Taking Notes on a Criminal Conspiracy

The Proud Boys, Trump family, and Alex Jones all filmed documentaries of their actions leading up to January 6.

WaPo’s Philip Bump points to a surprising finding of the January 6 committee in “The attempted revolution was televised — and recorded.” For younger readers, this is an allusion to a popular comedy song from the 1960s.*

The House select committee investigating the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, began its recent calendar of public hearings with two witnesses. One might have been predicted: a police officer at the Capitol that day who was assaulted by supporters of Donald Trump. The other probably wouldn’t have been: a documentary filmmaker named Nick Quested.

Quested was there because he was a witness to the actions of the extremist Proud Boys group in the days leading up to the riot and on Jan. 6 itself. The group gave him that access, agreeing to participate in the production of a film about its efforts despite its predilection for violence and lawbreaking. So the committee asked Quested to come and describe what he saw; in private, the committee reviewed the footage Quested and his team had captured.

Not for the first time, I quote Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell : “is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy?” Apparently, they went above and beyond in that regard. And they weren’t alone.

As it turns out, though, having a filmmaker follow you around and make a movie about you was not something that appealed to the vanity of the Proud Boys alone. On Tuesday, we learned that Trump himself was working with a documentary filmmaker named Alex Holder. In a subpoena obtained by Politico, the committee asked Holder to turn over any footage from Jan. 6 in which plans to overturn the election were discussed and any interviews with Trump, his family and former vice president Mike Pence.

In a statement, Holder said that he had turned over the compliant footage to the committee. The project began in September 2020, he wrote, with his team “simply [wanting] to better understand who the Trumps were and what motivated them to hold onto power so desperately.” Safe to say that the team was well positioned to explore that question.

CBS News’s Robert Costa spoke with people who had worked on Trump’s 2020 campaign and saw the filmmakers at the campaign headquarters. One told Costa that the project was “a family thing,” which would help explain why its existence was apparently not broadly known. The result is reportedly a three-part series on the former president that includes footage from Capitol Hill on the day of the riot.

There was another documentary crew at the Capitol that day, too, capturing footage of another actor enthusiastic about the spotlight. Not Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser who was working with a documentary team of his own; he wasn’t at the Capitol. This third crew was working with notorious disinformation peddler Alex Jones.

Next month, filmmaker Alex Lee Moyer is expected to release a film called “Alex’s War,” focusing on the radio host and conspiracy theorist. Jones was at Trump’s rally outside the White House on the day of the riot and walked with Trump supporters to the Capitol, footage of which appears in an early cut of the film. At the Capitol, Jones briefly addressed the crowd with a bullhorn.

Speaking on a podcast last year, Moyer described being there with Jones.

“The scope of the movie is about Alex’s career. It’s not about his personal life. It’s not like tabloid-y,” she said. “It’s set against the backdrop of the fallout around the election.” She lamented that she had been identified at the Capitol by the site Jezebel as a potential protester since she “couldn’t spill the beans to everybody that I was there shooting this movie.” On Instagram that day, she posted a photo remarking that it was “the day we almost died but instead had a great time.”

Stupid is as stupid does. Regardless, Bump draws the obvious conclusion:

What makes the work of the known documentary filmmakers useful isn’t necessarily what they saw on Jan. 6 but what they saw on the days prior and following. The House committee doesn’t just want Holder’s footage from Capitol Hill; it wants to know what Trump et al. said at other points, too. Among Quested’s contributions to the probe was footage from a meeting between the Proud Boys and the right-wing extremist group Oath Keepers on Jan. 5. Who knows what Moyer might have been privy to.

Some of the most useful footage from the day, of course, was captured not by professional documentarians but amateur ones: the rioters themselves. Never before has a criminal event been so thoroughly recorded. For prominent participants, though, this impulse was simply outsourced. Trump’s team, the Proud Boys and Jones all wanted a record of what they were up to. They were just prominent enough that they didn’t have to live-stream to Facebook. They could have someone else capture it.

For multiple reasons I’ve stated before, I’m skeptical that Trump himself will face criminal charges. But the existence of a documentary of his actions in the weeks between the election and the riots would certainly seem to shift the odds a mite.


*A semi-private joke with co-blogger Steven Taylor.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In their minds, they are the heroes of the story. Humility is not a quality they possess.

  2. *A semi-private joke with co-blogger Steven Taylor.

    Which I appreciated.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    For multiple reasons I’ve stated before, I’m skeptical that Trump himself will face criminal charges.

    If I believed in God, I would pray to her that you are wrong.
    That said, you are probably correct.
    If Trump is not charged, then it is the final death knell for this nation.
    We will, of course, continue to exist is some fashion. Likely some form of Authoritarianism, in significant part Fascist. There will be no return from that. Not in our lifetimes.
    We will, however, no longer be the nation that the founders fought for and established in the eighteenth century.
    Trump will have used the Constitution as just another of his adult diapers.

  4. Kathy says:


    A successful coup comes with the bonus of no immediate negative penal consequences. Even so, allowing an independent third party to document it is a bad idea. For one thing, you lose some control, at least, over your narrative. For another, it might be used by your co-conspirators to push you out of power (all revolutions devour their children).

    For a half-assed keystone koup, it’s just plain stupid. But then, if these people were smart*, they’d have carried out a real coup.

    *If they were half as smart as they think they are, they’d be twice as smart as they actually are.

  5. CSK says:

    I’m still trying to get this straight. Did Team Trump think that Alex Holder was making a documentary for their own private use? That no one else would ever see it?

  6. Jen says:

    That’s a lot of Alexes in a single article. Alex Holder, Alex Moyers, AND Alex Jones?

    These people are ridiculous, it’s disheartening to think that there won’t be serious consequences for many. Especially Trump and his offspring.

  7. KM says:

    If I were more generous, I would say they thought they were recording history – the new Founding Fathers leaving behind writings and logic for why they did what they did. That someday those recordings would be cited like the Federalist Papers for originalist meaning and children would need to understand why they had to destroy democracy in order to save it.

    However it was likely the same reason idiots always record their crimes – ego. Why wouldn’t they want to be famous?

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    You know who else made worked with filmmakers to document their rise to power???

  9. CSK says:
  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    None of these filmmakers are Leni Riefenstahl. TFG always shops the bargain bin.

  11. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    If Trump is not charged, then it is the final death knell for this nation.

    The problem is that the only thing worse than not charging him is charging him and having him exonerated because in this polarized partisan environment it is likely impossible to find a jury who would convict.

    I think this is a real problem that has to be considered.

  12. @Paul L.: So…they have video, but you don’t believe it.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    OMG, people, can we hold off on the defeatism for a minute? The hearings are going great and 58% of Americans already think Trump should be charged.

  14. @Paul L.: Your rationalizations are fascinating, remarkable, and disturbing.

  15. Jen says:

    @KM: Yep. It’s “Jackass – Political Edition.”

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    Once again we face the same choice: are you a moron or a liar? There is no third option.

  17. @Michael Reynolds:

    The hearings are going great and 58% of Americans already think Trump should be charged.

    The hearings are going well and I have some hope that they will have an impact.

    In terms of public opinion, that number will need to be one helluva a lot higher to matter.

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    No question. None at all.
    Preserving Democracy is not for the feint hearted.
    If you don’t have the stones, move out of the way.
    Garland was in Ukraine the other day…perhaps some of their courage rubbed off.

    I think the bigger problem is the depth and breadth of the conspiracy and how much of the GOP is implicated.

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    The hearings are going great.
    They will have no bearing on much of anything.
    Until the DOJ grows a pair we are watching the endgame.

  20. Mister Bluster says:

    @Paul L.:..BTW, the “gallows” was across the street in Union Square over 1000 feet from the US Capitol.

    As your boyfriend on the video that you provided says: “If Pence caves we’re going to drag that mother fvcker through the streets.”
    Yeah. Right over to the gallows.

    By the way has Trump promised you the top position at the Ministry of Truth if he is elected again?

  21. CSK says:

    @Paul L.: @Paul L.:

    I see Mr. Bluster has beaten me to it, but nonetheless, does it matter what the location of the gallows was?

    And how do you rationalize Trump’s comment that maybe the mob had the right idea about hanging Pence? And that maybe Pence deserved to be hanged?

  22. CSK says:

    Tom Nichols has an interesting article at http://www.theatlantic.com today entitled “What Are Trump Supporters So Afraid Of?”

    Paul L. might want to read it.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: @Steven L. Taylor:

    Can we get a little less Eeyore and a little more Pooh? The needle has moved from 52% to 58%. If we get to 65% we may or may not get a prosecution, but Trump will have lost his hardcore 40%, and he’ll be done.

    Intellectuals are gloomy and pessimistic by nature, wrongly believing it’s better not to tantalize yourself with hope. But hope is actually the only rational response to threat because the alternative is preemptive surrender. Preemptive surrender guarantees defeat, hope at least offers the possibility of victory. Every useful thing homo sapiens has done comes from hope – maybe things are better in the next valley, maybe there’s a way to fight leopards, maybe this wall will stand, maybe this treatment will cure, maybe it doesn’t matter if they sank all our battleships, maybe despite the plague this baby will live.

    You know what pessimists have accomplished? They’ve contributed to the success of someone else’s hope by taking themselves out of the game.

  24. Michael Reynolds says:


  25. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Yeah, I know. My suggestion was rhetorical.

  26. Kathy says:

    What do you know? A little interest in linguistics does come in handy now and then (more than algebra).

    In this case we can translate from Trollish: it’s not a coup because some of the check marks ticking off the boxes are slightly outside the boxes.

  27. Mu Yixiao says:


    If you don’t use a #2 pencil and fill in the boxes completely, the coup tallying machine may not read the answer.

  28. inhumans99 says:

    Folks, please stop engaging with our resident troll, and a very gullible one at that. He sees video, hears the words themselves that folks wanted to hang his guy Pence, does not believe what he is hearing/reading/seeing until someone like Tucker Carlson gives him his marching orders for the day.

    He also feels bad for Russia, if I interpret his last line correctly: “And will ban the opposition party (Republicans) as pure true Democracies like Ukraine do.” It sounds like he saying if only Russia did not have to deal with those pesky Ukrainian’s who keep shooting back at Russian soldiers who just have their best interests in mind if they would just lay down their arms and let Putin take over Ukraine. Wow.

    I used to think it was worth a shot trying to engage with Paul L, but life is too short.

    Paul L will be the guy that Jesus says dude, if you do not believe I was nailed to the cross than please come over here, take your hands and feel the wounds on my hands, feet, and the side of my body where the spear pierced me, Paul does this, and will look over at Tucker, who is nodding his head side to side to not acknowledge that Jesus was nailed to the cross, this will cause Jesus to say of for Heaven’s sake I give up, get out of my face you fool, life is too short and I do not want to waste my second chance at life dealing with fools like you.

    Have a happy Hump day everyone, and stay cool, the Bay Area started to roast in the heat starting yesterday and carrying into today.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.: [facepalm]

  30. wr says:

    @inhumans99: ” Tucker, who is nodding his head side to side to not acknowledge that Jesus was nailed to the cross, ”


    Sorry, tried to stop myself from posting, but the trauma of reading a zillion bad scripts won’t let me.

    You can not “nod” your head “side to side.” And a nod never means a negative.

    If you turn your head side to side, especially to convey a negative, that is a “head shake” or “shaking your head.” Nodding your head is vertical, and always indicated assent.

    You may now return to your conversation in progress.

  31. Michael Reynolds says:


    And a nod never means a negative.

    Except in Bulgaria.

  32. gVOR08 says:


    A little interest in linguistics does come in handy now and then

    Oversimplifying, American Pragmatism is mostly a rule and a tool for following the rule. The rule is – don’t confuse the word with the thing. The tool is – a thing is what it does. I find the tool handy. For example, whatever Funk and Wagnalls say “conservative” means in general usage, modern political conservatism is what modern political conservatism does.

    IIRC the early Pragmatists were big in founding semiotics, which in my poor understanding is linguistics expanded to include signifiers other than words. Over the years it’s seemed to me that conservatives of my acquaintance have difficulty with the fluidity of words and can’t separate the symbol from the thing. Hence the overreaction to burning the American flag.

    TAC had one of their nobody authors yesterday saying 1/6 wasn’t a coup because it didn’t involve the whole Army and wouldn’t have worked. I commented quoting Sideshow Bob, “Attempted murder? Do they give a Nobel prize for attempted chemistry?” I added that “coup” is not a legal term, leaving the author able to play games with the meaning. Sort of like “collusion”.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @inhumans99: (It’s your own fault that he bloviated about your comment, too. You called him a troll, after all. 🙁 )

  34. gVOR08 says:

    @Paul L.: Dontcha love it. After a hundred episodes in these threads of “Zero Hedge? Seriously. you’re citing Zero Hedge.” we get “Tom Nichols at the Atlantic? You’re citing Tom Nichols”.

  35. CSK says:

    @Paul L.:
    You’ll have to explain to me what my 4th and 5th Amendment rights have to do with Tom Nichols’s article.

    Or are you just telling me that anything in The Atlantic is by definition disinformation? And how can an opinion piece spread disinformation? It’s an opinion piece.

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    If you don’t use a #2 pencil and fill in the boxes completely, the coup tallying machine may not read the answer.

    Exactly. You make Republicans’ point for them. Stupid Dominion machine might not know what to do, unlike a person who can be trained or intimidated to count a mark anywhere near the oval for a Republican.

  37. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    At school if you used the wrong pencil or missed the marks so the reader couldn’t make sense of your exam answer sheet, a teacher would usually grade the exam manually. You could also ask for a manual review if you were dissatisfied with your grade.

    Surely the legal system can do half as much.

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: But that’s just common sense. Maybe it’s different in Mexico, but here common sense and the legal system have nothing to do with each other.

  39. CSK says:

    @Paul L.:
    Well, no, it’s actually footage from an episode of The Prisoner. A televion series. Fiction.

    Are you going to answer my question about Trump remarking that perhaps the crowd was right that Pence should be hanged? That Pence deserved it?

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Especially after flipping his whoremonger Michael Cohen.

    And who was it Cohen was mongering whores for? Talk about shoving the face of one’s hero into it…

  41. CSK says:

    Yes. I too would like an explanation of that.

  42. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Paul L.:
    Paulie, Paulie, Paulie…
    I bow before your superior flatness.
    I mean, my pen name is somewhat snarky, but Dawg, you actually believe what you say?

    Seriously, dude, usually I’ll joke about wanting what you’re smoking in container quantities for resale, but oh hell no, not this time. I’ve been on an amphetamine fueled paranoid trip, and I ain’t never goin there again.

  43. Kathy says:

    If we ever get an alien probe with a Big Effing Bomb meant to destroy any intelligent species it finds, we can get certain people whom I shall not name, and Benito, to talk to it.

  44. CSK says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:
    I’d also like to know what the difference is between a mob outside the Capitol chanting “hang Mike Pence” and a mob inside the Capitol chanting “hang Mike Pence.”

    To me it’s a distinction without a difference. But I may be misunderstanding what Paul L. said. In my defense, that’s not difficult.

  45. Mister Bluster says:

    @inhumans99:..Folks, please stop engaging with our resident troll,..

    But mom, all the other kids are doing it!

    the Bay Area started to roast
    I remember living in Bernal Heights just south of the Mission in August of 1975. Recent transplant from the midwest. Before we left we had a yard sale to raise gas money and sold all our flannel shirts
    and winter coats. “We’re moving to California!”
    HA! That was a big mistake. It just didn’t seem right to have to run the heat at night in the summer.
    Did make a drive to sign up at the Union Hall in Walnut Creek one day. Must have been in the 80’s at least. I thought I was walking on the sun.

  46. gVOR08 says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: I have a lousy memory, so some years ago I listed some of the characters here in OTB comments with brief notes on them. An example: “gVOR08 – Smart mouthed arsehole and occasional bomb thrower.” I have a note, “Paul L – conservative, but kind of reasonable. (2022-06-10) Gotten to be more of a troll.” I don’t know what happened. Mostly to do with Paul L. I suspect, but we can, collectively, be hard on conservative opinions.

    My search for reasonable conservative voices outside OTB continues, with little success. More and more conservatives live in their own bubble with references and language that are hard for an outsider to follow. “Systemic closure” was a meme for awhile. Seems to have faded, but still apt. I imagine they think the same of us. I’m often reminded of a little back and forth somewhere on canon. Somebody argued that conservatism had a canon, Burke, Kirk, Hayek, who have you, and silly liberals are too confused to have a canon. Somebody responded we liberals do have a canon. It’s called Western Literature.

    I see a lot of handles listed I haven’t seen here for a long time. But I add a few new handles and the conversation remains lively and informative. Thanks, James and Dr. T.

  47. KM says:

    Well now I’m curious what my note says. The best gossip is always about yourself 🙂

  48. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Except in Bulgaria.”

    They just do that to be perverse.

  49. wr says:

    @Paul L.: “The Atlantic claims they are dedicated to debunking disinformation.”

    The magazine that published John Lott’s famously corrupt “More guns, less crime?” How adorable.

  50. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Ditto. Although I’m not active enough to deserve a note, I’d love to read them.@gVOR08: any chance we could be on the ARC reader list before publication?

  51. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: And isn’t that supposed to be “Footage from the Traitor Liz Cheney’s J6 Committee?” Pelosi gets waaaaaaaayyyyy too much credit for ruining the country. She should have to share. It’s only right.

  52. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    That would be “Traitor Liz Cheney’s J6 Unselect Committee.” That’s according to Trump, anyway.

  53. Paul L. says:

    I know according to the Democrats anyone who was in Washington DC on January 6 and supported Trump except Feds should be arrested and imprisoned for 20 years.
    But according to the Biden DOJ.
    mob outside the Capitol: Protesters.
    mob inside the Capitol: Insurrectionists
    How many of each group was arrested?

  54. gVOR08 says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: @KM: I’d better pass. Mostly boring anyway, a few notes to keep straight who’s who. For instance I did note KM’s fencing. But if I start down that slippery slope, some of my comments, on others of course, are a bit snarky.

  55. JohnSF says:

    @Paul L.:

    …will ban the opposition party (Republicans) as pure true Democracies like Ukraine do.

    If you are inclined to make a point by referring to the situation in Ukraine, it might help if you knew something, or indeed anything, about the political situation and historical background.

    For instance that the effective leader of the OPZH, former president Yanukovych, is currently resident in Russia, proclaiming he is the legitimate president of Ukraine, and still hoping he’ll get installed by the Russians.

    Incidentally, you may care to look up how the United Kingdom dealt with the British Union of Fascists during the Second World War.
    For some peculiar reason, countries at war tend to get a bit testy with regard to parties of dubious loyalty.

  56. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I like that. The bigger point is that he got the name of the committee wrong and that Paul L. should stop letting Nancy hog all the attention. There are lots of other people to vilify–AOC, Liz, Biden, and Harris to name just a few.

  57. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I’m still waiting for Paul L. to answer my question about Trump saying that Pence deserved to be hanged.

  58. JohnSF says:

    British liberals have a cannon!
    25 pounder, mostly.
    Ultima Ratio Regnum et Populi, baby.

  59. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Except in Bulgaria.

    Also in parts of India.


    They just do that to be perverse.

    Historical anecdotage indicates they may have been perverse to be perverse.

    Though to be historically pernickety (who, me?) them Bulgars aren’t our Bulgars.
    Original version were Turkic nomads; modern inheritors of the name Slavic agrarian/herding villages by origin.

  60. JohnSF says:

    British joke:
    Labour MP shouts:
    “Boris Johnson should be bloody well hung!”
    Carrie Johnson replies:
    “He is, my dear, he is!”

  61. CSK says:

    Somehow, I don’t wish to visualize Boris’s equipment.

  62. JohnSF says:

    (Not that sorry)

  63. CSK says:

    That’s quite all right.

  64. Gustopher says:

    The Coup folks thought they were going to win, and were documenting their Glorious Victory.

    Had it gone their way they would now be minting commemorative coins with Mike Pence hanging from the gallows. They’re Nazis with bad fashion, which is really unfortunate because the fashion was the only good thing about the Nazis.

    Paul L. would be buying up all the commemorative coins of enemies of the state hanging from the gallows. Extras of Pelosi. To be fair to our friend Paul, he would just be doing so as an investment.

  65. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I advise against holding your breath while you wait.

  66. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnSF: Mel Brooks did the same joke in Blazing Saddles. Charlie, surprised at seeing Bart alive: “They said you was hung.” Bart: “And they was right.”

  67. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    What, no snarky comments about me?