“I was the person that came up with the Jan. 6 idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks, and then Congressman Andy Biggs,” GOP operative Ali Alexander said in a Dec. 28, 2020, Periscope video. “We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting, so that who we couldn’t lobby, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”
The video, which was captured by investigative reporter Jason Paladino before it was deleted, highlights the role played by Alexander, his so-called “Stop the Steal” campaign, and far-right members of Congress in the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack launches its first public hearings June 9, and Alexander and “Stop the Steal” are likely to figure prominently in its findings. Alexander sat for eight hours of testimony in front of the committee on Dec. 9, and in April, a lawyer for Alexander said he would cooperate with the Department of Justice’s Jan. 6 investigation—a claim on which Alexander promptly threw cold water.
Right Wing Watch extensively covered Ali Alexander and the so-called Stop the Steal movement ahead of Jan. 6. Here’s what you need to know.
Who is Ali Alexander? What is “Stop the Steal”?
On Nov. 4, 2020, as mail-in ballots began to be counted and shifted the election in favor of Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump falsely declared that the ongoing efforts to count millions of outstanding ballots were an indication of fraud and that he had in fact won.
Hours later, Alexander publicly launched “Stop the Steal,” a campaign to get right-wing activists to discredit mail-in voting, disrupt vote-counting, and falsely accuse Democrats of stealing the presidential election. The campaign held its first rally outside Arizona’s state capitol building in Phoenix that evening, featuring Rep. Paul Gosar, who with a bullhorn in hand, addressed the crowd before introducing “Pizzagate” booster Mike Cernovich, who threatened imaginary anti-fascist activists.
And so began months of “Stop the Steal” rallies featuring far-right members of Congress, QAnon and election conspiracy theorists, Christian nationalists, and far-right anti-government groups, all under the MAGA banner.
Alexander, née Ali Akbar, has long worked in Republican politics, coming up under the tutelage of “dirty trickster” Roger Stone. He has connections to deep pockets, too: a PAC advised by Alexander received a $60,000 donation in 2016 from pro-Trump billionaire Robert Mercer. These Republican connections have persisted despite his habit of noting when members of the media he criticizes are Jewish and despite associating with far-right figures like Unite the Right white supremacist attendee Matt Colligan and members of the neo-fascist Proud Boys.
Alexander’s “Stop the Steal” campaign wasn’t the first to go by that name. Longtime GOP operative and Trump confidant Roger Stone first popularized the phrase “Stop the Steal” during the 2016 presidential election. In 2018, Alexander, Stone, and far-right commentator Jack Posobiec launched a “Stop the Steal” campaign during a ballot recount for Florida’s Senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson. Pro-Trump activists from around the country descended on Florida to protest and spread misinformation, insisting that Democrats were trying to “steal” the election from Scott. It served as a dry run for the 2020 presidential election. Sure enough, in September 2020, Posobiec and Alexander discussed rebooting the campaign.
What was their role in the lead up to Jan. 6?
Alexander served as the lead organizer for “Stop the Steal.” The campaign targeted Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia—battleground states won by Joe Biden and whose cities are home to predominantly Black and brown voters—holding rallies and spreading election disinformation on social media.
He called on figures he knew from his time as a member of the highly secretive Council for National Policy and through his years in Republican politics to join the effort, including activists Amy and Kylie Kremer, Jack Posobiec, Brandon Straka, Scott Presler, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, Ed Martin of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. He brought into the fold Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump team attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood—who have since been disciplined for bringing false lawsuits alleging election fraud. Most joined the so-called “Stop the Steal” movement in a public capacity; others promoted the same messaging through their own organizations and organized behind the scenes.
Alexander welcomed extremists into the campaign’s ranks. Male supremacist Mike Cernovich, white nationalist Nick Fuentes, and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones were among the first to answer Alexander’s call. Alongside white nationalist Patrick Casey, Vincent James, and Baked Alaska, Fuentes galvanized crowds of white men to attend “Stop the Steal” rallies across the county, while Jones spread disinformation through his Infowars network, raised funds for the Jan. 6 rally, and brought a caravan of supporters to rallies.
On Nov. 14, “Stop the Steal” came to the nation’s capital. Thousands of Trump loyalists, conspiracy theorists, and members of far-right groups took to the streets. Marjorie Taylor Green, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn—all recently elected to Congress—addressed the crowd alongside organizers. Radical conspiracy theorist Alex Jones yelled unintelligibly into a bullhorn. Members of the Proud Boys hate group roamed the streets looking for fights and found them late in the evening. Fuentes’ America First group, a youth-focused white-nationalist outfit, commanded the crowd’s attention with chants of “America First.”
Nick Fuentes’ white nationalist “groypers” commanded the crowds attention at Freedom Plaza with chants of “America First.” pic.twitter.com/KPXjENFHz3
— Kristen Doerer (@k2doe) November 14, 2020
A second Dec. 12 rally was deeply steeped in Christian nationalist and violent rhetoric. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and declare martial law, threatening a “much more bloody war” should he fail to do so.
While rallies brought the whole of the MAGA movement together, Alexander held regular Periscopes to spread disinformation and provide action items to Trump supporters.
Alexander called on “Stop the Steal” activists to lobby the state legislatures of battleground states won by Joe Biden to ignore the election results and send Republican electors to the electoral college to give Trump enough electoral votes. He called on state Republican legislators to declare the election fraudulent and threatened them with a primary challenger should they not.
By mid-December, right-wing activists and lawyers were focused on Jan. 6, the day Congress would certify the electoral votes. More than 100 House members and a dozen Senators committed to voting against certifying the election. Trump and the apparatus around him began to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to use his ceremonial duty to block or delay Biden’s certification. “Stop the Steal” fed into that pressure, with “Stop the Steal” friend Lin Wood going as far as to call for the vice president’s execution.
On Dec. 19, Trump declared it “[s]tatistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election.” He encouraged his followers to come to D.C.: “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
Alexander had already planned a Jan. 6 D.C. protest, but he began fighting his one-time fellow activists Kylie and Amy Kremer for control of the big Jan. 6 rally. The Kremers had used the “Stop the Steal” banner for their cross country bus tour and a competing December rally, much to Alexander’s chagrin. ProPublica reported that Katrina Pierson, whom the White House put in charge of the rally planning, “helped arrange a deal where those organizers deemed too extreme to speak at the Ellipse could do so on the night of Jan. 5.” That meant Alexander and his cohort were relegated to speaking on the evening of Jan. 5, while the Kremers took the lead on the Jan. 6 event held at the Ellipse. Alexander held that Jan. 5 rally and planned his own separate “wild” Jan. 6 protest on the east side of the Capitol building to follow the main “Save America” rally.
Alexander spent weeks in the lead up to the Capitol insurrection calling for “rebellion,” starting chants of “victory or death,” and using rhetoric of the American Revolution and spiritual warfare to call for action should Congress certify the election of President Joe Biden. He engaged in violent rhetoric, appearing to even advocate for physical attacks against members of Congress who he said stole the election.
The Jan. 5 rally served as the penultimate event of those calls. Speakers delivered Christian nationalist messages and veiled threats of violence if Congress failed to reject Biden electors. Bikers for Trump founder Chris Cox told rally-goers that the United States was on the brink of a revolution and that he would “take the first bullet.” Right Wing Watch reported at the time:
Standing in front of a sign declaring “MARTIAL LAW NOW,” so-called Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander led the crowd in chants of “Victory or death!” Alexander told activists, “Our government is only our government if it is legitimate” and declared, “1776 is always an option.” He said Stop the Steal activists were starting “a rebellion against the Deep State.”
What was Ali Alexander and the campaign’s role on Jan. 6?
On the day of the insurrection, Alexander took to Twitter early in the morning to declare it the “First official day of the rebellion.” Alexander was supposed to hold his “wild” protest by the Capitol, but it would never materialize.
Trump loyalists packed into the Ellipse, eager to stop what they saw as a fraudulent election. Speaking from the stage and wearing a bulletproof vest, Rep. Mo Brooks, whom Alexander had recently called a friend, told attendees that Jan. 6 is “the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass. … Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”
“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told the crowd. He urged activists to march to the Capitol to make their voices heard. They did as they were told.
Leaving the rally at the Ellipse after Trump’s speech, where he was a VIP guest with far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Alexander followed Jones through the Capitol grounds, past barricades, and up the Capitol steps. At that point—around 2 p.m.—the Capitol had already been breached.
“Democrats and Media ended the Republic and the people responded. Welcome to ‘duhhh’,” he tweeted an hour later.
Alexander emerged on One America News Network’s terrace overlooking the Capitol to record a video, posted on the “Stop the Steal” Twitter account by his associate Michael Coudrey at 4:26 p.m.—well after the violence had begun.
“I don’t disavow this. I do not denounce this,” Alexander said, gesturing to the scene behind him. Trump loyalists were descending on the Capitol and up the Capitol steps. “This is completely peaceful, looks like, so far. And there are a couple of agitators that I obviously don’t endorse,” he claimed despite having seen what took place on the steps not long before. By the end of the video, Alexander was back to encouraging rebellion. “StoptheSteal.us is going to be the home of the rebellion against an illegitimate government.”
Right Wing Watch captured the video, which was later deleted.
This is Ali Alexander, leader of the so-called Stop the Steal campaign, saying: “I don’t disavow this. I do not denounce this.” pic.twitter.com/0mP0xThAYP
— Kristen Doerer (@k2doe) January 6, 2021
Where is Ali Alexander now?
Ali Alexander went into hiding following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In February, he briefly reappeared and said he had been plotting to restart rallies in March, abolish the media, and build a separate society for Trump supporters. He declared that “civil war” was the only outcome available to those who opposed Biden’s presidency.
But Alexander was kicked off Twitter and most mainstream social media platforms. He lost access to his Venmo, Cashapp, and Paypal. He turned to alternative social media platforms and briefly became a Bitcoin influencer.
In October 2021, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack issued three subpoenas to Alexander, the Stop the Steal organization, and Nathan Martin, who worked with Alexander and reserved the Jan. 6 rally space. Alexander accused the government of “gaslighting” and blamed the violence on “agitators dressed in militant outfits.” Jan. 6, he said, was a government “psyop.”
In December 2021, Alexander testified for eight hours in a closed-door hearing and asked the House select committee to suspend reality. In a draft of his opening statement, which was leaked to the New York Times, he denied wrongdoing and passed the buck, placing blame for the violence on Katrina Pierson, Kylie Kremer, and Amy Kremer.
In a lawsuit seeking to prevent the select committee from obtaining his phone records, Alexander confirmed to congressional investigators that ahead of Jan. 6, he had communicated with several GOP congressmen—Reps. Paul Gosar, Mo Brooks, and Andy Biggs—as well as with Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend and member of Trump’s inner circle.
In April, a lawyer for Alexander said he would cooperate with the Department of Justice’s Jan. 6 investigation. The following day, Alexander joined Alex Jones’ show to suggest he wouldn’t cooperate. He went on to call the effort to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol a conspiracy to “stop Trump from running in 2024” and “usher in a New World Order.”
A few days later, Alexander joined Alex Jones’ show again. He mused that “there is a time for legitimate violence when there is legitimate tyranny.”