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The Original Oath Keepers' 'Patriot' Celebrity Is Still In Jail For Child Rape

The first time I came across the Oath Keepers back in the summer of 2009, it was all because of a then-29-year-old ex-Marine wearing a skull mask and ranting about the need for “Patriot” militiamen to “rise up” in “a violent revolution.” It was a telling introduction.

The Marine’s name was Charles Dyer. He was an Iraq War combat veteran, and his videos began turning up in late 2008 and early 2009 on YouTube. I was monitoring the rapid increase in militia organizing that began occurring around the time Barack Obama began running for president, which then skyrocketed for the next four years. Dyer’s videos, which attracted hundreds of thousands of views, made me concerned—especially as I realized that he was a spokesman for this new organization that focused on recruiting military veterans into a far-right ideological army, and which was closely associated with the blossoming Tea Party movement.

Dyer’s videos, posted under his nom de guerre “July4Patriot,” comprised him ranting into a video camera about government “tyranny.” He wore his military uniforms—including his Marine dress uniform—but obscured his face with a skull mask (the first I had ever seen of them, well before they were adopted as the face covering of choice by alt-right neo-Nazis nearly a decade later).

He also had a fondness for “inspirational” anthemic music in the background, usually of the Celtic variety, and sometimes so loud it obscured what he was saying—but his incendiary, violent rhetoric was worrisome:

The enemies of the Constitution are not far away in some distant desert. They’re found right here on our own soil. We have become complacent. We have allowed the tyrants to take over this country, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The time is now. We must rise up together and resist while we still have the ability resist.

This was stock rhetoric of the Patriot movement that I had been hearing since the 1990s. But most of the people indulging in this seditionist talk back then were ordinary citizens with little or no military background. On the other hand, Dyer not only had such a background, but claimed that there was an active antigovernment “resistance” within the armed forces:

I know many of you are afraid of the government. You wonder how you will fight something as strong as the U.S. military. I ask you this question: Who is that’s behind those rifles you fear? They are your sons, your daughters, your mothers and your fathers. They are American citizens just like you. And let me assure you that there is a resistance within the military. We will not be silent, we will not obey, we will not allow the American people to have their rights taken away in any manner. We will not disarm the American people during martial law. Let me assure you, Patriots, that we will die fighting our brothers in arms if we must, but we will not fight our countrymen.

As he posted more videos, Dyer’s rhetoric began ratcheting up the violence. What particularly sent him over the edge was the wave of outrage whipped up by right-wing media and conservative pundits over a bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security in early 2009 warning that right-wing extremists planned to be recruiting military veterans like himself into their ranks.

The bulletin, as was clear back then to anyone looking at domestic terrorism seriously, was an appropriate warning due to longstanding concerns about far-right infiltration of the ranks of the military, as well as recruitment of veterans into extremist ideologies and organizations after they returned home. People like Charles Dyer.

But right-wing pundits like Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck began shrieking at the tops of their lungs that the bulletin was part of an Obama administration conspiracy to designate all conservatives far-right terrorists so they could begin rounding them up and imprisoning them. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity joined in the bashing, as did a number of veterans groups like the American Legion, all of it handily whitewashing away the very real record of right-wing domestic terrorism in the United States.

All of this fueled and justified the anger of people like Dyer, who was furious about the bulletin:

They are already desperate to keep us from fighting back. The DHS has even issued a letter labeling Patriots as traitors, calling us right-wing extremists and domestic terrorists. Call me whatever name makes you feel justified in persecuting me. But should I care what men made of pure evil think, or label me as? Should I compromise my principles or make a whore of myself for these piece of filth? I think not.

But with the DHS blatantly calling Patriots, veterans, and constitutionalists a threat, all that I have to say is: You’re damn right we’re a threat. We’re a threat to anyone that endangers our rights and the Constitution of this republic.

“Patriots, we are not overpowered. If we united under one banner and fight for our children’s liberty and the constitution, our resolve is invincible to any standing army,” Dyer said in another video.

In one video showing him participating in paramilitary exercises, he answers someone who asks him whether he would advise signing up for the armed forces. “Join the military?” said Dyer. “Depends on what you want to do with it. Me? I'm going to use my training and become one of those domestic terrorists that you’re so afraid of from the DHS reports.”

Comments left behind on his YouTube channel were almost uniformly sympathetic and indicated that he had a significant audience for this rhetoric:

“This Marine is right on. Those now in power in Washington are hell-bent on destroying America and The Constitution. The Marine is right, America is a Republic, NOT a democracy, and what he says about laws that infringe on the 2nd Amendment is right. Any law that 'infringes' on the right to keep and bear arms is unconstitutional. This Marine is a patriot. Those that disagree with him, you know where the border is.”

“You only wish that's what he was. Everything he said in that video is true. And if you weren't so blind to what is going on right now, ie. the government wanting to nationalize the banking systems, wanting to increase gun laws ... not that there aren't over 20k already on the books, I could continue. The American people aren't free anymore, they just have a false sense of freedom, given to them to keep them complacent and happy as they go about their daily lives ... but soon that will end.”

“I believe there is a mountain of truth to this video. Everyone I know is stocking up on guns/ammo/food. I was in the military and I think most servicemembers feel the same as him. They took the oath to protect and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Most military members are very patriotic and attuned to what is going on. When I was in, most everyone hated Clinton. I can only imagine what they feel toward Obama and the Congress.”

In reality there were good reasons to be concerned about the radicalization of American veterans: In the 1990s, both Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph had manifested the danger when radicalized extremists also possess military training and capabilities. In 2008 the FBI had issued its own internal report exploring the problem. It concluded:

  • Although individuals with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, they frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups and their involvement has the potential to reinvigorate an extremist movement suffering from loss of leadership and in-fighting during the post-9/11 period.
  • … Military experience—ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces—is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.
  • ... The prestige which the extremist movement bestows upon members with military experience grants them the potential for influence beyond their numbers. Most extremist groups have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.
  • ... Military experience—often regardless of its length or type—distinguishes one within the extremist movement. While those with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, FBI investigations indicate they frequently have higher profiles within the movement, including recruitment and leadership roles.
  • ... New groups led or significantly populated by military veterans could very likely pursue more operationally minded agendas with greater tactical confidence. In addition, the military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement’s fringes.

However, the projection-fueled hysteria over the Homeland Security bulletin focused precisely on this problem became so overwhelming that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano was forced to issue an apology and retract the bulletin. The consequences went much deeper, of course: DHS’ domestic-terrorism-monitoring section was gutted, and the Obama administration fell into hunker-down/failure mode when it came to the radical right. Even more consequentially, these failures led to the ability of far-right extremists to keep festering and recruiting and growing. Especially groups like the Oath Keepers.

Dyer revealed his identity for the first time at a Tea Party event in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on July 4, 2009, where he gave a speech that promptly showed up online. It was advertised as an appearance by “July4Patriot,” but he told the audience his real name. He also told them the name of the organization for whom he was speaking and recruiting: the Oath Keepers.

In his speech, Dyer also described the “10 orders we will not obey”—the Oath Keepers’ original credo, a list of the kinds of actions used by authoritarian states—rounding up people, ordering the entire populace to be forcibly disarmed, imposing martial law, creating concentration camps—which mostly reflected the paranoid fears of black helicopters and FEMA common among movement Patriots.

The Oath Keepers, in fact, had only been founded that March 2009 by a former aide to Congressman Ron Paul of Texas—himself a well-established wellspring of far-right extremism with a mainstream patina—named Elmer Stewart Rhodes. A Yale Law graduate with a smooth media demeanor, Rhodes began showing up on TV, ranging from an appearance with Chris Mathews on his MSNBC Hardball program to an honored spot at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) annual convention.

Dyer kept posting videos, but without the skull mask. They mostly showed him engaging in paramilitary training exercises in rural areas, apparently in Oklahoma. He voiced extreme agitation and paranoia about the DHS bulletin, which he claimed targeted veterans as domestic terrorists. Dyer also made his own affiliation with the Patriot movement explicit, and made it similarly clear that the Oath Keepers were part of that movement:

The Patriot movement is basically just all different kinds of organizations across the United States. You’re looking at militias, or maybe the American resistance movement, the umbrella organization, and you may have the Ohio militia or the Michigan militia or whatever, militias all over the place. Citizens militias like in San Diego. They’re all under the Patriot movement. And we’re trying to take back this republic, and restore this republic like it's supposed, like it was intended by our Founding Fathers.

Dyer’s rhetoric became increasingly seditionist, especially the talk about “a violent revolution”:

I’m not gonna be hiding from my command anymore, I’m sure not gonna be hiding from the ATF or hiding from the FBI, I’m not hiding from any organization. If they wanna come take me, I’m not gonna be afraid. If I’m afraid at that point, we’re in a tyrannical government in the first place, and people need to rise up. At that point, there needs to be a violent revolution.

This was part of a larger trend we were seeing elsewhere across the country, including in the West and the South, of people forming militias and conducting paramilitary exercises, and wielding threatening seditionist rhetoric without restraint. The numbers of militias in the United States began spiking from their mid-2000s low of 131 to 512 in 2009, eventually hitting an all-time high in 2011 at 1,360.

Dyer’s speeches and activism, meanwhile, were being heavily promoted at the Oath Keepers’ website through 2009. Dyer shed his pseudonym altogether and began simply using his real name.

However, Dyer’s career as a spokesman for the Oath Keepers ended abruptly and in ugly fashion. He was arrested in January 2010 and charged with raping his young daughter. Investigators found a grenade launcher in his home.

Rhodes promptly disavowed him, claiming that Dyer had never been an actual dues-paying, card-signing member of the Oath Keepers.

In fact, however, Rhodes and Dyer were working closely together for much of that year leading up to his arrest, according to Rhodes’ ex-wife, Tasha Adams. In my interview with her earlier this year, she described how Rhodes—enamored of Dyer’s videos—had taken the budding radical under his wing.

Adams says Dyer was recruited by Rhodes into the organization early on, and Rhodes began putting him to use as a spokesman at events like the one in Broken Arrow. Adams said that Rhodes became “obsessed” with Dyer (“Stewart used to talk with his mother all the time”), and “almost immediately invited him to our home.”

After having Dyer sleeping on their couch for several days, Adams found out that Dyer was under investigation for having molested his own young daughter, but “he didn’t stay much longer after that.” Shortly after he departed, Dyer in fact was charged with the crime and eventually convicted; he’s currently still serving his 30-year sentence.

“He had sort of an eerie vibe about him. Just his demeanor,” Adams said.

At the same time, Oath Keepers by 2010 had become a fixture on the Tea Party scene, becoming listed cosponsors of Tea Party gatherings and making their presence felt, and welcomed, among that movement. This corroborated what I had been seeing elsewhere: The Tea Party, marketed on Fox News and CNN and everywhere else as a nominally mainstream movement, was rapidly becoming a massive conduit for a revival of the ‘90s Patriot “militia” movement.

This trend became cemented over the following year, and eventually the Tea Party movement became wholly consumed by Patriot ideology, rhetoric, and agendas. And the Oath Keepers were one of the leading purveyors of that transformation.

Yet they continued to be treated as mainstream by the media, particularly right-wing outlets. Fox News and particularly Bill O’Reilly—where Rhodes began popping up with regularity—were eager to indulge Rhodes’ claims that his group really wasn’t a militia (even if they were functionaries of the same Patriot movement) and similarly eager to deny that militias had taken over the Tea Party.

Of course, O’Reilly and his Fox cohorts had also been among the leading voices claiming that Obama’s DHS was trying to smear conservatives and the Tea Party with accusations of domestic terrorism. This line of attack became broadly used by Republicans across the board to hammer into the narrative their denial that right-wing domestic terrorism posed any kind of real threat to Americans.

The end result of that narrative, after more than a decade of denial, was the Jan. 6 insurrection, when a mob of Donald Trump-loving Patriots attacked the U.S. Capitol and attempted to prevent Trump’s loss becoming manifest in the peaceful transfer of power. And it surprises no one who has watched the Oath Keepers over the years that Rhodes is now on trial for seditionist conspiracy for having attempted to lead that coup.

Rhodes has always attempted to present Oath Keepers as a mainstream organization, but the façade was thoroughly exposed in 2009 by Justine Sharrock at Mother Jones, whose in-depth report revealed a cadre of armed and angry extremists with paranoid ideas and unstable dispositions behind the claims of normalcy and civic-mindedness, with the patina of authority that having military and law enforcement veterans on your membership rolls can provide.

Dyer, in fact, was not an anomaly. He was the embodiment of the kind of people the Oath Keepers were built to attract: Only borderline stable, simmering with anger and paranoia, and underscored with a constant thrum of menace and potential violence. The kind of people who to this day comprise Trump’s MAGA army.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Sedition, Dishonor, And Dishonesty At Oath Keepers Trial

There’s something I’ve been thinking about while I have been listening to testimony at the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes.

Every time a witness who was or is part of the organization testifies, as they introduce themselves to the jury and they explain, in effect, how they got to where they now find themselves, there’s a sort of fawning that happens when these mostly old, mostly white men talk about the group.

They speak of camaraderie. They speak of brotherhood. They speak of a willingness to help. Before they even get into the allegations at hand or talk about their reverence for things like the Constitution or the Second Amendment, there has been testimony too about coming together during trying times, like during a natural disaster, where they are willing to step in to provide “protection.”

The definition of “protection” may vacillate a bit but it is overwhelmingly discussed in terms like what Rhodes described when he was on the stand.

During Hurricane Katrina, for example, he said people were having guns taken from their homes “door-by-door” prompting Oath Keepers to show up and ensure people were not being disabused of their Constitutional rights.

He didn’t speak much about providing food or transportation or shelter. And if you were to ask him, it’s not difficult to imagine him saying these elements are not necessarily his organization’s chief priority since their expertise is primarily “security.” Or in other words, the muscle, to “assist” those doing what can viably be described as “the real work” in a disaster scenario (See: feeding, clothing and housing people as they pick up the pieces.)

Besides, his remark about the confiscation of guns post-Katrina was exaggerated.

In 2015, Mother Jones reported that even on blogs “sympathetic to Oath Keepers,” there was concerted pushback over claims that a widescale seizure of weapons by the federal government was taking place in the storm’s aftermath.

In fact, public court records show 552 guns were seized in the aftermath of Katrina and “were mostly inoperable junk guns.” And as the report digging into these claims noted, “either way, in a city of nearly half a million, where gun possession had always been popular (and exploded after the storm), that doesn’t amount to a totalitarian power grab.”

In Louisville, after Breonna Taylor was killed by police and protests erupted, Oath Keepers showed up to “protect” businesses. In video shown to jurors, locals are heard imploring the armed Oath Keepers standing in a circle around a vehicle to leave.

Local police asked Oath Keepers to leave Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown was killed by police. And though it has been almost a decade since real cops with real badges asked Rhodes and his cosplayers to stop offering their “services” in St. Louis, Rhodes appeared to still smart at the memory when testifying at the trial in Washington.

They were showing cops how to “do things right,” he said,

The good samaritan shield Rhodes hoists up may have been forged in earnest fires once and it may be true when other Oath Keepers say they joined the group because they wanted to be part of something meaningful.

Perhaps, yes, in the minds of some of these men, there was a time and place where they believed there was something worth protecting in a vulnerable stranger—no matter any possible difference in opinion, color, or creed.

Maybe the hope was real, the belief that the experience of those who have traveled tough terrain could be valued. Maybe there could be a place for people who understood what it is to sustain on very little for very long in dangerous places? Maybe there would be a use in peacetime, right here at home, for people overly acquainted with the theater of war.

Perhaps there was a time when the idea of utilizing veterans and first responders to form a community of public servants was the goal.

But what good samaritan writes a death list?

Who is the person who views other human beings as “bugs” that need to be fought in the streets?

Who is the person who looks at their fellow citizens in the 21st century and believes that political or ideological differences can only be resolved by fighting a civil war?

What does it say when a so-called good samaritan enters the nation’s Capitol during a riot with a patch on themselves that states plainly: “I don’t believe in anything. I’m just here for the violence.”

Members of the Oath Keepers, including Rhodes, have testified for weeks that they are admirers of the First Amendment. Much time has been devoted to featuring the claim that Rhodes and co-defendants Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, and Thomas Caldwell merely shared a penchant for braggadocio when they discussed plans that could “go kinetic” when they came to Washington to “help” on Jan. 6.

America’s first president George Washington, who Rhodes himself revered highly, once said “if the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Washington followed it up with another thought immediately after: “It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company. Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.

The Justice Department has taken great pains to bring to light what Rhodes and his cohorts said and did before, during, and after January 6, 2021.

The notion that the Oath Keepers good samaritan defense is believable beyond a reasonable doubt tests the limits of logic.

The presupposition that the group’s only plan was to be ready to provide “assistance” to a U.S. president—who helms the second largest military in the world— is hard to square against a mountain of damning diatribes and testimony.

When men keep bad company, are they able to have honor?

The Oath Keepers communications presented to jurors over this last month often appear dripping in contempt for anyone who might oppose their ideological world-view. Entire swaths of people are lumped into a singular category.

Perhaps if some of these men, in another timeline, would have not been radicalized by disinformation or were not so driven to toy with power because they felt so underutilized or unheard themselves, then their claims of righteousness would be easier to believe.

But there’s vigilantism that hides in every piece of evidence. There’s a violent disregard for a difference of opinion.

And now, there is only a jury that will decide what comes next.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Oath Keepers Sent Promise Of Violence To Trump After January 6

Four days after the insurrection on January 6, 2021, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, extremist leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, had a secret meeting in the parking lot of an electronics store in Texas.

There, a witness told the court at his sedition trial, Rhodes penned a message to then-President Trump warning of “combat here on US soil” if the lame-duck leader didn’t “use the power of the President” to invoke the Insurrection Act, call up paramilitary groups, and arrest lawmakers who resisted the coup.

“If you don’t, then Biden/Kamala will turn all that power on you, your family,” Rhodes wrote Trump in a message prosecutors showed Wednesday. “You and your children will die in prison.”

Rhodes typed the invective in the phone of trial witness Jason Alpers, identified in court as a military veteran and co-founder of Allied Security Operations Group, a cyber security firm that colluded with Trump allies, including crazed “Kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell, to spread lies about voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

On the stand, Alpers testified he had “indirect” access to Trump’s “Inner circle,” which was why Rhodes wanted to meet him. Rhodes, Oath Keepers lawyer Kelly SoRelle, and Joshua James, an Oath Keeper who pled guilty to seditious conspiracy in March, were present in that meeting, FBI agent Jennifer Banks told the court.

Prosecutors have presented reams of evidence — many of which were Rhodes’ speech — to the jury portraying the paramilitary extremist as an obsessed Trump superfan ready to do anything to keep Biden out of the White House, for fear the Democrat would execute Republicans and destroy the country that voters elected him to govern.

“You must do as Lincoln did,” Rhodes wrote in the Notes app of Alpers’ phone. "He arrested congressmen, state legislators, and issued a warrant for SCOTUS Chief Justice Taney. Take command like Washington would.”

Urging Trump to implement the Insurrection Act — a federal law that empowers a sitting U.S. president to deploy the military to quash a domestic uprising against the government — Rhodes continued: “You must use the Insurrection Act and use the power of the President to stop him. And all of us veterans will support you and so will the vast majority of the military.”

“I am here for you and so are all my men. We will come help you if you need us. Military and police. And so will your millions of supporters,” Rhodes added.

Alarmed that such “extreme ideologies” would damage his “credibility,” Alpers said he didn’t deliver the message to Trump but turned it and a secretly recorded audio of the encounter to the FBI.

“[Sending the message] would have wrapped me into agreeing with that ideology in some way, which I did not,” Alpers said in court. “I didn’t want to get involved."

After typing the ominous warning, Rhodes pivoted to a discussion to expand on his message, which Alpers told the court he secretly recorded on a thumb drive-shaped recording device.

Prosecutors played that audio for the jury, during which Rhodes could be heard telling Alpers that there would be “combat here on US soil no matter what” if Trump handed Biden the reins of power.

When Alpers denounced the storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters and said he didn’t want a civil war, Rhodes expressed regret: had he known Trump wouldn’t invoke the Insurrection Act, he and his band of neo-fascist extremists would have “brought rifles” and “fixed it right there and then.”

“If he’s not going to do the right thing, and he’s just gonna let himself be removed illegally, then we should have brought rifles,” Rhodes ranted in the recording. “We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang fucking [House Speaker] Pelosi from the lamppost.”

Already, Pelosi’s husband is in the hospital after his skull was fractured by a hoax-peddling Trump fanatic who broke into the Pelosi family’s San Francisco home in search of the speaker.

Rhodes called the Capitol riot a “good thing” and warned of mass felony murder charges for everyone who stormed the halls of Congress “... because someone died,” according to the Washington Post, to which SoRelle audibly agreed, saying, “I know it’s gonna happen.”

Rhodes and four of his co-conspirators — Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell — face up to twenty years behind bars if found guilty of the seditious conspiracy charges levied against them by the U.S. government.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case on Thursday, but their arguments, supported by a litany of evidence, as well as the outcome of this highly-publicized trial, are expected to set a precedent for the December seditious conspiracy trail of another far-right militia: the Proud boys.

Oath Keepers Seditious Conspiracy Trial Begins Next Month

The seditious conspiracy trial of former Oath Keeper ringleader Elmer “Stewart” Rhodes is still on track to begin this September.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta dismissed a request to delay the trial to January 2023 over concerns from Rhodes and his attorneys that this summer’s House Select Committee hearings made a fair trial an impossibility. Mehta locked in the September 26 trial date last week, reiterating that he would ensure the jury selection process was fair and that any further delay was unnecessary. Moving the trial was also impossible due to the many competing, unrelated schedule demands on an already busy docket in the nation’s capital.

“The court’s docket cannot be dictated by how Congress is acting and what they are doing … I have no influence over what they do and when they do it. What I do have control over is whether these defendants receive a fair trial through the most vigorous voir dire process that can happen,” Mehta said, according to The Washington Post.

Mehta, appointed by former President Barack Obama, emphasized that a potential release of transcripts from the January 6 committee in the weeks ahead did not warrant a trial delay either.

He agreed to reconsider the request if committee transcripts went public on the eve of Rhodes’ trial and if the records contained specific information about him or other Oath Keepers under indictment including Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel, Thomas Caldwell, and Edward Vallejo.

But according to Law and Crime, Mehta was firmly set on starting in September and told defense attorneys to disabuse themselves of the notion that coverage of January 6 in the press would irrevocably taint the trial’s outcome.


“Whether this trial is held in September, November or December or January, the news media is going to continue to cover the events of January 6, before the September hearings or after the September hearings. We’re not going to avoid that publicity by virtue of moving this trial for a few months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, told reporters last month the panel had begun negotiating with the Justice Department over access to records it collected during its investigation. In a statement to Politico days later, a committee spokesman confirmed that some 20 transcripts were soon to be shared with the Justice Department. No timeline on that specifically was given. A spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

The select committee is expected to hold public hearings next month, though an exact schedule has not yet been confirmed. When members meet next they are likely to review findings that made it into the body’s interim report. It is also possible that committee investigators will disclose new information or other evidence churned up since their eight back-to-back hearings concluded this summer.

Getting this seditious conspiracy trial off the ground from a purely logistical standpoint has proven somewhat difficult given the large number of Oath Keepers facing conspiracy charges, the always-packed docket at the federal court in Washington, D.C., and most key, the battle over a huge amount of discovery both prosecutors and defense attorneys were required to sort through.

But after two delays this spring and multiple failed attempts to change venues put forward by the defendants, the Sept. 26 seditious conspiracy trial is on, and the first group of Oath Keepers to face jurors will be Rhodes, Meggs, Harrelson, Caldwell, and Watkins.

The next group will go to trial in February 2023. Those defendants include Oath Keepers Edward Vallejo, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, and David Moerschel.

Prosecutors charge that Rhodes and his codefendants engaged in an extensive, weaponized plot to stop the peaceful transfer of power and orchestrated a conspiracy to obstruct the counting of votes by Congress on Jan. 6 to that end.

Through stockpiling weapons, deploying “quick reaction force teams” situated just outside of D.C. in Virginia, and using an advanced communications network, prosecutors say members of the extremist group conspired to intimidate government officials, aided and abetted civil disorder, and tampered with documents in order to obstruct the transfer of power.

Court records filed ahead of trial by prosecutors have offered a glimpse into what they plan to argue this fall.

Instead of allowing defendants to heap the responsibility for their actions solely on the shoulders of former President Donald Trump, prosecutors instead want to highlight how the Oath Keepers’ individual and collective actions were planned and well thought out.

Further, they argued, Oath Keepers who stormed the Capitol, plotted for an insurrection, or otherwise aided a conspiracy to do so were not “taking orders” from the former president because any such order would have been illegal.

“Here any ‘public-authority’ defense put forth by the defendants would fail for two reasons: no government agent possessed actual authority to order the defendants’ criminal actions, and, in any event, it would have been objectively unreasonable torely on any such order,” prosecutors wrote on July 29.

Trump did not have authority to “permit or authorize a conspiracy to forcibly oppose the authority of the government or the execution of the laws of the United States, nor could he have lawfully sanctioned the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6 or any of theother criminal conduct allegedly perpetrated by defendants,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves argued.

This was the same conclusion reached by the D.C. court when it found former President Ronald Reagan could not order Oliver North to violate the law, “particularly if such ‘orders,’ explicit or implicit, represented nothing more than [the president’s desires.’”

“Any claim that defendants believed theyhad been authorized as an agent of the Executive Branch to oppose by force the authority of the United States, or forcibly stop the congressional certification of the vote by breaking into the Capitol would be objectively unreasonable,” Graves wrote.

The department also wants to shut down any theorizing that suggests law enforcement or police at the Capitol tried to aid those breaching the complex.

“The government acknowledges that the conduct of law enforcement officers may be relevant to the defendants’ state of mind on January 6, 2021. However, unless defendants were aware of law enforcement’s alleged inaction at the time of their entry onto restricted grounds or into the Capitol building (or at the time they committed the other offenses charged in the indictment), any alleged inaction would have no bearing on the defendants’ state of mind and therefore would not meet the threshold for relevance,” a July 29 motion stated.

As for what some defendants want presented at trial, some Oath Keepers have asked to omit evidence from jurors, like the “death list” found in defendant Caldwell’s home after his arrest last January.

His attorneys chalked the list up to being a “doodle pad.”

Though the names of those on the list were not revealed when he was first arrested, Caldwell exposed in court filings last month that they were those of Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman.

Moss and Freeman were forced to go into hiding as a result of the threats and harassment they experienced regularly when former President Donald Trump singled them out while spewing baseless conspiracy claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Moss testified under oath at one of the Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings this June, choking back tears as she described how every part of her life has been turned “upside down.” At one point, she described a frantic call from her grandmother, who was terrorized as people knocked on her door and tried to barge in, claiming a citizens arrest needed to be made for Moss and her mother.

The scene was reminiscent of a modern-day lynching attempt.

“She was just screaming and didn’t know what to do. And I wasn’t there, so, you know, I just felt so helpless and so horrible for her. And she was just screaming. I told her to close the door and don’t open that door for anyone,” Moss testified.

Prosecutors said evidence found in Caldwell’s Virginia home indicated he “dehumanized those who held opposing world views and discussed killing them, shooting them and mutilating their corpses to use them as shields.”

Caldwell has vehemently denied this, telling CNN through his attorney that suggestions he wished to assassinate officials or election workers was “100% false.”

The 66-year-old Navy intelligence veteran also sought to keep other evidence away from jurors, including records the government alleges show he tried to have someone build him firearms before January 20. He has since argued in court that he was too weak to storm the Capitol on January 6 and has asked that his medication regimen be up for jurors’ consideration.

There has been a request too by co-defendant Jessica Watkins to keep allegations about “bomb making instructions” found in her home out of trial.

The Justice Department says it has evidence Oath Keepers toted grenades and other weapons with them in an RV when they came to Washington on January 6. Court records show this allegation came by way of a disclosure from Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs to fellow Florida resident Caleb Berry. Prosecutors allege Meggs told Berry that Oath Keeper Jeremy Brown had the explosives in his vehicle that day.

A search warrant of Brown’s residence turned up two illegal short-barrel firearms, and when agents searched the RV he used to go to Washington, they found grenades. Prosectors admitted they were unsure if the grenades found in Brown’s RV were the same ones that were stashed with the “quick reaction force” teams that positioned themselves in northern Virginia ahead of the Capitol assault.

Berry pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and a single count of obstruction and admitted to being part of the military stack formation that breached the Capitol on January 6. He admitted to coordinating plans with fellow Oath Keepers to bring weapons to Washington, and he entered the Capitol with body armor and tactical gear on around 2:40 PM.

Like Berry, Oath Keeper and Florida resident Graydon Young admitted to being in the stack. He has been cooperating with prosecutors as part of his plea agreement. Alabama Oath Keeper Mark Grods entered the Capitol after Young and others made it inside. Grods has pleaded guilty as well and has reportedly been sharing information with the federal government about the group’s encrypted chat network as well as plans for the weapons cache in Virginia.

Those who have pleaded guilty so far in the seditious conspiracy case include Joshua James, Brian Ulrich, and William Todd Wilson.

Wilson pleaded guilty in May to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding. His plea deal came as a surprise; he had not been previously named as a defendant in the Oath Keepers Jan. 6 cases.

Wilson allegedly joined Rhodes in the plot stop the transfer of power on Jan. 6 and worked with other regional leaders to take up Rhodes’ “call to arms,” prosecutors said. The 44-year-old North Carolina resident admitted that he was a member of the Oath Keepers since 2016 and that he linked up with Rhodes in a leadership chat group in November 2020.

With Rhodes’s instruction, Wilson drove from North Carolina to D.C. on Jan. 5, bringing an AR-15-style rifle, a 9 millimeter pistol, body armor, pepper spray, a pocketknife, and some 200 rounds of ammunition. Wilson told prosecutors he filmed his fellow Oath Keepers moving in the stack formation up the Capitol stairs, and that he entered closely behind Meggs and Berry.

Brian Ulrich of Georgia, who cried as he entered his guilty plea in court this April, admitted that he conspired for months with Rhodes to stop Congress from certifying the election on 2020. In the run-up to the attack, he planned on using two backpacks, one filled to the brim with ammunition, “if shit truly hits the fan blades.”

“I’ll be the guy running around with the budget AR,” he wrote in a December 31 Oath Keepers group chat.

Joshua James was the first Oath Keeper to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy and cop a deal with prosecutors. James admitted this March that he was part of the quick reaction force unit and further, that he was prepared to “report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the presidential election.

James is the same Oath Keeper who chauffeured Trump ally and GOP operative Roger Stone around Washington in the run-up to January 6. When he was inside the Capitol, James admitted to brawling with police. Once he left, he met with Rhodes and other Oath Keepers. They changed clothes, he said, and worked fast to hide their identities. Then they met at Olive Garden to celebrate and plan what would come next. President Joe Biden’s inauguration was days away.

According to his indictment, in the hours after the insurrection, Rhodes was buzzing about what was to come.

“Thousands of ticked off patriots spontaneously marched on the Capitol,” he wrote. “You ain't seen nothing yet.”

Rhodes is currently being held in a detention facility in Alexandria, Virginia.

Members of the Proud Boys facing seditious conspiracy will go to trial in December after a federal judge in June agreed to delay proceedings.

The trial for the former chairman of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was supposed to begin Monday, August 8, but U.S. District Judge Tim Kelly said weeks ago that he shared concerns from prosecutors and defense attorneys alike about new evidence that could soon emerge from the select committee. The new trial date is December 12.

“The parties’ inability to prepare their respective cases to account for such additional information is potentially prejudicial to all parties,” assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson wrote.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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.

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.

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)