By Andrew Kaczynski, Em Steck and Yahya Abou-Ghazala, CNN
(CNN) — When conspiracy theorist Alex Jones marched his way to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, riling up his legion of supporters, an unassuming middle-aged man in a red “Trump 2020” hat conspicuously tagged along.
Videos and photographs reviewed by CNN show the man dutifully recording Jones with his phone as the bombastic media personality ascended to the restricted area of the Capitol grounds where mobs of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters eventually broke in.
While the man’s actions outside the Capitol that day have drawn little scrutiny, his alleged connections to a plot to overthrow the 2020 election have recently come into sharp focus: He is attorney Kenneth Chesebro, the alleged architect of the scheme to subvert the 2020 Electoral College process by using fake GOP electors in multiple states.
When asked by the House select committee where he was the first week of January 2021 and on January 6, Chesebro invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. But a CNN investigation has placed him outside of the Capitol at the same time as his alleged plot to keep Trump in office unraveled inside it.
There is no indication Chesebro entered the Capitol Building or was violent. Jones did not enter the Capitol on January 6, 2021, or engage in violence, but he had warned of a coming battle the day before and urged his supporters to converge on the Capitol.
Chesebro is the only one of the unindicted co-conspirators in Trump’s recent federal indictment and only member of Trump’s legal efforts who is now known to have been on the Capitol grounds on January 6.
CNN was able to place Chesebro at the protest through publicly available databases with photos and videos from that day. Interviews with his acquaintances also confirmed his identity. Chesebro declined CNN’s requests for comment, citing ongoing litigation.
It was unclear why Chesebro was following Jones on January 6.
“Even if Chesebro is simply a diehard Infowars fan, I think that would further illustrate how thin the line was between the serious, credentialed people who sought to undermine election results and the extremist figures who sought to unleash havoc was in that period, to the extent it meaningfully existed at all,” said Jared Holt, an expert at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue which investigates extremism, hate and disinformation.
Until 2022, the extent of Chesebro’s involvement in the alleged plot to subvert the 2020 election was relatively unknown. The Harvard-educated attorney is now indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, along with Trump and 17 others with prosecutors alleging they were involved in a criminal conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in Georgia in favor of Trump.
Chesebro’s path to Trump’s orbit was untraditional. He is a former research assistant of Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, one of the nation’s most esteemed liberal constitutional scholars. Chesebro reportedly said he made a small fortune in cryptocurrency and by 2020 was donating thousands to Republican candidates.
In November 2020, he began his work advising the Trump campaign attorney Jim Troupis on the potential to use fake electors in Wisconsin, first reported by the New York Times.
In a December 2020 email exchange between Chesebro and John Eastman, another architect of the fake electors’ scheme, discovered by the House select committee investigating January 6, Chesebro suggested that “chaos” on January 6 could pressure Supreme Court justices to act before the count could occur. He wrote, the “odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be ‘wild’ chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way.”
In Trump’s recent federal indictment, Chesebro was identified by CNN as co-conspirator 5 — described by prosecutors as an attorney “who assisted in devising and attempting to implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding.”
At the Capitol
On January 6, photos and videos show Chesebro with Jones for about an hour, starting a short distance from Capitol at around 1:40 p.m. As Jones and his entourage make their way to the Capitol, Chesebro followed with his phone out, seemingly recording Jones.
CNN recreated Chesebro’s movements using deleted video clips from the conservative social media site Parler, photos from Twitter, footage from Infowars and video from Jones’ own bodyguard’s body camera – previously published by Infowars – along with video compiled by amateur researchers who tracked Jones’ movements.
Videos reviewed by CNN show Chesebro with Jones in two sections of the restricted area around the Capitol cited in a federal indictment against Owen Shroyer – another host on Infowars – who was with Jones in those areas at the same time as Chesebro.
Shroyer, who had previously signed a deferred prosecution agreement in another case saying he would not engage in disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds, was charged with four misdemeanors. Shroyer later pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of entering and remaining on the restricted grounds.
Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who previously served as the special counsel to the general counsel at the Department of Defense, told CNN that Chesebro’s presence on the Capitol grounds could be cited by prosecutors.
“Regardless of Chesebro’s potential criminal liability for being in the restricted areas of Capitol grounds, this evidence could be cited by prosecutors as further proof that Chesebro was not operating as a bona fide legal advisor but rather was an activist aligned in the cause to overturn the election,” Goodman said. “It undercuts defenses Chesebro might mount that he was functioning only in the role of providing legal advice for clients.”
Footage shows Chesebro front and center recording Jones as he gives an impromptu speech on the West Lawn of the Capitol grounds urging supporters not to fight police and to make their way to the other side of the Capitol where they have a permit. As Alex Jones and his entourage leave, the West side of the Capitol is breached.
Chesebro follows Jones and his entourage to the other side of the Capitol and at one point appears to show something on his phone to a member of Jones’ security team at approximately 2:09 p.m., one recording shows. Later, the group, including Chesebro, make their way halfway up the steps of the Capitol Building before heading down.
Shortly after they leave, a mob trying to force the doors of the East side of the Capitol would push their way through.
Later, Chesebro can be seen walking near the Peace Monument at the front of the Capitol.
In a deposition with the January 6th Committee in October 2022, Chesebro invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked if he had been in Washington, DC in January 2021 leading up to the certification of the results. An email obtained by the Committee shows Chesebro saying he would be staying at the Trump International Hotel in DC from the 3rd to the 8th of January.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Laurence Tribe’s name.
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