A private Proud Boys audio chat that was made public Tuesday shows how the right-wing group fell into dysfunction and finger-pointing as its members got arrested after the US Capitol riot.
Defense attorneys for Ethan Nordean, a leader of the Proud Boys in Washington state, released a rough transcript of the audio messages in a court filing. The FBI, which had seized Nordean’s cell phone, found the audio clips on the Telegram app and produced the transcript. Prosecutors gave it to Nordean’s lawyers as part of their legal obligations to turn over evidence to criminal defendants.
“We are f–ked…they are coming for us,” one member said, according to court filings, which say the chat happened on February 1 as the national manhunt for Capitol rioters ramped up.
Another member said that the situation “completely f–king crashes and burns on us.” The same person went on to criticize other Proud Boys who handled communications and security on January 6, saying, “I mean, f–k, ‘tifa looks like professionals compared to us,” referring to Antifa.
The messages became public on the same day Attorney General Merrick Garland announced new efforts by the Justice Department to crack down on domestic terrorism and extremism.
Prosecutors have focused aggressively on the Proud Boys and other right-wing extremist groups as they investigate the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Some members of these groups said they came to Washington, DC, at the invitation of then-President Donald Trump and that their goal was to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.
In the Proud Boys chat, someone called on Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio to resign. (Tarrio was arrested in DC on an unrelated charge one day before the riot.) The audio chat contained other debates about the group’s leaders, whether they were still doing a good job, the role that indicted members should play in the group and whether they should continue doing rallies.
“I understand where we’re at in the frat,” Nordean said, according to court filings form his lawyers. “I understand that we’ve taken some risks that we shouldn’t have taken. We’ve done some things we shouldn’t have done. Ok, but they’ve been done, and we need to learn from ‘em.”
Nordean also said he was no longer a Trump supporter, according to the rough transcript.
One member was shocked by the potential prison sentences for people convicted of the most serious offenses related to January 6. They said: “Twenty goddam years? Man, no matter what we do they’re going to throw the f–king book at us.” Other members discussed federal conviction rates and prison terms, and suggested that the best option might be to plead guilty.
And a member said he thought the group decided against going to DC for January 6. He said he was confused and upset that members ended up going and hurting the group’s public image.
Nordean’s lawyers released the messages as part of an attempt to get him out of jail. They claimed the Justice Department withheld the messages before a critical detention hearing in April. His lawyers said he made it clear in the call that he doesn’t want to hold any more rallies, which could allay the judge’s concerns that future rallies could lead to more political violence.
He has pleaded not guilty and is charged alongside three other Proud Boys leaders. More than two dozen members of the right-wing organization have been charged in the January 6 assault.