Within a week of Election Day, Mr. Rhodes had told the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that he had men stationed outside Washington prepared to act at Mr. Trump’s command.
Around the same time, federal prosecutors say, he urged his fellow Oath Keepers at an online meeting to support Mr. Trump, calling him the “duly elected president” and adding: “You can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war or fight.”
The drumbeat continued through the winter, prosecutors say, as Mr. Rhodes appeared at a pro-Trump rally in Washington on Dec. 12, 2020, and called on Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, suggesting that a failure to do so would result in a “much more bloody war.” At the rally, Mr. Rhodes acknowledged in a television interview that he and members of his group were there to provide security for celebrity speakers along with another shadowy paramilitary organization, the First Amendment Praetorian.
On Jan. 4, just two days before the storming of the Capitol, Mr. Rhodes posted an article on the Oath Keepers website calling on “all patriots” to “stand tall in support of President Trump’s fight to defeat the enemies foreign and domestic who are attempting a coup.”
Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry
With his distinctive black eye patch — the result of a gun accident — Mr. Rhodes has been a fixture on the far right almost from the day in 2009 that he announced the creation of the Oath Keepers at a rally in Lexington, Mass., the site of a famous Revolutionary War battle.
At the event, Mr. Rhodes laid out an antigovernment platform for the current and former law enforcement and military personnel who joined his group, saying that his plan was for members to disobey certain illegal orders from officials and instead to uphold their oath to the Constitution.
During the years that President Barack Obama was in office, the Oath Keepers repeatedly inserted themselves into prominent public conflicts, often playing the role of heavily armed vigilantes. In 2014, for instance, they turned up at a cattle ranch in Nevada after its owner, Cliven Bundy, engaged in an armed standoff with federal land management officials. That same year, members of the group went to Ferguson, Mo., on a self-appointed mission to protect local businesses from riots prompted by the death of Michael Brown, a Black man who was shot by the police.