DOJ indicts three militia members for conspiring to obstruct Congress
© Wikimedia (Tyler Merbler)
DOJ indicts three militia members for conspiring to obstruct Congress

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted three members of Oath Keepers, a far-right militia organization, on Wednesday for conspiring to storm the Capitol in an attempt to obstruct Congress as it certified the vote of the US Electoral College.

Jessica Watkins, Donovan Crowl and Thomas Caldwell were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and entering restricted buildings and grounds. According to charging documents, the three conspired as early as November of last year to “commit an offense against the United States” and hinder Congress’ certification process. Congressional obstruction charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The Oath Keepers is a “large but loosely organized” collection of paramilitary groups with an explicit focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first responder personnel. Watkins and Crowl are both due-paying members of the Oath Keepers and allegedly colluded with Caldwell on social media to “forcibly enter the Capitol and disrupt the Congressional proceeding occurring that day.”

A DOJ press release detailed the communications between the three, noting that “[t]he exchanges vary in topics from a call to action to logistics, including lodging options, coordinating calls to discuss the plan, and joining forces with other Oath Keeper chapters.”

Further, the three documented their participation in the storming and updated their whereabouts in and around the Capitol on social media. Watkins posted a picture of herself with Crowl on her Parler account captioned “Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building. #stopthesteal2 #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia.” Watkins and Crowl then “joined with a line of individuals wearing Oath Keepers clothing, patches, and insignia, and some of whom also were wearing battle gear.”

The charges come three weeks after pro-Trump rioters attacked the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, on January 6. For his role, the US House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach former president Donald Trump for the second time in his four-year term on the charge of “Incitement of Insurrection.”

The US Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia is prosecuting the case, with assistance from the National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section within the DOJ.