U.S. House panel probing Capitol riot holds hearing in Washington

Who is Jason Van Tatenhove and why is he testifying in the Jan. 6 hearings?

Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, whose members were involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, testified at the Jan. 6 committee’s seventh public hearing on July 12 where he called the attack an “armed revolution.”

Van Tatenhove handled the media operations for the Oath Keepers’ for about two years, starting in 2014. He told Denver’s Fox 31 he was not connected to the group at the time of the attack on the Capitol and has since “purged” his connections to extremism.

WATCH: What we learned on Day 7 of the Jan. 6 hearings

The Oath Keepers is “one of the largest far-right antigovernment groups” in the U.S., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Recruitment efforts target ex-military and law enforcement officers, and members have participated in armed standoffs and violent protests, the SPLC said.

In January, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and 10 other members were indicted on seditious conspiracy charges for attempting to overthrow the government on Jan. 6. Three members have pleaded guilty to the charges, while Rhodes has pleaded not guilty. According to the Jan. 6 committee, Rhodes told members to “stock up on ammo” and prepare for a “full-on war in the streets.”

Van Tatenhove testified on July 12 that despite wanting to portray themselves as a “community preparedness team” or “veterans support group”, the Oath Keepers are a militia who used military tactics as they attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“The best illustration for what the Oath Keepers are happened Jan. 6 when we saw that stacked military formation going up the stairs of the Capitol,” Van Tatenhove said.

He left the group after witnessing racism and culminating in him overhearing some members denying the Holocaust, he testified on July 12. He said he probably should have left sooner.

Much of Van Tatenhove’s testimony focused on Rhodes who, according to Van Tatenhove, sees himself as a paramilitary leader.

He said that in the lead up to Jan. 6, Rhodes wanted Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that empowers the president to call up militias to tamp down rebellions, because Rhodes believed this would grant him and the Oath Keepers “legitimacy” as a paramilitary organization.

“[Rhodes] is a militia leader. He had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader,” Van Tatenhove said. “And the Insurrection Act would have given him a path forward with that. The fact the president was communicating, whether directly or indirectly messaging, that gave him the nod. All I can do is thank the gods that things did not go any worse that day.”

Tatenhove said he believes Jan. 6 could have been more violent and that the country must reckon with the fact that such a threat still exists.

“I think we need to quit mincing words and just talk about truths, and what it was going to be was an armed revolution. I mean, people died that day. Law enforcement officers died that day. There was a gallows set up in front of the Capitol. This could have been the spark that started a new civil war and no one would have won there,” Van Tatenhove said.

He is also worried what Trump might do if he runs for reelection again and if the people who orchestrated the Jan. 6 attack are not held responsible.

“I have three daughters. I have a granddaughter. I fear for the world that they will inherit if we do not start holding these people to account,” Van Tatenhove said.

Rhodes has also offered to testify to the Jan. 6 committee if he can do so live and in-person, instead of from jail, where he is awaiting trial. The committee has not responded to his request.

For more on the key players in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, click here.