6 Takeaways From Ray Epps's Jan. 6 Panel Testimony

6 Takeaways From Ray Epps's Jan. 6 Panel Testimony
Ray Epps seen on Jan. 5, 2021, trying to recruit men to attack the Capitol. They accuse him of being a federal agent. (CapitolPunishmentTheMovie.com/Bark at the Hole Productions)
Joseph Lord
Madalina Vasiliu
The House Jan. 6 Committee on Dec. 29 released a transcript of the panel's interview with Ray Epps, whose role in the Capitol Breach has been much scrutinized.

In his testimony, Epps describes himself as a well-meaning supporter of former President Donald Trump who only attended the rally to protect his son, who was also attending.

He quickly disavowed any connection with federal law enforcement during the testimony.

“[D]id you ever work in law enforcement?” an interviewer asked.

“No,” Epps replied.

“Did you ever work for the FBI?”

“No,” Epps replied again.

“Did you have any communications or interactions with law enforcement when packing first aid for your trip to Washington, DC?” Epps was asked later.

“Not that I know of, no, Sir,” Epps replied before clarifying, “I didn't—I don't know of any officers that I ever talked to."

FBI was asked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) if Epps worked for them during a Jan. 11, 2022, Senate hearing.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 22, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 22, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

“Ms. Sanborn, who is Ray Epps?” Cruz (R-Texas) questioned Jill Sanborn, the executive assistant director for the National Security Branch of the FBI.

“I’m aware of the individual, sir,” Sanborn said. “I don’t have the specific background on him.”

Sanborn also dodged Cruz's question of whether Epps was a federal government employee.

Epps Describes Night of Jan. 5

In his testimony describing the night of Jan. 5, when he was captured on video encouraging protesters to enter the Capitol the next day, Epps claimed that he was simply trying to protect his family that night.

“The—the night of the 5th, I was—I was trying to protect them [his family] from the—I don't know what the guy calls himself, Baked Alaska or something,” Epps said, referencing a well-known right-wing internet celebrity who was present at the Jan. 6 rally.

"He was trying to incite violence on the police, trying to get other people involved, and I was—tried to calm him down,” Epps said. “I don't—I don't believe the police ever said anything to me.”

But that same night, Epps was caught on video telling the crowd to go into the Capitol the next day.

“Tomorrow we need to go in to the Capitol,” Epps said. “In to the Capitol,” he reiterated.

The calls raised eyebrows among the gathered crowd, who promptly shot down Epps’s calls with cries of “Fed! Fed! Fed!,” internet shorthand for federal agents working for the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and others.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, delivers remarks alongside Vice Chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a hearing in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, on Oct. 13, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, delivers remarks alongside Vice Chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a hearing in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, on Oct. 13, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“There's a couple hundred people there, probably,” Epps said, beginning his account of the pro-Trump gathering on the evening of Jan. 5 where the video footage of him was captured.

“The—I observed a guy over arguing with the police, and there was a line of police. There was a line of police across there, and this guy was arguing with the police. Didn't understand it.

“There was a few megaphones there, people trying to—you know, there was somebody screaming about—oh, what's the guy's name? Screaming about one guy, and then somebody else screaming about Antifa, [expletive] Antifa, all that kind of stuff. And then people wanting to fight with BLM.”

Epps continued, “And just, like, I can't believe this is going on.

“These aren't—are these Trump supporters? And what it was, I don't believe they were Trump supporters. I believe that they were trying to get Trump supporters to—to back their cause.

“So,” Epps claimed, “I tried to deescalate it … I went over to the guy that calls himself Baked Alaska and had words with him, that this was not what we're about. We need to stay focused. You guys are—are not right. You shouldn't be doing this with the police.

"He was saying that the police broke their oath, you know, calling them all kinds of names and stuff.”

Epps briefly explained the widely circulated video, saying he was merely trying to get “common ground” with others there because Baked Alaska “was trying to turn people against me.”

“I was trying to—to get some common ground,” Epps contended. “This guy was trying to turn people against me. I didn't—I don't know if I saw it there on that one, but he was calling me ‘Boomer,’ and [saying] ‘It's his generation's fault that we're in the position we're in.'”

“I—I got caught up in the moment I said that,” he continued. “I didn't want to fight with anybody. I didn't want any violence. I was trying to prevent [violence]. If you had footage, body cam footage from the police, you would even see more of me trying to stop that kind of stuff.”

Further questioned about the video, Epps claimed that he did not mean to incite any violence with his calls to enter the Capitol.

“So you said you needed—that you all need to go into the Capitol,” the interviewer said. “What did you mean by that phrase, ‘go into the Capitol’?”

“The Capitol is the people's House, and the Rotunda—people can go into the Rotunda and—and see what's happening there. My vision was get as many people in there as we can and surround it ... be there, let them know that we're not happy with the—with what has happened, and that was it,” said Epps, adding, “No violence.”

Epps Claims Oath Keepers Link

During the interview, Epps also addressed his history with the Oath Keepers group and its leader, Stewart Rhodes. He said that he teamed up with them around 2009–10:

“I think it was called the 912 March, and I think the Tea Party took credit for it or tried to take credit for it. We—I took my dad to Washington, the first I'd ever been to Washington, and we met the Oath Keepers there. We attended a dinner, and I thought they were pretty—pretty stand-up guys. They were law enforcement, prior law enforcement, prior military and other people that—that wanted to know more about the oath, and so I joined up with them.”

He then explained that when Antifa began attacking Portland, he chose to quit the Oath Keepers organization. Epps said that Rhodes wanted to go there and “try to direct them [Antifa], get in with them and direct them to do things other—other ways. I didn't agree with that, so we kind of split ways.”

“They were too radical ... too radical for my—my likes,” Epps said.

Later in the interview, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill) asked, “when you talked about the Antifa side of things, were you saying his goal was to kind of infiltrate and influence, like, partner, or was it kind of influence and sabotage or stray [sic] differently?”

“I believe he was going to try to turn them to our way of thinking," Epps responded.

Epps received no follow-up questions in the 97-page transcript of the interview. He briefly acknowledges being in the group in charge of Arizona "as a chapter president" for "probably a couple of years."

During his testimony on Nov. 7 in the seditious conspiracy trial, Rhodes told a defense attorney that the mission of the Oath Keepers organization was to defend the Constitution, provide security, and assist law enforcement. He denied that the Oath Keepers' mission on Jan. 6 was to storm the Capitol.

‘I Don’t Know’ If the 2020 Election Was Stolen: Epps

After describing his past links to the Oath Keepers, Epps was asked about his view of the 2020 election. Epps claimed to have had concerns about the integrity of the election but said he “doesn’t know” if it was “stolen.”

“Did you have concerns about how the election went … in 2020?” an interviewer asked Epps.

“I did,” he affirmed.

Asked to explain his concerns, Epps related a story about how he and his wife had received mail-in ballots at their property addressed to people they had never heard of.

“That was our concerns [sic],” Epps said, adding, “I—I don’t know if the election was stolen. I—I don’t know that, but I know that there are some concerns and, you know, there shouldn’t be concerns with our election.”

Epps Describes Lead-Up to Jan. 6 Rally

Elsewhere in his testimony, Epps described the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally from his perspective.

The interviewer built off of Epps’s previous testimony, saying: “You just said that you did have some concerns about the 2020 election. Did that kind of shape your mentality as you were heading into the December 2020, January 2021 months?”

“I think so,” Epps replied.

The question fits into the larger narrative pushed by the committee, which has sought to prove that Trump's claims of election fraud were directly responsible for the breakdown of order on Jan. 6.

“When did you become aware of the rally in DC that was scheduled for Jan. 6?” the interviewer asked.

“You know I—I can’t honestly answer that,” Epps responded. “I’m sure it was sometime in December.” Later, an interviewer asked, “When did you decide, approximately, that you were going to attend the rally in Washington, DC?”

“I believe that was the first of January,” Epps replied.

Epps said he finally agreed to attend the rally after being pushed to do so by his wife in order to protect their son, Jim, who had decided to attend.

Overall, Epps projected an image of attending the rally only hesitantly.

Epps Asked for Tourniquets, Gauze

In one part of the testimony, it is revealed that Epps planned to bring tourniquets, gauze, and other combat first-aid gear to the rally.

In text messages between Epps and Nathen Jones, a member of Epps’s church with a background in First Aid, Epps asked Jones to supply him with tourniquets, medical gauze, and breathing tubes.

Epps dismissed the significance of this excessive preparedness for an event he expected to be peaceful.

“I was hoping nothing would happen,” Epps said, but said he wanted to “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

Ray Epps's attorney did not respond to a request for comment by press time.