Stewart Rhodes, the eyepatch-wearing law graduate who was charged with sedition by the storming the capitol, spent years preparing to fight a government he sees as increasingly repressive and willing to wage “a civil war.”
Rhodes, 56, is considered the leader of the far-right group Oath Keeper that led the attack on Capitol Hill by supporters of former President Donald Trump, stockpiling weapons for an armed insurrection.
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In the indictment, the Justice Department details encrypted chats in which Rhodes urges Oath Keeper members to prepare for a revolution after Trump was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden in the November 2020 election.
“We’re not going to get through this without a civil war,” he told them. Even if Biden becomes president, he said, “it will be a bloody and desperate fight… That cannot be avoided.”
Rhodes, accused of sedition along with ten other Oath Keepers, predicted this fate since he founded the group in 2009 on the pretext that the federal government was increasingly encroaching on the rights of citizens.
-From Yale to the conspiracy
Elmer Stewart Rhodes was born in 1966 and little is known about his upbringing except that he grew up in the American Southwest.
He enlisted in the army after high school, but was discharged early due to an injury while skydiving.
His ex-wife Tasha Adams Rhodes, with whom he had six children, says they met when he was valet parking and she was teaching dance in Las Vegas.
He also worked as a firearms instructor and lost an eye when he was shot by a dropped gun. In 1998 he graduated from a local university and was accepted to Yale University Law School, one of the most prestigious in the country.
He then set up a law firm in Montana where he developed the idea for Oath Keepers, one of the right-wing “patriot” groups that has sprung up in the last two decades.
His motto: be prepared to fight against a government that becomes too repressive and imposes restrictions on the possession of weapons.
The Anti-Defamation League claims that Rhodes’s list of principles predicting that Washington will become profoundly authoritarian “reveals his extreme conspiracy mentality.”
Rhodes wrote a blog about politics and the perceived threat of the American left, which sparked interest among many white men with military and police experience and drew thousands of supporters.
“He turned out to have a talent for making fringe ideas more appealing,” Mike Griglio wrote of Rhodes in The Atlantic magazine.
His wife said that he is a narcissistic sociopath. “He sees himself as a great, highly revered figure in history. His followers call him the next George Washington,” he says.
As the group grew, Rhodes attended Republican rallies and mobilized members of the Oath Keepers, armed and in combat gear, to “keep the peace” while they rallied, and during social unrest, such as those in Ferguson in 2014 after that the police shot a black man.
Although often anti-government, Rhodes and Oath Keepers were supporters of Trump when he ran for president. He frequently appeared on far-right political advocate Alex Jones’ InfoWars and was a special guest at a Trump rally in 2019.
According to the Justice Department, the group echoed Trump’s claim that Biden’s November 2020 election victory was illegitimate.
Rhodes urged Trump to declare a national emergency and martial law, and began planning for the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
They trained for “unconventional warfare.”
If Biden becomes president “we’re going to have to make a massive, bloody revolution,” Rhodes told them two weeks before the riots.
The indictment documented that Rhodes spent tens of thousands of dollars on weapons, ammunition and other equipment before the attack.
They stored the weapons with “rapid reaction forces” based in hotels on the outskirts of the city to mobilize them when given the order.
He didn’t even keep it a secret. “We already have men stationed outside of DC (Washington) as a nuclear option. In case they try to impeach the president illegally, we will prevent it,” he said in InfoWars.
“We will be inside DC, we will also be outside DC, armed, ready to go in if the president calls us.”
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