Sat. Rally Head Looks to Rewrite Jan 6 09/17 06:22
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The architect of a Washington protest planned for
Saturday that aims to rewrite history about the violent January assault on the
U.S. Capitol is hardly a household name.
Matt Braynard worked as an analyst for the Republican Party, crunched data
for a small election firm and later started a consulting business that
attracted 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. The group's tax-exempt status was revoked
But Braynard's fortunes changed abruptly after Trump's 2020 election loss.
He joined an aggrieved group of Trump allies seeking to overturn the election
-- and in the process reaped recognition, lucrative fees and a fundraising
windfall that enabled him to 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 much of a draw his "Justice for J6" rally ends up being will test the
reach and potency of the emerging far-right movement, as well as the extent of
Braynard's own reach.
Braynard, who is in his 40s, did not respond to a request for comment for
this story. The Associated Press earlier declined to accept his condition that
an interview of him be broadcast live.
But a review of court records, campaign finance disclosures and social media
postings, as well as Braynard's past interviews with journalists that he has
posted online, document his efforts to build his influence over the past year,
culminating in Saturday's event.
"At no point will I cancel this rally," Braynard told 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,
Braynard suggested on Twitter that there could have been fraud in the
election, while promoting an online fundraiser he created to defray the cost of
analyzing voting data in states where the Trump campaign insisted it was
He told BuzzFeed News in a summer interview that he brought some early
findings to the attention of the Trump campaign. 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. But after he arrived at campaign
headquarters, campaign officials changed their minds, he said.
"I stood on the sidewalk for an hour while they fought inside about whether
or not to let me in," he said. "Ultimately, I was told I would not be let in
and I went home."
His online fundraising, 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 he wrote on his findings -- which one expert excoriated
as "riddled with errors" and violating "basic standards for scientific
evidence" -- was embraced by Trump's allies and served as an evidentiary
cornerstone in numerous court cases that were later dismissed.
His participation also earned him at least $230,000 in consulting fees,
court records show.
Since then, Braynard has used the influx of resources to revive Look Ahead
America and reapply for tax-exempt status, which has yet to be approved,
according to an IRS database. The group now lists 11 staffers on its website.
The Jan. 6 attack quickly became an organizing principle for Braynard's
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: "The real coup is being
conducted by Silicon Valley right now," a reference to a widespread complaint
by conservatives that they are being silenced on social media.
Since then, he's shared a link to a fundraiser for Ethan Nordean, a member
of the Proud Boys extremist group, who was charged in the attack. "If you don't
share this post I don't ever want to hear y'all say you're fighting back
against this oppressive government," he wrote.
Look Ahead America also tweeted from its account last February that the
group would be present at the America First Political Action Conference in
Orlando, which was a one-day event hosted by Nick Fuentes, a far-right internet
personality who has promoted white supremacist beliefs.
But Braynard has also sought to make inroads with more mainstream
Look Ahead America was a sponsor at this year's Conservative Political
Action Conference, a gathering that typically draws Republican presidential
contenders. The group garnered considerable attention for a large golden statue
of a "surfer" Trump, complete with red, white and blue shorts, that was part of
But they have also done things to irk organizers of the conference.
After Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has repeatedly trafficked in
conspiracy theories and endorsed violence against Democrats, wasn't recognized
at the event, Look Ahead America claimed credit for "uncancelling" her by
giving her a speaking slot at one of their side events.
At a subsequent CPAC event in Texas in July, Look Ahead America billed a
speech at a side event by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as an "official" CPAC event.
Gaetz is a pro-Trump provocateur under federal investigation for sex
trafficking allegations; he has denied 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
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, the only guest speakers Braynard has announced are clients of his
who are running against sitting GOP members of Congress 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 don't know what it is," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said when asked about the
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who along with Cruz led the Jan. 6 objections to
Biden's certification, also dismissed the idea.
"I'm not going," Hawley said. "I'm not following it at all."
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, has voiced sympathy for those
charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. But Johnson, who said he would
not be attending Saturday's event, offered some advice to those who are.
"Don't break any laws whatsoever."