In the aftermath of last week's attack on Congress, Ali Alexander, chief organizer of the "Stop the Steal" election conspiracy movement, rejected any blame for the unprecedented political violence that flowed naturally from his event in Washington on Wednesday.
"I didn't incite anything," Alexander claimed in a video shared to Twitter on Friday. "I didn't do anything."
Hours after the riot, Alexander said bluntly: "I do not denounce this."
It's a common refrain for Alexander, a convicted felon who shed his given name Ali Akbar years ago while trying to establish himself as a Muslim face in Tea Party circles. For the last two months, since the election, Alexander has popped up at "Stop the Steal" rallies around the country, peddling lies and conspiracy theories and telling people he was prepared to die for the cause — denying that he endorsed violence while walking his rally crowds right up to the edge of insurrection. But two days after he shrugged off allegations that he played a central role in the unprecedented political crime last week, with authorities apparently on his trail and his Twitter account suspended, Alexander live-streamed his open embrace and endorsement of political violence.
"Rest assured in this," he says at one point in the 24-minute monologue. "The lord says vengeance is his, and I pray that I am the tool to stab these motherfuckers."
At another point in the video — which Alexander appears to have streamed sitting under a dome light in a vehicle moving through the night — the self-styled provocateur, who trades on his association with larger-than-life right-wing personalities such as Alex Jones and Roger Stone, teases viewers that the next step will be violent on a biblical scale.
"When I do unleash the plan, I will unleash ..." Alexander says, then closes his mouth and stares at the camera for seven seconds. He continues: "I will unleash a legion of angels to bring hell to my enemies."
(Alexander often sews talk of "hexes" and mystical beings and QAnon and other fantasy lore into his rambling sermons. At one point in Sunday's video he plunged into the QAnon universe: "The nation is imperiled. They are trying to rape your children. They are closing our churches and keeping us from the sacrament so that they can open a gateway to hell.")
The open invocation of violence marks a clear shift from just two days prior, when the co-founder of the original "Stop the Steal" movement pushed back on the firestorm of blame, saying he would not "take an iota of blame that does not belong to me." But while Alexander moves about freely, some of his connections at the federal level do not have that luxury — such as Republican congressmen Mo Brooks of Alabama and Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, both of Arizona, who Alexander has said collaborated with some of his efforts in Washington last week.
"We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting," Alexander said in a video posted before the riot.
This Tuesday, Alexander did an interview with Alex Jones, spouting open threats as authorities across the country pour resources into bringing Capitol attackers to justice and heading off what some people believe is an inevitable second attack.
Officials across the government are still reeling from the catastrophic security failure to assess and prepare for the event, widely publicized on social media, where scores of domestic terrorists came tactically equipped to take hostages, fight riot police and hunt down elected officials. Some of the invaders chanted "Hang Mike Pence" while a noose swung from a makeshift gallows outside one of the world's iconic symbols of democracy.
Now law enforcement is racing against those same groups as they settle on the next target, with President-elect Joe Biden's Inauguration on Jan. 20 being a top choice: "That is the next date on the calendar that the Pro-Trump and other nationalist crowds will potentially converge on the Capitol again," read one message posted to a white supremacist Telegram channel, according to The Washington Post.
A highly produced video posted to the alternative social media platform Parler, which has since been taken offline, also set sights on the 20th, framing the event as the "Great Awakening" around audio clips of Trump's own inauguration. The "awakening" refers to the QAnon fantasy that one day thousands of the president's enemies in the government, media and "deep state" will be arrested, imprisoned, tried for treason and executed.
"The hour has arrived," says one of the video's title cards. "Panic in DC," reads another. One instructs viewers to "Put on the armor of God." The video ends with a satellite view of the 2020 electoral map, with blue states engulfed in red, stamped with a final graphic that says "January 20 2021" above the QAnon "WWG1WGA" tag line.
Other groups have tried to build momentum towards other dates, such as the weekend before the inauguration. One website called "The Patriot Action for America," since taken down, calls for 15,000 armed supporters to gather at the Capitol for head counts on Jan. 16 and 17, after which they will supposedly deploy across the city and encircle the Capitol building to block Democratic lawmakers from entering. The plan, according to the group, is to "eliminate the democrat ideology from America forever," but the site denies that this is a plot to overthrow the government.
In the FAQ section, under "Is this going to be a war?" the site says: "Patriots who participate in this action will not fire a first shot, however, the patriots will defend themselves with extreme, and possibly fatal response, to any aggression which would prevent us from obtaining our goal of eliminating the democrat ideology from America forever."
To avoid repeating last week's disaster, in which five people were killed, including two Capitol Police officers — one from injuries at the scene and another taking his own life days later — Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy has said that the military will surround the Capitol with unscalable fencing. Upwards of 6,000 National Guard troops are also deploying to help secure the city ahead of the inauguration.
Twitter has also taken precautions, purging bots and accounts that peddle dangerous conspiracy theories. The company permanently suspended Alexander's account on Sunday evening, citing his influence on last week's mayhem and fears that he would use the platform to inspire and organize more violence. In Sunday night's video — which he managed to share via Twitter's broadcast app Periscope, which gave him the boot on Tuesday — Alexander framed the move among others as an act of violence.
"The fact that they keep crawling me out of here to drag my dead body through the streets is very sick and sadistic, but here we are," he said in the video. "But I want to tell you, please share my GiveSendGo link — I need to raise that $40,000 immediately." (GiveSendGo is a Christian fundraising site that doubles as safe harbor for extremists no longer welcome on other more mainstream platforms — Alexander, for instance, has been banned from PayPal, Venmo and CashApp, but maintains a GiveSendGo. His monetized YouTube page is also still active.)
Alexander then declares that he is so committed to the cause that he will never go back to his previous life as a political consultant — unless he doesn't get that $40,000 in the next week, in which case, he says, he will disappear entirely. The money, he says, is for "security."
As of Monday night, Alexander had raised $16,000 toward his goal, but may have hit another snag: That morning, PayPal cut its ties with the fundraising site in an effort to distance itself from extremist clientele, including Stop the Steal. Later that day, Facebook announced that it would remove all content that used the phrase, five days after Congress certified Joe Biden's victory.