The largest militia group in the US will refuse to recognise President-elect Joe Biden as the nation’s duly elected leader when he is sworn in on 20 January 2021.
The Oath Keepers, an armed right-wing organisation that boasts tens of thousands of members with law enforcement and military backgrounds, was one of several groups to demonstrate in Washington over the weekend at the “Million MAGA March” in support of Donald Trump, whom news networks project has lost the 2020 election.
“I think about half this country won’t recognise Biden as legitimate. They won’t recognise this election,” Stewart Rhodes, who founded the Oath Keepers, told The Independent on Saturday in the nation’s capital.
“What that means is that everything that comes out of his mouth will be considered not of any force or effect, anything he signs into law we won’t recognise as legitimate. We’ll be very much like the founding fathers. We’ll end up nullifying and resisting,” Mr Rhodes said.
Thousands of Trump supporters — including members of far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Boys, and the Oath Keepers, as well as ordinary American citizens — participated in the march, which was pervaded by a sense that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr Trump.
Despite filing several lawsuits in key swing states, the Trump campaign has not provided any evidence of substantial voter fraud that would have swung any of them in his favour.
The president has persisted in his baseless accusations of a stolen election and rampant voter fraud, despite no evidence existing to support those claims.
The way the president told it on his Twitter account on Sunday, Mr Biden “only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA.”
Mr Trump added: “I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”
Within minutes, Twitter had flagged the tweet with a line that reads, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”
Twitter has flagged dozens of Mr Trump’s tweets since the election for spouting conspiracy theories about the election.
Despite the efforts of tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook to curb misinformation from spreading on their platforms, the Trump campaign’s rhetoric has had a noticeable effect on Republican voters’ trust in the electoral process.
At the march in Washington over the weekend, attendees gave varying theories to The Independent about how the election was stolen from Mr Trump, from a broad nationwide conspiracy to mass low-level fraud.
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Several shared already-debunked purported stories of voter fraud.
Most people at the march appeared unaware of the basic mechanics of the pandemic-era electoral process. Due to the virus, Democrats voted overwhelmingly by mail, and thus were always going to fall behind in early counting in key states as in-person votes are tallied first. That news does not seem to have reached everyone, so when Mr Trump’s early lead was erased, the president claimed foul play, and they took him at his word.
The Oath Keepers predate Mr Trump’s political ascendancy, but his brash and tribalistic brand of politics has given them greater prominence in media coverage over the course of his administration.
The Anti-Defamation League has described the Oath Keepers as a “heavily armed extremists with a conspiratorial and anti-government mindset looking for potential showdowns with the government.”
The group has projected a robust presence at several key moments of racial crisis in America. In 2014 and 2015, armed members of the group patrolled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent riots and demonstrations.
Anti-government conspiracy theories have always been a central part of the Oath Keepers’ ethos, experts have written.
Mr Rhodes, its founder, is a former staffer to GOP Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, the erstwhile perennial presidential candidate.
Mr Rhodes is a graduate of Yale Law School, the alma mater of three of the seven justices currently serving on the US Supreme Court.