Former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon appeared to laugh off Rudy Giuliani‘s latest conspiracy theory, this time claiming that someone from The Lincoln Project was behind the Capitol riot.
Mr Giuliani, appearing on Mr Bannon’s podcast War Room said that “Antifa” and “people who had worked with The Lincoln Project” had taken part in planning the riot. After Mr Bannon tried to interrupt Mr Giuliani, the former New York Mayor and Trump lawyer said that “one of the people involved brought in right-wing groups that opposed Trump”.
“And he brought them in specifically because he wanted to blow this thing up,” Mr Giuliani said without naming names.
“He had the same motivation the Antifa people had. So it isn’t as if all these right-wing groups were all pro-Trump. And the biggest violent problems were caused by Antifa, that’s where the shooting took place. That was surrounded by all Antifa people,” he baselessly claimed.
The claim that the people who stormed the Capitol were undercover Antifa organisers masquerading as Trump supporters has been repeatedly debunked.
Referring to former President Trump, Mr Giuliani said: “How can he be held responsible for a whole thing that’s planned days before he’s going to speak that has a mixture of people that hate him and people that support him.”
Mr Giuliani himself appeared at a rally before the riot, urging supporters of the outgoing president to settle the election through “trial by combat”. Following the subsequent violent assault on the Capitol, which led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer, he claimed the comment was a reference to the series Game of Thrones.
Experts on far-right extremism said the Capitol riot was a natural product of years of violence and hateful rhetoric stoked by disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Members of far-right groups, including the Proud Boys, joined the crowds that formed in Washington to cheer on President Trump as he urged them to protest against Congress’ counting of Electoral College votes confirming President Joe Biden’s win. Then they headed to the Capitol. Members of smaller white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups also were spotted in the crowds. Police were photographed stopping a man identified as a leading promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory from storming the Senate floor.
“If you’re surprised, you haven’t been paying attention,” said civil rights group Integrity First for America executive director Amy Spitalnick. “We should all be horrified by this, but nobody should be surprised that this is happening.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the mob’s actions were “clearly consistent” with the conspiratorial rhetoric of QAnon, the baseless belief that Trump has been secretly fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring.
“QAnon has been calling on this kind of madness for years,” Mr Greenblatt said.
Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said the storming of the Capitol is the “logical conclusion to extremism and hate going unchecked” during Mr Trump’s presidency.
“We had conspiracy theories animating people to action on the ground. We had the mainstream and the extreme narratives meld,” he said.
When Mr Bannon pressed Mr Giuliani to reveal the person with a supposed link to The Lincoln Project, Mr Giuliani said: “I don’t know if I can reveal his name because we have that from anonymous sources… He worked in the past for Romney.” Mitt Romney is a Utah Senator, former Massachusetts governor and the 2012 Republican nominee for president, one of the few senior members of his party to criticise the former president.
After Mr Giuliani refused to reveal the identity of the person he was referring to, Mr Bannon, seemingly frustrated, said: “You can’t throw a charge out there like that and then say I’ve got a double secret probation guy who I can’t mention but he worked for Romney, worked for the Lincoln Project.”
The Lincoln Project is a political action committee started by a number of communication-savvy anti-Trump Republicans, including Steve Schmidt, who now identifies as a Democrat but has worked on the Republican campaigns of former President George W Bush, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and former Arizona Senator John McCain.
Others include Rick Wilson, who has created ads for several gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, and George Conway, the conservative lawyer, Washington Post columnist and husband to the former counsellor to President Trump, Kellyanne Conway.
The Associated Press contributed to this report