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Tag: oath keepers

Feds Indict Five 'Proud Boys' Leaders For Seditious Conspiracy

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the right-wing group the Proud Boys, and four of his top lieutenants faced new federal charges of seditious conspiracy on Monday for their involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a court document.

Federal prosecutors investigating the attack filed the new charges against Tarrio, Dominic Pezzola, Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, and Zachary Rehl, according to the document. All five defendants have already pleaded not guilty to other criminal charges related to the attack.

The new indictment accuses the five men of plotting to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 presidential victory over incumbent Republican Donald Trump. Trump has made false claims that he lost due to widespread voting fraud.

Prosecutors say Tarrio played a leading role even though he was not in Washington that day, having already been arrested on other charges related to weapons possession.

Three members of another right wing group, the Oath Keepers, have already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges. Several other members of that group, including leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes, have pleaded not guilty and are due to stand trial later this year.

About 800 people have been charged with taking part in the Capitol riot, with about 250 guilty pleas so far.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

New Evidence In Capitol Riot Probe Shows Coordination Between Militia Groups

In January, the Department of Justice charged Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes with seditious conspiracy, alleging he and others had conspired to invade the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and interrupt the counting of electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.

The central role played by Rhodes and his Oath Keepers has come into sharper focus, including their links to others being investigated in connection with the insurrection and the events that preceded the attack — one of whom is Derek Kinnison, a member of Oath Keepers.

Kinnison, who was indicted last year by a federal grand jury, is alleged to be part of a group that came to Washington “armed and “ready and willing to fight” in the nation’s capital,” per NBC News.

Texts released by a defense lawyer in connection with the Oath Keepers court case revealed Rhodes added Kinnison, under the name “CA Oath Keeper who is in with a four-man team,” to a Signal Chat. According to the indictment, Kinnison traveled to Washington in a rented SUV with three other Oath Keepers, Erik Scott Warner, Felipe “Tony” Martinez, and Ronald Mele, all of whom have also been arrested.

However, Kinnison is a self-identified member of another right-wing group: the Three Percenters, proscribed by the Canadian government as a terrorist organization.

In its new report, NBC News said the ties between the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters were uncovered by Capitol Terrorist Exposers, an anonymous investigative group looking into the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Capitol Terrorist Exposers is one of several groups in the “Sedition Hunters” community working hand to identify the rioters who attacked the Capitol. Other members of the public have been in on the investigative activities as well, announcing they have identified hundreds of rioters yet to be arrested by the FBI, per NBC News.

These unidentified sleuths also noticed that a radio channel Kinnison mentioned in his indictment, 142.422, was also mentioned in chats released in last month’s Oath Keepers case, according to NBC. Kinnison was also connected to chats released in an Oath Keepers hack — a breach that revealed active members of law enforcement and the military had tried to join the far-right group after January 6.

The anonymous investigators also announced that they had traced Kinnison’s locations on January 6 and in the days leading up to it, and matched his chats with his locations in videos and photos, NBC said in its report.

The unidentified sleuths further revealed that Kinnison was wearing an Oath Keeper’s patch on the back of his hat on January 6.

Kinnison already has popped up in videos from around Washington, D.C., days before the insurrection. In one photo, he can be seen wearing a gas mask as pro-Trump rioters attacked Capitol law enforcement officers with pepper spray. His location, authorities allege, matches with his communications in the Oath Keeper chat.

According to authorities, Kinnison was in communication with another group of 30 Californians traveling to Washington, D.C., who were “ready and willing to fight” and help “able bodied individuals.” The group called themselves “California Patriots-DC Brigade,” according to NBC News.

Kinnison has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and his attorney, Nicolai Cocis, would not respond to questions about Kinnison’s alleged Oath Keeper ties.

Oath Keepers Have Given January 6 Digital Data To FBI Investigators

The Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, has turned over reams of phone and digital files and undergone interviews with the FBI, according to a lawyer working with the extremist outfit.

Leaders of the Oath Keepers have shared with the bureau’s investigators details of the group’s efforts to aid the Trump campaign in its failed bid to subvert the 2020 presidential elections and connect with other top figures in Trump's orbit, according to recent court filings, CNN is reporting.

Kellye SoRelle, a failed Texas House candidate and Granbury, Texas attorney who in January declared herself the Oath Keepers’ acting president, saId she’d had several meetings with the FBI and turned over phones, but she didn’t detail her disclosures to the investigators.

"I've done interviews. I've done everything. I'm helping them," SoRelle said of her meetings with the FBI. Although SoRelle has not been charged in the seditious conspiracy case that has rapidly enshrouded the Oath Keepers, her ties to the group have been detailed in recent court filings.

For instance, the Oath Keepers held a virtual meeting one week after the 2020 presidential elections and planned a trip to Washington, D.C., after which SoRelle filled them in on the campaign’s legal efforts to challenge the election results.

SoRelle also joined a Trump campaign lawsuit that sought to keep the former president in power despite his loss, where she likened Trump to “a king from the Lord of the Rings’ fictional kingdom of Gondor,” according to the Daily Beast.

The FBI has discovered that the Oath Keepers used Signal, a messaging app, to text “high-profile, right-wing political organizers” in the days preceding the now-famous January 6 rally, per CNN. These figures include Alex Jones, a right-wing conspiracy theorist and talk-show host; Roger Stone, the political consultant and self-proclaimed political "dirty trickster"; and right-wing organizer Ali Alexander.

According to recent court filings, these “VIP chat” messages, which number over 100,000, were obtained from Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes’ phone and will help prosecutors prove their case against him.

Jones, whose three companies recently filed for bankruptcy, is already in legal hot water after courts ruled against him in defamation lawsuits brought by families of Sandy Hook victims.

Multiple news outlets have reported on Jones’ involvement in pro-Trump rallies held between November and December 2020, where he received protection from right-wing volunteers, including the Oath Keepers, while in town. Stone and other prominent Trump allies also enjoyed this protection, according to CNN

Jones’ lawyer, Federico Andino Reynal, told news outlets that his client demanded prosecutorial immunity before he’d agree to sing like a bird because he’s suspicious of the government's motives for seeking an interview, given the highly partisan nature of the investigation.” However, Reynal refused to comment on the Signal VIP chat uncovered by investigators.

An attorney for Alexander also denied requests for comments about the chat, and Stone took to social media to deny texting Rhodes and said that "discussion of logistics for a speech at a legally permitted event on January 5 proves nothing."

Rhodes is in jail awaiting trial on charges of seditious conspiracy, and Oath Keeper William Todd Wilson, founder of the extremist group’s North Carolina arm and once-loyal deputy of its incarcerated founder, pled guilty to seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the riot.

House Select Committee May Issue Subpoenas To GOP Lawmakers

While GOP lawmakers cheer the conservative Supreme Court’s reported willingness to overturn Roe v Wade — the culmination of a decades-long Republican effort to rip women’s rights to shreds — a congressional panel’s tightening investigation into the January 6 insurrection is about to take a turn forceful enough to flip those conservative smiles upside down.

The House Select Committee, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers looking into the deadly Capitol attack, particularly the roles former President Trump and his allies played in inciting the mob, has signaled its willingness to compel GOP lawmakers to cooperate with its investigation by way of subpoenas.

Sources familiar with the select committee’s investigative and deliberative process have told news media outlets that the panel will make its decision on subpoenas in the coming weeks. The select committee is wrapping up its probe in preparation for its public hearings in June.

After trying and failing to divert Congress’ focus to the “violence and public property damage” of the racial justice protest of Summer 2020, Republican lawmakers denounced the congressional investigation into January 6 as a partisan political tool wielded against Trump and refused to cooperate, so the select committee siphoned information from the Republicans’ deputies and assistants, per Politico.

However, the coordinated effort by GOP lawmakers and top Trump allies to stonewall the select committee’s investigation has angered members of the select committee, veering their sentiments towards the near-unprecedented subpoena action, according to the Guardian.

The sentiment shift in the select committee was triggered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers’ refusal to voluntarily appear for an interview and compounded by three Trump allies’ strikingly similar refusal to testify.

Having pierced through Trump’s inner circle’s secrecy by turning to Trumpworld staffers who often witnessed, or were briefed, on sensitive meetings, the select committee is increasingly unwilling to ignore some Republican members of Congress’ deep involvement with Trump’s unlawful campaign to subvert the 2020 presidential elections.

Last week, the select committee sent letters to three House Republicans — Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Ronny Jackson (R-TX), the former physician for the Trump White House — requesting their voluntary cooperation in its investigation, a glance into the lawmaker’s unorthodox connections with the Trump White House, as well as the far-right militia groups that attacked the Capitol on January 6, The Guardian is reporting.

In the letter to Jackson, for instance, the select committee cited “encrypted messages” obtained from the Oath Keepers about “provid[ing] you personally with security assistance.” The panel wished to uncover how the Trump-supporting militia group learned that Jackson had “critical data” to guard, per text messages unveiled in the House panel’s court filings.

Although the select committee is running out of options in its pursuit of accountability for the perpetrators who incited the pro-Trump mob to stall Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory, its members are reluctant to resort to subpoenas, for fear that their colleagues would drag the panel into lengthy legal battles for its attempt to compel their testimonies.

However, sources on the select committee told the Guardian they’re confident some Republican congressional representatives will comply with subpoenas out of fear that Democrats would, in a similar fashion, defang future Republican subpoenas, should the party win back control of the House come November’s midterms.

Newly Revealed Texts Show Oath Keepers Plot To Continue Insurrection

Oath Keeper William Todd Wilson of North Carolina pleaded guilty last week to seditious conspiracy. He is the third member of the rightwing group to do so.

The Oath Keepers is an umbrella organization of heavily armed anti-government extremists led by former Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes. The group preferentially recruits members with police or military experience. It encourages members to disobey laws they regard as unconstitutional.

The Oath Keepers are known for showing up heavily armed to emotionally charged events, often under the guise of providing security. They participated in protests against Covid restrictions as well as in the so-called “Stop the Steal” rallies promoting the lie of election fraud against Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

On January 6, the Oath Keepers served as bodyguards for MAGA VIPs, including Republican operative and convicted felon Roger Stone. A total of 11 Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the J6 insurrectionAnother Oath Keeper facing the same charge recently submitted 337 pages of text messages, podcast transcripts and other materials in his motion for pretrial release.

This newly public trove of documents is a resource for those seeking to understand the Oath Keepers’ plans for January 6, their activities on that day, and their alleged conspiracy to keep on fighting to overturn the election after the insurrection failed.

One of the more intriguing details is that some of the Oath Keepers believed newly elected Republican member of Congress and former presidential physician Dr. Ronny Jackson was in trouble during and needed their protection.

Jackson had made fiery remarks at the Ellipse immediately before the assault on the Capitol, but he was trapped with the other legislators during the attack. It’s unclear how he made his way back there.

“Dr. Ronnie Jackson – on the move. Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect,” an unnamed Oath Keeper texted the group chat, as the mob roamed the building.

“Give him my cell,” replied Rhodes.

Needless to say, the House Select Committee is curious about how the Oath Keeper knew that Jackson needed help, and what “critical data” the Oath Keeper thought he was safeguarding. The committee sent Jackson a letter on May 2, asking to meet with him to discuss these issues. Jackson has refused to cooperate. He denies knowing any Oath Keepers and his spokesperson speculated, rather implausibly, that the Oath Keepers were just talking about him because he’s so famous.

It was no secret that Rhodes and the Oath Keepers had long intended to support Donald Trump if he declared martial law.

Indeed, Rhodes claimed in late 2020 that he had already massed troops and weapons in the Washington, D.C. area to support Donald Trump if he did that. The text trove shows the Oath Keepers followed through on that plan.

The encrypted texts also show the Oath Keepers spending a lot of time scheming about what weapons they could bring to D.C. without violating the city’s strict gun laws so that they wouldn’t get arrested before Trump could declare martial law. Blades under 3 inches in length, lead pipe and bicycle helmets were all identified as legal weapons.

Meanwhile, the Oath Keepers had stashed an arsenal in a hotel room in Virginia, waiting for Donald Trump to give them the order to rise up.

The chats show the Oath Keepers were spoiling for a fight with antifascists. They openly hoped that violence by anti-fascist protesters would give Trump the pretext he needed to invoke martial law.

The text trove gives no clear indication that the Oath Keepers showed up on J6 expecting to overrun the Capitol. However, the record suggests that Rhodes may have made a spur-of-the-moment decision to throw his troops at the Capitol building when it became clear that Mike Pence had refused to steal the election from the podium and Donald Trump had yet to invoke martial law.

The record shows that Rhodes summoned his troops to the Capitol as the mob converged on the building. “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,” Rhodes told the chat.

Whereupon Oath Keepers in tactical gear formed two single-file “stack” formations and surged towards the Capitol.

The Oath Keepers’ conspiracy to restore Trump to power does not appear to have ended after the authorities reclaimed the Capitol building.

Oath Keeper and self-proclaimed seditionist William Todd Wilson told a federal court on Wednesday that, after the attack, he heard Rhodes talking on the phone to someone whom Rhodes believed had a direct line to Trump. Whoever it was reportedly denied Rhodes’ demand to speak to the president.

Rhodes has pleaded not guilty and a disbarred lawyer associated with his defense asserts that the Oath Keepers had no way to communicate with Trump.

The text trove seems to confirm that Rhodes and his cronies had every intention of continuing the insurrection past certification day. On the evening of January 6, the Oath Keepers’ group chat commiserated over the failed attack, shared videos and vowed to fight on.

“We need a new ‘Declaration of Defiance,’” someone suggested.

“Already working on it,” Rhodes wrote back.

“After Action Reports" will be dated 1/21/21” messaged another Oath Keeper, appending an unspecified emoji. January 21, 2021, would be the day after Inauguration Day,

“Be very careful and mindful that anything you say can and will be used against you,” Rhodes replied.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Oath Keepers Witness Describes Leader's Effort To Advance Coup After Riot

Things appears to have gone from bad to worse for Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes, who faces seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the January 6 insurrection, after another member of the far-right militia group told investigators, as part of a plea deal, that Rhodes tried to contact Trump on the evening of the Capitol riot.

William Todd Wilson, an Oath Keeper from North Carolina, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his role in impeding the January 6 congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

Wilson and other Oath Keepers, according to the Justice Department, sought to forcibly halt the transfer of power from then-President Trump to then-President-Elect Biden, disrupting a crucial congressional session in the process.

On Wednesday, in plea documents, Wilson described under oath the Oath Keepers’ activities before, during, and after the insurrection. On the night of January 6, according to Wilson, after the armed group regrouped at the Phoenix Hotel, Rhodes placed a call to an individual he believed could connect him directly to Trump, and lobbied for the former president to mobilize the group for another round of violence.

“Rhodes then called an individual over speaker phone. Wilson heard Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to oppose the transfer of power forcibly. This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump. After the call ended, Rhodes stated to the group, I just want to fight.’,” court documents reveal.

The phone call with the unidentified individual, which appears to show the Oath Keepers had a contact in Trump’s inner circle, was previously unknown as Wilson, who provided the testimony, wasn’t named in the initial conspiracy indictment filed in January, per multiple news reports.

"This individual denied Rhodes's request to speak directly with President Trump," the plea statement added.

Wilson is the third Oath Keepers member to admit to seditious conspiracy, but before now, none of the militia group’s members were accused of trying to contact Trump on the day of the siege at the Capitol.

In his plea document, Wilson said he’d “heard Rhodes discuss the potential need for Rhodes and co-conspirators to engage in force, up to and including lethal violence, in order to stop the transfer of power.”

Heeding the call to arms, Wilson arrived at a hotel room in Washington, D.C., ahead of the attack, armed to the teeth. He admitted in his plea document to bringing along an “AR-15-style rifle, a 9-millimeter pistol, approximately 200 rounds of ammunition, body armor, a camouflaged combat uniform, pepper spray, a large walking stick intended for use as a weapon, and a pocketknife,” according to CBS News.

According to court documents, Wilson, Rhodes, and 14 other members of the Oath Keepers “bypassed barricades and Capitol Police officers, and unlawfully entered the restricted grounds of the Capitol.”

Wilson said he tossed his cellphone into the Atlantic Ocean weeks after the attack to stymie any investigations into his actions. He now faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts he pleaded guilty to.

D.C. Attorney General Sues To Expose And Bankrupt Insurrection Gangs

Here’s a reality that the insurrectionists who besieged the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, are now learning: When you physically attack a public institution and commit crimes against civil authorities, the criminal charges — such as “seditionist conspiracy” — you inevitably face are just the beginning. Just wait ‘til the civil courts, where the people you have harmed get to sue you for damages, weigh in.

Just ask Stewart Rhodes and his compatriots in the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who already face those daunting criminal charges. This week they were added to the federal civil lawsuit filed late last year by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine seeking to hold those groups, as well as others involved in the violent attack on the Capitol, financially culpable for the millions of dollars in damage they caused, including injuries to Capitol Police officers.

“We’re committed to bankrupting the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who conspired in the attack,” Racine tweeted.

Racine filed his original lawsuit on December 14, naming 31 people—all members of the two far-right organizations that played central roles in the insurrection—culpable for damages incurred during the attack. Among them were Proud Boys leaders Joe Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl, and Enrique Tarrio, as well as key Oath Keepers such as Kelly Meggs and Joshua James. All of them have been charged criminally by federal authorities as well.

The latest round now includes Rhodes, who was charged with seditionist conspiracy in January after avoiding arrest for more than a year as evidence began piling up implicating him. He was charged along with Edward Vallejo, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel, and Brian Ulrich, who also were added to Racine’s lawsuit. So was Matthew Greene, a Proud Boy who has been cooperating with investigators after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges.

Racine told The Washington Post that the goal of the lawsuit is to expose how these groups are financed and to secure “full restitution and recompense” for the damages inflicted on Washington. The largest of these, Racine said, has involved the huge costs incurred treating scores of injured Metro Police officers, including Officer Michael Fanone. Rioters assaulted Fanone with a stun gun and dragged down the Capitol steps, during which he lost consciousness, suffered a heart attack, and had traumatic brain injury.

“If it so happens that it bankrupts or puts these individuals and entities in financial peril, so be it,” the attorney general said in an interview when the case was filed.

The lawsuit seeks damages under the modern version of the federal Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a Reconstruction-era law that, besides outlawing the notorious hate group, also allows individuals to sue when they are injured by their criminal plots. It is modeled in that regard on the recent federal civil lawsuit that found the organizers of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, financially culpable for millions and rendering them bankrupt.

Such lawsuits have been used for years by organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center to hold violent far-right extremists such as Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance and the Idaho-based Aryan Nations culpable for their members’ violence, similarly bankrupting them. While the strategy has a few critics—Glenn Greenwald once described it as an “abuse of the court system”—it has historically proved to be one of the most powerful tools for enabling communities to hold far-right extremists accountable for the violence they perpetrate.

Assisting Racine’s lawsuit are two nonprofit groups: the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the States United Democracy Center (SUDC).

“There is no substitute for bringing a civil suit that seeks damages against each of the individuals and groups responsible,” said Norman Eisen of the SUDC, a veteran of the Obama White House counsel’s office. “It is a way to assure those bad actors never do it again.”

Reprinted by permission from DailyKos.

Former Proud Boys Leader Busted On Capitol Riot Conspiracy Charge

By Sarah N. Lynch, Jan Wolfe and Aram Roston

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The former chairman of the U.S. right-wing group the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested on Tuesday on a conspiracy charge for his alleged role in plotting the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol in a bid to block certification of President Joe Biden's election.

Tarrio, 38, appeared in a virtual Miami-based federal court hearing from a cellblock in a nearby local jail, and prosecutors said they were seeking to have him detained pending trial because they believe he is a danger to the community and poses a risk of flight.

Tarrio told the judge he has "absolutely" no savings, and that he only recently got a job printing T-shirts that earns him $400-500 per week.

Andrew Jacobs, a federal defender, was appointed to represent Tarrio, and a detention hearing was set for Friday at 10 a.m.

An attorney for Tarrio did not respond to requests for comment.

Tarrio is one of the most high-profile of more than 775 people criminally charged for their roles in the attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Tarrio was not on the Capitol grounds on the day of the assault, but is charged with helping plan and direct it.

Other members of the Proud Boys removed Tarrio from their private chatrooms early on Tuesday after learning of his arrest, said a member of the group who asked for anonymity.

Eleven people affiliated with the Oath Keepers militia, including that group's founder, Stewart Rhodes, were charged in January with seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in planning the attack.

Tarrio was added as a defendant to a case naming other Proud Boy members Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Charles Donohoe, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola.

That case is tentatively slated to go to trial on May 18.

Police in Washington on January. 4, 2021, arrested Tarrio on destruction of property charges connected to the December 12, 2020, burning of a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic African-American church.

He later served a four-month stint in jail for the charges.

Tarrio was released from custody on January 5, 2021, and ordered to stay out of the city as a condition of his release in the banner-burning case.

However, the indictment alleges that he did not immediately comply, and instead met with Oath Keepers leader Rhodes in an underground parking garage.

Last month, Reuters reported that the FBI was investigating the details of the meeting between Rhodes and Tarrio. Tarrio previously told Reuters the meeting was unplanned and he did not consider it to be significant.

He also previously denied any Proud Boys planning ahead of January 6.

Although Tarrio did not storm the Capitol with some of the other Proud Boys, prosecutors say he nonetheless continued to direct and encourage his fellow Proud Boy members during the riots.

He also allegedly claimed credit for what happened on social media, as well as through an encrypted chat room.

According to the indictment, Tarrio posted a number of incendiary comments to his followers about the 2020 presidential election.

On November 6, 2020, for instance, he wrote: "The media constantly accuses us of wanting to start a civil war. Careful what the fuck you ask for we don't want to start one ... but we sure as fuck finish one."

Tarrio is charged with conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, a fairly common felony charge that many Capitol rioters are facing. It can carry up to 20 years in prison on conviction.

Rhodes, by contrast, is facing charges of seditious conspiracy, a less commonly seen serious felony offense that criminalizes attempts to overthrow the government.

One of the 11 Oath Keepers defendants, Joshua James, pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors last week. The deal was a notable victory for the Justice Department, which hopes to secure similar convictions against other defendants.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by Aram Roston; Editing by Scott Malone, Mark Porter and Jonathan Oatis)