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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Friday that President Trump's refusal to condemn QAnon, a sprawling, far-right conspiracy theory, during an NBC town hall was indicative of an "alarming pattern" in today's politics.

The big picture: Romney's statement, which only specifically singled out the president, was similar to one he issued earlier this week — ultimately criticizing people across the political spectrum for their refusal "to forcefully and convincingly repudiate" divisive and conspiratorial groups.

What he's saying: "The president's unwillingness to denounce an absurd and dangerous conspiracy theory last night continues an alarming pattern: politicians and parties refuse to forcefully and convincingly repudiate groups like antifa, white supremacists and conspiracy peddlers."

  • "Similarly troubling is their silence regarding anti-vaxxers, militias, and anarchists. Rather than expel the rabid fringes and the extremes, they have coddled or adopted them, eagerly trading their principles for the hope of electoral victories. As the parties rush down a rabbit hole, they may be opening a door to a political movement that could eventually eclipse them both."

Catch up quick: QAnon falsely alleges a secret cabal of sex traffickers and pedophiles is waging a war against Trump from inside the government.

The backdrop: Trump has repeatedly claimed that he doesn't know much about QAnon, which was identified by the FBI as domestic terrorist threat in 2019, although he praised its supporters in August.

  • "I don't know anything about QAnon," he told NBC's Savannah Guthrie on Thursday.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

QAnon faces the music

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Supporters of former President Donald Trump who thought he was about to stop the inauguration, seize power and crush his enemies were left blinking in the sunlight Wednesday as President Biden took the oath of office.

Why it matters: It's an inflection point for anyone who realizes they've been strung along by QAnon and related strands of pro-Trump magical thinking. They could either retreat from conspiracy theories or tumble deeper down the rabbit hole.

Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden has arrived at the White House and he will sign executive orders and other presidential actions.