Three days after President Donald J. Trump posted a tweet summoning his followers to Washington for a “wild” protest on Jan. 6, 2021, Kelly Meggs, the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers militia, started reaching out to allies in other far-right organizations.
Among them was a man named Jeremy Liggett who ran a group in Florida called the B-Squad, an offshoot of the pro-gun Three Percenter movement.
Their exchanges were the first evidence presented at the seditious conspiracy trial of Mr. Meggs and four other Oath Keepers that the militia had sought to create what prosecutors have referred to as “an alliance” with the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters, both of which have several members who have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
The two Floridians seemed to agree that Mr. Trump wanted groups like their own to sow disorder on Jan. 6 and discussed how many men — and weapons — they were planning to bring to Washington that day, according to online messages shown at the trial on Thursday.
“He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying,” Mr. Meggs wrote. “He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!”
Mr. Meggs also told Mr. Liggett that he had made contact with another far-right organization, the Proud Boys, who he said “always have a big group,” calling them a “force multiplier.”
“1776,” he wrote to Mr. Liggett a few days later. “We are gonna make history.”
In August, the Justice Department unveiled charges against five members of the B-Squad, though Mr. Liggett was not among them. In the charging document, the department cited a video posted by Mr. Liggett on Jan. 3, 2021, in which he advised “all of you Patriots out there going to Washington” on which “defensive tools” to carry, including stun guns, pepper spray and short-bladed knives.
“We are going to have four more years of Trump, we all know that,” Mr. Liggett said in the video.
The messages presented in court on Thursday also demonstrated how a variety of far-right groups had been energized by Mr. Trump’s tweet from Dec. 19, 2020, which was widely read as a clarion call to action. “Be there, will be wild!” Trump wrote.
Mr. Meggs and other Oath Keepers now on trial — including Stewart Rhodes, the organization’s founder and leader — seemed elated by the tweet; they swapped messages celebrating the president’s invitation and vowing to stop Joseph R. Biden Jr. from taking office.
Mr. Meggs wrote specifically about planning to descend on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and make members of Congress “very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away.”
“I think we get everyone up good and close to the Capitol building,” he declared in one text. “Whatever happens,” he added, “happens.”
The Oath Keepers trial, now in its second week in Federal District Court in Washington, has so far included dozens of bellicose messages that Mr. Rhodes exchanged with members in several states as the militia took part in pro-Trump Stop the Steal rallies in Washington in November and December 2020, ultimately returning to the city on Jan. 6 when a mob attacked the Capitol.
Prosecutors have also introduced testimony from a group of former Oath Keepers, some of whom have told the jury that they quit the organization as Mr. Rhodes, increasingly upset that Mr. Trump seemed unable or unwilling to stave off defeat, sharpened the tone of his language and began making violent plans for the Oath Keepers to keep Mr. Trump in office.
On Wednesday, Terry Cummings, a former Oath Keeper from Oregon, told the jury that he had brought an assault-style rifle to a hotel room in Virginia that Mr. Rhodes had planned to use as the base for an armed “quick reaction force” designed to rush to the aid of fellow militia members at the Capitol if things went wrong.
“There were a lot of firearms cases,” Mr. Cummings said. “I had not seen that many weapons in one location since I was in the military.”
The testimony on Thursday suggested the complexity of the Oath Keepers’ relationship with Mr. Trump and growing anxiety about what would happen as Jan. 6 approached.
While Mr. Rhodes and his subordinates were clearly excited by the president’s call to action on Jan. 6, they also seemed worried during the weeks before that Mr. Trump might not take decisive steps to maintain his grip on power. Mr. Rhodes expressed concern that if Mr. Trump did not invoke the Insurrection Act, for instance, and call up militias like the Oath Keepers to assist him, it would result in widespread confusion and violent conflict in the streets.
“He needs to know that if he fails to act then we will,” Mr. Rhodes wrote to a group chat. “He needs to understand that we will have no choice.”
Several times after the election, Mr. Rhodes sought to persuade Mr. Trump to use the Insurrection Act and put down a supposed “coup” that was seeking to unseat him. He begged Mr. Trump in open letters, showed to the jury last week, to mobilize his group and claimed in text messages to his lieutenants that he was involved with “back channel working groups trying to advise the president.”
“I’m working to get him to see other options and put them on the table,” Mr. Rhodes wrote in one message.
Days after the Capitol was attacked, Mr. Rhodes was still trying to get in touch with Mr. Trump, begging him not to give up on the fight to keep the White House, the jury is expected to hear from a government witness.
On Thursday, prosecutors also picked up another recurring theme: that Mr. Rhodes may have had a contact in the Secret Service.
As Jan. 6 approached, Mr. Meggs sent a message to Mr. Rhodes, asking how the Secret Service felt about the group “protecting” Mr. Trump.
Mr. Rhodes responded that the Oath Keepers would only rush to the president’s aid if he legally summoned them as a militia.
“I’m not talking about us just walking onto the White House lawn with rifles,” Mr. Rhodes wrote to Mr. Meggs. But then he suggested that the Secret Service “would be happy to have us there,” based on conversations he had had with some in the agency.
While the Justice Department sought to establish that certain links existed between the Oath Keepers and other far-right organizations, other texts presented on Thursday indicated unease among the Oath Keepers’ rank-and-file about ideological differences between groups.
In one chat, members of the Oath Keepers privately complained about the Proud Boys’ propensity for violence, describing them as “frat boys looking for a fight,” yet agreed that their presence on Jan. 6 could help advance the Oath Keepers’ goals.
“They want to chase kids around the street,” Mr. Meggs wrote. “We want to save the Republic.”
The post Texts Show Oath Keepers Coordinated With Other Far-Right Groups appeared first on New York Times.