At last, some good news in the year-long case into the trumpian rioters who stormed the nation's Capitol to disrupt our electoral system. The Department of Justice arrested the leader of the Oath Keepers - one of trump's militant backers - on the charge of seditious conspiracy, a more serious charge than the Obstruction charges most of the 725 previously detained rioters have been hit with (via Carrie Johnson and Ryan Lucas at NPR):
Federal authorities arrested Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes in Texas on Thursday morning and also took Edward Vallejo into custody in Arizona. The other nine people had already been accused of some crimes related to the siege on the Capitol last year.
The grand jury indictment in the District of Columbia is the most serious and sweeping case to emerge from the federal investigation into the Capitol riot and the first to include the seditious conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Rarely seen in recent years, seditious conspiracy charges are made against those who plot to prevent the execution of U.S. law.
The Justice Department said the Oath Keepers were determined to stop the lawful transfer of power, with two groups marching in military-style formations toward the Capitol that day and other personnel labeled "quick reaction forces" waiting outside D.C. to transport firearms and other weapons. Vallejo allegedly helped coordinate one of those quick-reaction teams.
The court papers said the defendants organized teams to use force and bring firearms to the Capitol, recruited members to participate, organized trainings and brought paramilitary gear, knives, batons and radio equipment to Washington.
Rhodes communicated with other leaders on Jan. 6 using a chat group on the encrypted app Signal, according to court documents.
"Pence is doing nothing. As I predicted," Rhodes typed to the group that day. "All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the Patriots are taking it into their own hands. They've had enough..."
Just in case you're interested, the actual law being enforced here is 18 USC 2384:
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
It may have taken a year, but it likely involved the slow digging through the 700-plus foot soldiers of Rhodes' army to flip enough documented evidence to bring this charge to the judges. This is big league stuff now, and the organizers of this planned riot - hi, trump's inner circle working the war room at the Willard Hotel! - are the next link in this flowchart of shame.
Let's go to Emptywheel - who's been covering this with great detail - and see what she has to say about it:
The charges are, at once, no big deal, because they’re really just the same conspiracy charged in a different way with two conspiracies added. They’re a huge deal, because now Republicans will be hard pressed to continue to downplay January 6. And they’re a solution to some problems and a tool to move on...
Though Kenneth Harrelson released some of the key communications from the Willard Hotel from earlier in the day, those still don’t show up in this indictment. So the government is remaining coy about what it knows about coordination with people at the Willard Hotel. That’s probably because it still needs others to flip — Joshua James would be ideal, but Roberto Minuta might be useful as well — to confirm whatever Mark Grods and Mike Simmons (if he is cooperating) were able to offer about it.
But they are making it clear that they know more about some communications they’ve been talking about for some time...This indictment will, presumably, impress all those who’ve been wailing the existing 20 year charges the Oath Keepers were facing were not adequate. But it may also clear a path to move up the chain...
The rioters doing the dirty work busting into Congressional chambers and offices have ties to the Oath Keepers. This seditious conspiracy charge shows the coordination between the Oath Keepers, and provides a link to trump's people. And trump's people are linked to trump himself: NONE of them could have done this without his blessing.
Where Mueller had a problem proving a link between trump's 2016 campaign to Russian business and political allies - because of the Obstruction that the Congressional Democrats failed to investigate towards impeachment - there's already a lot of evidence between the rioters to the war rooms (there were two, one at Willard Hotel and one in the Eisenhower Executive Office (!)) and between the war rooms and trump.
Evidence but not enough proof yet to take to a court of law. THAT'S where the Justice Department needs to hurry up. There's not a lot of time between now and November 2022 when the midterms could lead to the Republicans reclaimed part or all of Congressional control to obstruct any further investigations and arrests.
I know they want to get it right, but dammit the clock is not on the nation's side. If any accountability, if any justice can be done to punish trump for his coup attempt, it's got to be soon.