Militia Group Leader Waited For Trump's Direction Prior to Planning Capitol Insurrection, DOJ Says

Militia Group Leader Waited For Trump's Direction Prior to Planning Capitol Insurrection, DOJ Says
Photo:Jose Luis Magana (AP)

In court papers filed during the third day of Trump’s impeachment hearing on Thursday, prosecutors offered new evidence that leaders of the Oath Keepers militia group believed they were responding to Donald Trump’s direction by planning the siege on Capitol Hill. The Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group largely made up of former law enforcement and military officers, has been accused of helping to organize the Capitol insurrection last month. More specifically, prosecutors alleged that Oath Keepers members Jessica M. Watkins, Thomas E. Caldwell, and Donovan Crowl “began plotting to undo” the results of the presidential election soon after Trump was defeated.

On November 9, Watkins sent a text where she expressed her concern about taking action around the election results without first getting “direction” from Trump. “I am concerned this is an elaborate trap,” she wrote. “Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it.” Welp. Despite Trump repeatedly denying that he incited the extremists who stormed Capitol Hill on January 6, the rioters themselves were very clear on the fact that they were acting under his direction. Damnit, it must be SO inconvenient for Trump to be *checks notes* held responsible for the impact of his own words.

Although the Department of Justice has brought charges against over 200 people in relation to the insurrection, the case against the three Oath Keepers members is one of the most damning. Prior to the events of January 6, Caldwell, a 66-year-old former Navy officer, allegedly told his fellow militia members that a particular hotel in the D.C. suburbs was a good base to “hunt at night.” Apparently, Caldwell was referencing “finding” left-leaning activists, but the predatory language is unsurprising coming from a man whose phone was full of text messages in which he described murdering and mutilating people who opposed his views while referring to them as “savages” “maggots” and “cockroaches.”

… I’d point out the racist dog whistles in that collection of insults, but at this point, they speak for themselves.

Prosecutors allege that Caldwell was “a key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol,” claiming that his text messages show that he helped coordinate the events of the Capitol Hill riots with several other right-wing extremist groups, including the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters, an extremist gun rights militia. When federal agents searched Caldwell’s house, they uncovered a “Death List” which contained the name of an election official, as well as a pistol that was allegedly “intentionally built to look like a cellphone.”

The court papers also say that in a text message from November 16, less than two weeks after the presidential election, Oath Keepers member Crowl texted Caldwell that “war is on the horizon.” Soon after, Caldwell wrote to Watkins expressing that he was “worried about the future of our country.” He added, “I believe we will have to get violent to stop this.”

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