How the Capitol riot has been linked to Trump and the GOP
But it’s not the first time people with ties to Trump and the Republican Party have been linked to — or even arrested for — the events surrounding the storming of the Capitol. Trump and his allies have repeatedly downplayed connections between their effort to overturn the 2020 election and what transpired that day, with some even going so far as to baselessly suggest the people behind it weren’t really Trump supporters. But as the story of the Capitol riot continues to unfold, there are several connections between those involved, and Trump, the broader GOP and others that invite further investigation.
Klein’s connection to Trump is arguably less robust than another political ally among the approximately 300 arrested as part of the riot. Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner who had spoken with Trump on multiple occasions and even visited the Oval Office, was arrested in mid-January.
Griffin, the head of a group called Cowboys for Trump, had said in 2019 that he spoke with Trump for a half-hour on the phone. In February 2020, he posted a picture of himself meeting with Trump in the Oval Office. Later that year, Trump promoted a Cowboys for Trump video in which Griffin said, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” (Griffin qualified that remark by saying he was speaking figuratively, but he later told the Daily Beast the some Democrats might indeed need to face the death penalty for supposed treason involving their coronavirus restrictions.)
As with Klein, there is no indication that Trump directly blessed Griffin’s actions. But in both cases, these were political allies whom Trump promoted, and they’re now accused of crimes related to the Capitol riot. They also outnumber any supposed provocateurs, of whose participation there is no evidence, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said this week.
In being arrested, they join another actual Republican elected official. Derrick Evans was a newly elected West Virginia state lawmaker when he allegedly took part in the Capitol riot, even at one point saying on video, “We’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” Evans resigned days after the siege, when he was taken into custody and accused of violent entry and disorderly conduct.
Several other Republican state lawmakers also took part in demonstrations that day, as the Associated Press reported, though there is no evidence they entered the Capitol or committed crimes. Tennessee state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver said that night, hours after the riot began, that it had been an “epic and historic day.” She also told a local reporter that she had been “in the thick of it” — though not specifically referring to being in the Capitol — but that she hadn’t witnessed violence.
Beyond that, there is the matter of how much the Trump team organized and guided the rally and the march to the Capitol that preceded the riot. Initially, it issued a blanket denial that it was involved in organizing the rally, saying that despite Trump speaking at the rally, his campaign “did not organize, operate or finance the event” and that any former staffers who participated “did not do so at the direction of the Trump campaign.” Since then, though, we’ve learned that multiple people who had been employed by the campaign played roles in putting together the rally, including one who served as a liaison between the rally’s organizers and the White House, Katrina Pierson. Others involved in planning the rally have reportedly said plans changed late in the process to include a march to the Capitol.
Also allegedly involved in planning the rally were three hard-line Trump supporters in Congress. Ali Alexander, a far-right organizer of the #StopTheSteal rally, said Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) each coordinated with him. “We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a later-deleted video. Spokespeople for Biggs and Brooks denied their involvement.
Again, this doesn’t prove a direct role in planning or supporting the Capitol riot; it does suggest less distance from the events than the Trump team and his party have let on.
The last connection is, of course, Trump’s rhetoric. Republicans have argued that the preplanning by some of the Capitol rioters suggests they couldn’t have been incited by Trump’s speech just before the Jan. 6 riot. But the Democrats’ case was never that Trump’s Jan. 6 comments, in a vacuum, caused the riot. Even some Republicans have acknowledged Trump’s comments about a stolen election and what could be done about it in the days and weeks before the rally might have played a role. Trump also had a history of suggestively alluding to the prospect of violence by his supporters — including, in one of the most notable cases, his promotion of Griffin’s comments.
The arrest of Klein shouldn’t be oversold as some kind of direct evidence that Trump planned for his supporters to storm the Capitol. It’s merely the latest evidence, though, that the effort to distance Trump and his party from the events — and even point the finger to ne’er-do-wells trying to make him and his party look bad — have no basis in the evidence.