Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers leader, claimed he had a contact in the Secret Service in the months leading to the January 6 Capitol riot, a former member of the far-right extremist group testified at his trial.
Rhodes and four other group members respond to seditious conspiracy charges for participating in the January 6 attack.
John Zimmerman, the former member who testified, told jurors Rhodes claimed to have a Secret Service agent phone number and to have spoken with this agent about the logistics of a rally to support then-President Donald Trump in September.
Zimmerman made the claims when asked about potential connections between Trump and Rhodes, which he denied.
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“But,” the witness said on Thursday, “he did have a number for a Secret Service agent — or claimed to be a Secret Service agent — back in September.”
The former member, who was part of Oath Keeper’s North Carolina chapter, could not confirm If Rhodes actually spoke to the agent or only claimed to have spoken.
The testimony might help to clarify one important piece of information in Rhodes’ prosecution. In a separate case against another Oath Keeper, prosecutors said Rhodes called an unnamed individual on the night of January 6 and tried to speak directly with Trump to urge him to call on groups in an effort to overturn the election result.
A Secret Service spokesperson told The Associated Press the agency is aware that “individuals from the Oath Keepers have contacted us in the past to make inquiries.”
The agency also said that when creating a security plan for events, it is “not uncommon for various organizations to contact us concerning security restrictions and activities that are permissible in proximity to our protected sites.”
Zimmerman’s testimony was the second in the first seditious conspiracy trial to come out of around 900 prosecutions related to the Capital riot.
The other Oath Keepers charged are Thomas Caldwell of Berryville, Virginia; Kenneth Harrelson of Titusville, Florida; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio; and Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Florida. The trial is expected to last weeks.
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