News Analysis:

Trump hardliners, including in Nevada, paint themselves as victims, vow protests aren’t over


John Minchillo / AP

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepared to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud.

Tue, Jan 12, 2021 (2 a.m.)

The mindset of some of Donald Trump’s supporters in the final days of his presidency is captured in stark terms in a letter posted this weekend by the Nye County Republican Central Committee.

“Let me be clear: Trump will be president for another year. Biden will not be president. Yes, I know those are shocking words in these crazy days,” opened the letter, which was posted to the GOP committee’s website and written by Chris Zimmerman, the group’s chairman.

Then it went from shocking to downright frightening.

Expect the Emergency Broadcast System to be activated, confusion, the arrest of politicians and an internet blackout, the letter warns.

“We are in a battle for our republic against elites that are attempting the very coup that they are accusing Trump of doing,” the letter says.

“Expect this to be a bumpy ride to the very end,” says the letter, which predicts “more bombshell evidence,” without providing any elaboration.

The Insurrection Act may also be enacted, allowing the president to deploy U.S. active-duty military and federalized National Guard troops in U.S. cities, according to the letter.

“You may wake one morning to find someone in high office is no longer there,” the letter says, warning people to be prepared for “high-profile arrests.”

Finally, the letter comes to this conclusion: “Expect Trump to be inaugurated on Jan 20th!”

In response to the letter, U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., whose district encompasses Nye County, urged Republican colleagues to reject any and all forms of insurrection against the federal government.

“It’s not 1776 and the failed attempt of a coup involving some Republicans is sedition against the will of the people and our democracy. Any suggestion otherwise is a refusal to accept reality,” Horsford posted on Twitter.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford was even more blunt.

“Those peddling conspiracy theories and lies must take personal responsibility for their words and the consequences of pushing these lies on a public looking for guidance.” Ford said in a news release from his office Monday. “This includes the leader of a local political organization whose recent letter lends to the inflamed passions that likewise led to the insurrection we all just experienced.”

Nevada’s U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, worried that Zimmerman’s rhetoric could incite further violence, urged the FBI to investigate.

“As you can see, the letter, published January 8, 2021, denies basic facts about the 2020 election and falsely claims that President Trump — not President-elect Biden — will be inaugurated on January 20th,” the senators wrote to the FBI on Monday. “The letter goes on to claim without evidence that there is a plot involving Vice President Mike Pence to overthrow President Trump, and refers readers to Lin Wood’s posts on Parler, where Mr. Wood recently called for Vice President Pence’s execution. The letter describes being in a ‘battle for our republic’ and ends by saying that ‘It’s 1776 all over again!’”

Zimmerman, after receiving much criticism, doubled down on his comments in a second post.

“Nye County has always been Trump country, so we don’t see it as out of the ordinary to believe our president when he says he will never give up,” Zimmerman wrote two days after the initial post. “We have had four years of incredible growth in the economy, advances in freedoms, and more under the Trump presidency so we find it difficult to believe that the media’s portrayal of him now to be accurate.”

More chaos on the horizon

Incited by Trump at a rally Wednesday morning, his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop a joint session of Congress from counting electoral votes and confirming the election of Joe Biden as the next president. The ensuing attack was deadly to rioters and police alike in a dark moment in the nation’s history.

And it appears they aren’t done.

These white nationalists, militia groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, and those who follow conspiracy media sites such as QAnon are planning more chaos with next week’s “Million Militia March” to coincide with Biden’s inauguration.

The attacks last week in Washington brought smaller protests across the nation, including one in downtown Las Vegas and another in Carson City. While there was no local violence, that might not necessarily be the case next week when the loyalists in “Make America Great Again” regalia and waving Trump 2020 flags make another stand.

The SITE Intelligence Group, a nongovernmental counterterrorism organization specializing in tracking and analyzing online activity of the global violent extremist community, reported over the weekend “that a day of armed far-right protests is scheduled for Jan. 17 and has been in the works for weeks, with Trump supporters and antigovernment activists promoting marches in Washington and at state capitols around the nation,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Twitter, in banning Trump last week, cited dangerous talk and online planning for taking him off the social media platform. The Apple App store and Amazon have also banned Parler, an alternative social media network that has been embraced by right-wing extremists.

At least some of the Capitol siege was planned online, and much of the activity came at the behest of Trump. “Our president wants us here,” a man can be heard saying during a livestream video from Wednesday that showed him standing within the Capitol. “We wait and take orders from our president.”

Trump’s more radical followers openly discussed in far-right forums how to storm the building, capture lawmakers and interfere with the process to confirm Biden’s election win.

“The January 6, 2020, siege on the U.S. Capitol should not come as a surprise. Rather, it was preceded by a monthlong frenzy of incitements, strategizing, and embrace of violence against lawmakers — fueled by Trump’s December 19 tweet promising that the event ‘will be wild,’ ” the SITE Intelligence Group reported. “Many of the president’s supporters interpreted his words as ‘marching orders,’ declaring, ‘(Trump) can’t exactly openly tell you to revolt … This is the closest he’ll ever get.’ ”

Better planning by law enforcement

The Trump supporters who rioted at the Capitol appeared to be organized and well-equipped. The intruders tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and were met by outnumbered Capitol Police officers in riot gear.

Soon, rioters were parading and hollering through the halls and popping up at the Senate dais and in the House speaker’s office. Five were killed, including one officer.

The FBI has made a handful of arrests of rioters, tracking down suspects in Nashville and Dallas. “To be clear, what took place was not a First Amendment-protected activity, but rather an affront on our democracy,” FBI Director Christopher Way said in a statement.

The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.

An internal FBI bulletin warned, as of Sunday, that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said authorities in state capitals and other major cities besides Washington should prepare for the possibility of violent protests next week.

“A lot of people were energized by what happened last week,” he said. “State capitals are a natural place where people might want to show up, especially assuming that they think there might be a huge presence of police and military in D.C. because of what happened last week.”

Pitcavage tracks militia, white supremacists and other far-right extremists, but he said the Capitol siege demonstrated the emergence of a new movement of ”Trumpist extremists, so caught up in the cult of personality around Trump that they may be willing to break the law or engage in violence purely in support of Trump and whatever he wants."

The Legislative Police at the Nevada Legislature already started ramping up its security before the attacks last week on the U.S. Capitol, Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes said. Nevada is working with other statehouses to share information and policing standards.

“It’s not that we’re not reacting, it’s just that we’ve been working on this for a long time,” Erdoes said.

Metro Police, in a statement about potential protests breaking out in Las Vegas, said: “The LVMPD supports all citizens practicing their First Amendment right to assemble peacefully. We are in constant communication with our local and federal law enforcement partners regarding possible protests. We remain ready to respond to any incidents that may require law enforcement intervention.”

The Nevada Democratic Party is warning residents to be aware of your surroundings and any ongoing activity.

“Domestic terrorism, fueled by the hatred and evil of white supremacy is not limited to our nation’s capital,” the state Democrats wrote in a statement. “We must, as Nevadans, do more to end the systemic racism that permeates through every corridor of our city halls, our courts and our legislative chambers.”

In a statement, Erdoes said that managing protests has always been a part of police training at the Statehouse.

“The No. 1 focus of the Legislative Police is the protection of lives, then property. The Legislative Police have always included crowd management and dignitary protection as part of their normal training regimen,” Erdoes said in a statement. “This includes protection of the rights and the safety of all persons who come upon the Legislative buildings and ground.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Back to top