CPAC Trades "Make America Great" for "We Are Domestic Terrorists"
“We Are All Domestic Terrorists” prominently displayed on CPAC stage, the largest convening of conservatives
Conservative leaders call for abolition of law enforcement days before armed January 6 rioter opens fire on police in attempt to breach an FBI building
Keynote address delivered by Former President Trump, currently under investigation by January 6th Committee, days before FBI executed a search warrant on his home
Mock jail cell exhibit portrayed January 6 rioters as political prisoners of conscience
On August 2-4, 2022 the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convened in Dallas, Texas. Against the backdrop of the ongoing January 6th Committee investigations, the conference, which is one of the largest and most influential convenings for conservatives in the country, featured a banner “We Are All Domestic Terrorists” and an exhibit meant to illicit sympathy for the January 6th rioters.
January 6 Rioter Opens Fire on Police in Attempt to Breach FBI Building
CPAC’s adoption of the terrorist title came days before an active shooter attempted to breach an FBI building in Cincinnati, Ohio and exchanged gunfire with officers while fleeing the scene. The assailant, Ricky Shiffer, was present during the January 6th Capitol attack. He was killed in the standoff with police. Shiffer appears to have been active on former President Trump’s social media site Truth Social and posted threats against the FBI in the days before his attack and during his assault. Posts under his name encouraged other members to “kill the FBI on sight” and any other “active enemies of the people” who might try to stop them. Shiffer also appears to have engaged with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s twitter account suggesting it was time for armed violence.
CPAC Speakers and Conservative Leaders Say Defund and Destroy Law Enforcement
Shiffer’s armed assault came in the wake of numerous conservative leaders, including several CPAC speakers, condemning law enforcement for investigating elected and formerly elected officials suspected of criminal behavior.
On Monday, Aug 8, FBI agents executed a search warrant on former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home as part of an investigation into unlawful handling of confidential documents. In what appears to be a separate investigation, the next day agents seized the phone of PA representative Scott Perry. The search of the former president’s home was signed off on by Christopher Wray, Trump-appointed Director of the FBI. Shiffer’s posts on Truth Social appear to suggest his assault was connected to the Mar-a-Lago search.
In response to these lawful acts of search and seizure by police, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted “Defund the FBI.” Sen. Rick Scott compared the FBI to the Gestapo and called the search “3rd World country stuff.” Rep. Jim Jordan also compared the legal execution of a search warrant signed by a judge to tactics used by third world dictators. And Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted “We must destroy the FBI,” stating America needs to be saved from its own law enforcement. All have been featured speakers at CPAC within the last two years.
Attorney General Merrick Garland responded to this rhetoric in a public statement saying, “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor . . . The men and women of the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves.”
CPAC Defends Jan-6 Rioters Who Harmed Police Officers
In addition to the “We Are All Domestic Terrorists” slogan, the other event a CPAC to draw notable attention was a mock jail cell intended to represent those who have been imprisoned for participating in the January 6th attack. The riot has been described by police on duty that day as “a war zone” and one officer recalled “hours of hand to hand combat” and slipping in people’s blood before being knocked unconscious. Nevertheless, the CPAC exhibit sought to depict rioters as prisoners of conscience rather than participants in an armed mob that attacked law enforcement in order to overturn a lawful election.
At one point a man named Brandon Straka sat inside the cell wearing an orange jumpsuit and MAGA hat and did a dramatic performance of a prisoner weeping. During his performance, Straka was joined in the cell by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and the two prayed together while people around the exhibit reportedly recited the Lord’s prayer.
Taylor Greene is one of at least 9 members of Congress who requested a Presidential pardon for their role in seeking to overturn the 2022 presidential election. She has called those who have been jailed for their participation in the Capitol attacks “political prisoners of war.”
Nearly 900 people have been arrested for their role in the riots which resulted in the deaths of 5 police officers and the injury of 140 more. Included among these are leaders of the militia groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who have pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy.
Straka, who has not served jail time, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for encouraging rioters to breach the Capitol and was sentenced to 3 years probation and a $5,000 fine after choosing to cooperate with law enforcement in their ongoing investigations into the attack.
CPAC Speakers Under Investigation
CPAC concluded with a keynote address by Former President Donald Trump, who is currently under investigation for his role in inciting the January 6th attacks. Days after his appearance, the FBI executed a search warrant on the former President’s Mar-a-Lago home in connection with a separate investigation into the unlawful handling of classified documents, which was made a felony through a 2018 law signed by then President Trump. A day later the FBI also seized the phone of another CPAC speaker, Rep. Scott Perry, an ally of Trump who also sought a pardon after January 6th.
In addition to Trump and Perry, a significant number of CPAC speakers are on record promoting the Big Lie or denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election, even in the days after the deadly January 6 riots which sought to overturn the election results. These include Steve Banon, who has been convicted for defying a subpoena from the January 6th Committee, Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Reps. Brian Babin (R-TX), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Ben Cline (R-VA), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Yvette Herrell (R-NM), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mary Miller (R-IL), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Burgess Owens (R-UT), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Greg Steube (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), Randy Weber (R-TX), and Roger Williams (R-TX).