Organizer of Saturday rally looks to rewrite Jan. 6 history
WASHINGTON, (AP) — Saturday’s planned protest in Washington aims to rewrite the history of the brutal January attack on Capitol. This is not a well-known name.
Matt Braynard was an analyst for Republican Party. He crunched data for small election firms and then started a consulting firm that attracted very few federal clients. Records show. He started a nonprofit after he was dismissed by Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign following several months on the job, but struggled to raise money. Last year, the group was stripped of its tax-exempt status.
But Braynard’s fortunes changed abruptly after Trump’s 2020 election loss. Braynard joined an aggrieved team of Trump supporters to reverse the election. He also received lucrative fees, recognition and a windfall to help him rekindle his nonprofit.
Now, Braynard and his group, Look Ahead America, are using his newfound platform and resources to present an alternate history of the Jan. 6 attack that was meant to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory, rebranding those who were charged as “political prisoners.”
Although many members of Congress, including those who are allied with Braynard’s cause, have been mum on whether they will attend Saturday’s protest, the event has put law enforcement on edge, led to stepped-up security measures and created worries that members of the same extremist groups that were present on Jan 6. could also be in attendance.
How big a draw the “Justice for J6” rally will end up being will be a test of both the power and reach of the far-right movement as well as Braynard himself.
Braynard, who is in his 40s, did not respond to a request for comment for this story. An earlier interview with Braynard was not broadcast live by the Associated Press.
But, a review of his court records, campaign finance disclosures, and social media posts, as well as Braynard’s past interviews with journalists, that he posted online, show his efforts to increase his influence over the past 12 months, culminating in Saturday’s rally.
“I will not cancel this rally at any time,” Braynard stated to WTOP radio in Washington. “This is happening even if I’m there by myself with a megaphone.”
The seeds of the rally were planted the day after the 2020 election as Trump made false claims of widespread voter fraud, which were later rejected by numerous courts, election officials and his own attorney general at the time, William Barr.
Braynard suggested that fraud could have occurred in the election while promoting an internet fundraiser to pay for the costs of analyzing voter data in states where Trump’s campaign claimed it was winning.
He stated to BuzzFeed News that he had brought early results to the attention Trump’s campaign in a summer interview. The campaign, which had declined to rehire him earlier in the 2020 campaign as a low-level field staffer, initially agreed to hear him out. He said that campaign officials changed their mind after he arrived at headquarters.
“I stood there for over an hour as they debated inside whether to allow me in. “I was finally told that I wouldn’t be allowed in, and I went home His online crowdfunding, however, took off. After the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com took down an early effort, citing misleading information, Braynard migrated to an conservative friendly site and quickly took in over $675,000. A subsequent report that he wrote about his findings, which was criticised by one expert as being “riddled in errors” and violating “basic scientific evidence standards”, was accepted by Trump’s allies. It served as an evidentiary foundation in many court cases that were later dropped.
His participation also earned him at least $230,000 in consulting fees, court records show. Braynard used the new resources to revive Look Ahead America, and to reapply to tax-exempt status. This has not been approved according to an IRS database. The group now lists 11 staffers on its website. The Jan. 6 attack quickly became a organizing principle for Braynard’s efforts.
His first post after creating an account on the conservative-friendly social media site Telegram came days after the attack and featured a picture of the 1933 fire at Germany’s parliament building, the Reichstag, which the Nazi party used as a pretext to seize power. Braynard’s caption read: “The real coup being conducted by Silicon Valley right currently,” which refers to the widespread complaints by conservatives about being silenced via social media.
He shared a link to a fundraiser to Ethan Nordean (a member of the Proud Boys extremist organization) who was arrested in the attack. He wrote, “If you don’t share this post, I don’t ever want to listen y’all say you’re fighting back against the oppressive government.”
Look ahead America also tweeted last February from its account that the group would attend the America First Political Action Conference, Orlando. This was a one-day event hosted in Orlando by Nick Fuentes (a far-right internet personality who promotes white supremacist views).
But Braynard also tried to get in touch with mainstream conservatives.
Look Ahead America was a sponsor at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering that typically draws Republican presidential contenders. Their booth featured a large, golden statue of Trump as a “surfer”, complete with red, blue, and white shorts. It attracted a lot of attention.
But, they also did things that annoyed the conference organizers.
After Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was not recognized at the event and had repeatedly promoted conspiracy theories and supported violence against Democrats, Look Ahead America claimed credit by “uncancelling her” by giving her a slot at one their side events.
Look Ahead America claimed that a speech given by Matt Gaetz, a Florida Representative, was an official CPAC event at the subsequent CPAC event. Gaetz is a pro Trump provocateur under federal investigation for sex traficking allegations; he denies wrongdoing .
After CPAC organizers released a statement saying Look Ahead America’s Gaetz event wasn’t part of the official programming, Braynard tweeted that was a “100% Lie” because “the room/event was part of our sponsor package.”
He has once again thrust himself into the spotlight, this time with Saturday’s rally, and has repeatedly downplayed the possibility of violence there.
Trump has not endorsed the rally but did release a statement Thursday claiming people charged in the Jan. 6 attack are “being persecuted so unfairly.”
Still, Republicans in Congress appear to be keeping their distance.
So far, Braynard’s only guests have been clients who are running against current GOP members who voted to impeach Trump. And the permit granted for the rally allows it to be no larger than 700 people, according to a person who was briefed on the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential details.
“I’m not sure what it is,” Senator Ted Cruz, R.Texas, stated when asked about the event.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley also rejected the idea, having led the Jan. 6 objections against Biden’s certification.
“I am not going,” Hawley stated. “I’m not following that .”
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has expressed sympathy for those who were charged in connection to the Jan. 6 attack. Johnson said that he wouldn’t be attending Saturday’s event but offered some guidance to those who were.
“Don’t break any laws whatsoever.”
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report.