'We are bigger than Jesus.' Telegram messages show how Trump's 2020 comments galvanized Proud Boys

The Proud Boys celebrated and expressed an increased sense of importance after former President Donald Trump told members of the right-wing extremist group to "stand back and stand by" during a September 2020 presidential debate, according to their Telegram messages, introduced as evidence in court Wednesday.

Five Proud Boys, including leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, face various charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including the rare charge of seditious conspiracy.

'Guys...stand by'

In the minutes after Trump made the remark, Proud Boys sent a flurry of messages to a Telegram group chat called "Official Presidents Chat," which the Justice Department says was populated by Proud Boys chapter presidents across the country. Defendants Tarrio, Ethan Nordean and Zachary Rehl were in the chat.



"Wouldn't condemn us," the messages from different Proud Boys, pouring in within milliseconds of each other, said.

A few messages later, Tarrio tells the group: "Guys...stand by."

'Be ready to go'

Later in the evening, a Proud Boy with the username "Nebraska Red," not identified by the government, asked the group what the former president's phrase actually meant.

A user called "Johnny Blackbeard," who the government identified as John Charles Stewart, replied: "I read it as stand by, don't engage immediately but be ready to go."

'We are bigger than Jesus'

The Proud Boys were galvanized by Trump's comment, messages in a different chat called Skull and Bones, populated with Proud Boys "elders," or senior officials, showed.

"We are bigger than Jesus," a user called "Chris Cannon Pb" wrote in the chat.

"Kings," Tarrio replied.

'Lets hope daddy Trump plays it right'

Newfound fame the Proud Boys perceived to have gained from Trump's comment encouraged members of the group to remain part of the political conversation.

"Boys, we are the #1 media point from the largest debate that has ever been seen or heard in the history of the world," the user "Chris Cannon Pb" wrote. "3billion people heard our name and the other 4billion don't have a TV."

Defendant Zachary Rehl replied that the group had been "brought into the Presidential conversation."

"Lets hope daddy Trump plays it right," he wrote.

'My phone hasn't stopped ringing'

In another chat called "OG Pickleback Crew" — which was not an official Proud Boys channel, according to prosecutors — Proud Boys and other members discussed making tee shirts adorned with Trump's phrase.

"Stand back and stand by...Need to be shirts @NobleLead...For the pbs...Condemn the pbs. Hahaha joe Biden," a user called "Planet" wrote in a string of messages.

Defendant Joe Biggs replied back in two messages: "I'm so happy...My Phone hasn't stopped ringing."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Proud Boys trial: Group's reaction to Trump's 'stand back and stand by'