Over the weekend, QAnon members gathered in Las Vegas for a multi-day conference to promote propaganda regarding the 2020 election, Covid vaccinations, and probably virtually everything else discussed at the For God & Country Patriot Double Down event.
Couy Griffin, the originator of “Cowboys for Trump,” was one of the speakers, and he had some harsh words for his organization’s namesake.
“We supported President Trump for his fight for justice, and for four years we cried, ‘Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.’ We know she’s a criminal,” Griffin said. “What did the president tell us? ‘If I was in charge of the law, you’d be in jail.’ OK, Mr. President, you’ve been in charge of the law for four years. At the end of your four-year time, the only ones locked up were men like me, and others like me, that have stood by the president the strongest.”
Griffin is referring to the Trump supporters who stormed into the Capitol and rioted on January 6th, which is a violation of federal law. Griffin is not presently imprisoned, but he was among those who marched to the Capitol in what turned out to be a violent attempt to overthrow the 2020 election.
Griffin was arrested later that month, and in August he was given a plea deal to address the minor criminal charges he’d received for violating Capitol grounds. He reportedly used a bullhorn to lead the gathering in prayer on a terrace outside the Capitol but did not enter the building.
Griffin is a county commissioner in southern New Mexico in addition to organizing Cowboys for Trump. This summer, a political committee attempted to recall him, charging that he was skipping meetings for Cowboys for Trump and that he was exploiting the organization as a money-making machine. Griffin avoided recall in September when the recall group failed to collect enough signatures to force a special election.
Griffin, as the name of his organization suggests, was a major admirer of the previous president and apparently visited with him “several times” during his presidency. Griffin, like the president, has a history of making racist remarks, including asking supporters of the Black national song at football games to “go back to Africa” and calling opponents of the Confederate flag “vile scum.” Trump posted a video of Griffin addressing a throng of supporters in the spring of 2020 that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
Griffin, when charged with two misdemeanors for violating Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, voiced disappointment when a federal court set a March 2022 trial date to settle his case.
“I broke nothing, I didn’t fight with anybody,” Couy Griffin, an Otero County commissioner and the founder of “Cowboys for Trump,” said during a video hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden. “My life’s been turned upside down. … I’m being punished every day I don’t have a trial.”
Griffin’s case has become an early litmus test for prosecutors and judges as they continue to process the 600-plus Capitol riot suspects. Griffin, according to investigators, followed the Jan. 6 crowd to the foot of the Capitol and stood on the stairs but did not enter the building. He faces two charges: accessing a restricted place without authority and engaging in disruptive behavior while there.
Griffin’s attorneys have claimed that his case is one of the simplest to emerge from the Jan. 6 probe and that it should not take prosecutors months to exchange crucial evidence and prepare the case for trial. However, prosecutors are under duress because they must provide an entire database of evidence to all Capitol riot defendants while still ensuring their right to a swift trial.
“Thousands of people that were recording events on their phones and uploading it to social media. Every one of those phones that has a search warrant has to be searched and scoped,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Miller, the Justice Department’s point person to coordinate the handover of Capitol riot evidence to defense attorneys. “There’s going to be a lot of video that has to be processed in this case for months to come.”
Griffin’s case poses a convergence of difficulties for prosecutors and judges in Washington, as they wrestle with the scope and complexities of the Jan. 6 probe. Courts are already suffering trial backlogs because to Covid pandemic delays, and prosecutors have dubbed the Jan. 6 inquiry as the most complicated in U.S. history, needing extensive resources to handle a still-growing mound of evidence.
Prosecutors are also under pressure from courts to prioritize collecting evidence for the dozens of Capitol riot suspects incarcerated while awaiting trial, the majority of whom are charged with assault or conspiracy.
McFadden said he understood the Justice Department’s and Griffin’s worries, and that the process of compiling evidence in the cases had taken longer than he anticipated. He said that a mid-March trial date was the earliest he could set given the backlog caused by Covid delays, despite the fact that Griffin has renounced his right to a jury trial, putting his destiny in the hands of the judge.
“I understand your frustration,” McFadden, an appointee of President Donald Trump, said to Griffin. “But we are where we are.”
Griffin said that he has been the subject of a recall campaign in New Mexico due to charges that he violated the law on January 6. “I’ve already been tried, convicted and sentenced from the local to the state to the national media,” he stated. “The media can just continue to annihilate me and rip me to shreds on this.”
However, McFadden said that there was no denying that prosecutors, who were opposed to establishing a trial date in the case, were in a difficult position. “You were involved in an event that involved hundreds if not thousands of people,” he said to Griffin.
Griffin’s lawyers, Nicholas and David Smith, are also requesting that prosecutors turn over footage purportedly showing U.S. Capitol Police officers lowering barricades and waving on members of the Jan. 6 crowd. Those films, which accompanied written misconduct complaint reports released by the department earlier this month, are expected to be critical evidence for defense teams who claim their clients believed they had authority to enter the facility on January 6.
Internal investigators decided that the majority of the 38 misconduct allegations obtained by Capitol Police were baseless, and Miller said prosecutors are concerned that the content of those accusations may be used for “disinformation” or to harass specific officers. She did, however, add that prosecutors aim to give over all video evidence as soon as they are able to convert the footage into a presentable format.