The US Department of Justice announced, Thursday, that the founder of the far-right group Oath Keepers and 10 others were charged with seditious conspiracy in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
It was the first use of the powerful sedition charge in the broad investigation of the Capitol attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Stuart Rhodes, 56, who founded and led the right-wing militia group, and another partner of the organization, Ed Vallejo, were arrested early Thursday morning.
Nine men linked to department guards previously arrested on lower charges were also named in the violent attack, which led to the temporary shutdown of the US Congress, as part of the alleged sedition plot.
“Following the November 3, 2020, presidential election, Rhodes conspired with the other defendants and others to oppose the enforcement of laws governing the transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021 by force,” the Justice Department said in a statement. statment.
She said that in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the presidential election, they made plans “to breach the Capitol and try to take control of it.”
While they did, she said, some members of the Oath Keeper remained stationed outside Washington with weapons and ammunition, ready to bring them to the Capitol as reinforcements if the fighting escalated.
Social media summons
They were the first to be charged with sedition among more than 725 defendants in justice, a rarely used charge and a shift in perception of the attack that Republicans have sought to play down.
The indictment was revealed on the same day that a parallel investigation on January 6 by a House special committee issued subpoenas to recordings from social media giants such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, all of which were used to plan and execute the attack, according to the committee.
The committee is trying to find out whether Trump or members of his circle had a role in planning or encouraging the violent attack, and it has also summoned Trump’s advisers and aides, as well as a top Republican lawmaker who reached out to Trump on Jan. 6.
Rhodes has publicly commanded the Oath Keepers since he founded the group in 2009. A former Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate, former Congressman Ron Paul is a prominent Libertarian.
The group is loosely organized around the belief that the federal government is getting too powerful and could be removed by force under certain circumstances, according to a recent report from the US Army’s West Point Counterterrorism Center (CTC). academy.
Conspiracy theories have always been a feature of their ideology, the report said, and they have regularly appeared in combat gear and heavily armed at politically charged protests, in displays of power that critics describe as intimidation.
The group targeted the recruitment of current and former military, police, and first responders. The recently leaked database contains 38,000 names of people who have registered with Oath Keepers at one time or another.
The indictment detailed the group’s planning of text messages and conversations between members from the elections in November 2020 to January 6.
Two days after Trump’s defeat, Rhodes called the leaders of the Oath Keepers in an encrypted chat and told them, “We’re not getting through this without a civil war.”
He issued a call to action, and on December 11 told the group that if Biden became president, “it will be a bloody and desperate battle … that cannot be avoided.”
The indictment said Rhodes spent $18,000 prior to Jan. 6 on firearms, ammunition and other equipment, including rifle scopes and night vision equipment, for his collection.
The indictment centers on the manner in which they formed two groups of combat-like formations to pass their way through the police to the Capitol on January 6.
They also designed routes for multiple armed “QRFs” – which Vallejo oversees – to provide assistance to them from the Washington suburbs if fighting broke out.
The defendants on Thursday face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to sedition alone. Most also face other charges such as assaulting law enforcement and obstructing Congress.