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GOP's Favorite Jan 6 Talking Point Goes Up in Flames After DOJ Charges Oath Keepers With 'Seditious Conspiracy'

GOP's Favorite Jan 6 Talking Point Goes Up in Flames After DOJ Charges Oath Keepers With 'Seditious Conspiracy'
Brent Stirton/Getty Images

In the year since a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the United States Capitol in a deadly failed insurrection to install then-President Donald Trump for another term in office, Republican elected officials and media personalities have repeatedly downplayed the events of that day.

One of their main talking points was that no one had been charged with sedition or insurrection, therefore—they say—a violent effort to stop the centuries-old tradition of a peaceful transfer of power couldn't possibly be an insurrection.

While more than 700 Capitol rioters have been arrested for their actions, these charges have largely been limited to offenses like obstruction of an official proceeding and trespassing. This has been cited by far-right elected officials like Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to peddle conspiracy theories that the insurrection was orchestrated by the federal government.

On the one year anniversary of the attack, Gaetz said:

'We know this -- January 6 last year wasn't an insurrection. No one has been charged with insurrection. No one has been charged with treason. But it may very well may have been a fed-surrection.'

Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas said last month:

"And as I asked Merrick Garland, and I’ve asked others, 'Is there in anybody been charged with insurrection?' And the answer is actually, 'No, no one has been charged with insurrection.' In fact, if they were going to charge someone with insurrection, it’s beginning to sound more and more like those would be agents for the federal government that were there stirring things up, trying to get people to engage in violence."

Political commentator and Fox News contributor Kaylee McGhee White wrote in the right-leaning Washington Examiner:

"But, again, no one has been charged with sedition or insurrection. Perhaps that’s why the vast majority of voters on both the Left and the Right don’t agree with Democrats’ characterization of the Capitol riot as an insurrection."

Fox News' Will Cain said this past summer:

"No one's been charged with sedition. No one's been charged with the left's favorite word: insurrection."

Most recently, just this morning, Fox contributor Brit Hume warned against calling the insurrection an insurrection.

But only hours later, news broke that the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia—Stewart Rhodes—and 10 of his accomplices were charged with seditious conspiracy (a more severe charge than insurrection), effectively evaporating the talking point that not a single person had been charged with the crime, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

A statement from the Department of Justice said:

"The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021. Beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communications applications, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on or around Jan. 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote, the indictment alleges. Rhodes and several co-conspirators made plans to bring weapons to the area to support the operation. The co-conspirators then traveled across the country to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in early January 2021."

While Rhodes himself didn't enter the Capitol, the indictment alleges that he and his accomplices, in the weeks leading up to the attack, held training exercises and collected paramilitary weapons to bring to the Capitol. They prepared to (and eventually did) physically attack law enforcement officers and eventually infiltrated the Capitol using a "stack" formation.

The indictment is the latest indication that at least some of the Capitol rioters didn't spontaneously storm the Capitol, but had actually planned for it.

Social media users were quick to eulogize the all-too-familiar GOP talking point in light of the news.

Those who did peddle the talking point immediately began moving the goalposts.

The 11 Oath Keepers face 16 other charges in addition to seditious conspiracy, such as assaulting police officers, tampering with documents, and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.