The Arkansas State Police provided to me at 6:03 p.m. today an additional statement to my continuing questions about the two troopers who participated in the Trump rally in Washington on June 6 that ended in the deadly insurrection riot at the Capitol.
It confirms, without directly saying so, that Governor Hutchinson’s statement that the troopers did NOT go to the Capitol from the rally was incorrect. Beyond that, not much. The statement:
Two Arkansas State Troopers who were off-duty and on annual leave travelled to Washington D.C. to hear a January 6, 2021 speech by President Donald Trump. The two troopers were interviewed by their supervisory commanders regarding the Washington D.C. trip. Additionally, Colonel Bill Bryant conducted an internal review of their activities.
Based on the review, the troopers stated they never went beyond any marked security barricades, they did not enter the capitol building, nor did they violate any orders of a law enforcement officer to leave the area, nor did they commit a crime while at the speech or as they walked toward the capitol. Both troopers said they were willing to meet with FBI agents to be interviewed and would fully cooperate. The troopers also volunteered to provide any photographs or video recordings to the FBI related to their trip to Washington D.C.
Following the review, Colonel Bryant contacted the FBI to make special agents aware of his meeting with the troopers and briefed them on the results of the interviews. The FBI did not believe it was necessary to conduct any further interviews with the troopers.
How we got here:
I confirmed Jan. 12 that Cpl. Karen Clark, who works in administration in Little Rock, and Trooper Alan Aiken, a patrol officer in Lowell, had obtained leave to attend the Trump rally, organized by the Trump campaign to the tune of about $2.6 million from a group in which Attorney General Leslie Rutledge participates. The rally included a speech in which Trump encouraged attendees to march on the Capitol and they did, with horrendous consequences.
The State Police’s initial response from Col. Bill Bryant was that the State Police would not investigate personal activities by troopers on leave time, absent an allegation against them, and there was none.
I kept complaining. When a statewide TV station chimed in, Governor Hutchinson issued a statement that the troopers had NOT gone to the Capitol and the matter was closed as far as he was concerned.
Problem: Trooper Clark left a written and video trail on Facebook that said she HAD gone to the Capitol and believed she’d entered a restricted area. Aiken’s activities are less clear, though he’s an angry Trumper who vowed to defeat Arkansas Republicans who voted to certify Joe Biden’s victory. He also had been said to be a threat to safety by a superior he once ran over in a car mistaking him for a criminal suspect.
I kept complaining. Tom Mars, a former director of the State Police, joined in with a nearly obsessive attack on Twitter. The readily available video of Trooper Clark, preserved by Russ Racop didn’t help. It stirred a torrent of derision on social media.
Thus today’s statement.
One: I have asked for the video and testimony the troopers are said to be willing to provide. I doubt that request will be granted. (UPDATE: Good guess. The State Police says it is not in possession of that information.)
Two: It was a mistake for the State Police initially not to check quickly into actions of state troopers who admittedly joined the Trump rally. Other law enforcement agencies did this. Arkansas, with the support of its governor, did not. They are entitled to be stupid and protected in pursuit of free speech, but if they were witnesses to an insurrection, their duties as a law officer required more information.
Three: As questions about police and military involvement in the riot increased, the Arkansas State Police still stonewalled.
Four: When finally forced to say SOMETHING, the State Police apparently gave information to the governor — the troopers did not “go to the Capitol” — that was demonstrably disproven by one trooper’s video testimony that she marched on the Capitol, saw illegal activities and entered a restricted area.
Five: Asked to square the governor’s statement with evidence, Governor Hutchinson and Col. Bryant stonewalled.
Six: When a columnist for a statewide news’paper’ inquired, someone, presumably Hutchinson friendly, said, not for quote, essentially: “The FBI doesn’t care.”
Seven: Pressed by me still further, the State Police, after the Friday evening news and the weekend lull had begun, dumped this carefully crafted, limited-hangout, non-statement. No correction was included for the inaccurate/dishonest statement by the governor that the troopers did not go to the Capitol. No specifics were provided on what they actually did do and see, particularly relative to Clark’s statement she has video of the paramilitary squad marching through the crowd that the FBI is hotly pursuing.
I’m ready to believe Trooper Clark innocently wandered into the protected Capitol perimeter (it was roped off initially by laughably minor barriers) after rioters either forced their way in or simply were allowed admission by security officers. I’m ready to believe she broke no laws or disobeyed no commands. I absolutely believe she stopped for ‘hot wangs’ and nachos on her way back to her hotel. I’ll even believe the same for the more hot-headed Aiken, who apparently DID walk beyond the rally grounds west of the Capitol.
But the resistance by the governor and State Police to transparency and their prolonged defense of the indefensible, with only grudging confirmation of information they originally disputed, should leave a sour taste in the mouth of everyone who pays their salaries.