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A new Rolling Stone report claims multiple members of Congress helped plan former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss, and the Jan. 6 protests that ended in violence. Author Hunter Walker joins Yamiche Alcindor with more details.
An alarming new report from "Rolling Stone" alleges direct coordination among planners of the January 6 insurrection and high-profile Trump allies in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
Yamiche Alcindor explains.
The "Rolling Stone" article cites anonymous organizers who claim they coordinated with White House officials and Republican lawmakers multiple times in the weeks leading up to January 6.
I'm joined now by the author, Hunter Walker.
Thanks so thanks so much, Hunter, for being here.
Now, you were at the Capitol on January 6. You also talked to two of these individuals who were involved in planning the events that happened on January 6. What was the most important thing you learned about the former president, former President Trump's — his effort to try to overturn the election that he lost, as well as his possible involvement in January 6, after talking to these individuals?
Hunter Walker, Freelance Journalist:
I think the mere fact that these individuals who I confirmed were involved in planning and organizing the main rally on the Ellipse, as well as multiple protests against the election that happened in the weeks leading up to that day, I think the fact that they spoke to the press and the fact that they are communicating with the committee is pretty notable, in and of itself, because it means that, with this aggressive investigation heating up, people are starting to turn and cooperate with the government here.
And you are, of course, talking about the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack.
And I want to ask you about the multiple lawmakers that you write about in your article. Who were the lawmakers talking to organizers, and what were they saying?
So, both of my sources said they participated in — quote, unquote — "dozens of briefings" with Republican members of Congress and their staff. That included Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Mo Brooks, Madison Cawthorn, and Louie Gohmert.
And we have already had some indications that these members were involved in the efforts to overturn the election. They spoke at the events at the Ellipse. They were billed as speakers at this wild protest. Gosar headlined a Stop the Steal rally in Arizona.
But what they specifically described was these members sort of strategizing to help them pick state locations for protests that would target persuadable senators to join the objection. And they were also going back and forth trading — quote, unquote — "evidence" of supposed election fraud.
Obviously, any of that would have been baseless. But they described them as intimately involved in kind of plotting a grand show that day, both at the Ellipse and on the House floor.
And Representative Gosar dangled this idea of a blanket pardon.
Talk a bit about that, and explain that it was part of an unrelated ongoing investigation, but was also connected somehow to the events of January 6?
Given that these are cooperating witnesses in an ongoing investigation about a violent crime, I have granted them anonymity.
So I'm not describing the other legal matter in great detail, as it would point in the direction of who I spoke with. But it was an unrelated ongoing investigation. And, frankly, both of these sources told me they still believe in Trump's agenda. They still have questions about the election. They framed it as something they would have done anyway.
But they left with the strong impression that Gosar was saying, if you plan these events, if you help us out with this, you will be legally taken care of.
And based on your reporting, how much did the Trump White House know? In particular, how much did the White House chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows, how much did he know? And why is it problematic to have the chief of staff involved in a rally that was about supporting the president?
There's supposed to be a bright line between the White House staff and the political operation.
And this would certainly be a violation of that. But, of course, that was a pretty regular occurrence during the Trump years. But I think the key thing here is that, A, the highest-level people in the White House were allegedly in contact with these organizers, but, also, they frame Mark Meadows as someone who had an opportunity to tone this down and stop the violence.
But I think the key thing here is that Trump himself was the major player. They framed the moment that the president said, let's march to the Capitol, sort of encouraged the crowd to march, as a key turning point, where this went from the planned airing of objections to a charge toward the Capitol Dome.
There's a lot of reaction to your article.
On one side, you have Democrats who are saying that this really proved that lawmakers were involved in sort of really creating dangers for our democracy. On the other side, you have Republican lawmakers, some of them that are named in this article, saying, this is all ridiculous reporting.
What's your response to that?
Well, first off, there's a pile of indications prior to this that these lawmakers were involved to some degree.
Also, in addition to these two sources, in addition to the documentary evidence I obtained on my own, you have Nick Dyer, Marjorie Taylor Greene's spokesperson, while sort of trying to refute this, admitting that she was working on the objection.
I also had an unnamed House staffer who I also granted anonymity to discuss these sensitive matters who also seemed to confirm that there was some degree of planning meetings. So this isn't just two people. This isn't without evidence. And I think it's pretty clear. We may not know the exact specifics. This sort of presents one alleged theory. But members of Congress were involved in January 6.
Well, thank you so much, Hunter Walker. I appreciate you coming on.
Thanks for having me.
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Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; the moderator of Washington Week, the weekly public affairs show on PBS; and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC. She often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics as well as fatal police encounters. She is currently covering the administration of President Joe Biden and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Alex D'Elia is a politics production assistant for the PBS NewsHour. She can be reached at Adelia@newshour.org or on Twitter @AlexDEliaNews
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