Perhaps no one is anticipating the trial of the Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 27, more than Dakota Adams, his estranged son.
“My opinion on Stewart is that if he ever gets out of prison, he’s going to be a threat to my family,” Adams told Raw Story. “If he gets out, he has a right to unsupervised visitation. I would strap on body armor and follow him around the house with a firearm to ensure that he doesn’t try to kidnap my younger siblings and flee the country.”
Adams, who is 25, legally changed his name to avoid carrying forward his father’s lineage. The eldest of Rhodes’ children, Adams has two other adult siblings and three siblings who are still minors. Adams and other family members have previously detailed years of abuse that they say they experienced at the hands of Rhodes, who founded the far-right Oath Keepers militia group in 2009.
“If anyone would have asked if I would feign a tearful reconciliation to wear a wire and put him in prison, I would have agreed in a heartbeat,” Adams said.
Adams became estranged from Rhodes and drifted from the far-right movement his father helped lead in 2017. That rupture began a process of mourning the loss of his paternal relationship and resenting Rhodes for failing his family, Adams said. But by 2020, the year Rhodes took an extreme turn towards more violent rhetoric and alignment with Trump, Adams said he had “pretty much run out of venom” in his feelings about his father.
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Now, as an astute critic of the far-right milieu of the Oath Keepers and someone intimately familiar with Rhodes’ patterns of behavior, Adams is keenly monitoring preparations for the seditious conspiracy trial of Rhodes and eight codefendants, and the next round of hearings by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol.
Adams said he is certain that his father wouldn’t have decided on his own to participate in an attack on the US Capitol.
“I believe that Stewart wouldn’t have gone into the 6th without cover or assurances from someone higher up the chain,” Adams told Raw Story. “I believe he was an expendable asset. He’s probably going to go down swinging in his three-ring-circus trial, believing that someone like Trump or DeSantis will come along later and pardon him, and he will rise again like a phoenix.”
The Oath Keepers actions on Jan. 6 — with members breaching the Capitol in two separate “stacks,” with directions to hunt for lawmakers, and others staged across the Potomac River in armed “quick reaction forces” — are a departure from Rhodes’ tactical posture in the past, Adams said.
Rhodes was critical of a proposal by libertarian activist Adam Kokesh in 2013 to stage an armed Second Amendment march into Washington, DC, which would have violated the district’s prohibition against firearms and put participants in the position of deciding whether to defy arrest.
“Stewart’s personal take on that was that it was stupid,” Adams said. “If any shootings took place, they were going to be starting the first battle of the civil war in a kill trough as they came over the bridge over the Potomac River. It would create the perception that they were weak and they were the aggressors, which is the worst way to start a war.”
Similarly, Adams said, Rhodes initially discouraged members from joining the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in response to a call by Ammon Bundy in late 2015.
“Waiting out a siege in the Capitol with Nancy Pelosi as a hostage — all that’s going to do is get you hanged,” Adams said. “I don’t think [Rhodes] would have done it unless he thought he had an out, it was acting on orders from someone else, and he had to be desperate.”
Adams said Rhodes lived with the fear of being indicted for his involvement in the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada in 2014 for years, and believed that a Democratic administration increased his odds of arrest.
In 2015, Adams said that Rhodes accepted an invitation to meet two FBI agents at an Appleby’s restaurant in Kalispell, Montana. Rhodes claimed to the family that he laid down a hard line to the agents about the risk of a civil war, but Adams said the meeting marked the end of the Oath Keepers’ participation in armed standoffs, and Rhodes spiraled into a deep depression shortly afterward.
Adams said he believes the Oath Keepers’ increasing alignment with Donald Trump after the 2016 election was a tack by Rhodes to get out from under the thumb of the FBI. While others in the Oath Keepers were preoccupied with purported election fraud in late 2020, Adams observed that many of Rhodes’ posts on the Oath Keepers website, which has been taken down, were paranoid rants about the FBI.
Rhodes’ past dealings with the FBI have made him an object of suspicion within far-right and conservative circles, along with the fact that he remained free until January 2022 — almost a year after the arrest of the first Oath Keepers members in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Adams rejects the proposal that Rhodes was an asset in a so-called “fedsurrection.”
“I do not think Stewart was acting as a federal asset,” Adams said. “That was all Stewart. That was all the kind of s*** Stewart would do if he was given clearance from some higher authority, that everything was going to be okay, that he would be pardoned.”
While he doesn’t have direct knowledge of the Oath Keepers’ activities after 2017, Adams said he suspects that Rhodes was reporting to either Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, or Roger Stone, a political strategist and longtime confidant of the former president, on Jan. 6.
Intense speculation has focused on a phone call by Rhodes from a suite in the Phoenix Hotel following the attack on the Capitol in which Rhodes reportedly asked an unidentified individual to let him speak to President Trump. William Todd Wilson, an Oath Keeper who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, overheard “Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power,” according to the statement of facts accompanying Wilson’s guilty plea. The unidentified individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with Trump, according to the statement of facts, and after the call ended, Rhodes told the others in the room: “I just want to fight.”
“Whoever Stewart was calling from that hotel room — I would bet, if anyone were taking the odds, that was Michael Flynn or Roger Stone that rebuffed him and refused to compromise Trump,” Adams told Raw Story.
Joe Flynn responded on behalf of his brother, Michael Flynn, to a request for comment from Raw Story.
“Lol you guys are f***ing clowns,” he said in a text message.
An attorney for Stone said his client has never had any dealings with Rhodes.
“Please let me say in no uncertain terms, Mr. Stone has never met, talked to, or otherwise interacted with Mr. Rhodes,” Grant J. Smith said in an email to Raw Story. “Everything you assert below is based on the guesses and conjecture of an estranged son. Unequivocally, Mr. Stone did not participate in anything you have described below. Please don’t report on something as flimsy as your statements below, no matter how tempting it may be.”
A spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia declined to comment on the Oath Keepers case.
Kellye SoRelle, the general counsel for the Oath Keepers and someone Rhodes has said he had a romantic relationship with, told Raw Story following her arrest last week: “I hope they get the real perpetrators — Flynn, Byrne, Powell, etc., those behind the Big Lie that set up the conservatives.”
Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock.com CEO; attorney Sidney Powell; and Joe Flynn, speaking on behalf of Michael Flynn, all rejected SoRelle’s characterizations.
Adams said he thinks there’s an outside chance that Rhodes will plead out and agree to turn state’s evidence if he feels that he’s been betrayed or written off by members of Trump’s circle. It would probably take something like Trump hinting during a campaign speech that Rhodes was a federal asset.
“Short of that, I think he’s going to go down swinging,” Adams said. “He is going to play for time, and make a lot of noise, and build his resume for his return. What I would prepare for in the trial is a clown show, full three-ring circus.”
Overall, Adams is feeling bullish about the federal prosecution of the Oath Keepers and the next round of January 6th Committee hearings.
“I think Stewart’s trial is going to be a trial run for indicting Donald Trump, possibly using some of the same logic of Stewart commanding the stack and the QRF; in the same way, [they could argue] Trump orchestrated the mob that attacked the Capitol,” Adams said. “And it’s a stepping stone for indicting Trump’s inner circle, people like Stone and Flynn.
“I think a conviction of Stewart is going to lay the groundwork for going up the chain on the sedition track,” Adams continued. “My personal take is that Stewart’s trial and the second round of January 6th Committee hearings is a prelude for Trump’s arrest. That’s the way you go after an autocrat. You have to take on the public perception battle as much as anything else. You have to attack every dimension simultaneously. Convicting Stewart for seditious conspiracy for running a paramilitary embedded with the mob that attacked the Capitol is one way to do that.”
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