On Jan. 6, retired Navy SEAL Adam Newbold felt a sense of energy, hope and patriotism while listening to President Donald Trump tell a crowd of his supporters in Washington, D.C., that his fight to overturn the election results was not over.
But after Newbold and the others began walking toward Capitol Hill, he said he heard that someone had broken into the Capitol building. And initially, he was enraged that Trump supporters had forced their way into the Capitol building, but over time his perspective on the situation evolved, Newbold said in an interview with Task & Purpose.
“As information kept coming in, my mind kept returning to people telling me [something] that I had disagreed with before: that riots are the voice of the unheard,” Newbold said. “I’ve always said that’s absolutely ridiculous. But I started thinking – as my mind is going through what’s happening: Maybe this is necessary. Maybe this is a good thing.”
Newbold now faces questions about his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots after making a Facebook video in which he seemingly approved of the invasion of the Capitol building. ABC News first reported about the video, which Newbold has since deleted.
“There was destruction breaching the Capitol, our building, our house,” Newbold said in the video, a copy of which was obtained by ABC. “To get in, you had to destroy doors and windows, to get in. What did get destroyed, they’re obviously trying to overcome now again. Maybe they just didn’t get the message, unfortunately. I’m hoping the message was strong enough. Unfortunately, maybe it wasn’t. I hate to see this escalate more.”
Speaking to Task & Purpose on Wednesday, Newbold claimed he never went into the Capitol building. He also said he tried to de-escalate tensions by placing himself between the pro-Trump mob and police – and disarming one rioter who wanted to use a wooden pallet to assault police officers.
The former Navy SEAL explained that he recorded his Facebook video because he thought a major confrontation between the Trump mob and police had been avoided and no one on either side had been seriously hurt. He was also inspired by “surreal and profound moments of patriotism” amid the chaos on Capitol Hill.
“People just broke out into singing the national anthem,” Newbold said. “Even the police stood up straighter. It was just a very strange thing.”
Newbold was told that the people who had forced their way inside the building were not causing any serious damage, he said. (In fact, rioters broke windows, doors and furniture, and ransacked offices.) When police eventually brought in reinforcements, the situation seemed to have been brought under control, so Newbold and others left, he said.
He said he had no idea at the time just how deadly and destructive the riots had been. Newbold explained that he decided to express his feelings in the Facebook video because he felt “that it was a moment in history and people should be proud.”
“From what I had experienced – and the potential danger and volatility and how bad it could have been – and how bad what I witnessed it wasn’t; I felt a sense of unescapable pride that Americans had finally stood up and made their voices heard and done so in a manner where there was no significant injury or significant destruction,” Newbold said.
It was only after Newbold made his now-deleted Facebook video that he learned that Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, had been shot and killed while trying to gain access to the Capitol Building. Four other people died as a result of the riot including Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer and Air National Guard veteran, who was reportedly beaten with a fire extinguisher.
Newbold said it was a “punch in the gut” when he learned about Babbitt’s death. He was further distressed to learn that Congress had gone back into session following the riot to finishing certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. He said he had fully expected that as a result of the events on Capitol Hill, Congress would look into the allegations of voter fraud that Trump has made since he lost the presidential election. None of that happened.
“That was extremely deflating because my thought process was immediately: Well, what the hell was all that for?” Newbold said.
Newbold, who has since resigned as a contractor with the Navy Warrior Challenge program, now has a much different outlook on the events of Jan. 6 than when he made his Facebook video saying he hoped lawmakers got the message. Looking back on that day, the main emotion he feels is despair. “It did nothing,” Newbold said. “It accomplished nothing.”