The night before the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville and the then-director of the Republican Attorneys General Association met with then-President Donald Trump’s sons and close advisers, according to a social media post by a Nebraska Republican who at the time was a Trump administration appointee.
Charles W. Herbster, who was then the national chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee in Trump’s administration, in a Facebook post at 8:33 p.m. on Jan. 5 said that he was standing “in the private residence of the President at Trump International with the following patriots who are joining me in a battle for justice and truth.”
Tuberville, through a spokeswoman Tuesday, told APR that he did not attend a Jan. 5 meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Among the attendees, according to Herbster’s post, were Tuberville, former RAGA director Adam Piper, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, adviser Peter Navarro, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie.
RAGA’s dark-money fundraising arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, led by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, paid for robocalls directing people to the March to Save America and rally, which took place just before the Capitol attack.
Herbster attended the Jan. 6 rally, but said he left before the riot, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The newspaper also reported that Herbster “also met Tuesday in Trump’s private residence in his Washington, D.C., hotel with Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and other campaign advisers.”
“They discussed how to pressure more members of Congress to object to the Electoral College results that made Joe Biden the winner,” The Omaha World-Herald reported.
Flynn earlier on Jan. 5 spoke at a rally of pro-Trump supporters in support of Trump’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud.
“We stand at a crucible moment in United States history. This country is awake now,” Flynn told the crowd, according to numerous news outlets.
Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, spoke at the rally prior to the Capitol attack, telling the crowd: “Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Right-wing political activist and an organizer of the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, Ali Alexander, in videos posted on social media claimed that Brooks was involved in the planning of the rally that day, meant to pressure lawmakers inside the Capitol as they prepared to vote on certifying the Electoral College votes.
The Jan. 5 meeting, as discussed in the Facebook post, was first reported by journalist Seth Abramson on Tuesday. Abramson in his article states that it’s unclear if Trump himself attended the Jan. 5 meeting at his hotel.
“I’ve dedicated my life to promoting and preserving the American Dream. Tonight, as I look at our nation’s flag, I’m reminded of the battles and blood spilled to protect our way of life,” Herbster wrote in his post:
In numerous photos posted to his Facebook page in the months prior to the Jan. 5 meeting, Herbster can be seen posing with Trump and Trump’s sons and close advisors.
APR sent questions to a Tuberville spokesperson asking whether the senator had attended a Jan. 5 meeting with Trump, Piper and others at his hotel, and if so, why was he called to the meeting and what was discussed. The Tuberville spokeswoman replied in an email: “the answers to your questions are No and Not Applicable.” Attempts to contact Herbster on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
As pro-Trump supporters, far-right groups and militia members were breaking into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani both mistakenly called Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah while trying to call Tuberville, according to multiple news accounts, a recording of a voicemail message by Giuliani left for Tuberville and statements by Lee.
In the recorded voicemail message mistakenly left on Lee’s phone, first reported by The Dispatch, Giuliani asks Tuberville to stall the counting of electoral votes.
“I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you,” Giuliani said in a voicemail.
“Every decision Adam made on behalf of RLDF was with the best of intentions and with the organization’s best interests in mind,” Marshall said in a statement at the time. “Adam leaves a void that will be difficult to replace, but we wish Adam well as he pursues other opportunities that will allow him to spend more time with his family.”
Marshall has not publicly said why Piper resigned. Attempts to reach Piper for comment Tuesday were not successful.
RLDF was listed as a participating organization for the Jan. 6 “March to Save America” on the march’s website. The website is now down, but archived versions show RLDF as a participating group. Prior to the protest, RLDF sent out robocalls detailing when and where citizens should meet for the Jan. 6 rally, which was first reported by the watchdog investigative journalism group Documented.
“I’m calling for the Rule of Law Defense Fund with an important message,” the robocall stated, according to Documented. “The march to save America is tomorrow in Washington D.C. at the Ellipse in President’s Park between E St. and Constitution Avenue on the south side of the White House, with doors opening at 7:00 a.m. At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections. For more information, visit MarchtoSaveAmerica.com. This call is paid for and authorized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund, 202-796-5838.”
“Serving Republican attorneys general has been the honor of a lifetime and honestly a dream job,” Piper said in a statement on his resignation, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement to APR on Jan. 7, after APR’s story on the matter had published earlier that day, Piper said neither RAGA nor RLDF was involved with the planning of the rally and seemed to place the blame on staff.
“The Republican Attorneys General Association and Rule of Law Defense Fund had no involvement in the planning, sponsoring, or the organization of yesterday’s rally,” Piper said in the statement at the time. “No Republican AG authorized the staff’s decision to amplify a colleague speaking at the rally. Organizationally and individually, we strongly condemn and disavow the events which occurred. Yesterday was a dark day in American history and those involved in the violence and destruction of property must be prosecuted and held accountable.”
Marshall, in a statement to APR on Jan. 8, blamed unnamed RLDF staff and said he was not aware of his organization’s involvement:
“I was unaware of unauthorized decisions made by RLDF staff with regard to this week’s rally. Despite currently transitioning into my role as the newly elected chairman of RLDF, it is unacceptable that I was neither consulted about nor informed of those decisions. I have directed an internal review of this matter. As I said yesterday, I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the actions of those who attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol, a place where passionate but peaceful protestors had gathered and lawmakers debated inside. Our country is built upon the foundation of the rule of law. American democracy guarantees the right of peaceful protest. Those who chose to engage in violence and anarchy should and will be held accountable under the law.”
Marshall, speaking to The Montgomery Advertiser on Jan. 12, after a press conference on human trafficking and before Piper’s resignation was announced, said the internal review was ongoing. Asked by the Advertiser whether he felt Trump bore any responsibility for the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday, and for comment on Trump’s potential impeachment, Marshall declined to comment.
“I didn’t see anything about the rally,” Marshall said, according to the newspaper. “I don’t know anything about his remarks.”
APR’s questions to Marshall’s office Tuesday about the status of Marshall’s investigation into the matter, and whether he has learned of Piper’s possible attendance at that Jan. 5 meeting, weren’t immediately answered.