The Council for National Policy organizes anti-lockdown protests & national COVID response

The Trump Timeline

Sources linked at end of page.


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The Council for National Policy (CNP), a highly secretive right-wing extremist group that is known to help draft policies for Republican presidents, organizes protests across the country in response to state lockdowns. The first protest, as far as we know, takes place April 20th in Pennsylvania.

CNP is “a coalition of far-right political advocacy and think tank figures that has worked largely behind the scenes since its founding in 1981. CNP’s membership includes conservative Republicans and right-wing extremists who work together to shape policy. Trump allies, including senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former chief adviser Steve Bannon, were CNP members as of 2014. Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow has also been a member, according to a recently published book by Anne Nelson.”

Alex Kotch, Center for Media & Democracy

CNP has been working with allies at other far-right organizations like FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation, Convention of States Action, and anti-LGBTQ group Eagle Forum to organize the protests online under names like “ReOpen PA” and “ReOpen America.” In June, when mosts states are already re-opened, the Facebook groups for the protests become the center of far-right conspiracy theories and calls to murder COVID-19 contact tracers.

The Save Our Country Task Force, a CNP initiative, has also been directing the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response efforts since at least early April. The task force is chaired by Trump economic adviser Art Laffer. Trump gave Laffer the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.

Much of the conversations from April through June are focused on how Trump should plan to win re-election despite the pandemic.

As early as February 2020, the CNP and its advisers were already anticipating various strategies to overturn the results of the election in the event of the loss of either the popular vote or the Electoral College, or both. At the same time, they adopted a three-pronged approach to enhancing Trump’s chances in November. The first involved expanding their use of data to juice Republican votes and suppress Democratic turnout. The second was to mobilize supporters in swing states to ignite Tea Party–like protests against the virus-related public safety lockdowns. The third was to deploy physicians with dubious credentials to dismiss the dangers of Covid-19 through a massive media blitz. All three initiatives were activated in April. It was a rehash of a familiar formula, concocting groups whose names and URLs changed with dizzying speed and calling them “grassroots” organizations.

The Washington Spectator

The Council for National Policy is so secretive that its members and event information are kept confidential, even though they play such a vital role in Republican presidencies. (Trump even tests his RNC speech at an event for CNP in August). CNP members have only been revealed thanks to a leak of 2014 members and a more recent leak of the 2018 membership list.

The Southern Poverty Law Center published a leaked full roster of CNP from 2014, which identified 413 members. “The list is surprising, not so much for the conservatives who dominate it,” wrote Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok, “but for the many real extremists who are included.”

At the time, populating CNP’s executive committee, board of directors, board of governors, and general membership were a number of extremists from hate groups such as the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council and Liberty Counsel; the neo-Confederate League of the South; and the anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy.

Alex Kotch, Center for Media & Democracy

Other people connected to CNP that have been involved in conference calls and emails about the COVID-19 response and the protests include:

Robert Alt (Koch-funded Buckeye Institute)

Ed Meese (Heritage Foundation)

Stephen Moore (FreedomWorks, Heritage Foundation, Unleash Prosperity)

Lisa Nelson (ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council)

Scott Rasmussen (conservative pollster)

Al Regnery (CNP’s Conservative Action Project)

Matt Schlapp (American Conservative Union)

Mercedes Schlapp (Trump Campaign senior adviser)

Tracie Sharp (State Policy Network)

Bill Walton (President, CNP)

Update: This was our first post about the Council for National Policy, but there are now many more here.

External Sources

Exposed By CMD (Archived)

NPR (Archived)

BuzzFeed (Archived)

The Grayzone (Archived)

The Washington Spectator (Archived)

Photo: Paul Weaver

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