One of the first formal indicators of a rally planned for Washington on that day was Trump’s encouraging people to show up. At the end of a Dec. 19 tweet about risible claims of electoral fraud, Trump offered his now-infamous exhortation: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” The next day, the domain WildProtest.com was registered, and in short order, the site was promoting a rally at the East Front of the Capitol as it helpfully provided information about booking rooms at area hotels.
The site appears to have been a project of right-wing provocateur Ali Alexander, who had been vacuuming up cash running “Stop the Steal,” similarly pegged to Trump’s false claims of election fraud. The post-election focus on imaginary fraud was lucrative for those seeking attention and money even outside of the West Wing. So, over the next few weeks, a number of other rallies were announced and permitted by the National Park Service or, for those events on Capitol Hill itself, the Capitol Police.
In the same period, the group Women for America First — itself an offshoot of the group Women For Trump, run by Kylie Kremer — requested a permit for a rally Jan. 6. (The Washington Post reported that it was after Dec. 19; the select committee has the permit being requested the same day as Trump’s tweet.) Over the next two weeks, this event became the focal point of Trump’s attention, with the Park Service granting a permit for a large event just south of the White House and Trump announcing his intent to speak.
In the days before Jan. 6, Alexander’s rally at the Capitol and the rally at the Ellipse were folded into one package, renamed the March to Save America. A rally was planned for the evening of Jan. 5, at which a number of fringier-right figures would speak. The morning of Jan. 6, there was the rally outside the White House and then the one at the Capitol. The website for the March to Save America was updated to invite people to attend Trump’s speech and, then, “at 1:00 PM, we protest at US Capitol.” WildProtest.com similarly promoted the three-part package. There was no march to the Capitol included in the permits granted by the Park Service, but the permit did note that “some participants may leave to attend rallies at the United States Capitol to hear the results of Congressional certification of the Electoral College count.”
Many participants did indeed proceed to the Capitol.
The subpoenas issued by the select committee Wednesday focus on the individuals identified as rally organizers in the permit for the rally at the Ellipse, including Kremer and her mother, Amy Kremer. They do not, however, include those who sought permits from the Capitol Police for rallies there.
This is a noticeable gap. It’s not just that the rally at the Capitol was an early indicator of what was to come or that it was obviously located right at the place where violence broke out on the day of the riot. It’s also that the rally was obviously a function of the fringier elements of Trump’s coalition and included close allies of Trump’s. (A question posed to the committee about the lack of a subpoena centered on the Capitol rally was not answered by the time of publication.)
The permit for the rally at the East Front of the Capitol, obtained by BuzzFeed News, was issued to a group called One Nation Under God, pretty clearly a contrived name. (A Capitol Police officer reviewing the permit noticed that the permit appeared to be linked to Alexander and the WildProtest site, but it was nonetheless granted, with the determination that violence was “highly improbable.”) By Dec. 23, the Capitol Police was informed that Alexander was planning to speak at the rally alongside Republican Reps. Mo Brooks (Ala.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.). Alexander would later say that both of those lawmakers helped “scheme up” the plan to pressure Congress on Jan. 6. A week later, the speaking lineup had been expanded to include longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone and others.
ProPublica reported in June that the merger of the fringe rally at the Capitol and the one at the Ellipse had prompted some concern among organizers. It obtained a text message from Amy Kremer sent Dec. 27: “The WH and team Trump are aware of the situation with Ali and Cindy. I need to be the one to handle both.” The “Cindy” referred to in the message is Cindy Chafian, who had submitted permit applications on behalf of Kremer’s group but also was working with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who’d helped sponsor Jan. 6 events in exchange for a speaking slot. (Kylie Kremer alleges that at a rally in December, Jones threatened to push her off the stage.) Jones and Stone both ended up being shunted onto the lineup for the rally on the evening of Jan. 5.
That apparently was a result of the White House’s intervention. According to ProPublica, Trump aide Katrina Pierson assured the president on Jan. 4 that the rally on the morning of Jan. 6 would be about him and his speech and that people such as Alexander and Jones would not speak. Chafian was put in charge of the evening event, and hers is the name on the permit granted by the Park Service.
The subpoenas issued by the Jan. 6 select committee do dip into this overlap. Chafian is among those included in the current batch of subpoenas, with the letter sent to her focusing both on the original permit she requested on behalf of Kremer’s group and on the Jan. 5 event. Pierson also has been subpoenaed, with the ProPublica reporting on her conversation with Trump being identified as an area of inquiry. In the committee’s earlier subpoenas, it requested that the National Archives provide copies of any communication between the White House and Jones, Stone, Alexander and others. But there is no subpoena centered on the permitting for the rally at the Capitol.
That certainly doesn’t mean that none will come; the committee’s work is still in its early stages. But this stands out as a gap. There was a rally planned for the Capitol grounds organized by far-right allies of the president’s and at which a close ally of Trump’s, Stone, was to speak. (Stone also was seen on the morning of Jan. 6 with a security detail made up of people from the far-right group the Oath Keepers, some of whose members helped to lead the storming of the Capitol.) The rally was reportedly coordinated in part with members of Congress (whose communications the committee in July probably ordered be preserved).
It is an area in which the committee will need to shed light but which, at this time, remains stubbornly in the dark.