Even though the Capitol Police have refused to identify the officer involved, former President Donald Trump says he knows “exactly” who shot Ashli Babbitt.
Trump made the statement during a press conference Wednesday but didn’t go so far as to name the person he believes shot the U.S. Air Force veteran and QAnon believer during the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. But he was likely referring to the same officer whose name has been shared widely in right-wing, extremist, and QAnon circles in recent days.
“I believe I know exactly who it is,” Trump said Wednesday.
One of the loudest voices pushing the unverified claim is Jason Sullivan, the self-proclaimed social media expert who previously worked for longtime Republican operative Roger Stone. Sullivan has repeatedly shared the name in posts on his own Telegram channel and on other channels.
The name is now also being shared on more mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Babbitt has become something of a martyr for the far-right, following her shooting death in the Capitol. In recent days, Trump has joined a chorus of right-wing voices that are using Babbitt’s death to reframe the violent insurrection as something much more benign.
Trump made the claim during a press conference about his effort to take on Big Tech, which is more about raising money than about holding Silicon Valley to account.
Asked by a reporter about what he did to stop the Capitol riot and why he wasn’t able to prevent it happening, Trump ignored the question and instead focused on Babbitt.
“There were no guns in the Capitol except for the gun that shot Ashli Babbitt,” Trump said, “And nobody knows who that man was.”
But Trump immediately contradicted himself by claiming that he knows who it was, and claimed that if the person shot had been a Democrat or a Biden supporter, the identity of the officer would be known by now.
“If that were the opposite way, that man would be all over, he would be the most well-known and I believe I can say man, because I believe I know exactly who it is,” Trump said.
Trump then went on to accuse the man of shooting Babbitt “right through the head” even though Babbitt was shot in the neck.
The Capitol Police have not named the officer who shot Babbitt as she was trying to climb through a doorway to the Speaker’s Lobby while rioters around her smashed windows.
The officer in question was cleared of any wrongdoing by federal prosecutors in April. They concluded the shooting was reasonable as the officer was acting in self-defense or in defense of members of Congress.
Unlike regular police in Washington, the Capitol Police are not required by law to release the name of an officer involved in a shooting.
While the alleged name of the officer has been floating around right-wing circles and forums for months—the first reference VICE News found was in February 2021—references to it have rocketed in recent days, inspired by the former president’s newfound interest.
The name has been widely shared by major QAnon channels on Telegram, as well as on pro-Trump and QAnon message boards. It is also being shared on more mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Trump kicked off this renewed interest by sending a four-word email to his supporters last Thursday simply asking: "Who killed Ashli Babbitt?"
He mentioned her name again during his rally in Florida on Saturday, when he said: “People know the name. People know where he came from. Now if that were on the other side, the person who did the shooting would be strung up and hung”—apparently a thinly-veiled racist reference to his belief that the officer who shot Babbitt is Black.
Within days of her death, Babbitt was being hailed as a “freedom fighter” and the “first victim of the Second Civil War” in online channels populated by QAnon followers and other extremist groups.
And in the months since, her cause has been taken up by an increasingly vocal group of right-wing political and media figures, a group that now includes the former president.
QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene called for “justice” for Babbitt's death in a speech on the House floor in May. Fox News host Tucker Carlson demanded to know who killed Babbitt during a segment of his show last month.
Also last month, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who was among the loudest voices spreading Trump’s baseless election fraud conspiracies, grilled FBI Director Christopher Wray about Babbitt’s death, claiming without evidence that she was “executed.”
On Wednesday, hours before Trump made his claim, British talk-show host Piers Morgan wrote that he also knew the identity of the shooter. Morgan said the name must be released for the sake of “transparency” whether you believe Babbitt was a “traitor or a patriot.”