Thursday Reads: Will There Be Another Attack?Posted: March 4, 2021
Today is the day that Donald Trump will reclaim the presidency, according to QAnon followers. Unlike before the January 6 insurrection, there have been many public warnings about what will happen today. The House has even decided to shut down today, although the Senate still plans to be in session. But the top QAnon leaders have not bought into the March 4 theories. Perhaps all the security preparations will discourage activists from their planned attacks.
It’s been six weeks since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, and it would seem that Donald Trump’s best chance of regaining the presidency would be the 2024 election.
But some of his fervent followers who support the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory believe he’ll be coming back sooner – and will somehow be returned to power on 4 March….
The idea stems from the belief among some QAnon followers that the United States turned from a country into a corporation after the passage of the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871.
It’s an odd, unfounded theory drawn from the sovereign citizen movement, an extreme libertarian fringe that opposes federal laws, general taxation and even the US currency on the grounds that they restrict individual rights.
Believers in the QAnon offshoot maintain that every US president, act and amendment passed after 1871 is illegitimate.
But the theory is based on a false interpretation of the Organic Act, which merely turned the District of Columbia into a municipal corporation, better known as a local governing body, and has no relation to a president or the US as a whole.
Top QAnon “influencers” have been trying to manage expectations about the March 4 theory.
Will Sommer and Pilar Melendez at The Daily Beast: Cops Fear QAnon Violence Thursday. Die-Hards Call ‘False Flag.’
What’s not clear is how many QAnon believers are actually on board with the idea that Trump will return to power that day, or plan to take any action themselves.
Supporters of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory that holds that Trump is conducting a secret war against a nefarious cabal of cannibal-Satanists in the Democratic Party and other liberal institutions, were well-represented in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot….
The March 4 theory has been more popular with average QAnon believers than the promoters who make up the conspiracy theory’s public face, according to Travis View, the co-host of QAnon-tracking podcast QAnon Anonymous. While many QAnon leaders have claimed the March 4 is a trap meant to arrest QAnon believers or blame them for violence, “Q”—the anonymous figurehead of the entire movement—hasn’t posted online since December, meaning there is no force to either embrace or dismiss the March 4 idea.
View compared the March 4 beliefs to the idea, controversial even within QAnon, the John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his death to help Trump take on the “deep state.”
“I think this is another situation in which the rank-and-file QAnon followers picked up on it, but it seems to be an embarrassment to some of the more established QAnon promoters,” View said.
On Telegram, the messaging app and social media network where many QAnon believers ended up after being banned from more mainstream platforms in the aftermath of the riot, top QAnon leaders have urged their followers not to gather on March 4, claiming the focus on the date is a ruse meant to undermine them. With “Q” silent, others have cited a “clue” from Q that mentioned both the word “trap” and the phrase “March 4” as proof that the date is meaningless in the QAnon canon.
To me, it seems likely that all of the public warnings and preparations have discouraged these leaders from another attack.
On the other hand, Trump’s DC hotel is acting as if something big will happen today. They raised their room rates on January 3 and 4, according to a Feb. 27 Forbes article:
QAnon adherents are always looking to Trump for validation, says Blazakis, and they recently received a sign when the Washington hotel hiked its rates for March 4. (A spokesperson for the Trump International Hotel did not respond to a request for comment.)
The least expensive room at Trump International comes with a king-size bed with an opulent headboard topped with a gilded crown. Throughout March, this room generally runs anywhere from $476 to $596 per night, with one noteworthy exception. For the dates of March 3 and 4, the king deluxe is selling for $1,331 per night, 180% above the base rate and more than double what a guest would pay any other night next month.
In this, Trump’s hotel is an anomaly among other luxury properties in the nation’s capital, notes Zach Everson in his 1100 Pennsylvania newsletter, which has tracked the comings and goings at the Trump International since the early days of his presidency. (It takes its name from the hotel’s address, just down the street from the White House.) When Everson surveyed other luxury hotels in this price category—the Four Seasons, Hay Adams, and St. Regis—he found no bump in rates for the same dates.
“Raising room prices will surely be interpreted by QAnon as Trump’s support for the March 4 narrative,” says Blazakis. “They absolutely try to interpret the words and actions of President Trump very carefully.”
On the official warning and preparations for March 4:
Federal law enforcement is on high alert Thursday in the wake of an intelligence bulletin issued earlier this week about a group of violent militia extremists having discussed plans to take control of the US Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about March 4 — a date when some conspiracy theorists believe former President Donald Trump will be returning to the presidency.
US officials on Wednesday alerted lawmakers to a potential threat, for which security has been enhanced as a precaution. The House changed its schedule in light of warnings from US Capitol Police, moving a vote planned for Thursday to Wednesday night to avoid being in session on March 4. The Senate is still expected to be in session debating the Covid-19 relief bill.
The joint warning from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday underscores a broader effort by federal agencies to avoid repeating the mistakes made ahead of January 6, when officers were overtaken by a violent pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. Those intelligence sharing and planning failures have been laid bare over the last two months in several hearings and have been a focal point of criticism from lawmakers investigating the violent attack that left several people dead.
The violent extremists also discussed plans to persuade thousands to travel to Washington, DC, to participate in the March 4 plot, according to the joint intelligence bulletin.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI sent a joint intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies late Tuesday warning that some domestic groups have “discussed plans to take control of the U.S. Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about” March 4, according to a senior law enforcement official who described the document to NBC News.
The bulletin, titled “National Capital Region Remains Attractive Target for Domestic Violent Extremists,” warned that “Domestic Violent Extremists” or “Militia Violent Extremists” were emboldened by the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and therefore pose a higher overall threat.
The bulletin said the militia violent extremists may “exploit public gatherings either formally organized or spontaneous to engage in violence,” according to the description of the document.
It also states that domestic violent extremists have a continued “perception of election fraud and other conspiracy theories associated with the presidential transition, which may contribute to (Domestic Violent Extremists) mobilizing to violence with little or no warning.”
The law enforcement official said the bulletin makes clear that “the threat did not begin or end on January 6.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. House abruptly scrapped plans to meet Thursday and began finishing its work for the week given the threat of violence.
Meanwhile, more information is coming out about what was known before the January 6 attack on the Capitol and what Trump did to help the attackers.
Brianna Sacks and Jason Leopold at Buzzfeed News: Documents Show How Federal Law Enforcement Was Tracking Extremists Ahead Of The Capitol Riot.
The day before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, Homeland Security officials warned “domestic extremists” would be taking part in the pro-Trump rallies planned for Jan. 6. Authorities had been actively monitoring far-right groups like the Proud Boys as well as Facebook events with thousands of confirmed participants, some of whom explicitly outlined their plans to march on Congress and rally at the Capitol.
In spite of that, leaders insisted there was no intelligence that federal facilities would be targeted, according to a cache of internal documents from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service.
“There is no intelligence/information that indicates that FPS-protected federal facilities will be targeted this week however a number of federal facilities are located in the anticipated protest area and we will be prepared to respond if necessary,” Richard “Kris” Cline, FPS’s deputy director, said in Jan. 5 email with the subject line “preparation Wed protests.”
The details in the 81 pages of redacted documents, which include emails, photographs, and intelligence bulletins, shed more light on how closely federal security officials had been monitoring the activities of extremist groups and Trump supporters from across the US in the days leading up to the deadly insurrection. Though police at the US Capitol were unprepared for the violent mob, the documents show Department of Homeland Security officials had information that tens of thousands of Trump supporters would be converging on the National Mall and specifically focused on the Proud Boys, even listing the hotel where they were staying. In DHS communications, officials shared dozens of Facebook events, including some from militant groups, and wrote that they expected groups to march to the Capitol.
Now under new leadership, DHS is promising it will work with local law enforcement and other agencies to improve its ability to handle domestic extremist threats in the future.
“The lessons learned from the violent and illegal events of January 6th will help enhance our ability to stop future acts of violence. DHS is participating in investigations into the response to the attack and internally reviewing how best to enhance information sharing about threats,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “Under Secretary Mayorkas’ leadership, addressing domestic violent extremism is a top priority for DHS.
Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Opinion: Did the Pentagon wait for Trump’s approval before defending the Capitol?