Proud Boys leaders facing Jan. 6 charges say they intend to subpoena Trump

Leaders of the far-right Proud Boys say they intend to subpoena former President Donald Trump to testify in the ongoing trial pertaining to the group’s alleged conspiracy to forcibly derail the transfer of power from Trump to President Joe Biden.

Prosecutors have underscored the group’s repeated responses to Trump’s public statements — from his Sept. 2020 debate-stage exhortation to the group to “stand back and stand by” to his Dec. 19, 2020 tweet urging supporters to attend his Jan. 6 rally. “Be there. Will be wild,” he wrote.

Former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio and four allies are charged with seditious conspiracy, a plot to violently keep Trump in office anchored in part by preventing Congress from certifying the election on Jan. 6, 2021.

The prospect of Trump appearing on the witness stand seems remote, but until Thursday, the intention of the defendants to call the former president was uncertain.

“We’re going to ask the government for assistance in serving Mr. Trump,” said Norm Pattis, attorney for Joe Biggs, one of the Proud Boys changed alongside Tarrio.

Other Jan. 6 defendants have sought Trump’s testimony but gotten no support from judges, who found their claims to need the former president’s testimony dubious. But the Proud Boys may have the clearest case, given Trump’s explicit reference to the group during the debate and the group’s centrality to the riot that unfolded on Jan. 6.

Prosecutors say the Proud Boys are singularly responsible for the violence that unfolded, helping trigger key breaches of police defenses — including the actual breach of the building itself, when Dominic Pezzola, one of the five defendants, used a stolen riot shield to smash a Senate-wing window.

U.S. District Court Judge Tim Kelly didn’t give any indication Thursday about whether he would permit the subpoena of the former president.

Tarrio has been a figure of interest to investigators not just for his role on Jan. 6 but for his ties to figures in Trump’s orbit like Roger Stone. Tarrio took a White House tour on Dec. 12, 2020 that drew alarm from the Secret Service and may have reached the earsof then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Prosecutors have also shown evidence of Tarrio’s close relationship with a D.C. police officer who appeared to repeatedly give him inside information about law enforcement matters — including Tarrio’s own subsequent arrest on Jan. 4 for burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a pro-Trump rally in December.

Prosecutors are expected to call North Carolina Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino – who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and is cooperating with the government – to the stand on Tuesday. During arguments related to pieces of evidence the government intends to introduce, prosecutors displayed messages showing Bertino lamenting the group’s failure to stop the transfer of power on the night of Jan. 6.

“We failed. The House is meeting again. That woman died for nothing,” Bertino said, referencing Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to breach the House chamber.

Bertino was also in a series of leadership chats ahead of Jan. 6 but didn’t go to Washington in part because of injuries he suffered when he was stabbed during a melee in December.

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