That mentality took root weeks before.
Dolan drank heavily after losing work and was coping with injuries to his hips and feet after multiple deployments, he said.
He wiled away hours scrolling on his phone, consuming media that propped up Trump’s claims of a “stolen” election. His wife didn’t follow politics and he didn’t have many friends. When he was finally recruited by the Oath Keepers, he was happy to be among so many people who felt as he did: Angry.
“[We had] the same ideas about the election being stolen, or at least, thinking it had been stolen,” he testified.
By the time December 2020 rolled around and plans were underway to establish a heavily armed “quick reaction force” to support Oath Keepers mission to stop the transfer of power, Dolan described an experience many Americans in a post-9/11 world might recognize as familiar.
“I meant it literally,” Dolan said, as he recalled to jurors how he grappled with preparing to “say goodbye” to his family once he left his home in Wellington, Florida to set out for Washington.
“Is this all just going to be talk, or am I willing to back up my words with my action?” Dolan said.
He was, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler argued, a man of action.
A rifle that Dolan built himself was brought out into the courtroom and held up for jurors to see. So too was his pistol. The former Oath Keeper brought those weapons along with tactical gear and ammunition on guidance from Rhodes and with the oversight of other defendants now on trial, including Kelly Meggs, the leader of the Oath Keeper’s Florida division.
Dolan and other members were warned to be careful.
“We were trying to be very specific and not bring any firearms into D.C. itself,” he said, noting that the local laws forbade it.
Stashing weapons at the Ballston Inn in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of D.C. was the plan, Dolan said.
Prosecutors have spent hours meticulously poring over close-circuit security footage from the hotel in Virginia. On Monday and on Tuesday the videos displayed a parade of Oath Keeper defendants on trial (and those yet to come), pushing several large, heavy bins into the hotel on dolly carts. The Justice Department say the bins were packed to the brim with guns and other gear to support the group’s seditious goal of stopping Congress from certifying the election.
Rhodes, Meggs, and co-defendants Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, and Jessica Watkins have pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers have argued that guns legally owned by the defendants were brought in to aid the group’s private security work. In sum, they claim Oath Keepers were on tap to protect Trump allies and VIPs. They also claim that the network was particularly concerned over threats they perceived from supporters of “antifa” or the Black Lives Matter movement on Jan. 6.
But according to Dolan. the “quick reaction force” was specifically meant to support Trump should he declare the Insurrection Act.
If Trump invoked it and raised the Oath Keepers to his side to help physically stop Congress from certifying the election results, they wanted to be prepared, Dolan said.
“If Trump declared the Insurrection Act, we would be working alongside or with pro-government forces against what we saw as anti-government forces, or in some way or another, fighting against those anti-government forces,” Dolan said.
He added: “My thinking was, there would be portions of the federal government that would side with Trump and portions that would side with President Biden.”
Plus, he said, if Trump invoked the act, it would add an “air of legality” to their actions.
Democrats, anyone who worked toward Congress certifying the election was to be stopped by any means necessary.
There was a “tenor” dominating the group, Dolan told jurors.
“We have to fight back,” he said, describing the prevailing thought held by defendants and the Oath Keepers as a whole. “’ We have to fight back.’ It was a feeling that our country was slipping out of our fingers. It was ‘conquer or die.”
“Were you prepared to take up arms against the government?” Nestler asked.
“Yes, mentally I was preparing to,’” he said.
Other messages shown to jurors on Tuesday illuminated how the network motivated men like Dolan to join them.
One of the most inspiring messages arrived via text to a group chat for Florida Oath Keepers.
Defendant Kelly Meggs told the group: “100 guys go to prison. 1,000 guys get in a battle. 10,000 guys get in a war. 72,000,000 is a massive patriotic movement. We won’t go alone.”
Dolan said he understood this to mean that if enough people were in D.C. and “pissed” they could have something like an army to fulfill their goal. And then there were the millions of Trump’s supporters throughout the country to lend their support. It wasn’t a “consolidated army,” Dolan acknowledged but they were as close as they could get.
On Dec. 21, Rhodes texted Florida Oath Keepers and told them they “need to push Trump to do his duty” and invoke the Insurrection Act.
“If he doesn’t, we will do ours. Declare independence. Defy. Resist. Defend. Conquer or Die. This needs to be our attitude,” Rhodes wrote.
On reflection of Jan. 6, Dolan said it seemed to him, “a lot of us were prepared to stop the certification process one way or another.”
Jurors saw some video footage too of the attack on the Capitol, something prosecutors argued was necessary to contextualize the gravitas of Jan. 6 even though some footage did not primarily feature the defendants. U.S. Capital Police Captain Ronald Ortega testified at length on Tuesday about the footage. Prosecutors used his testimony to establish when and how police were outnumbered or overcome as rioters forcefully streamed past them and inside the complex.
There was footage shown too of Dolan, Meggs, and Harrelson chanting “Treason!” as they entered the Capitol.
When Nestler asked him why he chanted that word in particular, Dolan explained it wasn’t just sparked by some misguided belief about the election results.
He wanted to strike fear into the lawmakers inside.
“People will act out of kindness, [or] charity. But they will act out of fear too and if they weren’t going to do the right thing, they’d be scared into doing the right thing,” he said.
Today, facing up to five or seven years in prison without any leniency at sentencing, Dolan said he feels “stupid” for what he’s done.
“I helped coordinate, plan. I helped drive up to D.C. I talked about my desire, I guess, in wanting to stop what I saw as an illegitimate government or, not duly elected government, from taking power. So, as a way to further that end, I threw my rifle and pistol in car…I helped bring people up there and… tried to get Congress to stop the certification of the election of President Biden,” he said.
Daily Kos live trial coverage from inside the federal courthouse continues on Wednesday at 9:30AM ET. For even more detail from today, check out the live blog or the mega-thread on Twitter.
Good judges are more important now than ever. In some states, judges are on the ballot this November. Tune in to The Downballot to listen to Justice Richard Bernstein talk about what being on the Michigan Supreme Court has been like, and how his re-election campaign is shaping up.
Author: Brandi Buchman