‘NOTHING HAS CHANGED, MR. RHODES, NOTHING HAS CHANGED’: Seditious Oath Keeper Elmer Rhodes sentenced to 18 years
After expressing zero remorse and heralding himself to a federal judge as a “political prisoner” who “like Donald Trump only committed the crime of opposing those who are destroying our country,” Oath Keeper Elmer Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role leading and orchestrating a seditious conspiracy to stop America’s transfer of presidential power by force on Jan. 6, 2021.
It would have been surprising if Rhodes took any other tack when it was his chance to speak.
But Rhodes offered no surprises at the Prettyman courthouse in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
He was unrepentant, just as he was at trial when he testified on his own behalf for a little over a day. Even then, as a jury actively held his fate in their hands, he publicly smeared proceedings in jailhouse interviews while comparing himself to Nelson Mandela. And just four days ago, in yet another interview from jail, Rhodes kept up The Big Lie.
The 2020 election was fraudulent, he argued, and the U.S. government had launched a “terror campaign” on Jan. 6 defendants. Four days ago he called for “regime change” and in words that could haunt any appeal of his conviction in the future, he added: “We’re going to have to stop it, the American people” and “It’s not going to stop until it’s stopped.”
In his bright orange jumpsuit on Thursday, Rhodes gripped the sides of the podium as he read eagerly from his lengthy remarks, perhaps soothed by the sound of his own voice.
“All Jan. 6 defendants are political prisoners. They are grossly overcharged. A steep sentence here won’t help or deter people, it will make people think this government is even more illegitimate than before,” Rhodes said.
He continued on to issue what sounded like a veiled threat with his voice moving from even and calm to more emphatic as his tone was slightly raised.
“Characterizing Trump supporters as racists, fools and led down the primrose path by Trump as fools doesn’t help either,” Rhodes exclaimed. “My goal will be to be an American Solzhenitsyn to expose the criminality of this regime.”
He said his guilt was “preordained” and told presiding U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta claims that he is a white supremacist should lead him to “sue for defamation.” He said the “regime change” he hoped for a few days ago meant he hoped Trump would win in 2024. He went on a tear about leftist violence and antifa. Rhodes may impress himself or his supporters with such diatribes, but Judge Mehta appeared thoroughly unimpressed. (Mehta has presided over three Oath Keepers trials alone in recent months and his familiarity with this defense is arguably second to none.)
So long did Rhodes’ defiant remarks ramble on that Mehta actually interrupted him at one point and quite politely reminded him that his time speaking was finite.
When Rhodes was finally done, Mehta looked at the Oath Keeper leader. On Thursday, Rhodes met Mehta’s eyes only sometimes. He frequently jotted down notes as Mehta spoke.
“Mr. Rhodes, you are convicted of seditious conspiracy. You are a lawyer. You understand what that means,” Mehta said.
For those who are not, Mehta provided a background. It was true, he said, neither Rhodes nor his conspirators assaulted police. It was true there were those who “did worse” in this regard on Jan. 6 than Rhodes specifically or members of his organization.
But Rhodes is unique nonetheless. The seditious conspiracy he led against the United States is the most serious crime one can commit against this government, Mehta said.
“It is an offense against the government to use force. It is an offense against the people of this country,” Mehta told Rhodes.
The Oath Keeper founder looked right at the judge at this comment.
“This isn’t confined to one day or how you reacted… it is a series of acts in which you and others committed to use force, including potentially with weapons against the government of the United States as it transitioned from one president to the other. And what was the motive? You didn’t like the new guy. I get it. But let me be clear to you, Mr. Rhodes, and anyone else who is listening: In this country, we don’t paint with a broad brush, and shame on you if you do,” Mehta said.
He continued: “What we cannot have, what we absolutely cannot have is a group of citizens who because they did not like the outcome of an election and don’t believe the law was carried out in the way they believe it should be, for them to take up arms and foment a revolution. That’s what you did. Those aren’t my words. Those are yours… you are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes. You are not here for your beliefs or because Joe Biden is president or because you supported the other guy.”
The evidence presented to jurors was convincing beyond a reasonable doubt, Mehta underlined. And though Rhodes has been quick to whine about unfair jurors, Mehta reminded him Thursday that it was this jury that acquitted him of multiple other counts.
“But they found you guilty of sedition. That was a jury of your peers. Make no mistake about it,” Mehta said.
Telling Rhodes the enduring legacy of Jan. 6 belonged to the police and people working on Capitol Hill that day who “protected this democracy as we know it,” Mehta emphasized how law enforcement officers “laid their bodies on the line.”
“You talk about keeping oaths? No one is more emblematic of that than those police officers. Their heroism, their stamina, their courage. But for their acts, it could have been a far uglier day than it already was and it is one of the blackest stains on our country. People shouldn’t forget that,” he said.
In the days leading up to Jan. 6, Rhodes convinced dozens of people to come to Washington, D.C. simply because he called on them to do so, the judge said.
“You sir, present an ongoing threat and peril to this country and to the fabric of this country. You are smart, charismatic, and compelling and that is frankly, what makes you dangerous,” Mehta said. “Anyone think for a moment that Joseph Hackett would come to D.C. with a weapon to fight in the streets? That only happens because of you, Mr. Rhodes.”
Everyone Rhodes called to D.C. for Jan. 6 was a victim of the “lies and propaganda” he shared. It would have been one thing, the judge noted, if Rhodes had looked at what happened on Jan. 6 and said anywhere in his communications with Oath Keepers or in public that it wasn’t a good development. But he didn’t. He celebrated the carnage.
And just three days after the attack on the Capitol, Rhodes wasn’t dialing it back.
At trial in November, Jason Alpers, a military veteran and government witness, testified that he met with Rhodes on the night of Jan. 10 in a parking lot outside of an electronics store. Alpers said he was asked to meet with Rhodes by one of Alpers’ former employees. Rhodes, Alpers said, wanted to pass a message to Trump.
Uneasy about the meeting from the outset, Alpers secretly recorded Rhodes. The recording was played for jurors.
“If he’s not going to do the right thing, and he’s just going to let himself be removed illegally, then we should have brought rifles,” Rhodes told Alpers. “We could have fixed it right then and there.”
Rhodes said he would have hung then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from a “fucking lamppost.”
The Oath Keepers defense has hinged almost entirely on the claim that members did not come to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to foment violence, but to act as a “security detail.”
After the judge read Rhodes’ own words back to him from that Jan. 10 meeting, Mehta noted: “Doesn’t sound like you were there for a security detail.”
Mehta pointed to Rhodes’ comments during a “Freedom Corner Rally” broadcast from the jailhouse four days ago and how Rhodes said, “at the risk of another charge, I’m going to leave it at that” after he mentioned finding a “way to fix this” situation for Jan. 6 defendants.
With just a hint of exasperation, Mehta told the 58-year-old: ”Nothing has changed, Mr. Rhodes. Nothing has changed.”
“The reality is, based on the words we hear you speak, the moment you are released, you will be prepared to take up arms against your government. Not because you think the wrong president is in office but because you think that is an appropriate way to have redress of government when the law is applied in a way you don’t think it should be,” Mehta said.
And then perhaps encapsulating the very gravity of his decision, Mehta told Rhodes that when the Oath Keeper found himself in a bad place, “everyone else did too, leaving everyone as objects of his willingness to engage in violence.”
“And we just cannot have that in this country,” Mehta said.
In an interview during a break in proceedings Thursday, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told me it was clear that Rhodes had no remorse.
“He didn’t care how much time he got,” Dunn said.
The sentence brought him little comfort, he said.
Rhodes is “misguided,” and he is fixated on assigning himself labels, Dunn said. Rhodes picked “political prisoner” as his label because he certainly wasn’t going to choose the more accurate one of “insurrectionist,” Dunn said.
If Trump is elected in 2024 or Ron DeSantis wins the White House or there is any political candidate that has sympathy for seditionists, Dunn expects there could be pardons for Oath Keepers in the future. DeSantis has already said he would consider them. Including one for Trump.
“That’s why we need to make sure they don’t get the opportunity to pardon them. That’s why we have to have people vote for people who aren’t insurrectionists or seditionists. There is a possibility it could happen we have to make sure it doesn’t. We the American people,” Dunn said.
Rhodes’ sentence gave him little solace. Dunn said while it was abundantly clear to him that Mehta understood the threat Rhodes poses to society until there is also accountability for Trump, lawmakers, or even some of the influencers involved with undertaking or promoting the violence and destruction of Jan. 6, he genuinely worries about what is ahead.
“My heart and mind still wander about this looming threat. It’s hard to find comfort knowing this threat still exists,” Dunn said.
A day prior, when Dunn delivered a victim impact statement to the defendants, Rhodes rarely looked at Dunn. He was writing notes most of the afternoon. On occasion, he did look up though his face was expressionless.
Dunn described how the violence on Jan. 6 upended his life and left him, nearly 900 days later, “a shell of his former self,” Rhodes didn’t look up then. Then Dunn uttered three words that snapped the extremist leader right to attention: “real oath keepers.”
Dunn was describing how on the day he testified at the Oath Keepers trial, he was originally scheduled to speak to first responders. But instead of talking to them—“real oath keepers, real victims”— he had to testify instead and tell the jury about “what actually happened” on Jan. 6.
Dunn turned to look right at the defendants when he said this. Rhodes looked back at Dunn. His head was already cocked to one side but the “real oath keepers” remark prompted Rhodes’ neck to crane downward even further. He didn’t blink. He seemed to bristle instead, though he kept it just barely under the surface.
Tasha Adams, who recently won her divorce after a years-long estrangement from Rhodes, told me in an interview Thursday that she thinks Rhodes is “incapable” of feeling remorse.
“He only ever adjusts his version of reality to fit into his personal storyline. He believes he has done nothing wrong, that he has been wronged himself, and that someday he’ll get even,” Adams wrote in an email.
In court Thursday, Rhodes was “speaking to get the attention of DeSantis and Trump,” she said.
“He is in this for the pardon and the long game, even if that is not 2024. Even if it means 2028. He is not sorry. He is only sorry it wasn’t bigger,” she wrote.
As for Adams, there is closure with the sentence.
She has been outspoken about her now ex-husband as she watched the trial from afar. She has publicly described his history of abusing her or isolating her. And when the government submitted its sentencing proposal, prosecutors included excerpts of an interview with Adams where she described the depths of Rhodes’ abuses against her and their children.
“There was always violence in little ways. If he was really mad over something, he would want to do what he called martial arts training which included sticks and knives with a dulled edge or a knife with its edge taped. He would usually hurt us when he would do this training and it would always wind up with whoever he was angry at at the time. It was never just rough training or when he was happy with you… I don’t know if you can see all the scars on my arms. That’s from knife training. He would keep me pinned down in a chair….and he would hit the chair or sofa next to my head when he was upset with me,” she told Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy.
“[I have] closure in that I know at least we have a couple of years of peace. I’m more focused on getting passed this next election, but at least we are all in the clear for a while. It is also a statement. It says that Stewart is definitively not a good guy. Which is extremely powerful to me, after decades of people telling me what a good man is and how lucky I am,” Adams said Thursday.
Today, her children are happy and relieved, she said.
“They were of course hoping for 25 years. But 18 is pretty solid. I think they’re mostly glad to just not have to think about him for a while,” Adams wrote.
I also asked Adams what the big takeaway was for the day or what she thinks society can do to move away from extremism.
“That is a very big question. I wish we could find a way to move away from the fear of change. I really believe that is what extremism is deeply rooted in. Extremists are a group of people whose self-worth is completely entangled with a way of life that society has grown up and left behind. We don’t need those old belief systems of race, and gender and control anymore. And yet they truly they believe they will cease to exist in any meaningful way without them. I don’t know if there is a way to solve it, beyond time and communication (whenever possible,)” she wrote.
Judge Mehta also sentenced Rhodes’ 54-year-old co-defendant Kelly Meggs to 12 years in prison on Thursday. Meggs was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, too. (Rhodes was also convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding and tampering with documents and proceedings. Meggs was also found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct a proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their duties, and tampering with documents or proceedings.)
Meggs cried several times as he spoke in court, reeling at the pain he said he caused his family. Many of his family members, including his sister and son, attended the hearing. No one showed up for Rhodes. The moment Meggs’ sister, Crystal, approached the podium to provide character testimony, Meggs began to weep. His face turned red and his shoulders shook as he cried. A marshal handed him a box of tissues.
“I truly apologize for being here,” Meggs said, choking through tears. “It has not only ruined my life but the life of my entire family.”
Meggs’ son, Zachary, asked Mehta to show mercy on his father. His father put him through college and employed him at a car dealership, he said. Without his father at home, he fears he won’t be able to keep the family’s house.
Meggs’ wife, Connie Meggs, was tried separately and found guilty in March for obstructing an official proceeding. Connie was one of several Oath Keepers who breached the Capitol in a stack formation on Jan. 6.
Zachary is getting married soon and he told Judge Mehta he “would really like to have my father at the wedding.”
Meggs’ lawyer, Stanley Woodward, also represents Connie Meggs and as such, didn’t find it prudent to read a letter she wrote in support of her husband in court. Meggs, as he cried, said his “deepest regret is the pain I’ve caused my wife.”
“I have failed her. I have caused my wife more pain than she should ever deserve, incarceration and home confinement for two years all because of me,” he said.
Meggs also lamented how he lost his life as he knew it, including things like cars and retirement accounts.
“Everything has been taken away… I’ve been taken away from my family for 828 days. I want to apologize to everyone I’ve let down,” Meggs said amid tears.
Meggs also addressed Officer Dunn who was seated in the pews behind him. Though Mehta said neither the jury nor he ever found any evidence to support the claim by Oath Keepers at trial that they were “helping” Dunn on the 6th, Meggs nonetheless circled around that unsupported claim once more Thursday.
Then he apologized.
“Officer Dunn, if my presence in any way affected you, I do apologize, sir,” Meggs said before a U.S. Marshal quickly approached him and told him to turn around and address the judge. Defendants are not allowed to turn to address people in the pews.
During the trial, prosecutors showed jurors a patch Meggs wore on Jan. 6. It read, “I don’t believe in anything, I’m just here for the violence.”
Before he was sentenced, Meggs said yes, he did wear a patch that said “I’m just here for the violence.”
“I wasn’t there to cause violence or instigate violence. I was there to keep the violence from happening to anyone. It’s what I had done so many times before and what I was doing that day,” Meggs said.
Whether he forgot or omitted it for convenience, Meggs did not mention the front half of the slogan: “I don’t believe in anything.”
Meggs admitted the language he used in numerous texts and Oath Keepers communications was vile, but he chalked it up to hyperbole.
And as to his own public comments about the trial—which have included the assessment that it is “bullshit” and that the jury is biased—Meggs said only: “I don’t blame them for having bias. I would too if my town had been locked down for some violent event but I still think they were biased.”
In truth, the jury was vetted for bias extensively by both prosecutors and the defense, and in the end, the final verdicts were a mixed bag of acquittals and convictions.
Mehta addressed Meggs directly before sentencing him.
There may have been dispute by the defense about whether Meggs was looking for Nancy Pelosi once inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, for example. But while on this day he called that language unfortunate and hyperbolic, nonetheless, “there was a lot of it,” Mehta said.
Witnesses at trial described how Meggs went searching for Rhodes on Jan. 6 and turned to him for direction and leadership. Meggs also led efforts to coordinate and establish a huge arsenal of guns to be held at a hotel in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. This was what Oath Keepers dubbed a “quick reaction force” or QRF.
Mehta was at times incredulous with Meggs’ defense.
If Oath Keepers were there for security, why did they need the QRF? If the Oath Keeper talk was bombast and just bombast—well, Mehta said, he could understand a person believing that to be the case with one message.
But two? Or three?
“I don’t know how anyone can stand here today and say this is just bombast. You were telling others on this ‘OK FL hangout chat,’ you were prepared to die and that’s what patriots did by the thousands,” Mehta said.
And like he told Rhodes during his sentencing, it didn’t sound like Meggs was part of any security detail; the jury didn’t believe that and neither did he. Meggs didn’t even step foot in the area he claimed he was slated to be in to provide security, the judge added. And it didn’t help matters that Meggs had discussed bringing Proud Boys to D.C. to act as force multipliers on the 6th.
The former chapter leader may disagree with the jury’s decision and that’s fair, Mehta acknowledged.
“But we have a process like this for a reason. In the mind of the 12 people in that jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, you committed conspiracy offenses in many ways that day,” Mehta said.
The pain Meggs expressed in court was tangible and the judge said he felt it deeply.
“I have felt it deeply with every sentence I’ve made in connection to [Jan. 6] cases,” Mehta said.
He added that he still finds it “astonishing how average Americans somehow transformed into criminals in the weeks before Jan. 6.”
“In contemplating violence to prevent the transfer of power: maybe you were just under the spell of Mr. Rhodes. I don’t know. Even today, I get it. I don’t really blame you for it. Unlike Rhodes, who I think poses a real threat, you’re not in the same category but you do continue to say things that are not consistent with reality,” he said.
This February, Meggs said in a media interview that police had invited people inside the Capitol and that he thought it was acceptable for him to walk through the door. Mehta also underlined the absurdity of Meggs’ claims that somehow if there was just more closed-circuit footage from the 6th made public, he would be absolved.
That blurs the fact that there was access to every single hour of his conduct that day, Mehta said.
In the end, Meggs still opposed the U.S. government by force.
“We have a process,” Mehta underlined. “It’s called an election. If your guy or gal loses, you hope for better results next time. You don’t take to the streets or join in for a war in the streets. You don’t rush into the U.S. Capitol with the hope of trying to stop the electoral count.”
On Friday, Rhodes’ and Meggs’ co-defendants Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson will be sentenced. Fellow co-defendant Thomas Caldwell’s sentencing date was originally set for this Wednesday but it was vacated on Monday as Judge Mehta awaits a ruling from the circuit in another Jan. 6 case that will provide a definition of the “corruptly” requirement in the obstruction of an official proceeding statute.
One of the things we seldom get in the mainstream media is serious, thoughtful, long-form journalism, such as this (and the other) reports you have provided on the various trials of the insurrectionists. Your reports have been enlightening and the prose engaging, clear, swift, and accurate. Wonderful, every syllable of it. Thank you for doing this, especially because much of the regular media has looked only glancingly at the trials, registering mainly the sentences, and for the rest skimming like swallows picking the occasional tidbit as they swoop over the surface. Thanks again, and if there’s a book coming (“On the Trail of the Seditionists”?) I am a first-day purchaser.
Just in case you have been suckered by Jim Garrison’s book “On the trail of the assassins” and Oliver Stone’s “JFK”, I can confirm that the whole lot is fiction.
All of it.
Look here to see it all debunked – https://www.onthetrailofdelusion.com/blog
Sounds like you believed the Warren Report.
Didn’t Roger Stone help write the BS about Howard Hunt? c’mon, only doofuses think the CIA killed Kennedy
Whatever the truth is, it’s not in the Warren Commission’s Report.
The truth is that Oswald got sniper training from a Russian sharpshooter in Mexico and we went out of our way to avoid a nuclear war because we thought/think that it was a rogue group of hardliners who were trying to oust Kruschev.
This was such a lovely thing to read after a very long day. Thank you.
Even though I’m just now reading this piece, I’d like to add my thanks for your excellent reporting on this trial. Well done!
Brandi, you are my absolute favorite court reporter. Your multidimensional writing puts me right there in the courts pews witnessing the defendants expressions and breathing the same air. Thank you so much. Your expertise in your craft is invaluable.
I agree 100%. Along w/ Cynthia’s comment before I posted this. Clear, and direct reporting…very satisfying to read – even if the content is mind-boggling at times.
Thank you Brandi for your observations and summary.
a fine end for a fine day for us from you.
and a bedtime treat, for this troika:
These are exactly the details I want read. Details and context. Thanks so much.
One doesn’t find paragraphs like this very often:
It seems that narcissists the world over are often soothed by the sounds of their own voices…
Brilliant! That leapt out at me too. As did Brandi’s later terse note that no one attended sentencing on Rhodes’s behalf.
Absolutely first-class reporting, like Tom Wolfe or (early) Hunter Thompson.
Should clarify that by early Hunter Thompson, I mean before the acid hit.
When he was still (early) Joan Didion.
Thank you, Brandi, for taking us to the courtroom for these historic proceedings. I too was struck that no one showed up to support Elmer Rhodes. I wondered if anyone would come to do so. Apparently not. This comment prompted me turn to the court docket to see if there were sentencing memorandums on file for the public to read, and whether the defense included letters or commendations or other forms of support for Elmer Rhodes. The public court docket on PACER has links to the government’s sentencing memorandum (which addresses sentencing for all of these co-defendants) and the defense memorandum filed by Rhodes’s defense counsel. At a federal sentencing hearing for such a serious case, defense counsel would typically try to humanize their client, without admitting anything that would jeopardize an appeal. There are ways to do that. None of that happened here. The defense memo went all in on the Oath Keepers as a humanitarian group that helps people in need. It read to me as though Rhodes wrote it, or an inexperienced law clerk or lawyer. The memo contains no background information about Rhodes from a defense perspective, other than that which is publicly known.
The government’s memo is devastating, scholarly and high quality. It appears to this reader that many hands edited and focused the content of the prosecution memo, and it paid off. As a defense lawyer, when you are on the receiving end of a memo that makes anger well up inside, you realize that it will probably have a similar effect on the judge. The government explained that Rhodes had a long history of abusing his family physically, mentally and emotionally. His ex-wife expressed the hope that he would get a long sentence so that the family would not have to live in fear of him. Elmer Rhodes was described as a long term abuser. He left his family behind and went on to “greater” things: abusing the American public. Describing himself as a political prisoner like Nelson Mandela is laughable. Who do you think Nelson Mandela would have been marching with in Ferguson? In Washington, DC, outside the White House, when the peaceful protestors were attacked? Nelson Mandela was the epitome of what it means to be anti-fascist. In the end, Elmer has no one. We will see if his delusions of grandeur find an audience or repudiation in a prison environment made up of people more like George Floyd as opposed to the Oath Keepers.
I don’t want to step into stuff I shouldn’t, but your comment: “As a defense lawyer, when you are on the receiving end of a memo that makes anger well up inside, you realize that it will probably have a similar effect on the judge.”
I’m really hoping that judges aren’t placing themselves in the emotional places of defense or prosecution lawyers. In fact, I thought judges were supposed to do exactly the opposite.
Judges are people. Evidence, verdicts, and then sentencing memos can, and should, have an effect on them, That is fine, they are not droids.
Timing is everything…
Political Prisoner, indeed. I hope his prison nickname is Pee-Pee.
I am mindful of the nagging, lecturing, stentorian frame that is the response to something I am about to write, but….is there a way?
“After expressing zero remorse and heralding himself to a federal judge as a “political prisoner” who “like Donald Trump only committed the crime of opposing those who are destroying our country,” Oath Keeper Elmer Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role leading and orchestrating a seditious conspiracy to stop America’s transfer of presidential power by force on Jan. 6, 2021.
It would have been surprising if Rhodes took any other tact when it was his chance to speak.”
It’s not ‘tact’ it’s ‘tack’. And today my sister who lives in Southern Ohio couldn’t hold back any longer and sent a message to the family group chat saying people are calling her about Cadillac Converters and saying they ‘conversate’ instead of converse. And ‘Jew box’ instead of Juke Box.
It goes on, but it hurts to see it here in a place where I think truth and the appropriate presentation of truth matters.
Sure we can all write imperfectly when we’re tired at the end of the day and get confused about whether Trump was actually implicated in the Mueller report because he so relentlessly lies about the findings, but grammar remains grammar.
Okay sorry. I’m done.
[Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short and common it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first know comment until you have a new compliant username. Thanks. /~Rayne]
Hi there first time grammar scold commenter. If that is all you got, run along and do not come back here. Do your imperfect writing somewhere else.
Grammar police here. I am going to let you off with a warning. Already made my quota with three busts for less/fewer violations and one for an omitted oxford comma.
I guess you’re not going to bother to scold “Hugh” for not following the established rules for screen names. ;)
I was a little busy; don’t worry, will get to that if Hugh comes back.
That’s my gig and I will get on it as soon as I finish scolding some other username fails.
Thanks for the negative characterization of moderation to protect users’ privacy and site security, though. -__-
EDIT — 26MAY2023-12:17 p.m. — There, I finally got around to scolding Hugh_25MAY2023_2318h. Happy? Now let’s get back on topic.
That was the furthest thing from my mind, Rayne. I was actually poking fun at the OP for being so pedantic even though he couldn’t be bothered to follow the site rules.
Umm … Actually it is “tact.” NOT tack.”
Tact: “adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues.” I copied that from the Oxford Dictionary.
Tack otoh is (1) a large headed nail or (2) a form of (wide) stitching when sewing two pieces of fabric together. (3) Adding on to an order such as, may I tack on a few more items to your order? (I do that all the time to my husband just to annoy him). Anyway thanks for the chance to widen your vocabulary and “tack” on another grammar correction.
I think the correct word here is “tack,” which is a sailing term. It means to go in a sideways direction, to use the wind, which is blowing in a direction that will only get you where you want to go by changing “tacks.”
It is often used as a figure of speech in which one may veer off of an obvious direction to make a point.
Sorry I posted this when I really wanted to say how excellent this reporting is. Thank you!
Thanks, got anything substantive to add? If not PLEASE do not junk up this critically important thread with this grammar scold discourse garbage. It is really discouraging to see so many focusing on that crap and not the underlying content. STOP.
I refrain from starting any such discussion, but since you’ve mentioned it. The phrase, “take a different tack” is from sailing. You were on a port tack, with the wind coming over the portside, but you changed to a different tack, a starboard tack, with the wind coming over the starboard side.
You’re sailing upwind in either case, so without any particular hazards or nearby shallows or coastline, either tack is fine. But if there’s racing, then which tack is critical, since you may “cover” your rival, taking his wind, or be “covered” by him. So you have a tacking duel.
I’m pretty sure “tack” is the thing being described in “take a different tack”. When I use that phrase, it’s certainly what I mean.
Nobody in the world gives a shit. It would be nice if people commenting here would talk about things substantive.
You know what is funny about this tack vs tact comment: when I was proofreading this piece after working from 5am to 10pm yesterday, I originally put in tack and then I changed it, very mistakenly misremembering the rule of tack vs tact. It must have been the fact that my head was swimming or I hadn’t eaten since noon. Golly out the 1000s of words here, at least this seems to be my greatest offense. Have a great day and thanks for reading.
Being one of those that would have no idea there are even rules about tack vs tact, I just want to thank you for your amazing reporting and commentary on the trials.
Not being on Twitter I had been following your coverage at DKos and now at EW. I am sorry about how it ended at DKos, but I am sure with your writing skills you will be highly sought after by many organizations. Mahalo nua loa Brandi!
I just posted a rebuttal comment on why I think “tack” is better than “tact”, but I in no way want to cast shade at you or what you wrote. That’s a lot of words, and no editor, and stuff creeps in.
The post is very much appreciated.
I followed you on Daily Kos. Your coverage of these trials is BETTER than the NYT or WP, or ANYBODY. Petty people are pathetic. Your word choice was FINE. I really think you deserve a book deal about the Proud Boys trial and the Oath Keepers trial. You have made several important connections. It would be a BEST SELLER. Your writing skills are superb, and you might have more knowledge about these cases than ANY other journalist. Keep up the DAMN GREAT WORK!
You should have used a different tack to address the issue, by applying more tact. 😃
“Helpful people are a nuisance.”
I disagree. A sailboat will tack as in a sharp turn and cross sail to the wind, but tact as in tactical is a different maneuver all together, as in strategy. Any human bean knows this. (S)
ALLRIGHT: There has been enough electrons wasted on this. Please stick to the actual subject matter, not the grammar scold side show.
Can I just say that much of the time these erroneous words originate from spell check and/or autocorrect? Having read most of Brandi’s installments here and on the beleaguered Twitter, I’m quite sure that’s how tack became tact.
Oh, I had no issue about it at all. My objection was to the first time commenter who blithely wandered in to stir it up.
Deer Hugh_25MAY2023_2318h, eyed lyk tew apollogyze ohn beehaf uf thuh pholks att empteewheal. Eye feal yoor pane whyn yt kumms tew langwidge. Yew wood bea ryte tew xpekt a hyghur kalibur uf wryteen yn thyz plase! Pleese downt lett yt git yoo doun bruffa. Stae strawng an wheel hoap fer duh bezt yn thuh fuchure frahm theesee misfytts.
Rhodes wants to view himself as a new Patrick Henry or Nathan Hale, but he’s more of a Benedict Arnold — taking up arms against those wearing uniforms defending the country like the uniform he once wore.
Amazing what goes for a definition of “patriot” in some people’s minds.
You almost feel sorry for Meggs, except one needs to remember the OKs actually installed an armed strike force nearby, awaiting martial law from Trump. And then you also wish an additional 18 years for Rhodes just for the Nelson Mandela reflection.
Thank you Brandi for your amazing coverage, which I’ve read twice now, and for the perfect descriptions of two defendants and a judge. We all have a better understanding now.
I came to know Meggs and his family better from this article than ever in the past. He’s sorry, deeply sorry, that he’s going to remain in jail and has nearly bankrupted his family. That was what came through to me.
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I have no sympathy for him. He chose his course of action. It is an adult’s responsibility to consider the downstream results of your actions before you take them.
He chose to fall in with a sociopath.
I attended Boca Raton Middle School and Spanish River H.S. in Boca Raton, FL w/Kelly Meggs back in 81-87. I didn’t know him well but I remember he was in the band and was sort of a big guy for his age.
I don’t have any compassion or sympathy for him, but I will say this. He’s on a LONG list of people that have been suckered by Donald J. Trump, Roger Stone, etc. It must be some sort of psychological masochism that sucks people into their spider web of lies and deceit. I ‘almost’ feel sorry for them….
It’s not an obvious left/right, black/white problem when the definition of country is made ambiguous – on purpose.
All of the revolutionary war people you cited, along with thousands of others at that time weren’t sure where this possible nascent new country was headed. There were no rules other than family and perhaps colonial laws. Everyone was hedging their bets.
Wonder if this is how the J6 insurrectionists see the situation. They, like the early American insurrectionists, see the ruling government as invalid, and they have a god/self-given right to overthrow it.
But I don’t think this particular group that fomented J6 had any of the wisdom that allowed the colonies to eventually build a new and better government. Instead this group was only focused on tearing down any structures that impeded (what?), I don’t know (what?) they really wanted and expected to end up with.
Go back and re-read the Declaration of Independence which is a recitation of all the “abuses and usurpations” the monarchy inflicted on its colonial subjects. The very reason we have a democracy is that the monarchy did not respond to petitions for redress in addition to the damages it caused colonists. This democracy, while far from perfect, was designed to respond to demands for change either directly by feedback to the executive branch or through election by the citizenry of Congress to represent their requests for change in the form of legislation or amendments.
These asshole seditionists can’t be bothered with using the democratic process which was designed to benefit them — and by them I mean overwhelmingly white, mostly middle-class, and mostly cis-hetero citizens who are also majority male. That’s the beef here: this is a democracy in which all citizens are created equal and endowed with the same rights, and they bloody well don’t like it any more because they are no longer getting their way.
Sedition = white nationalist baby-man tantrum
Yes, thanks for the reference to the Declaration of Independence. I should reread every year or so.
I had meant to equate the lack of a long-term goal for the J6 insurrectionists to the inability of the republican party to come up with a platform for governance. Both groups (overlapping) seem to be mainly deconstructionists versus trying to help this country survive and thrive.
Let me be blunt: they’re lazy asshats who can’t be bothered to do the work necessary to achieve their aims except through cheating or violence. Instead of trying to persuade the rest of the country how beneficial their platform or objectives are, they’re just going to have an armed hissy fit.
They do know somewhere in their reptilian brains that what they want is wrong — whether it’s a libertarian narco/petro state or a Christo-fascist haven — and the only way they’ll get it is unlawfully.
Even when those asshats attempt to use the system, their lack of vision and selective understanding of historical context frames their efforts.
Out here we have the “Greater Idaho” movement to transfer a huge chunk of Oregon (and maybe a bite of California) to Idaho. But the proponents focus on how badly they are treated by Salem (and Sacramento) and can’t comprehend the likely cascading effects if Greater Idaho got legs. Since the proposal would have to go to Congress, my thinking is that it would almost certainly guarantee statehood for D.C. Also, it could re-frame and re-energize the long-running debate in Puerto Rico.
So my vote might be…
Excellent description, Rayne. I’d throw in ‘self-entitled’ as part of those descriptions.
Excellent reporting and superb writing from an excellent reporter and superb writer. Thank you, Brandi. The granular details you bring to these posts are invaluable in informing us now, and, probably more important, keeping the record straight for all that is coming. I appreciate your work and sacrifices.
I really wish I could bring every person into the courtroom who wants to be there. This is the best I can do! Thank you.
Brandi, that is precisely what you do with your writing, just as EW brings us all into the documents she scours.
I couldn’t agree more with the previous post that lauds your descriptions of Rhodes’s demeanor. Your “close readings” are a perfect fit for this site and those who come here for substantive analysis.
Thank you. And thanks to EW for hosting your work here.
You did, as always, quite nicely in bringing out the details and tone of the hearing. We need more journalists like you. I look forward to your long fruitful career.
Your mere best is spectacular. No one else provided this vivid and perceptive perspective. Even if I had witnessed it myself, I couldn’t have conveyed it nearly as well. Thank you so much.
“My goal will be to be an American Solzhenitsyn to expose the criminality of this regime.”
The regime Solzhenitsyn opposed exiled him, deporting him to a country (West Germany) where the government had agreed that he would be free to continue his work as a writer. I wonder where in the world Rhodes thinks the US could send him that would be happy to have him.
I’m sure there is worthy literature to be written about the US prison system but I’m just as sure that Rhodes won’t be the guy to produce it. His vision of the world seems clouded by having his head still wedged up his own backside.
And by-the-by: “It would have been surprising if Rhodes took any other tact when it was his chance to speak.” In this sentence, the word “tact” should be “tack” being the nautical term for the position of the wind relative to the boat. In general usage it refers to one’s direction since the tack (port or starboard) changes depending on the direction one is steering.
Then again, devoid of all tact would it even matter if Rhodes changed tack?
I honestly was surprised he didn’t compare himself to Christ.
Only trump feels entitled to do that. Remember his comments that he is the best President ever but then modestly lowered himself to second place behind Christ which is some crazy thinking for someone who is nominally Christian – and Christ’s words “my kingdom is not of this world” and “render unto Caesar…” among other relevant pronouncements. He also modestly lowered his book , which he claimed was the best book ever written, to second place behind the bible.
trump and his rabid followers are detached from reality. Stewie can spend his 18 years working on his 21st century Mein Kampf and using his Yale law degree to write appeals.
Excellent write up Brandi, thanks for the thoughtful legal post-mortem of a bad dude.
And thank you, Brandi, for all you have done covering these reprobates.
Probably kept running into that pesky virgin birth requirement.
Thank you so much Brandi. Your real-time reporting was the best of the bunch, and your postmortems are definitive and will endure as important, accurate, historical records. Looking forward to you keeping it going when TFG prosecutions get ruling. Hopefully soon.
I await that day!
Thanks for your detailed reporting, Brandi.
The orange jumpsuit, Rhode’s negative reaction to Dunn’s 3 words, and the observation “No one showed up for Rhodes” deftly paint the scene in the courtroom today for us.
Excellent reporting. All cynicism aside, I honestly do not understand why our media is not highlighting Mehta’s words and providing this level of detailed reporting. Thank you for your hard work Brandi.
Yes, particularly the part where the railing by these seditionists and rioters against the federal court system has them pointedly failing to acknowledge that not all the charges against them were sustained by juries… “how unfair!” it is for them to not have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all the charges! Really, Willis? Really?
The truth is that they aren’t interested in internal consistency, aren’t interested in logical and rational conclusions in a modern, diverse democracy. They’re interested in spineless whining and fomenting social and political violence against any and all that stand in their way to power. Comity escapes them. No doubt they’ll be in good company in prison.
DTS: Deranged Trumper Syndrome
Brava, Brandi. Excellent work. Thank you so much for providing such analytical, insightful reporting. I truly believe that you will get a book from your reporting of these trials. And that your reporting should be required content for Civics courses that high schools should be teaching now. (and that goes for college level work, too).
Thank you, Thank you.
Thank you, Brandi for being our eyes, and ears yesterday, for bringing us with you into the courtroom. For sharing your thoughts, and humor while doing so.
Appreciate the thoughtful interviews with officer Dunn, and Tasha. A long awaited day for so many.
This is a fantastic read and is writing that stands firm in the work of “keeping the republic!” Thank you!
Do you have any insight as to why Mehta went below the sentencing minimum recommended?
My guess is that he calculated in time already spent in jail or prison. Whether he states that flatly in his charging decision I don’t know.
I agree with Tasha Adams about the fear of change and inability to accept reality as motivators.
I have always felt that the Resist / Resister / Resistance label was a misnomer and could be repurposed as a perjorative against the likes of Rhodes.
The intrepid BRANDI has started a new Twitter THREAD for today
[WATKINS and HARRELSON sentencing]:
7:02 AM · May 26, 2023
Thank you, Harpie!
Damn. What a sentence! This will be today’s inspiration as I finish reading Emptywheel and begin my day of writing.
Thank you Brandy.
Patriotism comes in many forms. I applaud Brandi Buchman for following these trials to the final sentencing. Publishing the truth, in spite of the grueling schedules and personal risks, helps keep our democracy alive. Brandi Buchman is a true patriot.
Brandy, your writing style is concise, clever, coherent, and stands in stark relief to that of the infotainment and access stenography gruel that one can find in our news landscape. But I have got to say that I’m here to thank you for the “security chair” a perfect amuse buche amidst the factual reportage. Great good job!
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#ElmerStewartMandela, buh bye.
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for this Ms Buchman!
You are a gem! I look forward to reading more of your work as the years unfold…
This is very well said: “That is a very big question. I wish we could find a way to move away from the fear of change. I really believe that is what extremism is deeply rooted in. Extremists are a group of people whose self-worth is completely entangled with a way of life that society has grown up and left behind. We don’t need those old belief systems of race, and gender and control anymore. And yet they truly they believe they will cease to exist in any meaningful way without them. I don’t know if there is a way to solve it, beyond time and communication (whenever possible,)” she wrote.
Great write up, a pleasure to read.
These guys (Rhodes, Bundy, Alex Jones, et al) are all so fake:
fake tough guys, fake patriots, fake “good guys”, fake good fathers, fake successes. How many get into political action because of some failure in another part of their life?
Rhodes will probably be a shitty jailhouse lawyer, too.
Instead of getting his fellow inmates off he’ll likely get them charged for more crimes due to his stupendous ego.
An excellent report. Thank you so much, Brandi!
Brandi, you exceeded your own high standards. Your interviews with Harry Dunn and Tasha Adams were beyond my expectations. Well done.
So many thoughts and emotions are swirling through my mind. I’m not sure I will be able to articulate them any time soon. But I am very grateful to you and to all those who have stepped up to support democracy, rule of law, and the peaceful transfer of power.
Your article today was beyond great. It inspired me to make a PayPal donation.
Thanks for your insightful work!
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Ditto. There is a small cadre of consistent, long-term posters on this site. I hope you become the next one.
Regarding previous comments about writing a book, you must absolutely put that on your to-do list. Your insights and readability make that a “can’t miss” proposition.
As a former member of the news media with close connections to current members, I do not understand why the lede of every story about the sentencing was not Judge Mehta’s powerful statement. I couldn’t even find it in the original Washington Post article I looked at. Maggie Haberman tweeted the statement out along with a link to the story in which the statement was far down in the article. Makes no sense to me.
Ditto. Brandi’s account didn’t dull the edge or the humanity of Judge Mehta’s statement, unlike the WaPo or NYT stories; maybe that’s a function of the need to break the story first? Too much context was bled out of the Judge’s statement in those mainstream accounts, in my view.
His time spent in jail will be determined by how long it is until another GOP President is elected. I imagine in the first couple months in office that Prez will commute his sentence.
It is NOT “jail”, it is prison, and, yes, there is a huge difference. You have anything else?
I always thought it was gaol, a place for holding short-term prisoners. I prefer hoosegow. Prisons are altogether different places.
“… but a prison in sand can be a haven in Hell, for a gaol can give you a goal …” (from “Madman Moon”, by Genesis)
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard.
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!”
So the law breaking and disrespect for a pluralistic and diverse democracy can continue?
>>> The pain Meggs expressed in court was tangible and the judge said he felt it deeply.
“I have felt it deeply with every sentence I’ve made in connection to [Jan. 6] cases,” Mehta said.
He added that he still finds it “astonishing how average Americans somehow transformed into criminals in the weeks before Jan. 6.”
And that, that core misconception, is something I believe many people are missing.
Speaking my opinion here, not asserting it as fact: average Americans DIDN’T transform into criminals in the weeks before Jan 6. They were GROOMED to become criminals, FOR DECADES, by right-wing hate media (a.k.a. the Hate Wurlitzer). This didn’t happen overnight, or in a short time. It’s been happening for a long time.
Having lived in the American southeast for more than 50 years, I’ve lived with and talked to these folks for quite some time. I can tell you they’re “normal,” intelligent people, often hardworking (and usually willing to brag about that), but generally just what you’d expect for “country folks.”
Then you get them talking about politics, and – all too frequently – it’s a short on-ramp to Bizarro World.
Caricatures. They are like caricatures. They spout Fox talking points as gospel truth, reflexively disdaining any conflicting information. Show them evidence, they ignore it. Corner them on a point they got wrong, they change the subject and talk louder or walk off (accusing you of being unreasonable). Caricatures. The racism is almost always there, almost always impossible to miss. I’ve heard FedEx’s primary freight hub in Memphis called a pejorative portmanteau of the names “Memphis” and “Africa” more than once. (One example among numberless.)
Again, JMO (and I’m a first-time commenter obvs). But I’m pretty firm in conviction on this. Trump isn’t a pied piper. He was just the fullest expression of what the GOP base has been becoming for a very long while. I’d say since the 80s at least – but probably longer (Goldwater, JBS, etc.).
I hope Judge Mehta, and others, take a long look at conservative media (and all their “think tanks,” their embedded journalists – David Brooks, Bret Stephens, etc.) and grasp that this is neither a recent nor transitory phenomenon. The Hate Wurlitzer’s damage will be here for a long, long time.
You were in the courtroom? And/or have deep experience in them? If not, then you are just blowing bullshit.
“ I hope Judge Mehta, and others, take a long look at conservative media (and all their “think tanks,” their embedded journalists – David Brooks, Bret Stephens, etc.) and grasp that this is neither a recent nor transitory phenomenon.”
Not Judge Mehta’s job. And, I rather doubt that these perps were “groomed” by the likes of Brooks & Stephens.
Brandi – we’ve been following your threads on all the trials over on Mastodon. The community there really appreciates your work. For me, it’s been important to hear how the judges are dealing with these insurrectionists. Almost none of the people I represented have gotten the accommodations these people received. Seems like the system bent over backwards to make sure they got an opportunity to have their day in court. I agree with the remarks above that legacy media should have reported more of Judge Mehta’s comments, which were measured and thoughtful. Will be interesting to see how their appeal of the sentencing reads.
What accommodations are you referring to? Strikes me they have been treated as normal criminal defendants.
This was really well done, Brandi.
I wish there was a way this piece would receive a big and wide readership. But I kind of think those days are gone, where anything, even a well done corporate media piece would be widely read amongst those living on the other side of our Grand Canyon of a societal divide.
Just anticipating this piece I donated twice yesterday – once to EW and once to BB. Best $ I’ve spent all year. Thanks to the good Doctor and Ms Buchman for ALL you do.
Thank you as to both!
This is some of the best content on the internet right now. Wow. Thanks
Yes, it is!
It was so great to follow this stuff for so long and then get transported into the courtroom. The stakes hit home hard.
Taking the words of the commenters yesterday as accurate, I understand the sentence was a downward departure. As this guy is so unrepentent, any clues as to why this sentence wasn’t elevated? Thanks.
Nope. But then none of us know exactly what Mehta knew.
Its a good start. But based on the risk posed by these types of people, based on the mid 19th century experience, much more must be done to punish those responsible for inciting and organizing the violence.
Re: the length of sentence.
Hitler was given a 5-year sentence after his role in the failed coup of 1923. He had early release in 1924. In between, he narrated “Mein Kampf”. Nine years after his release, he was (in essence) dictator of Germany. (He never won a public election).
DOJ asked for 25 years; the defense asked for time served (1.5 years). Splitting the difference would be about 13 years; if he serves 85% of the 18 (re bmaz’s prior estimate), that puts us at 15.3 years. So Elmer won’t be out until he’s 72, presuming that any appeals court agrees with Mehta’s reasoning on the sentence and that no GOP nutball pardons him. A bit long in the tooth, but if he manages during his imprisonment to get a “My Struggle” book out, then he can still be a very present danger.
I wonder if Mehta had any of this rolling around in his head as he pondered the sentencing guidelines. It sounded from the reports this morning (on sentencing #3 and #4) that Mehta was looking carefully at the quantity (and nature) of the J6 text communications of each convict as a gauge, as well.
Anyway, I’m not going to rest easy just because the ex-lawyer is imprisoned now. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Oh, the 85% is statutory, not an estimate. The only question is how the pre-sentence in custody time was handled by the court. Presumably it is simply credited off the top. But there will be supervised release after all that. So, at current age of 57, not sure Rhodes is going to be much of a real threat himself but for, as you say, riling others up.
Thanks for that clarification, bmaz.
It’ll be interesting to see what sentence Tarrio gets.
And I look forward to the court sentencing minute entries from Rhodes and Meggs. They may well tell quite a bit. They may well already be out there but have not seen them yet.
Trump at age 76 remains a threat at least to the good order and stability of the republic. What the political climate will be if and when Rhodes gets out is not knowable.
OT. I was out of the country for two weeks. Upon my return I immediately went to EW for catching up on the real news. I usually then scroll down to tweets for more EW insights. That space is now white in every new post. Why is this happening? Did I miss something?
It’s apparently something else breaking at the birdsite.
There have been reports of other non-Elmo-approved tweets not working properly. Probably just a unscheduled implosion when the twit fired most of his staff.
Insightful reporting. Thank you Brandi.
Interesting interview with Tasha Adams about her ex-husband.
Stewart Rhodes’ Ex-Wife on The Oath Keepers And His 18-Year Sentence
Soyanara Motherfucker, you are nothing more than a Roger Stone sucker.
Elmer’s attitude and demeanor are not a winning combination in prison. Maybe the jail he’s been in these last months has not been fully instructive in incarceration, but he will not be permitted to carry on as he did in court. I guess he can fuck around and find out, but he’ll be in the hole on the regular if he does not become subservient in short order. “Good behavior” in the carceral enterprise will be a steep hill for him.
Thank you, Brandi. Excellent work.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes- Trump’s very own Ernst Röhm.
Thank you Brandi. Thank you for the texts during the Trial,
and Thank you for this Analysis.
Please take care of your Mental Health. You have been exposed to a lot!!
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I was going say something half-jokingly about conjugal visits from MTG but I am too scared of him being pardoned by the next Repub POTUS.
Reading this wonderfully observed piece on the Oath Keeper defendants has brought to mind Milton Mayer’s “They Thought They Were Free”. For those EmptyWheelers who haven’t come across this book—a close look at ordinary Nazis after the war—it’s worth reading, and for those who have, reading again. Rhodes, Meggs, et. al. are the “little men” or the “little men who went wild” that Mayer described — people we know from work or as neighbors who seem like everyone else, but as is documented in the book, would have no problem burning down a synagogue in 1938 and then going back to their lives as if nothing were wrong. Like these Oath Keepers, they were doing their patriotic duty. And if these OKs hadn’t been caught, they’d interview in a similar way years later in some parallel universe to the SA squad with its sturmfuhrer leader who committed the arson and were the subjects of Mayer’s book: their cause was not wrong but maybe some excesses were committed by others who betrayed Trump.