Federico Klein

Judge releases Trump appointee charged in Capitol riot

Disloyalty to the country does not mean it’s too risky to let him out of jail

“Klein no longer works for or is affiliated with the federal government, and there is no suggestion that he might misuse previously obtained classified information to the detriment of the United States”

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INVESTIGATIVE PRESS GROUP

A federal judge has granted pretrial release to the only Trump administration appointee known to have been charged in connection with the storming of the Capitol during the certification of electoral votes on Jan. 6. U.S. District Court Judge John Bates said he was disturbed by the disloyalty to the country that the former State Department official, Federico Klein, 42, displayed by battling with police as the crowd sought to force its way inside, but the judge said that betrayal did not establish that it was too risky to let Klein out of jail as he awaits trial.

The decision overturns an earlier ruling by Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui, directing that Klein be kept locked up following his arrest last month.

“The fact that, as a federal employee, Klein actively participated in an assault on our democracy to thwart the peaceful transfer of power constitutes a substantial and deeply concerning breach of trust,” Bates wrote.

“More so, too, because he had been entrusted by this country to handle ‘top secret’ classified information to protect the United States’ most sensitive interests.”

However, the appointee of President George W. Bush rejected prosecutors’ arguments that Klein’s role in the government made him more dangerous than others arrested for participating in the violence on Jan. 6. The decision, he said, was a “close call.”

“Klein no longer works for or is affiliated with the federal government, and there is no suggestion that he might misuse previously obtained classified information to the detriment of the United States,” the judge wrote.

“Nor, importantly, is he alleged to have any contacts — past or present — with individuals who might wish to take action against this country.”

Bates said prosecutors had strong evidence — chiefly from police officers’ body-worn cameras — that Klein used a riot shield to shove police and at one point wedged the shield in a way that stopped the officers from closing a door. Those actions have led to Klein’s facing felony charges of civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, and assault with a dangerous weapon on a police officer, as well as several misdemeanors.

But the judge stressed that Klein’s conduct didn’t involve the degree of brutality shown by some other rioters.

“His conduct does not approach the high end of the spectrum of violence that occurred and was threatened that day,” the judge wrote in a 28-page order issued Monday afternoon. “What future risk he does present can be mitigated with supervision and other strict conditions on his release.”

Bates also said Klein’s ability to obtain a security clearance and his work history proved he was capable of living a “law-abiding life.”

Klein will instead face a regime of restrictions that includes GPS monitoring and restricted travel that bars him from setting foot on Capitol grounds or leaving his home except for work, medical, legal and religious matters.

Bates also used the ruling to suggest that the threats facing the Capitol had diminished since Jan. 6 — a point made by a federal appeals court panel last month in a ruling that has reframed the litigation over which riot suspects should remain jailed until their trials or other resolution of their cases.

“Indeed, while security threats around the Capitol are always present,” Bates wrote, “the specific concerns in the wake of the January 6 events over future protests and violent attacks on the government — on January 20, March 4, and otherwise — have dissipated to some degree now three months later, even though troops and defenses remain present.”

Klein worked on the Trump campaign in 2016 and was later hired at the State Department. As of last summer, he was listed in a federal directory as serving as a special assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and was designated as a “Schedule C” political appointee.

A Department spokesperson confirmed that assignment and said Klein started out at the department as a staff assistant with the Trump transition team.

According to a former colleague who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Klein worked for a time in the State Department’s Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs before being transferred to the office that handles Freedom of Information Act requests.

On Trump’s 2016 campaign, Klein — also known as Freddie — worked as a “tech analyst,” according to Federal Election Commission records. He earned $15,000 there, according to a financial disclosure he filed when he joined the State Department. He was paid an additional $5,000 by the campaign in 2017, the FEC filings show.

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