Scoop: Trumpworld plots Jan. 6 counterprogramming blitz
Former President Trump and his allies, in conjunction with top House GOP leadership and conservative groups, have begun pulling documents and coordinating a behind-the-scenes effort to counterprogram the Jan. 6 committee's televised hearings this month, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: Republicans face a daunting challenge in the coming messaging war. The committee has been building toward this moment for months, hoping to use the blockbuster summer hearings to paint a vivid picture of how close Trump and his supporters came to subverting democracy.
- Republicans are plotting to compete with wall-to-wall cable coverage by using their own platforms to argue the committee is a partisan fishing expedition that lacks legal legitimacy.
- That framing will be central to their hopes of defanging whatever negative revelations come to light during the hearings.
What we're hearing: Trump and his inner circle will rely heavily on members of Congress — from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — to drive counterprogramming, sources familiar with their planning tell Axios.
- Trump himself has not ruled out making some sort of an appearance, one of the sources says.
- People close to Trump have been working closely with members of Congress, the RNC and outside groups like the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to collaborate on their offensive narrative.
- Matt Schlapp, former Trump White House political director and chairman of CPAC, has been a leader in the effort, sources say.
A crucial component is ensuring these surrogates have the tools they need to fight back, according to Republicans.
- That includes digging up old documents and logs from the White House to help provide Trump surrogates with a full picture of what happened both in the lead-up to and on Jan. 6, 2021.
What to watch: These surrogates will be fanning the airwaves — especially on networks and social media platforms they feel are more favorable to their cause.
- That includes Fox News, Steve Bannon's "War Room," "Real America’s Voice," Facebook and Trump's own Truth Social and Save America PAC.
- Members of Congress and other conservative "influencers" are also planning to write op-eds and push their own rapid responses through their personal social media.
- Which witnesses the committee calls to testify publicly will dictate the coordinated response, the sources say.
Details: Members of House Republican leadership and would-be GOP members of the Jan. 6 committee are planning to meet early next week to go over potential strategy, two senior congressional aides tell Axios.
- Jordan and Banks, whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) barred from the Jan. 6 panel last year, will seek to hammer the message that the committee "lacks merit and legitimacy" and is hyperpartisan, one of the aides emphasized.
- Another leading point Republicans plan to make is that the priorities of Democrats are "out of touch" with what Americans are most concerned about: inflation, spiking gas prices, the baby formula shortage and recent mass shootings.
- They're betting voters have Jan. 6 "fatigue," a House GOP leadership aide said.
- "We’ve got to be rigid and responsible, but a lot of Republicans think if Dems want to just talk about Jan. 6 between now and the midterm election — good luck," the aide added.
The RNC has also circulated a one-page memo outlining its messaging points, according to a copy of the document obtained by Axios and first reported by Vox. The talking points include "RNC Goals" and "Requests from [Trump]":
- "Attack Nancy Pelosi's committee and its members, portraying them as partisan, illegitimate, and a distraction for real issues."
- "Brand these as rigged hearings" and "Define Democrats being the real election deniers."
- "Shape coverage on networks" and "conservative channels"; "Use studio so that when committee takes a break, we would stream on FPOTUS channels."
Between the lines: Republicans have so far sought to avoid drawing more attention to Jan. 6 in hopes the public would largely forget about the shocking scenes from the Capitol.
- Now they're faced with a difficult balancing act: don't give the hearings free publicity but also establish a coordinated defense strategy to push back against the coming bombshells.
What they're saying: "We're ready for any machination of this process, and are prepared to provide facts in real time and push back in real time, through a coordinated and in sync effort."
- “It’s worth noting, many of the people relied on for pushing back on these proceedings are also people who have first hand accounts on how the committee has abused its powers for political gain. They aren’t just pushing back as surrogates or operatives, they're pushing back as Americans whose rights have been infringed on by a dangerously partisan Congress.”
- The Jan. 6 committee declined to comment. A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
What's next: The first hearing will take place on June 9 at 8pm ET in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill.