The official said members of the Oath Keepers sometimes contact the Secret Service to ask about items allowed for gatherings. Additionally, when officers learned that the group was planning to attend events, officers contacted and met with the members. The official noted that this is common when groups plan to protest.
The Washington Post first reported the agency’s outreach to Oath Keepers prior to January 6, 2021.
“We know that members of the Oath Keepers have contacted us in the past to do some research,” Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN last week.
It is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to maintain contact with groups that are of interest to investigations. The Oath Keepers and other extremist groups that traveled to Washington for rallies after the 2020 election had extensive contact with local and federal law enforcement, as evidenced by testimony gathered during Congressional and federal investigations.
The relationship between the oath keepers came under intense scrutiny after last week’s testimony revealed the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, claimed to be in contact with agents.
John Zimmerman, a former head of the North Carolina Oath Keepers, said he believed Rhodes was in contact with a Secret Service agent ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Zimmerman, who has not been charged with a crime, said members of the Oath Keepers – who are currently on trial for charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, including seditious conspiracy – gathered in September in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a campaign rally for former President Donald Trump
Members of the Oath Keepers were recruiting at the rally and working as personal security guards, he said.
To prepare for the rally, Zimmerman said, Rhodes said he was in contact with a member of the Secret Service who advised the leader on permitted weapons near the rally. Zimmerman said he didn’t hear the whole conversation, but Rhodes said several times he was in touch with an agent.
Rhodes allegedly told other members of the Oath Keepers in a group chat that if Trump called them as a militia, he thought the US Secret Service would be ‘happy’ to have their help, according to evidence presented to the court. court Thursday.
The text was presented at the Rhodes seditious conspiracy trial and four other defendants. All five pleaded not guilty.
“If he calls us militia, I think the Secret Service would be happy to have us there,” Rhodes wrote, according to prosecutors. Rhodes went on to say that this conclusion was based on numerous positive contacts between the oath keepers and the Secret Service before several Trump rallies before Jan. 6.
This story has been updated with additional details.