WASHINGTON >> The architect of a demonstration in Washington scheduled for Saturday that aims to rewrite the history of January’s violent assault on the US Capitol is not a household name.
Matt Braynard worked as an analyst for the Republican Party, analyzed data from a small election firm, and then started a consulting firm that attracted few federal clients, records show. He started a nonprofit after being fired by Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 after several months on the job, but struggled to raise funds. The group’s tax-exempt status was revoked last year.
But Braynard’s fortunes abruptly changed after Trump’s electoral defeat in 2020. He joined an aggrieved group of Trump allies seeking to overthrow the election – and in the process reaped recognition, lucrative fees and windfall. fundraising that allowed him to revive his non-profit organization.
Now Braynard and his group, Look Ahead America, are using their new platform and resources to present an alternate story of the January 6 attack that aimed to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory, renaming those who have. been charged with “political prisoners.”
Although many members of Congress, including those allied to Braynard’s cause, were silent on their participation in Saturday’s protest, the event put law enforcement to the test, leading to heightened security measures and raised fears that members of the same extremist groups present on January 6 could also be present.
The draw for his âJustice for J6â rally will test the reach and power of the emerging far-right movement, as well as the breadth of Braynard’s reach.
Braynard, who is in his 40s, did not respond to a request for comment for this story. The Associated Press has previously refused to accept his condition that an interview with him be broadcast live.
But a review of court records, campaign finance disclosures, and social media posts, as well as Braynard’s previous interviews with reporters he posted online, documents his efforts to strengthen his influence over the course of the year. year, culminating with the event on Saturday.
“At no time will I cancel this gathering,” Braynard told WTOP radio in Washington. âIt happens even though I’m there on my own with a megaphone. “
The seeds for the rally were planted the day after the 2020 election as Trump made false allegations of widespread electoral fraud, which were later dismissed by numerous courts, election officials and his own then attorney general William Barr .
Braynard suggested on Twitter that there may have been election fraud, while promoting an online fundraiser he created to cover the cost of analyzing voting data in the states where the Trump campaign insisted it was winning.
He told BuzzFeed News in a summer interview that he brought some of the early findings to the attention of the Trump campaign. The campaign, who had refused to rehire him earlier in the 2020 campaign as a low-level field staff member, initially agreed to listen to him. But after arriving at the campaign headquarters, campaign officials changed their minds, he said.
“I stood on the sidewalk for an hour as they argued inside over whether or not to let me in,” he said. “In the end, I was told that I would not be allowed in and I went home.”
Her online fundraising, however, has taken off. After crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com withdrew an initial effort, citing misleading information, Braynard migrated to a conservative user-friendly site and quickly cashed in over $ 675,000.
A subsequent report he wrote of his findings – which an expert called “riddled with errors” and a violation of “basic standards of scientific evidence” – was adopted by Trump’s allies and has served as the cornerstone of evidence in many court cases that were subsequently dismissed.
His participation also earned him at least $ 230,000 in consulting fees, according to court records.
Since then, Braynard has used the influx of resources to revive Look Ahead America and re-apply for tax-exempt status, which has yet to be approved, according to an IRS database. The group now lists 11 staff members on its website.
The January 6 attack quickly became an organizing principle of Braynard’s efforts.
His first post after creating an account on the pro-conservative social media site Telegram arrived days after the attack and featured a photo of the 1933 fire in Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag, which the Nazi Party used as pretext to take power. Caption from Braynard: “The real coup is being led by Silicon Valley right now,” a reference to a widespread complaint by Tories that they are being silenced on social media.
He has since shared a link to a fundraiser for Ethan Nordean, a member of the extremist group Proud Boys, who has been charged in the attack. âIf you don’t share this message, I never want to hear you say that you are fighting against this oppressive government,â he wrote.
Look Ahead America also tweeted from their account last February that the group would be attending the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, which was a one-day event hosted by Nick Fuentes, a far-right internet personality. who promoted white supremacist beliefs. .
But Braynard has also sought to make inroads with more traditional conservatives.
Look Ahead America was a sponsor of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a rally that typically attracts Republican presidential candidates. The group drew considerable attention for a large golden statue of a Trump “surfer”, complete with red, white and blue shorts, which was part of their booth.
But they also did things to anger the conference organizers.
After Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has repeatedly trafficked into conspiracy theories and endorsed violence against Democrats, was not recognized at the event, Look Ahead America claimed responsibility the merit of having “canceled” it by giving it a space to speak at their side. events.
At a subsequent CPAC event in Texas in July, Look Ahead America featured a speech at a side event by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz as an âofficialâ CPAC event. Gaetz is a pro-Trump provocateur under federal investigation for allegations of sex trafficking; he denied any wrongdoing.
After CPAC organizers released a statement saying the Look Ahead America’s Gaetz event was not on official programming, Braynard tweeted that it was a “100% lie” because “the venue / the event was part of our sponsorship package â.
He put himself in the limelight again, this time with Saturday’s rally, and has repeatedly played down the possibility of violence there.
Trump did not approve of the rally but issued a statement Thursday saying those indicted in the Jan.6 attack are “so unjustly persecuted.”
Yet Republicans in Congress appear to be keeping their distance.
So far, the only guest speakers Braynard has announced are his clients running against GOP congressmen who voted to impeach Trump. And the permit granted for the rally allows it to not exceed 700 people, according to a person who was briefed on the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential details.
âI don’t know what it is,â said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, when asked about the event.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who along with Cruz led January 6 objections to Biden’s certification, also rejected the idea.
âI’m not going,â Hawley said. “I’m not at all.”
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, has expressed sympathy for those charged in connection with the January 6 attack. But Johnson, who has said he will not be attending Saturday’s event, offered some advice to those who are.
âDon’t break any laws. “