Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the militia group Oath Keepers, was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his role in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
His organization sought to overthrow the legitimate president of the United States, an idea once so fanciful it was considered some kind of right-wing fever dream.
At his sentencing, Rhodes was utterly unapologetic and showed no remorse. This ice-cool demeanor suggested he thought he had an ace up his sleeve, the ‘get out of jail ‘card that would possibly be played by Donald Trump if he wins a second term.
Rhodes is an unlikely right-wing terrorist. He doesn’t fit the profile of a lone young psychopath.
He is a Yale law graduate who was passionate about gun rights at Yale but considered a polite and respectful debater. Following graduation, he clerked for a senior Arizona judge. His eyepatch covers a serious eye injury, a wound suffered not in a shoot-out but when he accidentally shot himself in the face. To add to his troubles, his wife later accused him of physical abuse.
He saw himself as the Herr Kommodant of Oath Keepers, bent on overthrowing the US government at its key moment of transition between a departing and arriving president. Rhodes was a mastermind behind the plan to riot on that day and expressed anger he did not get to hang House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"My only regret is they should have brought rifles," Rhodes said in a January 10, 2021 recording which was obtained by the FBI. "We should have brought rifles. We could have fixed it right then and there. I'd hang [f******] Pelosi from the lamppost."
Rhodes will serve 18 years for sedition, but he knows a new Trump presidency may take the outrageous step of freeing him. At his recent CNN Town Hall, the former president said he is "inclined to pardon many" of the January 6 rioters who were convicted of federal offenses.
When Trump makes such a comment, you know he's not bluffing. He has shown a clear favoritism towards right-wing militias and a pardon would incense Trump's enemies, something that would delight him.
Trump played footsie with fascists throughout his presidency refusing to condemn the Proud Boys, the Nazi-loving ultra-right group who he commanded to "stand back and stand by" until they were called on.
There is no reason to think that he won’t seek the support of right-wing militia led by men like Rhodes as he needs their votes. We may someday soon see an avatar of the Nazi philosophy pardoned by an American president.