Why Evidence That Trump Planned a Capitol March Matters

Comment

Sometime in the days leading up to the riot on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, President Donald Trump looked at a piece of paper. There was a draft tweet on it focusing on the speech he would be giving that morning, encouraging people to attend. The paper, given to the National Archives and then to the select committee of the Chamber responsible for investigating the riot, is stamped with three words: “The president has seen”.

It’s an interesting insight into Trump’s process for getting messages out on social media, sure. But the reason this particular document is important — important enough to warrant its inclusion in the House committee hearing on Tuesday — is that it included a plea that was not otherwise included in Trump’s message to his base. .

“I will give a great speech at 10 a.m. on January 6,” it reads, with the characteristically idiosyncratic capitalization he favors. A little later, the key element: “March to the Capitol after”.

The tweet was not sent. But it does indicate how early Trump and his team envisioned such a march, a dramatic escalation in the threat posed to Capitol Hill that his lawyers would have strongly opposed.

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data bulletin from Philip Bump

Why the “march” itself (effectively an informal movement of the crowd gathered for Trump’s speech outside the White House to Capitol Hill) was important is obvious but important to articulate. The Capitol was overrun largely because of its scale. Law enforcement on site was unable to restrain thousands of furious Trump supporters. It was a magnitude of force that some, like members of the Proud Boys, considered important in being able to influence what happened that day. The first barriers of the Capitol were breached before the crowd for his speech at the Ellipse arrived. But the Capitol itself was not breached until it did.

Shortly after the riot, the question of when the Ellipse’s move to the Capitol was first considered arose. There was no permit for a march between the two sites, despite long-standing plans that included elements both outside the White House and on Capitol Hill. Organizers linked to the coordination group planning the speech at the Ellipse said there was an internal debate over whether a march should be explicitly advocated. Dustin Stockton, one such organizer, said he learned the side opposing the march only lost when Trump explicitly advocated for a march during his speech.

During testimony before the House committee last week, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson explained how Trump’s lawyers object to him taking this approach.

“Eric Herschmann said something like, ‘Please make sure we’re not going to the Capitol,'” Hutchinson said of one of Trump’s lawyers. “‘We’re going to be charged with every crime imaginable if we make this move happen.’ White House attorney Pat Cipollone testified Hutchinson, “worried that we would look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot to break out on Capitol Hill.”

The fact that Trump’s marching tweet was never sent suggests that he and/or his team got the message that it shouldn’t be part of the plan. But the Jan. 6 committee revealed further evidence that the White House was quietly planning a march as part of the day’s activity.

Kylie Kremer is one of the leaders of Women for America First, which led the January 6 activity. The day of Trump’s tweet encouraging people to come to DC – “will be wild!” – Kremer promoted his organization’s plans for Jan. 6, including a “march for Trump.”

Details had yet to be worked out, but on January 1, Trump retweeted Kremer’s call.

On Jan. 4, Kremer reached out to Trump’s staunch ally, MyPillow company CEO Mike Lindell. A text message obtained by the House committee read:

“It just stays between us, we have a second leg to the Supreme Court again after the timeskip. POTUS is going to walk us there / the Capitol.

“He can’t get out of step two because people are going to try to put in another one and sabotage it. He also can’t get out of step because I’ll get in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS will just call it “unexpectedly””

Another post from Ali Alexander, leader of the post-election “Stop the Steal” effort, outlines the plan for Jan. 6. “Tomorrow: Ellipse, then US Capitol,” reads the message obtained by the committee. “Trump is supposed to order us to the Capitol at the end of his speech, but we’ll see.” Alexander, too, had rushed to hatch a plan in response to Trump’s “wild” tweet, quickly registering “WildProtest.com.” This demonstration, aimed at Capitol Hill, was integrated into a larger day of action.

But, again, Trump wasn’t supposed to push people on Capitol Hill – until he just decided to during his speech. The speech evolved in the hours leading up to Trump, but it evolved further as he delivered it.

“One scripted reference to rally participants marching to the Capitol has grown to four,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) said at Tuesday’s hearing, “President Trump announced he would join the protesters at the Capitol.

A witness in the hearing, Capitol rioter Stephen Ayres, said he and others in the crowd took Trump’s pledge to join them at face value. Last week, Hutchinson testified that Trump tried to do just that, confronting his security personnel as he left the Ellipse and trying to get them to take him to the Capitol.

There had been numerous warnings against a march, so much so that a typical Trump tweet encouraging people to make the trip ended up being blocked. So much so that Kremer demanded secrecy about it, both because she knew her group didn’t have a permit for a march and because Trump would only make the call “unexpectedly.”

The plan was not spontaneous. And it was a plan that Trump’s lawyers would have feared would be seen as incitement to riot.

Leave a Comment