Oath Keepers Founder Denies Planning Jan. 6 Riot at Capitol
WASHINGTON — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes denied that he planned an attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, as he testified during his own trial Monday in Washington, D.C.
He said his earlier suggestion to then-President Donald Trump to call out the military and private militia to help him remain in power was unrelated to the insurrection.
“It never even crossed my mind” that the Oath Keepers might force their way into the Capitol, Rhodes said in U.S. District Court.
The Oath Keepers, QAnon and other right-wing extremists were trying to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election win for Joe Biden.
He added that any of the insurrectionists who assaulted police officers should be prosecuted.
He described the Oath Keepers’ role in Washington on Jan. 6 as “peacekeeping,” to protect Republican leaders affiliated with Trump.
He said he hoped Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act to overturn the election results. The Insurrection Act of 1807 authorizes the president to deploy the U.S. military to suppress civil disorder, insurrection or rebellion.
The Oath Keepers claimed that evidence of election fraud was the same as civil disorder. Those claims have been proven wrong.
Rhodes and his four co-defendants are charged with seditious conspiracy to incite the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Rhodes put much of the blame for the Oath Keepers’ violence on his co-defendants.
Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs led some of his followers wearing tactical gear as they broke through the East Capitol Rotunda doors with other rioters. Rhodes testified that he told Meggs his attack was “stupid” and that “it opened the door for our political enemies to persecute us.”
Federal prosecutors said Rhodes’ actions leading up to the riot and afterward cast doubt on his claims he had no plans for violence.
They presented evidence that Rhodes and at least 10 co-conspirators brought firearms with them to Washington in the days before Jan. 6. They kept some of the guns in rooms they rented in an Arlington, Virginia, hotel while referring to themselves as a “Quick Reaction Force,” according to prosecutors.
Four days after the riot, Rhodes was recorded saying, “We should have brought rifles. We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang f—— Pelosi from a lamppost,” in a reference to killing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Rhodes also is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly ordering other Oath Keepers to delete evidence of potentially incriminating communications.
Prosecutors rested their case on Thursday after a month of testimony from more than two dozen witnesses who implicated Rhodes in the riot. The witnesses included FBI agents, U.S. Capitol Police officers and former Oath Keepers.
Tom can be reached at [email protected] and @TomRamstack
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