World 9 minutes ago (Oct 11, 2022 02:12PM ET)
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police clear the U.S. Capitol Building with tear gas as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside, in Washington, U.S. January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo
By Sarah N. Lynch and Chris Gallagher
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group, Stewart Rhodes, and four others are the first people to go on trial in more than a decade over seditious conspiracy charges for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Rhodes and his four co-defendants – Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins – are accused of conspiring to try to keep Republican Donald Trump in power after he had lost the 2020 election. A pro-Trump mob charged into the Capitol on Jan. 6 and attacked police but failed to prevent lawmakers from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
Seditious conspiracy is a rarely prosecuted crime under a statute dating to the Civil War era and is defined as attempting “to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States.”
Below are some of the excerpts of the text messages, online postings, speeches and other exchanges between members and associates of the group that prosecutors have presented to the jury to prove their case:
— “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.” – Nov. 7, 2020 text message from Rhodes to a group of Oath Keepers.
— “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 him to lead us.” – Nov. 7, 2020 in a text message from Rhodes to a group of Oath Keepers.
— “I’m gonna go on a killing spree.” “Pelosi first.” – Nov. 3, 2020 consecutive text messages from Kelly Meggs in a family chat.
— “If you fail to do your duty, you will leave We the People no choice but to walk in the founders footsteps, by declaring the regime illegitimate, incapable of representing us, destructive of the just ends of government – to secure our liberty. And, like the founding generation, we will take to arms in defense of our God-given liberty.” – December 2020 open letter posted online from Rhodes to then-President Trump.
— “Proud boys scuffled with cops and drove them inside to hide. Breached the doors. One guy made it all the way to the house floor, another to Pelosi’s office. A good time. We need to do this at the local level. Lets storm the capitol in Ohio.” – Jan. 7, 2021 Facebook (NASDAQ:) message from Thomas Caldwell to Donovan Crowl, an Oath Keeper charged in a separate criminal case.
— “If we’d had guns I guarantee we would have killed 100 politicians. They ran off and were spirited away through their underground tunnels like the rats they were.” – private message sent by Thomas Caldwell on Jan. 6, 2021 to someone named Jonathan.
— “Show the world who the traitors are, and then use the (Insurrection Act) to drop the hammer on them. And all of us veterans who swore that oath, until you’re age 65, you can be called up as the militia to support and defend the constitution … He needs to know from you, that you are with him. That if he does not do it now, while he is commander in chief, we are going to have to do it ourselves later, in a much more desperate, much more bloody war. Let’s get it on now, while he is still the commander in chief.” – Rhodes in a speech prior to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
— “We will have many balls in the air. I have been so busy on back-channel groups trying to advise the president.” – Stewart Rhodes in a December 2020 text discussing logistics ahead of Jan. 6 with a group of Oath Keepers.
— “Push, push, push! Get in there. They can’t hold us.” – Oath Keepers defendant Jessica Watkins, speaking to other members of the group inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 as they breached a police line protecting the U.S. Senate chamber.
— “I don’t believe in anything. I’m just here for the violence,” – writing on a patch that defendant Kelly Meggs wore on his shirt on the day of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack.
— “It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 on Washington D.C. when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil.” – defendant Thomas Caldwell, in a Facebook message on Jan. 1, 2021.
— “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit,” Stewart Rhodes, in a Nov. 5, 2020 text to a group of Oath Keepers.