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.