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01:46 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, has twice in the past three days promoted a fictional online rumor that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fled to the United States because of a protest in Ottawa by a group of truck drivers and others opposed to vaccine mandates, Covid-19 restrictions and Trudeau himself.

Roy even called for Trudeau, who was not in the US, to be deported.

Facts First: Trudeau never fled to the United States; no remotely credible source has made this claim, which was initially circulated by an anonymous Twitter account. Trudeau, who announced last Thursday that he was isolating for five days after being exposed to Covid-19 and on Monday that he had tested positive for the virus, was in an undisclosed location in Canada’s capital region on Saturday and Sunday, his official itineraries said. He then held a televised virtual news conference on Monday from the Harrington Lake official residence in Quebec, near Ottawa – a news conference that began more than two hours before Roy baselessly tweeted that Trudeau might be “hiding in the United States” and posted a graphic that said, “DEPORT TRUDEAU.”

Trudeau’s office was vague about his weekend whereabouts, changing the location on his public schedule from the usual “Ottawa, Ontario” to “National Capital Region, Canada” – a descriptor that would cover the Harrington Lake residence. And Trudeau did say last week that he was concerned about the potential for violence in connection to the protest. (Ottawa police tweeted Sunday that “several criminal investigations” were underway, including into “threatening/illegal/intimidating behavior to police/city workers and other individuals and damage to a city vehicle.”)

But there was never any good reason to believe that Trudeau, who earned another minority government in Canada’s September federal election, had fled his country as if he were a toppled dictator. A source in the Trudeau government and a source in the Biden administration told CNN that the claim is entirely false. Ottawa-based Canadian journalists who cover Trudeau also scoffed at Roy’s baseless words.

Roy’s office did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment on Tuesday.

Amplifying an anonymous account

Roy’s tweets appeared to have been prompted by a tweet from an anonymous Twitter account that calls itself “Terror Alarm.” On Saturday afternoon, that account tweeted, “#Urgent: Justin #Trudeau moved to A safe place in the US according to Israeli sources, as Canada protests spark security fears.”

But the photo the account used in the tweet – showing Trudeau and his family in the foreground and an American flag in the background – actually had been taken in 2016, upon the Prime Minister’s arrival in the US for an official visit to Washington. And early Sunday morning, the “Terror Alarm” account tweeted a “#FactCheck” that said Trudeau “is NOT in hiding” but rather “is in Covid-related self-isolation.”

Roy either didn’t see this correction or didn’t care. More than eight hours after it had been posted, Roy amplified the original “Terror Alarm” tweet about Trudeau supposedly being moved to a safe place in the US. Roy added, “Is there a more gutless and cowardly display than a tyrant on the run? #DeportTrudeau.”

In another tweet on Monday, Roy hedged his language with an “if,” saying, “If Justin Trudeau is hiding in the United States, we should return him to Canada and make him face his own people immediately.” But Roy added, “No safe haven for fleeing COVID tyrants. #LiveFree #DeportTrudeau.” And he included a graphic that featured a promotional logo for his congressional campaign, a photo of Trudeau and the words “DEPORT TRUDEAU.”

Again, Trudeau had held a news conference in Canada earlier in the afternoon.

The person behind the “Terror Alarm” account told CNN that their name is Libi Cohen and that they had gotten their initial information about Trudeau having fled to the US “from local Israeli media.”

But when asked for more specifics about the source, they pointed only to an obscure Twitter account with fewer than 4,000 followers, “Masonic Mission,” whose tweets are currently “protected” and unavailable to the general public.

The person behind “Terror Alarm” said they had genuinely believed the information about Trudeau was true at the time they had tweeted it and that they had posted the “clarification” when they learned it wasn’t.