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The DOJ Has Released Its Clearest Evidence Yet Tying Jan. 6 Militants to Trump

Prosecutors say Jessica Watkins was training militia members while awaiting Trump’s approval for the January 6 attack.

A screenshot of security footage from the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, included in the charging documents filed against Jessica Watkins. Watkins is indicated by the yellow arrow.

Federal prosecutors filed papers on Thursday asking a judge to keep a militia leader in jail who has been charged with planning an attack on the Capitol on January 6. The papers contain some of the most direct language yet from the Department of Justice (DOJ) tying former President Donald Trump to the members of the mob that violently breached the Capitol building.

In the months leading up to the attack, military veteran, member of the far right militia group Oath Keepers, and leader of the Ohio State Regular Militia Jessica Watkins was recruiting militia members and urging them to stay vigilant in regards to Trump and the election, the documents say. “As the inauguration grew nearer, Watkins indicated that she was awaiting direction from President Trump,” wrote the prosecutors.

Prosecutors revealed that in her texts from November 17, Watkins said that she was prepared to “fight, kill and die for our rights” if Joe Biden became president. A week earlier, she had said that she was concerned about taking action without Trump’s backing. “Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it.”

Then, by the end of December, the prosecutors write that Watkins felt she got her go-ahead from Trump. “We plan on going to DC on the 6th” because “Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come,” she texted to a fellow Oath Keeper and co-defendant on December 29.

Just 10 days earlier, Trump had sent out a tweet encouraging gatherings on January 6. “Big protests in D.C. on January 6. Be there. Will be wild!” He continued to tweet about it throughout the following weeks.

“The ‘Justice’ Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud,” Trump said, three days before Watkins sent the texts confirming that she was going to D.C. on January 6. Trump continued, “They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”

“As evidenced by her conduct leading up to, during, and after the attack on the Capitol,” wrote the prosecutors, “Watkins exhibited a single-minded devotion to obstruct through violence an official proceeding that, on January 6, was designed to confirm the next President of the United States.” The documents filed by the DOJ on Wednesday were a request to keep Watkins in jail pending trial.

Watkins is facing some of the most serious charges among the people involved in the attempted coup. She and alleged co-conspirators were indicted last month for conspiracy to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote, among other charges.

The Oath Keepers specialize in recruiting veterans, soldiers, and police and were among the most heavily equipped members of the crowd on January 6. Watkins had been recruiting militia members in the months leading up to the attempted coup and was apparently holding trainings to get members “field-ready” by inauguration, say court documents.

Videos of Watkins from the day of the coup show her and fellow militia members in tactical gear approaching the Capitol and inside the building, wearing camouflage helmets and reinforced vests. Once in the Capitol, the prosecutors say, Watkins reveled in the moment. “We took on the Capitol, we overran the Capitol,” says one of Watkins’s co-defendants in a video. Watkins looks over his shoulder into the camera and exclaims, “We’re in the fucking Capitol, bro.”

The strong language in the DOJ documents comes out as Trump’s impeachment trial is underway in the Senate. On Wednesday, House impeachment managers showed evidence for hours tying Trump’s speeches, phone calls and tweets to the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.

The DOJ also unsealed charges for conspiracy on Thursday against five people associated with the far right group Proud Boys who have been accused of leading crowds to the Capitol on January 6. Trump had previously told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

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