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Oath Keeper wanted to load boat with weapons for Potomac

The Hill logo The Hill 2/12/2021 Celine Castronuovo
a group of people riding skis on top of a building: Oath Keeper wanted to load boat with weapons for Potomac © UPI Photo Oath Keeper wanted to load boat with weapons for Potomac

A member of the right-wing paramilitary group the Oath Keepers in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot proposed a plan to transport "heavy weapons" in a boat across the Potomac River, prosecutors said in a Thursday court filing.

Federal prosecutors made the allegation in a memo opposing a motion for release from the attorneys of Thomas Edward Caldwell, who along with fellow Oath Keeper members Jessica Marie Watkins and Donovan Crowl faces conspiracy charges in connection with alleged plans to lead a coup ahead of the deadly pro-Trump mob attack.

Days before the attack, prosecutors in the court filing say Caldwell reached out to a member of the Three Percenters, an extremist gun rights militia, saying with "someone standing by at a dock ramp (one near the Pentagon for sure) we could have our Quick Response Team with the heavy weapons standing by, quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms."

The revelation came the same day prosecutors in a separate memo called for Watkins to be held in jail without bail, saying she had been awaiting instructions from former President Trump in the days leading up to the attack.

Prosecutors say that in the days after the presidential election, Watkins told other militia members that she was awaiting cues from Trump before taking action against what the former president had been calling a stolen election.

"I am concerned this is an elaborate trap," Watkins allegedly wrote in a text message sent on Nov. 9. "Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it's not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can't trust it."

Prosecutors say the filings offer further evidence that the three members of the Oath Keepers played a key role in organizing fellow militia members to attack the Capitol, with text messages discussing potential plans dating as far back as November.

Caldwell's attorneys on Tuesday claimed that he has worked for the FBI and holds a top security clearance. His attorneys wrote in a court filing that the Navy veteran worked as a section chief for the FBI from 2009 to 2010, and he also ran a consulting firm that performed work for several U.S. government agencies.

Caldwell, 66, has denied being a member of the Oath Keepers.

Federal authorities so far have arrested and brought charges against more than 200 people since the Capitol breach, in which multiple people died amid the chaos, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Two additional officers who responded to the rioting have since died by suicide.

Friday marks the fourth day of Trump's Senate impeachment trial, where he faces one article from the House alleging that he incited the violence at the Capitol with his repeated unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

House impeachment managers on Thursday among their oral arguments to the Senate highlighted multiple examples of rioters indicating that they believed Trump had ordered them to overtake the Capitol.

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