The Trump campaign and a top House Republican group are rallying around a QAnon conspiracy theorist expected to win a seat in the House this November, even attacking a GOP lawmaker who criticized the conspiracy theory that the FBI considers a domestic terrorism threat.
QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican primary run-off in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District on Tuesday. Because Greene’s district is heavily Republican, her primary win all but guarantees that a QAnon supporter will take a spot in Congress in November.
Until now, leading Republicans have typically avoided openly embracing the party’s QAnon supporters, who follow a series of internet clues that have been posted by a mysterious figure called “Q” since October 2017. QAnon believers embrace a theory of the world that imagines Trump is engaged in a secret war against a pedophile-cannibal “cabal” in the Democratic Party, Hollywood, and other institutions.
QAnon believers are obsessed with a moment called “The Storm,” the much-awaited day they believe Trump will order mass-arrests of his political opponents and either imprison them in Guantanamo Bay or subject them to military execution. The FBI considers QAnon a potential domestic terror threat, and QAnon believers have allegedly committed two murders, a terrorist incident, and plotted two child abductions, among other crimes.
Top GOP leaders have embraced Greene now that she has won the nomination. Donald Trump praised her in a tweet on Tuesday, calling her a “future Republican Star.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm, defended Greene, deflecting media requests about Greene and QAnon by comparing her to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
“And then why hasn't the media asked every House Democrat if they will support racist anti-Semite @IlhanMN after she won her primary last night?” NRCC spokesman Chris Pack tweeted, suggesting that Greene’s conspiracy theories were only being highlighted because she’s a Republican. “What’s the (D)iffe(R)ence between the two?”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) was the only House Republican to publicly push back on the idea of a QAnon believer winning a congressional seat, tweeting after Greene’s primary win that QAnon is a “fabrication” that has “no place in Congress.” Kinzinger also suggested that QAnon could be a Russian disinformation operation.
In response, a senior Trump campaign official attacked Kinzinger. Rather than address Greene’s support for QAnon, the campaign’s deputy communications director Matt Wolking tweeted that Kinzinger should focus instead on the dossier former British spy Christopher Steele produced on Trump’s campaign.
“That actually WAS Russian propaganda,” Wolking wrote.
Republican leaders had initially been more hostile to Greene. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) initially denounced her when she placed first in a June primary, after Politico reported remarks Greene had made calling Black voters “slaves” to Democrats, questioning whether Muslims should be allowed to hold public office, and accusing billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, of being a Nazi.
Trump’s embrace of Greene represents his latest sign of support for QAnon believers. Over the years, as he has increasingly crossed paths with QAnon believers in person and on Twitter, Trump has gained a passing familiarity with the wide-ranging conspiracy theory. Occasionally, he's seen segments bubble up on cable-news programs about QAnon, leading him to ask close advisers what it is and what they think about it.
At times, he’s expressed confusion when discussing the subject with others.
“I tried explaining the phenomenon to him as best I could, and told [Trump] it would be wise to stay the hell away from it," said a source who'd briefly spoken to Trump about QAnon in the past year. "When I tried giving a one- or two-sentence explanation of what QAnon was, he said something like, ‘So it’s about [James] Comey being a dirty cop?’ and I said it was more complicated than that.”
Trump hasn't taken that advice to keep QAnon at a distance—at least not enough to keep one of the batshit theory’s top adherents, a YouTuber who goes by Lionel Lebron, out of an Oval Office photo op, grinning side-by-side the president, just two years ago. The bizarre incident created a weekend headache for some of Trump's top aides, who scrambled to figure out how, exactly, a QAnon promoter managed to score an intimate audience with the leader of the free world.
In the intervening years, QAnon has become something of a supporting cast member in Trumpworld, to the point that Trump’s former national security adviser and MAGA cause célèbre Michael Flynn has publicly bear-hugged his fervent Q-related following by filming himself taking the “QAnon oath.”
Trump frequently retweets QAnon fans, which the conspiracy theory’s promoters use as proof that their outlandish ideas are true. Last year, a video from the Trump reelection campaign featured multiple Q signs, and diehard supporters of the president wouldn’t stop showing up to his mega-rallies sporting Q gear, for themselves, their friends, and sometimes their babies and small children. In June, Eric Trump posted a QAnon meme on Instagram, though he later deleted it.
The QAnon presence at Trump events became so undeniable that unidentified personnel at the rallies began ordering them to turn their shirts inside out and to put away their Q swag. “No non-Trump-related political messaging is permitted inside the venue. We do our best to ensure this rule is fully enforced,” Michael Glassner, then-chief operating officer of Trump 2020, told The Daily Beast at the time, though making sure not to mention the term “QAnon.”
Late last year, when QAnon was rapidly becoming a recurring nuisance for the president’s team, one senior Trump campaign official said that the standard operating procedure among staff had been to “ignore them” and not “make a big deal out of” it, largely in the hopes of avoiding “pissing off the crazy” people and depriving them of further media coverage or attention.
On Wednesday, though, Trump heralded one of their own as a rising star in the Republican Party.
Still, not every heavy-hitter or fan favorite in the president’s orbit is sold on Q. Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, for instance, has clashed with believers online, railing against the conspiracy theory as “GARBAGE.”