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New Evidence Points To Coordination Among Extremist Groups Ahead Of Capitol Riot

Smoke fills the walkway outside the Senate chamber as U.S. Capitol Police confront rioters inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Smoke fills the walkway outside the Senate chamber as U.S. Capitol Police confront rioters inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Updated March 24, 2021 at 12:13 PM ET

A member of the Oath Keepers paramilitary group who is charged with conspiracy in connection with the Capitol riot claimed to be coordinating with the Proud Boys and a far-right, self-styled militia to form an "alliance" on Jan. 6, according to court papers filed by the Justice Department.

The allegation emerged in a motion that federal prosecutors filed overnight Tuesday in the case against Kelly Meggs, one of 10 alleged members or associates of the Oath Keepers charged with conspiring to interfere in Congress' certification of the Electoral College vote count.

The investigation into the Capitol riot is one of the largest in American history. More than 300 people have been charged so far, and prosecutors have said they could charge at least another 100 more.

The conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers is one of the most closely watched, and Meggs' communications are the first that prosecutors have publicly revealed that point to possible coordination among extremist groups in the runup to Jan. 6 and on the day itself.

In its new filing, the government said Meggs engaged in "extensive planning and financing" to travel to Washington, D.C., and to "coordinate with his coconspirators and others on how to accomplish his goals of disrupting Congress."

Prosecutors presented several of Meggs' Facebook messages and posts that they said document his outreach to and coordination with other groups following the Nov. 3 election.

"Well we are ready for the rioters, this week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys," Meggs wrote on Dec. 19 in a message to a colleague on Facebook. "We have decided to work together and shut this s*** down."

Three days later, Meggs wrote another message that read: "He wants us to make it WILD that's what he's saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!" Meggs appeared to be echoing the language of former President Donald Trump, who in a Dec. 19 tweet called on his supporters to travel to Washington on Jan. 6 for a rally that the then-president said "will be wild!"

The government cited another Facebook chat conversation that Meggs had with an individual whose name is redacted in the court papers.

According to the government, Meggs wrote, "[W]e have made contact with PB and they always have a big group. Force multiplier," in an apparent reference to the Proud Boys.

"I figure we could splinter off the main group of PB and come up behind them. F****** crush them for good," he added. "We can hang for a while they'll see one group then we all fall to back of the pack and peel off. We catch them in the middle over."

The government cited another Facebook message exchange from Dec. 25 in which Meggs allegedly told an unidentified individual his plans for Jan. 6.

"We are all staying in DC near the Capitol we are at the Hilton garden inn but I think it's full," he wrote. "Dc is no guns. So mace and gas masks, some batons. If you have armor that's good. During the day it's kind of boring but when it starts getting dark Game on."

He also told the individual that he or she could meet up with Meggs, although he said that he and his contingent would probably be providing security during the day for an individual whose name is blacked out.

Meggs then added that he had been in touch with the leader of a group whose name is redacted.

"We are gonna March with them for a while then fall back to the back of the crowd and turn off. Then we will have the proud boys get in front of them the cops will get between antifa and proud boys. We will come in behind antifa and beat the hell out of them."

Several alleged Proud Boys have been charged in separate cases with conspiracy related to the attack on the Capitol.

The exact nature of any "alliance" Meggs allegedly struck with other extremist groups is unclear from the text messages. There is also no mention in the communications of a plan to storm the Capitol.

Meggs is currently in custody.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered one of his co-defendants, Laura Steele, to be released on strict conditions, pending trial.

Judge Amit Mehta said there was no evidence before him that Steele engaged in recruiting or planning ahead of Jan. 6, in contrast with some of her co-defendants. Mehta ordered Steele to be restricted to home confinement and barred access to cellphones, computers and other electronic communication devices.

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Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.