Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, stands outside Harry's bar during a protest on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
The Proud Boys’ leader had set his sights on the Capitol at least a week prior to the deadly riot there, according to a summary of findings by the House Select Committee tasked with investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The Committee released their summary Monday as they convened for a final hearing—just as jury selection got underway in the seditious conspiracy case for five prominent members of the Proud Boys, including the far-right street fighting gang’s leader and former “chairman” Enrique Tarrio.
Although Tarrio wasn’t in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 (he was arrested on his way into the capital two days earlier for a prior offense, and police found him in possession of a loaded magazine in violation of local law), prosecutors have zeroed in on earlier exchanges that appeared to show him orchestrating the Proud Boys plans for that day. Many of those exchanges took place in a private Telegram group between members of a special chapter called “Ministry of Self-Defense” (MOSD) which was formed especially to discuss plans for Jan. 6.“As of December 29, 2020, Tarrio told the group the events on January 6th would be [centered around the Capitol,]” the Select Committee wrote, citing those Telegram chats. One senior Proud Boy who already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy told prosecutors that MOSD members openly discussed the possibility of storming the Capitol, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote. The Committee argued that President Donald Trump’s tweet on Dec. 19, 2020, calling on supporters to come to D.C. for a “wild protest,” sent extremist groups into overdrive. Groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Three Percenter militias, saw his tweet as a direct call to action—and put them into a planning frenzy. There hadn’t been a ton of overlap between those groups in the past, but according to top-ranking members, that changed after Trump’s tweet.
Kelly Meggs, a Florida Oath Keeper who was recently found guilty of seditious conspiracy along with the group’s founder Stewart Rhodes, bragged on Facebook that he’d helped form an alliance between the Oath Keepers, Florida Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys, working with the shared goal to “shut this shit down.” According to the Select Committee’s summary, Meggs called Tarrio on Dec. 19th and they spoke for more than three minutes. What’s notably missing from Monday’s summary (the full report is due out on Wednesday) is any indication that Trump-world figures were in direct contact with the extremist groups, or were directly privy to their plans. This runs counter to what Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and the chairman of the House select committee, had initially promised. In an interview with CNN after the Committee’s first hearing this summer, Thompson said that the Committee would use witness testimony to show connections between far-right extremist groups and key Trump allies in the lead up to and during the Capitol riot. “Obviously you have to go through the hearings, but we have a number of witnesses who’ve come forward,” said Thompson. “People who have not talked before will document a lot of what was going on in the Trump orbit while all of this was occurring.”
The individual known to have the most connections with those groups is Trump confidant Roger Stone, who continues to skate by Jan. 6 investigations with minimal scrutiny. When questioned by the Select Committee, Stone pleaded the Fifth Amendment. He’s mentioned by name just three times in the 161-page summary (excluding citations). But he has a long-standing friendship with Tarrio, and claims to have advised the Proud Boys “for years.” A Signal group chat titled “Friends of Stone” brought together an array of extremists and conspiracy theorists, including Rhodes, Tarrio, and Infowars’ Owen Shroyer. And on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, Stone’s security detail was provided by Oath Keepers—including several who later stormed the Capitol. The Committee did look closely at the intel Homeland Security and Secret Service were privy to in the lead-up to Jan. 6. They concluded that intelligence and law enforcement communities “did successfully detect the planning for potential violence on January 6th, including planning specifically by the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper militia groups who ultimately led the attack on the Capitol.” Those warnings were shared with the executive branch, including the Secret Service and Trump’s National Security Council. On Dec. 26, 2020, the Secret Service got a tip warning that Proud Boys were planning to have “a large enough group to march into DC armed [that] will outnumber the police so they can’t be stopped.” “Their plan is to literally kill people,” the informant wrote. “Please please take this tip seriously.” On Jan. 5, the FBI informed the Secret Service that right-wing groups were “establishing armed quick reaction forces in Virginia, where they could amass firearms illegal in D.C.” according to the Select Committee. Among those groups were the Oath Keepers.