A former member of the Keepers of the Oath testified last week that the group’s founder, Stuart Rhodes, claimed to be in touch with someone in the Secret Service months before the riots. A Secret Service official confirmed that members of the agency’s Protective Intelligence Unit rallied in November and December and on January 6 to “Stop the Stealing.”
Agents make such advance contact regularly Protest groups are expected to participate in public presidential events, the official said. The aim is to explain which items are prohibited and to learn more about the numbers and plans of protesters to assess the risk to protected officials.
Rhodes and four associates are currently on trial, expected to last at least a month, and face the most serious charges in the criminal investigation into the congressional riots. Jurors have heard evidence that prosecutors say the oath-keeper wants to bring Donald Trump to power by force, with trial testimony coinciding with a House committee investigation on Jan. 1. 6 Preparing for the final public hearing expected on Thursday.
The House committee is expected to highlight Secret Service records that show Trump received multiple warnings on Jan. 1. The June 6 news of a dangerous rise in the Capitol continued to insist on going there in person, according to people familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal records.
The full extent of the intelligence the Secret Service obtained from the sworn-in is unclear.
John Zimmerman, a former oath-keeper from North Carolina, testified that he believed Rhodes discussed with a Secret Service agent their Trump meeting in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in September 2020 Weapons that may be carried while “working” at a rally. “It is not uncommon for various organizations to contact the agency about security restrictions and activities permitted near our protected locations,” a Secret Service spokesman said.
Veteran Washington protesters say they deal with the Secret Service less often than other agencies.
“Of all the demonstrations I’ve planned in Washington over the past 15 years, the one agency I’ve had the least interaction with is the Secret Service,” said Robby Diesu, who organizes protests for various progressive causes.
But most of the protests in Washington, D.C., did not involve organized armed groups known for advocating violent resistance to government authority.
A Washington, D.C. police lieutenant, who has been placed on leave for his contact with longtime Proud Boys chairman Henry “Enrique” Tario, is due to stand trial in December on charges similar to those faced by the Oath Keepers. The lieutenant also contacted a man he believed led a white supremacist group. Experts say it makes sense for law enforcement officials to seek information from extremist groups, but interactions must be handled carefully to avoid misunderstandings.
Rhodes and other swearers argued that they were in constant contact with law enforcement and kept their guns outside Washington, D.C., because they had no intention of breaking the law on Jan. 1. 6. In multiple encrypted chat conversations leading up to the riots, Rhodes expressed hope that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, which he believes would “undo” Washington’s gun laws and all other restrictions on violence.
“I must try to let Trump know that he must now wage war against the enemy during the presidency and commander-in-chief,” he wrote to a group of swearers on Dec. 12. Jan. 14, 2020. He said he had been in Washington to pressure the president, had “passed the message through a contact,” and was “working for others.”
Rhodes contacted Roger Stone, a close friend of the former president, who was guarded by the Oathkeeper on the morning of January 1. 6. Stone denies any involvement in the riots; he is also expected to be the focus of Thursday’s House committee hearing.
Trump has never called on private militias to serve as his defense, which prosecutors argue is not allowed by law. They note that Rhodes has repeatedly said the group will fight Joe Biden with or without Trump’s approval.
“He needs to know that if he doesn’t do it, we’ll do it,” Rhodes said of Trump in a December interview. 29 February 2020, message read out by the court. “If we had to do it ourselves, it would be exponentially harder without him as commander-in-chief and more of us would die.”
Jan. 1, when sworn-in members entered the VIP area during Trump’s speech. On June 6, the Secret Service asked them to leave tactical gear outside and pass metal detectors, another former member of the group testified Wednesday.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told a House committee earlier this year that Trump wanted to remove metal detectors, despite being told there was armed force in the crowd.
“They didn’t come to hurt me,” Hutchinson recalled him saying.
Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, and Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.