Ken Bensinger Profile picture
reporter & editor @BuzzFeedNews. author of "Red Card.” ken.bensinger@buzzfeed.com kenbensinger@protonmail.com DMs open. 213-572-8578
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1 Jul
NEW: In a sweeping broadside at Washington, DC, residents, Oath Keeper conspiracy defendant Thomas Caldwell requests a venue change to the W. Dist. of Virginia b/c he "cannot receive a fair trial in the District" which he calls "prejudiced" & the "birthplace of the Resistance."
The 23-page pleading argues, in essence, that the prosecution is political and the DC jury pool is incapable of providing a fair verdict. "District residents not only despise Caldwell’s politics—they despise many things that traditional America stands for," Caldwell claims.
Pulling no punches, Caldwell says DC residents "style themselves as chic, sophisticated, worldly, high-brow urbanites" but in fact are "repulsed by rural America’s traditional values, patriotism, religion, gun ownership, and perceived lack of education."
Read 17 tweets
11 Jun
Oath Keeper Jason Dolan allegedly took Trump's loss "very hard" & removed a Trump flag from his roof, replacing it with an upside down American flag, according to prosecutors arguing for his detention in a hearing taking place in DC federal court now.
A neighbor of his in Wellington, FL, told the FBI that Dolan, a former Marine, was "an intense person who was not well liked by anyone in the neighborhood" and owned multiple firearms including a 9mm handgun that he always carried on his person.
Dolan's attorney, Michael van der Veen (who previously represented Trump in the 2nd Impeachment), is arguing that Dolan, whose alias is "Turmoil" was not an Oath Keeper leader, and indeed only joined the group recently. He challenges the validity of the government's evidence.
Read 10 tweets
11 Jun
More than a week before January 6, newly indicted Three Percenter Russell Taylor of Orange County was specifically talking about breaching the Capitol:

"I personally want to be on the front steps and be one of the first ones to breach the doors!"
It's striking because so much of the planning chatter we've been hearing from those involved in storming the Capitol was much more vague, focused on battling Antifa or being prepared for anything. But this is very directed at getting inside the building.
Then on Jan 2 Taylor again is focused on breaching in a Telegram chat about what weapons to bring to DC. He says you can't bring knives into gov't buildings but adds: "something tells me though if we are inside government buildings it won't be at the top of our list."
Read 4 tweets
11 Jun
Oath Keeper Jason Dolan has responded to the govt brief seeking his detention, arguing he didn't engage in violence & wasn't a leader of the organization. His "actions were far less nefarious than those of other people charged as a result of the events of January 6th," he claims.
Dolan claims he "purchased a $50 subscription to the organization in mid to late November of 2020 and participated in some online chats," was not in military garb on Jan 6 and received no Oath Keeper training.
The DoJ, Dolan claims, "failed to establish with any degree of reasonably certainty" that he was the person who gave an anonymous interview to Gateway Pundit claiming someone let rioters into the Capitol by releasing magnetic locks on the building's doors.
Read 5 tweets
9 Jun
In a new filing, the DoJ said it believes Oath Keeper Jason Dolan hid multiple firearms — including one he gave to his 7 year old daughter — as well as an Oath Keeper t-shirt, gloves & a gaiter he wore into the Capitol on Jan. 6, all in an effort to "delete or secrete evidence" Image
A magistrate ordered Dolan's release after his arrest last week, but prosecutors are moving for that to be revoked & for Dolan to remain behind.

They claim he's "similarly situated" to Kenneth Harrelson, another defendant in the Oath Keepers case who did not receive bond. Image
Both Dolan and Harrelson traveled to DC together, appeared to stash weapons in the same Virginia hotel, and entered the Capitol together. But when FBI agents searched Dolan's house, they found no firearms or ammo whatsoever. Image
Read 12 tweets
30 May
NEW — the DoJ just dropped (on a holiday weekend Sunday) a new indictment in the Oath Keepers case, adding four new defendants to the case: Joseph Hackett, Jason Dolan, William Isaacs, all from Florida, plus a person whose name has not been revealed.

More details below
There's no indication who 4th person is. NJ Oath Keeper James Breheny, charged on May 20 isn't named in this indictment.

Obvious question is whether it's Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who has been a focus on the ongoing investigation

buzzfeednews.com/article/kenben…
Prosecutors have referred to him repeatedly as "Person One." Given that they continue to do so heavily in this indictment, without redaction, it would perhaps suggest the 4th person isn't him.
Read 16 tweets
28 May
The DoJ continues to build evidence to support its theory that the Oath Keepers were prepared to use weapons on Jan 6, with leadership (including founder Stewart Rhodes) discussing where to store guns and how to get them into DC on short notice, per a new filing today. Image
On Jan 4, Rhodes wrote in a signal chat: “As we have done on all recent DC Ops, we will also have well armed and equipped QRF teams on standby, outside DC, in the event of a worst case scenario, where the President calls us up as part of the militia to to assist him inside DC."
Then on the morning of Jan. 6, he wrote:

“We will have several well equipped QRFs outside DC. And there are many, many others, from other groups, who will be watching and waiting on the outside in case of worst case scenarios.”

QRF = Quick Reaction Force
Read 8 tweets
8 May
We discovered something new about the Oath Keepers: although it's a nonprofit, it is NOT an IRS-recognized tax-exempt entity. That means it doesn't have to publish its financials & that donations are NOT tax deductible.

buzzfeednews.com/article/kenben…
@jvgarrison @jsvine @SalHernandez
That tax status — being a nonprofit w/o being a 501(c)3 or other charity — is highly unusual b/c it confers few if any tax benefits. But experts say it gives Oath Keepers the "halo effect" of being able to claim its a nonprofit without any of the obligations of transparency.
Oath Keepers seems to use that halo to full effect, using a ".org" domain on its website, soliciting donations to promote its "mission" of supporting & defending the US Constitution & partnering with outside groups that donate to charities as part of their business model.
Read 4 tweets
28 Apr
NEW: Federal prosecutors in Michigan have filed a new indictment agains the men charged with conspiracy to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. Notably the new charges add for the first time language specifically casting the defendants as having "engaged in domestic terrorism"
The superseding indictment includes three new charges against some of the defendants: Weapons of Mass Destruction Conspiracy, Possession of an Unregistered Destructive Device (related to an IED they allegedly made) and Possession of an Unregistered Short-Barreled Rifle
Those expand it beyond the single kidnapping conspiracy count and "weapon of mass destruction" is very sensational sounding. But the domestic terrorism aspect is perhaps the most notable new element, suggesting a new frame to a case first charged more than 6 months ago.
Read 6 tweets
27 Apr
NEW: Oath Keeper Joshua James will not go back to jail or have another detention hearing, despite new evidence presented by the DoJ, a federal judge has just ordered.
James was released on April 9 but a week later the DoJ said it found new video evidence he was more violent than previously thought while in the US Capitol.

But Judge Amit Mehta said the Govt "almost surely possessed this evidence at the time of Defendant’s detention hearing" Image
That evidence, Mehta says, should have been presented @ the hearing. The issue: "whether the judicial officer finds that information exists that was not known to the movant at the time of the hearing and that has a material bearing on" whether detention is merited. Image
Read 4 tweets
17 Apr
BREAKING: the DoJ says it's uncovered new video evidence of Oath Keeper Joshua James assaulting police and screaming “Get out of my Capitol! This is my fucking building!” on Jan 6 and is requesting he be jailed again.

James was released on April 9 after a detention hearing.
Prosecutors said that video from James' phone as well as from two police body cameras show a confrontation with police. James argued in his motion for release that although he entered the Capitol, he had not been engaged in any violence that day.
Another video, apparently recorded by co-defendant Roberto Minuta, shows James "engaging in a confrontation with a line of law enforcement officers forming a barrier between the lobby and the Capitol Rotunda."
Read 11 tweets
16 Apr
Jon Schaffer, founding member of the band Iced Earth and an Indiana-based Oath Keeper, is at this very moment before a federal judge pleading guilty to two federal crimes for his involvement in the Jan. 6 uprising.

This is the first public conviction in any Oath Keeper case
He is agreeing to provide testimony and information to federal law information as part of his plea agreement as well as to turn over any evidence of crimes or their proceeds in his possession.
He's doing this in hopes that prosecutors will recommended a lesser sentence for the crimes he committed.

Here is the "information" the govt submitted detailing the crimes he's pleaded guilty to

documentcloud.org/documents/2061…
Read 6 tweets
14 Apr
Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson, in a late Tuesday rebuttal, claims he did't perjure himself, didn't damage property in the Capitol, wasn't a leader of the planning & that "the government’s opposition is based on inferences and conclusions that are not supported by the evidence."
Harrelson points to an April 8 email from prosecutors noting that the Signal chats they've relied up do not "contain any explicit messages to a plan to forcibly enter the US Capitol on Jan. 6."

From the defendant's point of view, that means there could be no conspiracy.
He admits he helped organize Personal Security Details for Trump rallies on Jan 5 & 6 but denies other planning. Stewart Rhodes, head of the Oath Keepers, is quoted in Signal saying another defendant, Kelly Meggs “& his FL team are already set to provide a PSD for Roger Stone."
Read 7 tweets
13 Apr
Just hours after the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, Oath Keeper founder & leaders Stewart Rhodes found himself on the defensive to other members.

"Look, I WAS THERE. I WAS RIGHT OUTSIDE. Patriots stormed in," Rhodes (ID'd by the DoJ as 'Person One') wrote in a group chat.
He was swiftly rebuked by someone called Person Eleven: "This organization is a huge fucking joke. You Stewart Rhodes are the dumbass I heard you were. Good luck getting rich off those Dumb ass PSD donations you fuck stick."
Since then, Rhodes has given numerous interviews and made public appearances downplaying his role in the day's events while also denying anything improper actually happened that day. Last week, his lawyer said the mob was "invited" into the building.
Read 21 tweets
13 Apr
New: On Feb. 17, 19 FBI agents & Sheriff's Deputies spent 3 hours searching the Florida home of Oath Keepers Kelly & Connie Meggs. They turned over all 22 (!) rooms, the garage, a shed, and three vehicles, but didn't find the gear the Meggs' wore to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6
Meggs - who is seeking bond - last week claimed it was an oversight: proof he is not an obstruction risk & should be released from jail & allowed to return to his 22 (!) room home w/ his wife & family. Meggs included photos of the items in his motion

But in a late Monday filing, the DoJ firmly begs to differ, saying it's "likely the items were secreted elsewhere and then retrieved" by Connie after she won bond. (The items - 3 helmets, 3 vests, and multiple shirts - were given to the FBI on April 9.)
Read 5 tweets
9 Apr
Prosecutors have JUST discovered additional Signal messages from Oath Keeper Joshua James indicating he considered bringing a gun into DC on Jan. 6 (and may have done)

In a group thread on Jan 1, James said: "Some are bringing long rifles some sidearms… I’m bringing sidearm."
This comes in a supplemental filing the DoJ dropped just hours after a previous brief arguing that James, from Alabama, should not be released from pretrial detention.

Prosecutors apparently viewed additional Signal messages after filing the prior brief.
"These messages provide additional evidence that, in the days leading up to Jan 6 the defendant discussed w/ several different coconspirators their plans to bring firearms to Washington, DC— & that the defendant himself at least contemplated bringing his own
firearm w/ him"
Read 4 tweets
9 Apr
In a new filing, the DoJ has spotlighted at least 7 individuals it calls "uncharged coconspirators and witnesses" in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case. That group includes 4 unnamed individuals whom it alleges were part of the "stack" that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6
The photo depicts people surrounding Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes (Person One) after rioters left the Capitol. Rhodes isn't charged. Also labeled are 2 people who were "w/ defendant" Joshua James, who rode to the Capitol in a golf cart & entered separately from the stack.
The filing — which suggests more people could be charged in the case — comes from a new govt brief opposing James' release from jail pending trial.

In his motion seeking bond, James argued he wasn't part of the stack & did not commit acts of violence

Read 10 tweets
6 Apr
Joshua James, one of 12 charged in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case, has filed a motion seeking bond, claiming he was not part of the "stack" of Oath Keepers who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 by force and that he is not charged with destruction of gov't property. ImageImage
James, a veteran with a Purple Heart from Alabama, said he suffers from PTSD — a fact a magistrate seized upon to order his detention on grounds that he could be a danger to the community. But he argues otherwise, claiming he will willingly submit to a mental health evaluation. Image
To show good faith, James' wife has already removed all the family's guns from their home, locked them in a storage unit, and given the keys to a family friend. Image
Read 4 tweets
5 Apr
NEW: Oath Keeper defendant Kelly Meggs has moved, for the third time, for release from detention. He claims that the feds' claim he may have obstructed justice by destroyed the clothing he & his wife wore on Jan. 6 is false and he includes photos of the gear to prove it. ImageImage
"the items were, in fact, still at the residence and had not been destroyed or otherwise concealed
from law enforcement"

"It appears that the government agents in conducting the search of the Meggs’ residence simply overlooked the items" ImageImage
Meggs does not address the other major issue that the DoJ raised in the last go-round, which was that he was caught in apparent lie about never having done any paramilitary training prior to Jan. 6, when in fact he had.

buzzfeednews.com/article/kenben…
Read 5 tweets
26 Mar
Now: Oath Keeper Connie Meggs is going to get out of jail pending trial.

Judge Amit Mehta has just ruled to let her out, saying "I don't believe there is a basis to hold her" based on her specific conduct and citing a brand new circuit court ruling in the Munchel case.
The judge noted that unlike many of the Oath Keepers indicted along with her, Meggs did not appear to take place in leadership calls, nor recruit others, nor is their evidence that she personally destroyed property.
Meggs' husband, Kelly Meggs, is due to have his detention hearing later today. In his case, prosecutors have presented evidence that he may have been in Oath Keeper leadership and was in communication with Stewart Rhodes on Jan. 6.
Read 5 tweets
25 Mar
Amazon claims its workers don't pee in bottles; defenders say it's an urban legend. But these photos sent to me by a former driver for a former @amazon contractor called Synctruck in a California facility suggest strongly otherwise.
"You are responsible in cleaning out your van at the end of your route.

"This includes garbage bags, and URINE BOTTLES." (emphasis mine)

These were signs posted to the wall in an Amazon delivery station in the Sacramento area.
Exhibit B are these pics of what appear to be urine-filled bottles taken by my colleague @ceodonovan just outside an @amazon delivery station in Chicago. (full disclosure: we did not open the bottles to confirm their contents, but spring water is generally not yellow & w/foam)
Read 4 tweets