An attorney for Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes told a federal judge on Wednesday that President Trump invoking the Insurrection Act would have made the group’s Jan. 6 plans legal.
In a hearing deciding whether Rhodes should remain behind bars pending trial, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta asked Oath Keepers lawyer James Lee Bright why the group had what they described as a Quick Reaction Force, referred to as a “QRF,” camped out in a hotel as the insurrection unfolded.
“This, your honor, is where we cross into some differing belief systems that not everyone will agree on,” Bright told Mehta.
The Oath Keepers positioned the heavily armed QRF at a Comfort Inn across the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia. Federal prosecutors have said that it was stationed there to respond with arms to the Capitol.
Bright told Mehta that the group existed so that if Black Lives Matter or Antifa members “went kinetic” and Trump activated the Insurrection Act, the QRF could then legally enter the district.
Mehta initially reacted with a question, asking Bright if he believed that Trump’s invoking the insurrection act meant that “private groups using arms to protect him” would be protected by law. Mehta also asked whether the Oath Keepers believe that they’re the militia of any state.
The Insurrection Act provides for the “use of militia and armed forces to enforce federal authority.”
Bright replied that members of the Oath Keepers came from several states.
“Just because they say they are from a state doesn’t make it so,” Mehta remarked.
During the June 2021 Black Lives matter protests, Trump aides reportedly prepared an Insurrection Act order that could have been used to have the U.S. Army put down instances of civil disorder.
The prospect of Trump invoking the act became part of the Oath Keepers’ post-election planning, prosecutors have said in court filings.
“If Trump activates the Insurrection Act, I’d hate to miss it,” Jessica Watkins, an Oath Keeper charged last year in connection with Jan. 6, allegedly wrote before the insurrection.
Rhodes himself told supporters at a Dec. 12 rally in D.C. that Trump should block Biden from taking power by invoking the law
“He needs to use that now, he needs to invoke the Insurrection Act and suppress this insurrection,” Rhodes said.
At the hearing, Mehta did not appear overly convinced by the argument. He described it as an “interesting concept,” before the discussion moved on.