WASHINGTON – Just days after the U.S. Capitol was stormed by a mob of pro-Trump rioters, Stewart Rhodes, leader of the right-wing militia the Oath Keepers, tried to send a message to former President Donald Trump in which he urged the president to invoke the Insurrection Act and be a “savior” of the republic.
Jason Alpers, a military veteran and software company founder based in Dallas, testified Wednesday during a criminal trial of several Oath Keepers members, including Rhodes, that he met with Rhodes and other Oath Keepers late one evening days after the Capitol riot in a parking lot.
Alpers told the jury that the meeting’s intent was to get a message from Rhodes to Trump, to whom Alpers said he “indirectly” had access. To ensure the message he planned to pass along was accurate, he brought a recording device disguised as a thumb drive, he said.
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Rhodes, Alpers and other members of the group, including Oath Keepers lawyer Kellye Sorelle, briefly discussed the Insurrection Act, a 19th-century statute that gives the president authority to call on military and National Guard forces to suppress an insurrection if a state requests it or if the insurrection makes it impossible to enforce federal law, according to the recording of the meeting, which was presented as evidence.
Alpers told Rhodes he was hearing from Trump’s inner circle that while Trump “had not dropped” the Insurrection Act, Alpers did not think Trump would invoke it. Trump never invoked the Insurrection Act.
Then Rhodes typed out a message to Trump in the Notes app of Alpers’ cellphone, Alpers testified.
In the message, shown as evidence, Rhodes urged Trump to enact the act, suggesting that he and his family would be imprisoned and killed if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris assumed office. He also suggested that Americans would “die in combat on U.S. soil, fighting against traitors who YOU turned over all the powers of the presidency to,” the message read.
Rhodes further pressed Trump to arrest members of Congress, state legislators and dissenting members of the Supreme Court who did not question the results of the 2020 election.
“Go down in history as a savior of the Republic, not a man who surrendered it to traitors and enemies,” Rhodes wrote.
Alpers did not pass the message along to Trump.
“There was extremist ideologies that were wrapped inside (the message), and I believed if I had pushed that message to President Trump, it would have wrapped me into agreeing with that ideology, which I did not,” he testified.
After writing the message, Rhodes expanded on his message to Alpers before pivoting to discussing the Jan. 6 attack.
Alpers told Rhodes he did not condone the actions at the Capitol that day, to which Rhodes replied that it “turned out to be a good thing” because it “showed the people that we got a spirit of resistance.”
Rhodes’ only regret, Alpers recalled: “They should’ve brought rifles.”
“We could have fixed it right then and there,” Rhodes said, adding that if given the chance, he’d hang House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from a lightpost.
FBI Special Agent Jennifer Banks, a cell site analysis expert, testified that cell tower records showed Rhodes, SoRelle and Oath Keeper Joshua James, who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in March, were all in Dallas on Jan. 10, 2021, the date of the meeting.