Washington — A member of the far-righttold a jury on Tuesday that he traveled to Washington, D.C., and stormed the , in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's election win.
"I threw my rifle and pistol in the car…and ultimately ended up on the steps of the Capitol, moving into the Capitol building, to try and stop Congress from certifying [Biden's presidency]," Jason Dolan testified during the— including founder — who stand accused of conspiring to use force to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
Dolan, a former member of the militia group's Florida contingent, was called as a government witness after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstructing Congress' work, admitting to entering the Capitol and being part of the mob that drove members of Congress from performing their duty. As part of his plea deal, Dolan agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into the breach, including in cases that deal directly with those whom he once called fellow group members.
"I helped coordinate. I helped plan," Dolan admitted on the stand Tuesday, "I talked about my desire and I guess wanting to stop what I saw as an illegitimate government … [from] taking power."
The admitted rioter-turned-government witness offered new insight into the planning, coordination, and motivation behind the Oath Keepers' alleged participation in the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and codefendants Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell are accused of spearheading that fight. All have pleaded not guilty and their defense attorneys maintain their clients were in Washington, D.C. to serve as security and emergency responders that day.
Dolan did not meet the group's leader until after the attack. But he testified that Rhodes spoke of the need to take action should then-President Donald Trump invoke a centuries-old law known as the Insurrection Act and call on the Oath Keepers to join his fight to stay in power. And if Trump failed them, Dolan testified, the group was prepared to take matters into their own hands.
They had to be "willing to fight back against an illegitimate government and support what we saw as the rightful president against an illegitimate president," Dolan said.
"We were preparing for a trip to D.C.," he recalled, admitting some memories might not be perfectly clear. "If need be, then to take up arms and fight back because that's what we have been talking about."
Dolan described the group's alleged willingness to fight not as an explicit call to action, but as the implicit "tenor" of their conversations. "We have to fight back ... it was a feeling," he said.
Dolan is the first member of the Oath Keepers to plead guilty to committing crimes on Jan. 6 to testify as a witness at thetrial, which is now in its third week. Other Oath Keepers who pleaded guilty could testify in the coming days.
"How would you fight?" asked prosecutor Jeffrey Nester.
"Any way we could," Dolan answered.
Under cross examination by defense lawyers later, on Wednesday, Dolan told the jury that he never received operational orders for Jan. 6, that is, there had been no explicit direction from anyone to carry out a plan to oust an "illegitimate government."
Motivated by his desire to support Trump's baseless claims of election fraud – "It didn't seem possible that he was going to lose," he said Tuesday. Dolan testified that he had traveled to Washington, D.C., with his firearms and a group that included defendant Kenneth Harrelson.
He said he deposited his guns in a Virginia hotel room to avoid breaking Washington, D.C.'s strict firearms laws days before the attack and later made his way into the capital city on Jan. 6. Dolan testified that it was his understanding that the group would either return to their hotels to obtain their weapons or have them delivered to D.C. should the need arise.
"If President Trump declared the Insurrection Act, we would be working alongside or with pro-government forces against what we saw as anti-government forces," Dolan said, describing the anti-government forces as being "pro-Biden." The witness explained that he had little knowledge of the arcane law that was so central to the alleged conspiracy he was describing and instead relied on the direction of Rhodes and others.
The call from Trump never came.
Once at the Capitol, Dolan said he noticed a change in the crowd as the Trump supporters realized then-Vice President Mike Pence was not going to assist in Trump's effort to overturn the election.
"I was pissed. You could almost feel the crowd change. The crowd was pissed," he described.
If anything was to stop the election certification, Dolan said, that crowd would have been it.
Over the course of the trial, prosecutors had yet to provide ample evidence that the Oath Keepers' plans for Jan. 6 actually involved storming the Capitol itself — an apparent vulnerability upon which defense attorneys seized during cross-examinations. But Dolan's testimony offered some of the first allegations that the group was at the Capitol to halt the peaceful transfer of power.
"I wanted them to stop the certification of the election," Dolan said as Nestler showed the jury videos of the Oath Keepers inside the Capitol, some members of the mob yelling "treason."
"I had been betrayed and I wanted them to hear and feel the anger, the frustration, the rage that I felt."
Dolan, who said he now faces between five and seven years in prison for his admitted crimes, testified that although he did not receive any promises from the government for his testimony, he hoped his work on the stand would push prosecutors to recommend a less jail time Judge Amit Mehta on his behalf. Mehta is the presiding judge in both Dolan's case and the trial currently underway.
After he exited the Capitol building on Jan. 6, Dolan said he saw Meggs and Rhodes outside, his first in-person encounter with the group's founder.
"Looking back on it, I think I was pretty naive, downright stupid with some of my decisions. I'm thankful that — President Trump at the time didn't do something like invoke the Insurrection Act because I think ... there would have been a lot of violence had he," Dolan reflected.
Tuesday's proceedings also included testimony from U.S. Capitol Police Captain Ronald Ortega, a veteran of the force who described the events of Jan. 6 from his perspective.
In the morning, Mehta informed the legal teams that one juror had tested positive for COVID-19 and was therefore excused from service. One of the four alternate jurors selected at the beginning of the trial filled the seat and Mehta said the court both tested the jurors and polled them to ensure all felt comfortable continuing to go on with the proceedings.
John Woolley and Keshia Butts contributed to this report.
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