WASHINGTON — As the Jan. 6 committee prepares for a prime-time public hearing next week, the Justice Department is only a fraction away from one of the biggest investigations in American history. . The FBI has made about 850 arrests, and hundreds remain.

One person watching news of the Jan. 6 arrests closely is a right-wing comedian recently identified at the FBI by online sleuths who have played a vital role in identifying people in hundreds of attacks on the Capitol. The FBI does not comment on ongoing investigations and an official declined to do so in this case.

Kevin Downey Jr. was one of the most prominent attendees to enter the US Capitol on January 6; he appeared on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2013 and was one of the men transformed by the original Fab Five on Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” in 2004. He has also released at least one special DVD , “I’m not gay, but don’t stop,” in 2008. More recently, Downey has become a pro-Trump commentator, writing for the right-wing website PJ Media and describing himself on Twitter as Kevin “Ultra MAGA » Downey Jr.

Downey is a public figure who has written extensively about the aftermath of the January 6 attack. Three online sleuths confirmed to NBC News that Downey’s name had been submitted to the FBI, and the online network known as ‘Sedition Hunters’, which posted images of the Jan. 6 attendees, lists a photo of Downey as “identified”.

“I hope it will be the FBI, not Downey, who have the last laugh,” an online sleuth told NBC News.

Detectives online say they identified Downey using surveillance footage released in connection with another January 6 case. After getting a facial recognition swipe, it was relatively easy to confirm his identity, they said: Downey was traveling with a companion (his fiancée, according to his social media posts), and he also tweeted before and after the Jan. 6 attack, including one that told a Fox News personality to direct message Downey if he wanted to “talk to anyone who walked into the Capitol.”

NBC News also found photos Downey posted of himself and his fiancée on Facebook on Jan. 6 that match the outfit the individual identified by detectives is wearing in government surveillance footage inside the Capitol. This surveillance footage was released as part of the trial of Dustin Thompson, a defendant convicted on Jan. 6 who argued that Trump “authorized” the attack on the US Capitol and was “following presidential orders.”

NBC News also found an interview on YouTube in which Downey and his fiancée discussed their experiences at the Capitol, though they didn’t explicitly say they entered the building.

Contacted for comment Friday night by NBC News, and advised that NBC News would publish this story, Downey hung up the phone.

“Oh,” he said before hanging up. He did not respond to additional texts and voicemails seeking comment, nor did PJ Media.

Kevin Downey Jr., circled in red, at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Online sleuths identified this man, circled in red, inside the Capitol on January 6, 2021, as comedian Kevin Downey Jr.United States Capitol Police

Downey left a long trail online about his activities on January 6, 2021. On January 5, he replied to a tweet from Trump, writing that he was on his way to Trump’s rally.

“If you would like to speak to anyone who has entered the Capitol, please contact me by DM,” he said. tweeted to Sean Hannity on January 6.

(His companion, who is also an actor, wrote that she “peacefully marched to the Capitol” and that Trump did not incite violence and sent another Tweeter saying she had “inside information regarding yesterday’s Capitol breech”.)

Downey, in a YouTube interview posted weeks after the uprising, said that while he liked Trump, his Jan. 6 speech was “a bit boring.” In the interview, Downey described going to the Capitol and hearing tear gas canisters go off and remembered “some morons” climbing the walls of the building.

He also described when the crowd rushed into the building and he saw people emerge from the Capitol covered in pepper spray.

“That’s when everyone pushed, and people poured in through the doors. They would come in and out covered in tear gas or pepper spray,” he said. “There was a line in and a line out.”

Downey said he “saw a mother-daughter come in” and “take a selfie.” Although he didn’t say he entered the Capitol himself, the YouTube video could be fruitful for prosecutors seeking to illustrate that Downey knew he didn’t have clearance to enter the Capitol. Capitol building.

His fiancée, who joined him for part of the interview, defended his actions on January 6.

“I knew exactly what I was doing when I waved that flag and marched to the Capitol,” his fiancée said. “I was fighting for our country.”

She did not respond to a request for comment.

Since the uprising, between appearances at comedy clubs, Downey has written for PJ Media about Jan. 6 and what he sees as FBI overreach.

“Today’s FBI has plenty of time to sniff out any Capitol leads; hunt every mother-daughter team that spent four minutes at the Capitol; and sue every grandmother, dozens of Long Island patriots, every off-duty police officer and every other American who took a selfie on Capitol Hill,” Downey wrote.

He celebrated the acquittal by a judge of Matthew Martin, a defense contractor who admitted to entering the Capitol building through a door with a shattered window as alarms sounded.

The total number of individuals who have entered the Capitol exceeds 2,500, and the FBI is still seeking the identities of 350 people who, according to its website, committed acts of violence. The sprawling investigation has overwhelmed the Justice Department, which has asked Congress for more resources to prosecute those involved in Jan. 6. Online sleuths say they have identified hundreds more people who have not been charged.

Among them is John Emanuel Banuelos, whom they identified to the FBI in February 2021. Months later, when he was arrested by local police for fatally stabbing a 19-year-old, Banuelos admitted to police that he had flashed a gun outside the Capitol. on January 6, although he did not enter the building. Prosecutors dropped stabbing charges against Banuelos after claiming self-defense; he has not been charged in connection with January 6.

As for Downey, he seems to stick to the conspiracy theories surrounding Jan. 6. Recently, he retweeted conspiracy theories about Ray Epps, who was on Capitol grounds and is seen on video trying to separate more aggressive rioters from the police line but never entered and was not charged. . Unlike Jan. 6 defendant Stephen Ayres, who testified before the Jan. 6 committee, Downey doesn’t seem to have changed his mind about the election.

“When voter fraud is proven, will the Capitol ‘rioters’ be pardoned?” he asked Last year.