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The House Military and Veterans’ Affair Committee held an informational meeting on the Oath Keepers on Thursday that was, frankly, a lot more interesting and useful than I was expecting. The committee is holding a series of meeting on the Oath Keepers following the chamber coming up short of the votes needed to strip Rep. David Eastman, who is a member of the group whose leaders have been indicted on seditious conspiracy, from his committee assignments. Eastman attended the Jan. 6 protests but there’s been no evidence that he entered the U.S. Capitol.
While the committee’s two presenters were firmly on the side of seeing the Oath Keepers as a dangerous, anti-government group, the committee’s chair Rep. Chris Tuck made it clear that the committee is interested in hearing its side of the story.
“I also want to remind everybody that we are actively trying to find someone with Oath Keepers to be able to present in front of the committee to be able to tell their story,” he said. “At this time, we haven’t been able to find anyone.”
It’s not only Oath Keepers representatives that were missing from the meeting, but any Republican members. Every Republican member—who all found themselves backing Eastman’s membership of the group in votes earlier in the week—were no shows.
The committee is scheduled to hold another meeting today at 1 p.m.
The entire hearing is worth watching as it lays out one of the most complete and succinct looks into the history and path of anti-government militias from their early days around Waco and the Oklahoma City bombings to the formation of the Oath Keepers and the events of Jan. 6.
One of the really important takeaway messages here is that Oath Keepers and their ilk at least ostensibly believe that they’re upholding the constitution against tyranny, but the researchers stressed that it’s a belief that’s been built on decades of anti-government conspiracy and a warped view of what’s constitutional.
“It’s important to differentiate between the rhetoric that the Oath Keepers use of constitutionality from what is the reality and understand that these guys are frequently using the language and rhetoric of constitutionality as cover for their beliefs, which are warped by conspiracy,” said Alex Friedfeld, an investigative researcher from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
These anti-government attitudes also seem to conveniently ebb and flow depending on what party is in the White House, with the researchers noting how incredible it was to see the leaders of the Oath Keepers calling on President Donald Trump to use the military to quell the Black Lives Matters protestors. The researchers noted that the fluidity of the militia groups’ conspiracy thinking is particularly troubling because it’s laying the foundation and creating justification for continued violence.
After all, the researchers said, if you really believed that the government was keen on recreating the Holocaust through the covid-19 vaccines—a point that has been raised by several Republican legislators, not just Rep. Eastman—then wouldn’t these violent actions be justified? The problem, they argued, is the Oath Keepers pose a particularly serious threat with a combination of rampant conspiracies to justify violence and combat training to make that violence real.
Much of the presentation included a beat-by-beat breakdown of Oath Keepers activities on Jan. 6 that varied from the on-the-ground columns of members that helped breach the U.S. Capitol to stockpiles of firearms in nearby hotels for so-called “Quick Reaction Force” teams.
It’s also clear from the hearing that Rep. David Eastman was not part of the militaristic response of the Oath Keepers on Jan. 6., at least when it came to the coordinated pseudo-militaristic attack mounted by the militia on Jan. 6. But what is clear is just how much of his own personal rhetoric—particularly his repeated comparison of covid-19 health mandates to the Holocaust—that mirror much of what the Oath Keepers and other anti-government militias have been saying, an extreme comparison that lays down the justification for potentially extreme action.[See also: ReBrook: Behind the Veil – The Real David Eastman]
When asked if any members of the Oath Keepers have either renounced or distanced themselves from the events of Jan. 6, the researchers said there was little evidence of that. Instead, he said, groups have either distanced themselves specifically from founder and leader Stewart Rhodes, who is one of those indicted for conspiracy, or claimed that it was the work of Antifa.
Which is precisely the route, Rep. Eastman took in the days after Jan. 6 when he penned a blog post comparing Trump’s loss to Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, arguing that neither were believable. He claimed, without evidence, that it was solely members of the Antifa that were responsible for Jan. 6.
“If you think that the members of Antifa, or any other groups who were assaulting police officers at the Capitol today, were doing so because of something said by the president, then you know neither Antifa nor the president.
The House Military and Veterans’ Affair Committee is set to hold a second meeting on the Oath Keepers on Tuesday. It still has a standing invitation for any one from the Oath Keepers.
Follow the thread: The House hears about the Oath Keepers.