Trump’s false election claims and ‘reinstatement’ conspiracy theory could lead to violence, prosecutors warn

In court documents, Justice Department criticises right-wing media ‘giving credence’ to Trump election lies

Alex Woodward
New York
Sunday 11 July 2021 14:57
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‘This is our house’: Trump supporters storm Capitol building

Federal prosecutors have warned that baseless conspiracy theories promoted by right-wing media, suggesting Donald Trump will be reinstated to the White House, could lead to more violence.

The claim – promoted by Mike Lindell and other far-right figures – follows a baseless narrative that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from the former president, a lie that fuelled the riot at the US Capitol on 6 January.

In a court filing opposing an alleged rioter’s request to remove an ankle monitoring bracelet, prosecutors with the US Department of Justice said “it is more important than ever to ensure the safety of the community” by keeping it in place.

The former president “continues to make false claims about the election, insinuate that he may be reinstalled in the near future as president without another election, and minimise the violent attack on the Capitol”, prosecutors wrote in a court filing on 8 July.

“Television networks continue to carry and report on those claims, with some actually giving credence to the false reporting,” they wrote.

The Justice Department alleges that defendant Alex Harkrider – a Marine Corps veteran – “is not a good candidate to be out in the community without electronic monitoring to ensure the safety of the community and the safety of democracy in the current environment”.

Prosecutors allege Mr Harkrider drove to Washington DC with firearms, a ballistic vest and a “tomahawk axe” in a “misguided effort to obstruct the historically peaceful transition of power and overthrow the government” on 6 January.

Prosecutors allege that he carried the axe on the Capitol grounds. He has pleaded not guilty.

His lawyer told the court that he is paying a monthly fee of $110 for his ankle monitor, which has become a financial burden as he “lives on a small pension from the government, which he receives for his total disability” from his military service.

Federal prosecutors and judges have repeatedly cited Mr Trump’s rhetoric in charging documents and other filings in riot cases.

More than 500 people have been arrested in connection with the assault on the Capitol, and federal law enforcement officials have suggested many other arrests and charges are likely.

The US Department of Homeland Security has also repeatedly warned in bulletins and to members of Congress that ongoing election-related conspiracy theories – amplified across social media – have spread among some groups “the intent to incite violence” against elected officials, government facilities, law enforcement and “perceived ideologically opposed individuals”.

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