DOJ says Oath Keepers leader waited for Trump’s direction prior to Capitol riot

A leader of the Oath Keepers paramilitary group, who was allegedly part of the mob of Trump supporters who laid siege to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, believed she was responding to a call from then-President Donald Trump, according to a Justice Department filing released Thursday.

The memorandum was filed in support of pre-trial detention for the defendant Jessica Watkins, who federal prosecutors say awaited direction from Trump to storm the Capitol as the 2020 presidential inauguration neared.

According to the prosecutors, Jessica Watkins "exhibited a single-minded devotion to obstruct through violence an official proceeding that, on January 6, was designed to confirm the next President of the United States."

Prosecutors said that Watkins ‘concern about taking action without Trump’s backing was evident in a Nov. 9, 2020 text in which she stated, "I am concerned this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it."

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In a text exchange with co-defendant Donovan Crowl on Dec. 29, 2020, Watkins said, "[W]e plan on going to DC on the 6th" because "Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come," and, "[i]f Trump activates the Insurrection Act, I’d hate to miss it," according to the DOJ.

The DOJ’s filing alleged that Watkins was part of the Ohio State Regular Militia, a local militia organization whose members form a subset of the far-right group Oath Keepers.

Watkins, Crowl, and Thomas Caldwell have been indicted for conspiracy and other charges in relation to the Capitol riot.

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According to prosecutors, Caldwell — another leader of the Oath Keepers militia group — discussed the possibility of getting a boat to ferry "heavy weapons" across the Potomac River.

The details come days after Caldwell’s lawyer said the man previously worked for the FBI. The Associated Press reported that the FBI had not answered questions about the lawyer's claim and Caldwell’s lawyer had not responded to multiple messages.

More than 200 men and women have been charged in federal court with offenses related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.