Oath Keepers trial: Messages after 2020 election show plans for armed confrontation in D.C.




  • In Politics
  • 2022-10-04 17:59:05Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other members of the right-wing extremist militia began planning for a violent confrontation in Washington, D.C. just days after Joe Biden was named the president-elect, according to audio recordings and messages shown Tuesday during their trial.

Five Oath Keepers, including Rhodes, face trial this month in the most high-profile case tied to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack so far.

The defendants face numerous crimes in connection to the events of that day, including the rare charge of seditious conspiracy - conspiring against the government through the use or threat of force in an attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power or functioning of the government.

The 2020 presidential election was called in Biden's favor on Nov. 7, 2020. That same day, Rhodes called Biden an "illegitimate usurper" and issued a call to action via the encrypted messaging app Signal.

"The answer must be to refuse to accept, acknowledge, respect or obey any of these imposters or their pretend legislation…and get your gear squared away and ready to fight," Rhodes wrote in a Signal chat called "Friends of Stone," referring to Trump ally and political strategist Roger Stone.

Oath Keepers trial: Prosecutors argue militia members were 'leaders' on Jan. 6

Rhodes likened their circumstances to "where the Founders were in March 1775" and said that former President Donald Trump had "one last chance to stand. But he will need us and our rifles, too."

"The final defense is us and our rifles," Rhodes wrote.

By Nov. 9, more than 100 Oath Keepers were gathered on a conference call discussing plans to travel to the nation's capital on Nov. 14, 2020 for the "Million MAGA March," where tens of thousands of people would rally and march in protest of purported election fraud.

"(Trump) has to know that the people are behind him, that he will not be deserted, and he has to have positive pressure. So we've got to be in D.C.," Rhodes said on the call. "You've got to be willing to go to D.C. and street fight Antifa."

Oath Keepers trial: A 1800s-inspired defense meets most significant Jan. 6 prosecution yet

Rhodes continued that if Antifa - a name for anti-fascism activists and a boogeyman among conservatives - "went kinetic" on the group, that they'd have to "go kinetic" back.

"I'm willing to sacrifice myself for that," Rhodes said.

The call included early plans to have armed quick reaction forces made up of "some of our best men" stationed outside D.C. limits to evade the city's strict gun laws and awaiting Trump's orders - efforts later replicated on Jan. 6, the prosecution alleges.

Earlier in the call, Rhodes said Trump needed to invoke the Insurrection Act, a statute from the 19th century that gives the president authority to call on military and National Guard forces to suppress an insurrection if a state requests it or if the insurrection makes it impossible to enforce federal law.

Oath Keepers trial: What we know about the Oath Keepers trial as opening remarks begin

Defendants Jessica Watkins and Kelly Meggs were also on the call, the prosecution said, and discussed which weapons could be legally brought into D.C., like pepper spray, tasers and stun guns - "and it doesn't hurt to have a lead pipe with a flag on it," Meggs said.

"We're not getting out of this without a fight," Rhodes said on the call. "There's going to be a fight. But let's just do it smart, and let's do it while President Trump is still commander-in-chief."

After the meeting concluded, in a Signal chat called "OKFL Hangout," Meggs relayed Rhodes' call to action to other Oath Keepers.

"Anybody not on the call tonight. We have been issued a call to action for DC," he wrote. "This is the moment we signed up for."

In a cross-examination of the government's first witness, FBI Special Agent Michael Palian, Rhodes attorney Phillip Linder confirmed that no incidents related to the Oath Keepers were reported on the day of the Million MAGA March and that the FBI only obtained and reviewed about a half hour of the 126-minute Nov. 9 call.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Oath Keepers trial: Rhodes discussed D.C. conflict after 2020 election

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