Since the attack on the Capitol building on January 6, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has repeatedly hosted January 6 participant Thomas Caldwell, depicting him as a “disabled veteran” subject to an overzealous Justice Department intent on punishing Trump supporters for their right to protest. In recent days, the government began presenting its case against Caldwell, charging him and four other Oath Keepers (including founder Stewart Rhodes) with seditious conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transition of presidential powers and keep Donald Trump in power.
On his first prime-time appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, in October 2021, Caldwell distanced himself from the right-wing anti-government group, saying that the evidence against him is “total claptrap” and that Oath Keepers “seem to be very nice people but I’m not part of that organization.”
In a November 2021 appearance on Carlson’s Fox Nation show, Caldwell again denied being a member of the Oath Keepers and participating in anything illegal. Caldwell’s wife, Sharon, added they “slowly walked to the Capitol and hung out there for a while.” Carlson further clarified, “It is not a crime to belong to the Oath Keepers or any other organization in this country, no matter what Joe Biden thinks of it. … I mean, you’re allowed to belong to any volunteer organization you want, right?”
After Caldwell’s January 2022 indictment, Carlson hosted him again to dismiss the charges against him.
Meanwhile, evidence presented in trial showed that on January 6, Caldwell wrote in a message, “I rolled with the Oath Keepers..... I said, let's storm the place and hang the traitors.” In a message that night, Caldwell also wrote, “If we’d had guns I guarantee we would have killed 100 politicians. They ran off and were spirited away through their underground tunnels like the rats they were.”
New video evidence also showed Caldwell and his wife at the Capitol with rioters screaming obscenities — a far cry from the “senior citizen who walks with a cane” Carlson had presented.
More evidence presented by prosecutors demonstrated that Caldwell was intimately involved with the Oath Keepers plan to disrupt democracy and encourage violence on January 6.
In December 2020, Caldwell drafted an “ops plan” that instructed his “Quick Reaction Force” to have burner phones, bring “striking weapons” such as a tomahawk called the “Zombie Killer,” and to consider bringing firearms that could not be traced to any members. He later messaged another Oath Keeper, “Maybe I should be planning for a MUCH bigger op, for like when we have to roll into town to actually save the Republic.” (Caldwell’s January 2022 indictment previously claimed that he also sought boats to transfer weapons stockpiled in Virginia across the Potomac and held a “reconnaissance mission” on January 5.)
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
On Friday, more evidence detailed Caldwell’s fervent communications with Oath Keepers to organize the tactics the group would carry out on January 6 and showed seeming violent intent. In messages presented by the prosecution, Caldwell made clear that he was working with different militia groups, including the North Carolina Oath Keepers.
On November 7, Caldwell warned in a message that the “next step, I guess, if the Democraps throw out the Constitution, is Civil War.” The next day, Caldwell met Rhodes at a Stop the Steal event, and within a day, sent a message confirming he was “helping with intel and logistics.”
In December, Caldwell demonstrated allegiance to the group, messaging Oath Keeper Paul Stamey, “I have allied myself with you guys as you can tell. I think I still have a lot to give especially if you start operating in my backyard as it were.” In another December message, Caldwell told the recipient that the operation he was planning “may be quite violent.”
When discussing the possibility of then-Vice President Mike Pence rejecting electors, on January 1, Caldwell wrote, “If he hopes to live till Friday, he better stand tall.” An FBI agent testified, “Friday would have been January 8.” Caldwell also continued to seek boats for the “Quick Reaction Force” to transfer weapons, noting that it would avoid the “nightmarish parking” situation in Washington, D.C. He even suggested the group “could be pretending to fish” to disguise the boat.
Update (10/17/22): This piece has been updated with new information.