The Justice Department’s seditious conspiracy charges against 11 members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group are the most serious yet in its year-long investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the indictment released Thursday spells out a more elaborate and violent “plot to oppose by force the 2020 lawful transfer of presidential power,” including by “breaching and attempting to take control of the Capitol.”
Nine of the Oath Keepers had already been charged with lesser crimes. But Justice Department is now formally indicting Oath Keepers leader and founder Stewart Rhodes and member Edward Vallejo, accused of organizing the group’s “quick reaction forces.” The FBI arrested Stewart, 56, at his home in Texas and Vallejo, 63, in Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday. Rhodes planned and coordinated events from just outside the Capitol, the indictment alleges, citing encrypted Signal chats federal investigators were able to recover.
The indictment says the Oath Keepers who breached the Capitol formed two teams, or “stacks,” one of which confronted police officers inside the Capitol Rotunda while the other split into two, one group headed toward the House to find Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the other headed to the Senate.
The Oath Keepers at the Capitol did not bring firearms, but “others remained stationed just outside of the city in QRF teams,” the indictment charges. “The QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.” (Marcy Wheeler has details of previously disclosed Oath Keeper discussions on the QRFs and the logistics of getting the weapons to the Capitol from a Comfort Inn in nearby Arlington, Virginia.)
And Stewart did not give up on the idea of using violence to keep former President Donald Trump in office even after the Capitol riot was put down, the indictment alleges.
Stewart, a former Army paratrooper and disbarred Yale Law graduate, has maintained over the last year that he did not break any laws. He acknowledged the QRF weapons caches in an interview with The Washington Post last February, but said they were to be used “only if the president calls us up.”
Sedition charges, rare and hard to win, bring prison sentences of 20 years. The last successful sedition prosecution was against “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman and nine others 26 years ago.