WASHINGTON — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes wrote a message intended for former President Donald Trump in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, calling upon Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to stay in power and arrest members of Congress.
“If you don’t then Biden/Kamala will turn all that power on you, your family, and all of us. You and your family will be imprisoned and killed,” Rhodes wrote in a message presented in court Wednesday. “You and your children will die in prison.”
The message, which also called for Trump to have members of Congress and state legislators arrested, was not delivered.
Jason Alpers, a government witness in the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial, testified Wednesday that he had a recording device in his pocket that was disguised as a thumb drive when he met with Rhodes on Jan. 10, 2021, just a few days after the Jan. 6 attack. Alpers said he bought the recording device on his own and had previously used it. Alpers testified that he was not working on behalf of a federal law enforcement agency when he made the recording.
The meeting took place in a parking lot of an electronics store in Texas. In the audio, Rhodes asks others at the meeting to "get rid of your phones," and Alpers testified that everyone put their phones in a car to make the meeting more secure.
Alpers, the owner of a software development company and a former military special operations operator who was deployed overseas, said he started communicating with the FBI months after the attack on the Capitol and his meeting with Rhodes. Alpers testified that he had connections to Trump's inner circle and said he could get a message to Trump "indirectly."
When he met with Rhodes on Jan. 10, he had Rhodes type a message intended for Trump on his phone. Alpers ultimately did not send the message to Trump or any of Trump’s associates, he testified.
“You must do as Lincoln did," Rhodes wrote in the message. "He arrested congressmen, state legislators, and issued a warrant for SCOTUS Chief Justice Taney. Take command like Washington would. ... Go down in history as the savior of the Republic, not a man who surrendered it."
“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," Rhodes wrote.
Alpers said he disagreed with the path Rhodes was laying out, so he did not send the message.
“It would have wrapped me into agreeing with that ideology in some way, which I did not,” Alpers said. “I didn’t want to get involved."
Rhodes and four other Oath Keepers — Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — are on trial charged with seditious conspiracy for their actions on Jan. 6. The Justice Department alleges that Rhodes and members of his organization plotted to oppose the peaceful transfer of power and stockpiled guns in “quick reaction forces” just outside Washington that could be taken into the city at a moment’s notice. Other members alleged to be part of the conspiracy will go on trial this month.
Prosecutors on Wednesday also played some recordings of Rhodes that Alpers captured, including audio of Rhodes talking about civil war in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack.
“Fight’s coming. I’m not f---ing living on my knees, no f---ing way. … We’re just the tip of the iceberg. There’s millions of others that feel the same way about this s--- that we do," Rhodes said in a recording.
“How’s he want to go down in history? He’ll go down in history as the greatest president since George Washington if he does the right thing," Rhodes continued.
Rhodes said in the recording that his "only regret" about Jan. 6 was that they didn't bring firearms with them.
“We should have brought rifles. We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang f---in’ Pelosi from the lamppost," Rhodes said.
Oath Keepers general counsel Kellye SoRelle has said Rhodes was asking her for her Trump world contacts in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. As NBC News has reported, SoRelle was in touch with Andrew Giuliani, a Trump White House official and the son of Rudy Giuliani, after the November 2020 election. SoRelle, who had a relationship with Rhodes, was charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack in September and pleaded not guilty.
The government indicated Wednesday that prosecutors would present two more witnesses, both FBI special agents, before they rested their case.
Oath Keepers members Joshua James, Brian Ulrich and William Todd Wilson all pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. Several other Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty to other charges, including two — Jason Dolan and Graydon Young — who testified at the trial. Dolan testified that he was prepared to die to keep Trump in office. While Young testified that he was "acting like a traitor" on Jan. 6, Dolan testified that he was hoping to scare members of Congress.
“I wanted them to be afraid of me,” Dolan has testified. “If they weren’t going to, in my perspective, do the right thing, maybe they could be scared into doing the right thing."