A new filing from federal authorities in the criminal case against Donald Trump alleging attempted election subversion indicates the prosecuting team, led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, is using against him the 2020 comments telling members of the far-right group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Smith’s team pointed to the commentary, which came during a pre-election debate with Joe Biden, in a notice to the court of evidence they intended to present. Though the former president’s original intentions in making those comments have been debated, prosecutors point to several factors arguably establishing the connection to seriously problematic behavior. At roughly the outset, members of the group actually took the comments as essentially a call to action, and in the time since, Trump has expressed support for some of their key actions around what became the Capitol riot in early 2021. He has even singled out ex-national leader of the organization Enrique Tarrio for sympathetic commentary in an interview.
“The Government plans to introduce evidence from the period in advance of the charged conspiracies that demonstrates the defendant’s encouragement of violence,” the Smith filing says, then citing the debate incident: “Members of the group embraced the defendant’s words as an endorsement and printed merchandise with them as a rallying cry. As discussed below, after the Proud Boys and other extremist groups participated in obstructing the congressional certification on January 6, the defendant made clear that they were acting consistent with his intent and direction in doing so.”
Another notable intention on prosecutors’ part is to use against the ex-president his repeated suggestions while out of office for the issuance of presidential pardons covering Capitol rioters if he regains the position. Smith’s team says these comments from Trump are indicative of his general intentions around these controversies. They’re reaching extensively into recent history, also saying in the new filing they’ll be pointing to past years in which Trump falsely claimed fraud in elections including both 2016 and 2020. And there are portions of the filing perhaps even more surprising, like prosecutors saying they have evidence a campaign worker and “agent” of Trump encouraged “rioting” in Detroit as local ballot tabulation processes turned out poorly for the Trump team.