Amid the violence of last year’s Capitol riot, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes gathered around a phone with other extremists at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., to see if they could speak directly with then-President Donald Trump, court documents say.
The identity of the person Rhodes called is not specified, but appears to have had access to Trump, as the person was able to deny Rhodes’ request to speak directly with the president.
It’s a significant revelation because whom Trump spoke to while his supporters mobbed the Capitol has been a key point of interest to those investigating the attack. Investigators are also keenly interested in any potential collaboration between the White House and extremist groups bent on stopping a duly elected Joe Biden from becoming president.
Disclosure of the phone call came as part of another Oath Keeper’s guilty plea on charges relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
William Todd Wilson of North Carolina ― who pleaded guilty Wednesday to seditious conspiracy ― told federal investigators he was in the room when Rhodes made the phone call, around 5 p.m. the day the mob stormed the Capitol.
Wilson, 44, is the third Oath Keepers member to plead guilty to the hefty charge of seditious conspiracy, following Georgia resident Brian Ulrich, 44, and Alabama resident Joshua James, 34. The far-right group is one of the largest anti-government “militias” active today.
From a private suite at the hotel, Rhodes wanted Trump to “call upon” groups like the Oath Keepers, according to Wilson’s statement of offense.
The document details how leaders of the Oath Keepers plotted to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Trump to Biden using force. The extremists organized via encrypted messaging platforms and “equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’s call to take up arms,” it says.
The Oath Keepers amassed a stockpile of weapons on the “outskirts” of Washington for easy access; Wilson’s stash included an AR-15-style rifle, a pistol and about 200 rounds of ammunition.
Wilson believed “that the federal government has been coopted by a cabal of elites actively trying to strip American citizens of their rights,” his statement said. He was part of a group of Oath Keepers to break past Capitol barricades as Rhodes ranted about a “civil war,” and he eventually reached the Capitol rotunda.
Wilson said he met Rhodes and others for dinner later that evening at a Vienna, Virginia, restaurant, where Rhodes continued to talk about “the need to prepare for a larger fight against the government akin to the American Revolutionary War.”
Text messages uncovered between the group members show how Rhodes used bombastic language in a draft letter to Trump about the potential for further violence, warning that “domestic enemy wolves will be at the door of all your supporters” and that they would “have no choice but to honor our oaths and fight back when they come for us.”
As it became apparent that they would be prosecuted for their role in the Jan. 6 attack, Wilson said, he threw his phone into the Atlantic Ocean.
Rhodes, who founded the Oath Keepers, pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy earlier this year along with several other members.