An official Trump campaign video featured supporters at his rallies holding QAnon signs, referencing a bizarre “deep state” conspiracy theory which the FBI warned could pose a real domestic terror threat.
The video, titled “Women for Trump,” was posted on the campaign’s YouTube page. First flagged by Vox’s Aaron Rupar, it showed a woman holding a “Women for Trump” sign in which the O’s were replaced with Q’s. Another supporter could be seen holding a “Keep America Great” sign that has a large “Q” taped to the top-left corner.
The spot has been taken down since it was initially called out on Twitter. While it is unclear if the video was published anywhere else or aired on TV, The Daily Beast reported that it had racked up more than 7,000 views before it was removed.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that alleges a bizarre “deep state” conspiracy against Trump and posits that he is fighting back by sending top Democrats to face secret military tribunals and executions at Guantanamo Bay.
QAnon believers have been prominently featured at the president’s rallies. In July, Trump praised a baby wearing a QAnon onesie during a speech in North Carolina. And last week, during a rally in Cincinnati, a speaker recited a QAnon slogan minutes before the president took the stage. Trump has amplified QAnon supporters on Twitter more than 20 times, according to Media Matters.
Trump’s campaign video was released after Yahoo News published an intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI Phoenix field office in May, warning that conspiracy theories like QAnon were likely to “motivate some domestic extremists, wholly or in part, to commit criminal and sometimes violent activity.”
The memo described the QAnon movement as a conspiracy theory in which an alleged government official who goes by “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.”
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the memo added, warning that the threat could increase during the 2020 presidential campaign.
The QAnon conspiracy theory has already led to at least one murder. A Staten Island man named Anthony Comello was charged with killing a Gambino crime family boss earlier this year. His lawyer told a court that Comello was a QAnon conspiracy theorist who believed the crime boss to be a “member of the deep state.”
“Mr. Comello’s support for ‘QAnon’ went beyond mere participation in a radical political organization. It evolved into a delusional obsession,” the attorney said, adding that “Mr. Comello became certain that he was enjoying the protection of President Trump himself, and that he had the president’s full support.”
Prior to the murder, Comello unsuccessfully tried twice to perform a citizen’s arrest on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and asked a federal court for help to arrest California Democrats Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters, the New York Times reported.
The FBI memo cited another incident, in which a Nevada man was arrested with body armor, rifles, ammo and a flash-bang device after trying to block the Hoover Dam with an armored truck.
“The man referenced the QAnon conspiracy theory directly and discussed related conspiratorial beliefs after his arrest,” the memo said. “He sent letters from jail containing a distinctive QAnon slogan to President Trump and other officials claiming he wanted to expose government corruption and lies.”
The memo also warned that social media has allowed these conspiracy theories to spread to large audiences.
“Based on the increased volume and reach of the conspiratorial content,” it memo added, “it is logical to assume that more extremist-minded individuals will be exposed to potentially harmful conspiracy theories, accept ones that are favorable to their views and possibly carry out criminal or violent actions as a result.”