On Jan. 6, 2021, a Donald Trump supporter named James Mault took part in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
On Jan. 18, the FBI interviewed Mault about his role in the riot that day.
Mault, who was known to online sleuths as #IronWorkerGuy because he was wearing a helmet with a bunch of stickers referencing New York unions, soon lost his job.
Then, in June, James Mault joined the U.S. Army as an active-duty soldier.
Months after he took part in an attack on U.S. democracy on behalf of a former reality television star, Mault affirmed his duty to obey the orders of President Joe Biden and swore he would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Last week, as HuffPost first reported, Mault was arrested in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He and his friend Cody Mattice, known as #CodyFromRochester, were photographed spraying police with a chemical agent while officers were under siege by the violent mob of Trump supporters who were trying to stop the certification of Biden’s decisive electoral win.
Online sleuths discovered after Mault’s arrest that he had previously been in the military. But when the government revealed on Wednesday that Mault had been arrested at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, it became clear that the military wasn’t only in his past.
Fort Bragg spokesperson Col. Joseph Buccino confirmed to HuffPost that Mault, who had served previous stints in the Army, rejoined the service in June and has since been stationed at Fort Bragg working as an artillery cannon crew member.
The Army, Buccino said, was not aware of Mault’s alleged actions at the Capitol when he reenlisted.
“Whatever he allegedly did happened before he joined the Army,” Buccino said.
But the events of Jan. 6 occurred during a short window over the last eight years when Mault was not in the Army. He first enlisted in 2013 and was an active-duty soldier until 2016, once deploying for a year to Kuwait, Buccino said. From 2016 to 2020, Mault served in the Army Reserve.
That Mault could rejoin the Army ― when he was listed as suspect no. 142 on the FBI’s Capitol Violence wanted list ― raises serious questions about recent promises the Pentagon has made to better screen recruits for ties to extremism.
Mault knew when he rejoined the Army that he was under FBI investigation. According to an FBI affidavit, special agents from the bureau interviewed Mault on Jan. 18, less than two weeks after the Capitol attack and just two days before Biden’s inauguration. Mault’s mother, whose Facebook account features multiple images of her son in uniform, told the FBI that her husband had driven Mault and some of his friends to D.C. for the Trump rally, which Mault confirmed to the FBI in his own interview.
“Mault traveled with five of his friends to the rally and stated it was important for everyone to have a group of friends that can rely on each other these days,” the FBI affidavit states.
Magistrate Judge James E. Gates of the Eastern District of North Carolina found yesterday “by clear and convincing evidence that there is no condition or set of conditions to reasonably assure the safety of the community” and guarantee Mault’s future appearances in court. The ruling noted that Mault joined the Army after he had apparently lost his other job because of his actions at the U.S. Capitol.
“A factor in the court’s determination regarding flight risk is the likelihood that [the] defendant will be discharged from the Army,” Gates wrote. “It was his job in the Army (at Fort Bragg) that brought him and his immediate family to this district. His re-enlistment in the Army came after the apparent loss of the job he had been doing in New York because of his participation in the events of 6 January 2021.”
Buccino, the Fort Bragg spokesperson, said any disciplinary proceedings against Mault won’t take place until the federal civilian investigation is complete.
In February, after it became clear that many U.S. military veterans and active-duty members took part in the attack on the Capitol, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a historic 60-day stand-down order requiring commanders to have “needed discussions” about extremism with troops.
“We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies,” Austin wrote in a memo announcing the order.
Yet, as a HuffPost investigation revealed, a prominent white nationalist named Shawn McCaffrey was able to join the Air Force in January, graduating from boot camp in March. (The Air Force later kicked McCaffrey out of the service.)
Mault’s enlistment occurred even later, in June, two months after Austin had issued another memo, this one outlining the Pentagon’s plans to weed out extremists in the military or prevent them from joining in the first place.
Law enforcement officials, along with scholars of extremism, have long warned about the risks of extremists joining the military, where they can receive combat training they can then use against civilian targets.