Over the past few months, however, Trump has recognized the QAnon community in a way its followers could have only fantasized about when I began tracking the movement’s growth over two years ago. When I started, QAnon followers were convinced Trump would validate the conspiracy-theory movement if asked directly by the press, despite the fact that QAnon was then considered too fringe to be worthy of most serious journalists’ attention. But during an October town hall, Trump did praise the QAnon community, as people who are “very much against pedophilia,” in response to a question from Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. QAnon followers were unsurprisingly thrilled with Trump’s answer. One QAnon promoter on Twitter called it “FULL AND COMPLETE CONFIRMATION.” In the postelection period, the president has increased his reliance on QAnon for his media, messaging, and legal strategies.

For example, QAnon followers feel validated by Trump’s growing reliance on two high-profile QAnon promoters: the recently pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, who had been Flynn’s attorney before she joined the Trump campaign’s postelection legal effort. Trump reportedly met with the duo at the White House two weeks ago to strategize about overturning the election. At that meeting, Trump allegedly suggested appointing Powell as a special counsel to investigate voter-fraud claims. Trump also asked about Flynn’s poorly defined plan, which he first floated on Newsmax, to use the military to “rerun” the election. These suggestions were reportedly met with concern and pushback from the senior White House staffers in attendance, but they’re par for the course in QAnon World, which Powell and Flynn themselves have promoted and relied on for years.