When advisers to former President Donald Trump helped set up the Jan. 6 rally outside the White House, Trump’s inner circle tried to prevent the “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander from speaking.
Trump’s confidantes were so concerned about associating the president with Alexander that, despite Alexander being a key organizer of the Jan. 6 meeting, they repeatedly took steps to distance Trump from Alexander.
Alexander – whose real name is “Ali Akbar” – had a criminal record from 2007 when he pleaded guilty to aggravated theft of property and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation. But more than that, Alexander had become a far-right agitator. Before January 6, he advanced the baseless conspiracy theory, as now vice president Kamala Harris was does not “Black” and reaches Hotel Harrington closed its doors in the lead-up to Jan. 6, Alexander said that if something bad happens to the downtown tourist hotel in response to their decision, “don’t ask me to condemn it.”
And still, despite all the warnings, Trump overruled his advisers and made sure Alexander had a speaking slot—if not on January 6th during Trump’s rally at the Ellipse, then at least at Freedom Plaza on January 5th.
It’s one of the things that can be gleaned from a series of depositions released by the January 6 Committee in recent days, and it’s further evidence of how far outside the mainstream Alexander had become, even before the demonstration on January 6 turned violent – and Trump went to great lengths to give the far right a platform.
According to one pile of deposits released by the committee on January 6 this week, many of Trump’s most loyal and connected advisers were keen to ensure that Alexander did not have a seat at the table.
The depositions include, for example, the fact that the Republican operative — and Donald Trump Jr. friend – Arthur Schwartz asked senior Trump adviser Katrina Pierson, “Why do we let our people share the stage with Ali Akbar and people like that?”
Pierson was no less disturbed. “I’m so pissed off. Such shit,” she replied.
“This is fucking retarded,” Schwartz shot back.
Others—entwined in a chaotic Trump world at the time—thought including Alexander and far-right provocateur Alex Jones was unwise.
Among those quietly trying to argue that Alexander wasn’t included was former senior Trump campaign adviser Taylor Budowich. He made a fairly candid admission in his testimony with the committee: “The way Ali Akbar and Alex Jones talk about political engagement goes against my beliefs about how we should act and engage in political discourse,” he said under oath.
Budowich called the two “irresponsible people” and cited an experience when he was a student in Egypt around 2010. Specifically, Budowich told a story to the committee about how a taxi driver of his suggested burning Egypt “to the ground” and let it “rise like a phoenix from the ashes.”
“I kind of rolled my eyes and said, ‘Okay buddy,'” Budowich told the committee.
Still, while advisers expressed concern about including Alexander in the Jan. 6 meeting, the former president saw it differently.
According to depositions and the committee’s last report, as Pierson told Women for America First and Jan. 6 organizer Kylie Kremer, Trump wanted the “crazy ones” — such as Alexander — to be included. The former president noted that after the election, “Stop the Steal” leaders “viciously” defended Trump in the public square.
It was deputy communications director and Trump’s social media guru Dan Scavino who wrote in a subsequent text message that Trump had “brought up” Alexander by name and instructed him to be “on stage unrelated to POTUS or the main event,” according to to the committee.
All the while, Pierson still objected to Alexander. She went to Scavino to argue why controversial speakers should not be included. But that plan to remove Alexander, Jones and Roger Stone was “initially vetoed” by Scavino.
Pierson was undeterred. She gave it one last shot by going to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and writing in a text message, according to the committee: “Things have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction.”
Failing to move the group of controversial characters, she had to make the case to Trump himself at a Jan. 4 rally to “keep the fringes on the fringes” and ban “convicted felons” — a not-so-veiled dig at Alexander — from damaging the reputations of other pro-Trump speakers.
Ultimately, Trump demanded that Alexander be issued a speaking slot, according to the committee.
All the while, to this day, those around the former president remain convinced that Trump does not know who Alexander is, despite his requests to learn more about the far-right activist.
“Trump definitely does not know who Ali Alexander is,” a source close to Trump insisted to The Daily Beast. And while Alexander may not have — or has — a direct line to the former president, he did have Trump’s eye at one point, most likely after staging a similar protest in Georgia.
Other top figures in Trumpworld also appear to be shaky about Alexander. When Kimberly Guilfoyle – a MAGA influencer who is engaged to Don Jr. – was asked about “Ali Akbar” by committee investigators, she replied: “Isn’t that what terrorists shout?”
A source close to Guilfoyle insisted to The Daily Beast that she does not know Alexander. “Kimberly has no idea who this person is or what he’s doing,” the source said.
(Guilfoyle, for his part, pocketed $60,000 for one two minutes speech on January 6.)
When reached for comment by The Daily Beast, Alexander would not comment on his relationship with Trump or whether he has a direct line to the former president. But he insisted Trump was a fan of his work.
“Trump, the donors and the organizers want [sic] me. And that was the movement I created,” he told The Daily Beast. “Losers who resented me didn’t want me.” He further accused Pierson of returning to her “ghetto grifter ways” and claimed she betrayed Trump. “Trump endorsed me,” he argued. (Pierson declined to comment.)
As Scavino pointed out, Trump supported Alexander speaking — at least to some degree. As Trump directed, Alexander addressed a rally at Freedom Plaza on the evening of Jan. 6, declaring, “Victory or death!”
The next day, with the Capitol under siege, Pierson texted fellow senior Trump adviser Max Miller about why she had “fought so hard to keep certain people off the damn stage.”
“The good news is that I was able to keep the crazies off the stage,” she wrote, according to the committee.
“Thank God,” Miller replied.
While Alexander’s exact relationship with Trump — or lack thereof — remains murky, a source close to Trump insisted that Alexander’s future in Trumpworld is not promising.
The far-right activist is “irresponsible,” the source said, and “makes it about himself a lot of the time.”
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