Former President Donald Trump supporters riot inside the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC (Photo by Brent Stirton / Getty Images)
Unravel the viral misinformation and explain where it came from, the damage it is causing, and what we need to do about it.
Phil Waldron lived a quiet life after retiring from the military in 2016 after 30 years of service. He specialized in psychological influence operations and was deployed to Iraq.
On his LinkedIn profile, Waldron describes himself as the founder, forklift driver and sweeper at One Shit Distillery and Brewing in the small rural town of Dripping Spring, Texas.
But in August 2020, a few months before the presidential election, Waldron told Reuters, he began researching vote hacking, a conspiracy that had gained traction in online conspiracy movements like QAnon.
He then began working with Allied Security Operations Group, a cybersecurity firm run by businessman and defeated congressional candidate Russell Ramsland who had been promoting electoral fraud plots since 2018.
From there, Waldron’s claims about foreign interference quickly became him a key player in promoting the big lie that the election was stolen, and his work resulted in a PowerPoint presentation that many suspect was ‘helping fuel the anger that led to the Capitol Riot.
This PowerPoint presentation has now become a central focus of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack after the 38-page document was put back to the panel by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week.
Thusday, the select committee assigned Waldron.
“The document he allegedly provided to administration officials and members of Congress is an alarming plan to overthrow a national election,” Representative Bennie Thompson, panel chair, said in a press release announcing the summons. . âThe select committee needs to tell him about all these activities. “
When Trump lost the election in November and refused to admit defeat, Waldron phoned his local congressman, Representative Louis Gohmert, and told him he spotted internet traffic related to US voting systems. which was routed through a server in Germany. Votes could also be redirected, he told Gohmert.
Waldron says Gohmert hung up and immediately called then-President Donald Trump.
Two weeks later, Waldron testified before the Pennsylvania Senate.
That same day, November 25, 2020, Giuliani took him to the White House to meet with Trump. âIt was awesome,â said Waldron, Trump said of his testimony in Pennsylvania.
From that point on, Trump and his team changed direction. They began pushing Republican-led legislatures in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia to replace Biden’s voters with those who backed Trump.
âThis whole strategy started from this hearing in Pennsylvania,â Waldron told Reuters this week.
Shortly thereafter, Waldron appeared before lawmakers in Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan, and Rudy Giuliani was citing him as his source of reference for the allegations he made about vote rigging and voter fraud.
Over the next six weeks, Waldron has become a central part of the effort to discredit the 2020 elections. He shared his information via a PowerPoint presentation titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN”. The presentation made extremely bogus claims about the election, including the claim that the Chinese government “systematically took control” of the US voting infrastructure.
More worryingly, it also included suggestions on what Trump could do to fight back, such as “declare a national security emergency” and “declare e-voting invalid in all states.”
Two days before the Jan.6 uprising, Waldron deployed his team – which he did not identify – to brief a group of senators on Capitol Hill on the contents of the presentation. On January 5, Waldron personally informed a small group of members of the House of his false allegations. He made the fake PowerPoint presentation available to lawmakers to share in their own circles.
Although Waldron said he was not the one who sent the presentation to Meadows, he told the Washington Post that one of his team could have sent it, and that he had spoken to Meadows “8 to 10 times” in the weeks following the elections.
Waldron told Reuters he was initially reluctant to speak publicly about his claims, but was convinced both by Rudy Giuliani, former Trump attorney, and Michael Flynn, the former legal adviser. disgraced national security who has become a central figure in the attempt to discredit the last election of the year.
Waldron says Flynn told him, “No one else can do it, it has to be done, so go ahead and do it.”
Until recently, Waldron had until recently remained largely under the radar.
But if his own account of what happened in the days following the 2020 election is to be believed, it was his allegations of foreign interference in the election that sparked much of the plots that led a majority of Republican voters believe the election was stolen. .
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, for example, has spent most of his time over the past 12 months and millions of dollars touting the baseless claim that China was responsible for the election hack; whose timing and details closely echo those of Waldron.
Lindell and Waldron reunited in August during a Cyber ââSymposium hosted by Lindell in South Dakota where he said he would finally give cybersecurity experts evidence of foreign interference in the election.
This evidence never materialized, but during the three-day event, Lindell repeatedly released a cleverly produced 22-minute video of Waldron describing his baseless claims about China’s role in the modification of the 2020 election result.
Waldron was also instrumental in establishing the Arizona audit. Initially it was responsible for leading the audit effort, but eventually ended up working in the background. Yet he Recommended Florida based company Î©yber Ninjas to Karen Fann, Republican President of the Arizona Senate, despite the company’s complete lack of election audit experience.
And his efforts have not ceased. On Tuesday, Waldon appeared before the Louisiana State Legislature and gave a presentation on voting machines and electoral systems in which he continued to repeat widely debunked claims about the stolen election.
The House committee will now seek to establish to what extent Waldron played a pivotal role in fomenting anger before the January 6 riot, but based on his own account, his claims have been critical in changing the way which Trump and his team tried to undermine the election.