By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Florida member of the far-right Oath Keepers testified on Tuesday that he had been ready to use violence to stop the U.S. Congress from certifying Republican Donald Trump’s election defeat, saying he wanted lawmakers to “be afraid.”
Jason Dolan, a 46-year-old retired Marine, who last year pleaded guilty to taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, testified at the criminal trial of the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, and four associates, who face charges of seditious conspiracy for their role in the violence.
Dolan told the jury he joined the Oath Keepers out of frustration over Trump’s 2020 loss and that he grew willing to “fight” against what he saw was an “illegitimate” government as he drank alcohol and texted with group members for hours each night inside his Wellington, Florida garage.
“A lot of us were prepared, I was prepared to stop the certification process one way or the other,” said Dolan, who stormed the Capitol with several other Oath Keepers and loudly chanted “treason” in the hopes that Congress would “be afraid of me” and not certify Democratic President Joe Biden’s election.
Trump continues to falsely claim that his defeat was the result of fraud.
“People will act out of kindness. They will act out of charity, and they will act out of fear, too … maybe they would be scared into doing the right thing,” Dolan said.
Rhodes and his four co-defendants – Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson and Kelly Meggs – are charged with seditious conspiracy, a rarely prosecuted crime under a statute dating to the Civil War era defined as attempting “to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States.”
On Jan. 6, some of the group’s members, including Dolan, were among the thousands of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol, battling police and sending members of Congress scrambling for cover.
Prosecutors say the group planned a “quick reaction force” of armed members who waited at a hotel in northern Virginia with a stash of firearms they could ferry across the Potomac River into the capital if called upon.
Dolan testified that he brought his assault-style rifle and a pistol with him from Florida, and stashed them in a Virginia hotel.
He pleaded guilty in September 2021 to conspiracy and obstructing an official proceeding and agreed to cooperate with the government in the hope of getting a reduced sentence.
Dolan also said he had believed Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1800s law that lets the president call on troops to quell disorder. In that event, he said, he believed Oath Keepers “would be fighting with pro-Trump forces against basically pro-Biden forces.”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)