How One Website Aided Trump's Attempt to Destroy Democracy

According to contemporaneous Justice Department notes collected at the conclusion of Donald Trump's presidency, the then-president chastised his top federal law enforcement officials for failing to back up his election-fraud claims. When they refused to join him in his anti-democratic campaign, Trump resorted to accusing his top DOJ officials of not being as active on social media as he was. He was chastising them for not reading enough of The Gateway Pundit, for starters.

According to previously disclosed DOJ papers, then-President Trump told acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue during a Dec. 27 phone discussion, “You guys may not be checking the internet the way I do.” Trump and Republicans consumed and regurgitated a lot of garbage information and insane conspiracy theories from "the internet" during their months-long and at times deadly, blitz to overturn President Joe Biden's decisive victory in the 2020 election.

And one of the websites Trump was mentioning was the ultra-right-wing and frequently incorrect Gateway Pundit; following the 2020 election, the president was known to brandish printed copies of the website around the West Wing. The Gateway Pundit's minor role in Trump's attempt to weaponize the Department of Justice against the American electoral process demonstrates how easily a discredited far-right media outlet gained access to the decision-making of the world's most powerful person. It also demonstrates how one website—founded by a man who has been nicknamed the "dumbest man on the internet"—managed to contribute to the efforts that drove the country to the verge of democratic disintegration.

During the last weeks of Trump's presidency, administration officials observed Trump carrying printed-out copies of Gateway Pundit articles in the White House, often in the Oval Office, according to a former senior Trump White House employee and another person with firsthand knowledge of the subject. The former senior official recounted one incident when Trump handed them a document printed from the website alleging irrationally huge pro-Biden fraud and instructed them to dig out more and take action. The ex-official told The Daily Beast, "I didn't really do anything about it." “I believe I tossed it away.” “Perhaps I recycled it.”

During the last months of Trump's presidency, high-ranking officials were accustomed to receiving questionable documents, some of which were directly briefed to Trump himself, which they promptly disregarded or ignored. For example, Trump's buddy and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell met with the outgoing president in the Oval Office in January to show him six pages of bogus conspiracy theories about China and other foreign powers manipulating the election in favor of Biden.

Lindell told The Daily Beast at the time that he tried to share the materials with other top White House officials, but they immediately disregarded the hypotheses and banned him from meeting Trump again that day. However, Lindell said that during a brief conversation with Trump in the Oval Office, he warned the president that these papers were “all over the internet.”

Other members of Trump's inner circle, on the other hand, were more willing to use government resources to investigate strange, internet-based conspiracy theories that had entered Trump's consciousness.