Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio's lawyer blames Trump for January 6, says the ex-president 'unleashed this mob on the Capitol'

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio's lawyer blames Trump for January 6, says the ex-president 'unleashed this mob on the Capitol'
Enrique Tarrio
Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the Proud Boys, joins tens of thousands of Trump supporters to rally and march to declare the 2020 Presidential election results a fraud and the true winner to be President Trump, on November 14, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC.Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
  • An attorney for the Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio blamed Trump for the January 6, 2021, riot.

  • Trump "unleashed this mob on the Capitol," the attorney argued on Thursday.

  • The Justice Department has charged Tarrio with seditious conspiracy in connection with January 6.

Former President Donald Trump was responsible for the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, a lawyer representing the Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio argued in a high-profile trial on Thursday.

"Trump told these people that the election was stolen. Trump told them to go there on January 6," Tarrio's attorney, Sabino Jauregui, told jurors in federal district court in Washington, DC, during his opening statement. "And it was Trump, with his speech on January 6, that unleashed this mob on the Capitol."

The Justice Department has charged Tarrio with seditious conspiracy, alleging that under his leadership, members of the Proud Boys stormed the Capitol on January 6 to stop Congress from certifying then-President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 victory. Tarrio is on trial along with four other Proud Boys members: Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola, all of whom have pleaded not guilty.

Trump, who's denied any responsibility over the riot, held a rally the morning of January 6. Toward the end of his speech, the ex-president told the crowd of thousands of his supporters to "fight like hell" — a phrase that the now-dissolved House select committee investigating the riot has said is evidence that Trump incited an insurrection.

Tarrio's lawyer noted the line in court on Thursday, saying Trump was "the one that told them march over to the Capitol and fight like hell."

"Enrique didn't say that," Jauregui told jurors. "Enrique didn't say anything to anybody on the grounds of the Capitol on January 6, but he just happens to be the leader of the Proud Boys."

Jauregui argued that Tarrio has been made a "scapegoat" for the violence that unfolded on January 6, despite not being on the ground that day. Tarrio had been arrested two days earlier for an unrelated incident — burning a "Black Lives Matter" flag at a historic church in Washington, DC.

But Tarrio, as the longtime Proud Boys chairman, directed the group to band together and stop the peaceful transfer of power from Trump to Biden on January 6, federal prosecutors said in opening statements on Thursday. The DOJ made its case that Tarrio sought to obstruct Congress' certification of the election results in part by sharing public and private messages they said he sent in the days before and on January 6. 

"Make no mistake…," read one text from Tarrio sent at 2:40 p.m. after rioters broke into the Capitol, according to prosecutors. "We did this," read another text.

Jauregui pushed back on the DOJ's allegations against his client, accusing the government of cherry-picking evidence.

"You will never see a message from Enrique Tarrio advocating to storm the Capitol," Jauregui said. "It's not gonna happen."

In his opening statements, Jauregui also defended the Proud Boys, an organization founded in 2016 that calls itself "Western-chauvinist." The group gained national attention in 2020 during protests in Washington, DC, and has aligned itself with Trump, who told them to "stand back and stand by" during a 2020 presidential debate when asked to condemn white-supremacists and militia groups. Watchdog groups have labeled the Proud Boys as extremist and a hate group.

"The Proud Boys are not a racist, sexist, homophobic organization. It's simply not true," Jauregui said, adding that they're basically "a drinking club."

"Chauvinist simply means that they think their side is the best," he added. "The Proud Boys think that America is the best."

The trial is expected to last more than a month. In another high-profile January 6 trial last fall, the Oath Keepers founder, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, and a group member, Kelly Meggs, were convicted of seditious conspiracy.

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