Stewart Rhodes, founder and leader of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers, was arrested Thursday and charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. The highest-ranking member of a Extremist group accused of the event has also been accused of planning a plot to interrupt the certification session of Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential elections in Congress. A dozen other associates of Oath Keepers have also been charged with seditious conspiracy, the most serious charge so far brought by the Justice Department as part of the investigations into the assault carried out by a mob of Donald Trump supporters.
In addition to Rhodes, 56, the FBI also arrested Edward Vallejo, 63, this afternoon. The other nine accused militia members had already been indicted on other charges. The seditious conspiracy charge requires prosecutors to show that at least two people agreed to use force to overthrow government authority or delay the execution of a US law. It carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
After election night, Rhodes predicted that the United States was headed for civil war and that President-elect Joe Biden’s victory would never be recognized as legitimate. The former Army member and Yale University law graduate did not enter the federal building. However, he maintained communications with his fellow group members who did gain access to the Capitol, he told the FBI last spring during an interrogation in Texas.
Prosecutors have collected compelling evidence against the defendants, including encrypted chats on mobile apps and recordings of online meetings. Authorities accuse militia members of forcing their way into the building and setting up a “rapid reaction force” with weapons at a hotel in Virginia, very close to Washington, with people willing to move quickly to the US capital. The indictment against Rhodes describes that Oath Keepers members formed two military lines when they entered the Capitol building. The first was divided to access the House of Representatives and the Senate. The second confronted the Capitol police officers.
The Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys are the main ultra groups involved in the attack that left five dead and 140 wounded. A year later, there are more than 700 defendants and only 71 convictions. That day, Rhodes sent a message to his supporters: “Stock up on ammunition” and prepare for “all-out war in the streets,” according to the congressional investigative committee on Jan. 6. Two days before the assault, he posted an article on the Oath Keepers website calling on “all patriots” to “stand firm in support of President Trump’s fight to defeat enemies foreign and domestic who are attempting to carry out a coup”.
Ahead of the November 2020 election, according to federal prosecutors, Rhodes urged his teammates to support Trump, calling him the “duly elected president” and adding, “You can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war.” When Biden’s victory was already a fact, the man asked Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act at a rally in favor of the Republican in Washington, suggesting that if he did not, a “much bloodier war” would be unleashed. .
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Another escalation in the investigations into the attack came from the investigative commission of Congress. Lawmakers this afternoon issued citations to Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, Alphabet and Reddit for failing to provide full information about how their platforms spread falsehoods that fueled the insurgency. “We cannot allow our work to be further delayed,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Two key questions for the commission are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the attack on our democracy, and what steps, if any, did social media companies take to prevent their platforms from becoming breeding grounds? to radicalize people towards violence,” he said.
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