THE TROUBLE WITH TURNING POINT
On January 6, 2021, at 2:26pm, Charlie Kirk, the leader of Turning Point USA, the fastest-growing youth conservative movement in the country, tweeted “Our side shouldn’t act like ANTIFA. If these reports are true of what’s happening at the Capitol, it is no way to protest, no matter who is doing it.”
By the time of his tweet, D.C. Metropolitan police had already declared a riot, a man had died, and the mob smashed in the windows of the Capitol, unlocking the Capitol doors to allow hundreds of others to storm the building. Kirk’s late rebuke of the violence is the first instance of Turning Point distancing themselves from the chaos their organization helped to create.
Deleted tweets by Turning Point organizations and a review of court records found the organization helped coordinate free transportation to bus protestors from various locations across the country to D.C., promising to send “thousands” of students to “FILL UP” the Capitol. A review conducted by Moonlight Foundation also found that from December to January 6th, Kirk was a leading voice spreading inaccurate information about the results of the election.
In the months following January 6th, Turning Point tried to distance themselves from the violence at January 6, telling newspapers Turning Point “did not organize any buses and was not involved in the events of Jan 6 in any way.” Even going so far to claim that in total Turning Point Action only “transported approximately 350 students to attend Trump’s rally speech but left right after.” A statement that contradicts a public agenda from the day.
Turning Point went so far as to threaten legal action against a government official who asked the FBI and U.S. Attorney General’s Office to investigate Turning Point in regards to the organization of the January 6th riots.
However, the facts remain: Turning Point USA supplied the means for protestors to come to D.C., leadership used aggressive rhetoric leading up to January 6, and then leaders at Turning Point quietly distanced themselves from the events of January 6th.
Started in 2012 by Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA has profited from Donald Trump’s presidency, expanding a $8.2 million budget in 2016 to a budget of nearly $55.2 million in 2020. In return, Turning Point USA has essentially become a field army for the former President. Just a few weeks before the January 6 riots, President Trump called into the Turning Point USA’s annual conference, thanking Charlie Kirk for his support, claiming “We won this in a landslide, they know it and we need backing from, like, the Justice Department and other people have to finally step up. But I just want to thank you Charlie for the support. We appreciate it.” Kirk responded “Mr. President we have your back.”
This investigation of Turning Point USA role abd responsibility on January 6th reviewed thousands of pages of legal records, thousands of social media posts and other records, attempting to uncover the record of involvement that the leadership of Turning Point attempted to erase.
Turning Point USA officials boasted about their involvement with January 6 — and then deleted the tweets: On January 6, Charlie Kirk famously tweeted “This historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history. The team at @TrumpStudents & Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” Kirk deleted the tweet soon after. In response to being named in a legal document, Turning Point claimed the organization had sent only seven buses to the capital. Prior to January 6, the organization claimed to be sending buses from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hoboken, Richmond, and Greensboro; however, a Twitter account details riding a Turning Point bus from Michigan. It is unclear what accounts for these discrepancies. Leaders for Turning Point and Turning Point Action have also deleted tweets leading up to the January 6 riots, including promises to “FILL UP” the Capitol.
Turning Point USA used heated rhetoric ahead of the January 6 riots: Graham Allen, another Turning Point USA contributor, tweeted once the capitol was breached, “So it begins…,” writing in a previous tweet “January 6 will be in the history books one way or the other! Buckle up America!” Perhaps most striking, Alex Lorusso, a former Turning Point USA employee and close friend of Charles Kirk, tweeted a picture of a protestor behind the microphone of the Senate floor, stating “Our new Leader.”
Trump’s point person for January 6 lands at Turning Point USA: As of at least June 25, Katrina Pierson was featured on Turning Point USA’s website. While it is unclear what she does for Turning Point, individuals from the January 6 riots claimed she was the point person between the protestors and the White House.
TURNING POINT ACTION’S LEAD UP TO JANUARY 6
Below are key times, moments, and dates leading up to Turning Point USA’s role in helping to foment coordinate the attack on the Capitol.
July 2, 2019: Turning Point Action, a 510c(4), acquires Students for Trump “along with associated media assets.”
December 21, 2020: Turning Point USA hosts an event with Representative Madison Cawthorn, where he suggests to the crowd to “lightly threaten” lawmakers, if the lawmakers fail to support the claims of voter fraud.
December 30: Tyler Bowyer, a director at Turning Point USA, tweets “We are sending the troops to DC! See you soon @realDonaldTrump!” Following the riots, Bowyer deletes this tweet.
December 30: Ryan Fournier, founder of Students for Trump, an organization owned by Turning Point Action, tweets “On January 6th, we are going to FILL up our nations capital. Get ready.” Following January 6, Fournier dates this tweet.
December 30: Fournier tweeted “Students for Trump is sending thousands of students to our nations capital on January 6th. Join us as we fight for our country.” Fournier deletes this tweet, following the riots.
December 31: Students for Trump announces they would send busses from “Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hoboken, Richmond, and Greensboro” for the March to Save America, offering people a link to sign up.
January 1, 2021: Students for Trump offers the following options to those who wanted to attend the March to Save America, “Ride a bus & receive priority entry, stay in a complimentary hotel.”
January 2, 2021: Turning Point Actions listed as a coalition partner for the March for Trump.
January 4: Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, tweets, “This historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history. The team at @TrumpStudents & Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.”
January 4: Kirk calls on Mike Pence to unilaterally reject state electors, stating, “try it. Make them sue and get the Supreme Court into action.”
January 5 (11:47pm): Students for Trump tweets, “Two student busses heading from NC -> DC to support President @realDonaldTrump.” The tweet includes a picture of a bus.
January 5 (11:50pm): An individual with the handle “@islandmafia138” tweets “on the way to DC in the @TPUSA bus from #Michigan #stopthesteal”. The individuals inside the bus appear to be an older demographic.
January 6 (1:33am): Students for Trump Arkansas tweets, “Did we drive all the way from Arkansas to Pittsburgh to catch the bus to DC?? Absolutely. We Love our President and this country!!”
January 6 (5:32am): An individual with the handle “@islandmafia138” tweets “6 buses on the way to the #MarchForTrump” rally! 5:31am pit stop. #StopTheSteal2020.” The tweet posts from Gateway Travel Plaza, a rest stop in Pennsylvania.
January 6 (7:11am): Graham Allen, a Turning Point USA contributor, tweets “Here we go… January 6, 2021 will be in the history books one way or the other! Buckle up America!” Tyler Bowyer, the COO of Turning Point Action, likes the tweet.
January 6 (9:35am): Allen tweets “Today we take back our country. #1776.”
January 6 (1:10pm): Rioters begin grappling with police on the Capitol. Ten minutes later, the Capitol police begin evacuating the buildings surrounding the Capitol.
January 6 (2:14pm): Allen tweets “Breaking: NY Post describes protestors climbing parts of the capitol building… ‘This is our house’ - protestors yell. The building is being evacuated now. So it begins…”
January 6 (unknown time): In a since deleted post on Parler, Alex Lorussa, an ambassador for Turning Point USA and the former production administrator for the organization, posts a picture of a protestor on the senate floor with the text, “Our New Leader.”
January 6 (2:26pm): Kirk tweets, “Our side shouldn’t act like ANTIFA. If these reports are true of what’s happening at the Capitol, it is no way to protest, no matter who is doing it.”
January 6 (2:38pm): President Trump tweets “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” By that point, the mob has already shattered windows as they pushed inside the Capitol.
January 6 (3:32pm): Fournier tweets, “The State chambers have been taken over by protestors. Shots have been fired inside the Capitol. STOP THIS VIOLENCE NOW.”
January 6 (3:36pm): Fournier tweets, “President Trump calls for peace and support of our law enforcement. Violence is NOT THE ANSWER.”
January 6 (4:04pm): Fournier tweets “Trump is calling in the National Guard to stop these protests. Good. This violence must stop immediately.”
January 6 (4:28pm): Graham tweets “STOP THE VIOLENCE NOW!”
TURNING POINT USA AND JANUARY 6
TURNING POINT LEADING UP TO JANUARY 6
Students for Trump, an organization acquired and controlled by Turning Point Action, organized busses for January 6 from five major cities, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hoboken, Richmond, and Greensboro, according to social media posts. The organization even offered complimentary busses and hotels for the trip.
According to Twitter posts, on January 6, Students for Trump Arkansas tweeted “Did we drive all the way from Arkansas to Pittsburgh to catch the bus to DC?? Absolutely. We love our President and this country.” Additionally Students for Trump tweeted on January 5, “Two student busses from NC -> DC to support President.”
SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVITY FROM TURNING POINT LEADERSHIP
Alex (ALX) Lorusso is a production director at Arsenal Media Group. He has been permanently banned from Twitter. He worked as a Production Administrator at Turning Point USA from August 2019 to May 2020.
On January 6, Lorusso posted a picture to his Parler account of a protestor at the microphone on the Senate floor, noting “Our New Leader.”
Graham Allen, another Turning Point USA contributor, tweeted once the capitol was breached, “So it begins…,” writing in a previous tweet “January 6 “will be in the history books one way or the other! Buckle up America!” Tyler Bowyer, a communications coordinator for Turning Point USA, liked the tweet.
Graham posted several disturbing tweets that day, claiming “Today we take back our country.” He later disavowed the violence, but then in a podcast noted, “If political conversation and debate do not work and then you truly have two groups of people in America and a declaration is made at some point. No we’re nothing going to do this anymore, we are going to do our own thing. Well then there is a war. And there is no succeeding or anything without bloodshed.”
As of at least June 25, Katrina Pierson, a former Trump White House staffer was featured on Turning Point USA’s website. While it is unclear what she does for Turning Point, individuals from the January 6 riots claimed she was the point person between the protestors and the White House.
TURNING POINT LEADERSHIP DELETES TWEETS REGARDING JANUARY 6
TPUSA leadership posted several ahead of January 6 and then deleted following the riots. At least three different leaders at Turning Point USA deleted tweets that lauded Turning Point about coordinating and organizing individuals to attend the January 6 rally. Following the riots, these tweets were subsequently deleted by each user.
On December 30, Fournier tweeted “Students for Trump is sending thousands of students to our nations capital on January 6th. Join us as we fight for our country.” This tweet was deleted.
On January 2, Fournier retweeted “January 6th is in FOUR days. I will STAND with @realDonaldTrump. I will OBJECT to the Electoral College results. I will FIGHT to get to the bottom of the fraud. The American people are watching and they will remember those who sat by and did nothing!”
On January 4, Kirk tweeted “This historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history. The team at @TrumpStudents & Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” This tweet was later deleted.
BACKGROUND ON TURNING POINT USA, TURNING POINT ACTION, AND STUDENTS FOR TRUMP
Turning Point has gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the January 6th riots. For instance, Andrew Kolvet, an individual who appears to have been both a spokesperson for Turning Point USA and Turning Point Action, explained to a news outlet that “it was actually Students for Trump, a special project of Turning Point Action, that organized buses,” detailing that TPUSA “did not organize buses and was not involved in any events of Jan 6 in any way.”
Additionally, the legal letter Turning Point USA sent to an elected official in Arizona, Commissioner Sandra D. Kennedy notes:
“TPUSA was not involved in the event held in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. Turning Point Action (“TPA”), a 501(c)(4) organization that ran Students for Trump, sponsored approximately 350 student attendees. In that regard, TPA sent seven buses to the rally at the Ellipse - miles from the Capitol Building - to hear the former president speak. All students on TPA sponsored buses were immediately bused out of the Ellipse upon the conclusion of Mr. Trump’s remarks and did not participate on the march to the Capitol.”
There are two key claims: 1) TPUSA was not involved with the events in DC and 2) the TPA buses left immediately from the Ellipse upon the conclusion of Trump’s remarks. This report will address each claim below.
CLAIM: TURNING POINT ACTION, NOT TPUSA, WAS INVOLVED WITH THE EVENTS IN DC
On December 31, 2020, TP USA sent an email with the subject “March to Save America on January 6th!” In the body of the email, Turning Point USA writes, “Will you be in Washington, D.C. on January 6th for a day of action to stand for election integrity? Join Turning Point Action with one of the following options: Ride a bus & receive priority entry, Stay in a complimentary hotel, Meet us on site.”
Turning Point USA, a (c)(3) organization, and Turning Point Action, a (c)(4) organization, are two distinct organizations; however, the overlap between the two organizations raises questions about how separately the two entities operate.
For instance, there are four individuals listed on Turning Point Action’s 2019 tax filing (the latest year available): Charlie Kirk, Tom Sodeika, Scott Studebaker, and Tyler Bowyer.
Three of those four individuals (Kirk, Sodeika, and Bowyer) appear as directors on the Turning Point USA 2020 tax filing. Kirk is labeled as the “president” of TP Action and the “president/ceo” of TPUSA, according to the public filings. Bowyer is paid from both entities.
Additionally, Turning Point Action uses the address 756 N. Main Street C Crown Point, Indiana 46307 on their latest tax filings. This is the same address TPUSA used on several public filings.
In a July 2019 press release announcing Turning Point Action’s acquisition of Students for Trump, Turning Point Action is described as a “sister” organization to Turning Point USA. The press release also indicated that Charlie Kirk would become the “chairman of Students for Trump.”
CLAIM: THE TP ACTION BUSES LEFT THE ELLIPSE AFTER THE PRESIDENT’S REMARKS
A screenshot of the agenda for the March to Save lives details a plan to “protest at the US Capitol” at 1pm on January 6.
TURNING POINT LEADERS AND STRONG LANGUAGE AHEAD OF JANUARY 6
Below is a sample of language used by Turning Point leadership ahead of January 6.
On September 25, Kirk tweeted “The fight for our lives is coming. Get ready.”
On November 5, Kirk tweeted “It has been very instructive to see which ‘conservatives’ have stepped up to fight during this critical moment and who decides to run to the hills.” The day before he tweeted “Show up, fight back, HOLD THE LINE!!”
On November 18, Kirk tweeted, “The fight is NOT OVER! Keep the pressure ON!”
On November 23, Kirk told his followers, “It is time to disobey ALL orders that violate our natural rights. No more curfews, lockdowns, or authoritarian measures. Disobey, resist, defy - open America!”
Charlie Kirk claimed on December 1, 2020, “Voter fraud is real. The amount of evidence is overwhelming to show this election was stolen. Any Republican who ignores this should leave the party!”
On December 14, 2020, Fox News correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera went off on Charlie Kirk about the voter fraud claims, emphasizing “You have to stop this!”
December 21, President Trump called into the Turning Point USA annual conference, thanking Charlie for his support and nothing “We won this in a landslide, the know it and we need backing from, like, the Justice Department and other people have to finally step up. But I just want to thank you Charlie for the support. We appreciate it.” Kirk responded “Mr. President we have your back and this is a great surprise on behalf of thousands and thousands of students thank you for fighting for our country.”
January 4, Charlie Kirk urges Mike Pence to “refuse to certify the election results” by rejecting “electors from states that are compromised.” He urged Pence to “try it. Make them sue and get the Supreme Court into action.”
On January 3, Graham Allen tweeted “We will fight for the truth. Even if it takes everything.”
On January 1, Graham Allen tweeted “It’s your duty as Americans. FIGHT FOR FREEDOM.”
On December 30, 2020, Allen tweeted “Election integrity shouldn’t be something that we have to fight for. THANK YOU FOR FIGHTING!”
On December 19, 2020, Allen tweeted “I declare war on TYRANNICAL GOVERNMENT.”
On the same day, Allen tweeted “WE WILL FIGHT BACK.” And “they have declared war…”
On November 19, Allen tweeted “Powell just gave the equivalent of the Independence Day Movie speech. I’m ready to FIGHT!!!”
On January 1, Ryan Fournier tweeted “Happy New Year’s everyone! The fight isn’t over. Get ready!”
November 25, 2020, Students for Trump tweeted “President @realDonaldTrump fought for US for four years — it’s time we fight for HIM!”
On December 27, Allen tweeted “America is better off WITHOUT Joe Biden…”