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Oath Keepers Verdict Is Direct Rejection of Trump's 'Big Lie': Kirschner

Newsweek 11/30/2022 Nick Mordowanec
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, is seen on a screen during a House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 9, 2022. On Tuesday, Rhodes was convicted by a jury for seditious conspiracy charges that could lead to a potential 20-year prison sentence. © BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, is seen on a screen during a House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 9, 2022. On Tuesday, Rhodes was convicted by a jury for seditious conspiracy charges that could lead to a potential 20-year prison sentence.

The conviction of Stewart Rhodes for seditious conspiracy is also an indictment of former President Donald Trump's "big lie" regarding the 2020 election, says one former prosecutor.

Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers right-wing militia group, and Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs, were both found guilty Tuesday by a jury. They are the first individuals to be convicted of seditious conspiracy charges since Omar Abdel-Rahman was found guilty in 1995 for his role in planning to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993.

Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said Wednesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe that the prosecutors involved in the seven-week trial did a good job at keeping politics out of it. Rhodes, who took the stand in his own defense, was accused of helping plot the January 6 insurrection in response to the results of the 2020 election.

"Stewart Rhodes took the stand and blew it all up," Kirschner said. "It's rare for defendants to take the stand in large federal prosecutions.

"When Rhodes took the stand, very early on in his lengthy testimony, he said and I quote, 'The election was unconstitutional,'" Kirschner added. "He also helpfully added that he is a constitutional expert. I don't think he won any points with the jury."

"Once he did that, he really put the 'big lie' on trial. Ultimately, I view the jury's verdict not only as an affirmation that the evidence proved the guilt of these defendants beyond a reasonable doubt, but it was a pretty direct rejection of the 'big lie' itself," he said. "I think the verdicts were a victory of rule of law over lawlessness, and a victory of facts over alternative facts."

Prosecutors also helped their cause by rarely uttering Trump's name throughout the course of the legal proceedings, Kirschner added.

Rhodes faces up to 20 years in prison for conspiring to "overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States or to levy war against them," as defined by United States Code.

Rhodes is a former U.S. Army paratrooper who was honorably discharged after suffering spinal injuries. He later worked as a staffer for former Republican congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, prior to graduating from Yale Law School.

Rhodes could be just the government's first example as it pertains to conspiracy charges.

Reuters reported that two more trials involving seditious conspiracy charges related to the 2020 election and January 6 will start in December: one involving four other Oath Keepers, and another involving members of the right-wing Proud Boys—including its former chairman, Enrique Tarrio.

James Lee Bright, an attorney for Rhodes, told reporters Rhodes' conviction could be a sign of things to come for future defendants.

"The return in this, even though we're not pleased with it, probably speaks to the fact that the DOJ [Department of Justice] is going to go full steam ahead in like fashion on all the others," Bright said.

Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly tweeted after the verdict that the convictions "are a significant step in that direction."

"We can't move on from January 6th by burying our heads in the sand and pretending it never happened," Connolly wrote. "We can only move on by confronting it directly and ensuring justice is served."

Trump has not publicly commented on the verdict, spending most of Tuesday railing on "corrupt" elections in Arizona and Georgia through his Truth Social network.

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