A jury convicted four more members of the far-right Oath Keepers group of seditious conspiracy today, bringing to a close one the highest-profile prosecutions to be brought thus far in response to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. It also leaves us with the question: will that be it when it comes to accountability for the attack?
In closing arguments on Monday, some of the Oath Keepers’ lawyers were not subtle in outlining where they believe the real blame for the attack should lie.
“Responsibility really rests at our politicians’ feet,” Scott Weinberg, the attorney for Oath Keeper David Moerschel said on Monday, per the Washington Post. “The president and Stewart Rhodes were claiming that the world is coming to an end even before the election.”
The jury found the four defendants — Joseph Hackett, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo — guilty of seditious conspiracy, the most serious charge brought by Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department (thus far) in response to the violent insurrection two years ago this month. A jury found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of the same charge last year.
While almost 1,000 people have been charged with lesser offenses for participating in the assault on the Capitol — one of whom put his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk and was convicted of several federal crimes on Monday, including theft of mail — just 14 members of far-right groups were charged with the more serious offense of planning and engaging in a political attack. Five members of the Proud Boys have also been charged with the same offense and are currently facing trial.
The Oath Keepers’ attorneys argued throughout this trial that the members of the group were misled by Rhodes, who had been radicalized by then-President Trump’s calls for the election to be overturned. Per the Post:
Through attorneys, the defendants claimed their motives and actions, while foolish, were idiosyncratic and unplanned. They were drawn to the Oath Keepers not to overthrow the government but for protection from the antifascists, criminals and covid restrictions right-wing media led them to fear, they argued. Rhodes then convinced them he was likely to receive orders directly from President Donald Trump to muster as a defense force under the Insurrection Act.
The DOJ is still reportedly investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and more broadly efforts to overturn the 2020 election and we’re still waiting to see if special counsel Jack Smith will recommend charges in that probe, and, separately, in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Meanwhile, the members of Congress most compromised for helping with parts of Trump’s coup are now in charge of oversight and investigations. Trump is running for president again. But at least the far-right militia guys acting as foot soldiers in Trump’s war are being held to account.
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