Secret Service agents were in contact with members of the Oath Keepers before Jan. 6, an agency official told CNN, as part of standard intelligence and response duties.
The official said members of the Oath Keepers occasionally reached out to the Secret Service with questions about items allowed at rallies. Furthermore, when agents learned that the group planned to attend events, the agents reached out and met with members. The official noted that it is common when groups plan to demonstrate.
The Washington Post first reported the agency’s outreach to Oath Keepers before January 6, 2021.
“We are aware that individuals from Oath Keepers have contacted us in the past to make inquiries,” Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN last week.
It is not uncommon for law enforcement agents to maintain contacts with groups of investigative interest. Oath Keepers and other extremist groups that traveled to Washington for demonstrations after the 2020 election had numerous contacts with local and federal law enforcement agencies, testimony gathered in congressional and federal investigations has shown.
Relations between the Oath Keepers have come under increased scrutiny after testimony last week revealed that the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, pretended to be in contact with agents.
John Zimmerman, a former leader of the Oath Keepers in North Carolina, testified that he believed Rhodes was in contact with a Secret Service agent in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
Zimmerman, who has not been charged with a crime, said members of the Oath Keepers — who are currently indicted on charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including seditious conspiracy — gathered in September in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to a campaign. rally for former President Donald Trump
Members of the Oath Keepers recruited at the convention and worked as personal security detail, he said.
To prepare for the rally, Zimmerman testified, Rhodes said he was in contact with a member of the Secret Service who advised the leader on what weapons were allowed near the rally. Zimmerman said he did not hear the entire conversation, but that Rhodes repeatedly represented he was in contact with an agent.
Rhodes allegedly told other members of the Oath Keepers in a group chat that if Trump called them a militia, he thought the US Secret Service would be “happy” to have their help, according to evidence presented in court Thursday.
The text was presented during the seditious conspiracy trial of Rhodes and four other defendants. All five have pleaded not guilty.
“If he calls us up as a militia, I think the Secret Service would be happy to have us out there,” Rhodes wrote, according to prosecutors. Rhodes went on to say that this conclusion was based on several positive contacts between the Oath Keepers and the Secret Service prior to several Trump meetings prior to January 6.
This story has been updated with additional details.