CLAIM

Former President Barack Obama is "commanding" an army of anti-Trump protesters from his home near the White House.

FALSE

RATING

FALSE

ORIGIN

On 13 February 2017, InfoWars.com (the web site belonging to excitable conspiracy theorist Alex Jones) posted a story reporting a claim that former United States President Barack Obama was marshaling an “army” of 30,000 foot soldiers while choosing to live near the White House in order to plot against his successor, President Donald Trump:

Throughout American history, most ex-presidents have chosen to move away from Washington D.C. once their terms have ended, and the vast majority of them have tried very hard not to interfere with their successors.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama has opted for the exact opposite approach. His new home is less than two miles from the White House, and from this “command center” he will be directing the activities of an army of more than 30,000 anti-Trump activists. In fact, as you will see below, this army has already been heavily involved in many of the protests and riots that have been popping up around the nation in recent days. “Sabotage” is a very strong word, but it is becoming apparent that Obama intends to do all that he can to sabotage the Trump administration, and that is very bad news for the American people.

The InfoWars story is based entirely on a story published two days earlier in the New York Post, which speculated that President Obama (who vacationed overseas after leaving office) is somehow pulling the strings on an army that he operates through the non-profit organization Organizing for Action:

He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.

Organizing for Action officials told us that Obama does not currently have any formal relationship with the group. Meantime the Obamas have reportedly decided to stay in Washington D.C. temporarily to allow their youngest daughter to finish high school. They made no mention of remaining near the White House to act as a shadow administration:

Over lunch with a small group of supporters in Milwaukee, Obama said he and his family plan to stay in Washington for a couple of years after his presidency so that Sasha, the younger of his two daughters, can finish high school…

“We haven’t figured that out yet,” he said. “We’re going to have to stay a couple of years so Sasha can finish” school, he said. “Transferring someone in the middle of high school — tough.”

The organization’s executive director is Katie Hogan, and Obama’s name is not listed on financial forms as an “officer, director, trustee or key employee.” Spokesman Jesse Lehrich told us:

OFA is a non-profit group dedicated to grassroots organizing. We have volunteer-led chapters around the country who are working to engage fellow members of their communities and enact positive change on key issues – it’s not a very diabolical endeavor.”

No doubt Organizing for Action, which as of 2014 lists a total of 32,525 volunteers, has been associated politically with Obama, first as a candidate and then as 44th president of the United States. Various iterations of the organization backed his presidential campaigns, and many of its goals involve defending aspects of Obama’s legacy, like the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform and gun legislation. Some of its key staffers, like Jim Messina and Jon Carson, are a former Obama campaign manager and White House aide, respectively.

Obama, who is 55 years old, has hinted that he may have a politically active future upon leaving office, saying at a town hall event in North Carolina in October 2016:

Most prominently we’re gonna be interested in figuring out how we can develop the next generation of leaders…

Michelle and I, I think, If we look back 20 years from now and can say that we helped to contribute to the leadership of the next generation to replace us and to exceed what we’ve accomplished, we’ll feel pretty good about ourselves.

The former president may well engage in civic activity or political activism in his post-presidential life, and the non-profit group that has been aligned with him for years is engaged in political opposition activity during the term of a president with vastly different policies. Neither of these items are particularly surprising, but neither do they mean that President Obama is hunkered in Washington in a “shadow White House” from which he sends forth armies to thwart President Trump.

Sources:

Snyder, Michael.   “Sabotage: Obama Is Commanding an Army of 30,000 Anti-Trump Activists from His Home 2 Miles from the White House.”
    InfoWars.   13 February 2017.

Sperry, Paul.   “How Obama Is Scheming to Sabotage Trump’s Presidency.”
    The New York Post.   11 February 2017.

Jaffe, Greg, and Juliet Eilperin.   “Sasha Obama’s High School Classes Will Keep First Family in Washington for a While.
    The Washington Post.   3 March 2016.

Klein, Betsy.   “Back to Reality: Obamas Settle Into DC Life.”
    CNN.   4 February 2017.

Wheaton, Sarah.   “Obama Aims to Train ‘Next Generation’ of Activists Post-Presidency.”
    Politico.   12 October 2016.

Seitz-Wald, Alex.   “Obama-Aligned Organizing for Action Relaunches for Trump Era.”
    NBC News.   10 February 2017.