The FBI had previously received an anonymous report that James P. Mault breached the Capitol building during the January 6 riot in Washington, DC, when the 29-year-old joined the military this summer. .
Mault, who recently served as a specialist in the 82nd Airborne Division, was also interviewed by FBI agents on January 18 in his home state of New York, months before re-enlisting after a disruption in service.
Background screenings, to include checking the FBI’s record of violent gangs and terrorist organizations, were carried out, but officials saw no red flags, the military spokesman said, Lieutenant-Colonel Gabriel J. Ramirez in an email to Army Times.
âThe military was not aware of any SPC involvement. Mault may have had in the Jan.6 incidents or any information disqualifying him at the time of his enlistment,â Ramirez said. âThis screening includes checks and identity checks, criminal background checks, sex offender investigation, fingerprints sent to the FBI, local police checks, and local court document checks. “
During his Jan. 18 interview with FBI agents, Mault admitted to attending the Jan. 6 rally, but denied any wrongdoing. He said he was caught in the crowd as the mass of people pushed him closer and closer to the Capitol, according to a federal criminal complaint.
The complaint was unsealed after Mault was finally arrested on October 6 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and charged with several federal offenses, including assaulting, resisting or preventing officers from using a dangerous weapon or d ‘inflict bodily harm.
âMault claimed he had no choice but to go ahead because of the press from the people behind him,â the complaint said. âMault found himself right next to an entrance to the Capitol, but denied entering the Capitol. Mault also denied assaulting anyone or damaging property. “
Later, although the complaint does not indicate when, FBI agents examined body camera footage of a DC police officer showing Mault spraying a chemical agent on officers on the afternoon of the January 6.
Screenshots included in the criminal complaint showed Mault spraying the chemical agent while wearing a helmet covered in union-themed stickers.
“Mault received a small cartridge of a chemical agent from an unknown man in the crowd,” the complaint states. “Mault then pointed the cartridge with his left hand in the direction of the law enforcement officers.”
Mault’s hard hat, which identified him, bore a sticker from Mault’s union, Ironworkers Local 33 in Rochester, New York, according to the complaint.
âMault claimed he wore his helmet at work because he knew ANTFA was attacking Trump supporters after the events in Washington, DC, and that the helmet would provide some level of protection,â the complaint states.
Mault was a former soldier, having served in the New York Army National Guard from 2016 to 2020, according to 18th Airborne Corps spokesman Col. Joe Buccino. Mault joined active service as a combat engineer, Buccino added.
“We really don’t know what happened,” said Buccino of the circumstances which allowed Mault to re-enlist. “It’s not something that we would have any visibility on.”
Background checks for new recruits take place during the enlistment process, before troops arrive in their first unit. The checks even include testing for tattoos of extremist, indecent, sexist or racist symbols or brands.
But Ramirez, the army spokesman, said nothing would have prevented enlistment in Mault’s case.
âThe military will continue to work with the FBI and other entities with contributions to the screening process to obtain relevant information to inform military enlistment decisions,â Ramirez said.
More than 600 people have been arrested across the country for crimes related to the violation of the Capitol building and the riot, according to the Justice Department.
As of this writing, 75 people charged after the riot – 12% – have military experience, according to the George Washington University Extremism Program. That number includes 70 veterans, two National Guard soldiers, two reservists and one active duty member.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and journalist whose investigations have focused on combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Prior to entering journalism, Kyle served in the US Air Force Special Tactics and was deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.