“Oath Keepers Leader Sought to Ask Trump to Unleash His Militia”


Even as the beleaguered police were still trying to disperse a violent mob at the Capitol last January, Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, undertook a desperate, last-ditch effort to keep President Donald J. Trump in the White House, according to court papers released on Wednesday.

In a suite at the Phoenix Park Hotel, just blocks from the Capitol, Mr. Rhodes called an unnamed intermediary and, the papers said, repeatedly implored the person to ask Mr. Trump to mobilize his group to forcibly stop the transition of presidential power.

But the person refused to speak with Mr. Trump, the papers said. And once the call was over, Mr. Rhodes, turning to a group of his associates, declared, “I just want to fight.”

Witnessing this scene, which unfolded in the twilight hours of Jan. 6, 2021, was William Todd Wilson, a midlevel Oath Keepers leader from North Carolina. On Wednesday, Mr. Wilson, 44, pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington to charges of seditious conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their investigation of the Oath Keepers’ role in the Capitol attack.

Mr. Wilson’s tale of what took place at the Phoenix Park — the same hotel that Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys, had stayed at days earlier — was among the most dramatic accounts to have emerged so far in the government’s monthslong investigation of the Oath Keepers.

Phillip Linder, a lawyer for Mr. Rhodes, said he did not know who his client had called from the hotel in his effort to reach Mr. Trump.

In a 15-page statement of offense released in conjunction with his plea, Mr. Wilson also admitted to helping stockpile weapons in hotel rooms in Virginia for a so-called quick reaction force assembled to “provide firearms or cover to co-conspirators” who were “operating inside of Washington” on Jan. 6.

With his guilty plea, Mr. Wilson, a military and law enforcement veteran, became the third member of the Oath Keepers charged with sedition to reach a deal with the Justice Department to help in its most serious criminal case connected to the Capitol attack. As part of their inquiry, prosecutors have fanned out across the country interviewing dozens of members of the group. More than 20 Oath Keepers have been charged.

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