Federal prosecutors played a recording of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes meeting with members of his far-right militia on Jan. 10, 2021, days after he and other Oath Keepers allegedly participated in an attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
“My only regret is they should have brought rifles,” Rhodes says in the recording, which was obtained by the FBI. “We should have brought rifles. We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang [f******] Pelosi from the lamppost.”
The trial revelation came five days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband was assaulted in their San Francisco home in an unrelated attack. The assailant allegedly told police he had intended to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and threatened to break her kneecaps.
Rhodes, alongside codefendants Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell, are accused of multiple felonies, including seditious conspiracy, for their alleged attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power during the Capitol attack. All have pleaded not guilty, and their defense attorneys maintain the defendants were acting only as security personnel for the president’s rally in Washington, D.C. earlier that day.
Government witness and U.S. Special Operations veteran Jason Alpers, who was at the meeting and secretly recorded it, told the jury Rhodes sought to give him a message to relay to then-President Donald Trump, to whom Alpers claimed to have “indirect” access.
In the audio recording, Rhodes claims the Capitol attack “showed the people that we got a spirit of resistance” and predicted a second civil war. “There’s gonna be combat here on U.S. soil, no matter what, no matter what you think they’ll do. It’s coming. No way out of it without fighting,” he said.
Alpers testified that he disagreed with Rhodes partway through the meeting and had misgivings about being there. He later provided the audio to the FBI. “At that point I kinda stepped back,” Alpers told the jury.
According to Alpers, Oath Keepers attorney Kellye SoRelle and other militia members also attended the gathering, which occurred in a Fry’s Food and Drug Store parking lot. In Texas, where the meeting occurred, wiretapping laws require only one party to consent to being recorded in conversation.
Prosecutors allege that during the meeting, Rhodes wrote a message intended for Trump urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act, arrest members of Congress, and not cede his office to President-elect Joe Biden.
“Take command like Washington would. Be a Churchill, not a Chamberlain,” Rhodes wrote. “I am here for you and so are all my men. We will come help you if you need us. Military and police. And so will your millions of supporters.”
The message was the third in a series of open letters Rhodes and the Oath Keepers wrote to Trump urging extralegal action following the 2020 presidential election. Trump never invoked the Insurrection Act.