President Donald Trump raised some eyebrows earlier this week when he stated a plane “loaded with thugs wearing dark uniforms” flew into Washington, D.C., recently as part of his claim that shadowy groups were controlling Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Turns out that conspiracy theory might have a connection to Salt Lake City.
Trump first made the claim about a plane full of agitators during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
“We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that,” Trump told Ingraham.
The following day, Trump doubled down on the story, telling reporters " a person” got on a flight, which quickly filled up with “the looters, the anarchists, the rioters.”
Where did Trump get this story? And who was this unnamed person?
The answer to both of those questions may well be California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes.
During an interview with Breitbart News, Nunes spun an eerily similar story about his recent journey to attend the Republican National Convention. He said his trip to D.C. included a stop in Salt Lake City, where he got on a flight with a number of Black Lives Matter protesters who were headed to the nation’s capital for the anniversary of the March on Washington.
“So these people that descended on Washington, D.C., most of them were not local. In fact, I flew in with a bunch of them where I got on a plane in Salt Lake City where I had to commute through and I saw maybe two dozen BLM people,” Nunes said.
“The irony is they were all white people, they weren’t even Black, but someone was paying for them to go there — they were coordinated, paying for that, and then what they did was they were not protesting,” he continued. “This is not protesting when you block the exits of the White House.”
The Nunes/Salt Lake City connection was first reported by The Daily Beast.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Salt Lake City resident Jamie Carter says when Trump floated the “antifa plane” idea, she immediately recognized her “very mild encounter” with Nunes was the likely genesis of the tale.
In a post for the liberal Demcast USA, Carter said she was traveling to D.C. with a group of activists to take part in the 2020 March on Washington, which arose out of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.
“I knew from the moment I heard this that somehow the story of my very mild encounter with Devin Nunes on the flight from Salt Lake City to D.C. had made its way to Trump,” she wrote.
Carter said she realized that Nunes was on the plane when she boarded. After making a trip to the restroom, she says she “decided to have a little fun” with the congressman on her way back to her seat.
“I pulled out my phone and hit record. Stopping at his seat, I asked him ‘Have you sued any cows lately?’”
Carter is referring to Nunes’ efforts to sue Twitter over posts by a parody account called @DevinNunesCow that were critical of him. Nunes brought a lawsuit asserting posts by the account were defamatory. His lawsuit was dismissed by a judge earlier this year.
In the video posted to Twitter, Carter moos at Nunes, then returns to her seat.
After Carter returned to Salt Lake City, she said she heard about Trump’s claim and said she suspected the incident with Nunes was the catalyst.
“I thought, ’No, that can’t be me,’” she said during a telephone interview on Saturday. “When I read about Nunes’ interview, I was shocked.”
Carter, who works for a left-leaning grassroots digital media company, describes herself as a political junkie, which is why she recognized Nunes. And it’s why she decided to say something to him.
“I thought it would be fun to heckle him a little bit. Maybe it was a little rude, but it was nothing dark or unsavory,” she said.
“Our entire interaction lasted 12 seconds. I didn’t touch him at all,” she continued.
Carter said that she had no idea that her brief encounter with the California Republican would explode in this way.
“It’s surreal,” Carter said. “You don’t expect something so innocent to be a weeklong story, something that was supposed to be a joke. It’s alarming that it led to something like this.”
Carter confirmed many of the passengers on the flight were wearing Black Lives Matter or other social justice messages on their clothes. She was wearing a BLM mask when she approached Nunes. She, though, denies that the group was “thugs” or agitators or that they were part of a shadowy organization that’s controlling Biden.