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The woman accused of stealing a laptop used by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff during the January 6 Capitol Hill mob-attack appears to have also been posting in a notorious neo-Nazi chatroom.
An anonymous tipster provided screenshots allegedly showing Riley June Williams under a known alias that was previously reported, participating in "The Camps"—a racist and neo-Nazi chat room linked to military veteran and moderately-known, Christopher Pohlhaus, 34, and his online network. Pohlhaus, an ex-Marine, said that the alias believed to be Williams’ no longer has anything to do with his online following and was only inside chats that he described as a basic and open “vetting” room. (Posts inside The Camps are littered with racist epithets and antisemitic screeds).
VICE News shared the screenshots with four independent extremism researchers who all said the images appeared to be authentic and undoctored. Three of them, who have studied Williams closely since January 6, said the alias, dates of the posts, and general content matched-up to her known social media behavior and activities.
In recent months, Pohlhaus, who lives in Texas, has organized a national counter protest against the memorial of George Floyd’s murder and advocated for white men and women to move en masse to Maine to make the New England state an all-Caucasian ethnostate. (He told VICE News at the time that his planned migration is simply him “trying to build a community of family men.”)
Williams, a Virginia-native who is a reported supporter of the white-nationalist politics of Nick Fuentes and his “Groyper” movement, stormed the Capitol and allegedly wanted to sell the stolen laptop used by the staff of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Russian intelligence.
Williams’ latest known attorney, D.C. public defender A.J. Kramer, did not respond to multiple requests for comment and a detailed description of Williams’ alleged posts. Williams has pleaded not guilty to all charges and Kramer previously told Buzzfeed News that she denied stealing the laptop and that her ex-boyfriend concocted the story that she did. Williams continues to face multiple charges connected to January 6.
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Over 500 people have been indicted for their participation in the events on Capitol Hill, 100 of whom allegedly assaulted federal officers. In recent months since the attacks, members of the GOP like Congressman Paul Gosar have repeatedly lied about the participants and the course of events that day, portraying rioters as peaceful protesters and not extremists. But their overt politicking flies in the face of the evidence: People like Williams and others (including Proud Boys and members of the anti-government militia the Oath Keepers) were there for the storming of Capitol Hill and many had serious links to the violent far-right.
Still, a senior aide to Pelosi downplayed the theft of the laptop.
“As we have always said, this laptop was from a conference room,” said Drew Hammill in an email clarifying that it was a staff computer and not personally used by the House Speaker. “It was used mainly for presentations. It is inaccurate to refer to the laptop as the Speaker’s [...] We have no further comment at this time.”
Garrison Davis, a researcher with Bellingcat and Cool Zone Media, previously found with colleague Robert Evans that Williams made a personal video prior to January 6, where she gave the “Heil Hitler” salute while wearing the infamous skull mask linked to a paramilitary brand of neo-Nazism, before giving a nod to Pohlhaus.
“The Hammer was right all along,” Williams is quoted as allegedly saying, referring to Pohlhaus’ online nickname. (VICE News also obtained a video of Williams, once featured by ITV News in a segment, clearly putting on the same mask and with a voice in the background believed to be hers, saying: “We want to kill all the black people in America.”)
Davis, who is one of the experts VICE News consulted and shared the screenshots with, said Williams was a known entity across the online extreme-right ecosystem.
“We definitely know it was her in the Hammer chats,” said Davis in a telephone interview, pointing out that Williams was popping up all over various other Telegram channels, including those associated with Fuentes. “She was doing some other things behind the scenes. Not just with the Hammer chats, but she was popping up in a few other [neo-Nazi linked Telegram channels].”
Davis added that according to evidence they obtained, Williams had an active profile on Discord, a message and gaming forum that is a common fixture or gateway portal for some on the far-right while also broadly used by millions of other users.
Pohlhaus, a four-year Marine Corps veteran, told VICE News that he was aware that Williams was a fan of his and claimed he broadly told all of his followers not to engage in public protests like the Capitol Hill mob-attack. He said he didn’t really remember her inside his chatroom or how active she was within the broader network. Shortly after being asked in June for comment on WIlliams’ association with The Camps, Pohlhaus posted to his Telegram channel describing the chat room and explained to potential followers to be wary of who is inside.
“The Camps is our front door,” he said. “If one of my 30 or so admins think you're cool they'll bump you up. Be aware that this is a PUBLIC chat and it is impossible to avoid antifa, journalists and worse being in there.”
The Camps chatroom acts as a clearinghouse for Pohlhaus to bring new members of his many thousand strong Telegram hordes into a more exclusive chat and is meant to weed out potential infiltrators. Pohlhaus said that since other women and Williams’ appeared in The Camps, he has subsequently banned all women from his chat rooms. He also said he finds it amusing that he continues to take questions “about some chick who literally never made it into the chat just the vetting chats” of his network.
“I have had a lot of people in my chats over time,” said Pohlhaus. “Any of Riley's involvement with my message was thrown out the window when she decided she'd rather affiliate with Fuentes... and attend that [January 6] rally. I stress to my guys to never go to these things and these people will never change anything.”
Pohlhaus did make sure to clarify that he isn't responsible for whoever enters the chat, including people like Williams.
“A lot of people hate me and they think monitoring some chat I don't even use filled with people I don't know is somehow useful LOL so don’t come in there [show] your face, be smart.”
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