Jan. 6 Committee Goes After Oath Keepers and Internet Giants

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Stewart Rhodes. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, has been arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy alongside 10 other Oath Keepers or associates for guiding a months-long effort to unleash politically motivated violence to prevent the swearing-in of President Biden that culminated in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, reports the Washington Post.

The indictment marks the first time the historically rare charge of seditious conspiracy has been leveled in connection with the wide-ranging Jan. 6 probe. Rhodes and 10 others were charged with seditious conspiracy related to the use of violence to hinder the execution of federal law and punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Seven others, who are not alleged to be ringleaders or organizers, remain charged with conspiracy and obstruction of Congress.

Rhodes has accused prosecutors of trying to manufacture a nonexistent conspiracy. But the charging document shows FBI agents recovered a great deal of their communications — including discussions after the riot in which Rhodes’ followers voiced enthusiasm for continued rebellion and suggested they adopt tactics similar to the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War.

The indictment charges that Rhodes and eight others tampered with evidence by deleting files, messages or photographs on their electronic devices. Meanwhile, the Courthouse News Service reports that the January 6 congressional committee has subpoenaed social media giants Twitter, Reddit, Facebook parent Meta, and YouTube parent Google, saying the companies had failed to furnish requested items vital to the investigation.

The request specifically honed in on the companies’ internal or external reviews of misinformation related to the 2020 presidential election, any content related to the subject that was related to law enforcement and other relevant communications.

“Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” said committee chair Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi.

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