If Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes was pardoned, he'd be out on the streets the next day threatening to take up arms against the government, a national security expert and former DOJ official said Thursday.
The conversation about domestic terrorism stemming from right-wing militias and fringe groups began Thursday as the Heritage Foundation, Fox and Rep. Jim Jordan complained about the Department of Homeland Security looking to them as the base from which some forms of extremism grow. It ended with two high-profile Oath Keepers being sentenced later that day, Elmer Stewart Rhodes (18 years) and Kelly Meggs (12 years).
"Donald Trump has already said that he would pardon those people. Patriots," said Obama's former Under Secretary of State Rick Stengel, speaking on MSNBC. "You have one party that's an apologist for this insurrection and idea that are using rhetoric to excuse it. Ronald Reagan said the government was the problem. It's not the solution. But then Donald Trump lights a fuse to that and engages people to use violence to undermine the government. To go back to our point, the federal government doesn't do everything right. But to have people who want to physically overthrow it and you have one party that supports that, those people are aiding and abetting terrorism. So you have to make a choice."
Stengel later said it shouldn't be difficult for politicians and conservative groups to disavow people like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other anti-government groups.
Mary McCord, the former acting assistant attorney general for national security starting in 2014, expressed her concern of the GOP's promise to pardon members of such militia groups.
"Not only did he engage in extensive planning from the time of the election up until the actual insurrection and beyond. He was intending to be there as this force that they could call forth to be his own army to prevent the actual transfer of power," said McCord. "Never mind that you can't manufacture an insurrection and then invoke the Insurrection Act. This is something that Stewart Rhodes has been agitating for for years. This wasn't even new to 2020. Back during the first impeachment, he famously tweeted to the former president, if there's an attempt to remove you from office, all you have to do is call us up. We will answer the call. And our weapon of choice is an AR-15. We can go back even further."
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She characterized it as an "armed standoff" that Rhodes and his Oath Keepers "engaged in against the federal government several times" before Jan. 6. Each time they disagree with policies, they pick up weapons and stand up to the federal government. On Jan. 6 he attempted to violently overthrow the government.
"This wasn't a one-off thing in 2020. It would have been bad enough to just 17 years, even if it was a one-off," McCord continued. "This is somebody who, deep in his soul, has this insurrectionist view. This view that he can take up arms against the United States and he can bring along his own private army to do so. So as the judge said, he's a danger. He's a danger to our democracy. If we were to let him out on the street, he would be threatening the very next day to take up arms against the country."
See the discussion clip in the video below or at the link.
Judge made it clear Oath Keepers were terrorists: national security expert youtu.be