Did Donald Trump fund Oath Keepers? 3 from far-right paramilitary group indicted over plot to storm Capitol

The organization was founded in Las Vegas in 2009 and was formed as a response team to the election of former president Barack Obama

                            Did Donald Trump fund Oath Keepers? 3 from far-right paramilitary group indicted over plot to storm Capitol
Jessica Marie Watkins and Donovan Ray Crowl (Montgomery County Jail)

The aftermath of the Capitol riots has seen several arrests being made. In a recent development, three members of Oath Keepers, which the Justice Department terms as a paramilitary group, were indicted on January 27. The three members — Jessica Marie Watkins, 38; Donovan Ray Crowl, 50; and Thomas Caldwell, 65, were arrested two weeks after the violent storming on January 6. According to NPR, the trio faces up to 20 years in prison.

All three face a string of charges that include conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds, the site added. The Justice Department also added that they coordinated the attack on the Capitol while also noting down their plans and moves on social media. This article sheds light on the paramilitary group that was involved in the riots.

Protesters gather at the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Who are the Oath Keepers?

The Oath Keepers were founded in Las Vegas in 2009. The far-right paramilitary group was formed as a response team to the election of former President Barack Obama. A description by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says the Oath Keepers are one of the largest radical anti-militant groups in the country at present.

Although they say their sole aim is defending the constitution of the United States, the SPLC actually calls them an organization that is based on "a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans".

The organization reportedly accepts anyone willing to become a member. The hiring though, focussed on former members of the military, first response teams and law enforcement. According to Rolling Stones, the individual who signs up for the Oath Keepers has to uphold certain oaths they swore in their previous careers, especially if they were part of the defense or law enforcement agencies so as to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic".

Questions have arisen if the Oath Keepers are actually a militia. To answer that, they are in fact one. With military-style training that includes wearing gear and resorting to arms when needed, the organization is allegedly a part of a wider movement that began in the '90s. The organization is one of those groups that is pro-Trump and has been actively involved in their campaigns that opposed the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that notched up last year. USA Today records that while these are pretty mich anti-establishment, not much action is taken by the law to stop these groups.

During the Capitol riots, the team that is now indicted communicated on social media platforms Facebook and Parler. The FBI also acquired an audio recording between Watkins and some of the suspected members of the organization. "We have a good group. We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan.” An unknown male responds, "We’ll see you soon, Jess. Airborne," the recording said. According to the Justice Department's release, Watkins and Crowl also interviewed with the media confirming their membership in the organization. 

Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Who funded the Oath Keepers ahead of Capitol riots?

While there have been several reports that the riots were funded by Trump allies, AP and The Philadelphia Inquirer doles out a few names in their reports. The latter had a report where it cited the Center for Responsive Politics saying Trump's campaign funded more than $2.7M to individuals and firms that organized the rally that eventually saw violence unfold and resulting in deaths.

The site also added eight Trump campaign officials were named on the permit for the rally that included Maggie Mulvaney, Mick Mulvaney's niece. He was Trump’s former chief of staff who resigned his position as special envoy to Northern Ireland in the aftermath of the riots. Netizens have called for law enforcement agencies to follow the money.

A protester holds a Trump flag inside the US Capitol Building near the Senate Chamber on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

"They should definitely follow the money, but some of this stuff really isn't that expensive. You can charter a bus for $1,200 a day; split among 40 people you're only talking $30 a person. There's a decent chance that Covid relief may have ultimately funded a lot of this," one of the tweets read.

"It was reported last week that trump paid millions to these groups to carry out their mission. Think about that! The president of the US allegedly paid insurrectionist to attack the US Capitol and interfere in our democracy. And 40 + Senators voted not to convict trump," another wrote. "WHY AREN'T THERE ARRESTS OF WHO FUNDED THEM????" read one of the tweets.




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