Since Election Day, President Donald Trump’s followers have marched on state capitol buildings and the Supreme Court, protesting the election results. They have demonstrated in front of vote counting centers, filed lawsuits and floated illogical conspiracy theories.
Now, those efforts will come to a head on Wednesday, when the most zealous members of MAGA nation — activists, fans and militia groups — plan to rally one more time in Washington in a dying attempt to keep President Donald Trump in the White House.
Timed to the day when Congress will formally certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win, the MAGA crowd is trying to pressure Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers to refuse to seat Biden over fabricated voter-fraud claims. It’s a doomed plan, given the makeup of Congress, the absent evidence behind the rigged election allegations and the fact that every important state has already certified Biden’s win. Yet that hasn’t stopped a swell of Trump supporters from making plans — and the president from teasing his own appearance.
According to disinformation and extremist researchers, the Jan. 6 gathering will look similar to November’s Million MAGA March — a mashup of garden-variety Trump supporters and more extreme members of the far right, with no apparent central organizing apparatus. Stop the Steal, a group affiliated with pro-Trump super PACs and allies of Trump adviser Roger Stone, has filed for permits and plans to protest outside the Capitol, but other groups have also claimed to be the true official planners.
There’s one key difference with this march, however. After weeks of failed lawsuits, flailing investigations and Republicans unhitching themselves from Trump’s quest to keep the presidency, the Wednesday rally might be the last one while there’s still a plan — even if it’s an ill-fated one — to subvert the election.
“That sense of panic and urgency will be a motivator for believers to attend rallies that day,” said Jared Holt, who tracks far-right extremism and disinformation at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Center. “For these groups and their supporters, President-Elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration feels like more of an immediate threat to their agenda items.”
Trump and a coterie of Republican lawmakers have insisted that they can, in fact, mount an opposition to election certification on Wednesday. If a member of the House joins with a senator to object, it prompts a floor debate followed by a vote in each chamber of Congress.
Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama was the first to announce that he and several other Republican House members would contest the election results — and as many as 140 House Republicans have now indicated they may vote against Biden’s win. In the Senate, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the first senator to say he would object, followed over the weekend by 11 of his GOP colleagues.
Yet their objections will only delay the final rubber stamp — likely by several hours — since Democrats control the House and several Senate Republicans have already acknowledged Biden’s victory. Both chambers need a simple majority to recognize the results.
“It will be more of a sideshow than anything else, if that happens,” said Rick Hasen, a professor specializing in election law at the University of California, Irvine.
Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the joint session of Congress, meaning he will certify Biden’s win. The role has placed him in the MAGA crosshairs.
The pro-Trump grassroots internet launched a campaign begging the vice president to go against centuries of precedent and refuse to certify the results, arguing he could just count the electoral votes in a manner that makes Trump the winner. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) even spearheaded a lawsuit making this argument, saying it was unconstitutional to not give Pence total authority to choose which electoral votes count. The suit was quickly dismissed.
Still, high-profile MAGA influencers have been telling Pence he could become a legendary figure if he goes along with the far-fetched plan.
“VP Mike Pence can place himself in the history books alongside Thomas Jefferson,” wrote Joe Hoft on Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump outlet, this week, “or he can sign off on the destruction of the United States as we know it.”
And MAGA diehards are booking their tickets to Washington to encourage Pence in person.
WildProtest, a subgroup of Stop the Steal, is asking attendees to gather by the north entrance of the Capitol Building, where Pence is expected to arrive on Jan. 6.
And MAGA world’s A-list names are also slated to speak, including Stone, QAnon-boosters and freshly elected Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Lauren Boebert and Joe Flynn, brother of Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“Our presence in Washington D.C. will let Members of Congress know that we stand with Rep. Mo Brooks and his colleagues in the House of Representatives who will bravely object to the certification of the Electoral College,” the WildProtest website proclaims.
Militia groups like the Three Percenters, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have also vowed to attend, while some Trump groups are putting together caravans and planning stops in various cities across the country on their way to D.C. Trump himself has promoted the march on his Twitter feed, promising it will be “wild.”
“We will exhaust every constitutional remedy outlined by the founders,” Ali Alexander, a Stop the Steal organizer, said in a statement. “We’re peaceful but pissed off at our Republican leaders in the House and Senate.”
As is typical for large MAGA gatherings, there is some dissension over who is organizing the event.
One group unaffiliated with Stop the Steal, @MillionMAGAMarch, posted to 42,000-plus followers on Twitter that it is “the REAL Official Million Maga March Twitter Account,” and tweeted information about various caravans traveling across the country — Michigan, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Alabama.
POLITICO was blocked when it attempted to follow the group on Twitter: “THANK YOU FOR THE FOLLOW! BUT WE DON’T TALK TO LIBERAL JOURNALISTS!”
Some corners of MAGA world even profess to be planning for a Trump victory on Wednesday, arguing the president will pull out a secret stratagem at the last minute. Over on TheDonald.win, a thread of supporters discussed the possibility that Jan. 6 will actually be Trump’s inauguration, and that Trump “wants DC flooded for a celebration rather than a war.”
Holt, the extremist researcher, suggested the entire Jan. 6 endeavor was a MAGA world attempt to flex the influence it has gained over the past four years — even if it won’t work.
“They have failed to achieve their desired results so far, and this moment appears to be their last shot at something real,” he noted.
Alexander, the Stop the Steal organizer, vowed there would be consequences for Republicans who do not fall in line that day. In the coming months, he said, Stop the Steal will start working on “primarying Republicans who betrayed Trump and the confidence of GOP voters.”