Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, testified to an Alaskan judge on Tuesday that efforts to postpone the certification of the 2020 presidential election were a “counter-revolution,” not an insurrection.
“My perspective is that we’re preserving the Constitution, and it’s — I wouldn’t even call it insurrection, I would call it a counter-revolution against an insurrection. … I consider the left to be an insurrection,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes, who created the conservative antigovernment organization, was found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a Washington, D.C., jury last month in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Rhodes’ testimony came as a defense witness for Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican who is defending against a lawsuit that claims Eastman’s life membership in the Oath Keepers violates the disloyalty clause of the Alaska Constitution. The lawsuit was filed in July by Randall Kowalke, a Matanuska-Susitna Borough resident.
Tuesday was the sixth day of a bench trial intended to determine whether or not the Oath Keepers, who have been linked to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government.
The disloyalty clause prohibits a public official from belonging to or aiding an organization that advocates the forcible overthrow of the government. If Eastman has violated that clause, he could be barred from taking office when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
Rhodes said under questioning from Eastman attorney Joe Miller that he hoped Trump would activate the Insurrection Act, which would allow the president to deploy the U.S. military domestically, in order to eliminate the results of the 2020 election, which he views as fraudulent. A new vote could then be held, he said.
No court has upheld the idea that the last presidential election was fraudulent, but when asked about that fact, Rhodes said he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court, in the as-yet-unresolved Moore v Harper case, will do so.
That case revolves around the idea that states may nullify federal election laws and conduct elections by whatever rules they choose.
Before the events of Jan. 6, Rhodes wrote that there would be a “bloody civil war” if Trump failed to invoke the Insurrection Act.
In private text messages, he urged some Oath Keepers to be ready to fight and that “the final defense is us and our rifles.”
Kowalke’s attorneys have argued that the subsequent insurrection at the Capitol proves those words were a call to imminent action, but Rhodes said on Tuesday that he didn’t intend them that way.
“I was pointing out that this is where it’s gonna lead,” Rhodes said. “There’s a big difference between advocating something and wanting something, and predicting something.”
He said he believed armed Oath Keepers would be needed to act as security if Trump called them into duty via the Insurrection Act.
After Rhodes, Miller called attorney John Eastman to testify. On Monday, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection recommended the U.S. Justice Department bring criminal charges against Eastman, a legal expert who advised former President Trump.
Eastman, unrelated to David Eastman, said he believes Rhodes’ words and actions fall short of the standard needed to rule speech illegal under the protections offered by the First Amendment.
He said he believes Rhodes and other Oath Keepers were not inciting imminent action.
Under cross-examination, Eastman admitted that he had billed the defense team $8,000 for his work on the case, plus an additional amount for work done by others in his law firm.
Goriune Dudukgian, representing Kowalke, said those payments speak to Eastman’s credibility as an expert witness.
After John Eastman concluded his testimony, David Eastman returned to the stand for a final round of questioning by Miller.
The Wasilla representative said he does not consider himself to be anti-government and does not want to overthrow the government.
His defense rested its case, after Eastman concluded by saying his greatest concern is his belief that freedom of speech is under attack.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Wednesday, with McKenna expected to rule by the end of the year. An appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court is expected regardless of the result.
This story was originally published by the Alaska Beacon, a States Newsroom affiliate.