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“We Have a Plan. I’m with Rufio” … But the Government Does Not

There was a big hole in the middle of the Oath Keepers prosecution that likely was a big part of the reason jurors didn’t convict on more of the conspiracy charges. Just after 2:30PM the day of the attack, field leader Michael Greene called Stewart Rhodes. A minute later, Kelly Meggs called Rhodes, who conferenced Meggs into the ongoing call with Greene.

Altogether, the three men were on the phone together for 1 minute 37 seconds, and Rhodes and Greene were on the call for several minutes afterward. The call immediately precedes the First Stack busting into the Capitol, and happens at the same time that Joshua James and others are racing to the Capitol on their golf cart.

By context, it appears to be the moment where Rhodes decided to use the attack on the Capitol to advance his plan to decapitate the government. But for all the cooperating witnesses DOJ flipped in the Oath Keeper case, they never got any of these three to cooperate, and so never were able to prove what was said on the call. On the stand, Rhodes made up some bullshit about difficulties connecting.

While by context it seems to be the moment that these three leaders made a decision on operationalizing their plan, which they then directed others to implement. But absent a cooperating witness from that call, they didn’t have that proof.

And so they got limited conspiracy convictions.

There’s a similar big hole in the middle of the Proud Boys case, one — a status conference just made clear — may be even more fatal for the government’s case. In the time on the evening on January 5 when everyone was trying to figure out what to do given the arrest of Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs were temporarily AWOL.

When Biggs reappeared, he described “meeting w[i]th a lot of guys” and that “We have a plan. I’m with rufio,” that is, Nordean.

To this day, even those of use who’ve followed the case closely don’t even know with whom Biggs and Nordean met, much less what the plan was.

And that’s a problem because every Proud Boy witness, even senior prosecution cooperating witnesses Jeremy Bertino and Charles Donohoe, will testify that they knew of no plan to attack the Capitol in advance of January 6.

Absent that, DOJ will point to the plan to meet at the Washington Monument, the ways the Proud Boy plan deviated from the norm (including ditching Proud Boy colors to blend in), the orderly marching, the choice not to show up at Trump’s speech at all and instead to go to the Capitol and rile up a mob of normies.

They’ll put cooperating witness Matthew Greene on the stand to explain that he understood they were crowding the Capitol to pressure Pence.

They’ll presumably put their latest cooperating witness, Isaiah Giddings, on the stand to admit that, “before January 6, Giddings did not know that Congress would be certifying the election results in the Capitol building on January 6,” but that in advance of the attack, “leaders, including Rehl, Biggs, and “Rufio,” would meet separately from the larger group.” Giddings will testify that after the attack, “Rehl, and the other Proud Boys were laughing and celebrating what they had done; namely, stopping the certification proceeding.”

They’ll point to comments afterwards, taking credit for it all.

Tarrio asserted to the Proud Boys “Elders” who had approved his formation of the MOSD, “Make no mistake. We did this.” Similarly, Bertino told Tarrio “You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today,” to which Tarrio replied, “I know.” The next day, Rehl similarly told an MOSD chat group that he was “proud as fuck what we accomplished,”

There is far, far more evidence in the actions the Proud Boys took that day that they did have a plan and succeeded in implementing it beyond their wildest dreams. But they don’t have that plan.

And two likely developments will likely make proving they had a plan more difficult.

First, Proud Boy defense attorneys are alleging that prosecutors are pressuring their defense witnesses with threats of prosecution. One person about whom their making the claim — about MPD lieutenant Shane Lamond, who has been suspended since last February under investigation that he helped the Proud Boys — their complaints are not credible. About others — including a female witness who might either be journalist Amy Harris, who spent a lot of time with Tarrio after he was released and to whom he said a lot of obvious self-exonerating statements, or Eryka Gemma, the woman who gave Tarrio a plan about The Winter Palace — defense attorneys claim they can provide sworn statements that prosecutors interviewed a witness without her attorney present. (I don’t trust either side in this case, so we shall see what actually gets filed.)

That is, as with the Oath Keeper trial, defendants are claiming that prosecutors are making witnesses unavailable with threats of prosecution (and as with the Oath Keeper trial, only some of those claims are credible).

More damaging still for their case, an exchange at the end of a status hearing today suggested that Judge Tim Kelly is likely to prohibit the government from arguing that the Proud Boys were using other rioters are “tools” in their conspiracy (I wrote about this dispute here). That’s sound legally; the government argument doesn’t fit into existing conspiracy law. But it will make it difficult, if not impossible, for prosecutors to prove sedition, which requires the use of force. It is true that key Proud Boys expressed a goal to rile up the “normies” who would then carry out the violence on January 6. It’s even true that probably dozens of rioters said they were following the Proud Boys — but the prosecution here has shown no hint they would call those “normies” as witnesses. It is true that Ryan Samsel — the guy who kicked off the entire riot — had an exchange with Joe Biggs right before the attack. But DOJ never got Samsel to cooperate.

There’s a lot of evidence that the Proud Boys orchestrated the riot and conspired with others in doing so. But it seems likely that prosecutors have the same kind of evidentiary holes, including a potentially fatal one where the plan they finalized on January 5 is, that the Oath Keeper prosecutors did.

Update: On a late re-read, I realized I left out a key caveat on the issue of a plan: People do acknowledge there was a plan. That plan included meeting at the Washington Monument instead of at Trump’s speech, for example. The question is whether it included the attack on the Capitol (the language I’ve added, in bold).

Skull and Bones: The Proud Boys’ Non-Conspiratorial Secret Society?

The morning of January 5, according to the government sentencing memo for him, Proud Boy Nicholas Ochs texted Ethan Nordean to say that, in light of the arrest of Enrique Tarrio the day before, he and Nordean were, “senior leadership in DC till Enrique is sprung.”

Following Tarrio’s arrest, Ochs messaged Nordean the morning of January 5. He said, “I guess we’re senior leadership in DC till Enrique is sprung. I’ll be in today or tonight. Lemmie know anything relevant.” Nordean replied, “Ok will do,” and they traded cell phone numbers.

Och’s own sentencing memo addresses that comment, but doesn’t explain it.

[T]he government relies extensively on a single message by Mr. Ochs, where he offhandedly referred to himself as a leader, Dkt. 94, pg. 9, and a tasteless message in which Mr. Ochs states he is “pro-violence,” id., at 4, the government is unable to point to a single actual instance wherein Mr. Ochs actually performed the duties of a leader or acted out in violence during the January 6th riots.

He doesn’t explain what became of the message, if anything (there’s no mention of any calls between Ochs and Nordean, and Nordean’s phone was not operational during the riot).

At least on the surface, it looks like Nordean blew Ochs off.

Instead, and before that comment, Ochs makes a very strained comment — limited to before attending the rally and discussion about their planned activities for the day –about what he said to other Proud Boys on the day of January 6, while he and Nicholas DeCarlo were attending the Trump speech and most of the other the other Proud Boys were marching around DC.

On the morning on January 6, Mr. Ochs and DeCarlo went to the rally where the President was addressing the crowd. Mr. Ochs was dressed in normal civilian clothing and did not wear any special military or other riot gear—unlike the many others who attended the rally, dressed in military/assault garb, signaling their violent intentions. Mr. Ochs was armed only with a smartphone.

Before attending the rally, Mr. Ochs did not communicate with any other Proud Boy members regarding their planned activities for the day. Indeed, at no point during the rally or the resulting assault on the Capitol, did Mr. Ochs coordinate with other Proud Boy members. As is stated in the Statement of Facts, though Mr. Ochs did come across other Proud Boy members in Washington, these were chance encounters and not the result of any prior planning. During the rally itself, Mr. Ochs was unable to live stream the event because the local cellular system was overwhelmed, and given his physical location, he was unable to hear the president’s speech.

At the conclusion of the rally, after the President finished speaking on the Ellipse, Mr. Ochs began seeking out the larger crowd which had begun moving towards the Capitol building—the first of many bad decisions that day. [my emphasis]

Given the evidence, that’s a credible claim.

What’s not covered by Och’s narrow (albeit for sentencing, critical) denials was Ochs’ participation in some small member chat groups, including one, called Skull and Bones, that included Nordean and Enrique Tarrio.

Leading up to January 6, 2021, Ochs participated in several Proud Boys chats on an encrypted messaging application, including one called “Official Presidents’ Chat” and one called “Skull and Bones.” Skull and Bones consisted of a small group (approximately twelve) of the Proud Boys’ Elders, including Enrique Tarrio and Ethan Nordean, both of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy and other crimes for their roles leading the Proud Boys on January 6. See United States v. Nordean et al., 21-cr-175 (TJK). Some of these chats ended and then were reconstituted (because of concerns about being “compromised”) in the days leading up to January 6.

Of some interest: while the Proud Boy Leaders prosecution used Och’s November 2020 advocacy to wait before embracing violence as a way to show the Proud Boys ratcheted up their willingness to embrace violence.

[A]s the defendants, their co-conspirators, and their tools got further from the election and closer to Inauguration, the language they used to discuss the transfer of power became more desperate and more reflective of a willingness to take matters into their own hands. See Ex. 1 (proposed trial exhibit referenced at 11/18 hearing, with Proud Boys “elder” counseling: “I’m pro violence but don’t blow your load too soon.”).

Here, the focus is on Ochs’ attempts to persuade others to await the Supreme Court, which he was sure would deliver victory to Trump.

In Skull and Bones, on November 7, 2020, the group reacted to Biden being declared the winner of the election. Tarrio said, “Dark times if it isn’t reversed…and if it’s reversed…civil war.” Another user commented, “It’s civil war either way.”

Ochs disagreed: “It’s really not. The odds are with us because of the Supreme Court boys. I’m pro violence but don’t blow your load too soon.” He continued, “Not to be an anti-murder buzzkill but I really think this ISN’T fucked. Once it is, let’s go wild.” Ochs advised the group, “Bush/gore ruling took till December…Trump has a MUCH stronger case.” Ochs said, “Americans are weak and don’t want to fight. Them more so than us, but what’s really going to matter to the common man is what the Supreme Court says. And it will say.”

Another member noted, “Interesting that Trump got that woman through just before this huh. Could be the ace up his sleeve.” Ochs agreed and reiterated his belief that the Supreme Court was the best option to overturn the election: “Don’t fuck up the ruling. It’s a better chance than fighting.” He advised the group not to turn violent yet: “Not till the law enforcement institutions [are] weakened or more on our side. We lose right now.” But he told the group: “I’ll still chimp out if I’m wrong about the Supreme Court tho…we just have to TIME IT RIGHT and DO IT SMART.” Another member proposed that “veterans with combat experience” should “form militias.”

Ochs also expressed optimism in Parler posts that the Supreme Court would overturn the election results, including an image of Justice Thomas as a video game character:

Tarrio and others discussed a conference call on December 19 after Trump announced the rally.

Ochs’ prediction that the Supreme Court would overturn the election results did not come true. Instead, courts rejected dozens of lawsuits challenging the election results. On December 19, 2020, then-President Trump invited his followers to Washington, D.C. for a “wild” protest. The Proud Boys’ chats soon filled with talk of what they would do there. The same day as Trump’s December 19 tweet, in the small-group Skull and Bones chat, one member said, “Trump is calling for proud boys to show up on the 6th.” Ochs, Tarrio, and others then discussed arranging a conference call.

But Ochs is only described as a participant in the larger 50 and 35 person Ministry of Self Defense chats leading up to the riot. His top-level access seems to have remained that Skull and Bones chat.

After cooperating witness Charles Donohoe — though he is not named — is described as attempting to reconstitute the main MOSD list after Tarrio’s arrest, Ochs suggests doing so on the Skull and Bones list (and elsewhere it says it was reconstructed).

At 7:11 p.m., [Donohoe] posted a message in the MOSD Main chat, which read, “Hey have been instructed and listen to me real good! There is no planning of any sorts. I need to be put into whatever new thing is created. Everything is compromised and we can be looking at Gang charges.” The member then wrote, “Stop everything immediately” and then “This comes from the top.”

[snip]

Ochs asked if the Skull and Bones chat, which included Tarrio, should be deleted. Another user responded, “I did tell him to delete telegram off his phone right before he was arrested, so I’m hoping he listened to me.” Ochs sent two responses: “Yep. Smacc it off your phone if there’s trouble. Can always redownload no problem” and “*Fed has joined the chat*”

The sentencing memo describes Ochs getting the message to show up at the Washington Monument twice, on the Main MOSD chat and another unnamed one.

On January 5, in in a reconstituted version of the Main MOSD chat created the evening of January 4, another user sent a message with instructions for the next day: “Everyone needs to meet at the Washington Monument at 10am tomorrow morning! Do not be late! Do not wear colors! Details will be laid out at the pre meeting! Come out []as patriot!”6 ”

6 Ochs received a similar message in another Proud Boys encrypted chat involving approximately 33 members.

But he didn’t follow those directions; he went to the Ellipse speech with Nicholas DeCarlo instead.

But by 4:18PM, when the riot was still very much ongoing, Ochs was back on Skull and Bones in chats in which Tarrio also participated — including someone instructing Tarrio to tell Don Jr to stop condemning the violence.

In the Skull and Bones chat, at 4:18 p.m., another member reposted a photograph of Ochs and DeCarlo smoking cigarettes in the Crypt, and asked, “@Nick_Ochs you inside? Lol.” Ochs replied, “Yeehaw.” Soon after, one member said, “So what now,” and another (whose username indicated he was from the United Kingdom) said, “from our end it looks like Trump ain’t going peacefully.” Tarrio responded, “They’ll fear us doing it again…” When asked, “So what do we do now?” Tarrio replied, “Do it again.” Another user told Tarrio to “text your boy Don jr and tell him to stfu. This is PB country now.”

One explanation for this is that Ochs might have liked to be a more central player in the Proud Boys. But was not, and so he didn’t take part in the Nordean (and Joe Biggs-run) operation on the day of the riot.

And Nicholas DeCarlo joined him in not taking part.

DeCarlo goes even further attempting to distance himself from the Proud Boys — and the “nihilistic” behavior of those who were insufficiently insouciant while rioting.

As the Court can readily determine from both the agreed upon Statement of Facts in this case, as well as the photographic and video evidence, the defendant did not travel to the Capitol as a member of the Proud Boys, a group that he resigned from in 2019. He did not wear their distinctive clothing; he did not coordinate with other Proud Boy members (other than his co-defendant) prior to coming to Washington D.C.; and more importantly, he did not participate in any of the organized violence attributed to the group. In addition, while the Government argues that Mr. DeCarlo acted with “glee” during the riot, that adverb misapprehends the defendant’s intent. While Mr. DeCarlo’s insouciant/sarcastic nature and comments before, during, and after the events are blameworthy, he did not evince the angry, nihilistic demeanor displayed by a significant number of the other January 6 defendants.

The claim he wore no distinctive clothing is irrelevant, as that was what Proud Boys were ordered to do that day. And his complaint that he still bears a Proud Boy tattoo raises questions why he hasn’t removed it to limit the “lifelong” consequences of once having belonged to the group.

The defendant acknowledges that he became a member of the Proud Boys Dallas Fort Worth Chapter in in 2017, but he is adamant that resigned from the organization in 2019 because it was becoming “too political.” Mr. DeCarlo is well aware that his prior membership in the Proud Boys will have lifelong consequences; if nothing else, he had the words Proud Boys” tattooed on his left arm. The defendant is emphatic, however, that he left the Proud Boys in 2019 and the Government’s effort to connect him to the group thereafter is based upon nothing more than conjecture, suspicion, and innuendo and ought to be rejected by this Court. 1

And when disavowing the import of December calls with Tarrio and Gavin McInnes, DeCarlo doesn’t name McInnes.

1 The Government notes that the defendant stated he was “in contact” with Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys, in December 2019. The Government has no idea whether the two men actually spoke and if so, what was the topic of conversation. Similarly, the prosecution states that based upon data collected from his cellular phone, Mr. DeCarlo “called” another Proud Boy leader the day that the former President announced that he would be speaking on the Mall on January 6, 2021. Again, the Government does not state if the data reveals the two men actually spoke and the prosecution makes no representation as to the nature of any such conversation. [my emphasis]

Here’s how DOJ described those claimed and real contacts.

DeCarlo flew from Texas and met with Ochs in Virginia, where they shared a hotel room. That night, DeCarlo posted a 15 minute “selfie” video stream titled BlackVill’d: Twas the Night Before Revolution!!! to the Murder the Media/ThunderdomeTV Facebook page. DeCarlo said he spoke to “Enrique,” “who isn’t even allowed in D.C.,” referring to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who had been arrested the day before and ordered to stay out of Washington, D.C. 3 DeCarlo stated that they would be getting a “nice early interview” with Enrique the next day. He also said that he had “a lot of shit planned for tomorrow.”

[snip]

Evidence recovered from DeCarlo’s phone indicates that, on December 19, 2020, the same day that then-President Trump announced plans for a “wild” rally in Washington, D.C., DeCarlo called Gavin McInness, the founder of the Proud Boys.

There’s a lot unsaid here, and it goes further than DOJ’s choice not to name Donohoe and DeCarlo’s choice not to name McInnes. It may suggest a factionalism in the Proud Boys that has since grown more acute.

Remember, too, that after doing the mandatory FBI interview with Ochs, the government chose not to do one with DeCarlo. So on October 4, DeCarlo went and did one with the January 6 Committee instead (and is trying to claim credit for that).

October 4, 2022, the defendant participated in a virtual interview with staff members of the House Select Committee for several hours. Mr. DeCarlo gave them a narrative of the events that led to his presence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 and responded to the Committee’s questions. He also voluntarily provided them with access to the contents of his electronic devices.

Again, there’s a lot that has been said and left unsaid.

The Additional Complexities of the Proud Boy Sedition Case

Some weeks ago, someone involved in the Proud Boy case emailed me a personal invitation to the Proud Boy leader trial later this year: “please accept my invitation to come report on the proceedings in person.  In my opinion, it will prove far more interesting than the OK trial.” It had been a long time since I had heard from this person — since I warned him, for a second time, I would not treat his emails to me as presumptively off the record, because by then the frequency of them and the conflicts between what he said about the First Amendment publicly and what he said to me on emails had become newsworthy in and of itself.

I have no intention of traveling to DC for the Proud Boy trial. Like the Oath Keeper one, there will be scores of journalists who are very familiar with the case who will do great live coverage. I would add little, if anything.

But this person’s promise that the trial will be more interesting than the Oath Keeper one is a sound prediction. To be clear: I think the evidence shows that the Proud Boys are far more complicit in the attack on democracy on January 6 than the Oath Keepers, who were mostly whack right wingers with delusions of grandeur. But I also recognize that the Proud Boy case has been far more difficult for DOJ to put together than the Oath Keeper one, in significant part because they have been more successful at cultivating authoritarian law enforcement that likes their mob culture.

Remember, several Proud Boys, including Tarrio, worked with Roger Stone to threaten Amy Berman Jackson and Bill Barr’s DOJ treated it as a mere legal technicality. The Proud Boys got sanction, as a mob, from the President’s own mouth, which had ripple effects throughout government on the way they were treated.

So I wanted to look at three indications of the difficulties the Proud Boy prosecution may face that the Oath Keeper prosecutors did not.

Delayed phone exploitation

First, in a hearing yesterday in the case against five men who were co-travellers with Joe Biggs the day of the attack, prosecutor Nadia Moore mentioned that she had just provided the “scoped” phones from (I think) Paul Rae and Eddie George — “scoped” is what they call it when the FBI pulls out the things that are responsive to a warrant. That’s a fairly shocking delay in exploiting their phones. Rae was arrested on March 24, 2021 and George was arrested on July 15, 2021. But it’s true that a May discovery index from the Proud Boy leader case only shows a scoped LG Tablet from George, with no scoped phone listed for either (though there is a phone video from Rae listed).

It may well be that — like Enrique Tarrio — they had really complex passwords on their phone. It took over a year to exploit the content of his phone, even though it was seized before January 6. There appear to be others, too, whose phones were not yet exploited in May.

Aside from a delay in the scoping of Stewart Rhodes’ phone due to the volume of encrypted texts on it and a privilege review holding up the exploitation of Kellye SoRelle’s phone, there were no known similar delays on the Oath Keeper side.

Complicit FBI and law enforcement

While the Oath Keepers, like the Proud Boys, intentionally recruit law enforcement, the Proud Boys have been better at co-opting cops. Around five of the charged Proud Boys were former or still cops when charged. Tarrio had been a formal informant during a prior criminal prosecution. And several other members of the Proud Boys, including Joe Biggs, provided information to the FBI about what they claimed were Antifa.

Biggs described his own relationship with the FBI this way:

By late 2018, Biggs also started to get “cautionary” phone calls from FBI agents located in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach inquiring about what Biggs meant by something politically or culturally provocative he had said on the air or on social media concerning a national issue, political parties, the Proud Boys, Antifa or other groups. Biggs regularly satisfied FBI personnel with his answers. He also stayed in touch with a number of FBI agents in and out of Florida. In late July 2020, an FBI Special Agent out of the Daytona Beach area telephoned Biggs and asked Biggs to meet with him and another FBI agent at a local restaurant. Biggs agreed. Biggs learned after he travelled to the restaurant that the purpose of the meeting was to determine if Biggs could share information about Antifa networks operating in Florida and elsewhere. They wanted to know what Biggs was “seeing on the ground.” Biggs did have information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks in other parts of the United States. He agreed to share the information. The three met for approximately two hours. After the meeting, Biggs stayed in touch with the agent who had called him originally to set up the meeting. He answered follow-up questions in a series of several phone calls over the next few weeks. They spoke often.

This is the same office where an FBI Agent, in August, refused to participate in the arrest of militia-associated men who planned to bring weapons to January 6. The agent then ran to Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, bitching, after his clearance was suspended because he didn’t like the way FBI was running domestic terrorism investigations.

The single FBI informant known to have been present on January 6 appears not to have told his handlers about a meeting he was at the night before where using violence was discussed. And so DOJ has given two members of the Kansas City Proud Boy cell who were with him — Ryan Ashlock and Louis Colon — unbelievably sweet plea deals, I suspect to sustain the rest of the cases against the Proud Boys.

Both Tarrio and Biggs have made specific requests for their own communications with law enforcement — in Tarrio’s case, he claims it is Brady material. That is, they plan to argue they couldn’t be guilty of plotting against the government because they’ve been so chummy with often right wing authoritarian cops in the past.

Witness backsliding

The Proud Boys have also been very good at pressuring witnesses not to testify against the mob. It had seemed that Ryan Samsel might enter into a plea deal describing what transpired between him and Biggs right before he kicked off the entire riot, for example, until Samsel was assaulted in still unexplained circumstances at the DC jail. Zach Rehl seemed like he was considering a plea deal until Tarrio called Rehl’s wife about it.

Jeff Finley, who was a co-traveller of Rehl’s, seems like he cooperated his way into a misdemeanor plea deal (like Brandon Straka is known to have), but in a July request for a four-month continuance, the government seemed to suggest they weren’t sure how complicit Finley was.

The government requests this continuance to allow time for the parties to fully evaluate the nature and seriousness of the defendant’s misconduct and for the parties to prepare a full and complete allocution to assist this Court in its sentencing.

All this is background to the Jeremy Bertino plea rolled out yesterday. Bertino was a high level Proud Boy who, because he was injured in a December 12 brawl, was not present on January 6, but was closely involved in discussions in advance of it.

Bertino’s possible arrest has been anticipated for months. A misdemeanor docket for Bertino was briefly unsealed on September 15 but then sealed. Yesterday, he pled guilty to one count of seditious conspiracy and one count of unlawful weapons possession for a small arsenal he had in spite of a past felony conviction. He is, as everyone (including me) has reported, the first Proud Boy to plead to seditious conspiracy. And he’s another participant in key leadership discussions in advance of the attack.

His statement of offense, however, leads me to wonder whether he didn’t get this plea deal in part to keep Charles Donohoe — who like Bertino is from North Carolina, and who pled guilty to obstruction and assault in April — from backsliding as a cooperator.

Most of the new details the SOO provides focus on 2020, describing how the Proud Boys radicalized in late 2020 and emphasizing the import of the December 12, 2020 confrontations, including explicit discussions about using Tarrio’s anticipated arrest to rile people up against the cops. The description of changing attitudes about the cops (something that has featured in Proud Boy indictments from the start) may serve to combat Tarrio and Biggs’ efforts to claim chumminess with the cops.

Bertino further understood that due to a number of negative interactions with law enforcement, including the events of December 12, the Proud Boys increasingly viewed police as the enemy and Proud Boy members increasingly referred to the police as “coptifa,” meaning that they viewed the police as siding with Antifa.

The SOO explains that Bertino did not know what plan Biggs and Nordean came up with at a still unexplained meeting around 9PM on January 5. A very similar paragraph appears in Donohoe’s statement of offense.

What I’m most surprised about is who it includes and who it excludes: The SOO names Donohoe at least twelve times — sworn statements implicating Donohoe in events, many of which he himself admitted to in his own SOO. That shouldn’t be necessary for a cooperating witness (though because they were both in the Carolinas, the two men would have worked closely together). While it mentions Person-3, whom Alan Feuer has identified as John Stewart, it does not name Aaron Wolkind at all, referred to frequently in earlier Proud Boy materials as Person-2. With the exception of Person-3 (who is not yet charged), the focus is entirely on those already charged in the leaders conspiracy, not any other Proud Boys.

It is undoubtedly an important step to get a plea to sedition from someone who wasn’t even present the day of the attack. But that doesn’t alleviate the many things that make this case more complex than the Oath Keeper one.

The “We the People Plan” Is Evidence of Tarrio’s Motive, But Not His Plan

As part of a renewed motion for bond for her client Zach Rehl, Carmen Hernandez released a copy of the “We the People” plan referenced in the indictments that include Enrique Tarrio. The document is disturbing and in some way reflects the plan to occupy the Capitol achieved during the insurrection on January 6. And it is evidence reflecting Tarrio’s — though not necessarily Rehl’s — motive. But it is not Tarrio’s plan.

We the People Plan

The plan itself consists of nine pages. The last two — intended for public consumption as a recruiting device — issue a demand for a new election on January 20, pledge fondness for Rand Paul and Ron DeSantis, and include a map.

The other seven pages lay out the plan to occupy Congressional office buildings and CNN but not the Capitol itself (one of the points Hernandez makes in her bond motion). The goal was to occupy the buildings with as “many people as possible inside these buildings” and then “present[] our demands in unity.”

The plan envisioned spending January 1 through 5, as well as on January 6 itself, recruiting as many participants as possible, using the public flier. Then, in advance of the attack on January 6, the buildings would be scouted by people wearing suits to blend in. For each building, the plan aspired to recruit a “covert sleeper” who would use a ruse to get inside the building and let others in, with a backup if the first person is discovered. This plan to have someone from the inside open doors to let others in does resemble something that happened on the East side of the Capitol, as Joe Biggs, the Oath Keepers, and the mob led there by Alex Jones all assembled in time for someone to open that door from inside.

The plan advocated using COVID masking to obscure identities (something none of the Proud Boys did, though one of Rehl’s co-travelers, as well as a few others, did a superb job of hiding his face via other means). It also proposed ways to distract by occupying other locations (like hotels and WalMart) and to block select roads in DC. There were conflicting chants — the same people who would chant “No Trump, No America” were also going to demand, “Free and fair elections,” which Trump lost. The plan advocating “sit[ting] in” key Senators’ offices, but then didn’t really understand what to do next.

One area where the plan most closely matches the one ultimately implemented by the Proud Boys was in timing: The mob was supposed to meet at 1PM, then an assessment would be made at 1:22PM if “enough people are around?,” then at 1:30, “Wait for sign from lead, storm the building.” Compare that timeline to this one put together by the Sedition Hunters. Both, importantly, were tied to the vote certification, not Trump’s speech.

The plan appears to have been developed by one or another of the “patriot” groups, which were separate from but with which the Proud Boys had some ties (and, at least in the case of some “Patriots” from Texas, fundraising ties). DOJ has only charged individual pairs of such rioters with conspiracy, even though there was a larger network passing such plans back and forth.

But this was their plan, not the Proud Boys’ plan.

Zach Rehl’s disproportionate charging

And that’s one of the points that Hernandez made in the bond motion. Rehl — and the other charged defendants — had no awareness of the document (though that would not include Jeremy Bertino, who is not currently a charged defendant).

The document was never shared or otherwise discussed with Mr. Rehl. 1776 Returns was sent to Mr. Tarrio by a female acquaintance. Mr. Rehl does not know the woman who sent the document and has not had any conversations with her. The government has represented that Tarrio did not forward the document to Mr. Rehl or the other defendants. And that Tarrio did not discuss the document or its contents with Mr. Rehl and the other defendants.

As I’ll show below, in the government’s theory of the conspiracy, in which Tarrio was a hierarchical head of the militia, that may not matter. The government has accused Rehl of following Tarrio’s plan, not this one.

Hernandez makes another point I find much more persuasive, though. Rehl is included in a sedition conspiracy with Tarrio, the hierarchical leader, Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, the onsite leaders who discussed an orally agreed plan starting on January 5, and Dominic Pezzola, whose actions were absolutely crucial from a tactical standpoint. Compared to them, he did play a smaller role in the conspiracy. As conspiracies work legally, that doesn’t necessarily help him much at trial, but this is a bond motion, and it might.

Hernandez cites one of Rehl’s co-travelers, who include Isaiah Giddings, Brian Healion, and Freedom Vy, stating that Rehl wasn’t really in charge and they just entered the Capitol to take a peak.

After the initial breach, [defendant] was with Zach [and two others]. [They] wanted to “go in and take a peek” and that they made the decision to enter the Capitol Building as a group. [Defendant] was curious as to what was going on inside the CapitolBuilding. . . . They left the building as a group.”

It’s true that these three men have, thus far, just been charged with a misdemeanor. But after Hernandez filed this filing yesterday, the prosecutor in their case, Alexis Loeb, filed for a continuance so prosecutors could continue to discuss a pre-charging resolution with these defendants.

The parties therefore request a 69-day continuance to allow defense counsel to continue their review of the discovery in this case. The requested continuance will also allow the government to continue to make progress providing additional discovery and continue discussions potential pre-charging resolution of this matter.

Hernandez also cites Jeff Finley’s treatment, who was with Rehl for part of the day (Hernandez refers to Finley having a cooperation agreement, which may confirm something that was fairly clear from his treatment).

By his own admission, on January 6, Finley marched with the Proud Boys from the start and participated and posted on the Boots on the Ground telegram chat. Id. (ECF 38) at ¶ 8. Finley watched as the barricades were torn down; after the crowd overran law enforcement, he followed the crowd onto the west terrace of the Capitol; and also invited other members of his chapter to join him at the Capitol. During these events, Finley 8 posed for a photograph with Mr. Rehl and three other Philadelphia Proud Boys “on the Upper West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol during the breach.” 9

After entering the Capitol and observing barricades torn down and the crowd overrunning law enforcement, Finley posted a video message, which among other things celebrated the events of the day and congratulated Mr. Rehl (“Yo, [Zach Rehl], proud of your (sic) fucking boy”). Finley (ECF 38) at ¶ 23. Finley deleted social media posts and photographs of himself and other Proud Boys at the Capitol and directed members of his chapter to do the same. Id. Despite almost identical 10 conduct by Finley and notwithstanding the allegations that Finley obstructed justice by deleting and directing members of his chapter to delete posts, the government did not consider Finley a risk of danger and did not seek his detention pretrial.

10 “Following the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Finley took measures to obstruct the government’s investigation into criminal conduct at the Capitol. Among other things, Finley deleted his social media accounts and deleted photos and videos of himself and other Proud Boys at the Capitol. Finley also directed members of his chapter to delete their photographs and advised the presidents of other Proud Boys chapters of his actions, writing in an encrypted message, “Deleted all photos I may have had, advised my boys to as well. No talks about dc on telegram whatsoever and gathering #s as we speak.” Finley (ECF 38) at ¶ 24

According to Hernandez, the single thing that distinguishes Rehl from Finley is that Rehl was a member of the Ministry of Self Defense that Tarrio created in December 2020 as a leadership structure for what came next. She argues, in defiance of years of Proud Boy modus operandi, that the group was formed to avoid violence (rather than to better to incite it from others). And several things she cites actually hurt her argument. She cites Tarrio’s demand for a top-down structure, for example.

Now that goes with the whole thing. I don’t want this – this isn’t a foke (phonetic) thing. This isn’t a fuckin’, a thing where it’s going to be a fuckin’ super militant fuckin’ thing, but we do need to organize better and in order to do that, we need to have a top down structure, right.

She makes much of Tarrio’s demand that the Proud Boys will not, henceforth, be the ones to cross police barricades.

MR. TARRIO: Yeah, I mean every situation calls for something different, you know. Like we’re – I think on the verbalsense and the media sense, me and Biggs has got in on lock, where we know exactly what we’re going to say that will piss off the media. And you can translate that to on the grounds. Now I’m not saying, now I’m not saying to go ahead and fuckin’ talk shit. Go ahead and talk shit, as long as it, you know, keep it fuckin’ professional. But we’re never going to be the ones to cross the police barrier or cross something in order to get to somebody. We’re always going to be the ones standing back, right, and we’re always going to be the ones to fuckin’ defend. [Hernandez’ emphasis]

The Proud Boys weren’t the ones who crossed the barricade first on January 6. Instead, Joe Biggs made some comments to Ryan Samsel, and Samsel pushed over the barricades, giving Officer Caroline Edwards a lasting brain injury in the process and setting off hundreds of people behind him.

And Hernandez points to Bertino’s warnings (whom she names in a piece that also describes that Person-1 is the guy who, like Bertino, got stabbed at an earlier Proud Boy fight) about being stabbed to excuse the body armor the Proud Boys wore on a day when they targeted the Capitol at a time when few if any Antifa were present.

There’s a long redacted passage that, she explains, “refute the allegation that … MOSD planned a violent attack on the Capitol.”

Matters considered by the Court under seal also refute the allegation that the Proud Boys and the MOSD planned a violent attack on the Capitol.

This seems to be a reference to one of, if not the primary extended sealed dispute in this docket before Judge Kelly. Given Hernandez’ description of it, it may be the testimony of an FBI informant who repeatedly denied any such plans. Except that informant went to insurrection with the Kansas City cell of Proud Boys, and two of them — Louis Colon and Ryan Ashcroft — have since pled guilty to statements of offense that seem to directly counter the claims of their co-traveler.

Finally, Hernandez presents what is solid evidence that Rehl was not part of the planning discussions that did go on between Tarrio, Biggs, and Nordean, but which is not evidence that there was no plan.

That was the only plan communicated to the MOSD, to Boots-on-the-Ground and to Mr. Rehl. See also TSI at ¶¶ 63-65; Donohoe Plea (ECF 336 at ¶¶ 22-24). Note also that Mr. Rehl’s understanding of the plan was, as discussed in the 12/30 MOSD meeting, to break off into smaller teams. Mr. Rehl was not with Biggs and Nordean on the evening of January 5 and Tarrio was not in DC. Mr. Rehl did not speak with Tarrio by phone on January 5 or January 6. Compare TSI at 22 ¶¶ 63, 105. Thus, any communications between Mr. Rehl and Biggs, Nordean, or Tarrio on January 5, would have been on telegram. No message exists where they discuss a plan to attack the Capitol.

There was a meeting on January 5 involving Biggs and Nordean, after which Biggs explained that he had a plan that had been discussed with Tarrio. Rehl was not in that loop (and indeed had only just made it to DC). But there are repeated references to this plan.

I lay all this out for two reasons. First, probably because of some difficulties with the prosecution (including the number of Proud Boy informants, including Joe Biggs, that the FBI took to be credible and so got lied to), DOJ’s prosecutorial decisions don’t make transparent sense in the way they do with the Oath Keeper conspiracy, which has been a relentless march towards more senior plotters. But also because, at least according to the government’s theory of how this worked (which does appear in both Matthew Greene and Charles Donohoe’s statements of offense), this attack was implemented using a top-down structure led by a guy, Tarrio, giving oral instructions from offsite. And those oral instructions may have been influenced by the plans of others that Tarrio was known to be in contact with in December, only one of which is this “We the People” plan.

Tarrio’s motive and plan

And that’s why, I would argue, the “We the People” document is in the existing conspiracy indictments. It led Tarrio to express his own motive twice. The sedition indictment has two references to it. First, in regards to discussions Tarrio had with the woman who shared it with him in December, well before the Proud Boy plan was finalized.

41. Between December 30 and December 31, 2020, TARRIO communicated multiple times with an individual whose identity is known to the grand jury. On December 30, 2020, this individual sent TARRIO a nine-page document tiled, “1776 Returns.” The document set forth a plan to oceupy a few “crucial buildings” in Washington, D.C., on January 6, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, with as “many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People are in charge.” After sending the document, the individual stated, “The revolution is important than anything.” TARRIO responded, “That’s what every waking moment consists of… I’m not playing games.”

To her (using a phone Tarrio believed would not be exploited, and which did take a year to be exploited), he agreed that “the revolution is [sic] important than anything,” Tarrio seemingly agreed that “every waking moment” he spent was dedicated to that revolution.

Then, after an attack led by the Proud Boys (who had succeeded in recruiting others to break through the barricades) Tarrio made a reference that suggests Bertino — referred to here as Person-1 — does know about this plan.

107. At 7:39 pm, PERSON-I sent two text messages to TARRIO that read, “Brother. ‘You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today.” TARRIO responded, “I know” At 7:44 pm. the conversation continued, with PERSON-I texting, “1776 motherfuckers.” TARRIO responded, “The Winter Palace.” PERSON-1 texted, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” TARRIO responded, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” PERSON-1 stated, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.” These messages were exchanged before the Senate returned to its chamber at approximately 8:00 p.m. to resume certifying the Electoral College vote.

In response to Bertino’s boast of 1776, Tarrio responded with the code for occupying buildings, Winter Palace. That is, this seems to be his tacit reference to the plan to occupy buildings.

But this exchange goes well beyond that of the We the People plan, which imagined issuing a set of demands but didn’t know what would happen next. This occupation, as reflected by Bertino’s awareness that “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid,” reflects some knowledge of the entire legal theory espoused by people like John Eastman: that to succeed in winning their demands, occupiers needed to ensure that the certification did not happen as scheduled.

Rehl has a point (though prosecutors, being prosecutors, would note that it’s the same point that Donohoe, who only came to DC on January 6 to fill in for Tarrio after the Proud Boy leader predictably got arrested and so retreated to Baltimore for the actual violence) came to: that Tarrio set up this conspiracy to insulate himself, leaving people like Donohoe and Rehl to take the fall for his plan.

The January 6 Militia Witnesses Are Cooperating with DOJ, Probably Not the January 6 Committee

Liz Cheney made a comment in Thursday’s public hearing that has attracted some attention. As part of her explanation that the January 6 investigation is ongoing, she said,

As we present these initial findings, keep two points in mind. First, our investigation is still ongoing. So what we make public here will not be the complete set of information we will ultimately disclose. And second, the Department of Justice is currently working with cooperating witnesses and has disclosed to date only some of the information it has identified from encrypted communications and other sources.

Some have wondered whether this reflects some kind of insight into where the DOJ investigation is headed.

I doubt that Cheney’s comment reflects any greater insight into where DOJ is headed than I’ve gotten from tracking DOJ’s investigation closely, though as I’ll explain below, the Committee undoubtedly has non-public insight into how the militias coordinated with those close to Trump. (One possible — and important — exception to this assumption might be Joshua James, the Oath Keeper who is known to have testified in an NYPD inquiry targeting Roger Stone associate Sal Greco.)

While the Committee showed clips of depositions it had with Stewart Rhodes (pleading the Fifth in response to a question about arming members), Enrique Tarrio (expressing regret he didn’t monetize the Stand Back and Stand By comment), and Jeremy Bertino (who is Person-1 in the sedition indictment charging the Proud Boy leaders and who told the Committee that membership tripled in response to Trump’s comment), the more substantive claims about the militias on Thursday always cited the indictments against them, not evidence independently gathered by the Committee.

For example, Cheney described how Trump’s December 19, 2020 tweet, “initiated a chain of events. The tweet led to the planning for what occurred on January 6, including by the Proud Boys, who ultimately led the invasion of the Capitol and the violence on that day.” In his questioning of documentarian Nick Quested, Bennie Thompson likewise cited the indictment against the Proud Boys for claims about the lead-up to the attack.

To be sure, Thompson laid out details of the attack that are not generally known, but which are public: the Proud Boys skipped Trump’s speech and kicked off their attack to coincide with the Joint Session, not Trump’s speech; the Proud Boys first attacked at the site where the mob soon to be led by Alex Jones would arrive. I’ve laid out some of these dynamics in this post, and the Sedition Hunters have developed two detailed timelines that show how this worked, one describing the phases of the attack, and another capturing key communications of those implicated in it.

I’ve likewise noted what Cheney has: The Proud Boys — and virtually everyone else who organized in advance — responded to Trump’s tweet as if it was an order. I’ve also described — in a post called, “Back Was Stood, And By Was Stood: The Passive Voice Behind the Top Down Structure of the Charles Donohoe Statement of Offense” — how in cooperating witness Charles Donohoe’s Statement of Offense, DOJ for the first time used the passive voice to describe how the riot was announced.

[T]he foundation of that hierarchy that is so remarkable.

On December 19, 2020, plans were announced for a protest event in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, which protest would coincide with Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

On or before December 20, 2020, Tarrio approached Donohoe and solicited his interest in joining the leadership of a new chapter of the Proud Boys, called the Ministry of Self Defense (“MOSD”). Donohoe understood from Tarrio that the new chapter would be focused on the planning and execution of national rallies and would consist of hand-selected “rally” boys. Donohoe felt privileged to be included and agreed to participate.

Close to every other filing in the January 6 case that mentions the announcement of these plans actually cites what was taken as the formal announcement: Trump’s tweet, in response to which hundreds if not thousands of rioters began to make plans to come to DC.

Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK . A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

The import of that December 19 tweet was clear even in real time; the NYT and WaPo recently returned to the central role it plays in a great number of January 6 cases.

But this statement of offense instead presents what was viewed as an order from Trump in the passive voice: “Plans were announced.” Trump announced those plans, as every other charging document makes clear.

And the next day, in response to that announcement, Tarrio started building that top-down hierarchical structure that would go on to intentionally assault the Capitol and cops.

There are many things this statement of offense does with that masterful use of the passive voice. It implicates, without mentioning, people like Peter Navarro and Ali Alexander, the former because he was mentioned in the tweet and the latter because he was organizing it. The statement of offense makes clear that Tarrio told Donohoe and other Ministry of Self Defense leaders about what their plan was, but doesn’t reveal what he has shared, particularly what he shared about direct planning with people close to Trump. Indeed, the language of the statement of offense leaves open the possibility that Tarrio was moving on this even before the public launch of the riot by Trump.

But most importantly, without naming him, this structure puts Trump at the head of that hierarchy that bears top-down responsibility for the intentional violence and damage in the service of obstructing the vote certification.

The implication from the Statement of Offense is that Donohoe learned certain things starting on December 20 that he has shared with prosecutors. One reason I’m pretty sure that prosecutors haven’t shared it with the Committee, yet, is because Donohoe’s cooperation does not show up in the discovery index provided to the defendants themselves on May 12, over a month after Donohoe flipped, which prosecutors filed publicly last week. Similarly, prosecutors have not yet explicitly told defense attorneys the person who shared a plan with Tarrio talking about occupying the Capitol, though they have the returns for Tarrio’s phone that should help defense attorneys learn that person’s identity.

(I do wonder whether a challenge to a very recent call records subpoena from the Committee by Russian-American Kristina Malimon, discovered by Kyle Cheney, not to mention the high profile former Trump impeachment lawyers representing her, means the Committee thinks they’ve figured out the person’s identity, though.)

The schedule of upcoming January 6 hearings explains one reason why Cheney referenced the ongoing investigation when citing DOJ’s cooperating witnesses:

  • June 13: The Big Lie
  • June 15: Decapitate DOJ
  • June 16: Pressuring Pence
  • June 21: Pressuring the States
  • Hearing 6: Trump Assembles a Mob and Sics it on Congress
  • Hearing 7: Trump Does Nothing as Capitol Is Attacked

The dates for the last two hearings, hearings that will include details about how the Proud Boys paused their attack to await reinforcements brought by Alex Jones, opened a second front in seeming coordination with the Oath Keepers and Jones, and considered a second assault until learning the National Guard had finally been deployed, are not known yet. Whenever they are, though, they’ll come after June 21, and therefore after the June 17 discovery deadline in the Proud Boy Leaders case. DOJ has said they won’t supersede the Leaders indictment beyond what it currently is (meaning no more co-conspirators will be added to it). But the fates of Persons-1 (Bertino), -2, and -3 are up in the air right now, as well as a number of charged Proud Boys (like Ron Loehrke), who played key roles in the tactical success of the attack but who have not yet been indicted. Similarly, the fates of those known to coordinate most closely with the militias — Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander — remain uncertain.

Who knows? Their fates may be less uncertain between now and the last Committee hearing!

To be clear: as Chairman Thompson told Jake Tapper this week, the Committee does know of some of the coordination. I’ve heard of a communication implicating Stone that I believe the Committee has. Alex Jones complained about how many communications the Committee — specifically those of Cindy Chafian and Caroline Wren — had obtained, and one or both of them also communicated with Tarrio. A key focus of the testimony of Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence — and surely, Katrina Pierson, whom Stone and his associates have tried to blame for the attack — described their panic after Trump told his mob to walk to the Capitol. That testimony must explain why Pierson fought so hard to keep Wren’s chosen speakers, including Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Brandon Straka, and others, off the stage. This fight also shows up in Mark Meadows’ texts. And Ali Alexander testified for eight hours; we’ll see how successfully the Committee debunked his already-debunked cover story, but Alexander lost his shit during the hearing on Thursday. The role of the Stop the Steal effort in delivering bodies to the right places at the Capitol is the most important known coordination from the day of the attack.

Rudy Giuliani also had communications with Proud Boy associate James Sullivan, Mike Flynn had some ties to militias (especially the First Amendment Praetorians), and Sidney Powell was paying for the defense of a number of militia members.

The Committee knows a great deal about how Trump’s mob got directed to the Capitol. But I suspect they’re still waiting to learn all the details that cooperating witnesses have provided.


Known cooperating witnesses

Oath Keepers

Jon Schaffer: The substance of Schaffer’s cooperation against the Oath Keepers is still not clear (and could well extend beyond them).

Graydon Young: Young interacted with Roger Stone in the weeks leading up to the attack, may know details of the alliance struck between Proud Boys and Florida Oath Keepers, and was part of the First Stack to bust into the Capitol; he also implicated his sister.

Mark Grods: Grods was the first Oath Keeper who was present at the Willard the day of the attack to flip, and likely provided details of the QRF and implicated Joshua James.

Caleb Berry: Berry would provide more details of Oath Keeper activities, potentially implicating Stone, in Florida, and also was witness to the attempt to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

Jason Dolan: Dolan would explain why he and Kenneth Harrelson were waiting at the top of the East Stairs when the First Stack, Joe Biggs and his co-travelers, and Alex Jones and Ali Alexander converged there before the door was opened from the inside.

Joshua James: James called in reports from someone who is almost certainly Stone the day of the attack, participated in key discussions with Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, and Mike Simpson during the attack, and was closely involved in Rhodes’ continued efforts after January 6.

Brian Ulrich: Ulrich would provide details of planning specific to Georgia Oath Keepers and the advance planning in December.

Todd Wilson:  Wilson would explain the mobilization of the North Carolina Oath Keepers; he also witnessed a call Rhodes made to someone close to Trump after the riot.

Proud Boys

Matthew Greene: Greene will explain details of the communications involved the day of the attack and the specific goal to pressure Mike Pence.

Charles Donohoe: Donohoe will provide prosecutors an inside understanding of how the leadership of the Proud Boys worked, including with whom Tarrio may have been working starting in December and details about Tarrio’s arrest, which led Donohoe to try to fill in.

Louis Colon: A Kansas City Proud Boy who received perhaps the most favorable deal will undoubtedly implicate his co-conspirators and describe how the cell structure of the Proud Boys worked on January 6; he may also provide important debunking of someone who had been an FBI informant the day of the attac.

Others

Gina Bisignano: Bisignano cooperated against her fellow SoCal anti-maskers, but in the light of Carl Nichols’ rejection of DOJ’s application of obstruction, is attempting to withdraw her guilty plea. A hearing on her attempt to withdraw her plea will be held on June 22. She has not withdrawn her stated intent, one directly influenced by Trump’s speech, to pressure Mike Pence.

Josiah Colt: Colt cooperated against his co-conspirators, Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave, describing how they armed themselves and helped open both the East Door and the Senate Gallery.

Klete Keller: The substance of Keller’s cooperation is not known.

Jacob Fracker: Fracker testified against fellow VA cop Thomas Robertson.

Robert Lyon: Lyon testified against his co-defendant, Dustin Thompson.

Misdemeanor cooperators

Virtually all plea deals require the defendant to share their social media and sit for an interview with the FBI. A handful of defendants are known to have convinced prosecutors to drop or hold off felony charges by providing limited cooperation (including sharing encrypted communications) in advance. They are believed to include:

Jeff Finley: Finley was a co-traveler of Proud Boy Zach Rehl on January 6.

Brandon Straka: Straka who was among those excluded from speaking on January 6,  was on Ali Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv, and spent time with Mike Flynn before heading to the Capitol.

Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet: Baked Alaska could share communications involving white nationalists like Nick Fuentes. But Gionet fucked up his plea colloquy, so prosecutors can charge him with a felony incorporating his cooperation if he doesn’t plead by July 10 (not like I’m counting days but that’s less than a month away).

Jacob Hiles: Hiles cooperated against Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley and his buddy James Horning.

Father and son Proud Boy pair Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace likely also avoided felony exposure by cooperating (though Jeffrey’s plea just got pushed back two weeks); they spent much of January 6 with Ron Loehrke.

Quoting Enrique Tarrio Invoking “The Winter Palace,” DOJ Charges the Proud Boys with Sedition

DOJ just charged the Proud Boy leaders with seditious conspiracy. There are two main differences from the earlier indictment adding Enrique Tarrio to the conspiracy (a charge of 18 USC 372 was also added).

First, Charles Donohoe is no longer referred to as a co-conspirator. He is described as a cooperator.

Charles Donohoe is a 34-year-old resident of Kenersville, North Carolina. On January 6, 2021, Donohoe was the president of his local chapter of the Proud Boys.

Second, the indictment added this exchange.

At 7:39 pm, PERSON-1 sent two text messages to TARRIO that read, “Brother. ‘You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today.” TARRIO responded, “I know” At 7:44 pm. the conversation continued, with PERSON-1 texting, “1776 motherfuckers.” TARRIO responded, “The Winter Palace.” PERSON-1 texted, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” TARRIO responded, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” PERSON-1 stated, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.” These messages were exchanged before the Senate returned to its chamber at approximately 8:00 p.m. to resume certifying the Electoral College vote.

In this post, I noted that last week prosecutors were being coy about whether to expect a superseding indictment, even while the discovery index shared last week did not, yet, reflect the cooperation of Donohoe.

The cooperation of Donohoe appears to have gotten them to seditious conspiracy, though in ways they’re hiding from most other potential co-conspirators.

That is, Donohoe’s cooperation appears to have gotten prosecutors to the point of charging sedition.

Update: As a number of people have noted, the reference to Winter Palace is a reference to occupying the Capitol.

The nine-page planning document, titled “1776 Returns,” is mentioned briefly in the federal indictment filed last week against Tarrio, who is accused of orchestrating key participants in the US Capitol attack that day. A source revealed more details than were previously known about the plan.

In court, prosecutors described an unnamed person sending Tarrio the document in late December 2020.

“The revolution is important,” the person told him. According to prosecutors, Tarrio replied: “That’s what every waking moment consists of … I’m not playing games.”

The written plan doesn’t mention violence and contains two prongs — one called “Storm the Winter Palace” in which organizers would “fill the buildings with patriots” and another called the “Patriot Plan.” That one-page list of demands would be distributed in the streets, declaring “we the people” request a new election on January 20, 2021, and falsely claiming “the evidence of election fraud is overwhelming.”

Though the document doesn’t call for seizing the US Capitol, its timing and themes track closely to the 1 p.m. ET assembly of the rioting crowd on Capitol Hill that ultimately overtook the Capitol building.

 

The Tactics of the Louis Enrique Colon Cooperation Agreement

As Capitol Police attempted to lower a barricade protecting the tunnels of the Capitol on January 6, Proud Boy Louis Enrique Colon reached out and prevented it from closing, then placed a chair to further obstruct the gate.

While inside the Capitol building, defendant observed co-defendants Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold at various points inside of the building, including in a downstairs area of the Capitol near where several retractable doors were being lowered by police officers in an attempt to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building. To prevent one of the doors from closing, defendant used his hands to stop the door and placed a chair in the door’s path, while co-defendant Kuehne and another individual placed a podium in the path of another door.

That’s the basis of the single charge to which Colon pled guilty as part of a cooperation agreement yesterday, 18 USC 231, Civil Disorder.

Defendant knowingly obstructed, impeded, and interfered with law enforcement officers while those officers were lawfully engaged in their official duties incident to a civil disorder that was occurring inside of the Capitol. Among other things, defendant prevented officers from closing a retractable door which was intended to prevent rioters from advancing further into a portion of the restricted Capitol building.

In my opinion, this is, by any measure, the most lenient overt plea deal a January 6 defendant has gotten (and a comment that one of the lawyers in the plea hearing yesterday made suggested that it had recently been sweetened). On top of this charge and trespassing, Colon was originally charged in a conspiracy with other members of the Kansas City Proud Boys, as well as individually with obstruction. With credit for cooperation, according to his plea deal, the former cop may avoid any prison time.

That’s all the more remarkable given that Colon’s statement of offense reveals that he went to the Capitol with a pocket knife and an axe handle.

Among other things, defendant purchased and modified an axe handle to be used as both a walking stick and an improvised weapon

[snip]

Defendant and the group ultimately made their way to the west side of the Capitol’s grounds, outside of the restricted, fenced-off perimeter which had barricades staffed by USCP officers. At the time, defendant was wearing a backpack, pocket knife, tactical vest, tactical gloves, boots, and a helmet adorned with orange tape.

While the knife may be too short to trigger enhancements, carrying an acknowledged weapon has been used to enhance the penalties of others, though it is also the kind of thing prosecutors have used to flip people.

In other words, either Colon’s cooperation is so valuable, or DOJ needed it so badly, that he got a really sweet plea deal even in spite of bringing an “improvised weapon.”

So I’d like to discuss what DOJ may be doing tactically.

First, some background. The Oath Keepers investigation has been marked by a relentless march of new cooperators, publicly unveiled: Jon Schaffer, Graydon Young, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, Jason Dolan, Joshua James. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. By contrast, just two of the overt Proud Boy cooperators have the kind of plea deal that implicates the wider conspiracy, Matthew Greene and Charles Donohoe. For whatever reason — apparently thinner staffing, greater numbers of participants, difficulties created by Enrique Tarrio’s arrest and delayed phone exploitation, investigative equities, corrupt lenient treatment, or a more important role in the overall investigation — DOJ has been using different tactics to get cooperation from Proud Boys and other key far right personalities. As an example, Jeff Finley (like Brandon Straka and likely, soon, Baked Alaska) seems to have cooperated in advance to avoid a felony altogether. So did Jeremy Grace, though his statement of offense implicated his far more complicit father who, if he ever cooperated, might implicate far more important tactical players. Ricky Willden’s statement of offense barely hints at what he knew that day.

Particularly given a reference made to Colon “continu[ing]” his cooperation in the hearing yesterday, this feels more like the kind of deal Finley got, where someone works their way out of more serious charges (which in Colon’s case would be obstruction with a weapons enhancement) ahead of time. That kind of cooperation makes it less visible, but also may make testimony harder to impeach down the road.

With that in mind, I’d like to look at four aspects of his statement of offense.

First, as virtually all conspirators who flip do, Colon implicated his co-conspirators, describing how:

  • Ryan Ashlock, Christopher Kuehne, and another individual traveled with Colon from Kansas City
  • Kuehne brought two AR-15 or similar assault rifles on the trip
  • Kuehne, at defendant’s suggestion, purchased orange, fluorescent tape so the group would be able to identify each other in a crowd
  • William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others met on January 5 to talk about safety
  • The Konold siblings joined their group on the way to the meet-up at the Washington Memorial
  • Colon saw Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold as police officers attempted to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building (though the statement of offense doesn’t describe their efforts to prevent it) [my emphasis]

That is, at one level Colon’s cooperation simply shores up the third major Proud Boy conspiracy, just like Donohoe, Greene, and Finley provided direct evidence against the Leader conspiracy.

But consider this big story from Alan Feuer from September. According to 302s that defendants have gotten, one of just two known actively-handled informants among the Proud Boys that day said he had no advance knowledge of plans to disrupt the vote certification.

After meeting his fellow Proud Boys at the Washington Monument that morning, the informant described his path to the Capitol grounds where he saw barriers knocked down and Trump supporters streaming into the building, the records show. At one point, his handler appeared not to grasp that the building had been breached, the records show, and asked the informant to keep him in the loop — especially if there was any violence.

[snip]

On Jan. 6, and for months after, the records show, the informant, who was affiliated with a Midwest chapter of the Proud Boys, denied that the group intended to use violence that day. In lengthy interviews, the records say, he also denied that the extremist organization planned in advance to storm the Capitol. The informant’s identity was not disclosed in the records.

[snip]

But statements from the informant appear to counter the government’s assertion that the Proud Boys organized for an offensive assault on the Capitol intended to stop the peaceful transition from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.

On the eve of the attack, the records show, the informant said that the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists — a narrative the Proud Boys have often used to excuse their own violent behavior.

Then, during an interview in April, the informant again told his handlers that Proud Boys leaders gave explicit orders to maintain a defensive posture on Jan. 6. At another point in the interview, he said that he never heard any discussion that day about stopping the Electoral College process.

As Feuer noted at the time, if you ignore that this Proud Boys showed up late, this informant’s testimony significantly undermines claims of prosecutors.

There are multiple clues in Feuer’s article and elsewhere — most notably the reference to a young woman (likely to be Felicia Konold) — that this informant was affiliated with the Kansas City cell.

He said that when he arrived, throngs of people were already streaming past the first barrier outside the building, which, he later learned, was taken down by one of his Proud Boy acquaintances and a young woman with him. [my emphasis]

In other words, until such time as DOJ secures testimony to contradict that of their informant, these interviews remain a weak point in the case against the Proud Boys.

They may have gotten that testimony yesterday.

Now consider what this particular cell of the Proud Boys did — and why that may have led DOJ to be satisfied with just the less serious 231 charge against Colon.

DOJ has charged conspiracy tied to January 6 in a bunch of ways: most spectacularly with some Oath Keepers, seditious conspiracy, also with those Oath Keepers (and the alleged Brian Sicknick assailants), conspiracy to injure an officer, and for most people charged with a conspiracy, either the conspiracy charge tied to the obstruction statute (18 USC 1512k, which carries greater penalties), or conspiracy under 18 USC 371.

But for a few of the Proud Boy conspiracies, including this Kansas City cell, the 371 conspiracy had two objects: to obstruct the vote count, but also to obstruct the cops. That’s basically a conspiracy to commit 18 USC 231, the charge Colon pled guilty to.

And the particular act of obstruction that this cell engaged in — preventing the cops from closing the gates leading to tunnels via which rioters correctly believed members of Congress had fled — is one of the most important tactically. That is, this may show not just a desire to mess with the cops, but a plan to go after members of Congress.

This cell is important for the means by which the Proud Boys made things work on January 6. And Colon may be a key witness to the tactical implementation of plans that went into that day.

Finally, consider the description, from Colon’s statement of offense, of this meeting the night before.

In the evening on January 5, 2021, defendant attended a meeting with co-defendants William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others during which group safety was discussed. At some point during the meeting, another individual said that he did not come to Washington, D.C., to just march around and asked, “do we have patriots here willing to take it by force?” Defendant was shocked by this and understood that the individual was referring to using force against the government. Co-defendant Kuehne responded to the question by saying that he had his guns with him and, in essence, that he was ready to go. The individual who posed the question said that they should “go in there and take over.” [my emphasis]

DOJ has been doing a lot of work unpacking the degree to which coordination happened at meetings on January 5 (I expect we’ll see it in more expected plea agreements going forward). These meetings were critically important for getting everyone on the same page, including a bunch of people who weren’t otherwise affiliated.

We have no idea what this meeting was — we’re still looking for details on a meeting that Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean attended around 9PM the night before, though I doubt that’s what this is.

The description is important for several reasons. First, the focus on “group safety” seems to match the informant’s claim that, “On the eve of the attack … the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists.” Except if it’s that same meeting, then the informant would have also heard someone express a desire to take DC by force, in response to which Kuehne, who is a former Marine, said he was ready to go. At the very least, this description could correct the informant’s claims; it may prove them false.

But it also significantly advances the evidence that some of the Proud Boys, like some of the Oath Keepers, were thinking of using force against the government.

That’s the kind of evidence that has, with the Oath Keepers, helped persuade others to plead out and cooperate.

Update: Note that Robert Gieswein also wore orange tape to insurrection; he allegedly sprayed cops trying to close that barricade.

Sedition Is the Foundation on Which the Trump Associate Investigation Builds

As I laid out in this post, I’m impatient with those who claim the government has taken a new direction in the January 6 investigation with subpoenas to people like — most audibly — Ali Alexander. Alexander got a number of journalists who know better to repeat his claim that he was “cooperating” with the investigation rather than merely “complying” with a subpoena. Few of those journalists pointed out real holes in his cover story — including his silence about Roger Stone and Alex Jones, his disavowal of communications with militias before he arrived at the Capitol, his use of cover organizations to get his permits, and his seeming message to co-conspirators that if he once had evidence, it is no longer in his possession.

In his statement, Alexander sought to separate himself from the substance of the investigation, saying he did not coordinate with the Proud Boys and suggesting his contact with the Oath Keepers was limited to accepting an offer for them to act as ushers at an event that never took place: his own permitted event near the Capitol, which didn’t occur because of the mob attack on the Capitol. The Oath Keepers are the subject of conspiracy charges for their roles in breaching the Capitol that day.

“I did not finance the Ellipse equipment. I did not ever talk with the White House about security groups. Any militia working security at the Ellipse belonged to “Women for America First,” not us,” Alexander said. “I did not coordinate any movements with the Proud Boys or even see them that day. I did take Oath Keepers offer to act as ushers for the Area 8 event but all of that was lost in the chaos. I wasn’t in communication with any of the aforementioned groups while I was near the Capitol working to get people away from the building. Lastly, I’m not willing to presume anyone’s guilt.”

“I did nothing wrong and I am not in possession of evidence that anyone else had plans to commit unlawful acts,” Alexander said. “I denounce anyone who planned to subvert my permitted event and the other permitted events of that day on Capitol grounds to stage any counterproductive activities.”

This is classic Roger Stone-schooled disinformation and should be treated as such.

Reporters have, undoubtedly based on really good sourcing, emphasized the existence of a new grand jury focusing on Trump’s associates, and from that, argued it’s a new direction — though as I’ve documented, DOJ has availed themselves of at least six grand juries thus far in this investigation.

But how could an investigation of Alexander’s actions be new if DOJ successfully debunked much of his current cover story — that he was “working to get people away from the building” — last November? Alexander co-traveler Owen Shroyer attempted to offer the same false claim in an attempt to throw out charges — filed in August — against him, but Judge Tim Kelly rejected that attempt on January 20. How could this be a totally new direction if prosecutors would have obtained Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv as a result of Brandon Straka’s “cooperation” in early 2021? How could it be a new direction if DOJ has gotten guilty pleas from those who went first to the Capitol, then to the East front, and finally breached the building in response to lies about Alexander’s rally permits told by Alex Jones? DOJ has, demonstrably, been laying the groundwork for a subpoena to Alexander for over year.

And it’s not just Alexander. Steps DOJ took over the past year were undoubtedly necessary preconditions to going after Trump’s close associates. Those include:

These are efforts that started in January 2021. Some of the most important — the way DOJ seized Rudy’s comms and got a privilege review without revealing a January 6 warrant — started on Lisa Monaco’s first day in office.

But there’s a more important thing that DOJ probably believed they needed before going after Trump and his close associates: compelling proof that Trump wielded the mob in his effort to obstruct the vote count, obtaining the proof in the yellow boxes, below. That was one of the things I was trying to lay out in this post.

While there are specific things Trump and his associates did that were illegal — the call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake elector certificates, the illegal demand of Mike Pence — many of the rest are only illegal (at least under the framework DOJ is using) if they are tied to Trump’s successful effort to target the mob at American democracy. You first have to prove that Trump fired the murder weapon, and once you’ve established that proof, you can investigate who helped Trump buy the weapon, who helped him aim it, who loaded the gun for him, who was standing behind him with four more weapons to fire if his own shot failed to work.

And this is why I’m interested in the apparent two month process it appears to have taken DOJ to shift its main focus from the work of the January 8, 2021 grand jury, whose work culminated in the January 12, 2022 seditious conspiracy indictment against Stewart Rhodes, and the February 14, 2022 grand jury, the foundational overt act of which was the March 7 conspiracy charge against Enrique Tarrio.

The first grand jury proved that the vast majority of the rioters, whether trespassers or assault defendants, got there via one of three methods:

  • Responding to Trump and Alex Jones’ lies about Trump accompanying the marchers and giving a second speech
  • Acting directly on Trump’s “orders,” especially his December 19 tweet, often bypassing the Ellipse rally altogether
  • Coordinating with one of the militias, especially the Proud Boys

Judge Amit Mehta also seems to believe that the grand jury developed proof that many of those who assaulted cops were aided and abetted by Donald Trump. The first grand jury also proved that of those who — having been led to believe false claims about vote fraud based on over three months of propaganda — had the intent of obstructing the vote count, a great number had the specific goal of pressuring or punishing Mike Pence. While the intent of pressuring Pence came, for some rioters, from militia hierarchies, for most others, it came directly from Trump.

This is my hypothesis about the seeming shift from using the January 8 grand jury as the primary investigative grand jury to launching a new one on February 14. The January 8 grand jury has largely completed its investigation into what caused the riot, how it was orchestrated, who participated; the remaining prosecutions that don’t require and affect the larger picture will be and have been charged via the November 10 grand jury. But by indicting Tarrio and showing, with Charles Donohoe’s cooperation, that everything the Proud Boys did emanated from Tarrio’s orders and, by association, from whatever understanding Tarrio had about the purpose of the riot from his communications with people close to Trump, DOJ and the Valentine’s Day grand jury will move onto the next level of the conspiracy to obstruct the vote count. Again, that’s just a hypothesis — we’ll see whether that’s an accurate read in the weeks ahead. But it’s not a new direction at all. It is the direction that the investigation has demonstrably been headed for over a year.

Update: In a statement pretending the stories about his cooperation were leaked by DOJ, Alexander insists he is not cooperating, but complying.

After consultation with counsel, we provided a statement that established that I was not a target of this grand jury; I haven’t been accused of any criminal wrongdoing; and that I was complying, as required by law, with their probe.

[snip]

Useful idiots on the right, clinging to a New York Times headline that sensationalizes my compliance with a subpoena, will empower the Deep State which planted these stories to give their political investigation more legs to hurt our election integrity movement and Trump’s 2024 prospects. [my emphasis]

The rest of the statement should convince anyone that this is a replay of the same bullshit we saw from Stone and Jerome Corsi in the Mueller investigation.

Back Was Stood, And By Was Stood: The Passive Voice Behind the Top Down Structure of the Charles Donohoe Statement of Offense

As I’ve been expecting for some time, Proud Boy Charles Donohoe pled guilty today — to one count of 18 USC 1512(k) (the obstruction conspiracy statute) and one count of assault.

There are few new details in his statement of offense. The most important ones are that:

  • Enrique Tarrio fast-tracked the membership of Dominic Pezzola, the Proud Boy who would be the first to break through a Capitol window with a stolen riot shield on January 6, into the Proud Boys, thereby putting Tarrio directly on the hook for Pezzola’s action
  • Donohoe originally didn’t intend to attend the riot, but did to fill in a leadership gap once he learned Tarrio would be arrested

Most of the rest of the statement of offense is designed to implicate the entire, strictly-enforced hierarchy of the Proud Boys in several kinds of criminal exposure.

First there’s the plan to use violence to obstruct the vote count — something that was planned before Tarrio was arrested, and so something in which he is clearly implicated.

At least as early as January 4, 2021, and prior to Donohoe’s decision to travel to D.C., Donohoe was aware that members of MOSD leadership were discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol. Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power. Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.

[snip]

Donohoe was not given details of the plan referred to by Biggs, but Donohoe understood from discussions among the MOSD and other Proud Boys that the objective in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, was to obstruct, impede, or interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote. Donohoe understood from discussions that the group would pursue this through the use of force and violence, in order to show Congress that “we the people” were in charge.

[snip]

Within minutes of arriving, members of the crowd breached the barriers and advanced onto Capitol grounds. Donohoe saw Nordean and Biggs advance onto Capitol grounds and followed them. Donohoe believed these actions were intended to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote.

This implicates everyone in the chain of command in using violence to obstruct the vote certification.

Then there’s the damage to the Capitol that Pezzola did with that riot shield — and all the damage that followed.

Shortly after throwing the water bottles at officers, Donohoe encountered Pezzola. Donohoe recognized Pezzola as a Proud Boys member and confirmed that fact with another Proud Boys member. Donohoe then grabbed the riot shield that Pezzola was holding and led Pezzola to the rear of the West Plaza. After reaching the rear of the concrete area of the West Plaza, Donohoe posted a message to MOSD leaders at 1:37 p.m. that read, “Got a riot shield.” While standing at the rear of the plaza, Donohoe took a picture of Pezzola holding the riot shield and making a hand gesture associated with the Proud Boys.

Donohoe then advanced back toward the Capitol in an effort to locate other Proud Boys members. Upon arriving near the base of a set of concrete stairs, Donohoe recognized a Proud Boys member known as “Milkshake” at the front of the crowd standing opposite a line of officers. Donohoe heard shouting and other discussion among those surrounding him indicating that the crowd was preparing to push toward the Capitol. Donohoe recognized that the concrete stairs offered a path to advance further toward the Capitol. Donohoe and others in the crowd pushed up the stairs. It was reasonably foreseeable to Donohoe that the use of force to advance toward the Capitol would involve property destruction by members of the Proud Boys who had been led to the Capitol by Nordean and Biggs.

[snip]

The attack on the Capitol resulted in substantial damage, requiring the expenditure of more than $1.4 million dollars for repairs.

This is important because 18 USC 1361, willfully doing more than $1,000 of damage to a government building, can carry a terrorism enhancement if done to coerce the government, which (very loosely speaking) can add roughly 10 years to any sentence imposed. Donohoe’s statement of offense says that the foreseeable damage the Proud Boys did with the goal of obstructing the vote certification was $1.4 million.

Finally, there’s the violence that happened, starting with Donohoe’s own water bottles but including Milkshake’s assault on cops and all the other violence that was foreseeable.

Donohoe threw two water bottles at a line of law enforcement officers engaged in the lawful performance of their official duties who were attempting to prevent the mob’s advance in the West Plaza at the Capitol building. It was reasonably foreseeable to Donohoe that members of the Proud Boys who had been led to the Capitol by Nordean and Biggs would engage in assaults on law enforcement.

[snip]

Donohoe intended to use force and did, in fact, use force to obstruct, impede, or interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote, and did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with, officers or employees of the United States.

In taking such actions, Donohoe intended to influence or affect the conduct of the United States government. He accomplished this by intimidating and coercing government personnel who were participating in or supporting the Congressional proceeding, including Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and law enforcement officers with the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department.

This language — and Dan Scott’s more serious assault and by association all the assaults that happened that day — is important because the conspiracy tied to obstruction, 18 USC 1512(k), can carry enhancements for things like attempted murder and attempted kidnapping, making the maximum penalty 30 years instead of 20.

(3) The punishment for an offense under this subsection is—
(A) in the case of a killing, the punishment provided in sections 1111 and 1112;
(B) in the case of—
(i) an attempt to murder; or
(ii) the use or attempted use of physical force against any person;
imprisonment for not more than 30 years; and

Since this post is about the passive voice, let me note that murders were attempted on January 6.

As I said, what this statement of offense does is implicate the entire chain of a very hierarchical command in criminal exposure for the intentional use of violence and the foreseeable damage to the Capitol as part of a plan to coerce Congress to halt the vote certification. Everyone from Tarrio on down is implicated in this, and several specifics about Donohoe’s statement of offense will ensure that Tarrio can’t escape responsibility because he was absent and Donohoe filled in.

But it is the foundation of that hierarchy that is so remarkable.

On December 19, 2020, plans were announced for a protest event in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, which protest would coincide with Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

On or before December 20, 2020, Tarrio approached Donohoe and solicited his interest in joining the leadership of a new chapter of the Proud Boys, called the Ministry of Self Defense (“MOSD”). Donohoe understood from Tarrio that the new chapter would be focused on the planning and execution of national rallies and would consist of hand-selected “rally” boys. Donohoe felt privileged to be included and agreed to participate.

Close to every other filing in the January 6 case that mentions the announcement of these plans actually cites what was taken as the formal announcement: Trump’s tweet, in response to which hundreds if not thousands of rioters began to make plans to come to DC.

Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK . A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

The import of that December 19 tweet was clear even in real time; the NYT and WaPo recently returned to the central role it plays in a great number of January 6 cases.

But this statement of offense instead presents what was viewed as an order from Trump in the passive voice: “Plans were announced.” Trump announced those plans, as every other charging document makes clear.

And the next day, in response to that announcement, Tarrio started building that top-down hierarchical structure that would go on to intentionally assault the Capitol and cops.

There are many things this statement of offense does with that masterful use of the passive voice. It implicates, without mentioning, people like Peter Navarro and Ali Alexander, the former because he was mentioned in the tweet and the latter because he was organizing it. The statement of offense makes clear that Tarrio told Donohoe and other Ministry of Self Defense leaders about what their plan was, but doesn’t reveal what he has shared, particularly what he shared about direct planning with people close to Trump. Indeed, the language of the statement of offense leaves open the possibility that Tarrio was moving on this even before the public launch of the riot by Trump.

But most importantly, without naming him, this structure puts Trump at the head of that hierarchy that bears top-down responsibility for the intentional violence and damage in the service of obstructing the vote certification.

This is like announcing a plan to “Stand back and stand by” using the passive voice.

Update: Yesterday, WV Proud Boy head Jeffrey Finley pled guilty in what appears to be one of the misdemeanor pleas tied to advance cooperation. His statement of the offense strongly implicates Zach Rehl, with whom he co-traveled for part of the day.

Questions about the Proud Boys Superseding Indictment

As noted here, DOJ charged Enrique Tarrio, along with the existing leadership conspiracy defendants and Dominic Pezzola, This is just the second superseding indictment against the key Proud Boys. And while it’s good that Tarrio was finally included and there are hints of interesting coordination, unlike with the Oath Keepers conspiracy, where each superseding indictment pointed to a relentless march in one direction, where the Proud Boy investigation is heading is far less clear to me.

For now, I’ll assume that’s simply because they’re holding their cards close.

Who is missing

My first question pertains to the non-inclusion of certain people in this indictment.

The first is William Pepe, who had been charged with Dominic Pezzola on the indictment that got consolidated with this one. He has either flipped (which would be especially noteworthy given that he is represented by John Pierce), or he’s just sitting out there in a conspiracy with himself.

Another person not included here is Ron Loerkhe. With Jimmy Haffner, he was instrumental in breaching the East side of the Capitol and seems to have provided military structure to the attack. The two of them remain charged only by complaint and in February DOJ got a 3 month continuance on their case.

A third is Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, a close associate of Zach Rehl’s who kibbitzed the attack from Philadelphia that day. He was raided back in October, seemingly suggesting he too might get charged. The indictment doesn’t charge him. It also leaves out some of his statements that were in earlier court filings.

Who is cooperating and who is not

Thus far, there is only one overt cooperator in the Proud Boy cases: Matthew Greene, the former co-defendant of Dominic Pezzola (who has been moved onto this indictment) and Pepe (who has disappeared).

There are three senior Proud Boys — named as Person 1, Person 2, and Person 3 — whose status remains unknown. All three had key leadership positions. And they presumably were involved in a video chat Tarrio scheduled for December 20 to discuss Person 3’s comment that, “most of the protest will be at the capital building given what’s going on inside.” Person 1 is almost certainly Jeremy Bertino, who lives in SC; a number of well-informed people believe Person 2 is Wolkind. [h/t CH]

There are other Proud Boys who could be included in this indictment but who aren’t. Dan “Milkshake” Scott got a continuance in February for 120 days; that filing stated that he and the government had not yet even started plea negotiations. Joe Biggs’ co-travelers on the Arthur Jackman indictment are all still charged individually, even though two of them were literally touching Biggs at key moments during the day; the government is only now sorting through conflicts posed by John Pierce’s representation of three of them that would have to precede any plea discussions. Zach Rehl’s co-travelers also remain charged by complaint (and just misdemeanors, too); in February the government got a continuance until April. Jeff Finley, who also with Rehl and the others for part of the day, got a continuance in February until late March, to allow for “continued discussions about the case.” [Corrected to note Finley is a PB] Gabriel Garcia, who seemed to be one of the most useful people reporting back so others could coordinate from outside the riot, seems headed for trial by himself.

Father Jeremy and son Jeffrey Grace remain in uncertain status, too. After dad got busted for paling around with Proud Boys last summer, they’ve been in flux but still just charged (not even with each other!) with trespassing. In February Jeffrey’s case got continued until St. Patricks Day and Jeremy’s got continued to April.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Ricky Willden set a change of plea hearing for April 7, pretty far in advance as these things go. Because he was charged directly with indictment, it’s not clear what the government knows, but he has ties to the Proud Boys and others.

The inconsistent references

In addition to the three Person-Numbers, this indictment refers to people by all manner of convention.

It names Stewart Rhodes in describing the meeting he had with Tarrio in a parking garage after Tarrio was released from jail on January 5.

Then there are multiple people described as “an individual whose identity is known to the grand jury,” the most interesting of whom is the person who shared a 9-page document about occupying key buildings in DC.

But that’s also the way the indictment describes Ryan Samsel before explaining that he, “put one arm around BIGGS’s shoulder and spoke to him” before be broke through the first barrier in front of the Capitol. On Friday, Jia Cobb (who took over the Samsel case from Tim Kelly when several people were added), ordered Samsel transported from the State Jail in Pennsylvania he had been in to a the Federal jail where DC jail residents had been moved to. Since Samsel has been charged, there’s no reason not to name him, just as Rhodes is named.

Where is Trump

As I noted earlier, there’s no mention of Enrique Tarrio’s visit to the White House in December. The White House claimed that was no big deal, and maybe it is.

But this indictment also leaves out all mention of Proud Boys, including Tarrio, playing on Trump’s Stand Back and Stand By comment.

Where is the obstruction charge?

In some ways, this indictment charges more aggressively than the earlier one. As other indictments have, it swaps the 18 USC 371 conspiracy (with a maximum sentence of 5 years) for an 18 USC 1512(k) conspiracy (with a maximum sentence of 20 years).

It charges all the men for the assaults originally charged just against Donohoe and Pezzola.

But it doesn’t include an obstruction charge for Tarrio, in spite of his explicit efforts to prevent others from cooperating, recordings of which were publicly released.

Where does this go from here?

I’ve been expecting and predicting this indictment since December 28. But for the life of me, I’m not sure where DOJ expects to go from here.

This indictment describes the numbers of people massed at several stages of the operation. 65 members on the Ministry of Self Defense (MOSD) Members Group. 90 people in the New MOSD members group created on January 4. Approximately 100 Proud Boys who met at the Washington Memorial the morning of the attack. Donohoe bragging at 12:00PM on January 6 that “WE ARE WITH 200-300 PBS,” just before they kicked off the riot.

Perhaps this framework is meant to provide a way to implicate all those others, 300 people who agreed, by signing up, that they were following a plan that DOJ has now shown (and that Matthew Greene’s cooperation was designed to show) was a plan to occupy buildings from the start.

But otherwise, this still feels really dispersed, and the prosecution team (which consists of three visible members for the leadership conspiracy, including Erik Kenerson, Jason McCullough, and Luke Jones, and about four detailees from other offices for satellite cases; a fourth prosecutor who had been on the core cases, Christopher Berridge, left immediately after Greene pled) has a far harder caseload than the significantly larger team on the Oath Keepers.

Perhaps something will really start to crystalize as some of these continuances end in April. Or perhaps DOJ will be serially prosecuting Proud Boys for the foreseeable future.