EXCLUSIVE: Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff
Category: News & PoliticsVia: tessylo • one month ago • 136 comments
By: Hunter Walker, Rolling Stone
EXCLUSIVE: Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff Hunter Walker Sun, October 24, 2021, 8:33 PM j6-trump-stop-the-steal - Credit: Nate Gowdy for Rolling Stone
As the House investigation into the Jan. 6 attack heats up, some of the planners of the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington, D.C., have begun communicating with congressional investigators and sharing new information about what happened when the former president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Two of these people have spoken to Rolling Stone extensively in recent weeks and detailed explosive allegations that multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent.
Rolling Stone separately confirmed a third person involved in the main Jan. 6 rally in D.C. has communicated with the committee. This is the first report that the committee is hearing major new allegations from potential cooperating witnesses. While there have been prior indications that members of Congress were involved, this is also the first account detailing their purported role and its scope. The two sources also claim they interacted with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who they describe as having had an opportunity to prevent the violence.
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The two sources, both of whom have been granted anonymity due to the ongoing investigation, describe participating in “dozens” of planning briefings ahead of that day when Trump supporters broke into the Capitol as his election loss to President Joe Biden was being certified.
“I remember Marjorie Taylor Greene specifically,” the organizer says. “I remember talking to probably close to a dozen other members at one point or another or their staffs.”
For the sake of clarity, we will refer to one of the sources as a rally organizer and the other as a planner. Rolling Stone has confirmed that both sources were involved in organizing the main event aimed at objecting to the electoral certification, which took place at the White House Ellipse on Jan. 6. Trump spoke at that rally and encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol. Some members of the audience at the Ellipse began walking the mile and a half to the Capitol as Trump gave his speech. The barricades were stormed minutes before the former president concluded his remarks.
These two sources also helped plan a series of demonstrations that took place in multiple states around the country in the weeks between the election and the storming of the Capitol. According to these sources, multiple people associated with the March for Trump and Stop the Steal events that took place during this period communicated with members of Congress throughout this process.
Along with Greene, the conspiratorial pro-Trump Republican from Georgia who took office earlier this year, the pair both say the members who participated in these conversations or had top staffers join in included Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
“We would talk to Boebert’s team, Cawthorn’s team, Gosar’s team like back to back to back to back,” says the organizer.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) attends a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing titled The Capitol Insurrection: Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions, on Capitol Hill on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. - Credit: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images
Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images
And Gosar, who has been one of the most prominent defenders of the Jan. 6 rioters, allegedly took things a step further. Both sources say he dangled the possibility of a “blanket pardon” in an unrelated ongoing investigation to encourage them to plan the protests.
“Our impression was that it was a done deal,” the organizer says, “that he’d spoken to the president about it in the Oval … in a meeting about pardons and that our names came up. They were working on submitting the paperwork and getting members of the House Freedom Caucus to sign on as a show of support.”
The organizer claims the pair received “several assurances” about the “blanket pardon” from Gosar.
“I was just going over the list of pardons and we just wanted to tell you guys how much we appreciate all the hard work you’ve been doing,” Gosar said, according to the organizer.
The rally planner describes the pardon as being offered while “encouraging” the staging of protests against the election. While the organizer says they did not get involved in planning the rallies solely due to the pardon, they were upset that it ultimately did not materialize.
“I would have done it either way with or without the pardon,” the organizer says. “I do truly believe in this country, but to use something like that and put that out on the table when someone is so desperate, it’s really not good business.”
Gosar’s office did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Rolling Stone has separately obtained documentary evidence that both sources were in contact with Gosar and Boebert on Jan. 6. We are not describing the nature of that evidence to preserve their anonymity. The House select committee investigating the attack also has interest in Gosar’s office. Gosar’s chief of staff, Thomas Van Flein, was among the people who were named in the committee’s “sweeping” requests to executive-branch agencies seeking documents and communications from within the Trump administration. Both sources claim Van Flein was personally involved in the conversations about the “blanket pardon” and other discussions about pro-Trump efforts to dispute the election. Van Flein did not respond to a request for comment.
These specific members of Congress were involved in the pro-Trump activism around the election and the electoral certification on Jan. 6. Both Brooks and Cawthorn spoke with Trump at the Ellipse on Jan. 6. In his speech at that event, Brooks, who was reportedly wearing body armor, declared, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Gosar, Greene, and Boebert were all billed as speakers at the “Wild Protest,” which also took place on Jan. 6 at the Capitol.
Nick Dyer, who is Greene’s communications director, said she was solely involved in planning to object to the electoral certification on the House floor. Spokespeople for the other members of Congress, who the sources describe as involved in the planning for protests, did not respond to requests for comment.
“Congresswoman Greene and her staff were focused on the Congressional election objection on the House floor and had nothing to do with planning of any protest,” Dyer wrote in an email to Rolling Stone.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks during former President Donald Trump’s Save America rally in Perry, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. - Credit: Ben Gray/AP
Dyer further compared Greene’s efforts to dispute certification of Biden’s victory with similar objections certain Democratslodged against Trump’s first election.
“She objected just like Democrats who have objected to Republican presidential victories over the years,” wrote Dyer . “Just like in 2017, when Jim McGovern, Jamie Raskin, Pramila Jayapal, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Raul Grijalva, and Maxine Waters tried to prevent President Trump’s election win from being certified.”
Dyer also suggested the public is far more concerned with issues occurring under President Joe Biden than they are with what happened in January.
“No one cares about Jan. 6 when gas prices are skyrocketing, grocery store shelves are empty, unemployment is skyrocketing, businesses are going bankrupt, our border is being invaded, children are forced to wear masks, vaccine mandates are getting workers fired, and 13 members of our military are murdered by the Taliban and Americans are left stranded in Afghanistan,” Dyer wrote .
In another indication members of Congress may have been involved in planning the protests against the election, Ali Alexander, who helped organize the “Wild Protest,” declared in a since-deleted livestream broadcast that Gosar, Brooks, and Biggs helped him formulate the strategy for that event.
“I was the person who came up with the Jan. 6 idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks, and Congressman Andy Biggs,” Alexander said at the time. “We four schemed up on putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting so that — who we couldn’t lobby — we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body hearing our loud roar from outside.”
Alexander led Stop the Steal, which was one of the main groups promoting efforts to dispute Trump’s loss. In December, he organized a Stop the Steal event in Phoenix, where Gosar was one the main speakers. At that demonstration, Alexander referred to Gosar as “my captain” and declared “one of the other heroes has been Congressman Andy Biggs.”
Alexander did not respond to requests for comment.The rally planner, who accused Alexander of ratcheting up the potential for violence that day while taking advantage of funds from donors and others who helped finance the events, confirmed that he was in contact with those three members of Congress.
“He just couldn’t help himself but go on his live and just talk about everything that he did and who he talked to,” the planner says of Alexander. “So, he, like, really told on himself.”
While it was already clear members of Congress played some role in the Jan. 6 events and similar rallies that occurred in the lead-up to that day, the two sources say they can provide new details about the members’ specific roles in these efforts. The sources plan to share that information with congressional investigators right away. While both sources say their communications with the House’s Jan. 6 committee thus far have been informal, they are expecting to testify publicly.
“I have no problem openly testifying,” the planner says.
A representative for the committee declined to comment. In the past month, the committee has issued subpoenas to top Trump allies, government agencies, and activists who were involved in the planning of events and rallies that took place on that day and in the prior weeks. Multiple sources familiar with the committee’s investigation have confirmed to Rolling Stone that, thus far, it seems to be heavily focused on the financing for the Ellipse rally and similar previous events.
Both of the sources made clear that they still believe in Trump’s agenda. They also have questions about how his election loss occurred. The two sources say they do not necessarily believe there were issues with the actual vote count. However, they are concerned that Democrats gained an unfair advantage in the race due to perceived social media censorship of Trump allies and the voting rules that were implemented as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Democrats used tactics to disrupt their political opposition in ways that frankly were completely unacceptable,” the organizer says.
Despite their remaining affinity for Trump and their questions about the vote, both sources say they were motivated to come forward because of their concerns about how the pro-Trump protests against the election ultimately resulted in the violent attack on the Capitol. Of course, with their other legal issues and the House investigation, both of these sources have clear motivation to cooperate with investigators and turn on their former allies. And both of their accounts paint them in a decidedly favorable light compared with their former allies.
“The reason I’m talking to the committee and the reason it’s so important is that — despite Republicans refusing to participate … this commission’s all we got as far as being able to uncover the truth about what happened at the Capitol that day,” the organizer says. “It’s clear that a lot of bad actors set out to cause chaos. … They made us all look like shit.”
And Trump, they admit, was one of those bad actors. A representative for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
“The breaking point for me [on Jan. 6 was when] Trump starts talking about walking to the Capitol,” the organizer says. “I was like. ‘Let’s get the fuck out of here.’ ”
“I do kind of feel abandoned by Trump,” says the planner. “I’m actually pretty pissed about it and I’m pissed at him.”
The organizer offers an even more succinct assessment when asked what they would say to Trump.
“What the fuck?” the organizer says.
The two potential witnesses plan to present to the committee allegations about how these demonstrations were funded and to detailcommunications between organizers and the White House. According to both sources, members of Trump’s administration and former members of his campaign team were involved in the planning. Both describe Katrina Pierson, who worked for Trump’s campaign in 2016 and 2020, as a key liaison between the organizers of protests against the election and the White House.
“Katrina was like our go-to girl,” the organizer says. “She was like our primary advocate.”
Pierson spoke at the Ellipse rally on Jan. 6. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Both sources also describe Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as someone who played a major role in the conversations surrounding the protests on Jan. 6. Among other things, they both say concerns were raised to Meadows about Alexander’s protest at the Capitol and the potential that it could spark violence.Meadows was subpoenaed by the committee last month as part of a group of four people “with close ties to the former President who were working in or had communications with the White House on or in the days leading up to the January 6th insurrection.”
“Meadows was 100 percent made aware of what was going on,” says the organizer. “He’s also like a regular figure in these really tiny groups of national organizers.”
A separate third source, who has also communicated with the committee and was involved in the Ellipse rally, says Kylie Kremer, one of the key organizers at that event, boasted that she was going to meet with Meadows at the White House ahead of the rally. The committee has been provided with that information. Kremer did not respond to a request for comment.
Both the organizer and the planner say Alexander initially agreed he would not hold his “Wild Protest” at the Capitol and that the Ellipse would be the only major demonstration.When Alexander seemed to be ignoring that arrangement, both claim worries were brought to Meadows.
“Despite making a deal … they plowed forward with their own thing at the Capitol on Jan.y 6 anyway,” the organizer says of Alexander and his allies. “We ended up escalating that to everybody we could, including Meadows.”
A representative for Meadows did not respond to requests for comment.
Along with making plans for Jan. 6, the sources say, the members of Congress who were involved solicited supposed proof of election fraud from them. Challenging electoral certification requires the support of a member of the Senate. While more than a hundred Republican members of the House ultimately objected to the Electoral College count that formalized Trump’s loss, only a handful of senators backed the effort. According to the sources, the members of Congress and their staff advised them to hold rallies in specific states. The organizer says locations were chosen to put “pressure” on key senators that “we considered to be persuadable.”
“We had also been coordinating with some of our congressional contacts on, like, what would be presented after the individual objections, and our expectation was that that was the day the storm was going to arrive,” the organizer says, adding, “It was supposed to be the best evidence that they had been secretly gathering. … Everyone was going to stay at the Ellipse throughout the congressional thing.”
Heading into Jan. 6, both sources say, the plan they had discussed with other organizers, Trump allies, and members of Congress was a rally that would solely take place at the Ellipse, where speakers — including the former president — would present “evidence” about issues with the election. This demonstration would take place in conjunction with objections that were being made by Trump allies during the certification on the House floor that day.
“It was in a variety of calls, some with Gosar and Gosar’s team, some with Marjorie Taylor Greene and her team … Mo Brooks,” the organizer says.
“The Capitol was never in play,” insists the planner.
A senior staffer for a Republican member of Congress, who was also granted anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, similarly says they believed the events would only involve supporting objections on the House floor. The staffer says their member was engaged in planning that was “specifically and fully above board.”
“A whole host of people let this go a totally different way,” the senior Republican staffer says. “They fucked it up for a lot of people who were planning to present evidence on the House floor. We were pissed off at everything that happened .”
The two sources claim there were early concerns about Alexander’s event. They had seen him with members of the paramilitary groups 1st Amendment Praetorian (1AP) and the Oath Keepers in his entourage at prior pro-Trump rallies. Alexander was filmed with a reputed member of 1AP at his side at a November Stop the Steal event that took place in Georgia. The two sources also claim to have been concerned about drawing people to the area directly adjacent to the Capitol on Jan. 6, given the anger among Trump supporters about the electoral certification that was underway that day.
“They knew that they weren’t there to sing “Kumbaya” and, like, put up a peace sign,” the planner says. “These frickin’ people were angry.”