CNN reported Sunday that Watkins alleges in the filing that she was given a VIP pass to the “March for Trump” rally at which the president urged the crowd to head to the Capitol, and that she had been providing security for elected officials and others.
“On January 5 and 6, Ms. Watkins was present not as an insurrectionist, but to provide security to the speakers at the rally, to provide escort for the legislators and others to march to the Capitol as directed by the then-President, and to safely escort protestors away from the Capitol to their vehicles and cars at the conclusion of the protest,” the court filing said on Saturday. “She was given a VIP pass to the rally. She met with Secret Service agents. She was within 50 feet of the stage during the rally to provide security for the speakers. At the time the Capitol was breached, she was still at the site of the initial rally where she had provided security.”
The Secret Service adamantly denied that it had employed any Oath Keepers: “To carry out its protective functions on January 6th, the U.S. Secret Service relied on the assistance of various government partners. Any assertion that the Secret Service employed private citizens to perform those functions is false,” a spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
The Oath Keepers—who emphasize recruitment of military and law-enforcement veterans—have a long history of aspiring to act as semi-official security forces at Trump events dating back to at least 2019. Founder Stewart Rhodes has frequently envisioned his paramilitary organization as a complement to law enforcement, “a pool of people that can be utilized by the governor, by the sheriff, or by the president of the United States.”
The indictments themselves also point to the Oath Keepers playing a central role in the coordinated attack that opened the doors of the Capitol to the mob. Conspiracy charges announced Friday against six people—including Watkins—detailed how they formed a “stack” (typically a maneuver requiring military training) to move their phalanx of body-armored members up the east steps of the Capitol and into the front, where they were able to overpower the police.
The FBI agent’s affidavit notes:
Based on my training and experience, a stack or line formation is a tactical formation used by infantrymen in the military. … The purpose of maintaining direct physical contact with one another is to efficiently communicate with one another, especially in crowded or noisy areas.
Some of Watkins’ communications that day with other Oath Keepers said that 30 to 40 people were part of the group. As the Columbus Dispatch reports, Watkins and her chief cohort, Donovan Crowl, were among the “stack” members who penetrated the U.S. Capitol. Watkins took video from inside in which she exclaims, “We’re in the fucking Capitol!”
The court documents said that Oath Keepers considered bringing “heavy weapons” to Washington after the election. Some members indicated plans to bring mace, gas masks, batons and armor to the Capitol—however, they were in agreement not to bring guns to Washington because of local anti-gun laws. Instead, they chose to create a “quick reaction force” with weapons several minutes away, stashed in vehicles.
Watkins and co-conspirator Bennie Parker communicated their plans via text messages over several months. In a November conversation, Parker wrote: “Unfortunately, we can’t take weapons.” Watkins replied: “Not into the city, no. Just mace, tasers and nightsticks.”
Some prominent figures on the far right—including Infowars conspiracist Alex Jones, former Trump adviser Roger Stone, and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ari Alexander—may also be swept up in the investigation, according to The Washington Post.
“We are investigating potential ties between those physically involved in the attack on the Capitol and individuals who may have influenced them, such as Roger Stone, Alex Jones and [Stop the Steal organizer] Ali Alexander,” an anonymous official told the Post.
Stone’s activities around the time of the insurrection have drawn particular interest. He used Oath Keepers as his bodyguards, including at least six of whom later entered the Capitol during the siege. Stone later posted a statement online that he “saw no evidence whatsoever of illegal activity by any members” of the Oath Keepers.
The Oath Keepers have had a long running history of involving themselves in far-right media events, notably the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014 and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Their authoritarian streak in fervent support of Trump became especially pronounced this year, particularly after a far-right activist was shot and killed by an antifascist in Portland—after which Rhodes declared “civil war” and urged Trump to declare martial law.
The violent rhetoric emanating from the group became even more intense after the election, with Oath Keepers discussing what a civil war would entail. “It’s time to start killing the news media live on air,” one of them opined in an Oath Keepers channel.
Rhodes had appeared on Jones’ Infowars program on November 10, claiming: “We’ll also be on the outside of D.C., armed, prepared to go in, if the president calls us up.”
Rhodes suggested Trump invoke the Insurrection Act during the same episode. He also claimed: “We have men already stationed as a nuclear option in case they attempt to remove the president illegally. We will step in and stop it.”
On the Oath Keepers website, he had pleaded with Trump in a December 23 open letter: “Do your duty, and do it now. Recognize you are already in a war, and you must act as a wartime president, and there is not a minute to lose.”