(Washington) The founder of the far-right American group Oath Keepers denied on Monday, at the 21e day of his trial for “sedition”, having “planned” the storming of the Capitol and considered it “stupid” that members of his militia had joined it.
Stewart Rhodes, a 57-year-old former serviceman known for his black eye patch and fiery rants, has been on trial for more than a month along with four other members of the Oath Keepers in federal court in Washington.
Prosecutors accuse them of having “conspired” to forcibly oppose the results of the 2020 presidential election and of having planned the assault by buying and storing weapons near the federal capital.
Helmeted and equipped with combat gear, they joined supporters of Donald Trump who invaded the Capitol when elected officials certified Joe Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021.
Stewart Rhodes had remained on the outside, but according to prosecutors, he had led his troops with a radio “like a general on the battlefield”.
“We weren’t there to block the certification of the results, we hadn’t planned to enter the Capitol,” he retorted with great confidence in front of the jurors. “It was not part of our mission. »
According to him, the Oath Keepers are “a law enforcement organization” and were simply to provide security during a demonstration called by Donald Trump to protest the election results.
Claiming to have been presented with a fait accompli, he considered it “stupid” that some of its members entered the headquarters of Congress. “It opened the door to our political persecution, and look where we are,” he added.
Stewart Rhodes must now be cross-examined by the lawyers for his co-defendants and the prosecutors.
With a law degree from the prestigious Yale University, he insisted on taking the stand, although most of the defendants of January 6 have so far abstained.
More than 880 participants in this attack were arrested and hundreds convicted to varying degrees. Donald Trump is the subject of a parliamentary inquiry to determine his responsibility.