Oath Keepers threatened 'bloody civil war' over Biden’s 2020 win

Stewart Rhodes corralled followers to defend Donald Trump's presidency before January 6 insurrection

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The Oath Keepers threatened a “bloody civil war” against a “puppet regime” if Joe Biden took the White House from Donald Trump, messages displayed to jurors in the first January 6 seditious conspiracy trial showed.

“We are going to have a fight,” Stewart Rhodes, the group’s founder, said in a December 2020 message.

“That can’t be avoided, but it’s better to have a fight now, while Trump is commander-in-chief, than to wait till he is gone.”

The messages were presented by federal prosecutors on Friday as evidence against Mr Rhodes and four other people who are accused of sedition, or attacking the US government.

Prosecutors said the messages show that the Oath Keepers came to the Capitol ready for violence.

Mr Rhodes and the other accused have denied any conspiracy, contending that they travelled to Washington to provide security for authorised events and in preparation for Mr Trump invoking the Insurrection Act, which they claim would authorise the Oath Keepers to act as a military force.

Mr Rhodes’s lawyer has also argued that the government cherry-picked inflammatory statements that misrepresent what happened.

FBI Special Agent Byron Cody gave evidence in the trial, saying Mr Rhodes made the statements in the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot.

The government said Mr Rhodes was suggesting that Mr Trump could use the Insurrection Act even before January 6 to spur a militia movement that would prevent Mr Biden from taking office. Mr Rhodes said the group would take matters into its own hands if Mr Trump failed to act.

“Trump has one last chance to act,” Mr Rhodes wrote on the evening of December 14, after state electors cast their votes declaring Mr Biden as president.

“He must use the Insurrection Act.”

The message was styled as the first of two open letters to Mr Trump.

Five days later, Mr Rhodes wrote that it would be “a tragic mistake” for Mr Trump not to call for military action before January 6.

“Congress will stab him in the back,” Mr Rhodes said.

On December 23, Mr Rhodes posted an image of George Washington crossing the Delaware River. He urged Mr Trump to follow Washington’s example and attack.

He said that, if Mr Trump failed to intervene, then it would leave his group no choice but to declare independence from a “puppet regime and fight for our liberty”.

A week later, Mr Rhodes logged into a chat called “DC Op Jan 6 2021" and gave operations assignments for the group’s coming trip to Washington. He noted that he had been busy “on back-channel working groups trying to advise the president”.

Mr Rhodes said the congressional certification of Mr Biden’s electoral win would be the “final nail in the coffin on this Republic” and warned again that they would act with or without Mr Trump, a message displayed by the government showed.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 10:38 PM