Former Oath Keeper says group had contact with Secret Service before Jan. 6
A former member of the far-right Oath Keepers organization testified on Thursday that the founder of the group was in contact with the Trump administration’s Secret Service in the months leading up to the November 2020 presidential election.
John Zimmerman, who appeared before a jury at the seditious conspiracy trial of five members of the Oath Keepers, including the organization’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, said he witnessed a phone call between the group’s leader and someone he thought belonged to the Secret Service in September 2020. Zimmerman also said that Rhodes told him he had been in contact with the agency.
When asked whether the person on the other end of the September call was a Secret Service member, Zimmerman said: “From the questions Stewart — Mr. Rhodes — was asking, it sounded like it could’ve been,” according to NBC News.
The alleged call took place before a reelection rally for former President Trump in North Carolina to ask about “parameters” for the conduct of the Oath Keepers at the event. At the time, the organization was assisting with escorts of attendees into the event.
Another Oath Keepers member has testified that Rhodes attempted to make contact with Trump following the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Rhodes spoke with someone over the phone at that time, although it is unclear who was on the other end.
Zimmerman, who left his position as a county leader for the Oath Keepers prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection, said that it was unlikely that the organization had a direct line to Trump, NBC reports.
However, Oath Keepers lawyer Kellye SoRelle was in contact with former White House aide Andrew Giuliani the same month that Trump lost reelection.
Zimmerman said that he and others broke with the Oath Keepers organization because of controversial tactics Rhodes tried to use during a trip in November.
“He thought that we should dress up as elderly or be like a single parent pushing a baby carriage with some weapons in the baby carriage,” Zimmerman said of Rhodes’s alleged plan to lure members of antifa or Black Lives Matter to attack the Oath Keepers, according to NBC.
Rhodes allegedly wanted his own group to be attacked to create a reason for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would have authorized the then-president to deploy military forces to suppress violence.
Rhodes is charged with seditious conspiracy alongside fellow Oath Keepers Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell.
“We are aware that individuals from the Oath Keepers have contacted us in the past to make inquiries,” the Secret Service told NBC.
“It is not uncommon for various organizations to contact us concerning security restrictions and activities that are permissible in proximity to our protected sites.”
The Hill has contacted the Secret Service for comment on Zimmerman’s testimony.