House Democrats and QAnon conspiracy theorists now share one thing in common: Both made predictions for Thursday that didn’t come true.
House lawmakers fled the gated fortress that has become the U.S. Capitol, canceling sessions for Thursday and Friday over Internet rumors that QAnon supporters were planning to storm the building.
QAnon believers, meanwhile, were left scrambling to figure why their expectations that former President Donald Trump would return to power Thursday fizzled.
It was just another partly cloudy day in the nation’s capital, as both sides were left embarrassingly trying to explain what happened.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi downplayed the link between scrapping two workdays and the reported threats. Instead, the California Democrat said the move was to accommodate Republicans, who were holding a retreat this weekend.
“I don’t think anybody should take any encouragement, that because some troublemakers might show up that we changed our whole schedule,” she said. “We just moved it a few hours and it was largely to accommodate Republicans.”
On far-right social media networks, QAnon adherents claimed that reports of a rebellion were a government ruse to flush them out and arrest them. A major QAnon online group told followers to “stay home” Thursday.
The antics started Wednesday evening when House Democrats canceled votes and a hearing after intelligence uncovered “a possible plot” by a militia group for a repeat of the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol.
Authorities linked the threat to a conspiracy theory held by QAnon supporters, who believe, among other things, that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles operate inside the federal government with the help of Hollywood elites.
They believed Mr. Trump would be restored to power on March 4 and that thousands will gather in Washington to remove Democrats from office. March 4 was the original presidential inauguration date until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20.
Undeterred by the no-show Thursday, they started floating new dates for when Mr. Trump could return to power, including March 20 and Dec. 8. March 20 is the anniversary of the Republican Party’s 1854 founding and Dec 8. the first anniversary of the day they thought the 2020 election would be called for Mr. Trump.
Media reports tied the March 4 threat to the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia.
Members of the group were among the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a bid to stop the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College win.
The thought of a repeat was enough for House lawmakers to wrap up early and tell staffers to stay home. The Capitol remains surrounded by 7-foot tall metal fencing topped with razor wire and defended by roughly 5,200 armed National Guard troops.
Although the House retreated, the Senate remained in session to debate the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said the Senate had too much work to do to cancel votes, but declined to criticize House leadership for doing so.
“It’s up to the House,” he said of the decision to cancel business on the other side of the Capitol.
Initially, authorities appeared unconcerned about the online chatter related to March 4.
Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-arms, said earlier this week there was “no indication that groups will travel to Washington, D.C., to protest or commit acts of violence.”
The viewpoint changed Wednesday afternoon when the U.S. Capitol Police said it uncovered a “possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday.”
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said during House testimony Wednesday that investigators have “some concerning intelligence.” She declined to offer public details, saying it was “law enforcement sensitive,” but she offered to give committee members a private briefing.
But by then there had already been a noticeable decline in online chatter in QAnon Internet forums. And those that were discussing March 4, warned it was set up because the words “Mar 4” and “Trap” appeared near each other in a post by their mysterious leader, Q.
“Q has told us March 4 is a Trap (Therefore anything that happens is not us!!),” read a message posted Thursday morning on a QAnon Internet board.
Another user cautioned followers to avoid planning or advertising events around the country on March 4.
That didn’t stop some QAnon believers from making news that day.
Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman,” told “60 Minutes” he was deeply hurt that Mr. Trump didn’t pardon the Capitol rioters.
Mr. Chansely, the infamous horn-helmeted, face-painted shirtless marauder at the Capitol on Jan. 6, told the news outlet he still supports Mr. Trump despite the disappointment.
“I honestly believed and still believe that [Mr. Trump] cares about the Constitution, that he cares about the American people, and that’s also why … it wounded me so deeply and why it disappointed me so greatly that I and others did not get a pardon,” Mr. Chansley said.
Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Chansley with a slew of charges related to his participation in the Capitol riot. The charges include disorderly conduct and knowingly entering a restricted building.
He also disputed claims he committed a crime during the Capitol riot, saying court filings are “inaccurate entirely.” Mr. Chansley, who remains in an Alexandria jail, insisted he stopped people from vandalizing the building, including preventing someone from stealing muffins out of a break room.
A New Jersey man was arrested for carving QAnon messages into a rock configuration in New Hampshire called America’s Stonehenge.
Mark Russo, 51, faces one count of felony criminal mischief for defacing the stones in September 2019.
Although not directly linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory, the man who was spotted with his feet on Ms. Pelosi’s desk during the Capitol riot had a meltdown in court, according to a local news report.
NBC 4 Washington reported that Richard Barnett, who has not pleaded guilty to charges against them, reportedly screamed “it’s not fair” that he has been locked up for a whole month.
“I’m sitting here and they are letting everybody else out. I need help,” he said.
The judge declared recess so Mr. Barnett could compose himself. He is being held without bond but has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.