In the weeks ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Sam Andrews had a message for the right.
“Contact your friends with rifles,” he said in a mid-December appearance on a right-wing podcast. “And tell them to join you. That's who you contact. And then you get a map and you drive to D.C.”
But since rioters stormed the Capitol, leaving five people dead in the melee, Andrews has changed his tune.
“I have rescinded the idea that patriots should go to D.C. in protest,” he told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “Americans going armed to D.C. to protest would be a lot like standing in a field with your best friend over a cowpatty and stabbing each other for who gets to keep the cowpatty.”
“It’s a lot of bloodshed for a little shit,” he added.
Andrews was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, but says he did not enter the building. A former member of the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, he was until very recently a hype-man for bogus claims of voter fraud. But now, as members of his former group face criminal charges for storming the Capitol, Andews is one of many militant figures recalibrating their plans for the Biden era.
Following Donald Trump’s election loss, Andrews appeared in a widely shared video that called on the right to converge on D.C. “armed, in large groups,” as the Washington Post previously reported. Those groups, he said, should show up “en masse in D.C., armed, demanding, not asking, that we get a peaceful resolution on these voter corruption issues.”
But a Capitol break-in wasn’t in the fine print, he said.
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“I didn’t tell them to go into the Capitol armed or to break the law,” Andrews told The Daily Beast. “But what I did tell them was you’re going to want to head to D.C. armed because if this thing blows up, you’re going to want to be in possession.”
Andrews filmed himself outside the Capitol with a group of men, and claimed to have got close enough to the action to be struck by police’s pepper spray. He said he supports prosecution for those who broke into the Capitol—that includes members of the Oath Keepers, the group with which he first rose to national headlines.
Earlier this week, prosecutors released multiple conspiracy charges against Oath Keepers, including a leader of the group, for their alleged attack on the Capitol. According to charging documents, Oath Keepers—who count current and former law-enforcement and military among their members—used a walkie-talkie app to plan the assault.
“You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud,” one allegedly ordered another, who was in the Capitol. While inside the building, another Oath Keeper allegedly received a Facebook message stating that “all members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas.”
Andrews’ own path to the Capitol wound through years of far-right paramilitary associations. In August 2015, amid protests over police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, the Oath Keepers cultivated a controversial presence in the city, suggesting arms training and offering to provide security for business owners. Andrews proposed an armed march alongside the city’s Black residents, many of whom told him that police would retaliate against a march of armed Black people, he recalled.
Andrews broke from the Oath Keepers, accusing the group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, of holding a “racist double standard” when it came to armed actions. Rhodes and the Oath Keepers retaliated, releasing a video accusing him of berating and tearing down other members. Rhodes also cited a 2009 custody hearing in which Andrews’ ex-wife accused him of abuse, including holding her at gunpoint for two hours, hitting her, and shooting at their dog.
“He is potentially unstable and potentially very violent,” Rhodes said in the clip. Andrews called the allegations “BS” and an attempt by Rhodes, who did not respond to a request for comment, to discredit him.
Immediately after the breakup with the Oath Keepers, Andrews appeared alongside other figures who would become well-known on the far right in the Trump years. A 2015 Rolling Stone profile describes him as acting as security in Ferguson for Joe Biggs, a then-Infowars reporter who would go on to be a member of the far-right streetfighting group the Proud Boys. Biggs was arrested on Wednesday for his alleged role in the Capitol riots. Charging documents claim he was one of the first to enter the Capitol through a broken window, although he denies having forced his way into the building.
Now separate from the Oath Keepers, Andrews has focused his efforts on a Lebanon, Missouri, shooting range, where he said he often trains law enforcement. In a recent podcast, a host claimed Andrews had trained the security team for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, although both Andrews and a spokesperson for Parson said those claims were inaccurate.
Of course, Andrews is far from the only person to walk back calls to action in D.C.
Ali Alexander, one of the day’s lead organizers, initially posted a video refusing to disavow the riot, but now claims to be in hiding, asking followers for $2,000 a day to support his security force. Even pre-scheduled armed rallies in D.C. this past week, like one by the civil war-hungry “Boogaloo” movement, were called off, with organizers urging participants to take the demonstrations to their local statehouses and not to the nation’s capital, which was flooded with National Guard members.
Statehouse rallies produced only middling turnout.
Despite previously claiming on a podcast that listeners should be primed for a gun confiscation in February, echoing years of far-right panic about Democratic presidents, Andrews told The Daily Beast that he was not advocating preemptive action.
“My statements are basically telling everyone in the United States: Get your rifles clean, get your ammo and magazines loaded, and get ready, because this thing could come uncorked at any moment,” he said.
In the meantime, he was looking over his shoulder.
Shortly after speaking to The Daily Beast, Andrews suggested on Facebook that journalists were calling him on the FBI’s orders to somehow make him implicate himself in a crime.