Around January 10 2020, a screenshot of a post purportedly published by outgoing United States President Donald Trump using @TeamTrumpNews to Parler began to make the rounds across social media platforms:
A version was shared to anti-QAnon subreddit r/QultHeadquarters on January 10 2021; the screenshot showed a time (6:55) and a post shared “3 hours ago.” In all caps, it read:
I HAVE INVOKED THE INSURRECTION ACT OF 1807, TO ADDRESS THE TREASONOUS REBELLION CONDUCTED BY DEMOCRAT & REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS, CCP AGENTS, THE FBI, THE DOJ, CIA & OTHERS TO UNDERMINE, CORRODE, AND DISMANTLE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND ITS CONSTITUTION. THESE ENTITIES POST A DIRECT THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY. I WILL REMAIN PRESIDENT INDEFINITELY UNTIL ALL DOMESTIC ENEMIES ARE ARRESTED.
Statistics visible on the post suggested it received:
- Over 28,000 views;
- 164 comments;
- 281 shares on Parler (or “Parley,” as the top of the screenshot read), and;
- 553 upvotes.
Text versions of the post also spread:
Screenshots attributed to Trump circulated on various platforms after Twitter permanently suspended his long-used @realDonaldTrump account on January 8 2021 — Trump reportedly attempted to access two related accounts (including @POTUS), leading to further intervention by Twitter Safety.
- “teamtrumpnews parler”;
- “trump insurrection act parler”;
- “insurrection act of 1807”;
- “parley social media”;
- “insurrection act,” and;
- “trump insurrection act.”
The Insurrection Act of 1807 is summarized as follows:
The Insurrection Act of 1807 is a United States federal law that empowers the President of the United States to deploy U.S. military and federalized National Guard troops within the United States in particular circumstances, such as to suppress civil disorder, insurrection or rebellion.
The act provides a “statutory exception” to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which limits the use of military personnel under federal command for law enforcement purposes within the United States.
Before invoking the powers under the Act, 10 U.S.C. § 254 requires the President to first publish a proclamation ordering the insurgents to disperse. As part of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, these provisions are now codified as amended.
USA Today reported on the spread of the rumors:
False social media posts swirled late Sunday [January 10 2021] that President Donald Trump in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riots had invoked the Insurrection Act, a law that allows the president to deploy the military to quell rebellion.
Tweets sharing images of military personnel in Washington, D.C., continued to spread Monday morning and became a trending term on Twitter. However, Trump has not invoked the law.
The law, which has existed in various forms since the time of George Washington and in its current state since the Civil War, allows the president to dispatch the military or federalize the National Guard in states that are unable to put down an insurrection or are defying federal law.
It was last invoked in 1992 by George H.W. Bush during the unrest in Los Angeles after the acquittal of police officers who beat Rodney King.
That outlet spoke with legal expert William Banks, who explained that the Insurrection Act of 1807 cannot be invoked in secret:
While the law is broad and gives the president discretion in its use, Banks said there are certain conditions that would need to be met before a state’s National Guard or active duty military were deployed under the Act.
If Trump were plotting to invoke the Act in some effort to prevent the transition of power to Biden, he’d have to declare it, as part of the provision in the Act requiring essentially a public cease and desist order for the insurrectionists, Banks said.
“He couldn’t do this surreptitiously. He would have to make a public proclamation and that would expose his objectives and partisan rationale,” he said.
In its own fact check, Newsweek concluded:
The viral claims that Trump signed the Insurrection Act over the weekend are not supported by evidence. It is legal convention for a proclamation to be issued before the powers invested in the president under the act are invoked. There is no evidence that Trump signed the Insurrection Act over the weekend.
Trump’s January 8 2021 Twitter ban left the door open for a number of falsely attributed posts to circulate, among them claims that Trump had “invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807,” generally with a screenshot from Parler attached. However, as experts have noted, it is not possible to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 without the informing the public.