Jenna Ryan says it all began with an invitation from a “very cute guy” on Facebook: Would she join him on a private plane to the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington, D.C.?
The decision was easy. Ryan, a Dallas-area real estate agent, is single, loves President Donald Trump and believes the discredited claim that the election was riddled with fraud.
But the trip didn’t have a happy ending.
Within 48 hours of her return to Texas, social media posts made by Ryan, who livestreamed herself entering the U.S. Capitol with a mob of Trump supporters, were being shared with the FBI, and she would soon become the target of a federal investigation.
She didn’t get the guy, either. He hit it off with a different woman, she says.
“He was adorable,” Ryan said in an interview. “And there was another adorable girl there, too, and they ended up getting together, darn it.”
Ryan, 50, was arrested Friday on charges of disorderly conduct and knowingly entering a restricted area.
But in the freewheeling and at times combative interview, she expressed no regrets about participating in the Capitol incursion and said she believes she committed no crimes.
“I have no guilt in my heart,” said Ryan, who is also a life coach and radio host. “My intention was not to have a riot. I did not want to have a riot. I was documenting what was going on in the environment I was in.”
“I’m glad I was there,” she said later in the interview. “Because I witnessed history. And I’ll never get the chance to do that again. … No one will probably ever be able to go near [the Capitol] again.”
Ryan also downplayed the inflammatory language she used in her social media posts on the day of the Capitol breach. In a video shot before she headed to the building, Ryan said, “We’re going to go down and storm the Capitol.”
In the interview, she said she wasn’t suggesting an act of aggression.
“If you look up the term ‘storm,’ you can storm in the kitchen. You can storm in and say, ‘No more,'” she said. “I’m not storming in to kill people. What I meant, life or death, is if someone kills me, I will stand for my truth, even if someone kills me.”
The ill-fated trip to Washington came together at the last minute.
Ryan said the handsome stranger reached out to her on Facebook two days before the rally.
She had always wanted to attend a Make America Great Again event, and the idea of taking a private jet to get to one suited her just fine. But first, she made sure her best friend, Brian, who was also her “bodyguard,” would be able to join.
“I always see all these MAGA rallies, so I said, ‘Heck yeah, let’s go,'” she said. “I mean, who wouldn’t go and get on a private jet?”
The trip to Washington was great, she said. The handful of people on the flight were drinking and getting to know one another. Ryan took a moment to snap a photo inside the cabin and post it on her Facebook page.
“We were going in solidarity with President Trump,” she said. “President Trump requested that we be in D.C. on the 6th. So this was our way of going and stopping the steal.”
After spending the night in a Washington hotel, they awoke about 6 a.m., put on their “Trump stuff” and headed out to mingle with other “like-minded Patriots.”
The group ended up being too far back in the crowd to hear the speeches by Trump, Rudy Giuliani and others. But Ryan had a more pressing problem.
“There were no port-a-potties,” she said. “We could not get to a port-a-potty.
“That was, like, my biggest concern, actually,” she added. “Where’s the port-a-potty? Because I like to always know I have a bathroom nearby.”
They eventually returned to their hotel to warm up. They were horrified by what they saw on TV as Vice President Mike Pence presided over a joint session of Congress to affirm the November election results.
“We watched as Pence accepted the fraudulent election — what we believe to be fraudulent,” she said.
“We were devastated,” she said. “It was like my dad — somebody I love, somebody I respect — just betrayed someone else I love and I respect, including the country. … I couldn’t believe it.”
Ryan said that she didn’t want to leave the hotel again — “I think we walked 20,000 steps that day” — but that she decided to go along with her friends to the Capitol.
“I didn’t want to be at the hotel by myself,” she said.
At some point before she stepped out of the hotel, she posted a video to her Facebook page showing her speaking to the camera in front of a bathroom mirror. The video has been deleted.
“We’re gonna go down and storm the capitol,” she said, according to federal prosecutors. “They’re down there right now and that’s why we came and so that’s what we are going to do. So wish me luck.”
Ryan said they pushed their way to the Capitol steps. In one of the many clips she shot in the crowd and posted online, Ryan called out Mitch “turtleface” McConnell, complained that she had to go to the bathroom and then said: “We are armed and dangerous. This is just the beginning.”
In court papers, prosecutors said a Facebook Live video taken by Ryan — which was captured before it was deleted and reposted to YouTube — shows her entering the Capitol through the Rotunda entrance.
“We’re going to f—ing go in here. Life or death,” she says at the start of the video, according to prosecutors. “It doesn’t matter. Here we go.”
When she reached the top of the stairs, Ryan turned on her rear-facing camera and said: “Y’all know who to hire for your realtor. Jenna Ryan for your realtor,” according to prosecutors.
At one point, Ryan posed for a photograph in front of a broken window and posted it on Twitter. “Window at The capital,” she wrote, according to federal prosecutors. “And if the news doesn’t stop lying about us we’re going to come after their studios next …”
In the interview with NBC News, Ryan acknowledged that she entered the building after photos showing her inside surfaced, but she said she remained inside for only two minutes and left because she felt uncomfortable.
When further pressed about the violent language she used in her videos, Ryan lashed out.
“If you want to skewer me in the media and make me out to be a violent person because it fits your storyline, then, you know, that is something that you’re going to have to live with in your life,” she said. “Because I know my heart was to go there and let my voice be heard, no matter what. And I stood on the steps of the Capitol, and I did what I came to do. And I did pray.”
Five people died as a result of the riot, including a police officer and a woman who was shot by police.
Ryan said she felt terrible for the loss of life but insisted that she believes she broke no laws.
“I, personally, feel innocent in everything that I have done,” she said. “I feel like I was perfectly within my rights. I feel like the police officers were ushering people into the Capitol. There were thousands of people there. I have no guilt in my heart.”
Ryan borrowed one of Trump’s signature phrases to describe how she now feels being a target of the FBI.
“The FBI’s coming out and raiding my house for a misdemeanor,” she said. “Taking my MAGA hat. OK? They took my MAGA hat.”
Ryan also said she has “given up on America” and won’t vote again because she believes the election system is corrupt.
She said she remains convinced that the results were fraudulent even though elections officials in all 50 states certified them and dozens of judges, including Republicans and some appointed by Trump, dismissed the claims.
“That didn’t faze me,” she said. She added, “No one heard the evidence.”
She now fears that all Trump supporters are going to be branded as terrorists and silenced under President Joe Biden.
And she made a plea for Trump to pardon her and the other nonviolent protesters. But if he doesn’t, Ryan said, she wouldn’t hold it against him.
“I’m going to support him no matter what he does,” she said.