Three of Donald Trump's closest advisers in the 2016 campaign and early White House days went all in on his post-election incitement, but are now trying to insulate themselves from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Trump's former national security adviser Mike Flynn, White House aide Steve Bannon, and longtime confidant Roger Stone—all of whom were ensnared in the Russia probe—resurfaced following Trump's election loss to vigorously promote his fraud lies. And even though none of them spoke at the Jan. 6 rally-turned-riot, they all worked in different ways to promote and build interest in the event, according to ABC News.
At a December 12 pro-Trump rally in Washington billed as the "Jericho March" and promoted by "Stop the Steal" movement—the lead organizers of the Jan. 6 rally—Flynn told attendees the country had reached a "crucible moment" and "there has to be sacrifice," according to ABC. "We’re in a battle," Flynn said, "for the heart and soul of the country." He also told the crowd that on a scale from 1 to 10, he thought the chances of Trump being the next president were “a 10.”
Attendees of the December event included members of the extremist Proud Boys group, who later clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters resulting in four stabbings following the rally. The so-called "Jericho March" returned to D.C. on Jan. 5 and 6, calling on “patriots, people of faith and all those who want to take back America” to travel to D.C. for two days of prayer and protest.
Bannon was also an avid supporter of the Jan. 6 rally, serving as a chief sponsor of the "March for Trump" group that helped organize the event alongside "Stop the Steal." Bannon's post-election rhetoric was downright gory. His "War Room" podcast was banned from Twitter after he imagined beheading Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Chris Wray.
"I'd put the heads on pikes. Right. I'd put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats," Bannon said. "You either get with the program or you are gone."
For his part, Stone riled up Trump cultists the night before the Jan. 6 rally, saying Trump's detractors wanted "nothing less than the heist of the 2020 election," adding "We say, No way!"
Now, all three men have kicked into overdrive to distance themselves from the Capitol attack.
A source close to Flynn told ABC News the retired general does not believe his words incited violence, and that he does not condone it, saying the riot was "the last thing we expected."
Who coulda known? That seems legit.
Bannon representatives said he would "never" call for violence—even after he did. "Mr. Bannon did not, would not and has never called for violence of any kind. Mr. Bannon’s commentary was clearly meant metaphorically."
Stone, who addressed attendees on the eve of the riotous rally and had been billed as a featured speaker on Jan. 6, said he had “no role” in fomenting the violence at the Capitol.
"I have no role whatsoever in the January 6 events as I never left the site of my hotel until leaving for Dulles Airport before 6 pm curfew. A careful review of my language of January 5 indicates that I played no role whatsoever in advocating violence or any inappropriate or illegal activity," Stone said in the statement.
Interesting. Stone, by his own account, seems to have been pretty meticulous about the language he used the night before the insurrection.