Trump is on trial for inciting an insurrection. What about the 12 people who spoke before him?February 10, 2021
Former President Donald Trump may be the one facing an impeachment trial for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. But he wasn’t the only one who riled up the crowd at the now-infamous “Stop the Steal” rally.
A dozen of the president’s allies and family members took the stage before Trump, where they repeated the same false claims and egged on attendees with similar enthusiasm. The speakers blasted the 2020 elections as rife with fraud, saber-rattled to Republican lawmakers still on the fence about challenging the election results and heaped praise on the thousands of attendees as the country’s true patriots.
So far, the other speakers haven’t publicly apologized for their roles that day. Many of them defended themselves by saying they were merely gassing up supporters to challenge lawmakers at the ballot in 2022 and 2024. And few have faced sanctions approaching the scale of the former president.
Here’s who else spoke at the rally and how things have played out for them since.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was one of two members of Congress to take the stage, where he urged “American patriots” to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Donning a red hat that said “Fire Pelosi,” he decried Democrats as “socialists” and his fellow Republicans as “weak-kneed,” warning that “we American patriots are going to come right at them.”
He faced blowback only days later when two House Democrats, New Jersey’s Tom Malinowski and Florida’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz, filed a motion to censure Brooks for his comments. Brooks refused to apologize and fired back in a lengthy statement in which he said he was being subject to Orwellian censorship. He called himself a “square” who never smokes or drinks and has never had any problems with the law. The resolution never made it out of the House Ethics Committee.
Katrina Pierson has a long history with Trump’s base. She was his spokesperson during the 2016 campaign and has deep roots in the tea party movement, and she invoked those ties when she took the rally stage.
“The Republican politicians down there, have forgotten what the tea party movement did,” she said. “Americans will stand up for themselves and protect their rights, and they will demand that the politicians that we elect will uphold those rights, or we will go after them.”
She clarified on stage that she meant the base would go after Republicans at the ballot box. She urged supporters to campaign hard in 2022 and 2024 to vote out members who didn’t support Trump’s election challenges.
But her role in the rally wasn’t limited to what she said. The New York Times reported that Pierson served as a liaison between the White House and rally organizers, potentially giving her insider knowledge should congressional Democrats opt to call witnesses as part of the Senate trial.
Another tea party activist-turned-Trump surrogate, Amy Kremer was one of the driving organizers for the rally. She moderated the “Stop the Steal” Facebook group, created by the pro-Trump group “Women for America First,” which corralled members to gather in Washington on Jan. 6. The group was shut down for spreading misinformation — a move Kremer angrily denounced from the rally stage.
She offered up conspiracy theories of a stolen election and a corrupt media in cahoots to keep Trump out of office. She also prodded Republican lawmakers to vote to challenge the election result and “punch back from Donald Trump.”
Kremer later denounced the Capitol rioters, but shifted blame for the violence to the left.
“Unfortunately, for months the left and the mainstream media told the American people that violence was an acceptable political tool,” she said in a statement after the rioters attacked the Capitol. “They were wrong. It is not.”
Then-State Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat in the Georgia House of Representatives, switched parties on the rally stage, saying he was “coming home to the Grand Old Party.”
“I’m ready to go home to the party of Frederick Douglass. I’m ready to go home to the party of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. Today, I’m coming home,” he said.
He warned Democrats not to fight Trump’s election challenge, saying “they’ve awakened a sleeping giant” among the president’s base. He thanked MyPillow CEO and ardent Trump supporter Mike Lindell for guiding him away from “these demon Democrats.”
Jones was one of the rare Democrats to endorse Trump in the lead-up to the 2020 election — a decision that pushed him to nearly resign from the Georgia Legislature in April 2020. But he stood by his endorsement and tweeted at the time that “an uprising is near.”
Jones withdrew from the June 9 Democratic primaries in his district and left the state Legislature soon after the “Stop the Steal” rally.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the rally audience that other states, particularly Georgia, had “capitulated” by acknowledging Biden as the winner. He said he would keep fighting the election results, even though his attempt to sue other states over their elections had been rejected by the Supreme Court only weeks before.
After the Capitol riots, Paxton was the only state attorney general not to sign a statement condemning the violence. He denounced the riots separately, but falsely claimed the mob was filled with leftist agitators masquerading as Trump supporters. Democrats in the Texas Legislature called for an investigation into Paxton’s role in the riots.
Paxton is also tangled up in other potential legal woes amid allegations in October of corruption, with calls from his own staff to resign.
Lara and Eric Trump
Eric and Lara Trump took to the stage to vow the former president’s family would continue their “fight” long after 2020. When Lara asked what her husband wanted for his 37th birthday, Eric said he wanted Republicans in Congress to “have some backbone” and support the former president’s election challenges.
“He has more fight in him than every other one combined, and they need to stand up and we need to march on the Capitol today. And we need to stand up for this country and stand up for what’s right,” he said.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, former Fox News host and Trump super fundraiser, promised she would “continue to hold the line” for Trump and vowed not to “allow the liberals and the Democrats to steal our dream or steal our elections.”
The bombastic performance was an echo of her memorable appearance at the Repunlican National Convention in which Guilfoyle declared that the “best is yet to come.” She repeated that message from the stage as she claimed that Trump would “continue to save America.”
Donald Trump Jr.
The president’s firstborn son, Donald Jr., prodded Republicans in Congress still on the fence about Trump’s election challenges, saying the vote was an opportunity to be either a “zero or a hero,” a “friend or foe.” He cast their hesitancy as cowardice and said, “I’m going to be in your backyard in a couple of months” if they didn’t vote with Trump.
He also added some jabs at the summer’s anti-racism protesters, telling the crowd that they’d gathered without “ripping down churches” and “looting.” But only hours later, hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building.
The second member of Congress to talk at the rally, Madison Cawthorn, urged the crowd to keep their representatives “accountable” if they didn’t vote to contest the election results. The right-wing wunderkind said many of his colleagues “have no backbone” to face Trump, and he cheered on the audience as the future of the Republican Party.
“The courage I see in this crowd is not represented on that hill,” he said. “My friends, I will tell you right now that there is a new Republican Party rising.”
After the insurrection, Cawthorn changed tack and denounced the rioters as “despicable.” But he still didn’t regret his appearance at the rally, he said during an interview on “The Carlos Watson Show.” Democratic leaders from his North Carolina district wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to expel him from Congress, but Cawthorn brushed off any responsibility for the violence at the Capitol.
One of the most infamous lines from the Jan. 6 rally came from ’s personal Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. After insisting the legality of everything he and his team were doing to undermine the election results, Giuliani declared, “Let’s have trial by combat.”
The bellicose language immediately raised alarms as a call to violence. But Giuliani later insisted in an interview with The Hill that it was a reference to the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” which he called a “documentary” about medieval England. He also denied Trump had any responsibility for the Capitol riots and repeated the false claim that antifa or other leftists were behind the attack.
Giuliani brought out John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University, to explain in detail the various conspiracy theories behind their challenges to the election results. He was the last speaker before Trump and put their cause in terms beyond one president.
“This is bigger than President Trump. It is the very essence of our republican form of government and it has to be done,” Eastman said. “And anybody that is not willing to stand up to do it does not deserve to be in the office. It is that simple.”
Students and faculty later called on Chapman to fire Eastman for his role in the rally. He eventually retired on his own, though he said he had “mixed feelings” about the separation. The university’s president, Daniele Struppa, said his departure put an end to a “challenging chapter for Chapman.”