In the midst of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, believers of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory are convinced that the former president will be sworn back into office on March 4, 2021.
The group’s latest conspiracy theory emerged in the immediate aftermath of President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20—a day that was supposed to mark the moment when Trump would eliminate the so-called “deep state” and expose an elite child-sex trafficking cabal. Instead, Biden was officially sworn in as the 46th president, leaving QAnon followers wondering why the military coup and dramatic scenes of revolution did not take place as prophesized.
Struggling to reconcile their worldview with the reality of Biden’s presidency, some QAnon adherents are entertaining the baseless belief that Trump will return to the White House next month. The new date is followers’ latest effort to keep the conspiracy theory alive in a movement known for constantly moving goal posts.
“Can’t wait for your return President Trump,” one believer wrote on a prominent QAnon Telegram channel. “Hold the line! March 4 can’t come soon enough.”
The March 4 conspiracy theory is rooted in the belief that an obscure act known as the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, which QAnon adherents believe transformed the U.S. into a corporation instead of a federal government. While there is no evidence for these claims—the conspiracy theory stems from a misinterpretation of the term “municipal corporation”—QAnon adherents claim that the 1871 act effectively means that laws passed after 1871 do not apply to U.S. citizens and that any president elected after 1871 has been illegitimate.
Some QAnon adherents believe that the United States will revert back to its original form as a federal government on March 4, when Trump will supposedly be sworn in as the 19th president of the United States. The reason Trump is being referred to as the 19th president is because Ulysses S. Grant, who served as the 18th president between 1869 and 1877 is viewed by some QAnon followers as the last legitimate president before the U.S. supposedly became a corporation.
The conspiracy theory has led to a variety of interpretations from QAnon adherents. Some pointed to the presence of National Guard troops in Washington, D.C., as proof that Biden is not the legitimate president.
“The White House in reality is in a foreign land,” a QAnon adherent who claimed to have military sources said on Telegram. “Joe Biden is in a foreign land as a prisoner. He is locked in. There will be a new capital in the United States of America as a constitutional republic. This is where we are going people.”
As with much of the QAnon movement, the 1871 conspiracy theory was revived and repurposed from a previous conspiracy theory relating to the sovereign citizens movement, a group of Americans who viewed the government as illegitimate, and who thus believed they were free to ignore its statutes. And much like with QAnon, the FBI has designated the sovereign citizens as a domestic terrorist threat.
As March 4 approaches, the Trump International Hotel in D.C. hiked its prices for suite bookings close to that date. Some rooms are selling for $1,331 per night, up 180 percent from the standard rate in March, according to Forbes. This form of opportunistic marketing is another example of how Trump and his affiliates have leveraged QAnon.
For some QAnon adherents, March 4 represents a last stand for the movement—a chance to both vindicate and validate their longstanding beliefs. However, if March 4 turns into yet another uneventful day, some believers have vowed to take matters into their own hands.
“If Trump/military doesn’t do anything by March, we have to do something,” one QAnon adherent wrote on Telegram. “We cannot let this treason win over our country!”