Justice Department launches probe into Trump protester conspiracy theory which appears plucked from Facebook rumour

Investigation into so-called riot ‘leaders’ follows claims made by president 

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 01 September 2020 16:27
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Trump warns Joe Biden beholden to mysterious people 'pulling the strings'

The US department of Justice has begun investigating claims that people were being paid to move between cities in a bid to disrupt and agitate anti-racism demonstrations.

Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf said on Monday that an investigation was underway during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

He had asked Mr Wolf whether or not the Justice Department had assisted with the DHS’ response to violence and looting seen in places such as Portland and Kenosha, Wisconsin.

It follows comments made by Donald Trump, who echoed a Facebook conspiracy theory alleging that protesters "dressed head to toe in black" had travelled to cause violence in Seattle this summer.

The US president suggested on Monday that someone had also paid for a plane “almost completely loaded with thugs” to disrupt last week’s Republican National Convention.

Mr Wolf, who discussed US attorney general William Barr’s help with an investigation, said on Monday that “this is something that I have talked to the AG personally about”.

He told the Fox News host that the Justice department was “also targeting and investigating the head of these organisations, [and] the individuals that are paying for these individuals to move across the country”.

“What we know, Tucker, is that we have seen groups and individuals move from Portland to other parts of the country,” said Mr Wolf, despite neither Black Lives Matter or Antifa having designated leaders.

Mr Trump, in an interview with that aired two hours later, told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that “some very stupid rich people” were funding protesters and rioters.

“This person was coming to the Republican National Convention and there were like seven people in the plane [with] this person,” claimed the president.

“And then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage,” he added “This is all happening.”

Those comments, which Mr Trump could not prove, appeared to be based on a post that went viral on Facebook in June, which claimed that “At least a dozen males got off the plane in Boise from Seattle, dressed head to toe in black.”

That post, NBC News reported, also claimed that those onboard the plane had been ready to disrupt protests, whilst one person had “a tattoo that said Antifa America on his arm.”

It comes three months after Mr Trump blamed Antifa, a far-left group, for protests in the wake of Minneapolis police killing George Floyd on Memorial Day.

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