WASHINGTON — A Virginia Oath Keeper claimed he helped incite the crowd to storm the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, according to a new filing Thursday by the Justice Department.
Thomas Caldwell, 65, is one of more than 20 members of the Oath Keepers militia group now facing felony charges of conspiracy and obstruction for allegedly plotting to disrupt the joint session of Congress on January 6. Caldwell, known to other members of the group as “Commander Tom,” was released on bond in March due to his deteriorating health. Late last month, his attorney, David Fischer, requested the court allow him to be transitioned from a curfew. Caldwell is currently on home incarceration at his Clarke County, Virginia, property.
The DOJ has opposed that change. Earlier this month, prosecutors said they continue to have “grave concerns” about Caldwell’s release. In that December 8 filing, the DOJ said Caldwell had attempted to buy a double-barreled .380-caliber handgun disguised as a cell phone in November 2020 – just two months before the Capitol riot. Prosecutors said Caldwell also contributed a .22-caliber rifle to the Oath Keepers “quick reaction force,” which was staged at the Comfort Inn in Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood ahead of January 6.
In his own filing, Caldwell’s attorney, David Fischer, described the rifle as a “show and tell” curio and a “beginner’s gun.” Fischer also said the DOJ had backed off claims that Caldwell helped plan and lead the assault on the Capitol.
On Thursday, the DOJ said that wasn’t true. It offered as proof previously unreleased statements attributed to Caldwell during the riot on January 6. It was unclear in the filing who the statements were made to, although they were formatted to suggest they were electronic messages. The DOJ has previously said the Oath Keepers used both encrypted Signal chats and Facebook private messages to communicate.
“Then we heard Pence f***** us. Wr [sic] had over a million oeople [sic] here. Then the lying media said Trump supporters were breaking through barricades so I said if we’re going to get blamed, might as well do it so I grabbed up my American flag and said let’s take the damn capitol,” Caldwell allegedly said. “So people started surging forward and climbing the scaffolding outside so I said lets storm the place and hang the traitors. Everybody thought that was a good idea so we did.”
“[W]e climbed the steps after breaking 2 rows of barricades, yhen [sic] got on the parapets and the people in front of me broke through the doors and started duking it out with the pigs who broke and ran,” Caldwell allegedly continued. “Then we started stealing the cops riot shields a d [sic] throwing fire extinguishers through windows. It was a great time.”
According to the DOJ, Caldwell also said he was receiving live GoPro feeds from other Oath Keepers who had pushed opened “three sets of doors” on the other side of the Capitol and entered into the Capitol Rotunda.
In addition to the new information about Caldwell’s alleged activities on the day of the riot, the DOJ also included previously unseen messages further detailing the Oath Keepers’ planning leading up to January 6. Those messages include a Signal post from Oath Keepers president Stewart Rhodes in the groups “OKFL Hangout” channel.
“If Congress rubber stamps an unconstitutional fraud, President Trump must defend the Constitution and we URGE him to use the Insurrection Act to do so,” Rhodes allegedly wrote. “And we will support him with our boots on the ground… And he needs to know that if he fails to act, then we will. He needs to understand that we will have no choice.”
Rhodes, who is referenced as “Person 1” in court filings related to the Oath Keepers cases, has not been charged to date with any crimes in connection to the Capitol riot. Earlier this month, the attorney for another Oath Keeper, Donovan Crowl, said not knowing whether Rhodes would eventually be added as a co-defendant was hampering her ability to prepare for trial.
Rhodes is also mentioned repeatedly in a new civil suit filed against the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys earlier this week by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. The suit names both the organizations themselves and individual members – including Caldwell – as defendants and alleges they violated the Ku Klux Klan Act by illegally conspiring against the government. Rhodes, despite appearing more than a dozen times in the suit, was not named as a co-defendant.
Because of the large number of defendants in the case, the government plans to bring the Oath Keepers Capitol riot cases to trial in two groups. As of Thursday, the first group was scheduled to begin trial in early April.
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