‘Conquer or die’: Oath Keeper testifies group was ready to stop election ‘by any means necessary’



CNN

A member of the Oath Keepers who is cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation into the far-right militia group told a jury Tuesday that he packed his car full of weapons and traveled to Washington, DC to prevent Joe Biden from taking over the presidency “by any means necessary .”

Jason Dolan, a 46-year-old former Marine from Florida, is the first of several Oath Keepers to plead guilty to charges stemming from the same alleged conspiracy to take the stand.

He made it clear that members of the extremist group intended to try to keep then-President Donald Trump in power by intimidating Congress, which convened on January 6, 2021, to confirm the election results.

“I wanted them to be afraid of me,” Dolan told the jury. “People will act out of kindness, they will act out of charity, but they also act out of fear. So if they didn’t want to do the right thing, maybe I could scare them into doing the right thing.”

His stunning testimony is critical as prosecutors seek to establish how Oath Keepers methodically prepared to stop the certification of the 2020 election — and what they were prepared to do if Congress did not comply.

The jury, gripped by his testimony, took furious notes and saw Dolan on the stand, and members of the jury gasped as Dolan’s firearm was brought into the room. Four of the defendants – Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell – watched intently as Dolan testified. The fifth defendant, Kenneth Harrelson, did not appear to look at Dolan. All five have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors had spent two weeks reading messages from the five defendants to the jury and playing secretly recorded audio about their plans for Washington. Three other people associated with the Oath Keepers, all of whom have not been charged, testified during the subpoena about how the group normally operated.

Prosecutors used Dolan’s testimony as a translation — repeatedly asking him how he understood Signal messages from the five defendants, what he thought the organization’s command structure was and how the group planned the day.

Dolan told the jury he joined the Oath Keepers in 2020 after surgery for injuries he sustained during his military service “didn’t quite go as hoped.” Dolan was forced to quit his job, he testified.

“I didn’t feel like I was alone,” Dolan said, adding that the organization gave him a sense of belonging. He liked that the group consisted primarily of military or law enforcement veterans “who felt the same way I did.”

Sitting in his garage in early December, Dolan read signal messages that came into the encrypted group message channel for Florida members of the Oath Keepers, he said.

Prosecutors showed the jury messages Dolan sent the group, in which he said “there’s no going back” if he was forced to fight for Trump and that he was prepared to “receive a prison sentence marked with treason or a bullet from the very people I wanted to protect.”

“In my perspective, it would be treasonous to stand up to an incoming administration that I didn’t see as legitimate,” Dolan testified about the message. “I was trying to prepare myself for that eventuality. I was trying to get into my mind that I would be considered an enemy of the country, even though I saw myself as fighting for our country.”

“If anything was going to happen to stop the certification of the election, this would be it,” he added.

In the next few weeks, Dolan told the jury, he came to see the Oath Keepers as a “core group that would be willing to fight” the government. But the previous presidents’ legal challenges to the election results failed and he did not implement the Sedition Act as Rhodes wanted, and Dolan testified that he was losing faith in the idea that the election would be overturned.

“We had to fight back, conquer or die,” Dolan told the jury.

Dolan, Harrelson and other members of the Oath Keepers drove from Florida to Virginia and dropped their firearms at the rapid response force, he testified. Dolan told the jury that he, Harrelson and others went to the Capitol on Jan. 5 and took pictures of the complex.

Dolan arrived at the Capitol on Jan. 6 after a crowd had begun to form, he testified. When the audience learned that Pence had gone ahead with the certification, he noted a visceral reaction.

“You had a sour angry crowd,” Dolan said. “I know from my perspective it seemed like you would never, ever have literally possibly hundreds of thousands of people in one place, at one time, who were angry … at least it seemed to me that if there were something happens to stop the certification of the election, that should be it.”

Dolan and Harrelson entered the Capitol together, he testified, around the same time as the Oath Keepers “stack” formation. Prosecutors played video showing Dolan and Harrelson yelling “treason” as they entered the building and entered the Rotunda.

“I wanted them to hear it,” Dolan testified. “I wanted them to hear me. I wanted them to stop the certification of the election”

He continued: “I wanted them to hear and feel the same things that I felt at the time. It felt like I had been betrayed. I wanted them to hear and feel the anger, the frustration, the rage that I felt. They betrayed—what I saw at that time was that they betrayed our country.”

“Looking back on it, I think I was pretty naive, downright stupid with some of my decisions,” Dolan testified. “I’m thankful that at that time President Trump didn’t do something like invoke the Insurrection Act because I think there would have been a lot of violence.”

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