A crowd outside Nancy Pelosi’s office, D-Calif., Is seen in this footage of the January 6 riots at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.
An attorney for an Ohio militia member accused of conspiracy countered a controversial claim that implied that Jessica Watkins met with the U.S. Secret Service to work as a security guard at the January 6 rally for Donald Trump before she participated in the Capitol riot .
The attorney’s original motion, filed over the weekend, raised questions about whether the Secret Service had coordinated rally security with paramilitary groups that later invaded the US Capitol.
Federal officials claim that Watkins coordinated with a group of at least eight others who wore tactical equipment and helmets and marched in military style to the Capitol. Hundreds of protesters stormed the building, causing lawmakers to flee and leaving five dead.
The Secret Service wasted no time rejecting the original claim that it had worked with Watkins or any private citizen on the security of the rally. The agency said it has only the help of government partners.
“Any claim that the Secret Service employed private citizens to carry out these functions is false,” the agency said on Monday.
Watkins’ federal public defender filed a “clarification” on Monday, saying the motion was never intended to suggest that Watkins met with the Secret Service.
“A better verb would have been ‘found’,” said the motion. The agents at the check-in point for the rally’s VIP area told Watkins what she could and could not do inside and told him to leave all the tactical equipment outside. The enlightened motion stated: “Mrs. Watkins does not suggest that she has any direct knowledge that her role as security has been sanctioned by anyone other than the people involved in organizing the rally. “
Watkins is in prison in Washington D.C., accused of conspiring with eight others accused of participating in the Capitol riot. The FBI claims they are members or affiliates of Oath Keepers, an extremist group that recruits ex-servicemen, law enforcement officers and first responders.
The original motion – requesting a bail hearing – said Watkins went to Washington D.C. to protect the government, not to overthrow it. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to determine whether she remains in custody.
In her attempt at pre-trial freedom, Watkins claimed that she was at the rally to provide security for the speakers and had a VIP pass for Trump’s speech.
An organizer of the January 6 demonstration by Trump before the revolt contested Watkins’s claim in the amended motion that the people involved in organizing the demonstration were working with his group.
“There was no coordination with the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys regarding the handling of any type of service,” said Dustin Stockton, part of the team that helped organize the rally at Ellipse. Stockton also helped organize marches for Trump in November and December and said he did not use the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys for these events.
Although the Oath Keepers – and other groups – sometimes provide security for people and events, there is no official indication that their services were used on Capitol Hill or for the Elipse rally near the White House that day.
None of the nine people indicted in Watkins’ group appears on the District of Columbia’s licensed security guards list. In addition, the Oath Keepers organization is not listed as a security provider for the National Park Service authorization for the rally.
Security experts, including employees of companies that worked at the event or were contacted to work at the event, raised questions about the possibility of any event organizer using voluntary security guards.
Stockton said they used volunteers for other tasks, but not for security, and were forced to send the volunteers’ birth dates and social security numbers to the secret service for verification.
Any private security guards for events with the Secret Service must also go through an equally strong verification process, said the owners of two other security services, including a company that worked on the rally and one named on the license that did not end up doing the security that day .
Lyndon Brentnall, owner of the Florida-based security company RMS hired for the event at Ellipse on January 6, said he used only licensed professionals to work on the event and all had to be cleared by Secret Service first, as Trump was speaking. that day.
His security guards, who wore black poles and bright green gaiter masks, mostly escorted people to where they were supposed to sit, Brentnall said. The other security, including behind the barrier and the stage, “was clearly administered by the Secret Service,” he said.
Licensing requirements for working in D.C. are strict and companies that don’t follow them face fines and even imprisonment, said David Deanovich, owner of Deanovich and Associates, a professional security company based in Maryland.
Although Deanovich’s company was on the list to provide security at Trump’s Ellipse rally, Deanovich said his company ended up not accepting the job and he was upset to learn recently that his name had been listed on the license.
Deanovich said he never worked with the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys or volunteers.
“You would be an idiot” if you hired non-D.C. graduates, he said. “You would lose everything. I would lose all licenses and ruin myself. ”
However, Trump associates like Roger Stone used the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys as security. And members of Oath Keepers discussed providing security at the January 6 events.
Defender of rowdy Graydon Young, who ran for Florida Oath Keepers in December, forwarded an email from the organization to his sister, Laura Young Steele, saying they were going to DC to conduct “security operations,” according a criminal complaint. His sister, a former law enforcement officer, was also arrested and accused of being related to the riot.
The Youngs were among those mentioned in an indictment handed down last week that accuses Watkins and eight others of conspiracy.
Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes recruited members and volunteers saying they would work as a security guard. Rhodes was quoted directly and indirectly in criminal complaints related to the riot, but was not charged with anything.
The team would be “directly responsible for the security of the event or assist in the security of the event on both days,” said Rhodes in a post on the group’s website. “We will also be on the streets to help keep Trump supporters safe in general as they walk back to their hotels, vehicles or subway stations (that’s when Antifa likes to attack the weak, old, disabled or families – like the hyenas that are). “
The Oath Keepers convened volunteers for pro-Trump rallies before the election and for Stop the Steal events following his November defeat to President Joe Biden, including events in Atlanta; Las Vegas; Sunrise, Florida; and Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Several media outlets reported in January that Stone, a political ally of Trump and leader of the Stop the Steal campaign, used the Oath Keepers for security at least twice.
Stone posted on his website on February 10 that the Oath Keepers voluntarily provided him with “free security” in D.C. on January 6, as they had done at three rallies in Miami and Tampa.
“I was told that all the men who voluntarily protected me were off-duty policemen,” wrote Stone. “I found them courteous, effective and saw no evidence of misconduct or any other extremist attitude.”
The New York Times reported that six people guarding Stone that day entered the Capitol. The Times reported that everyone was identified as part of the Oath Keepers and photographed with Stone the day and hours before the riot.
Oath Keepers have a history of contentious events, usually for the stated purpose of providing security. In 2014, the group was part of an armed standoff between Nevada farmer Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management. Bundy for decades refused to pay fees for his cattle to graze on federal land, and the government acted with a court order to start seizing them.
The agency retreated in the impasse, returning the seized cattle.
Later that year, members of the Oath Keepers guarded company roofs in Ferguson, Missouri, during disturbances related to the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer, Darren Wilson.
St. Louis County police confronted the armed volunteers, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, saying they could not remain on the roofs because they did not adhere to county law that requires background and qualifications for security officers and guards.
When the volunteer guards learned of the policy, a local leader of the Oath Keepers in Missouri told the Post Dispatch, they laughed and returned to their posts the following night.
Contributing: Erin Mansfield
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