Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s return to the White House may be sooner than some have predicted, if the latest QAnon conspiracy theories are to be believed. For weeks after the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden, QAnon followers hyped Mar. 4, 2021 as the new date for Trump’s return to the presidency.
The theory grew on Telegram and other social media outlets frequented by the far right, and was evidently inspired by the fact that March 4 used to be the inauguration date for presidents until 1933. This information, combined with a misreading of an 1871 law, resulted in the fallacious claim that the U.S. ceased to be a republic, and became a "business" that year. QAnon adherents of this theory claimed that any laws passed after 1871 are invalid, and presidents elected after 1871 are illegitimate.
The potential for violence around March 4 and surrounding Biden’s upcoming State of the Union speech has been taken seriously by the government. Around 4,900 National Guard troops will remain in Washington, D.C., through mid-March 2021.
Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a meeting with defense officials in mid-February: “Some of these people have figured out that apparently 75 years ago, the President used to be inaugurated on March 4. Okay, now why that's relevant, God knows, at any rate, now they are thinking maybe we should gather again and storm the Capitol on March 4 [...] that is circulating online.”
Smith was also skeptical of whether another similar event would take place on March 4: "Stuff like that circulates all the time, does it mean it's going to happen, probably not, but if you want to help, tell them not to do that, tell them that the election is over. Joe Biden won. It was a free and fair election, and let's get to work, that too would help reduce the well I don't know fear/paranoia that people feel that requires everything that we're seeing around here."
A late February, Politico report described how security at the U.S. Capitol would remain high amidst reports of extremist attacks during the State of the Union, the date of which has not yet been revealed.
Even the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. jacked up its room rates for March 3 and 4, from more than $500 per night to more than $1,300. No clear reasons for this price jump were available, but various news reports tried to connect the dots. We checked the prices for those dates ourselves:
We called the reservations team at the hotel to inquire about the pricing. A representative wasn't aware of the price jumps, but said, "It's not unheard of, it's probably because they’re just very busy and many people want the same rooms." They were also not aware of any events or conferences planned at the hotel around that time period. We emailed the Trump International Hotel to learn more, and will update this post if we get more information.
Whether or not violence will actually take place on March 4 remains to be seen, but Trump taking over the presidency again on that date is virtually impossible. Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, his government is in power for the next four years, and there is no way the former president can return to take charge before the end of Biden's term.
Even QAnon adherents have been backing away from this claim. According to a Vice report from Feb. 26, prominent QAnon influencers started calling March 4 a "false flag event" created entirely by the mainstream media to “make the whole movement look dumb.” Reporting around these dates finds little evidence of major events being planned, but violence is possible given the security arrangements.
Given that many of QAnon’s influencers are rejecting claims of Trump’s March 4 takeover, and that any overturning of power is highly improbable over the next few days, we rate this claim as “False.”