ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.
In the week leading up to the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that exploded into an attack on the Capitol, a top Trump campaign fundraiser issued a directive to a woman who had been overseeing planning for the event.
âGet the budget and vendors breakdown to me and Justin,â Caroline Wren wrote to Cindy Chafian, a self-described âconstitutional conservative,â in a Dec. 28 text message obtained by ProPublica.
Wren was no ordinary event planner. She served as a deputy to Donald Trump Jr.âs girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at Trump Victory, a joint presidential fundraising committee during the 2020 campaign. The Justin mentioned in her text was Justin Caporale, a former top aide to first lady Melania Trump, whose production company helped put on the event at the Ellipse.
Text messages and an event-planning memo obtained by ProPublica, along with an interview with Chafian, indicate that Wren, a Washington insider with a low public profile, played an extensive role in managing operations for the event. The records show that Wren oversaw logistics, budgeting, funding and messaging for the Jan. 6 rally that featured President Donald Trump.
Chafian told ProPublica that Wren and others had pushed her aside as plans intensified, including as a late effort was made to get Trump to speak at the event.
On Dec. 29, after receiving the budget, Wren instructed Chafian, via text, to hold off on printing event-related slogans âuntil we decide what the messaging is and we have no clue on timing because it all depends on the votes that day so we wonât know timing for a few more days.â The âtimingâ appears to be a reference to Congressâ Jan. 6 vote to certify the election results.
Wrenâs services were enlisted by a major donor to Trumpâs presidential campaign, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported Saturday that Julie Jenkins Fancelli, the heiress to Publix Super Markets, committed some $300,000 to fund the Jan. 6 rally.
The funding commitment by Fancelli, who Federal Election Commission records show has donated more than $1 million to Trump Victory, the presidentâs campaign and the Republican National Committee since 2018, was facilitated by the right-wing conspiracy peddler Alex Jones, the Journal reported. Chafian told ProPublica that she herself had been directed by Jones to Wren, who, she was told, had ties to a wealthy donor who wanted to support the January affair. Chafian said the donor is a woman but wouldnât disclose her name, citing a confidentiality agreement.
Fancelli hasnât responded to messages left at numbers listed for her.
The Associated Press had previously reported that Wren was listed as a âVIP Advisorâ in an attachment to a National Park Service permit for the Jan. 6 event issued to Women for America First, a pro-Trump nonprofit run by the mother-daughter duo Amy and Kylie Jane Kremer. Chafian had worked on and off with Women for America First since October 2019.
But that title gives little indication of the scope of Wrenâs role in managing the âMarch to Save Americaâ event, where the president would tell thousands of supporters to walk to the Capitol and âdemand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated,â the records show.
A guidance memo provided to VIP attendees of the Jan. 6 rally further establishes Wrenâs centrality to the event. She is listed, along with three other people, as one of the primary points of contact for the demonstration. The Kremers, whose nonprofit was attached to the event, are not mentioned at all.
Wren hasnât responded to requests for comment about the role she played in organizing the Jan. 6 rally. In a statement to the Journal, she said her role in the event was to âassist many others in providing and arranging for a professionally produced event at the Ellipse.â She was last paid by the Trump campaign on Nov. 15, a campaign spokesman said, adding that the campaign âdid not organize, operate or finance the eventâ and any former staffers who worked on the event âdid not do so at the direction of the Trump campaign.â
Since April 2017, Wren and her Texas-based firm, Bluebonnet Consulting, have received more than $890,000 from the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and Trump Victory, the joint fundraising committee, FEC records show.
Chafian, a longtime organizer, said that in December she met Jones âby complete happenstanceâ 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 âput in a position, in my opinion based on what I know from the universe, to clear that energy. To clear that negativity.â
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 Bidenâs victory, she said. He subsequently directed her to Wren.
On Dec. 28, Chafian texted Wren that it was her understanding that Wren was now âhandling all of the funding from here on out,â and promising to get her the âbudget and breakdown.â
By the end of December, after Wren became involved in the organizing efforts, Chafian said that Wren brought in Women for America First and that Chafian was ultimately sidelined. By that point, she had had her own falling out with the Kremers, leading her to start her own group, The Eighty Percent Coalition, which held a rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5 that was largely sponsored by Jones. The guidance memo provided to VIP attendees of the Jan. 6 event informs attendees of Chafianâs rally, inviting them to attend should they wish and noting that âregistration is not required.â
In a video released the day after the Jan. 6 event, Jones claimed an unnamed donor covered 80% of the roughly $500,000 it cost to put on the rally that preceded the Capitol riot.
The Kremers, Caporale and Jones have not responded to requests for comment.