WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Colorado man offered an insider's look at the inner workings of the Oath Keepers — where he briefly worked as a spokesperson — during the U.S. House Jan. 6 select committee's hearing on Tuesday, and he explained his fears for the next presidential election and the world his daughters will inherit.
On Tuesday, the select committee that is investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol met for its seventh hearing, which focused on if, and how, extremist groups — including the Proud Boys, Oath Keeps and QAnon — coordinated the riot.
One witness was Jason Van Tatenhove of Estes Park. He is a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, a right-wing anti-government extremist group. On Jan. 13, the Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was arrested on charges of seditious conspiracy for his role on Jan. 6.
In an interview with The Denver Post earlier this year, Van Tatenhove explained that he worked with the Oath Keepers for about a year and a half between 2015 and 2016. He told the newspaper he watched the group grow into an organized and hateful extremist network of people fueled by conspiracy theories and fear tactics.
During the committee hearing on Tuesday, Van Tatenhove first explained his involvement with the Oath Keepers, which started with the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada. He was offered a position as a national media director and associate editor for the group's website, which he accepted.
Over his time with the Oath Keepers, he saw its member base drift further and further into the alt-right and white nationalist world that eventually just became "straight-up racist," he said.
It came to a point where despite not being financially stable — "we were barely surviving," he said of his family — he began to think of leaving the group. He said the final straw came when a group of Oath Keepers and associates had an open conversation in a grocery store about how the Holocaust was not real. It was something Van Tatenhove said he couldn't understand and he left the store to tell his wife and kids that he had to walk away.
"They may not like to call themselves a militia, but they are — they're a violent militia and they are largely Stewart Rhodes," he said. "I think rather than try to use words, I think the best illustration for what the Oath Keepers are happened Jan. 6, when we saw that stacked military operation going up the stairs of our Capitol."
He said the "dangerous militia" is in part fed by the "ego and drive of Stewart Rhodes, who at times, seemed to see himself as this paramilitary leader."
Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland asked Van Tatenhove about his written statement, in which Van Tatenhove expressed his fears about future elections. He also commented that the country was lucky Jan. 6 didn't end with more bloodshed than it did.
“I think we have gotten exceedingly lucky that more bloodshed did not happen because the potential has been there since the start,” Van Tatenhove responded after a long pause. "The loss of life was — as tragic as it is, that we saw on Jan. 6 — the potential was so much more."
If a president is willing to instill and encourage "a Civil War among his followers using lies, deceit and snake oil," regardless of the impact on other people, he said he wonders what Trump will do if he gets elected again.
"I have three daughters. I have a granddaughter," he said. "I fear for the world that they will inherit if we do not start holding these people to account," he said.
The U.S. House Select Committee has not yet announced the eighth and final hearing date on the Jan. 6 attack, though it is scheduled for some time next week.
Multiple Coloradans have been charged in connection to the Jan. 6 attack, including:
- Jacob Clark of Trinidad was arrested in April 2021 on multiple charges in connection to the Jan. 6 riot. He demanded police officers to stand down during the attack.
- Glen Wes Lee Croy, of Colorado Springs, pleaded guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing inside the Capitol in August 2021. He was sentenced in November to 90 days of house arrest along with 14 days in a community correctional facility. He called himself an idiot.
- Tyler Earl Ethridge of Colorado Springs was arrested in July 2022 in Denver and faces six federal charges for his participation in the riot. He is a pastor who graduated from Charis Bible College in Woodland Park.
- Robert Gieswein of Woodland Park was arrested and faced multiple charges in January 2021 in connection to the Jan. 6 riot, including assault on an officer "with a spray canister, temporary barrier, and baseball bat," according to his arrest affidavit. He remains in custody.
- Logan Grover of Erie was charged in April 2021 with disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds, and demonstrating in a capitol building. He pleaded guilty in July 2022. He served in the Army Reserve for nearly 10 years and was deployed to Iraq, according to The Denver Post.
- Thomas Patrick Hamner of Peyton was arrested and charged in November 2021. Videos allegedly showed him fighting with Capitol and Metropolitan Police.
- Lisa Ann Homer of Colorado Springs was arrested in November 2021 in Colorado Springs. She faces charges of illegally entering the capitol, disorderly and disruptive conduct on capitol grounds, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a capitol building.
- Jennifer Horvath of Colorado Springs was arrested and charged in May 2022 on multiple federal charges. She was located after FBI agents linked her to her boyfriend Glen Wes Lee Croy (listed above), who was also arrested, charged and sentenced for his involvement.
- Klete Keller, an Olympian from Colorado Springs, pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding after storming the U.S. Capitol in September 2021. He faces 21 to 27 months in prison.
- Avery Carter MacCracken of San Miguel County was charged in December 2021 with assaulting officers in the Jan. 6 riot. He was arrested in Norwood on six federal charges. He was captured on videos and in photos fighting with U.S. Capitol Police officers.
- Patrick Montgomery of Douglas County was charged in January 2021 with knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. According to an affidavit for his arrest, federal investigators were tipped off by someone who saw Montgomery in photos from inside the Capitol posted to Facebook.
- Daniel Michael Morrissey was charged in federal court in November 2021 for illegally entering the U.S. Capitol. He faces charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, knowingly engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in any restricted buildings or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
- Hunter Palm of Colorado Springs was arrested in May 2021 after he allegedly entered U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Jan. 6. He was identified to federal investigators by a family member.
- Jeffrey Sabol of Jefferson County is accused of dragging a police officer down steps to be beaten by an American flag outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A federal judge denied him bail in April 2021. After the attack, prosecutors said he tried to fly to Switzerland.
- Timothy Williams of Trinidad was charged in June 2021 with multiple federal crimes. FBI agents found Williams on videos of the rioters inside the Capitol that day.
Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., who lives in North Carolina, said he traveled from Colorado to Washington with an assault rifle for Jan. 6. He was charged in federal court in January 2021 with threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was sentenced to 28 months in prison in December 2021.
In the late afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021, officials said the U.S. Capitol was officially secure nearly four hours after Trump supporters stormed inside. During the attack, police fatally shot one woman and three others died of medical emergencies. Police said they found two pipe bombs and a cooler with Molotov cocktails near the Capitol.
The day after the attack, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said 50 officers were injured. That number increased to more than 150, Raskin said Tuesday afternoon.