In the weeks since Adam Newbold, a former Navy SEAL member, was identified as part of the angry crowd that came to the Capitol on January 6, he has been interviewed by the FBI and has resigned as a mentor and under pressure from Jobs volunteer wrestling trainer. He expects his company to lose important customers because of his actions.
But none of this has shaken his belief against all evidence that the presidential election was stolen and that people like him were right to stand up.
It is surprising because Mr. Newbold’s background seems to arm him better than most against the lure of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. In the Navy, he was trained as an expert in sorting information from Disinformation, a clandestine commando that worked in intelligence agencies with the CIA for years, and he once derided the idea of shady anti-democratic conspiracies as “tinfoil hat” thinking.
Even so, like thousands of others who came to Washington this month to support President Donald J. Trump, Mr Newbold subscribed to the trumped-up theory that the election was rigged by a shady cabal of liberal brokers who are bringing the nation to the brink had urged the civil war. Nobody could convince him otherwise.
Photos from the Capitol show Mr. Newbold wearing a black “We the People” t-shirt and being on a Capitol Police motorcycle just steps from where officers fought rioters.
Mr. Newbold says he did not enter the Capitol and has not been charged with any crime. But his presence there reflects the fleeting brew of partisan politics and viral misinformation that led to the attack.
Mr. Newbold’s worldview emerges from his Facebook account. In an explosive-laden battle video he posted a week before the uprising, he reiterated debunked but widespread claims about the election, saying, “It is absolutely incredible to see the mountains of evidence of electoral fraud and election fraud, and of machines and people, who voted, dead who voted. “When commentators challenged him, he replied with sayings and rebuttals like,” Yes, keep laughing, you’ll laugh when you’re trampled. “
One noticeable aspect of the angry crowd at the Capitol was how many of its members appeared not to be from the fringes of American society but from the background of white picket fences on Main Street – firefighters and real estate agents, a marketing manager and a councilor, all shackled by the weak Conspiracy theories. The presence of Mr. Newbold showed how convincing the story of the rigged elections had become.
His experience should have made him hard to fool. A few years earlier, when he helped organize a military training exercise called Jade Helm 15, he was on the receiving end of the same unfounded and potentially dangerous passion for an allegedly sinister government conspiracy – and he laughed at it.
However, even after the Capitol Rebellion, he expressed the assurance that he would not be fooled about the election.
“I’ve been to countries around the world indoctrinated by propaganda,” Newbold said in a long telephone interview last week, adding that he knew how misinformation could be used to manipulate the masses. “I have no doubts; I am convinced that the elections were not free and fair.”
He said he believed nameless elites tacitly managed a coup by manipulating the voting software and warned that the country was still on the brink of war.
Mr. Newbold, 45, lives in the rural hills of eastern Ohio and is one of three brothers who all became Navy SEAL commandos. He spent 23 years in the elite force, Navy Records shows, including seven in the Naval Reserves, before retiring as Senior Chief Petty Officer in 2017. He received two Navy Commendation medals for bravery in combat and several others for good behavior.
A former SEAL who served with him on Little Creek Joint Expeditionary Base, Virginia Mr. Newbold is smart and has a good reputation on the SEAL teams and has worked with the CIA in gathering information.
After the Navy, Mr. Newbold moved to the small town of Lisbon, Ohio, opened a coffee shop, and started a company called the Advanced Training Group, which taught members of the military and police SEAL-style tactics, ran a gym, and shot club for locals.
Through his company, he was involved in the development and execution of Jade Helm 15, an eight-week military training exercise in Texas and other southwestern states in the summer of 2015 This included more than a thousand special operations and conventional troops practicing simulated missions, including covert reconnaissance and night raids.
When a PowerPoint slide summarizing the exercise leaked, it was picked up by Facebook fringe groups and professional conspiracy theory promoters like Alex Jones, who claimed Jade Helm was a covert conspiracy to invade federal troops in Texas using the guns Confiscate the citizens and impose martial law. Unsubstantiated rumors circulated about “black helicopters” and Walmart stores that had allegedly been converted into detention centers.
The storm of political paranoia that spread over a straightforward military exercise became so violent that some members of Congress who later questioned the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. began calling for answers, and Governor Greg Abbott instructed the Texas National Guard to keep this watch.
In the end, the exercise went smoothly. Mr. Newbold said in the interview that he and the other former special operators who had planned the training exercise laughed at the paranoia and even made T-shirts that said, “I went to Jade Helm and all I got was that aluminum foil hat” .
Last week he admitted that the maddening misinformation surrounding Jade Helm could have been fatal. Texas residents feared violence. Three men were arrested after planning to attack the drill with pipe bombs.
“There have actually been some farmers and landowners who threatened if someone were on their land they would shoot them, so there was real concern,” Newbold said. “It’s fun, but it’s something we have to take seriously.”
At the time, Mr. Newbold dismissed what he had seen as marginalized, unaware that it was a precursor to the fantasies that attracted many more Americans, including military troops, police officers, members of Congress, and a seated president – not about Mr. Mention Newbold.
Mr Newbold is a longtime registered Republican who said he voted for Mr Trump. Over the past four years, as the president’s coverage in the mainstream media grew tougher and the sometimes stern support of Mr. Newbold on Facebook drew more reproaches, he has migrated to news outlets and chat rooms sharing his views.
Until late fall 2020, he spent time on private Facebook pages, where right-wing extremist chatter spread. He published long, often disgruntled, video monologues about how the land was stolen. He seemed increasingly convinced that people were plotting not just against Mr. Trump but against the Constitution, and as a veteran, it was his duty to defend it.
Mr Newbold began holding private meetings with other like-minded members at his shooting club, according to a former member who said he resigned because he was alarmed about growing extremism.
“It got super cult,” said the former member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “I tried to argue with him, to show him facts, and he just went nuclear.”
After the November elections, Mr Newbold’s Facebook posts predicting an impending war worried some people in Lisbon to the point that at least one said she had alerted the FBI
Last week, in discussing his convictions, Mr Newbold rejected dozens of court decisions disputing election results and removed the logistical barriers to holding an election conducted by independent officials in more than 3,000 counties. Without citing evidence, he suggested it was naive to assume that the results had not been tampered with.
In a long video released in late December, the former SEAL member predicted a communist takeover if people didn’t rise to stop it. “As soon as things get violent, I’m in my element,” he said in the video. “And I will defend this country. And there are plenty of other people who will too. “
A week later, Mr. Newbold organized a group of employees, club members, and supporters of his company to travel to Washington in a trailer and joined the flag-waving crowd that stormed toward the Capitol on January 6.
In a video posted that evening, members of his group were seen on the “front lines” of the riot. “Folks, you’d be proud,” says Mr. Newbold to his audience. “I don’t know when you last stormed the Capitol. But that’s exactly what happened. It was historical, it was necessary. “He adds that members of Congress” trembled in their shoes “.
In an interview last week, Mr. Newbold tried to downplay his involvement in the events at the Capitol. He said that he was only on the police motorcycle to keep vandals away and that he had traveled to Washington not to incite violence but to protect the Capitol from angry liberals in case the Senate agreed to the certificate of election to stop .
After the attack on the Capitol, he deleted some of his more dangerous online posts. But what happened in Washington doesn’t seem to have led him to question his beliefs. He said he was still sure that the elections had been stolen and that the country was on its way to becoming global autocracy.
And in a video released six days after the uprising when it became known that people had died, Mr. Newbold said he “felt a sense of pride at the Capitol that Americans were finally standing up”. He did not rule out turning to violence himself.
“I don’t apologize for being a rough man willing to do rough things in rough situations,” he said. “It’s absolutely necessary at times and has been in our entire history.”