Reuters reported on Tuesday that the FBI is looking into a meeting between about half a dozen far-right leaders, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, and several other extremists, including a lawyer who worked for both the Oath Keepers and the Latinos for Trump coalition.
The FBI has been looking for evidence that leaders of the most violent militia movements present at Jan. 6 had contact before the riot. Reuters had previously reported on the meeting last summer, when Tarrio told the publication that the meeting with Rhodes was “by coincidence.” But Reuters’ new reporting suggests that wasn’t the case: Kellye SoRelle, then a lawyer for the Oath Keepers and Latinos for Trump, told the outlet that she was invited by another organizer to meet Tarrio and speak to him about criminal defense lawyers. Tarrio was originally charged with burning a Black Lives Matter flag outside of a church in D.C. in 2020, and was arrested in D.C. in January 2021, shortly before the insurrection. (He was released from jail in January of this year after serving four and a half months.)
Rhodes is currently being held before trial for his actions on Jan. 6. He and other Oath Keepers are being charged with “seditious conspiracy.” SoRelle told Rolling Stone last month that she had taken over the Oath Keepers on an interim basis, but revealed in an email last week that she had stepped down from any formal role in the organization.
The pre-Jan. 6 meeting is strange, because the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys were uneasy allies at best, if not rivals. Tarrio is also a controversial figure on the far right, as he was revealed to be a “prolific” federal informant. Michael Simmons, another member of the Oath Keepers, in an interview with Reuters expressed disbelief that Rhodes would meet with Tarrio, saying, “Why would you meet Enrique in a fucking parking garage? It just blows my mind. That’s crazy!”
Simmons has not been charged, despite his presence at the Jan. 6 riots.
Reuters doesn’t speculate, but the FBI is known to be looking for hard evidence that multiple far-right groups conspired to come together during the riots on January 6. The agency has subpoenaed the phone records of multiple participants at the meeting, including a freelance photographer documenting the Proud Boys who was present. The photographer is fighting that subpoena in court.