A member of the Oath Keepers who traveled with the group to Washington D.C. ahead of the Jan. 6 riot described a massive stockpile of firearms and other weaponry that allies had stashed in an Arlington, Va. hotel.
“I had not seen that many weapons in one location since I was in the military,” recalled Terry Cummings, a Florida resident who said he joined the Oath Keepers in 2020 amid concerns about left-wing violence in Portland, Ore. and joined the group leaders’ private chats in advance of their Jan. 6 trip to D.C.
Prosecutors have described that arsenal — known as a “quick reaction force” or QRF — as a key element of the Oath Keeper leaders’ plot to subvert the 2020 election and help forcibly keep then-President Donald Trump in power. The group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, and several regional leaders are charged with conspiring to disrupt the transfer of power and preparing for violence to enforce their will.
Cummings displayed for jurors the AR-15 that he brought with him and contributed to the weapons stash, as well as a box of ammunition.
Justice Department prosecutors spent much of the day — in the second week of what’s likely to be a six-week trial against Rhodes and four co-defendants — revealing encrypted Signal messages between Rhodes and the group’s regional leaders organizing and activating plans to travel to Washington on Jan. 6. Many of those messages described their goal as preventing President Joe Biden from taking office and pressing Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which Rhodes contended would license the group to forcibly prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results.
“We armed Americans have one good trick left up our sleeve. It’s the same one Samuel Whitmore [sic] used long ago, right along with all the other farmers who fired the shots heard round the world,” Rhodes wrote to Georgia Oath keepers on Dec. 14, 2020, describing the onset of the American Revolution.
In a Dec. 20, 2020, message to the same Signal chat, Georgia Oath Keeper Brian Ulrich — who has since pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy — said only action by Trump would prevent mass violence and death.
“Trump acts now maybe a few hundred radicals die trying to burn down cities,” he wrote. “Trump sits on his hands, Biden wins, millions die resisting the death of the 1st and 2nd amendment.”
Rhodes and his codefendants, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell, have contended that their trip was primarily about providing security to VIP attendees of Trump’s speech at the White House Ellipse and that their weapons cache was meant to support the group’s efforts if street violence broke out with counterprotesters on Jan. 6. They note that they never deployed those weapons into Washington, which has strict gun laws, even after a pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol.
Cummings, a military veteran who is not charged with any crimes related to Jan. 6, said he traveled to Washington with Harrelson and Jason Dolan, who pleaded guilty last year for his Jan. 6-related actions, with the intent of supporting the group’s security details. He recalled meeting the VIP he was tasked with protecting but said he couldn’t recall her name, only that she appeared to be a “Hispanic female.” She remained by the northwest side of the Capitol even as members of the Oath Keepers continued to march toward the Capitol.
Cummings said that at some point as the group marched toward the Capitol, Meggs informed him that the building had been “breached.” He remembered Meggs asking someone whether the group should enter the Capitol.
Cummings left the group after using a port-a-potty outside the Capitol and only reconnected with them after they regrouped outside the Capitol. He recalled Rhodes shrugging off the decision by police to begin using tear gas against rioters.
“Suck it up,” he recalled Rhodes saying. “It’s just CS gas.”