A former aide to one of the groups that helped organize the “Stop the Steal” rally that took place outside of the White House on January 6, 2021, says that aides to the former president wanted to use the rally to encourage Trump loyalists to march to the Capitol building.
Just as the aides had hoped, a mob of Trump loyalists headed to the Capitol after the rally. They proceeded to violently breach the Capitol building in an attempt to interrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote, which verified Trump’s loss and President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential race.
Several individuals who have served as aides to former President Donald Trump — including his last chief of staff, Mark Meadows — have disputed claims that they wanted to use the rally to push Trump loyalists toward the Capitol to protest lawmakers inside Congress. In a book that Meadows authored about his time in the White House, he claimed that the violence that day could be attributed to “the actions of a handful of fanatics across town.”
But Scott Johnston, who was an organizer with the group Women for America First at the time, says that this depiction of the day’s events was inaccurate — and that event organizers and Trump aides were hoping that such a march would take place.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Johnston recounted testimony he gave late last year to the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack. Johnston detailed conversations he had heard that included Kylie Kremer (the executive director of Women for America First) as well as Meadows and other Trump loyalists.
Those conversations took place on burner phones — cellular devices that can easily be purchased and disposed of, making them difficult to trace later on — which Johnston said he helped purchase. Johnston was privy to those calls because they happened on speakerphone, he said, as he was driving Kremer to events in the last week of December 2020.
Johnston claims that the events of January 6 were far from spontaneous, and that Trump’s people wanted the mob to march to the Capitol.
“They were very open about how there was going to be a march [to the Capitol]. Everyone knew there was going to be a march,” Johnston said to the magazine.
Meadows, Kremer and other organizers went as far as to consider getting a permit for the march, Johnston said. They eventually decided against doing so out of concern for costs and worry that it would look bad for a president to endorse such an action. Instead, they went ahead with a plan that shifted toward “direct[ing] the people down there and mak[ing] it look like they went down there on their own,” Johnston explained.
Descriptions of Trump’s actions on January 6 seem to support Johnston’s claims. During his speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally, Trump told his followers that the election had been stolen and ordered them to go to the Capitol, saying that they could “never take back our country with weakness.” As the Capitol breach was unfolding, Trump appeared to be “gleeful,” former White House staffer Stephanie Grisham said earlier this year.