President Donald Trump’s latest outlandish conspiracy about a “person” he refuses to name having “firsthand” witnessed a commercial flight full of “thugs” and “looters” clad in “black uniforms with gear” may seem ripped directly from an unhinged relative’s Facebook page. But before this bizarre theory was being pushed by the president, another GOP lawmaker was spouting a nearly identical story.
Speaking to pro-Trump outlet Breitbart News over the weekend, House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) brought up the protests outside the president’s RNC speech at the White House last week, which featured demonstrators heckling Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and other attendees as they exited onto the D.C. streets.
“We’re lucky, the other night—I was there at the White House the other night,” Nunes fumed. “We are damn lucky that no one was killed. That was really, really close to somebody being killed.”
The congressman then went on to relay a story that matches closely the tale the president spun to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday.
“So, these people that descended on Washington, D.C., most of them were not local,” Nunes declared. “In fact, I flew in with a bunch of them where I got on a plane in Salt Lake City where I had to commute through and I saw maybe two dozen BLM people.”
Nunes continued: “The irony is they were all white people, they weren’t even Black, but somebody was paying for those people to go there—they were coordinated, paying for that, and then what they did was they were not protesting. This is not protesting when you block the exits of the White House.”
Neither Nunes’ office nor the White House returned a request for comment. But the congressman’s interview with Breitbart represents a type of missing puzzle piece to the mystery of just where Trump got the idea of an antifa plane packed with geared-up looters.
In his interview with Ingraham, the president seemed to add his own details to the story he may have heard bubble up in Trumpworld, suggesting the activists wore matching uniforms and were ready for battle.
“We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city and on the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that,” Trump exclaimed. “They are on a plane.”
Adding that the matter was “under investigation right now,” the president insisted that “they came from a certain city and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention.”
He went on to allege that there were “a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage.”
Reporters asked the president on Tuesday morning if he could expand on “the plot of people gathering on a plane,” prompting Trump to insist he’d heard the rumor from a prominent person.
“I can probably refer you to the person and they could do it,” Trump said. “I would like to ask that person if it was OK. The person on the plane said there were about six people like that person or more less and what happened is the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, rioters—people looking for trouble.”
“The person felt very uncomfortable on the plane,” he added. “It is a person you know. I’ll see whether or not I can get that person to speak to you. This was a firsthand account of a plane going from Washington to wherever and I’ll see if I can get that information for you. Maybe they will speak to you, maybe they won’t.”
Nunes has been extremely churlish with non-conservative media for years now, not only refusing to speak to many news outlets but also filing lawsuits over negative stories about him (he has also threatened to sue The Daily Beast). His lawsuits targeting Twitter over anonymous parody accounts, however, have repeatedly been dismissed by federal judges.
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the president’s story about a “plane loaded with thugs” flying in from out-of-town to cause damage was similar to a debunked viral Facebook rumor that warned of antifa activists being transported in groups to terrorize suburbs. The post claimed “at least a dozen males got off the plane in Boise from Seattle, dressed head to toe in black,” warning Idaho residents to be ready for attacks in “downtown and residential areas.”
Nunes wasn’t the only—or even the first—pro-Trump Republican lawmaker to claim that hordes of well-funded, violent left-wing agitators were shipped in specifically to attack the RNC. After he was accosted by protesters following Trump’s speech, Sen. Paul speculated on Fox & Friends that the demonstrators were “paid” to be in Washington.
“My feeling is there is interstate criminal traffic being paid for across state lines,” huffed Paul, who also called for an FBI investigation. “They flew here on a plane, they all got fresh new clothes, and they were paid to be here. It is a crime to do that and it needs to be traced.”
Following Trump’s Ingraham interview, which sparked immediate online mockery, the Trump campaign shared a clip of Paul’s Fox appearance, seemingly as evidence to back the president’s story.