As Donald Trump plots a return to the White House in 2025, his past courtship of militant far-right groups — some of whom led the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol — highlights an ongoing threat of political violence in the United States.
Trump has continued to signal to violent extremists since Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. In February, the former president amplified a user on the Truth Social platform who pledged that his supporters will “physically fight for him” to win the Republican nomination while warning that “we Are Locked and LOADED.”
Jacob Glick, a former investigative counsel for the January 6th Committee, told Raw Story it’s largely beside the point whether Trump directly or indirectly coordinated with the militant groups that attacked the Capitol — including, most prominently, leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who have been convicted of seditious conspiracy.
“The scheme is in plain sight,” said Glick, who now serves as policy counsel at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. “The fact is that both Trump’s authoritarianism and the fascistic bloodlust of the militant groups who aligned with him were out in the open. They each saw each other without necessarily communicating directly. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous. That’s how this anti-democratic dynamic has operated throughout history.”
A patch on a tactical vest worn by a Trump supporter at the Jericho March rally reads: "Water boarding is how we baptize the terrorists." Jordan Green/Raw Story
Glick pointed to one particular strand of the Jan. 6 story as exemplifying Trump’s proximity to the militant groups.
Robert M. Weaver, then employed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, co-organized the Jericho March — a series of quasi-religious gatherings attended by a loose coalition of Trump supporters who staged weekly rallies in state capitols that culminated with a major demonstration in Washington, D.C., in December 2020.
The Jericho March helped set the stage for what transpired less than a month later on Jan. 6, 2021.
Texts obtained by the January 6th Committee show that Weaver communicated extensively with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, a featured speaker at the rally, and also received confirmation of Trump’s approval through an undisclosed contact within the Trump camp.
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“What the messages show is a really egregious instance of a pro-Trump political operative serving in the administration at the time who was extremely active in Stop the Steal — welcoming the help of armed extremists and didn’t reject it,” Glick told Raw Story.
A representative for the Trump campaign could not be reached for comment.
Weaver’s collaboration with Rhodes — now among six Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy — represents a “mainstreaming and normalization of political violence” seen in multipleinstances of crossover between political operatives and militants in the runup to Jan. 6, Glick said, adding, “The Jericho March was 1,000 percent in that category.”
‘Let his church roar’
Weaver presented an unlikely candidate to lead the Christian nationalist wing of the election denial movement. It’s a movement that materialized quickly, one bent on keeping Trump in power after 2020 election returns showed the former president losing the electoral vote to Democrat Joe Biden.
A member of the Quapaw Tribe in Oklahoma with a business background in healthcare and employee benefits, Trump had made Weaver part of his administration. Then-President Trump first tapped Weaver to lead the Indian Health Service in 2017. But Weaver withdrew following a report by the Wall Street Journal that indicated his resume inaccurately stated his qualifications.
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Despite being denied the leadership post, which required Senate confirmation, Weaver in July 2020 joined U.S. Department of Health and Human Services staff as an adviser to the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
While other political operatives such as Ali Alexander, Amy Kremer, Felisa Blazek and Tomi Collins began organizing weekly rallies to sow doubt about the result of the 2020 election, Weaver launched a similar effort to mobilize Christians and a smaller subset of conservative Jews behind Trump. Weaver teamed up with Arina Grossu, a former Family Research Council spokesperson who was also working at Health and Human Services at the time, to lead what they called the Jericho March.
A self-described “holy roller, speaking-in-tongues” Pentecostal Christian, Weaver recalled during a Dec. 9, 2020, interview with Christian radio host Eric Metaxas that two days after the election he cried out to God in prayer, and then heard a voice telling him: “It’s not over.”
Weaver told Metaxas: “And the vision was of people all over the crowd, shofars blowing. I saw Catholics. I saw evangelical Christians. Charismatic Christians. I saw all kinds of nuns. I saw Jewish rabbis. I saw people praying. The church was united. And I knew that we were supposed to march on the 12th, that God was showing us that. And I knew we were also supposed to go to the contested states, and do the same thing. And it wasn’t just one time. God said to do it every day at noon, so we’ve been doing it since.”
A man holding a pro-Second Amendment flag raises his hand during a praise song at the Jericho March in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 12, 2020. Jordan Green/Raw Story
As described by Weaver and others, the Jericho March was inspired by the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament, in which Joshua, the successor to Moses, leads an army of Israelites who conquer the ancient city of Jericho by marching around it seven times while blowing horns, with the walls crumbling at the seventh pass.
“God had told me that this was about unity,” Weaver said. “He told me to let his church roar.”
On the same day he described his vision to Metaxas, Rhodes added Weaver to the “Dec. 12 DC Security/Leadership” Signal chat, according to the communications which Weaver turned over to the January 6th Committee.
In a separate text obtained by the January 6th Committee, Weaver introduced Rhodes to Stephen Brown, whom the organizers hired to handle logistics for the event, writing: “Steve meet Stewart with Oathkeepers security. Please get with him to work on extra security.” Not only did the Oath Keepers provide additional security for the rally, but Rhodes spoke from the stage during the event.
Responding to news on the eve of the rally that the Supreme Court would refuse to hear a challenge filed by the Texas attorney general, Rhodes launched into a rant in the “Dec. 12 DC Security/Leadership” chat labeling the justices as “compromised or deep state traitors” and calling on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.
“We are at war,” Rhodes wrote. “At war with China and all its American proxies, who are the domestic traitors and insurrectionists. Trump needs to be a wartime president and wage war on our enemies. That is all he has left. If he doesn’t do that, then we will have to fight against an illegitimate Biden regime and all of the deep state with him. It will be a bloody and desperate fight.”
Rhodes' comments on the Signal chat previewed his remarks when he took the stage the next day.
“He had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader,” Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, told the January 6th Committee during a public hearing last July. “And the Insurrection Act would have given him a path forward with that. The fact that the president was communicating, whether directly or indirectly messaging that gave him the nod. All I can do is thank the gods that things did not go any worse that day.”
Trump ‘encouraged by’ Jericho marches
While Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder, was emboldened by Trump’s flirtation with the Insurrection Act in 2020, the Jericho March organizers were able to cite the president’s approval to galvanize supporters. Trump’s benediction was passed down to Weaver through a contact at the White House, his co-organizer told the January 6th Committee.
In a Nov. 10, 2020 Jericho March newsletter obtained by the committee, Arina Grossu wrote: “President Trump is also aware of the Jericho Marches and is encouraged by them.”
One of the staff members asked Grossu how she knew that Trump was aware of the marches.
“So that is a question for Rob,” she responded. “I don’t have — I was not in those conversations or in any of those — I did not have that kind of connection.”
Grossu also told the committee that in the days leading up to the Dec. 12 rally, “there was talk that maybe he would fly over,” and indeed Trump did signal his approval to the rally by flying over in Marine One that day.
President Trump flies over the Jericho March in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 12, 2020. Jordan Green/Raw Story
Again, Grossu said her information came from Weaver.
“Rob would probably know more about details of that,” she said. Grossu said she did not know the identity of Weaver’s point of contact at the White House.
The committee did not depose Weaver, although he did provide documents. Reached by phone by Raw Story last week, Weaver abruptly hung up.
The Dec. 12, 2020, Jericho March event in Washington, D.C. was a pivotal moment in the lead-up to the insurrection, in Glick’s view.
Two days later, the duly appointed electors would meet to cast electoral votes on behalf of their respective states. And in the early morning hours of Dec. 19, following a late-night meeting at the White House at which Trump’s allies urged him to call out the National Guard to seize voting machinery, Trump would summon his supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 with his infamous “be there, will be wild” tweet.
“It’s all of the January 6th story compressed into one disturbing arc,” Glick said. “December 12th was such an important day in terms of proving that model of political-militant coordination can work. They were able to replicate it on January 6th.
“December 12th was also important because Trump flew over the rally,” he continued. “That night D.C. descends into violence. He sends out his tweet a week later. We see Trump witnessing firsthand the violent potential of the Stop the Steal movement on the ground in D.C. Then, a few days later, when his paths to victory are all but closed off, he calls out his supporters again.”
“Be there, will be wild” was only the culmination of Trump’s courtship of militant groups, Glick said.
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“The dynamics are crystal clear in the January 6th Committee report, in the DOJ prosecutions and in public reports,” Glick said. “Trump leaned into the potentially violent power of his base, while he was simultaneously orchestrating multiple illegal schemes to undermine the election. His extreme base followed those cues. They engaged in a call and response that stretched back for months and years before January 6th.”
Trump cultivated militant far-right groups throughout the 2020 campaign.
The former president kicked off his last re-election campaign with a speech in Orlando, Fla. in June 2019 in which he complained that “our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day” as members of the Proud Boys street gang prowled the streets outside the venue chanting, “Pinochet did nothing wrong” in homage to the late Chilean dictator known for extrajudicial execution of political opponents.
Days before a January 2020 Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Va. that attracted militia members, neo-Nazis and conspiracy theorists, Trump tweeted: “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.” As protests against COVID restrictions took shape across the country — including one in which men in tactical gear carried assault rifles into the Michigan state capitol — a couple months later, Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” and, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege.”
During his first debate with Joe Biden in September 2020, Trump infamously instructed the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” And in the closing days of the campaign, he minimized a plot by Three Percenters to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, telling supporters at a rally in Lansing that “people are entitled to say maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t.”
‘2024 is the final battle’
The same contours of desperation that drove Trump’s 2020 campaign are in place again for his 2024 bid.
While Trump is the early favorite to again win the Republican presidential nomination, significant trouble looms for him. The multiplecriminalinvestigations against Trump may only increase the incentive for him to inflame his supporters with appeals to base fears. He will also face a 2024 Republican primary featuring several legitimate, conservative candidates intent on ending Trump’s political career for good.
Recalling that the Trump campaign sought to link civil unrest that erupted during his administration to Biden, Kristofer Goldsmith — a military veteran who leads the anti-sedition group Task Force Butler — predicted that Trump will encourage rioting during the 2024 election in order to inflict political damage on his Democratic opponent.
“Any opportunity he has to inspire a riot, especially in American cities — what are traditionally considered Democrat-controlled areas — he has every incentive to inspire riots, and there are tons of neo-Nazis around the country who are desperate for that kind of permission structure,” Goldsmith said.
While militant leaders such as Rhodes looked to Trump for approval to carry out acts of violence, Trump signaled to extremists at key moments during the 2020 campaign when he needed to energize his base by invoking fears about federal investigations, gun control, urban crime, and pandemic restrictions.
Goldsmith said Trump shows every sign of similarly exploiting anti-LGBTQ hate as the 2024 campaign unfolds.
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“The way that the last two years have gone with the radicalization of the Republican Party and the adoption of legislation specifically targeting, taking away the rights of, and imposing restrictions on the LGBTQ community, I expect Trump to use that,” Goldsmith told Raw Story. “I expect Trump to use the LGBTQ community as a punching bag to further radicalize the Republican Party — to give permission to elements of the far right that have a desire to go out and use violence.”
During a campaign rally in New Hampshire last month, Trump demonstrated how his rhetoric has evolved since he left the White House in January 2021. Specifically, he used anti-LGBTQ language and apocalyptic political imagery to excite his supporters.
“Does anybody really believe what’s going on in this country?” Trump asked. “I will sign a law prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states. And this is what we must do to save our country from destruction. 2024 is the final battle. If we don’t take it over, we’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Far from condemning those who committed violence on his behalf, Trump has offered symbolic support.
The former president glorified the rioters who attacked the Capitol by playing a recording of Jan. 6 defendants housed at the D.C. jail singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a recent rally in Waco, Texas. And last week, during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, Trump said he was inclined to pardon many of those who face criminal charges in the attack. That signaling gives a green light to future violence, Goldsmith said.
“He wants to assure his fascist troops and out-and-out neo-Nazis that he will go to bat for them if they commit violence on his behalf,” Goldsmith said.
Again, as in 2020, Trump is refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of any outcome in the 2024 election that does not make him the victor, while claiming that America’s very nationhood is at stake.
“I’m just telling you,” he said during his campaign rally in New Hampshire last month, “if we allow them to cheat, because that’s the only way they’re going to win the election — if we allow them to cheat again, you’re not going to have a country.”