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Have Trump Republicans Lost Control Of Their Paramilitary Thugs?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Recently, an exclusive Reuters report claimed the FBI has little evidence of a single overarching plot to overturn the election on January 6. The headline: "FBI finds scant evidence US Capitol attack was coordinated — sources." The story kicked off a self-serving game of telephone by right-wingers spinning an already threadbare dispatch into ever-more exculpatory narratives. Steve Bannon pronounced it a "massive win" while Republican Senate hopeful JD Vance tweeted, "Another narrative collapses." These strained readings of the report culminated in the bizarre Washington Examiner headline: "FBI confirms there was no insurrection."

In fact, the government has already uncovered far-reaching conspiracies to attack the Capitol and stop the certification of the election. It alleges that three major paramilitary groups — the Oath Keepers, The Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters — conspired within their own ranks to commit violence to keep Donald Trump in power. In addition to plotting within their own ranks, these groups reportedly coordinated with each other. The point that Reuters' anonymous sources were making was that there is as-yet little evidence these paramilitary operations were part of a single overarching plot orchestrated by a "civilian" leader, like Trump confidante and self-proclaimed dirty trickster Roger Stone. Maybe the paramilitaries acted on their own. This is a truly terrifying possibility given it would indicate the civilian wing of the Republican Party has finally lost control of the party's paramilitary wing.

Members and associates of the Oath Keepers militia have already pleaded guilty to conspiring to disrupt the certification of the election, and many others are working their way through the courts on similar charges. The government alleges extensive coordination among the Oath Keepers in the run-up to January 6 and ongoing communication with their leader while they stormed the Capitol. Multiple Proud Boys have also been charged with conspiracy and other serious offenses stemming from the assault on the Capitol. The government alleges, and independent media reports confirm, that teams of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys were in the vanguard of the assault on the Capitol.

Moreover, all three paramilitary groups were an integral part of the Trumpist "Stop the Steal" movement that staged a series of violent protests to intimidate election officials in swing states, cement the myth of voter fraud, legitimize the Trump team's frivolous legal challenges and radicalize supporters. "Stop the Steal" had an established M.O. by January 6: besiege public officials and attempt to bully them into certifying the contest for Trump based on wild allegations of voter fraud and the ever-present threat of violence.

There's no question that the civilian architects of "Stop the Steal" wanted to intimidate the lawmakers certifying the election. Organizer Ali Alexander explained his plan was to put "maximum pressure" on the lawmakers in a bid to coerce the GOP representatives they had not been able to lobby to join their cause. "If they [certify the election], everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building," Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. "1776 is *always* an option""

"I want to hear a huge shout-out for Enrique and the Proud Boys right now," "Stop the Steal" organizer Cindy Chafian commanded the crowd gathered in Washington on January 5 on the eve of the certification of the election. Chafian went on to thank the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and other paramilitary groups as unsung heroes. "I'm tired of the left telling us we can't talk about them," Chafian said.

Chafian was referring to Enrique Tarrio, the supreme leader of the Proud Boys, who had been scheduled to speak at the gathering, but found himself unable to attend because he'd been arrested two days earlier for burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a previous "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington. Chafian's fellow speaker, Cordie Williams thundered that, "Enrique is in jail right now for burning a flag that bastardizes everything we stand for, it makes me sick."

The "Stop the Steal" slogan was coined by Stone in 2016 and revived by his protegé Ali Alexander to transmute lies about election fraud into incandescent rage that it hoped to harness to keep Donald Trump in power. "'Stop the Steal' is a highly coordinated partisan political operation intent on bringing together conspiracy theorists, militias, hate groups, and Trump supporters to attack the integrity of our election," Ben Decker, the CEO and founder of Memetica, a digital investigations consultancy, told CNN in November of 2020.

As the votes were being counted, Alexander organized a series of armed, violent protests in swing states geared at intimidating state election officials. The Oath Keepers provided security for "Stop the Steal" organizers, including Stone. The Proud Boys turned out in force to brutalize counter-protesters and even organized their own protest at the home of United States Senator Marco Rubio to pressure him not to certify. Stone addressed the crowd by speaker phone.

Tarrio and other high-ranking Proud Boys were so close to Stone they were allowed to post to his social media accounts. Stone was even kicked off instagram for his ties to the Proud Boys. Stone was so accustomed to surrounding himself with Proud Boys that The Daily Beast proclaimed the neo-fascist street brawlers "Roger Stone's Personal Army" in 2019.

Stone and Alexander's longstanding relationships with the paramilitaries are tantalizing circumstantial evidence, but hard proof that they or any "civilian" ordered shock troops to attack the Capitol remains elusive.

Stone and Alexander like to cast themselves as skilled operatives very much in control, even as they deny responsibility for the violence swirling around them. But if Reuters' sources are correct, they paint a very different picture: That Stone, Alexander and all their Republican allies and enablers are ineffectual dupes who have lost control of the toxic forces they sought to command.

Follow The Money: How Trump's Campaign Financed Jan. 6 Pre-Riot Rally

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

"Follow the money" is a handy bit of kit in a lot of situations. When it comes to looking at the events of January 6, it's good advice. Because, as OpenSecrets.org has revealed, Donald Trump's various campaign funds paid out over $4.3 million to the people who organized the insurgency warm-up rally on January 6. In fact, running down the list of people, there seems to be considerable overlap in the "staff" for Trump and the supposedly grassroots protest. That includes Trump's campaign director of operations, his national finance consultant, and at least half a dozen other people on the payroll of Trump's various campaign PACs.

In fact, the web of connections between Trump's campaign and the rally where he stepped up to urge the crowd's assault on Congress seems so entangled that the whole thing can be read as just another front stretched over Trump's campaign of self-enrichment. Not all of the names on the overlapping list of Trump and January 6 rally organizers have been targeted by the House Select Committee's latest requests for documents, but they ought to be.

It's past time for someone to turn on the lights and reveal just where the "dark money" that funded Women for America First, the "nonprofit group" that secured a permit and locked down a handy launchpad for insurrection.

Last week, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurgency sent out a long list of requests for documents. That list included documents related to almost every adult member of Trump's family (excluding Tiffany), several long-time campaign advisors including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, and a long list of others involved in planning or executing events on that day. Several of those who worked for both Trump's campaign staff and the various organizations that put together the "Stop the Steal" event were included on that list, but far from all.

This only shows that, as sweeping as the committee's requests were, they're still insufficient to come close to capturing the full scope of individuals and organizations involved, which should be no surprise. After all, the Republican Party has spent decades setting up a seemingly infinite number of "institutes" and "foundations" and "think tanks" through which a handful of extremely wealthy donors can turn their money into action. Add to this a Citizen's United-fueled PAC infrastructure and the kind of morass of entangled power and money that people visualize when talking about "the swamp" absolutely exists—on the right.

Now introduce to this Donald Trump, a man whose 100 percent one-man-owned "empire" consists of over 500 companies and corporations created expressly to disguise his own real worth, moving money around without visibility, and creating the illusion of actions necessary to generate tax breaks. Trump really was out to drain the swamp … right into his personal swamp.

From the look of the connections on January 6, he succeeded.

That document request wasn't, and won't be, the last. As The Washington Post reported, the committee has already followed up with a request to tech companies that could generate even more pages of text. On that document, it may not be the exact list of names that's drawing the biggest attention, but the request for communications records related to "any Member of Congress or congressional staff" who put in a call to Trump or the White House on that day.

That request has made GOP leader Kevin McCarthy very upset. For good reason. After all, the news has already come out about how Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz phoned Trump from the Capitol and begged him to call off his goons. Again and again, it seems that Republicans understood two things very well on January 6: The people who were attacking the Capitol and threatening their lives were working for Trump, and Trump had the ability to tell them to stand down. But beyond showing how Republicans in Congress understood who was pulling the strings, the committee's review should also show how many were directly involved in planning or executing the assault on the Capitol.

The actions of the Select Committee won't drain the Republican swamp. It's been dredged out over decades, and exploring its labyrinthine bayous of purposeful obfuscation is work that might never be complete. But this much is clear just from the outset:

  • The Trump campaign and the supposedly separate entities that not only planned the January 6 rally but also conducted attacks on democracy across the country were connected by both money and people.
  • Trump's team created a media company to supposedly pay consultants, then lined up to take checks for themselves.
  • Trump's campaign and PACs put out at least $4.3 million to pay those who set up the Washington, D.C. rally.
  • Behind all of this was "dark money" whose sources have not been revealed, hiding behind the farce of nonprofit groups.
  • The members of Congress who are now defending Trump understood—and understand—that he was behind the assault and that the mob and their organizers answer to him.
  • As members of Congress, none of them can hide behind executive privilege, even in attempting to protect their conversations with Trump.
  • Kevin McCarthy is a wiener.

That last part may seem unconnected, but it's always worth noting. Especially since McCarthy's taking the Fifth rather than admitting that he was one of those begging Trump to call off his mob is likely to be one of the highlights of the Select Committee's work.

Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump Over Jan. 6 ‘Acts Of Terrorism’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump is being sued by a group of seven Capitol Police officers for his role in the January 6 insurrection in what is being called the "most expansive civil effort to date" to hold the former president and his associates and allies accountable.

The lawsuit accuses Trump "and nearly 20 members of far-right extremist groups and political organizations of a plot to disrupt the peaceful transition of power during the Capitol riot on January 6," and implicates "members of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers militia and Trump associates like Roger J. Stone Jr.," The New York Times reports.

Five of the seven officers are Black, the Times notes, reporting that the lawsuit "contends that Mr. Trump and his co-defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 statute that includes protections against violent conspiracies that interfere with Congress's constitutional duties. It also accuses the defendants of committing 'bias-motivated acts of terrorism' in violation of District of Columbia law."

The Times also calls it the first lawsuit "to allege that Mr. Trump worked in concert with both far-right extremists and political organizers promoting his baseless lies that the presidential election was marred by fraud."

Read the entire report here.

Trump Gang Encouraged White Supremacists To Join Jan. 6 Action

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The idea that the January 6 assault on the Capitol caught everyone by surprise is a recurring theme. The Metro D.C. Police claimed they had no expectation of violence, though two previous Trump rallies had ended in that way. The Capitol Police said they had no reason to expect violence, except they had intelligence indicating that it was likely. That intelligence community passed along relatively sparse information, though they had reams of social media showing that they were following significant planning by white supremacist militias.

Congressional committees have discussed failures of all these groups when it comes to failing to plan for events on January 6. But it now appears there was another group that was well aware of what was likely to happen on the day of Trump's big "Stop the Steal" rally — staffers inside the Trump White House.

As ProPublica reports, Trump's internal team was in touch with two competing groups that were looking to gain the limelight on January 6, and they were helping them both. The first group appears to have been the same "Women for Trump" group that was behind other rallies—including two previous D.C. rallies that ended in violence. The second was the "Stop the Steal" team, which was openly advocating for actions that would generate chaos.

Put in charge of the rally was Katrina Pierson, who had been a spokesperson for Trump going back to the 2016 election, and who might best be remembered for defending Trump's lack of diversity by pointing out the lack of Black members in Abraham Lincoln's cabinet. Or maybe it was for the time that Pierson said that slavery was part of America's "good history." Either seems to be top-notch qualifications for dealing with Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and a collection of Proud Boys.

Even the organizers from Women for Trump tried to warn the White House that things were getting out of hand. They got ignored. Because chaos is exactly what Trump wanted.

In fact, rather than see that the Capitol was secure, Trump's team helped push away hurdles to permits and a speaking spot for the most radical of those attending.

ProPublica shows how, immediately following the election, Ali Alexander began assembling "Stop the Steal" as a worst of the worst team — a Suicide Squad of politics, without the humor, and where the biggest thing that could be blow up was America. Alexander made it clear he was open to "working with racists." And racists signed on. Alexander made connections with Alex Jones and Roger Stone. With white nationalist Nick Fuentes. With an army of "Groypers," or, as Alexander called them, "America First young white men."

And he seemed to realize that these were "bad people." Only, he was okay with that. "Why can't bad people do good tasks? Why can't bad people fight for their country?"

Mix in Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and Alexander had assembled this whole sorry team under the banner of Stop the Steal. Everyone involved knew who they were. Everyone knew what they could do.

If there were concerns, Trump's team was more impressed by the ability of these white nationalists to turn out sizable crowds on a moment's notice. What did it matter if these were brutal, fascist, racist, what supremacists? They came when called and, really, wasn't that Trump's base in any case?

But while the Pierson and the members of Trump's White House team were fully aware of what was coming on January 6, they didn't share that information with police. The permits continued to indicate that there would be a number of small, disconnected events. And even though intelligence indicated that violence could happen, the scale of what they were anticipating seemed to make that threat seem miniscule.

An intelligence report from that day obtained by ProPublica shows that the Capitol Police expected a handful of rallies on Capitol grounds, the largest of which would be hosted by a group called One Nation Under God.
Law enforcement anticipated between 50 and 500 people at the gathering, assigning it the lowest possible threat score and predicting a 1% to 5% chance of arrests. The police gave much higher threat scores to two small anti-Trump demonstrations planned elsewhere in the city.

That the police were more concerned about two anti-Trump rallies seems … typical. But the suggested difference between what happened, and what was expected appears to be much larger than hearings and testimony have previously indicated. However, the police were set up.

One Nation Under God was a fake name used to trick the Capitol Police into giving Stop the Steal a permit, according to Stop the Steal organizer Kimberly Fletcher. Fletcher is president of Moms for America, a grassroots organization founded to combat "radical feminism."

Fletcher was seriously amused by how the police called to find out who was behind the rally and she was able to keep them away from the truth.

That name may have fooled the Park Police and Capitol Police into handing out a permit, and lulled everyone into a sense of false security on the morning of January 6. However, Pierson and the White House team were perfectly aware of the truth.

This means that Trump's White House staff — and likely Trump — were aware that a large group of white supremacists and militia were coming to town with plans to conduct a march on the Capitol. They not only didn't share this information with police, it seems highly probable they were also aware of, or involved in, creating the fake name that got Stop the Steal onto the ellipse. The whole rally that Trump encouraged to "fight like hell" was a rally that was never supposed to exist.

Emails Show Top Trump Aides Knew Violence Loomed On Jan. 6

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

On December 19, President Donald Trump blasted out a tweet to his 88 million followers, inviting supporters to Washington for a "wild" protest.

Earlier that week, one of his senior advisers had released a 36-page report alleging significant evidence of election fraud that could reverse Joe Biden's victory. "A great report," Trump wrote. "Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"

The tweet worked like a starter's pistol, with two pro-Trump factions competing to take control of the "big protest."

On one side stood Women for America First, led by Amy Kremer, a Republican operative who helped found the tea party movement. The group initially wanted to hold a kind of extended oral argument, with multiple speakers making their case for how the election had been stolen.

On the other was Stop the Steal, a new, more radical group that had recruited avowed racists to swell its ranks and wanted the President to share the podium with Alex Jones, the radio host banned from the world's major social media platforms for hate speech, misinformation and glorifying violence. Stop the Steal organizers say their plan was to march on the Capitol and demand that lawmakers give Trump a second term.

ProPublica has obtained new details about the Trump White House's knowledge of the gathering storm, after interviewing more than 50 people involved in the events of January 6 and reviewing months of private correspondence. Taken together, these accounts suggest that senior Trump aides had been warned the January 6 events could turn chaotic, with tens of thousands of people potentially overwhelming ill-prepared law enforcement officials.

Rather than trying to halt the march, Trump and his allies accommodated its leaders, according to text messages and interviews with Republican operatives and officials.

Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign official assigned by the White House to take charge of the rally planning, helped arrange a deal where those organizers deemed too extreme to speak at the Ellipse could do so on the night of January 5. That event ended up including incendiary speeches from Jones and Ali Alexander, the leader of Stop the Steal, who fired up his followers with a chant of "Victory or death!"

The record of what White House officials knew about January 6 and when they knew it remains incomplete. Key officials, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, declined to be interviewed for this story.

The second impeachment of President Trump focused mostly on his public statements, including his January 6 exhortation that the crowd march on the Capitol and "fight like hell." Trump was acquitted by the Senate, and his lawyers insisted that the attack on the Capitol was both regrettable and unforeseeable.

Rally organizers interviewed by ProPublica said they did not expect Jan. 6 to culminate with the violent sacking of the Capitol. But they acknowledged they were worried about plans by the Stop the Steal movement to organize an unpermitted march that would reach the steps of the building as Congress gathered to certify the election results.

One of the Women for America First organizers told ProPublica he and his group felt they needed to urgently warn the White House of the possible danger.

"A last-minute march, without a permit, without all the metro police that'd usually be there to fortify the perimeter, felt unsafe," Dustin Stockton said in a recent interview.

"And these people aren't there for a fucking flower contest," added Jennifer Lynn Lawrence, Stockton's fiancee and co-organizer. "They're there because they're angry."

Stockton said he and Kremer initially took their concerns to Pierson. Feeling that they weren't gaining enough traction, Stockton said, he and Kremer agreed to call Meadows directly.

Kremer, who has a personal relationship with Meadows dating back to his early days in Congress, said she would handle the matter herself. Soon after, Kremer told Stockton "the White House would take care of it," which he interpreted to mean she had contacted top officials about the march.

Kremer denied that she ever spoke with Meadows or any other White House official about her January 6 concerns. "Also, no one on my team was talking to them that I was aware of," she said in an email to ProPublica. Meadows declined to comment on whether he'd been contacted.

A Dec. 27 text from Kremer obtained by ProPublica casts doubt on her assertion. Written at a time when her group was pressing to control the upcoming Jan. 6 rally, it refers to Alexander and Cindy Chafian, an activist who worked closely with Alex Jones. "The WH and team Trump are aware of the situation with Ali and Cindy," Kremer wrote. "I need to be the one to handle both." Kremer did not answer questions from ProPublica about the text.

So far, congressional and law enforcement reconstructions of January 6 have established failures of preparedness and intelligence sharing by the U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI and the Pentagon, which is responsible for deploying the D.C. National Guard.

But those reports have not addressed the role of White House officials in the unfolding events and whether officials took appropriate action before or during the rally. Legislation that would have authorized an independent commission to investigate further was quashed by Senate Republicans.

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would create a select committee to investigate Jan. 6 that would not require Republican support. It's not certain whether Meadows and other aides would be willing to testify. Internal White House dealings have historically been subject to claims of "executive privilege" by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Our reporting raises new questions that will not be answered unless Trump insiders tell the story of that day. It remains unclear, for example, precisely what Meadows and other White House officials learned of safety concerns about the march and whether they took those reports seriously.

The former president has a well-established pattern of bolstering far-right groups while he and his aides attempt to maintain some distance. Following the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump at first appeared to tacitly support torch-bearing white supremacists, later backing off. And in one presidential debate, he appeared to offer encouragement to the Proud Boys, a group of street brawlers who claim to protect Trump supporters, his statement triggering a dramatic spike in their recruitment. Trump later disavowed his support.

ProPublica has learned that White House officials worked behind the scenes to prevent the leaders of the march from appearing on stage and embarrassing the president. But Trump then undid those efforts with his speech, urging the crowd to join the march on the Capitol organized by the very people who had been blocked from speaking.

"And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore," he said.

One Nation Under God

On Nov. 5, as Joe Biden began to emerge as the likely winner of the 2020 presidential election, a far-right provocateur named Ali Alexander assembled a loose collection of right-wing activists to help Trump maintain the presidency.

Alexander approached the cause of overturning the election with an almost messianic fervor. In private text messages, he obsessed over gaining attention from Trump and strategized about how to draw large, angry crowds in support of him.

On Nov. 7, the group held simultaneous protests in all 50 states.

Seven days later, its members traveled to Washington for the Million MAGA March, which drew tens of thousands. The event is now considered by many to be a precursor of Jan. 6.

Alexander united them under the battle cry "Stop the Steal," a phrase originally coined by former Trump adviser Roger Stone, whom Alexander has called a friend. (Stone launched a short-lived organization of the same name in 2016.) To draw such crowds, Alexander made clear Stop the Steal would collaborate with anyone who supported its cause, no matter how extreme their views.

"We're willing to work with racists," he said on one livestream in December. Alexander did not return requests for comment made by email, by voicemail, to his recent attorney or to Stop the Steal PAC's designated agent.

As he worked to expand his influence, Alexander found a valuable ally in Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist at the helm of the popular far-right website InfoWars. Jones, who first gained notoriety for spreading a lie that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, had once counted more than two million YouTube subscribers and 800,000 Twitter followers before being banned from both platforms.

Alexander also collaborated with Nick Fuentes, the 22-year-old leader of the white nationalist "Groyper" movement.

"Thirty percent of that crowd was Alex Jones' crowd," Alexander said on another livestream, referring to the Million MAGA March on November 14. "And there were thousands and thousands of Groypers — America First young white men. … Even if you thought these were bad people, why can't bad people do good tasks? Why can't bad people fight for their country?"

Alexander's willingness to work with such people sparked conflict even within his inner circle.

"Is Nick Fuentes now a prominent figure in Stop the Steal?" asked Brandon Straka, an openly gay conservative activist, in a November text message, obtained exclusively by ProPublica. "I find him disgusting," Straka said, pointing to Fuentes' vehemently anti-LGBT views.

Alexander saw more people and more power. He wrote that Fuentes was "very valuable" at "putting bodies in places," and that both Jones and Fuentes were "willing to push bodies … where we point."

Straka, Fuentes and Jones did not respond to requests for comment.

Right-wing leaders who had once known each other only peripherally were now feeling a deeper sense of camaraderie. In an interview, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio described how he felt as he walked alongside Jones through the crowds assembled in Washington on Nov. 14, after Jones had asked the Proud Boys to act as his informal bodyguards.

"That was the moment we really united everybody under one banner," he said. "That everyone thought, 'Fuck you, this is what we can do.'" According to Tarrio, the Proud Boys nearly tripled in numbers around this time, bringing in over 20,000 new members. "November was the seed that sparked that flower on Jan. 6," he said.

The crowds impressed people like Tom Van Flein, chief of staff for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). Van Flein told ProPublica he kept in regular contact with Alexander while Gosar led the effort in Congress to shoot down the election certification. "Ali was very talented and put on some very good rallies on short notice," Van Flein said. "Great turnout."

But as January 6 drew nearer, the Capitol Police became increasingly concerned by the disparate elements that formed the rank and file of the organization.

"Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence, may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike," the Capitol Police wrote in a January 3 intelligence assessment.

Yet the police force, for all its concern, wound up effectively blindsided by what happened on January 6.

An intelligence report from that day obtained by ProPublica shows that the Capitol Police expected a handful of rallies on Capitol grounds, the largest of which would be hosted by a group called One Nation Under God.

Law enforcement anticipated between 50 and 500 people at the gathering, assigning it the lowest possible threat score and predicting a one percent to five percent chance of arrests. The police gave much higher threat scores to two small anti-Trump demonstrations planned elsewhere in the city.

However, One Nation Under God was a fake name used to trick the Capitol Police into giving Stop the Steal a permit, according to Stop the Steal organizer Kimberly Fletcher. Fletcher is president of Moms for America, a grassroots organization founded to combat "radical feminism."

"Everybody was using different names because they didn't want us to be there," Fletcher said, adding that Alexander and his allies experimented with a variety of aliases to secure permits for the east front of the Capitol. Laughing, Fletcher recalled how the police repeatedly called her "trying to find out who was who."

A Senate report on security failures during the Capitol riot released earlier this month suggests that at least one Capitol Police intelligence officer had suspicions about this deceptive strategy, but that leadership failed to appreciate it — yet another example of an intelligence breakdown.

On December 31, the officer sent an email expressing her concerns that the permit requests were "being used as proxies for Stop the Steal" and that those requesting permits "may also be involved with organizations that may be planning trouble" on January 6.

A Capitol Police spokesperson told ProPublica on April 2, "Our intelligence suggested one or more groups were affiliated with Stop the Steal," after we asked for a copy of the One Nation Under God permit, which they declined to provide.

Yet 18 days later, Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told congressional investigators that she believed the permit requests had been properly vetted and that they were not granted to anyone affiliated with Stop the Steal. Pittman did not respond to ProPublica requests for comment.

Last week, a Capitol Police spokesperson told ProPublica, "The Department knew that Stop the Steal and One Nation Under God organizers were likely associated," but added that the police believed denying a permit based on "assumed associations" would be a First Amendment violation. "The Department did, however, take the likely association into account when making decisions to enhance its security posture."

Kenneth Harrelson, an Oath Keeper who allegedly ran the far-right group's "ground team" in D.C. on January 6, went to Washington to provide security for Alexander, according to Harrelson's wife. Harrelson has pleaded not guilty to felony charges in connection with the riot and is one of the Oath Keepers at the center of a major Department of Justice conspiracy case.

Harrelson's wife, Angel Harrelson, said in an interview with ProPublica that her husband was excited to visit Washington for the first time, especially to provide security for an important person, but that he lost Alexander in the chaos that consumed the Capitol and decided to join the crowd inside.

"Historic Day!"

As the movement hurtled toward Jan. 6, what started as a loosely united coalition quickly splintered, dividing into two competing groups that vied for power and credit.

On one side, Alexander and Jones had emerged as a new, more extreme element within the Republican grassroots ecosystem.

Their chief opposition was the organization Women for America First, helmed by Kremer and other veterans of the tea party movement, itself once viewed as the Republican fringe. Kremer was an early backer of Trump, and her tea party work helped get Mark Meadows elected to the House of Representatives in 2012.

The schism was rooted in an ideological dispute. Kremer felt Alexander's agenda and tactics were too extreme; Alexander wanted to distinguish Stop the Steal by being more directly confrontational than Kremer's group and the tea party. "Our movement is masculine in nature," he said in a livestream.

Trump promoted both groups' events online at various times.

Stop the Steal, through its alias One Nation Under God, obtained a Capitol Police permit to rally on Capitol grounds, while Kremer and Women for America First controlled the National Park Service permit for a large gathering on the White House Ellipse.

Alexander and Jones wanted to speak at the Ellipse rally, but Kremer was opposed. The provocateurs found a powerful ally in Caroline Wren, an elite Republican fundraiser with connections to the Trump family, particularly Donald Trump Jr. and his partner, Kimberly Guilfoyle. Wren had raised money for the Ellipse rally and pushed to get Alexander and Jones on stage, according to six people involved in the January 6 rally and emails reviewed by ProPublica.

Pierson, the Trump campaign official, had initially been asked by Wren to help mediate the conflict. But Pierson shared Kremer's concern that Jones and Alexander were too unpredictable. Pierson and Wren declined to comment.

On Jan. 2, the fighting became so intense that Pierson asked senior White House officials how she should handle the situation, according to a person familiar with White House communications. The officials agreed that Alexander and Jones should not be on the stage and told Pierson to take charge of the event.

The next morning, Trump announced to the world that he would attend the rally at the Ellipse. "I will be there. Historic day!" he tweeted. This came as a surprise to both rally organizers and White House staff, each of whom told ProPublica they hadn't been informed he intended to speak at the rally.

That same day, a website went live promoting a march on Jan. 6. It instructed demonstrators to meet at the Ellipse, then march to the Capitol at 1 p.m. to "let the establishment know we will fight back against this fraudulent election. … The fate of our nation depends on it."

Alexander and his allies fired off these instructions across social media.

While Kremer and her group had held legally permitted marches at previous D.C. rallies and promoted all their events with the hashtag #marchfortrump, this time their permit specifically barred them from holding an "organized march." Rally organizers were concerned that violating their permit could create a legal liability for themselves and pose significant danger to the public, said Stockton, a political consultant with tea party roots who spent weeks with Kremer as they held rallies across the country in support of the president.

Lawrence and Stockton's fellow organizers contacted Pierson to inform her that the march was unpermitted, according to Stockton and three other people familiar with the situation.

While ProPublica has independently confirmed that senior White House officials, including Meadows, were involved in the broader effort to limit Alexander's role on January 6, it remains unclear just how far the rally organizers went to warn officials of their specific fears about the march.

Another source present for communications between Amy Kremer and her daughter and fellow organizer, Kylie Kremer, told ProPublica that on January 3, Kylie Kremer called her mother in desperation about the march.

Kylie Kremer asked her mom to escalate the situation to higher levels of the White House, and her mother said she would work on it, according to the source, who could hear the conversation on speakerphone. "You need to call right now," the source remembered the younger Kremer saying.

The source said that Kylie Kremer suggested Meadows as a person to contact around that time.

The source said that in a subsequent conversation, Amy Kremer told her daughter she would take the matter to Eric Trump's wife, Lara Trump. The source said that Kremer was in frequent contact with Lara Trump at the time.

Stockton said that he was not aware of Kremer talking to the family about January 6, but added that Kremer regularly communicates with the Trump family, including Lara Trump. He also said that Kremer gave him the distinct impression that she had contacted Meadows about the march.

Through his adviser Ben Williamson, Meadows declined to comment on whether the organizers contacted him regarding the march.

Lara Trump, who spoke at the Ellipse on January 6, did not immediately respond to a voicemail and text message asking for comment or to an inquiry left on her website. Eric Trump did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Kremer did not answer questions from ProPublica about communications with Lara Trump. Donald Trump's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House, at the time, was scrambling from one crisis to the next. On January 2, Trump and Meadows called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump pressed Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" that would swing the state tally his way. On January 3, the president met with Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and urged him to do what he could to protect Trump's supporters on January 6.

Meanwhile, Wren, the Republican fundraiser, was continuing to advocate for Jones and Alexander to play a prominent role at the Ellipse rally, according to emails and multiple sources.

A senior White House official suggested to Pierson that she resolve the dispute by going to the president himself, according to a source familiar with the matter.

On Jan. 4, Pierson met with Trump in the Oval Office. Trump expressed surprise that other people wanted to speak at the Ellipse at all. His request for the day was simple: He wanted lots of music and to limit the speakers to himself, some family members and a few others, according to the source and emails reviewed by ProPublica. The president asked if there was another venue where people like Alexander and Roger Stone could speak.

Pierson assured him there was. She informed the president that there was another rally scheduled the night before the election certification where those who lost their opportunity to speak at the Ellipse could still do so. It was meant as an olive branch extended between the competing factions, according to Stockton and two other sources.

Chafian, a reiki practitioner who'd been working closely with Alex Jones, was put in charge of the evening portion of the Jan. 5 event.

The speakers included Jones, Alexander, Stone, Michael Flynn and Three Percenter militia member Jeremy Liggett, who wore a flak jacket and led a "Fuck antifa!" chant. (Liggett is now running for Congress.) Chafian had invited Proud Boy leader Tarrio to speak as well, but Tarrio was arrested the day before on charges that he had brought prohibited gun magazines to Washington and burned a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a church.

Tarrio told ProPublica that he did not know the flag was taken from a church and that the gun magazines were a custom-engraved gift for a friend. He has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of property destruction; the gun magazine charge is still pending indictment before a grand jury.

"Thank you, Proud Boys!" Chafian shouted at the end of her speech. "The Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters — all of those guys keep you safe."

Wren, however, would not back down. On the morning of Jan. 6, she arrived at the Ellipse before dawn and began arranging the seats. Jones and Alexander moved toward the front. Organizers were so worried that Jones and Alexander might try to rush the stage that Pierson contacted a senior White House official to see how aggressive she could get in her effort to contain Wren.

After discussing several options, the official suggested she call the United States Park Police and have Wren escorted off the premises.

Pierson relayed this to Kylie Kremer, who contacted the police. Officers arrived, but ultimately took no action.

By 9 a.m.,Trump supporters had arrived in droves: nuns and bikers, men in American flag suits, a line of Oath Keepers. Signs welcomed the crowd with the words "Save America March."

Kylie Kremer greeted them gleefully. "What's up, deplorables!" she said from the stage.

Wren escorted Jones and Alexander out of the event early, as they prepared to lead their march on the Capitol.

At 11:57 a.m, Trump got on stage and, after a rambling speech, gave his now infamous directive. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong," he said. "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard."

Lawrence, Dustin Stockton's fiancee and co-organizer, remembers her shock.

"What the fuck is this motherfucker talking about?" Lawrence, an ardent Trump supporter, said of the former president.

In the coming hours, an angry mob would force its way into the building. Protesters smashed windows with riot shields stolen from cops, ransacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's chambers, and inflicted an estimated $1.5 million of damage. Roughly 140 police officers were injured. One was stabbed with a metal fence stake and another had spinal discs smashed, according to union officials.

The Stop the Steal group chat shows a reckoning with these events in real time.

"They stormed the capital," wrote Stop the Steal national coordinator Michael Coudrey in a text message at 2:33 p.m. "Our event is on delay."

"I'm at the Capitol and just joined the breach!!!" texted Straka, who months earlier had raised concerns about allying with white nationalists. "I just got gassed! Never felt so fucking alive in my life!!!"

Alexander and Coudrey advised the group to leave.

"Everyone get out of there," Alexander wrote. "The FBI is coming hunting."

In the months since, the Department of Justice has charged more than 400 people for their actions at the Capitol, including more than 20 alleged Proud Boys, over a dozen alleged Oath Keepers, and Straka. It's unclear from court records whether Straka has yet entered a plea.

In emails to ProPublica, Coudrey declined to answer questions about Stop the Steal. "I just really don't care about politics anymore," he said. "It's boring."

Meadows, now a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute, a think tank in Washington, appeared on Fox News on Jan. 27, delivering one of the first public remarks on the riot from a former Trump White House official. He encouraged the GOP to "get on" from Jan. 6 and focus on "what's important to the American people." Neither Meadows nor anyone else who worked in the Trump White House at the time has had to answer questions as part of the various inquiries currently proceeding in Congress.

Alexander has kept a low profile since January 6. But in private, texts show, he has encouraged his allies to prepare for "civil war."

"Don't denounce anything," he messaged his inner circle in January regarding the Capitol riot. "You don't want to be on the opposite side of freedom fighters in the coming conflict. Veterans will be looking for civilian political leaders."

Kirsten Berg and Lynn Dombek contributed additional reporting.

Trump For House Speaker Is A Bannon Brainstorm

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Following former President Donald Trump's June 4 remark that the idea of becoming speaker of the House after the 2022 midterm election is "very interesting" to him, political media has been abuzz with speculation. The idea has been making rounds in right-wing spheres in various iterations since January, when it was first championed by former White House chief strategist, election conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, and enchanted pile of dirty laundry Steve Bannon.

On January 21, conservative influencer Rogan O'Handley, who goes by "DC Draino" online, appeared on Bannon's show War Room: Pandemic to discuss his tweet, in which he had proposed that "Trump run for Congress in Florida in '22" and become speaker of the House, after which he can "impeach Kamala" -- a remark that suggests Biden would not be president in 2023.


During the show, Bannon effusively praised O'Handley's idea. He said the possibility of Trump, the only former president to incite an insurrection, becoming speaker in 2023 means "we don't have to wait until 2024 to have a presidential election. This nationalizes the midterm elections" and "gives a unifying message" for Trump's base to rally around.

Bannon also correctly noted that Trump could be elected speaker without being a member of Congress, and he endorsed focusing on winning "the House of Representatives, [which is] what thwarted Donald J. Trump" in his last two years in office. O'Handley implored Trump to not "let them end your presidency by what they did to you, get revenge plus take back the country." (Just over a month after this appearance, O'Handley was permanently banned from Twitter for "repeated violations of its civic integrity policy.")

In February, Bannon floated the idea in remarks he gave to the Boston area West Roxbury Ward 20 Republican Committee. According to the Boston Herald, Bannon said Trump's base will "totally get rid of" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the midterms "and the first act of President Trump as speaker will be to impeach Joe Biden for his illegitimate activities of stealing the presidency."

In April, right-wing publication the Washington Examiner ran a piece with the headline "Buzz: Trump for speaker and Pence unlikely to head Heritage." The opinion piece cited former CNN commentator Ed Martin, who said, "I'm serious. We need the Trump voters. … With the possibility of having Donald Trump as speaker, conservative voter turnout would be through the roof nationwide."

Trump's June 4 remarks to his friend and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root calling the idea "very interesting" thrust the simmering rumor back into the spotlight. On June 5, Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz noted on Fox & Friends Weekend that "you don't need to be a member of Congress to be elected the speaker of the House," saying Trump becoming the speaker "would make for great TV."

On the morning of June 7, Fox Business' Stuart Varney asked Trump about a potential run in 2022, to which Trump said it was "highly unlikely" he would seek a seat in the House of Representatives.

Still, Bannon remains bullish on the idea. The same day as Trump's comment to Varney, Bannon appeared on right-wing radio personality John Fredericks' show and said, "Donald Trump will take over, at least on an interim basis, as speaker of the House to take the gavel from Nancy Pelosi and then to gavel in the impeachment panel to impeach Joe Biden." He credited O'Handley for originating the idea and said, "I helped take it to the next level. He wanted him to run for Congress. You do not have to be a member of Congress to be speaker."

Steve Bannon Predicts Trump will Become U.S. House Speaker in 2023 www.youtube.com

Not everyone in Trump's orbit is in line with Bannon's latest scheme. For his part, dirty trickster Roger Stone, who has despised Bannon for years, said in a video posted online on June 6, "So, sloppy Steve Bannon thinks that former President Trump should run for the House of Representatives, become speaker, and lead the impeachment of Joe Biden. Here's the problem with this plan: What happens if Trump himself is elected to Congress, but the feckless, gutless, weak-kneed Republicans fail to take a majority?"

Gaetz Crony Greenberg To Plead Guilty On Six Counts -- And Cooperate With Feds

ORLANDO, Fla. – Joel Greenberg, Seminole County’s disgraced former tax collector, has agreed to plead guilty to six federal crimes — including sex trafficking of a child — in a deal that calls for him to cooperate with federal investigators, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement. The deal, which will be made official during a Monday morning court hearing Greenberg is required to attend, marks a turning point in the sprawling federal investigation that has roiled Florida politics and reportedly taken aim at Greenberg’s friend and ally U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz. In addition to traffic...

Gaetz Exposure Deepens With New Evidence Of Trump Pardon Effort

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene were about to kick off a road show, traveling the nation to attack "the radical left" and insufficiently extremist Republicans. And then the other shoe dropped in the ever-developing scandal around Gaetz's apparent habit of paying for sex, in one case allegedly with a minor.

That scandal has been developing for a month, starting with the revelation that Gaetz is under federal investigation as part of a broader sex trafficking investigation involving former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg, who is under indictment already. Gaetz initially tried to deflect by claiming his family was being extorted in a bizarre scheme involving a hostage in Iran who is generally believed to be dead—a claim that Gaetz mostly moved on from when it became clear that no one thought it exonerated him.

Revelation after revelation followed: Gaetz had showed nude pictures of women to fellow members of Congress. As a Florida legislator, he participated in a sex game in which points were awarded for sex with different categories of women, including interns. He took a trip to the Bahamas paid for in part by a "marijuana entrepreneur" … and part of what was paid for may have included women.

So we've already heard a lot. Really, we've probably heard more than enough about Matt Gaetz and sex, because even before you get to the predatory behavior, just … ick. But there is more.

Gaetz typically didn't pay women for sex directly — instead, he paid Greenberg, who then paid the women. That means Greenberg knows a lot, and since Greenberg is facing significant legal trouble, he appears to be motivated to talk. But before he started talking to the federal government, Greenberg talked to Roger Stone in late 2020 in hopes that Stone could convince Donald Trump to give him a last-minute pardon.

Greenberg talked to Stone a lot, and The Daily Beast has the receipts in the form of Signal chats between Greenberg and Stone, and a lengthy confession letter Greenberg wrote for Stone to use in his efforts with Trump. Of note, Gaetz had at one point posted a social media picture of himself, Stone, and Greenberg.

In the letter, of which The Daily Beast has multiple drafts, Greenberg describes learning through "an anonymous tip" that a woman—well, as it turned out, girl—in his and Gaetz's sex trafficking scheme was 17 years old.

"Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage," Greenberg wrote. "He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation."

They were so shocked and disturbed that they stayed away from the girl only until after she turned 18. She was one of the women paid by Greenberg immediately after Gaetz sent him $900 through Venmo with the note "hit up [her nickname]."

In his communications with Stone, Greenberg was hanging his argument for a pardon in part on the threat to Gaetz. "And while I have not had any communication with MG, he absolutely has to know that the sex charge they hit me with would be what they would hit him with," he wrote in one of the Signal messages. "All he has to is explain to POTUS the situation and his exposure, and it would be very easy to do."

"MG is like a son to POTUS. MG is like a brother to me."

Well, we know how far "like a son" goes with Donald Trump, and now we know how far "like a brother" goes with Matt Gaetz. And to Greenberg, who seems to have been screen-shotting his Signal chats with Stone before they could disappear, in just one of a series of insurance policies he set up for himself should the pardon effort fail, as it did.

Gaetz is defiant and is attempting to remain a significant figure in the Republican Party, as his planned tour with Greene shows. But even before the investigation into him became public, it was serious enough that then-Attorney General William Barr was reportedly taking steps to avoid being photographed near him. Attacking the media will only go so far if and when he faces federal charges.