Hey Republicans, you can crack open the entire story of January 6, 2021 (“1/6”) with one simple, relentless question: what is the FBI and Army Counterintelligence’s relationship with Stewart Rhodes?
Stewart Rhodes is the founder, boss and kingpin of the Oath Keepers.
The Oath Keepers, we are told, are America’s largest militia, the most prominent antigovernment group in the United States, and the preeminent right-wing domestic extremist insider threat to the entire U.S. military.
Whatever the truth of these hyperbolic claims, the fact remains: the Oath Keepers are the most extensively prosecuted paramilitary group alleged to be involved in 1/6. Indeed, it was the alleged “pre-planned assault” on the Capitol by Stewart Rhodes’s alleged Oath Keepers lieutenants that was used as the key talking point to try to convert the day’s events from a protest into an “insurrection.”
But Stewart Rhodes is not simply a key figure in the Oath Keepers. Stewart Rhodes is the Oath Keepers, according to Oath Keepers board member Richard Mack.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes III — a one-time Army paratrooper, disbarred Yale lawyer, constitutionalist, gun enthusiast, and far-right media star — founded the group called the Oath Keepers in 2009. Since then, he has ridden crosscurrents of American anger and strife that ran from scrubby Western deserts to angry urban protests right into the Capitol rotunda.
Mack said he and others also raised concerns about the Oath Keepers’ participation in violent protests…
He said it had become clear that the board had no real power. “[Stewart Rhodes] is the Oath Keepers. It’s hard to separate the two,” Mack said. “It’s his organization, and he can do what he wants to do.”
Other dissenting voices found that they were no longer welcome. Jim Arroyo, the vice president of the Arizona chapter, said relations began to fray over Rhodes’ insistence on total control… [Buzzfeed]
A mere indictment of Stewart Rhodes, today, for the same conspiracy charges alleged against his underlings, would collapse the entire “threat” of the Oath Keepers that the country has heard so much about:
Rhodes is the central figure of the organization. He is the founder, leader and center of gravity for the group. In theory, then, an indictment against Rhodes could lead to the group’s collapse. [NPR]
The Justice Department argues that Stewart Rhodes both substantially organized and activated an imputed plan to use violence, on 1/6, in real-time, through a series of encrypted Signal messages beginning at 1:38 p.m., as Trump concluded his rally speech on the National Mall, and 62 minutes before Oath Keepers lieutenants allegedly formed a “military stack” to rush the Capitol doors. [Filing, pp.10-12]
These facts alone, as alleged, are more than legally sufficient to secure an indictment of Stewart Rhodes. We will walk you through the mountains of direct and circumstantial evidence built on top of these allegations, but readers must understand this: the only reason Stewart Rhodes is not in jail *right now* is because of a deliberate decision by the Justice Department to protect him.
Indeed, it is unclear whether the FBI has even sought to search Stewart Rhodes’s residence, personal belongings, or electronic devices, other than a single iPhone allegedly seized on the streets from agents in unmarked FBI vehicles in late April (since returned). For reasons discussed below, there is good reason to suspect the FBI will pursue a tightly controlled and very limited scope of investigation into Stewart Rhodes,. Beyond that narrow scope, they may not want the information they are likely to find.
Why doesn’t anyone at the FBI or DOJ want him?
If 1/6 was an “insurrection,” why protect the one man who, more than any other individual referenced in the charging documents of the 530+ open criminal cases, comes closest to the media’s ravenous description of a “lead insurrectionist?”
Is it possible that the Oath Keepers, the most prominent antigovernment group in the United States, has been run, in effect, by the United States government itself — and nobody has mentioned it until now?