Donald Trump Retweets Leading Figure in QAnon Conspiracy Theory

President Donald Trump shared a tweet from a leading figure in the QAnon conspiracy theory on Monday following his announcement that Attorney General William Barr was resigning.

The president retweeted Ron Watkins, former administrator of the online messaging board 8kun, who is seen as a major figure in the pro-Trump conspiracy theory.

Watkins tweeted praise for Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, who will take over from Barr, and pointed to his comments about "malign foreign influence efforts in our elections."

Watkins and his father, Jim Watkins, have previously been accused of orchestrating the QAnon conspiracy theory through posts on 8kun, which the elder Watkins owns. Watkins acquired the site from Fredrick Brennan in 2015. It was previously called 8chan.

Both men have denied they started the QAnon conspiracy and NBC News reporter Ben Collins, who has covered QAnon and the Watkins, believes the conspiracy likely originated with a group of people. He said there was no evidence Jim and Ron Watkins started it.

"It's better to view Q as a network or community that moves in unison without objection," Collins wrote on December 9. "They've moved on from the Satanic child eating, and from Q himself, as the president tries to overturn the election. Now, they look to 8kun's Ron Watkins, and they're targeting democracy."

Previously, the QAnon conspiracy posited that there was an international cabal of Satanic pedophiles, some of whom are senior Democrats and billionaires, and that Trump is fighting them. The focus has since moved on to claims of election fraud.

Posts from "Q" appeared on 8kun and Collins has maintained that both Watkins can still post as Q on the site. This is despite Ron Watkins' claim to have resigned as an admin on November 3.

"Q hasn't posted in 17 days. He's only posted three short, low-effort posts since Election Day," Collins tweeted on November 30. "Ron Watkins, who can post as Q at any time and runs 8kun where Q posts, said he quit 8kun on Election Day. He has spent the last three weeks pushing Dominion voter fraud conspiracies."

Some of the president's supporters have pushed unsubstantiated claims that voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems switched votes from Trump to President-elect Joe Biden. There is no evidence for this.

Though it appears Ron and Jim Watkins may not be the origin of QAnon, it's believed they know who was behind it. They've become leading figures in a movement that is continuing to spread unfounded conspiracies ostensibly in the interest of the president.

Trump previously shared a video from OANN featuring Ron Watkins, whom the network described as a "cyber analyst," discussing Dominion Voting Systems. His links to 8kun and QAnon were not highlighted in the interview.

A Trump Supporter Holding a QAnon Flag
A Donald Trump supporter holding a QAnon flag visits Mount Rushmore National Monument on July 01, 2020 in Keystone, South Dakota. Trump recently retweeted a major figure in the QAnon movement. Scott Olson/Getty Images