How the GOP learned to love QAnon

  • The far-right QAnon conspiracy theory — which holds that a cabal of Satan-worshiping, child-trafficking Democrats is plotting to oust President Donald Trump — has grown increasingly mainstream in the GOP base.
  • At an NBC News town hall on Thursday night, Trump repeatedly refused to denounce QAnon, questioned whether it was a conspiracy theory, and claimed its adherents were fighting pedophilia.
  • GOP political operatives told Insider that Republicans view QAnon believers and the movement not as a liability or scourge but as a useful band of fired-up supporters.
  • In the months leading up to the election, QAnon has mobilized a new breed of conservative activists, infiltrated the party's base, and brought independents and political outsiders into the fold.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

MIDDLETOWN, Pennsylvania — At first glance, John Sabal doesn't fit the profile of a typical Republican foot soldier. He's not a fan of Big Business, and before 2016 he'd never voted for a Republican president.

The 30-year-old salesman and Navy veteran — who was in grade school in Philadelphia when the 9/11 terror attacks happened — believes that President George W. Bush secretly collaborated with foreign powers to take down the Twin Towers and murder 3,000 Americans as a pretext to start a war "for profit" and impose mass domestic surveillance.

But on an overcast Saturday in late September, Sabal and his girlfriend posted up under a white tent in the parking lot outside a Donald Trump campaign rally near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to show their undying support for the current Republican president.

Sabal's willingness to indulge dark conspiracies drove him away from Bush, but the same tendency has delivered him into Trump's arms.

For the past two years Sabal has been a devoted follower of the far-right movement known as QAnon. A "Q" banner adorned his tent, and he sported a T-shirt featuring ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn's face and the words "Great Awakening."

Sabal spends his free time on Twitter, Facebook, and Parler, a social-media platform popular on the right, spreading the outlandishly false conspiracy theory that the president of the United States is covertly battling a deep state cabal of Satan-worshiping, child-trafficking Democrats plotting to oust him. 

And he is by no means alone. Sabal, who calls himself "QAnon John," said he often meets other QAnon followers at Trump's rallies. Some of them, he said, recognize him from social media. 

"Q is everywhere," Sabal told Insider. "There's people in your grocery store who follow QAnon. Your next-door neighbor could follow it and never even tell you."

A woman passed by Sabal's tent and called out "I love Q!"

Sabal believes that the president knows about QAnon and secretly embeds messages in his speeches.

"When Trump talks at his rallies, he's talking to two different crowds," Sabal said. "He's talking to people who are, you know, just regular Trump supporters. And then he's talking to people who follow QAnon."

Dangerous conspiracies are nothing new in politics. In previous presidential-election campaigns, people like Sabal were largely consigned to the sidelines, ignored by their parties and left to spin their tales on street corners and in remote internet forums.

This year, in an unprecedented shift that will likely have profound implications for the future of American politics, key leaders of the Republican Party have openly sought to amplify and encourage the ravings of Trump's QAnon supporters, placing the party's radical fringe front and center.

Only a few Republican politicians have avowedly aligned themselves with QAnon, and even they have distanced themselves from the movement after facing criticism. But by openly spreading QAnon lies — and by discreetly adopting messaging that aligns with adherents' obsession with false claims of child-sex trafficking — GOP leaders and institutions, including Trump, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and multiple GOP congressional nominees, are harnessing the energy of a violent cult for their political advantage.

On Thursday, a sitting GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, welcomed an endorsement from a congressional candidate who has openly supported QAnon. Later that day, Trump praised QAnon followers for fighting pedophilia. 

In interviews with more than 40 political operatives, politicians, QAnon adherents, cult experts, and disinformation experts, Insider set out to document how Q has entered the mainstream of the Republican Party.

A criminal cabal

QAnon refers to an ever-expanding set of digitally propagated conspiracy theories that falsely claim a cabal of Satanic Democrats and Hollywood elites secretly run the world while operating an international child sex-trafficking ring. Many QAnon followers believe these elites molest, murder, and eat children, extracting and consuming a mind-altering chemical from their blood known as adrenochrome.

The theory alleges that this criminal cabal — which includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Soros, and Oprah Winfrey — is plotting to oust President Trump. QAnon claims that high-ranking military generals asked Trump to run for president in 2016 to disband the cabal and arrest and execute its members. This "storm," they say, will restore American peace and prosperity and lead to a "great awakening."

It first materialized in 2017 when an anonymous account claiming to have a "Q" level government security clearance began posting messages to the now defunct 4Chan message board. The posts, called "Q drops," predicted that Trump would imminently order mass arrests and executions of Democrats and other pedophile elites. 

Since October 2017, the "Q" persona has posted about 5,000 messages on far-right image boards known for hosting violent and bigoted content — first 4Chan, then 8chan, and now 8kun. 

The messages tend to be riddle-like and vague, often taking the form of a question, leaving them open to interpretation. Followers liken the drops to Bible verses and Trump tweets.

QAnon followers interpret and disseminate the conspiracy theory on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other mainstream social-media platforms. An August NBC News report found there were more than 3 million followers of QAnon pages and groups on Facebook, which has since cracked down on QAnon content.

The identity of "Q" remains unknown, and it's unclear whether Q is one person, several people, or has changed over time. Jim Watkins, a 56-year-old former US military helicopter repairman based on a pig farm in the Philippines, owns and operates 8kun. He previously owned 8chan, which was shut down after it became a favored site for mass shooters to post their manifestos before striking.

QAnon watchers, including 8chan's founder, Fredrick Brennan, believe Watkins and his son are orchestrating or authoring the Q drops. Testifying before Congress in September 2019 with a "Q" pin on his lapel, Watkins, who previously ran a Japanese pornography website, said he "has no intent of deleting constitutionally protected hate speech" on his platform.

The movement has repeatedly inspired followers to commit crimes. In June 2018, a QAnon follower barricaded a bridge over the Hoover Dam with his armed vehicle, demanding the release of a nonexistent inspector general's report on Hillary Clinton's emails.

In March 2019, another believer was charged with murdering a mob boss in New York. The FBI last year designated QAnon a domestic-terror threat.

An 'unintentional strategy'

Trump has long supported the QAnon movement.

Over the past few years, he's shared more than 200 messages from Twitter accounts that have promoted the conspiracy theory, according to a late August report by the left-leaning research group Media Matters. On a single afternoon in July, the president retweeted more than a dozen accounts that have promoted QAnon.

In September, Trump retweeted a post from a supporter that used the hashtag #pedobiden, spreading the accusation that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a member of a pedophile ring. Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. has also distributed similar messages.

In October the president retweeted two QAnon claims about the 2011 operation to kill Osama bin Laden — one alleging that Obama ordered the assassination of SEAL Team 6 members and another claiming that the operation was a hoax and that bin Laden was alive in Iran.

In August, Trump publicly embraced QAnon, saying its supporters "love our country" and "like me very much, which I appreciate." He argued during a White House news conference, called to discuss the government's response to the coronavirus, that it couldn't be a "bad thing" that people believe he's fighting a deep-state cabal because he is, he claimed, saving the world from "a radical left philosophy."

During a town hall with NBC News on Thursday night, Trump repeatedly refused to criticize QAnon, telling host Savannah Guthrie that he didn't know enough about it to form an opinion and that he didn't trust her characterization of the movement as believing that "Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring and that you are the savior."

"You tell me, but what you tell me doesn't necessarily make it fact," Trump said. "I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard."

GOP political strategists acknowledged in interviews with Insider that Republicans view QAnon believers and the movement not as a liability or as a scourge to be extinguished, but as a useful band of fired-up supporters. While they're careful not to embrace QAnon explicitly, these Republicans said, they make sure not to adopt messages that don't alienate what has become a key part of the Republican coalition.

"The surrogates around Trump try to keep [QAnon supporters] happy because they know they're going to vote," said one Republican close to the president's campaign who asked to speak on condition of anonymity. The Republican said on-air supporters such as Charlie Kirk, from the Trump group Turning Point USA, regularly talk about QAnon conspiracy theories to keep the base energized.

As recently as this April, Kirk was still sharing content from QAnon-related accounts, according to screenshots from researchers at the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America. 

"It's part of an unintentional strategy," the person said. 

A spokesperson for Kirk declined to comment. 

Marjorie Taylor Greene in a campaign ad.Screenshot/YouTubeA true believer in Congress

But for some people there's nothing unintentional about it.

At least two dozen congressional candidates who've expressed support for QAnon are on the ballot as Republicans this fall. In January, the US House of Representatives will almost certainly gain its first QAnon true believer, Georgia congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene. 

The far-right Republican and millionaire crossfit enthusiast found her way into politics through online communities of conspiracy theorists. Like Sabal, Greene was a 9/11 truther (she recently disavowed the theory) and posted hours of video in which she espoused racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic beliefs.

Greene has trafficked in QAnon talking points and openly supported "Q" for years. She has distanced herself from the conspiracy theory since reporters exposed her past statements, but has refused to condemn it. Trump endorsed her in August, calling her a "future Republican Star" who's "strong on everything."

Greene is so popular in the Republican Party that at least one sitting senator is touting her endorsement. On Thursday, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican, invited Greene to appear at a campaign event outside Atlanta. Loeffler told the AP that she didn't know "anything" about QAnon and defended Greene against "attacks on her character," adding that she and Greene agree on "fighting socialism" and "promoting conservative values." 

Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat last year, is in a race to the right against her GOP challengers, including Rep. Doug Collins, a prominent Trump ally on the Hill. 

In July, the Texas Republican Party adopted the slogan "We Are the Storm," a rallying cry in QAnon forums. The party, which is chaired by tea party leader and former GOP congressman Alan West, has since said the phrase is a biblical reference and denied any deliberate reference to one of QAnon's most central themes.

A number of Republican lawmakers have dismissed or tiptoed around QAnon for months. When the House of Representatives considered a bipartisan resolution in October to condemn the conspiracy theory, 16 Republicans voted against it.

They claimed the measure impinged on free speech, should have included similar condemnation of left-wing groups such as Black Lives Matter, distracted from more important policy issues, and amounted to "partisan theatrics."

"There is no place in America for conspiracy theory groups who threaten our republic," Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, a Trump-supporting tea party Republican, said in a statement to Insider after voting against the resolution. "This resolution was designed as a blunt force weapon to be used against the administration — not to condemn conspiracy theory groups."

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a key Trump ally who backed Greene, dismissed the movement in an interview with Insider last month.

"I haven't taken the time to research it," said Jordan, who didn't vote on the House resolution. "I don't think it's a big deal."

Mike Rothschild, a journalist and author of a coming book about QAnon, "The Storm Is Upon Us," argued that many Republicans were trying to have it both ways: stopping short of embracing QAnon but refusing to alienate QAnon supporters who could be critical to their electoral success.

"They don't want to alienate even a small percentage of their voters because if you lose them, you may lose power," he told Insider.

An ideal moment for conspiracy theories

The concurrent crises of 2020 — impeachment, the coronavirus, mass unemployment, a take-it-to-the-streets racial-injustice movement, and an intensely polarizing election — have created an ideal environment for QAnon to metastasize and create more adherents loyal to Trump.

The pandemic and economic shutdown have also meant many more people are stuck in their homes, newly jobless, with time to spend doing "research" online.

"We live in a time of unbelievable stress, and people who prefer certainty should have every incentive to look for answers in unusual places," Roger McNamee, a Silicon Valley investor and outspoken critic of Facebook, told Insider. 

"Conspiracy theories flourish in times like this. The real question is whether our democracy is strong enough to withstand that."

QAnon's following has ballooned over the past several months, according to research by the network analysis firm Graphika. The movement has at once absorbed legions of new followers who reject the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 and those newly paranoid about child abuse, trafficking, and pedophilia in the wake of the lurid allegations against Jeffrey Epstein, Trump's former friend and business associate who died in jail in 2019 awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.

Over the summer QAnon followers co-opted a fundraising campaign by the Save the Children group, exploding a legitimate effort to curb child abuse into a viral internet phenomenon rife with false claims and exaggeration.

Patricia Coohill, a 51-year-old substitute teacher and QAnon follower from New Jersey who attended the Trump rally in Harrisburg with her sisters and nieces, told Insider she was keeping her eye on the kids there in case child traffickers were lurking nearby.

"I know their parents are here and they're watching the big screen, but it takes one second — one second — for someone to grab your child," Coohill said.

The GOP is using QAnon themes in its attack ads

In recent months Republican politicians have attempted to reach voters like Coohill by seizing on bizarre and wildly misleading accusations of child endangerment, falsely painting several Democratic politicians as pedophiles or accusing them of lobbying on behalf of sex criminals.

In May, Donald Trump Jr. posted a meme on his Instagram account calling Biden a pedophile. He later claimed the post was a joke, but called on the former Democratic vice president and ex-senator to "stop the unwanted touching & keep his hands to himself." 

In September the president followed his son's lead and retweeted an image calling Biden a pedophile.

But the effort to capitalize on QAnon's dark intimations about Democrats and children extends beyond the Trump family's impulsive social-media eruptions. QAnon themes are guiding the party's over-the-air messaging strategy. In his speech accepting the Republican nomination in August, for instance, Trump took care to take credit for "[taking] down human traffickers who prey on women and children."

Jon Hoadley, who is challenging GOP Rep. Fred Upton for his seat in Michigan's 6th Congressional District, is a three-term Democratic state representative who's been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and the Michigan AFL-CIO. But the NRCC and other GOP groups have labeled him a "pedo sex poet," twisting satirical comments Hoadley made in LiveJournal posts in the early 2000s. Hoadley, who is openly gay, said the attacks were deliberate attempts to weaponize QAnon while tapping into homophobic sentiment.

"With some of the terms they're using, without actually alleging any specific wrongdoing, it is a dog whistle to QAnon-like conspiracy theories," Hoadley told Insider. "This is a coordinated strategy that's coming at the direction of the NRCC."

Hoadley said he's seen evidence of QAnon's reach in his district. And his campaign has received a slew of messages from potential constituents accusing Hoadley of being a pedophile and "sexual deviant."

"This isn't just a problem that lives on the internet," Hoadley said. "I was literally having lunch last week and saw someone walk into the restaurant with a very deliberate 'Q' sweatshirt on."

Upton, a moderate Republican who's been critical of Trump, has distanced himself from the NRCC's attacks, but hasn't condemned them.

Hoadley isn't alone. The NRCC put out a TV ad in September falsely claiming that New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski advocated for laws that would "protect sexual predators."

Malinowski accused the NRCC of aligning itself with QAnon and led the charge in drafting the House resolution approved on the floor last month condemning the conspiracy theory.

In late September, "Q" posted a message that linked to the NRCC's press release falsely claiming Malinowski "lobbied to protect sexual predators," adding: "Those who scream the loudest …." The congressman said his office received several death threats the next day.

The NRCC has stood by its attacks and rejected any claims that it's deliberately energizing conspiracy theorists.

A host of Republican members of Congress have also tried to gin up a child-sex flashpoint around the Netflix-distributed French film "Cuties," a coming-of-age story about an adolescent dance troupe. 

The film features an 11-year-old protagonist in highly sexualized dance routines, leading Republican politicians including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri to assail Netflix and call for criminal investigations. 

A grand jury in Tyler, Texas, followed suit, charging Netflix with promoting lewdness. Netflix stood by the film in a statement, saying the indictment was "without merit."

'Dangerous lunacy that should have no place in American politics'

Only a handful of Republicans have soundly rejected QAnon.

Vice President Mike Pence, known for his evasive answers on sensitive topics he's asked about, had little trouble shooting down QAnon in August: "I dismiss it out of hand." He also cancelled a Montana fundraiser in October after news broke that the couple hosting the event were QAnon supporters. 

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a conservative, occasional Trump critic, and eldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has called it a "dangerous lunacy that should have no place in American politics."

Clearly sensing the danger that the movement poses to his own brand of GOP politics, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois released a YouTube video shredding the conspiracy theory and calling on "every leader to put aside the avoidance of short-term pain to save our country in the long term." He ended the video by debunking several conspiracy theories about himself.

Kinzinger's attacks on QAnon were met with derision from Trump's team. Trump campaign official Matt Wolking tore into the six-term congressman in a tweet demanding he instead "condemn the Steele Dossier fabrications and conspiracy theories pushed by Democrats."

After being accused of defending QAnon, Wolking rebranded his attack as "a simple question." 

Prominent GOP politicians and pundits tweet about QAnon or child-sex trafficking 10 times a week, on average

To better understand the circulation of QAnon subject matter in the conservative social-media sphere, Insider reviewed the tweets of hundreds of prominent Republicans, including the entire GOP congressional caucus, each GOP state governor, and more than a dozen popular commentators and GOP candidates for Congress.

We searched for dozens of phrases and hashtags closely associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory, from "deep state" and "WWG1WGA" to "pizzagate" and "trafficking children."

Insider's analysis found that QAnon motifs were not major talking points for Republicans when "Q" first emerged on 4chan in late 2017, but have picked up steady traction over the past two years. Forty-five percent of the accounts that Insider analyzed had published tweets trading in subject matter associated with QAnon; these included the accounts of dozens of elected officials.

Those who tweeted about QAnon and child-sex trafficking most frequently were conservative influencers and congressional candidates with a documented interest in the conspiracy theory, topped by One America News Network reporter Jack Posobiec — the most prolific tweeter overall — Marjorie Taylor Greene, Charlie Kirk, Erin Cruz, and Donald Trump Jr. (Posobiec told Insider in an email that QAnon, was a "4Chan hoax" that he had "debunked," but his Tweets closely tracked QAnon themes.)

Tweets from elected officials were led by GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who posted regularly about "deep state" corruption and occasionally about child pornography, and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a moderate Republican who published two dozen tweets about child abuse and pornography.

How QAnon infiltrated GOP Twitter

Insider analyzed how keywords and hashtags associated with QAnon have propagated on the Twitter accounts of prominent GOP elected officials and pundits.

First QAnon-related tweet for user

Dot size represents number of retweets

Note:

Source: Twitter

Chart: Sawyer Click/Business Insider

Republican brass tweeted about QAnon or child-sex trafficking 10 times a week, on average, a number that more than doubled after notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's arrest and suicide in mid-2019.

Despite Epstein's well-documented friendship with Trump and close association with major Republican donors, he's loomed large in the GOP Twittersphere even after his death. During one week in November 2019, a high of three dozen tweets were posted pertaining to QAnon or child-sex trafficking, 14% of which concerned the late sex offender.

Since August another wave of activity has cropped up. 

"This is your daily reminder that the mainstream media dedicated more time and fever to the number of diet cokes @realDonaldTrump drinks, than to transcripts which reveal that former President @BillClinton visited a private sex/pedophile island with two young women," conservative activist Candace Owens tweeted in early August. 

The tweet has racked up more engagement than any other in Insider's analysis, with nearly 48,000 retweets.

'We're all Q'

QAnon isn't an explicitly partisan movement. Instead, the theory pits Trump as a God-like warrior against an evil political establishment that includes both Republicans and Democrats. 

Unlike most conspiracy theories, QAnon offers an aspirational, positive vision for the future, one in which good will prevail over evil (after Trump carries out mass arrests and sends the "deep state" to Guantanamo).

It provides something close to community for many of its followers, who argue that the movement is overwhelmingly nonviolent. While many remain isolated online, some meet in person at Trump rallies and other gatherings.

Vince LaPorte, who attended the late-September Trump rally in Pennsylvania with his wife and young daughter, wearing Trump-branded clothing, said he felt as if he was part of a righteous global community.

"We're all Q," he said. "All these people you see across the whole world, it's worldwide, you see 'em all over the world standing up for America, standing up for freedom, standing up for God, standing against Satan, standing against pedophilia and corruption and all that."

Like a religion, the delusion gives many hope in a dark time, even if they acknowledge the bright vision of a "great awakening" may not come to pass.

"If we're crazy, at least we're hanging on to something to look forward to," Megan Fellers, a 35-year-old mother of three, told Insider at the Trump rally. 

"I don't think everyone else can say that right now. A lot of people are filled with doom and gloom and the world's gonna end, so we have something to look forward to that a lot of people don't."

The vast conspiracy movement has converted some independents and politically disengaged people into hardcore Trump supporters.

Michael Matroni, a 37-year-old employee in the mouthwash department at Johnson & Johnson's manufacturing facility in Lititz, Pennsylvania, voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson in 2016. Matroni, who believes 9/11 was an "inside job," has long distrusted the Democratic and Republican parties. 

Last year a few of Matroni's coworkers and a cousin introduced him to QAnon. Matroni showed up to the Pennsylvania rally with his friend Gary Ketterer, both wearing QAnon merchandise. While waiting for hours in line outside the rally venue at Harrisburg International Airport, they met and chatted with other QAnon believers.

Some experts say QAnon fits the classic profile of a cult.

Rick Alan Ross, executive director of the nonprofit Cult Education Institute, called QAnon a "destructive cult" engineered for a digital age. 

Like most cults, it seeks to discredit all opposition. It features a leader who's morphed into an "object of worship." And it's a "destructive, pernicious" force that hurts people, whether that be its own adherents or the exasperated friends and family of QAnon believers.

Facebook cracks down

One Republican close to Trump blames the rise of QAnon on the failure of mainstream news organizations to cover subjects of intense interest to conservative readers. 

When conservatives want to read about the texts of former FBI Agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and the allegations against Hunter Biden in Ukraine, this Republican said, they have to go to fringe conspiracy-minded sites like Gateway Pundit or follow alt-right figures such as Posobiec. 

Far-right websites successfully attracted more conservatives and Trump supporters writing about those stories, and then mixed in QAnon-related stories, effectively disseminating the conspiracy theory wider than expected, the Republican close to the president said.

After years of permitting QAnon to propagate virally on its platform, Facebook recently cracked down, announcing in early October that it would ban all pages, groups, and Instagram accounts that promote the conspiracy theory. 

Shortly after, YouTube announced it would implement new measures to stem QAnon's spread on its platform. But QAnon leaders have urged followers to "camouflage" their accounts and many have already found workarounds, rebranding as anti-sex-trafficking and health and wellness groups.

Sabal said his Facebook page, with its tens of thousands of followers, was shut down this summer, but, after 10 unsuccessful attempts, he now has a new account on the platform.

The 'free speech' defense

Even among Trump supporters who reject QAnon, there's a tendency to defend it as a harmless expression of free thought.

Chad Connelly, a 33-year-old construction worker at Trump's Middletown rally, likened QAnon to a religious belief.

"It could be conspiratorial, but so was Russiagate," said Connelly, who said he voted for Obama for president in 2008. "Who cares if people believe in conspiracy theories? Who cares? You're allowed to believe in whatever you want to believe. 

"If you believe there's a guy up in the sky who's watching everything that you do, who's omniscient, you're allowed to believe that. If you believe there's nothing up there, you're allowed to believe that, too."

QAnon supporters insist their movement centers on free speech and intellectual empowerment. They see themselves as free thinkers and "digital soldiers" fighting corrupt institutions and ideologies.

They often cite the vague, choose-your-own-adventure nature of QAnon in defending the movement against claims of indoctrination. 

"People say Q is a cult, but that's impossible because Q tells you to think for yourself," Sabal, the man at the Pennsylvania Trump rally who goes by "QAnon John," said.

"QAnon teaches you to take information and make your own decisions," Edward Szczenski, a Trump supporter who attended the Middletown rally, told Insider. "It's not telling you what to believe. It's telling you freedom, it's telling you where we go one, we go all. What's wrong with that?"

In the crucial weeks before the 2020 election, QAnon has generated much-needed wind beneath the Republican Party's sails.

Even without Trump, or the party's explicit endorsement, the movement has mobilized a new breed of conservative activists, infiltrated the party's base, and brought independents and political outsiders into the fold.

Sabal said he'd never voted for a Republican presidential candidate or attended a political rally before Trump launched his presidential bid. 

In the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, he wrote in Ron Paul.

But in 2016, Sabal said he registered as a Republican because of Trump.

He told Insider, "I only voted for Trump because he was talking in a language that I could understand."

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