WASHINGTON — A U.S. Army veteran and former Blackwater contractor who served as the Oath Keepers’ operations leader on Jan. 6 painted an unflattering picture of the militia Wednesday – at least in terms of the groups’ ability to mount a meaningful resistance to the government.
Michael “Whip” Greene, 39, of Indianapolis, was called as a defense witness by attorneys for Stewart Rhodes. Rhodes and four co-defendants have been on trial for more than five weeks facing charges of seditious conspiracy for an alleged plot to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power. Greene was indicted in June on five counts and is scheduled to go to trial next year with a group of Oath Keepers defendants not facing the seditious conspiracy charge. In order to testify Wednesday, Greene waived his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
On the stand, Greene, who served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer for more than three years before leaving early to become a private security contractor, denied being a member of the Oath Keepers. Greene, who is Black, said he initially believed the organization was affiliated with white supremacists, but eventually agreed to do paid work with the militia in response to Hurricane Harvey when he learned a friend, Greg McWhirter, was also a member. Defense attorneys had planned on calling McWhirter, who served for a time as the Oath Keepers’ national vice president, to testify as well on Tuesday, but that plan was delayed due to an emergency medical incident.
Greene was called by the Oath Keepers again in the fall of 2020 to conduct a threat assessment for a business in Louisville in response to ongoing protests in the city over the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor. Greene said he was again paid for his services, although on cross-examination, the prosecution team showed jurors an image of Greene wearing a vest with an Oath Keepers patch while standing with other members.
Between November 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, Greene joined the Oath Keepers in D.C. for three events: the Million MAGA March on Nov. 14; the Jericho March on Dec. 12; and Jan. 6. The Oath Keepers organized QRFs for each event, although Greene backed up testimony Rhodes had given on the stand that the Million MAGA March QRF was a response to Rhodes’ belief that antifa would try to attack the White House and drag former President Donald Trump out of the building.
“I told Stewart, you know, that’s crazy,” Greene said. “Nobody’s going to storm the White House. They have a f***ing arsenal. They’d slaughter everybody.”
Greene said he wasn’t shocked by Rhodes’ ideas or rhetoric during the Million MAGA March or a Nov. 9 GoToMeeting in which Rhodes told Oath Keepers to prepare for a fight because that was, he said, just how the militia founder talked.
“Oh, we gotta fight to protect this country and all that,” Greene said. “It’s just like the old guy at the barbershop.”
“Did a lot of old guys at barbershops go to the Capitol?” assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Nestler asked him on cross-examination.
“I’m on the docket with two old guys,” Greene said to laughter in the courtroom. “They’re old as f***.”
Greene, who served a combat deployment with the military in Iraq and deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan with the defense contractor Academi (formerly Blackwater, now Contellis), consistently downplayed the battle readiness of the Oath Keepers. He described the militia’s night at Thomas Caldwell’s farm in the Shenandoah Valley ahead of the Million MAGA March as almost a sleepover.
“These guys basically talked about old military s***,” Greene said. “It was like a camp. They were there camping out.”
During cross-examination, Nestler showed Greene a message he’d sent to a friend about Rhodes believing a civil war was coming.
“I can see how it would happen,” Greene wrote. “A lot of people are upset about this election and now that there is proof people will be pissed by the results.”
From the stand, Greene asked who would be starting the civil war and scoffed at the idea that it would be the Oath Keepers – pointing to a decision by North Carolina Oath Keeper Doug Smith to call militia members in early on the night of the Million MAGA March.
“A lot of Oath Keepers were interested in helping with security,” he said. “But, if you’re talking about a flat-out fight? Doug pulled a whole team off the street because he didn’t want a physical conflict with antifa.”
Throughout cross-examination, Nestler attempted to show Greene was more involved with the Oath Keepers than he let on. But he also worked to show Rhodes had been having planning conversations without Greene’s involvement or knowledge. That could blunt some of Greene’s testimony that he wasn’t aware of a plan to enter the Capitol or stop the certification on Jan. 6 but will also provide his defense with ammunition in his own case, where he faces charges of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding and to prevent members of Congress from discharging their duties.
Although his often dismissive characterization of the Oath Keepers could help defense attorneys convince jurors their clients couldn’t storm their way “out of a paper bag” – as Caldwell’s attorney David Fischer put it during opening arguments – Greene’s primary value was in denying any plan existed to attack the Capitol. Greene was the militia’s operations leader on Jan. 6 and was in direct communication with Rhodes and other Oath Keepers throughout the day.
“Did you put anyone on mission that day to enter the Capitol?” one of Rhodes’ attorneys, James Lee Bright, asked Greene. “Did you put anyone on mission that day to enter the Rotunda? Did you put anyone on mission that day to delay the certification?”
Greene answered no to all three questions.
“Were you personally aware of any plan to stop the certification of the election? Bright asked.
“No,” Greene answered again.
Bright ended his direct examination of Greene by asking if he’d ever go on a mission with an implicit plan – a reference to testimony by Oath Keeper Jason Dolan that he felt there was an implicit agreement to stop the certification. Greene said he would not.
“When you drive your happy a** down Route Irish and hit an IED, how you gonna get out of there?” Greene asked, referencing an infamously dangerous stretch of road between the Baghdad Airport and the Green Zone used by coalition forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “Noting’s implied in the military.”
Rhodes’ attorneys rested their case Wednesday afternoon following Greene’s testimony. The Oath Keepers’ trial was expected to continue into at least next week as his co-defendants put on their defense cases.
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