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Litigating “‘Normies’ Smash[ing] Some Pigs to Dust” in the Proud Boy Leader Conspiracy

Ten months ago, I wrote a post describing how the Proud Boys were a key part of the overall assault on the Capitol, because they took “normies” and made sure they were deployed to maximal advantage, including having them do the dangerous job of “smash[ing] some pigs to dust.”

The plan required six types of participants to make it work:

  • People (Trump, Rudy, and Mo Brooks) to rile up large numbers of normies
  • Someone (Alex Jones) to guide the normies to the Capitol, probably while communicating with the Proud Boys as they kicked off the riot
  • People at the Capitol (Proud Boys and associates) to tactically deploy the normies as a weapon, both to occupy the Capitol and to create a very real risk to the members of Congress
  • Members of Congress (Paul Gosar and others) willing to create conflict that could be exploited in any of a number of ways
  • Masses and masses of people who, starting even before the election, had been led to believe false claims that their country was under threat; those masses did two things:
    • Enter the Capitol, with a varied level of vocal enthusiasm for the mayhem occurring, and make it far more difficult for cops to put down the assault
    • “Smash some pigs to dust”

Whether or not that conception is true — and just as importantly, whether DOJ can introduce the evidence to prove it at trial — has been the subject of recent pretrial litigation in the Proud Boy Leader case that may determine the outcome of the trial:

As I’ve been saying for 14 months, whether this approach succeeds at the Proud Boy trial will determine the degree to which higher ranking people who were conspiring with Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio can be implicated in a conspiracy with those who attacked the Capitol, as opposed to an incitement or aid and abet theory of criminal exposure. And whether it succeeds is neither an easy legal question nor, for a jury assessing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, evidentiary one.

The opening filing in this dispute argues that even if the subordinate Proud Boys and affiliates who marched on the Capitol didn’t know all the plans and objectives of the conspiracy, they were still part of it. As DOJ describes, the Proud Boy leaders, including John Stewart (Person 3), who secretly entered into a plea deal, probably in June, intentionally aimed to get lower ranking Proud Boys to obey unthinkingly.

It is important to note that it does not matter whether all these members of the conspiracy understood and “agreed on the details” of the scheme, so long as they agreed on the “essential nature of the plan.” United States v. Gatling, 96 F.3d 1511, 1518 (D.C. Cir. 1996); cf. ECF 71 at 46 (Court’s ruling on Nordean and Biggs detention, explaining that “even if someone who was a part of the conspiracy expressed surprise at the way events unfolded that day or what the ultimate outcome was . . . that does not necessarily mean there wasn’t a conspiracy of the kind alleged.”). And in fact, the evidence will show that the conspiracy’s leaders purposefully kept subordinates in the dark about the precise details, urging them to “turn off [their] brains” and “follow the . . . guys you’re with.” ECF 475 at 15 (Statements Motion, quoting statement from Person 3 to MOSD members). In assembling their group of foot soldiers, the leader defendants sought loyal followers, not co-equal partners. Cf. United States v. Mahdi, 598 F.3d 883, 891 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (finding that evidence of defendant exercising “organization control” to keep “the worker bees in line” was intrinsic evidence of conspiracy). Willing followers all, the fact that each may not have been fully privy to the entire plan in no way negates their being co-conspirators.1 Co-conspirators need not share all of the charged criminal objectives of the conspiracy, so long as they formed some agreement with the defendants. Hypothetically, if a particular member of the marching group lacked sufficient understanding of what was happening in Congress to make him part of a conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, he could still be part of a conspiracy to use force to oppose the lawful transfer of Presidential power in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2384 or a conspiracy to forcibly prevent law enforcement officers from discharging their duties in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 372. His conduct is relevant regardless. [my emphasis]

Based on that logic, the filing argues that the tactically important violence of a number of Proud Boys (plus Robert Geiswein, who is being prosecuted by Proud Boy prosecutor Erik Kenerson) was part of the conspiracy.

  • Daniel Lyons Scott, aka “Milkshake,” a Proud Boy, led a crowd in shoving a line of officers to force their way up a set of steps leading to the Capitol.3
  • Alan Fischer and Zachary Johnson, both Proud Boys, were part of a crowd trying to force its way through a line of officers defending an entrance to the Capitol building known as the “tunnel” on the Lower West Terrace. Johnson passed weapons up to rioters on the front line of the crowd, including a sledgehammer and a can of chemical spray.4
  • Edward George, a Proud Boy, engaged in a shoving match with an officer while trying to force his way into the Capitol through the Senate Carriage Door.5
  • Steven Miles, a Proud Boy, shoved and threw punches at officers in an altercation at the west front of the Capitol, and used a plank of wood resembling a two-byfour to break a window to make entry into the Capitol building.6
  • Christopher Worrell, a Proud Boy, sprayed a chemical irritant while in the restricted area of the Capitol grounds.7
  • Robert Gieswein, who is not a Proud Boy but who joined the marching group and wore orange masking tape as insignia showing affiliation with the marching group, sprayed officers with chemical irritant at multiple times and places inside the Capitol.8

Note, I believe all of these defendants are still awaiting trial (though Milkshake was for a time plea-curious), and thus far, only Milkshake and Worrell have been charged with conspiracy, with each other. All the rest, and their co-defendants, could well be superseded with conspiracy charges if this structure succeeds at trial.

Also of note, this government argument preceded (and to some degree explains) the leak about Proud Boy informants who had no knowledge of a plan to attack the Capitol. The defendants want to argue that if Proud Boys didn’t know of the plan to attack the Capitol, there must have been no conspiracy to do so. DOJ argues that, particularly given the hierarchy and the planned close hold on the plan imposed in advance, it doesn’t matter if they knew the overall plan and in fact the ignorance of lower level Proud Boys was actually part of the plan.

But the government is not relying just on the actions of Proud Boys and affiliates. It argues that the Proud Boys “harnessed” others who were at the attack.

Evidence of the conspiracy is not bound by the actions of the co-conspirators. As the evidence will show, on January 6, the defendants sought to harness the actions of others to achieve their objective of forcibly opposing the lawful transfer of Presidential power. In so doing, the defendants used these individuals as “tools.”

That the government is arguing this is unsurprising. As I’ve noted repeatedly, senior Proud Boys discussed doing this explicitly the morning of the attack.

UCC-1: I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today

Person-2: Would be epic

UCC-1: The state is the enemy of the people

Person-2: We are the people

UCC-1: Fuck yea

Person-3: God let it happen . . . I will settle with seeing them smash some pigs to dust

Person-2: Fuck these commie traitors

Person-3 It’s going to happen. These normiecons have no adrenaline control . . . They are like a pack of wild dogs

But the two sentence paragraph, above, is all that the opening motion describes with respect to “harnessing” “normies.”

Nordean’s short response on this point notes that the government had not yet proven the bulleted list of defendants were co-conspirators, much less provided any precedent to introduce the actions of people not alleged to be co-conspirators as evidence of the conspiracy.

Even more inappropriate is the government’s attempt to show the jury countless actions by nondefendants on January 6 who the government concedes are not “co-conspirators” even under its relaxed standards. Gov’t Mot., pp. 6-7. Although the government has no evidence that these protesters joined the charged conspiracies, it says their actions are somehow admissible because they are “tools” of the conspiracy. The government cites no rule or case law holding that the criminal actions of nondefendant “tools” of a conspiracy—conceded nonmembers—can be admitted against defendants in their criminal case. There is none. The government’s novel “tools” concept has no discernable limiting principle.

This argument accompanies Nordean (and Zach Rehl’s) First Amendment argument that the poor Proud Boys were simply engaged in a non-violent protest outside the Capitol when a bunch of unaffiliated people showed up and violently attacked the Capitol.

After which the Proud Boys took credit for what those purportedly unaffiliated people had done.

(Nordean’s filing also anticipated the extended sealed argument about a bunch of informant materials that he would later claim to be surprised by.)

In reply, the government uses analogies for other types of crime. This interlocking conspiracy, DOJ argues, is like a complex drug scheme where someone might be involved in delivering the drugs but not the money laundering.

An analogy illustrates the fallacy of Nordean’s argument. Imagine a defendant charged with one count of conspiring to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and one count of laundering the proceeds of that drug trafficking. Imagine that an uncharged co-conspirator transported narcotics on the defendant’s behalf but had no involvement in, or knowledge about, the laundering of the money. On Nordean’s reasoning, the co-conspirator’s conduct would be excluded at trial because it was only related to “a conspiracy” to traffic drugs and not “the conspiracy” to commit both object offenses. ECF 505 at 2 (emphasis Nordean’s). See Joint Proposed Jury Instructions (submitted to the Court on 11/2/2022), at 18 (“To have guilty knowledge, the defendant need not know the full extent of the conspiracy or all of the activities of all of its participants. It is not necessary for the defendant to know every other member of the conspiracy.”).

Before DOJ describes how the “normies” “harnessed” in the attack are like “money mules” in a financial transaction, it cites the discussion in advance of inciting the “normies” or leading them as the tip of a spear.

Contrary to Nordean’s telling, though, there is nothing novel about the principle that the actions of third parties can advance a conspiracy even if those parties are not full members of the conspiracy. The notion that the conspiracy could operationalize other individuals as a force multiplier is not an invention of the government; to the contrary, the conspirators expressly discussed it. See, e.g., ECF 440-1 at 20 (Transcript of MOSD meeting where Bertino explains: “[T]hey’re gonna follow us now because, you know, we’re the tip of the spear.”); ECF 111-1 at 4 (discussion on morning of January 6 about hopes that “normies burn that city to ash today” and “smash some pigs to dust,” which was “going to happen” because normies “have no adrenaline control . . . They are like a pack of wild dogs.”).

Indeed, for example, it is common for financial schemes to involve the use of “money mules” who knowingly conduct transactions at the perpetrators’ direction while remaining unwitting to the essential nature of the arrangement. See, e.g., United States v. Thomas, 999 F.3d 723, 727-28 (D.C. Cir. 2021). The conduct of those “money mules” is relevant evidence of the financial scheming defendant’s criminal intent and unlawful conduct. This case is factually different, but the basic theory is the same. The limiting principle is whether, on the evidence at trial, a jury could reasonably find a factual nexus between the actions of the conspirators and the actions of the tools. See Fed. R. Evid. 104(b) (“When the relevance of evidence depends on whether a fact exists, proof must be introduced sufficient to support a finding that the fact does exist.”). [my emphasis]

There was a hearing on all this on November 18 at which the government introduced a new angle to its argument about “harnessing” the “normies” (it was live so there was no call-in). Joe Biggs (whose lawyers are representing few other January 6 defendants, and so many not appreciate how many January 6 defendants — whether trespassers or assailants — claim they just got “caught up,” including a bunch who cited the Proud Boys as inspiration) describes the argument this way:

The Government asserted at argument that what guns were to the Oath Keepers on January 6, non-party protestors were to the Proud Boys. It further attempted to explain what it meant by this clumsy analogy when it asserted that the Proud Boys “weaponized” third parties.

[snip]

Perhaps mindful of the difficulties its arguments presented, the Government asserted that the defendants had “weaponized” third parties, either fellow members of the Proud Boys, members of other groups, or so-called “normies” unaffilated with any group, to engage in acts of violence. The Government did not argue just how percipient agents were transformed into little more than zombies, or tools, at the disposal of the defendants.

[snip]

The analogy to “mules” in narcotics cases in unavailing. In the case of passive mules, that is a party unknowingly carrying a prohibited item from one location to another, the mule lacks knowledge and intent to commit a crime. They are used as a transportation device. They are agents acting on purposes all their own but used by others to accomplish unlawful aims The Government is unclear whether it seriously intends to argue that protestors on January 6, 2021, were used without their knowledge, forced, somehow, to carry on as foreign objects the ideas of another. One suspects the Government cannot mean this, otherwise why would they prosecute the nearly 1,000 individuals charged with crimes requiring intent?

Nordean, whose lawyers do represent a slew of other defendants (though usually those who had more culpability themselves), responds this way.

[T]he government proposes to show the jury the criminal actions of individuals on January 6 who are (a) nondefendants, (b) not members of the charged conspiracies, (c) not members of the Proud Boys, and (d) not linked to the Defendants through a recognized principle of liability such as conspiracy, aiding and abetting, solicitation, or “willfully causing an act to be done.” ECF No. 494, pp. 3-7. The government describes the relevance of such evidence as follows: “the ‘tools’ of the conspiracy [were] deployed by the defendants in furtherance of their criminal objectives.” Id., p. 3 (emphasis added). “These ‘tools’ served as instruments of the defendants to carry out their criminal objective. While unwitting to the criminal objective, they were employed to take action on behalf of and in furtherance of the criminal objective.” Id. (emphasis added). According to the government, this group includes all “normies” whom the Defendants “sought to ‘let [] loose’ on January 6.” Id. Although the government does not say it in plain English, its “tools” argument aims to show the jury any and all criminal acts by any actor on January 6 on the contradictory relevance theory that these Defendants caused all of those acts and yet, at the same time, are not “criminally liable” for any of them. ECF No. 494, p. 7.

In the November 18 hearing, the Court indicated that the “tools” evidence might satisfy the test of relevance even if the government could not establish that the Defendants are legally responsible for the “tools’” actions under a recognized theory of liability.2 The Court suggested that relevance may lie in the following argument: the government alleges that the Defendants conspired to use “normies” to further their conspiratorial aims and thus the “jury should be permitted to see” what Defendants “achieved by mobilizing the crowd.” ECF No. 494, p. 4.

However, embedded in the government’s argument is a factual premise failing which the test of relevance cannot be satisfied. Whether acts of violence on January 6 by “normies” were caused or “mobilized” by the Defendants is a fact question. If those acts were not caused by the Defendants’ “mobilization,” they are not relevant under the government’s novel argument. A counterfactual shows this to be the case. Suppose Normies 1-4 rushed past barriers, ran into the Capitol, and assaulted police officers. They have never heard of the Proud Boys, nor did they see or hear the Defendants on January 6. Displaying their actions to the jury cannot demonstrate the “manner and means of the defendants’ conspiracy,” ECF No. 494, p. 3, as there is no causal relationship to speak of.

In response, the government will try to contend that even absent any causal relationship between the Defendants’ actions and those of “normies,” the latter are relevant inasmuch as the Defendants allegedly dreamed of being or aspired to be an instigator of the normies on January 6. But while Defendants’ alleged pre-January 6 comments about riling up the normies may in that case still hold relevance as to the nature/scope of the alleged criminal agreement, the actions of the normies themselves would not be relevant. Absent any causal relationship between the Defendants’ actions and the normies’ criminal acts, the latter can logically show neither that the conspiracy “succeeded” nor that the Defendants’ alleged agreement somehow “planned” the normies’ actions even where unilaterally undertaken without knowledge of Defendants’ desires.

[snip]

Here, the government has adduced no evidence to show that the actions of the “normies” or other nondefendants were caused by the Defendants’ actions. ECF No. 494, pp. 3-7. None exists. The government has not adduced the statement of any “normie” or other nondefendant to the effect that their acts were “caused” by the Defendants. [my emphasis]

The bolded language may be the only place in the papers where the Proud Boy defendants address the repeated explicit reference in their Telegram threads to riling up “the normies.” But Nordean gets at a critical issue: The government has proof that the Proud Boys intended to “harness” the “normies.” He’s arguing they don’t have proof, perhaps in the form of witness testimony, that hundreds of other January 6 defendants did what they did because of actions of the Proud Boys. (If pressed, the government could come up with at least a dozen witnesses who did talk about following the Proud Boys, but I trust from Nordean’s claim that they haven’t committed to doing so, and one subtext of this fight is the aborted effort by DOJ to get Ryan Samsel to enter a cooperation agreement in which he would testify about what Biggs told him before Samsel set off the entire attack.)

The government, partly because Nordean is also challenging the reliance on earlier evidence and events at the two earlier MAGA Marches, describes first how the Proud Boy Leaders cultivated a certain kind of recruit leading up to the attack, using comms to show senior Proud Boy leaders picked members who had embraced violence to be part of MOSD and anticipated needing a lot of bail money.

The escalation of both violence and violent rhetoric among the Proud Boys from November through January is not only highly probative to the charged conspiracy, it cannot be separated therefrom. After the Ministry of Self Defense was approved as a chapter, the defendants in leadership set about hand-selecting other individuals to join the group. In deciding who to admit, the defendants drew on their knowledge and experience with them at prior rallies. The fact that some of the recruits came into the chat and nearly immediately made references to violence, without rebuke by Nordean or any other leader, is additional evidence both (1) why they were chosen for MOSD, and (2) what they had come to understand about MOSD’s purpose based on  their prior communications with the defendants and other leaders of the conspiracy.4 See Ex. 3 (proposed trial exhibits comprising messages from MOSD recruits upon joining group, expressing (1) willingness to “log into Minecraft”; (2) shared experience of previous “seek and destroy” mission in DC “where we had a target which was Black Lives Matter plaza”; (3) expectation that members were going to need “a lot of bail money”; (4) understanding that “protest time” means “punch ‘em in the face”; and (5) appreciation that “to be in this group, you need to . . . be able to fucking kick ass if you need to kick the fuck ass.”).

It responds to the complaints about the government’s theory of “riling the normies” by pointing to specific moments when the Proud Boys opened the way through which hordes would swarm.

To be clear, the government does not plan to argue that every member of the crowd on January 6 was a tool of the defendants’ conspiracy. The tools will consist primarily of those Proud Boys members and affiliates whom the defendants recruited and led to the Capitol as part of their marching group. As the government explained, many of these individuals would also qualify as co-conspirators who shared a criminal objective with the defendants (even if, as far as the followers understood, that objective was only to commit assault). See 11/18/22 Tr. at 66 (“[W]e would argue, first, that these people are co-conspirators.”); 119 (“[P]art of what the tools theory does is says, even if these people were just signed up to commit violence without knowing why or against whom it would be directed, that’s still relevant.”). In some other instances, of course, the tools will be apparent strangers whose conduct nonetheless has a causal relationship with the defendants. For example, video evidence at trial will show that numerous rioters surged toward the Capitol as a result of Nordean, Biggs, and others destroying a black metal fence that was obstructing the crowds’ progress. Video will likewise show that many rioters entered the Capitol through a window that Pezzola smashed. All these facts lend credence to Tarrio’s own evaluation of the causal relationship at work: “Make no mistake, we did this.”

Stated thusly, it is a more modest argument than the government could have made and may one day make. There’s no reference to Alex Jones delivering the mob created by Donald Trump to his allies (and former employee, in the case of Biggs) in the Proud Boys, for example. Instead, the government seems to be looking barrier by barrier to show that the Proud Boys created the breach through which thousands ran.

I’ve been expecting an argument like this for months. But I admit it’s a close legal call.

I keep thinking about two things as I read this: First, a chilling line in cooperating witness Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, where he likened the moment on January 6 when things turned from peaceful to violent to his time in Afghanistan.

Greene noticed that during and following the chanting, the mood in the crowd changed, and it reminded him of his time in Afghanistan while stationed there with the U.S. Army, when protests changed from peaceful to violent.

While I don’t know the military experiences of Joe Biggs or other Proud Boy veterans, what Greene was describing was the Proud Boys deliberately stoking an insurgency the likes of which many of the men present (both Proud Boys and others) had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these guys know how to incite an insurgency because they fought them for so long overseas.

The other thing that’s not clear is who DOJ will have as witnesses. I don’t think Pezzola’s lawyers have submitted an active filing for weeks or months, a possible sign Pezzola is close to or has already flipped; given that he literally breached the Capitol, making way for everyone else, if he were a cooperating witness at trial it would be far easier to make this argument. And while the very first filing in this series described Aaron Whallon-Wolkind (Person 2) as part of the core conspiracy…

Specifically, the jury will be called upon to evaluate whether the defendants and their co-conspirators – including Enrique Tarrio, Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, Charles Donohoe, Jeremy Bertino, Persons 2 and 3, and Dominic Pezzola – entered into an agreement to accomplish an unlawful objective. The defendant’s own words, and those of their co-conspirators, reveal (1) their motive to stop the lawful transfer of power; (2) their agreement to use force to do so, including against law enforcement and elected officials; (3) their efforts to recruit individuals to carry out the criminal objective of the conspiracy; 1 and (4) their efforts to encourage other individuals present on January 6 to use force to achieve their objective.

… unlike Bertino (who formally pled guilty the day before this filing) and John “Blackbeard” Stewart (Person 3), who pled guilty in June, it’s unclear what AWW’s status is. That’s important because he was part of the plan to, “see thousands of normies burn that city to ash” on January 6.

The status of Ron Loehrke, another former Marine who played a key role in directing the attention of the rioters, is also unclear. A year ago, he was arrested on civil disorder and trespassing charges — but not obstruction or conspiracy — with co-defendant Jimmy Haffner (Haffner was also charged with a tactically important assault, at the East Door), but AUSA Kenerson has gotten three pre-indictment continuances of their case, through January 10, probably right in the middle of the Proud Boy Leader trial.

In other words, DOJ’s arguments about the way the Proud Boys deployed “normies” to carry out the bulk of the attack on the Capitol make a ton of sense given the evidence from the attack. This approach also helps to explain a lot of the oddities and apparent delays about the larger Proud Boy prosecution.

What’s unclear is whether DOJ will succeed in introducing it as evidence at trial.

Spy Versus Spy Amid the Proud Boys, Again

In the plea hearing for Nicholas Ochs and DeCarlo, Chief Judge Beryl Howell asked prosecutor Alexis Loeb whether the defendants had sat for the interview required by the standard plea deals. Loeb explained that, Ochs had but, for reasons pertaining to the ongoing investigation, FBI did not do such an interview with DeCarlo. I wondered, then, whether DOJ wanted to avoid discovery obligations to other Proud Boy defendants.

It’s something I had in mind as I read the various filings (Zach Rehl, Ethan Nordean, Enrique Tarrio, Joe Biggs, Nordean reply) that — NYT reported the other day — pertain to discovery about informants that the FBI had or developed among the Proud Boys. The gist of the complaints (as noted in the Biggs filing), which treat this as a Brady violation that merits dismissing the case, is that the FBI had records relating to Proud Boys who said they did not know of a plan to attack the Capitol in advance.

Biggs notes here on the open record that the Brady violations the parties continue to dispute — beginning with the dispute triggered by the Government’s late disclosure of a significant cache of Brady materials on August 13, 2021, or fifteen months ago — consistently go to a structural feature in all three of the Department of Justice’s superseding indictments in 21-cr-175. That feature and overarching issue is whether a Proud Boy conspiracy plan to obstruct the Biden-Harris vote certification or to commit sedition ever existed or could have existed. The Brady materials and discussions most at play now and since mid-2021 point up the increasing doubtfulness and high unlikelihood of the existence of a conspiracy. That is troublesome, and glaring. It continues to be the ‘elephant in the room’ of 21-cr-175.

It’s hard to know how seriously to take this. Some of these defense attorneys have been crying wolf from the start, claiming something turned over in timely fashion is exculpatory when it in fact shows really damning information.

In the August instance cited by Biggs, which NYT also wrote about, the informant was low-level and claimed to have shown up to insurrection late. Except Statements of Offense from members of the Kansas City suggest that the informant falsely told the FBI that violence had not come up in a meeting the night before the attack.

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]

That said, the statements of offense making such claims — here from Enrique Colon — come from defendants receiving really sweet plea deals in hte process, in multiple cases avoiding weapons charges or enhancements as well.

In the case of the two Nicks, they definitely coordinated with each other and premeditated a plan to stop the vote certification. But they appear not to have been part of any larger plan (they even attended Trump’s rally, which most Proud Boys did not). In other words, one thing that may be going on is that Biggs and Nordean implemented a plan developed along with Tarrio and some senior Proud Boys who weren’t in DC (such as the cooperating Jeremy Bertino), but didn’t tell the greater number of Proud Boys what that plan is in advance, something that makes the testimony of others appear exculpatory only because the Proud Boy leaders had kept a close hold on their plans.

According to Nordean’s reply to DOJ’s entirely sealed 21-page response, the government believes it was justified in withholding the documents under Rule 16(a)(2), which only requires sharing the documents if the pertinent witnesses testify.

The government argues that the sensitive materials were exempt from its discovery obligations under Rule 16(a)(2). ECF No. 538, p. 11. That is false because (1) the records at issue were not made by a government agent or attorney for the government in connection with investigating or prosecuting “the case,” i.e., United States v. Nordean, 21-cr-175, and (2) it is not just “internal government documents” Nordean seeks but the underlying information merely reproduced in government documents.

Nordean seems to be playing games about the bounds of “this” investigation here, and if the documents genuinely are not exculpatory, that would probably be a reasonable response. It’s a matter of whether this is an investigation into just the Proud Boy leaders, all the Proud Boys, or everyone involved in attacking the Capitol.

Separately, these are the files that (in a recent hearing), the defense attorneys were complaining about the heightened security procedures to access the documents, as Nordean lays out in his original filing.

[T]he government has made the extraordinary argument that these exculpatory materials cannot be produced directly to defense counsel. It has argued, successfully, that counsel must comply with the following procedure in order to access Brady information in this case:

(1) counsel must travel to an FBI office to review the materials in person;

(2) counsel may not receive copies of the materials but must take handwritten notes;

(3) counsel must then move the Court to produce the materials to the defendants, based on summary descriptions of the materials in their handwritten notes; and

(4) counsel must then file additional motions to secure this evidence for trial.

The complaint would be more convincing if the details of the earlier informant had not been published by the NYT, making it easy for investigators (and presumably all the other Proud Boys) to identify the informant. In the Oath Keeper case, too, the government is trying to hunt down which attorney(s), if any, sourced a NYT story about an Oath Keeper informant. (h/t Kyle Cheney)

Meanwhile, all this question about who is informing on whom leads me to return to the question of what happened to

Whallon Wolkind in all this (he’s the one top Proud Boy leader not known to have been charged or flipped), not to mention why Dominic Pezzola, alone among the remaining defendants in this case, didn’t join the challenge to access the informant files.

The usual suspects are wailing about how long this investigation is taking. Meanwhile, cases like this reveal the complexity of trying to prosecute key defendants while processing through a thousand others.

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 Proud Boy Leaders’ Trial Takes Shape

I’m buried in other things, but I wanted to write up a few developments in the Proud Boys case.

Yesterday, along with a response to Ethan Nordean’s sustained complaints about Brady material and more general complaints from defense counsel about the difficulty of discovery in the Proud Boy Leaders’ case, the government released a discovery index for its case against Enrique Tarrio and his co-defendants. It provides a snapshot of the government’s case against the Proud Boys.

Much of the discovery in this case consists of things we’ve seen in other cases: Lots of open source, surveillance, and body worn camera videos, the contents of phones and other devices (the term “scoped” means that FBI has provided to the defendants and others only the material deemed to be responsive to the warrant used to obtain the devices), and social media postings. The index also identifies items obtained in searches of defendants’ residences. There are calls from jail included for Ethan Nordean, Zach Rehl, and Matthew Greene. There is surveillance video from various hotel properties, including AirBNB.

There are a variety of interviews noted, including custodial interviews conducted after an arrest, as well as interviews not so marked, suggesting potential cooperation from people like Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace; the father and son pair were prosecuted separately, with son Jeremy pleading to a misdemeanor on April 8 and father Jeffrey due to plead guilty on June 17. Jeff Finley, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor on April 6 even proffered, implying more formal cooperation not identified in his plea paperwork. An interview with Greene, dated October 28, 2021, may reflect the beginning of his cooperation (he was the first Proud Boy to enter into an overt cooperation agreement). As of right now, there’s just one interview from Louis Colon and none from Charles Donohoe, the other two Proud Boys who entered into cooperation agreements. Perhaps most interesting, there is a “non-custodial surreptitious interview intercepted on 3/8/22” of Enrique Tarrio; one possible explanation for that is that the FBI wired someone up before talking to Tarrio. There’s also a surreptitious interview with someone whose name is redacted.

There are a few redaction fails, one for Eddie Block and another for Trevor McDonald, neither of whom have been arrested.

DOJ released this file with all the case numbers (in the first column of the table) unredacted. This list of the abbreviations for FBI Field Offices provides some indication about whether redacted subjects are located in the Philadelphia area (as Aaron Whallon-Wolkind is), the Pacific Northwest, somewhere between Baltimore and the Carolinas, or Saint Louis area.

I guess it’s rather late in this post to offer this warning, but this document will suck you in.

The government released this snapshot of their case even amid several other developments.

First, Joshua Pruitt, who is a long-term Proud Boy but who doesn’t show up in this index, will plead guilty at 1PM.

In a hearing on discovery yesterday, Rehl attorney Carmen Hernandez asked whether the government would comply with their earlier assurances that they would obtain any superseding indictment (potentially adding co-defendants) by June 1, as they promised earlier. The government (I believe this was AUSA Jason McCullough) declined to answer. From that, I take there may be an imminent superseding indictment, perhaps even one that remains sealed until co-defendants are arrested.

We know who won’t be in any superseding indictment though: yesterday the government released a superseding indictment against Christopher Worrell and Dan Scott, joining the two cases and adding obstruction charges to the former. Both men figure prominently in this index.

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.

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.

A White Board of the Sedition-Curious

Contrary to what a lot of people imagine, I don’t keep visual representations — like some cork board with a bunch of strings attached — of the investigations I follow, not even the sprawling January 6 investigation. Instead, I just try to capture important developments here, where I can refer back to them. There are several such relationships unpacked in recent weeks.

Roger Stone and Stewart Rhodes bug out at the same time after insurrection

For example, a bunch of people have asked me what I make of the WaPo report based on video taken by some Danish journalists who were filming a documentary of Roger Stone on January 6.

As you read it, keep in mind that the Get Me Roger Stone video team was following Roger Stone during key periods of 2016, including at the RNC.

Mueller at least attempted — as Stone feared Mueller would in real time — to mine the video for clues about Stone’s activities. For example, in one of the same email chains where Stone told Randy Credico to “do a [Frank] Panta[n]gel[i],” he and Credico were panicking about what Get Me Roger Stone writer Morgan Pehme was saying about 2016.

So even assuming Roger Stone wasn’t engaged in his everyday type of performance when being filmed for these film-makers, he would be acutely aware of the legal hazards of having a documentary team following around while crimes were being committed.

That’s why the report is most interesting for the times when Stone made sure to ditch the camera team: at precisely the time of a key Proud Boy planning meeting, during a meeting that Joshua James may have reported in on, and as the riot unfolded at the Capitol.

For example, the videographers did not track Stone when he left the hotel at 9PM on January 5 with Sal Greco.

At about 8:50 p.m. on Jan. 5, after the Danish filmmakers had left him, Stone exited the Willard again with his bodyguard, off-duty New York City police officer Sal Greco, a live-stream video shows. Their destination was unclear, though Stone had said he had a 9 p.m. appointment to have his hair dyed.

Just minutes after that — just before 9:17 PM — Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean were meeting with as-yet unidentified people putting together their plan for the riot.

Then there was a meeting with Bernie Kerik at 10AM at the Willard; hotel staff prevented videographers from watching that meeting.

The filmmakers told The Post that Stone appeared to change his plans after an encounter in the Willard lobby around 10 a.m. with Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner working in Giuliani’s command center at the hotel. The filmmakers began recording their conversation but were forced to leave by hotel staff. It is unclear what was said.

There’s good evidence that Joshua James checked in with Michael Simmons before and after that meeting.

Finally, Stone blew off the videographers from just before the Proud Boys kicked off a riot until almost the moment both Stone-related militias stood down.

At about 12:40 p.m., some ofStone’s guests left his suite. Stone’s team and the filmmakers agreed to separate for lunch and then reconvene two hours later. Stone planned to speak at a smaller rally near the Capitol later that afternoon.

But as the filmmakers ate in their hotel room, they saw news footage of a riot escalating at the Capitol. Around 2:30 p.m., Guldbrandsen headed out to capture the scene while Frederik Marbell, the director of photography, rushed to Stone’s room.

“Kristin Davis opened the door and said that Roger was taking a nap, so I couldn’t film,” Marbelltold The Post.

Outside the room, Marbell attempted to reach Stone by text message starting at 3:03 p.m. The messages went unanswered for 24 minutes, when Stone responded and offered to go to Marbell’s room.

By about 4 p.m., with the Capitol in chaos, Stone had still not arrived at Marbell’s room. Marbell returned to Stone’s room and began knocking. About five minutes later, room service arrived and Marbell snuck inside, he said.

“Roger was not taking a nap. He was on the phone with someone,” Marbell said.

Stone condemned the riot to the filmmakers at 4:18 p.m., saying: “I think it’s really bad for the movement. It hurts, it doesn’t help. I’m not sure what they thought they were going to achieve.

These are like Stone’s July 2016 meeting with Nigel Farage at the RNC: The stuff he knew well to and did hide from the camera. That’s where the sweet spot of Stone’s interactions are.

All that said, the report shows that key Stone actions the camera team captured exactly map the known central events of the planning for the insurrection.

For example, Stone put together a Friends of Stone Signal list, including Enrique Tarrio, once it became clear Trump had lost. That fed Flynn’s efforts.

He told them to monitor a group chat on the app Signal titled “F.O.S.” — friends of Stone. Tarrio of the Proud Boys was among the group’s members, a later shot of Stone’s phone showed.

[snip]

On Nov. 5, Stone drew up a Stop the Steal action plan that was visible on Alejandro’s laptop in footage captured by the filmmakers. As protesters were mobilized, the plan said, state lawmakers would be lobbied to reject official results. That tactic later proved central to Trump’s efforts.

Also that day, Stone had a 15-minute call with Flynn, the video shows. He told Flynn they could “document an overwhelming and compelling fraud” in each battleground state and urged him to spread the word on social media. That day, Flynn, Trump’s campaign and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric began using #StopTheSteal on Twitter.

Just after this mobilization, both Tarrio and Biggs started calling for civil war.

Later that month, Stone was coordinating with Mike Flynn and Ali Alexander.

Stone moved quickly after Trump’s defeat to help mobilize the protest movement that drew thousands to the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, 2021, The Post found. He privately strategized with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and rally organizer Ali Alexander, who visited Stone’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in late November 2020 for a dinner where Stone served pasta and martinis.

In the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (when Flynn would be pardoned and Sidney Powell would, like Stone, start grifting off claims of a stolen election), Flynn and Powell were at Lin Wood’s properties in South Carolina, plotting away.

I was most struck, however, by the unsurprising news that in addition to Tarrio, Stone also used Signal messages with Stewart Rhodes.

Stone used an encrypted messaging app later in January to communicate with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who is also charged with seditious conspiracy, and Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, the footage shows.

When I saw the description in James’ statement of offense of the way Rhodes bugged out of town immediately after the riot, I suspected that someone had instructed Rhodes that they were going to be hunted.

At Rhodes’s instruction, James, Vallejo, and others met Rhodes that evening at a restaurant in Vienna, Virginia. Rhodes discussed saving “the Republic” by stopping the transfer of presidential power and began to make plans to oppose the Inauguration on January 20, 2021, including by having people open-carry firearms at state capitols around the country.

While at the restaurant, Rhodes and James came to believe that law enforcement was searching for Rhodes and others after their attack on the Capitol. The group immediately returned to their hotel, collected their belongings, and met at a nearby gas station. There, James saw what he estimated to be thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment in Rhodes’s vehicle. Rhodes divvied up various firearms and other gear among James and others who occupied a total of three cars. Rhodes left his mobile phone with one person and departed with another person in that person’s car so that law enforcement could not locate and arrest him. The three cars departed in separate directions.

James returned to Alabama with some of Rhodes’s gear, including firearms and other tactical equipment.

According to the videographers, Stone bugged out at about the same time and in the same frantic manner as Rhodes did.

As a mob ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longest-serving political adviser, hurried to pack a suitcase inside his elegant suite on the fifth floor of the Willard hotel. He wrapped his tailored suits in trash bags, reversed his black face mask so its “Free Roger Stone” logo was hidden, then slipped out of town for a hastily arranged private flight from Dulles International Airport.

“I really want to get out of here,” Stone told an aide, as they were filmed at the hotel by a Danish camera crew for a documentary on the veteran Republican operative. Stone said he feared prosecution by the incoming attorney general, Merrick Garland. “He is not a friend,” Stone said.

I would, at this point, be shocked if Rhodes and Stone hadn’t communally decided they needed to bolt. The remaining question I have, though, is whether someone in government — like Mark Meadows — alerted Stone or someone close to him that the FBI had switched immediately into investigative mode.

Sidney Powell springs for the sedition gaslight defense

In the same way that the Danish videographers confirm that Roger Stone and Mike Flynn were conspiring early in the post-election process, a recent BuzzFeed report reveals that Sidney Powell is now using her hard-won grift to pay for the defense of some Oath Keepers.

Since October, the organization, Defending the Republic, has been making monthly payments to the defense attorney for Kelly Meggs, a member of the militant group the Oath Keepers who is charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In an interview, the attorney, Jonathon Moseley, said he was aware of “at least three or four other defendants who have that arrangement” as well. The Oath Keepers’ general counsel, Kellye SoRelle, said that one of those others is the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes. Offered the chance to deny that, his lawyers said they don’t discuss funding.

The revelation, which has not been previously reported, sheds new light on the activities of Powell’s organization, which was incorporated in December 2020 “to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans.” By last August, the group had raised nearly $15 million, according to its audited financial statements, and since then has raked in untold cash in donations and sales of merchandise, including T-shirts, drink coasters, and highball glasses adorned with the organization’s logo. Yet despite mounting legal scrutiny from federal and state investigators, Defending the Republic has disclosed almost nothing about where that money has been going.

[snip]

Powell’s involvement in the Oath Keepers case helps explain how some of the defendants, most of whom are far from wealthy, have been able to work with private attorneys who charge hundreds of dollars an hour rather than court-appointed lawyers. But it also raises questions as to who is dictating their defense strategy. In recent months, defense attorneys have raised many of the same far-flung conspiracies about COVID-19, antifa, and the deep state that appeared in lawsuits against the federal government filed by Powell herself.

As Ken Bensinger notes and I have traced, Jonathon Moseley has chosen to use court filings to engage in conspiracy theorizing rather than a more typical defense.

But on top of the futility of such an approach to actually obtain an optimal outcome, it serves to undermine rule of law more generally. Moseley’s approach is not all that different from the one that Powell herself used with Mike Flynn in attempting to blow up his prosecution by inventing false claims about the government. There was no evidence to support it, but it fed the frothers.

Tellingly, Powell’s efforts did nothing but make Flynn’s outcome worse. Thus, the defense plan, such as it existed, served to undermine rule of law and then make it all go away with a Presidential pardon. I’ve long assumed that that was the hope for Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson (who has adopted a similarly conspiratorial defense approach): that they could stall through 2025 in hopes a Republican would pardon them for their alleged sedition.

On March 4, Judge Amit Mehta appointed Andrew Wise of Miller Chevalier as conflict counsel to inquire into conflicts between Moseley’s representation of Meggs and (at least in the civil suit) Stewart Rhodes). That’s likely to bring a review of compensation arrangements, which may lead to inquiries about what Powell is paying Moseley to do.

Interestingly, BuzzFeed suggests that Juli Haller, who represents Meggs’ wife Connie, but also Ryan Samsel, may be on this dole. There was a time when Samsel looked like he might have considered flipping but that time is long gone.

Roger Stone’s pardon grift

And now, having covered Roger Stone’s Stop the Steal grift and Sidney Powell’s Defending the Republic grift, we come to Stone’s pardon-selling.

The Daily Beast adds to the earlier WaPo report (the first item here) that addressed all the pardons Roger Stone pitched Trump to make in the days between when he bolted from DC quickly and the day any such power expired. It notes that in mid-January 2021, Stone was playing all sides of the Florida scandal that engulfs Matt Gaetz.

It’s already known that Stone lobbied for pardons for both Gaetz and Greenberg in the waning days of the Trump administration. But it wasn’t known that Stone also advocated for a pardon for this third man connected to Gaetz and Greenberg: Stephen Alford, a serial fraudster from the Florida panhandle.

That development was first revealed by The Washington Post in a draft memo published earlier this month. But the Post report didn’t mention Alford—his name only appears in a document the Post obtained and uploaded online—and the link hasn’t been explored.

Two months after Stone advocated for Alford’s absolution, that allegiance dissolved when Alford became Gaetz’s scapegoat for the investigation. (Stone also eventually blasted Alford as part of the “deep state.”)

Just weeks before, however, Stone was in Alford’s corner, lobbying for a pardon.

Much of this is just scammy Florida politics. I’m interested in two details of this.

First, one of the ties TDB did find between Alford — the guy who attempted to extort Gaetz’s dad — and Stone goes through Oleg Deripaska.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the events, however, Alford had one powerful friend: A Republican lobbyist close to Stone.

Weeks after Alford’s pardon request was declined, that lobbyist shared some more information: Matt Gaetz was in trouble. And the lobbyist, this person said, had the details, including images of Gaetz with young women at a sex party.

While it’s unclear how the lobbyist—an associate of Oleg Deripaska—came into this information, Stone had by that time known about the Gaetz allegations for months; Greenberg had told Stone all about their involvement with a 17-year-old, both over text messages and in a confession he drafted at Stone’s request, as part of the pardon process.

It didn’t take long for Alford to cobble together a plan—and it was a doozy: He would secure Gaetz a presidential pardon in exchange for $25 million, which Alford would supposedly use to repatriate an FBI agent taken hostage in Iran who has long been considered dead.

TDB then describes how this plan, involving a lobbyist with ties to Deripaska, was behind the campaign against the NYT story on Gaetz’ legal woes.

When The New York Times broke the investigation in late March last year, Gaetz used Alford’s ploy as ammo. He fired off a tweetstorm, claiming the Times report was a “planted leak” designed to torpedo an investigation into “criminal extortion” plot “to smear my name.”

The central figure in Gaetz’s narrative, however, wasn’t Alford; it was Alford’s lawyer, whose role was limited to holding the money in an escrow account while Alford negotiated the release.

That lawyer had one special characteristic: Three decades ago, he served as a DOJ prosecutor. And that fact equipped the narrative with a “deep state” hook—a Roger Stone special.

Gaetz doubled down that night on Tucker Carlson’s late-night Fox News talk show, explaining the convoluted “leaking” and “smearing” plot to a befuddled Carlson, who remarked that it was “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

The next day, Stone piped up to defend Gaetz, using the same language.

And I’m interested in that because Glenn Greenwald was another key player in this anti-NYT campaign, including as recently as December.

Click through for the details on Gaetz paying Stone until he stopped paying Stone.

Update: One more note about Stone’s plan for pardons. Unsurprisingly he pushed for pardons for Assange and Stone, and unsurprisingly he did so in the same terms that Greenwald did — as the best way to get back at the Deep State.

Hell yes ,I would pardon Julian Assange and Edward Snowden- they are persecuted because they exposed the same people who attempted the Russia Collusion Hoax, the Ukraine hoax the last phony impeachment and are now pushing you’re their new phony impeachment.

The plan is a telling document of how Stone exploited Trump’s narcissism and grievances to get things done. The UK Supreme Court just rejected Assange’s bid to appeal, so the initial extradition request will go to Priti Patel for approval (though he still has several avenues of appeal).

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.

Enrique Tarrio Gets His Chance to Fit In or Fuck Off

Enrique Tarrio was finally indicted in the Proud Boy conspiracy. Effectively, this indictment adds Tarrio and Dominic Pezzola to the Leader conspiracy. William Pepe is not included, suggesting maybe he flipped.

Among the new lines in the indictment is one describing Tarrio trying to impose discipline.

On December 27, 2020, TARRIO created another encrypted messaging group to recruit potential members of the MOSD (the “MOSD Prospect Group”). TARRIO stressed that members of the chapter were expected to follow directions of MOSD leadership, which TARRIO and others emphasized by telling members, among other things, to “Fit in [] or fuck off.”

The indictment includes a meeting Tarrio had with Stewart Rhodes on January 5, before leaving DC.

It does not include any reference to his meeting at the White House.

One of the most interesting new additions is the description of Tarrio discussing a plan to occupy a few “crucial buildings” in DC with an unnamed person.

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 titled, “1776 Returns.” The document set forth a plan to occupy 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.”

I’ll write more in a bit.

Pandora’s Presidential Archives, Couy Griffin Edition

The attorney for New Mexico politician and Cowboys for Trump founder, Couy Griffin, is a guy named Nick Smith.

He is laudably aggressive. And in a case in which Griffin was charged just with trespassing (18 USC 1752), Smith has fought the prosecution every step of the way, even though if Griffin were to get jail time, he already served time after his arrest and so likely would only get time served.

In July, DC’s Trumpiest judge, Trevor McFadden, soundly denied Griffin’s first attempt to get the 1752 charges thrown out, arguing that Smith’s legalistic interpretation of the required role of Secret Service didn’t accord with the statutory history.

While Griffin clings to this statutory history, it ends up being more cement shoes than life preserver. By 2006 Congress rewrote the statute, in the process eliminating reference to the Treasury Department and to any “regulations” from any executive branch agency. 5 18 U.S.C. § 1752 (2006). More, the new statute criminalized merely entering or remaining in a restricted area; the old statute required further action, such as impeding government business, obstructing ingress or egress, or physical violence. Compare 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(1) (2006) with 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a) (1970). But Congress did not stop there. In 2012 it reconfigured the statute, adding the term “restricted buildings or grounds” and then defining it under subsection (c), as it appears today. 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a) (2012). Congress did not take that opportunity to clarify who can or must do the restricting, leaving it open-ended. But Congress did lower the mens rea requirement, striking the requirement that a defendant act “willfully.”

So what should the Court gather from this foray into § 1752’s statutory history? “Not much” would be a fair answer. Perhaps better would be to recognize the direction of Congress’s legislative march, where at every turn it has broadened the scope the statute and the potential for liability. Even if Griffin were correct that earlier versions required Secret Service authorizations of restrictions, the Court cannot reconstitute provisions that Congress has jettisoned. And the Court cannot agree with Griffin that woven through these increasingly broad versions of the statute was a latent limitation that only the Secret Service could effectively post, cordon off, or restrict an area.

But in the wake of the description in Jon Karl’s book of where Mike Pence hid from the rioters, Smith tried again, arguing that the space where Mike Pence was evacuated was a garage for another building of the Capitol. Smith argued that meant Pence was not present (and therefore the necessary trigger for 1752 was absent). Smith wants the photos that the Secret Service assuredly wants to keep secret (because it reveals the location of a VIP security location), though the language he cites appears to prove him wrong.

The Senate garage, and underground tunnels leading to it, do not fall under the statutory definitions of the Capitol Building and Capitol Grounds. As shown above, all the features making up the “United States Capitol Grounds” are, appropriately enough, above ground. § 5102(a). As to whether the tunnels and Senate underground garage are part of the “Capitol Building” itself, Title 40 answers in the negative. “Capitol Buildings” are defined as follows:

[T]he term “Capitol Buildings” means the United States Capitol, the Senate and House Office Buildings and garages, the Capitol Power Plant, all buildings on the real property described under section 5102(c) (including the Administrative Building of the United States Botanic Garden) all buildings on the real property described under section 5102(d), all subways and enclosed passages connecting two or more of those structures, and the real property underlying and enclosed by any of those structures. 40 U.S.C. § 5101 (emboldening added).

As seen above, the definition of “Capitol Buildings,” plural, distinguishes between the tunnels and underground garages, on the one hand, and the “United States Capitol” building itself, on the other. The “subways,” underground “enclosed passages,” and “garages” are not part of the “United States Capitol” building (the “restricted” building) because they are set off from one another by commas in a list.

Photographic evidence showing that the Secret Service protectee was not present in the § 1752 “building” or “grounds” at the same time as Griffin is Brady material. It should be produced by the government. If it is not, the Court should dismiss the charges pursuant to Local Criminal Rule 5.1(g)(4), as Griffin would then be denied access to evidence going to the heart of his case.

The government response didn’t address the question posed by Smith’s filing, “what is a garage.”

Instead, in a footnote, DOJ says that the photos would not be exculpatory in any case.

The government rejects the Defendant’s contention that the photographs that are the subject of the Defendant’s motion have some exculpatory value. 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(1) and (2) criminalizes a person entering a restricted area “of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.” 18 U.S.C. 1752(c)(1)(B). 18 U.S.C. 1752 does not require the Secret Service protectee to be present on the grounds or in the building where the restricted area has been established at the time of an illegal entry into the restricted area. Therefore, the Vice President’s presence in an underground parking garage or tunnel does not exculpate the Defendant with respect to the charged conduct.

But the bulk of the response says that the photos are not Brady because the government doesn’t have possession of the photos.

Brady material is material in the government’s possession that has some exculpatory or impeachment value. United States v. Nelson, 979 F.Supp.2d 123 (D.C. Cir. 2013). The photographs requested by the Defendant from the official White House photographer are not in the government’s possession, therefore, they are not considered Brady and the Defendant cannot move to compel their production.1 United States v. Flynn, 411 F.Supp.3d 15 (D.C. Cir. 2019) (“Brady does not extend to information that is not within government’s possession…”). Similarly, the Defendant’s request for these photographs under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(E) should be denied, as Rule 16 only requires the government to disclose photographs within its possession. Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E).

It’s not clear exactly what DOJ means by this. But according to President Obama’s White House photographer, Pete Souza, the photos should be in the Archives.

The Presidential Records Act requires that all records including “photographs” be turned over to the National Archives at the end of each administration. This includes Vice Presidential records. Congress should determine why the Archives doesn’t have them.

My guess is that’s precisely where they are, but they don’t count as being in the Executive Branch’s possession because of the way the Presidential Records Act deals with Presidential files. As the National Archives explained in Trump’s lawsuit, Trump’s records count as Presidential records for a period.

In 1978, guided by the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Nixon v. GSA, 1 Congress enacted the PRA, which changed the legal ownership of the official records of the President from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which Presidents, and subsequently NARA, must manage the records of their Administrations. Under the PRA, records reflecting “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies” of the Presidency are “maintained as Presidential records.” 44 U.S.C. § 2203(a). When a President leaves office, the Archivist “assume[s] responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to” the Presidential records of the departing administration. Id. § 2203(g)(1). The Archivist generally must make records covered by the PRA available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) starting five years after the President leaves office. Id. § 2204(b)(2), (c)(1); see also 36 C.F.R. § 1270.38. However, the outgoing President may specify that access to records in six defined categories be restricted for up to twelve years after leaving office. 44 U.S.C. § 2204(a); see also 36 C.F.R. § 1270.40(a).

We know Trump is asserting that right with respect to January 6, because as we speak, Trump is asking the Supreme Court to uphold his claim that no one else can access his records without his permission.

Of course, Judge McFadden could order DOJ that it needs to search the Archives for matters pertinent to the investigation — this investigation, and January 6 generally.

I’m sure DOJ would love that! In the case of Griffin, that would give DOJ access to the meeting that Griffin had directly with Trump, and any other contacts that are stored as Presidential Records.

But in the case of Nick Smith’s other clients — most notably Ethan Nordean — it would make records of Trump’s contacts with Proud Boys available, including records on what Enrique Tarrio was doing at the White House in December 2020.

So by all means, let’s have the Trumpiest Judge order DOJ to search through Trump’s records to find discovery pertinent to the January 6 attack, including the pictures of Mike Pence hiding from Trump’s mobsters. But along with that, let’s have the records of Trump’s contacts with them in advance of the insurrection.

Update: Griffin’s lawyers have responded. After having submitted proof that where Pence was was in the Capitol, they now play word games to suggest that “will be” is the same as “is” (and yes, the government has submitted evidence Griffin knew this).

The government is mistaken in several respects. “[R]estricted buildings or grounds” means “any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area . . . of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.” § 1752(c)(1)(B). Thus, Griffin did not “knowingly enter[] or remain[] in any restricted building or grounds,” § 1752(a)(1), if the vice president was not also present and “temporarily visiting.”

Still, Griffin claims the government has not addressed their Rule 16 claim, and so DOJ must go to NARA and get the photos for him.

The government does not dispute that an official White House photographer took the photographs of the vice president as he passed time outside the “restricted area” on January 6. ECF No. 70. Accordingly, under the Presidential Records Act, the images are records documenting the “activities” of the vice president concerning his “constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties. . .” and are thus Presidential records. 44 U.S.C. § 2203(a). When a president leaves office, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assumes “custody [and] control” over Presidential records. § 2203(g)(1). Records of the vice president are transferred to NARA in the same manner. § 2207. NARA is an agency of the Executive branch. § 2102.

Therefore, the government has an obligation to obtain the photographs from NARA and produce them to Griffin, so long as they are merely “material to preparing the defense,” much less Brady material.1 Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E)(i). It is uncontroversial that satisfying this standard is “not a heavy burden.” United States v. Lloyd, 992 F.2d 348, 351 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Griffin must merely make a showing that the material will “play an important role in uncovering admissible evidence, aiding witness preparation, corroborating testimony, or assisting impeachment or rebuttal.” Id. Of course, if the requested material is “inconsistent with or tends to negate the defendant’s guilt as to any element . . . of the offense(s) with which the defendant is charged” it is also Brady material. LCrR 5.1(b)(1). “[B]urdensomeness and logistical difficulty . . . cannot drive the decision whether items are ‘material’ to preparation of the defense. Nor can concerns about confidentiality and privacy rights of others trump the right of one charged with a crime to present a fair defense.” United States v. O’Keefe, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31053, at *4 (D.D.C. Apr. 27, 2007).

As I said, I look forward to, on Trevor McFadden’s order, DOJ going to NARA and getting all the records pertinent to Griffin among Trump’s records. The government can supersede Griffin while he continues to dawdle, and Trump’s own records of Griffin’s relationship might change DOJ’s understanding of the case.

The same is all the more true for the militia defendants that the Smiths represent.

They’re doing this just as SCOTUS’ inaction is creating the opportunity for NARA to provide the first 4 pages of which Trump has claimed privilege over to the Select Committee.