The Justice Department released video on Tuesday of the extensive March 2021 interview two federal investigators did with alleged Capitol rioter Daniel Joseph Rodriguez. The 38-year-old is accused of shocking Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone with a stun gun amid an intense standoff between Trump supporters and law enforcement during the insurrection, and of participating in a conspiracy to attack of the Capitol. He has pleaded not guilty.
"This is not how we back the blue. And I tased one of them," Rodriguez said in the interview. A Justice Department statement on Monday said Rodriguez was a Fontana resident. An indictment in March gave his residence as Panorama City in Los Angeles.
When asked what he would tell Fanone now, Rodriguez sobbed, then muttered, with his head down: "I'm sorry he had to go through that. It's not right that he had to suffer like that. And it puts fear in him and worrying about his life. He was scared for his own life and thought about having to kill us. And he was willing to die because of his beliefs, too."
"Do you think he was doing the right thing?" the agent asked him. "Yeah. He was doing his job," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also described the moment of the assault: "When I did it, I was like, oh, my God. What did I just do? And I got out of there. I left. I did it and I left," he said.
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In the interview, conducted with Rodriguez behind a table cornered by the agents, Rodriguez said he felt prompted to take part in right-wing political rallies because of InfoWars, and because he was called by Trump to battle. He also spoke about a belief he was being antagonized by leftist activists from Black Lives Matter and Antifa before January 6.
"Trump called us. Trump called us to D.C. ... If he's the commander in chief and the leader of our country, and he's calling for help -- I thought he was calling for help," Rodriguez said in the interview. He also described preparing for a "big battle" or "civil war" with leftists.
"Are we all that stupid that we thought we were going to go do this and save the country and it was all going to be fine after? We really thought that. That's so stupid, huh?" he said near the end of the interview.
The video is the first of its kind released as part of the Capitol riot investigation. It became part of the court record after Rodriguez's attorneys attempted to suppress it from his case, so his admissions could not be held against him at trial. A federal judge ordered the video's release this week, after a media coalition led by CNN that has sought public access in the Capitol riot cases asked for it to be made public.
Rodriguez was indicted last week as part of a group that prosecutors say planned to be violent together on January 6. He was originally charged in March and is in jail while he awaits trial.
The video of his interview provides a gripping window into the approach the FBI has taken toward many of the rioters -- pressing them for hours shortly after their arrests but before their court proceedings are in full swing. With Rodriguez, two agents, one identified as Enrique Armenta and the other only identified as "Special Agent Elias" coax him to open up about why Rodriguez came to Washington on January 6.
They also warned him how serious the charges he faces could be, the importance that he not lie to them, and by telling him they can help him if he helps them get the facts straight.
"Danny, you understand how serious this is, right?" Armenta asks him during the interview. "Full disclosure, all the cards are out on the table, you're looking at seven federal felony counts. Seven."
"What is that? The rest of my life in prison?" Rodriguez responded. Rodriguez currently faces eight federal criminal counts, in one of the most serious sets of charges among the almost 700 riot defendants. In addition to assault and conspiracy, prosecutors also allege Rodriguez destroyed property inside the Capitol and stole an emergency hood from a congressional office.
In parts of the interview, the investigators press Rodriguez for the names and actions of other alleged rioters with whom he interacted on or before January 6, and where he got the Taser he used on Fanone. He insisted it was not the same Taser his group brought to Washington.
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