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A protester threw Russian flags at President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell inside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, while yelling “Trump is treason.”
Ryan Clayton, 36, is the president of Americans Take Action, a group founded after Trumps election victory. According to its website, the group is “a populist network formed to restore free and fair elections in America, create a purpose driven economy, and save the free and open internet.” The flags, which flew through the air and landed near the president, also had “TRUMP” written in gold on both sides.
Trump and McConnell were walking into a lunch with Senate Republicans when the flags were tossed at them. Clayton, who was among members of the press and posing as a journalist, was arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police after the protest. Trump and McConnell did not flinch, walking into the lunch.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Clayton Was Taken Into Custody & Charged With Unlawful Conduct
Ryan Clayton was taken away from the scene by U.S. Capitol Police after throwing the flags about 1:30 p.m. You can watch video of the incident above.
“This president has conspired with agents of the Russian government,” Clayton shouted as he was taken into custody. “We should be talking about treason in Congress, not about tax cuts!”‘
He was charged with unlawful conduct, Capitol Police said in a press release. They said the investigation is still ongoing. Unlawful conduct is a misdemeanor that carries a potential sentence of up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine.
Clayton did not respond to a request for comment from Heavy. It is not clear if he has hired an attorney or if he remains in custody.
2. He Says Americans Take Action Is Planning on ‘Resisting the Trump Regime Every Day & Every Step of the Way’
Clayton and Americans Take Action say on their website, “Currently, our top priority is resisting the Trump regime, every day and every step of the way.” The group explains:
We are just regular everyday Americans – engineers and teachers, activists and lawyers, trade unionists and professionals, scientists and nurses – who believe in making a difference, having an impact, and leaving the planet a little better off than how we found it. As practical people, whenever we face a challenge, Americans take action to fix it.Download Video Links
Whether through legislation or an amendment, through the states or through Congress, Americans Take Action is working every day to restore free and fair elections in America so that every citizen has the freedom to vote and votes matter more than dollars in elections once again. We also are working to create a purpose-driven economy where all work is respected and rewarded, as well as ensuring that the internet remains free and open for generations to come.
Clayton, the group says, has “previous experience working in political advertising, for progressive non-profit organizations, for political candidates, and for elected officials, his background gives him a broad understanding of how campaigns, non-profits, and government institutions fit together to shape American public policy.”
On their website, Americans Take Action lists three goals:
1. Restore free and fair elections in America by creating a separation of wealth and state,
guaranteeing the freedom to vote, and ensuring every vote cast gets counted.
2. Create a purpose-driven economy where the work of all people is respected, where every person can serve a productive purpose in our society, and where your contribution to your community is recognized and rewarded.Download Video Links
3. Resist any and all threats to a free and open internet so that it can continue to be a tool
for communication and connection for all people in our country and around the world.
They also offer a chance for supporters to get their own Trump Russian flags for a contribution to their organization.
The group has also created “puppets” featuring the faces of Trump, Steve Bannon and other Trump allies.
3. Clayton & Another Activist Trolled Trump by Passing Out Russian Flags at CPAC in February
Clayton made headlines in February when he and another Americans Take Action activist, Jason Charter, handed out Russian flags, with “TRUMP” emblazoned in gold on each side, to members of the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, according to The Atlantic. The duo handed out about 1,000 flags, and then took photos of members of the crowd waving them while waiting for Trump to come out and speak. The stunt went viral on social media, forcing CPAC organizers to rush through the crowd to confiscate the flags.
“Most people didn’t realize it was a Russian flag, or they didn’t care,” Charter told The Atlantic. He and Clayton were kicked out of CPAC after their actions were discovered.
In a piece written on HuffPost, Clayton explained, “The reason we trolled Trump with these flags is to draw attention to the Russian interference in our most recent American election, helping to decide the outcome in favor of the Trump campaign. Working with a foreign power to undermine our free and fair elections is treason. Let’s be clear, Putin picked Trump because it’s good for Russia, not because he’s great for America.”
4. He Tried to Give a Russian Flag to Jared Kushner at the Capitol in July
Ryan Clayton was involved in another stunt on July 24, 2017, when he tried to give a Russian flag to Jared Kushner, and asked him to sign it. “Will you sign my Russian flag? Sign my Russian flag please!” Clayton yelled before security officials pushed him away, according to The Hill.
According to CNN’s Manu Raju, Clayton was also pretending to be a reporter during that exchange with Kushner, who was leaving a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing at the time.
“Kushner is the mastermind behind the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russian agents in last year’s election,” Clayton said in a statement to The Hill. “Putin helped Trump win to make Russia great again, not America. Trump and Kushner in the White House are a clear and present danger to the US Constitution and the American people.”
5. Clayton Is an Indiananpolis Native & Graduate of Indiana University
Ryan Clayton, 36, lives in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and attended Pike High School on the city’s northwest side, according to his Facebook profile. He then graduated from Indiana University.
Clayton has worked as the executive director of Wolf PAC, since at least 2013. The “non-partisan political action committee” was founded in 2011 by The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur. According to its website, Wolf PAC aims, “To save democracy in the United States by getting a much needed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will establish elections which are free of the corrupting influence of money in our political system and fair enough that any citizen can run for office, not just millionaires and their allies.”
Clayton has also worked in finance for the Demcoratic Party in Columbia, Missouri, according to his Linkedin profile. He has also written opinion pieces for HuffPost.
He was also a founder and admin of U.S. Uncut, a group of progressive activists that morphed into an online news organization known for its popular Facebook page in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to Reveal News. The page and website have since been deleted following an internal battle between Clayton and other founders. He was sued by former partners Mark Provost and Carl Gibson in August, according to Reveal. They accused him of trademark infringement and cyberpiracy, claiming he took over U.S. Uncut and created a clone organization after they kicked him out of the group in 2014. They settled out of court, and the settlement included the end of the U.S. Uncut name.
According to Reveal, Clayton was inspired to help start U.S. Uncut as a progressive version of the Tea Party. He had previously worked for liberal nonprofits, including Media Matters for America and Emily’s List.