Jan. 6 trial highlights missed warnings before Capitol siege

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Jan. 6 trial highlights missed warnings before Capitol siege


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FILE – Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, on June 25, 2017. The seditious conspiracy trial against Rhodes and four associates is raising fresh questions about intelligence failures in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, that appear to have allowed Rhodes’ antigovernment group and other extremists to mobilize in plain sight. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a telephone call days after the 2020 election, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes urged followers to go to Washington and fight to keep President Donald Trump in office.

A concerned member of the extremist group began recording because, as he would later tell jurors in the current seditious conspiracy trial of Rhodes and four associates, it sounded as if they were “going to war against the United States government.”

That Oath Keeper contacted the FBI, but his tip was filed away. He was only interviewed after Rhodes’ followers stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The defendants are charged with plotting to stop the transfer of presidential power, and their trial is raising more questions about intelligence failures in the days before the riot that appear to have allowed Rhodes’ anti-government group and other extremists to mobilize in plain sight.

“You don’t have to have been invited to a secret meeting of the Oath Keepers … to know that the Oath Keepers presented a threat,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program.


It’s unclear to what extent authorities were tracking Rhodes and his militia group before Jan. 6. But it has since become apparent that authorities had plenty of intelligence warning that some Trump supporters were planning an assault to stop the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.


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Despite that, police left unprepared on the front lines were quickly overwhelmed by the mob that engaged in hand-to-hand combat with officers, smashed windows and poured into the Capitol.

Additional details emerged this month when the House committee investigating the attack disclosed messages showing that the Secret Service was aware of plans for Jan. 6 violence.

Jurors in the Washington trial, which is expected to last several more weeks, have received a trove of evidence from prosecutors. That includes Rhodes’ secretly recorded call on Nov. 9, 2020, encrypted messages and surveillance footage from the Virginia hotel where the Oath Keepers stashed weapons for a “quick reaction force” that could quickly run guns into the capital if they were needed.

Much of the evidence, however, has come in the form of statements and writings that Rhodes made publicly in the weeks before Jan. 6. They show how the former U.S. Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate was openly broadcasting his desire to overturn the election and threatening possible violence to attain that goal.

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