At least a day before thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the US Capitol, Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes warned his supporters to “prepare for violence.”
“I highly recommend a C or D cell flashlight if you have one,” Rhodes reportedly told members of the far-right paramilitary group in an encrypted group chat, referring to heavy flashlights that can be swung like clubs. “Folding batons are a gray area in the law. I bring one. But I am willing to take this risk because I love them.
The next day, moments after former President Donald Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell,” Rhodes wrote to the group: “All I see do is complain. I don’t see any intention on his part to do anything. The patriots therefore take it in hand. They have had enough.
Then, at the height of the insurgency – which forced dozens of elected leaders into hiding and ultimately killed five people – Rhodes ordered his Oath Keepers to “come to the steps on the south side of the Capitol.” A few minutes later, Oath Keepers had entered the building.
While federal prosecutors have charged hundreds of rioters, including several Oath Keepers accused of conspiracy, Rhodes has so far remained unharmed. He has denied having played a role in the riots and has not been charged.
Now it looks like prosecutors are solidifying an even bigger case against the militia – with Rhodes firmly in the sights. A court case Monday night detailed, for the first time, his direct contact with members already accused of plotting to prevent Congress from certifying the electoral victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
During the riots, prosecutors say, Rhodes sent encrypted messages to the newsgroup that “shows that individuals, including those alleged to have conspired with [others], actively planned to use force and violence. Among the messages with Rhodes – who is only identified as “person one” in court documents but whom prosecutors have named and to whom prosecutors have made several connections in earlier documents – were at least two of the seven guards. who have since been charged, including Jessica Watkins, a 38-year-old former military veterinarian accused of recruiting members to “hand-to-hand” to take control of the Capitol.
The chat messages “all show that the co-conspirators have come together to stop congressional certification of the Electoral College vote, and that they were prepared to use violence, if necessary, to achieve this goal,” said prosecutors in Monday’s case. “It doesn’t matter whether they plan to use this violence to support the president when he invokes the act of insurgency or to attack the Capitol if the vice president allows the certification to go ahead – in l ‘Either scenario, they were plotting to use violence to support. unlawful obstruction of congressional proceedings. “
The FBI describes the Oath Keepers as “a large but loosely organized collection of militias who believe the federal government has been corrupted by a shadowy plot that attempts to deprive American citizens of their rights.”
Prosecutors believe most of the jurors charged in the riots were involved in a larger plot to recruit, train and prepare an attack on the Capitol.
Monday’s filing, however, is the first time prosecutors have offered an overview of real-time coordination and direction on January 6 – and Rhodes’ important role in this case. It appears that prosecutors are laying the groundwork to take on the leader of the group.
“Federal prosecutors are trying to build a case against Rhodes, which will likely include conspiracy charges,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahman told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “An indictment of conspiracy only requires an agreement to do something illegal, such as entering the Capitol building, and an overt act in continuing the conspiracy.”
“The Capitol has been violated, so the manifesto element is easily satisfied. This is why Rhodes and the attorneys for the other Oath Keepers are attacking the conspiracy status agreement requirement, claiming that there was no prior knowledge of the plan to enter the Capitol building and that those responsible were ‘rogue members’ who acted spontaneously, ”said Rahman added.
Rahman added that prosecutors “will continue to seek evidence of an agreement, such as planning, coordination and direction, particularly in messages from Rhodes or statements from cooperating defendants. Once they have enough evidence, I expect Rhodes to be charged and arrested.
While the government has yet to name Rhodes, or directly accuse him of anything illegal, court documents filed against Thomas Caldwell and two other members repeatedly mention communications they have had. with “Person One”.
In a Jan. 27 filing, prosecutors mentioned that “oath-keepers are headed by person one.” Prosecutors also put statements made by Rhodes in documents under the title of “Person 1,” such as a January 4 recruiting letter that he signed.
In the document filed Monday, which challenged Caldwell’s request for release pending trial, prosecutors alleged that Rhodes and several other “Oath Keeper regional leaders from several states across the country” had discussed the plans in an encrypted discussion group at least a day before the riots. They discussed how to “ensure the safety of speakers and VIPs” from several events protesting against the results of the 2020 election.
Prosecutors also claim that the founder of Oath Keeper gave explicit instructions on weapons and armor.
“Don’t bring anything that can get you arrested. Leave the DC outside, “Rhodes reportedly wrote to the group, later suggesting members bring” good hard gloves, eye pro, helmet. In a pinch, you can get Mechanix gloves and a batting helmet from Walmart. Bring something to put on your noggin. Antifa loves brikes.
He suggested that “several well-equipped QRFs” (“rapid reaction forces”) would wait outside the city. (Gun laws are more permissive outside DC’s borders.) After the riot, according to court documents, a group of oath-keepers “gathered around” Rhodes and “stood by standing for at least ten minutes “near the Capitol.
“You carry out the arrest of a citizen. Stop this assembly, we have probable reasons for acts of treason, electoral fraud.“
Previous court documents and videos from oath keepers during the riot suggest the group had been training for the event and were executing an earlier plan. Before the rioters entered the Capitol, uniformed members of the group were seen moving towards the doors in a “stack”, combat training.
Once the attack was underway, participants used a walkie-talkie app to reference apparent plans to detain members of Congress. “You are carrying out the arrest of a citizen. Stop this assembly, we have probable reasons of acts of treason, of electoral fraud, ”said one of them, according to court documents.
“We have about 30 to 40 of them. We remain united and respect the plan,” said another on the application.
Prior to the riot, Rhodes appeared to serve as a link between the Oath Keepers and other far-right groups that would later participate in the attack. At a December rally in Washington, Rhodes warned of a “bloody war” if Trump did not invoke the insurgency law. In a video the night before the riot, Rhodes made a facebook video with other personalities of the extreme right. Among them were the head of a PAC that employs leaders of the Proud Boys, the head of the “Vets For Trump,” who faces charges for allegedly bringing a gun to a vote counting center in Pennsylvania. , and Amanda Chase, a state of Virginia. senator who has previously appeared alongside Proud Boys at a gun rally.
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