Sen. Mike Lee promotes a debunked conspiracy theory about a Jan. 6 rioter

Updated

WASHINGTON — A Republican senator said over the weekend that he planned to question the director of the FBI on whether a Trump supporter currently serving four years in federal prison is an undercover federal agent.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, promoted on his personal X account a conspiracy theory that one of the Jan. 6 videos released at the order of House Speaker Mike Johnson shows an undercover federal agent disguised as a Trump supporter.

Kevin Lyons leaving the Capitol on Jan. 6, holding what appears to be a vape. (Committee on House Administration)
Kevin Lyons leaving the Capitol on Jan. 6, holding what appears to be a vape. (Committee on House Administration)

“I can’t wait to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray about this at our next oversight hearing,” Lee wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, just before midnight on Saturday evening, re-sharing a post that suggested a man in a MAGA hat was actually an undercover federal agent. “I predict that, as always, his answers will be 97% information-free.”

Kevin Lyons with a framed photo of Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis from Pelosi's office on Jan. 6, 2021. (USDC District of Columbia)
Kevin Lyons with a framed photo of Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis from Pelosi's office on Jan. 6, 2021. (USDC District of Columbia)

In reality, the image Lee shared shows Jan. 6 defendant Kevin Lyons, a self-proclaimed “idiot” and Trump supporter who stole a framed photo of the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis and a staffer’s wallet from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. The video shows that Lyons, as he's leaving the Capitol building, briefly shows his hands as a heavily armed tactical team comes inside the building to get control of the riot. Lyons is holding an item in his right hand. Conspiracy theorists claimed Lyons was holding a “badge," but the item appears to be a vape that Lyons was seen holding earlier in the day, although the quality of the footage makes that difficult to say with 100 percent certainty.

“I’m an idiot, I realize that,” Lyons said to a judge during his sentencing hearing in July, as NBC News reported. “I was stupid. I don’t know what came over me. ... I apologize to you, the country and my family.”

Federal Bureau of Prisons records show that Lyons is currently in federal custody, and is scheduled for release in 2027. Video that Lyons shot, previously released in connection with another Jan. 6 case, shows him pocketing a wallet he stole from a jacket inside Pelosi’s office.

As of Monday afternoon, Lee's post had not been taken down.

The original X post re-shared by Lee was posted by Jan. 6 rioter Derrick Evans, who pleaded guilty to a felony and was sentenced to three months in federal prison. He is now running for Congress as a Republican in his home state of West Virginia.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a Republican ally of former President Donald Trump, also posted false claims about Lyons but deleted the allegation after being called out by other social media users.

"That’s a law enforcement badge in his hand while disguised as a Trump supporter in a MAGA hat," Greene wrote on X before she edited her post to remove that allegation. "I’ve said it all along, MAGA did not do this."

Even the far-right conspiracy website Gateway Pundit walked back a post about the image of Lyons, writing that it "now appears this is a vape."

When NBC News reached out for comment, Lee spokesman Billy Gribbin in a statement dodged questions about the false claim. “Senator Lee would like Director Wray to answer important questions regarding the uncuffed rioter fist bumping Capitol police inside the building, the unidentified pipe bomber, and other individuals about whom the FBI and fraudulent January 6th Committee have shown a surprising lack of interest," he said.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a hearing. (Sarah Silbiger / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a hearing. (Sarah Silbiger / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The "uncuffed rioter fist bumping Capitol police" is Jan. 6 defendant Jared Luther Owens, who was charged last month. Owens was one of several rioters who were released from custody on Jan. 6 because police officers were under violent attack at the Capitol, and did not have the resources to process the enormous number of rioters. Owens, a Trump supporter, allegedly assaulted law enforcement officers with a barricade on Jan. 6, and a Capitol Police officer arrested him after witnessing Owens "push another unidentified U.S. Capitol Police officer up against a wall" inside the Capitol, according to the FBI. A folding knife was found in Owens' right front pocket.

The FBI has not been able to identify the individual who placed pipe bombs and both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee on the night of Jan. 5 but is offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to their arrest.

“The American people deserve to be treated like adults regarding the events of January 6th and should be given all available information,” Gribbin said.

Some Trump supporters have long suggested without evidence that federal agents were driving the Jan. 6 riot.

More than 1,200 people have been charged in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and online sleuths say about 1,000 additional participants have been identified but not yet charged.

Advertisement