A member of the Oath Keepers who is cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation of the far-right militia group told a jury Tuesday that he packed his car full of weapons and traveled to Washington, DC, to stop Joe Biden from assuming the presidency “by any means necessary.”
Jason Dolan, a 46-year-old former Marine from Florida, is the first of several Oath Keepers who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the same alleged conspiracy to take the stand.
He made clear that members of the extremist group intended to try and keep then-President Donald Trump in power by intimidating Congress, which was meeting on January 6, 2021, to certify the election results.
“I wanted them to be afraid of me,” Dolan told the jury. “People will act out of kindness, they will act out of charity, but they act out of fear too. So if they weren’t going to do the right thing, maybe I could scare them into doing the right thing.”
His jaw-dropping testimony is critical as prosecutors seek to establish that Oath Keepers members methodically prepared to stop the certification of the 2020 election – and what they were prepared to do if Congress didn’t comply.
The jury was gripped by his testimony, furiously taking notes and watching Dolan on the stand, and members of the jury gasped when Dolan’s firearms were brought into the room. Four of the defendants – Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell – watched intently as Dolan testified. The fifth defendant, Kenneth Harrelson, did not appear to look at Dolan. All five have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors had spent two weeks reading messages from the five defendants to the jury and playing secretly recorded audio about their plans for Washington. Three other people affiliated with the Oath Keepers, all of whom are not facing charges, testified under subpoena about how the group normally operated.
Prosecutors used Dolan’s testimony as a translation – asking him repeatedly how he understood Signal messages from the five defendants, what he believed the command structure of the organization to be, and how the group planned for the day.
Dolan told the jury that he joined the Oath Keepers in 2020 after surgery for injuries he sustained during his military service “didn’t quite go as hoped.” Dolan was forced to quit his job, he testified.
“I didn’t feel like I was alone,” Dolan said, adding that the organization gave him a sense of belonging. He liked that the group was primarily made up of military or law enforcement veterans “who felt the same way as I did.”
As he sat in his garage in early December, Dolan would read Signal messages coming in on the encrypted group message channel for Florida members of the Oath Keepers, he said.
Prosecutors showed the jury messages Dolan sent the group, stating that “there is no coming back” if he was forced to fight for Trump, and that he was prepared to “get a prison sentence, tagged with treason, or a bullet from the very people I would protect.”
“In my perspective, standing up against an incoming administration that I didn’t see as legitimate it would be treasonous,” Dolan testified of the message. “I was trying to prepare myself for that eventuality. I was trying to get into my mind that I would be viewed as an enemy to the country, although I viewed myself as fighting for our country.”
“If anything was going to happen to stop the certification of the election, that was going to be it,” he added.
In the next few weeks, Dolan told the jury, he came to see the Oath Keepers as a “core group that would be willing to fight” the government. But the former Presidents’ legal challenges to the election results were failing and he did not implement the Insurrection Act like Rhodes wanted, and Dolan testified that he was losing faith in the idea that the election would be overturned.
“We had to fight back, conquer or die,” Dolan told the jury.
Dolan, Harrelson and other members of the Oath Keepers drove from Florida to Virginia and dropped of their firearms at the quick reaction force, he testified. Dolan told the jury that he, Harrelson, and others went to the Capitol on January 5 and took pictures of the complex.
Dolan arrived at the Capitol on January 6 after a crowd had begun to form, he testified. When the crowd learned Pence had moved forward with the certification, he noticed a visceral reaction.
“You had a pissed off angry crowd,” Dolan said. “I know from my perspective it seemed like you were never, ever going to have literally possible hundreds of thousands of people in one spot, in one time, who were pissed … it seemed to me at least if anything was going to happen to stop the certification of the election, that was going to be it.”
Dolan and Harrelson entered the Capitol together, he testified, around the same time as the Oath Keepers “stack” formation. Prosecutors played video showing Dolan and Harrelson chanting “treason” as they entered the building and walked into the Rotunda.
“I wanted them to hear it,” Dolan testified. “I wanted them to hear me. I wanted them to stop the certification of the election”
He continued, “I wanted them to hear and feel the same things I was feeling at the time. It felt like I have been betrayed. I wanted them to hear and feel the anger, the frustration, the rage that I felt. They were betraying – what I saw at the time was that they were betraying our country.”
“Looking back on it I think I was pretty naive, downright stupid with some of my decisions,” Dolan testified. “I’m thankful that President Trump at the time didn’t do something like invoke the Insurrection Act because I think there would have been a lot of violence.”