Who is Ray Epps? Just another example of Republicans eating their own

All of this seems to stem from a Jan. 5 video in which Epps is seen calling on people to “go into the Capitol” while insisting that they do so “peacefully.” Add in the fact that Epps has not been arrested in connection with the insurrection, and that was enough for those looking for anything other than the truth.

Epps was declared an FBI mole by social media sleuths. It didn’t take long before the Trump faithful became convinced that Epps had been planted in their ranks to trick them into the invasion. In days, the wedding venue owner from Arizona was transformed into the center of a conspiracy to entrap Trump supporters, and given a starring role in Tucker Carlson’s nightly conspiracies. It wasn’t Donald Trump who was in charge of the insurrection, said the conspiracy theories, it was Ray Epps.

The finger of blame was directed toward Epps when a picture appearing to show Epps among a group of people charging past a fallen police barricade was posted by the FBI. But Epps failed to be arrested and his picture was later removed. This, according to the Q-cognoscenti, was clear evidence that Epps is “a fed”—a plant slipped in amongst the unsuspecting sheep of Trump supporters to lead them astray.

The truth seems to be a whole lot simpler. The FBI talked to Epps. Attorneys for the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 talked to Epps. Neither found any clear evidence that he had been involved in violence, or that he had actually entered the Capitol building on Jan. 6. No video or pictures have subsequently emerged showing Epps inside the Capitol.

Epps—who has denied that he was employed by the FBI, or any other agency, on Jan. 5 or Jan. 6, or on any other day of his life—is an ex-Marine who operates the Knotty Barn wedding venue near Queen Creek, AZ. Epps and his family have owned the location since at least 2010, after a previous career as a roofing contractor. The Knotty Barn is modeled after a barn Epps’ grandfather built on nearby land over a century ago. There is absolutely no evidence that Epps is, or has ever been, some kind of operative. He does keep emus on his farm, though, along with dwarf goats. That surely plays into the conspiracy theory somehow.

However, Epps does have a long history with anti-government militias. That includes at least two stints with the Oath Keepers. In 2011, Epps was the president of the Arizona branch, the largest group of Oath Keepers with a claimed membership of 5,000 and extensive connections to Republican politicians in Arizona. 

What this quest to find a fall guy has done to Epps with his camo-wearing buddies isn’t clear, and there’s no word on how it’s affected bookings at the Knotty Barn. But it’s unlikely Epps enjoyed hearing Ted Cruz repeat his name to promote Carlson’s conspiracy theories in the middle of a Senate hearing. And Cruz wasn’t the only one. Sen. Tom Cotton also directed questions about Epps to the assistant attorney general. This also isn’t the first time Epps has been at the focus of a congressional hearing. Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie first ran the video of Epps talking about going to the Capitol during a hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland back in October. 

True to form, following the hearing on Tuesday, Fox News ran with the headline “Top FBI official dodges when Cruz asks if agents participated in Jan. 6 riot,” and then went on to repeat most of Carlson’s conspiracy theory claims in their article. 

From the president of the Oath Keepers to an outcast shunned as an FBI operative, Epps is, if nothing else, a sterling example of how willing Trump supporters are to eat their own if that’s what it takes to keep the conspiracies alive.

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