They were out for blood

Call the zip ties by their correct name: The guys were carrying flex cuffs, the plastic double restraints often used by police in mass arrest situations. They walked through the Senate chamber with a sense of purpose. They were not dressed in silly costumes but kitted out in full paramilitary regalia: helmets, armor, camo, holsters with sidearms. At least one had a semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. At least one, unlike nearly every other right-wing rioter photographed that day, wore a mask that obscured his face.

These are the same guys who, when the windows of the Capitol were broken and entry secured, went in first with what I’d call military-ish precision. They moved with purpose, to the offices of major figures like Nancy Pelosi and then to the Senate floor. What was that purpose? It wasn’t to pose for photos. It was to use those flex cuffs on someone.

In October, the FBI and state authorities charged 13 men with plotting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan. Members of that plot attended protests at the Michigan Capitol in April, real planners of violence mixing easily with those for whom guns are fun protest props. The plotters discussed a summary execution—“knock on the door,” one wrote in the group chat, “and when she answers it just cap her”—but settled on a kidnapping, pulled off while police were distracted by a nearby explosion. Think of that plot, as these men surely did, as a dress rehearsal for what the zip-tie guys wanted to accomplish at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.