FBI Seizes Phone Of Oath Keepers Lawyer In ‘Seditious Conspiracy’ Investigation
The FBI seized an iPhone this week from a Texas attorney who volunteered for Lawyers for Trump and served as general counsel for the far-right Oath Keepers organization, and a search warrant indicates the seizure is part of an investigation into “seditious conspiracy.”
Kellye SoRelle, who was on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, told HuffPost that the FBI took her phone and presented her with a search warrant. SoRelle is closely associated with Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, who has repeatedly come up in a broader Jan. 6 case.
In a message to HuffPost on Signal that SoRelle indicated she’d sent from her computer, she called it “frustrating” that the feds had seized her phone. She wrote that she had met with two law enforcement officials at her home. They went to a “Krogers/Starbucks” and they chatted for about four hours, she wrote.
“I have so much stuff in there,” she wrote, referring to her phone. “They either think i am the mastermind or they wanted a free dig through everything ― either way it is unethical.”
A copy of the search warrant cover sheet, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui on Aug. 30, states that the FBI seized SoRelle’s iPhone as part of an investigation into conspiracy, civil disorder, false statements, destruction of government property, obstruction of Congress, and unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds.
Most notably, the search warrant also refers to 18 U.S. Code § 2384: the “seditious conspiracy” charge. The charge makes it unlawful for two or more persons to “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”
Seditious conspiracy had been discussed as a potential charge in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but no defendants have faced that charge to this point. In the main indictment against individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers, 17 defendants are facing felony charges like obstruction of an official proceeding and civil disorder, but no “seditious conspiracy” charges.
In at least one other case, a search warrant application connected to Jan. 6 has referenced “seditious conspiracy,” even though those charges haven’t been brought forward, according to Seamus Hughes of George Washington University’s Program On Extremism, which has maintained a database of the hundreds of court cases brought in connection with the Capitol attack.
An FBI representative declined to comment on the search warrant. A search of the case number listed on the warrant indicates the docket remains sealed. The FBI has made more than 600 arrests in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and hundreds more cases are in the works.
SoRelle, who doesn’t represent any of the defendants named in Jan. 6 cases but has fundraised for defendants’ legal fees, has served as a media contact for reporters writing about the Oath Keepers and the Jan. 6 investigation. She was side by side with Rhodes in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and stood next to him as he delivered a speech at a “Freedom Rally” on Jan. 6.
In her own brief speech on Jan. 6, SoRelle called for new elections for all positions across the country because she, like many Trump supporters, believed his lie that the election was stolen.
“No one can be deemed legitimate at this point,” SoRelle said. “Any action taken by any elected official at this point is illegitimate, is theft… We have no duty to comply going forward.”
On social media and in previous conversations with HuffPost, SoRelle has expressed what appears to be a genuine belief that there was a massive criminal conspiracy to steal the election from former President Donald Trump. The Daily Beast referred to her in a story earlier this year as “a lawyer who recently tried to dissolve Congress and reinstall Donald Trump using a lawsuit that cited politics from Lord of the Rings, the fantasy trilogy about elves.”
As BuzzFeed News reported back in March, Rhodes expected to be arrested in connection with the Capitol attack. The New York Times reported in July that Rhodes spoke with FBI special agents against the advice of a lawyer.
It’s unclear why the FBI decided to seize SoRelle’s phone at this point, but it could potentially be a goldmine for investigators who are looking into the Jan. 6 attack.
“I have so much information in there – [it’s] nuts,” SoRelle wrote. She said none of it would help the FBI’s cause, but said it was “not fair to the defendants.” She called her phone “kinda a repository of truth.”
Executing a search warrant against a lawyer triggers protocols within the Justice Department, and the move to seize SoRelle’s phone would have required approval from high-ranking officials at the DOJ.
Seizing an attorney’s electronic devices raises a whole host of legal issues that prosecutors must sort out. After the FBI seized Rudy Giuliani’s phone in April, the government agreed that a “special master” should be appointed to determine which communications were protected by attorney-client privilege.
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