U.S. Says Oath Keepers Founder Directed Capitol Attack

Federal prosecutors on Monday that Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right anti-government group Oath Keepers, was heavily involved in the planning and execution of the deadly insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. They alleged in a filing that he was in direct contact before, during and immediately after the Capitol breach with members of the group who have been arrested and charged for their role in attempting to prevent Congress from confirming the results of the 2020 presidential election.

(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Republican revisionists have been pushing the storyline that just a few “patriots” strolled up to the Capitol from the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse after Donald Trump and others delivered speeches urging them to “fight” and things got out of hand. But prosecutors said they recovered a chat called “DC OP: Jan 6 21” on the encrypted Signal messaging app that “shows that individuals, including those alleged to have conspired with [others] were actively planning to use force and violence.”

According to the filing, Rhodes chatted with two other Oath Keepers who already have been charged for their roles in the riot, Ohio leader Jessica Watkins and Kelly Meggs of Florida. Prosecutors said Rhodes, Watkins, Meggs and “regional Oath Keeper leaders from multiple states across the country” discussed plans in the chat for members and affiliates to come to Washington for events on Jan. 5 and 6 to “provide security to speakers and VIPs.” Trump associate Roger Stone was one of those who was afforded Oath Keeper bodyguard protection.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

As Trump was finishing his speech near the White House, Rhodes, according to prosecutors, wrote to the group at 1:38 p.m.: “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”

Other messages included in the filing show Rhodes directing members of the group to various spots in the Capitol complex and calling for reinforcements once the building had been breached.

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