January 6 hearing revisits pro-Trump conspiracy theory over Italian votes on satellite change

Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows has asked the US Department of Justice to call on the Italian government to look into a conspiracy theory that migrated QAnon-linked corners of the internet to the White House, an investigation finds of the House Select Committee on Baseless Election Fraud. narrative that fueled violence at the United States Capitol on January 6.

Mr Meadows – according to documents first obtained by members of Congress and reviewed by news outlets last year – allegedly told Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen following Mr Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election to investigate false allegations of fraud in the states he lost.

He reportedly urged Mr Rosen to investigate several refuted allegations, including a ‘theory’ that Italian officials, in coordination with Barack Obama and the CIA, used satellites and military technology to manipulate US voting machines , a claim that circulated among QAnon-affiliated groups and far-right media before catching the attention of Republican Congressman Scott Perry, who sent Mr. Meadows a YouTube link.

“Why can’t we just work with the Italian government?” Mr. Perry wrote to Mr. Meadows on December 31, 2020, according to texts obtained by the commission. The video was posted on YouTube on December 18.

In his request for the Justice Department to investigate the conspiracy theory, Mr Meadows emailed the video to Mr Rosen.

The conspiracy theory promoted by a man named Brad Johnson in far-right media is inspired by claims made on far-right social media platforms and message boards like 4chan and and amplified by QAnon influencers.

Ron Watkins – a site administrator for 8chan who is widely believed to be the source of the Q messages and is now running for Congress as a Republican in Arizona – began raising the claims in early January 2021. The conspiracy theory has also been shared among GOP officials in Nevada. this month.

Mr Johnson’s false claims suggest a military satellite controlled by an Italian defense contractor was manipulated by an anti-Trump State Department official with the backing of foreign intelligence.

His claims appeared to be taken from an article in an Italian newspaper by a right-wing television commentator, claiming that the Trump administration was investigating whether a US Embassy official in Rome had conspired to manipulate the results of the the election — a report that set off a chain of events that brought the conspiracy theory to White House officials, on letterhead belonging to a Virginia airline.

Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general, told the committee the claims in the video were “pure madness.”

Committee member and Republican U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger said the committee’s investigation “has revealed that this savage and baseless conspiracy theory has traveled from the recesses of the internet to the highest levels of our government.”

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