RNC hires a prominent 'Stop the Steal' advocate to help craft its 2024 platform

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee has hired a prominent supporter of the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement, who has since fueled conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, to help craft its 2024 party platform.

Ed Martin, a former chair of the Missouri Republican Party, was a major proponent of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. He gave a speech to Trump supporters in Washington on the eve of the Capitol attack, calling on “die-hard true Americans” to work until their “last breath” to “stop the steal,” according to video posted on social media.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Martin attended Trump’s speech near the White House before joining the crowd in marching to the Capitol and posting about it on social media. Capitol video surveillance footage published by House Republicans shows him arriving on the grounds at around 2:20 p.m. By that time, Trump’s backers had already broken through police lines and stormed the building itself in an attempt to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.

There’s no evidence Martin was on restricted grounds of the Capitol, entered the building or broke the law that day. But the new RNC hire’s outspoken advocacy for reversing the 2020 election results and his defense of those actions in the years after highlights the extent to which the “Stop the Steal” movement has become institutionalized in the GOP. Trump is anchoring his 2024 bid on the false claim that the election was stolen from him, dangling pardons for Jan. 6 rioters and vowing retribution against his political foes — even floating imprisoning them — if elected.

Martin was tapped by the RNC on May 15 to serve as deputy policy director of the platform committee, which drafts the policies the party will run on in November. The RNC noted that he’s the president of the conservative Phyllis Schlafly Eagles and the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, as well as the author of the 2016 book “The Conservative Case for Trump.”

The announcement was paired with the platform committee hires of Trump’s Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans to be executive director and former Trump White House budget director Russ Vought to serve as the policy director on the platform panel.

“They each have a proven track record of understanding and implementing our party’s America First agenda, and their sound judgement and principled vision will be critical to help lead our party and country to victory in one of the most significant elections of our lifetimes,” RNC Chairman Michael Whatley, who was hand-picked by Trump, said in a statement.

It’s not clear how much influence Martin will have over the eventual party platform, with Trump’s circle consolidating control over the RNC and its activities and seeking to limit far-right language on cultural issues like abortion and the definition of marriage, as NBC News previously reported. Martin is an avowed opponent of abortion and his group has fought for “traditional” marriage and families, blaming no-fault divorce.

An RNC spokesperson didn’t return requests for comment on the Martin hire, whether it supports his claims that the 2020 election was stolen or how much sway he’ll have over the platform. Martin also did not respond to a request from NBC News.

January 2021

Martin gave a speech on Jan. 5, 2021, outside the Capitol, starting a chant of “stop the steal” and invoking God while accusing Trump’s enemies of stealing the election, according to video of the event.

“No matter what happens tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after, we still need to be in the fight. There’s no summer soldiers and springtime patriots here. There’s the die-hard true Americans,” Martin said. “We start today, go through tomorrow and every day till we have a last breath and go home to the Lord because we will stop the steal.”

The next day, after attending Trump’s speech in the VIP section, Martin marched to the east side of the Capitol, near where he’d spoken the day before, and tweeted the hashtags “#StopTheSteal” and “#DoNotCertify.”

“I’m at the Capitol right now,” Martin tweeted at 2:53 p.m. “Rowdy crowd but nothing out of hand. Ignore the #FakeNews.”

Minutes later, Martin tweeted, “Like Mardi Gras in DC today: love, faith and joy.”

Rioters had long since breached the Capitol at the time of Martin’s tweets. Ashli Babbitt was shot by an officer as she tried to climb into the Speaker’s Lobby where members were being evacuated at 2:44 p.m. As Martin was tweeting, on the other side of the Capitol, pro-Trump rioters were engaged in a battle with law enforcement at the lower west tunnel, where some of the worst violence of the day occurred. Soon after, a MAGA-hatted rioter named Daniel “D.J.” Rodriguez would drive a stun gun into the neck of Michael Fanone, then a police officer who was abducted by the mob.

Later in 2021, Martin was subpoenaed by the House’s Jan. 6 committee, which said it had evidence that he was “involved in the logistical planning” of the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, where Trump encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol. The committee said it also had evidence that Martin “paid costs associated with vendors hired for that event.” He did not show up for a deposition with the committee in February 2022.

In the wake of Trump’s election loss, Martin also attended events alongside Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser and a prominent election denier, as well as “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander. Last year, Martin stood behind Trump as he spoke during a fundraiser for Jan. 6 defendants that was held at Trump’s golf club in New Jersey. On X, Martin has also spread conspiracy theories about what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.

Martin narrated a video in which he said that an individual he dubbed “Mr. Coffee” had set up gallows outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 for a photo-op, suggesting that perhaps “Mr. Coffee” was working for the federal government. The basis of that claim is that the man goes and gets coffee, walking in the vague, general direction of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Martin titled one blog post on the subject “January 6th was Staged by Mr. Coffee.”

Discussion of gallows was not uncommon among Jan. 6 defendants and Trump supporters chanted “hang Mike Pence” at the Capitol that day.

Martin questioned why no one had been charged for erecting the gallows. It’s not clear what federal crime could be investigated or charged in this case: The gallows were literally labeled “art,” and hate crimes charges related to nooses are typically brought only by federal authorities when there’s evidence that Black victims were specifically targeted because of their race.

“We have to look at who the real architects of Jan. 6 were,” Martin said in one video. “Who planned and staged the now infamous optics of Jan. 6?”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she wasn’t aware that the RNC had hired an official who promoted the “Stop the Steal” campaign when asked about it.

“It shows just how far they have fallen at this point in time. It falls in the category of unbelievable,” she said. “I was here on Jan. 6. People lost their lives. People were injured. And it was no joke.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who is retiring, said the safe space within the party for the “Stop the Steal” movement shows that it continues to cater primarily to Trump’s core supporters.

“I think the party needs to expand beyond his base. And I think the party under its current leadership is instead focusing more and more on the base. And that typically is not a winning strategy,” Romney told NBC News when asked about the Martin hire. “I would prefer someone representing a more historical wing of the party, but that wing is getting smaller and smaller.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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