In the News
Significance of Charges Laid for January 6, 2021
Assault on U.S. Capitol in Washington DC
Charges of Seditious Conspiracy and Their Significance
On January 13, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) secured a grand jury indictment for seditious conspiracy against 11 members of the Oath Keepers militia. While the DoJ has charged more than 725 people involved in the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol with various lesser crimes, such as obstructing a police officer, these are the first seditious conspiracy charges. Similar charges are expected against other militias, including the racist Proud Boys who also helped organize the assault. The 11 Oath Keepers also face numerous lesser charges.
The leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, is an Army veteran. He was charged though he was not present at the Capitol that day. He has been jailed and was denied bail on January 26. All 11 have pleaded not guilty with a trial date set for July 11.
Oath Keepers are made up mainly of former military and police and have connections to both. Indeed, overall, more than one in 10 of all the people so far charged in the January 6 assault had a military record.
The focus of the indictment against the Oath Keepers is on constitutional law and statutes involved in the peaceful transfer of power, a major problem for the U.S. ruling class as the failed coup launched by Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 showed. Elections are solving no problems for them, least of all conflicts among the factions vying for power. Some U.S. think tanks and pundits anticipate that the year 2024, when the next presidential election is scheduled to take place, will be more contentious. Military and political officials are also putting forward the possibility of open civil war at that time.
Given the difficulty of predicting the outcome of charges against top leaders of the January 6 coup attempt, the seditious conspiracy charges and the upcoming July 11 trial of those charged with seditious conspiracy are one means for the U.S. administration and President Biden to gauge responses — all in conditions where none of the usual institutional mechanisms, such as elections, function to sort out conflicts. It remains to be seen if Biden and his Justice Department will pursue similar charges against elected officials, known Trump supporters, who are involved or against Trump himself. Conviction for the crime of sedition would likely prevent Trump from running for President in 2024. Trump is already calling for support and mass demonstrations should he be arrested, including for other criminal cases against him in New York and Georgia. Will charging, or not charging, Trump or others trigger a more open conflict, including open civil war, or help prevent it? The rulers cannot predict this and are prevaricating – deviating from the truth.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has stated, “The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last.” He added that “the Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”
Seditious conspiracy does not require an act of sedition, but simply a conspiracy to plan sedition. It is defined in law as conspiring “to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”
The Oath Keepers indictment relies primarily on the content “to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the electoral college vote.”
Something that stands out is the wealth of evidence presented, gathered by the FBI and very likely known by them before the event on January 6. For example, the Justice Department statement concerning the indictment outlines numerous plans for actions January 6 including bringing arms to DC.
The statement states: “According to the seditious conspiracy indictment, the defendants conspired through a variety of manners and means, including: organizing into teams that were prepared and willing to use force and to transport firearms and ammunition into Washington, DC; recruiting members and affiliates to participate in the conspiracy; organizing training to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics; bringing and contributing 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; breaching and attempting to take control of the Capitol grounds and building on January 6, 2021, in an effort to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the electoral college vote; using force against law enforcement officers while inside the Capitol on January 6, 2021; continuing to plot, after January 6, 2021, to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power, and using websites, social media, text messaging and encrypted messaging applications to communicate with co-conspirators and others.” (January 13, 2022 DoJ Press release).
The leader of the Oath keepers, Stewart Rhodes, is said to have purchased $40,000 in weapons and related gear in the days before and after January 6.
Also reflecting the concern with the peaceful transfer of power was the judge who denied Rhodes bail. In doing so, Judge Kimberly Johnson states that his First and Second Amendment rights to free speech and to purchase and transport firearms were not in question. “The evidence shows Defendant orchestrated a large-scale attack on the federal government with the purpose of intimidating, by violence, federal officials and disrupting official governmental proceedings incident to the transfer of power in the Executive Branch following a national election,” she said.
The indictment itself does not provide evidence or even indicate the involvement in the conspiracy by political leaders outside the Oath Keepers. As described by the Justice Department, the group’s plans for violence did not extend beyond the circle of the Oath Keepers themselves — something few believe. The case against Rhodes and his co-defendants focuses narrowly on those directly involved in the Oath Keepers’ effort to plan for and facilitate acts of violence on January 6. The indictment even excludes other Oath Keepers who participated in the events but do not appear to have had a role in planning them. They have instead been charged with lesser crimes, including misdemeanors.
Furthermore, the indictment and all the various ongoing FBI investigations have done little to reveal the government conspiracy, especially among the military and police forces, to allow the assault to take place in the first place. Given all the information that existed about the plans for the attack, none of the usual actions were taken. For instance, there was no massive show of force and mass arrests by police such as are commonly used at antiwar, anti-racist and pro-rights actions. Such an action could have been taken at the White House rally, blocking protesters from reaching the Capitol, using the usual “kettling” measures which involve police surrounding large numbers of protesters and arresting them on the spot. Almost no arrests occurred the day of the assault, while an estimated 1,000 are now expected.
The presence of the National Guard was purposely prevented by top military officials and the Capitol Police were left on their own — all planned actions as various forces either waited to see if Trump’s coup would succeed or were afraid use of the military would reveal that the chain of command was not functioning or that the military was being used illegally by the Trump forces. It is reported that some top military officials were concerned that, after Trump’s prior use of the National Guard in Lafayette Square against demonstrators, with Joint Chief Mark Milley present, use of the military on January 6 would be seen as illegal and interfering in domestic law enforcement. Others were concerned about the reality that the chain of command is in doubt. As three retired Generals who expressed concern about a contested election in 2024 triggering an open civil war said: there is the “potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines.”
That Trump and his top supporters and military, police agencies and FBI were involved in the January 6 assault on the Capitol is widely known, whether any are charged or not. It is also the case that forces on all sides proclaim themselves to be defenders of democracy and all are trying to line up constituencies among the people.
The difficulty the ruling class faces, however, is that more and more people, workers, women, youth, seniors, refugees, Indigenous peoples and others, are speaking clearly that the existing democracy is dysfunctional, pro-war and breeds inequality. The U.S. is now threatening war against Russia and pouring hundreds of millions into the effort, along with a Pentagon budget of more than $768 billion, while the needed and safe working conditions needed for COVID within the U.S. itself are still unmet. Hunger and homelessness are increasing while state-organized racist assaults and broad inequality continue with impunity. The dissatisfaction is such that the striving of the majority for a democracy that favors them is gaining ground.
This is what frightens the ruling class most and what it seeks to avoid by the manner in which it is proceeding in laying charges for the January 6 assault on the Capitol.
Kathleen Chandler is the leader of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization (USMLO).
(TML Daily, posted February 4, 2022)