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As Impeachment Nears End, Federal Inquiry Looms as Reminder of Trump’s Role in Riot


On Dec. 27, for instance, Mr. Nordean posted on the social media site Parler asking for donations to buy protective gear and communications equipment, according to a criminal complaint. Shortly before the riot, prosecutors said, he also spoke on a podcast about the Proud Boys’ plan to appear in Washington in disguise, not in their typical black-and-yellow colors.

In a similar fashion, prosecutors have said there is evidence that Ms. Watkins and two other Oath Keepers charged with her, Thomas E. Caldwell and Donovan Crowl, premeditated the attack.

Mr. Caldwell, 66, a former Navy officer, advised his fellow militia members to stay at a particular Comfort Inn in the Washington suburbs, noting that it offered a good base to “hunt at night” — an apparent reference to chasing left-wing activists. Ms. Watkins, 38, set up a communications system for use in the assault on the chatting app Zello, prosecutors said.

In text messages obtained by the F.B.I., the three Oath Keepers appear to anticipate — even welcome — conflict in the postelection period. In one message, from Nov. 16, Mr. Crowl tells Mr. Caldwell, “War is on the horizon.” In another, just days later, Mr. Caldwell tells Ms. Watkins that he is “worried about the future of our country.” Then, court papers say, he adds, “I believe we will have to get violent to stop this.”

On Dec. 29, Ms. Watkins wrote to Mr. Crowl about the Jan. 6 event in Washington.

“Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come,” she said, adding, “If Trump activates the Insurrection Act, I’d hate to miss it.”

As for Mr. Pezzola, his lawyer said he felt betrayed.

“He went to Washington because Trump asked him to save the country,” Mr. Zucker said. “Then he got arrested and Trump went to play golf.”

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

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