PHOENIX -- The lead organizer of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that turned into a deadly coup attempt based on the false idea that Donald Trump failed to win a second term as president because of massive voter fraud said Arizona’s #StopTheSteal movement started with one man: Mark Finchem.
“Arizona started with one man, State Representative Mark Finchem,” Alexander said to an interviewer posted by Church Militant on Jan. 10. “I’m very confident that the Stop The Steal movement has taken over Arizona.”
Finchem frequently spouted misinformation about the 2020 elections, much of which was flagged by Twitter as being incorrect, and was the driving force in Arizona for an event at a Phoenix hotel in late November. At that event, Trump’s lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and other pro-Trump figures gathered with state GOP lawmakers and the president’s supporters to discuss baseless theories that Joe Biden won Arizona’s election by fraud.
In the same video clip, Alexander claims that only nine prominent Arizona Republicans were involved in the movement before that meeting, but that the number had swelled to 50 afterward.
Finchem was present at the Jan. 6 rally and marched to the Capitol, and he praised the rioters on Twitter.
The Oro Valley Republican first publicly mentioned Alexander in a December tweet, thanking the activist and saying there wouldn’t be an audit of the Maricopa County election without his help.
“I would like to thank @ali and @MichaelCoudrey for coming to fight for Arizona. #StopTheSteal has been instrumental in fighting the election fraud we’ve discovered! Without your 2000+ patriots we wouldn’t be auditing Maricopa County,” Finchem wrote on December 5.
The tweet garnered over 2,100 likes and over 480 retweets.
The tweet also mentioned Michael Coudrey, an investor and far-right internet personality who has spread false election information and led #StopTheSteal rallies across the country.
Finchem deleted his twitter account after the Capitol insurrection, but the Arizona Mirror was able to obtain copies of his tweets going to 2012. Finchem -- who represents Legislative District 11 that includes Maricopa, Arizona City, Picacho, Oracle and Saddlebrooke in Pinal County -- did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Alexander, a right-wing personality and former felon, started the “Stop the Steal” movement. In a since deleted video, he said the Jan. 6 rally was planned with Arizona Republican Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, as well as Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks. Biggs has since denied the allegations.
But Arizona lawmakers Biggs and Gosar seem to not be the only lawmakers with a connection to the man who is now allegedly in hiding after the events of Jan. 6.
On December 11, Finchem tweeted at Alexander about the Jan. 6 event.
“@ali I’ll be there! #stopthesteal #jerichomarch,” Finchem wrote.
The second hashtag relates to a separate march that was happening on the same day that consisted of Christians praying, fasting and blowing ritual Jewish horns called shofars before circling the Capitol building seven times like the siege of the City of Jericho described in the Bible.
In the biblical story, the Israelites’s God caused the walls of the city to fall, allowing the army to enter the city and slaughter every man, woman and child. The organizers of the Jericho March have denounced the violence that took place Jan. 6, saying their goal was for peaceful prayer.
In the time leading up to Jan. 6, Finchem also tweeted at Alexander and others about his desire to convert his colleagues over to the “#StopTheSteal” movement.
“The ‘protests not events’, as @ali puts it, that #stopthesteal has thrown around the U.S., but particularly here in Arizona, has empowered me to fight for Trump and convert my colleagues,” Finchem said on Dec. 20 before thanking Coudrey and Brandon Straka, who has been arrested for his connections to the Jan. 6 riot.
The Republican legislator also promoted the hashtag prominently on his Twitter, with tweets featuring it often garnering hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes.
“With the People dug in demanding a forensic audit, and the establishment asserting its oligarchy-based power, a lot of establishment types are now outing themselves. If you don’t stand for the Constitution and your oath, we’ve already lost our republic. #stopthesteal,” he wrote on Dec. 9.
In total, Finchem used the hashtag 62 times from Nov. 19 to Jan. 6. After the violence of Jan. 6, Finchem stopped using the hashtag.
On Jan. 2, Finchem wrote that he would be heading to the nation’s capital.
“I will be in Washington DC on January 6 to #StopTheSteal and fight for President @realDonaldTrump,” Finchem said. “This is one of the most important days our republic has ever seen. We need all hands on deck.”
The tweet included a location and time for the event as well as a link to RSVP. The location was the U.S. Capitol.
Finchem has since said that he was in D.C. “to deliver an evidence book and letter to Vice President (Mike) Pence” to persuade him to delay presiding over the certification of the presidential election. He said he was scheduled to speak at a press conference on the Capitol steps while Congress was certifying the election, but was delayed in arriving because he attended Trump’s speech at the Ellipse and joined the march to the Capitol “at the rear of the crowd.”
Finchem was at the Capitol when Trump supporters engaged in a violent coup attempt, in the hopes of stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory, that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. On his Twitter page, Finchem posted a photo he took of the Capitol after rioters and protesters had breached the inner areas of the Capitol grounds.
“What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud,” he wrote, praising the rioters.
Finchem has claimed that “antifa” was behind the violence — something federal investigators have said is untrue. He also has said that he did not get within 500 yards of the building, and was unaware the Capitol was breached until later that day.
On Jan. 18, twelve days after the violence in D.C., Finchem told his followers he would be leaving Twitter in favor of Gab — a social media platform most famous for it’s far-right user base, including the Tree of Life shooter, who posted to the site before murdering 11 people.
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy is a reporter for the Arizona Mirror.