The founder of the extremist Oath Keepers was poised for orders from then-President Donald Trump the day of the Capitol insurrection to seize control of the government, according to the latest conspiracy indictment against several members.
The superseding indictment, unsealed Sunday, includes new details about the Capitol riot and added four more co-defendants, bringing the total to 16. Three of the new defendants, from Florida, were recently arrested, The Washington Post reported.
All of the defendants have been charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 presidential election, and were among a group of Oath Keepers in combat uniforms and tactical vests who marched up the steps of the Capitol and stormed inside. Actions were coordinated and included several communications with Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes, who is referred to as “Person One” in the indictment.
The new indictment also provides additional detail about nearby weapons stashes, and the existence of a “quick reaction force” of Oath Keepers outside Washington, D.C., to move in if necessary.
“I do want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside, and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in armed, if they have to,” Rhodes said in an online conference call before the Capitol siege, the indictment stated.
“Our posture’s gonna be that we’re posted outside of D.C., awaiting the president’s orders ... We hope he will give us the orders. We want him to declare an insurrection, and to call us up as the militia,” the indictment quoted Rhodes as saying.
Rhodes has not been charged with any crime. But the indictment alleges that he began discussing plans to keep Trump in the White House by force days after the presidential election. By December, Rhodes had joined retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in publicly calling for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and establish martial law.
According to the indictment, Rhodes also exchanged dozens of encrypted messages, phone calls, and other communications before and during the Capitol riot with co-defendants.
“We’re going to defend the president, the duly elected president,” Rhodes said in the conference call, in details presented in the charging document. “Because if you don’t, guys, you’re going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war and a bloody ... insurrection, or you can call it a war or fight.”
He said he hoped that members of Antifa would become involved in confrontations at the Capitol to provoke Trump to take action and enact martial law with the Oath Keepers as his militia.
“Let the fight start there,” Rhodes is quoted in the indictment as saying. “That will give President Trump what he needs, frankly ... We want him to declare an insurrection, and to call us up as the militia.”
Rhodes, his deputy and three of the charged co-defendants seen guarding long-time Trump confidant Roger Stone on Jan. 5 and 6 exchanged nearly 20 phone calls over three hours the day of the siege, the indictment stated. That coincided with the first assault on police barricades and covered the time the three defendants breached the building, according to the indictment.
All but the most recently charged co-defendants have pleaded not guilty. The status of the new co-defendants wasn’t immediately clear. The Justice Department has begun reaching out for plea discussions with some of those charged, according to a court motion filed Thursday.
Rhodes has said in the past that federal prosecutors are trying to turn the violent actions of a few rogue actors at the Capitol into a conspiracy. He told the Post that he was communicating with members Oath Keepers in an effort to gather them outside the Capitol the day of the insurrection to “keep them out of trouble.”
More than 400 people have been arrested in the deadly Capitol riot.
The Washington Post has more details on the latest defendants here.