Jody Williams was not shocked when House impeachment trial managers used his website, TheDonald.win, as evidence that former President Donald Trump incited the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Political opponents, for lack of a better term, are highly motivated to find dirt on people so it’s not surprising,” he said. “I find it interesting they took the time to go and dig for the links they did.”
In an interview with The Washington Times, the Texas man said he had a team of volunteers monitor the site and take down violent comments and posts that violated the website’s rules. But some borderline comments slipped through when there was a dramatic increase in traffic last year.
Three of those comments made their way into House Democrats’ 80-page impeachment brief as evidence that Mr. Trump incited supporters to attack Congress during a joint session to disrupt the process of lawmakers accepting the 2020 presidential election results.
“The mobilization was not hidden away in the dead of night. It was widely discussed on websites — such as TheDonald.win — that, as confirmed by a former White House staff member, were ‘closely monitored’ by President Trump’s social media operation,” the Democrats’ brief read.
In one of the posts, a commentator wrote, “If Congress illegally certifies Biden … Trump would have absolutely no choice but to demand us to storm Congress and kill/beat them up for it.”
Another comment cited in the brief said, “[Trump] can order the NAT guard to stand down if needed. Unfortunately, he has no control over the Capitol Police … but there are only around 2k of them and a lot are useless fat asses or girls.”
The Democrats said these comments prove “extremists made it clear that they were prepared to fight at President Trump’s direction.”
James Bopp, a lawyer who is not part of Mr. Trump’s defense team, said the Democrats’ argument falls short of the legal definition of inciting violence, which requires an individual’s words be “specific and pointed.”
“It’s horrifying,” he said of the Democrats’ tactic. “It takes the seditious and discredited idea of guilt by association to a new low.”
However, the Senate impeachment trial is not a legal proceeding but a political proceeding. Rules of evidence do not apply.
The senators, who will be acting as jurors during the trial, are free to consider comments made by others on a website or any other evidence presented.
House Democrats had also aimed to have Mr. Trump testify at his impeachment trial, slated to begin Tuesday, but Mr. Trump’s counsel has dismissed the call as a public relations stunt.
Asaf Lubin, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, said the comments posted on websites like TheDonald.win and other statements by fringe Trump supporters tell a story about how the former president organized his voters in the days leading up to the attack.
“The 80-page brief tries to link between Trump’s actual words and actions and those taken by his followers. Given that there is no real legal standard to apply here, the managers are more than entitled to weave a narrative in the way they think will be most persuasive,” he said.
In the aftermath of the deadly Capitol Hill riot, Mr. Williams split from the team running TheDonald.win and formed Patriots.win.
He said TheDonald.win originally was focused on hosting commentary from people like Donald Trump Jr. and other conservative celebrities but it grew an enormous following last year amid Black Lives Matter protests and rioting across the country.
“The conversations ventured off into the extreme,” he said. “There is no sugarcoating it: there was no keeping up with the number of folks that came on that website.”
After it was removed from Reddit, TheDonald.win saw its web traffic go from 750,000 views a month to more than 5.8 million in five months, according to a report by the Financial Times citing SimilarWeb data.
Mr. Williams also has communicated with federal agents and is trying to assist with any investigation into extremists, some of which he said have threatened him personally.
“I think the discussion needs to be had. How do these people exist? How do they insert themselves into the fringes into mainstream politics?” Mr. Williams said.