Justice Dept. Investigation of Jan. 6 Confronts Sprawling Cast of Characters
Among the challenges facing the federal grand jury recently empaneled to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is the sheer number of people who might have information relevant to its inquiry.
According to a subpoena issued by the grand jury, prosecutors are asking for records about people who organized or spoke at several pro-Trump rallies after the election. They presumably include two events in Washington in November and December 2020 that preceded the gathering on the Ellipse near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, where President Donald J. Trump told the crowd to descend on the Capitol.
The subpoena is also seeking records about anyone who provided security at those events and about those who were deemed to be “V.I.P. attendees.”
Moreover, it requests information about any members of the executive and legislative branches who may have taken part in planning or executing the rallies, or tried to “obstruct, influence, impede or delay” the certification of the presidential election.
Each of these broad categories could involve dozens of individuals. Taken together, the total number of potential witnesses — or at some point, targets — sought after by the grand jury could easily reach into the hundreds.
The investigation appears to be in its early stages and there is no way of knowing at this point where it may go, what crimes it might identify or who it may ultimately focus on. Many people of interest to investigators might be called only as witnesses.
One possible road map — at least in terms of who the grand jury may still want to hear from — is the parallel probe by the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, which has already interviewed hundreds of witnesses, including, on Tuesday, Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter and adviser.
A relatively small group of political operatives did the bulk of the work in organizing the pro-Trump rallies in Washington that kicked off after the election and sought to challenge the results, often using the slogan “Stop the Steal.”
Prominent among them, according to interviews and documents, was Amy Kremer, a former Tea Party activist who helped create a group called Women for America First. The group set up a cross-country bus tour gathering Mr. Trump’s aggrieved supporters behind the baseless assertions of a stolen election.
Within hours of the last polls closing on Election Day, Ms. Kremer started working closely with her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, to set up one of the first “Stop the Steal” Facebook pages. Both women were involved — often in close coordination with the White House — in planning pro-Trump rallies on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12, 2020, and then in setting up Mr. Trump’s appearance at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.
Two other people who helped Ms. Kremer were Jennifer L. Lawrence and Dustin Stockton, both of whom had once worked closely with Stephen K. Bannon, a former top adviser to Mr. Trump. Another organizer for Women for America First was Cindy Chafian, who ultimately broke away from the group to form a new organization, the Eighty Percent Coalition, which planned its own event on Jan. 5.
Then there was a separate group of planners around Ali Alexander, a provocateur who rose in right-wing circles after the election. Mr. Alexander, an associate of Mr. Trump’s longtime adviser Roger J. Stone Jr., was part of a group of activists who planned an event at the Capitol itself and marched with the crowd to the building after Mr. Trump’s speech at the Ellipse.
Altogether, scores of people spoke at the rallies in November and December and at the gatherings on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. They included people like Mr. Stone; Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn; and Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and host of the TV show Infowars. The speakers also included pastors, state-level politicians and anti-vaccine activists.
It is hard to know who prosecutors might consider a “V.I.P.” from these events — especially for the November rally, often known as the Million MAGA March, and the one in December, which is sometimes referred to as the Jericho March.
There were dozens of V.I.P.s who attended Mr. Trump’s incendiary speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, according to leaked documents from event organizers. That rally also featured appearances by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and John C. Eastman, the law professor who was promoting the idea that Vice President Mike Pence could block congressional certification of the Electoral College results.
The attendees at the Ellipse speech included Mike Lindell, the MyPillow chief executive who helped spread Mr. Trump’s lies about a rigged election, and the YouTube stars known as Diamond and Silk, who are prominent Trump supporters.
The federal grand jury subpoena examined by The New York Times seeks information about members of the executive and legislative branches who might have been involved in the effort to delay congressional certification of the election results, suggesting that prosecutors are interested in learning more about the roles that Mr. Trump’s aides and allies inside the government may have played.
It is not clear if any Trump-era executive or legislative branch members have received subpoenas, and there is no public indication that anyone has been targeted for prosecution.
But in looking for more information about what was happening at both the White House and on Capitol Hill as Mr. Trump sought to stay in power, the House select committee has already expressed interest in a range of White House and campaign advisers, as well as contractors who worked to set up the rally. They exist in concentric circles in and around Mr. Trump’s orbit.
Among them is Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff under Mr. Trump, who turned over text messages to the House committee that served as a road map not just of his own activities, but those of others. He was one of the few people with Mr. Trump as the riot at the Capitol took place.
Katrina Pierson, a longtime Trump political adviser, was in direct contact with Mr. Trump about the details of the rallies on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, including who would be speaking and what music would be played, according to a former administration official and the House committee. She attended a meeting in which Mr. Trump is said to have discussed wanting the National Guard deployed, anticipating counterprotests.
Caroline Wren, a professional fund-raiser and a friend of Kimberly Guilfoyle, an adviser to Mr. Trump and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., was listed on an attachment for a permit that rally organizers gave the Park Police. Megan Powers, a longtime Trump aide, was listed on a rally permit.
Members of Congress
Among the Republicans in Congress who worked publicly to keep Mr. Trump in power were Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Andy Biggs of Arizona, all of whom Mr. Alexander, the “Stop the Steal” organizer, has said helped set the events of Jan. 6 in motion.
Capitol Riot’s Aftermath: Key Developments
Ivanka Trump to testify. The former president’s daughter, who served as one of his senior advisers, plans to testify before the Jan. 6 House committee. Ms. Trump was in the West Wing as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. She is said to have tried to persuade her father to call off the rioters.
Justice Department widens inquiry. Federal prosecutors are said to have substantially widened their Jan. 6 investigation to examine the possible culpability of a broad range of pro-Trump figures involved in efforts to overturn the election. The investigation was initially focused on the rioters who had entered the Capitol.
Investigating Trump’s actions. Evidence gathered by the Justice Department and House committee show how former President Donald J. Trump’s “Be there, will be wild!” tweet incited far-right militants ahead of Jan. 6, while call logs reveal how personally involved Mr. Trump was in his attempt to stay in office before and during the attack.
Judge says Trump likely committed crimes. In a court filing in a civil case, the Jan. 6 House committee laid out the crimes it believed Mr. Trump might have committed. The federal judge assigned to the case ruled that Mr. Trump most likely committed felonies in trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Virginia Thomas’s text messages. In the weeks before the Capitol riot, Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent several texts imploring Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, to take steps to overturn the election. The Jan. 6 House committee is likely to seek an interview with Ms. Thomas, said those familiar with the matter.
“We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Mr. Alexander said in a since-deleted video posted online, “so that who we couldn’t lobby, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”
Mr. Gosar’s chief of staff has said his office merely promoted “Stop the Steal” events and was not involved in planning them. Mr. Biggs, who provided a video message for Mr. Alexander to play at a Dec. 19 rally, has denied coordinating event planning with Mr. Alexander.
Mr. Brooks, who wore body armor onstage on Jan. 6 as he told the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass,” also denied coordinating with Mr. Alexander. Mr. Brooks recently turned on Mr. Trump after the former president rescinded his endorsement in a Senate race, and said Mr. Trump had repeatedly asked him in recent months to illegally “rescind” the election, remove President Biden and force a new special election.
Mr. Brooks was one of two members of Congress who spoke at Mr. Trump’s rally at the Ellipse before the attack on the Capitol. The other was Representative Madison Cawthorn, Republican of North Carolina, who weeks earlier encouraged the public to call members of Congress and “lightly threaten them” if they did not support Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud.
Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, unsuccessfully sued Mr. Pence over his refusal to interfere in the election certification. Other Republicans who used inflammatory rhetoric around that time included Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, first-term lawmakers, who referred to the day as Republicans’ “1776 moment.”
On Dec. 21, 2020, Mr. Trump met with members of the House Freedom Caucus to discuss their plans to challenge Mr. Biden’s victory. Among those present were Mr. Gosar, Mr. Biggs, Mr. Brooks, Ms. Greene, and Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who were deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s effort to fight the election results.
The House committee has so far asked only three members of Congress for an interview: Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader who engaged in what he called a “very heated” call with Mr. Trump during the riot; Mr. Jordan and Mr. Perry. All three men have refused to agree to a voluntary interview.
While professional companies provided much of the public and private security at pro-Trump rallies in November, December and January, their work was often augmented by members of far-right militia and paramilitary groups like the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the 1st Amendment Praetorian.
The 1st Amendment Praetorian, known as 1AP, was brought in, for example, to protect Mr. Alexander for his appearance at the Million MAGA March in November. In December, the group served as bodyguards for Mr. Flynn and others during the Jericho March, working in concert with members of the Oath Keepers. Three Percenters wearing body armor were also on hand as security that day.
On Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, several members of the Oath Keepers were assigned to protect Mr. Stone at his various public appearances, including two members who have since been indicted in connection with the Capitol attack. One of the indicted Oath Keepers, Joshua James, pleaded guilty last month to seditious conspiracy charges and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.
The 1st Amendment Praetorian also protected Mr. Flynn on Jan. 6.