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The mysterious nine-second call from the White House to a January 6 rioter: CNN reveals the rioter’s identity for the first time

<i>US Department of Justice</i><br/>
US Department of Justice

By Jamie Gangel and Elizabeth Stuart, CNN

At 4:34 pm on January 6, 2021, a cell phone registered to a Capitol rioter who had stormed the building, received a phone call from a White House landline, according to records obtained by CNN.

The call lasted for only nine seconds.

Who placed the call and why remains a mystery, but it is notable as the only known call made from the White House to the phone of a rioter during this critical time period.

According to the records, the call came from 202-456-1414, the publicly available number for the White House. Like many businesses, outgoing calls from the White House do not show a specific extension. The call was placed in the late afternoon, shortly after former President Donald Trump posted a video message on social media telling the rioters at the Capitol, “go home, we love you, you’re very special,” at 4:17pm.

It’s unclear what, if any, connection exists between the White House and the rioter, including whether the call was made by mistake or whether the call went to voicemail.

The call was first disclosed by Denver Riggleman in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes. Riggleman is a former Republican congressman who left his job working as a technical adviser for the January 6 committee in April.

CNN first learned about the call earlier this year and is revealing the rioter’s identity for the first time.

The cell phone belonged to a 26-year-old Trump supporter from Brooklyn, New York named Anton Lunyk, who traveled to Washington DC the night before January 6 with two friends, Francis Connor and Antonio Ferrigno, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, as well as a search of public records.

The three men attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse and then, along with hundreds of others, entered and illegally demonstrated inside the Capitol, a charge they pleaded guilty to in April and were sentenced for earlier this month. Attorneys for all three men declined to comment to CNN.

According to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, Lunyk says he doesn’t remember receiving the nine-second call and claims he doesn’t know anyone who worked in the Trump White House.

The phone call was not mentioned in Lunyk’s sentencing or any court documents. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Washington DC declined to comment.

So is the call significant to the January 6 investigation?

Tim Mulvey, the January 6 committee spokesman, told CNN “in his role on the Select Committee staff, Mr. Riggleman had limited knowledge of the committee’s investigation. He departed from the staff in April prior to our hearings and much of our most important investigative work.”

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union, Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the January 6 committee, also downplayed Riggleman’s comments to 60 Minutes that the call was an “a-ha moment.”

“One of the things that has given our committee credibility is we’ve been very careful about what we say; not to overstate matters, not to understate matters. And without the advantage of the additional information we’ve gathered since he left the committee, it poses real risk to be suggesting things,” Schiff told Tapper.

Appearing on CNN Sunday afternoon, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, also a committee member, downplayed the significance of Riggleman’s book.

“He does not know what happened after April and a lot has happened in our investigation,” she said. “Everything that he was able to relay prior to his departure has been followed up on and in some cases didn’t really peter out (sic), or there might have been a decision that suggested there was a connection between one number and one e-mail and a person that turned out not to pan out. So we follow up on everything, and, you know, I don’t know what Mr. Riggleman is doing really.”

According to a source familiar with the committee’s work, the committee continues to investigate the phone call but thus far, has been unable to discover who placed it or why.

Mulvey told CNN that since Riggleman’s departure, “the Committee has run down all the leads and digested and analyzed all the information that arose from his work. We will be presenting additional evidence to the public in our next hearing this coming Wednesday, and a thorough report will be published by the end of the year.”

Lunyk, Connor and Ferrigno were charged with entering and remaining in the Capitol unlawfully, violently entering the Capitol, disorderly conduct inside the Capitol, and parading, demonstrating or picketing inside the Capitol. Last April, all three pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing inside the Capitol, and on September 15, were sentenced to a few months of home confinement, probation, and small fines.

According to court documents, there are no known ties between the three men and organized groups that attacked the Capitol, like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. The records do reveal that Lunyk and Connor attended the “Million MAGA March” in Washington in November 2020, but there is no mention of the men being connected to anyone working at the Trump White House.

Ten minutes inside the Capitol

While the phone call remains a mystery, public records provide plenty of details about Lunyk, Connor and Ferrigno, including dozens of pages of private Instagram messages.

The three men left New York on January 5, 2021 around 11:54pm, according to New York City license plate readers that captured a white Lexus registered to Lunyk.

The next day, they attended the “Stop the Steal” rally and were admitted to a “cordoned off area on the Ellipse” according to court documents, where they watched Trump and others speak. It’s not clear what prosecutors mean by “cordoned off area.”

At 3:08pm, a surveillance camera inside the Capitol captured Lunyk, Connor, and Ferrigno entering the Capitol through the Senate Wing Door. They went inside Sen. Jeff Merkley’s workspace and were seen in the background of a livestream being recorded by another Capitol rioter, social media personality Tim Gionet, known as “Baked Alaska.”

In a video posted on social media, “Lunyk and Ferrigno are visible laughing and recording on their cell phones in the background as Baked Alaska fakes a phone call to the Senate from the landline in Senator Merkley’s office,” the court documents said.

A few minutes later at 3:12pm, Lunyk and his friends are spotted walking through the Capitol halls, taking photos in the Capitol crypt, and finally leaving by climbing out a window.

Nearly an hour and a half later, phone records show the mysterious nine-second call from a White House landline taking place. Lunyk’s white Lexus was seen returning to New York City at approximately 8:28pm, so it’s likely the men were already driving back at the time of the call.

‘Real knuckleheads’

The sentencing submission from Lunyk’s defense lawyer claimed that Lunyk and his two friends wound up at the at the Capitol after being “swept up in a crowd, egged on by the President of the United States, and having been fed a steady diet of disinformation for months.”

However, the government’s sentencing memorandum reveals that the three men started sending each other text messages shortly after the November 2020 election, saying it was “stolen and fraudulent.” The prosecutors allege that the three men “came to Washington DC for the chaos.”

They sent messages that included sexually violent and threatening rhetoric about former Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, court records show.

“I would’ve said “Our job yesterday wasn’t completed. Our end goal was to brutally murder Pence and Pelosi, and sadly today they’re still breathing, therefore we must come back stronger and fiercely next time around,” Connor wrote in an Instagram message to Ferrigno, Lunyk and others on January 8, 2021.

“If they take my money I’m gonna shoot Pelosi,” Lunyk said to Connor, Ferrigno and others on January 12, 2021.

“We raped AOC,” Connor texted Lunyk, Ferrigno and others on January 8, 2021.

While there’s no public record connecting Lunyk, Connor, or Ferrigno to the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys, they do mention both groups in their Instagram messages.

In November 2020, Ferrigno renames one of the Instagram group chats “The Proud Boys,” before renaming it “The Proud Boy and Friends” in December and “The Oath Keepers” in January.

During their sentencing before DC Federal Judge Rudy Contreras, the three men apologized for their activities on January 6.

“I sincerely regret my conduct and I am determined to exercise better judgment,” Lunyk said.

Judge Contreras chastised the men saying, “The three of you just come across as real knuckleheads… all in your twenties, all live at home, none of you are advancing your education.” He concluded, “you all could use a strong dose of maturity.”

Any call from a White House landline to a rioter’s cell phone is bound to attract a great deal of attention, but unless Lunyk or the person who placed the call comes forward publicly, the call’s contents or possible significance may remain a mystery.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, Matt Friedman, Holmes Lybrand, Andrew Millman contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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