Lauren Boebert's QAnon pal is running for local office — but isn't legally eligible

A friend and employee of far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert who works as the general manager of Shooters Grill, Boebert's bar and restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, is mounting a campaign for city council even though he does not meet the residency requirements.

This article first appeared in Salon.

According to a series of Facebook posts initially discovered by Salon, Bud Demicell — an apparent devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory —moved to Rifle with his wife Mona late in 2020, not in time to meet the residency requirement for local elections.

On Nov. 13, 2020, Mona Demicell, who worked in Boebert's campaign office employee, posted on Facebook that the couple was "moving to Rifle, CO to work for Lauren Boebert at Shooters Grill!" She added that "Bud's last day with his current employer is next Friday. He'll go to Rifle ahead of us. We're planning to all be in Rifle by Dec 1, but we're having trouble finding a place to live."

That clearly implies that Bud Demicell was not a resident of Rifle on Nov. 2, 2020, the date that would have established residential eligibility for this year's local election. It appears that as of that date, the couple was still living in Pueblo, Colorado, more than 250 miles away.

The City of Rifle website makes clear that any candidate for municipal office must "have resided in the City of Rifle for one year before the date of the election." Additional Facebook posts by both Bud and Mona Demicell confirm that the couple most likely arrived in town on or around Nov. 21 of last year, missing the deadline by less than three weeks.

"We need a place to live!! Preferably in Rifle. 2-3 bed, 2 bath. Pet friendly," Mona wrote on Nov. 17, in a now-deleted Facebook post. "Bud will be there Saturday and couch surf with gracious friends." That date was a Tuesday, so Bud's Saturday arrival presumably meant Nov. 21.

A post from Bud a few weeks earlier, on Oct. 22, featured a photo of a camouflage "Veteran for Trump" hat and stated, "I just finished voting at the polling location in Pueblo West," indicating he was a legal resident in Pueblo as of the 2020 presidential election.

Both of the Demicells, as reported by Salon in September, have ties to both the QAnon movement and the right-wing militia group known as the Three Percenters.

RELATED: Lauren Boebert hired QAnon superfans to run Shooters Grill, staff her campaign office

Demicell didn't return a Salon request for comment for this story, but his campaign website remains live. "Bud's vast business management and financial experience, and his strong leadership skills make him the optimum candidate for Rifle City Council," his site reads. "He believes in leading by example, open lines of communication, complete transparency, and accountability for his actions as well as the actions of others."

Over the past week as Salon began reporting on this matter, a large number of Mona Demicell's Facebook posts were either made private or deleted.

Salon made numerous efforts to contact the Rifle City Clerk's office about Demicell's eligibility but received no response. The local election is less than two weeks away.

Even far-right channel Newsmax is cutting ties with Mike Lindell

As Republicans and denizens of TrumpWorld increasingly distance themselves from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, he even finds himself at odds with Newsmax, a previously supportive far-right news channel.

Last week, Lindell said on his live-streaming site Frank Speech that Newsmax, which increasingly seeks to position itself as a further-right alternative to Fox News, had pulled all its ads from his site. He suggested that Newsmax was concerned about "competition" with Frank Speech, which seems objectively unlikely. A Newsmax spokesperson did not return numerous Salon requests for comment on the reasons for pulling back ads, which might also include the $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Lindell filed by Dominion Voting Systems over his outlandish and largely disproven 2020 election claims.

"We had Newsmax call up, and they canceled all their ads on Frank Speech," Lindell said last week on the nightly program he hosts on his clumsily-engineered site. He turned to co-host Brannon Howse and joked, "I'm blaming this one on you, Brannon [Howse]. They said a different reason. They said you're too much competition for them." Howse also hosts an evening program on Frank Speech that often involves hostile segments about immigrants and praise for Lindell's conspiracy theories.

After an exchange with Howse, Lindell continued: "They said it wasn't because of Dominion, which they [had] proven. They just said they're not going to put ads up because they said it's a competitive brand." It's not clear what Lindell believes Newsmax has "proven" regarding Dominion Voting Systems.

"It's kind of, like, weird," the pillow magnate continued. "I guess it'd be, you know, advertising another station on a station. But, you know, that's too bad because for me this is about saving our country. It's not about any competition with Newsmax or anyone. It's about getting our voices, so we can get the word out."

Howse then pivoted by claiming that Lindell's blundering media operation has a "great relationship" with One America News, more commonly referred to as OAN, and Real America's Voice, the organization that produces Steve Bannon's podcast. There's "a lot of cross-promotion between those networks," Howse said. He and Lindell have claimed that Lindell's primetime show, "The Lindell Report," reaches millions of homes nationwide, which is highly implausible.

"Absolutely," Lindell replied. "He made a bad decision, but, you know, I'm not gonna dwell on it," likely referring to one of his Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, a close friend of Donald Trump's.

Howse concluded by claiming the Newsmax decision was a sign from higher powers that Lindell's media operation is "rising."

Lindell and his legal counsel didn't return a Salon request for comment. He has largely ended communication with Salon after deeming the site "evil" for requesting for the raw data behind his infamous claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

Newsmax's apparent turnabout is something of a surprise. Lindell has previously received vocal support from both Ruddy personally and his entire operation. In August, a Newsmax reporter took to the Manhattan streets outside the Fox News headquarters building, berating the network for refusing to run Lindell's "cyber symposium" ads.

"Here at Newsmax, we believe in a good night's sleep, so we're running that ad," Newsmax correspondent Mike Carter said at the time. "And today, we're taking Fox News to the mattresses!"

Virginia GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin was forced to ask white supremacist supporter to leave campaign event

A routine campaign stop for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin turned chaotic on Saturday night after the candidate's team was forced to boot a local Republican leader and apparent white nationalist from the event, causing a scene that a spokesperson called "antithetical" to the Republican hopeful's message.

The incident happened just before Youngkin was slated to give a stump speech to a crowd of "Latinos for Youngkin" at a local restaurant, when campaign officials approached a man, named Fredy Burgos, who was wearing both a red pro-Trump hat emblazoned with "Build the Wall" and a pin promoting white nationalist and Unite the Right rally attendee Nicholas Fuentes.

Burgos is a longtime far-right activist and former local Republican party official who made waves during the Trump years with a series of bombastic statements that earned him plenty of enemies in local conservative circles. The Washington Post, reporting on a 2018 drive to oust him from his post on the Fairfax County Republican Party committee, wrote that he was a "verbal bomb-thrower whose attacks against Muslims, immigrants and others have turned off moderates."

He even appeared alongside several of Fuentes' white nationalist followers — known online as Groypers — at a Loudoun County School Board meeting recently, which has become a local flashpoint in the nationwide right-wing campaign to ban anti-racist lessons in public schools.

As Saturday's Youngkin event was getting underway, Burgos, who sported a thick mustache and vintage suit vest for the occasion, made a short-lived walk around the inside of the venue, only to be forced out after Salon inquired about his pin and associations.

Notably, Burgos said he only became a Youngkin supporter recently, after Virginia state Senator-turned-"toxic [Youngkin] surrogate"

(Photo: Zachary Petrizzo/Salon)

Despite Burgos being booted from the event Saturday, he told Salon he remains a steadfast supporter of the candidate and that he hopes to appear at future rallies.

"I'm a supporter of the ticket," Burgos told Salon after being removed from the "Latinos for Youngkin" event. "They are concerned about the [Build the Wall] hat. I think that they have a problem thinking that other people may have a problem with the hat."

(Photo by Zachary Petrizzo/Salon)

Asked about his white nationalist pin, Burgos added, "I support the America First movement."

"I believe that we need to put the interest of the American people and America First on every issue."

In a subsequent statement to Salon, a Youngkin campaign spokesperson said Burgos, who told Salon he has attended numerous other campaign events without incident, espoused beliefs "antithetical" to the candidate's message of unity.

"At today's Latinos for Youngkin event, a Salon reporter informed a staffer of an attendee's pin that associated the attendee with [an] element of the white nationalist movement. The white nationalist movement and those associated with it are entirely antithetical to tonight's event — to celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage Month and the Latinos for Youngkin efforts — and Glenn's message to unite ALL Virginians, so the attendee was asked to leave," Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told Salon in a statement. "There will never be room for white nationalism or any form of hatred or bigotry on this campaign."

It's not the first run-in with right-wing extremism for the Youngkin campaign, either: the candidate himself has appeared on former Trump official Sebastian Gorka's radio show. Notably, Gorka found himself in hot water after wearing the pin of a Nazi-linked group to Trump's inaugural ball.

Last week Youngkin also found himself the recipient of high praise from the former president himself during an event in which attendees pledged allegiance to an American flag that supposedly flew over a rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection — a bizarre show of support for the rioters who attempted to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's electoral victory over Trump.

Youngkin later tried to distance himself from the gathering, and the former commander-in-chief, by calling the incident "weird."

It's a delicate needle Youngkin is attempting to thread on the campaign trail — appealing to hardcore Trump supporters by embracing election conspiracies and anti-vaccine sentiments, while simultaneously claiming to hold moderate beliefs.

"Here is what Glenn Youngkin has done, which is brilliant. He doesn't go around talking about November 3rd, but here's what he's done," right-wing radio host John Fredricks, the organizer of last week's flag incident, said during a Thursday morning appearance on Bannon's "War Room" podcast.

"Glenn Youngkin has put together the greatest voting integrity infrastructure in the history of Virgina. He's got the RNC behind it; they have lawyers, they have a hotline, they have this whole thing."

"Obviously, Glenn Younkin believes that the election in 2020 got stolen," Fredricks added.

It's these beliefs that Burgos cited as the reason he plans to continue supporting Youngkin despite being booted from the campaign event Saturday. He even said he planned on attending another Youngkin event later that evening in Northern Virginia.

The controversial 2013 Republican candidate for Virginia House of Delegates did say he might have to leave his hat at home from now on.

CPAC set to stage far-right conference in Hungary -- as federal prosecutors zero in

The American Conservative Union, the conservative grassroots organization that puts on the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, is taking its tested model for hosting right-wing gatherings to the authoritarian nation of Hungary.

CPAC events have been held in various foreign countries over the years, but there is an unmistakable significance to staging one in the country ruled by right-wing despot Viktor Orbán, who has many fans among American conservatives and Trump supporters.

In a statement to Salon, CPAC's acting communications director, Regina Bratton, acknowledged that the event is scheduled for late March of 2022 in Hungary, saying the organization hopes it will be a "huge success."

"International CPAC in Tokyo" launched five years ago, Bratton said. "Since then, annual conferences have been added in Australia, Brazil and South Korea. There are plans for a CPAC Israel, and now organizers in Hungary who are passionate about protecting freedom have announced plans to host a future event," she continued. "The battle for freedom is the same in America as it is around the world. It is a battle against socialism."

Yet CPAC organizers also appear to be distancing themselves somewhat from the Hungarian event, which Bratton later said in a phone interview was not "an official CPAC conference" and was not being "put on by our organization here in the Washington, D.C., metro area." She described the sponsors of the Hungary conference as "an outside organization" comprised of "freedom-loving people" in that country. CPAC "was very happy the [Hungarian] government is allowing this to happen in their country," Bratton said.

Asked about the relationship between the CPAC sponsors in Hungary and the American Conservative Union, Bratton was not specific, saying only, "I don't believe they are a subsidiary of CPAC."

Although the relationship between ACU and the Hungarian CPAC event remains unclear, a former ACU employee told Salon the attempt to draw a distinction was largely cosmetic, and that the Hungary gathering had been on the table since before the COVID pandemic. Another individual familiar with planning for the Hungary event told Salon that the ACU has been closely involved from the beginning. An ACU spokesperson declined to comment on these claims.

News of the CPAC event in Hungary was first reported by a Hungarian news site called "," which quoted ACU executive director Dan Schneider saying, "Hungary is an excellent place to host the CPAC. The essence of conservative ideology is to preserve the best old values for everyone," he said, but "liberals are destroying everything traditional with their 'strange ideas.'"

One former ACU chairman, Al Cardenas, told Salon he has no idea why the group is holding an event in Hungary, saying he hasn't "heard of any reason" for the venture.

Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he clearly saw a purpose behind the event.

"It's a threat," he explained, adding that Orbán's party, Fidesz, has "all but eliminated the free press, and have weakened democracy in that country to the point that it can't even be considered a democracy anymore. There is no reason to bring [CPAC] to Hungary unless that is a clear statement that that's what you want to do to the United States."

News of the Hungarian venture comes as ACU and its chairman, Matt Schlapp, reportedly find themselves targets of a federal probe. "Federal investigators are currently looking into possible criminal campaign-finance misdeeds at ACU during Schlapp's tenure," The Dispatch reported last week. "As part of the investigation, the FBI has interviewed former and current ACU employees about the financial dealings of the organization and its leaders."

When asked to comment on the reported investigation, Schlapp said he would respond with a statement. He did not do so before publication of this article.

Accused war criminal's foundation forced to refund MAGA donors angered by his anti-Trump posts

Bitter TrumpWorld donors want their money back after Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, once an outspoken pro-Trump voice opposed to President Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal, apparently turned on his far-right supporters and slammed former President Trump in a Facebook post.

This latest TrumpWorld internal drama began last month when Scheller faced discipline from his Marine Corps superiors after speaking out against his bosses over the Afghanistan withdrawal.

In what became a viral video in right-wing media, on Aug. 26 Scheller said: "People are upset because their senior leaders let them down. And none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, 'We messed this up.'"

Shortly thereafter, the Marine officer lost his post and was briefly jailed for his social media posting, in violation of orders to halt his online activities. On Tuesday afternoon, he was apparently "released from the brig." Throughout the multi-week affair, his parents, Stu and Cathy Scheller, have spoken out, claiming that the Marine Corps told them their son could face "a long prison term."

That's possible: Scheller now faces a series of serious charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including charges of "willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer" and "failure to obey an order."

The right-wing ecosystem roused itself, and financial aid from pro-Trump online forces poured in on Scheller's behalf, directed to his family and legal defense team.

Eddie Gallagher, who was accused of murdering an Iraqi POW in 2017 but later acquitted, stepped in with his Pipe Hitter Foundation, which to date has raised north of $2.5 million on Scheller's behalf. But here's the rub: After Scheller expressed mild criticism of the twice-impeached ex-president in a recent Facebook post, TrumpWorld donors are livid and want their money back.

This donor backlash appears to have been sparked by a Sept. 25 post in which Scheller said, "President Trump. I was told by everyone to kiss the ring because of your following and power. I refuse. While I respect your foreign policy positions, I hate how you divided the country. I don't need or want your help. You do not have the ability to pull [the] U.S. together. You may even win the next election. But your generation's time is running out."

Next Schiller took aim at Donald Trump Jr., the former president's eldest son, stating: "Tell your son to stop tweeting about me. Your whole family knows nothing about [the] U.S. or our sacrifices. I could never work with you. I'd rather sit in jail and be released with a dishonorable [discharge] than make compromises in my beliefs."

Oh my word: Trumpist donors, by the hundreds, are beside themselves. One donor who identified herself as Barbra wrote: "What a scam artist you are! Worse than BLM last year! Give the money back! Cry baby! You are mental and your kids and wife will suffer. Karma all the way here. You knew damn well what you were doing to prey on people for Money!"

Barbra, by her own account, had given $3. She concluded: "A real Marine doesn't have mommy and daddy crying for him!"

Gallagher and his Pipe Hitter Foundation didn't return Salon's request for comment on this story.

Another anonymous donor wrote: "You and to your family [sic] are frauds! Tell your parents to cry on the fake news channels. You hate Trump, his kids, and you think he divided this Country? You need help? Tell your loser family this E9 said [to] go to hell."

"Yes, I am making the MINIMUM $3 donation to let everyone else know to look you up before they consider any $$ support for you," another disgruntled donor wrote, in an apparent effort to warn away other Trump supporter.

Another unhappy donor named Gretchen Smith wrote, "I sent Pipe Hitter an email for a refund of my $52.23 on 10/05/21."

"How dare you disrespect President Trump," wrote Marc. "Please refund my earlier donation. If the election wasn't stolen, you wouldn't be in jail right now because Trump would NEVER have allowed it. Thanks for your service, but maybe it's your big mouth that's causing all your issues."

Since Scheller went rogue with his anti-Trump comments, Gallagher's organization has been tasked with issuing refunds to angry Trump supporters who had initially flocked to the cause.

"We have been working all day today in giving people their money back, if they are asking for it," Gallagher told Steve Bannon on his "War Room: Pandemic" podcast earlier this week. "It's understandable," the former Navy SEAL added.

Gallagher insisted his foundation would not back down from supporting Scheller and his family, despite the backlash from Trump loyalists: "We are going to continue to raise money for them and help them out." How that will be received remains to be seen.

Mike Lindell's new genius plan: Knock on your door and ask whether you're dead

After numerous failed attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, now-infamous pillow mogul Mike Lindell has a new plan of sorts: He's begun meeting with Republican lawmakers in deep-red states and plans to send out door-to-door canvassers aiming to prove the election was faked.

Josh Merritt, a former member of Lindell's "red team" at his August "cyber symposium" in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, told Salon that Lindell is funding a last-ditch door-knocking effort based on rumors that there are many "phantom voters" — people who have died or moved away — on official rolls. This claim is not new, and has been thoroughly debunked.

Merritt added that Lindell is "targeting areas of question based off info from guys like Dr. Douglas Frank and Seth Keshel." Frank and Keshel are two of Lindell's close associates, who have pushed a variety of baseless claims of voter fraud on the pillow tycoon's behalf over the past year.

In a recent video appearance by Lindell on his Frank Speech website, he discussed why he believes the canvassing effort is important, albeit in his usual tangled grammar and disrupted syntax. "We are in a race here, how much damage they can do before we get this election pulled down," he said last week.

"I want to show everybody with the — with the data in the packet captures —all the stuff we had. What we did over five months, everybody I extrapolated, we had the cyber experts extrapolate that into numbers that we can read into real data. I want to do an example." Telling an assistant to "pull up" a graphic display, "I want to tell everybody the conversation I had with North Dakota today. Well, first of all, for about a month and a half now, you guys, I've been going to the red states. I've been going to your Missouris. Your Alabamas. I'm in Florida right now."

Exactly what Lindell has been doing in "your Missouris" and "Alabamas" is unclear. Continuing with his monologue, the pillow kingpin declared he now has the "real numbers" from the 2020 election after funding canvassing exercises in numerous states.

"What happened was, all of the ground people, people on the ground, just patriots out there [were] telling their legislators and their governors to meet with Mike Lindell's team," he continued. "'Let him show you the evidence.' So we met with these guys, and we show[ed] them that it happened in their state; you get to Missouri, they go, 'Oh, it didn't happen here.' Alabama, 'Oh it didn't happen here,' and then you show them a county, and you show them the evidence of that county, then you go canvass. You do a canvassing, and now you've got real numbers."

This quest for "real numbers" through door-to-door canvassing efforts does not seem to square well with Lindell's previous claims about his supposed "packet captures," which he has repeatedly said would eliminate any need for audits or canvassing and would deliver all the proof one would ever need that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election.

Lindell and members of his alleged voter fraud team didn't return Salon's request for comment on this story.

Salon was unable to track down any Arizona or Missouri voters who had been personally contacted by Lindell's team. It's certainly possible that voters in those or other states had no idea who was knocking on the door or why.

Lindell seems to think the canvassing efforts are yielding startling results, claiming in a recent broadcast that after the canvassing, an unknown official in a "red state" asked him: "How did dead people vote? How did non-residents vote?"

In recent days, Lindell has not mentioned a deadline for Trump's "reinstatement" as president, which he does not seem aware is a constitutional impossibility. Last month he suggested his still-nonexistent legal case might reach the Supreme Court before Thanksgiving, while also claiming that the U.S. government has attempted to kill him and repeatedly contradicting his own legal arguments in the $1.3 billion civil lawsuit filed against him and various other election-truthers by Dominion Voting Systems.

Trumpers stand up for Kyrsten Sinema -- suggest bathroom protesters should be 'deported'

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., found herself the recipient of some unwanted attention over the weekend, as the "centrist" senator continues her apparently intractable opposition to President Biden's legislative "Build Back Better" agenda.

In a video posted to Twitter on Sunday, young activists with the organization Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) confronted Sinema outside a classroom at Arizona State University, where she has taught classes since 2003.

The video captures the senator stating, "Actually, I am heading out," and locking herself into a bathroom stall as hecklers pepper her with remarks from the bathroom's entryway.

Following the sound of a flushing toilet, an activist speaks up, arguing they are holding her "accountable."

"We need to hold you accountable to what you told us, what you promised us that you were going to pass when we knocked on doors for you," the activist who identified herself as Blanca says. "It's not right!"

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A Sinema spokesperson didn't return a Salon request for comment about the confrontation. In a statement released on Twitter, however, Sinema said the bathroom encounter "was not legitimate protest."

"It is unacceptable for activist organizations to instruct their members to jeopardize themselves by engaging in unlawful activities such as gaining entry to closed university buildings, disrupting learning environments, and filming students in a restroom," her statement added.

Right-wing media quickly seized upon the unlikely task of defending a Democratic senator against people who (very likely) voted for her.

Coup-crazed former Trump adviser Steve Bannon suggested that the progressive activists who confronted the senator might have been "Illegal aliens."

"By the way, no illegal aliens vote in Arizona. They are bragging about it," he added Monday morning on his podcast. "Out there, they're stalking Sen. Sinema and bragging about how they organize and vote out in Arizona. Just saying."

"Watch — Leftist Protesters Stalk, Harass Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a Restroom," the far-right Breitbart site flashed on its homepage early on Monday. The conservative blog RedState asked its readers a rhetorical question: "Did Leftists Who Stalked and Filmed Sinema in the Bathroom Commit a Crime?" (The answer would almost certainly be no.)

Stephen Miller, the former speechwriter and adviser to Donald Trump, who has often expressed an affinity for white nationalist views, also took up Sinema's cause, expanding on Bannon's illogical views.

"An illegal alien is stalking a US Senator to demand passage of Biden's reconciliation bill [because] it includes mass amnesty for illegals," he tweeted, citing the ruckus on the Arizona State campus. "In a functioning democracy, ICE would swiftly deport this person, but under Biden's new edict (as the lawbreaker knows) she's immune from removal."

"Did we #DeportBlanca yet?" former Trump official Steve Cortes asked aloud on Twitter.

On Monday afternoon, President Biden said the Sinema protesters' actions were "not appropriate," but observed shortly thereafter that such events are "part of the process."

"I don't think they're appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody," the president said from the White House. "The only people it doesn't happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them. It's a part of the process."

Mediaite's Dan Abrams hopes to chip away at CNN and Fox News — with pro-cop agitprop

ABC News legal analyst and media mogul Dan Abrams is a powerful guy, with his fingers in many pies, even once owning a stake in an upscale Greenwich Village restaurant. But his latest launch, the primetime NewsNation cable show "Dan Abrams Live," takes a peculiar tack: Rather than "speaking truth to power," in the journalistic cliché, it centers around protecting some of the most powerful people in our society: police officers.

Abrams' new show appears drenched in deep and unconditional love for those who wear the badge. One promotional ad I heard recently on the Washington, D.C., Metro goes like this: "You know, too often the media ignores the everyday heroics of police. That changes on NewsNation."

During his debut episode on Monday night, Abrams said: "As a regular feature of the show, we will be highlighting police work and some of the incredible and dangerous situations officers deal with every day." And over the next two broadcasts on Tuesday and Wednesday, the former host of "Live PD" on A&E — a highly-rated show that was pulled from the air after filming an incident in which a Black man was killed by police — continued to carry copious amounts of water for cops. On Monday, Abrams was joined by former Tulsa police sergeant Sean "Sticks" Larkin, a regular talking head from the A&E show.

Strategically and in every other way, this seems odd. Why is a politically "moderate" cable news show — yes, it's being billed that way — advertising heavily in the diverse D.C. metro area with a message that police officers are role models too often railroaded by more mainstream news outlets?

I emailed Abrams this week with these and other questions about his new program and, more specifically, his particular affection for policing.

In one email, I asked him about the perception that BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) Americans are unjustly killed by police at disproportionate rates, and how he squares that with a show focused on the good-faith acts of cops. Wouldn't a "moderate" cable news show hold those with power accountable?

Abrams ultimately requested that I run both my questions and his answers in full for "fairness and completeness," something I hadn't agreed to in advance. I've done my best to accommodate that in good faith.

He responded to that question by writing that "uniformly demonizing police is a scourge I hope to combat" on his show:

I appreciate the transparency about your viewpoint in the question so I hope you will appreciate my response in the same vein. I believe one of the greatest sins journalists can commit is to feign objectivity, so your willingness to make your poition on the matter clear and unambiguous, is refreshing. You seem to be suggesting that "BIPOC Americans" are being "murdered" by police on a regular basis with just the "occasional good faith" police officers doing their jobs. This, in my opinion, shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what police officers do and are supposed to do, every day. In fact, part of the purpose of this show is to present far more accurate and complete portrayals of policing in America. Police reform is important and police officers who commit crimes must be held to account, but uniformly demonizing police is a scourge I hope to combat.

In response to my question about accountability and police misconduct, Abrams said he won't avoid the topic. "I will certainly be covering police misconduct and the accompanying trials when appropriate. This show is not, however Salon TV," he wrote. "It is entirely within your discretion to solely focus on police misconduct, but that is not what I will be doing. I hope that answers your question."

As full disclosure, I worked for the site Mediaite, which is owned by Abrams, for more than a year, from January 2020 to March 2021. I have never met him in person, and had never previously communicated personally with him before our email exchange over the past week.

Abrams' show has yet to capture the attention of major media reporters, and may remain an oddity on the cable landscape. It's unclear why pro-police viewers would pick "Dan Abrams Live" over the known right-wing propaganda enterprises at Newsmax and Fox News, and even less clear why liberals or "moderates" who traditionally watch CNN would do so. Indeed, recent cable news history would seem to back that up such an assertion. When former Fox News host Shepard Smith moved to CNBC, his attempt to brand a "moderate" cable news show was a "high-priced flop."

At the moment, NewsNation averages around 100,000 viewers daily, according to publicly available cable news ratings, making the channel barely visible relative to Fox News and CNN, and even behind CNBC and Newsmax TV as well.

Asked about the difficulty of pulling audiences away from the cable news behemoths, Abrams said: "Yes, it's an uphill battle because I do think people are stuck in their echo chambers. But I certainly hope we will be able to break through, because the vast majority of Americans identify themselves as moderates."

Lauren Boebert claims she's not a QAnon believer — but the cult-loving couple she hired as key employees are

In public, Rep. Lauren Boebert has attempted to distance herself from the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, at least since she entered politics. Yet, she has personally hired QAnon adherents to manage her restaurant and work in her Colorado campaign office.

In November 2020, just after Boebert was elected to Congress, QAnon follower Mona Demicell shared on Facebook that she and her husband Bud, a fellow QAnon adherent, were moving to Rifle, Colorado, to work for the incoming congresswoman. Bud Demicell is now the general manager of Shooters Grill, while Mona does accounting for the restaurant and also works in Boebert's campaign office next door.

According to Mona's Facebook post on Nov. 13, 2020, Bud was due to arrive in Rifle from the couple's hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, on Nov. 21 — a distance of nearly 300 miles — and would be "couch surfing" until Mona and their son arrived in the area. Less than a week later, Shooters Grill updated its Facebook profile picture with a staff photo that included Bud Demicell (back row, left) as well as Boebert's mother, Shawna Bentz. A few months later, the Demicells began renting a home in Rifle that was listed for $1,750 per month.

Both Bud and Mona Demicell have posted on social media numerous times in support of QAnon, and have reposted conspiracy-laden messages from self-appointed "master Q comms decoder" David Reinert. For example, one Reinert post later reposted by Bud, who now runs Shooters Grill, featured 27 images that attempted to tie Donald Trump's social media posts together into a meaningful narrative, or what Reinert calls a "marker."

"Possibly the biggest post to date," it read. "Go slow. Follow the trail. The last BOOM will be Magical. MARKER."

That very same month, Bud reposted another of Reinert's messages, which read as follows:

Who funds it?
George Soros.
When did they start?
During OBAMA's Crime Spree.
What is the plan?
Can you hear me now?
Who is Barack Hussein Obama…Really?
"You'll find out."
The people "hero worshipping Obama are going to be in for the shock of their lives.
That is if they're able to break their programming.

Travis View, a QAnon researcher and co-host of the "QAnon Anonymous" podcast, said that Boebert has carefully avoided embracing the conspiracy theory too obviously.

"Lauren Boebert has always tried to maintain some distance between herself and QAnon," View told Salon. "For example, in July of 2020, she tweeted that 'QAnon = fake news' and that she's 'not a follower.' However, as evidenced by her willingness to appear on a QAnon show, her statement that she 'hopes' Q is real and her closely associating with QAnon followers, she at very least appears to be cozy with the QAnon community."

Boebert didn't respond to a Salon request for comment on this story.

In July 2020, Bud Demicell attended a protest at the Christopher Columbus statue in Pueblo along with several Proud Boys and the FBI-listed "outlaw" motorcycle gang, Sons of Silence. That protest turned violent and Demicell allegedly "put a revolver" to the stomach of an "antifascist" activist.

Now Bud Demicell is running for Rifle City Council. His campaign website boasts that his "vast business management and financial experience, and his strong leadership skills make him the optimum candidate for Rifle City Council." In 2018, the Demicells discharged almost $60,000 in debts through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding.

According to a 2016 filing, Bud Demicell was an assistant manager at a Walgreens store in Pueblo, earning $20,000 a year, while Mona Demicell was unemployed and receiving $16,000 in disability. Additional FEC filings show Mona as disabled. According to Boebert's recent financial disclosure, Shooters Grill lost $226,234 in 2020 and $143,233 the prior year, raising the question of how she manages to keep her employees on the payroll.

Mona, who now works both at Shooters and in Boebert's campaign office, was thanked by name by Boebert in a November 2020 press release for "organizing, calling voters, distributing yard signs, attending rallies and volunteering to do all that made this a true grassroots campaign. I can never thank them enough for all they did to support my campaign, but I'll sure try. Thank you!"

In the months and years leading up to that, Mona repeatedly expressed her enthusiasm for the QAnon conspiracy theory, which falsely alleges that Democrats and prominent liberal celebrities are running a secret child sex trafficking ring. In July of 2020, she tweeted a reply to Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, "#wwg1wga #TheBestIsYetToCome #LaurenForColorado." A month later, Mona simply posted a large Q logo and in May of 2020, she tweeted, "Welcome to the 'alt-right, nut-job, conspiracy group'!! You're in excellent company! #wwg1wga." (That abbreviation stands for the QAnon slogan, "Where we go one, we go all.")

In August of 2019, Mona posted a large QAnon logo to Facebook along with the caption, "Let's take notice of our fellow Patriots! Let's get the Q memes going and shout-outs where yall are from! Get some popcorn and enjoy the show! God bless! And remember...! WWG1WGA!!!"

Also, in August of 2019, Mona replied on Facebook to a post about the QAnon Code of Ethics. "I barely go [sic] the very general basics before Polis petition hit. Now I can't keep up with it! Sept 6th — back to Q." Mona has also posted memes relating to the right-wing militia group known as Three Percenters, along with other QAnon related content.

A month earlier, Mona posted a tweet from the user @StormIsUponUs (a QAnon reference) to her Facebook page with the hashtag "WWG1WGA." That specific post, reflecting a reality-proof immersion in the QAnon worldview, reads: "These blackouts in major cities are likely white hat EMP attacks to disable the security measures of hidden enemy facilities as part of ongoing raids by federal law enforcement in the wake of Epstein's arrest. We have never seen anything like this. #TheStormIsHere."

In May 2020, Boebert told a right-wing podcast, "Everything that I've heard of Q, I hope that this is real. Because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values." In that interview, Boebert attributed her knowledge of QAnon to her mother, but in an October 2020 interview with FOX21, she denied that she or her mother were QAnon followers. "I'm not a follower of QAnon," she said. "My mom is not a supporter of QAnon, she just talked to me about it one time."

In June this year, Mona Demicell replied to a post on Facebook by saying, "Love our Lauren Boebert and her sweet momma, Shawn Bentz!!"

Jen Psaki slams Newsmax reporter for yelling questions after briefings end

White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki has apparently had enough of Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson's tendency to continue shouting additional questions after White House press briefings have concluded.

On Monday afternoon, near the conclusion of the daily White House briefing — which has become a "circus" of late, according to one veteran White House reporter — Psaki doubled down on the administration's criticism of the "horrific" behavior of some U.S. Border Patrol agents in their handling of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I don't think anyone could look at those photos and think that was appropriate action or behavior or something that should be accepted within our administration. There's an investigation. That's ongoing. We'll let that play out," the press secretary said. "But our reaction to the photos has not changed."

That was the end of the briefing — except apparently not for Robinson, the accredited correspondent for far-right cable news channel Newsmax.

"Thank you, everyone," said Psaki. An unidentified reporter responded, "Thank you, Jen," making clear that the briefing was over.

Robinson kept going, calling out, "I have a question. On the polling. The president's polling continues to collapse ..." but got no further.

"Emerald, I know you like to shout at the end," Psaki responded. "Next time, we'll do it during the briefing."

As Psaki departed, briefing book in hand, Robinson made one more try: "Well, if you'd call on me..."

"Thank you so much," Psaki said on her way out with the door.

For her part, Robinson appeared to be pleased with the aftermath of the encounter when down, responding to a video of the exchange by stating, "223,000 views and counting." Robinson also received words of encouragement from Newsmax primetime host Greg Kelly, who wrote, "WOW! PressSec ("Jennifer") really SUCKS at being PressSec."

Psaki's online fans, who refer to her as "#PsakiBomb," naturally believed she had emerged unscathed. But Monday's minor scuffle highlights a challenge that the White House press office continues to face under Biden: rogue right-wing White House reporters, including some with dubious qualifications.

As Salon reported last week, Psaki and her team have also wrestled with how to handle eccentric Christian White House reporter Matthew Anthony Harper, who does not appear for a reputable news agency of any kind. Nevertheless, Harper continues to call for an investigation into both "upper" and "lower" press officials in the Biden White House, against whom he has made highly unspecific allegations of wrongdoing.

Watch the exchange between Robinson and Psaki below, via YouTube:

Jen Psaki slams Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson over yelling question at end of briefing

A QAnon backer and a former Trump official have gone to war with each other amid doxxing threats

TrumpWorld is having some difficulty maintaining unity at the moment. Cracks in the MAGA coalition have appeared in recent days in the form of a feud between former Trump White House official Sebastian Gorka and QAnon-supporting conspiracy theorist Bill Mitchell.

On Monday afternoon, Mitchell took to the far-right Gab social media platform to air allegations of wrongdoing by Gorka. Mitchell claims the onetime Trump official — sometimes described in Washington as the "The Great Hungarian Snowflake" — wrongfully tarred him with accusations of being a QAnon supporter. (Which by all accounts Mitchell is.)

"Sebastian Gorka accused me of working with Q to dox him. He actually called me on the phone personally to threaten me with legal action. Prior to this, he and I were friends, and I had him as a guest on my show several times," Mitchell wrote. "Of course, this accusation was preposterous. I have never had any connection to Q other than to interview two individuals associated with them, and I most assuredly had nothing to do with doxxing Mr. Gorka."

Mitchell went on to say that Gorka was "using his platform to smear me with blatant lies," adding that he considered suing Gorka for slander, but didn't want to "punch right."

"Regardless, I had nothing to do with his doxxing," Mitchell said. "I am not now, nor have I ever been a part of Q."

Asked for comment Monday afternoon, Gorka would not discuss the right-wing kerfuffle, telling this Salon reporter to "go to hell," while throwing in a profane but peculiar insult. "Are you going to tell me Hunter Biden's laptop are true now?" he asked. That awkwardly phrased question was probably rhetorical since he added that if Salon calls him for comment again, he will "take legal action."

Gorka was still brooding about this brief conversation later in the day, wondering aloud on his afternoon radio show, "How bad is"

Best described as a pro-Trump Twitter reply guy, Mitchell first got some TrumpWorld traction in 2016 by attempting to outdo other Trump fans in lavishing praise on the then-candidate.

"Traces of Mitchell's online presence from before he took his Trump oath of allegiance reveal an exceedingly average middle-aged man," BuzzFeed reported back in 2016. The Twitter pundit turned MAGA social media heavyweight actually alienated some Trump surrogates with his confident claims that Trump was destined to win the 2016 election. "Trump has a 100% chance of winning in November," he wrote on Twitter in September of 2016. That bold prediction proved out, but there was no repeat in 2020, when he was banned from the platform.

Loud and largely content-free disputes appear to be one of Gorka's specialties. Whatever the substance of his personal feud with Mitchell may be, it comes shortly after his attempt to sic his followers on a journalist after being duped by a fake Twitter account.

Kayleigh McEnany goes down in flames after trying to blame Biden for murder spike that happened under Trump

Former White House press secretary-turned-Fox News host Kayleigh McEnany attempted to slam President Joe Biden on Twitter Thursday using a graphic that showed a significant uptick in the U.S. murder rate during the 2020 calendar year.

There was only one problem — Donald Trump was president for that entire time.

In the initial tweet sent out early Thursday morning by McEnany, she quote-tweeted Axios reporter Lachlan Markay, who had featured a New York Times graphic depicting a 20%-plus increase to the number of murders in the United States in 2020.

Despite the obvious time discrepancy, she wrote: "The U.S. murder rate under Joe Biden..."

Shortly after numerous Twitter users pointed out her error, the tweet was deleted.

The data in question originates from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, which outlines the uptick in the number of murders in the United States, highlighting a significant surge in 2020.

The New York Times reports:

The United States in 2020 experienced the biggest rise in murder since the start of national record-keeping in 1960, according to data gathered by the F.B.I. for its annual report on crime.

The Uniform Crime Report will stand as the official word on an unusually grim year, detailing a rise in murder of around 29 percent. The previous largest one-year change was a 12.7 percent increase in 1968. The national rate — murders per 100,000 — still remains about one-third below the rate in the early 1990s.

The data is scheduled to be released on Monday along with a news release, but it was published early on the F.B.I.'s Crime Data Explorer website.

On Thursday afternoon, McEnany tried again, quote-tweeting the graphic and shifting the blame more generally onto Democrats, some of whom are proponents of reallocating resources away from police departments.

"From the White House podium in August 2020, I warned Defund would result in rising crime. Sadly, I was right. Biden you enabled this," she wrote. "Defund, Democrat mayors, you own this!"

Mocking last weekend's pathetic pro-Trump rally is easy -- but the anti-democratic movement behind it is no joke

Last Saturday, a much-anticipated Washington rally organized by a no-name TrumpWorld character was a complete bust, with only 50 attendees showing up to voice their support for Jan. 6 Capitol rioters, who were characterized at the event as "political prisoners."

Yet given that this event fell flat, does that mean that right-wing extremism in the post-Jan, 6 era is still a problem? Researchers who monitor online forums and track in-person far-right gatherings say the answer is simple: Yes.

"We condemn all violence, political violence," former Donald Trump campaign aide Matt Braynard told rally-goers on Saturday — from a stage that was barely a foot off the ground while flanked by a security guard with a singular AirPod. "This is about justice and disparate treatment and equal treatment under the law," he continued, attempting to create a frame of support around at least a few of the people arrested for their activities in or around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Even though this particular rally drew what could generously be considered a lackluster crowd, extremism experts who monitor right-wing ecosystems online and in the real world say the sparse turnout doesn't represent the true scale of the threat posed by right-wing extremism.

Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's DFR Lab, who researches and tracks right-wing social media posts and conversations, told Salon that threat remains "incredibly urgent."

"A small showing at Saturday's event shouldn't be mistaken for a reflection of the far right generally," Holt said. "A lot of the dynamics we saw in play around Jan. 6 have since trickled into state and local politics, where there is often much less scrutiny and fewer resources to effectively address it."

The fact that last Saturday's gathering was a "bust" was "to be expected," Holt said, reflecting "the lack of apparent organizing that we saw happening online before the event."

"This rally ended up getting Matt Braynard a ton of press, raising his profile from a no-name organizer," Holt added. "What he does with this newfound visibility remains to be seen."

Oren Segal, vice president at the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), largely concurred with Holt's analysis, telling Salon that it's important to focus on right-wing extremists in local communities around the nation.

"Whether it's harassing school boards, election officials or health care workers. we need to understand is that the front line against extremist activity and action is probably more local than it's been in a long time," Segal said.

"For years, people thought of an international threat, and more recently, we're thinking about these online spaces that can be very daunting," he continued. "Well, when you see people harassing individuals in your community, when extremists are talking about the need to double down locally, they know, or hope, that eventually will have a greater impact nationally than going to the nation's capital. I think maybe all eyes are on D.C. when all eyes ought to be in local communities to really understand the current extremist landscape."

Two pro-Trump attendees amid the dismal Saturday gathering showed up with flags bearing logos of the "Three Percenter" far-right militia. Yet when asked by Salon about the insignias, the duo claimed to be unaware of what the flags represent.

In a Tuesday afternoon press release, Braynard's Look Ahead America organization announced that it planned to hold another "Justice for J6" rally next weekend at the state capitol in Albany, New York. Why the seat of New York state's government is relevant to this cause — which involves alleged federal crimes committed on federal property — was not made clear.

Eccentric Christian reporter causing headaches for Jen Psaki, White House press corps

White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki has an odd problem on her hands: a longtime White House correspondent from an obscure Christian website — that publishes little or no actual reporting — is raising a fuss over no longer being allowed to enter her personal office whenever he wishes. This previously unreported West Wing drama has led the reporter in question to call for an investigation.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Matthew Anthony Harper, a former chaplain who is the self-appointed White House correspondent for a little-known media outlet called InterMountain Christian News, says his access to administration sources is being restricted. Harper says this started last week, and now claims he is the target of a "harassment" and "intimidation" campaign crafted by White House press assistants.

"A Secret Service person was giving me a hard time, saying I couldn't be there," he told Salon in an interview, referring to Psaki's office. He said the agent told him "that I didn't have clearance," adding that he was "confused about why I'm being banned from this." That incident, Harper said, occurred last Wednesday, Sept. 15.

After that incident, Harper said he now has to travel around the White House press area with an "escort," which he claims no other reporter is compelled to do. Harper does not have a "hard" (i.e., permanent) press pass, and says the White House took this measure as part of a systematic "harassment and intimidation" campaign by the Biden administration over his specific questions about "human rights." He added, "I know they're singling me out."

Harper believes there is only one way to get to the bottom of this convoluted tale: through a broad investigation into alleged White House wrongdoing. He sent what he calls a formal "complaint" by email to Psaki and press office chief of staff Amanda Finney last Thursday, calling for them to investigate their own operation.

"I've had unrestricted access without an escort to the Press Secretary's office for almost 5 years but now after my continuing and challenging Human Rights violation questions, they are giving me this problem," Harper wrote in an email with the subject line "Christian media complaint." He reiterated his claim that a Secret Service officer had given him a "hard time" and barred him from Psaki's office unless he was escorted.

"It's sometimes difficult to get appointments with any press secretary," said longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem, now a columnist for Salon. "You have to do your job and keep working till you get what you need. I cannot fathom that anyone in that press office would just categorically dismiss any reporter." As for the complaint filed by Harper, Karem said it struck him as "inappropriate."

Other established White House reporters who spoke with Salon, as well as other sources familiar with the matter, said that Harper was only recently prevented from "floating" around Psaki's office in the "upper press" area of the White House. That is not customary for reporters without a hard press pass, which Harper does not possess.

Reporters who have attended countless White House press briefings told Salon that Harper has occasionally appeared at Q&A sessions in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. One, however, said they had legitimately never heard of him, while several others said they had never read any of his reporting. Harper also describes himself as White House correspondent for an Israeli news service called Newsrael, which appears to be a small-scale news aggregation blog, with very few articles under his byline.

Harper has been a West Wing mainstay for years, although there is not much evidence that he is a legitimate news reporter of any description. His most memorable moment in the White House may have come in July 2012, when he asked Jay Carney, then-President Obama's press secretary, a somewhat bewildering "spiritual question."

Harper told Salon, "I was very popular with the media that day. That was an electrifying experience."

Other members of the White House press corps said Harper was known for asking oddly specific and seemingly irrelevant questions about Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's former prime minister.

Harper explains his mission at the White House on his LinkedIn page: "In November 2001, I felt God calling me to establish a Christian News Source for our Treasure Valley Idaho/Oregon area beginning with our online 'Christian Resources and Events Directory' which later developed into the Treasure Valley Christian Newspaper and recently into the InterMountain Christian Newspaper covering the states of Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and now Colorado."

Harper describes himself as co-founder, publisher and president of the InterMountain Christian News group. Salon's research could not find evidence of actual reporting or other journalism created by Harper and InterMountain, beyond a large number of amateurish YouTube videos watched by only a handful of people.

Harper apparently first appeared in the White House's briefing room in the summer of 2011. In 2019, during Donald Trump's presidency, he created a minor media moment for his singing in the briefing room.

Last month, Harper got in a question to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

In a video Harper posted last week from the White House, he discussed "the plight of the Uighurs in the Chinese internment camps and those in southern Mongolia and Tibet and also Taiwan that are greatly impacted by the aggression of the Chinese Communist Party," which appears to be the issue he believes has led to his supposed persecution. The video then cuts to Harper inside the briefing room, saying, "I am Dr. Anthony Harper here in the James Brady press room in the White House — so many crucial issues to talk about."

Asked whether he merits a White House press pass given his apparently minuscule audience, Harper responded that he's not at the White House to "win a popularity contest." He admitted his audience "might not be as large as CNN," but said it is "important," and that national news outlets are "promoting" and "playing" his questions lobbed at Biden officials. "One of my questions went viral in Jerusalem," he said.

"There are a lot of Jewish and Christian people in America," Harper continued. "They are really speaking against the Muslim Uighurs issue," Harper added that he has repeatedly asked the White House for comment and has not received a satisfactory answer. "Rare earth elements!" he added, just before the end of the conversation.

On Monday night, Salon learned that Harper has asked fellow members of the White House press corps to "pray" about his West Wing access problems. He said he plans to apply for a hard White House press pass in October, and hopes not to have "any problems with that."

A senior White House official originally told Salon they would comment on Harper's claims, but no response was received before this article was published.

All signs point to bust for D.C. 'Justice for J6' rally as TrumpWorld says 'stay away

WASHINGTON — With officials warning Washington D.C. to brace for potential violence this weekend, all attention turns to a pro-Trump rally slated to occur on the grounds of the United States Capitol Saturday dubbed "Justice for J6," organized by a little-known former Trump campaign aide.

This article first appeared on Salon.

The organizer of the Saturday rally, which is intended to spotlight those who are serving time for participating in the failed insurrection on Jan. 6, is a former Trump campaign aide by the name of Matt Braynard. He also leads the right-wing nonprofit, "Look Ahead America."

A few weeks back, while the rally was in its earlier stages, Braynard told Salon that the event has "a permit," just as two previous events he held in Washington did. Both "occurred without incident," he said.

Braynard furthermore said the goal of the Saturday's event following the deadly Capitol riot is to "raise the profile of the abuse of the non-violent political prisoners" and "demand equal treatment of the 500 plus protestors who are being politically persecuted." He also said he plans to promote the conspiracy theory that the FBI was involved in the planning of Jan. 6.

And though Braynard's ties to Trump are well-publicized, in mid-August he added the rally "is not about the election, about any candidates, about any outside organizations (other than LAA). We are asking everyone who comes to not wear or bring anything with any organization/candidate/party logos. Just the American flag/patriotic symbolism and signs that are on message with the abuse of these political prisoners."

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Despite these assurances, over the past week almost all TrumpWorld royalty has made a point to call on their own followers not to attend the rally in D.C. and distance themselves from the event.

"Do not attend the FBI rally in DC on the 18th," Ron Wakins, the former administrator of 8chan who has long been rumored to be behind the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, wrote on Telegram. Earlier this week, longtime GOP operative Roger Stone also urged all Trump supporters of good faith to stay away from the Saturday rally in D.C. "I don't know a single person in the MAGA movement who's going. It's a setup," he said. "No, patriots, stay away from Washington!"

Even Trump himself called the event a "setup" in an interview with The Federalist Thursday.

"On Saturday, that's a setup," Trump said. "If people don't show up they'll say, 'Oh, it's a lack of spirit.' And if people do show up they'll be harassed."

Though he did signal support for the march's overarching theme in a later statement.

"Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election," Trump wrote in a press release. "In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!"

Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's DFR Lab, who researches and tracks right-wing social media posts and conversations told Salon in a phone interview there isn't any evidence to suggest that the Saturday rally will be a Jan. 6 repeat.

"The fact of the matter is, the Capital Police response to this event has elevated it into something important, regardless of what ends up happening on the ground Saturday," Holt said. "From our analysis, we are not seeing any of the usual tale telltale signs of a mass mobilization towards the Washington D.C. area. We have seen a few passing comments or individual remarks that do suggest that there may be some bad actors that show up to DC, but certainly nothing that even holds a candle to Jan. 6."

That said, The Department of Homeland Security said that there had been a "small number of recent online threats of violence" stemming from the event.

Asked about the remarks made by Stone and others who are not going anywhere near the rally, Holt said it's not in their best interest to aid in such an effort following Jan. 6.

"I think a lot of these groups don't have an interest in coming to DC for this kind of event — that they're willing to put themselves on the line, and particularly in regards to figures like Roger Stone and The Proud Boys, because their name has come up so many times in conversations about Jan. 6."

Holt believes that those pro-Trump figures that have been caught up and/or connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege might be seeking to get out ahead of the rally this time around. "I think they have a little bit of extra motivation to try to get out ahead of it, and put some public distance between whatever does happen on Saturday and themselves," he added.

Despite there being little evidence of a massive rally on the horizon, Capitol Police are taking precautionary measures to ensure things don't get out of hand, including re-assembling fencing around the perimeter of the building. "The decision to put fencing back up around the U.S. Capitol strikes me as perhaps even overly cautious, but I certainly understand where Capitol police are coming from," Holt said.

"They do not want to give the perception or any leeway to suggestions that they are underprepared for this event," he added. "So it strikes me as kind of a better safe than sorry decision."

In a Monday statement, the US Capitol Police outlined that they have been tracking "online chatter about a demonstration planned for September 18," adding that "the Capitol Police Board approved a plan to temporarily put up a fence around the Capitol Building. When the inner-perimeter fence was taken down in July, USCP leaders noted that from time to time, they may exercise the ability to enhance security around the Capitol Complex."

As for Braynard himself, Holt said the former Trump campaign aide lacks credibility in pro-Trump circles, and that turning out a substantial crowd for the event will be a struggle due to a lackluster network of allies.

"Above all, Matt Braynard is a low-rent propagandist. And as far as organizing goes, he simply doesn't have the kind of network on his own that he would need to pull off a really massive event by himself," Holt said. "He's the kind of guy that has to rely on the people that he does have in his network, which includes people like Steve Bannon, to try to get a lot of that work done for him."

On Friday morning, during an appearance on C-SPAN, Braynard argued that there is a lot of "misinformation out there" about the rally and that his organization "condemn[s] all violence," despite advocating on behalf of individuals who committed violence on Jan 6.

A robust and noteworthy police presence and countless dump trucks — acting as barricades — were on scene early Saturday morning in the district. As of an hour before the event, it appeared there were more journalists than attendees present.

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