Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes wrote message to Trump after Jan 6: ‘Save the republic’ or ‘die in prison’

Days after Capitol riot, far-right militia leader said he would ‘f****** hang’ Pelosi ‘from the lamppost’

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 02 November 2022 17:55 GMT
Oath Keepers leader lambasts prosecution in seditious conspiracy trial

Growing frustrated with what he believed was Donald Trump’s inadequate response to the 2020 presidential election, the leader of a far-right anti-government group that allegedly conspired to storm the US Capitol wrote a message to the president four days after the attempted insurrection.

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes allegedly called on the president to invoke the Insurrection Act, activate the group to defend the nation from his political enemies, and jail members of Congress and state legislators, according to a message that was shared in court on 2 November in the ongoing seditious conspiracy trial involving Mr Rhodes and members of his militia.

If Mr Trump did not, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris “will turn all that power on you, your family, and all of us,” the message said. “You and your family will be imprisoned and killed. You and your children will die in prison.”

The message was ultimately never delivered, but prosecutors have added it to a growing list of evidence allegedly proving the group’s months-long plot to breach the halls of Congress and overturn the election.

A government witness who claimed to have “indirect” connections to Mr Trump’s inner circle testified on Wednesday that he met with Mr Rhodes four days after the Capitol attack.

Jason Alpers testified that Mr Rhodes typed a message on Mr Alpers’s phone intended for the former president during the meeting on 10 January, 2021.

Mr Alpers said he also covertly filmed the meeting using a thumb drive-sized recording device, “making sure that I had an accurate account of it,” he told the court.

The recording – which was played in the courtroom – captures Mr Rhodes telling Mr Alpers that his “only regret” about 6 January, 2021 was that they did not bring firearms to the Capitol that day.

“We should have brought rifles,” he said. “We could have fixed it right then and there.”

He also said he would “f****** hang” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “from the lamppost.”

Mr Alpers said he gave the recording to the FBI several months later.

“You must do as Lincoln did,” Mr Rhodes allegedly wrote in the message typed on Mr Alpers’s phone. “He arrested congressmen, state legislators, and issued a warrant for [US Supreme Court] Chief Justice Taney. Take command like Washington would. ... Go down in history as the savior of the Republic, not a man who surrendered it.”

Mr Alpers said he did not forward the message to Mr Trump because he did not agree with it.

The jury also was told on Wednesday that Mr Rhodes spent tens of thousands of dollars on firerarms, campaing gear and other equipment in the days after 6 January, according to bank statements and receipts shared with the court.

Mr Rhodes and four other people tied to the Oath Keepers – Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins – are charged with seditious conspiracy for their roles on 6 January. Federal prosecutors have accused the group of amassing a “quick reaction force” to forcibly disrupt the outcome and plotting an “attack” fuelled by baseless conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen.

They have pleaded not guilty.

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