Pro-Trump rioters breach the security perimeter and penetrate the U.S. Capitol to protest against the Electoral College vote count that would certify President-elect Joe Biden as the winner in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. File photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The founder of the far-right militia the Oath Keepers denied directing his allies to enter the U.S. Capitol building and disrupt the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.
Stewart Rhodes testified before a U.S. District Court in the face of charges of seditious conspiracy Monday. He told the court he did not believe entering the Capitol and interfering with congressional proceedings was part of his group's goal. Rhodes was arrested in January and received additional charges in July.
"I didn't want them getting wrapped up into all the nonsense with Trump supporters," he said while being questioned by his attorneys, Politico reports. "My goal was to make sure that no one got wrapped up in that Charlie Foxtrot (chaos) going on inside the Capitol."
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Rhodes and his allies knowingly conspired to prevent, hinder or delay the lawful transfer of presidential power by force in an attempt to keep former President Donald Trump in office. They did so by coordinating travel to Washington, D.C., with the intent to stop the transfer of power. They organized teams willing to use force and transport firearms and ammunition to the site. These are just a small number of the allegations.
According to Rhodes, he was in a hotel on the morning of Jan. 6 and did not go to the Capitol until after learning of people getting past the barricades around the building. He said he was unable to effectively communicate with his allies because of poor cell service. He was later informed that at least two of his teams were inside the Capitol.
Rhodes said he had an argument with one of his fellow Oath Keepers, Kelly Meggs, about entering the building, saying Meggs went "off mission." Stan Woodward, Meggs' attorney, disagreed with Rhodes' account and was allowed to cross-examine him. Under questioning, Rhodes repeated that there was not a plan to enter the building, but there are "standing orders within Oath Keepers to render medical aid."
The Oath Keepers founder doubled down on separating himself from the of his allies and followers inside the Capitol, saying it was "stupid to go into the Capitol. One, because it wasn't our mission."
More than 100 Oath Keepers went to the Capitol to provide security for Trump supporters that day, Rhodes said. He has been accused of trying to urge Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, calling on the Oath Keepers as an official state militia. The FBI investigated Rhodes' attempts to communicate with Trump on this matter and found an unidentified woman trusted to deliver the messages to Trump's team failed to do so.
Less than a week ago the jury watched a recording of Rhodes, taken four days after the attack on the Capitol. In the recording he said his only regret about the attack was that they did not bring rifles. He also stated they would have hanged Rep. Nancy Pelosi "from a lamppost." When asked about the comment Monday, Rhodes said he had drinks at dinner before making it.
Former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger (L) and former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews are sworn in July 21, 2022 to testify before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo