A member of the far-right group Proud Boys was in contact with an associate of the Trump White House in the days leading up to the MAGA riot at the United States Capitol on January 6, it has been claimed.
A law enforcement official said to be familiar with the details of the investigation told The New York Times that the contacts were uncovered thanks to cell phone records and location data.
The official told the Times that investigators have thus far found no evidence of communications between the rioters and members of Congress.
The finding refutes allegations made by Democrats who have suggested that some of their Republican colleagues assisted the rioters.
One of the leaders of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, told the Times that he spoke to Roger Stone, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, while protesting in front of Senator Marco Rubio’s home days before the riot.
A protester is seen above carrying a Proud Boys flag in September. The New York Times is reporting that law enforcement officials believe a member of the group was in touch with an associate of the Trump White House in the days leading up to the January 6 riot at the Capitol
According to court documents, some 20 members of the Proud Boys have been charged for breaching the Capitol
Observers said that the contacts between Proud Boys and the associate of the Trump White House show just how deep the ties went between the former president’s administration and extremist groups. Former President Donald Trump is seen above in Orlando last Sunday
Tarrio told the Times that he put Stone on speaker phone to address the protesters.
The law enforcement official cited by the Times said that Tarrio’s conversations with Stone are not being looked at by investigators.
Nonetheless, there is alarm at the extent to which associates of the Trump White House had ties with extremists like Proud Boys and other groups.
Last week, a former State Department aide in Trump’s administration has been charged with participating in the deadly siege at the Capitol and assaulting officers who were trying to guard the building, court papers show.
A former State Department aide has become the first member of the Trump administration to be arrested over the Capitol riot after he was caught on camera assaulting cops with a stolen riot shield among the violent MAGA mob. Federico Klein (pictured)
Surveillance footage from a tunnel leading into the Capitol which the FBI says shows Klein, circled, entering the building at 2.43pm on the day of the riot
The FBI said it had received several tips identifying Klein after he was featured in one of the agency’s posters (circled) asking the public’s help in tracking down the perpetrators
It’s the first known case to be brought against a Trump appointee in the January 6 insurrection, which led to Trump’s historic second impeachment.
Federico Klein, who also worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign, was seen wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat amid the throng of people in a tunnel trying to force their way into the Capitol on January 6, the papers say.
Klein pushed his way toward the doors, where, authorities say, ‘he physically and verbally engaged’ with officers trying to keep the mob back.
The FBI said Klein, 42, was seen in video footage taken during the January 6 riot that left five – including a Capitol cop – dead and sent lawmakers running for their lives.
He is facing charges including unlawful entry, violent and disorderly conduct, obstructing Congress and law enforcement, and assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon, according to the New York Times.
Last month, Stone told the Times that he denied ‘any involvement or knowledge of the attack on the Capitol.’
Tarrio was arrested by police in Washington, DC on January 4 on charges of destruction of property.
He was allegedly involved in the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn down from a historic black church during a December protest in the capital.
Tarrio was told to leave the city and was not in the capital on the day of the riot.
The Justice Department has charged nearly 20 members or associates of the Proud Boys in the Capitol breach, and it has accused several members of spearheading early efforts to stampede police and break in to the building.
Tarrio condemned the actions of the various Proud Boy members who have been detained for their part in the riots, particularly Dominic Pezzola for using a police shield to break a Capitol door window. There were at least eight members who were charged that Tarrio knew, CNN reported last month.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio (left) was in contact with Roger Stone (right), a close adviser to former President Trump, though law enforcement officials are not scrutinizing those contacts, according to The New York Times
‘I condemn the actions,’ he said.
‘I don’t think he should have done that. I think that it was completely wrong but the other seven individuals were trespassing.
‘I think they got caught up with the entire crowd and they made a poor decision to go in there.’
Many Trump supporters and Proud Boys members in attendance for the storming of the Capitol did so under the belief that the election had been rigged and stolen.
Tarrio, however, is not in the same boat.
‘I don’t believe that the election was stolen,’ he said.
The sentiment is at stark opposition with that of his friend, Stone. Stone was seen in the capital on the day of the riot but not at the Capitol. He has not been charged in connection to the riot.
Investigators are looking into contacts between Stone and other far-right extremists to determine if he played any role in disrupting the certification of Joe Biden as president on January 6.
Stone has been known to maintain ties with the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia that has provided security for Stone at his speeches and rallies.
WHO ARE THE PROUD BOYS?
Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes started the all-male Proud Boys in 2016. McInnes and the Proud Boys have described the group as a politically incorrect men’s club for ‘Western chauvinists’ and deny affiliations with far-right extremist groups that overtly espouse racist and anti-Semitic views.
The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Proud Boys as a hate group, saying that its members often spread ‘outright bigotry’ and ‘anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric’ over the internet, and have posted social media pictures of themselves with prominent Holocaust deniers, white nationalists and ‘known neo-Nazis.’
Current national leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, marched in the infamous Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2017.
Proud Boys have been involved in a series of high-profile violent clashes at political events.
In New York City in October 2018, police arrested several Proud Boys members who brawled with anti-fascist protesters following a speech by McInnes at a Manhattan Republican club.
Proud Boys members also have frequently clashed with counterprotesters at rallies in California and Oregon.
Most recently, the group took part in the siege on the Capitol on January 6, where some members were seen breaking into the building.
In February, they were designated a terrorist group by Canada.
Last month, The Intercept reported that within hours of the ransacking of the Capitol, the FBI started securing thousands of phone and electronic records connected to those who were at the scene of the violence.
Cell phone data and communications gleaned from cell phone towers in the area enabled investigators to trace call records from phones, though it did not provide access to the content of those calls.
The cell phone data includes records from members of Congress as well as staffers who were at the Capitol that day.
A recently retired senior FBI official told The Intercept that the agency was ‘searching cell towers and phones pinging off cell sites in the area to determine visitors to the Capitol.’
So far, there has been no indication that lawmakers were in contact with any of the rioters, though there were communications between Republican members of Congress and far-right extremists in the days leading up to the event.
So far, more than 300 people have been charged in connection to the Capitol riot.
Charging documents to date have revealed numerous instances where authorities gained evidence from alleged rioters electronic devices and online postings. Upon reviewing such devices, law enforcement have uncovered ‘some indications that they were in touch’ with members of Congress, CNN reported on Thursday.
Some of those contacts took place in the days around January 6, when Congress met to count the electoral college votes that made Biden president.
The data includes both actual communications contacts and alleged rioters discussing associations with lawmakers, according to the network.
They could seek to gain more information if they find probable cause that a crime may have occurred.
Such contacts would not necessarily be improper.
One lawmaker, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), who voted to impeach President Trump on charges of incitement of insurrection, said on air that he received a call from someone during the protests and that there was nothing inappropriate about it.
One House Republican, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, posted and then deleted a Tweet about meeting with people who came to Washington for what was billed as a protest on January 6.
‘Had a great meeting today with folks from “Stop the Steal” at our nation’s Capitol. I encouraged them to keep fighting and assured them I look forward to doing MY duty on January 6th,’ he wrote.
There were tens of thousands of people at the White House and the Capitol protests, according to the acting head of Capitol Police.