For four decades, the Council for National Policy (CNP) has convened secret organizing meetings for leaders and donors on the right in U.S. politics. The New York Times has called the group “a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.”

Their membership list includes the leaders of many powerful or influential groups in republican politics, along with some more fringe elements, all ostensibly aligned with CNP’s mission to restore “religious and economic freedom, a strong national defense, and Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution.”

They include the leaders of the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, the National Rifle Association, Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, Alliance Defending Freedom, Judicial Watch, ALEC, and Turning Point USA, plus many more. James Bopp, the republican campaign finance lawyer behind the infamous Citizens United v. FEC lawsuit is a member, as is the 2020 Trump campaign lawyer Cleta Mitchell. Ginni Thomas, the activist (and wife of Justice Clarence Thomas) is on the CNP board and is a frequent speaker. Numerous conservative and religious-right media executives are members, including the CEO of the The Washington Times, and Steve Forbes of Forbes Media.

Cleta Mitchell, the Trump campaign lawyer who tried to help overturn the 2020 Presidential election, receiving the CNP "Leaders of Liberty" award in May 2021

Cleta Mitchell, the Trump campaign lawyer who tried to help overturn the 2020 Presidential election, receiving the CNP "Leaders of Liberty" award in May 2021 Credit: CNP. Obtained by Documented

CNP meetings, which take place three times a year and usually at a 5-star hotel, are shrouded in secrecy. “CNP meetings are off the record. To promote free discussion and a lively exchange of ideas, CNP members may not disclose the source of what is said at a meeting, whether by CNP members, invited guests or speakers,” reads an internal 2016 CNP policy, obtained by Documented. “…CNP members may not record, stream, “tweet”, or post on Facebook or via other social media forums, any CNP meetings, events, communications or other content.”

Although there have been occasional and some notable leaks during the group’s 40 year history, generally they have succeeded in keeping their internal discussions, and even just the topics of those discussions, private. Until now.

Dozens of recordings, meeting agendas, and other materials obtained by Documented provide a look inside what The Washington Post Magazine recently called “a social, planning and communications hub for conservative activists in Washington and nationwide.” CNP is not just a place where conservative leaders go to bloviate - although inevitably there is still some of that. Many of the sessions involve participants developing actual strategy for the right wing movement, agreeing on collective “action steps” that member organizations then engage in after the meeting. The materials obtained by Documented include many of these “action step” documents, and these are published on this page alongside each set of recordings.

Sometimes these "action step" sessions have been focused on significant big-picture political objectives, aimed at coalescing the movement around common tactics and messaging. One example is a 2018 session led by Ginni Thomas called "Securing a Conservative Victory in November," which decided that CNP members should "Nationalize the election by using the issues that got Trump elected" and have groups use a specific online tool to "mobilize the base."

Other times these sessions were aimed at attacking their political opponents. A September 2017 session called "Mapping the Left: Conservatives Under Fire, Firing Back," was led by Jerry Boykin, the former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under President George W. Bush. The action steps from that session included calling on CNP members to "Infiltrate progressive organizations," and to "Commit to issuing one new post on Facebook and Twitter each week about the Southern Poverty Law Center to discredit them."

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a repeat target for these action steps. An October 2018 session, also led by Boykin, called on members to "Neutralize the Southern Poverty Law Center."

The CNP “action” sessions take place in front of some of the leaders of the largest foundations that give to groups on the right. One notable CNP member is Lawson Bader, CEO of DonorsTrust, the massive foundation labeled by Mother Jones' Andy Kroll as "the dark money ATM of the right.” Richard Graber is another, the CEO of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Jane Mayer recently wrote about the Bradley Foundation for The New Yorker. “With an endowment of some eight hundred and fifty million dollars, the foundation funds a network of groups that have been stoking fear about election fraud, in some cases for years,” wrote Mayer.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaking with James O'Keefe at the CNP meeting in May 2021 at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, FL.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaking with James O'Keefe at the CNP meeting in May 2021 at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, FL. Credit: CNP. Obtained by Documented

The recordings paint a revealing picture of a network of high powered leaders on the right, that boosted Donald Trump first as a candidate and then as President, and in return obtained significant power and influence over the agenda of his administration.

In October 2021, Robert O'Harrow Jr. published a ground-breaking investigation on CNP in the Washington Post Magazine, based on the CNP videos, and other materials obtained by Documented. Among numerous other findings, the investigation took a deep dive into the untold history of CNP and how its members thrived during the Trump Administration despite their initial reluctance to back then-candidate Donald Trump.

Since 2018, there have been numerous other stories based on these materials, some told by us, and others by reporters who we provided with copies of the materials. Links to Documented stories are throughout this page alongside the meeting recordings they relate to. Stories by other reporters are linked to at the bottom of the page.

February 2020

The meeting took place at the luxurious 5-star Ritz-Carlton, in Dana Point, California. The agenda was heavily focussed on the upcoming election, with numerous sessions focused on "voter integrity," promoting the perceived successes of the Trump years (in particular the economy and judicial confirmations), and discussions around how to secure the votes of women in the 2020 election.

In one CNP action session, called "How to Preserve the Electoral College and Voter Integrity," True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht discussed a plan to deploy retired military and police officers as GOP poll watchers.

"Here we have a new initiative called Continue to Serve, which is about recruiting veterans and first responders to work inside the polls," Engelbrecht said on the recording. "You want to talk about people who understand and respect law and order and chain of command. You get some (Navy) Seals in those polls and they're going to say, no, no, this is what this is, what it says, and this is what, this is how we're gonna play this show." Documented first reported this story with The Intercept in April 2020.


The Director of Communications for the Trump campaign Marc Lotter provided an update on the Trump campaign, and the administration's response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

A session of the CNP Board heard remarks from the group's Executive Director, Bob McEwen, where he outlined the close working relationship between the network and the Trump administration.

The Conservative Action Project is a division of CNP that meets every Wednesday morning for the purpose of seeing what needs to be done and acting immediately. And one of the things that they do, is that you see some folks that are not supportive of our cause, but they get the swamp to support them to a key position.

And so the conservatives get together and highlight, send a message. We have a representative from the President every week. In fact, the President got tired of everybody coming to our meetings, so now we meet at the White House one week a month for the purpose of helping him in the goals. So when when legislation is stymied, or when something needs to be done, as you’re going to hear testimony here in just a few moments. That’s what we do.”
Bob McEwen, CNP Executive Director, at the CNP Board of Governors meeting, Feb 2020

Bob McEwen, CNP Executive Director, speaking at the group's meeting in September 2019

Bob McEwen, CNP Executive Director, speaking at the group's meeting in September 2019 Credit: CNP. Obtained by Documented

October 2019

The October 2019 meeting took place at the 5-star Ritz-Carlton, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Voter fraud conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell presented on a panel called "How to Stop the Deep State Assault on Our Republic," alongside former Trump 2016 campaign advisor Carter Page. Powell later became notorious for filing numerous lawsuits baselessly alleging voter fraud following the 2020 Presidential election.

Rachel Bovard, Senior Director of Policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), described how CPI trains and fills "a number of jobs" on Capitol Hill and in the White House. According to Bovard, CPI had trained 146 staff, so far. During the panel, called "Conservative Movement’s Rising Stars," Bovard stressed "the President can't implement his agenda if he doesn't have the right people on the inside. So we want to make sure those people are there."

Rachel Bovard, Senior Director of Policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, speaking at the October 2019 CNP meeting.

"We vet them and then we place them in these offices to make sure these guys have the best solid conservative staff possible."

Vice President Mike Pence was the star attraction. During his remarks, Pence called CNP "one of the oldest and most effective organizations in the history of the conservative movement."

Vice President Mike Pence, at the CNP meeting in New Orleans, October 2019

Vice President Mike Pence, at the CNP meeting in New Orleans, October 2019 CREDIT: CNP. OBTAINED BY DOCUMENTED

May 2019

The May 2019 CNP took place at the luxurious 5-star Ritz-Carlton, in Dana Point, California.

The May 2019 CNP meeting included a session where Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, outlined plans to form a new group called “Crowdsourcers” to “protect” President Donald Trump, along with other republicans, and attack democrats.

The project included the conservative activist James O'Keefe and the lawyer Cleta Mitchell. Mitchell spoke alongside Thomas where she urged members to target certain communities to vote for Donald Trump. "Think of everyone in your community that you're serving through your ministries, through your organizations, your activists, your volunteers, that's a target group of voters," Mitchell said. "If we think about it and think about our spheres of influence, we can think about these people as voters and we have to get them to realize they have to register and vote," she added. "And you don't ever have to say go vote for Donald Trump. But presumably they have a brain. We can educate them."

“Our house is on fire and we are stomping ants in the driveway. We’re not really focused on the arsonists who are right around us." Ginni Thomas speaking on a panel at the May 2019 CNP Meeting.

The meeting also featured a session from Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk discussing the culture war. "CNP really brings all these culture warriors together in such a unique way," Kirk told the CNP audience. "Being on the front lines of the culture war and fighting for very simple ideas that should not be controversial," he said. "Ideas such as America's the greatest country ever to exist in the history of the world. That the Constitution's the greatest political document ever written, and free enterprise capitalism is the most moral, proven, and effective economic system ever discovered. These things should be not political issues whatsoever."

Charlie Kirk giving remarks at the CNP May 2019 meeting.

Charlie Kirk giving remarks at the CNP May 2019 meeting. Credit: CNP. Obtained by Documented.

February 2019

The February 2019 meeting took place at the luxury Ritz-Carlton resort in Orlando, Florida.

The meeting centered around the aftermath of the 2018 midterm election. Meeting participants delved into HR 1, the landmark voting rights legislation, which was first introduced in 2019. Heritage Foundation Attorney Hans von Spakovsky outlined provisions in the bill such as early voting that he claimed would put GOP campaigns at a disadvantage because it would make it difficult to recruit poll watchers. During the same session, CNP Action Board of Directors Member Ken Blackwell urged CNP members to make sure to put "maximum pressure" on the federal government to put the citizenship question on the census form. "It could mean that we clean up the voter rolls, but we need action," Blackwell said.

"The most current problem that I think we need an action item on is stopping H.R. 1. That's the federal bill I just talked about that has everything in it that Democrats want and is bad" Hans von Spakovsky, Heritage Foundation lawyer, speaking at the February 2019 CNP meeting.

Ken Blackwell, Brent Bozell, John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky at the February 2019 CNP meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Ken Blackwell, Brent Bozell, John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky at the February 2019 CNP meeting in Orlando, Florida. Credit: CNP. Obtained by Documented.

The Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, who advised President Donald Trump on judicial nominees, spoke at the meeting. The Washington Post first reported on his speech at CNP in May 2019. "We’re going to have to understand that judicial confirmations these days are more like political campaigns," Leo said. "We're going to have to be smart as a movement," he added.

October 2018

The October 2018 meeting took place at the luxurious 5-star Ritz-Carlton, in Dana Point, California. The meeting happened in advance of the 2018 midterms, and members strategized around securing a “victory” for conservatives in the upcoming election.

Jim DeMint, during a session about the Conservative Action Project (CAP), a project of CNP, described in detail how the coalition works to drive an agenda in Congress and with the Trump administration.

We've got an outside game, we've got an inside game, and it's the only way to win. But the bridge between what's going on inside of Congress and the administration, and what we're doing on the outside with all the political groups, the policy groups, the think tanks, the things we're doing all over the country.

The bridge was the vision of Ed Meese and a lot of folks with the Council of National Policy, was what we call the the Conservative Action Project. It's the action part of what we do on the outside, but it's also the action part of what goes on on the inside. And every week we get together with the core group, of the CAP group, and we talk about what's going on, on the Hill. We talk about what's going on the outside. We try to develop a consensus.
Jim DeMint outlining the role of the Conservative Action Project, at the CNP Meeting in October 2018

The meeting also featured Project Veritas Founder James O'Keefe, the conservative activist known for sting operations on democratic campaigns and progressive groups. O'Keefe told the CNP audience that his group had made hidden camera recordings with Democratic Senate staff, and planned to release them right before the election.

James O'Keefe, Project Veritas Founder, speaking at the October 2018 CNP meeting.

“We have videotapes of U.S. senators’ staffers, and we’re going to release them starting next week up until the election.”

James O'Keefe at the CNP meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. October 2018

James O'Keefe at the CNP meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. October 2018 Credit: CNP. Obtained by Documented

May 2018

The May 2018 CNP meeting took place at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia.

Michael Farris, the President of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), was among the speakers at the event. ADF is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group because of its anti-LGBTQIA+ advocacy and legal work. Farris spoke on a panel about "religious freedom,” a phrase often utilized to try to justify efforts to undermine the rights of marginalized communities. Farris criticized the proposed Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in a range of settings including employment, housing, and education.

"It's imperative that in this culture of progressive tyranny and coercion that we rise up with an absolute commitment, pledging our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honors, that we will defend the importance of religious freedom not just for ourselves, but for everyone." Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom speaking at the May 2018 CNP Meeting

The meeting also heard from Elizabeth Johnson, the controversial blogger known as "Activist Mommy." Johnson is known for organizing anti-sex education campaigns and for her anti-LGBT views. "We're the tax payers, we're the parents, you don't know our children, and you're not allowed to rape the minds of our children with this pornographic material," Johnson once said about sex education in schools. Johnson was in good company at the CNP meeting, where she did not hold back her views on the left, claiming "they want to destroy us.”

They are, after all, sexualizing our children, murdering unborn babies, and stealing our hard-won religious liberties," Johnson said of the left. "This is war," Johnson added. "You can't play nice in a time of war." Elizabeth Johnson, blogger known as "Activist Mommy", at the May 2018 CNP meeting

February 2018

The February 2018 CNP meeting took place at the La Quinta Resort and Club near Palm Springs, California. The CNP audience heard a fiery speech from Conservative Talk Show Radio Host Dennis Prager. “The United States of America is engaged in a civil war,” Prager warned.

Attorney Charles “Chuck” LiMandri, who has been involved in a range of anti-LGBT court cases, spoke about the “radical homosexual agenda.”

“All of our rights, as you know, are at issue here. And if they can make one Christian baker, a baker kowtow to the radical homosexual agenda against her sincerely held religious beliefs, they can. And I assure you at some point will do that with each of us, or at least those within our inner circle of family and friends, that would be inevitable. So we have to continue to fight on.” Attorney Charles LiMandri speaking at the February 2018 CNP meeting

LiMandri spoke alongside California State Senator Mike Morrell who did not shy away from railing against the state, calling it the worst place to do business. “But Lord willing, we're going to change that,” he said.

Conservative talk show radio host Dennis Prager at the February 2018 CNP meeting in La Quinta, California.

Conservative talk show radio host Dennis Prager at the February 2018 CNP meeting in La Quinta, California. Credit: CNP. Obtained by Documented.

May 2017

The May 2017 CNP meeting took place at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia. Members heard from numerous members of congress and Donald Trump’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. “I want to say to you with respect to the EPA, the future ain't what it used to be,” Pruitt proclaimed as he received audience applause. Pruitt outlined his goals for the agency that centered around rolling back Obama-era climate policies.

U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise also spoke at the meeting where he praised Donald Trump's actions on a host of issues.

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