Video released of garage meeting of Proud Boys, Oath Keepers leaders

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Defense attorneys for longtime Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and U.S. prosecutors released 22 minutes of video on Tuesday that recorded his movements in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, including his meeting in an underground parking garage with Stewart Rhodes, founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers.

The existence of the video and the interest of FBI and House investigators in it have been reported previously — including in Tarrio’s indictment in March on charges of conspiring to attack Congress that day — but clips of the recording had not been made public.

They show Tarrio smoking cigarettes, saying he is worried about being stopped by police and eager to leave town, but lingering at the Hall of the States garage near Capitol Hill to shake hands and speak with Rhodes and Rhodes’s lawyer. Also present at the garage meeting were leaders of two right-wing pro-Trump groups: Joshua Macias, a scheduled speaker the following day, and Bianca Gracia, a Jan. 6 event organizer with White House ties.

“I feel like I’m a fugitive,” Tarrio says as he is driven underground to avoid being seen at street-level, according to the video. “I’m going to stay close [to D.C.] just to make sure my guys are okay, tomorrow. I got a lot of stuff to do tomorrow,” he adds later.

The video was recorded by a documentary team embedded with the Proud Boys and released six clips — one by the government and five by the defense. The video begins with Tarrio’s release from the D.C. jail. Tarrio had been detained days earlier by D.C. police for a separate incident — the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a D.C. church in December 2020 after a different pro-Trump rally — and ordered to leave town before later pleading guilty and completing a four-month jail term earlier this year.

The new videos were released by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly in Tarrio’s ongoing effort to win bond in his separate Jan. 6-related prosecution. The move comes at a delicate time in the case, as a scheduled Aug. 8 trial date could be slipping for Tarrio and four co-defendants alleged to be his top lieutenants.

On Tuesday, Kelly emerged from a closed-door hearing saying co-defendant Dominic J. Pezzola — who has pleaded not guilty to breaking through the first window at the Capitol using a stolen police riot shield — wanted to change lawyers. Prosecutors have wanted Tarrio and Pezzola to be tried together with the others, citing their respective “central” and “defining” roles in the case.

Separately prosecutors have said they may charge several additional defendants, add charges, or do both in Tarrio’s case, based in part on additional devices of his that were seized in March. But a Friday deadline by which prosecutors said they planned to act passed without incident. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on Tuesday about whether that meant additional charges were off the table, citing secrecy of grand jury matters.

Longtime Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio charged with conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack on Capitol

In Tarrio’s indictment, prosecutors pointed to his meeting with Rhodes and other individuals “known and unknown to the grand jury,” adding that during the 30-minute encounter, “a participant referenced the Capitol.” Prosecutor Jason McCullough said the video showed Tarrio “getting antsy” to reestablish secure communications and “command and control” of the men he had selected and who discussed “storming the Capitol.”

In a May 18 bond hearing, Tarrio attorney Nayib Hassan said that the video shows it was an associate and not Tarrio who asked to return to the hotel, and that Tarrio coincidentally met Rhodes while looking for an attorney to represent him.

“I just need to talk to her. This guy has a good attorney, and it was a 2A [Second Amendment] attorney who got this guy off,” Tarrio says on camera as he enters the garage, without elaborating.

Rhodes has pleaded not guilty to a separate indictment of conspiring with members of his group to oppose by force President Biden’s inauguration.

Analysis | Who did the Oath Keepers call on Jan. 6 as they tried to reach Trump?

The video shows a female associate greeting Tarrio upon retrieving his effects from police. The woman, a photographer following the Proud Boys, calls to arrange an urgent meeting with Rhodes’s friend Kellye SoRelle, an attorney for the Oath Keepers, who happened to be staying at the same Phoenix Park Hotel as the photographer. Tarrio suggests they meet in person.

While Tarrio introduced himself on camera to both Rhodes and SoRelle, the camera crew was told to step away and did not capture audio of any substantive discussions among the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys heads in publicly released clips.

The video captures more conversation between Tarrio and the leaders of two other right-wing pro-Trump groups: Macias, co-founder of Vets for Trump, and Gracia, a longtime Tarrio friend and head of Latinos for Trump, a Jan. 6 event organizer.

Hours before his flag-burning incident on Dec. 12, Tarrio — who also served as chief of staff for Latinos for Trump — Gracia and other members of the group visited the White House. A White House spokesman later described the visit as a public tour and said Tarrio did not meet with President Donald Trump. Gracia previously posted a photo on social media of Tarrio meeting Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend and campaign adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle.

In the video on Jan. 5, Gracia insists that Tarrio’s presence is needed the following day and attempts to give him cards on lanyards — “You need to be here tomorrow” — before repeatedly warning that his communications with them must be kept secret from law-enforcement.

Gracia said she and her group’s vice president had removed Tarrio from an unspecified text message chain believing his phone had been compromised by police during his arrest, because another person had been messaging Tarrio and getting “check marks like you read it, and we knew it wasn’t you.”

“I removed you for now, because I didn’t know if they were downloading s— or whatever. … Ozzy says get a new SIM card and you can get a new phone before you contact anyone,” Gracia said, apparently referring to Ozzy Perez-Cerezal, a Latinos for Trump vice president and member of a Miami Proud Boys chapter founded by Tarrio.

Tarrio said police kept his phone and laptop, but assured Gracia the latter contained no potentially sensitive information and the former was either “cleared” of sensitive content by him before his arrest or could not be accessed without two-step verification. He explained he was under court order to leave the city, but intended to stay overnight in Maryland where “a lot of my guys are” before driving home to Miami, confirming, “I got a lot of stuff to do tomorrow.”

“I need a communication device. … I can sign in with my thing on your phone and type away,” Tarrio says in some of his first remarks to the photographer in an early sequence of the video. As he is being driven into Maryland later that evening and shortly before the video ends, he repeats to the photographer, “I need access to my Telegram, that’s why I need your phone.”

It was not immediately clear whether the released video clips contained the basis for the indictment’s allegation that a participant made a reference to the Capitol. One clip taken after Tarrio asked for space to speak to SoRelle records participants who spoke within earshot of Tarrio’s conversation, although his words were inaudible. In the second group, whose faces were not shown, a woman refers to “the Great Reset” and adds, “I need Trump to do the right thing.” A man who accompanied Rhodes to the meeting responds: “It’s inevitable what’s going to happen. We’ve just got to do it as a team together, strong, hard and fast.”

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