Secret Service reached out to Oath Keepers ahead of January 6 riot

Secret Service agents reached out to Oath Keepers ahead of the January 6 riot. Members of the Oath Keepers are pictured here on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington.

By Whitney Wild

(CNN) -- Secret Service agents were in contact with members of the Oath Keepers prior to January 6 an official with the agency tells CNN, as part of standard intelligence and response duties.

The official said members of the Oath Keepers occasionally reached out to the Secret Service with questions about permissible items for rallies. Further, when agents learned the group planned to attend events, agents reached out and met with members. The official noted that is common when groups plan to demonstrate.

The Washington Post first reported the agency's outreach to the Oath Keepers ahead of January 6, 2021.

"We are aware that individuals from the Oath Keepers have contacted us in the past to make inquiries," Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN last week.

It's not uncommon for law enforcement agents to maintain contacts with groups that are of investigative interest. The Oath Keepers and other extremist groups that traveled to Washington for rallies after the 2020 election had numerous contacts with local and federal law enforcement agencies, testimony gathered in congressional and federal investigations has shown.

The relationship between the Oath Keepers has come under increased scrutiny after testimony last week revealed the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, purported to be in touch with agents.

John Zimmerman, a former North Carolina leader of the Oath Keepers, testified that he believed Rhodes was in touch with a Secret Service agent in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Zimmerman, who has not been charged with a crime, said members of the Oath Keepers -- who are currently on trial for charges relating to the January 6 US Capitol attack, including seditious conspiracy -- gathered in September in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a campaign rally for former President Donald Trump

Members of the Oath Keepers were recruiting at the rally and working as personal security details, he said.

To prepare for the rally, Zimmerman testified, Rhodes said he was in contact with a member of the Secret Service who advised the leader on what weapons were allowed near the rally. Zimmerman said he did not hear the entire conversation, but that Rhodes repeatedly represented he was in touch with an agent.

Rhodes group chat discussed in court

Rhodes allegedly told other members of the Oath Keepers in a group chat that if Trump called upon them as a militia, he believed the US Secret Service would be "happy" to have their help, according to evidence presented in court Thursday.

The text was presented during the seditious conspiracy trial of Rhodes and four other defendants. All five have pleaded not guilty.

"If he calls us up as a militia I think the secret service would be happy to have us out there," Rhodes wrote, according to prosecutors. Rhodes went on to say this conclusion was based upon numerous positive contacts between Oath Keepers and the Secret Service before several Trump rallies before January 6.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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