The January 6th investigation, and subsequent arrests and prosecutions, have one real purpose: to gather enough information and evidence to put the masterminds of this terrorist sedition behind bars. The people involved with the planning are turning state's evidence on the bigger fish, and the biggest fish is orange.
Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff and a national campaign spokesperson were involved in efforts to encourage the president’s supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. That’s according to a person who says he overheard a key planning conversation between top Trump officials and the organizers of the Jan. 6 rally on the White House Ellipse — and has since testified to House investigators about the phone call.
Trump and his allies have tried to minimize his role in calling his supporters to the Capitol and argue he was simply participating in a lawful, peaceful demonstration.
Scott Johnston — who worked on the team that helped plan the Ellipse rally — says that’s just not so. He claims that leading figures in the Trump administration and campaign deliberately planned to have crowds converge on the Capitol, where the 2020 election was being certified — and “make it look like they went down there on their own.”
Johnston, who says he described the phone call to House select committee investigators, detailed his allegations in a series of conversations with Rolling Stone. Johnston says he overheard Mark Meadows, then-former President Trump’s chief of staff, and Katrina Pierson, Trump’s national campaign spokesperson, talking with Kylie Kremer, the executive director of Women For America First, about plans for a march to the Capitol. Johnston said the conversation was clearly audible to him since it took place on a speakerphone as he drove Kremer between the group’s rallies in the final three days of 2020.
“They were very open about how there was going to be a march. Everyone knew there was going to be a march,” Johnston says.
According to Johnston, Meadows, Pierson, and Kremer discussed the possibility of setting up a permit to make the march from the White House to the Capitol official. He says the trio decided against officially permitting the march, citing concerns about security costs and about the optics of a sitting president organizing a push towards Congress as lawmakers certified his loss in the 2020 election. Ultimately, Johnston tells Rolling Stone, they planned to “direct the people down there and make it look like they went down there on their own.”
Kremer’s group, Women For America First, helped lead the Jan. 6 rally at the White House Ellipse, where Trump delivered a speech and told supporters to “fight like hell” and said he expected them to march on the Capitol. “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said. As Trump spoke, people began leaving the rally to walk towards the Capitol.
The president’s camp insists this wasn’t part of any pre-planned push. In the book where he recounted his time in the White House, Meadows called the Jan. 6 violence “the actions of a handful of fanatics across town.”
Johnston’s account suggests there was a deliberate strategy by Trump’s allies to have supporters descend on the Capitol. Such a connection would implicate top White House and campaign officials in drawing crowds to the Congress without a permit — a step that could have required added security and may have allowed law enforcement to better prepare for the day’s events. Those crowds overwhelmed the Capitol Police and engaged in an hours-long battle with law enforcement. Four people died during the attack.
According to Johnston, rally organizers were “constantly” using “burner phones” — cheap, pre-paid cells that can be harder to trace because they’re not personally identified with a user or a user’s account — “to talk about” potential permits and plans for a march with Trump aides.
Johnston says that, in the key phone conversation he overheard, the group settled on ordering a march without an official permit. “Nobody wanted to do it because they didn’t want to pay for it,” Johnston says of obtaining a permit. “They didn’t want to have to provide security and all the other expenses.”
On Dec. 20, 2021, Johnston testified to the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack and he provided Rolling Stone multiple pieces of documentation showing his interactions with the committee. Johnston also says he told investigators that he knew the call took place on a “burner phone” in the final days of 2020 because the discussion came right after Kylie Kremer directed him to purchase three phones for her group.
“I’m the one that bought the burner phones,” Johnston says.
The term "seditious conspiracy" is going to be in the news a lot through 2022.
Meadows is certainly the biggest fish so far in this fish fry, but that of course means Trump knew what was going on, and that he was a major part of -- everyone all together now -- the seditious conspiracy. What other evidence turns up, we'll see. But the January 6th committee is running out of time, and indictments or not, getting convictions on the big fish may never happen even as the committee is expected to start making criminal charge recommendations in the weeks and months ahead.