Secret recording: Oath Keepers leader wanted to warn Trump of upcoming 'combat here on US soil'
By Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNNUpdated: Wed, 02 Nov 2022 22:14:21 GMTSource: CNNIn a secretly recorded meeting days after January 6, 2021, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes allegedly triBy Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN
Updated: Wed, 02 Nov 2022 22:14:21 GMT
In a secretly recorded meeting days after January 6, 2021, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes allegedly tried to issue a warning to then-President Donald Trump, urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act and warning there would be "combat here on US soil."
Jason Alpers, a US military veteran who testified on Wednesday in the seditious conspiracy trial against Oath Keepers leaders that he had indirect connections to Trump, said he met with members of the Oath Keepers in an electronics store parking lot on January 10. Alpers testified he was asked to meet with Rhodes by his former employee who knew the militia leader, because Rhodes had a message for Trump.
Alpers did not explain what his connections were to the former president.
Alpers made a secret recording of the January 10 meeting.
"If he's not going to do the right thing, and he's just going to let himself be removed illegally, then we should have brought rifles," Rhodes said, according to the recording, which was played in court on Wednesday.
"We could have fixed it right then and there," Rhodes said of the US Capitol attack, according to the recording. "I'd hang f**king Pelosi from the lamppost."
During cross-examination, a defense lawyer for Rhodes, Phillip Linder, said that Alpers had previously described what Rhodes was saying at the meeting as "rhetoric" in comments to the FBI. Alpers also testified, during cross-examination, that at least one person at the meeting was drunk.
Alpers said that before the meeting he activated a thumb drive shaped recording device and put it in his pocket. When Alpers approached a group of men he believed were the Oath Keepers he was supposed to meet, Alpers testified one of the members demanded to know who he was, and that he was instructed to place his phone out of reach in a nearby car.
As the meeting began, Alpers said Rhodes asked him why Trump had not yet implemented the Insurrection Act.
"It's really hard to get to him right now," Alpers responded, according to the recording.
Rhodes ridiculed Trump for failing to "drain the freaking swamp" in the recording, and discussed how if Trump failed to act, the president and his family would be killed by his enemies -- a notion he allegedly repeated in a written message he asked Alpers to deliver to Trump.
"They are going to do to him and his family what happened to the Czar and his family," Rhodes said, according to the recording. "That's what's going to happen to the Trump family too. You know. It might be in prison -- could be raped and shanked in prison -- but they'll still wind up dead. That's the reality. And not just them, it's all of us too."
"There is gonna be combat here on US soil no matter what," Rhodes said on the recording. "No matter what you think they'll do. It's coming ... You can't get out of it. It's too f**king late."
Rhodes did not contest that it was him on the recording.
In his written message given to Alpers, which was read aloud to the jury, Rhodes allegedly offered a final warning to Trump: "Us veterans will die in combat on US soil fighting against traitors who YOU turned all of the powers of the presidency to."
During the meeting, Alpers pushed back on Rhodes several times, according to the recording. He testified that he was "sitting here thinking 'Why in the world am I here?'" Alpers thought that if he passed the message to Trump, which he described as "one sided" and "extremist," it would ruin his credibility with his contacts.
Alpers never passed along the message to Trump or anyone close to the president, he testified, and gave the recording and the note Rhodes wrote to the FBI several months later.
Rhodes has pleaded not guilty to the seditious conspiracy charges.