Conspiracy theory gunman from NC says he didn’t vote for Trump

A New York Times exclusive interview with the North Carolina man arrested this week for entering a Washington, D.C., pizza shop with an assault rifle to track down conspiracy claims about Hillary Clinton reveals the 28-year-old father of two initially made the 350-mile drive without plans to wield his weapon.

Edgar Maddison Welch, from Salisbury, N.C., told the New York Times Wednesday he intended to get a “closer look” at Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, where he’d heard false reports about child being held as sex slaves in the basement.

The fake news and conspiracy theory claims linked Clinton and her campaign to the pizza restaurant’s owner through leaked emails. The campaign had been in touch with Comet about a fundraising dinner.

The whole ordeal – from circulating Internet rumors to Welch’s odd plan to Donald Trump firing a transition team official who perpetuated the lies about Comet and Clinton – has given prominence to a social media tag: #Pizzagate.

Talking Points Memo recently analyzed how “Pizzagate” originated and led to Welch’s actions.

Welch told the Times he’d read numerous online articles linking Clinton to the debunked sex slave ring. Yet, after he arrived, found no criminal activity inside and surrendered without incident to police, Welch still didn’t admit days later the online articles were entirely untrue or fake.

In the interview Wednesday via video conference from jail, Welch said he found no children inside the restaurant and the “intel” about the crimes “wasn’t 100 percent” correct.

The Charlotte Observer reported earlier this week Welch has been convicted of non-violent misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina.

Police accuse Welch of entering the restaurant on Dec. 4 with an AR-15 rifle and a Colt .38 handgun and fired three shots. No one was injured.

Welch also told the Times he didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton on Nov. 8 but is praying the president-elect takes the U.S. in “the right direction.”

“I regret how I handled the situation,” he told the Times.

Anna Douglas: 202-383-6012, @ADouglasNews