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VERIFY: False messages about 'mandatory quarantines' and 'martial law'

Rumors of President Trump imposing martial law or mandatory quarantines in the near future are without evidence.

A few messages have gone viral since the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, sharing similar falsities about the federal government response to it and the coronavirus outbreak. 

Some warn that martial law is imminent and to start stocking up on goods like food and gas. 

Others say President Donald Trump is about to invoke the “Stafford Act” and declare a mandatory two-week quarantine.


One viral text warns, “Just heard that Martial Law is eminent and that Trump will be calling a state of Emergency because of all that stuff that’s been coming out.”

Credit: VERIFY

This message was furthered after a Texas pastor shared a 20-minute video in which he stated that he had sources in Washington, D.C., telling him when martial law would be declared. “Imminently, and when I say imminently, I’m talking about the next two or three days,” he says.

It’s been four days since that video was first posted and at this point Thursday, there’s no credible evidence to back claims that Trump or anyone else in the U.S. government would seek to enact martial law. 

Also, Trump's term ends Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in to office. He became the first president impeached twice when the House voted Wednesday on an article accusing him of inciting the Capitol riot.

Brian Lynch, executive director of Risk Assistance Network and Exchange (RANE), said martial law doesn’t just happen on a whim. 

“I would think that the unrest would have to get pretty severe for that to occur and we’re hopeful that it doesn’t get to that point and that there is no need for that to be declared,” he said.

Martial law has been invoked less than 10 times since World War II, and 68 times in U.S. history, according to the Brennan Center.

Typically, martial law can be enacted when civilian authority is ineffective or nonexistent. 

According to Lynch, the Constitution does not mention martial law but it can be used by the president, although he said “it typically happens at the state level through the governors.”


Images appearing to be fliers from the National Guard have gone viral more than once in 2020 and are now spreading again following the attack on the Capitol.

The VERIFY team first broke down these claims in March, when they started spreading as COVID-19 cases started rising. The claims were false then and still are today. 

Even if there was any merit to them, the Stafford Act can’t be used to create a national quarantine.

The act is all about disaster relief. In fact, Trump invoked it early last year when he declared a national emergency over the pandemic. 

The Stafford Act was used to declare major disasters an average of nearly 36 times a year between 1953 and 2016. Its usage is not uncommon.

The National Guard in Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma all explained that this message is a hoax and urged people not to share it because it “can lead to panic and distrust.”

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