Right-wing militias and their leaders are the latest target of the special congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, which issued subpoenas on Tuesday to ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.
In addition to issuing subpoenas to Tarrio and Rhodes and their associated groups, the Jan. 6 House committee also requested to hear from the 1st Amendment Praetorian. The leader of the lower-level, far-right faction, Robert Patrick Lewis, has ties to disgraced ex-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The subpoenas demand documents from all of the groups and their current or former leaders by Dec. 7, and depositions a week later.
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a Tuesday statement the panel was looking for information about those “reportedly involved with planning the attack, with the violent mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th, or with efforts to overturn the results of the election.”
Federal authorities have described the Oath Keepers as “a large but loosely organized collection of [the] militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.” The group purports to heavily recruit former military, law enforcement, and first responders.
Members of a regional Oath Keepers squad out of Ohio—outfitted with body armor, camouflage uniforms, and radios—were indicted in January for storming the Capitol. And other members or associates of the militia were prominently seen flanking Republican operative Roger Stone the day of the insurrection when Stone gave an incendiary speech egging on people to reject valid election results.
Stone has been subpoenaed but not charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes, a 55-year-old Army veteran and former lawyer, founded the paramilitary group in 2016 and has also not been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.
The committee’s letter to him states, “You repeatedly suggested that the Oath Keepers should, or were prepared to, engage in violence to ensure their preferred election outcome.” It also quotes Rhodes calling to members of his group to “stock up on ammo” and gear up for a “full-on war in the streets.”
Rhodes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The committee also sent subpoenas to the Proud Boys, a chauvinist and childish frat club of far-right, Western supremacists who see themselves as street thugs with a mission to combat leftist protesters. The subpoena was addressed to the group’s formal entity, a limited liability company, and attorney Jason Lee Van Dyke.
The lawyer was briefly the group’s leader and was profiled by Vice last year for his bungled attempt to join an armed neo-Nazi terror group called “The Base” that has been accused of plotting murders and recruiting an underground network of soldiers.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Van Dyke said that while he has not represented the Proud Boys since 2018, he was “contacted by an investigator yesterday and told I would be getting a subpoena.” Noting that the subpoena is not for him personally, but for Proud Boys International LLC, Van Dyke said he plans to respond to the committee “solely because I do not believe I have a choice.”
“However, I will not be furnishing the committee with any information protected by the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine, or which I am otherwise prohibited from providing under the rules regulating the practice of law in any of the jurisdictions in which I am licensed to practice,” Van Dyke said, adding that at this point all the non-privileged information he plans to share is already publicly available.
Also among the five subpoenas announced Tuesday was one directed toward Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, who has been described by prosecutors as the Proud Boys’ one-time leader. He was arrested two days before Jan. 6 after burning a Black Lives Matter flag that was stolen from a nearby church a month prior.
Tarrio is currently halfway through a five-month prison sentence for his crimes that night. He has been inveighing about poor conditions behind bars, but a judge in Washington, D.C. earlier this week refused to grant him an early release.
The committee’s subpoena quotes from Tarrio’s posts on the right-wing friendly social-media network Parler, in which he said, “We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and spread across downtown DC in smaller teams… who knows we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.”
The committee’s letter to him notes that “video evidence plainly demonstrates that Proud Boys members are involved in the January 6th attack.”
Tarrio’s lawyer in his Washington criminal case, Lucas Dansie, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lewis, for his part, is a former U.S. Army staff sergeant and a recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart who has dabbled in conspiracy theories. As previously reported by The Daily Beast, he is also the founder of the 1st Amendment Praetorian, which bills itself as a security force for conservative protests.
“It does seem like there are groups in this country that very much want to see any number of outcomes of violence,” Lewis previously told The Daily Beast. “I am surprised and happy—pleasantly surprised—that the American public has been able to manage their temper, for the lack of a better word.”
Lewis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move on Rhodes is perhaps most noteworthy, given that he has long denied any personal involvement in the riots despite Oath Keepers members being at the center of conspiracy charges filed over the insurrection.
Still, Rhodes has been obliquely mentioned in other Capitol rioter court documents for months. In one Jan. 27 filing, prosecutors mentioned that “the Oath Keepers are led by Person One.” The subpoena released Tuesday mentions that Rhodes is referred to in court documents as “Person One” in an indictment involving 18 Oath Keepers.
Without naming him in court documents, prosecutors have suggested Rhodes not only had direct contact with members already charged in the plot to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election, but even warned there could be more violence after Jan. 6 if President Donald Trump didn’t step up.
At a December rally in D.C., Rhodes warned of “bloody war” if Trump did not invoke the Insurrection Act. In a video the night before the riot, Rhodes made a Facebook video with other far-right figures. Among them was the leader of a PAC that employs leaders of the Proud Boys, the leader of “Vets For Trump,” who is facing charges for allegedly bringing a gun interstate to a Pennsylvania vote-count center, and Amanda Chase, a Virginia state senator who has previously appeared alongside Proud Boys at a gun rally.
Previously, court filings detailed how Oath Keepers members allegedly discussed plans in an encrypted chat group—titled “DC OP: Jan 6 21”—at least one day before the riots.
In the group chat, the Oath Keepers allegedly discussed what weapons to bring to the siege, that handheld radios would be used for constant communication, and that a cache of weapons would be waiting outside the city in case of “worse-case scenarios.”
“Highly recommend a C or D cell flashlight if you have one,” Rhodes allegedly told members in the group chat, referring to heavy flashlights that can be swung like clubs. “Collapsible Batons are a grey area in the law. I bring one. But I’m willing to take that risk because I love em.”
During the siege, which forced dozens of lawmakers into hiding and ultimately killed five people, Rhodes allegedly texted the group that “Pence is doing nothing. As I predicted.”
“All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” Rhodes allegedly wrote ten minutes later.
After the riot, prosecutors say, Rhodes texted the group: “Leaders check to be sure you have all your team members. If anyone is missing, post here.” Hours later, he was said to send the group a rousing speech comparing their coordinated effort to that of revolutionaries during the Boston Tea Party.
“Patriots entering their own Capitol to send a message to the traitors is NOTHING compared to what’s coming if Trump doesn’t take decisive action right now. It helped to send that message to HIM. He was the most important audience today. I hope he got the message,” he added.