GOP chair seen on restricted grounds

CASPER — Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne was discovered to have been on restricted Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — after saying last year he only made a “brief stop in the vicinity of the Capitol,” according to a newly published report.

Photos and video from the day appear to show Eathorne in the restricted area in front of the platform for Joe Biden’s inauguration, which was still two weeks away at the time, NBC News first reported Sunday. 

It’s unclear when Eathorne ultimately left that day. 

Previously, Eathorne, who is on a first-name basis with former President Donald Trump and has been to a White House Christmas party, characterized his visit to the Capitol on Jan. 6 as a “a brief stop in the vicinity of the Capitol building property.” 

“No violence or property damage was observed during my time there including a brief stop in the vicinity of the Capitol building property,” he wrote. 

Eathorne did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. 

On Jan. 6, 2021, the Wyoming GOP posted a 19-second video to its Facebook page of an enthusiastic crowd cheering outside of the U.S. Capitol building, with the caption,“This is what’s really happening near the White House in case the media is not reporting. Chairman Eathorne is there with other great Wyoming patriots!” 

According to leaked documents, the chairman of the state party is also a member of the Oath Keepers, a militant right-wing organization, WyoFile reported in December.

Eathorne says he was only a passive member of the group. 

Around a dozen Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy following the Jan. 6 riot. 

Thousands of Trump supporters were on the restricted grounds of the Capitol on the day of the riot, but only a handful of rioters have been charged with misdemeanors for being in that area. The focus of most investigations have been those who were inside the Capitol or who assaulted law enforcement.

There is no evidence Eathorne did either.

The people who have been charged fall into “three overlapping categories.” 

“Individuals who went inside, individuals who committed violence outside and individuals who committed conspiracy to overturn the election,” said Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism. “It’s unlikely that the DOJ will prioritize the individuals for misdemeanor offenses.”

A rancher from Converse County, Eathorne has become close with Trump as the former president has sought to unseat one of his main political enemies: Rep. Liz Cheney.

Eathorne was one of the first speakers at Trump’s rally on Saturday in Casper.

When Trump first knew he was coming to Wyoming for a rally, he called Eathorne personally to tell him the news. 

“I would run through barbed wire for that guy, how ‘bout you?” Eathorne said on stage, referring to the former president. 

The rally was held in support of the Trump-endorsed U.S. House challenger Harriet Hageman, who is running against Cheney. 

Eathorne has become a key political player in the race, as he has helped lead the effort to oust Cheney at a state and national level. At the Republican National Committee meeting in Salt Lake City earlier this year, Eathorne authored a resolution — which national delegates overwhelmingly approved — to censure Cheney and “cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party for their behavior.”