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‘They’re a Violent Militia’: Ex-Oath Keepers Spokesman Disavows ‘Racist’ and ‘Dangerous’ Group Before the Jan. 6 Committee

 
Jason Van Tatenhove

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 12: Jason Van Tatenhove, who served as national spokesman for the Oath Keepers and as a close aide to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, appears for testimony during the seventh hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on July 12, 2022, in Washington, DC.

The former national spokesman for the Oath Keepers who acted as a close aide to its leader Stewart Rhodes appeared before the Jan. 6 Committee on Tuesday for the second half of its hearing untangling Donald Trump‘s ties to extremist groups.

“They may not like to call themselves a militia, but they are,” Jason Van Tatenhove testified on Tuesday, calling them a “violent” and “dangerous” group largely centered around Rhodes’s “ego and drive.”

As the group “drifted further and further right into the alt-right,” the witness saw signs of the Oath Keepers devolving into “white nationalists and even straight up racist” ideology.

“It came to a point where I could no longer work or them,” Van Tatenhove said.

He said that breaking point came after encountering Holocaust deniers as Oath Keepers associates. He has said that he has not been involved with the group for years.

“I think we need to stop mincing words and talk about truths, and what it was going to be was an armed revolution,” Van Tatenhove said. “I mean, people died that day. Law enforcement died that day. There was a gallows set up in front of the Capitol. This could have been the spark that started a new civil war, and no one would have won there. That would have been good for no one.”

Also testifying before the committee that afternoon was an Ohio man who previously claimed that the violence at the U.S. Capitol had been “all Antifa.”

That man, 39-year-old Stephen Michael Ayres, disavowed his conspiratorial thinking in his testimony, starting with the false belief that Joe Biden had stolen the election.

“I started doing my own research,” Ayres said. “For me, for something like that to take place, and maybe— it’s too big. You know, there’s no way to keep something like that quiet.

Stephen Ayres

Stephen Ayres, who entered the U.S. Capitol illegally on January 6, 2021, appears before a full committee hearing on “the January 6th Investigation,” on Capitol Hill on July 12, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier in the hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) had outlined the connections between Oath Keepers members and Trump loyalists Roger Stone and Gen. Michael Flynn. Stone had been such a close associate of both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys that both had encrypted chat rooms labeled “Friends of Stone,” Raskin said.

Flynn was photographed with since-indicted Oath Keepers member Roberto Minuta. Another image displayed by the committee showed showed him with Rhodes.

Raskin said that Stone took the “fraternity creed” required for the first level of initiation to the Proud Boys, as the committee unspooled footage of the Trump associate declaring himself a “Western chauvinist.”

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.