Exclusive — Mitch McConnell Led Effort to Trash Bob Dole Aide’s Career over Peripheral Tie to January 6

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to a reporter following a cable news
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell personally led an effort to damage the career of a longtime aide to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole over the aide’s peripheral and obscure link to January 6, Breitbart News has learned.

Tim Unes, a longtime Dole aide who runs a Washington-based event planning company called Event Strategies, Inc., had his contract for Bob Dole’s funeral sabotaged after it became public that the company had been contracted to put on the event at the White House ellipsis on Jan. 6, 2021.

Text messages between a senior official at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the former Dole aide in question obtained by Breitbart News finger McConnell as the person responsible for targeting him and his business. The CEO of the foundation also walked back previous comments he made to the New York Times about the aide — inaccurate statements that the text messages imply were made under pressure from McConnell’s office.

When the connection between Unes and the Jan. 6 rally came out publicly in press reports, McConnell staffers raised issue with him planning the funeral with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, questioning whether it would be proper for Unes to be involved in event planning for another function happening in the U.S. Capitol.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10: Elizabeth Dole and Robin Dole walk alongside a military honor guard as they carry the casket of the late former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS) at the conclusion of his funeral service at Washington National Cathedral on December 10, 2021 in Washington, DC. Dole, a veteran who was severely injured in World War II, was a Republican Senator from Kansas from 1969 to 1996. He ran for president three times and became the Republican nominee for president in 1996. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Dole and Robin Dole walk alongside a military honor guard as they carry the casket of the late former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS) at the conclusion of his funeral service at Washington National Cathedral on December 10, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When Dole died, McConnell’s team kicked into higher gear on this, pressuring the Dole Foundation to issue a public statement distancing the former Senate leader’s funeral from Unes — despite the planning having been in the works for over a decade.

The effort was made public in the New York Times, threatening business prospects for Unes and his company.

While some elements of this story have appeared previously in the New York Times and on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program among other outlets, what transpired over the course of the many months between the events of Jan. 6 and Dole’s passing and funeral have not yet been fully reported until now.

In the Times on December 8, reporters Michael Shear, Luke Broadwater, and Maggie Haberman reported, “Event Planner Working on Bob Dole’s Funeral Is Let Go for Jan. 6 Ties.”

In the story, they wrote that the Elizabeth Dole Foundation “has cut ties with” Unes “after the Senate’s top Republican complained that Mr. Unes had been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 select committee for his work organizing the rally before that day’s attacks.” The piece quoted Dole Foundation CEO Steve Schwab on the matter and noted that McConnell’s aides had “raised the issue” of Unes’s January 6 Committee subpoena with the Dole Foundation in the days following Bob Dole’s passing.

More from the original Times story:

A spokesman for the foundation said Mr. Unes had been a volunteer member of the team planning the memorial events in Washington this week, including when Mr. Dole lies in state at the Capitol on Thursday and the funeral at Washington National Cathedral on Friday.

Mr. Dole — the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, a decorated war veteran and a native of Kansas who served for 27 years in the Senate and eight years in the House — died Sunday.

Steve Schwab, the chief executive of the foundation, said in a statement that Mr. Unes was no longer working on the memorial events.

“This evening, I made Senator Elizabeth Dole aware of Mr. Unes’s alleged involvement in the events of Jan. 6, 2021,” Mr. Schwab said, referring to Mr. Dole’s widow, a former lawmaker from North Carolina. “Senator Dole was previously unaware of his participation and terminated his volunteer role.”

However, Schwab was mistaken on multiple points in his statement to the Times.

“Thirteen years ago, the Dole family asked me to take over planning and logistics for Senator Bob Dole’s funeral. The night before memorial services were to begin, Steve Schwab, Chief Executive of the Dole Foundation, alerted me that the New York Times was running a story that Senator Mitch McConnell was demanding my termination from all funeral activities because I had received an informational fact-finding subpoena along with hundreds of other organizations and individuals from the January 6th commission,” Unes said in a statement to Breitbart News. “Unfortunately, a statement that Mr. Schwab issued to the New York Times had two inaccuracies. First, the statement implied that I had failed to disclose to Senator Elizabeth Dole’s staff that I had received a subpoena. That is incorrect, I alerted the staff on three occasions in the past eleven months, offering to resign each time. Second, the statement said I was terminated, when in fact I had voluntarily resigned earlier that night.”

The Associated Press

In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)

Schwab, while declining to comment further, did admit in a written statement to Breitbart News that he got these details wrong in his statement to the Times.

“I was misinformed when I responded to a New York Times‘ inquiry,” Schwab told Breitbart News in a broader statement from the Dole Foundation that noted he would like to “correct the record” on what he got wrong on this matter in his original comments to the Times. “We have since learned that Tim Unes told a member of the Dole planning group about his Congressional subpoena and offered to resign from the effort in order to avoid distraction.”

The official statement from the Dole Foundation also notes that Elizabeth Dole appreciates Unes, and thanks him for his service to the Doles for more than three decades.

“Elizabeth Dole thanks Tim Unes, founder of Event Stategies, who as a volunteer helped coordinate years of planning for Sen Bob Dole’s memorial service and tributes,” the Dole Foundation statement said. “Tim served the Doles on and off for more than 30 years.”

The statement also said: “We thank Tim Unes for his commitment to the family, and we appreciate the outpouring of support, prayers, and love from across the nation.”

Text messages between Mari Maseng Will and Unes obtained by Breitbart News — sent in the immediate aftermath of the Times story — show that the Dole Foundation official viewed McConnell and his team as the reason why this all happened. Will, the White House Communications Director under President Ronald Reagan and the wife of columnist George Will, is now a communications aide for the Dole Foundation.

“For what it’s worth, I think it’s clear from the story that this is all McConnell’s doing, which it is,” Will told Unes after the New York Times printed its piece. “From my understanding, it was a demand.”

Will declined to comment for this article but did not dispute the authenticity of those text messages.

“I want you to know how sorry I am that this happened and the way it happened,” Will wrote in her texts to Unes. “I hold you in the greatest respect. Your vision, talent and leadership are making this week the great tribute Bob Dole deserved and one that I hope will inspire our nation, which needs it…. I know Bob is looking down on all this and is very grateful for you. You were his great and loyal friend to the end.”

In reply, Unes asked Will to help get the Dole Foundation to fix the erroneous statements that were made, and she says she will push to do so — as Schwab eventually did here in his statement to Breitbart News — and noted that McConnell was behind the whole thing.

When asked about the text messages, McConnell’s office formally declined to comment for this story.

Unes, sources familiar with the matter told Breitbart News, had regularly kept the Dole Foundation key players in the loop on everything related to his January 6 matters all the way back to that day and throughout the year — and was never actually going to be in the Capitol for the services. Once he received a subpoena from the committee in September, Unes recused himself from the matter and let others at his company handle the Dole funeral events.

In a follow-up story to the Times piece, the Hill newspaper began reaching out to Unes’s company’s clients and asking for reaction to the news — getting a statement back from at least one, the AARP:

A spokesperson for AARP said in a statement to The Hill that Unes worked on one project for the organization, 20 years ago.

“The firm has not done any work since and does not currently work for us. AARP has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Event Strategies to remove our name from their website,” the spokesperson said.

McConnell has a longtime reputation for ruthlessness inside the GOP, and when some Republicans and conservatives have challenged him in the past, he has scorched the earth around them. Facing right-wing challengers down is nothing new to McConnell, either. Over the past decade-plus, such threats like rambunctious outsider primary challengers to rank-and-file Republicans who have served as McConnell’s praetorian guard have come and gone. Other threats from top GOP donors have quietly subsided while the longtime GOP senate leader has held off rumblings from inside his conference even as rank-and-file Republicans have from time to time grown uneasy with McConnell’s legislative strategies. Typically, McConnell has fallen back on conservative successes with confirming judges — especially the three U.S. Supreme Court Justices confirmed during the Trump administration — as a failsafe to keep the base in line.

In so doing, McConnell has repeatedly survived during a decade that has seen turmoil at the highest levels of the Republican Party. In just the past few years, John Boehner was forced to resign the speakership a little over a year after the then-House GOP leader Eric Cantor lost a primary to conservative challenger Dave Brat — and then later Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate, lasted only a term and a half as speaker. The rapid takeover of the GOP by forces aligned with Trump and the base, and a rejection of the old establishment backslapping dealmaking ways of a bygone era, has for now spared McConnell that same brutal fate of so many other establishment Republicans like him.

But in recent months, Trump and forces aligned with him have escalated a war of words with McConnell, with Trump calling the Senate GOP leader the “broken old crow” and lambasting him whenever he possibly can while Trump-aligned forces and candidates have worked to wrest control of the party from him. Leading GOP Senate candidates across the country, like front-running former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and Alaska’s Kelly Tshibaka, have also joined the fray publicly pushing for a new GOP leader in the Senate. What many consider McConnell’s recent mishandling of the debt ceiling negotiations — he drew a red line against allowing GOP votes to help Biden hike the nation’s borrowing limit, then failed to hold that line and instead caved providing enough votes to help the Democrat-controlled Senate clear legislation — has emboldened his critics even more so.

In his segment on this incident on his program, Fox’s Carlson called McConnell “an instrument of the left” and said that McConnell was trying to “destroy Tim Unes’s life”:

Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), was similarly upset about what McConnell did here.

“It is so typical of the Republican Party’s national leaders to leave its allies to suffer in shame,” Schlapp, a native Kansan who was close with Bob Dole, told Breitbart News. “I learned this first hand when I was persecuted by various investigations for the crime of working for Bush/Cheney. Scooter Libby was prosecuted for aggressively fighting for the goals of that administration. Now, Liz Cheney is pursuing the next generation of political victims for working for Trump and exposing the effort to villainize voter ID. Bob Dole knew of Tim’s role in the peaceful rally on 1/6. He stood by Tim and Tim spent years planning Sen. Dole’s final goodbye. If GOP senators played a role in canceling Tim they are no better than the Republicans who voted for impeachment. I talked with Sen. Dole in the last few months. He knew that America was in a fight to defeat fascism in America. He was in the battle. He stood by Trump and he stood by Tim. We cannot allow people like Tim to be canceled.”


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