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Bill Straub: It’s Massie again, showing devotion to lies and diverting attention from pursuit of truth

During his 10 misbegotten years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas Massie has done a terrible job proving that he is not God’s own fool.

The reign of idiocy assumed by Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty, would be unequaled were it not for the fact that he unfortunately serves in the lower chamber at the same time as Rep. Louie Gohmert Jr., R-TX. Now that Gohmert is leaving the chamber, our boy Tom can claim the crown all to himself, although competition from within the GOP caucus could prove fierce.

From the time he voted against, for no apparent reason, awarding a congressional gold medal to golfer Jack Nicklaus to his fight against any Biden administration effort to challenge the COVID-19 pandemic, Massie consistently goes out of his way to prove he is as worthless as a pen without ink.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

Massie’s list of mortal sins is endless, although his love affair with guns of all shapes, sizes and calibers annually tops the list. But little can compare to his recent venture vilifying a barely recognized gentleman named Ray Epps, a conservative tangentially involved in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

In this episode, Tommy Boy gets to play with one of his favorite conspiracy theories – the Jan. 6 insurrection was a deep state operation. Only this time he gets knocked down by perhaps the most able member of the lower chamber.

Massie, who is not one whit interested in uncovering the truth surrounding the ultimately failed insurrection to void the 2020 election results and reinstall Donald J. Trump as president, holds that Epps, a retired Marine with connections to a far-right anti-government militia group, may have been an agent provocateur, working as an undercover asset for the FBI who actually instigated the riot and resulting violent contretemps.

The far-right wing, which includes Massie among its adherents, has long been searching for a way to shift responsibility for the insurrection away from Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) supporters to some furtive fall guy. First these alibiers maintained the rioters were invited into the seat of government by the Capital Police themselves. When that went nowhere, they claimed Antifa, a loosely organized anti-Facist group, was involved.

Now, reports persist in right-wing media that the FBI was, for some unknown reason, involved in the affair and that Epps led a false flag operation in the agency’s behalf, thus establishing that the insurgents, the poor babies, were betrayed by the deep state into involving themselves in the effort to overthrow the American government and were therefore not serious insurrectionists.

Good luck with that.

In an interview with The New York Times, Epps asserts the false rumors about his ties to the FBI have ruined his life, forcing him and his wife to go into hiding.

“I am at the center of this thing, and it’s the biggest farce that’s ever been,” he told the Times. “It’s just not right. The American people are being led down a path. I think it should be criminal.”

Now, why the FBI would want to ferment a riot that led to the first storming of the Capitol since 1812 has not been fully explained. Yet Massie is in there pitching.

Epps has acknowledged, to the Times and others, that he attended Jan. 6 protests.

A video from the night before shows him instructing a crowd to prepare to enter the Capitol.

“I’m going to put it out there. I’ll probably go to jail for it,” he is heard saying. “Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol. Into the Capitol. Peaceably! Peacefully! We are freedom, we are peaceful. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about hurting people.”

Epps has, in fact, not been arrested for his involvement – no evidence has been uncovered thus far showing him entering the Capitol during the riot – and that has somehow been construed to prove he was an FBI asset.

Subsequently, Epps testified before The U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, the panel appointed to look into the insurrection, that he “was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on Jan 5th or 6th or at any other time, and that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.”

Massie is not convinced. Back in October 2021, during a House Judiciary Committee meeting highlighted by testimony from Attorney General Merrick Garland, the lawmaker played the tape of Epps urging protesters to enter the Capitol.

“There’s a concern there were agents of the government, or assets of the government, present on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 during the protests,” Massie told Garland before playing the tape. Massie said he was hoping Garland would “put to rest the concerns people have that there were federal agents or assets of the federal government present on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.” He proceeded to ask “how many agents or assets of the federal government were present on Jan. 6, whether they agitated to go into the Capitol and if any of them did.”

Garland refused to respond, citing Justice Department rules regarding the discussion of ingoing investigations.

It was that hearing, and Massie’s questioning, that marked the beginning of the Epps theory entering mainstream discourse. Massie later accused Garland of failing to address “the concerns of people,” meaning, of course, the AG’s refusal to play his repulsive game.

“If he’s going to withhold evidence from Congress on this basis, why does the Jan 6 Committee even exist?” he tweeted.

That was answered on Wednesday by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD, one of the chamber’s most respected members. Massie resurrected the controversy he helped launch by noting that Epps had testified before the Jan. 6 committee and that “we were told that a transcript of his interview would be released but it’s never been released…”

Raskin, a member of the Jan. 6 committee and acknowledged constitutional scholar, noted that none of the committee’s transcripts have been released “so you don’t need a conspiracy theory about that.” But Massie – fools rush in where angels fear to tread — pressed further, asking Raskin if he was present when the Epps interview occurred. He was not, but Raskin took the questioning as a launching point to blast Epps conspiracy holders, Massie in particular.

“You guys are trying to make this poor schmuck who showed up to your protest into something a lot bigger than he is,” Raskin said. “He’s just trying to survive and he’s on your side. You don’t have many voters left, you might want to try to hang on to them.”

Raskin then took the opportunity to note that Senate and House Republicans deep-sixed an opportunity to create a commission to instigate a wide-ranging probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6 but “it was vetoed by the cult leader, Donald Trump, who said he wanted no investigation at all. That’s your guy, Donald Trump. He said he wanted no investigation. And so, you pulled the plug on the investigation you originally advocated because Donald Trump didn’t want it.

“Let’s tell some truth. You’re talking about the truth? I’m giving you the truth! I’m giving you the facts about it.”

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, appointed a special House committee to probe the circumstances, which included two Republicans who aren’t “pro-insurrection.”

“And maybe you can’t handle the truth, but that’s the reality and nobody’s laid a glove on any of the testimony that’s come out during those hearings,” Raskin said. “So, we hear this absurd whining about Ray Epps, who has absolutely nothing to do with any of it. And all of these conspiracy theory allegations have been debunked up and down. Up and down! You think you’ve got something? Bring him in and talk to him or send us a letter. But why don’t you deal with the reality of the situation?”

Massie may have had trouble responding since he was left in a puddle on the hearing room floor.

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