Q&A with Ali Alexander, organizer of ‘Stop the Steal’ protests before Jan. 6

Alexander appeared Saturday at the Nebraska Freedom Festival

By: - August 29, 2022 5:45 am

Conservative organizer and provocateur Ali Alexander speaks to the Nebraska Freedom Festival in Omaha. (Matt Johnson/Right Cheer)

OMAHA — Conservative political activist and provocateur Ali Alexander chose Nebraska to give what he called his first public speech since organizing “Stop the Steal” rallies in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, when more than 2,000 people stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress certified the 2020 presidential election results.

Alexander, a Texas resident who has testified to the U.S. House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 and to separate grand juries investigating potential criminal wrongdoing, spoke Saturday at the Nebraska Freedom Coalition’s Freedom Festival, after the event moved indoors because of storms in Sarpy County.

He called for a more “radical” Republican Party, led by conservatives who are willing to hold their own accountable. He suggested that congressional subpoenas would swing toward Democrats if the GOP took control of the U.S. House this fall.

Conservative activist Ali Alexander discusses Jan. 6, 2021, and what’s next for the organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rallies. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

He sat down with the Nebraska Examiner on Sunday and said he remains an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump and a believer in efforts to deny results of the 2020 presidential election. A number of audits and court challenges have failed to change the election results. 

What follows are excerpts from an interview with Alexander in downtown Omaha. Questions and answers were edited for brevity and clarity

Q: What do you think voters are missing about what happened between Jan. 6 and now? Where are they? Where is the movement that you helped? And what’s changed?

A: The significance of taking an issue (election integrity) after Election Day from a zero-percent issue to the top issue that Republican voters are concerned with can’t be understated. That’s not a me thing. That’s not even a Donald Trump thing. That’s a voter thing. But certainly Donald Trump and I poured gasoline on the proverbial fire. 

We should all want our elections to be secure, predictable, auditable, transparent. I mean, that should be something that has a bipartisan consensus, and it does with the voters. It just doesn’t with the politicians.

That’s the bad side of what’s happened, post J6 (Jan. 6, 2021), is it really allowed it (the movement) to truly become leaderless, and then the loudest people saying the craziest things have gotten to lead it.

Conservative organizer and provocateur Ali Alexander. (Matt Johnson/Right Cheer)

Q: Talk a little bit about what these last 15 months have been like for you, where you are now and what you’re trying to do moving forward.

A: God certainly prepared me for this moment. It’s taken all of my life experience, be it being a champion debater in high school. My mother’s a lawyer. I’ve been sued several times. I worked in politics. And so, I think that that prepared me for the post J6 fallout, where I face more lawfare (a legal effort to delegitimize an opponent) than any other single individual, other than Donald Trump. 

I’m involved in a civil lawsuit where eight cops, might be nine now, U.S. Capitol Police, are suing me, Donald Trump, Roger Stone and Brandon Straka (of Nebraska). I testified before the J6 Select Committee for eight hours. It was the longest or second-longest verbal testimony. I had to testify before the grand jury that’s investigating the alternate electors. … I’m also suing Nancy Pelosi to try to place a constitutional limit on congressional subpoenas, which is very difficult to do. 

I’m dealing with a lot of lawfare, a hundred thousand dollars in legal bills, juggling four different lawyers … And you really want to make sure this stuff is right. …

It’s been kind of crippling and crushing, but I’ve dealt with my own peace, competent lawyers, a lot of prayer, and that’s where I am. I’m kind of stuck. They’ve taken me out of the midterms in 2022. So shout-out to the Democrats for sidelining a ton of great organizers in the Republican Party. 

Q: Looking back at the run-up to Jan. 6, what, if anything, would you have done differently?

A: I usually think of it in terms of, ‘Do I regret organizing on Jan. 6th or not?’ and I don’t. In fact, I plan to be at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2025, … for whatever the Congress certifies. There’s going to be a winner. There’s going to be a loser. And I intend to hold a peaceful event. …

I wish I would have asserted myself more. I announced that we were going to go to DC on December 16th, President Trump did his tweet December 19th. His staff reached out to me on the 20th or 21st. And so as we began coordinating things, I wish we would have, I wish I would have put my foot down on some of the things that I knew needed to be done and that I did push to be done.

Two organizers of the Nebraska Freedom Festival at the Sarpy County Fairgrounds run for shelter after storms disrupt the event. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

For example, there was supposed to be a video played at the Ellipse (during Trump’s Jan. 6 rally) that gave proper instruction of where to go because we had a permit on the Capitol bond. I had a permit on area eight. And there were three other permits. … So I’m not responsible for what happened, and Trump’s not responsible for what happened. 

Whenever you’re talking to a group that large, you want to do stuff out of an abundance of caution. And I don’t think that the people who serve President Trump, some of them, I don’t think that they acted out of an abundance of caution. 

There’s some negligence in that the video that was produced by my team was never played. … They (the crowd) didn’t really know where they were supposed to go or not go.

I hope that every organizer in the future knows that if you’re talking to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, out of abundance of caution, tell people where to go, what to look for, because bad actors are going to be involved in hijacking events and, and it’s not just bad actors. Sometimes patriots will lose their temper. 

Q: Quite a few Nebraskans were involved in some of the planning in the run-up to this, including former Nebraskan Kimberly Fletcher with Moms for America. You and Charles Herbster (a former Nebraska gubernatorial candidate) were both VIPs at The Ellipse rally. Ginni Thomas (the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) has Nebraska ties. But talk a little bit about how many of those folks, if any, did you run into during that run-up? 

A: I’ve known Ginni Thomas for years, but we actually, I don’t think we talked once during the whole election integrity campaign. … A lot of my work was centered on talking to state legislators, putting a peaceful public pressure through protest and various states when a court decision was coming down or there was an ad hoc hearing or any of this other type of stuff. Ginni Thomas was working on communicating her concerns to the White House and stuff like that.

Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster poses on Jan. 6, 2021, at the rally then-President Donald Trump held on the Ellipse near the White House before thousands of supporters marched to the Capitol. Pictured from left are Kimberly Fletcher and Meredith Iler of Moms for America. (Social media image)

It is fascinating because I’ve read some of these left-wing Twitter troll rumors … they like to bring up the council (The Council of National Policy, a conservative group that connects people from across the government, business and political worlds). (Ginni and I are) a part of an exclusive invite-only organization, and, you know, by association there’s somehow a conspiracy. There wasn’t a conspiracy.

I know and admire her work. And I understand how confusing it is for the public to see a justice’s spouse participate politically. … But for those who have watched politics for decades, she’s always been the same person.

Kimberly Fletcher was instrumental. There really would not be a Stop the Steal movement to the degree that we were effective without Kimberly Fletcher. We got connected through an activist down South. She said, ‘You need to talk to her.’

We were on the phone, and five minutes later, she said, ‘I’m gonna roll my organization into yours,’ and that allowed us, on that first Saturday after the elections, to be present in all 50 state capitals. … Without Kimberly Fletcher and Moms for America (which has since moved its headquarters to Missouri), that would not have been possible. And a lot of these moms who are now active in the school board races … they were election-integrity activists first. 

Brandon Straka (a Nebraskan convicted of disorderly conduct for his actions outside the Capitol Jan. 6, 2021) and I, our personalities are so similar that we kind of butted heads in the conservative influencer space. But when he saw that I was organizing, he called me. … 

I said, well, I’m sending an influencer to every state and then I’m partnering them with an activist that I know, you know, through my years of activism, and that turned out to be the winning combo. If you want to know why Stop (the Steal) worked, it was because we were able to hijack the internet with influencers and hijack the grassroots with tea party organizers or GOP county chairs. 

A map of the demonstration locations near the U.S. Capitol. Ali Alexander said his group made a video intended to steer protesters to Area 8 on Jan. 6, 2021. (Submitted photo)

Q: What do you say to those people who look at what has been reported about you and your movement and see political extremism or something else entirely? 

A: Polarization in this country has been increasing, you know, since post-(President Bill) Clinton. But I think that’s to the benefit of the people. The polarization I’d like to see is between the people and the American oligarchs. So in that way, the tea party and Occupy (Wall Street) and Antifa and Stop the Steal, we have a similar texture and ethos. …

Certainly, had we known in hindsight that there would be a riot, our language would have been different. But our language is normative to how we have talked about politics since 2007, 2008. “1776” is a very popular saying. You can mean a couple different things, even “victory or death,” you know. It’s something I’ve been raked over the coals for, and rightfully so.

But that references the Travis letter. … Me and Alex Jones. We’re lovers of history. It’s a kind of give me liberty or give me death and it’s just very famous in Texas history. … But I understand how the public sees that or and says, oh my gosh, this had to be pre-planned. And the public does deserve answers, which is why I’ve always supported, you know, an investigation (a bipartisan and balanced investigation) into everything so that the public could get answers. 

Q: What do you think lit the match that day (Jan. 6, 2021)?

A: So I don’t think anything lit the match. … I think that there are probably 20 people in the country that are in my position and that is that you can lead and marshal hundreds of thousands or millions of people because of a special skill set and Rolodex that we each have. … It’s easy for someone to say this one thing (is responsible).

More than 125 people attended a Nebraska Freedom Coalition rally in July, the day before the GOP state convention. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

So I would say, the lack of proper instruction at the Ellipse contributed to that, OK? Then the D.C. metro police and D.C. mayor not cooperating meant that there were no police from the Ellipse or Freedom Plaza to the Capitol. If there had been a police presence … it’s a mitigating technique. If you had just seen a hundred or 500 police down Pennsylvania Avenue, nothing ever would have happened. 

There’s the release of (former Vice President) Mike Pence’s ill-timed press release.  … That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in my career. What he should have done as a great steward of the Constitution is commit himself to the action that he was going to do and then explain it afterwards. … What we do know is that that agitated some people who didn’t understand. 

Q: What do you say to those people who call you an insurrectionist? 

A: Insurrection is a criminal charge, and no one’s been charged with it. I think that’s inaccurate. Insurrection requires an armed rebellion. There were people, I think three or five or two, something like that, people who had weapons on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6. (At least three people facing charges were alleged by police to possess firearms on Capitol grounds. More than 100 people have been charged with possessing or using other types of weapons. Eleven have been charged with seditious conspiracy.) Congressman (Paul) Gosar, myself, Alex Jones and other people were adamant about no one bringing weapons. That’s what I tell people is that 90% of that crowd, at least, are gun owners. … They didn’t bring guns because nobody wanted an armed rebellion. .

So I’d say I can’t be an insurrectionist because I don’t believe in that, and the moment I decide to become an insurrectionist, I’ll have no qualms about doing that. I’d say be careful what you wish for, because you could accidentally gaslight the right into actually becoming insurrectionists. And I think there are still peaceful ways to come together. … And again, I blame our federal government more than I blame the Democrat Party.

Supporters gather for then-President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally on the Ellipse near the White House. Many in the crowd marched down to the Capitol afterward. (Image texted by Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster.)

Q: When you look at what happened, after all of this — the police officers who were injured, the folks who lost lives, including protesters — how do you describe what happened as peaceful? 

A: I would say that those people have very legitimate grievances and legitimate anger, and I first try to, you know, empathize with them, because if I were in their shoes, I would feel that way. Then certainly because of the corporate media coverage of the event, that is how it was characterized for the first four months.  … There are a couple times in our country’s history where there are just pure riots. But most riots in this country’s history start as protests that a criminal element then takes over, and then most protesters don’t participate in the riots. 

So I would say that it’s very difficult to hear, but Jan. 6 was 90-something percent peaceful, but people don’t hear that because they associate it with the riot element. 

And there are a lot of people including myself who had to get counseling for it. I would just say that people really need just plug into the raw video, in the raw material, and notice how many people are standing back from the Capitol. Notice how many people chose not to participate when given the opportunity. Notice how many people try to de-escalate. …

There’s been no serious inquiry into potential police abuses. Then themselves they got caught in a horrible situation.  … I’m horrified that anybody would fight. It seems so unnecessary to me. It seems so unwinnable. Why would you do it? And that’s why I think that you didn’t see any leaders participated in any violence.

Q: What do you see in the sort of change to state party leadership structures happening in places like Nebraska and Arizona? And where does the state party fit in this new era of activism?

A: A lot of what we are observing I think happening between grassroots organizations and the party apparatus is better explained just through campaign finance (including the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that struck down many limits on the amounts of money that could be spent on outside groups for political speech), but it does coincide with Trump and that, and that is that strong personalities, email marketing can raise more money than the party. …

New Nebraska Republican Party Chairman Eric Underwood speaks to delegates at the state GOP convention in Kearney. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Republican Party)

What I’ve told behind the scenes to the activists here is, OK, you’ve taken over the state party (which happened in July in Nebraska). It’s a fundraising operation, but you also have three seats. If you do it right … they can have three seats on the RNC (Republican National Committee) and that affects our (party) platform, scheduling debates, the primary, and that is almost as powerful. If you can’t fundraise, then accept that as a challenge.

Q: What’s the organizing principle next time (in 2024) for conservatives, other than just a person, because Americans fought a war to get rid of kings?

A: We on the right are not going to be able to evade that we are centered around a personality, because he’s the avatar of something that seems to have been around since, you know, (Ross) Perot and (Pat) Buchanan. … What Trump was genius in doing was rolling all the rest of us who were ideologues, I was an ideologue. I’m not anymore. 

And it’s really interesting watching the conservative movement move away from the Heritage Foundation. Then when you get the tea party movement, there’s the incorporation of, like, FreedomWorks. Then what you’ve seen now is that we as a movement have transferred from FreedomWorks and from Heritage Foundation to the Claremont Institute. 

No one’s been able to do it quite like him (Trump). (Ron) DeSantis comes close, but even these statewide candidates have to be a little bit more consistent, because they’re appealing to the party base, party activists, conservative activists, but Trump didn’t need to do that. 

He could just flood it in with new voters and balance that out with coalitions of pockets of special interests within the conservative movement. 

I’d say things are very, very dark. Everything mainstream corporate media says that we have to restore norms, and they’re doing nothing to contribute to that. The Democrats say they want to restore norms and democracy, and they are breaking the norms. … And Republicans aren’t concerned about this at all. … I’d say things are going to get worse before they get better. 

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.

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