As Yahoo News reported Thursday, an internal FBI memo has identified the fringe conspiracy theory group QAnon as a domestic terrorist threat. Just two days earlier, President Trump posted messages on Twitter promoting two accounts linked to the shadowy network.
We should immediately pass Voter ID @Voteridplease to insure the safety and sanctity of our voting system. Also, Paper Ballots as backup (old fashioned but true!). Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2019
Later that same day, the president retweeted a post from another QAnon supporter identified as Lynn Thomas, who posted a graphic that called Democrats “THE TRUE ENEMIES OF AMERICA!”
A Twitter account linking itself to QAnon celebrated the president’s attention.
But hours after Trump’s retweet, Twitter suspended the account purported to belong to Thomas, saying the user had violated the site’s terms of service. In the past week, the account had pushed a QAnon conspiracy theory claiming that Democrats murdered and ate children.
Trump himself was mentioned in an FBI Intelligence Bulletin obtained by Yahoo News that explains the origins of the QAnon phenomenon. According to the memo, the group’s mythical founder, purportedly a former U.S. government official known as Q, “posts classified information online to reveal a covert effort, led by President Trump, to dismantle a conspiracy involving ‘deep state’ actors and global elites allegedly engaged in an international child sex trafficking ring.”
In a 2018 interview with the Yahoo News podcast “Bots & Ballots,” Washington Post senior editor Marc Fisher further explained the crossover between Trump and QAnon.
“You see an uptick in these kinds of conspiracy theories and a willingness in people to believe that the system is rigged against them,” Fisher said. “This was at the core of Trump’s message in the 2016 campaign.”
To be clear, Trump has never publicly praised Q or the group of people drawn to the conspiracy theories shared on the site, but at virtually every Trump rally since the 2016 election, attendees have been seen with QAnon signage and branded clothing.
In addition to promoting Twitter accounts linked to the group, Trump invited what might be called Q-curious members of the right-wing media to the White House in June for a social media summit, including radio host Bill Mitchell.
Q is fascinating and Trump has never disavowed them. He even appeared to acknowledge them at a rally. Read into that what you will.
What I don't get is those who seem quite rabid about denying Q's legitimacy. Who is Q harming? They love Trump and hate the #DeepState.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) April 3, 2019
Last August, Michael Lebron, one of the promoters of QAnon on YouTube, posted a photo of himself in the Oval Office with Trump. While it is unclear whether Trump knew of Lebron’s affinity for QAnon, or of the group’s cavalcade of conspiracy theories, in a video he posted to YouTube about the White House visit, Lebron said, “I think we all know he knows about it.”
There are simply no words to explicate the profound and ineffable honor of meeting @realDonaldTrump in the tabernacle of liberty, the Oval Office. @LynnShawProd and I so appreciate @POTUS’ kindness and courtesy. #MAGA pic.twitter.com/9rfxca2Kbd
— Lionel🇺🇸 (@LionelMedia) August 24, 2018
Reached for comment by CNN, former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Lebron was part of “a large group [that] came through the White House for a brief tour and a photo."
Like QAnon supporters, Trump has routinely railed against what he calls the “deep state” plot to overturn his presidency, as he did in July when celebrating a court victory in a case challenging his business practices since taking office.
Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt. Unanimous decision in my favor from The United States Court of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit on the ridiculous Emoluments Case. I don’t make money, but lose a fortune for the honor of.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2019
As the FBI’s Intelligence Bulletin explains, conspiracy theories like the ones circulated by QAnon “attempt to explain events or circumstances as the result of a group of actors working in secret to benefit themselves at the expense of others.”
For a president who has stoked the belief that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that climate change is actually a Chinese hoax, that description rings all too true.
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