BOSTON (AP) — There’s little doubt the Oath Keepers were planning for something on Jan. 6. The question at the heart of the criminal case against its members and associates in the attack on the U.S. Capitol is: What, exactly, did they intend to do?
Authorities suggested for weeks in court hearings and papers that members of the far-right militia group plotted their attack in advance in an effort to block the peaceful transition of power. But prosecutors have since said it is not clear whether the group was targeting the Capitol before Jan. 6.
“The plan was to unlawfully stop the certification of the Electoral College vote … and the plan was to be prepared to use violence if necessary,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy said during a hearing this month. But the Oath Keepers “did not know precisely the way in which force and violence might be needed to support this plan,” she said.
Authorities are still combing through a sea of evidence in what they say is likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. More than 300 people are facing federal charges and more are expected. The most serious charges have been brought against 10 people described as members and associates of the Oath Keepers and several members of another far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys.
But as the sprawling investigation has unfolded, prosecutors have sometimes struggled to maintain a consistent narrative and had to walk back statements made in court hearings or in papers. It has created an opening for defense attorneys to try to sow doubt in the case.