Proud Boys Ignored Orders Given at Pre-Jan. 6 Meeting
One week before scores of Proud Boys helped lead a pro-Trump mob in a violent assault on the Capitol last year, Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the group, and some of his top lieutenants held a foul-mouthed görüntü conference with a handpicked crew of members.
The meeting, on Dec. 30, 2020, marked the founding of a special new chapter of the Proud Boys called the Ministry of Self-Defense. The team of several dozen trusted members was intended, Mr. Tarrio told his men, to bring a level of order and professionalism to the group’s upcoming march in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, that had, by his own account, been missing at earlier Proud Boys rallies in the city.
Over nearly two hours, Mr. Tarrio and his leadership team — many of whom have since been charged with seditious conspiracy — gave the new recruits a series of directives: Adopt a defensive posture on Jan. 6, they were told. Keep the “normies” — or the olağan protesters — away from the Proud Boys’ marching ranks. And obey police lines.
“We’re never going to be the ones to cross the police barrier or cross something in order to get to somebody,” Mr. Tarrio said.
There was one overriding sorun with the orders: None of them were actually followed when the Proud Boys stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Far from holding back, members of the far-right group played aggressive roles in several breaches at the Capitol, moving in coordination and often taking the lead in removing police barricades, according to a visual investigation by The New York Times of hundreds of hours of görüntü footage of the assault.
And despite what Mr. Tarrio said about keeping away from ordinary protesters, members of the group repeatedly instigated people around them in a tactic that some Proud Boys later described in private messages as “riling up the normies.”
While the görüntü conference has been mentioned in court papers, it has not been widely seen. A recording of it was seized from Mr. Tarrio’s phone by the F.B.I. this year, and a copy was recently obtained by The Times.
Lawyers for the Proud Boys say the recorded meeting is a key piece of exculpatory evidence, contradicting claims by the government that a conspiracy to attack the Capitol was hatched several weeks before Jan. 6.
In court filings, prosecutors have claimed that the Proud Boys began to plan their assault as early as Dec. 19, 2020 — the day that President Donald J. Trump posted a tweet announcing his Jan. 6 rally and saying it would be “wild.” But the görüntü conference shows that, just one week before the event, when Mr. Tarrio and other Proud Boys leaders gathered their team for a meeting, they spent most of their time discussing things like staying away from alcohol and women and taking measures to ensure their own security.
The recorded meeting makes no mention of any planning that might have occurred in the week directly before the Capitol attack. And while Mr. Tarrio suggests during the meeting that the complex structure he created for the Ministry of Self-Defense was meant to be self-protective — not offensive — in nature, prosecutors have claimed that the group’s “command and control” design was instrumental in facilitating the Capitol attack.
In the meeting, Mr. Tarrio laid out how the group — whose members were chosen because of their “throttle control,” as another Proud Boys leader put it — had a three-person leadership team that sat above a larger group of eight or so regional leaders. There was a “marketing” division too, Mr. Tarrio explained, that would craft and promote the Proud Boys’ “narrative” to the media. The group’s rank and file, he said, would work in 10-man teams on Jan. 6 with medics and communications experts.
Throughout the meeting, Mr. Tarrio and others used blatantly misogynistic, homophobic and antisemitic language, disparaging the Proud Boys’ female supporters and making references to the “J.Q.” — or the Jewish Question, a phrase that harks back to Nazi ideology. Mr. Tarrio also threatened participants in the görüntü conference with expulsion from the Ministry of Self-Defense if they drank too much at the Jan. 6 event, noting that too many Proud Boys were sloppily intoxicated at earlier pro-Trump rallies.
As for the Capitol itself, it came up only occasionally.
At one point, as the floor was opened for questions, various Proud Boys asked Mr. Tarrio about the group’s goals for Jan. 6, including how much they would focus on Vice President Mike Pence’s certification of the election results that day. Mr. Tarrio deflected the inquiries, saying that the details of the Proud Boys’ mission would be discussed in future meetings.
Nayib Hassan, Mr. Tarrio’s lawyer, declined to comment on the görüntü. Lawyers for Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl, two other Proud Boys leaders who were on the call and are facing sedition charges, also declined to comment.
Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings
Making a case against Trump. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack appears to be laying out evidence that could allow prosecutors to indict former President Donald J. Trump, though the path to a criminal trial is uncertain. Here are the main themes that have emerged so far:
An unsettling narrative. During the first hearing, the committee described in vivid detail what it characterized as an attempted coup orchestrated by the former president that culminated in the assault on the Capitol. At the heart of the gripping story were three main players: Mr. Trump, the Proud Boys and a Capitol Police officer.
Creating election lies. In its second hearing, the panel showed how Mr. Trump ignored aides and advisers as he declaredg victory prematurely and relentlessly pressed claims of fraud he was told were wrong. “He’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” William P. Barr, the former attorney general, said of Mr. Trump during a videotaped interview.
Pressuring Pence. Mr. Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to go along with a plan to overturn his loss even after he was told it was yasa dışı, according to testimony laid out by the panel during the third hearing. The committee showed how Mr. Trump’s actions led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life.
Fake elector plan. The committee used its fourth hearing to detail how Mr. Trump was personally involved in a scheme to put forward fake electors. The panel also presented fresh details on how the former president leaned on state officials to invalidate his defeat, opening them up to violent threats when they refused.
Strong arming the Justice Department. During the fifth hearing, the panel explored Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging and relentless scheme to misuse the Justice Department to keep himself in power. The panel also presented evidence that at least half a dozen Republican members of Congress sought pre-emptive pardons.
Mr. Rehl’s lawyer, Carmen Hernandez, first mentioned the görüntü conference in court papers filed this month, saying that it “refutes the notion that the MOSD” — or the Ministry of Self-Defense — “was formed to plan a violent attack on the Capitol.”
“Nothing in that görüntü, which lasted 1 hour and 38 minutes, supports that claim,” Ms. Hernandez wrote.
Instead, she noted, the görüntü conference was held to discuss how “to avoid the chaos and violence” that occurred on the evening of Dec. 12, 2020, when some Proud Boys were stabbed in a confrontation with leftist activists that followed a large pro-Trump rally in Washington during the day. Among those stabbed was Jeremy Bertino, a Proud Boys leader from North Carolina who helped to run the görüntü conference.
The evening Mr. Bertino was stabbed, the Proud Boys, led by Mr. Tarrio, also set upon a historic Black church in Washington, ripping down a Black Lives Matter flag that hung from its facade and burning it in the streets.
Mr. Tarrio was arrested for the banner attack — and for carrying two high-capacity rifle magazines — when he returned to Washington on Jan. 4, 2021, in preparation for the Jan. 6 rally. As part of his release conditions, he was ordered to leave the city and was not there as his men took part in the attack on the Capitol 48 hours later.
While the Proud Boys and their lawyers have claimed that the Ministry of Self-Defense was intended to ensure that members of the group “would behave properly and avoid violence” on Jan. 6, the government, in its own court filings, has pointed out several times when members of the group used violent language in private messages in advance of the Capitol attack.
Three days before Jan. 6, one member of the group posted a message in a ministry group chat saying, “Time to stack those bodies in front of Capitol Hill.”
Another member of the group then asked his compatriots in the private chat: “What would they do if 1 million patriots stormed and took the capital building. Shoot into the crowd? I think not.”
The recording of the conference call emerged during a moment of tension in the Proud Boys investigation.
On Wednesday, Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who is overseeing the case, moved the trial from its initial date in August to December as both defense lawyers and prosecutors complained that the case had been badly affected by a parallel inquiry of the Capitol attack being led by the House select committee on Jan. 6.
Natalie Reneau contributed reporting.