Want to read more stories like this one? Sign up for The Uprising, a new, unconventional, and fully independent morning politics newsletter.
Former President Donald Trump was photographed last month at his private Florida club with Jeff Brain, a tech CEO who helped organize “patriot caravans” from around the country to protests at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
The Uprising obtained a photo of the pair standing together in one of the ornate rooms at Mar-a-Lago. According to the source, who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation, the picture was taken on April 21 when Brain was at the club meeting with potential funders for his social media site, Clouthub. Brain has previously made headlines for his role in the demonstrations against Trump’s election loss, which turned violent when the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol as the results of the vote were being certified by Congress.
When asked about his meeting with Trump, Brain initially referred The Uprising to a spokesperson. Brain and his team did not respond to multiple subsequent requests for comment. A spokesperson for Trump also did not respond to requests for comment.
Since leaving office, Trump has spent much of his time at Mar-a-Lago, where he regularly greets guests and admirers while appearing at fundraisers and other events. It is not clear how much time he spent with Brain or how the tech executive gained access to the club, which is generally only open to members and their guests.
Clouthub allows users to join groups and make posts discussing various topics. As of this writing, much of the content on the site is focused on the QAnon conspiracy theory and the false claims from Trump and his allies who insist his election loss was fraudulent. Experts and state officials from around the country — including from Trump’s own Republican Party — have repeatedly affirmed the election results as legitimate.
Clouthub was featured on the website of “Wild Protest,” which was one of the main pro-Trump rallies planned for January 6. Trump supporters, many of whom attended these rallies, ultimately broke into the Capitol as the certification was taking place, leading to violent clashes with law enforcement and multiple deaths. The “Wild Protest” was organized by conservative activist Ali Alexander and a group called “Stop The Steal,” which was dedicated to hosting events focused on conspiracy theories about the election.
“Groups of patriots are setting up carpools and caravans across the US to join us in DC,” said the “Wild Protest” site, which has since been deleted. “Groups will be traveling through and Michigan, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alabama, and more. Join the group to find routes and rides.”
The “Wild Protest” page pointed to a Clouthub group called “Patriot Caravans For 45” that is no longer online. That group, which attracted over 4,000 members, boasted a banner image showing crowds of Trump supporters and the Capitol dome. A note under the banner said: “Keep it peaceful, but let your voices be heard.”
Brain personally participated in the “Patriot Caravans For 45” group. A note that identified him as the founder and CEO of Clouthub was pinned at the top of the page.
“Welcome... list your location and indicate if you need or can offer a ride and for how many,” Brain wrote. “Add your state from the add topics option. Then you can search by state.”
Brain specified that “discussion of violence” would be deleted from the group. “This is about organizing transportation,” the post added.
Despite this admonition, posts in Clouthub groups discussing January 6 had violent overtones. An archive of the since-deleted “Patriot Caravans For 45” group shows just four posts, including Brain’s. One of those was written by someone who used the handle “Jaybirdy” and indicated they were leading a planning meeting in the D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia. “Jaybirdy” described themself by boasting about their skill with guns.
“Good patriot. Good manners. Good shot,” Jaybirdy wrote.
Along with the main “Patriot Caravans For 45” group, Clouthub hosted several local pages focused on organizing travel and protests on January 6. Some of these pages are still online, and Clouthub’s login and account creation pages currently feature backdrops with images of the Capitol dome.
In a post from a “Florida Patriot Caravans for 45” group that is still on the Clouthub site, a user with the handle “MrM1A2,” an apparent reference to a battle tank, noted their military experience and equipment as they sought a ride to the Capitol from Florida.
“COMBAT VETERAN JUST LOST MY RIDE FROM NAPLES FL to DC HAVE EXTRA WALKIE TALKIES AND SUPPLIES,” MrM1A2 wrote.
Other posters on Clouthub made plans to rent charter buses to bring large groups of people to the Capitol on January 6. One user who used the handle “Teeree” on the “Florida Patriot Caravans For 45” page discussed plans to rent a bus and noted Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was preparing for potential violence at the protests.
“NO LUNCH BREAK ON THE BUS!” Teeree wrote. “There’s a rumor the Mayor of DC may shut the city down. Bring sammiches or other snackables for that eventuality.”
The FBI is conducting an ongoing investigation into the January 6 protests. While only a small number of people were arrested at the scene that day, several of them were armed and over 400 people have been charged with crimes related to the attack on the Capitol. The court cases related to the charges have included evidence that organized militia groups played a role in the attacks.
Brain is no stranger to political activism. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he led a campaign to have parts of the San Fernando Valley secede from Los Angeles. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Brain said he founded Clouthub in response to concerns about “censorship on social media.” According to the L.A. Times, the app has been downloaded over 500,000 and was boosted by endorsements from prominent conservatives as well as Green’s appearances on right wing cable news outlets.
Trump and others who have promoted election-related conspiracy theories were banned by many major social media companies in the wake of the attack on the Capitol. In his CPAC speech, Brain said the site provides users with “tools” for activism and suggested it was particularly vital for conservatives following recent restrictions on conspiracy theories that intensified in the wake of January 6.
“Clout stands for influence and that’s what we’re looking to give you,” Brain said in the speech. “We’re here to empower you, particularly this group. After what happened recently, you should be engaged on CloutHub.”