Oath Keepers leader never directly ordered followers to enter Capitol on Jan. 6, ex-agent testifies


A lawyer for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes argued Friday that despite his client’s “rhetoric and bombast,” he never ordered his followers to enter the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and never activated the so-called far-right rapid reaction force. the group met in the Washington, DC, area.

In one of the strongest cross-examinations by an Oath Keepers lawyer during the weeks-long trial, attorney James Lee Bright told former FBI agent Whitney Drew that Rhodes did not specifically direct the Oath Keepers to enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

“No direct orders from Mr. Rhodes to attack the Capitol?” Bright asked.

“Of the thousands of posts I’ve read, no,” Drew said.

“Signal chats?” Bright asked.

“In the thousands of Signal chats I’ve read, no,” Drew said.

“Emails?” Bright asked.

Drew said again “No.”

In the historic seditious conspiracy trial of the Oath Keepers, prosecutors have likened Rhodes to a general surveying a battlefield on Jan. 6, ordering his followers to keep Donald Trump as president. Bright’s line of questioning undermined that argument, as he repeatedly pointed out that prosecutors have presented no direct evidence that Rhodes gave orders to anyone.

Bright suggested that Rhodes was, in fact, not responding to messages from Edward Vallejo, supposedly one of the leaders of Virginia’s rapid reaction force. Vallejo reportedly sent at least two Signal messages to DC on Jan. 6 saying he was ready to deploy the so-called rapid reaction force, at one point telling Rhodes to “just say the word.”

Rhodes never responded to Vallejo’s messages, Bright said.

“So in the biggest event in years, as the government alleged, the general is surveying his troops on the battlefield … Mr. Vallejo is scrambling to bring weapons to DC,” Bright said. “And not only does Mr. Vallejo not even get an answer?”

“I haven’t seen an answer,” Drew said.

Instead, Bright argued, Rhodes spent the evening trying to reunite members of the group with whom he had lost touch. Because Rhodes is from out of town, however, Bright said the leader botched the effort by repeatedly giving people the wrong directions to the Capitol building, confusing where he was on the Capitol grounds.

“It’s hard to give instructions to your troops if you don’t know where you are,” Bright said.

“That’s your opinion,” Drew replied.

Rhodes and four other Oath Keepers are on trial for seditious conspiracy in federal court in Washington, DC. They have been declared innocent. Vallejo is also charged with seditious conspiracy and has pleaded not guilty.