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FBI had so many informants at Jan. 6 riot they lost count

By CM Chaney · September 20, 2023

In brief…

  • Former FBI official Steven D'Antuono testified the bureau had confidential informants at the January 6 Capitol riot and that it later conducted an audit to determine the exact number.
  • At least one informant was communicating with his FBI handler as he entered the Capitol.
  • The Washington FBI field office had to poll all offices to identify how many informants were present.
  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan has raised strong concerns about the FBI's oversight and control of informants on January 6.
The FBI had to conduct an audit to determine the exact number of informants it had dispatched to the Jan. 6 riots, according to a former FBI official.  Angela N. from Washington, DC/Wikimedia

New revelations from former FBI officials indicate the bureau had several paid informants present at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, when supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the building.

According to Steven D’Antuono, former head of the FBI’s Washington field office, the bureau was aware ahead of time that some confidential informants would attend the “Stop the Steal” rally held by Trump on January 6. D’Antuono testified that it was only after the riot, however, that the FBI realized informants from multiple field offices had been present at the Capitol that day.

D’Antuono stated that after the riot the Washington field office had to ask FBI headquarters to poll all offices to determine how many confidential informants were involved. This helped identify which field offices had informants at the Capitol. D’Antuono confirmed that at least one informant communicated with his FBI handler as he entered the building.

While D’Antuono would only confirm a “handful” of informants were present, the large scale of the FBI’s informant program has raised oversight concerns. The FBI spends more than $40 million a year on informants. Both the Justice Department Inspector General and members of Congress have cited issues with informant vetting and reliability.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) described D’Antuono’s testimony as “extremely concerning,” suggesting the FBI “lost control” of informants on January 6. Jordan has requested that Wray provide a briefing and documents related to the FBI’s use of informants during the riot.

The presence of informants at the Capitol riot has been a controversial issue during the trials of the hundreds of defendants arrested for their alleged involvement on January 6. D’Antuono’s revelations suggest the FBI’s network of paid informants that day was more extensive than previously known.