The seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keeper ringleader Elmer Stewart Rhodes, and four of his Oath Keeper brethren begins with jury selection in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Of all the charges brought in the Justice Department’s expansive criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, these are the most serious.
Rhodes, a resident of Granbury, Texas, will face jurors alongside co-defendants Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs, and Jessica Watkins. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, will preside.
The trial will stretch roughly five weeks as prosecutors make their case against the former leader of the extremist group and work to convince jurors that Rhodes, Caldwell, Harrelson, Meggs, and Watkins conspired to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6, 2021 by force.
For the charge of seditious conspiracy, Rhodes and his co-defendants could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Rhodes is not accused of entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Instead, prosecutors say the former Army paratrooper was on restricted ground as he oversaw a weaponized plot to stop President Joe Biden from taking office.
Nevertheless, the Justice Department says Rhodes had his finger placed firmly on the pulse of his fellow Oath Keeper’s movements on Jan. 6 as some forced their way inside the Capitol while others awaited his word nearby, guns in tow.
It was Rhodes’s leadership that his co-defendants followed on Jan. 6 and it was his plan, prosecutors say, to tap heavily armed “quick reaction force” teams stationed in nearby northern Virginia to attain the ultimate goal: stop President Joe Biden from taking office.
Prosecutors are expected to call on no less than 40 witnesses. Evidence will be pulled a number of sources including devices seized from Oath Keepers by law enforcement as well as security footage.
U.S. attorneys will argue that Rhodes, Caldwell, Harrelson, Meggs and Watkins planned the attack at the Capitol for weeks, even taking time to get battle-ready with paramilitary training courses ahead of the siege.
Meggs, Watkins, and Harrelson used that training on Jan. 6, prosecutors claim, when they made a stack formation with other Oath Keepers and forced their way up the mob-riddled Capitol steps and past lines of police protecting the Capitol and lawmakers inside.
Caldwell used his prowess as a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer and ex-FBI section chief to coordinate the attack, prosecutors allege. And it was Caldwell who allegedly told Rhodes weeks in advance that “heavy weapons” would be needed at the Capitol on Jan. 6 for Trump’s “wild protest.” This allegedly sparked the idea for “quick reaction force” teams.
At a pre-trial detention hearing last year, prosecutors highlighted too how Caldwell was in contact with other extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters before the insurrection. The FBI alleges defendant Kelly Meggs was also in contact with those groups, or at the very least, bragged about the “alliance” he helped organized between the Oath Keepers and extremist Proud Boys in a Facebook post issued on Dec. 19, 2020.
Notably, when police searched Caldwell’s home on Jan. 19, 2021, prosecutors say they turned up a “death list.” On it appeared the names Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, two election workers in Georgia targeted by former President Donald Trump’s lies and conspiracy theories of widespread voter fraud in that state. Caldwell’s lawyers said it was a “doodle pad.”
Moss testified before the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol this summer and cried as she recounted the threats to her life, how she was forced to go into hiding and how, on one particularly terrifying night, Trump supporters tried to barge into her grandmother’s house to “make a citizen’s arrest.”
Jurors will hear evidence too about the alleged intent of Oath Keepers Meggs, Watkins and Harrelson. The Justice Department says the trio (along with other members of the far-right group who will go to trial later this year) searched for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once inside the Capitol building.
Harrelson, Meggs, Watkins, Caldwell, and Rhodes are all over 40 years old, with Caldwell being the eldest of the group at 68. Meggs and Harrelson both headed up separate Florida chapters of the Oath Keepers organization. Watkins, an Army veteran, commanded a group in Ohio. Caldwell has denied being a member of the group.
Attorneys for the Oath Keeper defendants are expected to argue that the conduct on Jan. 6 was done in hopes of maintaining peace for Donald Trump should he invoke the Insurrection Act. The Justice Department recently dubbed this little more than a “ruse” used by Rhodes to give himself “legal cover.”
For this phase of the offensive, Svatove is the prize. Ukraine is putting pressure on both the north and southern approaches to the town, which is why Russia is throwing everything it can at both Lyman and the Ukrainian bridgehead east of Kupiansk. As Russian war blogger Rybar put in, “in the event that the Armed Forces of Ukraine reach Svatovo, the entire Lyman group of allied forces [Russian and Donbas proxy armies] will be in an operational encirclement. With a simultaneous strike from the bridgehead near Kupyansk, the entire defense along the border of the LPR could collapse.” That looks like this:
Ridkodub is on one of the two highways supplying Lyman, while the other road, just to the east, is within range of Ukrainian artillery. But Svatove is the real prize, the key logistical hub for this corner of the front. Russia transports supplies to Starobilsk and/or Bilohurakyne by rail, then trucks them over to Svatove. If Ukraine can take the town, Russia would need to supply Lyman and its environs across the Krasna river (which passes north-south through Svatove and Kreminna). If any bridges are still left standing at this time, HIMARS/MLRS would take care of that quick. Rybar is right: cut off Svatove, and Russian positions to the west of the Krasna collapse, and Ukraine walks away with several hundred more trophy armored vehicles.
(Crossing the Krasna, particularly engorged by fall rains, would present serious problems for the continued Ukrainian advance, but they’ll cross that bridge—literally and figuratively—when they get there.)
Another pro-Russian blogger, in describing the desperate state of the Russian defense in the area, essentially says that Russia is throwing its reserves into a meat grinder trying to slow the Ukrainian advance.
That may be why Russia is rushing recently mobilized forces to Ukraine with just a day’s worth of training. They are literally meant to be human speed bumps.
Interestingly,pro-RussianTelegram has been declaring for about a week now that Lyman is about to fall. Meanwhile, the invaders still hold on under incredibly difficult conditions. It’s one thing for Ukrainian defender to fight to the last—this is their land. Why are Russians still sacrificing themselves?
Lyman will fall in the next couple of days, but that stiff resistance is troubling. This doesn’t look like a Russian side on the verge of utter collapse. These Russians aren’t quitting just yet—whether here, or down in Kherson, where we seem to be back to a bloody artillery battle over open fields.
South of the Second Battle of Lyman, Russia continues their bizarre effort to capture Bakhmut.
As noted repeatedly, there’s nothing particularly strategic about Bakhmut. It’s just one step closer to the actual prizes of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. But that dream is long dead with the collapse of the Izyum advance to Slovyansk’s north. There’s no encirclement or pincer movement in the cards. Bakhmut is pushing forward for the sake of pushing forward, at leastpretendingto make progress.
Ukrainian General Staff have reported in the past few days that they’ve repulsed all attacks on this approach, mostly Wagner mercenaries bolstered by prison cannon fodder. Yet there have been persistent rumors that Ukraine might be retreating to positions behind the Bakhmutka river running through town.
Bakhmutka river highlighted in pink
Retreating behind the Bakhmutka might not be badmilitarystrategy. How would Wagner cross it? They wouldn’t. It would likely save Ukrainian lives at the expense of urban-industrial terrain on the town’s eastern edge (geolocated here). We also know how much Ukraine loves defending industrial zones, oftentimes to its (likely) detriment
On the other hand, Russian artillery has donethisto the zone:
There’s clearly nothing much left to defend. And the only explanation for this is a tactical retreat:
Pro-Russian sources claim this was the last standing bridge, out of seven or so I counted on a map with a cursory glance. I don’t know if they’re really all down, but there’d be no other reason for Ukraine to blow the bridge. Ukrainian military expert Oleg Zhdanov suggested there was truth to the rumors.
Again, it makes military sense to set up defenses across a river Wagner will struggle to cross as autumn rains swells its size. So if a Ukrainian retreat to new defensive positions on the western side of the Bakhmutka river is indeed, what’s happening here, Russian fanboys will cheer Wagner’s advances. Just don’t ask them to explain why this matters.
European countries on Tuesday raced to investigate unexplained leaks in two Russian gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark, infrastructure at the heart of an energy crisis since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Experts and also Russia, which built the network, said the possibility of sabotage could not be ruled out.
Sweden’s Maritime Authority issued a warning about two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, shortly after a leak on the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline was discovered that had prompted Denmark to restrict shipping in a five nautical mile radius.....
Europe was investigating leaks in two Russian gas pipelines that churned up the Baltic Sea on Tuesday and raised concerns from Copenhagen to Moscow about sabotage on infrastructure at the heart of an energy standoff.
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines have been central to the ongoing energy crisis in Europe.
Nord Stream AG confirmed in a statement that "the Nord Stream 1 control center registered a pressure drop on both strings of the gas pipeline," adding that an investigation is underway.
"It is too early to conclude yet, but it is an extraordinary situation. There are three leaks, and therefore it is difficult to imagine that it could be accidental," Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen said Tuesday, the Financial Times reported.
The Jan. 6 committee’s hotly anticipated hearing on Wednesday will now be delayed due to Hurricane Ian, a massive storm quickly bearing down on Florida.
The rescheduled date will be announced in the days ahead. According to CNN, part of the reason why the committee opted against meeting Wednesday was because of committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s availability. With her state preparing for the hurricane, the Florida Democrat would be unable to attend the hearing in person if held Wednesday.
Russian conscripts arrive in Crimea after being trained extensively on riding a bus, Sept. 27, 2022.
On Tuesday, buses began to arrive in Crimea carrying Russian conscripts called up during the mobilization. For some of these soldiers, training is apparently going to consist of a couple of days sleeping on cots, and whatever tips they could pick up in transit. Those troops immediately got a ceremony—a “departure ceremony”—as they were directed to the front lines. There are other reports of similar troops arriving in the Donetsk area. Considering how Russia’s attack on Bakhmut has sometimes consisted of simply sending wave after wave of unsupported infantry up the slope at entrenched positions, these men should do just as well as those with years of experience.
In general, over the last two days fighting in Ukraine has gone like this:
Russia has made a number of attacks in the Soledar to Bakhmut area, most of which have been repelled but some of which have gained some ground, usually measuring in meters.
Ukraine has continued to expand its area of control northwest of Lyman, liberating more towns along the east bank of the Oskil River and extending across the border between Donetsk and Kharkiv oblasts as it works to both the north and east in a counteroffensive that has now liberated 700 square kilometers in the Lyman area.
Ukraine is pushing two additional bridgeheads across the Oskil that have captured a number of towns and engaged in what are described as very large battles with Russian forces. These battles so far seem to be going Ukraine’s way and offer a potential for an additional area of counteroffensive breakthrough.
When it comes to operations in the south, whether in Zaporizhzhia or Kherson, there are reports of heavy artillery duels, long lists of locations shelled, and some fairly hefty amounts of Russian equipment and materiel reported destroyed, but I have nothing when it comes to significant changes on the ground.
Two expanding bridgeheads that could merge as early as today.
In the northeast area of Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine is expanding bridgeheads at Dvorichna and Kupyansk.
At Dvorichna, Ukraine reportedly has two major moves underway. One is toward Tavilzhanka, which is along a major highway that goes to a border crossing into Russia. Fighting there has been described as intense over the last two days, but Ukrainian troops have reportedly entered the western part of the town and found a large cache of that most vital Russian supply: stolen washing machines. Seriously, this is some kind of illness.
That bridgehead is also pushing to the south, where it’s reportedly reached the town of Lyman Pershyi. It’s unclear if they are seeing much pushback from Russia along this route, but the goal is clearly to connect this bridgehead with the one 15 kilometers south at Kupyansk.
That Kupyansk bridgehead has been the scene of some very serious fighting. Russia resisted this crossing heavily, and brought in reinforcements even as Ukraine was getting set up on the east side of the river and preparing to move. Ukrainian sources in this area are still citing operational security and giving only scant reports of activities in the area, but it’s clear there were a pair of large battles, one in the southeastern area of Kupyansk-Vuzlovyi (the location of an absolutely enormous rail yard) and another to the east at Petropavlivka. Russia apparently suffered some very major losses of troops in these fights, and this is another area where Russian forces were reportedly rushed to the front in infantry waves without having adequate support from armor or air. That Ukraine now controls these areas is made pretty certain by the fact that both locations have shown up in the morning list of areas shelled by Russia for the last two days.
As with the bridgehead at Dvorichna, the Kupyansk force is now reported to be moving south, in this case toward Kivsharivka, also known as the town that for nearly a week kept saying there were no Russian troops present. Whether Russia got any forces into place before Ukrainian forces arrived isn’t clear. At a pre-war population of 20,000, Kivsharivka is about the same size as Lyman, and it seems to have so far made it through the war with a lot less damage. Here’s hoping that continues today.
One other thing is interesting about the Ukrainian advance from Kupyansk: the P07 highway. If Ukraine is also continuing down the P07 to the southeast, there’s pretty much nothing in the way until they get to the area of Kyslivka, and even that’s far enough off the road that it could potentially be bypassed. There are no real indications that Ukraine is about to do a speed run down the P07 … except that this is the same road that Ukraine used on its three-day crossing from Balakliya to Kupyansk. And 50 km down that same highway is Svatove, which is now reportedly Russia’s major mustering point in the region.
So, the forces that have crossed at Dvorichna and Kupyansk could meet up and continue to push south, clearing the area along the river. Or they could each continue to expand their bridgeheads, liberating northeastern Kharkiv. Or they could mount up and fly down the P07 into Luhansk … and Russia has to be prepared to defend any of these options.
There are a lot of good things to notice on this map.
Over the last two days, Ukraine has continued to expand the liberated area north of Lyman. That includes both pressing up the highway directly east of the Oskil River and widening the liberated area to the north. But the most important thing that’s happened may have been reported in just the last hour—so recently in fact that I’ve just had to remake this map and redo several paragraphs of text.
On Sunday and Monday, Russia apparently reinforced positions in Lyman and pushed back into Drobysheve with some regular Russian army forces to back the mercenary group that had been holding the northern edge of that town. While Ukraine apparently did eventually move Russian forces out of Novoselivka (locals there report that Ukraine has set up checkpoints and is checking IDs in the town), Russia actually seemed to control more of Lyman than it did over the weekend.
In spite of Ukrainian forces fighting between Nove and Zelena Dolyna and the capture of major rail lines in the area, Russia still had one good highway running from Kreminna straight into Lyman on the east. That well-paved road has allowed them to keep Lyman supplied, and to move in new forces.
I had actually spent a good chunk of the morning looking at the territory between Zelena Dolyna and Torske, writing several paragraphs about what Ukraine would need to do to press down to this point from the north and west, cut off the road into Lyman, and actually encircle the Russian forces.
And then Ukraine built a new pair of pontoon bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River at Bilohorivka, rushed a new force over the river, and now has scouting forces near both Torske and Kreminna, all under what appears to have been perfect operational security. So thanks for ruining my article, Ukrainian Army!
Honestly, I’ve never been happier to get out the editing pen and start slicing. If reports from both Ukrainian and Russian sources are correct, we’re not going to be waiting days or weeks for that last road into Lyman to be cut.That road is cut right now.Russian forces have reportedly abandoned the forested area east of Torske and Yampil.
Lyman isn’t fully encircled, but considering the way Mud Season has moved into the area and reports that Ukrainian forces have managed to begin attacks on Stavky, there seems to be very little opportunity for Russian forces in this area to escape. Unless Russia can get to the area with enough strength to relieve pressure on that eastern road, the forces they just pushed into Lyman, Yampil, and Drobysheve are effectively encircled.
That is, of course, assuming that these reports of a significant Ukrainian force crossing the river and reaching Torske are correct. Let’s hope they’re correct.
In the meantime, over on the northwest corner of this map, there are reports that Ukraine has liberated Nyzhche, and that Ukrainian troops have entered the southern half of Borova. Russia has reportedly been preparing a new defensive line running roughly along that red line from Borova to Serhiivka, but if that line is about to be flanked, any preparations made there could be worthless.
............ Some preliminary—and totally believable—results of the “referenda” in occupied territories. It’s expected that Vladimir Putin will give the final results when he speaks on Sept. 30. Sure to be a nail-biter.
Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022 · 2:34:30 PM EDT · Mark Sumner Have both video and images geolocated to Shandryholove, indicating that it has been liberated.
More interesting are reports on Russian Telegram that Dibrova, about midway between Torske and Kreminna, is controlled by Ukraine.