US charges founder of far-right group Oath Keepers with sedition during Capitol siege

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The founder of far-right group Oath Keepers and 10 others have been charged with seditious conspiracy during the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

It was the first use of the powerful sedition charge in the sprawling investigation into the Capitol attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

Stewart Rhodes, 56, who founded and led the right-wing militia, and another associate of the organization, Ed Vallejo, were arrested early Thursday.

Nine men with links to the Oath Keepers who were previously arrested on less serious charges in the violent attack, which temporarily shut down the US Congress, have also been named in connection with the alleged seditious plot.

“After the presidential election on November 3, 2020, Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to forcibly oppose the execution of laws governing the transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021,” said the Justice Department said in a statement. declaration.

He said that, in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the presidential election, they planned “to violate and attempt to take control of the Capitol grounds and building. “, did he declare.

While they were doing this, he said, some Oath Keeper members remained stationed just outside Washington with weapons and ammunition, ready to bring them to the Capitol for reinforcements if the fighting escalated.

Social media subpoenas They were the first of more than 725 charged in the criminal investigation to be charged with sedition, a very rarely used charge that changes the perception of the attack, which Republicans have sought to downplay.

The indictment was unsealed the same day that the parallel Jan. 6 investigation by a House Select Committee issued subpoenas for the recordings of social media giants Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, all of which were used to plan and carry out the attack, according to the committee.

The committee is trying to see if Trump or members of his inner circle played a role in planning or abetting the violent attack, and has also subpoenaed advisers and aides to Trump, as well as a top lawmaker. Republican who contacted Trump on Jan. 6.

Conspiracy theories Rhodes has openly led the Oath Keepers since he founded the group in 2009. He is a former Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate, and was on the staff of the former member Congressman Ron Paul, a prominent libertarian.

The group is only loosely organized around the belief that the federal government is getting too powerful and can be forcibly removed under certain conditions, according to a recent report about them published by the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) of US Army from West Point. academy.

‘Conspiracy theories have always been a hallmark’ of their ideology, according to the report, and they have regularly shown up in full combat gear and heavily armed at politically charged protests, in displays of force that critics call intimidation .

The group has targeted for recruitment primarily current and former military, police, and first responders. A recently leaked database contained 38,000 names of people who had registered with the Oath Keepers at one time or another.

“Civil War” The indictment detailed the planning of the group from text messages and discussions between members from the November 2020 election until the day of January 6.

Two days after Trump’s defeat, Rhodes summoned the leaders of the Oath Keepers in a cryptic conversation and told them, “We’re not going to get through this without a civil war.

He issued a call to action, and on Dec. 11 told the group that if Biden becomes president, “it will be a bloody, desperate fight… It cannot be avoided.”

Rhodes spent $18,000 before Jan. 6 on firearms, ammunition and other equipment, including sights and night vision equipment for his group, according to the indictment.

The indictment focuses on how they formed two “stacks,” battle formations, to fight their way past police and into the Capitol on Jan. 6.

They also designed routes for their multiple armed “QRFs” – overseen by Vallejo – to come to their aid from the suburbs of Washington if fighting broke out.

Those charged Thursday face up to 20 years in prison on the single charge of conspiracy to sedition. Most also face other charges such as assaulting law enforcement and disrupting Congress.

(AFP)

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