Capitol Riot 'Oath Keeper' Seeks Release From Custody, Claiming Trump Led Insurrection

Capitol Riot 'Oath Keeper' Seeks Release From Custody,
Claiming Trump Led Insurrection 1

Local militias believed then-President Donald Trump was calling for their support ahead of the U.S. Capitol riot, lawyers acting for one paramilitary group leader have said.

Counsel for Jessica Watkins, of the far-right extremist group the “Oath Keepers,” argue that she and others believed Trump’s bogus claims of widespread election fraud because of the “rhetoric of the President, his congressional supporters, and the right-wing media.”

The claims were made in new court documents, released on Sunday, that seek Watkins’ release from custody as she awaits trial over multiple charges related to the January 6 disorder, when Trump-supporters stormed the Capitol.

In the latest legal filing in the case, her lawyers argue that Trump “held rallies designed to inflame his supporters” after losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.

“His supporters said he would invoke the Insurrection Act to use the military to ensure his continued presidency despite the election results, which they viewed as fraudulently reported in large measure because of the rhetoric of the President, his congressional supporters, and the right-wing media.”

At least seven members of the Oath Keepers militia face charges over allegations they coordinated the assault on Congress using messaging apps and social media while wearing tactical gear, according to the Justice Department.

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Watkins’ lawyers argue that the potential invocation of the Insurrection Act “took root in the online community of Trump supporters” and “led many local militias to believe they would have a role if this were to happen.”

“In November, [Watkins] believed that the President of the United States was calling upon her and her small militia group to support the President and the Constitution and she was ready to serve her Country in that manner,” according to their latest filing.

Watkins had a “VIP pass” for the January 5 and 6 rallies that she attended in order to “provide security to the speakers at the rally, to provide escort for the legislators and others to march to the Capitol as directed by the then-President,” her lawyers added.

This composite image shows then-President Donald Trump during a rally of his supporters near the White House on January 6, and an image that prosecutors say is Jessica Watkins near the U.S. Capitol that same day. Getty / FBI

Investigators also claim that Watkins acted on what she believed to be Trump’s orders.

“As the inauguration grew nearer, Watkins indicated that she was awaiting direction from President Trump,”read a DOJ criminal complaint filed earlier this month.

Unlike most of the capitol rioters, prosecutors argue, Watkins’ actions were premeditated. Authorities said Watkins had “trained and plotted” to obstruct the procedure of congress if Trump “activated” them—a word she used in a text sent in November.

Prosecutors argue that Watkins involvement extended beyond offering security.

An affidavit in support of the complaint claimed that she “knowingly and willfully joined and encouraged” those who forcibly entered the Capitol building with the intention of impeding the Senate‘s vote to confirm Joe Biden’s election victory.

Several of those facing charges over the violence at the Capitol have said that they were following Trump’s orders.

Trump was acquitted of charges of inciting the insurrection in his second impeachment trial earlier this month, because his fellow Republicans—except these seven—voted not to convict. The final vote of 57-43, left the prosecution 10 short of the two-thirds majority required.

The ex-commander-in-chief could still face criminal charges away from Congress. He was hit with a new lawsuit, again accusing him inciting the violence, earlier this week.

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