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Topline

Elmer Stewart Rhodes—founder of the extremist Oath Keepers—tried to contact then-President Donald Trump during the January 6 Capitol riot and urge him to endorse a forcible halt to the transfer of power, according to a fellow Oath Keepers leader who pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges connected to the riot.

Key Facts

In federal court filings released Wednesday, Oath Keepers regional leader William Todd Wilson described a phone conversation that allegedly took place between Rhodes and an unnamed individual shortly after Wilson and Rhodes left the scene of the riot.

Rhodes purportedly urged the unnamed individual to tell Trump to call on organizations such as the Oath Keepers to stop the transfer of presidential power, according to the filing, which Wilson signed as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

The unnamed individual did not put Rhodes in contact with Trump, after which Rhodes said, “I just want to fight,” Wilson said he overheard.

The conversation allegedly took place in a suite at Washington, D.C.’s Phoenix Park Hotel around 5 p.m., as the National Guard was preparing to remove rioters from the Capitol.

Two lawyers representing Rhodes—who pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy and other charges tied to the Capitol riot—told CNN they were not aware of any contact between Trump and Rhodes and don’t know about the call described in the filings; Rhodes’ attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.

Wilson pleaded guilty Wednesday to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for allegedly entering the Capitol during the riot armed with a pocketknife and wearing a neck gaiter and hat as a disguise.

What We Don’t Know

Court documents don’t identify the individual Rhodes allegedly asked to put him in touch with Trump, nor do they establish that Rhodes was actually in contact with anyone close to Trump.

Key Background

Founded in 2009, the Oath Keepers is one of the U.S.’s largest right-wing anti-government groups. Over 20 members of the group have been charged by the Department of Justice in connection to the Capitol riot, including Rhodes, and at least four have cooperated with prosecutors, the New York Times reported. Wednesday’s court filing described how Oath Keepers members allegedly used the messaging app Signal to coordinate an effort to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s election win. Rhodes, the group’s founder, was charged with seditious conspiracy after prosecutors alleged he traveled to Washington, D.C. to forcibly oppose the transfer of presidential power and entered a restricted area of the Capitol grounds during the riot, though Rhodes denies entering the Capitol building itself.

What To Watch For

Wilson could face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding. No sentencing date has been set, the Department of Justice said. Rhodes could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of seditious conspiracy. Rhodes’ trial is set to begin July 11.

Further Reading

“The Latest Oath Keeper’s Seditious Plea Today Goes To A Trump-Skeptical Judge” (Forbes)

Source: Forbes

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