Storming the Capitol: Militia charged with conspiracy

MErrick Garland was recently criticized. In the prosecution of the rioters on January 6, 2021, the American Attorney General was accused of only taking action against the “little fish”. Now the Department of Justice is going on the offensive. A year after the storming of the Capitol, it brought charges against the leader of the far-right militia Oath Keepers and ten other members of the group. They are charged with “seditious conspiracy”.

Majid Sattar

Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.

The militia’s founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes, was arrested Thursday in the state of Texas, the Justice Department said. For him it is the first charge in connection with the attack on the Capitol. Several other members had previously been charged on other counts. According to the Justice Department, Rhodes is said to have conspired with the co-defendants with the aim of using violence to prevent the democratic transfer of power after the presidential election. Among other things, they planned to travel to Washington on January 6, 2021, organized weapons and paramilitary equipment and carried out training in combat techniques beforehand.

Several of the accused had entered the Capitol themselves, while others had taken care of further coordination outside the seat of Congress and partly outside the city. A maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison could be imposed for “seditious conspiracy”, it said.

First charge of ‘seditious conspiracy’

According to the Justice Department, more than 725 people have been prosecuted in almost every state in connection with the storming of the Capitol. In several cases, charges of obstruction of “sovereign proceedings” were opened. Other people were charged with assault and similar offences. Charges of “seditious conspiracy” have now been brought for the first time. The offense dates back to the beginning of the Civil War, when Congress was looking at ways to punish armed resisters against the Union. It has been used extremely rarely.

The question now is how far the investigation will go, given that some members of the militia have been in contact with a group of confidants of President-elect Donald Trump who were arrested on January 5 and 6, 2021 at the Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue near the spent in the White House. The parliamentary inquiry is trying to find out what communications there were between the White House and the Willard Hotel, which acted as the “war room.”

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The rioters had been urged by Trump, who claimed his election victory was being “stolen,” at a rally behind the White House, to go to the Capitol to “peacefully and patriotically” but “like the devil” to make sure the senators and deputies do not certify the election results. Several Republicans appealed the results of individual states in the certification process.

Rhodes, known for his eye patch, founded the “Oath Keepers” in 2009. The militia primarily recruits current and former police officers and soldiers. The group is classified as anti-government. Their creed is that their loyalty is to the constitution, not state authorities. The city of Washington sued the “Oath Keepers” and the right-wing group Proud Boys last December in civil proceedings because of the storming of the Capitol.

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