WASHINGTON — An Oath Keeper who entered the Capitol as part of a military-style “stack” on Jan. 6 testified Tuesday that he believed the militia was prepared to stop the certification of the 2020 election by any means necessary – including by taking up arms against the federal government.
Jason Dolan, a member of the militia’s Florida chapter, was called Tuesday as the first cooperating witness in the Oath Keepers’ ongoing seditious conspiracy trial. Dolan accepted a plea offer in September 2021 on two felony counts of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding. As part of that offer, he agreed to testify if called upon at the trial of his fellow Oath Keepers.
Dolan said in late 2020 he was isolated and drinking a lot, and when the November election was called in favor of President Joe Biden he believed that was evidence of fraud. He found in the Oath Keepers both a fellowship of other military veterans and a community of people who shared his politics and his belief that former President Donald Trump was the legitimate winner of the election.
By December, Dolan said, he and other Oath Keepers were openly discussing the possibility of armed conflict to stop the certification of the election in the Florida chapter’s Signal chat, titled “OKFL Hangout.”
“For most of my life I’ve been on the front lines. I shouldn’t be alive today. I am here by the grace of God and for no other reason,” Dolan said in a message to the group on Dec. 6, 2020. He continued by saying he was intent on heading back to those front lines – this time to stop what he viewed as an illegitimate election.
“But this time there is no coming back, no pay, no awards, no homecomings, and if I’m lucky I get a prison sentence, tagged with treason or a bullet from the very people I would protect,” Dolan wrote.
On Tuesday, Dolan said in those messages he was trying to mentally prepare himself if the Oath Keepers had to fight “what I viewed as an illegitimate government.” Assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Nestler asked him if he was being rhetorical.
“No,” Dolan said. “I meant it literally.”
During direct examination, jurors saw messages posted in response to Dolan by Kelly Meggs, the militia’s Florida state leader and one of the five defendants on trial. In the same Signal chat, Meggs responded the Oath Kepers needed to “make sure the ones who stand up know what they’re doing.”
“100 guys go to prison. 1,000 guys get in a battle. 10,0000 guys get in a war. 72,000,000 is a massive patriotic movement,” Meggs wrote. “We won’t go alone!! Let’s prepare those going with us!”
Dolan said he came to believe other Oath Keepers were just as willing to fight to prevent Biden from becoming president as he was. That belief was bolstered, he testified, by a Dec. 21, 2020, message to the Signal group sent by militia founder Stewart Rhodes.
“We need to push Trump to do his duty,” Rhodes wrote. “If he doesn’t, we will do ours. Declare independence. Defy. Resist. Defend. Conquer or die. This needs to be our attitude.
On the stand, Dolan said he believed that meant if Trump did not invoke the Insurrection Act – as Rhodes was publicly calling for him to do – then the Oath Keepers would take it upon themselves to “fight back against an illegitimate government.” Nestler questioned him about how the militia would do that.
“Any way we could,” Dolan said.” I believe we were preparing for a trip to D.C. at this point. If need be, take up arms if we had to. There was a feeling our country was slipping out of our fingers. We needed to take back our country. Conquer or die.”
Dolan eventually joined other members of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers in traveling to D.C. ahead of Jan. 6. He testified his command structure on Jan. 6 was Kenneth Harrelson, Meggs and Rhodes – three of the five co-defendants in the trial. He also told jurors he contributed a rifle and pistol to the quick reaction force staged at an Arlington hotel. He said he understood the purpose of the QRF was to “get our firearms in order to stop the certification of the election in Congress” – a key point prosecutors need to convince jurors of to secure a conviction on the top charge of seditious conspiracy.
Jurors have heard repeatedly about Rhodes’ desire for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act before and on Jan. 6. On Tuesday, Dolan testified that he believed if Trump invoked the act it would “militarize the militias” and result in “government-on-government” fighting as portions of the federal government and military sided with Trump, while others sided with Biden. Under questioning from Nestler, Dolan said he thought Congress would have been the pro-Biden, “anti-government” side the Oath Keepers would have fought.
On Jan. 6, Dolan eventually did wind up in the halls of Congress when he and other Oath Keepers entered the building in a military-style stack formation after the police line broke. Jurors saw images of Dolan and other members of the mob chanting, “Treason!” as they occupied the Capitol.
“I wanted them to hear and feel the anger, the frustration, the rage that I felt,” Dolan said. “They were betraying the country. I wanted them to know that and stop doing it. I wanted them to be afraid of me. People will act out of kindness. They will act out of charity. But they will act out of fear too. If they weren’t going to, in my opinion, do the right thing, then maybe they could be scared into doing the right thing.”
Prosecutors ended the day by having Dolan walk through the terms of his plea agreement, which could see him facing 5-7 years in prison at sentencing. In the final question of the day, Nestler asked why he decided to plead guilty even facing such a significant sentence.
“I helped coordinate, I helped plan, I helped set up, I helped drive up to D.C.” Dolan said. “I talked about my desire in wanting to stop what I saw as an illegitimate government, or not duly elected government, from taking power. To further that end, I threw my rifle and pistol in a car. I took people up there. Ultimately, I ended up at the steps of the Capitol to try to stop the Congress from going through with the certification of the election for President Biden.”
Defense attorneys will have their opportunity to cross-examine Dolan beginning Wednesday morning, although he may not be the only cooperating witness they have to contend with. At least six Oath Keepers who accepted plea deals were considered to be potential witnesses for the trial, including Alabama Oath Keeper Joshua James, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to the seditious conspiracy charge.