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A crowd in front of the office of Nancy Pelosi, California, is seen in this footage from the January 6 riots at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.

USA TODAY

A lawyer for an Ohio police officer accused of conspiracy withdrew a controversial claim that Jessica Watkins had met with U.S. secret services about a working security guard for Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 rally before participating in the Capitol riot.

The lawyer’s original proposal over the weekend raised questions about whether the Secret Service had coordinated the rally security with paramilitary groups that later stormed the US Capitol.

Federal officials say Watkins was coordinated with a group of at least eight people who wore tactical equipment and helmets and switched to military fashion in the Capitol. Hundreds of rebels stormed the building, sending lawmakers to flee and leaving five dead.

The Secret Service wasted no time in rejecting the initial claim that it had worked with Watkins or private individuals on the security of the rally. The agency said it relied only on the help of government partners.

“Any allegation that the Secret Service has hired private citizens to perform these functions is untrue,” the agency said Monday.

Later on Monday, Watkins’ federal public defender gave an “explanation,” saying the proposal never meant that Watkins had met with the Secret Service.

“A better verb would be ‘met,'” the sentence said. The VIP checkpoint agents told Watkins what he could and could not do inside and told her to leave all her tactical equipment outside. The clarified proposal states: “Madam. Watkins does not suggest that she has any direct knowledge that her security role has been sanctioned by anyone other than those involved in organizing the rally. “

Watkins is imprisoned in Washington on charges of plotting with eight other people accused of participating in the Capitol riot. The FBI says they are members or affiliates of the Oath Keepers, an extremist group that recruits former military, law enforcement and first responders.

The initial proposal – applying for a bond hearing – said Watkins went to Washington to protect the government, not overthrow it. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to determine whether she remains in custody.

In her candidacy for early release, Watkins said she was at the rally to provide security for the speakers and had a VIP pass for Trump’s speech.

An organizer of the January 6 Trump rally before the uprising challenged Watkins’ claim in an amended proposal that the people involved in organizing the rally were working with her group.

“There was no coordination with the oath keepers or the proud boys regarding their service by any kind of service,” said Dustin Stockton, part of the team that helped organize the Ellipse rally. Stockton also helped organize marches for Trump in November and December and said they did not use the Guardians of the Oath or the Proud Boys for these events either.

Although the Guardians of the Oath – and other groups – sometimes provide security for people and events, there is no official evidence that their services were used at the Capitol or the rally at the Ellipse near the White House that day.

None of the nine people charged in the Watkins group is on the list of licensed security guards in the District of Columbia. In addition, the Oath Keepers organization is not listed as a security provider for the National Park permit for the rally.

Security experts, including company employees who worked at or contacted the event, questioned the possibility of an event organizer using volunteer security guards.

Stockton said they used volunteers for tasks other than security and were required to provide birth dates and social security numbers to volunteers at the Secret Service.

All private security guards for events with the Secret Service must also go through a similarly strong vetting process, said owners of two other security services, including a company that worked at the rally and another listed on the permit that did not finish guarding which day.

Lyndon Brentnall, owner of Florida-based security firm RMS, which contracted for the January 6 Ellipse event, said it uses only licensed professionals paid to run the event and must first be released from the secret service since Trump spoke. day.

His bodyguards, wearing black polo shirts and bright green cuff masks, escorted mostly people to where they were supposed to sit, Brentnall said. The other guards, including behind the barrier and the stage, were “clearly under the control of the Secret Service,” he said.

Licensing requirements for DC work are strict and companies that do not comply face fines and even imprisonment, said David Dinovic, owner of Deanovich and Associates, a Maryland-based professional security company.

Although Deanovic’s company was on the security list during Trump’s rally in Ellipse, Deanovic said his company did not eventually get to work and is saddened to learn recently that his name is on the permit. .

Deanovic said he had never worked with oath keepers, proud boys or volunteers.

“You would be an idiot if you hired unlicensed people in DC,” he said. “You will lose everything. I would lose any license and ruin myself. “

However, Trump aides such as Roger Stone have used oath keepers and proud boys for security. And Oath Keepers members discussed with each other the security of the events of January 6.

Defendant rebel Graydon Young, who applied to be a member of the Florida Guardians of the Oath in December, sent an email from the organization to his sister, Laura Young Steele, saying they were going to the DC to conduct “security operations,” according to a criminal complaint. His sister, a former law enforcement officer, was also arrested and charged in connection with the riot.

Youngs was among those mentioned in an indictment issued last week accusing Watkins and eight others of conspiracy.

The leader of the oath keepers, Stuart Rhodes, is recruiting members and volunteers, saying they will work for security. Rhodes has been named directly and indirectly in criminal charges related to the riot, but has not been charged with anything.

The team will either be “directly responsible for the security of the events, or contribute to the security of the events on both days,” Rhodes said in a post on the group’s website. “We will also take to the streets to help Trump supporters be generally safe as they return to and from hotels, vehicles or subway stations (then Antifa likes to attack the weak, the elderly, the disabled or families – such as hyenas). “

Guardians of the Oath called for volunteers for pro-Trump rallies before the election and for Stop the Steal events after his loss in November to President Joe Biden, including events in Atlanta; Las Vegas; Sunrise, Florida; and Hershey, Pennsylvania.

In January, numerous media outlets reported that Stone, a political ally of Trump and leader of the Stop Theft campaign, used the Guardians of the Oath of Security at least twice.

Stone posted on his website on February 10 that oath keepers voluntarily provided him with “free security” in the District of Columbia on January 6, as they had done at three rallies in Miami and Tampa.

“I was told that all the men who volunteered to guard me were out of police service,” Stone wrote. “I found them polite, effective and saw no evidence of misconduct or any other extremist attitude.”

The New York Times reported that six people guarding Stone that day entered the Capitol. The Times reports that all were identified as part of the oath keepers and were photographed with Stone the day and hours before the riot.

Guardians of the oath have had a history of referring to controversial events, often for the stated purpose of providing security. In 2014, the group was part of an armed conflict between Nevada breeder Cleven Bundy and the Land Management Bureau. Bundy has refused to pay taxes for grazing cattle in federal lands for decades, and the government has acted on a court order to start seizing them.

The bureau withdrew in the confrontation, returning the seized cattle.

Later that year, members of the Guardians of the Oath guarded the roofs of companies in Ferguson, Missouri, during riots over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, into the hands of white police officer Darren Wilson.

St. Louis County police are clashing with armed volunteers, according to the St. Louis Post dispatcher, saying they can’t stay on the roofs because they don’t adhere to the county ordinance, which requires experience and training for security and safety officers.

When volunteer guards learned of the policy, a local leader of the oath keepers in Missouri told Post Dispatch, they laughed and returned to their posts the next evening.

Contribution: Erin Mansfield

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