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The conspiracy-theory influence on Iowa’s laws and lawmakers


Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Donald Trump was not welcomed back into the Oval Office on Friday, Aug. 13, as some MAGA loyal predicted. But the failure of such Trumpian prophecies usually does little to dull the fervor of right-wing conspiracy theorists.

Encouraged by online influencers and politicians who stand to benefit from the spread of misinformation, an array of entangled web-based conspiracy theories have flourished during the pandemic and since the 2020 election, combining pro-Trumpism, pseudoscience, nationalism (often animated by anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and evangelical Christian beliefs, as well as a denial of systematic racism) and fear of government institutions, specifically those led by Democrats or Republicans disloyal to Trump.

Even as more than 570 suspects face charges stemming from the U.S. Capitol insurrection — some of whom, including Iowan Doug Jensen, were driven by a fervent belief in QAnon — far-right misinformation has drifted further into the mainstream since Jan. 6.

Conservatives looking to court the Trump base are doubling down on the day’s trendiest conspiracy theories, or dipping their toes into the QAnon pool for the first time publicly in hopes of nabbing red-pilled credentials and fueling reelection campaigns.

And where better to test drive a new conservative political strategy than Iowa?

This summer, Iowa’s own Republican leaders have given credibility to everything from election fraud to COVID-19 misinformation, sometimes having a direct influence on public policy.

Anti-mask moms’ big victory

Sen. Pat Grassley hands Gov. Kim Reynolds the mask ban bill to sign. — via Pat Grassley on Twitter

A perfect example of this influence is HF 847, which included a ban on local COVID regulations that exceed statewide mandates and stripped school boards of the ability to require masks in schools, and was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on May 20 with just a few weeks left in the 2020-21 school year. The bill, HF 847, moved through the Iowa Legislature are warp speed, passing through both Republican-dominated chambers before hitting the governor’s desk within 48 hours of its introduction. Lawmakers adjourned their 2021 session after approving the bill.

Asked by reporters to justify the urgency and content of HF 847, Reynolds said “it’s based on statistics here in Iowa.” She did not specify what statistics, and the Iowa Department of Public Health has said it does not collect data on COVID-19 in schools.

Rather than going into effect on July 1, as is traditional, Gov. Reynolds insisted the elimination of school mask requirements in the bill be enacted immediately, leaving many districts, schools and parents with unanswered questions and complicated logistics to manage overnight. It also went against the CDC’s recommendation that schools continue using masks and social distancing through the end of the academic year to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, since most school-age children had not been approved for COVID vaccination.

With the surge in the Delta variant and a new school year looming, this legislation has come under even closer scrutiny. Hundreds of concerned parents and community members participated in a sit-in at the Iowa Capitol Building on Aug. 11, urging Gov. Reynolds to repeal the law restricting school districts from enforcing their own COVID mitigation measures, and to order the Iowa Department of Public Health to collect and disclose data related to virus spread in schools. The demonstration was organized by a grassroots group, Iowans for Public Education.

Gov. Reynolds has stood by the restrictions, denouncing the CDC’s latest masking recommendations as “not grounded in reality or common sense” — despite rates of COVID-19 infections among children reaching a record high, and studies showing masking in schools reduces virus spread.

“Parental control is local control and parents have the option to send their kids to school with a mask or not,” Reynolds said in a statement on Aug. 10. “As I have throughout this pandemic, I trust Iowans to do the right thing and make the decisions about what’s best for themselves and their family.”

In trusting parents over science and school districts, Reynolds has deliberately empowered vocal advocates of COVID-19 misinformation. This was no clearer than on the night Reynolds signed the controversial HF 847.

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In a video tweeted by Speaker of the Iowa House Pat Grassley showing his delivery of the bill to a beaming Gov. Reynolds for signing, two women can be seen standing behind the governor’s chair, holding posters while attempting to applaud. These two women were identified as Ankeny residents Emily Peterson and Kimberly Reicks, who’d spent weeks protesting mask requirements in schools.

“WE DID IT! We got the Governor to sign into law tonight , as of 12:30am there will be no more masks on our kids in Iowa schools,” Peterson posted to Instagram. “We got to stand next to the Governor when she signed the bill and she said to Kim [Reicks] and I, ‘you did it!’ ‘Your efforts did this! ‘ I am in shock and awe.”

It wasn’t long before the internet — including Simpson College professor Kedron Bardwell — delved deeper into the personalities that allegedly inspired Iowa’s new anti-mask mandate. The first clue was in their hands.

“UNMASK OUR CHILDREN,” read Peterson’s sign above a photo of her child, and below: “STOP THE ABUSE.” Reicks’ sign also featured an image of her child with the statement, “MY MASK CAUSED A STAPH INFECTION ON MY Face 4 times. MY BODY.. MY Choice. UnMASK IOWA.”

Reynolds signed the women’s posters on May 20 after she’d finished with the bill. Hers wasn’t the first autograph; in fact, the handwritten signs had been present at anti-mask demonstrations around the country, and signed by famous conservative conspiracy theorists including Michael Flynn — Trump’s former national security advisor, indicted by Robert Mueller but pardoned by Trump, who in 2020 pledged an oath to QAnon — and Lin Wood, an Atlanta-based attorney infamous for promoting the Big Lie about the 2020 election on Twitter and in court. Like Flynn, Wood has openly embraced QAnon, claiming a globalist cabal hacked the 2020 election. Wood even accused Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts of connections to child rape and murder.

The women’s travels are well documented on Reicks’ TikTok account, @xvaxxerof7. They joined fellow Trump supporters and anti-vaxxers at the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. In April, they attended and spoke at the Health and Freedom Conference (HRC) in Oklahoma, featuring Flynn, Wood, Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Prather, red-pilled actor Jim Caviezel (whose speech discussing child trafficking and adrenochrome went viral), “MyPillow Guy” Mike Lindell and other MAGA and QAnon heroes, Christian conservative leaders and proponents of false information about the 2020 election and COVID-19. (“Do you think they might be able to lead a revolution?” Reicks asks in a TikTok during their seven-hour drive to the HRC. “I think they will.”) The two-day conference concluded with a mask-burning.

@xvaxxerof7

General Mike Flynn holing up my daughters poster during his speech at the Health & Freedom conference ##healthandfreedom

♬ original sound – Kimberly

The Ankeny moms were acknowledged by HFC speakers and brought on stage on multiple occasions during the conference. Reicks repeated the story of her daughter’s staph infections, allegedly caused by required mask-wearing during the school day.

“It’s not your duty to prove the masks are harming your children,” Dr. James Meehan, a Tulsa-based ophthalmologist and longtime anti-vaxxer and current anti-masker, told Peterson and Reicks during his presentation at HFC, “it’s their duty to prove that they’re not causing harm.”

In fact, experts have debunked claims face masks can cause staph infections or other health issues.

Reicks and Peterson invited Meehan to speak virtually at a meeting of the Ankeny school board, where his claims about the dangers of masks were quickly denounced by Fort Dodge infectious disease physician Dr. Megan Srinivas.

Reicks also brought her seven children to speak out against the mask mandates in their schools during the public comments period of an April meeting of the Ankeny school board. She described the ordeal of one of her daughters, who was given the option to wear a mask in school or sit behind a Plexiglas barrier during class. Reicks refused both, and the district compromised by allowing the kindergartener to wear a face shield and social distance from her classmates, requirements her mother said amounted to “segregation.”

“You guys are hurting children! Hurting them! Abusing them!” Reicks, who has the phrase “F**K Your feelings” in her TikTok bio, shouted at the board. “Do you not understand what you’re doing to my child? Do you not care?”

The district had a mask mandate in place at their board meetings, but Reicks refused to comply. Rather than have Reicks removed from the building, the board members walked out as Reicks continued berating them, causing her children to become emotional. Reicks claimed she has “millions behind me now. Millions.”

Reicks and Peterson later told their stories in front of the Iowa Legislature, where they found a more receptive audience. They lobbied for a law that would invalidate district mask mandates as soon as possible, and were predictably thrilled after the speedy passage of HF 847.

Asked by the Des Moines Register if they have any advice for the parents of students now forced to go to school with unmasked classmates, the Ankeny moms essentially told them to cope.

“Our hearts go out to them,” said Peterson, who claimed her daughter had lasting physical and psychological effects from wearing a mask in school. “We would love to keep our children in a bubble but unfortunately children are going to be exposed to viruses and sicknesses all throughout this life. So, we will pray for those moms and dads they don’t live in fear.”

Kimberly Reicks and Emily Peterson take a photo with Gov. Reynolds after her late-night signing of HF 847. The photo was shared on the women’s public social media accounts.

To the conservative blog Steel Truth, Peterson said, “All of this was a plandemic and it was all part of an agenda. So our children are just the recipients of it and they are the ones suffering from it. We need to listen to the truth. It’s out there. We need to look for it. We need to find it. And we need to stop listening to the propaganda media.”

Reicks currently has 7,592 followers on TikTok, where she has shared videos promoting claims that cancer can be cured using laser-activated nanoparticles; that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned by Dr. Fauci and Bill and Melinda Gates; that COVID-19 vaccines are a ploy by Bill Gates to alter Americans’ DNA; that all PCR tests are deliberately tainted; and that Richard Grenell, who served as Acting Director of National Intelligence under President Trump, is now the U.S. president, among other fantasies common among QAnon and sovereign citizen conspiracy theorists.

As of June, Reicks is in the process of suing the Ankeny Community School District for alleged discrimination against her daughter.

Mike Pompeo at the Family Leadership Summit

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivers remarks at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines on July 17, 2020. Pompeo returned to the event in 2021, post-Trump administration. — Ronny Przysucha/U.S. State Department

“The President called me in January and said ‘the Washington Post headline today says you’re my most loyal cabinet member,'” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recalled in front of a Des Moines crowd on July 16. “I reminded him they didn’t mean that as a compliment.”

The little anecdote went over well at the Family Leadership Summit, an annual event hosted by right-wing Christian lobbying group the Family Leader (sometimes stylized THE FAMiLY LEADER).

The loyalty with which Trump allegedly credited Pompeo refers not only to his work as Trump’s Secretary of State, but Pompeo’s outspoken support of the Big Lie since the 2020 election, even after election audits showed no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and dozens of attempts by Trump’s legal team to challenge the results in court failed.

“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo told reporters on Nov. 11 when asked if the State Department was prepared to welcome Biden’s appointees. “We’re ready. The world is watching what’s taking place here. We’re going to count all the votes.”

In the immediate aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, Pompeo called the rioters’ behavior “unacceptable.” But Pompeo has staunchly refused to acknowledge Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters that day (and his own role; Pompeo was among the election skeptics retweeted by Ashli Babbitt before her fateful trip to D.C.) even as members of his own department condemn the president’s actions. Some speculate the former CIA head is hoping to absorb Trump’s base to help him in a potential run for president in 2024.

That theory is further supported by Pompeo’s repeated presence at the Family Leader Summit, a prominent conservative stage in first-in-the-nation Iowa. His speech portrayed the Biden administration (and the supposed Democrat-led deep state more broadly) as godless, child-killing socialists bent on eradicating Christian family values and MAGA policies.

“Your mission should indeed be every believer’s mission. To inspire Christ, like leadership in the home, church and government,” Pompeo said. “Now, I know there’s media in the back here — I know when they hear this, some will break out the pitchforks.”

“I will tell you that as we stare at the problem sets that we all are aware of today, we see in our homes, on television, that the breakdown of the American family is at the core of most of them. It’s why the left attacks it. It’s why the left wants to undermine the family unit upon which this nation was built. And you’re all here because those attacks, you know, strike at the very concept of America, that not only is the family but our churches and schools are under assault, too.”

There was a palpable yearning in Pompeo’s speech, a nostalgia for days under the Trump administration that has come to characterize the modern QAnon movement. Not only were prominent Republican enemies like Hillary Clinton not arrested — or, as Q promised, tossed in Guantanamo and executed along with thousands of other deep state operatives — but Trump and Q themselves have virtually disappeared from the internet entirely following the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 insurrection. Those told “the storm is coming” and to “trust the plan” have had their faith shaken.

Some new (or, at least, rebranded) “enemies” of America have filled the vacuum of conservative fearmongering — anti-racist scholars and police/prison reform advocates, for example.

“We saw this idea of reform of our justice system really be an excuse to just let dangerous people back out on the streets,” Pompeo said without citing examples.

“You all see the garbage they’re trying to teach in our schools today comes under various guises often called critical race theory, but suffice it to say that it is a suggestion that somehow our nation is inherently and systemically racist … We should not challenge our founding. It was noble.”

The main target of Pompeo’s ire was China. The “Wuhan virus” was “foisted upon America” by that “godless nation,” according to the former Secretary of State. He also said the Chinese celebrated the closure of U.S. churches amid COVID-19 lockdowns, an unsubstantiated claim reminiscent of Trump’s yarn about “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering on the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

“They [China] saw us begin to undermine our religious liberty here at home too and they cheered. They cheered when they saw city councils or county commissions or governors say no, you can’t worship freely with your fellow believers.”

Whether intentional or not, Pompeo also included a few QAnon buzzwords in his FLS speech that, to the right listener, conflate Christian faith with faith in a more earthly “plan” to restore the United States’ to MAGA glory.

“Remind yourself that these are all crises of faith,” he said. “He indeed has a plan for America. And I am confident you all through His grace will help execute that plan. We are not a defeated nation. We are not a nation in decline. We are not a racist nation. We are God-blessed Christian nation. Don’t let the woke socialists get you down.”

“We never give an inch,” Pompeo continued, using a regular catchphrase of his, “and we do it with a smile, and with the graciousness that the Lord commands. You should know that the Family Leader Summit of 3021 will take place again in the greatest nation that the world has ever known.”

“I am very confident that this resilient nation will awaken, that there will be a revival.”

Pompeo is a regular character in QAnon narratives, and has done little to discourage conspiracy theorists. Like Mike Flynn, Ron Watkins and Trump himself, some of Pompeo’s online posts have inspired new QAnon theories, even in 2021.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke at the Family Leadership Conference as well. Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats told Iowa Press the week before the conference that Reynolds “would be a great presidential candidate right now.” But if the governor decides not to run for president, “she would make a very compelling VP choice,” Vander Plaats added.

State Rep. Sandy Salmon attends Mike Lindell’s Cyber Symposium

Perhaps no one has been more loyal to Donald Trump in his quest to prove the unprovable — that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against the sitting president — than MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Lindell (who, until recently, was at the top of a very small list of advertisers for Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show) claims to have collected enough evidence of widespread voter fraud to force the Supreme Court to invalidate President Biden’s win. He promised this bombshell evidence would be laid out during a three-day Cyber Symposium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Aug. 10-12. In reality, the event was beset by technical difficulties, paranoid rants from Lindell, fears of antifa invasions that didn’t manifest and, of course, a lack of legitimate evidence substantiating his claims that China, voting machine saboteurs and other anti-Trump forces hacked the election.

One of the symposium’s main speakers was Ron Watkins, alias CodeMonkeyZ, who Skyped in from overseas. The former 8chan (later rebranded as 8kun) administrator is the most likely suspect behind Q, the anonymous image-board prophet who, in “drops” of deliberately vague information to 4chan and 8chan/8kun, claims to have insider knowledge that Trump is fighting a cabal of Satanic child-killing cannibals hiding in the highest levels of government and Hollywood. Q has not posted since Dec. 8, 2020; this timeline coincides with Watkins emerging on Twitter and other social media as a self-professed election-fraud expert. He has teased a number of mind-blowing info drops that have turned out to be, well, bullshit.

To top it off, Lindell didn’t get the media attention for the event he wanted. He even stooped to complimenting CNN for sending six reporters to the event when Fox News sent none. (CNN’s coverage of the symposium was, however, less than flattering to Lindell. “The CNNs of the world — you guys need to start reporting this and stop fact-checking it!” a speaker shouted from the stage at one point, garnering applause from VIP Steve Bannon.)

Among the audience members in Sioux Falls were a few elected officials, including Iowa State Rep. Sandy Salmon. Salmon is a retired Marine and farm manager, and is currently serving her fourth term in the Iowa House, representing Black Hawk County.

The Republican lawmaker posted to her Facebook page from Sioux Falls Tuesday, Aug. 10, saying, “I’m turning over every stone to make sure our elections are secure!”

Salon reporter Zachary Petrizzos spoke with Salmon after the first day of Lindell’s symposium.

Sandy Salmon, a Republican state legislator from Iowa, told Salon she was still optimistic and said Lindell’s presentation was “really clear about the results they had gotten,” but cautioned that so far, the pillow king had not shown evidence “broken down by county and precinct.”

Salmon shared further thoughts on the symposium in her newsletter Monday. She falsely claims Lindell and his fellow presenters have “done enough right and gathered enough evidence that points to manipulation, interference, and potential fraud large enough to impact the outcome of the 2020 election in the presidential race and likely other congressional races as well.” But Salmon focuses more on scolding unnamed critics of Lindell in her letter.

“Mike’s heart is in the right place; he loves our country,” she writes. “… I have seen many critical and contemptuous of him and his efforts. To them I say: Has he done everything right? Probably not. Is all his data totally accurate and total proof of fraud in the 2020 election? That remains to be seen.”

Iowa Rep. Sandy Salmon with Mike Lindell during his Cyber Symposium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, August 2021. — from Sandy Salmon’s newsletter

At least half of the comments on Salmon’s Facebook page praised her attendance, some echoing unsubstantiated theories about voter fraud. One woman’s comment took on the more esoteric tone of QAnon followers who see far-right Republicans like Salmon and Trump as saviors in a moral war against evil globalists. Believers in this conspiracy theory are told they have a responsibility to “awaken” others to it, recruiting more “digital soldiers.”

“The hour has come that she always prayed for. She will not labor alone. Representative Sandy , you are the most qualified, battle ready Warrior, that must raise up all these little Joan of Arc’s,” posted Jessica Joy, whose public Facebook profile is rife with QAnon content — though, like many conspiracists since the Jan. 6 insurrection and subsequent social media crackdown on QAnon content, doesn’t mention Q directly.

“Be transparent. Prepare them with the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Get them into local government as fast as possible. … Where are all the new young Warrior moms? They are in the Iowa online Facebook school district pages, concerned conservative mommy pages … just scoop up those you want to mentor! Thank you Representative Sandy for choosing to serve. The state houses are all gone. Even Texas. Prepare the women to take their towns.”

Salmon sits on the House standing committees for education, human resources and public safety, and chairs the veterans affairs committee.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz come to Iowa

It’s not unusual to see political figures of all stripes press the flesh at the Iowa State Fair, long a proving ground for presidential hopefuls willing to flip a few pork burgers for a gaggle of reporters in hopes of currying favor with the nation’s first caucus state.

“Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s debut political trip to Iowa was much like the visits of other national Republican figures,” observed Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Anjali Huynh (a former Little Village intern). “Only Greene is trying to build her nationwide profile as a first-term lawmaker whose far-right views and past beliefs in the QAnon conspiracy theory has made her a pariah to many.”

Greene is best known for her endorsement of QAnon prior to her election, a movement she has now distanced herself from (but not condemned). But her current views and social media activity are still rife with right-wing conspiracy theories supported by the QAnon narrative, as well as more insidious white nationalist communities. From her rants about Jewish space lasers to harassing teenage school shooting survivor David Hogg for being a “crisis actor,” it’s been easy for centrists and liberals to dismiss Greene as a silly spectacle. But the Congresswoman has been much more vocal about 2020 election fraud, the COVID-19 “plandemic,” vaccines and other conspiracy theories endorsed by millions of Americans. Greene’s rhetoric also evokes Trump’s — it’s overly simplified, unfiltered, tinged with violence and, of course, plays fast and loose with reality.

For example, as the Delta variant flourished amid vaccine skepticism, Greene took to a podium in Alabama earlier this month to suggest, untruthfully, that Biden will be sending agents to collect information on unvaccinated people.

“What they don’t know is in the South, we all love our Second Amendment rights, and we’re not real big on strangers showing up on our front door, are we?” she said. “They might not like the welcome they get.”

Such scare tactics and endorsements of violence have been dismissed by many as political theater, but have stoked real-world crimes that didn’t begin or end with the Capitol insurrection, from threats against healthcare providers to murder.

Inevitably, Greene did find supporters amid the legion of fairgoers during her Iowa escapades. Huynh said a woman named Brei Johnson told Greene she was an inspiration to her daughters, and a strong voice in Congress. Johnson is a member of an online anti-vaccination group. The Des Moines Register spoke to an Urbandale man, Brad Boustead, who said he likes that Greene is a “spicy Republican,” since niceness doesn’t seem to work in Washington.

Another woman, Lisa Smith of Ottumwa, told Huynh she was “burned out on the fakes” in the Republican Party, but Greene and Sen. Matt Gaetz “are the two people that I see that don’t back down, the people that I see that I think if I was in Congress, that is exactly what I would be saying and doing.”

Greene and Matt Gaetz may seem an odd pair when considering Greene’s start in QAnon, which believes human trafficking — of which Gaetz has been credibly accused — is at the root of America’s problems. But many QAnon influencers have framed the accusations against Gaetz (and other Trump loyalists, including Trump himself) as proof that the deep state fingers its biggest enemies for the very sins of which it is guilty.

In fact, Greene and Gaetz are aligned in their red-pilled views, letting baseless claims (and childish insults) about Dr. Anthony Fauci fly during their Des Moines town hall Thursday night.

“Will you caucus for Donald Trump in 2024?” Gaetz asked the crowd of hundreds of unmasked attendees, who cheered.

Rep. Ross Wilburn of Ames, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, criticized his Republican colleagues for not condemning Greene and Gaetz’s stop in Iowa. A spokesperson for Gov. Reynolds declined to comment on the issue, according to the Des Moines Register.

A range of conclusions can be drawn from Greene’s visit — that she’s working to keep the Trump fervor alive under the Biden administration, that she hopes to plump up her national profile ahead of a campaign for higher office, that she isn’t content with her and Gaetz’s far-right views remaining on the fringes of the Republican Party.

But it’s also likely Greene was just looking for something to do; the Georgia Congresswoman was stripped of her committee assignments in February. The House vote was mostly split along party lines, with only 11 Republicans joining Democrats in disciplining Greene.

“The party of Lincoln is becoming the party of violent conspiracy theories,” said the House Rules Committee’s Democratic chairman Rep. Jim McGovern. “And apparently the leaders of the Republican Party in the House, today, are not going to do a damn thing about it.”

Plus: Doug Jensen is still red-pilled, according to prosecutors

Left: Doug Jensen films himself touching “the White House” (actually the Capitol Building) on Jan. 6, 2021. The video was submitted into evidence in the case U.S. v. Doug Jensen. Right: Manuel Balce Ceneta’s widely published Associated Press photo showing Jensen confronting law enforcement on Jan. 6.

While Rep. Salmon sat in the audience at Mike Lindell’s Cyber Symposium, another Iowan was allegedly streaming it from home, against the orders of a federal judge.

Des Moines resident Doug Jensen was charged with leading a crowd of rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection, threatening officers and carrying a pocketknife into the Capitol, all while wearing a Q T-shirt (including the QAnon catchphrases “Trust the plan” and “Where we go one we go all.”)

Jensen’s lawyer argued his client “fell victim” to internet misinformation from QAnon followers and Trump, but after six months of “languishing in a D.C. jail cell,” Jensen had sworn off conspiracy theories. Against the recommendations of federal prosecutors, D.C. Judge Timothy Kelly granted Jensen pretrial release in mid-July, allowing Jensen to return to Des Moines for “home incarceration,” provided he didn’t possess a firearm, contact other Jan. 6 defendants or use internet-capable devices, among other conditions.

But according to a motion filed by federal prosecutors in Washington D.C. on Thursday night, Jensen couldn’t resist engaging with right-wing media.

“A mere thirty days after his release from the D.C. Jail, defendant Douglas Jensen was found alone, in his garage, using a WiFi-connected iPhone to stream news from Rumble,” the motion reads, referencing one of the favorite social media sites of conservatives and conspiracy theorists. Jensen’s wife, who had been named his custodian by Judge Kelly, was also leaving the news on for him during the workday, Jensen admitted to his pretrial services officer.

Jensen also allegedly confessed to spending “two days watching Mike Lindell’s Cyber Symposium regarding the recount of the presidential election,” prosecutors wrote, providing a link to a Washington Post piece, “The Cybersecurity 202: My Pillow cyber symposium is yet another font of election fraud lies.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington D.C. is asking for Jensen’s pretrial release to be revoked.

In his bond motion, Jensen claimed that he had come “full circle” – that he felt “deceived” by QAnon’s conspiracy theories, and that he “recogniz[ed] that he bought into a pack of lies.” Dkt. 21 at 7. But Jensen’s swift violation confirms what the Government and this Court suspected all along: that Jensen’s alleged disavowal of QAnon was just an act; that his alleged epiphany inside the D.C. Jail was merely self-advocacy; and that, at the end of the day, Jensen will not abandon the misguided theories and beliefs that led him to menacingly chase U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman up the Senate staircase on January 6, 2021.

Buzzfeed News reported that a response from Jensen’s lawyer is expected early next week.


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