‘Everything we f***ing planned for’: Oath Keepers trial reveals dozens of Jan 6 messages as members stormed Capitol

Frustrated by Trump’s response, Stewart Rhodes was prepared to ‘rise up in insurrection’ without him as the militia group planned to breach the Capitol, according to prosecutors

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 20 October 2022 21:59 BST
Oath Keepers leader lambasts prosecution in seditious conspiracy trial

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Louise Thomas

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While Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes grew frustrated with Donald Trump’s response to the 2020 presidential election, members of the far-right anti-government group roamed the US Capitol grounds, waiting for the president’s call to take up arms against the government.

During the group’s trial on charges of seditious conspiracy, federal prosecutors and FBI investigators revealed the member’s coordinated movements and explicit calls for violence in message after message, video after video, as a mob stormed the Capitol on 6 January, 2021.

Members and allies spent weeks whipping up support with promises of a battle at the Capitol, falsely believing the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Mr Trump, according to messages shown throughout the trial.

Prosecutors believe the messages – as well as dozens of other pieces of evidence shown to the jury from weeks before the insurrection – show how the group plotted to violently disrupt the joint session of Congress.

“Now it’s nut cuttin time. Does Trump have balls or not,” Mr Rhodes sent in a message on 6 January as we waited for Oath Keepers members to arrive at the Capitol. “We’re about to find out.”

In another message, he wrote: “All I see Trump doing is complaining ... So the patriots are taking it into their own hands.”

“Where are you? Pence has punked out,” defendant Jessica Watkins messaged defendant Thomas Caldwell shortly after 2pm that day, referring to then Vice President Mike Pence’s rejection of the former president’s baseless attempts to reject election results.

“We are screwed.”

Jurors also were shown a Facebook Live video from Oath Keepers attorney Kellye SoRelle, who was arrested in August and separately charged for her actions on 6 January.

“This is what happens when the people are pissed and when they rise up,” she said, according to the video, which also shows Mr Rhodes.

“We’ll see what’s happening. The storm,” said Ms SoRelle, referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory imagining Mr Trump leading a “storm” of retribution against his political enemies. “The storm arrived.”

At 2.37pm, defendant Kelly Meggs can be seen wearing a patch that reads “I don’t believe in anything, I’m just here for the violence.”

In messages shown to the jury, members shared their locations throughout the Capitol, updates on the police response, and the status of a “quick reaction force” – members guarding a stash of weapons in a Virginia hotel room.

“QRF standing by at the hotel. Just say the word,” Ed Vallejo wrote at 2.38pm, according to messages shared with the jury. Mr Vallejo is also separately charged in connection with the Capitol riot.

On a Zello chat, Oath Keeper Holden Haney tells defendant Watkins to “do your s***.”

“This is what we f***ing lived up for,” he wrote. “Everything we f***ing trained for.”

Outside the Capitol at 2.48pm, defendant Caldwell told the group that the crowd is “surging” towards the building. “Doors breached.”

“Today I wipe my a** on Nancy Pelosi’s doorknob,” he said in a video, minutes later.

Federal prosecutors also shared how Oath Keepers allegedly prepared organised military formation “stacks” to breach the Capitol.

Defendant Kenneth Harrelson can be heard in a video yelling “this is our f****** house” and “we took the f****** Capitol” as the group broke into the building.

Oath Keepers defense attorneys argue that the group’s private messages and alleged plans were primarily to coordinate security for Mr Trump’s rally. A “QRF” was only to be deployed in the event that Mr Trump asked for the group’s insistence after invoking the Insurrection Act, according to attorneys.

But prosecutors have sought to debunk that argument, unleasheing dozens of Signal chats, recordings and other pieces of evidence showing the group was prepared to upend the 2020 election regardless of Mr Trump’s orders.

“They don’t give a s*** how many show up and wave a sign, pray or yell,” Mr Rhodes wrote in a message on 29 December. “Only reason to go is so Trump knows we support him in taking Reg gloves off and kickin ass.”

Days earlier, on 20 December, he wrote that “either Trump gets off his ass and uses the insurrection Act to defeat the ChiCom puppet coup or we will have to rise up in insurrection (rebellion) against the ChiCom puppet Biden.”

“Take your pick,” he said.

Mr Rhodes and Ms SoRelle did not enter the Capitol on 6 January, but Mr Rhodes allegedly instructed the group as he roamed the grounds alongside Ms SoRelle.

After a message questioned whether the breach was mounted by Trump supporters, the pair insisted they were patriots.

“We are acting like the founding fathers. Can’t stand down,” Ms SoRelle replied. “Per Stewart and I concur.”

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