Arguing that the Capitol insurrection damaged US national security, one of the House impeachment managers, Rep. Joaquin Castro, spoke Thursday about the theft of a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
“At least one of the insurrectionists may have intended to steal information and give it to a foreign adversary. According to charging documents, Riley Williams allegedly helped steal a laptop from Speaker Pelosi’s office to ‘send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service,'” Castro said.
Facts First: Castro appropriately hedged his claim by saying “may,” but it’s still worth emphasizing that the allegation that Williams intended to send the Pelosi laptop to Russia has not been proven. While the FBI has alleged that Williams had a role in the theft of the laptop, the FBI said in a January court document that that the claim that she had a desire to send the laptop to Russia “remains under investigation”; the FBI explained that this claim was made by a tipster who said they were a former romantic partner of Williams. A lawyer for Williams told a court in January that claims about Williams and the laptop “came in part from a former abusive boyfriend” who has “threatened” her.
Williams, a Pennsylvania woman in her early 20s, faces multiple charges over the insurrection, including aiding/abetting the theft of government property. She has not been charged with stealing the laptop herself.
The FBI said in a court document that the former romantic partner of Williams alleged that “the transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons” and that Williams “still has the computer device or destroyed it.” Williams has denied the accusations against her.
It is unclear how much intelligence value the laptop might have to Russia. Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill tweeted in January that a computer was stolen from a conference room and that it “was only used for presentations.”
According to the FBI, a video taken by Williams during the insurrection shows an HP laptop on a desk in Pelosi’s office, then features a female voice — likely Williams’ voice, the FBI says — saying, “Dude, put on gloves,” then shows a man’s gloved hand lifting the laptop off the desk. The FBI alleges that a social media account with the user name “Riley” posted on social media about having stolen from Pelosi and having taken Pelosi’s “hard drives.”