Breaking News
More () »

'Patriots are taking it into their own hands' | As Oath Keepers entered Capitol, prosecutors say Rhodes directed from outside

Jurors on Thursday saw video of the Oath Keepers' Stack 1 entering the U.S. Capitol Building approximately 30 minutes after the first breach.

WASHINGTON — As the first military-style “stack” of Oath Keepers entered the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, the militia’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, was outside appearing to give directions, prosecutors argued Thursday.

FBI Special Agent Whitney Drew was on the witness stand for the entirety of the day as jurors saw, for the first time since opening arguments more than two weeks prior, videos of the Oath Keepers actually entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. The videos, some captured by the Oath Keepers themselves, came after 11 days of testimony in which prosecutors sought to establish the militia’s mindset and pre-planning for what would happen if former President Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act on Jan. 6 – and, what would happen if he didn’t.

By Jan. 6, the day Congress was to meet and certify the results of the 2020 election, Rhodes and other Oath Keepers appeared to have lost faith Trump would do what they believed was needed to stop President Joe Biden from taking power.

“It’s nut cuttin’ time,” Rhodes told other members of his militia that day. “Does Trump have balls or not? We’re about to find out.”

Just after 1:30 in the afternoon – shortly after Trump had returned to the White House following his speech at the Ellipse – Rhodes wrote, “All I see Trump doing is complaining… So the patriots are taking it into their own hands.”

At 2:06 p.m., just minutes before the first breach of the Capitol, Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins texted Thomas Caldwell, of Virginia, “Pence has punked out” – an apparent reference to former Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to go along with a plan for him to unilaterally reject electoral votes.

For more than two weeks, attorneys for the five Oath Keepers on trial for charges of seditious conspiracy – Rhodes, Watkins, Caldwell, and Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson, both of Florida – have argued the militia was primarily in D.C. on Jan. 6 to provide security services and to act, if necessary, in support of Trump’s invocation of the Insurrection Act. As part of their planning for the latter possibility, the Oath Keepers staged a quick reaction force with a large cache of firearms in a hotel in Arlington just across the Potomac River. But jurors saw Thursday that when the Capitol was breached at approximately 2:13 p.m. on Jan. 6, the Oath Keepers’ communications were filled with excitement.

“We own that f***ing building and keep charging,” an Oath Keeper named “Jim” wrote in one of the militia’s many group chats.

Seven minutes later, Thomas Caldwell, who was on the east side of the Capitol with his wife, wrote in a message, “We are surging forward. Doors breached.”

Outside the building on the west side, Rhodes told the Oath Keepers he’d moved Kellye SoRelle – an attorney affiliated with the group who was also in a romantic relationship with Rhodes at the time – to a different part of the grounds because police had begun deploying tear gas. SoRelle had been live streaming events at the Capitol earlier, telling viewers at one point, “This is how you take your government back. You literally take it back.”

At another point, SoRelle wrote in a message in an Oath Keepers chat: “We’re acting like the founding fathers. We can’t back down. Per Stewart and I concur.”

According to phone records, Rhodes, who never entered the building himself on Jan. 6, then got onto a three-way call with operations leader Greene and Meggs. During the call, Meggs and more than a half dozen other Oath Keepers began moving to the east side of the building – where they ultimately entered through the Rotunda Doors in a military-style stack formation at approximately 2:41 p.m. As they did so, jurors saw Meggs, at the front of the group, motioning them forward with a clenched fist raised in the air.

Prosecutors have identified a dozen Oath Keepers who entered the Capitol as part of the first stack, and jurors saw video of a number of them inside the building.

At 2:45 p.m., Florida Oath Keeper William Isaacs can be heard on a video yelling, “The fight’s not over!” and then seen motioning other rioters toward the Senate Wing.

A minute later, Watkins can be seen with other Oath Keepers in the middle of a mob of people pressuring a police line standing between them and the Senate Chamber doors. In the video, Watkins can be heard yelling, “Push! Push! Push! Get in there! They can’t hold us!”

Jurors also heard a recording of a Zello chat Watkins participated in on Jan. 6 in which she provided live narration of her time in the Capitol. At approximately 2:44 p.m., just after entering the Rotunda, she told the chat, “We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here.”

The Oath Keepers trial was expected to resume Friday morning for a half-day with cross-examination of Drew by defense attorneys.

WUSA9 reporter Jordan Fischer will be in court throughout the trial providing daily coverage. Follow him on Twitter at @JordanOnRecord and subscribe to our weekly newsletter “Capitol Breach” for all the latest Jan. 6 coverage. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out