Weeks before a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, right-wing activist Ali Alexander told his followers that he was planning something big for Jan. 6.
Alexander, who organized the “Stop the Steal” movement, said he hatched the plan – coinciding with Congress’s vote to certify the electoral college votes – alongside three GOP lawmakers: Reps. Andy Biggs, Ariz., Mo Brooks, Ala., and Paul Gosar, Ariz., all hard-line Trump supporters.
“We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a since-deleted video on Periscope highlighted by the Project on Government Oversight, an investigative nonprofit. The plan, he said, was to “change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”
After riots inside the Capitol left five people dead – and Alexander and his group were banned from Twitter this week – those three GOP lawmakers are now under increasing scrutiny over their role in aiding the right-wing activist.
In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesman for Biggs said the congressman had never been in contact with Alexander or other protesters and denied that he had helped organize arally on Jan. 6.
“Congressman Biggs is not aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point – let alone working with him to organize some part of a planned protest,” the statement said.
Neither Brooks nor Gosar responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post. But in a lengthy, defiant statement on Wednesday, the Alabama lawmaker insisted he also bore no responsibility for the riot.Brooks added that he would not have promoted any action that could undermine GOP efforts to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.
“I take great offense at anyone who suggests I am so politically inexperienced as to want to torpedo my honest and accurate election system effort I spent months fighting on,” Brooks wrote.
Videos and posts on social media suggest links between all three Republicans and the right-wing activist.
Alexander, a felon who has also been identified in media reports as Ali Akbar, gained a large following by live-streaming monologues in which he professed his conservative views and support for Trump. Speaking to Politico Magazine in 2018, he called himself an “interpreter of energy for this period.”
In June 2019, Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Alexander’s false claim that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is not an “American Black.” The following month, Alexander attended a “social media summit” at the White House, alongside a number of far-right figures who had accused companies of anti-conservative bias.
After Trump lost in November, the Daily Beast noted, Alexander positioned himself as a leading voice behind the movement to support the president’s challenge to the election results. He was labeled “a true patriot” by Gosar on Twitter, and on Dec. 19, the two both spoke ata “Stop the Steal” rally in Phoenix.
“We will not go quietly. We’ll shut down this country if we have to,” Alexander told the crowd, later leading them in a chant of “1776.”
Later on at the event, Alexander played a video message from Biggs, calling him a “friend” and “hero.” In the recording, Biggs said he wished he could have attended the event and vowed to challenge the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
“When it comes to January 6, I will be right down there in the well of the House with my friend from Alabama representative Mo Brooks,” Biggs said in the recording. A tweet from Alexander, including the message from Biggs, was retweeted by Trump on Dec. 26.
A Biggs spokesperson told CNN that the congressman recorded the video following a request from Gosar’s staff.
By late December, Alexander said he was planning a protest outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. His event appears to be one of at least four competing rallies that had sought permits for that date. But far-right online forums indicated Trump supporters were preparing for more than just a rally – and Alexander, too, appeared to suggest protesters might do more than just wave signs.
If Democrats got in the way of an objection from congressional Republicans, “everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” he wrote on Twitter in December, according to the Daily Beast. “1776 is *always* an option.”
At a rally the night before the vote, Alexander led the crowd in chanting, “Victory or death!” The following morning, Gosar tagged the activist in several tweets.
Recounting the riot in a video on Periscope over the weekend, Alexander said he wished that people had not entered the U.S. Capitol or even gone on the steps. He also argued that the rioters had not necessarily violated the law, even though dozens have now been charged by federal prosecutors.
In an email to The Post, Alexander said he had “remained peaceful” during the riots and claimed that his earlier speeches “mentioned peace” and were being misrepresented.
“Conflating our legally, peaceful permitted events with the breach of the US Capitol building is defamatory and false,” he said. “People are being misled and then those same people are fomenting violence against me and my team.”
At around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday – about two hours after rioters breached the Capitol – Alexander posted a video of himself overlooking the crowd outside the building, claiming that the majority of protesters were peaceful and praising those who didn’t go inside.
But, he said in the video, “I don’t disavow this. I do not denounce this.”
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The Washington Post’s Kim Bellware contributed to this report.