Indictment of Oath Keeper Rhodes on seditious conspiracy leads to Trump as “orchestrator”
Raskin says that the events at the Capital on Jan. 6 were essentially only a part of a well planned coup attempt. | Julio Cortez/AP

WASHINGTON—The indictment and arrest for “seditious conspiracy” of Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Keepers, one of three white nationalist groups which led the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and invasion of the U.S. Capitol, points to Donald Trump as the real orchestrator.

So says Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law professor and lead manager of the U.S. House team which tried impeached former GOP Oval Office occupant Trump for his incitement of that insurrection last year.

Raskin, also a member of the special U.S. House committee investigating the invasion, its runup and its aftermath, told a Progressive Change Campaign Committee zoom call the insurrection has three rings. Trump orchestrated the third, innermost, one.

Rhodes, 56, was arrested in Texas. Sixteen other people were also indicted on January 12, the Justice Department reported. Rhodes was a leader of the second, intermediate ring, covering white nationalist groups and conspiracy believers, Raskin added.

“But the very inner ring is the ring of the coup” whose planners schemed to keep Trump in power in defiance of the U.S. Constitution and the 2020 election’s outcome, he said.

“That ring was organized by the president and orchestrated by Donald Trump against the Vice President and against the Congress.”

Even before the election, Trump “knew he was going to lose” to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “So he accelerated both lawful and lawless efforts” to prevent the mandated changeover, Raskin elaborated in the hour-long talk and q-and-a.

And while Trump led the third inner ring of coup planners, Raskin called the Rhodes indictment, and the sedition charge “a significant breakthrough” in the federal investigation of the invasion. He predicted more serious-crime indictments would come and praised the Justice Department for building the case block by block.

The House committee is finding Rhodes’ group and other white nationalist organizations, such as the Proud Boys, “self-declared militias and Q-Anon conspiracists,” are part of a “middle ring” of actors in the insurrectionists’ coup d’etat attempt to keep Trump in power.

And those white nationalist groups were, and are “domestic extremists who are training for battle to shut down peaceful counts of votes,” both last January and onwards in future elections, Raskin warned.

The “outer ring” were the rest of the invaders, not group members, who converted the invasion into a riot. Rhodes’ group and others were the second ring. The innermost ring was the behind-the-scenes Trumpite leaders coordinating matters in a war room just two blocks from the White House.

Those inner ring Trumpites included confidantes Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn, plus right-wing GOP lawyer John Eastman. He drafted an elaborate plan to have the U.S. House elect Trump after the Electoral College did not, Raskin said.

The war room, in turn, closely communicated with Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, as Trump gleefully watched the whole invasion and insurrection on TV. But the committee already has huge evidence against Trump.

“We have definitive documentation,” from interviews with hundreds of witnesses, from past Justice Department indictments and from tens of thousands of documents and e-mails witnesses—and even Meadows—have turned over, Raskin elaborated.

Trump’s “lawful” efforts to overturn the election included 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts trying to void the results in key swing states, Raskin noted. Trump went 0-for-62. The lawless efforts were personal Trump pressure on 30 local and state election officials to demand vote counts be reversed and Trump electors be certified.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. | Jose Luis Magana/AP

The most prominent target of Trump’s calls was to Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a conservative businessman and Trump voter who was also the state’s top elections official. Trump demanded Raffensperger “find” exactly 11,780 more Trump votes in Georgia, thus beating Biden there by one vote.

That demand in and of itself, is “to commit electoral fraud,” Raskin said.

Other Trump calls went to election officials in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, he added. When the calls failed to move the vote counts, the war room decided “to throw out a smokescreen of propaganda” to void the Electoral College counts in Georgia and those states, depriving Biden of a majority and throwing the decision into the U.S. House.

There, votes are state-by-state and the GOP controls 27 House delegations to the Democrats’ 22, while Pennsylvania is split, Raskin noted. D.C., which has three electoral votes under the U.S. Constitution, can’t vote in that House tally.

“They (the House) would have declared Trump the winner and he would likely have followed Michael Flynn’s advice and immediately declared martial law, and called in the National Guard to put down violence and chaos” following that result, Raskin added.

The plan failed because Congress refused to void the electoral votes of the swing states—and because Vice President Mike Pence bluntly told and wrote Trump he lacked the power to do so on his own, as Trump demanded.

After “four years of toadying” to Trump, Pence “earned his pay” by just that one stand in favor of the U.S. Constitution, Raskin said.

Trump, as has been widely reported, blew up. Rhodes and the invaders erected a gallows on the Capitol lawn and went looking for Pence, vowing to hang him from it.

As a result, the arrests of Rhodes and 16 others, plus the seditious conspiracy indictment, ratchets up the pressure on those higher-ups who backed the Trump invasion and their coup d’etat attempt.

“Rhodes and certain co-conspirators”—the others indicted—“planned to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021,” Inauguration Day, the indictment reads.

“They coordinated travel across the country to Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’ call to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction” to keep Trump in power.

The invaders ransacked the Capitol, injuring at least 140 police officers trying to hold them off and—as a result later on—killing five. Police fatally shot one invader and two others died of heart attacks.

Trump’s incitement of the invaders, who were decked out in military gear, armed with bear spray, pepper spray, flagpoles converted to spears, shields and more, led the U.S. House to impeach Trump. Raskin led the House prosecution team in the ensuing trial.

To his “great disappointment,” the evenly split U.S. Senate did not muster the 67 votes needed to convict Trump, five weeks after the invasion, Raskin told the PCCC in the January 12 nationwide Zoom call.

At the end, seven Republicans joined all 48 Democrats and both independents in voting to convict Trump. The other 43 Republicans voted “no.” They kowtowed to Trump’s stranglehold on their party—which Raskin said is not functioning as a genuine political party any more.

Instead, it “operates like a mass political cult headed by a quasi-organized crime family.”

“They reject our Constitution and operate outside it.”

Raskin also warned the white nationalist threats to the Constitution have continued and escalated since the failed coup attempt and despite the indictments and guilty pleas so far. Virtually all the guilty pleas—some 160—have been for breaking and entering and similar criminal offenses with short sentences. That’s what makes the Rhodes indictment, where conviction carries a sentence of years, different.

But it won’t stop the plotters, Raskin warned.

“if you look at what they’re saying” on social media, numbers have reached 40,000-50,000 and “they’re bringing their firearms” next time, not leaving them behind in Virginia hotels due to D.C.’s strict gun possession laws. “They’ve identified their weaknesses, too.”

Like his listeners, Raskin said he grew up “with the nation that ‘It can’t happen here,’” of coups and takeovers that roil other nations.

“Forget that. It can happen here. It almost happened here.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.