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The morning after the 2020 presidential election, the mother-daughter duo of Amy and Kylie Jane Kremer formed a viral Facebook group urging "boots on the ground" to thwart an alleged effort to steal the election from Donald Trump.
The "Stop the Steal" group's membership ballooned to more than 350,000 before Facebook shut it down, citing a risk of violence.
Undaunted, the two Trump loyalists rebranded an existing Facebook group, calling it “March for Trump, and organized a bus tour. The effort culminated in Washington on Jan. 6 when the Kremers’ Women for America First Save America rally became a prelude for the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Now, the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has subpoenaed the Kremers to give sworn testimony in depositions on Friday. What they say could help Congress understand how much organizers knew about impending violence and who funded the group's postelection events that helped to amplify Trump's false claims of election fraud.
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The Kremers disavowed violence in the aftermath of the attack but have continued to promote the lie that the election was stolen. They have not been charged with any crimes connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In conversations with five members of the House Select committee, lawmakers said they want to know about any premeditated plans for violence at the Capitol and how dark money flowed to pay for the rally and to encourage people to show up in Washington. The lawmakers declined to give specifics on what questions they planned to ask the Kremers.
“It's pretty evident that some of that was used to entice people to come to DC to promote the events and so understanding who was behind that who organized it is really critical and understanding the events that led up to that day,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., noted that the committee has a "very broad investigative portfolio.”
"We have to get to the bottom of the organizing, the funding, the coordination of the violent elements with the inside political coup, and then all of the cover-up operations that took place,” Raskin told USA TODAY.
"There are people out there who clearly view January 6 as a dress rehearsal for future political violence to destabilize or overthrow American democracy," Raskin said, adding that finding the facts and holding people accountable is as much about the future as it is about the past.
USA TODAY left messages with Amy Kremer, Kylie Jane Kremer, and Women for America First that were not returned. In written statements, Amy Kremer has denounced Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for participating in what she called a ‘sham’ committee.
In a July statement, she said she “would gladly testify before any commission.”
Birtherism, Tea Party activism
Amy Kremer describes herself as one of the founding mothers of the Tea Party movement a decade ago. She blogged for years calling herself a ‘Southern belle’ and spreading the ‘birther’ lie that claimed President Barack Obama was foreign-born.
She wrote in 2009, in a post first unearthed by Mother Jones, that she was disillusioned after Congress certified the election of President Barack Obama. “As a matter of fact, I never even heard Vice President Cheney ask if there were any objections,” she wrote.
Kylie Jane Kremer, who worked as an intern for one of her mother’s Tea Party groups in 2009, became an integral part of the Kremer political machine. In 2011, an Internet radio host gushed about her work as the Twitter point person for Tea Party Express bus tours, where she kept her mom company and helped wherever she could.
“I kind of got my start in politics right along with her,” Kylie Jane Kremer told C-SPAN. “At first I thought she was a little crazy, and I wanted no part of it, but as I've gotten older I've really grown to love and respect everything that she’s done, and I have an incredible role model as a mother.”
The younger Kremer – whose tagline on Pinterest is “Somewhere between raising hell & amazing grace” – became so involved with her mother’s advocacy that she left Georgia Southern University after three years and worked on her degree remotely to spend more time with Tea Party Express, she told a Twitter follower in 2012.
In 2014, Amy Kremer was a founding director of a group in Texas called “Blitz the Vote.” The group said on Twitter that Obama’s dream for America was “turning our country into a land of entitlements.” In 2015, Kylie Jane Kremer posted an appeal for new leadership in the House of Representatives after then-Speaker John Boehner passed a spending bill to avert a government shutdown.
When Trump ran for president in 2016, Amy Kremer started a political action committee called Women Vote Trump that the Federal Election Commission would later ding for illegally using a candidate’s name, Mother Jones first reported. She changed the name to Women Vote Smart.
The pair became avid Trump acolytes, posting on social media when they visited the White House, Kylie featuring a picture with Ivanka Trump and Amy Kremer a photo with Trump himself in the Oval Office before his 2020 State of the Union address. She said she was proud to support him since day one and looked forward to another five years.
'Worrying calls for violence'
In February 2020, the IRS approved the pair’s dark money group called Women for America First that can raise money without disclosing donors and spend almost half of it on political activity. Filings indicating how much the group has raised and spent are not yet available on the IRS website.
The Kremers started their ‘Stop the Steal’ Facebook group on Nov. 4, when results were still pouring in from states with close races. More than 350,000 people joined in less than a day, producing more than 7,000 posts, all based around the election lie.
Facebook shut down "Stop the Steal" within 24 hours. “We saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” the company said in a statement. The group was also organized around the delegitimization of the election, the statement said.
Devin Burghart, executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights who has studied the Tea Party movement for over a decade, said Tea Party activists saw Trump as one of their own who ushered in sweeping policy changes.
“The potential loss of that with November election results put terror into the hearts of many and they were panicked,” Burghart said. “And so as a result of that, rather than organizing in opposition to win the next election they decided to try to overturn the previous one."
On Nov. 29, the Kremers started their bus tour in Doral, Florida, ultimately visiting more than 20 different cities. They urged supporters to bring their flags as “we continue to fight for President Trump against the socialist attack to steal the election.”
Giving them an assist, Trump flew in his Marine One helicopter over the group’s Dec. 12 rally in Washington, D.C. as Kylie Jane Kremer delivered an opening speech. Other speakers included Trump campaign aides, and Mike Lindell from MyPillow.
Who paid for the Jan. 6 rally?
The ‘Save America March’ on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. had higher stakes: It was the closest rally the group had ever held to the White House, and organizers set up the riser to use the White House as a stage backdrop.
Kylie Jane Kremer named herself the ‘person in charge’ on her permit with the federal government. She took the stage first, before turning the rally over to a series of speakers and anonymous voiceovers who falsely claimed a stolen election.
One voice ominously told the crowd there had been “suitcases of ballots added in secret in Georgia.” Another voiceover said Trump had been on track for a landslide victory until some ballots disappeared and Biden ballots were added in the middle of the night. The rally offered no evidence for these statements.
Amy Kremer took the stage an hour after her daughter, leading the crowd in a ‘Stop the Steal’ chant as a row of men in Oath Keepers shirts looked on about 30 feet from the stage. She said without evidence that suitcases were also sold out in Georgia the night before, when two Democratic candidates won U.S. Senate seats in the historically Republican state.
After the Capitol riot, Women for America First issued a statement from Amy Kremer condemning the violence, saying a "handful of bad actors" had instigated it.
Ten days later, House Democrats held their impeachment trial accusing Trump of inciting an insurrection. During the trial, Congressman Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., read one of Kylie Jane Kremer’s tweets from December. "The calvary is coming, Mr. President!” an apparent misspelling of cavalry. “JANUARY 6th"
— Kylie Jane Kremer (@KylieJaneKremer) December 19, 2020
Now, she and her mother are asking supporters on the Christian crowdfunding website Give Send Go to chip in $200,000 to pay lawyers as part of the Select Committee’s inquiry. Their page says their group has been supporting free speech. “Today it is us, but tomorrow it could be you,” the appeal says.
The group announced public events for the weekend of Nov. 3, the anniversary of the 2020 election, and borrowed a phrase often used to reference a night in 1605 when a group of rebels sought to blow up British Parliament.
“Remember, remember the 3rd of November,” their Instagram post says.
Meanwhile, Raskin said the committee wants to find out more about the dark money trail behind the Jan. 6 rally and that the Kremers are key people to talk to.
"The committee is deeply interested in how the insurrection was paid for – that none of this happened by accident and none of it happened spontaneously," he said.
Theda Skocpol, Harvard sociology professor, political scientist and coauthor of “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” said holding accountable the elite political operatives who pulled strings behind the scenes is important.
“Unless that happens, you're just sending the people who sat home and watched Fox TV and believe all this to do short stints in prison or pay a fine, and that isn’t going to have any effect on this,” Skocpol said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jan. 6 committee wants to hear from mom-daughter duo who planned event