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OATH KEEPERS THEATRE ACT IIIA: THE MAN IN THE ROOM FULL OF GUNS

by MICHAEL BOORMAN

A new detention memo for one of the Oath Keepers defendants charged with seditious conspiracy sheds more light on the group’s plans for J6.

While Rhodes stood outside the Capitol directing his troops into battle (albeit not very effectively) another member of the team, Edward Vallejo, was standing by across the Potomac with a cache of weapons and ammunition.

THE WAITING ROOM

In the leadup to the Capitol riots, Oath Keepers from Arizona messaged Stewart Rhodes on Signal that Vallejo and others were on their way to DC, adding “everyone has their own technical equipment and knows how to use it.” But Rhodes and his lieutenants faced a dilemma: Washington DC has strict laws against civilians carrying firearms, and the Oath Keepers’ plan to keep Trump in office depended on easy access to the Capitol. They settled on a compromise: two strike teams would lead the assault on Congress using physical force and personal weapons like bear spray, and a QRF (Quick Response Force) would be nearby, ready to equip them with guns as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Rhodes shared his decision on January 3rd, stating in a Signal message “We WILL have a QRF. this situation calls for it.”

Ed Vallejo was still in transit; on hearing this, he sent a message to Florida Team lead Kelly Meggs: “Sir, Ed Vallejo of Arizona in Tenn. With cadre requesting coordinates to Allied encampment outside DC boundaries to rendezvous. Please respond ASAP. For the Republic.” Meggs did not reply immediately, and Vallejo had to contact him again on January 5th, asking where to meet up. This time Meggs responded with the address of the Comfort Inn Ballston, a hotel about 2 miles due west of the Capitol.

At the hotel, Meggs and his co-conspirators from Florida had stashed ‘at least three luggage carts’ worth of gun boxes, rifle cases, and suitcases filled with ammunition,’ prosecutors claim. A second team of 4 men from North Carolina opted to keep their rifles in a vehicle for maximum readiness, parking it in the hotel lot.

a smiling middle aged balding man in a blue polo shirt. he has a goatee
Mr. Kandaris, I presume.

Vallejo and another member of the QRF from Arizona arrived later that day. The other member is unnamed in court documents and photographs redacted the image of his face; that may indicate a further arrest to come, or that the other member is a cooperating witness in the investigation. LCRW suspects him to be Todd Kandaris, who appeared on a podcast with Vallejo the following day saying they had travelled from Arizona together. Kandaris has not been arrested or indicted, nor has LCRW been able to locate his name in the Oath Keepers membership database. That said, the Oath Keepers have had nearly 1500 members in Arizona and for now prosecutors are being cagey about exactly how many people came from the state.

Thanks to security camera footage, we do know that Vallejo and the other QRF member trucked in bins and hauled heavy duffel bags full of supplies. According to comments from Vallejo himself in Signal chats, they had enough food and other necessities for 30 days. The obvious implication is that if the assault on the Capitol had been successful, a short siege would have ensued. Pro-Trump forces would attempt to use the siege to hold onto the building to prevent certification of the election until after January 20th, at which point a continued Trump presidency would have become a legal fact, if a heavily contested one.

Two men manhandle large heavy boxes and bags through a carpeted hotel lobby into an elevator
Ed Vallejo and another Oath Keepers member allegedly moving weapons into a hotel elevator (source: US attorney’s office)

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE PODCAST LIFE?

The morning of January 6, Vallejo and his fellow QRF member Todd Kandaris found time to participate in a podcast called Declare your independence with Ernie Hancock, which the website Just Security has made available here.

Kandaris resides in Mesa, AZ, and is the CEO of Stepywyze.io, a ‘blockchain consultancy’ with offices in Arizona and the Philippines. The firms claims expertise with cryptocurrency, facial recognition, credit card processing, and “cryptographic software used on U.S. nuclear submarines” and claims to include banks, credit card issuers, and NASCAR among its customers, though LCRW was unable to verify these claims. Kandaris is also Chief Technology Officer of PureBio, a pollution cleanup company with offices in Arizona and the the Philippines, and previously ran camerafraud.com (now defunct - archive here) an activist group opposing speed cameras.

The comments of the two Arizona guests to the podcast hosts are illuminating. Kandaris spoke first, explaining their hopes for the day in general terms:

“I think the primary things are to really create a plausible show of evidence that there was significant voter fraud, and then to take the next constitutional action dictated by the fact that that is the case. So that would mean that we take it. It’s very clear constitutionally, what the next steps are if fraud exists, and that this vote will be done by one vote, one state,” Kandaris told the host.

This notion closely tracks the Eastman memo which was at the heart of the political strategy to keep Trump in office after his loss at the polls.

Kandaris went on:" But basically the idea is, look, we’re here, We’re applying as much pressure as we can. The only and obvious next step is to go into armed conflict, but hoping very much that that doesn’t happen. […] But the fact is that there are people here who are prepared, have the will, have the facilities, to do more than taunt. The question is, you know, is there a shot heard around the world moment? The possibility definitely exists.

We have a little bit of inside information with the powers that would oppose the powers that be, but this is a tinderbox. It just is a question of what is the precipitating event.”

Vallejo then took the baton from Kandaris and ran with it: “my gut feeling and that’s the one I’m gonna go with, is we are going to be told the American people are going to be told today that we have liberty and justice for all, or they’re gonna be told, ‘fuck you.’ Okay. And if, and if they’re told, ‘fuck you,’ that’s going to be the declaration of a guerilla war.”

We don’t know whether Kandaris stayed with Vallejo at the QRF on January 6 or crossed the river to join the Oath Keepers in DC; prosecutors aren’t sharing what they know about hour-by-hour communications on that day although it would seem logical for Rhodes or other senior Oath Keepers to stay in close contact. Vallejo was probably not on his own; though he seems fit, it would have been a tall order for a single man to load all the group’s weapons and supplies into a vehicle, and risky for him to deliver them alone. What went on at the Comfort Inn throughout that day remains a mystery for now.

As we mentioned in our previous installment, Vallejo was still fired on the evening of January 6 after the riot had petered out and Biden’s election was certified. In a Signal message, he wrote “We’ll be back to 6am to do it again. We got food for 30 days,” adding “We have only begun to fight!” Given that Vallejo had spent the day in his hotel room waiting for a call to action that never came, it’s possible he felt he had missed out on the day’s action and was anxious for a second opportunity. On the morning of January 7th he set out a little before 6am to ‘probe their defense line’ but would have quickly realized that DC was now tightly locked down by National Guard troops. Shortly afterwards, he messaged Rhodes to say “Status report posted in Ops, room extended 1 day Standing by awaiting orders, Sir.”

Vallejo and Kandaris called in again to the Ernie Hancock podcast later on the morning of the 7th. Vallejo offered that “he and the others got up before dawn, and we went to the Capitol … we did what we needed to do, did our check in, and then we got back here to take care of business.” Kandaris added “It’s not really plausible to non-violently protest anymore, because the entire area is closed, and cordoned, and curfewed. So the question becomes, when we realize that this wrong has been done, what are the next steps? I mean is this the shot heard ‘round the world moment?” When pushed by the host, they admitted uncertainty about what to do, saying they would wait for Stewart Rhodes to make the call.

YET ANOTHER LOST CAUSE

Within days, Rhodes decided that Trump had abandoned his supporters and that it was time to get out of town. He headed back to Texas, inviting others to join him - including Vallejo and Kandaris. Signal messages between them suggest that the three met some time around the 12th, perhaps in the Fort Worth area.

From there, it appears that Vallejo and Kandaris returned to Arizona, although the prosecutor’s account is vague. Not long after, the FBI began arresting suspects and Rhodes belatedly advised his comrades to clean up their digital footprints (ironically, exposing them to even greater legal liability by doing so after the fact of a crime). To Vallejo, Rhodes wrote “Ed, keep in mind that is NOT a secure chat. Contains at least one turn-coat snitch. Keep that in mind. Please confirm you got this.”

Perhaps Rhodes’ trial will reveal the full extent of his suspicions and who within the Oath Keepers was leaking information to federal investigators. For now, Rhodes is silent; a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday the 20th - the anniversary of Joe Biden’s inauguration - had to be postponed, as Rhodes has contracted COVID-19 while in custody.

As for Vallejo, as recently as last month he was still filled with anger, responding to a post about vaccine availability on Twitter with “I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU … you will NEVER achieve ‘vaccine equality’ as long as I, and others like me, are alive! … I will DIE first, and that’s only when I run out of AMMUNITION!”

On December 30th, Vallejo retweeted a claim that ‘There was NO INSURRECTION on J6 just a peaceful protest.’ For Vallejo personally, that was true - he spent most of the day in his hotel room watching events unfold on television. But though he missed out on the action and excitement on the day itself, he may pay as heavy a price as those who were first through the breach.

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