After the deadly sacking of the US Capitol this month, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has insisted it had nothing to do with the National Mall rally that preceded the riot and featured a speech from the President.
But many of the individuals who helped put on the bombastic rally that day had worked to stage other Trump rallies just a few months earlier. Ten of the 12 people listed as onsite emergency contacts on the government permit approving the January 6 rally have previously worked for or been paid by Trump’s reelection campaign, according to a CNN review of Federal Election Commission records, and several worked in the Trump White House.
The rally, billed as a “March for Trump,” was organized by Women for America First, a conservative nonprofit group founded by a longtime Tea Party activist. The National Park Service approved a permit for an event that the group predicted would attract 30,000 people to The Ellipse on January 6, the day Congress certified Trump’s electoral defeat to President-elect Joe Biden.
Later that day, a mob of Trump supporters – some of whom had attended the rally – stormed the Capitol, killing a police officer and leaving four others dead in the mayhem.
Trump spoke at the rally, encouraging his supporters to “fight like hell” and airing debunked conspiracy theories about the election. Other speakers included his sons Eric and Donald Jr., his daughter-in-law Lara, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and political allies like Reps. Mo Brooks and Madison Cawthorn and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The permit shows that numerous former Trump campaign staffers were also involved in running the rally behind the scenes, although the campaign says they were acting on their own.
Of the 12 people listed on the permit as onsite contacts, seven were on the Trump campaign’s payroll during the 2020 election, according to campaign finance records – many of whom worked in roles that involved event planning or production.
They include Justin Caporale, the Trump campaign’s director of advance and a former director of operations for first lady Melania Trump, who was listed on the permit as the project manager for the rally; Megan Powers, who worked as director of operations for Trump’s campaign through January 2021, according to her LinkedIn page, and was listed as an operations manager for the rally; and Maggie Mulvaney, the niece of former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and the director of finance operations for the Trump campaign, who was listed as the rally’s VIP lead.
In addition, two other rally staffers were paid by the campaign for event consulting last year. They include Tim Unes, whose event planning company, Event Strategies, Inc., helped produce Trump rallies and has worked on numerous Republican campaigns, and who served as stage manager for the January 6 rally.
Unes told CNN that he and his company had nothing to do with the march to the Capitol or the riot.
“Our job here was to work on the rally specifically on the Ellipse – we did not have anything to do with the march,” Unes said. “Like any other good American, I am disgusted by what I saw of those people breaking into the Capitol.”
Trump campaign denies ties to with the rally
A tenth staffer, Hannah Salem, who was listed on the permit as an operations manager for the January 6 rally, was paid by the Trump campaign for event consulting in 2018 according to campaign records and also worked as Special Assistant to the President and director of press advance, according to a biography on her event management company’s website. The biography said she helped plan summits between Trump and foreign dignitaries such as Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, the Queen of England, and Pope Francis.
Some of the rally staffers’ previous work for the Trump campaign and the White House was first reported by the Associated Press.
Altogether, the Trump campaign paid the 10 staffers who worked on the January 6 rally more than $1.4 million in salaries, consulting fees, and reimbursements between 2015 and November 2020, according to a CNN analysis of the FEC data.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign said that the staffers were working on their own, and that the campaign had no ties with the rally.
“The Trump campaign did not organize, operate or finance the event,” campaign spokesperson Jason Miller told CNN in a text message on Monday. “No campaign staff was involved in the organization or operation of the event. If any former employees or independent contractors for the campaign worked on this event they did not do so at the direction of the Trump campaign.”
Other than Unes, none of the other staffers or contractors who worked on the Trump campaign and the rally responded to requests for comment sent to emails, LinkedIn accounts, or phone numbers listed in public records.
One person close to the organization of the rally, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share details about the event’s planning, also said that the Trump campaign had not been involved. Many of the former Trump campaign staffers were junior level employees, they said.
“Hiring former campaign workers was really just a matter of getting the logistics done,” the person said. “Young campaign staffers who were let go after the election are out of work and familiar with the work … they’re kids and they don’t have paychecks, that’s why they were hired.”
The group that planned the rally, Women for America First, did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CNN. The group was founded by Amy Kremer, who previously worked as an executive of the conservative group Tea Party Express, and her daughter Kylie Jane Kremer is listed on the permit as the “person in charge” of the event.
In the permit approved days before the rally, the organizers referred to the possibility of other events at the Capitol that day but said their group wouldn’t be involved.
“Women for America First will not conduct an organized march from the Ellipse at the conclusion of the rally,” the permit read. “Some participants may leave to attend rallies at the United States Capitol to hear the results of Congressional certification of the Electoral College count.”
Other conservative figures and groups that were involved in organizing the rally have stressed that they planned a peaceful protest and have argued that they shouldn’t be held responsible for the violent actions of the rioters that followed.
“Any suggestion that Stop the Steal participated in, led, or breached the Capitol building, itself, is defamatory and untrue,” Ali Alexander, an organizer with the Stop the Steal group, told CNN in an email. “We cannot control the broader public any more than Nancy Pelosi does Antifa.”
Meanwhile, other prominent conservative groups also helped promote the rally. The Rule of Law Defense Fund, a nonprofit associated with the Republican Attorney Generals Association, released robocalls urging supporters to march on the Capitol.
“At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” the robocall said, according to a recording first reported by the news website Documented. “We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Adam Piper, the executive director of the attorneys general group, resigned last week amid controversy over the call.
The group’s chairman, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, told the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper that he had not authorized the robocalls and the group is “engaging in a vigorous review” of the incident.
Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of influential conservative group Turning Point USA, tweeted two days before the rally that his organization Students for Trump was “sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” He declared that the rally supporting Trump “will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history.”
Kirk later deleted the tweet, which was saved in a snapshot on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and was first reported by the news website The Daily Dot. A spokesperson for Turning Point Action, a political group affiliated with Turning Point USA, told CNN that Students for Trump only sent seven buses of students to the rally, and that the buses took the attendees out of the area after Trump finished speaking.