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Fact check: Pelosi's conference room laptop was not taken by special forces during Capitol riot

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/14/2021 Camille Caldera, USA TODAY
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The claim: Special forces took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's laptop during riot at the U.S. Capitol

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks in the House chamber after they reconvened for arguments over the objection of certifying Arizona’s Electoral College votes in November’s election. © Saul Loeb, AP House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks in the House chamber after they reconvened for arguments over the objection of certifying Arizona’s Electoral College votes in November’s election.

On Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attack that forced lawmakers to flee their chambers and left five dead. The riot took place as Congress met to count electoral votes and certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

During the attack, a laptop was stolen from the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, according to her aide, Drew Hammill. He noted on Twitter on Jan. 8 that the laptop was "from a conference room" and was "only used for presentations."

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Now, users online have claimed that her laptop was actually taken by special forces. 

The allegation was bolstered by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who included the statement in a falsehood-ridden monologue first shared on YouTube by Steel Truth with Ann Vandersteel.

He asserted that the riot had been carried out by antifa, and that panic over the laptop had prompted Democrats to push to impeach Trump.

"They're trying to get him out on the 25th Amendment or to impeach him. Why? Because on Wednesday, they took Pelosi's laptop. She's frantic," McInerney said. "There were some people in there that were special forces, mixed with antifa, and they took her laptop and they had that data."

Clips of McInerney were posted to Facebook by pages like PR Conservative and Confederate Riders of America and shared on sites like We Love Trump and InfoWars.

McInerney could not be reached by USA TODAY for comment. Vandersteel, PR Conservative, Confederate Riders of America, We Love Trump and InfoWars have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.

Special forces were not involved in laptop theft, per spokespeople

In reality, special forces were not involved in the theft of the laptop from Pelosi.

Ken McGraw, a public affairs officer for U.S. Special Operations Command, told USA TODAY on Jan. 13 that it was not responsible for the stolen laptop. 

"We have not received any reports or information that anyone in Special Forces or any other Special Operations Forces units entered the U.S. Capitol on 6 January and stole Speaker Pelosi or any other congressional members’ laptops during the riot," he wrote.

Elise Van Pool, a deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, also told USA TODAY on Jan. 13 that the command had not received any reports about the alleged incident.

"Neither have we received any reports or information alleging the existence of a Special Forces or Special Operations Forces plan ‘to expose wrongdoing by members of Congress,'" she wrote. 

Both U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Army Special Operations Command also confirmed to AFP that they were not involved in the laptop theft.

It's also untrue that the riot was carried out by antifa. 

The FBI's Washington Field Office and Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department both confirmed to AFP on Jan. 11 that there is “no credible intelligence” or "information to suggest" that anti-fascist activists were involved in the insurrection at the Capitol.

McInerney and misinformation

McInerney is not a credible source of information. Retired from the Air Force in 1994, he has a history of false and controversial statements. 

Last year, he falsely claimed that the U.S. Army had seized election-related servers in Germany – an allegation that U.S. Army Special Operations Command and U.S. Army Public Affairs repeatedly stated is false, per USA TODAY.

In 2018, Fox News announced that it would no longer book McInerney as a guest after he falsely claimed that torture had “worked on” Sen. John McCain, who endured five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, per the Arizona Republic

In 2010, he also questioned whether President Barack Obama’s birth records were authentic, per Media Matters. Following conspiracy theories that Obama wasn't born in the U.S, his campaign had posted his birth certificate online in 2008.

Our fact-check rating: False

Based on our research, the claim that special forces took Pelosi's laptop during the riot at the U.S. Capitol is rated FALSE. Spokespeople for U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Army Special Operations Command both confirmed that their troops were not involved.  

Our fact-check sources:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Pelosi's conference room laptop was not taken by special forces during Capitol riot

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