National Security

Oath Keepers leader tried to contact Trump on Jan. 6

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes attempted to contact former President Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, just hours after the group forced its way into the Capitol, pleading that he ask them to continue to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

The disclosure comes as a third member of the Oath Keepers struck a plea deal with the Department of Justice (DOJ), with William Todd Wilson of Newton Grove, N.C., pleading guilty to seditious conspiracy for his role in the riot alongside other members of the far-right militia group.

According to Wilson, Rhodes called an unidentified individual on speakerphone shortly after they left the Capitol asking to speak to Trump.

“Wilson heard Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power. This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump,” according to the court document.

“After the call ended, Rhodes stated to the group, ‘I just want to fight,'” the court document added.

The admission came in a statement of offense, which lays out the factual basis for a plea agreement.

The call indicates Rhodes was connected with those he at least believed would be able to relay such a message to Trump and that the former president might be willing to consider such extraordinary action.

It follows another recent court filing from DOJ showing members of the Oath Keepers were also in touch with the far-right Proud Boys.

The revelation also comes amid increasing criticism of the DOJ’s bottom-up approach to the investigation and doubts over whether such a method could lead to Trump. 

The Jan. 6 committee has weighed whether its final report would include a criminal referral for charges, something the DOJ would then choose whether to act on.

But in a civil case, the committee has argued Trump broke the law in trying to block the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory, with a judge in the case largely agreeing, calling the effort “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Wilson, who faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts he pleaded guilty to, is the third Oath Keepers member to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction charges in connection with the Capitol attack.

He was among those who pushed into the Capitol rotunda, allowing more people to enter the building.

Wilson had arrived in Washington, D.C., the day prior to the attack armed with a variety of weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle, a 9 mm pistol, up to 200 rounds of ammunition, pepper spray, a pocketknife and a large walking stick intended to be used as a weapon, the DOJ said.

Wilson tried to conceal incriminating evidence from being stored on his Apple iCloud account the next day, according to the DOJ, and later threw his cellphone into the Atlantic Ocean in what the department said was an effort to prevent authorities from finding evidence in his case.

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