Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman, revealed as a life member of the extremist group Oath Keepers last year, is blasting new federal conspiracy charges against the group’s leader and his associates for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Eastman was in Washington, D.C., for a rally that preceded the attack, but no evidence has emerged linking him to the subsequent riot at the Capitol, and he has not been charged with wrongdoing.
The indictment against Oath Keepers founder and head Stewart Rhodes, plus 10 alleged co-conspirators, was unsealed Thursday and cites the defendants’ own encrypted messages. It alleges they traveled to Washington, “equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’s call to take up arms at Rhodes’s direction.”
Some of the people indicted also brought guns to the city’s outskirts, distributed them to groups they called “quick reaction force” teams and planned to use them, the indictment said.
The seditious conspiracy indictments mark the first time those allegations have been made in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and the charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
[For Oath Keepers and founder, Jan. 6 was weeks in the making]
Eastman issued a statement after the Jan. 6 attack saying that “those who engaged in that lawlessness should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” But in the same statement, he blamed the violence on “antifa” — a claim than has been debunked by fact-checkers and denied even by by some of those charged with participating in the riot.
[Seditious conspiracy: 11 Oath Keepers charged in Jan. 6 riot]
Eastman was one of 10 sitting state lawmakers exposed as an Oath Keepers member in a list leaked by an activist group last year. In response to an interview request about Rhodes’ indictment, Eastman sent a new prepared statement Friday.
“Politically-driven indictments out of D.C. during an election year are nothing new to Alaskans. The indictment against Ted Stevens disappeared once Mark Begich was elected. The January 6th commission’s narrative is falling apart, and with it the Democrats’ last hope of keeping their majority in Congress,” Eastman said. “I predict that narrative will continue to fall apart, regardless of how many indictments they put forward, and that Republicans win back Congress in November.”
Eastman did not directly respond to several questions about his connection to Oath Keepers, including whether his membership is still active, whether he had any contact with Rhodes during or before the attack, or whether he brought any firearms with him to Washington — instead responding with the same statement he sent before.
Eastman has publicly acknowledged his presence at the Jan. 6 “March to Save America,” and posted a photo of himself standing with a group of Alaskans near the Capitol that day. No evidence has been released that links him to the violence that erupted, in which police officers were injured and Capitol offices ransacked.
One of Eastman’s legislative aides, Pam Goode, also posted photos of the rally to Facebook, though it was not clear whether she was physically present. Goode, who has run unsuccessfully for the state Legislature as a member of the Alaska Constitution Party, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Alaska House leaders, in interviews, said they’re aware of the Oath Keepers indictments and Eastman’s ties to the group. But even though the news has prompted some discussions, there are no plans for immediate action against Eastman, said House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.
“I’m not aware of any conversations in the Capitol that pertain to removing him or any kind of disciplinary action,” Stutes said in a phone interview. “He’s an elected official, and I would think it would be left up to his constituency, unless I or we as a Legislature see or have actual proof of his involvement in the incitement of what went on.”
[As ‘Person One,’ Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was long a suspect]
While Stutes is a Republican, her House majority caucus is mostly Democratic, and Eastman belongs to the chamber’s all-Republican minority. A spokesman for that caucus, Heath Hilyard, said members are preparing for the start of the new legislative session in Juneau and haven’t discussed the Oath Keepers indictments or Eastman’s link to the group.
“Most of the caucus members don’t seem to be aware of it, so they don’t have a position,” Hilyard said. “Rep. Eastman answers to his constituents.”
The three members of Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation — U.S. Rep. Don Young, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan — didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Dozens of graduates of the U.S. Military Academy have called on Eastman, a fellow West Point alumnus, to resign.
[Alaska lawmaker takes state-paid tour of Arizona’s Republican-led election audit]