28.4 C
New York
June 14, 2024
NewsAltitude
Uncategorized

Musician and libertarian writer who works for ‘The Blaze’ arrested on Jan. 6 charges

WASHINGTON — The former lead singer of a David Bowie tribute band who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, licensed his footage to media outlets, and now works as a writer for Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” website has been arrested on misdemeanor Capitol attack charges after turning himself into federal authorities in Texas.

Steve Baker, a musician and libertarian writer who was a frequent presence at the federal courthouse in Washington during the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial and other Jan. 6 cases, faces the same four standard misdemeanors as many lower-level Capitol riot defendants.

A copy of a FBI affidavit, provided to NBC News by defense attorney William Shipley, indicates that federal prosecutors will focus on comments from Baker that show he was sympathetic to the mob, including when he referred to Nancy Pelosi as a “b—-” after talking about the mob raiding the former House speaker’s office, and a comment in which he said he regretted that he didn’t steal government property during the attack.

Steve Baker at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia

“Look out your windows bitches, look what’s coming,” Baker allegedly said as he recorded himself approaching the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“They got Pelosi’s office and, you know, it couldn’t happen to a better deserving b—-,” Baker said in a video after the attack, according to the FBI affidavit.

“The only thing I regret is that I didn’t, like, steal their computers because God knows what I could’ve found on their computers if I’d done that,” Baker said, according to the affidavit.

“Do I approve of what happened today?” Baker said in another interview on Jan. 6, according to the FBI filing. “I approve 100%.”

Video footage previously posted by Baker shows him approaching two officers inside the Capitol and asking them if they were going to use their weapons on protesters. “You gonna use that thing on us?” Baker asked one officer. “Are you really going to use that on us?” Baker asked another. He later asked the same question of two other officers in the aftermath of the shooting of Ashli Babbitt, video showed.

After witnessing first responders trying to save the life of Babbitt, a Jan. 6 rioter shot as she jumped through a broken window leading into the Speaker’s Lobby, Baker said he “may have just seen the true first shot in this war,” the FBI affidavit said.

Steve Baker at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia

Baker has friendly relationships with reporters who have covered Jan. 6 cases and was in the media room during trials at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, where his own case will now unfold. A reporter for NBC News met Baker at the courthouse back in August, when Baker dropped off materials in response to a grand jury subpoena he received for the videos he recorded on Jan. 6. Recently, Baker had been working closely with House Republicans, and gained access to thousands of hours of Jan. 6 surveillance footage.

Baker was accompanied by a camera crew from The Blaze when he surrendered on Friday morning, and he broadcasted live from outside the courthouse after he was released. Baker quickly received support from former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

In a phone interview after his arrest, Baker called the process “humiliating,” but said that law enforcement officers he dealt with were friendly and cordial. Baker said he had no regrets about the language he used on Jan. 6, and that some of his comments, like those during his discussions with his friend over drinks on the night of the riot, were taken out of context.

“With the ‘couldn’t happen to a nicer b—-‘ comment… when the FBI asks me why I said that I said, ‘Because it wasn’t McConnell’s office.’ I said, ‘If it had been McConnell’s office, I would’ve said it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bastard.’ And then I followed that up by saying, ‘What part of me being a libertarian do you not understand? I don’t like either side,'” Baker said.

Baker has a court date set in Washington, but said that he wasn’t sure how he will proceed from here.

“My gut instinct is to take it all the way to trial, but obviously we have to wait and see who the judge is,” Baker said. “One of the primary axioms of classic liberalism, libertarianism, is that if there’s no victim, there’s no crime. And what’s happening to a lot of people, is that their words are being criminalized.”

Steve Baker at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia

Baker explained in a podcast after Jan. 6 that, as a full-time musician he “found himself suddenly unemployed” in 2020 after the Covid lockdowns, and so decided to “ramp up” a project he’d started a decade earlier: An online community known as “The Pragmatic Libertarian,” which he later rebranded as “The Pragmatic Constitutionalist.”

Two days before Jan. 6, Baker wrote he was headed to Washington not because he thought “a crowd of any size is going to force government into a real investigation of the election results, but because the ‘powers that be’ on all sides of the political equation need to see WE THE PEOPLE in force, letting them know that WE ARE WATCHING.”

“WE are not going to lay down to any level of tyranny — whether it come from the right or the left, the Democrats or the GOP,” Baker wrote, adding that he was “hoping to document on video anything ‘special’ that might happen, and perhaps get a few interviews from a variety of voices.”

In a post after Jan. 6, he wrote that he’d “confess to being truly inspired at the sight of so many patriots about to make what would surely be a powerful visual statement to the oath-breaking criminals who — at that very moment — were debating the certification of the Electoral votes.”

In that post-Jan. 6 podcast, Baker said it was “no secret” that he was not a Trump fan back in 2016, thinking that neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton were good candidates. He said he did vote for Trump in 2020, and endorsed him, first because “the Bolshevik Democratic Party machine is now a fully-realized, openly neo-Marxist organization” and because of his “wishful thinking that Trump — for all his faults, (and maybe because of them), would finally be exposing and bringing down the Deep State.”

More than 1,300 people have been arrested in the more than three years since the Capitol attack, and prosecutors have secured more than 900 convictions. Sentences have ranged from short terms of probation for the type of misdemeanor charges Baker is facing, to 22 years in federal prison for Enrique Tarrio of the Proud Boys on his seditious conspiracy conviction.

Other Jan. 6 defendants have tried to avoid convictions by pointing to their media ties, but Baker is the first who was working for an established media company at the time of his arrest. He was not associated with a news publication three years ago on Jan. 6, when the alleged misdemeanor took place.

Steve Baker at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia

A former commentator for The Blaze, Elijah Schaffer, had posted on social media during the riot that he was inside Pelosi’s office and “with the thousands of revolutionaries who have stormed” the Capitol. Video released in another Jan. 6 case shows Schaffer saying that he was part of a group “occupying” Pelosi’s office. Unlike Baker, Schaffer was wearing an official Capitol press credential, and has not been charged.

Another Jan. 6 defendant, Stephen Horn, was convicted on four misdemeanor counts at trial after presenting himself as an independent journalist.

“His journalism started when he needed an excuse for his criminal liability,” a federal prosecutor told jurors in that case, according to The Washington Post. Prosecutors sought 10 months in federal prison in Horn’s case, but a judge sentenced Horn to one year of probation and a $2,000 fine.

John Sullivan, an “anti-establishment” activist who prosecutors say went to the Capitol with the “goal of inciting the crowd,” was convicted at trial after being found guilty of a variety of charges, including felonies. Sullivan too tried to present himself as a journalist, and news outlets (including NBC News) had licensed his footage after the attack. But jurors found him guilty after prosecutors presented evidence that he encouraged the mob and claimed to be armed with a knife.

Ryan J. Reilly

Ryan J. Reilly is a justice reporter for NBC News.

Read More