Proud Boys Seek To Subpoena Trump's Testimony At Sedition Trial
Attorneys for leaders of the Proud Boys — the violent extremist group accused of conspiring to hinder the transfer of presidential power in January 2021 — said they plan to subpoena former President Donald Trump to appear as a witness in their ongoing sedition trial.
Norm Pattis, an attorney for 37-year-old Proud Boys member Joseph Biggs, announced Thursday that the defendants — Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, Dominic Pezzola, and Biggs, all of whom were charged with seditious conspiracy — will contact “the government for assistance in serving Mr. Trump."
Prosecutors in the trial, which began last month, have accused the defendants of leading the charge on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters on January 6, 2021, to keep the defated president in power, an unprecedented breach that left seven dead and about 150 law enforcement officers injured.
Defense attorneys have argued that it was not the Proud Boys but Trump who claimed that the 2020 election was stolen, asked supporters to gather at the Capitol on January 6, and “unleashed the mob” on lawmakers certifying Electoral College votes that day.
“At all times relevant, Trump was President of the United States, and it’s the government’s obligation to produce him,” Pattis said in court Thursday, according to the Washington Post.
It remains unclear what the defendants hope to learn from Trump, who has continued to insist that the 2020 election was rigged against him despite the availability of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Multiple outlets have noted that the move to compel Trump’s testimony is a long shot, as the ex-president — who fought a subpoena for testimony from the House’s January 6 committee — will almost certainly try to derail the Proud Boys' demand with executive privilege claims or, if that fails, assertjons of his Fifth Amendment right.
The defense attorneys drafted the subpoena over the weekend, but U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly, the jurist overseeing the case, would have to rule Trump’s testimony admissible before the former president could be served.
“We’re not going to be seeing testimony from the former president,” Lisa Kern Griffin, a law professor at Duke University, told the Post.
Other January 6 defendants have sought to compel Trump to appear in court, but none has succeeded. Such an effort would be time-consuming and bogged down by extensive litigation.
Last year, a federal court judge denied a January 6 defendant’s request to force Trump and his allies to the witness stand to testify.
Judge Reggie B. Walton told the defendant, Ohio exterminator Dustin Thompson, who testified he stormed the Capitol on Trump’s orders, to make do with publicly accessible video and audio recordings of Trump speaking on or before January 6, as opposed to subpoenaing him, reported the Times.
Unlike the others, however, “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 January 6,” Politico’s Kyle Cheney wrote Thursday.
Trump has made direct references to the group. During the September 2020 presidential debate, Trump, responding to Biden and debate moderator Chris Wallace, told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
In an opening statement last month, Sabino Jauregui, an attorney for Tarrio, blasted the U.S. government for making Tarrio its scapegoat because it was “too hard to blame Trump, too hard to bring him to the witness stand with his army of lawyers.”
“Instead, they go for the easy target. They go for Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys,” Jauregui said. “If the government takes down Enrique Tarrio, the government takes down the whole Proud Boys organization.”
Prosecutors have since disagreed, arguing — and presenting reams of evidence to the jury they said showed — that the Proud Boys “directed, mobilized and led” the January 6 rioters into the Capitol, breaching Capitol law enforcement barricades to facilitate the unauthorized entry.
Tarrio, a longtime national chairman of the male-only group, was the leader of over 100 Proud Boys, including Biggs, Nordean, and Rehl, who converged on the Washington Monument on January 6. From there they traveled to the Capitol, prosecutors alleged, according to USA Today.
Investigations have revealed deep ties between Tarrio, other right-wing extremist groups, and several Trump allies, including convicted pro-Trump Republican strategist Roger Stone, for whom the Proud Boys have acted as bodyguards.
On Wednesday, prosecutors presented to jurors a string of messages that showed Tarrio receiving internal law enforcement information — including a heads-up of his impending arrest — from a Metropolitan Police lieutenant, Shane Lammond, for weeks before January 6, the Guardianreported Thursday.
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