WASHINGTON- Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told the jurors at his seditious conspiracy trial on Monday that other members of the far-right group that stormed the US Capitol were ‘off mission’ and insisted it was not engaged in any operation to forcefully oppose the federal government on January 6.
“I had no idea an oath keeper was even thinking about going in or going inside,” Rhodes said in testimony in what became a six-week trial for himself and the co-defendants. Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica. Watkins and Thomas Caldwell.
During hours of testimony, Rhodes told jurors that entering the Capitol was ‘stupid’ because it ‘opened the door for our political enemies to persecute us, and that’s what happened, and here we are. “.
Meggs, Harrelson and Watkins entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Rhodes said he was “concerned” Jan. 6 that oath keepers were caught “in all the nonsense with Trump supporters” around the Capitol and he sent a message on the encrypted Signal app asking keepers of the oath to gather at a place near the Capitol for this reason.
“The goal was to make sure no one got involved in this Charlie Foxtrot,” he said, using a military phrase for “cluster f—.”
Yet as a pro-Trump crowd stormed the Capitol, Rhodes praised the “patriots” and compared their actions to those of the country’s founders, according to government evidence presented at trial.
And just days after the attack on the Capitol, Rhodes said he thought they “should have brought gunsHe also continued to try to get President Donald Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and stay in office, and he spoke of his desire to “hang f—in’ Pelosi from the lamp post,” the show showed. proofs.
Rhodes began his testimony Friday and was cross-examined Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy.
“You are in charge, right?” Rakoczy asked Rhodes.
“Not when they do something off-mission, I’m not responsible, unfortunately,” he replied.
“Well, it’s convenient,” Rakoczy said.
Tasha Adams, Rhodes’ ex-wife who filed for divorce in 2018, told NBC News ahead of Monday that Rhodes would “break down” on cross-examination.
“I’ve never seen him have to face a consequence for anything,” Adams said. “Either he gets away with it or he forces me to deal with it. … Now he’s here, doing his thing, but that’s right after they played this horrible, horrible audio of the real him. So now this jury, they see that side of him, but they must be very aware of the false face it is compared to what they just heard.
“His biggest weakness is that anyone who confronts him with anything, contradicts him, and he’s not able to stop him immediately,” she added.
Rhodes stumbled over parts of her testimony, even made some self-deprecating remarks about her weight and shed some light on her sexual relationship with Kelly Sorelle, the general counsel of the Oath Keepers, whom he accused of sending a message asking members of the organization to delete their communications.
Rhodes said he did not believe the Biden administration was legitimate and that he believed the 2020 election was both unconstitutional and illegal. He also said he thought they might have to fight the government.
But a theme of his testimony was his assertion that the fight would come later, after President Joe Biden takes office.
“If he were to leave, leave office without exposing the corruption of our government, then yes, down the road, we would have no choice, if we had to, to fight,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said that he and the Oathkeepers were ready to follow the “path of the founders”, but that even today he hopes that conflicts can be avoided.
“But when you have a government that deviates from the Constitution, that puts you in a bad position,” he said.
The trial continues on Tuesday, when Rhodes’ defense team will call additional witnesses.