Right-wing Oathsmen leader Stewart Rhodes, who prosecutors say has called for a “bloody revolution” to keep then-President Donald Trump in power, has portrayed himself as an anti-racist liberal, He defended himself Friday when he testified that the 2020 election was unconstitutional.
Rhodes is the first of five defendants to testify in federal court in Washington, D.C., charged with inciting conspiracy.
The courtroom was packed as he testified, with Rhodes choking on several occasions about his family, suicide rates among veterans and other topics highlighted by his attorney, Philip Lind. He spoke directly to the jury and seemed comfortable in the stands.
Rhodes explained to the jury that he does not believe Trump or Joe Biden will win in 2020 because the election itself is “unconstitutional.”
“I believe the election was unconstitutional, and that invalidates it,” Rhodes testified. “You really can’t win an unconstitutional election.”
Rhodes told the jury that, in his view, election laws in several states were changed by “executive orders” rather than through state legislatures.
“In multiple states, especially in swing states … you let them make new rules that directly violate state law,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said “everyone is focusing on computers” and other theories about voter fraud, not constitutional issues, which they need to discuss before figuring out “whether there is fraud on the ground.”
Rhodes did not detail any specific laws that were changed. CNN found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Prosecutors claimed Rhodes wanted Trump to stay in power while militia leaders backed a “bloody revolution” to secure the presidency.
Rhodes told the jury on Friday how he honorably discharged from the military and continued to study law at Yale, focusing his attention on the Bill of Rights — which Rhodes called “the crown jewel of our Constitution” — — and protecting civil rights after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Rhodes, a self-described liberal, testified that he founded Oath Keepers in 2009 to “reach, change and inspire” people to learn about their constitutional rights.
Rhodes has pushed back against claims he believes the sworn takers are racists or white nationalists, saying the group travels to cities for racial justice protests, claiming the group protects “minority business owners in Ferguson, Missouri”. “.
“Frankly, we embarrassed the police because we showed them how to do the right thing and protect business owners while still respecting the rights of protesters,” Rhodes testified.
Rhodes claimed that the sworn-in rule expressly prohibits any member who “suggests the overthrow of the United States.”
In the weeks leading up to the seditious conspiracy trial against the far-right group, prosecutors presented evidence that the Oathkeepers stockpiled weapons on Jan. 6 at a Virginia hotel as part of the so-called Rapid Response Force. Prosecutors say the five defendants intend to use the weapons in Trump’s call to stop the transfer of power to Biden.
Rhodes told the jury that was not the case, and claimed the QRF was set up at an event the Keepers of the Oath attended to “respond in an emergency”, including whether his men were injured.
Rhodes said Oathkeepers also use QRF every time they provide security, including several events in Washington, D.C. After the election, Rhodes testified that he feared Antifa would “attack the White House” and claimed the left-wing group threatened to “drag Trump out” if the president refused to budge.
In November, “I was concerned that this might actually happen,” Rhodes told the jury, citing his remarks at a recording session.
If Antifa did attempt to attack the White House, Rhodes said, “President Trump could use the Insurgency Act, declare this an insurgency, and use myself and other veterans to protect the White House.”
There have been no such attacks at the White House.
Rhodes is expected to testify on Monday.