Slightly obscured by the opening of 'skeet shoot the Constitution' season at the Supreme Court, the trial of Oath Keeper founder and Yale grad Stewart Rhodes and four of his henchpersons began in federal court down Capitol Hill a ways down the road from the Hallowed Chambers. And the prosecution wasn’t playing around; it went to smack the national gob right from jump. The FBI took a haymaker, too. From the Washington Post:

An “increasingly alarmed follower” recorded the meeting and shared it with law enforcement, prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said Monday in the federal trial of Rhodes and four others accused of a seditious conspiracy to keep Trump in office. But the tip, sent to the FBI on Nov. 25, 2020, was apparently ignored. Special Agent Michael Palian said in the second day of his testimony that he saw the message only when the tipster re-sent it in March 2021, after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, and he was not aware of anyone reaching out to the person earlier.

At this meeting (which seems to have been more of a conference call), Rhodes explained the plan of action for disrupting the peaceful transfer of power in January 2021. It’s important to remember that this recording was made just after the election in November 2020. Proper planning prevents poor performance.

On the November call, according to court records, Rhodes told more than 100 people that “we’ve got to be in D.C. … You’ve got to make sure that [Trump] knows that you are willing to die, to fight for this country.” As he did repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, Rhodes said he hoped Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, which he believed would allow the president to authorize the Oath Keepers to use force against fellow Americans.

“If he does that, then D.C. gun laws won’t matter,” Rhodes said. “I do want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in armed if they have to.” Palian testified that Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins, three Oath Keepers on trial with Rhodes, were also on the call.

We know from earlier reporting that the previous administration* discussed invoking the Insurrection Act. Whether or not you consider that coincidental depends on where you come down on that whole unicorn business.

Days before the recorded meeting, Palian testified, Rhodes sent messages calling for armed resistance to Biden in a group chat that included Trump confidant Roger Stone. “The final defense is us and our rifles,” Rhodes wrote on Nov. 7, according to the records. “Trump has a duty to stand, but so far [he] hasn’t. As Roger Stone said. Trump has one last chance, right now, to stand. But he will need us and our rifles too. But will he FINALLY act? Only if WE act and call on him to lead us.” Rhodes repeatedly referenced the 2000 overthrow of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, saying Trump supporters needed to follow the same playbook — which included storming the country’s parliament building and setting it on fire.

While reading these accounts of how the insurrection was months in the planning, what came immediately to mind is how shrewd Antifa and other resistance groups were in standing down that day. Rhodes’ game plan depended vitally on open brawling between his people and whoever they thought "Antifa" to be. That violence was going to be the trigger for invoking the Insurrection Act, and then (if things went to plan) the Oath Keepers would be deputized to “maintain order.”

That conspiracy was to use the Insurrection Act as “legal cover” for what the Oath Keepers knew was an illegal plan to thwart Biden’s victory, prosecutors argued. In the November meeting, played in court, Rhodes is heard warning others, “Don’t make it easy for them to pop you with a conspiracy charge and do you like they did those guys in Michigan” — a reference to a kidnapping plot against the state’s Democratic governor over coronavirus precautions.

But the defense argued that the reliance on the Insurrection Act was sincere, pointing to a 2020 New York Times article circulated among the Oath Keepers with the line, “If the president decides unrest rises to the level of insurrection, there is little Congress or the courts can do to stop him, legal experts say.”

Even the liberal New York Times, etc., etc.

By their own lawyers' admission, they really believed that all of this would happen. They would engage in political violence severe enough that the president would invoke a law from 1807 that’s been invoked 30 times since, often in cases of labor unrest (always on behalf of management) and against white supremacist violence (ironically enough), both during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. This time, according to Rhodes’ plan, he and his Bass Pro commandos would help enforce it. They really believed it, and what’s frightening is that I believe it could've happened, too.