The voting was over and nearly all ballots have been counted. Information shops on Nov. 7, 2020, had known as the presidential race for Joe Biden. However the chief of the Oath Keepers extremist group was simply starting to combat.
Satisfied the White Home had been stolen from Donald Trump, Stewart Rhodes exhorted his followers to motion.
“We should now … refuse to simply accept it and march en-mass on the nation’s Capitol,” Rhodes declared.
Authorities allege Rhodes and his band of extremists would spend the subsequent a number of weeks after Election Day, Nov. 3, amassing weapons, organizing paramilitary coaching and readying armed groups with a singular aim: stopping Biden from turning into president.
Their plot would come to a head on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors say, when Oath Keepers in battle gear have been captured on digicam shouldering their method by the group of Trump supporters and storming the Capitol in military-style stack formation.
Court docket paperwork within the case in opposition to Rhodes and 4 co-defendants — whose trial opens Tuesday with jury choice in Washington’s federal court docket — paint an image of a gaggle so decided to overturn Biden’s victory that some members have been ready to lose their lives to take action.
It’s the most important check for the Justice Division’s efforts to carry accountable these chargeable for the Capitol assault. Rioters briefly halted the certification of Biden’s victory by sheer power, pummeling cops in hand-to-hand preventing as they rammed their method into the constructing, forcing Congress to adjourn as lawmakers and employees hid from the mob.
Regardless of practically 900 arrests and a whole bunch of convictions within the riot, Rhodes and 4 Oath Keeper associates — Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell — are the primary to face trial on the uncommon and difficult-to-prove cost of seditious conspiracy.
The Oath Keepers accuse prosecutors of twisting their phrases and demand there was by no means any plan to assault the Capitol. They are saying they have been in Washington to offer safety at occasions for figures equivalent to Trump ally Roger Stone earlier than Trump’s massive outside rally close to the White Home on Jan. 6. Their preparations, coaching, gear and weapons have been to guard themselves in opposition to potential violence from left-wing antifa activists or to be prepared if Trump invoked the Revolt Act to name up a militia.
Rhodes’ attorneys have signaled their protection will give attention to his perception that Trump would take that motion. However Trump by no means did, so Rhodes went residence, his attorneys have stated.
On Nov. 9, 2020, lower than every week after the election, Rhodes held a convention name and rallied the Oath Keepers to go to Washington and combat. He expressed hope that antifa (anti-fascist) activists would begin clashes as a result of that might give Trump the “motive and rationale for dropping the Revolt Act.”
”You’ve acquired to go there and also you’ve acquired to be sure that he is aware of that you’re prepared to die to combat for this nation,” Rhodes informed his individuals, in line with a transcript filed in court docket.
By December, Rhodes and the Oath Keepers had set their sights on Congress’ certification of the Electoral Faculty vote on Jan. 6, prosecutors say.
On Dec. 23, he printed an open letter on the Oath Keepers web site declaring that “tens of 1000’s of patriot People, each veterans and nonveterans” can be in Washington. He warned they may should “take to arms in protection of our God given liberty.”
As 2021 approached, Rhodes spent $7,000 on two night-vision gadgets and a weapon sight and despatched them to somebody exterior Washington, authorities say. Over a number of days in early January, he would spend an extra $15,500 on weapons, magazines, mounts, sights and different gear, in line with court docket paperwork.
Rhodes had instructed Oath Keepers to be prepared, if requested, to safe the White Home perimeter and “use deadly power if essential” in opposition to anybody, together with the Nationwide Guard, who may attempt to take away Trump from the White Home, in line with court docket paperwork.
On Jan. 5, Meggs and the Florida Oath Keepers introduced gun containers, rifle circumstances and suitcases crammed with ammunition to the Virginia resort the place the “fast response power” groups can be on standby, in line with prosecutors. A workforce from Arizona introduced weapons, ammunition, and provides to final 30 days, in line with court docket papers. A workforce from North Carolina had rifles in a car parked within the resort lot, prosecutors have stated.
On the Capitol, the Oath Keepers fashioned two groups, navy “stacks,” prosecutors say.
Some members of the primary stack headed towards the Home seeking Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., however couldn’t discover her, in line with court docket paperwork. Members of the second stack confronted officers contained in the Capitol Rotunda, prosecutors allege.
Rhodes isn’t accused of going contained in the Capitol however was seen huddled with members exterior after the riot. Rhodes and others then walked to the close by Phoenix Park Resort, prosecutors say.
In a personal suite there, Rhodes known as somebody on the cellphone with an pressing message for Trump, in line with an Oath Keeper who says he witnessed it. Rhodes repeatedly urged the particular person on the cellphone to inform Trump to name upon militia teams to combat to maintain the president in energy, court docket papers say. The particular person denied Rhodes’ request to talk on to Trump.
“I simply need to combat,” Rhodes stated after hanging up, in line with court docket papers. Authorities haven’t disclosed the identify of the particular person they imagine Rhodes was chatting with on the decision.
That night time, Rhodes and different Oath Keepers went to dinner in Virginia. In messages over the course of the night, they indicated their combat was removed from over.
“Patriots getting into their very own Capitol to ship a message to the traitors is NOTHING in comparison with what’s coming,” Rhodes wrote.
Rhodes returned to Texas after the Jan. 6 assault and remained free for a 12 months earlier than his arrest in January 2022.
In interviews earlier than he was jailed, he sought to distance himself from Oath Keepers who went contained in the Capitol, saying that was a mistake. He additionally continued to push the lie the election was stolen and stated the Jan. 6 investigation was politically motivated.