Evidence presented in the seditious conspiracy trial against leaders of the white nationalist group the Proud Boys suggests that the group’s higher-ups were in communication with the Trump campaign, which urged them to appear at rallies around false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
News of the evidence was reported on by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Prosecutors showcased communications in which members of the Proud Boys, including its then-leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, discussed plans to attend rallies in support of former President Donald Trump. According to Tarrio’s messages, which were sent using an encrypted program, the Trump campaign asked the Proud Boys for help in the days after the election, when the results were called for now-President Joe Biden.
The campaign asked the Proud Boys to attend rallies and to appear indistinguishable from other rally-goers, rather than wearing their traditional black and yellow garb.
“The campaign asked us to not wear colors to these events,” Tarrio said in one of the messages, which was dated November 8, 2020, just days after the election.
The communications also indicate that Tarrio and the Proud Boys were aware that these events could potentially erupt into violence, including the January 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally.
“Whatever happens … make it a spectacle,” Tarrio said on January 4, 2021.
More than 200 encrypted chats, texts and other forms of communications were presented at the trial, showcasing that Tarrio and other Proud Boys members were preparing for violence on January 6, the day a mob of Trump loyalists attacked the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt Congress’s certification of the 2020 election.
The initial communications discussing how Trump’s campaign had contacted Tarrio took place just weeks after Trump appeared to publicly endorse the white nationalist group. In a debate between Trump and Biden in September 2020, Trump refused to condemn the Proud Boys, instructing them instead to “stand back and stand by” — words that the group celebrated as “historic” and helpful for driving up their recruitment.
A federal judge in the seditious conspiracy trial determined in January of this year that Trump’s words during that debate could be included in prosecutors’ evidence against the Proud Boys. A guilty verdict against Tarrio and others in the trial could be detrimental to Trump’s 2024 election prospects, some commentators say.
“A conviction now will bolster [the] theory” that the Proud Boys were motivated by the former president “and help tie Trump to the coup,” Los Angeles Times Legal Affairs columnist Harry Litman said in response to the judge’s decision.
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