The group tapped new veins of financing, with sponsorships from Mr. Bannon’s “War Room,” which paid $5,000, and Mr. Lindell, who said he believed he gave $50,000. It helped the group lease the bus and paint it MAGA red, with a huge photo of Mr. Trump and the logos of MyPillow, “War Room” and other sponsors emblazoned on the sides.
As they made their way across the country, they reached out to local elected officials and branches of the Republican National Committee. But with the social media platforms starting to block groups promoting the stolen-election theory, Ms. Lawrence explained, the bus tour would also give “people the outlet that if they’d been de-platformed, they were able to come out and be around like-minded people.”
Early on, the “Trump March” website had included promotion for banned extremists and conspiracy theorists like the white supremacist Mr. Taylor, various QAnon “decoders” and the “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys, according to a version saved by the Internet Archive. (The promotion was taken down ahead of the bus tour).
There were early warning signs of the explosion to come.
In Tennessee, a church that was to host a rally canceled after threats of violence. An evangelical pastor, Greg Locke, who had gained national attention for calling Covid-19 a “fake pandemic,” offered them his church and joined the tour as a speaker.
Following a rally in Des Moines, an armed and armored protester shot a Black teenager in the leg after she and some friends drove by taunting the crowd. An Army veteran named William McKinney who followed the Proud Boys on his Facebook page, The Des Moines Register reported, was later charged with attempted murder. (He has pleaded not guilty; his lawyer says he was acting in self-defense as the teenagers menaced the crowd with their car.)
The tour was otherwise doing what it was intended to do. Large crowds often turned out, drawn in part by Mr. Lindell. He had emerged as a star of the Trump media universe in part by standing firm as a major sponsor of Tucker Carlson on Fox when other advertisers deserted over, among other things, Mr. Carlson’s remarks that white supremacy was “a hoax.”
In an interview, Mr. Lindell said he had sponsored the bus tour so that he could share the findings of investigations he was financing — he was spending $1 million in all — to produce evidence of voter fraud, including for Ms. Powell’s Dominion lawsuits.