(WASHINGTON) — A former member of the Oath Keepers militia group testified Wednesday about the large stash of weapons stored by the group at a hotel just outside Washington, D.C., during the Jan. 6, 2001, assault on the Capitol, as prosecutors provided more details on the group’s planning and private communications leading up to the attack.
“I had not seen that many weapons in one location since I was in the military,” said Terry Cummings, a former member of the group’s Florida chapter who was subpoenaed for his testimony and has not been charged or accused of wrongdoing in connection with Jan. 6.
Cummings testified that he traveled to D.C. with Oath Keeper Jason Dolan, one of three members of the group who earlier pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, as well as with Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson, one of the five defendants — including Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes — who are currently being tried on seditious conspiracy charges. All five have pleaded not guilty.
Cummings said he stored his AR-15 style weapon at the group’s so-called “QRF” or Quick Reaction Force hotel in Virginia, and showed members of the jury the weapon as well as a canister apparently filled with ammunition magazines.
Prosecutors have previously released photos showing Harrelson in the hotel rolling what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway.
They displayed another surveillance photo during Wednesday’s hearing showing Cummings with Harrelson in the hallway together.
Cummings testified that his intention of bringing his weapon was not for use in an “offensive situation” but rather in a “show of force,” as a means of deterring potential attacks. Defense attorneys for the Oath Keepers currently on trial have made similar arguments, noting that at no point were members of the QRF instructed to come into the city.
Cummings said that on the morning of Jan. 6 he traveled to the Ellipse in D.C. where the “Stop the Steal” rally was taking place. He said he was told that Meggs was in touch with the organizers of the rally, and that they were given passes to the rally’s VIP area. He said he and other Oath Keepers then met with a VIP who they were supposed to escort to the Capitol — a Hispanic woman whose name he didn’t recall.
Cummings testified that the group left before Trump’s speech ended and began walking to the Capitol — at which point Meggs received word the Capitol had been “breached.”
Cummings said that when they got to the Capitol, it was like nothing he had ever seen. He said that when he heard Meggs suggest they go into the Capitol building, he didn’t think it was a good idea.
“My understanding was that Congress was in session, and I knew the vice president was going to be there, and I personally I didn’t think it was a good idea to enter,” Cummings testified.
On cross-examination from Rhodes’ attorney, Cummings testified that he was never part of a conversation in the days leading up to the attack or on Jan. 6 in which people discussed plans to storm the Capitol building. Rhodes’ attorney stressed to the jury that when the group was told during their walk to the Capitol that the building had been breached, no members began running to join the riot or otherwise discussed plans to enter the building.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, introduced texts and private messages between Rhodes and several of the Oath Keepers who have already pleaded guilty in connection with the case, including Dolan, Brian Ulrich and Joshua James.
In one message from Dec. 5, Ulrich wrote, “I seriously wonder what it would take just to get every patriot marching around the Capitol armed just to show our government how powerful they are.”
On Dec. 14, Rhodes texted a group of Georgia Oath Keepers, “Things are in the works. That’s all I can say, I am still in DC for a reason. Yes, take that as a big hint.”
He then added, “I have to try to get Trump the message on the necessity of him waging a war on the enemy NOW while he is still President and Commander in Chief.”
One day later, according to records, Rhodes told the group he passed a message to Trump “through one contact” and was working with others.
According to the messages, the group began discussing traveling to D.C. for Jan. 6 as early as Dec. 20, one day after Trump’s tweeted that Jan. 6 “Will be wild.”
The trial could last until mid-November, D.C. district judge Amit Mehta said.
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