Rhodes made the violent comments at a meeting in Texas with Jason Alpers, who described himself on the witness stand as a military veteran and co-founder of Allied Security Operations Group (ASOG). That organization played a key role in spreading false claims about the 2020 election through misleading and inaccurate reports about voting machine software.
On the stand, Alpers said he had an “indirect” line to Trump’s “inner circle,” without elaborating.
That apparent relationship is why Rhodes wanted to meet, Alpers testified. He said he recorded the meeting to accurately “provide information to President Trump.” What he got, he said, disturbed him enough to eventually go to the FBI.
Alpers took the stand in the sixth week of trial for Rhodes and four others accused of taking part in a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. government and planning to block the lawful transition of presidential power by force.
Kellye SoRelle, who is charged separately from Rhodes and has been described in court as both his girlfriend and an attorney for the Oath Keepers, was also at the meeting, Alpers testified.
As he had publicly before Jan. 6, Rhodes repeatedly said Trump should to invoke the Insurrection Act, which he believed would allow militia groups to block President Biden from taking office.
Rhodes told Alpers on the recording that if Trump gave up power “he and his family” would “wind up dead,” because Biden would “turn the Insurrection Act against us.” He compared the election to the overthrow of the czar of Russia in 1917, after which the entire royal family was slaughtered.
Alpers testified that Rhodes wrote a similar message for Trump: “You must use the Insurrection Act and use the power of the President to stop him. And all of us veterans will support you and so will the vast majority of the military.”
Rhodes has argued he was only advocating for what he believed would be a lawful order from the president. But on the recording, Rhodes indicated he and his followers would act violently even if Trump did not give his approval.
“Here is the thing, we’re gonna fight,” Rhodes is recorded saying. “We’re not gonna let them come get our brothers. We’re going to fight, the fight’s going to be ours.”
And if he had known on Jan. 6 that Trump would never invoke the Insurrection Act, Rhodes said, he would have gone further that day — including assassinating a Democratic leader.
“If he’s not going to do the right thing, and he’s just gonna let himself be removed illegally, then we should have brought rifles,” Rhodes says on the recording. “We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang f——- Pelosi from the lamppost.”
Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, is currently hospitalized after being attacked by a man who officials say was looking to kill her.
Rhodes in the recording, also called the riot “a good thing in the end,” because it “showed the people that we have a spirit of resistance.”
But he said if Trump left office, “everyone that was at the Capitol” would be in danger of being charged with “felony murder … because someone died.” SoRelle is heard agreeing: “I know it’s gonna happen.”
Felony murder applies when a death results from the commission of another felony crime.
On the recording, Alpers told Rhodes he did not think Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act. He testified that while the law was being talked about in “election fraud circles,” his impression was based on the discussion in Trump’s “inner circle.”
Alpers said he did not deliver Rhodes’s words to Trump “because I didn’t agree with the message.” He also said he worried being associated with these “extremist ideologies” would hurt his “relationships and credibility.”
Alpers told The Washington Post last year that as far as he knew, ASOG began its “election fraud project” after he left the company.
On a podcast last year, a former ASOG employee named Josh Merritt said Alpers connected the group to Phil Waldron, who he served with Afghanistan. “Alpers was psychological operations. Waldron had involvement with psychological operations,” Merritt said.
Waldron, a retired colonel, went to the White House multiple times to share purported evidence of election fraud; worked directly with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on legal challenges to the vote count and circulated a PowerPoint presentation before Jan. 6 arguing that Trump could use troops to seize ballots.
Waldron did not immediately return a request for comment.
One ASOG report on software used in Antrim County, Mich., claimed to have found evidence of a sweeping conspiracy to fix votes. The report’s central claims were immediately debunked by independent experts and Homeland Security officials, but Trump claimed it was “absolute proof” of fraud that would keep him in office for a second term, former attorney general William P. Barr later told congressional investigators.
Alpers said he initially did nothing with the recording because he “didn’t want to get involved,” but that sometime in the spring of 2021 he met with federal law enforcement.
“Asking for civil war to be on American ground and understanding, being a person who’s gone to war, right, that means blood is gonna get shed on the streets where your family are,” he said. “It was at that point that I kind of step back and I’m really kind of questioning whether pushing this to President Trump is in the best interest.”
Prosecutors expect to finish presenting evidence against Rhodes on Wednesday, after which he and the other defendants will make their case to the jury.
Emma Brown contributed to this report.