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 The group’s tax-exempt status was revoked last year.
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, William Barr.
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 winning.
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.