May 9, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Lawyer for Enrique Tarrio, ex-Proud Boys leader, has a point
Trump was the unindicted co-conspirator in the court room.
The former leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, was convicted alongside three of his lieutenants last week of seditious conspiracy and a slew of other offenses.
The jury concluded that the Proud Boys, a notorious fighting/drinking club calling itself “Trump’s Army,” plotted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6. They sought to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory and reinstall Donald Trump as president.
So far, over a dozen high-level Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have been convicted or plead guilty to charges of seditious conspiracy for their roles on J6. Seditious conspiracy is the most serious of all charges stemming from the J6 insurrection and as well as the hardest to prove. These verdicts are a major victory for the Justice Department, but they also increase the pressure on special prosecutor Jack Smith to charge the conspirator in chief, Donald Trump.
Enrique Tarrio’s defense at trial was that he was just following orders from Trump.
“It was Donald Trump’s words. It was his motivation. It was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6th in your beautiful and amazing city,” Tarrio’s lawyer said in his closing statement, “It was not Enrique Tarrio. They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald J. Trump and those in power.”
Tarrio was no mere scapegoat, but that lawyer has a point. Donald Trump was the unindicted co-conspirator in that courtroom.
We already know a lot about how Trump gathered his supporters in Washington, wound them up with a conspiracy theory-laden tirade, and pointed them in the direction of the Capitol.
Enticing the faithful to DC was a drawn-out process. Trump put the Proud Boys on notice in 2020 when he told the drinking/brawling society to “stand back and stand by” for violence connected to the election.
Then Trump summoned his supporters to Washington for what he called a “wild protest” on January 6. Having assembled the crowd at the Ellipse on the appointed day, Trump riled up the crowd with fanciful tales of election fraud and set them loose on the joint session of Congress, which had convened to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, fleshed out many key details in her testimony before the January 6 committee.
Hutchinson explained that Trump not only set the mob on the Capitol, he intended to lead them himself. The former president knew what was going to happen: The mob was going to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and he wanted to lead them.
Not only that, Trump knew that many in the crowd were carrying guns. In the run up to J6, Hutchinson remembered hearing the words “Proud Boys” and “Oath Keepers” being bandied about. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also spoke with dirty trickster Roger Stone and QAnon luminary Michael Flynn on January 5 “regarding what would play out the next day.”
The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers have ties to Stone, Trump’s oldest political confidante. He gave the Proud Boys a national profile during Trump’s presidency. The Proud Boys served as his personal guard and his social media consultants. At one point, the Proud Boys were so close to Stone they controlled his phone and posted to social media on his behalf.
Tarrio and the other Proud Boys richly deserve the lengthy prison sentences they’re probably going to face at their sentencing later this month.
Donald Trump, the man who orchestrated the insurrection, should face the same fate.
Lindsay Beyerstein covers legal affairs, health care and politics for the Editorial Board. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she’s a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Find her @beyerstein.