Jan 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Bannon, Trump to counterprogram Dems for Jan. 6 anniversary

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Former President Trump and fervent allies, including Steve Bannon, plan to go on the offense during Thursday's anniversary of the Capitol insurrection — in fiery contrast with House and Senate Republican leaders, who plan no events, sources with direct knowledge tell Axios.

Why it matters: The starkly differing approaches underscore tensions remaining within the GOP about how to address the deadly riot.

Behind the scenes: Bannon — Trump's former chief strategist who's been indicted for contempt of Congress after refusing to testify about his conversations with the former president ahead of Jan. 6 — is far from chastened after his arrest.

  • Bannon told Axios that on Thursday morning, he'll host a special edition of his podcast "WarRoom" featuring two of Trump's most zealous supporters — Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
  • Bannon says he'll also host Darren Beattie. He was a major character in the incendiary documentary Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson produced about the Capitol riot.
  • Based on their previous statements, it's likely Bannon and his allies will portray the arrested Jan. 6 rioters as political prisoners and MAGA martyrs.

The show is designed as counterprogramming to a series of Washington events House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House are planning.

  • "If [Kevin] McCarthy won't program, Greene and Gaetz will," was how Bannon previewed his special show.
  • A year ago, Bannon used his platform and access to Trump to pressure members of Congress to object to the certification of Joe Biden's electoral victory on Jan. 6.
  • He also used his platform to cement the date of Jan. 6 in the minds of Trump's base as Vice President Mike Pence's last chance to stop Biden from taking office. On his Jan. 5 show, Bannon declared, "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow."

Trump himself will hold a press conference at 5pm Thursday at Mar-a-Lago. He'll assail the bipartisan select committee that Pelosi formed to investigate the attack.

  • A source familiar with Trump's plans said the former president would call Pelosi's investigation a "witch hunt" and embrace the protests of Jan. 6 as a legitimate reaction to a "stolen" election on Nov. 3, 2020.
  • Trump has issued statements attacking Pelosi's committee but hasn't, until now, held an event designed entirely to defend and legitimize Jan. 6.
  • Asked whether Trump would claim the riot was not violent and blame it on antifa and the FBI, the source replied, "I'm sure that will be a component."

Reality check: Trump's claims of a stolen election are baseless.

  • The Jan. 6 attack was perpetrated by Trump supporters.
  • Trump himself also acted both publicly and privately to incite mob pressure — if not explicitly violence — to overturn the 2020 election results.
  • Recent reports have said both his daughter, Ivanka, and son Don Jr. pleaded with him or those around him in real time to have Trump call for an end to the riot.

Between the lines: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sought to strike a balance — between condemning the rioters and attacking Democrats while also avoiding criticizing Trump — in previewing his Jan. 6 messaging.

  • In a letter sent to House Republicans on Sunday night, he said the riot was "as wrong as wrong can be," and the Jan. 6 rioters "deserve to face legal repercussions and full accountability."
  • Yet McCarthy quickly pivoted to blaming Democrats for using Jan. 6 as a political weapon.
  • He also blamed them for not adequately investigating alleged security failures that allowed the Capitol to be breached.

What we're hearing: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a conservative caucus leader with close ties to McCarthy, will share on a House GOP conference call Tuesday a separate investigation from House Republicans who Pelosi kicked off her Jan. 6 committee — a group that includes him.

  • Banks also will circulate a memo describing Pelosi's committee as "illegitimate," according to a source familiar with the document.
  • And he'll tell House Republicans that GOP leadership staff have been conducting their own interviews with Capitol Police, their union and other officials to focus on the security failures that allowed the Capitol breach.
  • Banks has told colleagues Republicans will produce their own report documenting failures of preparation, activation on intelligence and inadequate equipment for Capitol Police.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who's condemned Trump's role in inciting the Jan. 6 crisis — may have something to say about the anniversary this week.

  • Senate GOP leadership has no public events planned to mark the date, according to sources familiar with the planning.
  • On Thursday, many Republicans will travel to Atlanta to attend the funeral service of former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
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