The leader of the Oath Keepers testifies at the sedition trial on January 6

The leader of the Oath Keepers testifies at the sedition trial on January 6

Much of his testimony appeared to lay the seeds for Mr. Rhodes to argue next week that the Oath Keepers did not go to Washington on Jan. 6 as part of a plan to storm the Capitol and disrupt the transfer of presidential power from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the government claimed.

Instead, Mr. Rhodes is likely to say that the group went to provide security for pro-Trump figures who were in Washington that day, including Alex Jones, owner of the conspiracy media outlet Infowars, and Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime Trump adviser.

That’s exactly what lawyers for some of Mr. Rhodes’ co-defendants said Thursday when they made their opening statements to the jury. (The two deferred opening remarks at the start of the trial.)

Speaking on behalf of Kelly Meggs, who ran Florida’s Oath Keeper division, his attorney Stanley Woodward Jr. struck a similar note to Mr. Rhodes, saying that Mr. Meggs was deeply affected by the violence that sometimes accompanied racial justice protests after the murder of Mr. Floyd.

Afraid of the future and steeped in the “discord and fury” that troubled the country, Mr. Meggs joined the Oath Keepers and began going to rallies in Washington with them because “he believed he could help,” Mr. Woodward said.

Mr. Woodward suggested that he would call witnesses in the coming days to testify that the mission of the oath keepers on Jan. 6 was to serve as bodyguards for pro-Trump celebrities in Washington. He promised to present evidence showing that Mr. Stone called Mr. Meggs to protect him.

Bradford L. Geyer, the attorney for the other defendant, Kenneth Harrelson, said his client, a former soldier, is an apolitical person who has never voted in a presidential election. As recently as a year ago, Mr. Geyer said, Mr. Harrelson did not know that Congress had two houses, the House and the Senate.

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