The one-time leader and former lawyer of the Proud Boys, who was recently alleged to have tried to plot the assassination of a rival, attempted to join neo-Nazi terror group the Base, but was denied membership for being a “huge liability.”
In a 2019 call with the leadership cadre of the Base, a recording of which was obtained by VICE News, Jason Lee Van Dyke, known as the former lawyer of the Proud Boys and for briefly taking over just after founder Gavin McInnes stepped down in 2018, is heard desperately trying to join the terror group, now under an FBI crackdown.
On the call, Van Dyke used the cover name “John Lee,” and said he moved on from the Proud Boys, which the FBI has described as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” Van Dyke—who in 2017 nearly worked for a district attorney in Texas, and probably would have if not for being outed to his future bosses for his extremist past by a rival he then allegedly wanted to kill—was deposed in August 2020. (According to the Daily Beast, in a March filing, Van Dyke denied the allegations against him as “wild theories of a conspiracy to murder.”) The voice in a recording of the deposition is unmistakably the same as that of "Lee."
“There're plenty of people in the Proud Boys who don't believe that Jews have a place in this country and they want to put a stop to it,” he said on the conference call with Base leaders, which took place on the encrypted chat app Wire. “And whenever someone talks about doing something, they're immediately shut down or banned from the band, from the group, because, you know, the boys don't want to have that image.”
Van Dyke then accused McInnes of creating the group solely “to make money” while being “not willing to do anything” violent, and explained that this is why he gravitated towards the Base.
(McInnes founded the Proud Boys in 2016. He was also a co-founder of VICE. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.)
Do you have information about the Base or other extremist groups? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Mack Lamoureux and Ben Makuch securely on Wire at @benmakuch and @mlamoureux, or by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Van Dyke drops several key pieces of information in the call, such as naming the small Texas town he resides in and his firearms experience, which indicate that the wannabe neo-Nazi is clearly him. When reached by phone, Van Dyke wouldn’t confirm or deny it was him on the call.
“I simply don’t recall having these conversations,” he said. “I don’t know the source of these recordings.”
Besides Van Dyke (a failed recruit), at least three members of the Base had dealings with the Proud Boys, demonstrating that the group is, at the very least, a starting point for some radical white supremacists who seek a “race war.” The group, known for street fighting antics, was once instructed by President Trump in a debate to “standby” after he refused to denounce it.
In a bid to convince cell leaders that he should be allowed to join the Base and would be a productive member, Van Dyke offered up his expertise in weapons training and his Texas town for paramilitary camps.
“I've got well over 20 years of experience in that I'm a distinguished expert in pistol with the [National Rifle Association],” he said. “I've taught classes on the pistol and precision rifle as well as some shotgun. I would definitely be fit to instruct in those areas.”
Once the call ended, the cell leaders vetting Van Dyke stayed on the line to discuss if he was a good fit. They were all concerned about his age—Van Dyke was well into his thirties, and was asked in the interview if he was fine with spending time with a bunch of Nazi kids in their late teens and twenties. (He adamantly said it would be fine.) The leaders jokingly compared Van Dyke’s voice to Hank Hill, the lead cartoon character in King of the Hill, in anticipation of some of the younger members of the Base teasing him about it.
Regardless of their hesitations, the Base leaders decided that the possibility of access to weapons and a new training property made taking a risk on Van Dyke worthwhile. But first the group decided to ask someone they knew in the Proud Boys for a recommendation on Van Dyke. After looking into it the following day, the Base was told that Van Dyke wasn’t to be trusted.
“Please fucking tell me you aren’t working with Jason Lee Van Dyke,” the Proud Boy was said to have reacted when asked about lawyer. The same Proud Boy went on to denigrate Van Dyke because he “got kicked out” after allegedly doxxing members of the group and getting arrested for “trying to fake a robbery against himself." The Proud Boy confirmed numerous things Van Dyke said on the call: He was, in fact, a firearms expert, and lived where he claimed to live.
The Base also compared the voice against a video of Van Dyke arguing with a cop that was available online and came to the conclusion it was unquestionably him.
“Yeah that’s the same guy, no question about it,” wrote Rinaldo Nazzaro, the founder and leader of the Base, who was on the call with Van Dyke, lives in Russia and is suspected of having links to the Kremlin. (Nazzaro has strongly denied this to Motherboard.) Ultimately, the Base thought Van Dyke was a “huge liability” and passed on him.
Shortly after vetting Van Dyke, several members of the Base were arrested in a nationwide FBI crackdown for an assassination plot on an anti-fascist activist and his wife, plans to shoot up a political rally, derailing trains, and vandalizing synagogues along with other terror related crimes.
With files from Zachary Kamel.