Oath Keepers, Proud Boys subpoenaed by Jan. 6 House panel
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection issued more subpoenas Tuesday, this time to extremist organizations, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers as well as their leaders, in an attempt to uncover the plotting and execution of the deadly attack.
“The Select Committee is seeking information from individuals and organizations reportedly involved with planning the attack, with the violent mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th, or with efforts to overturn the results of the election,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel, said in a statement.
The subpoenas are the latest in a wide net the House panel has cast in an effort to investigate the riot, when supporters of former President Donald Trump, fueled by his false claims of a stolen election, assaulted police and smashed their way into the Capitol to interrupt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
The committee has already interviewed more than 150 people across government, social media and law enforcement, including some former Trump aides who have been cooperative. The panel has subpoenaed more than 20 witnesses, and most of them, including several who helped plan the “Stop the Steal” rally the morning of Jan. 6, have signaled they will cooperate.
The latest subpoenas were issued to the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and 1st Amendment Praetorian organizations as well as their members, requesting documents and testimony.
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, was among those subpoenaed. He hasn’t been charged in the riot as he wasn’t there on Jan. 6. He’d been arrested in an unrelated vandalism case as he arrived in Washington two days earlier and was ordered out of the area by a judge. Law enforcement later said Tarrio was picked up in part to help quell potential violence.
But despite him not being physically present, the committee believes he may have been involved in the Proud Boys’ preparation for the events at the Capitol.
The committee highlighted a line from another Proud Boys leader’s podcast shortly before Jan. 6 in which he said, “When police officers or government officials are breaking the law, what are we supposed to do as people? Discourse? What are we supposed to do debate? No, we have to use force.”
Jason Lee Van Dyke, a lawyer previously affiliated with the Proud Boys and subpoenaed as part of the congressional investigation, said he would give the committee records that aren’t protected by attorney-client privilege, but emphasized that his affiliation with the Proud Boys International LLC ended in November 2018.
Van Dyke added that he didn’t have any records from November 2020 through the present that the subpoena seeks. “I can’t give them what I don’t have,” Van Dyke said.
More than 30 Proud Boys leaders, members or associates are among those who have been charged in connection with the attack. The group of self-described “Western chauvinists” emerged from far-right fringes during the Trump administration to join mainstream GOP circles, with allies like longtime Trump backer Roger Stone. The group claims it has more than 30,000 members nationwide.
The committee on Tuesday also subpoenaed the Oath Keepers — a militia group founded in 2009 that recruits current and former military, police and first responders — and its founder and leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes. The panel says Rhodes may have suggested members should engage in violence to ensure their preferred election outcome and that he was in contact with several of the more than a dozen indicted Oath Keepers members before, during and after the Capitol attack, including meeting some of them outside the Capitol.
Rhodes has said there were as many as 40,000 Oath Keepers at its peak, but one extremism expert estimates the group’s membership stands around 3,000 nationally. Rhodes didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment that was left on the organization’s website.
The last organization on the committee’s list Tuesday was the 1st Amendment Praetorian, founded by a QAnon believer, which claims to provide free security for “patriotic and religious events across the country.”
Its chairman, Robert Patrick Lewis, is wanted by the committee after being listed as a speaker on the permit for a Jan. 5 rally on Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington. On the day of the attack, Lewis tweeted: “Today is the day that true battles begin.”
The subpoenas narrowing in on the organizations come one day after the panel issued subpoenas to five more people, including Stone and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Some Trump allies have not cooperated. Steve Bannon, a longtime ally, was indicted on Nov. 12 on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena from the House committee. The committee is giving former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows more time to comply with a subpoena before moving forward with a contempt vote.
Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.