As the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump was underway, staff at OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics, found that Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign and the affiliated fundraising committees paid organizers of the rally that took place immediately before the breach of the Capitol over $3.5 million.
OpenSecrets found, through Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, money flowing directly from official Trump financial organizations to people and firms who helped organize the rally. At least three individuals on the Trump campaign’s payroll were listed in the rally’s permit records. The campaign had also paid a firm named in the permit for the rally just three weeks before the attack. That firm employed two people who were involved in the demonstration.
It’s also entirely possible that the campaign had indirectly paid January 6 organizers more than just what was filed through the FEC, writes OpenSecrets’s Anna Massoglia.
“The American public may never know the full extent of the Trump campaign’s payments to organizers involved in the protests,” Massoglia writes. “That’s because the campaign used an opaque payment scheme that concealed details of hundreds of millions of dollars in spending by routing payments through shell companies where the ultimate payee is hidden.”
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The permit for the rally did not explicitly allow for a march from the rally location, which was near the White House, to the Capitol. But it does say that, “Some participants may leave to attend rallies at the United States Capitol.”
The Trump campaign denied that any staff had helped to organize the rally, but that claim was questionable, reports the Associated Press. The permit is dated January 5, and AP found that rally organizer Megan Powers claimed on LinkedIn to have worked for the campaign into January 2021. Other campaign aides linked to the permit quickly hid their social media accounts when AP reached out to them.
Over the past two days, House impeachment managers have been making the case that Trump deserves to be convicted for his role in the incitement of the violent breach of the Capitol that left seven dead. One of the arguments made by the managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), is that many of the events surrounding the attack on the Capitol were premeditated, and that Trump and his team knew this and egged it on. These findings of explicit financial ties by OpenSecrets lend credence to that idea.
“By the time [Trump] called the cavalry of his thousands of supporters on January 6, at an event he had invited them to,” said impeachment manager Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) during the impeachment trial on Wednesday referring to the rally that Trump held that morning, “He had every reason to know that they were armed and that they were violent and that they would actually fight. He knew who he was calling and the violence they were capable of.”
On Wednesday, the House impeachment managers showcased tweets, quotes and videos showing Trump egging his followers on by sowing doubt about the election results and encouraging violence, time and again. Their evidence, as well as the recent OpenSecrets finding, point to the fact that Trump was at the center of and directly responsible for the violent attempted coup.
“[Trump] repeatedly, over months, told [his followers] to fight for a specific purpose. He told them their victory was stolen, the election was rigged, and their patriotic duty was to fight to stop the steal,” said impeachment manager Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California).
The impeachment managers didn’t ask the Senate to take them at their word — they also showed video evidence of not only Trump egging on his followers but also his followers from the January 6 breach quoting Trump back at anyone questioning them. Trump continually called on his followers to “fight like hell” to stop the steal, impeachment manager Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) showed.
“It was his duty as commander-in-chief to stop the violence. And he alone had that power — not just because of his unique role as commander-in-chief, but because they believed that they were following his orders,” said Neguse. “They said so.”
Neguse showed footage of Trump supporters outside the Capitol yelling, “We were invited by the president of the United States,” and an interview with one of the people charged with involvement in the Capitol breach, Jennifer Ryan, saying, “I thought I was following my president. I thought I was following what we were called to do…. President Trump requested that we be in D.C. on the 6th.”