The children of Elmer Stewart Rhodes say their Oath Keeper father was once a Trump critic.
The anti-government activist has been charged with overseeing an assault on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Prosecutors this week said Rhodes tried to speak with Trump on the night of the attack.
The adult children of Capitol riot defendant Elmer Stewart Rhodes, a leader of the radical far-right Oath Keepers group, say their militiaman father was “very critical” of former President Donald Trump at the start of his presidency.
“He was going to release an open letter to school Trump on the Constitution,” Rhodes’ son, Dakota Adams, told the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch in an exclusive interview.
The picture Adams and his two sisters paint of their father in those early days is a far cry from the anti-government activist who has been charged with overseeing a strategic plot to lay siege to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Prosecutors this week said Rhodes tried to speak with Trump on the night of the attack, urging an unidentified individual on speakerphone to put him in contact with him so he could implore Trump to rally groups like the Oath Keepers to “forcibly oppose the transfer of power,” according to a court filing.
When the recipient of the phone call declined to put him in touch with Trump, Rhodes reportedly told a group of fellow Oath Keepers, “I just want to fight.”
While Rhodes’ feelings about the controversial Republican president may have drastically changed over the course of four years, his children say he always had a penchant for violence.
In a February interview with Hatewatch, a Southern Poverty Law Center blog that monitors far-right extremism, Dakota Adams, 24, Sedona Adams, 23, and Sequoia Adams, 19, described the longterm abuse they say they suffered at the hands of their father, who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009.
Following years of alleged domestic abuse, Rhodes’ wife, Tasha Adams, along with their six children, escaped the home in 2018. The adult children described a feeling of terror in the days leading up to their departure, saying they were convinced Rhodes would “kill all of us,” if they were still in the home when their mother’s divorce papers were delivered.
“We felt that we were running for our lives,” Sequoia said.
“I was worried that whatever animals were left behind, he would slaughter them,” Sedona told the outlet.
Tasha Adams’ and Rhodes’ divorce has been pending for three years. After Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol riot earlier this year, his estranged wife told CNN that her former husband is a “complete sociopath.”
A Yale-educated former lawyer, Rhodes long had a fascination with liberty, revolution, and anti-government movements, his children said. The kids were all homeschooled and Sequoia said she was never issued a birth certificate.
According to his kids, Rhodes — who once felt it his duty to teach Trump about US law — began to change his tune about the leader as he became increasingly worried that a Democratic president might “create political cover” for the FBI to arrest and charge him over the role he and his Oath Keepers played in the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff, which saw anti-government supporters face off against law enforcement over a land dispute.
But when Ammon Bundy two years later occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in a similar anti-government demonstration, Rhodes refused to support the movement, according to his children, because he thought it was “all about Ammon Bundy trying to be the Messiah and trying to fix everything that was wrong in his life by starting a civil war.”
“It’s hilarious because that is basically what Stewart ended up doing,” Dakota told Hatewatch. “By January 6th everything was falling apart for him, he was afraid of going to prison, so he decided to double down.”
Attorneys for Rhodes did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Rhodes remains in jail as he awaits a fall trial.
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