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Sedition Charges Demolish a Right-Wing Talking Point

Steve Bannon and other Trump defenders had bizarrely contended that Jan. 6th was no big deal because there were no indictments for sedition.
January 14, 2022
Sedition Charges Demolish a Right-Wing Talking Point

Steve Bannon thought he had a really great point on his podcast last Wednesday—the day before the anniversary of the Jan. 6th insurrection.

The federal government, he noted, led historic investigations against the Communists, the Black Panthers, the Ku Klux Klan, the Weathermen, jihadist terrorists, and others. But the government had failed to bring any major charges against the Jan. 6th rioters:

[Attorney General] Merrick Garland has said . . . this is the largest criminal investigation in the history of the FBI, the largest criminal investigation. . . . I’m talking about the largest criminal investigation. They’ve had big-time investigations before. This is larger than that. They brag about it. I just want to repeat, nobody’s been charged with insurrection. One year after. Nobody’s been charged with sedition.

The takeaway was that the Jan. 6th investigation is just another ginned-up witch hunt, a hoax investigation meant to get Trump, à la impeachment 1.0 and 2.0.

Bannon wasn’t alone in suggesting that the Jan. 6th investigation was a big bust. Also on Wednesday of last week, the Wall Street Journal published a piece by former Assistant Attorney General for the District of Columbia Jeffrey Scott Shapiro titled “Stop Calling It An Insurrection.” He wrote:

The demonstrators who unlawfully entered the Capitol during the Electoral College count were unarmed and had no intention of overthrowing the U.S. constitutional system or engaging in a conspiracy “against the United States, or to defraud the United States.”


Those who violated the law inside the U.S. Capitol should be prosecuted and, if convicted, sentenced accordingly. But dramatizing a riot as an organized, racist, armed insurrection is false reporting and dangerous political gaslighting.

The next night, on the actual anniversary of the Jan. 6th attack, Fox News’s Laura Ingraham made the same point on her broadcast.

How many times have you heard all those buzzwords used in the press just in the last few days? But here’s a question. How many times do words like “insurrection,” “sedition,” or “treason” appear in Biden’s own DOJ indictments against the January 6 rioters? The answer: zero.

Ingraham asked her guest, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a leading question: “The charges stemming from the January 6 riots are actually a big tell, are they not, about what the DOJ actually thinks about this case?” Turley’s reply:

The FBI arrested hundreds. They investigated thousands. And they did not find a conspiracy for insurrection or rebellion. They didn’t charge those crimes. They didn’t charge anything like them. What they found was a protest that had become a riot. And that’s also what the American people see.

The impression here, dear readers, is that because no sedition charges had been brought, there was simply no reason anyone should be worked up about Jan. 6th.

Again, Bannon, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News all promoted this notion just last week.

But those talking points expired yesterday, when the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment that charged 11 members of the Oath Keepers with seditious conspiracy and other crimes related to the breach of the Capitol. This is the first time seditious conspiracy has been charged in connection to Jan. 6th cases.

Pour one out for Fox News’s Brit Hume who was still making people eat that bad argument minutes before it went completely rancid:

Maybe that’s what you get when you get you crib decrepit political analysis from the likes of HERE, HERE, and HERE, Brit.

Alas, being MAGA means never having to say sorry, so don’t expect any of these folks to admit they were wrong about the investigation—let alone about what happened on Jan. 6th.

So what does the indictment tell us about the attack on the Capitol?

It describes a series of very disturbing actions by people who had carefully laid plans for war.

The Oath Keepers are “a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias,” and many of whom are “current and former military, law enforcement and first-responder personnel,” the DOJ press release explains.

According to the press release, the indicted Oath Keepers conspired in:

  • “organizing into teams that were prepared and willing to use force and to transport firearms and ammunition into Washington, D.C.” and bringing “paramilitary gear, weapons and supplies—including knives, batons, camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and radio equipment—to the Capitol grounds”;
  • “organizing trainings to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics”;
  • “breaching and attempting to take control” of the Capitol, and then “using force against law enforcement officers while inside the Capitol,” all in an effort “to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the electoral college vote”; and
  • “continuing to plot” after Jan. 6th on ways “to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power.”

Members of the group marched into the Capitol in two different groups using “stack” formation, wearing paramilitary clothing and patches with the Oath Keepers name, logo, and insignia. Meanwhile, other Oath Keepers “remained stationed just outside of the city in quick reaction force (QRF) teams” and “were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”

While some members of the Oath Keepers were among the 700-plus individuals previously charged with crimes connected to Jan. 6th, the new indictment is the first against the group’s founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes. He has long been considered a high-level target of the investigation, and his group has been linked with Trump ally Roger Stone.

Rhodes started planning early.

Two days after the election, on November 5, 2020, he urged his conspirators in an encrypted group chat to ready themselves for a fight: “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit.”

In case that wasn’t clear, he sent another message on December 11, 2020: “It will be a bloody and desperate fight. We are going to have a fight. That can’t be avoided.”

And, on December 22, 2020, Rhodes said in an interview with an Oath Keepers regional leader, “We will have to do a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That’s what’s going to have to happen.”

The indictment also includes stunning details about Rhodes’s weapons cache. Here’s a summary of what prosecutors say he bought in the days before Jan. 6th:

  • Two night-vision devices and a weapon sight, costing approximately $7,000 on December 30. Investigators say he shipped them to an individual in Virginia “near Washington D.C.” The package arrived on January 4.
  • $5,000 worth of firearms and related equipment on January 1 and 2 that included a “shotgun, scope, magazines, sights, optics, a bipod, a mount, a case of ammunition, and gun-cleaning supplies.”
  • While en route from Texas to Washington, D.C. on January 3, Rhodes spent approximately $6,000 on “an AR-platform rifle and firearms equipment, including sights, mount, triggers, slings, and additional firearms attachments.” The next day, while still en route, he spent another $4,500 on similar purchases.

Keep in mind, this was the weaponry brought to Washington by one man.

After the riot, the Oath Keepers remained committed to action. One member messaged Rhodes on January 12 and said, “We are excited to learn next steps and would like to know what we should be doing right now.”

Rhodes, for his part, kept buying weapons. According to the indictment, he spent $17,500 between Jan. 10 and 14 on  scopes, magazines, firearm parts, ammunition, and related equipment.

On the day of President Biden’s inauguration, one of the Oath Keepers messaged another: “After this…if nothing happens…its war…Civil War 2.0.”

Prosecutors say that “around this time, Rhodes messaged others to organize local militias to oppose President Biden’s Administration.”

One has to ask: Why would all the guns be needed to oppose Biden? Why were they needed on Jan. 6th? Would it be because these folks were conspiring to overthrow the United States government through the use of force?

Sounds like sedition, all right.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.