Ahead of January 6, U.S. Park Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police officials raised concerns about permits sought by pro-Trump rally organizers, some of whom claimed to be working directly with the president, according to records obtained by CREW. Federal and D.C. officials even wanted to enlist President Biden’s inaugural committee to help block the permits.

“These ‘organizers’ are being played by the grand puppeteer and [it] seems like the goal is to confuse, confuse, confuse so they can get what they want when they want it, on their terms. Very annoying,” one official complained.

Discussions about the permits began on December 19, when rally organizer Cindy Chafian sought a permit for a “parade” from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol on behalf of Women for America First, a “social welfare” nonprofit group run by noted Trump loyalists. Emails show that Park Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police’s Homeland Security Bureau closely coordinated on fielding the request. 

The ensuing weeks saw a flurry of last-minute changes by rally organizers. In emails sent on December 21, 26 and 27, Chafian amended the dates and locations for her permit, and asked that it be put in “her name” rather than Women for America First’s. Chafian would later explain she had been “sidelined” by Caroline Wren, a Trump campaign fundraiser who took over in late December as a lead planner for the Women for America First rally. Chafian went on to host her own pro-Trump rally with the Eighty Percent Coalition.

On December 29, the head of Park Police’s Special Events Unit, David Lamond, emailed federal and D.C. officials to provide updates on Chafian’s requested permit, as well as a new permit application by Women for America First for an event at the Ellipse. That event became the “Save America March,” the infamous rally headlined by Trump that sparked the Capitol riot.

Lamond also noted that the Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) intended to “relinquish” permits for “Freedom Plaza and the area of Sylvan Theater for Jan. 6.” “They are still discussing whether they want to relinquish the [National] Mall, but are hesitant to do so as they want to start setting up their event on January 7th for the Inauguration,” Lamond added.

The new developments raised alarms for D.C. and federal officials. “We NEED the PIC NOT to release their permits!!!!” wrote D.C. Police’s lead inauguration planner in a December 30 email.

Another official concurred, writing “Agreed. This is all over the place.” Park Police’s Lamond added, “I’m more confused now than when I was before. If I am tracking correctly, no one knows what is going on anymore.”

Another D.C. official raised questions about prior conversations with Chafian, in which she claimed to be organizing her rally in coordination with the White House.

Text messages from late December likewise describe close coordination between the Trump White House and Jan. 6 rally organizers. The messages appear to be side conversations between government officials while they spoke to one of the organizers.

In one text, a Park Police employee wrote, “Got her to slip up and say she is just going [sic] what the president is telling them to do.” 

“Interview and interrogation training paid off,” the other official responded. He continued, “We need to convince the pic not to give up their regulatory preference,” echoing the sentiments expressed in the D.C. official’s December 30 email.

“That ship may have already sailed [but] I’ll follow up,” the Park Police official replied. It is unclear whether the Park Police in fact followed up with the PIC.

Another text exchange shows that conversations with the rally organizers became heated.

“WTF is going on,” the Park Police employee wrote. “Too harsh? I’m tired of this.”

“No. Perfect. She is [a] liar. Now she is working with [redacted]. never [mentions] him until asked,” the other official responded.

In a separate exchange, the Park Police official wrote, “Dude this is insane. I’m more confused now than before 9am.”

In addition to the permitting chaos, the documents reflect that the Park Police acknowledged a potential for violence on January 6 and Trump’s role in the events.  A January 5 “Incident Briefing” for Women for America First’s Save America March noted “[m]ultiple acts of violence have occurred in the downtown Washington, DC area during and after similar events hosted by the same organizer.” It predicted a “large portion” of rally attendees would “depart the Ellipse at some point and march to the U.S. Capitol.” Trump’s tweets had “dramatically increased interest in this event,” the report added. The briefing was emailed to Park Police and Secret Service personnel on the evening of January 5. 

CREW obtained the records in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which has previously uncovered a pattern of intelligence and law enforcement failures ahead of January 6, including by the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security. The Park Police documents raise new questions about the role right-wing advocacy groups played in organizing the political rallies that ignited the insurrection—questions that must be thoroughly investigated by the bipartisan January 6 Select Committee.

Header photo by Elvert Barnes under a Creative Commons license.

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