The Oath Keepers not only “had no plan” to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes III told his members that afternoon, “Whatever you do, don’t try to enter the Capitol,” Rhodes told the FBI in an extensive interview obtained by The Epoch Times.
Information from Rhodes’s interview with two FBI agents in Texas in May 2021 contradicts much of what's in the January indictment charging him with seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, and two other Jan. 6 charges.
Rhodes and four co-defendants will go on trial on Sept. 27, accused of plotting to interfere with the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, and preventing the “peaceful transfer of power” between then-President Donald Trump and then-President-elect Joe Biden. He faces a possible sentence of life in prison, based on threats by prosecutors to seek sentencing enhancers for alleged terrorism.
In the interview—a transcript of which was obtained by The Epoch Times—Rhodes repeatedly said the Oath Keepers had no plan to attack the Capitol and, in fact, did nothing of the sort.
When he realized some Oath Keepers had gone into the Capitol, he called an end to their event-security mission and ordered them all to rendezvous with him on the east side of the complex, he said.
“Everyone came right there where I told them to go, not because I wanted them to go do anything else, [but] because I wanted to get them all together to keep them out of trouble,” Rhodes said. “I didn't want them getting involved in any of the [expletive].”
Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs informed Rhodes that he and other Oath Keepers went into the Capitol on a first-aid mission, Rhodes said.
“So when I figured out what had happened, that people had gone in on the Supreme Court side and that some of our guys had gone in, that's when I was like, ‘OK, guys, let's move. Get them all together. Let's go towards the Supreme Court,” Rhodes said. “Just get off the Capitol grounds. Get the [expletive] out of here. That's what we did.
"There was no [expletive] plan on our part to go inside that Capitol.”
The FBI agents who met with Rhodes in Texas served a warrant to seize his phone. Rhodes gave them the security PIN to access the phone and walked them through the content in an apparent effort to show that he had nothing to hide.
He offered to turn himself in if there were ever charges in the case.
“Based on what we talked about, I can’t see that happening, Stewart,” one of the FBI agents said.
When he was arrested in January, a SWAT team came to his Texas home and ordered him to surrender.
Rhodes and Oath Keepers general counsel Kellye SoRelle—who sat in on the FBI interview—expressed concerns that their accounts of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach would be twisted by prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Hey, let me know if you need anything else answered,” Rhodes said near the end of the interview. “I'll talk to you. ... I don't trust your bosses. Just being blunt with you. I don’t. Yeah, especially the DOJ. I don't trust any—I don't trust lawyers in general.”
Rhodes expressed concern that content on his phone “doesn’t get leaked to the [expletive] media.”
“We don’t operate like that,” an FBI agent told him.
Oath Keepers Provided SecurityRhodes reiterated the story he has told ever since, that the Oath Keepers went to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, to provide security for events and escort VIPs to locations around the Capitol, where they were scheduled to speak at various events, from Trump’s speech at the Ellipse.
“Well, there were permitted events around the Capitol,” Rhodes said. “So there was Latinos for Trump, there was Ali Alexander's, and I believe there were several other ones that were permitted around the Capitol because originally, that's where everyone was going to go.
“Then, Trump decided to go hold his own thing on the Ellipse, which kind of sucked all the air out of those other events,” he said. “But none of those events were intended to be, ‘Let's storm the Capitol.’ It was, ‘Go there and protest.’”
Rhodes said he spoke at a Latinos for Trump event near the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021. SoRelle—for whom Rhodes was providing security—got cold, so they retreated to a nearby hotel in which one of the Oath Keepers was staying.
“So we're at the hotel, and then Whip called me and said, ‘Hey, they're storming the Capitol.’ I'm like, ‘Okay. We're gonna head back that way. Where are you at?’” Rhodes said. “And it was just me and him trying to link up.
“And it didn't even enter my head that any of my guys would be that [expletive] retarded. I put a message out saying, ‘Whatever you do, you know, don't try to enter the Capitol.’”
Rhodes said he and SoRelle then headed to the Capitol, walking up on the east side. He said they had no idea that violence had broken out on the west side, where a massive crowd had gathered.
“We walked on the Supreme Court side. There were no barriers or no cops saying, ‘You can't come in here.’” he said. “Nothing. Just a bunch of people standing on the steps.”
Rhodes said he used the encrypted messenger app Signal to put out the word to the Oath Keepers to meet up at a point on the Capitol perimeter near the Supreme Court. As teams of Oath Keepers arrived, he learned that some of them had entered the Capitol through the Columbus Doors atop the east steps.
“I was like, ‘Let's get the [expletive] off this property,'” Rhodes said. “'Let's get out of here, you know? Let's go.' That was it, man.”
Rhodes said Meggs then told him that a group went inside the Capitol after hearing that a woman had been shot.
“‘We heard someone had been shot, so we went in to render medical aid,’” Rhodes quoted Meggs as saying. “Now, if he'd have asked me, ‘Hey, Stewart, we think someone's been shot. Should we go inside?’ I would have said, ‘No. Stay.'
“You can—he had two medics with him, you know. I was like, ‘Hey, post outside, like at the base of the steps. You want to help someone, post outside. They can bring people to you.'”
Rhodes said he and Greene tried to reach Meggs earlier, but they couldn't get a phone signal.
QRFs Not Part of a PlotProsecutors allege that Rhodes and the Oath Keepers stockpiled a cache of firearms and ammunition at a Virginia hotel to be used by “quick-reaction forces” (QRFs) in the event of an attack on the Capitol.
He told the FBI that the QRFs would have only been used if Trump had invoked the Insurrection Act and called up a militia to protect the White House in the event of attacks by Antifa, which they had threatened to do.
The QRFs were also put in place to throw off Antifa, which had attacked Trump supporters at Washington events in late 2020, according to Rhodes.
“But the QRF thing, that was mostly mind [expletive] for Antifa,” he said. “Now, if Trump would have called us up as militia, would I have gone? Of course. Absolutely. But I wouldn't have [expletive] gone anywhere in D.C. with any firearms, whatsoever, unless he did that.
“Because there was a bunch of talk in November about them storming the White House. They were saying they were gonna go and lay siege to the White House. And so, I was concerned about that. They made a bunch of noise about that."
Antifa doesn't mess with the Oath Keepers, in part because they can’t know which of them might be current or retired police officers who are allowed to carry concealed firearms anywhere under the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA), Rhodes said.
“They'd never actually close on us, ever, not once,” he said. “None of our guys have ever drawn their weapon on them, to my knowledge. Never pepper sprayed anybody. Never hit anybody with a baton.”
Rhodes told the FBI agents several times that the QRFs were for use only “if President Trump called us up as the militia.”
“And our big concern was Antifa,” he said. “My concern was Antifa was gonna go kinetic. You know, what if Antifa goes kinetic?”
Rhodes told the agents that the Oath Keepers were no threat to the FBI or the government.
“We're pretty [expletive] boring, actually,” he said. “All we do is go protect people and property and events. And that's it. That's the drill.”
If Rhodes was worried about what the FBI would find on his phone, he didn’t act like it. After some initial back and forth as to whether providing the PIN to his phone would be considered consent to search, Rhodes told the agents where to find various types of information.
“I always told my guys, ‘We’re not hiding [expletive] from the U.S. government.’ Don’t even worry about that,” he said.
Rhodes told agents that he hadn't deleted content from his phone. He joked with one of them when the agent said, “I'm not gonna be scarred from this, am I?”
“I'm not going back and trying to delete [expletive]. No. All my dirty laundry's in there, man,” Rhodes said. “You'll see. All my [expletive] weird-ass [expletive]. ... Don’t watch the videos. Unless that’s your thing.”
'I Like Guns'Rhodes was plain-spoken about his affinity for firearms.
"I like guns. I buy guns and ammo all the [expletive] time,” he said. “So don't let your DOJ or whatever, D.C. weirdos, freak out on the fact that I like guns. So I go shooting all the time. I buy guns and ammo. Especially right now.
“Our [expletive] focus has been—it wasn't on you guys—it's been on the [expletive] (indiscernible) Antifa and the radical left. Our whole perspective is like, that’s our enemies.”
Rhodes said he's always armed, except when he goes to Washington.
“I've been carrying guns for years,” he said. “So when I go to D.C., we leave our [expletive] in Virginia. You know?”