If there were any lingering doubts as to the violent intentions and motives of those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, those doubts may now be put to rest. From minute details, such as the most effective type of zip ties to restrain elected officials to the most effective methods of killing police officers, the rioters left a chilling and irrefutable electronic trail on a website dedicated to overturning the 2020 election on Donald Trump's behalf. Prior to Jan. 6, that website, "TheDonald.win," had generated over 1 million visits per day.
A research group called Advance Democracy, formed by former FBI analyst and Senate investigator Daniel Jones, collected thousands of messages posted by pseudonymous users of the now-defunct website in the days leading up to the insurrection. The posts were distilled into a report and provided to The Washington Post. Jones' group had previously focused on the online effort to mobilize the riot, and it soon became evident that this particular website served as one of the rioters' primary organizational hubs.
As reported by the Post's Craig Timberg:
"The website, TheDonald, played a far more central role in the January 6th Capitol insurrection than was previously known," he said. "There are thousands of posts — with tens of thousands of comments — detailing plans to travel to Washington and engage in violence against the U.S. Capitol. The ultimate end goal of this violence was, on behalf of Trump, disrupt the Congress and overturn the presidential election."
Because the posters on this site used pseudonyms, Advance Democracy could not identify them; the logical assumption is that the website and its contents are now being analyzed by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to track the former users through more forensic means. As the Post explains, the website itself grew out of a Reddit forum that served for some time as a "safe space" for racists and conspiracy theorists. Eventually, chafing at Reddit's moderation rules, the forum became a standalone site, with its web address owned by an Army Veteran named Jody Williams. Williams disbanded the site after the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
The Post article cites a treasure trove of intensely violent comments and discussions on the site in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 assault. Many of those comments clearly go well beyond the aspirational fever dreams of "keyboard commandos," and involve meticulous and well-coordinated plans, including "shared diagrams of the tunnel systems beneath the Capitol complex," discussion of travel and funding resources, and most notably, proposed methods to inflict violence, some of which were then employed by the rioters.
Users of TheDonald.win also shared advice on bringing firearms into Washington as well as how much ammunition to carry in case the protest turned into a gun battle, and they discussed the legality of carrying other weapons, such as stun guns and small knives, that might not violate the city's strict gun-control laws.
Other subjects of discussion were the proper length and brand of zip ties for detaining members of Congress and how to use a flagpole and other objects to attack police officers.
The question of how to overcome the presence of armed police officers on the Capitol steps dominated several of these online conversations. "Cops don't have 'standing' if they are laying on the ground in a pool of their own blood," wrote one user. Another posited creating a "wall of death" by pushing their fellow Trump supporters from behind. This user theorized—probably correctly—that police would be reluctant to shoot into the crowd if those in the surging mob appeared as if they were physically compelled by others in fomenting the assault.
In addition to detailed preparatory instructions, users of the site—self-described as a "never-ending rally dedicated to the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump,"—routinely encouraged each others' participation in what they unmistakably viewed as a Trump-inspired insurrection. Statements like "If they 'certify' (B)iden, we storm (C)apitol (H)ill. Executions on the steps" and "Arrest the worst traitors … Let them try to hurt us as civilians. Their support will collapse overnight." Other posts directly responded to Trump's encouragement to attend the "wild" event: "I'LL BE THERE, AND I'LL BE WILD, SIR!!!"
Additional posts ruminated as to whether the presence of a gallows or a guillotine outside the Capitol building would be preferable; ultimately, it appears it was decided that the blade of a guillotine would be too large to transport. There were also several posts providing helpful advice on ammunition should the rioters decide to bring arms to the event.
Taken collectively, the posts on this website confirm what the innumerable videos and photographs posted online by the participants themselves make obvious: The riot was carefully planned, it was wholly prompted by the exhortations and incitement of Donald Trump, and its intent was to inflict violence on both elected officials and any law enforcement officers who dared defend them.
In short, it was anything but a spontaneous event. It was a deliberate revolt against this country, planned weeks in advance, for the sole purpose of overthrowing a lawful election and preventing the Joe Biden presidency.
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