Oath Keepers Founder Tried to Tell Trump That Biden Would ‘Turn All That Power on You’

Leandro Mortenegro
  • A government witness recorded a meeting with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes after January 6.
  • Jason Alpers said Rhodes typed a message for Trump warning his children would “die in prison.”
  • Alpers denied that he was working on behalf of law enforcement during the January 10 meeting.

Just days after the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes drafted a message to then-President Donald Trump warning of dire consequences if he did not take more drastic action to overturn the 2020 election and remain in power.

“If you don’t then Biden/Kamala will turn all that power on you, your family, and all of us. You and your family will be imprisoned and killed,” Rhodes wrote. “You and your children will die in prison.”

The message, in which Rhodes implored Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, was not ultimately delivered. But it emerged as evidence Wednesday in the trial of Rhodes and four other members of the far-right Oath Keepers group charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 attack.

Prosecutors introduced the message as they questioned Jason Alpers, the owner of a software development firm, who met with Rhodes on January 10, 2021, in Texas. Alpers testified that he recorded the meeting with a “thumb drive-type recording device,” which he had purchased on his own at a computer store.

Under cross-examination, Alpers said he was not working on behalf of a law enforcement agency when he made the recording. An Army veteran who said he once worked in “special operations and psychological operations,” Alpers said he communicated with the FBI only after the January 6 attack and his meeting with Rhodes.

In court, prosecutors played audio from Alpers’ recording in which Rhodes called for civil war in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack.

“Fight’s coming, I’m not fucking living on my knees, no fucking way. … We’re just the tip of the iceberg. There’s millions of others that feel the same way about this shit that we do,” Rhodes said in the recording.

Rhodes added that his “only regret” about January 6 was the lack of more lethal weaponry.

“We could have fixed it right there and then,” Rhodes said in the recording.

Rhodes and four other Oath Keepers members — Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — witnessed the testimony inside the courtroom Wednesday, where jurors are hearing prosecutors’ allegations that they plotted to violently oppose the peaceful transfer of power. During the trial, prosecutors have presented evidence of the Oath Keepers stockpiling weapons at a hotel outside Washington, DC, for so-called “quick reaction forces” that could be called into the nation’s capital.

Alpers testified that he had connections to Trump’s inner circle and, in early 2021, could send a message to the then-president “indirectly.” During his meeting with Rhodes, Alpers said he had the Oath Keepers founder type a message intended for Trump on his phone so that he could “clearly put his thoughts down on a document.”

“It was clearly his thoughts,” Alpers testified Wednesday.

In that draft message, Rhodes sought to tell Trump that he “must do as Lincoln did.”

“He arrested congressmen, state legislators, and issued a warrant for SCOTUS Chief Justice Taney. Take command like Washington would. … Go down in history as the savior of the Republic, not a man who surrendered it,” Rhodes wrote, according to evidence presented by prosecutors.

“I am here for you and so are all my men. We will come help you if you need us. Military and police. And so will your millions of supporters,” Rhodes added.

Alpers said he did not pass on Rhodes’ advice to Trump “because I didn’t agree with the message.”

Federal prosecutors are expected to rest their case against Rhodes and the four other Oath Keepers members this week. At the outset of the trial, Rhodes’ lawyer told jurors that the Oath Keepers founder planned to testify in his own defense.

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