Trump’s fake inauguration on March 4 was QAnon’s latest vision that flopped. A new date is now being peddled to perpetuate the mind games.

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Crowds gather outside the U.S. Capitol for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • QAnon followers believed that March 4 would see former President Donald Trump reinstated as president.
  • It was just the latest date in a long line of bizarre goalposts that continually shift.
  • Followers of the conspiracy theory are looking forward to future dates that will herald epic changes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

“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.

Devotees of the conspiracy theory then eagerly anticipated the Mueller report’s release in 2019, expecting its findings to lead to the arrest and possible execution of leading Democrats. Once again, this resulted in nothing more than disappointment for QAnon believers.

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.

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Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport on the way to Mar-a-Lago Club on January 20, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump left Washington, DC on the last day of his administration before Joe Biden was sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States.

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

Several top QAnon voices disavowed the March 4 conspiracy theory in the days leading up to Thursday. These influencers have likely been attempting to keep their followers on-board with the conspiracy theory despite its myriad disappointments, Backovic told Insider. 

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. 

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QAnon supporters in a Telegram channel express confusion after Biden’s inauguration.

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.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said when he testified before Congress on Tuesday, no evidence antifa was involved in the riot.

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. 

Then, last fall, QAnon extremists joined with other right-wing groups to protest Biden’s election win as part of the Stop the Steal movement, which caused the Capitol insurrection.

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National Guard keep watch on the Capitol, Thursday, March 4, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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.”

And the cycle continues.

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Photos show intense security around the US Capitol ahead of a QAnon insurrection that nobody showed up for

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National Guard keep watch on the Capitol, Thursday, March 4, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • There was enhanced security presence in Washington DC on March 4, only weeks after the Capitol riot. 
  • Intelligence reports had indicated far-right extremists were plotting violence and protests. 
  • QAnon conspiracy theorists believed that Donald Trump would be inaugurated on Thursday. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Thousands of National Guard and Capitol Police patrolled the streets of Washington DC Thursday ahead of an anticipated insurrection by far-right supporters of Donald Trump that never materialized.

Earlier in the week, US law enforcment and security agencies warned they had received intelligence that a far-right group planned to breach the Capitol. The Capitol Police announced that it was taking steps to “enhance our security posture” on days including March 4. 

March 4 was when some QAnon conspiracy theory supporters believed that Donald Trump would be inaugurated for a second term and his “deep state” enemies vanquished.

The anticipated threat placed Capitol security services on high alert, with the atmosphere still tense in the wake of the Capitol’s breach by Trump supporters on January 6. 

In the wake of the riot, the Capitol has been encircled with a razor-wire fence. On Thursday National Guard deployed in DC patrolled its perimeter to deter further violence. 

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National Guard walk near the Capitol, Thursday, March 4, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

On Constitution Avenue, the main thoroughfare leading pat the Capitol, the National Guard set up checkpoints. 

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Members of the National Guard walk on the empty Constitution Avenue near the U.S. Capitol on March 4, 2021.

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National Guard keep watch on the Capitol, Thursday, March 4, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The usually bustling Capitol Hill was quiet, with lawmakers and their staff advised to stay away from the area for the day.

With paranoia rife in far-right forums ahead of March 4 and claims that the planned protests were a ruse by security services spreading, extremists and Trump supporters also decided to stay away. A masked man was questioned by the Secret Service near the White House. 

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A man wearing a “Guy Fawkes” mask is confronted by members of the US Secret Service, near the White House in Washington, DC, on March 4, 2021.

National Guard patrolled the Capitol building itself. On steps of the Capitol, Rep. Al Green of Texas took a break as the heavily armed troops patrolled nearby. 

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Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, is seen on the House steps of the Capitol as members of the National Guard walk by on Thursday, March 4, 2021.

In Congress’s halls, National Guard was stationed to ensure no breaches of the Capitol complex from any source. 

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Members of the National Guard look at a model of Capitol Hill in the Capitol Building’s crypt on March 4, 2021, in Washington, DC.

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Michigan National Guard troops conduct a promotion ceremony on the East Front of the Capitol on Thursday, March 4, 2021.

The day passed without major incident. But with swaths of America’s far-right refusing to accept Biden as legitimate president and a hardcore of extremists determined to provoke a violent insurrection, it’s a threat security officials believe is unlikely to recede any time soon. 

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The U.S. Capitol Building, which saw boosted security, Thursday, after officials warned of an attack plot by extremists on March 4, 2021

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The House is wrapping early as officials warn of new extremist threats, as far-right conspiracy theories falsely claim Trump will be re-inaugurated this week

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Members of the National Guard are seen patrolling near the US Capitol Building on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021, in Washington, DC.

  • The House is wrapping early this week, following possible extremist threats at the Capitol Building.
  • Far-right conspiracy theorists’ online talk of the importance of March 4 have worried law enforcement.
  • Capitol Police will have an increased presence around the grounds through this weekend.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Less than two months after the deadly Capitol siege, Congress is taking preventative steps to avoid another disaster amid the possibility of additional extremist attacks.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Wednesday evening that the House would wrap its business a day earlier than scheduled, following reports of possible protests planned for Thursday, March 4 – a date that has galvanized right-wing conspiracy theorists online.

Earlier Wednesday, law enforcement officials alerted lawmakers to the potential threat to the US Capitol Building.

An internal memo sent by the acting House sergeant-at-Arms, Timothy Blodgett, said Capitol Police are monitoring information related to potential protests and demonstrations surrounding “what some have described as the ‘true Inauguration Day.'” 

Blodgett said Capitol Police received “new and concerning information and intelligence” indicating interest in the Capitol Building by militia groups from March 4-6.

Capitol Police will have an increased presence throughout the Capitol Grounds, according to the memo, and the National Guard will continue to maintain its troops around the area. 

Despite the bolstered protective measures, it remains unclear if members of extremist groups are actually planning to come to DC or if the talk of demonstrations is simply online chatter.

March 4 has emerged as an important date among conspiracy groups like QAnon and the Three Percenters, who believe former President Donald Trump will reclaim his role as Commander-in-Chief and lead a purge of his political and media opponents who they believe to be part of a secret ring of pedophiles. 

Far-right groups have begun to fracture following the chaos of the January 6 Capitol riot, but many still believe Trump will be re-inaugurated March 4 – the original inauguration date before the 20th Amendment was passed, and the date conspiracy theorists believe the last “legitimate” president, Ulysses S. Grant, was inaugurated on in 1869.

The Department of Homeland Security’s acting intelligence chief, Melissa Smislova, told lawmakers during a Wednesday Senate hearing that her agency and the FBI issued an internal intelligence memo about “extremists discussing March 4, and March 6,” CNN reported. 

The outlet also reported that acting Capitol Police Chief Yoganda Pittman told Congress on Wednesday that she had “concerning intelligence” regarding the next few days, but said it wouldn’t be “prudent” to share it in public. She did, however, assure members that Capitol Police have been briefed on the coming days. 

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, a Republican, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump had a responsibility to tell extremists to “stand down.”

“This threat is credible. It’s real,” the lawmaker said about March 4.

Sen. Alex Padilla of California, a Democrat, told CNN that he and his colleagues are taking the threat “very seriously.”

“We still have yet to hold everybody accountable for what happened on the sixth,” Padilla said. “And we still haven’t made the many changes necessary to secure the Capitol going forward. So this is evolving in very real time. Frankly, this information from DHS may be officially new but not really surprising.”

In light of the altered schedule, the House will reconvene Wednesday night to debate and vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which will be the final vote of the week.

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Why QAnon are pinning their last desperate hopes on Trump emerging as president on March 4

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Some QAnon conspiracy theorists believe that former President Donald Trump will be sworn in on March 4, 2021.

  • QAnon followers believe that Trump will be reinstated as president on March 4, 2021.
  • The conspiracy theory is rooted in the discredited beliefs of the sovereign citizen movement.
  • It has gained popularity with QAnon followers after being circulated on Telegram and Gam.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

QAnon followers, unable to cope with Joe Biden’s elevation to president in January, have now coopted a new belief to argue that the next legitimate inauguration date will be on March 4.

After President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, some QAnon believers concluded that their conspiracy theory was a “lie.” But its most fervent followers weren’t ready to give up on their conspiratorial beliefs, clinging to an absurd hope that former President Donald Trump will be sworn in at a later date.

Using ever-shifting goalposts, the pro-Trump conspiracists have now set their eyes on March 4, 2021.

Where does the conspiracy theory come from?

The belief that Trump will be sworn in on March 4 is rooted in theories promoted by the obscure sovereign citizen movement.

The sovereign citizen movement is a highly-fragmented grouping of Americans who believe taxes, US currency, and even the US government to be illegitimate.

A minority of them believe that laws do not apply to them at all, resulting in the FBI designating some members as “domestic terrorists” and “anti-government extremists.”

A central tenet of the movement is that the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868,  converted “sovereign citizens” into “federal citizens.” 

This belief also goes so far as to dismiss the validity of any presidency after 1868, making Ulysses S. Grant the last valid president.

The ideas are esoteric and, arguably, nonsensical.

“You really feel like you’re in an Alice in Wonderland world when you start going through the ideas of the sovereign citizens,” Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at Syracuse University, told Insider. “It’s like you’ve gone down some kind of rabbit hole into a parallel universe.”

Some sovereign citizens also believe that an obscure law from 1871 reveals that the US has become a corporation.

The District of Columbia Organic Act established a single municipal government for Washington, DC. The use of the word “corporation,” referring to an incorporated district, has led to the mistaken interpretation of this to mean that the entirety of the US became a business.

“Some believe that President Joe Biden is the executive of a bankrupt corporation – the United States Inc.,” said Travis View said, conspiracy theory expert and host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast.

Creating an alternate reality based on a misinterpretation of a minor detail in an old law is typical of conspiracy groups, Media Matter’s deputy research director Stefanie Le told Insider. 

“They can create elaborate mythologies based on the smallest and least significant details,” she said.

Why March 4?

Before the 20th Amendment in 1933, all presidents were sworn in on March 4.

It was introduced to shorten the “lame duck” period between elections and the start of new administrations.

Given that followers of the sovereign citizen movement reject all constitutional amendments passed after the 14th amendment, they do not view this date change as legitimate.

QAnon followers, who failed to see Trump inaugurated in January, have recycled the argument and reinvented the next legitimate inauguration date.

They say that on March 4, 2021, Trump will succeed the last legitimate president, Grant, to become the 19th president.

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Believers of the March 4 conspiracy think that former President Donald Trump will succeed former President Ulysses S. Grant as the 19th president of the US.

Le told Insider: “Now that one of their most highly-anticipated events – the January 20 inauguration –  has failed to come true, they’re grasping for explanations from other conspiracy theories.” 

View said that there is no clear logic to it besides the blind faith that Donald Trump is the chosen one to save humanity.

joe biden inauguration
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

‘Maybe we should gather again and storm the Capitol on March 4’

Adopting conspiracy theories from other groups to contribute to a specific, imaginary narrative isn’t unexpected.

It’s QAnon’s survival method “because their own predictions have fallen apart,” said Le.

The forums populated by QAnon adherents are now buzzing with chatter about March 4.

Telegram and Gab have led the way according to research by Media Matters seen by Insider, and it is widely circulating on 4Chan and right-wing forum Patriots.win, the researchers said. The rumors have also reached TikTok, reported the Independent.

There have been real-world consequences to the March 4 rumor-mill.

Notably, Trump’s DC hotel has hiked prices for March 3 and March 4. It is the only luxury hotel in the area to increase its rates for those nights. 

The US Capitol Police, fearing potentially violent clashes, have ordered almost 5,000 National Guard troops to remain stationed in Washington, DC, on March 4.

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National Guard troops are expected to stay in Washington, DC, until mid-March.

Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, referred to the conspiracy theory during a hearing on the matter.

“Some of these people have figured out that apparently 75 years ago, the president used to be inaugurated on March 4,” he said. “OK, now why that’s relevant? God knows. At any rate, now they are thinking, ‘maybe we should gather again and storm the Capitol on March 4’ … that is circulating online.”

A HASC Democratic spokesperson told Insider that Smith had seen the reports identifying March 4 as “another inflection point” in the capital.

“The House Armed Services Committee’s role is to validate that military personnel are used in accordance with their aligned task and requirements,” the spokesperson said.

Will QAnon ever give up?

Security is also expected to be high throughout March to anticipate the still-unscheduled State of the Union address.

The Capitol Police plans to maintain an elevated presence due to intelligence suggesting that extremists have discussed plans to attack the Capitol building during the speech, Politico reported.

Experts, however, don’t expect the insurrectionist violence of January 6 to be replicated on March 4.

Barkun, who previously advised the FBI on security threats posed by extremist groups, said he is confident that sufficient attention is being paid to QAnon’s activities.

View also doubts that there will be widespread violence. “I think the events of January 6 spooked a lot of Q followers,” he told Insider.

But none of the experts Insider spoke to believe QAnon is going away any time soon. It is commonplace for conspiracy theory groups to deal with incorrect predictions by just kicking the can down the road.

“They will construct more and more complex rationalizations that push the events that they wish for farther and farther into the future,” Barkun told Insider. 

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