Fact check: No evidence to support QAnon claims of mass arrests, military takeover, illegitimacy of Biden’s presidency or Trump’s return to power

Social media users have been sharing posts that make various claims related to the QAnon conspiracy theory, including that Martial Law and the Insurrection Act have been invoked; power has been transferred from outgoing President Trump to the military, not President Joe Biden; there have been mass arrests; Biden is not President; and Trump will come back to power on March 4th. There is no evidence to support any of these claims, linked to the widely debunked QAnon conspiracy theory.

Members of the National Guard stand guard at the U.S. Capitol building during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, in Washington D.C., U.S. January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Brandon Bell

Examples of the posts can be seen here , here , here , here and here .

For three years, adherents of the sprawling QAnon conspiracy have been scouring anonymous web postings from a figure named “Q” (claiming to be a government insider with top secret security clearance) and parsing statements by former U.S. President Donald Trump whom they believed to be their champion secretly fighting a cabal of child-sex predators that includes prominent Democrats, Hollywood elites and “deep state” allies (here).

QAnon supporters anticipated that Jan. 20 would be the day of “Great Awakening” or “The Storm” when Trump would expose the supposed cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile cannibal elites and declare martial law, meaning he would remain in power, and leading to mass arrests and executions of top Democrats or other supposed members of the cabal ( here , here , here ).

None of these things occurred on Jan. 20, 2021 when the world watched as Joe Biden took the oath and was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States ( here , here , here ).


The posts claim, “Trump signed the insurrection act on 11 Jan …. That suspended the 3 branches of government and gave the military full control” (here) and “Insurrection Act was signed.” (here)

The Insurrection Act of 1807 allows the U.S. president to deploy the military to suppress domestic insurrection ( here  ,  here ). As an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act 1878, which prohibits military forces being used for domestic law enforcement, the 1807 act has been used in the past to quell civil unrest. The last time was in 1992 when deadly riots broke out after Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of accusations over their alleged beating of Black motorist Rodney King.

Reuters has already debunked false claims that Trump invoked the Insurrection Act here . After the president’s former security adviser Michael Flynn suggested the act could also be employed to help overturn the election (here), Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in a joint statement: “There is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.” Trump and his senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis also rejected the proposal (here).

At the time of publication, there has been no credible confirmation of the act being invoked from any official sources, including the relevant state departments, lawmakers, the military or the White House itself.

A U.S. government defense official told Reuters via email that neither martial law nor the Insurrection Act have been declared.


As “proof” some of the claims say that flags are proof that power has been turned over to the military and the Insurrection Act or martial law has been invoked, meaning the Biden inauguration was not valid and Biden will be arrested for treason. For example, the posts say, “when there is no flag flying over the White House it means that the power has been turned over to the military. This means selective martial law or that the president has signed the Insurrection Act” ( here , here ) and “Trump either signed the insurrection act or we are in martial law. The flag behind Trump this morning had a gold fringe and that signifies martial law. You can look it up. The whole Biden inauguration was not valid and he will be arrested for treason later.” (here)

The American Legion (which describes itself as the United States’ largest wartime veterans service organization, chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919) explains on its website the significance of the gold fringe on the U.S. flag, explaining that in 1895 the gold fringe was officially added to the national flag for all regiments of the Army as an “honorable enrichment”. They add, “the courts have deemed without merit and frivolous, lawsuits that contend that the gold fringe adorning the flag conferred Admiralty/Maritime jurisdiction.” (here). The gold fringe is not mentioned in the U.S. flag code ( here , ), neither as prohibited nor approved.

Regarding claims about the flag not flying over the White House, the flag was flying throughout the day on Jan. 20 and the flag pole is visible here , here , here , here .

A Presidential proclamation by former President Richard Nixon in 1970 says that the American flag should fly over the White House 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether the President is home (here). traced the image used in some of the posts to Fox News at 3:51pm on Jan. 19 (as seen here ), where staff members could be seen on the roof working on the flag pole, which has not been removed. They said that in the following segment, the flag could be seen flying again over the White House ( here , here ). Reuters photos also show the flag was flying on Jan. 19 ( here , here ).


The posts claim that the U.S. is under martial law.

Late last year, Reuters debunked false claims that Trump had invoked Martial Law (here). Trump tweeted on Dec. 20 saying “Martial law = Fake News.” (here).

Although Martial law has no established definition, it generally refers to the “displacement of civilian authorities by the military”, as the Brennan Center For Justice explains in more detail here . They say that even when he was President, Trump lacked the authority to declare martial law.

At the time of publication there has been no sign or credible evidence that any type of martial law has been invoked from any official sources, including the relevant state departments, lawmakers, the military or the White House itself. A defense official confirmed martial law had not been declared.


The posts claim that the military has “full control” or “power has been turned over to the military”. Many of the posts say that the transition to military power was facilitated by the Insurrection Act or Martial Law neither of which have been invoked, as explained above.

At the time of publication there has been no confirmation that the military has taken power from any official sources, including the relevant state departments, lawmakers, the military or the White House itself.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment. The Department of Defence published news of Biden’s swearing in as U.S. president on Jan 20, here .


Reuters found no evidence to support claims of mass arrests in recent media reports or official sources, including police force websites and the White House website. This is a tenet of the QAnon conspiracy, which is baseless and unfounded.

The posts also claimed that President Biden would be arrested on Jan. 20. Photos, videos, articles and White House releases show that Biden has been carrying out his presidential duties as expected on Jan. 21, the day after his alleged arrest, as seen here , here , here , here .

Reuters has debunked other false claims that Obama (here), Nancy Pelosi (here) and the Pope (here) have been arrested.


Some posts allege that “Biden is President of nothing” and “the whole Biden inauguration was not valid”.

Article 2, section 1 of the United States constitution the person with the greatest number of votes from the Electoral College shall be the president (here) and before he enters “on the Execution of his Office” he shall take the Oath of Office. The National Archives Electoral College Timeline of Events records the President-elect becomes the President of the United States at noon on Jan. 20, 2021 after taking the Oath of Office (here).

Biden received the most Electoral College votes, with 306 to Trump’s 232, a result that was later certified by the U.S. congress. A video of Biden taking the Oath of Office at his inauguration on Jan. 20, can be seen here and here .

The official Library of Congress list of past and current presidents (here) and the White House website (here), both show that Biden is the current president.


Some posts say that Trump will come back into power, sworn into office on March 4th.

QAnon experts have reported on how, according to its adherents, March 4 constitutes a new deadline for the group (here) that watched inauguration come and go without the events they expected (here). More on the significance of March 4 for QAnon believers can be seen here .

Trump repeatedly made false claims that he had won the election, alongside unfounded allegations of voter fraud. Despite many legal challenges, he was unable to overturn the result of the election ( here , here ).

In his farewell address, Trump wished the new administration luck and prayed for its success . After his supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump said in a statement posted to Twitter: “Now, Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation”  ( here , ).


False. There is no evidence to support these claims stemming from the QAnon conspiracy theory.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .