Lies, Politics and Democracy: Alyssa Farah Griffin (interview) | FRONTLINE

I wanted to start back in 2016 and you're working for the freedom caucus at that point um 2015 2016 and Donald Trump is rising inside the Republican party what is the feeling towards him how are people describing him how do they see him as a candidate so going back to kind of 2015 when when former president you know you know famously came down the escalator at Trump Tower um it in some ways kind of rocked the political world and the Republican party I don't think anyone was quite sure initially how seriously to take it um the initial Congressional endorsements for for Donald Trump were were not the most conservative members it was not the freedom caucus um and at that time most of the members of the freedom caucus ended up supporting people like Ted Cruz Rand Paul we even had a few Marco Rubio supporters I don't believe we had any who were initially supporters of Donald Trump which was interesting um but to kind of understand that moment the freedom caucus of that era which I was the communications director for was a much more traditionally conservative group meaning limited government cutting taxes um you know social conservative policies but not really reminiscent of more the Maga populist trumpism that we've come to know now so it wasn't surprising that Iran Paul or a Ted Cruz were a better ideological fit um but yeah he came onto the scene I mean my my opinion was he was going to be a disaster for the party but I also didn't expect him to go as far as he did um and you know I remember going with Mark Meadows who at the time was the chairman of the freedom caucus to Fox News to go on TV and endorse Ted Cruz when Ted Cruz and and Trump were really neck and neck so it kind of it shows you at that time it was people were in a different place than they are now and of course now the freedom caucus has come to be one of the most kind of Die Hard groups that support the former president no matter what what would a mark Meadows see in a trump at that point when he's going on to endorse Ted Cruz well you know I don't want [Music] him Ted Cruz made sense uh Ted Cruz was almost like the kind of Godfather of the freedom caucus he'd shown them the tactics of taking on your own leadership he was a a constitutional conservative as you know what we would have said back then but it's remarkable how much both Ted Cruz has changed and the members of the freedom caucus um but I do remember that once Trump got the nomination support for him did line up pretty quickly that was what was really surprising to me to see because he was such a different figure in Republican politics but um pretty much once he got the the nomination at least publicly all the members of the freedom caucus were behind him there were there were these Rumblings of you know trying to do something creative at the convention but nothing materialized how were they seeing it once she's securing the nomination inside the freedom Pockets which had been you know an ideological group that had a view of what conservatism was and he secures the nomination and how are they viewing him at that that point how are they viewing the calculation that they're making in falling behind him well and to understand the freedom caucus ideologically in relation to Donald Trump early on you have to you have to know and realize this is a very socially conservative group we opened all meetings with prayer um we talked a lot about family values um you know pushing for pro-life kind of policies in the house so this figure in Donald Trump who's known for you know blasting his Affairs on tabloids and multiple divorces seemed like such a ideological shift from where the group was and that was something I remember in early Freedom caucus meetings was raised the most his character was what people took more issue with than even policy positions and I think some of that frankly is because no one actually knew what Donald Trump's policies were he he you know was a chameleon in the sense that I think he he looked at the base he said I think I can replicate the Republican Party base and I think he kind of came up with a lot of his policies as he went the only ones that were really like long-standing consist assistant policies were probably his stance toward China but I remember a moment shortly after Trump got the nomination folks lined up behind him um that was the most significant for getting the conservatives and the freedom caucus on board was when vice president Mike Pence came on board and he made overtures to the freedom caucus and that helped kind of dispel the fears of the you know traditional conservatives they felt like they had an ally in Pence I know he and Jim Jordan were close and had a relationship um but I also recall at one point some of the wives of Freedom caucus members after the Access Hollywood tape came out decided to do a women for Trump bus tour and at the time they'd asked me to help with it I declined because I was not a trump supporter um but the argument that was made to me of why they needed to stick by him is you know first and foremost it's binary between he and Hillary Clinton at that point but also he was going to have the ability to staff the entirety of the federal government so think of how many conservative Champions could get into these positions and Advance policies we believe in a valid argument but it didn't persuade me they went on the bus tour and I stayed home um but that was the thinking for a lot of folks there was a lot of a lot of rationalizing around we know we can trust Mike Pence and for what it's worth um that was also my viewpoint I went on to work for Mike Pence I'm very proud of that and I will forever be grateful that Mike Pence served in that Administration we've gone back and talked to people who were experts in democracy and they say they saw warning signs even the Iowa caucus Trump says was rigged that Ted Cruz had rigged the Iowa caucus there's violence at some of the rallies there's the speech that he gives about I alone you know can fix it did you see concerns did others um you were around have concerns on that aspect on the aspect of American democracy respect for the institutions of government so now in 2022 I've been very outspoken about the fact that Donald Trump is an imminent threat to democracy and not just him but what he's created in trumpism we've seen it play out in other candidates around the country but I have to admit I didn't really see that um early on but um in recent years I I read the book how democracies die which was written in in 2018 and it basically predicts everything that happened with January 6 and it warns us so I think I'm where probably the vast majority of Americans are where sure there were warning signs but they weren't really sure what to make of it and I think there's also this element like even when I resigned from the Trump White House in December of 2020 I couldn't even then have fathomed January 6 taking place um but as we know I mean historically and not just in the U.S it tends to be democracies died today by a more of a slow burn you get conditioned to more authoritarian tactics to the heavy hand of government over time that when it actually happens and you've lost the freedoms and the way of American democracy you may not even have you likely won't have even seen it coming why did things look different back then than they do now and what were those decisions people may not even know and they were making decisions that would impact what would happen by the end well and one actually one more thing building off of that if you don't mind um I think one of the kind of fatal flaws of the Trump presidency but that has factored into his repeated undermining of American democracy is simply the fact that he does not fundamentally understand the American Republic in the role of the president the co-equal branches of government he could rattle off maybe talking points that indicate he gets it but he just does not I was I was with him countless times in the Oval Office where there was no understanding of for example why he couldn't weaponize the doj why the Department of Justice wasn't you know merely a hand of government that was supposed to work for him and there I there's there's a lot we could take from this era I think the fact that we don't seem to have basic Civic understanding anymore and that a man was able to be elected president who didn't understand the basic American Civics is is kind of horrifying so you enter the administration working for Mike Pence why do you decide to go um and work for him at that point in um 2017.

So I had been offered an opportunity on the Trump campaign in 2016 to work on the communications team I declined to do so um I actually have admitted I didn't vote for Trump in 2016. I I wrote in Paul Ryan and Mike Pence I just was not comfortable it wasn't even in my mind about the the threat he would post to democracy honestly it was criticizing gold star parents it was you know dangerous bigoted rhetoric around immigrants and immigration um I just didn't look at the character to be president um but there once someone is the commander-in-chief of the U.S military the leader of the Free World and he he's there for four years unless he gets impeached which by the way he did and still is there for four years I think that people of good faith who are public service minded absolutely needed to consider going in and I'm grateful that many people stepped up who maybe didn't support him but thought you know I could maybe help in a small way so for me working for Mike Pence I mean he was an ideological kind of Ally of mine I'm a traditional conservative he's someone I'd admired since he was the Republican study committee chairman in the House of Representatives it was someone I trusted um I have always known him to be a man of character and somebody who will never in history other than maybe for January 6 get the credit for how much he kept the wheels on the American presidency for those four years so I was asked to to go into his administration after the previous vice president Pence's previous press secretary stepped down I actually met the vice president very briefly during the Health Care Battle in 2017 when I was with the freedom caucus and they reached out to me and it was an easy decision at the same time I'd also been approached by the Trump Communications team in the White House about working with them and I declined in favor of working for vice president Pence do you know why he chose to be on the ticket so I think I mean there's a there's a number of reasons I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any politician of any party at any time who wouldn't say yes to being on a presidential ticket and I mean simply to even get into politics you have to have a certain level of ambition but also the belief that you could do things better than others um but Pence is also a very public service-minded person um he he'd been in the house for a number of years he'd obviously served as governor and I think I mean I don't want to speak for him but I think he would have probably preferred to be a running mate to more of a Ted Cruz or someone else or seen his name at the top of the ticket but um he got the call from Donald Trump he tells the story in a very funny manner but um he I think he thought he could be helpful in that Administration and he was what was funny about the story uh vice president former vice president Pence loves to tell the story of when he actually got the phone call to join the ticket and he had gone out somewhere golfing with with Trump uh days prior and Mike Pence's at best a very amateur golfer whereas Donald Trump's known for being a very very good golfer so Pence leaves thinking I have no way no idea which way this is going to go but he gets the phone call late one night the familiar voice of Donald Trump saying Mike it's going to be great it's going to be amazing and Pence says I don't know if there's a question in there but if there is the answer is yes and they laugh and he goes on to join the ticket can you describe his role inside the administration and how he sees it and that idea of the audience of one and the need to to show loyalty when he's in public and how seriously he took that so vice president Pence there's two things you really have to understand about him to understand his four years in office uh the first and foremost he's a man of Faith he talks very openly about his Christian faith um which guides him toward Public Service he believes he was called to be there in that time so that's one side of him that you really need to know to understand him but the other is he's an extremely shrewd and disciplined person who understood from day one that in order to survive four years of the Mercurial president Donald Trump he had to publicly be aligned with him not be seen as criticizing him um so he you know it's something I I would joke about with him but he would take as seriously a fox and friends news interview as he would a meeting with a head of state knowing that what gets back to that audience of one is so important because no one was safe in that white house at any minute the wrong step in those four years Pence could have been kicked to the curb and replaced on the on the ticket but what I one I want to say one thing about Mike Pence because I think he's a historically misunderstood figure I I'm proud to know him and to have served with him he was someone who believed in large parts of the Trump agenda there's no question he was very upfront about that but he was probably the most significant force behind the scenes in helping keep the president's presidency on track um and you know people always kind of say that without giving examples but on everything from you know firing very senior cabinet officials to using the Department of Justice in ways that he shouldn't have toward even just Reckless policy proposals Pence did have this relationship with Trump that was so positive for most of the presidency that he was able to be that voice in his ear that kept things on the rails and I think he was the most significant Force probably for good in those four years it's almost like there's a implicit or an explicit deal between the two of them that there's going to be no public criticism of the president in fact there's going to be public Praise of the president and then in exchange for that you get a level of access do you think that's how he saw it I think that Pence had observed and spent enough time with with President Trump to know um he saw so many staff go in and out the door he saw so many cabinet officials go in and out of the door and Senior advisors he knew what not to do and he internalized that and he also um what was so starkly different between the Mike Pence office and the Donald Trump office within the White House as Pence surrounded himself by a highly professional highly loyal team uh that you know were people who'd served in very senior roles before and were very very loyal to the principal Mike Pence so he was able to operate understanding that like you know our kind of Mantra in his office was basically Do no harm we were there to be a support system to the president but certainly to never make bigger headlines than him or outshine him and definitely to never be disloyal whereas the White House I mean one of the most the the starkest things to this day from the Trump era is just how bad he was at hiring the people around him which is an indictment of the principal before anyone else were constantly in fighting they were constantly focusing more on backstabbing one another than even serving the presidency or the American public so that was another very distinct dynamic between the two offices how hard was it for him I mean I think back now to say Charlottesville I know you come on after that and he recently went to the memorial for Heather heyer but at that time he had to be I mean well he did condemn the white supremacists he was not critical of the president I mean was that was that a situation like that be a difficult one for him it's it's interesting because even as close as as I considered myself for for many years with Mike Pence there are so few people he shows what he's truly thinking too um he was honest with me he was direct with me but there the the one kind of sacred thing that I don't think he revealed to anyone other than maybe his wife and his two Chiefs of Staff um was how he truly felt in moments when the former president did something just reprehensible and um that was by the way part of what protected him for four years is he wouldn't even privately man he must have let out the biggest sigh of relief when the presidency was over because he finally didn't have to be hiding what he thought and what he felt for some such a long period of time you think about Jeff Flake who when you're there is under assault and the two of them were reportedly best friends for all of those years and now he's in a in a job where he has to watch that happen yeah the Jeff Flake relationship I knew I knew was hard on him um the there but I will say Pence's humanity and like his ability to maintain good relationships was an advantage that he he frankly had over Donald Trump I'll never forget uh the night that the tax cuts and jobs act uh passed in the Senate um it was Jeff Flake and Susan Collins who were holding out from voting last minute and purely because of this long-standing relationship between Mike Pence and Jeff Flake after hours of talking he was able to sway him to come on board and ultimately Susan Collins did as well um but I mean it's funny because something that Donald Trump would tell is his biggest achievement was actually in fact you know only went across the Finish Line because Mike Pence and Jeff Flake were long-standing friend friends and he convinced him to get on board wow I mean and that was that point after the president had been attacking flake yeah exactly yeah let me take you up to when you join into the White House what's the state of play when they ask you to come in and how are you evaluating that moment so in mid-2017 is when the Republicans were trying to push their their version of Obamacare repeal um and kind of do a replacement package and ultimately the bill that was taken up in the house which the the Trump White House was supporting the freedom caucus was not supporting our position was it wasn't going to do enough to lower premiums and it wasn't actually doing enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act which is what they had all campaigned on so in the final hours before the vote which ultimately failed in the house vice president Pence reince priebus the then Chief of Staff come to the Capitol Hill Club where the freedom caucus is meeting and try to convince them to get on board because the Trump White House was behind this and it was going to be a win for Republicans um It ultimately ended up failing a different version was taken up which you know John McCain famously voted against in the Senate and the freedom caucus members were actually on Trump's bad list for a bit after that he tweeted out against Mick Mulvaney Mark Meadows and Raul Labrador I mean it was a moment that I think the freedom caucus members started feeling very isolated thinking you know he's more aligned with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell than us um and during this period meadows encouraged me to reach out to the White House to try to smooth over some relationships with the communications team so I did I ended up meeting with hope Hicks and Sarah Sanders which ended up materializing into being offered a job in the communications shop for the president but at the same time I had received a request from the vice president's office to interview and ultimately got an offer to be his press secretary to me it was no question between the two roles I I wanted to work for Mike Pence he was again I voted for Mike Pence I didn't vote for Donald Trump at this point um so I joined his team in September of 2017.

um and the the the relationship with the the former members of Congress was was beginning to smooth over Jim Jordan had a great relationship with Mike Pence he went on to have a very good relationship with Trump as did Mark Meadows but I think that moment in time of the freedom caucus kind of uh you know blocking the Obamacare replacement bill was a moment that a lot of those guys in the freedom caucus instead of staying with the idea of we want to take on leadership even if it's our own ended up pivoting to how do we get in Donald Trump's good graces you date that change for somebody like Mark Meadows to what the summer of 2017 what do they see that makes them decide that the center of the party in the center of the caucus is Donald Trump so I think it was the first time like it's if you think about it in the Tea Party era you know 2010 onward to the Trump era to you know 2016.


The freedom caucus guys had the benefit of always being the most aligned faction with the base so when they took on their own leadership they got the reward of talk radio praising them Twitter conservatives you know singing their praises being stars on Late Night on Fox News um so they were very empowered through that kind of conservative based ecosystem but that began to kind of shift on its head once Donald Trump came into Power suddenly Donald Trump was the leader of the base if you were out of stuff with Donald Trump you were out of step with the base and for those guys they're out of step with the establishment and the base in that brief moment and I think they kind made the calculation we probably are better hitching our wagon to Donald Trump's than you know just continuing to fight in this much smaller uh element of the party which I hate to say but I think is is a dying part of the Republican party which is the traditionally conservative base I'd point to you know Mark Sanford or Justin Amash former Freedom caucus members both who left Congress um that's not where the Republican party is and it's certainly not where the base is right now the limited government small government conservatives it's interesting because by the time you're going to join as the communications director for the White House Mark Meadows is by that point inside the White House I mean how does he end up inside the White House I I think that you know throughout the four years Mark Meadows thought about and had aspirations to be in the white house um but I don't know that he ever you know had his finger on what the right role would be um Chief of Staff obviously kind of probably would have been anyone's Top Choice um I knew as soon as he announced that he wasn't running for reelection that something was underway that he was either going to join a senior role in the campaign or go into the White House what I was most surprised by was that he was replacing Mick Mulvaney his his longtime friend and another former boss of mine um because Mick is somebody who could have told him what a thankless job it is and that despite you know the security detail and the fancy West Wing office it is basically a no-win role which is why you know a former four-star general was enabled to you know survive it Mick Mulvaney wasn't and others um but yeah I think Mark Meadows had been angling for the that for some time and for what it's worth he made a lot of sense for it in a campaign cycle he fancies himself is is kind of an expert strategist to the base of the Republican party and he is he's got a lot of credibility with the base at this time um he'd been you know kind of a staple of right-wing media and somebody who had a lot of cachet with the outside conservative groups that have a lot of influence so um if this had been a traditional 2020 presidential election cycle Mark Meadows would have made a lot of sense to be white house chief of staff kind of the chief strategist uh throw in a global pandemic and social justice protests over the summer and I think he was in retrospect not the right figure to meet this pivotal moment in American history that ended up being just completely overshadowed by unforeseen events that required leadership and not partisan leadership um which I think he ended up being uniquely ill-equipped for so what makes you come into the White House working for the president at that point after you had not taken that job before so I after working for vice president Pence for two years I accepted a role as the Department of Defense press secretary and Deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense that was my dream role I was the youngest Pentagon press secretary in history I for the first time in my career got to serve in a truly non-partisan or apolitical environment and it was it was wonderful I mean just working with the the military the civilian population within the Pentagon and under secretary Mark esper and chairman Mark milley who have tremendous respect for um and it challenged me it grew me and I got to travel all over the world with my role at the Department of Defense so that is where I plan to hang my hat through the end of the administration and even stay on after the election had we won um but but covet hits and I I remember I gave a press briefing at the Pentagon the day that it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and we're you know reading all open source but also getting the classified briefings of how bad this just might be and it was a really scary time in American history I don't have to tell you that um and the Pentagon suddenly instead of dealing with you know working on peace negotiations or troop movements or you know Afghanistan policy the entirety of dod's focus was to combating this virus and we suddenly you know the Pentagon was on rotational shifts so I was one week physically in the office you know wearing gloves wearing a mask and one week out of the office and there was one moment that really made the decision for me before the White House job was even offered to me the pentagon's a very bureaucratic place and that's a good thing it should be because you make life and death decisions there but I'd found out that basically a DOD stockpile had not released a bunch of protective gear to Health and Human Services because of a bureaucratic hold up and I found out through a CNN inquiry that had come in from a reporter so I tried for days to get an audience with the Secretary of Defense to say hey this is merely signing a piece of paper and we could get millions of pieces of PPE to Frontline workers and I couldn't get an audience with him so that night Mark Meadows my old friend who's now Chief of Staff calls me on an unrelated matter and I raised this to him and within minutes he's on the phone with secretary Azar deals with it through DOD and the millions of pieces of PPE are released um so then within a couple days Meadows asks me over to the White House and first offers me the press secretary job which I declined I wasn't I wouldn't have been successful at being the the face defending Trump's policies um but I said I'd like to be the communications director I think I could operationalize and professionalize a a calm strategy like I do with the Pentagon where I had 50 desk officers who reported to me um he said you know take some time to think about it he offered me the communications director job and I thought back to that moment where I was able to deal with the stockpile issue so quickly it made me miss the speed in which things can move in the White House and at a time of a global pandemic where I felt the whole world felt so helpless I thought that I might be able to be more helpful to the response effort being at the White House and I could spend the rest of my life you know questioning that decision but that was my decision at that point and what do you find when you get there I mean we know from the outside what we have seen from the president's press conferences and from what seems sort of crazy what was it like inside I mean I can't think of a crazier juxtaposition than coming from the highly regimented if not bureaucratic Department of Defense where everything had a protocol and a chain of command to going into the Trump West Wing It was chaos um it was the it was the flattest organization I've ever been in which is to say a press assistant could walk into the Oval Office and get an audience with the president because there were no procedures there was no chain of command there was no structure in really any of of The West Wing and um you know Meadows had just come into this role in March of 2020 I came over in April of 2020 but this I didn't get the sense that this was like the growing pains from a new Chief of Staff this was clearly a West Wing that did not function in any traditional sense and with any protocols and uh you know procedures in place and this it was Stark to me um at a time when covet is the focus of the entire universe that um it just kind of felt like people were running around with their hair on fire and I get this was this was a crisis so it's natural that there's going to be growing pains but the lack of structure was was truly shocking to me and and of course the public knows all about the infighting if I if I took one thing away from kind of the Staffing side of the the Trump West Wing It was that um he he was surrounded it was the first time I'd seen this in my political life many of the staff around him I should say cared more about their own personal grievances with one another or ambition than they did about serving him well and it was one of the few things that actually made me feel bad for Donald Trump um I was constantly struck by that the like hashing out small disagreements and the vendettas always got and were always more important than actually doing the job in the mission of serving the American people the claims about covid that the president especially makes the flu is no worse than covid the statements um famous ones that he makes in the press conference I mean does he believe those things is he spreading misinformation how are you viewing what is going on well so what you have to understand about the the covid response within the West Wing is um the the president wasn't heavily involved in most of it so so vice president Pence's team in the coronavirus task force would host a daily interagency meeting um in the in the situation room where they would be making decisions on everything from you know supply chain issues to you know surging REM deserveer to key places to you know what we're doing on on testing and then the president would get like a debrief afterwards so he was not even as briefed or engaged as many of the senior staff who were involved in the covet response effort were um but an Infamous moment that I I had a role in would have been um the injecting bleach press conference so I'd been in the task the coronavirus task force uh meeting prior to that and some officials from Fort Dietrich and DHS basically presented the study that found that heat and humidity had a strong effect in killing the virus it was very interesting uh vice president Pence said you should brief this to the president and I was actually in the Overflow Situation Room ran in and said I don't think we should bring this to the president before he goes to the podium he's not going to have time to digest it he's not going to know what his recommendation to the public should be and this was one of those rare moments that I don't think Mike Pence was right and he said no I think we should move forward with it so I then run to the West Wing to try to get Chief of Staff Meadows on board because again they were going to walk in do a 15-minute briefing with him and then put him in front of every network camera in the country and I just knew he was going to say something silly or dangerous or unhelpful and I advocated that and not be brief to him Secretary of Homeland Security Chad wolf actually agreed with me but I was overruled and that moment happened where he you know he he made reference to injecting yourself with bleach and it was dangerous and it had real life consequences and by the way I I have to say for the record um in my time dealing with the coronavirus Dr Deborah Burks was the most important player behind the scenes did the most work was the most honest and blunt and tough with the former president and that one moment in time that she didn't even know how to react in that moment has damaged her in such a what I see as an unfair way because I there is no one I knew to stand up to Donald Trump more than Dr Deborah Burks and I regret that she was put in that position and that same time is when George Floyd and the black lives matter movement is happening how does the president see that inside the White House because now we hear all of this talk about using the military and shooting protesters how did he view it so the the first time I thought about resigning from the Trump White House would have been June 2020 and after George Floyd's murder um during the social justice protests of that summer um that the entire country was on edge and absolutely rightfully so and I have to say Donald Trump originally had the the natural human reaction that I think most Americans had when they saw the George Floyd video he was on Air Force One it was played for him and he was shocked he was he was truly sickened by it and his his first reaction was the right one and a day later he gave remarks down at a NASA launch and he did say the right words then it was it was condemning it it was calling it murder because that's what it was it was a message of solidarity but as quickly as the you know right-wing Fever Swamp of media started taking a different tone on on George Floyd's murder and on the social justice protests Donald Trump's position on it changed and it went so quickly from what was the unifying message that was needed to when the Looting starts the shooting starts I I spent an entire day of my life trying to get him to walk back that tweet um he ultimately did but that the walk back wasn't even much of a walk back um his it was a uniquely bad moment for a man who was like physically incapable of seeing things around him that are happening as more important than himself and More in things that required you know compassion and in presidential leadership and he just was so wholly unfit in that moment a lot of what we've now learned about things he was talking about doing during that I wasn't aware of at the time the first time that I became aware of potentially using the military was a few days before a well-documented meeting in the Oval Office the staff secretary who kind of oversees you know executive orders and paper that goes to the president he's kind of the Clearing House for all of that came in to brief me and the press secretary and and pulls out the Insurrection act and my jaw hit the floor and I was actually kind of surprised because he's a very smart individual who who was the person who drafted it that he didn't seem to think that this was shocking hadn't been used in about 30 years since the early 90s it didn't end up getting briefed to the president that day but several days later it came up in an oval office meeting that I was in with chairman Millie Secretary of Defense esper A.G Bill Barr the vice president and Senior staff and he asked about using it I remember him saying I like that word Insurrection the Insurrection act it sounds tough and I give a lot of credit to uh Bill Barr and chairman Millie they kind of played off of each other I have to wonder if they rehearsed it before but chairman Millie puts his hand on the desk and says I can do what you need to to secure the streets without using active duty military that is a step too far and then AG Barr comes in and says you know I was around for the Rodney King riots and I'm telling you you do not want to use this give me a chance to use federal law enforcement and we can accomplish the job of securing the city so they were able to Ward it off um but then you know we we saw what went on to happen with Lafayette Square and um the the former president just wanting to use a heavy hand and what what I regret is you know and I wasn't the right messenger I know that I had colleagues who really tried Jeron Smith um was a colleague of mine the White House who worked on a lot of uh policy issues related to to equity to policing reform he was significant on getting uh the Criminal Justice Reform uh bill passed and signed into law but I know he had reached out to the former president and tried to communicate people are hurting you may not understand but like what you're seeing in the streets is a result of people feel pain in this moment and they want to see change trying to communicate like you've got to have compassion hear or you are going to miss where the vast majority of the country is and it just never resonated with Trump that must have been just an amazing period of time to be in there it's interesting too you said that you felt like he had one reaction and then he got a sense of where the base was and then he was trying because we always think of trump leading the base that he gives the message of where it's going to be did you perceive something different in that time period so I think the biggest misunderstanding of the Trump era is that he leads the base and the base goes where he does I actually think that he's created a monster that he doesn't even control um and he is actually very much driven by the base not the other way around and I want to be clear I am a conservative who's worked in conservative politics for over a decade um there's a part of the base that are good honorable American Patriots but there is part that has really like come to life in that this era of trumpism that is out of step with American democracy what it means to be a patriot in this country it's you know we saw that on January 6th um I'd point to some of the races we're seeing in 2022 uh you know people are trying to out Trump trump because there are people who are now so worked up that that's what they want to see whether it was Kathy Barnett a candidate for Pennsylvania Senate you know was even further out there than Trump I think JD Vance in Ohio in some ways is trying to go further than president Trump has so I think he's created something that's bigger than himself and I a moment that it really it really uh stood out to me was when he finally came around took some credit for getting the vaccines and said you know I got one you should get one and he got booed and then he got criticized in some of his favorite right-wing media uh that was a really instructive moment that what he created could also consume him because he no longer controlled it there's also is a sense of existential threat that was going on over that summer that the president was talking about the radical left antifa the election is going to be stolen you know that talk begins even before the election I mean what was going on was he afraid he was going to lose why was it ramping up the tension so much well something you have to understand about Donald Trump is um he he in addition to being a purveyor of disinformation himself he's also somebody who actively consumes misinformation and disinformation and often lacks the judgment to understand it so um I mean I think the question we all wonder and we could forever ask ourselves is does he actually think the election was stolen or is this you know just sort of a messaging mechanism I think he believes a lot of the lies that he puts out there in the conspiracy theories that he puts out there I remember mid-summer of 2020 when he started railing against mail-in voting um he had you know concocted in his mind and through whatever accounts he was following on on Twitter this notion that the election was going to be stolen from him because of mail-in ballots he started going off about it so much that his own campaign had to say sir we are going to rely on mail-in ballots to win in certain States you've got to scale back this messaging um and so I think he wanted to kind of set up an excuse if he did in fact lose I also noticed you know this was an unprecedented time with the coronavirus going on and I can't tell you the number of times that he said in my presence I can't believe this happened to me about coronavirus as though it wasn't a global pandemic that's now killed a million Americans and tens of millions around the globe he felt like it was personally victimizing him because of the impact it would have on his re-elect and that to me was so indicative of his character or lack thereof but it gives you a sense of how he sees things which is you know this is this is against me this is an attack on me and then you know this is going to be stolen from me and you know four years into being the commander-in-chief and in winning the first time he still was blaming the Obama Administration for this perception that they tried to you know rig the game against him so he's a man that's very governed by grievance and he also is incapable of admitting fault and loss so I think that whole summer he was kind of teeing up his own narrative for if he did eventually lose do you feel alone were you wondering why senior Republicans weren't standing up or why Mark Meadows wasn't pushing harder or people who had you know more influence with the president So In My Time in the West Wing the the eight months I worked directly for the president I think I personally was basically just treading water to stay afloat you know dealing with everything that we're dealing with on any given day whether it was what was happening in the world around us or the Tweet he might send that drives new cycles that we'd have to spend forever walking back and I regret that at that time I wasn't more kind of outspoken about things that concerned me one you know one thing I regret which is it's it seems minor but it's not was where he was on masking we I told him behind the scenes and others did just say it looks cool it's tough to wear a mask wear one that says Trump or says Maga he wore it once and then never did again and that that's a small thing but there were more things that um certainly required leadership that I don't feel like was there it was hard for me to understand his role with regard to Congress but I think everyone lived in fear of what he could do to them so understanding this like Kevin McCarthy's whole future hinges on staying in Trump's good graces Mitch McConnell I think was probably the most independent from him but Mitch McConnell you know I think saw things as why even play in the mud if I don't have to I'm going to focus on what I oversee and what I control in the Senate and I there were many times I saw Mark Meadows you know push back on certain things and steer things and people did do that it's it's not that they didn't um but the moment where it most came to a head and it required leadership unfortunately there was no one there that was stepping up to do the right thing which was the you know the weeks leading up to January 6th or the months leading up to it when he was um he was surrounded by people who were willing to share his lies about the election being stolen going on cable news and lying about it and not telling him the truth and just on that um it's neither honorable it's not in line with public service but it's also a disservice to the man of Donald Trump to have stoked those lies in that period that's what I didn't understand is is those people he may see as more loyal um and they may see themselves as loyal there's nothing loyal about letting him set what he did have of a legacy on fire by lying to the American public that the election was stolen and then allowing an Insurrection to take place so let's talk about that moment when he comes out after the election and he says you know frankly I did win this election and um you were watching it and presumably had thoughts on how things were going to play out and they may have changed what happened well going back a little bit I'd say by like October of 2020 I didn't know which direction the election would go all I knew is I would not plan to be working there any longer if he won um I was just very disillusioned by the the poor character and putting himself ahead of the country at many moments um but election night rolls around and um I I was in the East Wing which most of the senior staff was I actually left shortly after the Arizona call and went home to watch the rest um it was clear to me that there was not going to be a call that night and he had campaign staff around him um and family who were advising him on what his remarks were going to be but when I heard him say that you know frankly we did win that was kind of stunning to me um and I after the fact learned about some of the council he was getting from people like Rudy Giuliani you know just say you want it um and and and that was when it started which was the worst advice from unprincipled staff that led to you know just the most Shameless undermining of our democracy that I could imagine um he you know in the in the weeks after you know once it was called for Biden I I've said this before I think he knew he lost um but I think he started to buy what he was selling over time and I think uh you know some of the senior staff around him allowed him to hear from uh holy you know disqualified people like Sydney Powell and Mike Lindell um General Flynn and others who put nonsense ideas before him and I think he really started to believe them um but what was stunning to me is you know he must have the worst lawyers in the world if he really believes this because they kept losing state after State like there was this first era of the election was stolen where people were actually challenging things in court but then it went on to the messaging era like they had lost everywhere there was no path for recourse here other than you know trying to steal it in Congress um and he just seemed to actually be more emboldened and believe it more the more that he lost what makes you say that you think that he knew that he lost it at some point you know losing after a first term in office is a is a really um unique thing that you know doesn't happen that often um it was odd for it was just an odd experience because it wasn't called for Biden until you know nearly a week later and staff is all in different places we're not you know together with the principal kind of having the conversation that you traditionally would about okay now here's a let's do a concession speech Let's call you know President Biden um so it was this sort of eerie period And I um I was home when it was called for Biden I went into office the whatever I believe it would have been a following um you know whatever the next day was I was going into work and The West Wing was a ghost town no one was even coming in I think it was partially like no one was sure what to do or say um and the president didn't come down from the residence for several days after it was called for Biden um and only there after a few a few days after he finally came down I kind of just you know passed into the Oval Office just to kind of see how he was doing and there were a few other staffers in there and he seemed just kind of resigned to it and um there was one moment where um in this period he was watching Joe Biden on TV and says can you believe I lost to this blank guy so there was an acknowledgment and there was also a press conference he gave because he was eventually went back out started doing coronavirus press conferences where he slipped and kind of admitted that he had lost but then it went completely a different direction and the campaign started strategizing and they were you know deploying people to the RNC to do press conferences and putting them on TV and this very dark quiet effort started happening around okay what can we do to steal it basically well you're there are you getting directions from the campaign about what you're allowed to say about the election or allegations about the election how is that playing out the messages that are coming out about election fraud the morning after the election I was supposed to be on Fox News and I was planning to basically say look it hasn't been called yet it looks like it may be going the other direction but Republicans have a lot to be proud of we picked up a historic number of seats for women in the house got record turnout for Hispanics and African-American voters and as I'm going to do this this TV head I get a call from someone at the campaign saying hey Stand Down On Any public-facing messaging the campaign has a whole plan we're going to be putting people out there just stand down so on the White House side the official side I was and and this is the right thing I you know I was a taxpayer paid employee was told to stand down on everything and at that point I kind of willfully disconnected from the campaign I honestly didn't really want to be read into their efforts and what they were doing and I remember one day just coming into the office and my staff who worked under me were all just kind of staring at the TV confused because the press secretary was at The Campaign Headquarters doing a TV interview as a campaign advisor talking about the election being stolen and so we're all confused we're like is the Hatch Act a thing like what's going on what are we supposed to be saying um and at that period I basically talked to the chief of staff and I said hey staff under me are very confused you know is there kind of a holding line we can be giving because reporters walk up you know they can walk through Upper press and lower press where all of the comms and press team work I said you know it'd be good just to have a holding line and I wasn't given anything um a few weeks later and again a lot of people aren't even coming into the office at this point I saw it as my duty to go in so I'd still attend coronavirus meetings and you know be working with cabinet communicators uh but there was a report that um the head of the office of presidential Personnel had put out a memo to agencies and White House staff saying that if any staffers were caught passing along their resumes looking for new jobs they'd be fired immediately because it was buying into this notion that we're going to stay in office but it was also trying to intimidate people who were acknowledging the reality that he lost and trying to paint them as disloyal so I sat my entire Communications team now which was about 25 people and I said guys we lost we need to accept that all of you need to look for jobs I will support you I'll make sure you all land somewhere good and if anyone tries to intimidate you in doing that like tell me because this is ridiculous but it was that was the environment it was an environment of intimidation and of trying to convince you know some of these are 25 year olds 23 year olds that they're going to have another four years in office we talked about the president the others around him who were pushing the election fraud allegations did they believe it no one I talked to believed it and that goes that's everyone from the chief of staff on down but many of them publicly said something very differently than they privately did and that was what was frustrating to me um is that I felt like a lot of people knew better and they were misleading the public something I've been very open about is you know I have a lot of family who are Die Hard Trump supporters and it was frustrating to me to talk to my family who'd be like well listen no I think it was stolen he's going to have another four years and I'd be like guys that's not true it was not stolen he is not going to have another four years but then you flip on the news and some other senior White House official is lying to the public knowing better that doesn't mean that there weren't people who were willing eager and able to try to use the heavy hand of government and try to hang on to power that's a very different thing was that what they were trying to do I mean that's what was my next question was going to be why would they be doing that if they didn't believe it I think that you know power corrupts people um I think that Donald Trump scares people and um what I saw was you know and in a lot of it I also learned about after the fact after I left but was senior officials trying to you know push the Department of Justice um to to you know put their finger on the scale of the election in a way that would have been wholly unprecedented and unfit for what their role is but also you know at one point the former president called in some Michigan state representatives to try to kind of bully and intimidate them into rejecting the results of Michigan and then of course you know famously a senior White House staffer Went Down to Georgia to try to do the same there this was pure intimidation tactics and trying to turn the results on their head through no action actual like legal or constitutional way of doing it and the ultimate Theory by the way that ended up being what they pursued in on January 6th was was was written in a way that was so absurd it was rejected by a White House counsel um by the president's own attorneys and um would have set up a precedent that that just makes absolutely no sense um but people wanted to hang on to power there's not really any other way to to put it is people people liked running the country and they were gonna fight as long as they could to keep doing it we've heard that in that period that when you're still there in that first month that people are saying he just needs time to grieve but you're sensing that there's at least some people in there who believe and I mean we now have seen some of this with text messages and others that have come out that there was a chance to really change the election I think that there's kind of a there's kind of two periods of the election being lost um that you have to understand and the first was basically leading up to Thanksgiving the sense among people close to the president was he's going to go home to Mar-A-Lago and he may just not even come back there was still this sense and I remember Mick Mulvaney famous famously said you know of course there'll be a peaceful uh transition of power I thought the same thing honestly and at that period there was this like give them a chance he's gonna it's a grieving process he's gonna accept the results and at this time two keep in mind that first era of challenging the results it was you know people like Pam Bondi and Rick Grinnell and Matt schlapp that were deployed around the country to kind of challenge these efforts and the RNC was behind that original effort but those quickly got knocked down one after the other in court and that's where the kind of second scary period of the election being lost comes into play and that's where post Thanksgiving is basically when I would attribute it to that he doesn't end up going to Mar-A-Lago for Thanksgiving he stays in town and there's this internal debate among senior staff some who are arguing I made this case I know hope Hicks and others did to him which was you should kind of make this a Victory lap go around the country talk about what you accomplished try to get vaccines in the arms of as many Americans as you can and you're going to be in a great place in 2024 to win the presidency back I know Jared Kushner was pushing that as well and then there was the others who gave him an audience with Sydney Powell and Mike Flynn and Mike Lindell and others that helped helped him believe that he actually may be able to steal the election and that's the kind kind of dark period I resigned December 4th I started hearing internally much less about you know he's going to come around and accept it and started seeing very Fringe figures walking into the The West Wing and at that point I knew I didn't have um really any sway over him I wasn't going to be able to impact outcomes so I thought that was my time to leave who are the others would be making that argument to bring in The Fringe figures these were people who actually worked for the White House or worked in the White House yes so um my understanding at this time is um Mark Meadows was bringing some of these folks in and sharing some of these um these different theories and as text messages have now shown after the fact a lot of Republican members of Congress were pushing far out theories about how the president could could cling to power and um one that stood out to me by the way was Senator Mike Lee who's somebody I admired for for a long time again is a constitutional conservative that was always his his reputation how he was seen in Congress um and and he to give him credit ultimately you know voted to certify the election results but he even espoused in text messages that have come out this this notion this theory that was so far-fetched but about how the president could potentially stay in office so it shows you this was much more deeply rooted within the Republican party of this moment than simply you know a few White House staff brought in some Bad actors you know Peter Navarro was always up to to different ideas he you know released some kind of a report about how you know mathematically Trump couldn't have lost which was interesting um but I think it was a collective effort and I do know you know certain Republican members of Congress were an instrumental in getting in his ear that he needed to fight this and that it was stolen how do you feel watching Mark Meadows handle the situation I mean somebody Who You'd known for so long and who mentored you in a way along the way um and watching how he handled the situation what do you make of his role it's it's it's tough for me because I I for many years was very close with Mark Meadows he's somebody I um you know have had genuine affection for and um who did Mentor me through through so much of my career um and was very very important to me at many junctures of my my life I'll say this the moments that call for leadership are not the easy moments it's not when you know the star stock market's Rising the economy is booming it's the the darkest most challenging moments that require people to rise to leadership and both he and the president failed in those moments and I I just what's striking to me is it's hard for me to understand how myself is a 32 year old woman could have more political courage than these you know men who've had these long careers in Washington like how hard would it have been to just tell the truth on January 6th and for people who were still in the White House who had large platforms themselves whether on social media or could have gone to you know on any cable news channel and say it was not stolen please leave this is wrong didn't do it that's where I that's you know the the hate the pain the Lost relationships I got for saying that I would never do anything differently because it was the right thing to do but I'm still just stunned by people who weren't even in that moment willing to do the right thing why why wouldn't they I've unfortunately seen a lot of grown men put their political Ambitions ahead of their integrity uh in recent years and you know for for me going forward I've made my own kind of personal commitment that as important to me as any politicians policy viewpoints is going to be their character and their integrity I'm going to consider it my you know the character primary because Donald Trump is wholly unfit for office based on his character Alone um but also his actions his undermining of our democracy but also people around him um I think are Unworthy of serving and Senior roles in the future let's think about somebody who makes a different decision which is Mike Pence and what you're seeing that's really that period right after you've left that the pressure is ramping up towards the end of December especially and I mean let me ask you this question first I mean do they the people around the president view Mike Pence as a way to overturn the election my understanding at uh in the final you know weeks leading up to January 6th was there was an intense pressure campaign around Mike Pence um I had already resigned and I was actually you know down in Florida living with my in-laws at this period but I still talked to a lot of the pets team in that period um and they they don't show their hand in the tradition of Mike Pence's very insular office um but I never doubted he was going to do the right thing once this this Theory materialized that you know he is the vice president could reject the electors and send them back to the states there was no way that an actual constitutional conservative Mike Pence was going to do that but I knew they were going to make it painful for him and I knew that that day on Capitol Hill was going to be you know uniquely challenging for him because the showboats of the party uh the Ted Cruz's the you know others were going to do the thing that would get them accolades on social media and on you know right wing news by rejecting the electors and he was going to be in the position of both you know breaking his loyalty to the president but also being seen as the bad guy after so many years of just trying to serve with integrity and with dignity um but I never imagined it was going to get violent and be what it was that day how hard do you think it was for Pence I mean he must have sensed at that point it was his Integrity on one hand and then it's his entire political career perhaps that's on the line I imagine this was this was tremendously difficult for pets um he he knew yeah he was putting his entire political future on the line to do what was right for the country but isn't that what we want from our public servants I mean to me that was Mike Pence's finest moment um was saying my future matters so much less than the future of American democracy um and you know I as a conservative or republican who supports Donald Trump and did not vote for Joe Biden care more about the American presidency than I do about Donald Trump the whole topic around this is is somewhat emotional to me just because I respect Mike Pence so much and to see you know a vicious violent mob animated by this President he served so loyally coming after him was such a disgraceful and just Un-American thing to witness and um but I will always be grateful that Mike Pence was there because I can tell you there are so many people who could have been vice president that would not have done the right thing on January 6 and as somebody who's worked in the White House in the Department of Defense in the United States Congress I can tell you another vice president could have sent it back to the States and what would that have looked like we could have had you know violent unrest in our streets we could have had a lame duck Donald Trump presidency trying to militarize U.S streets trying to exploit the Department of Defense I mean it could have truly been the end of American democracy how important was the response at the Republican party of Kevin McCarthy of other senior Republicans um during this period so During the period leading up to January 6th my understanding is Republican leadership on Capitol Hill were you know being Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell were trying to push the former president to do the right thing and they were you know having conversations about what the transition of power was going to look like and I think they both McConnell and McCarthy um were definitely nervous by what was coming out of the White House but I think and I don't want to speak for them but I think there was still a sense that of course he's gonna you know step down when he needs to of course he's going to attend the inauguration and then January 6 happens and turns all that on its head the thing with Trump that like over the you know the four years of his time in office that none of us seem to have learned is like actually believe what he says we always want to like oh don't take him literally but it's the smartest thing to do was like believe what he says how important was the role of a Ted Cruz or you know others inside the party and that happening Ted Cruz is a very intelligent person but he um does this kind of delicate dance of trying to give the base what they want will also just barely staying in line with being a constitutional conservative and his argument was basically I'm going to object to the electors because my constituents don't believe the outcome and we need to litigate it to its fullest extent and then you know have the results land where they do but he he knew darn well that the election was not stolen that the votes were legitimate and that there was an such a large margin of victory in some of these key states that there was just no path for recourse again it goes back to is so many politicians in power today and this goes for the right and the left are more motivated by getting you know the the cheers and the retweets and the Applause and the praise on cable news and on social media then they are motivated by doing the right thing it's plain and simple there are many people I would put in that category but rather than just kind of sit back and do the almost you know pro forma role of Congress which is to you know certify the election results they wanted that moment of a victory and of you know standing up for the base on January 6 when you know the president has mentioned and then is tweeting about the vice president and is naming him and you're watching what is happening how afraid are you what what are you seeing I mean I was sick to my stomach that whole day at first the the remarks um on the ellipse and you know when he name checked Mike Pence then knowing that Pence was at the Capitol he'd released a statement about what he was going to do and I tweeted something out you know reminding folks sharing the Mike Pence explanation for why he would certify the results to say you know we're a nation of laws and not men and um but when the violence was actually taking place and during that he once again tweeted out against Mike Pence was such a shameful just betrayal of both the relationship they had but just the presidency itself um it wasn't it and keep in mind like that you know we we all saw that the Hang Mike Pence the horrible signs that people had but it wasn't just an attack on an attempted attack on Mike Pence it was also on the line of succession you know you have the speaker the the Senate the president the Senate uh speaker Pro Temp the leader of the Senate I mean this is the some of the most senior ranking officials in American government coming under attack in this moment um and and what what struck me I had many friends in the Capitol that day members of Congress that I'm close with um also journalists because I worked on Capitol Hill for many many years one of my best friends was in the building pleading with me saying like you've got to get the president to say something um a wife of a member of Congress who I'm close with said you know Alyssa again to say something people are going to die at which point I texted almost verbatim to Mark Meadows you have to say something even if the president won't if you don't people will die he never responded to it I called him a number of times that day I also called The White House switchboard in this you know hoping maybe I'd even reach the president which I didn't um but it was just one of the most horrific days in our history and it cannot be understated that's what there's kind of this effort now to say you know oh it was just a protest that got out of hand no this was a a violent mob trying to overthrow American democracy there's no other way to put it but I don't hold you know the people I hold more accountable than those who storm the capital is the politicians and the people in a position of public trust that lied to that mob that incited them to storm the capital like I think about the fact that Ashley Babbitt who lost her life that day was a veteran she served our country in the Air Force but she believed people that she thought she was supposed to trust who she thought were supposed to tell her the truth telling her that this country you fought for is now being stolen because somebody stole an election and your vote doesn't count I mean that that's horrible she would still be alive today if people did not lie to her and Inspire her to be there at the Capitol when you're texting to Mark Meadows and you're trying to get in touch with the white house I mean what is that like and you're waiting for a response either on your phone or on television yeah so I was I was watching from from on TV down in Florida I mean I'm crying at this point I think a lot of Americans were seeing places that to me as somebody who worked on Capitol Hill for many years and spent a lot of time there with vice president Pence we're sacred when I saw the the protesters and the writers had were actually on the senate floor I was stunned like even as a senior staffer to the vice president who's also the president of the Senate I never actually once got to step foot on the senate floor because it was seen as like hollowed American ground so that was a moment that was like this is worse than any of the many protests I'd seen around DC over the years I was in those hours trying to reach anyone who I thought could have influence on the president so you know Mark Meadows I reached out to many times his senior advisor Ben Williamson who who shared my viewpoint and by the way you know went into outer oval and tried to sway I tried to get to the president tried to get to Meadows but I also well you know just on my social media account now is a private citizen tweeted out you know Donald Trump condemned this now you're the only person they will listen to I then tweeted a lengthy thread because I you know have a significant enough Twitter following I was like if I could do anything to convince people and basically said you know dear Maga I'm one of you um list off my conservative credentials and then say you need to hear me the election was not stolen and um you know it got shared I don't know if it had an impact on anyone actually in the capital that day but I I put that out there because I thought to myself why are the people in the White House not themselves going on their social media or going to the cameras and saying you need to stand down violent mob the election wasn't stolen their voices would have been so powerful then and I as somebody who's been in the position with Donald Trump of trying to get him to walk back a statement that could go for on for hours at this point What stopped any of the senior individuals left from themselves coming out and condemning it and saying stand down and you know what a few did but resigning that day they're sacrificing what three weeks of pay like it wouldn't even be that bold of a thing to do but again people putting their Ambitions ahead of what's right for the country they knew staying in the Trump fold was going to have benefits for them in the future and I just think about it's just disappointing to me that more people didn't speak up so what did they do I mean how long did it take them to do anything and when they did what did you see come from the White House my understanding so I I was you know texting with staff who were in The White House most of them felt you know mid-level staff who felt very helpless in this period and my understanding was ultimately they got the president to record his video there were multiple takes of it and it didn't meet the mark in any way you know he called them patriots he's you know said they were very special what was interesting is some of the rioters are on video saying he says we can stand down we can leave you know we won kind of thing which shows it proves that they were waiting for their cue from Donald Trump so if at any point in those hours he had said Stand Down leave the capital they probably would have done it there was one man they were listening to and he decided to remain silent well you know people lost their lives police officers were beaten more than 60 were hospitalized and he just he just didn't say anything did you think things would change afterwards when you're communicating with people you know Republicans on the hill or in the White House did it feel like things were going to go really change after January 6th after I spoke out following January 6th um most of the Republican party was about where I was uh he'd been the former president but roundly condemned by McConnell McCarthy there was a brief period you know Nikki Haley famously went to the RNC and denounced him and there was a brief moment where it seemed like we'd finally were shifting you know we were going through this is now second impeachment um which I knew wouldn't Advance through the Senate but I it really seemed like a moment that the party was going to put this dangerous man behind them but I mean I have Whiplash over how quickly it went back to him being the leader of the party you know Rick Scott the leader of the nrsc hold you know presenting him an award down at Mar-A-Lago I actually um once you know in a conversation with congresswoman Liz Cheney said to her you know I spoke out and I kind of assumed more people would follow and she laughs and she says yeah think how I feel Alyssa but I was the norm I was where the whole party was after January 6.

it's the party that's swiftly pivoted back to this man and it's gonna it's gonna end up hurting them in the long run when did that happen and how did you see it happen I mean what what happened I mean because that's the big question because as important as January 6 is what happens afterwards is almost as important and that finding yourself alone why do you find yourself alone I I mean I'm shocked by I'm shocked but I'm not shocked by how on an island I am as a former Trump supporter someone who worked for him but who condemned him after January 6 because yeah the entire cable news apparatus right-wing media elected Republican officials were were against him after January 6 but it only lasted honestly a matter of weeks before he sort of started being normalized again and I think it's an it's kind of a mixture of things um you know on the political side Donald Trump has a massive war chest he has an unprecedented fundraising capability and so for the party apparatus they want access to that money that's simply a fact um on the the kind of right-wing media side of things he was a such a boon for ratings and for viewership and Their audience was still with him in many ways um and you know there was a period where the Fox News is the Newsmax as it even seemed like we're maybe pivoting to a different era of what Republican politics would look like but it jumped back pretty quickly I think by the time he spoke at CPAC after January 6th um was about when it IT solidified his place back as the leader of the Republican party and everyone lined right up um behind him it's amazing transformation I mean what were the consequences for you personally for ending up where you did I mean I when I spoke out after January 6th on January 7th um I immediately felt kind of a chilling effect um from those around me I knew that that would burn bridges for me I'd lose friendships in the Trump orbit people I'd worked with for many years um I I lost relationships that I cared about I had you know family and people close to me who denounced me for speaking out um who themselves had fallen victim to the big lie um and you know listened to these elected officials and thought surely they couldn't be lying to them it it was hard and it was isolating but I mean I'm someone who when you go into public service someone told me once like especially in the White House you should kind of have a resignation letter in your desk because the second that you're asked to speak about something that you don't believe in do something that isn't right for the American public and certainly undermine democracy you need to be ready to just walk away and and bear with the consequences you don't get to be in a role as senior as I was in the White House and not be expected to speak out in moments that require your voice so my loss is much smaller than I think the the loss for our country because this is not behind us um we are I would predict in more of a place to have something like a January 6 happen again than less of a place and that's because we have continued to allow lies to be Amplified disinformation is rampant and frankly accepted in parts of the Republican party and again going back to listen to what Donald Trump says and believe it because he is weighing in on secretaries of State races and Governor's races because he wants to in the future be able to challenge election results to his own ends and he's inspired a generation of candidates who are going to spout the same lies that he is another dangerous Legacy of Donald Trump that ties into all of this um you know truly undermining American democracy is the way in which she's changed our political rhetoric that we look at Democrats and the other party as enemies he talks about them like they are worse than America's adversaries that is so dangerous to the future of American democracy it has National Security repercussions and that's been normalized in the Republican party where people are you they literally talk about the other side of the aisle who may just simply disagree with them on things like tax policy or you know being pro-choice rather than pro-life as scum as talking about them as pedophiles as things that are dehumanizing this has become normalized the left is guilty of it to some degree but what America's adversaries want to see is the U.S you know eat itself from within when we are pitted against each other when we are not United when we are divided on political lines that helps our adversaries and Donald Trump played such a significant role in undermining what it meant to be an American which is we all have a place in the Democratic process you have to let the other side win sometimes and sometimes you get to win and that is all part of being a Democratic Republic he undermined that in unprecedented ways and what does it mean that the Republican party now makes the 2020 election fraud on January 6 you know as legitimate political discourse and censoring Liz Cheney what does it mean for American democracy that this is where the party is the Republican party is in a very grave place um to say it's having an identity crisis is probably giving too much credit to where it is I think the Republican party is the party of trump um and what comes with that is that you're the party of the big lie you're the party of undermining American democracy that said I'm still a registered Republican and I plan to stay one and Fight Within there are leaders who are with me I mean Liz Cheney has of course taken many many arrows to stand up for the truth of what happened on January 6 and against the big lie there's also Governors I think who are stepping up um you know Larry Hogan someone who's been outspoken about the direction our politics have gone there are people trying to change the party from within but um where we are now is embracing a figure that is so destructive to the country as a whole but by the way he's also bad for the party this man he's he's not winning the popular vote didn't win the electoral college so you know my message to Republicans would be clearly there is something off-putting about what we are doing perhaps it's bigoted language perhaps it's undemocratic values perhaps it's spreading lies and disinformation why don't we put that behind us and embrace a you know a big picture big umbrella big tent party that could bring more people into the fold you're not ever going to get that with Donald Trump I think you've warned about what would happen if Trump were re-elected which seems to be what he's trying to do what what are you afraid of if Donald Trump is reelected it will be it could be the undoing of American democracy and I don't say that lightly um one very specific thing that he proposed doing at the end of his administration and didn't do would basically change all federal government employees to being political appointees who are fire at will and so what that would mean is he could literally undo the entire federal government tens of thousands of people subject matter experts people who have spent decades understanding how our government works working through multiple administrations and stack it with loyalists who will do anything for him that will have horrifying effects on everything on every aspect of the American government I think you can expect that he is going to go after political adversaries I think he'll go after members of the media I think that he will see his he will use every lever of power that he has and will feel emboldened because he will not be having to stay with us certain lanes because he won't be running for reelection um it's he that man cannot be in office again if we care about the future of American democracy thank you and let me see if Michael as a follow-up I have one question we just I don't think you said what it is you said the day after January 6th was there a statement that you made a thing you said if you could say it we could at least have it on the tape so on January 6th and in real time is is this was unfolding on Capitol Hill the insurrection's taking place my first statement was just to affirm the statement that vice president Pence had put out saying he would certify the results and that was shared widely because I was the former president's former communications director and then I put out a statement in the midst of the violence tagging Donald Trump because again Twitter and cable news are usually the best way to reach him saying Donald Trump condemned this now for our country you're the only one they will listen to um and then finally and in between this I'm calling people in the white house I'm trying to reach the president um I then put out a fairly lengthy bear with me Twitter thread but where I say dear maga maga being make America great again I'm one of you before I worked for real Donald Trump I worked for Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan in the freedom caucus I marched in the 2010 tea party rallies I campaigned with Trump and I voted for him but I need you to hear me the election was not stolen we lost there were cases of fraud that should be investigated but the legitimate margins of victory for Biden are far too wide to change the outcome you need to know that I'm proud of many of the policy accomplishments of the Trump Administration but we have to accept these results it's time to regroup organize and campaign for political leaders we believe in and let our democracy work it's not and never will be a time for violence if you believe in America first if you believe in the Constitution the rule of law and our first principles stand up for it now and you know it was widely shared on the right and you know Fox News aired it the next day right-wing media did and it reflected I think the position of where a lot of Republicans were for a brief period after January 6th um but then as quickly as their position changed on Trump they went right back into the fold and um on January 7th I I went on CNN MSNBC and Fox News and kind of elaborated on my remarks um and the point I made was this is you know I've spent time in democracies much more fragile than our own what we saw on January 6 was was Un-American it will have repercussions for decades to come if we do not have a real conversation about what the Democratic process means and I called for him to resign and if not to resign for the 25th Amendment to be invoked um I think I think then and I think now he is a danger to our country and you know that certainly alienated me with some folks but privately it's also where a lot of Republican leaders were Alyssa were you ever are you ever especially then afraid physically personally so after after on January 7th I started receiving death threats on a variety of social media channels it was the first time in my life that I I had and I never had expected to um I I was I was afraid and actually um it was it was interesting in that moment um Jake Tapper from CNN who's been a friend of mine for years had to like walk me through reporting death threats and you know connected me with the right people and it was just so strange that usually that would have probably been a conversation I would have gone to some of my friends at the White House to to deal with but they weren't picking up my calls anymore um I think there is a there's a heightened environment right now where the rhetoric is is is so dangerous I fear less for myself personally but I do think our country is at a friction point that could become more dangerous and things like political unrest and violence could become more common uh there's just the the everything is trending the wrong direction on the right and we need more leaders to speak up because we're going to regret it if we don't we've heard from lots of Congress people and others that well a lot of the people who are leaving their jobs in Washington as members of Congress are doing it because they're afraid for their families they they're afraid to take a stance the other way does that ring true to you I think that's absolutely true I've heard from members of Congress about feeling um feeling scared for for their safety um congressman Adam kensinger is a friend of mine he's been a very outspoken opponent of the presidents and he gets death threats he knows he he worries he's got a young wife and new baby and that's not how American politics should be um you know I personally we put up cameras and enhanced security around my house that is that is what comes with the territory of speaking out in this environment and it's exacerbated by many of these kind of dark web forums in these places like 4chan and eight Chan but even parlor and getter where you can you can spread not only disinformation misinformation but targeted harassment at public officials um and do it with impunity um you know the big social media sites are actually they cooperate and they try to be helpful to public figures who get harassment but those are very dark places that are used to stir up violent rhetoric they were used on January 6 and they continue to be used to Target people who you know step out of the party line with Donald Trump

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