The U.S. government played a secret audio recording on the second day in the trial of five Oath Keepers members who were allegedly heard making plans to bring weapons to Washington, D.C., in advance of the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021. File photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 4 (UPI) -- A secret recording, played on the second day of the trial of five Oath Keepers members, appeared to support the government's claim that the far-right group planned to bring weapons to Washington, D.C., and fight the transfer of presidential power, as defense attorneys argued the audio was mischaracterized.
"We're not getting out of this without a fight. There's going to be a fight," Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who is facing seditious conspiracy charges, said in the recording played in court on Tuesday. "But let's just do it smart and let's do it while President Trump is still commander in chief."
The two-hour meeting, on Nov. 9, 2020, was secretly recorded by an attendee, according to FBI agent Michael Palian who said they submitted the tip in January and again in March of 2021 when the recording was turned over to authorities.
All five defendants, who also include Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, Thomas Caldwell and Kenneth Harrelson, have pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy, a rarely used Civil War-era charge that can be difficult to prove. The charge is the strongest to date, leveled in the riot, and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
"If the fight comes, let the fight come. Let Antifa go - if they go kinetic on us then we'll go kinetic back on them. I'm willing to sacrifice myself for that," Rhodes said in the recording. "If they blow bombs up and shoot us, great. Because that brings the President reason and rationale" to invoke the Insurrection Act as part of a bid to remain in power.
The Insurrection Act, which was signed into law by Thomas Jefferson in 1807, gives the U.S. president the powers to deploy armed forces to quash unrest in emergency situations.
Rhodes, a graduate of Yale Law School, is expected to testify at some point in his own defense during the trial.
Prosecutors said defendants Watkins and Meggs were also heard discussing weapons on the recording.
"Pepper spray is legal. Tasers are legal. And stun guns are legal. And it doesn't hurt to have a lead pipe with a flag on it," Meggs allegedly said, as Watkins wrote to Ohio Oath Keepers members, "We have been issued a call to action for D.C. This is the moment we signed up for."
Attorneys for the defendants claimed the government misrepresented the audio by picking out inflammatory statements. Palian admitted on cross examination that there were no explicit mentions in the recording about plans to attack the Capitol.
Rhodes' attorney Phillip Linder also questioned Palian about the lack of reference to the date, Jan. 6, 2021.
"Isn't it true that all of the talk that Mr. Rhodes and others are doing is related to going to D.C. on Nov. 14th?" Linder asked Palian who responded "I'd agree with that."
Some of the defendants attended the Million MAGA March, that took place on Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington, D.C., where they were not involved in any incidents.