The first rule of Conspiracy Club is don’t record the meetings of Conspiracy Club.
But at least one member of the Oath Keepers — the right-wing militia group whose founder and many top deputies are charged in a seditious conspiracy to block the peaceful transfer of presidential power by force on Jan. 6 — appears to have broken that code of silence, providing the feds with a treasure trove of chilling evidence.
An extended transcript of a GoToMeeting teleconference held by militia founder Stewart Rhodes on Nov. 9. 2020 — shortly after Trump’s election loss and in the buildup to the Jan. 6 insurrection — has been made public as an exhibit in federal court.
The document, details of which have not previously been reported, pulls back the curtain on the Oath Keepers’ internal communications, revealing that militia leaders spoke openly of using physical force to keep Trump in office, and suggesting the events of Jan. 6 could have turned out far bloodier than they did. The transcript also suggests that the most damning testimony in the government’s historic sedition case may be Rhodes’ own words, used against him in a court of law.
On the call, Rhodes lays out stark plans for violence in the nation’s capital: “Let’s go to D.C. together. I’ll be right there with you,” he says. “I want my bikers, I want my fucking street fighters, I want my brawlers.”
In his remarks, Rhodes demands secrecy from call participants and warns that the meeting could be monitored. He exhorts fellow militia members to stay disciplined, adding, ironically: “Don’t make it easy for them to pop you with a conspiracy charge.”
The date of the transcript matches an “Oath Keepers National Call” described, and briefly quoted, in federal indictments of militia members. The government’s seditious conspiracy indictment describes Rhodes as using this GoToMeeting call to present “a plan to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power, including preparations for the use of force.”
Rhodes has pleaded not guilty, and is being held until trial. Rhodes’ lawyers did not respond to questions about the court exhibit.
The call transcript begins, as Rolling Stone has reported, with a QAnon-inflected, conspiratorial rant, in which Rhodes calls for then-President Trump to expose “all the pedophiles” in government, in an effort to bring down the demonic “deep state.”
But the meeting quickly shifts to a more operational mode, with Rhodes calling on his militia followers to stay true to their oaths, and prepare for battle to keep Trump in power.
“Nothing Left to Do But Fight”
Rhodes told his Oath Keepers followers that they would need steel themselves for a historic fight, invoking America’s violent revolutionary origins:
We’re very much in exactly the same spot that the founding fathers were in like March 1775. And Patrick Henry was right. Nothing left but to fight. And that’s true for us, too. We’re not getting out of this without a fight.
“You Swore That Oath”
Rhodes appealed to his followers’ sense of honor, and their vows to defend the republic against all enemies. And he exhorted them to fight while Trump remained in office:
You are Oath Keepers….You know you raised your freaking right hand. You swore that oath. You’ve got to fight. So we have a chance to get President Trump to fight as Commander in Chief. If you’re going to have a fight, guys, you want to start now while he’s still Commander in Chief. You do not want to waste this opportunity.
“I Want My Bikers, I Want My Fucking Street Fighters”
Rhodes indicated that the Oath Keepers official presence in D.C. would respect the local government’s gun prohibitions, and enter prepared to duke it out in the street:
Let’s go to D.C. together. I’ll be right there with you. So, I want my bikers, I want my fucking street fighters, I want my brawlers. Okay? You ready to go into D.C. and brawl…. wear yourself some knuckle gloves, wear a cup, wear a helmet, get ready to fight. If you’ve got stab-proof body armor, wear that, you know.
“If They Blow Bombs Up and Shoot Us, Great”
In Rhodes’ imagination, the Oath Keepers’ presence in the nation’s capital would provoke violence from anti-fascist groups. Rhodes instructed his members to welcome those attacks, because that violence would give Trump a “reason and rationale for dropping the Insurrection Act.”
According to Rhodes’ own legal team, the militia leader believed that a presidential invocation of that act could legitimize the Oath Keepers as a true militia, able to wield violence on behalf of the state. (A portion of the following quote appears in a federal Oath Keepers indictment.):
You have to be willing to go to D.C. and street fight Antifa… get them to street fight…. Don’t be afraid, you know.… And if the fight comes, let the fight come. Let Antifa go — if they go “kinetic” on us, then we’ll go “kinetic” back on them. I’m willing to sacrifice myself for that. Let the fight start there, okay. That would give President Trump what he needs rapidly. If things go “kinetic,” good. If they blow bombs up and shoot us, great.
“Awaiting the President’s Orders”
While imagining an initial, unarmed fight, Rhodes said his plan was for the Oath Keepers to also have a well-armed “Quick Reaction Force” (QRF) positioned nearby, prepared to strike if called on by Trump:
I do want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in armed if they have to. So if the shit kicks off, you rock and roll. Okay?… But that QRF will be awaiting the President’s orders. That’s our official position. And the reason why we have to do it that way is because that gives you legal coverage… We’re hoping he will give us the orders. We want him to declare an insurrection, and to call us up as the militia.… And if he does that, then D.C. gun laws won’t matter. They’re trumped by his invocation of the Insurrection Act and calling you up.
“A Bloody, Bloody Civil War”
Rhodes preached to his followers the Big Lie that Trump had been cheated out of office in the November election. And he warned that failing to fight while Trump still clung to power would thrust the Oath Keepers into a “guerrilla fight” against the incoming Biden administration. (Part of following quote previously appeared in an Oath Keepers indictment.):
We’re going to defend the President, the duly-elected President, and we call on him to do what needs to be done to save our country. And if you don’t, guys, you’re going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war. And a bloody — you can call it a counter-insurrection or you can call it a guerilla fight…. Don’t wait. Don’t think that you’re going to be able to hide in the shadows and someday be the underground guerilla leader. That’s retarded. Okay?… It’s time to step up and do it now. All right? So that’s all I have to say about that.
The exact provenance of the meeting recording is not clear, although it was reportedly provided to federal authorities by an informant. (Three Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges and are cooperating with the government.) The transcript was introduced in court by the lawyer of fellow seditious conspiracy defendant Edward Vallejo, who is alleged to have coordinated a heavily armed “Quick Reaction Force” stationed in nearby Virginia on Jan. 6.
Vallejo’s lawyer indicated that he was not a party to the call. And the transcript was introduced to support Vallejo’s contention that he was not a key player in the events of Jan. 6 and should be released pending trial.
The GoToMeeting transcript was initially buried in a 337 page document comprising 14 different exhibits. That version appeared to have mis-identified at least one speaker. A corrected version of the transcript, a.k.a. Exhibit 10, was introduced in court in late April. Vallejo was granted pretrial release on May 4.
It should be noted that several of the named speakers in the GoToMeeting transcript do not face criminal charges in relation to the events of Jan. 6.
Read the full court exhibit below: