- The leader of militants supportive of President Donald Trump said the group would "stand up and protect people on Election Day," baselessly claiming that left-wing groups have been responsible for anti-Trump voter intimidation tactics.
- Steward Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, told Alex Jones of InfoWars in a Tuesday interview that his far-right, antigovernment group has been "tasked with defending our rights."
- Trump has instructed his supporters to "watch" polls on Election Day, sparking fears of voter intimidation from voting-rights groups.
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The leader of a far-right extremist group said in an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that his organization would "stand up and protect people on Election Day" at polling locations, claiming that they planned on defending voters supporting President Donald Trump against left-wing groups.
Steward Rhodes is the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government armed group founded in 2009, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). He claimed that the left is responsible for the "mass gaslighting" of Trump's supporters.
The comments were first reported by Media Matters for America, the progressive media watchdog.
"They're accusing us of doing everything they're actually trying to do," Rhodes said on InfoWars' "The Alex Jones Show" on Tuesday, offering no evidence that left-wing groups have been responsible for voter intimidation at early polling sites. Rhodes repeated a baseless claim that Trump has also made, alleging that Democrats will be "stealing the election."
Jones' incendiary InfoWars talk show has been banned from YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, and other platforms for spreading false claims.
Rhodes cited his allegation of left-wing voter intimidation as the reason why the Oath Keepers, which claims to have tens of thousands of members nationwide, according to the SPLC, would be keeping watch at the polls.
A September investigation by The Atlantic found that the Oath Keepers had recruited thousands of cops, soldiers, and veterans.
"When those of us are tasked with defending your rights announce that we're going to stand up and protect people on Election Day, they immediately spin that as though we're the ones that are going to be going out there," Rhodes told Jones.
The Oath Keepers says it is focused on defending the Constitution and protecting citizens against the government, but the group "is based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans," according to the SPLC. The group has shown up "heavily armed" at anti-government protests nationwide, Vox reported in 2016, when the militants had similar plans to watch the polls on Election Day.
The group is pro-gun, and Rhodes told The Los Angeles Times that his group would draw weapons this Election Day if necessary, and members were planning on monitoring polls undercover. "We'll be out on Election Day to protect people who are voting," he said.
Voter intimidation is a federal offense, and every state also has laws banning the practice, according to a fact sheet from Georgetown Law. Many states also have laws that ban bringing guns to or inside polling places.
Some members of the militia have been charged with violent crimes or threats, the SPLC reported.
Trump himself has raised concerns over voter intimidation by recommending that his supporters "watch" polling sites. In September's presidential debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Trump instructed his supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully."
He made similar statements ahead of the 2016 election, too. At a Pennsylvania rally in October 2016, Trump said, "I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us."
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