Washington – A one-time member of the far-right Oath Keepers told the jury that he was led to believe that group leader Stewart Rhodes had the phone number of a US Secret Service agent and that Rhodes had been in contact with him. Individuals in the months prior to January 6, 2021,,
John Zimmerman, a former member of the North Carolina chapter of the militia group and military veteran, testified that Rhodes told him of an alleged relationship with the agent during a September 2020, phone call between Rhodes and the man Zimmerman believed to be the Secret Service. Was the agent before Trump’s rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Zimmerman, called as a government witness in the case, said that although he could not hear the other end of the call, Rhodes assured him that he had spoken with the agent about gun laws in the DC area before the rally.
Rhodes and four codependents — Kelly Meigs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, and Thomas Caldwell — are on trial for multiple charges stemming from their alleged planning and involvement in the January 6 Capitol attack, including a high crime of seditious conspiracy. Each has pleaded not guilty.
The US Secret Service said in a statement that they were “aware” that individuals of those taking the oath had contacted them.
“Regardless of the organization’s affiliation, weapons of any kind are not permitted inside a Secret Service protected site or site,” the Secret Service said in a statement. “Only sworn law enforcement officers who are actively participating with the security plan are allowed to carry weapons at these locations. As part of our protective mission, we are including traffic and crowd management protocols at those locations. Will establish an overall security plan where a protected person is scheduled to travel. As part of this effort, it is not uncommon for various organizations to contact us about security restrictions and activities that are occurring near our protected sites. are allowed.”
Officials said the Secret Service is not aware of any allegations of criminal wrongdoing between their ranks in connection with the Rhodes case.
Prosecutors called Zimmerman — who said he was a member of the Oath Keepers group for nearly three months — to discuss planning and coordinating the group ahead of events in September and November of 2020, most notably, East in Washington. A march in support of President Donald Trump. , after the election of DC, 2020.
Before the November 14, 2020 performance, the witness said he was joined by Rhodes and other Oath Keepers at Calwell’s Virginia home, where they planned their appearance in the capital city. Zimmerman said he was headed to DC to provide protective services in the area and was preparing a possible call for action from Trump should the former president invoke the Insurgency Act.
According to Zimmerman, Oath Keepers moved more than a dozen firearms, including long guns and handguns, outside Washington, D.C., in hopes that Trump would enforce a decades-old law that would take up arms against Zimmerman’s specialty. Rogue government” and reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election.
But Trump’s call never came, and Zimmerman told the jury that the group provided personal security details to high-profile participants in the mass protest and were ready to provide medical care if needed. They said they were on particularly high alert for any violence from their alleged political rivals, members of ANIFA or Black Lives Matter groups.
Zimmerman testified that Rhodes’ desire to lure those opponents into acts of violence caused a rift in the group that eventually prompted Zimmerman to leave the Oath Keepers. Zimmerman said he saw the North Carolina contingent as an extension of law enforcement and wanted no part in Rhodes’ plan to incite violence.
Still, the witness said, he and other sworn defenders were prepared for violence and Trump’s action.
“We will need weapons in the event that President Trump invokes the Insurgency Act,” he told prosecutors in court on Thursday, adding that there was “a lot of room to carry weapons” in his car, which is located in Caldwell’s Virginia. The property was outside Washington, DC. borders, where gun laws are very strict.
According to Zimmerman, concerns about gun laws were the impetus for Rhodes’s alleged call to an apparent Secret Service agent in September 2020, months before the rally in Washington, D.C. ) staged. Four to five miles away from where then-President Trump was ready to speak if violence broke out and he needed to respond. The goal of the call, Zimmerman said, was to establish “boundaries.”
Officials said firearms and weapons are not allowed inside areas protected by the Secret Service, but areas outside a safe zone, near presidential events, are under the jurisdiction of state and local officials. The US Secret Service does not determine what happens outside a safe zone.
Zimmerman did not come to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, but prosecutors charged Oath Keepers who – including the five defendants in the trial – again staged an armed QRF, this time at a hotel in Virginia. He is accused of collecting weapons and supplies and investigators say Caldwell was seen on January 6 using a boat to ferry QRFs into the city, if Trump called him.
According to court documents filed earlier this year before the trial, William Wilson, another member of the North Carolina Oath Keepers, told prosecutors that on the evening of January 6, Rhodes repeatedly called an unidentified person on the phone “to President Trump.” to tell”. Call upon groups like Oath Rakshak to oppose the forcible transfer of power.”
During cross-examination on Thursday, defense attorneys asked Zimmerman about his views on the Oath Keepers’ disarray and their decision to leave the group, trying to poke holes in the government’s argument that the group was against the government in January. involved in an organized conspiracy. 6.
“I love Stewart Rhodes, I love Jessica. I love them all,” Zimmerman said, “I don’t like what they did and I don’t like some of the incidents we’ve gone through.” ”
In the first days of the week-long trial, prosecutors have accused Rhodes and his allies of planning to bring weapons into the DC area to use force to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
In a recorded portion from the courtroom played on Tuesday, November 9, 2020, Rhodes reportedly told attendees, “You have to be prepared to go to D.C. and street-fight Antifa … if the fight comes.” So, let the fight come.” According to the FBI agent who took the stand, they were reportedly planning a Trump rally on November 14.
Nicole Sagana contributed to this report.