Planning to commit a crime is also a crime. When that planning takes place among a number of people it becomes conspiracy. Already, Elmer Stewart Rhodes and ten other members of the white supremacist militia group Oath Keepers are facing charges of seditious conspiracy for their role in events on Jan. 6.
As Reuters reported on Tuesday, Rhodes is just one of the militia leaders who came together at a parking garage encounter a day before the assault on the Capitol. That meeting put Rhodes in the same space as Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio. Tarrio had previously admitted to meeting Rhodes, but called their encounter “insignificant” and “coincidental,” but it seems that there may be more to this than just a chance encounter. Apparently, it was significant enough that it has now become the focus of an FBI investigation.
The meeting took place in a hotel parking garage near the Capitol. Supposedly, based on past statements, the meeting involved Tarrio and Rhodes exchanging pleasantries after which Tarrio asked for help in locating an attorney for charges he was already facing. However, at least one witness reported that “she had already shared information about possible lawyers with Tarrio” and that the meeting “was not necessary.” Whatever occurred, parts of the meeting were recorded both in photographs and video, all of which the FBI has now collected.
Every single murder, burglary, or rape investigated by law enforcement took place in the past. When Republicans argue that Jan. 6 isn’t worth investigating, because “it’s in the past,” they’re ignoring a fundamental truth about almost every crime. Add in the fact that when Republicans say they want to “get back to the things that matter to people,” what they really mean is searching for Hunter Biden’s laptop, or pondering Hillary Clinton’s email security—the important stuff.
It’s not a very good excuse for overlooking an attempted coup.
As Brandi Buchman has shown in her timeline of events, there were a lot of pieces in motion on Jan. 6 itself. However, most of those pieces were set into motion by planning that happened days or weeks before the doors of the Capitol were battered open by violent extremists. As Rolling Stone reported last October, there were dozens of meetings conducted not just among members of the various committees and groups behind the insurgency on Jan. 6, but also with members of Congress and White House staff. As more information has been released, the scope of the conspiracy has become more apparent.
As the investigation into the events of Jan. 6 continues, more and more focus will inevitably fall on the planning that led up to the day in which violent insurgents attempted to overturn the government from one direction, while Donald Trump attempted to pull the strings of his coup from another.
It’s unclear at this point just how important this meeting in a garage between Rhodes and Tarrio really was. As David Neiwert has documented extensively, the Oath Keepers were deeply involved in planning for the events of Jan. 6. That included setting up communications channels and storing caches of weapons near the city. Just before that meeting with Tarrio, Rhodes had made a purchase of over $10,000 of ammunition. That was just part of $40,000 on military equipment and ammo Rhodes acquired in the days before the assault.
Tarrio himself was not present at events on Jan. 6, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved in planning, or that he didn’t want to be a part of those events.
As Dave Neiwert reported at the time, Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4, almost as soon as he landed in D.C., because he was already facing charges from past crimes. His release on Jan. 5 came only after an appearance before a district judge, where he was ordered to leave Washington, D.C., and banned from returning “except for very limited conditions, including meeting with his attorney or attending a court date.” The timing indicates that Tarrio had already been ordered out of D.C. before his encounter with Rhodes.
So while it makes some sense that Tarrio might have had attorneys on his mind, it may also be that he was seeking an excuse to stay in town under the conditions laid out by the judge.
Tarrio’s charges went back to an incident in December where he took “credit” for tearing down and burning a Black Lives Matter banner from the Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Tarrio sent out pictures and even did a podcast about the act, which he denied was a hate crime because, he explained, “Black Lives Matter isn’t about race.”
The Dec. 12 attack on Black churches conducted by the Proud Boys followed a “March for Trump” rally on that date, which was one of the reasons that Capitol Police warned that Trump’s Jan. 6 event was likely to be marked by violence.