Inside the Willard Hotel on January 6

One of Washington's most expensive hotels was the nerve center for the insurrection—and a playground for seditious kingpins media and the FBI seem content to ignore for now. Proof takes a look inside.

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Introduction

That the Willard Hotel was central to the Trumpist insurrection prior to January 6 and on January 6 is clear. As previously reported by Proof, key insurrectionist leaders stayed there in both November and December of 2020 during Stop the Steal events, and, per a report by ProPublica, a chance meeting between Stop the Steal organizer Alex Jones and Cindy Chafian, a coordinator for Women for America First—arguably a domestic extremist group—led directly to the chaos, mayhem, and violence of the insurrection:

Cindy Chafian, a longtime organizer, said that in December [2020] she met [Alex] Jones “by complete happenstance” at the Willard Hotel in Washington. Not long before, Chafian said, Jones had had a falling out with the leadership of Women for America First. Chafian, who is a reiki practitioner, said she was “put in a position, in my opinion based on what I know from the universe, to clear that energy. To clear that negativity.” Later that month, Jones contacted Chafian to discuss staging a January rally in support of an effort by Trump and his allies to overturn the election results and President Joe Biden’s victory, she said. He subsequently directed her to [Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle’s aide Caroline] Wren.

Chafian is being extremely coy here, as what actually happened, per CNN, is that Jones was investigated by the D.C. Metropolitan Police for “threaten[ing] to [physically] push a pro-Trump political organizer [Kylie Jane Kremer of Women for America First] off of an event stage in December [2020].” In any case, the fact remains that if domestic extremists from Women for America First and Stop the Steal hadn’t both been using the Willard as an operations center during the run-up to the insurrection, Chafian wouldn’t have been in a position to conduct diplomacy between the groups.

Chafian’s timely intervention made possible the unholy trinity now known to be behind the insurrection (with the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and other extremist groups as executors of its vision): Stop the Steal (including Jones, Roger Stone, Ali Alexander, and their allies Nick Fuentes and Michael Coudrey); Women for America First (including Kremer, Chafian, and Kremer’s mother Amy Kremer); and Team Trump (including Trump campaign and Trump administration liaisons to Stop the Steal and Women for America First, among them Wren, Guilfoyle, Katrina Pierson, Hannah Salem, Maggie Mulvaney, and Arina Grossu).

The centrality of the Willard Hotel extended through January 6 itself, with the New York Times reporting that no fewer than six members of the Oath Keepers tasked with guarding Roger Stone while he was at the Willard ultimately entered the U.S. Capitol and subsequently became federal defendants. And viral photos of seditious Trumpists celebrating at the Willard on the night of January 6 led to sentences like this one in an op-ed in the Greenfield Recorder: “Some mob leaders were stationed at the famous Willard Hotel, one of the most expensive hotels in D.C., located across the street near the White House, and [were] photographed in celebration the night of the riot.”

All this said, Proof has not focused significantly on Stop the Steal events in November and December, as these appear to have preceded (the latter perhaps only by days) the germination of the January 6 plot. Nor has Proof focused much on insurrectionist foot soldiers, whether congregating at the Willard Hotel or elsewhere, as there were tens of thousands of such individuals in and around Capitol Hill on January 4, January 5, and January 6, and thus far the FBI, corporate media, and citizen journalists appear ready and willing to hold these largely (but by no means exclusively) poor, working-class, and lower-middle-class insurgents responsible for their crimes—as well they should. {Note: I note the class composition of the mob only to emphasize that our justice system struggles to investigate or apprehend rich, powerful, or famous suspects, not to absolve any insurrectionist.}

The focus of this publication has been on the insurrectionist kingpins, who thus far have largely escaped the sustained attention of major media, the FBI, and even the most ardent citizen journalists. Is there evidence that the Willard Hotel was not just the location of Trump’s second war room on January 6, but indeed the nerve center of all operations on that day? The answer is yes.

Roger Stone and the Manhattan Madam at the Willard

The most widely discussed Willard Hotel guest over the last six months has without question been Stone, as he’s admitted to staying at the hotel during the insurrection and (in any case) there’s a mountain of photographic and video evidence confirming it.

Of course, staying at a downtown hotel in D.C. during an armed rebellion there is not a crime; even engaging in seditious conduct while staying at the Willard (see the Proof reporting on Stone’s activities immediately before and during his first full day at the Willard: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) doesn’t make the hotel stay itself a problem. The issue, rather, is what Stone did inside the hotel in the late evening of January 5 and during the day on January 6. And the key to unlocking that mystery is determining who witnessed Stone’s activities during that period. Fortunately, investigators have leads on this front.

In an article about Stone’s unofficial bodyguard and Willard suite-mate Sal Greco palling around with Oath Keepers mid-insurrection, Stone’s other suite-mate at the Willard, Kristin M. Davis—the former prostitution-ring capo widely known as the “Manhattan Madam”, who shared a duplex with Stone until weeks before the FBI raided it—says, according to the New York Daily News, that “There were literally fifty of us staying at The Willard hotel. I think all the guys, when things were done, just kind of hung out a bit.”

It’s not clear what “all” or “us” means in this context. While both these words should include, based on the context of Davis’s remark, all three of Greco, Stone, and a gaggle of Oath Keepers, this hasn’t yet been confirmed. Nor do we know for certain whether the fact that Stone says Greco met with Michael Flynn while staying at the Willard has anything to do with Stone’s sudden and unexpected personal feud with Greco’s fellow MAGA propagandist and NYPD peer, John Cardillo, who allegedly turned on Greco and is now seen as a threat by not just Stone but Ali Alexander.

So why is it so important for Stone and Alexander to attack someone who criticizes Greco? It suggests at least the possibility that Greco possesses sensitive information about both Stone and Alexander that the two men want to ensure remains closely held. One note on this score, offered by Salon, is that Greco “reportedly received money from Stone’s wife” in a still unexplained transaction (unexplained because Stone says Greco has never worked for him as a bodyguard, or in any other capacity). Could this somehow be related to the Stone-Cardillo feud? Cardillo is believed to be assisting in an internal investigation of Greco at NYPD; if that review is headed toward a finding that Greco received money from the Stones in exchange for silence about any subject related to Stop the Steal, it raises significant questions about what Greco could tell the FBI about Stone’s activities about the Willard. And given that Stone says the two men were together for nearly the entire duration of Stone’s stay at the Willard, that intel would presumably be significant. Indeed, per this essay by Stone, the Trump confidant appears convinced Greco is being investigated for his activities at the Willard Hotel on (and perhaps his knowledge of others’ activities on) January 5 and January 6:

[The] New York Daily News reported that Officer Greco was the subject of an NYPD internal investigation upon his return from Washington in January. At that time I elected not to comment because I know an honest inquiry will prove that Sal Greco did nothing improper, either in DC in early January or anywhere else, at any time, for that matter. But if we have learned nothing from the years we had with Donald Trump as president it is that things like fairness, due process, and truth are utter irrelevancies to the corporate and social media propagandists who act as mere mouthpieces for the Democrat party [sic] and its radical left-wing zealots. Now they are subjecting this dedicated officer of the law to their latest politically-motivated witch hunt, using cheap innuendo and “guilt by association” to potentially destroy the career of this patriot for the unforgivable sin of being my friend. On January 5th, Sal was with me in Washington, accompanying me as I spoke at two legally-permitted events. On January 6th, we never even left the Willard Hotel property the entire day. Neither of us was at the Ellipse, in the march to the Capitol, or present at the Capitol for any of the unlawful acts. We were both shocked and appalled at the lawless, politically counterproductive violence at the Capitol as we watched it unfold on TV in my hotel suite.

Given that Stone’s claim that he didn’t leave the Willard on January 6 is uncontested, any investigation of Greco’s activities on that day, at least, would focus on what he and Stone were doing in the Willard—whether in terms of in-person contacts or digital or telephonic communications from the building. It’s in this context that Trump having a communications center “[on] the Willard Hotel property” suddenly seems significant.

Per Salon, Ali Alexander has now written on Telegram, “I warned everyone of John Cardillo. Remember when he tried to kill the Stop the Steal movement?” In fact, Cardillo has been one of the most radical Trump loyalists for years, and indeed was once considered one of Stone’s closest friends. So why does his fallout with Greco so imperil the group Stone and Alexander lead? Do they worry he’s talking to the FBI?

Significant, too, in this context, is Kristin M. Davis’s use of the odd phrase “fifty of us.” DOJ indictments establish that a number of Oath Keepers since arrested over the insurrection used the Willard Hotel as a home base and parking lot for their golf carts, though whether they were staying at the hotel as guests is unclear. {Note: This summary of the indictments by Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist and former researcher for The Intercept, is useful in this respect.} If Greco and Stone were, as Davis says, “hang[ing] out a bit” with “literally” dozens of Oath Keepers before and during the insurrection, it raises the stakes of determining if Stone or Greco ever entered Trump’s Willard ops center on January 5 or January 6—as if they had, they would have been in a position to pass operational details relating to the insurrection to Trump’s communications team.

Here’s a video of Davis and Stone from the Willard Hotel on the evening of January 6, though whether it’s actually indicative of how Stone spent his time that day (muttering impotently at a television set) is very much an open question:


Other Notable Figures at the Willard Hotel on January 6

Mark Finchem

The Arizona Republic reports that Arizona state representative Mark Finchem stayed at the Willard during the insurrection, which is significant given that in a now-infamous mid-January interview with the Church Militant of Michigan, Ali Alexander credited Finchem with being the founder of the Stop the Steal movement in Arizona. Alexander told the Church Militant that “[the] Arizona [Stop the Steal movement] started with one man—state representative Mark Finchem—and he’s become a great friend and a brother to me, and he will be running for higher office there in Arizona.” {Note: Mr. Finchem, now facing calls for his resignation from Arizona Democrats, is instead running for Secretary of State of Arizona. If he replaces Katie Hobbs, he’d control elections in the state.}

Proof has reported that Finchem joined Oath Keepers on a wild golf cart ride from the Willard to the Capitol. The Tucson Sentinel confirms that Finchem, at various points alongside fellow Republican state representative Anthony Kern, spoke at Freedom Plaza (introduced by Ali Alexander) on January 5; was at Trump’s speech at the White House Ellipse on January 6; was at the U.S. Capitol (and closer to it than he told local media he was) later that day; and was involved in text messages with Alexander and the Oath Keepers throughout his stay in Washington.

Given the longstanding ties between Stop the Steal and the Arizona Proud Boys—blaze-orange-hatted representatives from the latter of which kicked off the assault on the Capitol, per a report in the Wall Street Journal and the Eddie Block video discussed at Proof—one must wonder what conversations were had between Finchem, Jones, Stone, and Oath Keeper leaders at the Willard (as all these were known to have been there at various points during the insurrection) and whether these conversations involved Alexander, Proud Boy leaders, or anyone from Trump’s Willard comms center.

Christina Engelstad

It’s easy to dismiss Christina (“C.J.” or “CJaye”) Engelstad as merely the lead singer of a band of schlocky Trumpist minstrels—the so-called Deplorable Choir, which also includes Engelstad’s sister Lyndsey Morris and (until recently) also had a third member, Valerie Eissler—but the sad fact is that after pro-Trump “hits” like the transphobic country song “Real Women Vote for Trump”, Engelstad and her crew became remarkably effective propagandists for Trump’s would-be authoritarianism.

Engelstad and her Deplorable Choir took a hard turn toward Stop the Steal’s mission with an embarrassing apologia for federal crimes, “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong”, which Engelstad appeared alongside Stone at Freedom Plaza on January 5 to perform as part of her introduction of the man himself. {Note: Stone proceeded to incite the crowd to insurrection, as was extensively covered by Proof at the several links included above.}

Stone is seen below entering the Willard with Engelstad (in a yellow hat) on January 5:

Proof in no way suggests that a failed country singer was involved in the insurrection besides offering paltry entertainment for the insurrectionists. But a question does arise as to whether Engelstad can offer information to the FBI about the activities of Stone, Greco, Stone’s Oath Keeper bodyguards, or Finchem (who spoke at the Freedom Plaza event that Engelstad performed at) while at the Willard Hotel.

A Laura Ingraham Interviewee

No one could guess what goes through the mind of onetime candidate for Trump Press Secretary Laura Ingraham, least of all at the moment the Trumpist Fox News Channel personality chose to interview an insurrectionist live on-air—not to query him about committing the federal crime of breaching the U.S. Capitol, but to get him to detail the death of violent insurrectionist Ashli Babbit. And where was Ingraham’s interviewee standing while he was being given a national platform by FNC? In the Willard Hotel.

Owen Shroyer

Since the revelation, by Proof, of the Willard Hotel war room just a couple days ago, there’s been near-universal agreement that the man who appears in Robert Hyde’s Instagram photo-set of the suite of offices (see a new photo from that series below) is indeed Owen Shroyer, who like Stone, Finchem, Alexander, Engelstad, Greco, and the Oath Keepers guarding Stone was at the Freedom Plaza Rally for Revival on January 5.

The importance of Shroyer being inside Trump’s war room can’t be overstated. In the Stop the Steal hierarchy, Stone, Jones, and Alexander are at the top, with mouthpieces and allies of each—like Greco or Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio for Stone, Shroyer for Jones, or Coudrey and Fuentes for Alexander—below them in authority and status. If Shroyer was permitted inside Trump’s Willard Hotel nerve center, it’s inconceivable that Jones would not likewise have had such access, and indeed it’s known that Jones was in the building while interviewing former Trump National Security Adviser Flynn.

By the same token, Stone is far closer to Trump both personally and professionally than Jones, so it cannot readily be conceived that a Jones lieutenant would have access to the Willard war room but not Stone. And indeed, within the Stop the Steal hierarchy Ali Alexander outranks both Jones and Stone, and so it seems impossible that Shroyer would have access to any room supporting Stop the Steal’s activities that Alexander would not. Lest anyone suspect that Team Trump hoped to avoid giving the domestic terror leader Alexander access to its private areas, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Team Trump gave Alexander front-row access to its VIP area at the Ellipse (see below). If public association between Trump and Alexander wasn’t eschewed, why would giving the latter access to a restricted Team Trump area have been a concern?

Indeed, as previously reported by Proof, Alexander was in text-message contact with the Trump campaign while he was at the Capitol on January 6, so there’d be no reason for him to have been blocked from accessing Trump’s Willard nerve center pre-attack.

More on Stone and the Willard

The most well-known video of Stone at the Willard is the one below, in which Stone is ringed by Oath Keepers who’d subsequently be arrested by the FBI. Beyond the fact that these bodyguards wouldn’t be doing a good job of guarding Stone if they didn’t also guard him in the hotel—a space accessible to any sufficiently motivated person in D.C.—Davis’s confession that Stone and Greco “hung out for a bit” with Oath Keepers inside the Willard confirms that what we see in the video below is merely the public component of a period of socializing of also happened indoors and both preceded and followed what Christiaan Triebert of the NYT Visual Investigations Unit shows here:

Strikingly, Stone didn’t spend his time in the Willard on January 6 just watching TV, as Davis’s tweet above—intentionally or otherwise—might imply. The New York Times notes (see thread at this link) that though Stone would skip out on Trump’s speech and his own “Wild Protest” speech (slated for noon on the Capitol steps, confirming that Stone aimed to be a draw for insurrectionists marching on the Capitol), he spent his time at the Willard inciting people to go to events he had no intention of appearing at.

That Stone used the Willard as a communications center underscores the possibility that he might have been in touch with others, such as Giuliani and his team, using the space in the same way, especially given that Stone would later tell Steve Malzberg of Eat the Press that he “was invited to lead a march to the Capitol” by an unnamed person or entity—which may have been the White House, given that his Stop the Steal co-organizer Alex Jones says that that’s where his invitation to lead the march came from. In other words, if the White House was in touch with Stop the Steal’s leadership cadre on January 3 about the logistics for the so-called March to Save America, as Jones insists, why would the White House have cut off any such contact by the morning of January 6, when Stone was in the same building as White House agents?

Conclusion

Determining who Trump’s communications center in the Willard was communicating with besides Congress—as we know Giuliani tried to phone Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who he’d been with at an insurrection planning meeting the night before—is vital. But it’s equally important to understand that, as we know from reporting by the New York Times (see the long thread linked to two paragraphs above) there was no more than one degree of separation between two Willard Hotel guests (Stone and Finchem) and one of the domestic terrorists who led the insurrection, the Oath Keepers’ Stewart Rhodes, as all of Stone’s bodyguards were caught on camera meeting with Rhodes post-attack.

The Willard Hotel therefore gets investigators even closer to the Trump-insurrection ties than the Trump International Hotel war room does—especially given that Stone went to Mar-a-Lago to speak with Trump about the election just days before January 6.