Oath Keepers Jailed with Charges Related to Capitol Riot

One year after the Capitol Riot, details continue to emerge about the people and groups involved. One of those groups is called Oath Keepers, a white supremacist organization led by Stewart Rhodes, an anti-government conspiracy theorist who is both a military veteran and a former Yale-educated lawyer. The motto of Oath Keepers is “Guardians of the Republic,” and members see their mission as defending the Constitution. However, this defense is really against conspiracy theories that Rhodes and other white supremacists have been spreading about minorities and foreigners taking over the U.S. government and robbing citizens of their liberties.

Insurrection
A view from the Black Lives Matter Plaza before rioters stormed the Capitol in Washington D.C. The insurrectionists took over the government building as an attempt to nullify the 59th presidential election. Photo Credit: Phil Pasquini. Source: Shutterstock

How the Big Lie Shaped the Insurrection

One of those theories is that Joe Biden did not win the November 2020 presidential election — the “big lie” promoted by Donald Trump. Rhodes wrote in a December 2020 open letter to the then-president, “You must act NOW as a wartime President, pursuant to your oath to defend the Constitution, which is very similar to the oath all of us veterans swore. We are already in a fight. It’s better to wage it with you as Commander-in-Chief than to have you comply with a fraudulent election, leave office, and leave the White House in the hands of illegitimate usurpers and Chinese puppets. Please don’t do it. Do NOT concede, and do NOT wait until January 20, 2021. Strike now.”

Stewart Rhodes
Stewart Rhodes is the founder of the Oath Keepers. Here, he speaks to a crowd during the pro-second amendment rally in Coeur d’ Alene Idaho. January 19, 2013. Photo Credit: Gregory Johnston. Source: Shutterstock

What Is Seditious Conspiracy?

Rhodes has recently been charged with seditious conspiracy related to the January 6 riot. According to the United States law code, seditious conspiracy refers to a person or group who “conspire[s] to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.” 

Capitol Riot
Donald Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. Photo Credit: Thomas Hengge. Source: Shutterstock

Why Is Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers Leader, Being Charged?

While just about all who participated in the Capitol Riot could have (but have not) been charged with seditious conspiracy, Rhodes stands out as someone who called for the members of Oath Keepers to forcibly make sure that Biden was unable to become the president. On January 4, 2021 — two days before the riot — he posted on the Oath Keepers website: “It is CRITICAL that all patriots who can be in D.C. get to D.C. to stand tall in support of President Trump’s fight to defeat the enemies foreign and domestic who are attempting a coup, through the massive voter fraud and related attacks on our Republic. We Oath Keepers are both honor-bound and eager to be there in strength to do our part.”

His Plans for the Capitol Riot

Part of Rhodes’ role in planning the riot was amassing firearms and organizing force teams to ensure that Biden could not be inaugurated, and that Trump would stay in the White House. If convicted of seditious conspiracy, Rhodes will face up to 20 years in prison. Nevertheless, some may wonder why someone who attempted to overthrow the U.S. government is not being charged with treason, which carries the death penalty. Seditious conspiracy is a milder form of treason, and the grand jury investigating the riot has said, “The purpose of the conspiracy was to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force, by preventing, hindering, or delaying by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of power.”

Joe Biden
The 59th President of the United States, Joe Biden, delivers his inaugural address during the Presidential Inauguration. Photo Credit: BiskuTong. Source: Shutterstock

Rhodes’ role in calling what was already an organized group into action, as part of a larger plan to prevent Biden from becoming president, reveals what was less an unruly mob and more a well-organized coup. How the American people choose to continue moving forward one year on, as well as how people like Rhodes are prosecuted for their role, will help determine if such an event will occur again.

Sources:

“18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy,” from Cornell Law School website. 18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy | U.S. Code | U.S. Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)

Dan Mangan and Kevin Breuninger, “Oath Keepers leader, 10 others charged in seditious plot to breach U.S. Capitol during January 6 insurrection.” January 13, 2022. CNBC. 

“Oath Keepers.” Southern Poverty Law Center.

Laurence Tribe, “Stewart Rhodes’ Oath Keepers indictment puts January 6 plotters on notice.” January 15, 2022. NBC.

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