Former President Donald Trump was prepared to become an active user of social-media site Parler if it banned his critics – but it resisted doing so, according to an excerpt from an upcoming Michael Wolff book.
In an excerpt from “Donald Trump’s January 6: The view from inside the Oval Office,” published in New York Magazine on Monday, Wolff wrote that Trump’s representatives approached Parler when Trump was in office, proposing that he join the platform once he left the White House.
Trump never became an active member of Parler. Twitter and Facebook blocked Trump after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Insider has reached out to Parler for comment.
Trump considered joining Parler under the pseudonym “Person X,” its former CEO, John Matze, said in a court filing in January. Matze, ousted as CEO earlier this year, said that Amazon Web Services (AWS) knew about these plans while it hosted Parler. It terminated its contract with Parler – essentially knocking the site offline – to prevent Trump from having any social media presence, Matze claimed.
At the time, Amazon said that “suspending Parler had nothing to do with politics.” It suspended the site because Parler was “unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence,” it said.
Several top QAnon influencers on Telegram, some of whom have hundreds of thousands of followers on the far-right-favorite messaging platform, shared posts on Wednesday afternoon including the word “suicide” in quotes.
“Word on the street, only time will tell if this report was true or not,” an account with 61,000 subscribers shared on the app. Conspiracies alleging that McAfee had a “dead man’s switch,” or a device that activates when its owner dies, were also being shared online.
McAfee was imprisoned in Spain pending extradition on tax evasion charges before his death was reported on Wednesday.
A 2019 tweet from the antivirus software mogul’s verified Twitter account appeared to be emboldening some of these claims: “If I suicide myself, I didn’t,” the tweet said.
QAnon, a wide-ranging, far-right conspiracy theory based on the false notion that former President Donald Trump had attempted to take down a “deep state” cabal of human traffickers and pedophiles, notably spread a similar theory when disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in 2019: “Epstein didn’t kill himself” eventually became a major online meme.
Hours after McAfee’s death, a similar phrase became a popular hashtag on Twitter.
Online discourse over the McAfee Associates software company founder also focused on an Instagram post from McAfee’s verified account on Wednesday afternoon – hours after his death was reported by Reuters – that showed the letter “Q.”
A post shared by John McAfee (@officialjohnmcafee)
It was not immediately clear who had control of McAfee’s Instagram account. Instagram told Insider it was “looking into” the situation.
McAfee was an American software engineer who founded the anti-virus software company McAfee Associates and ran it until he resigned in 1994.
In 2012, Belize police considered him a “person of interest” in the murder of Gregory Viant Faull, a neighbor of his while he lived on the island. McAfee denied he was involved in the death and fled Belize.
McAfee also ran for president in the US as a libertarian in 2016 and 2020.
In March 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York indicted McAfee on charges of fraud and money laundering for running what they said was a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme. Federal prosecutors Tennessee later charged him with tax evasion.
QAnon leaders weighing in on McAfee’s death comes as no surprise, as the conspiracy theorists frequently repackage news stories to promote their own beliefs. When a rare winter storm hit Texas this year, QAnon influencers claimed that Bill Gates was behind the inclement weather; QAnon hotshots were infuriated Lil Nas X made headlines for grinding with the devil in a music video and selling shoes that reportedly contained a drop of human blood.
Former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who worked briefly under former President Donald Trump, said Monday that there was “NO reason” for a military coup in the United States – one day after he appeared to suggest the opposite at a QAnon-themed convention over the weekend.
“Any reporting of any other belief by me is a boldface fabrication based on twisted reporting at a lively panel at a conference of Patriotic Americans who love this country, just as I do,” Flynn added to his 227,000 subscribers.
“I am no stranger to media manipulating my words and therefore let me repeat my response to a question asked at the conference: There is no reason it (a coup) should happen here (in America),” Flynn wrote Monday.
As Insider’s Rachel E. Greenspan previously reported, Flynn has previously echoed the rhetoric of QAnon supporters, including last year the baseless theory that Dominion Voting Systems, which sells electronic voting hardware, rigged the 2020 election in President Joe Biden’s favor. There is no evidence to support that claim.
Explosives, flamethrowers, and incendiary devices are some of the weapons discovered by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies outside rallies and at protests during 2020 and 2021, court documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
The documents, provided to the Guardian by the transparency group Property of the People, offer descriptions of an array of makeshift weapons that had been confiscated or found at major political events.
The documents focused, primarily, on the threat of the far-right, the Guardian reported.
One such weapon was an improvised flamethrower that is said to have been taken from protesters in Erie, Pennsylvania last June, the Guardian said. The documents said that the homemade device appears to be modeled on a viral post of instructions on how to build a nearly exact copy of the “Not-A-Flamethrower” sold by Elon Musk’s The Boring Company.
Another makeshift flamethrower – a propane-power weed burner – was also confiscated from protesters in Portland, Oregon, according to the Guardian.
An improvised explosive device (IED) that appeared to be “modified with nails” and made from scratch was discovered in Atlanta in June of last year, the documents said.
In early June, Black Lives Matter protests took place for 11 consecutive days in the city. Georgia was in a state of emergency and the National Guard had been activated to deal with looting and unrest until June 9, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Some of the IEDS, the documents explained, may have been used by businesses attempting to deter looters.
According to the documents seen by the Guardian, a “suspected metal pipe bomb with mechanical timer” was found outside the Republican National Committee building in Washington DC. It was discovered on January 5 – the night before the deadly insurrection. A similar device was found outside the Democratic National Committee building on the same night, the Guardian reported.
It is suspected that the same person, who is yet to be identified, planted both bombs, according to the FBI.
Molotov cocktails, powerful fireworks, and a plastic bottle with an “ignitable liquid” were also found in cities across the US, the documents said.
Concluding remarks referenced the “enduring threat” posed “by far-right, neo-Nazi and white supremacist world views” and explicitly call out Proud Boys and QAnon, the paper said.
He repeatedly drew a ‘Q’ symbol in their air with his right index finger, Newsweek reported.
The letter ‘Q’ has become synonymous with the far-right conspiracy movement ‘QAnon.’ Adherents of this discredited conspiracy theory believe that a mythical cabal of Satanic pedophiles, who are thought to be part of the “deep state,” work together to undermine former President Donald Trump.
During Wood’s speech, Newsweek reported, he referenced ‘Q’ several times.
“He [God] is going to rebirth you into the spirit world and create exactly the person that he intended you to be,” Wood said, according to the media outlet. “There’s your Q.”
The audience, Newsweek said, then began cheering and rose for a standing ovation while he continued to sound out and draw the letter.
“That is Q. What does that Q mean?” he reportedly continued. “Don’t you ever give up hope on this country.”
Wood then proceeded to claim falsely that Trump is still in office. “He won the presidency and he is the person that we the people selected,” Wood said, according to Newsweek. “Donald J. Trump is still the president of the United States of America. He is your president.”
He also used the speech to target Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, and to compare himself to the Hebrew King David, the media outlet said.
Wood, who is best known for painting a false narrative of a stolen election by filing failed lawsuits, is no stranger to controversy.
He was permanently banned from using Twitter after violating a suspension by inciting violence, BuzzFeed News reported.
The State Bar of Georgia is also looking into disciplining him for imploring his followers to target members of the institution, Insider’s Connor Perrett previously reported.
The Health and Freedom Conference dedicated to opposing the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of freedoms is due to conclude Saturday night with a mask burning ceremony.
An alleged Three Percenter, who is accused of breaching the Capitol, will remain in jail awaiting his trial after his own family members gave officials information leading to his arrest, CNN reported Monday.
Guy Reffitt, a Texas husband and father, drove to Washington, DC, to attend the January 6 pro-Trump rally armed with an AR-15 rifle and pistol, threatened his family members, boasted about his participation, and bragged to fellow militia members that the siege was just “the beginning,” according to court documents.
Days after returning from his trip to the nation’s capital, Reffitt told his children he knew the FBI was “watching him.” On January 11 he told his 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter he had to “erase everything,” referring to video evidence of his attendance, legal records said.
Reffitt told his son, Jackson, that if he crossed the line and reported his father to the police, Reffitt would have no option but to “do what he had to do,” Jackson told investigators. When Jackson asked his father if he was threatening him, Reffitt reportedly responded by saying, “don’t put words in my mouth,” the affidavit said.
Reffitt also threatened his daughter, according to court documents. The girl was using her cell phone to talk with friends when Reffitt told her if she was recording him or put anything about him on social media she would have “crossed the line, betrayed the family” and he would “put a bullet through” her phone, according to the affidavit.
That same day, the two children – who disapproved of their father’s pro-Trump politics – told their mother, Nicole, that Reffitt had threatened them. When confronted by his wife, Reffitt reportedly doubled down on his warnings, saying if his children turned him in they would be traitors and “traitors get shot,” court documents said.
Reffitt’s wife and son told FBI officials all this and more when agents arrived at their Wylie home on January 16 to execute a search warrant and eventually arrest Reffitt, according to legal records.
Jackson has since left the family’s home and is now living in an undisclosed location, according to court documents. The son previously told CNN that he tipped the FBI off about his father.
But despite detailing Reffitt’s post-siege behavior to investigators, family members have continued to support the patriarch in court and in the media.
Nicole told CNN that Reffitt is a “loving husband and devoted father, loyal friend, and passionate patriot.” She insisted his statements were taken out of context and said nobody ever felt they were in real danger.
The couple’s minor daughter and her boyfriend, meanwhile testified on behalf of Reffitt in court Monday. Though she told the judge she thought Reffitt had tried to intimidate her and her brother, his daughter said she did not believe he would be dangerous if released, CNN reported.
Reffitt’s lawyer also downplayed his client’s threats while arguing for his pretrial release.
US Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui rejected Reffitt’s release request because of prosecutors’ claims that Reffitt had donned body armor, a helmet, a firearm, and plastic flex-cuffs on the Capitol grounds, according to The Washington Post.
Faruqui said Reffitt had used encrypted communications with fellow Three Percenters before and after the attack and had planned for violence.
Insider reached out to Reffitt’s defense attorney for comment.
The Three Percenters, a far-right, anti-government group for which Reffitt said he conducted vetting and intelligence, formed in 2008, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Its name originates from the myth that only 3% of colonists took up arms during the Revolutionary War. Members view themselves as “modern-day versions of those revolutionaries fighting against a tyrannical US government rather than the British.”
When Faruqui read his decision, it elicited a “wail” from Reffitt’s wife, daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend, CNN reported.
Despite their support of Reffitt, it was at least the third time members of his family had given details about his actions to authorities.
“Don’t be disappointed,” wrote one subscriber on a popular QAnon Telegram channel late Thursday night. “The race is not run yet and I have reason to believe March 20 is also possible.”
Another believer posted a similarly optimistic message. “We still have 16 days,” they wrote. “Lots can happen between now and then!”
With the passing of March 4, a highly-anticipated date for the conspiracy group, followers remain characteristically delusional.
With the uneventful passage of yet another supposedly momentous date, QAnon fans spent Friday morning urging followers to look forward and “keep the faith.”
QAnon’s March 4 failure
When “the Storm’ – the promise of mass arrests and executions on Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day -amounted to nothing, followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory scrambled for a new date to imagine Trump’s fictional swearing-in ceremony.
March 4, like several fruitless dates that preceded it, was born out of a convoluted political fantasy.
QAnon adherents borrowed from the obscure US-based sovereign-citizen movement to suggest that Trump would return to power on March 4, 2021. Sovereign citizens “believe that they get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks extremism.
The conspiracy-theory movement will continue to invent new dates to look forward to, or else their years of obsessional beliefs will all have been for naught, say far-right experts.
“Reality doesn’t really matter,” Nick Backovic, a contributing editor at fact-checking website Logically, where he researches misinformation and disinformation, told Insider. “Whether QAnon can survive another great disappointment, there’s no question – it can.”
The March 4 theory is rooted in a bizarre belief that argues all laws after the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, are illegitimate.
The 20th Amendment, which moved Inauguration Day from March 4 to January 20, is viewed by sovereign citizens as invalid.
Therefore, proponents of this conspiracy theory insisted that Trump would restore a republic that has been out of action for over 150 years on the day when former presidents were sworn-in.
Travis View, a conspiracy theory expert and host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, previously told Insider that it’s based on a “blind faith” that Trump can “fix everything.”
A series of no-shows
Before March 4, the QAnon follower’s calendar was marked with a string of dates that were once hailed as moments of reckoning that didn’t happen.
In 2017, the first “Q drop” – the cryptic messages from the anonymous “Q” figure whose guidance runs the movement – claimed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be arrested because of an unfounded allegation that she was involved in child sex trafficking. This, of course, never happened, but the QAnon conspiracy theory was born.
Then, in a bid to reconcile their belief that Trump would remain president, they believed January 6, which went on to be a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, was a precursor to “The Storm” – a violent event that would result in the execution of child-abusive elites.
The goalpost was then moved to January 20, based on the claim that Trump would seize power prior to Biden taking his oath.
But Trump was not inaugurated again on January 20 and instead left Washington to move down to his Florida home. In the hours after Biden’s inauguration, some QAnon believers were left confused and crestfallen.
Mental gymnastics ensued, with some QAnon influencers arguing that Biden’s inauguration had happened in a Hollywood studio and was therefore invalid; others claimed that Trump sent signals during his final pre-inauguration address indicating that he’d remain in office. These influencers again promoted to their followers the idea that somehow, their theory was not yet over.
“QAnon is dealing with a very difficult cognitive dissonance situation,” Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at Syracuse University, told Insider.
Naturally, some believers become fed up with failures
A Wednesday post on a QAnon Telegram channel with nearly 200,000 subscribers called the plan “BS,” though the same page told their followers that the “new Republic” would begin on March 4.
Another top conspiracy theorist told their 71,000 subscribers on Wednesday morning that a “Q drop” contained a hint that the March 4 conspiracy theory was a false flag. “March 4 is a Trap,” the post said.
Whenever QAnon’s prophecies are proven wrong, the movement does lose some support, Backovic said.
In the days after President Biden’s inauguration, many QAnon believers did express a desire to leave the movement, fed up with the lies they’d been told. Even Ron Watkins, once QAnon’s top source for voter-fraud misinformation, told his 134,000 Telegram subscribers in the afternoon of January 20, “Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able.”
QAnon influencers calling the March 4 conspiracy a “false flag” also helps place blame on others in case things go awry like they did on January 6. Finding a scapegoat is a common tactic for extremists, according to Backovic.
After the Capitol insurrection, QAnon supporters and other pro-Trump protesters – and several Republicans in Congress – spread the false claim that antifa, the anti-fascist movement, staged the deadly coup attempt on the Capitol.
In addition to focusing on specific dates, QAnon has evolved and adapted to include other conspiracy theories and enter more conventional spaces.
Last spring, the movement pivoted to focus on ending human trafficking, making “Save the Children” its new battle cry. QAnon leveraged on mainstream social media, including Instagram, where lifestyle influencers spread it.
With nothing happening on March 4, believers look forward (again)
The latest disappointment has already resulted in new dates being introduced with increasingly desperate explanations.
Some QAnon influencers have suggested that March 20 is when Trump will seize control, misinterpreting the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019, which streamlines the presidential transition by providing certain services to the previous administration 60 days after the inauguration.
The claim, first made on a popular QAnon Telegram channel, appeared to be making ground with supporters offline, too. A QAnon supporter interviewed by The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel said he believes Trump remains in command of the military and will be inaugurated on the 20th.
But core followers of the conspiracy theory are reluctant to throw all their weight behind a particular date.
In another Telegram message board for QAnon believers, one post encouraged people to remain open-minded about Q’s plan. “Dates for late March, April, May, and more dates in the fall have been tossed out there,” the post said. “While we can speculate and hope, no specific dates have been landed on… don’t get caught up in the dates, watch what’s happening.”
For those tempered by repeated disappointment, some are simply set on a resounding victory for Trump in 2024.
“Whether it’s some date in March or whether ultimately it will be a second Trump term after an election in 2024,” Barkun told Insider. “There will be some further set of explanations and a further set of dates.”
On Monday, the company announced that site was up and running with a Tea Party co-founder serving as interim CEO. Mark Meckler, an attorney, political activist, and founder of the Tea Party Patriots, replaced former CEO and co-founder John Matze, who was fired by the company’s board earlier this month.
In a statement Monday, Meckler said, “Parler was built to offer a social media platform that protects free speech and values privacy and civil discourse,” highlighting the platform’s focus on freedom of speech. “Parler is being run by an experienced team and is here to stay. We will thrive as the premier social media platform dedicated to free speech, privacy and civil dialogue,” the statement said.
A spokesperson did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.
Parler is largely funded by Rebekah Mercer, a conservative megadonor whose family was among the most influential backers of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Dan Bongino, a conservative activist, has also said he’s a co-owner.
The company came under scrutiny after the Capitol insurrection as evidence emerged that the rioters had used Parler and other platforms to coordinate the attack.
The proposed deal, which was reportedly in talks last summer and after Trump lost the election, also would have required Trump to post on Parler four hours before reposting the content on other platforms, while also linking back to Parler, according to BuzzFeed.
Matze did not mention the specifics of the BuzzFeed report in the interview with Axios but said the negotiations over the summer did not get very far.
BuzzFeed reported that the Parler deal could have violated anti-bribery laws because Parler would have given Trump something of value in exchange for control over his official statements, according to ethics experts.
Twitter on Saturday suspended the account for Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that for years has spread false information and conspiracy theories, including disinformation about the 2020 presidential election.
In a statement to Forbes, a Twitter spokesperson said the account was suspended for “repeated violations” of its civic integrity policy, which prohibits users from tweeting “for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes.”
Twitter did not immediately reply to Insider’s request for comment.
Jim Hoft, the founder and editor-in-chief of Gateway Pundit, operated the account.
The website had for years shared baseless conspiracy theories and false information, most recently echoing former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
When Democrat Joe Biden won the election, Trump for weeks refused to explicitly acknowledge his loss. In the hours after the race was called for Biden, Trump said the “election is far from over.”
He then doubled down and sought to overturn the results in state and federal courts across the country. The Trump campaign and the president’s allies had filed, and lost, dozens of lawsuits in multiple battleground states contesting the results.
And allegations of voter fraud have been struck down and disproven numerous times since Trump and his lawyers presented their arguments. The Trump-appointed Attorney General Bill Barr, who’s repeatedly positioned himself as one of the president’s strongest defenders, conceded that neither the Justice Department nor the FBI found widespread evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Still, Trump continued to claim otherwise, posting frequently on his personal Twitter account – which has been permanently suspended – about widespread voter fraud and a “rigged” election.
Gateway Pundit doubled down on those false claims.
Just about a week ago, Hoft, using the Gateway Pundit Twitter account, pushed claims that some ballots cast for Biden were illegal, the Hill reported, referencing an archived version of the now-suspended account.
Bloomberg News reported that Hoft was one of the people pictured at Trump’s “Save America” rally on January 6, hours before violent rioters stormed the Capitol building.
After Trump’s account was disabled, top conservatives began sharing their Parler accounts on the platform, encouraging their followers to follow them there. Parler became a flagship in alt-right communication, advertising itself as a platform for unregulated language and “free speech.”