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Takeaways from the landmark sedition indictment against the Oath Keepers



Attorney General Merrick Garland had balked at the earlier efforts to bring the seditious conspiracy charge. But in the months since, people briefed on the matter say FBI investigators and DC federal prosecutors have spent much time building the case, at least in part with the help of cooperators and the benefit of internal communications among the Oath Keepers.

Federal prosecutors have been slammed — by legal experts, Democratic lawmakers, Donald Trump critics, and media pundits — for going easy on the rioters. That criticism has now been answered in a big way with the charges of «seditious conspiracy.»

Garland said in a major speech last week that prosecutors would go after the January 6 perpetrators «at any level… whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.» Thursday’s indictment puts some meat on the bones.

Oath Keepers leader and 10 others charged with 'seditious conspiracy' related to US Capitol attack

Sedition is difficult to prove in court, and an indictment is only the very beginning of a legal case. There are many hoops that prosecutors will need to jump through before they win convictions. But this is a critical first step.

It destroys, once and for all, the talking point from those downplaying the events of January 6 that the attack on the Capitol wasn’t an insurrection because nobody has been charged with sedition.

It took a while to reach this point in the investigation. Last March, it seemed like former US Attorney Michael Sherwin, who initially led the investigation, got out ahead of his skis when he said there should be sedition cases. Months passed without anything materializing to back up his assertions. With the new indictment, Sherwin has been vindicated.

Extent of preparation for January 6

One of the most debated questions about January 6 has been over how much planning there was to invade the Capitol.

Thousands of Trump supporters breached Capitol grounds, and a couple thousand got inside the building. But was there a plan? And who knew about the plan?

It’s clear from court filings that for many of the rioters, there was no organized plan. But that’s not the full story. The sedition case against the Oath Keepers highlights that there were hardened groups of alleged criminals within the mob that essentially planned for war.

Rhodes, the Oath Keepers’ leader, is quoted as telling his supporters that they should prepare for a «bloody» operation and that they would need to «fight» in a «war.»

One defendant allegedly took an early November trip to Washington to conduct recon for an upcoming «op.» Communications about the «bloody» «fight» and «revolution» were accompanied by logistical planning, prosecutors alleged, with defendants discussing obtaining and bringing weapons to the Washington area.

It could have been worse

The indictment provided yet another reminder that January 6 could have been so much worse.

Shortly after getting inside the Capitol, one group of Oath Keepers tried to make a coordinated move on the Senate chamber, seemingly as if they were executing a mission. According to the indictment, they «tried to push their way through» a line of police, but the officers «forcibly repelled their advance.» (Other rioters eventually breached the Senate floor and gallery.)

Prosecutors added more details of how the Oath Keepers allegedly stockpiled weapons at a nearby hotel in Virginia, just in case they needed to deploy a «quick reaction force» into DC.
READ: Seditious conspiracy indictment related to US Capitol attack

The charging documents say one defendant, Joshua James, got a message from a friend saying, «I have friends not far from DC with a lot of weapons and ammo if you get into trouble.» James replied, «that might be helpful, but we have a s***load of QRF on standby with an arsenal.»

Rhodes also amassed weapons and other gear on his way to Washington, DC, before January 6, prosecutors said. He allegedly bought a rifle, a magazine, and other firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, triggers, slings, and an optic plate. Rhodes was on the Capitol grounds on January 6 but hasn’t been accused of entering the building, though prosecutors have said he «directed» his supporters to do so.

The plot was bigger than Jan 6

Up to this point, federal prosecutors had been accusing conspiracy defendants of aiming to block Congress’ vote to certify the election.

But Thursday’s case ups the ante, widening the conspiracy past January 6. The indictment says the Oath Keepers aimed for more than disruption of Congress. This group, prosecutors say, wanted to stop the transfer of presidential power from Trump to Joe Biden.

After the insurrection, they gathered to celebrate, then continued talking.

«We aren’t quitting!! We are reloading!!,» one of the defendants wrote in a Signal chat.

In the week after the riot, Rhodes allegedly spent more than $17,500 on weapons, equipment, and ammunition. One member, according to the filings, said Rhodes should stay «below the radar,» while another brought what he called «all available weapons» to Rhodes’ home in Texas.

Here's what 'insurrection,' 'coup' and 'sedition' mean

Around Inauguration Day, January 20, Rhodes allegedly told associates to organize local militias to oppose the Biden administration. Another member allegedly said, «After this… if nothing happens…its war…Civil War 2.0.»

«Rhodes and certain co-conspirators … planned to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021, which included multiple ways to deploy force,» the indictment says.

Hunting for the bigger fish

The Justice Department spent all of 2021 rounding up nearly two dozen alleged members of the Oath Keepers. They secured the cooperation of a few people charged in the original Oath Keepers conspiracy case — the one without the sedition charges — which was a significant breakthrough.

Now we know that prosecutors were building a bigger case, and moving up the chain, to the leader of the extremist organization. Rhodes has previously denied any wrongdoing regarding January 6.

Booking photo of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.From Collin County, Texas

The big question is: Is this the end of the road? Could Rhodes have information that implicates anyone else higher up?

It has been widely reported that his organization was providing security for Trump surrogates like Roger Stone and Ali Alexander while they were in DC around January 6. A major criminal case obviously ramps up the pressure on people like Rhodes to cut a deal with prosecutors and become a government witness, if they have a story to tell.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Evan Perez and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.

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Actress Regina King’s son Ian Alexander Jr. has died at 26: «Our family is devastated at the deepest level»



Regina King’s 26-year-old son, Ian Alexander Jr., has died, a spokesperson for the actor confirmed Saturday morning. 

«Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian,» the statement read. «He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our family asks for respectful consideration during this private time.»

Alexander Jr. — King’s only child, whom she shared with ex-husband Ian Alexander Sr. — died by suicide, a spokesperson confirmed to The Associated Press.

The two were very close, with Alexander Jr. often accompanying his mother on the red carpet. They even had matching tattoos reading «unconditional love» in Aramaic, the AP reported.

Last year, Alexander Jr. posted a tribute to his mother on her birthday, writing, «To be able to watch you take this lifetime by its neck and make it yours is something i will forever be grateful for. But to have you as my mother is the greatest gift I could ask for. To be all that you are while always having the time to be there, love and support me unconditionally is truly remarkable.»

Alexander Jr. was a DJ who went by desduné. He had just recently released a song called «Green Eyes,» which King posted about on her Instagram last week. According to Alexander Jr.’s Instagram, he had a show scheduled for January 28 in Los Angeles.

King is known for her roles in the movie «If Beale Street Could Talk» and on the television show «Watchmen.» She also directed the 2020 film «One Night in Miami…» She has won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, four Primetime Emmy Awards and two NAACP Image Awards over the course of her more than 30-year career.

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German navy chief resigns over Putin comments



Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht visits the navy base in Warnemuende, Germany, December 17, 2021. Bernd Wuestneck/Pool via REUTERS

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BERLIN, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Germany’s navy chief stepped down on Saturday after drawing criticism for saying Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved respect and that Kyiv would never win back annexed Crimea from Moscow.

«I have asked Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht to relieve me from my duties with immediate effect,» Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said in a statement. «The minister has accepted my request.»

Schoenbach made the remarks to a think-tank discussion in India on Friday, and video was published on social media. The comments came at a sensitive time as Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders.

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Diplomatic efforts are focused on preventing an escalation. Russia denies it is planning to invade Ukraine.

In New Delhi, Schoenbach, speaking in English, said Putin seeks to be treated as an equal by the West.

«What he (Putin) really wants is respect,» Schoenbach said.

«And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost… It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,» Schoenbach said, calling Russia an old and important country.

Schoenbach conceded Russia’s actions in Ukraine needed to be addressed. But he added that «the Crimea peninsula is gone, it will never come back, this is a fact,» contradicting the joint Western position that Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 cannot be accepted and must be reversed.

Prior to Schoenbach’s resignation, the defence ministry publicly criticised his remarks, saying they did not reflect Germany’s position in either content or wording.

Schoenbach apologized for his comments.

«My rash remarks in India … are increasingly putting a strain on my office,» he said. «I consider this step (the resignation) necessary to avert further damage to the German navy, the German forces, and, in particular, the Federal Republic of Germany.»

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had called on Germany to publicly reject the navy chief’s comments. Schoenbach’s comments could impair Western efforts to de-escalate the situation, Ukraine said in a statement.

«Ukraine is grateful to Germany for the support it has already provided since 2014, as well as for the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. But Germany’s current statements are disappointing and run counter to that support and effort,» Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said separately in tweet.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Catherine Evans and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Butler announces retirement



Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler announced his retirement on Saturday evening in a statement released by the team.

«It is an emotional day as I announce I am retiring from my football coaching career,» said Butler. «I have spent every year since 1990 as a coach in the NFL and the NCAA, but the time is right for me to walk away after a successful career both playing and coaching the game I love.

«I want to thank the Rooney Family, Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin and all the coaches and players that I have been involved with over my entire coaching career. I look forward to spending more time with my family, whom have been so supportive of me throughout the years. I wish nothing but the best to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I will be cheering them on during my retirement.»

Butler served as the team’s defensive coordinator since being promoted to that role in January 2015. He had previously served as the team’s linebackers coach for 12 seasons from 2003-14. Butler was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams with the Steelers (Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII).

The Steelers lead, or tied for the lead, in overall sacks for the last five years under Butler, setting an NFL record in 2020 when they did it a league-high four years in a row.

In 2020 the Steelers broke an NFL record with a streak of 70 games with at least one sack, breaking the record set by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 69 straight games with at least one sack (1999-2003). The team extended the streak to 75 games, which is still the NFL record.

He came to the Steelers after an NFL coaching career that began with the Cleveland Browns (1999-2002) and before that in the college ranks at Arkansas State (1998) and Memphis (1990-97).

Butler played in the NFL for 10 seasons (1978-87) for the Seattle Seahawks.

Butler was a three-year starter at inside linebacker for the University of Memphis, leading the team in tackles his junior and senior seasons and being named as Associated Press All-American in 1977.

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