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A third member of the extremist group Oath Keepers pleaded guilty on May 4 to seditious conspiracy, admitting his role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The pleas provide further evidence that the right-wing campaign to whitewash on January 6, minimizing the extent to which the participants sought to stage an insurrection is not only cowardly but also dangerous. The attackers did not behave like “tourists;” they were not disarmed; January 6 was not a normal demonstration that got out of hand; the attack was not staged by far-left agitators posing as Trump supporters. Instead, it was a coordinated and concerted effort by pro-Trump fanatics, infuriated by then-President Donald Trump himself, to overthrow a presidential election through intimidation and strength.
William Todd Wilson led a North Carolina cell of the Oath Keepers, a heavily armed far-right radical group. According to the Department of Justice, Mr. Wilson admitted that “He has agreed with others to participate in a plan to use force to prevent, obstruct, and delay the execution of the laws of the United States governing the transfer of presidential power. He and others used encrypted and private communications, equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and stood ready to answer a call to arms. The goal was “to stop the transfer of power by disrupting a joint session of the United States Congress convened to verify and count electoral votes related to the presidential election.”
Mr Wilson hid an AR-15 type rifle, pistol and ammunition in a hotel in Virginia, the Justice Department said. Teams of “rapid reaction forces” were stationed in area hotels, waiting to join in the attack, according to court records. Mr. Wilson also brought “a large cane intended for use as a weapon and a pocket knife.” On Jan. 6, he was the first of the Oath Keepers co-conspirators to break into the Capitol, the Justice Department noted.
Mr. Wilson also admitted that after law enforcement secured the Capitol, he was present during a phone call between Chief Oathkeeper Stewart Rhodes and someone apparently close to Mr. Trump and heard “Rhodes repeatedly implores the individual to tell President Trump to call on groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power,” according to court records. It’s bad enough that a dangerous bigot like Mr. Rhodes apparently had access to someone in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. It is chilling to imagine what would have happened if his message had been relayed –” or if the Oath Keepers had been able to speak directly with Mr Trump.
January 6 should have been a turning point in our policy. Voters need to recognize that politicians’ stance on democracy is more important than tax rates, inflation, gas prices or any other political issue. Lawmakers who see the threat that growing illiberal forces pose to the nation must secure its democratic institutions. A bipartisan group of senators worked on updating the Electoral Count Act of 1887, whose misinterpretations served as a predicate of the events of January 6. Their window to fix the law, making it clear that neither the vice president nor Congress can nullify a presidential election in the way Mr. Trump and his supporters want, is ending. They need to move faster. They shouldn’t have a higher priority.
* Guest editorial by The Washington Post.