The US Army is investigating a psychological operations officer who led a group of people from North Carolina to the rally in Washington, DC that led up to the deadly riot in the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.
Commanders at Fort Bragg are reviewing Captain Emily Rainey’s involvement in last week’s events in the nation’s capital, but she said she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law.
“I was a private citizen and doing everything right and within my rights,” Rainey told The Associated Press news agency on Sunday.
Rainey said she led 100 members of Moore County Citizens for Freedom, which describes itself online as a nonpartisan network promoting conservative values, to Washington, DC to “stand against election fraud” and support Trump.
She said the group attended the rally but she did not know of anyone who entered the Capitol and that they were headed back to their buses hours before an emergency curfew took effect.
Rainey, 30, is assigned to the 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, according to Major Daniel Lessard, a spokesman for 1st Special Forces Command. Known as PSYOPS, the group uses information and misinformation to shape the emotions, decision-making and actions of American adversaries.
Rainey made headlines back in May after she posted a video online of her pulling down caution tape at a playground that was closed under North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Trump’s repeated false claims
Police in Southern Pines, a community about 48 kilometers (30 miles) west of Fort Bragg, charged her with injury to personal property over the incident. The police told broadcaster WRAL-TV that they let her off with warnings twice before after she tore down the tape closing off the playground.
In Washington, DC on Wednesday, insurrectionists took over the House and Senate chambers, smashed windows and waved Trump, American and Confederate flags.
The riot followed the rally where Trump repeated false claims that the election had been rigged against him and said he and his supporters are going to have to “fight much harder” to protect democracy.
So far, at least 90 people have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanour curfew violations to felonies related to assaults on police officers, possessing illegal weapons and making death threats against Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker and Democratic representative from California.
Rainey said that her group and most people who travelled to Washington, DC “are peace-loving, law-abiding people who were doing nothing but demonstrating our First Amendment rights.”
Members of the US military are permitted to take part in political organisations and events out of uniform. However, there are caveats. The Department of Defense (DOD) directive prohibits active-duty service members from sponsoring partisan organisations.
It is unclear if Rainey’s participation with her group on Wednesday went against DOD policy.
Rainey said she attended the Trump rally while on leave and did not advertise that she was an Army officer. She said on Sunday afternoon that her commanders had not inquired about her time in Washington, DC, but she did not immediately respond to a subsequent inquiry about the Army’s investigation.
“I told my bosses before I went that I was going, and I told them when I got back,” she said.