Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was caught off guard Monday during cross-examination in his trial for seditious conspiracy, improbably claiming he didn’t know that members of the far-right militia were going to storm the Capitol or were preparing for violence, an excuse that the federal prosecutors found laughable.
Rhodes’ excuses were expeditiously shut down by the evidence that the prosecutors presented.
Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy began by pushing back on Rhodes’ previous testimony that he founded the Oath Keepers because of his opposition to the war-mongering policies of former President George W. Bush.
“The Oath Keepers’ founding came years later, shortly after President Barack Obama’s election. She added that he launched at Lexington, Mass., on April 19, 2009 — the anniversary of the ‘shot heard ’round the world,’” Rakoczy expertly contradicted Rhodes.
According to prosecutors, that lie set the tone for events to come from the late aughts all the way through the attack on the Capitol.
Rakoczy presented evidence that heavily armed Oath Keepers members were present at social justice protests after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky in 2020.
Government witness Jason Alpers, a combat veteran with indirect access to Donald Trump, testified that Rhodes asked him to deliver a message to the then-President – encouraging the use of force to remain in power.
“You must use the insurrection act and use the power of the Presidency to stop him,” Rhodes allegedly told Trump in a typewritten message entered into evidence. “And all us veterans will support you and so will the vast majority of military,” Law & Crime reported.
Audio secretly recorded by Alpers contradicts Rhodes’ statements during direct examination that he didn’t know that any Oath Keepers were involved until after the violent attack on the Capitol.
“That recording, which Alpers turned over to the FBI months later, was entered into evidence and played in court. It features a lengthy discussion of the Insurrection Act, which Oath Keepers members believed would allow Trump to militarize groups like them to keep him in power,” Law & Crime wrote.
“Evidence showed that several Oath Keepers waited inside a Comfort Inn in Alexandria, Va., where they allegedly stashed weapons that they planned to ferry over the Potomac or drive into Washington, D.C., if necessary. The quick reaction force, as it was known, never deployed, but Rhodes shared his violent fantasies about the Speaker of the House.”
“My only regret is they should have brought rifles,” Rhodes can be heard saying on the recording. “I’d hang fuckin’ Pelosi from the lamppost,” the Oath Keepers leader said.
Several members of the Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, but Rhodes seems determined to ride out the trial.
He’s doing his best performative routine feigning ignorance and playing the victim. But as federal prosecutors are proving with their evidence, the alt-right, anti-government propagandist was integral to the violence that occurred on the day of the election certification.
Audio and video evidence, electronic communications, and testimony from fellow insurrectionists leave little doubt that Rhodes played a key role in the attempt to subvert democracy. His lack of remorse leaves even less doubt that he wouldn’t try again.
Original reporting by Adam Klasfeld at Law & Crime.
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