After a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol last Jan. 6, federal law enforcement officials pursued two high-profile extremist groups: the far-right nationalist Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers militia. Members of both organizations were quickly arrested on charges of plotting to interfere with the certification of the 2020 vote count. Now congressional investigators are examining the role of another right-wing paramilitary group that was involved in a less publicly visible effort to keep President Trump in power: the 1st Amendment Praetorian, the New York Times reports. Known as 1AP, the group spent much of the postelection period working with pro-Trump lawyers, activists, business executives and veterans to undermine public confidence in the election and to bolster Trump’s hopes of remaining in the White House.
Members of the 1st Amendment Praetorian helped funnel data on purported election fraud to lawyers suing to overturn the vote count. They guarded celebrities like Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, at “Stop the Steal” rallies, where huge crowds gathered to demand that Trump remain in office. They supported a proposal to persuade the president to declare an emergency and seize voting machines in a bid to stay in power. None of 1AP’s top operatives has been arrested in connection with the Capitol riot. In the days leading up to the assault, 1AP’s Twitter account posted messages suggesting that the group knew violence was imminent. The House committee investigating the Capitol attack issued a subpoena to Robert Patrick Lewis, the leader of 1AP. Made up largely of Special Forces veterans and former intelligence officials, 1AP was founded in September 2020 to protect Trump supporters from harassment at rallies and to safeguard free speech rights from “tyrannical, Marxist subversive groups.” By the time he founded 1st Amendment Praetorian, Lewis, who once served as a medic for a Special Forces team, had been out of the Army for a decade and reinvented himself as an author and commentator with an interest in military issues and right-wing politics.