Attorney General Merrick Garland halted earlier attempts to bring the charge of seditious conspiracy. But in the months that followed, people informed of the case say that FBI investigators and D.C. federal prosecutors spent a great deal of time building up the case, not least with the help of collaborators and internal communications between sworn inmates. with benefits.
Federal prosecutors have been slammed for going easy on the rioters – by legal experts, Democratic lawmakers, Donald Trump critics and media pundits. That criticism has now been largely responded to with allegations of a “seditious conspiracy”.
Garland said in a keynote speech last week that prosecutors were behind the January 6 criminals “at any level … whether they were present that day or criminally responsible for the attack on our democracy.” Thursday’s indictment puts some meat on the bones.
Treason is difficult to prove in court, and indictment is only the beginning of a legal case. There are a number of hoops that prosecutors must jump through before they can win a sentence. But it is an important first step.
This, once and for all, destroys the point of underestimating the events of January 6 that the attack on the Capitol was not a rebellion because no one has been charged with treason.
Scope of preparation for January 6
One of the most debated questions about January 6th is how much was planned to invade the Capitol.
Thousands of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol grounds, and a few thousand broke inside the building. But was there a plan? And who knew about the plan?
It is clear from the court documents that there was no organized plan for many rioters. But this is not the whole story. The sedition case against those who took the oath highlights that within the mob there were a hardened group of alleged criminals who were essentially planning war.
Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, is quoted as telling his supporters that they must be prepared for a “bloody” operation and that they will need to “fight” in a “war”.
A defendant reportedly traveled to Washington in early November to reconcile for the upcoming “op.” Communications about the “bloody” “battle” and “revolution” were accompanied by logistics planning, prosecutors alleged, with defendants discussing receiving and bringing weapons into the Washington area.
it could have been worse
The indictment provided another reminder that January 6 could have been so bad.
Shortly after they entered the Capitol, a group of oath-takers tried to make a coordinated move on the Senate chamber, appearing as though they were carrying out a mission. According to the indictment, he tried to push his way through “a line of police,” but officers “forcibly rescinded his advance.” (Other rioters eventually breached the Senate floor and gallery.)
The charging documents state that one defendant, Joshua James, received a message from a friend that said, “I have plenty of weapons and ammo away from D.C. in case you get into trouble.” James replied, “It might be helpful, but we have a s*** load of QRFs on standby with an arsenal.”
Prosecutors said Rhodes also collected weapons and other gear on his way to Washington, D.C., before January 6. He reportedly purchased a rifle, a magazine and other firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, triggers, slings, and an optic plate. Rhodes was at Capitol grounds on January 6, but was not charged with entering the building, although prosecutors have said he “directed” his supporters to do so.
Plot was bigger than Jan 6
By this point, federal prosecutors were accusing the defendants of conspiracy aimed at blocking the Congressional vote to certify the election.
But Thursday’s case extended the pre-January 6 conspiracy, widening it. The indictment says those taking the oath had more than a purpose to obstruct Congress. Prosecutors say the group wanted to block the transfer of the presidency from Trump to Joe Biden.
After the rebellion, they gathered to celebrate, then continued the conversation.
“We are not quitting!! We are reloading!!,” wrote one of the defendants in a Signal chat.
In the week following the riots, Rhodes reportedly spent more than $17,500 on weapons, equipment, and ammunition. According to the filing, one member said that Rhodes should remain “under the radar,” while another brought “all available weapons” to Rhodes’ home in Texas.
Around Inauguration Day on January 20, Rhodes reportedly asked allies to organize a local militia to oppose the Biden administration. Another member reportedly said, “After this… if nothing happens… War… Civil War 2.0.”
“Rhodes and some of the co-conspirators … planned to withhold the legitimate transfer of the presidency until January 20, 2021, which included multiple methods of deploying force,” the indictment says.
big fish hunt
We now know that prosecutors were building a larger case, and were taking the chain to the leader of the extremist organization. Rhodes has previously denied any wrongdoing with respect to January 6.
The big question is, is this the end of the road? Could Rhodes have information that someone else might have mentioned above?
It has been widely reported that his organization was providing aides for Trump surrogates such as Roger Stone and Ali Alexander. A major criminal case clearly increases the pressure on people like Rhodes to come to a settlement and become a government witness, if they have a story to tell.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Evan Perez and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.