Hunter Walker of Rolling Stone interviewed two anonymous Republican activists who helped organize the January 6 rally at the Ellipse where President Trump ordered his supporters to "take back their country" just before the mob assaulted the Capitol. Legislators had gathered there to certify Joe Biden's victory. Trump was impeached largely based on the statements he made at that rally.
These two anonymous sources, identified as "an organizer" and "a planner," say they are in contact with the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection and both expect to be called to testify. MAGAland is a hive of deceit and vainglory, so proceed with caution.
The Rolling Stone piece has gotten a lot of attention based on Planner and Organizer's vague assertion that various extremist Republican members of Congress were involved in planning the rally on the Ellipse in some capacity. Some, like Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, spoke at the rally, which implies at least some level of cooperation. Another explosive claim is that Rep. Paul Gosar promised blanket pardons, which he said had been approved by Trump. Maybe, maybe not. If Walker inquired as to why pardons would be an incentive for an event conceived as a peaceful protest, the piece makes no mention of it.
But here's where the story really gets interesting: "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."
This sentence reminded me of a June 25 story by Josh Kaplan and Joaquin Sapien of ProPublica entitled "New Details Suggest Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic." Their story delves into a power struggle within MAGAland in the run-up to January 6. The story makes a strong case, backed by named sources and text messages, that the White House was warned by their own organizers that Stop the Steal was planning a potentially violent march on the Capitol.
On December 19, Donald Trump issued a Twitter invitation to his followers: "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!" Thus began a bitter intra-MAGA power struggle over which faction was going to organize the protest and what would take place.
One faction included Tea Party co-founder Amy Kremer, the head of the anti-feminist organization Women for America First, and Steve Bannon associate Dustin Stockman. This faction allegedly wanted to hold an "extended oral argument" on January 6 detailing their (non-existent) evidence of systemic election fraud. Kremer and her allies got the upper hand and secured the permit for the main rally on the Ellipse, at which the soon-to-be-ex president spoke on January 6.
The more extreme faction was Stop the Steal, led by Ali Alexander, and featuring conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, dirty trickster Roger Stone, anti-feminist Kimberly Fletcher and retired reki practitioner turned right wing organizer Cindy Chafian. Alexander openly embraced paramilitary groups like Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and racists like Nick Fuentes and the groypers. Stop the Steal favored a confrontational approach.
So much so that they doubted they could get a permit to rally under their real name, given the violence and intimidation that had marred previous Stop the Steal events across the country. A Stop the Steal organizer confirmed to ProPublica that "One Nation Under God" was a front name used to get their permit to rally on Capitol grounds. Alexander later bragged in a livestream that Reps. Gosar, Brooks and Andy Biggs helped him come up with the idea for a march to put maximum pressure on lawmakers gathered to certify the election.
Ellipse organizers told ProPublica that as January 6 approached, they worried Stop the Steal was planning an unauthorized march that would arrive at the Capitol just as election results were being certified.
Bannon associate Dustin Stockton told ProPublica that he and Amy Kremer, the Tea Party co-founder, tried warning former White House employee Katrina Pierson about the danger posed by Stop the Steal's march. When that didn't work, Stockman said, they took their concerns up the chain of command to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Kremer now denies doing so, but the record says otherwise.
"The WH and team Trump are aware of the situation with Ali and Cindy," Kremer wrote in a text message obtained by ProPublica.
Rolling Stone appears to describe a dynamic very similar to the one laid out in the ProPublica piece: Ellipse organizers getting nervous about Stop the Steal's capacity for violence, reaching out to Katrina Pierson with their concerns and finally to Mark Meadows.
"Katrina was like our go-to girl," Organizer told Rolling Stone. "She was like our primary advocate." Rolling Stone continues:
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.
Amy Kremer has been subpoenaed to testify, as of October 25.
Dustin Stockman has not.