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A New Mexico county commissioner and leader of “Cowboys for Trump” who was arrested for storming the Capitol last month met with former President Donald Trump “several times” over the last couple of years, court documents state.
Couy Griffin, a 47-year-old Republican who represents Otero County’s 2nd district, was charged on Jan. 17 with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority after he filmed himself on the Capitol steps during the Jan. 6 insurrection. He vowed to return to Washington, D.C., for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, armed with guns to “embrace” the Second Amendment, according to a criminal complaint.
“You want to say that that was a mob? You want to say that was violence? No sir,” Griffin said in a video posted on the “Cowboys for Trump” Facebook page the day after the insurrection. “No Ma’am. No, we could have a 2nd Amendment rally on those same steps that we had that rally yesterday. You know, and if we do, then it’s gonna be a sad day, because there’s gonna be blood running out of that building. But at the end of the day, you mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Donald J. Trump if it boils down to it.”
At a Monday afternoon hearing, Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui ordered Griffin to remain locked up pending trial.
“This is an offense that, at bottom, was an attempt to stop democracy from moving forward because people were unhappy about the results of the election,” Faruqui said. During the hearing, prosecutors also revealed that Griffin was arrested outside the Capitol on Jan. 17 with a firearm.
Watch: How chaos at the Capitol exposed a double standard
Griffin’s lawyers insisted he should be released because he simply “got caught up in the crowd” on Jan. 6 and that “he believed he needed to carry firearms to protect himself and his family—not to harm people in Washington, D.C.”
In a Friday memo arguing for his pre-trial release, Griffin’s lawyers released several interview transcripts between the FBI and the county commissioner. In those interviews, Griffin revealed his intention to attend a Jan. 20 protest that he hoped would be nonviolent—though he added that “no option that’s off the table for the sake of freedom.”
Griffin told FBI agents he’d met the former president twice: once in September 2019 inside the White House and again in Albuquerque. He also attended the inaugural tree lighting at the Capitol in 2018.
But Griffin’s relationship with Trump appears to go deeper. In March 2019, Griffin said he had a 30-minute phone conversation with the then-president after he organized a week-long horseback ride from Maryland to the nation’s capital in the name of border security.
During the call, Trump welcomed him to the White House that summer, and that meeting appeared to take place in September.
“He said, ‘Couy, that sounds amazing’... ‘If you will do that, then whenever you get here, there’s 20 acres on the South Lawn and the gate will be open to you at the White House where you can ride your horses right in,’” Griffin told the Alamogordo Daily News. “Then he jokingly said that he might have to get on my horse whenever I get there.”
In February 2020, Griffin had another audience with Trump in the Oval Office, The Washington Post first reported. Photos of their meeting were posted on the “Cowboys for Trump” Facebook page, which has since been suspended, along with its Twitter account.
“These photos are not being used for ‘political purposes,’” he wrote in a Feb. 18 post with images from the meeting. “I am simply posting these pictures of me and a friend. The friend you may recognize. Please don’t copy and paste these photos for ‘political purposes.’ If you do, snowflakes all across the land will begin to melt. But I post them only for personal reasons to show a friendship with a great man and leader!!”
The photos show Trump and Griffin sitting and standing together near the Resolute Desk and another of Griffin watching Trump leaving on Marine One from the South Lawn.
Three months later, Griffin released a video titled “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” in which he insisted he was only speaking theoretically. Trump promoted the controversial video on Twitter, writing, “Thank you, Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” (Trump’s Twitter account was suspended in January after the Capitol riots.)
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Griffin insisted he only meant Democrats who were dead in “the political sense” and suggested Democratic officials who insisted on strict lockdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic should be guilty of treason.
“You get to pick your poison: You either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope,” Griffin said.
Since his arrest, Griffin has continued his defiant behavior. In a Friday memo, a federal judge revealed that for two weeks Griffin refused to take a COVID-19 test or appear at a virtual hearing.
“Simply taking a COVID-19 test, something hundreds of millions of people have safely done across the world, will allow the defendant to exit isolation,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui wrote Friday.
Watch: 'Almost ended in a physical fight': Axios reporter describes Trump meeting
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