Former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon had floated the idea of more violence in the days following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, according to text messages obtained by the House select committee that investigated the attack.
The House Jan. 6 committee released its latest batch of material on Sunday from its investigation into the insurrection and the political players who planned it, including the former president. The committee formally recommended last month that the Justice Department charge Trump with several counts related to the attack, including inciting an insurrection.
One of the witness testimony transcripts the committee released on Monday is that of Alexandra Preate, who served as Bannon’s spokesperson from 2016 to 2020.
A text exchange between Preate and Bannon on Jan. 8, 2021, that was obtained by the House select committee revealed that the former Trump adviser wanted to “turn up the heat” in the days following the deadly insurrection. Despite attempts by Trump’s followers to stop Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence from certifying the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden on Jan. 6, the majority of lawmakers carried out their duty that day.
According to the texts, Preate later messaged Bannon about Trump still residing in Washington and asked when the Republican president planned to leave town ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
“He’s not staying in the White House after the 20th,” Bannon replied, referring to Biden’s inauguration date. “But who says we don’t have one million people the next day?”
Preate told the select committee that she did not know what Bannon was referring to when he mentioned the 1 million people but said she thought he was talking about people “marching or standing there or something like that.”
The committee then showed a later text from Bannon to Preate in which he said, “Well, I’d surround the Capitol in total silence.”
Preate testified that she didn’t recall Bannon talking to her more about bringing people back to Washington, even after the riot at the Capitol.
Preate said that there was a period in which Trump and Bannon weren’t speaking to each other but that the two restarted communications before the 2020 election. She said that Bannon was “very private about his conversations, not just with the president but with other people in general.”
She also testified that her work with Bannon did not focus much on his “War Room” podcast, where he and right-wing guests would often amplify unfounded accusations that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Trump and push calls for rebellion.
A federal jury convicted Bannon in July of acting in contempt of Congress, and he was sentenced in October to four months and fined $6,500. The Trump ally refused to turn over communications and other documentation to the House Jan. 6 committee and refused to appear before the bipartisan panel of lawmakers for a deposition in their investigation.