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How Did the Proud Boys Have Better Lines of Communication about National Guard Reinforcements than the National Guard Did?

At 3:38 on January 6, according to the Proud Boy leaders conspiracy indictment, Charles Donohoe announced on the 60-member operational Telegram channel the Proud Boys used that day that, “we are regrouping.”

Sometime around that time, a bunch of Oath Keepers, having already entered the Capitol, were gathered together on the east side of the Capitol.

According to the most recent Oath Keepers indictment, two minutes after Donohoe announced the Proud Boy plan to regroup, at 3:40, Oath Keeper Joshua James called Person Ten — who was doing much of the coordination for the Oath Keepers that day — and had a 3 minute, 4 second phone call, their second longest call described in the indictment.

Roberto Minuta and Rhodes exchanged two calls just after 4:00 — 42 seconds, then 2 minutes 56 seconds. At 4:10, according to a Thomas Caldwell detention motion, someone on the Oath Keepers’ operational channel said, “Fight the good fight. Stand your ground.”

It seems the militias were preparing for a second, seemingly coordinated, operation of the day: resuming the assault on the Capitol.

Indeed, some of the fighting and attempted breaches at the Capitol did intensify about that time (for example, that’s shortly before, as some cops were trying to help Rosanne Boyland, who had been trampled, they were allegedly assaulted by James Lopatic, Jeffrey Sabol, Peter Stager, and Wade Whitten, with police officer BW being dragged down the steps prone and beaten).

But not the militias, at least not the Proud Boys.

According to the government’s detention memo for Donohoe, he subsequently — they don’t provide the time — sent out a message that the National Guard and DHS agents were incoming.

Donohoe’s intent to create mayhem and disrupt the proceedings at the Capitol continued well after the initial breach into the restricted grounds and up to the west terrace. Indeed, at 3:38 p.m., more than an hour after Pezzola and others had broken into the building, Donohoe indicated that he had left the Capitol grounds, but then announced over Telegram, “We are regrouping with a second force.” That plan appears to have been short-lived, as Donohoe subsequently advised the group that the National Guard and “DHS agents” were “incoming.”

This is fairly remarkable timing, as it came during the most inexplicable period of DOD’s delayed response with the National Guard. At 2:30, just before the second breach by militia-led groups, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller met with (among others) Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy about requests for help from the city and the Capitol Police. At 3, Miller determines the Guard is needed at the Capitol and McCarthy orders them to prepare to move. At 3:04, Miller provides verbal approval for the Guard to support MPD. At 3:19 and 3:26, McCarthy was on the phone with first Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and then Bowser, assuring them the Guard was on the way. At 3:48, McCarthy leaves to go to MPD headquarters, taking 22 minutes to transit, even as two trained militia groups full of military veterans prepared to make a second assault on the Capitol. At 4:32, after calls back and forth among the militia, Miller provided verbal authorization for the Guard to help the Capitol Police.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

But then, according to the guy DOD sent to the Senate to not answer questions like this, Robert Salesses, General William Walker, the guy in charge of the Guard, didn’t get that order for another 36 minutes.

Salesses: In fairness to General Walker too, that’s when the Secretary of Defense made the decision, at 4:32. As General Walker has pointed out, cause I’ve seen all the timelines, he was not told that til 5:08.

Roy Blunt: How is that possible, Mr. Salazar [sic], do you think that the decision, in the moment we were in, was made at 4:32 and the person that had to be told wasn’t told for more than a half an hour after the decision.

Salesses: Senator, I think that’s an issue.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

Somehow, it seems, Proud Boy Charles Donohoe knew that the National Guard was coming to reinforce the Capitol before DC Guard Commander General Walker.

Somehow, it seems, the militias assaulting the Capitol had better lines of communication than the US Department of Defense.

Timeline

2:30PM: Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy meet to discuss the requests for assistance from the MPD and CPD.

2:40PM: Oath Keepers and Proud Boys breach second front of the Capitol.

3PM: Miller determines the Guard is needed.

3:04PM: Miller authorizes Guard assistance to MPD.

3:19PM: McCarthy on the phone with Democratic leaders. Roberto Minuta enters Capitol.

3:26PM: McCarthy on the phone with Mayor Bowser.

3:38PM: Charles Donohoe announces, “we are regrouping.”

3:40PM: James calls Person Ten, speaks for 3:04.

3:48PM: McCarthy leaves for MPD.

4PM: Meeting with Stewart Rhodes on east side of Capitol.

4:04PM: Minuta calls Rhodes, speaks for 42 seconds.

4:05PM: Rhodes calls Minuta, speaks for 2:56.

4:10PM: McCarthy arrives at MPD. Proud Boy leader channel instructs, “Stand your ground.”

4:32PM: Miller provides the verbal order for the Guard to reinforce the Capitol Police

5:08PM: General Walker gets the order to reinforce the Capitol Police

Unknown time: Donohoe advises that National Guard and “DHS” are incoming.

There Were 60 Proud Boy “Boots on the Ground” on January 6; Around 23 Have Been Arrested

According to the conspiracy indictment against Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, and others, the Proud Boys used two Telegram channels to organize their January 6 insurrection: a “New MOSD” channel that seems to have been used by top leadership, and a “Boots on the Ground” channel for “Proud Boys members in Washington, D.C.” DOJ didn’t say how many people were members of the former, presumably smaller, channel. But the Boots on the Ground channel had over 60 members.

On January 5, 2021, at 1:23 p.m., a new encrypted messaging channel entitled “Boots on the Ground” was created for communications by Proud Boys members in Washington, D.C. In total, over sixty users participated in the Boots on the Ground channel, including NORDEAN, BIGGS, REHL, DONOHOE, and [an unindicted co-conspirator]. Shortly after the channel’s creation, BIGGS posted a message to the channel that read: “We are trying to avoid getting into any shit  tonight. Tomorrow’s the day” and then “I’m here with rufio and a good group[.]”

While this doesn’t say that every subscriber to the channel participated in the insurrection, surely people who subscribed in the less than 24 hours between the channel creation and the insurrection itself were closely tied to those events.

When I finish updates to this post listing all the random Proud Boys who’ve been charged individually in addition to the 14 charged in one of the four Proud Boy conspiracy cases, I’ll have 23 people who either identify as Proud Boys or operated with them on January 6. That’s consistent with GWU’s very useful report on participants, which showed 20 Proud Boys before about 3 more arrests.

That means there may be as many as 40 more Proud Boys who were actively involved in preparations for January 6 who remain at large. That’s consistent with the videos of large mobs of people marching together through DC that day.

If DOJ knows there were over 60, they presumably have names — either real or monikers — for them, possibly with device information as well.

The Three Key Details the Proud Boy Unindicted Co-Conspirator Likely Revealed to Prosecutors

By March 1, the government had three pieces of evidence that form a key part of a conspiracy indictment accusing Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Charles Donohoe of conspiring to breach the Capitol and by doing so, delaying the certification of the vote:

  • The Proud Boys used Baofeng radios set to a specific channel (which channel prosecutors knew)
  • After Enrique Tarrio’s arrest, Ethan Nordean got put in charge of the January 6 operation
  • The gang had a plan to split up to optimize the chances of success

A detention motion for Nordean submitted on that day included all three of these details. It described how the Proud Boys distributed Baofeng radios to use in the operation.

Arrangements were made to program and distribute multiple Baofeng radios5 for use by Proud Boys members to communicate during the event. Baofeng is a Chinese communications equipment manufacturer. Baofeng radios can be programmed to communicate on more than 1,000 different frequencies, making them far more difficult to monitor or overhear than common “walkie talkie” type radios. Specific radio frequencies were communicated to the Proud Boys.

5 Law enforcement recovered a Baofeng radio from Defendant’s home during the execution of a search warrant—the Baofeng radio recovered from Defendant’s home was still tuned to frequency that had been communicated to the group.

[snip]

The group led by Defendant arrived at the east side of the Capitol before noon. Several of the men in the group were holding Baofeng radios. Others had them clipped to their belts or jackets.

It described how Nordean was put in charge after Tarrio’s arrest.

Moreover, following the arrest of the Proud Boys’ Chairman on January 4, 2021, Defendant was nominated from within to have “war powers” and to take ultimate leadership of the Proud Boys’ activities on January 6, 2021.

[snip]

On January 4, 2021, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the self-proclaimed “Chairman” of the Proud Boys was arrested shortly after arriving in Washington, D.C., pursuant to a warrant issued by D.C. Superior Court. In communications between Proud Boys members following Tarrio’s arrest, it was acknowledged that Defendant would be among those that led the Proud Boys on the ground on January 6, 2021.

And it described a decision to split people up in an effort to increase the likelihood of actually shutting down the certification of the vote.

As noted more fully below, Defendant—dressed all in black, wearing a tactical vest—led the Proud Boys through the use of encrypted communications and military-style equipment, and he led them with the specific plans to: split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results.

[snip]

In order to increase the odds that their plan would succeed, Defendant and those Proud Boys following him dressed “incognito” and spread out to many different locations from which they could force entry into the Capitol. Defendant and others responsible for the January 6 Proud Boys event likely knew from experience that their typical tactic of marching in “uniform,” and in unison, would draw a concentrated law enforcement response to their location. By blending in and spreading out, Defendant and those following him on January 6 made it more likely that either a Proud Boy—or a suitably-inspired “normie”—would be able to storm the Capitol and its ground in such a way that would interrupt the Certification of the Electoral College vote

Even after prosecutors shared these damning claims, their bid to keep Nordean in jail failed. Nordean’s wife filed a declaration stating in part that Nordean obtained the radio on January 7 and, to her knowledge, he did not possess such a radio before that date.

An indictment against Nordean obtained on March 3 to comply with the Speedy Trial Act (but not released publicly until after the detention hearing) mentioned none of that.

And at the March 3 detention hearing before Beryl Howell, according to Zoe Tillman, the government withdrew the claim that Nordean had the Proud Boys split into groups as a factor for that detention hearing. In what the WaPo described as, “a remarkable stumble for prosecutors,”Judge Howell released Nordean to home detention, saying there was little evidence that Nordean played that leadership role.

Nordean “was a leader of a march to the Capitol. But once he got there it is not clear what leadership role this individual took at all for the people who went inside,” Howell said. “Evidence that he directed other defendants to break into or enter the Capitol is weak, to say the least.”

Nordean’s release marked a stumble for prosecutors, who have cast him as a key figure based on what Howell agreed were “ominous” communications before Jan. 6 that they said indicated he and other Proud Boys were planning “violent action” to overwhelm police and force entry to the Capitol. The judge’s decision sets back for now the government’s efforts to establish that there was a wider plot to that end.

[snip]

“The government has backed down from saying that he directly told them to split into groups and that they had this strategic plan,” Howell remarked.

Howell said that although Nordean’s release was a “close call,” she agreed with the defense that “there’s no allegation that the defendant caused injury to any person, or that he even personally caused damage to any particular property.”

Prosecutors claimed they had this evidence on March 1. But after failing to present it at that March 3 hearing, Nordean got released.

On March 15, the judge assigned to the case after Nordean got indicted, Timothy Kelly, issued an order delaying the arraignment scheduled for the next day. He offered no explanation.

What didn’t become clear until this week is that, on March 10, the government obtained the superseding indictment against Nordean and others. And then, on March 12, the government asked Judge Kelly to delay Nordean’s arraignment on his original indictment because of the superseding indictment. Prosecutors explained that revealing the indictment ahead of time would risk alerting Rehl and Donohoe before they could be arrested and their houses searched.

On March 10, 2021, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia returned a Superseding Indictment charging Defendant, and three co-defendants (two of whom were not previously charged), with Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; Obstruction of an Agency Proceeding, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512(c)(2), and 2; Obstructing Law Enforcement During a Civil Disorder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 231(a)(3), and 2; 18 U.S.C. §§ 1361, and 2; Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(1); and Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(2).

The Superseding Indictment is under seal, pending the arrest of newly charged defendants and the execution of search warrants. Law Enforcement anticipates executing the arrests and search warrants of the new defendants in a coordinated operation on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Once the arrests are executed, the Superseding Indictment will be unsealed.

The evidence the superseding indictment provides to substantiate claims first made on March 1 may explain an even bigger reason why prosecutors didn’t provide their evidence for those three claims in time to keep Nordean in custody: They had an unindicted co-conspirator (presumably someone cooperating with prosecutors) who was, along with the four conspiracy defendants, on an encrypted channel created after Enrique Tarrio’s arrest on January 4 that Proud Boy leaders used to continue planning for January 6. That unindicted co-conspirator was personally involved in all three details included in that detention memo against Nordean. He helped divvy up the Proud Boys to be spread out during the January 6 operation.

39. On after Chairman’s January 4, 2021, shortly after Proud Boys Chairman’s arrest pursuant to a warrant issued by D.C. Superior Court, DONOHOE expressed concern that encrypted communications that involved Proud Boys Chairman would be compromised when law enforcement examined Proud Boys Chairmans’ phone. DONOHOE then created a new channel on the encrypted messaging application, entitled, “New MOSD,” and took steps to destroy or “nuke” the earlier channel. After its creation, the “New MOSD” channel included NORDEAN, BIGGS, REHL, DONOHOE, and a handful of additional members.

40. On January 2021, at 7:15 p.m., DONOHOE posted a message on various encrypted messaging channels, including New MOSD, 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.” DONOHOE then wrote, “Stop everything immediately” and then “This comes from the top.”

41. On January 4, 2021, at 8:20 p.m., an unindicted co-conspirator (“UCC-1”) posted to New MOSD channel: “We had originally planned on breaking the guys into teams. Let’s start divying them up and getting baofeng channels picked out.”

Note: If “New MOSD” was a channel of State leaders of the Proud Boys, it would likely have included Nicholas Ochs, who heads the Hawaii chapter of the Proud Boys. Ochs was the first senior Proud Boy to be arrested, on January 7, at the airport when he arrived back in Hawaii (and therefore carrying anything he had with him at the insurrection, potentially including his cell phone and any radios he kept). Kathryn Rakoczy, who has since moved onto the team prosecuting the Oath Keepers, was the original prosecutor on Ochs’ case. But now Christopher Berridge, who is on all the other Proud Boy cases but not the Nordean and Biggs one, is prosecuting Ochs. Ochs is charged in a parallel conspiracy indictment, with the very same goal and many of the same means as the Nordean and Biggs one, but which for some reason was not identified as a related case to the other three Proud Boy ones and so was not assigned to Judge Kelly; Judge Howell is presiding over Ochs’ case. Ochs has a superb defense attorney, Edward McMahon. Many of these details, which make the curious treatment of the Ochs-DeCarlo conspiracy indictment clear, are in this post or this expanded table.

Whoever the unindicted co-conspirator is, he’s the one who set the channel of the Baofeng radios the night before the insurrection. And he’s the one who stated that Nordean was in charge.

46. At 9:03 p.m., REHL notified NORDEAN, BIGGS, DONOHOE and others that he had arrived in Washington, D.C. DONOHOE responded by requesting one of the radios that REHL had brought.

47.  At 9:09 p.m., UCC-1 broadcast a message to MOSD and Boots on the Ground channels that read: “Stand by for the shared baofeng channel and shared zello channel, no Colors, be decentralized and use good judgement until further orders” UCC-1 also wrote, Rufio is in charge, cops are the primary threat, don’t get caught by them or BLM, don’t get drunk until off the street.” UCC-1 then provided a specific radio frequency of 477.985.

It is highly likely that prosecutors learned the three details included in that detention motion — that Nordean had been put in charge, that the Proud Boys were using Baofeng radios set to frequency 477.985, and that part of the plan was to disperse the men to increase chances of success — from the unindicted co-conspirator and or devices seized from him when he was first arrested.

And it took them less than two months to learn those details of the plot.

Update: The government has moved to detain both Nordean and Biggs now. Those motions cite from the Telegram chats the Proud Boys used to organize the day before the attack, including (I’ve combined them from both motions):

On January 5, between 9:30 – 9:32am [Biggs] stated “What are the teams. I keep hearing team [sic] are picked already.” A few minutes later, [Biggs] stated “Who are we going to be with. I have guys with me in other chats saying teams are being put together.”

On January 5, at 9:32am, a member of a Proud Boys Telegram group stated “It seems like our plan has totally broken down and rufio has taken control as a singke [sic] point of contact.”

On January 5, between 5:22 – 5:25pm, [Biggs] stated “Woth [sic] [coconspirator Ethan Nordean] trying to get numbers so we can make a plan.” Defendant then stated “Just trying to get our numbers. So we can plan accordingly for tonight and go over tomorrow’s plan.”

On January 5, at 5:52pm, [Biggs] stated “We are trying to avoid getting into any shit tonight. Tomorrow’s the day” and “I’m here with [co-conspirator Nordean] and a good group[.]”

On January 5, at 9:07pm, co-conspirator Charles Donohoe asked “Hey who’s boots on ground with a plan RN [ … ] Guys are asking.” A participant in the encrypted chat stated “Supposed to be Rufio.”

Within minutes, an unindicted co-conspirator broadcast a message to those in the group chat, “Rufio is in charge, cops are the primary threat, don’t get caught by them or BLM, don’t get drunk until off the street.”

On January 5, between 9:17 and 9:20pm, [Biggs] stated “We just had a meeting woth [sic] a lot of guys. Info should be coming out” and then “I was able to rally everyone here together who came where I said” and then, “We have a plan. I’m with [co-conspirator Nordean].”

On January 5, at 9:34pm [Biggs] told co-conspirator Charles Donohoe to communicate to Proud Boys members a message stating that the group in Washington, D.C. would meet at the Washington Monument at 10am on January 6.

On the morning of January 6, Donohoe stated that he was on his way to the Washington Monument, and “I have the keys until Rufio and [co-conspirator Zachary Rehl] show up.”

Update: As I note in a footnote to this post, Nicholas Ochs can’t be the unindicted co-conspirator. That’s true for two reasons. First, because DOJ does not believe UCC-1 was at the Capitol on January 6 (though doesn’t say where he was). DOJ knows Ochs was inside the Capitol. Also, DOJ has now started treating all the Proud Boy conspiracies as the same conspiracy. So Ochs could not, then, be considered un-indicted in that conspiracy.