Trump has claimed without evidence that the election is being stolen from him by his Democratic opponents. “If you count the legal vote, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” the president said during a prime-time address Thursday night from the White House. “We cannot let that happen.”
The president sees a prolonged legal battle in courts as his only option of securing a second term in office, while his supporters stage protests across the nation.
Trump supporters appear to be refusing to accept the prospect of the president losing the election, in part because a group of GOP operatives and influencers have been amplifying his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
One organizing effort featured a Facebook group called “Stop the Steal,” which garnered more than 360,000 members in less than 24 hours after the social media giant shut it down.
The group called for more than a dozen protest events in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina from Wednesday through Saturday. Most of the messages remained on the platform even after the main group was removed.
While many outraged Trump supporters quickly joined the group, a number of high-profile GOP operatives with close ties to the president were also coordinating the campaign’s efforts. They were spreading misinformation about the presidential race and calling for violence.
One of the group administrators, Cindy Pfingston Chafian, put out a call for “those who can support a Fire Mission,” a military term for directing artillery.
Some members were also directly inciting violence. “Time to clean the guns, time to hit the streets,” a member posted. “Not worried. We have the guns,” another member wrote in response to a post raising the possibility of a civil war.
The “Stop the Steal” group was tied to right-wing digital consultants and Tea Party activists, including individuals involved in “Build the Wall” project spearheaded by President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to Mother Jones and The Daily Beast.
A hashtag of the same name is also being used to spread misinformation about the election in key battleground states like Pennsylvania.
Trump backers ramped up protest rallies on Thursday night against an election they believe was being stolen from the president. They clashed with counter-protesters as vote counting continued in the remaining states
Supporters of Joe Biden, who is only six electoral votes short of victory, have been chanting “count every vote” in counter rallies.
They believe a complete tabulation in the remaining states would show the former vice president has won the election.