According to messages obtained by the Washington Post, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) was involved in a conspiracy to stage a “Brooks Brothers Riot” in his home state to prevent President Joe Biden’s win.
A tiny group of men clad in yellow-and-black Proud Boys shirts arrived with scores of other Trump supporters to protest the counting of ballots at Nevada’s largest polling center two days after the turbulent 2020 election, as President Donald Trump raged that his win had been stolen.
Although the event looked to be non-threatening, private Facebook conversations and interviews reveal the breadth of the attempts, at least in one battleground state, to create the illusion of grass-roots enthusiasm to disseminate Trump’s electoral lies.
His assertions became louder in the months ahead, culminating in a violent attack on the United States Capitol on Jan. 6.
Behind the scenes in Nevada, there was a liberal activist who pretended to be a far-right activist as an agreement with her position at McShane LLC, and a Republican Party consultant who contacted her in an attempt to recruit the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s club, to attend the event.
In a Facebook Messenger exchange on Nov. 4, Woodrow Johnston, the vice president of McShane LLC, a consultant hired by the party to investigate election fraud, told Sarah Ashton-Cirillo that Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), one of his firm’s customers, was planning a “Brooks Brothers Riot” in Arizona.
That was a nod to Republican demonstrations in Florida following the 2000 presidential election, which caused vote counting to be halted.
According to the Messenger records, Ashton-Cirillo quickly contacted a number of activists, including one who has publicly identified as a Proud Boys member and another guy who was subsequently seen at the demonstration wearing a Proud Boys shirt.
Several months later, Johnston’s role in the attempt to organize that nonviolent demonstration, as well as other GOP initiatives since then, has sparked a fierce conflict in the Nevada GOP among forces vying for power in a party still dominated by Trump.
More than two dozen accused Proud Boys members or sympathizers have been charged with crimes in connection with the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, and the Canadian government labeled the chapter there a terrorist entity in February, forcing it to dissolve.
At the first presidential debate in September, Trump famously instructed the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Weeks later, in a communication to the political operator he was requesting to contact the organization, Johnston reiterated the same words, adding a “LOL.”
The demonstrations in North Las Vegas that followed, which featured hundreds of Trump supporters yelling “Don’t steal my vote” and “Stop the cheating,” lasted several days and did not interrupt the vote counting nearby.
Johnston has claimed since that he was acting independantly.
Through a spokeswoman, Gosar stated that he had not spoken with Johnston about the demonstrations.
The GOP caucus in the Nevada Senate called for Republicans to distance themselves from the Proud Boys on May 21 in the midst of an earlier dispute over whether the Proud Boys had influenced an internal party vote, and the Clark County Republican Party, which represents Republicans in Las Vegas, later joined that call.
In an interview, Jessica Hanson, the executive director of the state Republican Party, alleged that chairman Michael J. McDonald and the party offered “zero direction” to organizers of the November election demonstrations.
Ashton-Cirillo is a liberal transgender activist who happened to be in the right position, at the right time, with the right sense of justice and passion for our country.
She saved communications and screenshots of Telegram group conversations from far-right extremists while campaigning for the Las Vegas City Council under the name Sarah Ashton.
In an exclusive with Vozwire, Aston-Cirillo stated that her entrance into this world was not exactly as an undercover spy, at least, not at first.
“The McShane people knew I was progressive, and because of their intense desire for political grifting, wanted Democrat and liberal business, too. So they offered me a position, but on the condition I didn’t tell anyone, since they received blowback for having a trans person around. So, while they knew about me, the PB’s [Proud Boy’s] and Alt – Right had no idea.”
“Rory and Woodrow [of McShane LLC] have absolutely no real ideals or values, it’s consultants like them that have allowed for the rise of empty political vessels like Trump and MTG [Marjorie Taylor Greene]. I only met them in mid-September, by October they were giving me all the inside info. No NDA, nothing. My social media is and has been open. No one looked.”
“When I had the chance to go to that fundraiser pre-election, knowing that Gosar and Biggs would be there, it was incredibly exhilarating, owing to their rabid anti-trans agendas. I found out after that they both became incredibly bothered by my presence.”
“This is crazy, and I’m just the same person worrying about development and potholes, who happened to be in position to expose these con artists and crackpots, and took the opportunity to do so. For democracy’s sake. We came too close to losing our nation’s soul, the fabric was being torn as to what made us a nation of both today and the future.”
“I came home every day wondering if they would find out and come after me. The threats now are getting worse by the day, but in sunlight comes protection and a regrowth of our ideals and ideas. So I’m excited for the future and at peace with my choices. No apologies. We have to be careful, extraordinarily so, yet again we can’t live in fear of living or making a difference.”
She is currently now working on a book on extremism.