The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

New Capitol Riot Indictment Describes Chaotic Assault Led By Oath Keepers

Between careering around the streets of Washington, D.C., in commandeered golf carts and exchanging nearly 20 phone calls, the Oath Keepers and their leaders were very busy fellows in the hours and minutes leading up to the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 -- in which they played leading roles, according to a filing this week by federal prosecutors.

The new indictment filed Thursday adds two Oath Keepers who acted as bodyguards for former Donald Trump aide Roger Stone at the pro-Trump rally that day, Robert Minuta and Joshua James, to the conspiracy case that now includes 12 Oath Keepers—but so far, not the paramilitary organization's founder, Stewart Rhodes. However, the new filing lays out the central role Rhodes (identified only as "Person 1") in coordinating his members as they created a "stack" formation that overwhelmed police barricades.

The document describes a harrowing ride by Minuta, James, and others in a group of golf carts they took to get to the Capitol through D.C. traffic. Minuta, dressed in "battle apparel"—hard-knuckle tactical gloves, ballistic goggles, a radio with an earpiece and bear spray— apparently texted a running commentary as the passenger.

"Patriots are storming the Capitol building; there's violence against patriots by the D.C. police; so we're en route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now . . . it's going down, guys; it's literally going down right now Patriots storming the Capitol building . . ." Minuta allegedly stated during the drive.

The addition brings to 12 the total number of Oath Keepers indicted for conspiracy to "stop, delay, or hinder Congress's certification of the Electoral College vote." So far, Rhodes has not been indicted, though prosecutors have been circling, and in each filing appear to be getting closing to charging him alongside the others.

The indictment says Rhodes and his team—including an unnamed communications chief designated as "Person 10," and three Oath Keepers who guarded Stone—engaged in "frequent and consistent communication leading up to the attack." Overall, they exchanged 19 phone calls over three hours that day:

  • At about 1 p.m., Minuta and Rhodes exchanged two calls totaling about three minutes at roughly the same time that a mob of Trump supporters first surged through police barricades onto Capitol grounds.
  • From 1:59 to 2:15 p.m., over a 17-minute span, "Person 10" spoke with Rhodes, and then exchanged five calls with James totaling about 6½ minutes, while Rhodes called Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs—who led the "stack" formation—for 15 seconds. This was about the same time the doors to the Capitol were first being breached.
  • Rhodes then forwarded a message from "Person 10" telling the team that the mob had "taken ground at the capital[.] We need to regroup any members who are not on mission." "Person 10" then called Meggs for 42 seconds.
  • Between 2:24 and 2:33 p.m., Rhodes spoke with "Person 10" for nearly 5½ minutes, after which "Person 10" and Meggs spoke. After James checked back with "Person 10," he and Minuta jumped into the golf cart and headed toward the Capitol, where they began harassing officers outside the east doors of the building. At 3:15 p.m., the two men entered the building, pushing past police at the Rotunda doors.
  • Between 3:40 and 4:05 p.m., "Person 10" connected for three minutes with James, Minuta, and Rhodes for 3½ minutes. Shortly afterward, more than a dozen Oath Keepers, including many who had entered the Capitol, gathered around Rhodes just outside the building.

The communications within the team also indicated that the insurrectionists were following a previously mapped strategy. Jessica Watkins, one of the leaders of the group that entered the Capitol, texted: "We have a good group. We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan."

"You are executing citizen's arrest," one person responded. "Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud."

Watkins responded: "We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fticking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here."

Another person told Watkins to stay safe, then added: "Get it, Jess. Do your fucking thing. This is what we fucking [unintelligible] up for. Everything we fucking trained for."

There was no indication in the indictment that the government knows the contents of the 19 calls, nor did it identify "Person 10." In interviews, Rhodes has said he had named as his on-the-ground team leader a former Army explosives expert and Blackwater contractor nicknamed "Whip."

Justice Department officials have indicated they are also considering bringing sedition charges against the insurrectionists. "I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements," Michael Sherwin, the former team leader of the investigation, told 60 Minutes. "I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that."

Rhodes has been portraying himself as a likely martyr. At an anti-immigration event in Texas last weekend, he told the audience: "I may go to jail soon. Not for anything I actually did, but for made-up crimes. There are some Oath Keepers right now along with Proud Boys and other patriots who are in D.C. who are sitting in jail denied bail despite the supposed right to a jury trial before you're found guilty and presumption of innocence, were denied bail because the powers that be don't like their political views."

He also claimed innocence for his members. "If we actually intended to take over the Capitol, we'd have taken it, and we'd have brought guns," Rhodes said. "That's not why we were there that day. We were there to protect Trump supporters from antifa."

New Photos Indicate Oath Keepers Prepared To Enter Capitol With Weapons

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A local Virginia news outlet is publishing previously unseen photos taken by staff in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. The images reportedly show a group of men "loitering near the Marine Corps War Memorial," with a view of the Capitol building. According to the report, the men stood around a small parking area, their SUVs and out-of-state plates conspicuous enough that Arlington County police were notified by passersby of their presence. According to ARLnow.com, which published the images, one of the pickup trucks in the parking area where the men loitered was left running with a "large toolbox in the back."

According to the Arlington County police, an officer was sent to look into the reports of "9-10 males acting suspiciously and looking around on the Iwo Jima War Memorial property" at 4 pm that day. According to a spokesperson for the police department, "nothing was located and the call was cleared." ARLnow points to far-right militia groups and prosecutors' filings against various Oath Keeper suspects who have been arrested and charged in the Capitol insurgency. Specifically highlighted is a memo against Oath Keeper leader Edward Caldwell that details an elaborate "quick reaction force" (QRF) of militia men who were to stay outside awaiting orders and could bring "the tools if something goes to hell"inside the Capitol, "that way the boys don't have to try to schelp [sic] weps on the bus." According to the prosecutors' filings, these individuals were potentially waiting outside, ready with weapons to bring into the Capitol.

On Friday, Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner, who is covering legal cases in Alexandria, reported on Oath Keeper leader Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio, and other militia member cases:

Judge is now asking whether there really was a "quick reaction force" stationed outside D.C. with weapons for militia members' use on Jan. 6. Prosecutor: "That is our understanding." And after that tantalizing detail, they are moving off the record.

This comes after Proud Boy members tried out the legal defense of, "Whoops, we didn't know we were breaking the law," or, "Whoops, we thought Donald Trump was telling us the truth," or, "Whoops, we didn't think we could get arrested for breaking the law." Watkins in particular tried to renounce her involvement in the Oath Keepers and say she was finished playing seditionist, so could she go home and pretend none of this happened? U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta was not having any of that. Maybe this selection from the prosecutors' court filings is why:

The next day, Watkins exchanged text messages with Co-defendant Thomas Caldwell about the operational plans for January 6, 2021. This included coordinating about where and when to meet and where to stay. Operational plans also contemplated the possession and use of weapons in D.C. before and on January 6. Caldwell referenced "a quick reaction force [QRF] [that would be]bringing the tools if something goes to hell. That way the boys don't have to try to schelp weps on the bus." Watkins previously stated that the QRF provided ready access to guns during operations. As she explained to a contact when preparing to attend a November election fraud rally in Washington D.C., QRF was designed so that "If it gets bad, they QRF to us with weapons for us," but that, otherwise, "[w]e can have mace, tasers, or night sticks. QRF staged, armed, with our weapons, outside the city" and advised "to be prepared to fight hand to hand" while "guys outside DC with guns, await orders to enter DC under permission from Trump, not a minute sooner." Watkins's own operational role extended well beyond providing medical aid. As she explained to a recruit, "I'm no doctor. I'm a soldier. A medic with a rifle, maybe, but a solider. I will hurt/kill those who try to hurt/kill me or others."

Like most of the Oath Keepers and other militia members being arrested and charged right now, the defense being employed amounts to, "Hey, we're full of shit, and we thought this would work but it didn't so how about we pretend we didn't do it." Hopefully the photos that ARLnow reporter Jay Westcott took are helpful in bringing more justice against fascists.

Capitol Riot Conspirator Renounces Oath Keepers, Still Denied Bail

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Among the many right-wing groups who figured prominently in the January 6 insurrection was Oath Keepers, the far-right group of former policemen, former first responders, and former service(wo)men. One of their leaders, former Army Ranger Jessica Watkins, figured prominently in filings by prosecutors about just how far these domestic terrorists—and yes, these are terrorists—were willing to go. According to prosecutors, Watkins believed she came to Washington on Trump's direct orders.

Later that week, Watkins claimed she met with Secret Service agents and was part of the security detail at the Save America rally. However, in a remarkable turnabout, late Friday she publicly renounced the Oath Keepers and denounced the insurrection.

Jessica Watkins, 38, of Champaign County, told U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta in the District of Columbus that she was appalled and humiliated by the events of Jan. 6.
"As soon as I'm out, whether acquittal or release, I'm canceling my Oath Keepers membership," she said. "I have no desire to continue with people who say things like that."
(snip)
"We're done with that lifestyle," Watkins said. "We've got a struggling small business. I did it out of the love of my country, but I think it's time to let all of that go … I don't intend to read social media for amusement or political purposes. I think it's just time for me to focus on my business."

But Mehta didn't buy it.

"I've thought about this quite hard, Miss Watkins," the judge said. "And I think, at the end of the day, I just can't get there. I don't think putting you on home detention would ensure the safety of the community ... You are an active participant, organizer, leader of others in engaging in this kind of conduct. The material found at your home certainly suggests further potential for organizing and further potential for violence."

That "material" included a stash of weapons and tactical gear, as well as "a recipe for making a destructive device." Mehta added that her previous desire to, as he put it, "fight, kill, and die over the result of this election" belied her claims to have not taken part in any violence on that horrible day. Therefore, he couldn't justify letting her out on bail. One has to wonder if Mehta would have been more sympathetic if Watkins hadn't claimed she'd done what she did out of love for America. We can do without that kind of love, thank you very much.

Sounds like Watkins is one of many people who thought expressing remorse for their role in the insurrection would be enough to get them out of jail. To my mind, the only way any claims of remorse will be believed is if they plead guilty. After all, those who took part in that horror deserve to have to answer for it for the rest of their lives.

Oath Keeper Claims She Met With Secret Service Before Capitol Riot

By Linda So

WASHINGTON -- A leader of the far-right "Oath Keepers" group charged in the deadly U.S. Capitol riots said she was in Washington on Jan. 6 to provide security for legislators and meet with Secret Service agents, according to a court filing. Jessica Watkins, 38, is one of nine associates of the far-right anti-government group charged for conspiring to storm the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory. Prosecutors said Watkins entered the Capitol building illegally, which her attorney appears to acknowledge when they wrote in a peti...