Oath Keepers trial continues with video from inside the United States Capitol

Fifteen minutes after rioters stormed into the west side of the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021, according to court testimony, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes sent a brief message to an encrypted chat group that included Proud Boys frontman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio.

“Capitol back door,” Rhodes wrote.

He then called Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs, who immediately began leading a group to the gates on the east side of the Capitol.

The third week of the government’s case in the seditious conspiracy trial of Rhodes, Meggs and three other associates has culminated in a minute-by-minute account of the actions of the oath keepers on January 6 that prosecutors say shows how the leaders of the group plotted a “rebellion”. Previously, violence has been ignited on Capitol Hill and appeared to be coordinating its actions with other figures pushing to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Whitney Drew, a former FBI counterterrorism special agent with a background in Army intelligence, testified as prosecutors rolled out audio, video and computer animations to give jurors an immersive path through the actions defendants that day.

Prosecutors extracted material from Kellye SoRelle, described in court as both an Oath Keepers lawyer and Rhodes’ girlfriend. SoRelle, who was recently accused of obstructing the vote count, launched a four-minute Facebook live stream from the east side of the Capitol at 2:12 p.m., just as a crowd began to ascend the steps. The Proud Boys simultaneously broke into the building from the west side, according to court records, and some moved east.

“It’s what happens when people get pissed off and when they get up,” SoRelle told her followers in a video released for jurors. “This is how you take back your government. You literally take it back.

One minute after the end of SoRelle’s video, a group of oath keepers led by Meggs arrived near where SoRelle was standing, Drew testified. Rhodes was also approaching, after telling an Oath Keepers executive’s encrypted chat that Trump supporters, not leftist agitators, were responsible for the action. He compared the crowd of “angry patriots” to “sons of freedom,” the American settlers who organized the Boston Tea Party.

Released videos show Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio meeting with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes the day before the attack on the Capitol. (Video: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia)

SoRelle had previously pushed back at an Oath Keepers member who had worried about the crowd breaking down barriers, saying she had a message from Rhodes: “We act like founding fathers, we can’t stand down.”

At 2:28 p.m., Rhodes wrote “Capitol Backdoor” and sent it to an encrypted chat group that included Tarrio, Trump confidant Roger Stone, Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander and host of right-wing talk show Alex Jones, according to prosecutors. Drew did not elaborate on that connection, but prosecutors repeatedly pointed to Rhodes’ posts to the “Friends of Stone” chat group, which were also of interest to the House committee investigating Jan. 6. By the time Rhodes sent that message, the Proud Boys had already made their way from the west side of the Capitol to the east, both inside and outside the building, according to court records.

Minutes later, Rhodes sent a message to a group of oath keepers that people were “knocking on doors”, according to court documents. Then he called Meggs and Michael Greene, charged separately and described in court as the head of the Oath Keepers’ January 6 operations. The three spoke by conference call for just over a minute.

The content of the 2:32 p.m. call was not available to investigators, but Drew testified that at this point in the conversation, Meggs began leading his group Oath Keepers in a “stack” formation in single file. in the stairs. The doors were forced from the inside five minutes later, and the first member of the Oathkeepers entered with a massive crowd.

Inside the building, defendant Jessica Watkins from Ohio recounted their progress on a walkie-talkie style phone app.

“We are on the mezzanine. We’re in the main dome right now. We are rocking it,’ she said, as others with her rang the bell that they had taken over, according to messages played in court.

“We were storming the Capitol,” Greene wrote to a stranger at 3:06 p.m.

Drew also showed jurors new pre-Jan. 6 messages involving Rhodes, SoRelle and other oath keepers in which Rhodes explicitly called for violence to stop Joe Biden. upon taking office. Rhodes argued that those plans were only in preparation for the possibility of President Trump delegating his group as a legal militia under the Insurrection Act. But in a December 10 text message, Rhodes said that if Trump does not act, “we will have to rise up in insurrection (rebellion).”

Green and SoRelle pleaded not guilty; Alexander, Jones and Stone are not charged with any crime.

Defense attorney for Rhodes, James Lee Bright, argued that the defendants’ remarks were merely ‘rhetoric and pomposity’ and that the government’s allegations of criminal intent were undermined by indications that the Oathkeepers were goofing around the Capitol grounds, confused and unable to connect by phone or in person. Some text messages were not received until hours later due to poor cell reception. Rhodes at one point erroneously described himself as on the south side of the Capitol; an Oath Keeper has lost track of his car.

“All these people from out of town had no idea where they were,” Bright said. “It’s hard to guide your troops when you don’t know where they are.”

Inside the capitol, video played in court showed the group of oath guards on trial did not destroy property or assault agents, though jurors saw them push on anti-police. riot guarding the Senate chamber.

As the “Quick Reaction Force” teams waited outside DC with guns, Bright pointed out that they were “never called” by Rhodes and established during cross-examination that the Oath Keepers were not charged with violating gun laws.

“So the armed rebellion was unarmed?” Bright asked FBI Special Agent Sylvia Hilgeman.

Hilgeman replied, “The armed rebellion was not over.”

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