Outlandish claims about Pence circulated on Jan. 6 came from a familiar source—a Seth Rich conspiracy theory
President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

Beginning late into the night of Jan. 5, 2021 and continuing through the middle of the next day, as President Trump was speaking the Ellipse and Congress was preparing to certify the electoral vote, two high-profile influencers active in the effort to overturn the election unleashed a torrent of tweets resonant with the sense of betrayal and anger that the president’s supporters were feeling.

Lin Wood was an attorney involved in the legal challenges seeking to overturn the election and someone with a Twitter account whose reach among election deniers was exceeded only by the president himself. Ron Watkins was a former administrator for 8kun, an anonymous online forum notorious for circulating conspiracy theories, and key figure in the QAnon movement. In the hours and days leading up to the assault on the US Capitol, the two men worked in tandem on Twitter to promote a narrative of massive government betrayal that specifically homed in on Vice President Mike Pence as a “traitor” as Trump told his followers: “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”

Wood’s increasingly inflammatory and completely baseless claims that Pence was a “traitor,” “communist sympathizer” and “child molester” reached a crescendo just as Trump was taking the stage at the Ellipse, with digital undergirding from Watkins.

Wood said in a statement to Raw Story that any notion that his statements could be expected to inflame Trump supporters angry about the outcome of the election should be considered “errant nonsense and propaganda.”

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The claims promoted by Wood and Watkins, which also included a call for the arrest of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for “accessory to murder” — also completely baseless — were drawn from a federal felon in Maryland who had spun an increasingly elaborate web of conspiracy theories. Ryan Dark White aka Jonathan McGreevey earned Wood’s open admiration while tweeting under the username @Johnheretohelp in late 2020.

Wood’s elaborate claims about government betrayal, which focused with precise fury on Pence, drew a loose connection to a dubious story spun by White, who is currently running for US Senate from Maryland, that linked Rosenstein to the 2016 murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, who became an object of obsession for a host of conspiracy theorists seeking to deflect responsibility from the Russian hackers who illegally accessed emails and leaked them to WikiLeaks.

The apparently coordinated campaign to elevate White’s claims in the hours before Congress was scheduled to meet and certify the electoral vote proceeded despite a warning from Matt Couch, a conspiracy theorist who was also actively involved in the effort to mobilize Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. Among the legions of influencers and operatives promoting the claim that the election had been stolen and rallying Trump supporters to come to Washington, DC on Jan. 6, Couch was arguably in the best position to know White’s background and credibility.

Tweet published by Lin Wood at 9:59 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2021Screengrab of tweet retrieved from Internet Archive

Lin Wood’s tweet at 9:59 p.m. on Jan. 5 would likely look random to outsiders and even to the fans who avidly followed his account. It was a screenshot from a news article about two men with Spanish surnames who had been shot to death in a parking lot at a shopping center in South Carolina in July 2016.

But those with insider knowledge of White’s conspiracy theories would know exactly what its relevance was.

The next morning, at about 6:16 a.m., Couch reshared Wood’s tweet with the screenshot of the article about the South Carolina double homicide, while adding his own text.

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“Folks, I have had my life destroyed investigating the Seth Rich murder,” Couch wrote. “Lin Wood is someone I consider a friend and great Patriot. I know who gave him this information and there is ZERO EVIDENCE that this is related to Seth, or proof. We do not believe MS-13 was involved at all.”

Couch quickly fired off a follow-up tweet in which he tagged Wood and Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock.com CEO who was financing a legal and public relations campaign aimed at overturning the election.

“My friend @LLinWood as well as my new friend @PatrickByrne can meet with me anytime to get the truth in this investigation from my Attorneys and me,” Couch offered. “I’m in DC all week, and I’ll make myself available with my team who’s on the ground with me at ANY time they’d like to discuss.”

Wood told Raw Story that he did not see Couch’s tweets, adding, “I had 1.2 million followers on Twitter at the time and it was not possible for me to keep up with all of my tweets which were retweeted or by whom or all the replies.”

The screenshot from the article about the South Carolina double homicide that Wood tweeted is identical to a news article printout on the seventh page of a 920-page sheaf of documents, which has been reviewed by Raw Story. A sticky note on one of the pages preceding six pages devoted to the double homicide reads, “Info on murdered MS-13 members. This happened day after Seth Rich killed.”

Wood told Raw Story he doesn’t recall receiving the document.

READ: Insiders flagged credibility problems for 'key witness' in lawsuits filed to overturn 2020 election

The first page of the 920-page sheaf includes a scanned business card for Frank T. Whalen, a private investigator in New York City.

“If you’re trying to draw a nexus between this and January 6th, you’re going in the wrong direction,” Whalen said. “You’re way off base.” He added, “This stuff was sent way long before then.” Whalen also said he doesn't know how Wood obtained the materials.

"I don't know directly, no," he said.

A sticky note on the first page, apparently written by Whalen, suggests that the materials were originally assembled for Tom Fitton, president of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch. “Info sent to Tom Fitton spells out how everything is connected from Ryan White’s info,” the note reads. “Fitton was contacted after conferring with Ms. Sidney Powell.”

The three-page letter from Whalen to Fitton is dated May 30, 2019. By June 2019, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn had retained Powell as counsel to represent him in his federal criminal case for allegedly lying to the FBI. The previous fall, Powell had attended a conference in Dallas to drum up support for Flynn and build a public case that he was being unfairly prosecuted. Among other guest speakers were Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who now faces a charge of seditious conspiracy for his role in the attack on the US Capitol; and Scott Bennett, a former military contractor who joined “Team America” in Washington DC in November 2020 to perform “election analytics” while working in concert with Powell and Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney.

Wood, who is currently feuding with Powell, recently posted a screengrab from an October 2019 text message exchanged between White and Powell.

“John, do not use my name as any kind of verification,” Powell wrote to White, according the screengrab shared by Wood. “I have not reviewed anything and I have to be very careful with everything.”

Later, as rioters overwhelmed the US Capitol, Wood would allude to his knowledge of Whalen’s correspondence with the Judicial Watch president, tweeting a demand that Fitton “release the letter you received regarding the murder of Seth Rich” and “explain why you did not expose the TRUTH.”

Tweet published by Lin Wood on Jan. 6, 2021Screengrab of tweet retrieved from Internet Archive

‘He’s willing to testify’

In April 2018, White sat for a videotaped interview in Baltimore with Matt Couch, Frank Whalen and an attorney named Ty Clevenger. White told the men that Rod Rosenstein, who was the US attorney for the Maryland district at the time he had been prosecuted for possession of ammunition by a prohibited person and healthcare fraud, had been running a “dirty trick team.” Rosenstein was promoted to deputy attorney general in April 2017 while White was serving his sentence at FCI Allenwood in White Deer, Pa.

White also told the men that a DEA special agent — the same individual, as it happened, who was involved in an earlier bust on state charges of narcotics possession in 2009 — was Rosenstein’s “enforcer.”

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White claimed during the interview that Seth Rich’s assailants took a “flash drive” from him. The assertion was tantamount to dynamite for the host of right-wing conspiracy theorists pushing against mainstream press stories about the involvement of Russian agents in the Democratic National Committee breach; those press accounts would be vindicated three months later when a federal grand jury indicted 12 officials in a unit of the Russian intelligence agency GRU for hacking into the computer network at the DNC and stealing emails.

Around the time of the indictments, White spoke as a “witness” using the alias “Luke” at a press conference hosted by lobbyist Jack Burkman. Frank Whalen also attended the press conference.

Couch did not attend, explaining to his followers that he was still recuperating from a recent hospitalization, but he vouched for White in a podcast that immediately followed.

In contrast with his later pronouncement on Jan. 6, 2021 that there was “zero evidence” White’s claims had anything to do with Seth Rich’s murder, Couch told his followers in July 2018: “He’s willing to testify. He’s willing to go to the Department of Justice. He’s willing to go to the House Intelligence [Committee]. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the truth out on what he knows. It’s now on our congressional members. And it’s now on members of the Department of Justice to step forward and do something about this.”

Responding to one his followers who posed a message in the chat, Couch said, “No word from House Intel at all.” His response implies that the House Intelligence Committee, then chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), had not expressed interest in hearing from White.

Clevenger, the attorney who took part in the April 2018 interview with White, told Raw Story in unequivocal terms that White’s claims are not credible.

“What a fraud,” he said. “I wouldn’t trust that guy further than I could throw him.

“Nothing about this guy’s story checked out,” he added. “I don’t know if he’s a habitual liar or a pathological liar, but he’s a prolific liar.”

White could not be reached for comment for this story.

In his podcast in July 2018, Couch suggested his life was in danger because of the information he had received from White and other sources, and that he was sharing “video depositions” with trusted friends as an insurance policy. Among them was Joe Biggs, who had recently worked as a correspondent for the conspiracy theory hub InfoWars, which is headed by Alex Jones. Biggs is currently in jail facing a federal conspiracy charge as part of a cohort of Proud Boys leaders involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.

“So, if something happens to me or something happens to my team, that information and all these video depositions, everything will be released in its entirety,” Couch said. “Joe Biggs is my boy. He’s getting a copy of it.”

‘The earth may just shatter from the magnitude of the info’

On the eve of the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, around the time that Lin Wood issued his unexplained tweet referencing the double murder of the purported MS-13 members in South Carolina, Ron Watkins, the QANon influencer, began stoking interest in what he promised would be a stunning disclosure.

Tweet published by Ron Watkins at 9:38 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2021.Screengrab of tweet retrieved from Internet Archive

“MOAB MOAB MOAB,” he tweeted cryptically at 9:38 p.m. on Jan. 5. “Three. Soon.”

“Loading up MOAB,” he wrote at 9:55. “1/3.”

Again, around 11:26 p.m., Watkins, who was not in Washington, DC on Jan. 6, primed his followers.

“Hope everyone is staying safe out there in DC,” Watkins tweeted. “Am currently working on the biggest drop of my life. Not sure if I will be able to get it out tonight or not, but doing my best to stay the course. If I get it out tonight, the earth may just shatter from the magnitude of the info.”

Meanwhile, a story entitled “At the highest levels” would be posted in three installments in the early morning hours of Jan. 6. The author was Neon Revolt, another well-known QAnon influencer, who would later be outed as Robert Cornero Jr., a failed screenwriter.

Foreshadowing Pence’s refusal to intervene in the electoral count by setting aside the Biden votes from six swing states, the author promised to “reveal corruption, and contempt for the American people at the highest levels,” while insisting that “the future of the Republic now hangs in the balance.”

Directly addressing the Trump supporters expected to assemble in the hours ahead, the author wrote, “I also sincerely hope that everyone Marching and demonstrating in DC today takes the time to read this and inform everyone around them about this series, as you will not know what to do unless you read them.”

The article then pivoted to the Seth Rich murder hoax. It was illustrated by the sixth page from the 920-page dossier, a printout from a website memorializing the two men fatally shot in South Carolina in the summer of 2016.

Part 2 further confirmed White as the source of the extraordinary claims of government betrayal in the series by linking to a memorandum by a federal judge declining White’s motion to vacate his conviction.

“And yes, this is the same case Lin Wood referenced on Twitter earlier,” the author confirmed in Part 2.

Part 2 also directly referenced the “920-page document” and re-published a redacted version of Whalen’s three-page letter to Tom Fitton at Judicial Watch, with Whalen’s name blacked out.

The 2019 letter includes an assurance from Whalen that “from the time I came into contact with White he has never lied to me about any of the connections or facts that I have been able to corroborate.”

Whalen’s letter also includes the dubious assertion that Rosenstein enlisted two federal agents to retrieve a thumb drive from Seth Rich, and that one of the agents pointed Rich out to two MS-13 members and put them up to robbing him. The following day, according to the claim, the agent met the two MS-13 members at the shopping center in South Carolina and shot them dead.

Whalen disavowed any involvement with the Neon Revolt article.

“I never had anything to do with Neon Revolt or any of that stuff,” he told Raw Story.

The first paragraph of Part 3 signposted a betrayal by Congress that would come to life in the hours ahead when Trump supporters erected a gallows outside the Capitol and roamed the halls threatening to detain lawmakers.

“Cowards in Congress, and across the GOP?” the author wrote. “Is anyone surprised by this? Sadly, I don’t think so. In a strange way, we’ve almost all come to expect the men and women in congress to collapse and fail us, each and every time.”

Citing White as the source, the author accused Rosenstein of setting out to undermine Trump so that Pence could be president and Rosenstein could continue “his treasonous dalliances in selling intelligence to foreign powers.”

The article closed with a proclamation in bold type: “I hereby call for the immediate arrest of Michael Richard Pence, 48th Vice President of the United States, for Treason.”

Then, addressing Trump supporters directly, the author wrote: “Patriots — you are all in DC for a reason. Make it count.”

‘Pence must resign & thereafter be charged with TREASON’

Whether the Neon Revolt series was the “MOAB” Watkins had promised or not, shortly before 7 a.m. on Jan. 6 he tweeted a link to Part 1, along with a photo of Seth Rich and an excerpt indicating that a federal agent hired MS-13 members to shake him down.

Spaced about two hours apart, Watkins tweeted out links to Part 2 accompanied by a photo of Rosenstein and Part 3 with a photo of Pence, each quoting text from the story.

Watkins, who is running for Congress in Arizona, could not be reached for this story.

Lin Wood, in turn, retweeted each of Watkins tweets linking to the Neon Revolt series. For Part 1, Wood offered an endorsement: “Ron @CodeMonkeyZ is a truth-giver. When he speaks, listen carefully.”

Tweeting out the last two stories in the trifecta, Wood turned his attention to Rosenstein and Pence. In his tweet sharing Part 2, Wood wrote, “Rod Rosenstein. A name that will live in infamy.”

For Part 3, he declared, “Now my Followers will understand why I previously suggested that Mike Pence… should be charged with treason. Pence is a TRAITOR.”

Lin Wood tweet published at 10:50 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2021.Screengrab

Wood confirmed in an email to Raw Story that his use of the term “traitor” as well the term “child molester” was “based on McGreevey’s [White’s] information regarding Pence’s role with Rod Rosenstein in 2017 in efforts to create a fake Russian hoax scenario to wrongfully oust” Trump.

“I met in person with Jon McGreevey and based on my 40+ years as a trial lawyer, I made the judgement that he appeared to be a credible whistleblower whose accusations merited investigation by law enforcement and the media,” Wood told Raw Story.

Byrne, the former Overstock.com CEO who was a major financier of the efforts to overturn the election, tweeted out a link to Part 2, the installment that drew the most heavily on White’s claims.


In an email to Raw Story, Byrne declined to say how he obtained the material.

Tweet published by Lin Wood on Jan. 6, 2021Screengrab of tweet retrieved from Internet Archive

Culminating his series of tweets sharing the Neon Revolt articles, Wood insisted: “MUST BE DONE LIST before Congress meets today: 1. Mike Pence must resign & thereafter be charged with TREASON. 2. Rod Rosenstein must be arrested & charged with being an accessory to murder & TREASON. 3. Chief Justice John Roberts must RESIGN.”

Among promoters of the election fraud claim on Twitter, Wood was almost unrivaled at the time. A study by the Social Technologies Lab at Cornell Tech found that Wood was retweeted 1.3 million times between Oct. 23 and Dec. 16, 2020, second only to Donald Trump. (Watkins was retweeted 337,205 times during the same period.)

Wood’s “MUST BE DONE LIST” tweet was retweeted 25,600 times and garnered 62,900 likes over a period of about 14 hours.

Wood told Raw Story that he did not believe at the time and has never believed subsequently that the language in his tweets was likely to inflame Trump supporters.

"Please identify credible witnesses who will state that they were 'inflamed' by my social media comments," he said. "You cannot."

Wood added that he "had whatsoever to do with" the events of Jan. 6, 2021. He added, "Rank agenda-driven speculation has no place in legitimate media reporting.

In August 2021, a federal judge in Michigan sanctioned Wood, along with Sidney Powell, for filing a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election "in bad faith and for an improper purpose." The court rejected Wood's argument that he was not involved in the lawsuit, concluding that he was aware that he had been identified as co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

Judge Linda V. Parker wrote that "plaintiffs' lawyers brazenly assert that they 'would file the same complaints again.' They make this assertion even after witnessing the events of January 6 and the dangers posed by narratives like the one counsel crafted here. An attorney who willingly continues to assert claims doomed to fail, and which have incited violence before, must be deemed to be acting with an improper motive.

"Once it appeared that their preferred political candidate's grasp on the presidency was slipping away, plaintiff's counsel helped mold the predetermined narrative about election fraud by lodging this federal lawsuit based on evidence that they actively refused to investigate or question with the requisite level of professional skepticism — and this refusal was to ensure that the evidence conformed with the predetermined narrative (a narrative that has had dangerous and violent consequences)," Parker continued in her ruling. "Plaintiffs' counsel's politically motivated accusations, allegations, and gamesmanship may be protected by the First Amendment when posted on Twitter, shared on Telegram, or repeated on television. The nation's courts, however, are reserved for hearing legitimate causes of action."

In a public post on Telegram on May 5, Wood described the court's finding that "I was responsible for January 6" as "errant nonsense," adding, "Let's see how that one plays out in the Sixth Circuit."

Lin Wood tweet published on Jan. 6, 2021Screengrab of tweet retrieved from Internet Archive

Continuing to tweet through mid-day on Jan. 6, Wood wrote: “It has been the honor of my life to work with @GenFlynn, @SidneyPowell1 & many courageous Patriots who fought for @realDonaldTruth & TRUTH,” Wood tweeted. Then he commended Ron Watkins and Ryan Dark White.

“@CodeMonkeyZ & @Johnheretohelp are heroes too,” Wood wrote. “Many others will be revealed who helped save our freedom. We the People have all the power.”

Wood, who was not in Washington, DC on Jan. 6, told Raw Story: “My tweets earlier that day related to my genuine belief that the election would not be certified and therefore, we would take our country back.”

Over the course of the afternoon, as law enforcement fought pitched battles with Trump supporters to reassert control over the Capitol, the focus of Wood’s tweets shifted from demanding the arrest of various lawmakers seen as a hindrance to Trump’s quest to hold on to power to blaming “antifa” for the violence.

“Propaganda media will falsely blame violence on @realDonaldTrump supporters & freedom-loving Patriots,” Wood tweeted. “Do NOT be fooled. The violence will be actions of Antifa. BLM, & similar Communist groups. Lock them all up. They had their lawlessness fun. Now Rule of Law takes over.”

Wood told Raw Story: “I was dismayed by what happened on January 6. I don’t know if We the People know the full truth about it yet. Only God knows. For us, only time will tell.”

Like Wood, White barely skipped a beat.

In a June 2021 interview, White told far-right podcaster Stew Peters that Jan. 6 was a “setup” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“She had controlled it and she had a lot of help,” White said. “The thing was — now there were FBI agents. There were federal agents all over January 6th. They were all over the place. And they were. One of the persons who corroborated this was there. They set this all up.”

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