The U.S. government’s vengeance case against the Oath Keepers, a group that publicly declared its opposition to Joe Biden’s presidency, is now in its fourth iteration with no end in sight.
Biden’s Justice Department, led by a man denied a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016 by Senate Republicans and a woman loyal to both Barack Obama and Robert Mueller, is sparing no resource to destroy the lives of Americans tied to the group that allegedly “stormed” the Capitol on January 6.
Last week, Channing Phillips, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia overseeing the sprawling investigation into the events of January 6, filed another superseding indictment against the Oath Keepers while adding new defendants. Four men have been arrested since May 27; the total number of defendants is 16 and counting.
The Oath Keepers, as the media reminds us daily, pose a mortal threat to the country. As NPR recently warned, it is “one of the largest anti-government extremist groups in the far-right patriot militia movement.” The group’s real crime, of course, is opposing Joe Biden; after the election, a founder of the Oath Keepers said the group would “resist” Biden’s presidency, an act of defiance considered mandatory in many quarters when it was directed at the Trump Administration from the Left.
Indispensible to the Narrative
So, retaliation is underway. The first grand jury indictment was filed one week after Inauguration Day; three alleged Oath Keepers—Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins, and Donovan Crowl—were charged with four trespassing and disorderly conduct offenses.
“The Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights,” Michael Sherwin, the prosecutor in charge of the early stage of the investigation who bragged about a “shock and awe” manhunt leading up to Biden’s inauguration, wrote in the original charging document. “The organization’s name alludes to the oath sworn by members of the military and police to defend the Constitution ‘from all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”
Since then, the Justice Department has tacked on a total of 13 counts and 13 more defendants with warnings of more to come. The prosecution of the Oath Keepers is critical in fueling the notion that groups of armed, pro-Trump vigilantes organized an assault on the seat of American democracy.
Sherwin called the Oath Keepers a “militia” and cited their entrance into the building in a “stack” formation as proof of their coup-like intentions. “That’s what you learn in close-order combat, how you stay with your team to breach a room where maybe there’s a terrorist,” Sherwin said in March during a “60 Minutes” interview. “They breached the Capitol with the goal to obstruct an official proceeding . . . the Electoral College count.”
Prosecutors allege the Oath Keepers “prepared themselves for battle before heading to the Capitol by equipping themselves with communication devices and donning reinforced vests, helmets, and goggles.”
That silly talk now guides the ongoing criminal investigation targeting veterans and ex-cops not accused of committing any violent crime. The so-called militia did not bring a single weapon into the building; they went into the Capitol building around 2:40 p.m. and were outside by 3:00 p.m. Only one Oath Keeper, Joshua James, is charged with shoving an officer in an attempt to “violently take over the Capitol,” prosecutors allege.
A Flimsy Conspiracy
The only vandalism charge is “aiding and abetting” the destruction of government property because by going inside for roughly 20 minutes, the Justice Department claims, the Oath Keepers encouraged others to damage the Capitol; no one is accused of directly destroying or stealing government property.
The alleged “conspiracy” largely rests on evidence collected from the Oath Keepers’ own messaging accounts, which revealed lots of braggadocio but no plans for violence. Part of their grand conspiracy, according to the government, was “[d]onning clothes with the Oath Keepers insignia for the January 6 operation.”
Prosecutors also made a point of detailing how, at one point, a few Oath Keepers discussed whether they should wear khaki pants or jeans on their dangerous mission.
The Oath Keepers’ militia force is so lethal that one of its purported leaders, a nearly 70-year-old former Navy lieutenant, was too debilitated by his service-related injuries to even enter the building.
Despite all the ridiculous hyperbole, nearly five months later, Biden’s Justice Department still is struggling to build its case. A prosecutor asked a federal judge this week for another 60-day continuance before setting a trial date. Judge Amit Mehta, the federal magistrate handling the Oath Keepers case, granted a 60-day continuance in March claiming “the ends of justice served by granting a request for a continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.” (This happens repeatedly in January 6 prosecutions.)
During a hearing on June 1, the Justice Department requested more time because the trove of evidence is so voluminous, assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy said. Most of the proof will be gleaned from hours of body camera footage and surveillance video captured by the U.S. Capitol Police’s security system—recordings the USCP and Justice Department do not want the public, or even defense lawyers, to see.
“We are focusing on footage that shows what happened on January 6 with these defendants. I don’t know that we would provide every single camera footage even if it showed someone’s camera,” Rakoczy told one defense lawyer who wanted access to all the footage since it might contain exculpatory evidence. “I’m not certain we’ll provide all the footage.”
No Speedy Trials
Aside from slow-walking discovery and concealing potentially exculpatory evidence, Biden’s Justice Department also might have bitten off more than the court can chew with the Oath Keepers case. Mehta admitted a trial with 16 defendants is “not known in the history of this court” and warned the government might have to “divide up the case into manageable numbers.”
As the case drags on without a trial date—there’s no question the Justice Department plans to delay high-profile cases until 2022 to hang them around the necks of the “sedition caucus” during the midterm elections—the accused Oath Keepers continue to suffer various forms of punishment. Jessica Watkins, an Army veteran with a brief tour in Afghanistan who now is transgender, and Kelly Meggs remain incarcerated in part of a D.C. jail specifically used to house January 6 defendants. (In a motion opposing Meggs’ pretrial release, prosecutors falsely claimed “one police officer lost his life . . . in connection with the attack on the Capitol.)
The others are subjected to harsh home confinement requirements. Mehta this week rejected a request by Thomas Caldwell’s lawyer for more relaxed confinement rules, warning Caldwell, who needs another spinal fusion, is still a danger to his neighbors. “It’s not safe for the community for him to go wherever he wants whenever he wants,” the prosecutor concluded.
Mehta was more sympathetic to Connie Meggs, wife of Kelly, who needs to get a job to support her family while her husband is locked up in Deplorable Prison. Against the government’s objections, Mehta consented to let Connie Meggs find a job and walk on her five-acre farm.
The Justice Department warned more indictments against Oath Keepers’ members are forthcoming. (As I finished this column Thursday afternoon, another Oath Keeper was arrested in Alabama.)
More retribution against the Biden resistance.