The FBI on Thursday arrested Federico Klein, a former State Department aide, on charges related to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, marking the first known instance of an appointee of President Donald Trump facing criminal prosecution in connection with the attempt to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.
Klein, 42, was taken into custody in Virginia, said Samantha Shero, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
An FBI lookout bulletin issued two weeks after the Capitol assault included a photo of Klein, prompting two tipsters to contact the FBI and finger him as the man in that picture, according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Washington.
The affidavit says video from police body-worn cameras on Jan. 6 shows Klein jamming a riot shield into doors at the Capitol as police were trying to secure them to keep the mob out. Klein was also heard on video trying to encourage others to clash with the police, the complaint says.
"We need fresh people, we need fresh people,” Klein shouted repeatedly, according to the complaint. In much of the video, he is wearing the Trump campaign's trademark "Make America Great Again" red hat.
Klein is charged with several felonies, including assault on police officers, interfering with police during civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding, as well as lesser offenses.
During a brief first court appearance Friday afternoon, Klein complained about the conditions where he was held overnight at the central cell block at Metropolitan Police Headquarters in Washington.
“I’m wondering if there’s a place I could stay in detention where I don’t have cockroaches crawling over me while I’m trying to sleep,” Klein told U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui. “I haven’t really slept all that much, your Honor. It would be nice if between now and Tuesday I could sleep in a place where there are not cockroaches all over.”
Faruqui said he’d address any complaints Klein had about the conditions, but that he would likely be moved to another location later Friday.
No plea was entered Friday, but the magistrate detailed the charges Faruqui faces and noted that those of assaulting a police officer and obstructing Congress carry potential maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.
The judge said Klein indicated he wanted to hire an attorney, but the defendant said he hasn’t made much progress on that front. “It’s really impossible to do anything from my cell at this point,” he said.
Prosecutors asked that Klein be detained pending trial. Faruqui set a bail hearing for Tuesday afternoon, saying he wanted to move briskly on the issue but also give Klein enough time to find a lawyer.
“I don’t want you to just be on hold, in purgatory, while you sort out your counsel,” the judge said.
Klein worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and was then 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 position Friday morning, saying Klein resigned effective Jan. 21, 2021. She also 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.
An individual by the same name also worked briefly on Capitol Hill about two decades ago, for the House Small Business Committee and as an intern for Sen. George Allen (R-Va.).
The alleged presence of a Trump political appointee at the riot may tie those events more closely to the president, although there is already ample evidence that many of those charged were inspired by Trump’s false claims about widespread election fraud and by his call for supporters to descend on Washington on Jan. 6 for events that he promised would be “wild.”
Klein’s mother, Cecilia, said in a telephone interview on Thursday evening that she and her son discussed the Jan. 6 events a few weeks ago and that he confirmed he had been in Washington that day.
“As far as I know, he was on the Mall. That’s what he told me,” Cecilia Klein said.
She said she came away from the conversation with the impression that her son had not entered the Capitol, but she could not recall whether he specifically denied that. “I’m not sure he used those words,” she said.
Cecilia Klein, a retired trade official and economist, said she and her son rarely talk politics or discuss Trump because she and her son have starkly different views.
“Fred’s politics burn a little hot,” she said, “but I’ve never known him to violate the law. … While I believe, as he said, he was on the Mall that day, I don’t have any evidence, nor will I ever ask him, unless he tells me, where he was after he was on the Mall.”
Federico Klein served as a Marine in Iraq, his mother said. He held a top-secret clearance from 2014 to 2019, issued by the Defense Department, according to his LinkedIn page. The FBI affidavit, published Friday by the New York Times, says that clearance was renewed in 2019 and still in effect on the day of the riot.
Brad Moss, a national security lawyer, said Klein’s access to classified material was likely cut off when he left government service in mid-January, unless he remained employed as a contractor. Klein’s current employment situation is unclear. If he were to return to a government job or one with a federal contractor, his eligibility for a clearance could be challenged based on the charges against him.
Before joining the 2016 Trump campaign, Klein served as a Republican state convention delegate in Virginia and worked as a researcher for the conservative Family Research Council, according to his LinkedIn page. (A spokesman for the council said Klein was not an employee, but did unpaid volunteer work for them in 2015.)
Klein, who graduated from George Mason University in 2002, did not respond to voicemail and text messages seeking comment on Thursday.
More than 300 people have now been charged in federal court for events related to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The charges in the cases range from misdemeanor offenses, like entering a restricted area, to obstruction of Congress and assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.