Oath Keeper Thought Electoral College Is Where Politicians Get ‘Educated’

Oath Keeper Thought Electoral College Is Where Politicians Get ‘Educated’

  • Defense attorneys argued at trial that the Oath Keepers were a community service group.
  • A lawyer for one Oath Keeper said his client was “apolitical” and had no investment in the 2020 election.
  • That oath keeper, Kenneth Harrelson, “didn’t know” there was a House or Senate, his lawyer said.

Standing before a jury Thursday, defense attorney Bradley Geyer hoped his client would forgive him for the story he will tell at the trial of five oath-keepers accused of conspiring to prevent a peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6, 2021.

When he met Kenneth Harrelson more than a year ago, Geyer said, the Oath Keeper member was unaware of the institutions or processes involved in certifying the 2020 election.

“He didn’t know there was a House of Representatives and a Senate. He didn’t know anything about the Electoral College,” Geyer said, adding that Harrelson at the time thought it was a place where “politicians went to get an education or whatever.”

Geyer acknowledged Harrelson’s ignorance in an opening statement in which he defended him against accusations that he participated in a seditious conspiracy to obstruct the confirmation of the 2020 election and keep former President Donald Trump in power. In a half-hour address to the jury, Geyer argued that Harrelson was so disinterested in politics that he could not have intended to stop the transfer of power from Trump to incoming President Joe Biden.

“Kenny is literally apolitical,” Geyer said, and has “no deep political positions whatsoever.”

“He wasn’t mad about the certification,” Geyer added. “Honestly, he didn’t care.”

Geyer’s opening statement launched the Oath Keeper’s defense in a high-profile Jan. 6 prosecution that includes the most serious charges yet brought in the case stemming from the Capitol attack. Earlier Thursday, federal prosecutors rested their case after calling their final witness, FBI agent John Moore, to the stand.

In their month-long case, federal prosecutors presented text messages and other evidence detailing the Oath Keepers’ planning before Jan. 6. Prosecutors showed jurors evidence that Oath Keepers stored weapons at a hotel outside Washington, DC, for the so-called rapid response force” that could be called to the nation’s capital.

At the end of their side of the case, prosecutors presented a message drafted by Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes urging Trump to take drastic measures to reverse his 2020 loss to Biden. Rhodes tried to warn Trump: “If you don’t, then Biden/Kamala will turn all that power on you, your family and all of us. You and your family will be imprisoned and killed.”

But the message, composed in the days after the January 6 attack, was never sent.

Rhodes is on trial along with Harrelson and three other members of the Oath Guard — Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs and Thomas Caldwell — on charges related to the Jan. 6 incident. His lawyer said at the start of the trial that Rhodes would testify in his own defense.

Geyer said Thursday that Oath Keepers’ “commitment to disaster relief services” drew Harrelson to the far-right group. Harrelson, he said, was drawn not to “politics and political rallies,” but to what he saw as an opportunity to apply his past military training to “service to his community.”

“Politics is not his thing,” Geyer said.

On Jan. 6, Harrelson, he said, entered the Capitol while serving as a “personal security detail.”

Prosecutors painted an entirely different picture of Harrelson’s behavior on Jan. 6. On Monday, prosecutors called a former member of the Oath Guard, Grayson Young, who he remembered the entrance Capitol in military-style formation, hand on Harrelson’s shoulder.

Young, who pleaded guilty to felonies related to the Jan. 6 attack, was shown standing next to Harrelson as he posed for pictures inside the Capitol.

In another opening statement Thursday, Oath member Kelly Meggs’ defense attorney argued that the group provided security on Jan. 6. The lawyer, Stanley Woodward, reviewed what he called “an alternative theory, an alternative motivation for Mr. Meggs being in Washington, DC on January 6th.”

“The testimony in this case will show that Oath Keepers chose community involvement, disaster recovery, safety, personal safety,” Woodward said.

Woodward noted that the Oath Keepers provided security to prominent Trump allies, including conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and Rodger Stone. Of Stone, Woodward said he was “known for many things.”

“He’s got a Nixon tattoo on his back,” Woodward said. “He is an outspoken supporter of former President Trump.”

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