down with Ryan J. Reilly, a senior reporter at HuffPost covering U.S. law enforcement and its hunt for Trumpist rioters. Reilly has spent the past three months meticulously cataloguing the dark, perversely humorous ways in which many of these far-right extremists have found their way into FBI custody. They gratuitously incriminate themselves. They pretend to be tough guys, and then are revealed to be impersonating a trooper or a federal agent. The feds keep making fun of the defendants in affidavits and in court documents. Often, they get ratted out by old high-school chums and rivals, loved ones, or even a random “Facebook stalker” from their home town.
Reilly discusses cases such as that of Brent Bozell IV—son of famous conservative activist Brent Bozell—in which the right-wing scion and alleged Capitol rioter was busted not because of FBI in-house sleuthing but because of an amateur online sleuth in Hershey, Pennsylvania, who “described herself to me as the person that everyone [in town] goes to when they need to look into what their new man is up to… So, when any of her girlfriends get a new man, they come to her and she does all the online sleuthing.”
Along the way, Suebsaeng also takes listeners inside the Trump 2020 campaign’s “voter fraud” hotline room, which was created by the campaign shortly following former President Donald Trump’s clear loss to Democrat Joe Biden. The hotline and email tipline, in its brief and painful existence, also became a magnet for trolls and pranksters who wanted to inundate Trump staffers with as many grotesque or ludicrously pornographic images as possible.
Suebsaeng was recently sent a trove of images, and offered graphic descriptions of others, that had flooded the Trump team in the days following Election Day 2020. He reviewed them—much to his palpable disgust—for Fever Dreams fans’ listening pleasure.
“There were deep fakes of then-President Trump in his underpants, or if not in his underwear… just a completely nude Donald Trump with no genitalia. One person who was subjected to rifling through these images described how there was a point where they had to zoom in on the fake photo to confirm that the Donald Trump in that image indeed had no dick, and wasn’t just a nude Donald Trump,” Suebsaeng said.
This is one way in which the Trump re-election campaign met its undignified end. And there was a lot more... so if you want a deeper glimpse into what Trump forced his staffers to be subjected to in November, check out the whole episode.