Members of a right-wing militia group sought “protection” for a Texas representative believed to have “critical data” while inside the Capitol building as it was violently breached by supporters of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6.
According to a late-night court filing Monday, Edward Vallejo, 63, and other members of the anti-government Oath Keepers militia group were in near-constant contact in the days leading up to, and including, Jan. 6, when hundreds of Trump supporters overran police at the Capitol and temporarily stopped Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.
Included in 109 pages of texts from a group chat on the Signal messaging app were a handful of references to Rep. Ronny Jackson, a Republican from Texas who had previously served as Trump’s White House doctor and was Trump’s one-time nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He later withdrew his nomination following allegations of misconduct.
The text messages were submitted as part of a 337-page exhibit attached to Vallejo’s motion to be released from pretrial detention. He has been held in detention since being arrested in January and charged with seditious conspiracy, the most serious charge yet in the federal government’s ever-increasing prosecution of those who participated in the Capitol breach.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was also charged in January, and he has been kept in custody since then.
“He Has Critical Data to Protect.”
“Ronnie [sic] Jackson (TX) office inside Capitol – he needs OK help. Anyone inside?” the first text message to mention Jackson read. The sender’s name was redacted. The message was sent at 3 p.m., around an hour after the Capitol building was first breached.
“Hopefully they can help Dr. Jackson,” another person, whose name is also redacted, replied at 3:03 p.m.
“Dr. Ronnie [sic] Jackson – on the move,” someone wrote at 3:08 p.m., including a picture of Jackson. “Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect[.]”
“Help with what?” Rhodes replied at 3:10 p.m.
“Give him my cell,” Rhodes also wrote.
“Isn’t he the wrong color,” an unidentified person asked at 3:14 p.m., referring to the message with Jackson’s picture.
“What do you mean?” another person asked at 3:17.
“Disregard. Confused him with someone else,” the first person responded at 3:22 p.m.
No further mention of Jackson was made in the filing text messages.
Jackson has issued multiple strongly-worded denials of any connection or affiliation to the Oath Keepers and blamed the “liberal media” for spotting his name in a court filing from an avowed supporter of Trump, in whose administration Jackson himself had served.
“Like many public figures, Rep. Jackson is frequently talked about by people he does not know,” a spokesperson for Jackson said in a statement emailed to Law&Crime. “He does not know nor has he ever spoken to the people in question. In fact, he stayed behind with Capitol Police to help defend the House Floor and was one of the last Members to be evacuated. The liberal media’s attempt to drag him into a ‘story’ and make him part of something he has nothing to do with is yet another example of why millions of Americans are exhausted by the relentless, biased coverage of January 6th and its continued use as a political tool.”
A spokesperson for Jackson did not immediately reply to requests for a possible explanation as to why his name would be mentioned in the group text messages.
The Signal chat logs also show that there was at least an attempt at communication between one leader of the Oath Keepers and Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the right-wing extremist Proud Boys group who was arrested in March and charged with conspiring to organize the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Rhodes and Vallejo’s co-defendant Kelly Meggs, referred to as “OK Gator 1” in the Signal chat logs, shared the news on Jan. 4 that Tarrio had been arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter flag at an historically Black church earlier that day.
“Not confirmed,” Meggs wrote. “I just called him no answer But he will called he’s out [sic].”
According to Tarrio’s indictment, Tarrio and Rhodes met in a parking garage the night of Jan. 5. A documentary film crew apparently picked up audio of a person referencing the Capitol during that exchange.
A Man with a “Passionate Yet Gentle Nature” Who Was Prepared for “Armed Conflict” and “Guerrilla War”
In Vallejo’s motion to be released on bond, his lawyer paints a picture of a patriot and a family man, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for decades and do-gooder dedicated to improving the lives of veterans. He was accepted into the Army on his third try, his brief says, and was honorably discharged within two years, following an asthma attack.
“Although he served only briefly in the Army, Ed has a lifelong passion for assisting veterans,” the brief says, noting his relationship with a non-profit group called Homefront Battle Buddies (HBB). Vallejo, who has lived in Arizona for 50 years, has also been involved in local and national politics, and served as an alternate delegate for Ron Paul at the 2012 Republican Convention. He has a “passionate yet gentle nature” and a love of animals, the brief adds.
In explaining why he drove from Arizona to Washington, D.C. ahead of Jan. 6, apparently prepared for “armed conflict” and “guerrilla war” according to the indictment, Vallejo says that he essentially trusted the wrong people.
“Vallejo placed enormous trust in both Rhodes and President Trump at this momentous time,” his brief says. “Indeed, Ed was so trusting that he set out without even knowing where he was supposed to be going.” He had apparently planned on camping somewhere in the capital area, and had brought 200 pounds of food “in expectation of setting up a camp kitchen on a farm.”
On Jan. 6, he was stationed at the Comfort Inn Ballston in Virginia, about 10 miles away from the Capitol.
“Vallejo back at hotel and outfitted,” he texted to the Signal group at around 2:24, shortly before the building was first breached. “Have 2 trucks available. Let me know how I can assist.”
“QRF standing by at the hotel,” he texted the group again at 2:30 p.m. “Just say the word[.]”
According to prosecutors, Vallejo was standing by, ready to join the violence at any moment as part of a “Quick Reaction Force,” or QRF, which the government says was armed and ready to deploy by boat over the Potomac River at Trump’s direction.
Vallejo, however, says in his brief that the QRF was a defensive measure that would have been used to evacuate, or “exfil,” people who wanted to be removed from the chaos at the Capitol.
“Vallejo’s offers of assistance were not offers to bring truckloads of weapons into D.C. to siege the Capitol; they were offers to evacuate (‘exfil’) Oath Keepers from a dangerous situation, in line with the purpose of QRFs discussed by credible, uncharged Oath Keeper leaders,” Vallejo’s brief says. “This meaning is made evident by Vallejo’s next several messages, which were more explicit, and by the fact that no Oath Keeper member ever asked Vallejo to come: they wanted to stay, not be evacuated. Against this backdrop, the government’s insistence that Vallejo (who took no part in any Oath Keeper planning) stood ready to deliver caches of arms into D.C. to support an attack on the Capitol is simply guilt assuming speculation that ignores the presumption of innocence.”
Vallejo was not part of the “stack” of Oath Keeper members that breached the Capitol. Although he stuck around until the next day expecting to see more protests, there were none. He eventually drove home to Arizona, stopping briefly at Graceland in Memphis. According to his brief, he has led a “peaceful life” since then and is not a danger to his community.
Prosecutors are likely to disagree, having already successfully argued for Vallejo’s ongoing detention in January.
Vallejo’s bond hearing is set for April 29.
You can read the 337-page exhibit attached to Vallejo’s motion here.
[Images via court filings.]
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