The prophecy failed in December, in January, and in March. Twice.
But now, claim conspiratorial fans of Donald Trump, the fabled month is finally upon us. In August, some of the most fringe voices in the ex-president’s sprawling universe of followers and adjacent conspiracists still seem to think Trump will be reinstated.
That is, if the conspiracy theory’s author doesn’t reschedule again.
When Trump lost re-election in November, he and some of his more stalwart supporters insisted he would soon be reinstalled for a second term, perhaps following a review of votes (which ultimately confirmed Joe Biden’s victory) or an Inauguration Day military intervention (never happened) or even one of multiple alternate inaugurations in March (also did not happen).
Undeterred, a faction of Trump fans predicted that he would reclaim his throne this month. The baseless theory has piqued Trump’s interest, helped inspire at least two Homeland Security warnings about a heightened risk of far-right violence, and now appears to be driving far-right QAnon voices to connect Trump’s return with the latest coronavirus surge.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Trump fans can trace that latest prophecy not to any legal scholars, but to pillow salesman Mike Lindell. Lindell, the founder of MyPillow, predicted this spring that the 2020 election results would be nullified by, or sometime in, August. When Trump began telling confidantes that he expected to retake office this month, Lindell took credit for the theory, telling The Daily Beast, “If Trump is saying August, that is probably because he heard me say it.”
Reached for comment Monday, Lindell admitted that his August timeline—which he had already suggested was elastic—might now be further delayed.
"We’ll be bringing our findings to the Supreme Court in late August or early September, some time after the cyber-symposium ends, and it proves it was an attack by China,” Lindell told The Daily Beast of non-existent election fraud, and an upcoming event devoted to the same. “When I gave my prediction about August, and that was several months ago, that was an estimate at the time. But it took so long to get this symposium set up. However long it takes for the Supreme Court to take it up and decide on this, I can’t predict that. I’m not the Supreme Court.”
Lindell previously based his prediction on a timeline that involved bringing pro-Trump cases before the Supreme Court in July. Those high-stakes cases never materialized.
But a conspiratorial pro-Trump crowd—particularly fans of the QAnon community—are holding firm to the prediction or devising their own alternatives, offering new reasons to believe this is the month that may see Trump retake the presidency. (A Trump spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment for this story.)
One of those reasons has been Lindell, himself.
The pillow titan is currently advertising that mid-August “symposium” that he claims will reveal Trump to have won the 2020 election. (Lindell has released multiple debunked “documentaries” arguing the same case, including one that required a disclaimer that its contents were “opinions only and are not intended to be taken or interpreted by the viewer as established facts.)
In a recent appearance on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast, Lindell suggested that his latest symposium would be so convincing that Biden might step down voluntarily.
“Once we have the symposium, by the night of the 12th or the morning of the 13th, if everyone has seen it, including the administration that’s in there now that didn’t win, maybe Biden and Harris would say, ‘Hey, we’re here to protect the country’ and resign,” Lindell said. “I’m serious!”
Other, more explicitly QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theorists have melded Lindell’s upcoming symposium with other events that they claim will usher in a new Trump presidency.
Ron Watkins, a former administrator for the QAnon-hosting message board 8kun, posted on Friday that Lindell’s symposium coincided with other mid-August events of interest in the QAnon community, like a test of the nation’s Emergency Alert System. QAnon fans, who accuse Trump’s foes of Satanic pedophilia and/or cannibalism, have previously claimed Trump would use an emergency broadcast system to announce mass-arrests of Democrats. He didn’t.
Watkins and other Q-promoting conspiracy theorists have tinkered with their August theory over recent days, incorporating news stories as they develop. Multiple conspiracy theorists, including Watkins, have pointed to the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant as signs that Democrats were planning mid-August “lockdowns” to distract from voter fraud. (Watkins could not be reached for comment.)
A second QAnon conspiracy theorist with a large audience claimed on Twitter, baselessly, that potential vaccine mandates for military members would help inspire the armed forces to revolt in Trump’s favor this month.
Furthering the theory on Monday, Watkins implied Trump fans were closer than ever to overturning the election. He specifically cited a “whistleblower” release of manuals for voting machines made by Dominion, the company that has sued Fox News and other outlets for falsely implicating it in election fraud conspiracy theories.
As one podcaster quickly noted on Twitter, those manuals were already freely available online.
QAnon fans are used to failed prophecies. Their conspiracy theory began with one, in October 2017, when the anonymous personality “Q” claimed that Hillary Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin would be arrested in coming weeks. When those dates came to pass without arrests, Q implied new blows against the left: arrests or suicides of Democrats which, again, never materialized. QAnon followers offered their own theories, like mass-arrests at George H.W. Bush’s funeral (never happened) and mass arrests on National Popcorn day (also a dud).
When Trump lost in November, Q fans quickly claimed the election results would be overturned in a recount (they weren’t), then that electors would refuse to certify Biden’s victory on Jan. 6 (Biden’s win was certified that day, despite a QAnon-fueled riot inside the U.S. Capitol). Although some QAnon fans believed Trump would lead mass-arrests on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20 saw Biden safely sworn into office. Undaunted, believers claimed Trump would take office in an alternate inauguration on March 4 and, when that failed to happen, on March 20.
The repeated failures have dissuaded some conspiracy fans. When Watkins uploaded his already publicly available documents on Monday, a minority of followers on his Telegram channel voiced frustration at what appeared to be more false hope.
“Let’s see some shit because we are all tired of waiting and trusting,” one wrote.
Still, as a recent study by the Global Network on Extremism and Technology noted, some frustrated believers might take drastic measures in order to realize QAnon’s delusions.
“The movement is likely to survive these failures in prophecy and continue recycling old conspiracy theories to fit new contexts,” the GNET paper noted. “Perhaps the largest concern arising from these failed predictions is that QAnon supporters are beginning to feel led to take matters into their own hands after seeing that they cannot expect political or military leaders to implement their vision. In this case, the failed predictions of the past may well spur some QAnon supporters to take direct action and fuel a new, more dangerous, stage in the development of the movement.”
Government agencies have responded with similar concern. The Department of Homeland Security recently issued two warnings about the risk of violence by QAnon supporters frustrated by a failed August prophecy, CNN reported.
Beyond Lindell, some Trump-backing figures—even those who have indicated support for QAnon, at least in the past—have backed away from the August timeline. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared on Bannon’s podcast last month to deflate Trump fans’ hopes.
“I would hate for anyone to get their hopes up thinking that President Trump is going to be back in the White House in August because that’s not true and I’m telling you that as a member of Congress, that’s a very difficult thing to do,” Greene said.
—with additional reporting by Asawin Suebsaeng