Hey, Oath Keepers, How’s That Seditious Conspiracy Trial Goin’ For Ya?

The seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four of his top Oafs got underway Monday, with federal prosecutors arguing in their opening statement that the far-Right group had “concocted a plan for an armed rebellion to shatter a bedrock of American democracy” by attempting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, according to Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Nestler.

Attorneys for Rhodes and the other defendants — Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell, with another four to be tried later —insisted that their clients hadn’t done anything illegal on January 6, and that they had simply exercised their rights to free speech. They were simply in DC as a “peacekeeping force” that would be ready to back up Donald Trump in case he invoked the Insurrection Act and deputized them to preserve order. Oh, and to provide security for Roger Stone and other VIPs. And maybe a few went into the Capitol, but they certainly hadn’t led the assault on the Capital either — they were just looky-loos.


The opening arguments made extensive use of the defendants’ own words in texts, emails, and other electronic communications. Nestler told the jury that the five defendants “said out loud and in writing what they planned to do,” and that “When the opportunity finally presented itself … they sprang into action.”

Nestler highlighted calls Rhodes made for “bloody revolution” and used video taken on January 6 to identify the defendants and place them at the Capitol, including video of defendant Kelly Meggs wearing a charming patch that read, “I don’t believe in anything, I’m just here for the violence.” The prosecutors also showed messages the accused conspirators sent to rile each other up, like one from Meggs saying, “Its easy to chat here. The real question is who’s willing to DIE.” They were all really big on dying for America, and maybe on doing some killing too; Meggs allegedly led a group inside the Capitol that tried to find House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Probably to taunt her, is all.

The prosecution’s opening statement also sought to preempt some of the defense’s arguments, pointing out that none of the defendants were trained of licensed as security guards, and that they certainly weren’t paid for that role either. The claim that they were simply waiting around to be drafted by Trump under the Insurrection Act won’t hold up either, Nestler argued. Rhodes, he said, had simply referred to the Insurrection Act as a “code or shorthand” that would magically “give him and his followers plausible deniability. Rhodes said using those words would give them legal cover.”

And in fact, once January 6 arrived and Trump hadn’t invoked the law, Rhodes and crew went ahead with their plans to invade the Capitol anyway. In a message to his followers that day, Rhodes wrote, referring to Trump, “I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands.”

One of Rhodes’s attorneys, Phillip Linder, said in his opening statement that the government’s case depended on taking things Rhodes and his codefendants said out of context. “Even though it may look inflammatory, they did nothing illegal,” Linder insisted. And heavens no, Rhodes wasn’t using that “Insurrection Act” talk as mere legal cover, he really believed it very sincerely.

“Stewart’s good-faith reliance on that is why he did what he did,” Linder said. “They were ready to react to President Trump’s request. That’s what you’re going to hear.”

What’s more, the firearms the Oath Keepers had cached at a hotel outside DC were only for defensive purposes in case Antifa showed up and attacked them, certainly not part of a plot to bring firearms to the Capitol once it had been seized — despite messages discussing that, which were all just macho bluster. After all, the nice militia members never actually violated DC’s strict firearms laws, now did they?

On that note, prosecutors revealed a new detail: In a recording of a January 10, 2021, meeting that had been provided by a disenchanted Oaf, Rhodes mused about lost opportunities a few days prior, saying, “My only regret is that they should have brought rifles,” which would have allowed the Capitol invaders to have “fixed it right then and there.”

In court Tuesday, FBI agent Michael Palian described a recording of a November 9, 2020, meeting in which Rhodes had urged his followers to prepare for armed conflict in DC. Nestler said Monday that the meeting had been recorded by “an increasingly alarmed follower” who sent it to the FBI right away, but the tip somehow got lost in the flood of tips that the agency was receiving about possible violence following the election. Palian said that he only saw the tip after the attempted coup, when the tipster sent it again in March 2021.

On the November call, according to court records, Rhodes told over 100 people that “we’ve got to be in D.C. … You’ve got to make sure that [Trump] knows that you are willing to die, to fight for this country.” […]

Rhodes said he hoped Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, which he believed would allow the president to authorize the Oath Keepers to use force against fellow Americans.

“If he does that, then D.C. gun laws won’t matter,” Rhodes said. “I … want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in armed if they have to.”

Also too, on November 7, 2021, Rhodes wrote that he really needed Trump to have more spine, and maybe the Oath Keepers could be the ones to provide it:

The final defense is us and our rifles […] Trump has a duty to stand, but so far her hasn’t. As Roger Stone said. Trump has one last chance, right now, to stand. But he will need us and our rifles too. But will he FINALLY act? Only if WE act and call on him to lead us.

In other messages, the Washington Post reports, Rhodes also

repeatedly referenced the 2000 overthrow of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, saying Trump supporters needed to follow the same playbook — which included storming the country’s Parliament building and setting it on fire.

Gosh, maybe we should thank him and his merry band of insurrectionists for not following that model to the letter, or for not bringing their precious rifles into the Capitol.

Here’s hoping all these creeps are sent away for a good long time so they can’t try it again. And for fuckssake let’s not let anyone else try.

[CNN / NYT / Politico / NBC News / WaPo]

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