Jan 6, 2022 - News

New Colorado ties to Jan. 6 attacks and 2020 election emerge

Federal cases against individuals involved in Jan. 6 Capitol attack, by state
Data: GW Program on Extremism; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

A year after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, new evidence exposes Colorado's ties to the 2020 election challenge and the mob that stormed Congress.

Why it matters: The details deepen our understanding of Colorado's political discord and loyalty to former President Trump, even in a state where he lost twice.

What we know: Two top legal architects in Trump's push to keep power have strong Colorado connections.

  • John Eastman, a key Trump adviser, served as the visiting conservative scholar at the University of Colorado in Boulder during the 2020 election and its certification.
  • Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign lawyer, worked in Colorado legal circles, including at the conservative Centennial Institute in Lakewood.

In addition, 14 people with ties to the state have been criminally charged in connection with the riot on the Capitol grounds, according to an Axios Denver analysis of federal indictments and media reports.

  • At least 10 consider Colorado home, from Telluride to Trinidad and from Colorado Springs to Littleton. Three others were arrested in the state, and one man traveled to Washington from Colorado.
  • Federal prosecutors leveled more than 60 charges combined against them, including counts of assaulting and threatening police officers and engaging in violence.

The big picture: All told, federal authorities have charged 725 people for their role in the attack and continue to seek help in identifying 350 more, according to the Department of Justice.

  • U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that "the actions we have taken thus far will not be our last."

Of note: The Colorado arrests resulted from video evidence and photos of the attack, according to federal court documents, and in some cases tips from close associates.

  • In at least one case, authorities confirmed the presence of a Colorado Springs man through his reply to a tweet sent by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Rifle) that promoted the Jan. 6 events.

Details: Eastman's role is being particularly scrutinized. He circulated a two-page memo to the White House ahead of the vote certification that argued Vice President Mike Pence was "the ultimate arbiter" of the election and had the power to block Joe Biden from taking office, according to a recent report in the New York Times.

  • Eastman spoke at the rally near the White House on the morning of Jan. 6, promoting unfounded claims about election fraud that fueled the crowd at the Capitol. He later criticized the violence as "terrible."
  • CU Boulder cut ties with Eastman, who was paid $185,000 for the 2020-21 school year at the Benson Center for Western Civilization. He's pursuing legal action.

Ellis authored two legal memos in the week before the attack saying Pence could refuse to count presidential electors, as Politico reported in December.

  • One of the memos went to Trump's office while the other went to the president's outside lawyer.
  • Ellis later told the publication she was exploring legal theories and not endorsing the strategies she outlined.

The bottom line: Benjamin Teitelbaum, a CU professor, told CPR shortly after the riot that the far right is larger than many expect. "They are going to be resilient and they're going to find some way to exist," he said.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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