According to a report first published by Yahoo! News, the FBI is now identifying conspiracy theories as potential domestic terrorist threats. The bulletin specifically implicates QAnon, a fringe group that believes there is a deep state effort to work against Donald Trump.
In a bulletin from the bureau's Phoenix field office, dated May, 30, 2019, the FBI describes “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat, and notes that it's the first document to do so. The document specifically names both QAnon and Pizzagate—a conspiracy theory that alleges Hillary Clinton and associates were running a sex-trafficking ring underneath a pizza shop in D.C.—as conspiracies that could inspire "violent acts." The document goes on to list a number of arrests that have been made with relation to violent crimes inspired by fringe beliefs.
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the bulletin reads. Another potential motivator could be tied to “the uncovering of real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures.”
In 2016, a man who said he wanted to "self-investigate" the Pizzagate theory, walked into a D.C.-based pizzeria and fired a gun in an attempt to save the children he believed were being held there. “This is the first FBI product examining the threat from conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists and provides a baseline for future intelligence products,” the document states. The memo continues by stating the risk will likely increase going into the 2020 election cycle.
Donald Trump is explicitly mentioned in the memo, as he relates to the QAnon theory. According to the document, the foundation of QAnon is based on the conspiracy that a governnment official, known as "Q," reveals, "classified information online to reveal a covert effort, led by President Trump, to dismantle a conspiracy involving ‘deep state’ actors and global elites allegedly engaged in an international child sex trafficking ring.”
The FBI is facing mounting pressure as of late, to identify who or what falls under the term extremist, and how the bureau is combatting such threats. During a contentious hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the majority of domestic terrorist threats the bureau has investigated in 2019 have been tied to white supremacy. He faced backlash from Democratic lawmakers who accused the bureau of failing to properly address violence stemming from these racist beliefs.