Conspiracy or Chaos?

            “The question of whether there was communication or coordination between the far-right groups that helped storm the Capitol and Mr. Trump and his aides and allies is among the most important facing the Jan. 6 investigators.”[1] 

            On 12 December 2020, a pro-Trump rally took place in Washington, D.C. Members of the “Proud Boys” took part in the rally.[2]  “Leftist activist” counter-demonstrators confronted the Trump supporters.  Fighting broke out and one of the “Proud Boys” was stabbed.  Later, some of the “Proud Boys,” led by Enrique Tarrio, tore down a “Black Lives Matter” banner hanging from the front of a Black church.  They burned it in the street. 

            On 19 December 2020, President Donald Trump tweeted that a “Stop the Steal” rally would be held in Washington on 6 January 2022.  “It will be wild.” 

            On 30 December 2020, the chairman of the “Proud Boys,” Enrique Tarrio tele-conferred with some of his most trusted colleagues.  The conference lasted a little over an hour and a half.  President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., was one week away.  First, Tarrio told them that they were now members of a special leadership group for the rally.  He called it the “Ministry of Self-Defense.”  Second, he told them to keep apart from the “normies” (normal Trump supporters) at the rally and to respect police lines.  “We’re never going to be the ones to cross the police barrier or cross something in order to get to somebody.”  He also warned then against drinking too much.  Third, apparently, a “Proud Boys” meeting does not resemble dinner with Ward and June.[3]

            On 4 January 2021, Enrique Tarrio returned to Washington for the rally.  Washington police promptly arrested him for his part in the seizure and burning of the “Black Lives Matter” banner on 12 December 2020.  He made bail, but the judge required him to leave Washington.  Hence, Tarrio was not present at the rally or the attack on the Capitol. 

            According to Cassidy Hutchinson, on 5 January 2021, President Trump instructed Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, to contact Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.  Stone, in particular, has had ties to the “Proud Boys.”  Hutchinson could not say if Meadows followed that order; Meadows refuses to say, and Stone denied any contact.[4]  In any case, contact them to what end? 

            Good help is hard to get: the “Proud Boys” at the rally on 6 January 2021 ignored (to put it mildly) any orders to respect police lines and engaged in abundant “riling up the normies.” 

            In the view of one New York Times reporter assigned to the hearings, “there is no direct evidence — at least not yet — that their [Trump-adjacent figures like Stone or Flynn] ties to extremist groups were put to use in any planning for the violence on Jan. 6.”[5]  In short, “at least so far [emphasis added] there is no smoking gun laying out a detailed plot to storm the Capitol.” 

            What if there wasn’t one?  What if it was just the last chaotic episode of a chaotic term? 


[1] Alan Feuer, “Jan. 6 Panel Explores Links Between Trump Allies and Extremist Groups,” NYT, 29 June 2022. 

[2] Alan Feuer, “Proud Boys Ignored Orders Given at Pre-Jan. 6 Meeting,” NYT, 26 June 2022. 

[3] Feuer notes with disgust that the video conference was “foul-mouthed.”  He goes on to describe the attendees as using “blatantly misogynistic, homophobic, and antisemitic language.”   

[4] In 2019 Stone was convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements, and witness tampering. 

[5] Blake Hounshell and Alan Feuer, “January 6 and the Search for Direct Trump Links,” “On Politics” Newsletter, NYT, 13 July 2022.   

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