Oath Keepers leader: No plan to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6

Alanna Durkin Richer And Lindsay Whitehurst Associated Press
Tuesday, November 8, 2022
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This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, left, as he testifies before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on charges of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. Rhodes is on trial with four others for what prosecutors have alleged was a plan to stage an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes told jurors there was no plan for his band of extremists to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as he tried Monday to clear his name in his seditious conspiracy trial.

Taking the stand in his defense for a second day, Rhodes testified that he had no idea that his followers were going to join the pro-Donald Trump mob to storm the Capitol and that he was upset after he found out that some did. “There was no plan to enter the building for any purpose,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said he believed it was stupid for any Oath Keepers to go into the Capitol. He insisted that was not their “mission.”

In text messages on the day of the attack, though, Rhodes struck a different note, referring to Trump supporters who entered the Capitol as “actual patriots.” Rather than telling his followers to stay away from the riot, he called them to the area. Rhodes maintained that was simply a meetup point to leave, but prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy pointed out Rhodes never condemned the insurrection. Hours after it ended, he wrote a message saying “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

She also showed multiple messages where Rhodes referred to “us and our rifles” or “boots on the ground” ahead of Jan. 6. Rhodes had been “saying for weeks, if not months, that when the president didn’t act your supporters would take things into their own hands,” she said.

Rhodes said Monday that he was talking about what he thought could happen after Jan. 6.

Rhodes is on trial with four others for what prosecutors have alleged was a plan to stage an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power from Republican Trump to Democrat Joe Biden. Prosecutors have tried to show that for the Oath Keepers, then riot was not a spur-of-the-moment protest but part of a serious, weekslong plot.

Rhodes’ defense is focused largely on his the idea that his rhetoric was aimed at persuading Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which gives the president wide discretion to decide when military force is necessary and what qualifies as military force. Rhodes told jurors he believed it would have been legal for Trump to invoke that act and call up a militia in response to what he believed was an “unconstitutional” and “invalid” election.

“All of my effort was on what Trump could do,” Rhodes said.

It was not entirely clear what Rhodes would have wanted the militia to do after being called up by Trump. But he insisted that disrupting the certification of the vote was not one of his goals and he expected that it would be certified.

Prosecutors say Rhodes’ own words show that he was using the Insurrection Act as legal cover and that he was going to act no matter what Trump did. Messages Rhodes sent include another from December 2020 in which he said Trump “needs to know that if he fails to act, then we will.”

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