Houston Chronicle

D.C. insiders planned rallies that led to riot

- By Robert O’Harrow Jr.

WASHINGTON — The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were organized and promoted by an array of establishe­d conservati­ve insiders and activists, documents and videos show.

The Republican Attorneys General Associatio­n was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy, an influentia­l group that for decades has served as a hub for conservati­ve and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies.

The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalis­ts and other extremists but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individual­s that figure prominentl­y in the machinery of conservati­ve activism in Washington.

In recent days, as federal authoritie­s rounded up those involved in the Capitol riot, promoters and participan­ts of the rallies have denounced the violence and sought to distance their events from the events that followed.

“I support the right of Americans to peacefully protest,” wrote Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, chairman of the Republican Attorneys Gener

al Associatio­n, “but the violence and destructio­n we are seeing at the U.S. Capitol is unacceptab­le and un-American.”

Organizing warmup events is not the same thing as plotting to invade the Capitol. But before the rallies, some used extreme rhetoric, including references to the American Revolution, and made false claims about the election to rouse supporters to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory

Unless Congress responds to the protests, “everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” tweeted Ali Alexander, a former CNP fellow who organized the “Stop the Steal” movement. “1776 is *always* an option.”

On Jan. 5, at Freedom Plaza in D.C., Alexander led protesters in a chant of “Victory or death.”

Alexander did not respond to a request for comment for this story. He previously said he had “remained peaceful” during the riot and said his earlier speeches “mentioned peace” and were being misreprese­nted.

“Conflating our legally, peaceful permitted events with the breach of the US Capitol building is defamatory and false,” he said in an email. “People are being misled and then those same people are fomenting violence against me and my team.”

In the days and hours before the riots, Alexander and his allies attracted tens of thousands of protesters from around the country — a crowd that included white supremacis­ts, Christian activists and even local police officers.

Events included a “Patriot Caravan” of buses to Washington, a “Save the Republic” rally on Jan. 5 and a “Freedom Rally” on the morning of Jan. 6. A little-known nonprofit called Women for America First, a group run by supporters of President Donald Trump and former tea party activists, got approval to use space on the Ellipse for what they called a “March for Trump,” according to the “public gathering permit” issued on Jan. 5.

Robocall tied to AGs

Nearly a dozen political activists — including former White House, congressio­nal and Trump campaign staffers — served as on-site rally coordinato­rs and stage managers, the permit said. A spokespers­on for Women for America First did not respond to requests for comment.

Scheduled speakers included Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani and Simone Gold, founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, a startup group that condemned government shutdowns to contain the coronaviru­s. Gold was among the protesters who entered the Capitol, according to an FBI flyer with her photo.

Gold said she went into the Capitol but thought it was legal to do so.

“I do regret being there,” she said.

On Jan. 5, the attorneys general group, which is based in Washington, used an affiliated nonprofit called the Rule of Law Defense Fund to pay for a robocall that urged supporters to march on the Capitol at 1 p.m. Jan. 6 to “call on Congress to stop the steal.”

“We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue the fight,” a recording of the call says.

Last Monday, as criticism of the robocall mounted, RAGA Executive Director Adam Piper resigned.

Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin also condemned the violence and said in a statement that her group provided no financial support for the rally. “We are shocked, outraged, and saddened at the turn of events Wednesday afternoon,” Martin’s statement said. “We are heartbroke­n.”

Martin, also an executive committee member at CNP, was listed in promotiona­l material as a rally speaker, though she did not ultimately speak. The Tea Party Patriots were listed as a “coalition partner” with Alexander’s Stop the Steal, RAGA and other groups.

CNP Executive Director Bob McEwen said his group, a registered charity, does not get involved in political activity and had no role in the Jan. 6 events. He said CNP members and associates act independen­tly. “What they do on their own time — I won’t say I don’t care — we have no interest or capacity to monitor,” McEwen said.

Planners condemn riot

Charlie Kirk, the leader of Turning Point USA, an organizer of conservati­ve students, and Turning Point Action, its activist arm, also condemned the violence and called Jan. 6 “a really sad day for America,” according to a spokesman.

Before the rally, Kirk — a featured speaker at CNP meetings over the past two years and at the Republican National Convention in August — offered to pay for buses and hotel rooms for protesters.

“This historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequent­ial in American history,” he wrote in a tweet. “The team at @TrumpStude­nts & Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.”

That tweet has been deleted. A spokesman said that Kirk eventually sent a half-dozen buses and that the student protesters had nothing to do with the violence.

In a video posted in late December, Alexander claimed he worked with three lawmakers — Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Mo Brooks, R-Ala.; and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. — on an unspecifie­d plan to disrupt election ratificati­on deliberati­ons at the Capitol.

“We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a since-deleted video on Periscope highlighte­d by the Project on Government Oversight, an investigat­ive nonprofit.

In a statement, Biggs denied meeting Alexander. Gosar did not respond to requests for comment from The Post. Brooks’s office said in a statement that he “has no recollecti­on of ever communicat­ing in any way with whoever Ali Alexander is.”

Other establishm­ent conservati­ves who condoned the protests include Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and listed last year as a CNP Action board member, who praised rallygoers in tweets.

“LOVE MAGA people !!!! ” she tweeted early in the morning on Jan. 6. “GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU STANDING UP or PRAYING.”

She did not respond to requests for comment.

Since the early 1980s, CNP has served as a bridge between Washington’s establishm­ent conservati­ves and scores of Christian and right-wing groups across the nation. It convenes closed-door meetings for members and wealthy donors at least twice a year. CNP officials and their allies met weekly with White House officials under President Donald Trump, in part to coordinate public messaging about the administra­tion’s agenda, internal videos show. Trump spoke to the group in August.

Vice President Mike Pence praised the group in a letter obtained by the Post, saying last year that “I just wanted to thank you and the Council for National Policy for your support and for consistent­ly amplifying the agenda of President Trump.”

McEwen said his group serves only as a venue for conservati­ve speakers and does not coordinate the activity of members.

In one meeting last summer, a CNP member warned that a “civil war” would result if Trump lost the election to predicted fraud, according to internal videos obtained by the Post.

 ?? Matt McClain / Washington Post ?? Trump supporters gather in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5. The rallies that led to that day’s storming of the Capitol were organized by establishe­d D.C. insiders.
Matt McClain / Washington Post Trump supporters gather in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5. The rallies that led to that day’s storming of the Capitol were organized by establishe­d D.C. insiders.

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