WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors said in charges made public Wednesday that a California man who wrongly believed Donald Trump had won the 2020 presidential election built pipe bombs and planned to go to “war” against Democrats and others to keep him in power.
Ian Benjamin Rogers had been taken into custody this month on state charges after Napa County, Calif., authorities and the FBI searched his home and business and found 49 guns and five pipe bombs, according to an FBI affidavit in the case.
While Rogers, 44, who owns an auto repair shop specializing in British vehicles, told investigators the bombs were for entertainment, investigators came to believe otherwise. According to the affidavit, authorities recovered text messages on Rogers’s phone showing “his belief that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, and his intent to attack Democrats and places associated with Democrats in an effort to ensure Trump remained in office.”
“Let’s see what happens, if nothing does I’m going to war,” he wrote in one, authorities said.
“We can attack Twitter or the democrats you pick,” he said in another.
In other messages, he made reference to Soros – apparently an allusion to liberal billionaire George Soros – and said he was “thinking sac office first target,” which investigators interpreted as a reference to the Sacramento offices of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat.
Rogers already was being held on $5 million bail on state charges when prosecutors filed the federal case. He was charged federally with unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices. Jess Raphael, his attorney, said Rogers’s comments represented a “bunch of hyperbole and pro-Trump histrionics that follow in line with, I guess, tens of millions of other people who supported Mr. Trump.”
“There is nothing that I have seen that supports any conclusion that he was actually planning any kind of organized action,” Raphael said, adding later, “He’s one of these people who loves Donald Trump. I don’t get it. But I don’t have to get it to defend him.”
According to the FBI affidavit, investigators also recovered in the Jan. 15 searches two manuals that seemed to suggest Rogers was researching war: the U.S. Army Special Forces Guide to Unconventional Warfare, and the U.S. Army Guerrilla Warfare Handbook. On his vehicle, they found a sticker associated with the Three Percenters, a group that holds anti-government and pro-gun beliefs and whose name is a reference to American colonists who fought against the British during the American Revolution. They also found a gag “White Privilege Card,” with allusions to Trump.
Raphael said the extent of Rogers’s affiliation with the Three Percenters was he once attended a barbecue hosted by the group. He said that, according to documents he has reviewed, the FBI was first tipped to the case in September by a letter from someone using the pseudonym “Mr. X,” but initially deemed it not worthy of investigation. The case was picked up later by local authorities, Raphael said. Raphael said he understood that Mr. X was an employee of Rogers’s auto repair shop who had been fired, but he declined to provide a name.
An FBI spokeswoman said that the bureau cannot comment on tips it receives or investigative methods, but that the bureau and the Napa County Sheriff’s Office “have been investigating this matter together for a few months.”
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors in New York had made public a case similar to that of Rogers, charging Robert Lemke, 35, for allegedly threatening the brother of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, on Jan. 6.
Lemke appeared before a federal judge in California at a virtual court conference Wednesday afternoon, when he was ordered detained until his bail hearing next week.
Lemke allegedly sent menacing text messages to Jeffries’ brother about being “armed and nearby your house,” adding that “we are not far from [Jeffries’s house] either.” He also sent alarming texts to Jeffries’s sister-in-law along the same lines, authorities said, adding that similar messages went to the relative of a journalist in New York, where Lemke’s case is pending.
“You are putting your family at risk. We have armed members near your home,” Lemke said to the congressman’s brother, according to a criminal complaint in his case.
Lemke said he and his cohorts “are not white supremacists” but “active/retired law enforcement or military,” the complaint says, noting that on Facebook, Lemke said he was a captain in the Air Force and a retired ranking officer in the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Jeffries’s office thanked law enforcement including the FBI, the U.S. Capitol Police and the New York Police Department “for their commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of his family and all Members of the United States Congress.”
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Jacobs reported from New York.