WASHINGTON (AP) – The architect of a protest scheduled for Saturday in Washington to rewrite the story of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in January is barely a household name.
Matt Braynard worked as an analyst for the Republican Party, processed data for a small election company, and later started a consulting firm that, according to records, attracted few federal clients. He started a nonprofit after being laid off by Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign after several months at the job, but struggled to raise money. The group’s tax exemption was revoked last year.
But Braynard’s fate changed abruptly after Trump’s 2020 election defeat. He joined a damaged group of Trump allies trying to overturn the election – earning recognition, lucrative fees and a fundraising gain that enabled him to revitalize his nonprofit.
Now Braynard and his group Look Ahead America are using their newfound platform and resources to create an alternate story of the attack on the 6th. “
Although many members of Congress, including those allied with Braynard’s cause, do not know whether they will be attending Saturday’s protests, the event has rocked law enforcement, increased security and raised concerns that members of the same may also include extremist groups who were present on January 6th could be present.
How much draw his Justice for J6 rally will end up being will test the reach and strength 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 on this story. The Associated Press previously declined to accept his condition to broadcast an interview with him live.
But a review of court records, campaign funding disclosures and social media postings, as well as Braynard’s previous interviews with journalists posted online, document his efforts to build his influence over the past year, which culminated in the event on Saturday.
“I will never cancel this rally,” Braynard told WTOP Washington radio. “That even happens when I’m alone with a megaphone.”
The seeds for the rally were sown the day after the 2020 election when Trump made false claims of widespread election fraud that were later rejected by numerous courts, election officials and his then-own Attorney General, William Barr.
Braynard suggested on Twitter that there may have been election fraud while promoting an online fundraiser he launched to help meet the cost of analyzing election data in states where the Trump- Campaign insisted she won.
He told BuzzFeed News in a summer interview that he had brought some early findings to the Trump campaign’s attention. The campaign that refused to reinstate him as a low-level field worker at the start of the 2020 campaign initially agreed to listen to him. But after he got to campaign headquarters, campaign officials changed their minds, he said.
“I stood on the sidewalk for an hour while they fought inside whether or not to let me in,” he said. “Ultimately, I was told that I would not be allowed in and I went home.”
However, his online fundraising took off. After crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com shut down an early attempt citing misleading information, Braynard switched to a conservative, friendly site and quickly raised over $ 675,000.
A later report he wrote of his findings – which one expert described as “riddled with errors” and as a violation of “basic standards of scientific evidence” – was welcomed by Trump’s allies and served in numerous lawsuits that were later dismissed as Cornerstone of evidence.
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 an IRS database says has yet to be approved. The group now lists 11 employees on their website.
The January 6 attack quickly became an organizational 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 contained a picture of the fire in the Reichstag in 1933, which the NSDAP used as an excuse to seize power. Braynard’s caption: “The real coup is being carried out by Silicon Valley right now,” a reference to a widespread complaint from Conservatives that they are being silenced on social media.
He has since shared a link on a fundraiser for Ethan Nordean, a member of the extremist group Proud Boys who was charged with the attack. “If you don’t share this post, I never want to hear you say that you are fighting this repressive government,” he wrote.
Look Ahead America also tweeted from its account last February that the group would be attending the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, a one-day event hosted by Nick Fuentes, an internet right-wing personality who promoted the belief of white supremacy Has .
But Braynard also tried to penetrate mainstream conservatives.
Look Ahead America was a sponsor of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering that typically attracts Republican presidential candidates. The group received considerable attention for a large gold statue of a “surfer” Trump, complete with red, white and blue shorts, that was part of their stand.
But they also did things to annoy the organizers of the conference.
After Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had repeatedly traded conspiracy theories and advocated violence against Democrats, was not recognized at the event, Look Ahead America claimed to have “picked up” her by giving her a seat at one side granted events.
At a subsequent CPAC event in Texas in July, Look Ahead America billed a speech by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz at a side event as an “official” CPAC event. Gaetz is a pro-Trump provocateur against whom a federal investigation is being initiated on allegations of sex trafficking; he has denied wrongdoing.
After the CPAC organizers released a statement saying that Look Ahead America’s Gaetz event was not part of the official program, Braynard tweeted that it was a “100% lie” because “the space / the event was part of our sponsorship package ”.
He has moved into the spotlight again, this time with the rally on Saturday, and has repeatedly downplayed the possibility of violence there.
Trump did not support the rally, but released a statement on Thursday claiming that the defendants in the January 6 attack are “so unfairly pursued”.
Still, Republicans seem to be keeping their distance in Congress.
So far, the only guest speakers Braynard has announced are clients of his running against incumbent GOP members of Congress who voted for Trump’s impeachment. And the authorization given for the rally does not allow for more than 700 people, according to one person who was informed of the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential details.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, when asked about the event.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who co-led the Jan 6th objection to Biden’s certification with Cruz, also rejected the idea.
“I’m not going,” Hawley said. “I’m not following it at all.”
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, has expressed his condolences to the defendants in connection with the January 6th attack. But Johnson, who said he wouldn’t attend Saturday’s event, gave some advice to those who are.
“Don’t break any laws.”
Washington Associated Press Writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.