The new McCarthyism: Inside the China conspiracy theory that helped fuel Trump's Capitol riot
Screenshot from Capitol Riot video uploaded to Parler

Early on the morning of Jan. 6, Samuel Fisher, a self-described dating coach, sent a friend a photo of a rifle and pistol through Facebook Messenger. He told his friend he planned to go to the parking garage in Washington DC "super early" and would be "leaving shit in there maybe except pistol." He added, "And if it kicks off, I got a vest and my rifle."

In a post on his personal website, according to a government affidavit filed in support of the federal criminal complaint for unlawful entry and disorderly conduct, Fisher predicted that "Trump and We the People will be betrayed again by every so-called representative who said they'd fight for us." He predicted three possible scenarios for Jan. 6, the day Congress was scheduled to meet to certify the electoral vote.

"Trump has an ace card up his sleeve," Fisher wrote, describing the scenario he looked upon as most favorable. "He plays it. The Deep State is arrested and hanged on the White House lawn for High Treason."

The second scenario encapsulated his worst fears: "Trump fails, Biden gets installed…. Patriots are ineffective and we live under the rules of the elite pedophiles and chinese communist party."

In a third scenario, with Trump failing to act, his supporters would take things into their own hands: "Trump fails, Biden gets installed…. Patriots show up in the millions with guns. They execute all treasonous members of government and rebuild."

Alongside the MAGA, Gadsden, "America First" and Kekistan flags, the Trump supporters who swarmed around the Capitol on Jan. 6 also carried homemade signs portraying Biden as a stooge of China. "Beijing Biden is CCP loyalist," read one, while another showing a feeble-looking Biden in the embrace with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Along with the QAnon myth purporting that Donald Trump has been waging a battle with a shadowy cabal of pedophiles, a complementary conspiracy theory had taken hold promoting the idea that the Communist Party of China engineered Joe Biden's electoral victory. The idea of communist subversion has only gained strength among Trump's followers and other Republican voters, as belief in QAnon has ebbed since Jan. 6.

The primary promoter of the Chinese election interference claim — both in the runup to the Jan. 6 insurrection and since — is Trevor Loudon, a New Zealander who got his start as an anti-Soviet campaigner in his native country in the 1980s, and raised his profile in the United States as a speaker at tea party events following the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

Trump himself seeded the China election interference conspiracy theory during the 2020 campaign, repeatedly hammering at the theme by telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that "China will own the United States if this election is lost by Donald Trump in early August, repeating the claim after the Democratic National Convention, and then broadcasting it to Fox News viewers in mid-October.

Loudon's broadly posits that the Communist Party of China deliberately spread COVID in an effort to inflict political damage on Trump in early 2020, instigated riots through US proxies following the death of George Floyd in the summer, and then tipped the election in Biden's favor. He outlined his claims in the weeks after the November election, appearing as a guest on the Epoch Times YouTube channel "Crossroads with Joshua Philipp."

"To top it all off, you had these same pro-Chinese communist parties running big voter registration drives in targeted states — the key swing states — signing up hundreds of thousands of low-propensity voters, mainly in the minority communities so they could lift the Democrat vote total enough to either win outright or lift it up enough where a little bit of fraud on top wouldn't be noticed," Loudon said.

The Epoch Times is affiliated with Falun Gong, a Chinese dissident group opposed to the Communist Party. The publication played an important role in the Stop the Steal protests. Epoch Times personnel unloaded stacks of newspapers at the Dec. 12 Stop the Steal rally at the Ellipse and received a shoutout from the stage ahead of One America News, another pro-Trump outlet, for streaming the event. In addition to being a guest, Loudon is listed as a contributor on the Epoch Times website.

"So, the Chinese, through their communist networks in this country were able to promote the COVID propaganda," Loudon concluded in his interview with Philipp. "They were able to burn American cities all across the country and bring the country to the point of chaos, and then they were able to target and specifically influence key elections across the country."

An intelligence assessment on foreign threats to the 2020 US election that was declassified by US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on March 15 concludes with high confidence that "China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the US presidential election." US intelligence officials also concluded that Chinese officials calculated that the cost from blowback, if they were caught trying to influence the US election, would outweigh any potential benefits. The report further stated, "We assess that Beijing also believes there is a bipartisan consensus against China in the United States that leaves no prospect for a pro-China administration regardless of the election outcome."

In contrast to its assessment of China, the intelligence agencies assessed "that Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US."

The intelligence assessment continued: "A key element of Moscow's strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives — including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden — to US media organization, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration."

The US intelligence assessment does not specifically address Loudon's contention that China influenced the outcome of the election through voter mobilization groups in key swing states. Loudon has made that claim in multiple interviews, articles and self-produced videos. When providing specific evidence, he points to two individuals — one a former executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association of San Francisco and the other an American geography instructor at Wuhan University who has produced maps for New Virginia Majority, a voter mobilization group that focuses on working-class communities of color.

The former claim links the local nonprofit to the various state-level voter mobilization groups through a third group called Seed the Vote, but Loudon does not explain how a group in San Francisco helped sway the vote in the six swing states that were crucial for Biden's victory. And his claim about the geographer in Wuhan elides the fact that Virginia — a state Biden carried by 10 points — was not in contention during the 2020 election.

The claim about the executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association is used interchangeably by Loudon to link the Communist Party of China with both the protests for racial justice and the election. A video produced by Loudon in January includes a clip of the San Francisco nonprofit leader saying, "We have a relationship with the Chinese embassy. Like we have — I've had various conversations with them about our positioning."

An article published on the conservative Heritage Foundation blog in September 2020 similarly claiming a link between Beijing and the Black Lives Matter movement through the Chinese Progressive Association was circulated by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka and Donald Trump Jr., according to Axios.

A fact-check by Axios rated the claim as false while quoting a former China analyst named Alex Joske at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute as saying, "There appears to be no open-source evidence of a close relationship between CPASF and the Chinese government. The organization has received little attention from Chinese state media and definitely doesn't have the hallmarks of a united front group." The Axios fact-check also quoted Yale University historian Arne Westad as saying, "In the 1960s and early 1970s, China was very much a promoter of revolution abroad. But after the death of Mao [in 1976], this era ended…. And that's been more or less consistent up to today."

On the East Coast, Loudon's claim about Chinese election interference centers on Stephen McClure.

"Well, guess where Steve McClure works?" Loudon said in one of his videos. "For the last 10 years, he's been working generating maps out of the Wuhan, China Geography Department — the Wuhan University, which pays his salary. He uses their computers. He uses their personnel to generate maps to flip districts in Virginia, and I'm guessing further afield as well."

McClure's resume, which he provided to Raw Story, shows that he worked on at least eight projects as a consultant for New Virginia Majority along with Tenants and Workers United since 2005, including creating maps for the general election voter mobilization campaign in 2012. McClure told Raw Story that he hasn't done any contract work for New Virginia Majority since 2019. The last project, he said was an analysis of the impact of the new Amazon HQ on housing costs in northern Virginia that he produced free of charge.

In contrast to his detailed taxonomy of left-leaning voter mobilization groups, Loudon is less specific when he talks about purported ballot fraud, which was the focus of the widely discredited claims made by lawyer Sidney Powell centering on Dominion voting machines.

"Clearly there was electronic fraud," Loudon told a group of GOP activists in Virginia on May 11. "What the aim was to lift the minority votes in these certain key states so the electronic fraud would be less noticeable. And they did that, but Trump did so much better in the minorities [sic] than they expected that it wasn't quite enough, so they panicked and had to dump tons and tons of ballots at 2 o'clock in the morning, and that kind of thing."

Loudon did not elaborate on the claims, and his audience did not ask him for evidence. He could not be reached for comment for this story.

Following the Jan. 6 insurrection, as hundreds of Trump supporters motivated by the false belief that the election was stolen found themselves swept up in a national dragnet, Loudon has continued to produce new videos amplifying and expanding on his claims. His Rumble channel shows a prolific output, including a video posted two days after the insurrection with cover art showing Xi and Trump squaring off that is entitled "How the CCP mobilized its US networks to take down the US." Others take aim at members of the new administration. "Dyed in Red! The sinister background of 'Moderate' Kamala Harris, China's American dream president," came out on Feb. 9, followed five days later by "Communists Behind the New Admin! Pete Buttigieg and His History with The Gramsci Society."

Along with writing and appearing in videos, Loudon has been traveling to speak with GOP groups and conservative voters. He made four appearances in Kentucky and Indiana in March, where he spoke to conservative Christian groups. Later that month, Loudon was the keynote speaker for a dinner hosted by the Wabasha County GOP in Minnesota. The Duluth News Tribune reported that Loudon told the 400-some attendees that the killing of George Floyd and subsequent unrest had been "planned since 2016."

And the newspaper reported that Loudon advocated for conservative states to create a compact agreeing to defy federal legislation.

"I don't mean to leave the union," Loudon reportedly told the group. "I want to go back to that people, so you can join together and you tell a federal government we will not implement any unconstitutional directives in our states."

No state has received more attention from Loudon since the Jan. 6 insurrection than Virginia.

With gubernatorial and state legislative elections this year, Virginia is widely considered a bellwether for the 2022 midterms. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor, had previously been considered an enabler of Trump's false election claims because he sidestepped questions about Biden's legitimacy prior to his nomination and has made "election integrity" the focal point of his campaign. But on Thursday, Youngkin finally acknowledged in an interview with Fox Business that "Joe Biden was legitimately elected our president."

Anticipating Virginia's crucial status, Loudon shrewdly released a video that presented his claims about Stephen McClure and the New Virginia Majority on Jan. 15.

He outlined them again during a webinar hosted by the Virginia Project, an independent political action committee set up to help the GOP regain control of state government, on Tuesday.

"That dovetails with what's happening on the election integrity front," David Gordon, the PAC's founder, said during the webinar. "We have questions about whether all of these new voters that are being signed up by these groups are actually voting on their own behalf, or they're being used to pad the pool of unlikely voters that are exploited by third-party groups committing large-scale election frauds."

The PAC launched a project called the "Virginia Election Integrity Audit" after the 2020 election. Ned Jones, its director, has suggested on Twitter that the Jan. 6 insurrection was staged. Responding to a Jan. 15 tweet by the Virginia Project, Jones wrote, "The incident at the Capital was a planned event. You could tell by Schumer, Pelosi, and Pence's convenient speeches and fake outrage later that night. Why haven't we heard a word about the cop shooting an unarmed woman? Nobody is talking about her!"

The original tweet from the Virginia Project read: "The Capitol riot is a Charlottesville hoax redux — all the players were left wingers, including all relevant elected officials — and also the alleged 'right wing' boogeyman they set up for preplanned violence. This is standard Democrat MO for many years."

Gordon said during the webinar on Tuesday that his PAC plans to raise Loudon's claims about Chinese election interference with the Republican Party of Virginia and push the state party to address it. Calls and emails from Raw Story seeking the party's stance on Loudon's claims went unreturned.

One of the participants in the May 11 webinar asked Loudon: "How is this not treason? How is this country not acting on these treasonous parties?"

Loudon answered rhetorically: "Well, why isn't Hillary Clinton in jail? Why isn't George Soros in jail? Why isn't Mitch McConnell in jail? Why isn't — what has happened is since the 1970s the FBI has refused to investigate communists."

Pressed to explain why there hasn't been any action on his claims of illegal foreign election interference, Loudon doubled down on a deeper conspiracy.

"You've got massive communism in the Democratic Party that they're not going to expose it, because that's them," Loudon said. "I say in my movie there's a hundred members of the House of Representatives and 25 members of the US Senate, including [Virginia Sens. Mark] Warner and [Tim] Kaine, who couldn't pass an FBI background check or get a security clearance to run a school bus in Loudoun County. They're running every congressional committee in the House, is run by Marxists."

The woman concerned about treason lamented: "So, we had a campaign in the 1950s with Joe McCarthy, and we destroyed him."

Loudon agreed.

"Yeah, yeah, that's right," he said. "Well, the communists destroyed him. Who came up with the name 'McCarthyism'? It was the Communist Party USA. So, ever since then, every Republican has been terrified of being labeled a McCarthyist. They're terrified of being called a racist. That comes out of the communist movement as well."