There is no way ex-US President Donald Trump avoids conviction on federal election charges as he prepares to head to trial, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, leader of the far-right militant group Proud Boys, told Anadolu just days after he was sentenced to over two decades in prison.
Tarrio, the ex-national chairman of the group, was found guilty by a 12-person jury in the US capital of seditious conspiracy and other charges earlier this month for his actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021 US Capitol riots.
He was sentenced to 22 years behind bars and three years of supervised release. The sentence is the longest handed down to date related to the assault.
Speaking to Anadolu from prison, Tarrio was certain Trump would be convicted on charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in his favor.
“They’re gonna convict Donald Trump here in (Washington) DC. I am 100% sure of that with a DC jury, there’s no way he’s going to be discharged,” he said in a phone call.
Part of that certainty lies in efforts from federal investigators during the course of Tarrio’s trial asking him for information tying the ex-president to the events of Jan. 6, the far-right leader said.
Tarrio said he was asked about a message he sent in November 2020 that suggested he had been in contact with Trump’s campaign ahead of the Capitol riots.
“The campaign asked us to not wear colors to these events, keep identifying colors to a minimum,” Tarrio wrote, referring to the hallmark black and yellow Fred Perry clothing donned by the Proud Boys during public events.
According to Tarrio, he was visited by “the supervising prosecutor, the prosecutor in the case, and the lead FBI agent, and the second lead FBI agent.”
During that meeting, Tarrio said prosecutors told him they believed he had communication with Trump through intermediaries.
He claimed they offered him less prison time if he could provide information that would lead to the ex-president’s conviction.
Tarrio said he did not and could not hand over any information that would have implicated Trump in the failed attempt to keep the ex-president in power.
“I’m not blaming Donald Trump for something that the Department of Justice has done, in this case,” he said, referring to his own sentencing.
“I’m not gonna blame the wrong bad guy, per se. This whole thing, like these charges shouldn’t have been brought up to begin with. So I have no reason to, to deflect and say, ‘Oh, you know what, it’s Donald Trump’s fault.’ It’s not Donald Trump’s fault. It’s the Department of Justice’s fault. It’s the Biden administration’s fault.’
‘I’m not responsible’
Trump is now slated to head to trial on March 4 next year to face charges of conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. He has pleaded not guilty.
Despite making a public apology and asking US District Judge Timothy Kelly to “please show me mercy” as he prepared to be sentenced, Tarrio insists he is not guilty.
“I’m sorry for what those people went through, but I’m not responsible,” he told Anadolu from a Washington jail before being transferred to a federal penitentiary.
Tarrio and three other co-defendants were found guilty on May 4 of seditious conspiracy and other charges.
He was not present in the capital on Jan. 6 after he was arrested and ordered to leave Washington the day prior on charges related to an earlier burning of a Black Lives Matter banner and a gun charge.
However, the federal jury found Tarrio guilty of orchestrating the attack on the Capitol from afar, including through his efforts to form a Proud Boys cell known as the Ministry of Self-Defense that would work to coordinate the assault as it unfolded.
Tarrio and other leaders then recruited others who would follow their orders on Jan. 6, including engaging in violence if necessary, according to court documents.
Evidence produced at trial indicated that Tarrio told Proud Boys leaders, “Make no mistake … we did this,” as the riot, which aimed to ensure lawmakers could not carry out constitutionally-mandated responsibilities ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, unfolded.
The House of Representatives and Senate would certify electoral college votes that cemented Biden’s win early the next morning.
Kelly, the judge who oversaw Tarrio’s sentencing, decided that his actions were serious enough to warrant a terrorism enhancement that significantly increased his jail time.
Tarrio said that although he remains unrepentant about his actions, he would not have chosen to join the Proud Boys if given a second chance.
“I don’t regret anything. It doesn’t change my views. But for a better life, yeah, I definitely would have not joined, but that doesn’t change the person who I am or what my beliefs are,” he said.