Start the Steal
Former President Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to allies gathered at the Willard Hotel in Washington late Jan. 5 or early Jan. 6, pressing them for ideas on how to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's victory on Jan. 6, The Guardian reported early Tuesday, citing multiple sources.
Trump told his lieutenants — Steve Bannon and lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Boris Epshteyn — first that then–Vice President Mike Pence had just declined to participate in Eastman's plan to derail Biden's certification, then "on at least one of those calls, Trump also sought from the lawyers at the Willard ways to stop the joint session to ensure Biden would not be certified as president," The Guardian reports. He spoke with the lawyers and non-lawyers separately at Giuliani's insistence, in an attempt to protect attorney-client privilege.
"Several Trump lawyers at the Willard that night deny Trump sought to stop the certification of Biden's election win," insisting "they only considered delaying Biden's certification at the request of state legislators because of voter fraud," The Guardian reports. None of the involved parties commented to The Guardian when asked for comment. "Trump's remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard," an area of intense interest for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, The Guardian says.
The Jan. 6 committee has issued subpoenas for documents and testimony from the Willard command center team and also the organizers of the rally that directly preceded the storming of the Capitol. One of those organizers, Kylie Kremer, directed an aide to pick up three hard-to-trace "burner phones," paying with cash, to communicate with "high-level people" in the White House about the rally, Hunter Walker reported in Rolling Stone last week, citing three sources.
"They were planning all kinds of stuff, marches and rallies," a member of the rally planning team told Rolling Stone. "Any conversation she had with the White House or Trump family took place on those phones." The second burner phone reportedly went to Kremer's mother, Amy Kremer, and it isn't clear what happened to the third. Rolling Stone said it saw "no evidence the Kremers and the other rally organizers encouraged or planned violence" on Jan. 6, but Trump used their rally to urge supporters to "walk down Pennsylvania Avenue" to the Capitol and "fight like hell."