Thursday, September 28

Cowboys for Trump co-founder ditches plan to ride horse to his Jan. 6 trial

WASHINGTON — A Donald Trump supporter who was on the grounds of the US Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack went on trial before a judge on Monday, but abandoned his plan to ride a horse to the federal courthouse.

Couy Griffin was arrested in Jan. 2021, weeks after pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol to protest the results of the 2020 election. He is the second defendant to face a trial related to the attack, two weeks after a jury convicted Jan. 6 defendant Guy Reffitt on five charges. Judge Trevor McFadden, a 2017 Trump appointee, is overseeing Griffin’s trial.

Griffin told NBC News on Monday that he decided not to ride a horse to the courthouse because he wanted to respect the court and didn’t want to create a “spectacle,” although he said he might ride a horse at the end of the day depending on how the trial went. He showed up with a truck with a “COWBOYS FOR TRUMP” branded horse trailer attached.

A “Cowboys for Trump” truck is parked outside the courthouse where Couy Griffin is on trial for participating in the Jan. 6 attack on March 21, 2022, in Washington.Ryan Reilly/NBC News

Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico and co-founder of the group Cowboys for Trump, is facing misdemeanor charges. His friend Matthew Struck testified as part of an immunity deal, verifying the videos that he provided to the government.

Walking into the federal courthouse on Monday, Griffin insisted that a metal police barricade he climbed on Jan. 6 on the grounds of the Capitol was actually a step.

Couy Griffin enters the area immediately beneath the inauguration platform near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Couy Griffin enters the area immediately beneath the inauguration platform near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.via US District Court for DC

“That was a step,” Griffin claimed to NBC News. “It was a metal step, I used it as a step… You can call it a barricade, I call it a step.”

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Prosecutors also played a video of Griffin climbing even further up the inauguration platform using what appeared to be a wooden plank set up by rioters. They also played a video of him climbing up the stairs of the inauguration platform with other members of the mob.

“I love the smell of napalm in the air,” Griffin appears to say in one of the videos.

Griffin did not wear a mask into the courthouse and then complained to security guards that jurors were being allowed to jump the security line (as is standard practice). He eventually walked around to another entrance to the courthouse and arrived in the courtroom just minutes before his trial was set to begin.

“This day has been a long day coming,” Griffin told reporters as he walked to the second entrance. “I’ve been treated like I’m America’s biggest enemy, and all I did on that day was peacefully stand and protest with so many other Americans that are concerned about our country and the validity of our last election.”

Griffin said that he still believes false claims of mass voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“I think you’re crazy if you think Biden actually really fairly won the election,” Griffin said.

Griffin is somewhat of an outlier amongst Jan. 6 defendants. Thousands of people were unlawfully on the grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6, but the Justice Department has focused on bringing charges against individuals who either entered the Capitol building or assaulted officers outside. There have only been a handful of cases against defendants who were, like Griffin, were unlawfully present on the grounds of the Capitol but did not engage in violence.

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Griffin’s defense team argued ahead of the trial that the Cowboys for Trump co-founder was being unfairly targeted for the content of his speech.

“The government will present evidence showing that hundreds or thousands of similarly situated protesters did exactly what Griffin did on January 6 and have not been charged with any crime, much less Griffin’s,” Griffin’s attorney wrote in a motion ahead of trial. “The evidence will show that the government selected Griffin for prosecution based on the fact that he gave a speech and led a prayer at the Capitol, that is, selected him based on protected expression.”

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