After the Election, Trump Maintains His Bizarre Relationship with Conspiracy-Pushing Website

His claim of millions of illegal votes is straight from the 9/11 truthers of “Infowars.”

Toru Hanai/Zuma

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, as part of a multi-tweet rant against Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s recount effort in Wisconsin (and perhaps Michigan and Pennsylvania), President-elect Donald Trump questioned the integrity of the 2016 election.

Trump won 306 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232 (Michigan’s 16 were called for him today); so his victory was not exactly a landslide. But the bigger lie was that “millions” of people voted illegally, for which there is no evidence. Clinton’s lead of more than 2 million votes in the popular vote, and her campaign’s recent announcement that it would participate in the recount organized by Stein, seemed to have inspired yesterday’s tweet. But its origins trace back to a right-wing conspiracy theory that began to take hold shortly after the election.

According to the Washington Post, on November 13 Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, tweeted that he had “verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.” He wrote that he was joining with True the Vote, a conservative group, “to initiate legal action.” The day after Phillips’ tweet, his claim was picked up by Infowars and a series of right-wing commentators and websites. True The Vote issued a statement Monday saying it “absolutely supports” Trump’s “recent comment about the impact of illegal voting, as reflected in the national popular vote.” In an email to Mother Jones on Monday, Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True the Vote, said a study of data was forthcoming. “We do have evidence that non-citizens are being registered and are voting,” she added, but she wouldn’t elaborate.

If Trump got his information for this weekend’s tweet from Infowars, it wouldn’t be the first time Team Trump cited this bizarre and unreliable source. Infowars, a conspiracy theory website run by Alex Jones, has been one of the Trump campaign’s go-to sources of information. On September 8, the candidate’s son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the Infowars story “Was Hillary Wearing an Earpiece During Last Night’s Presidential Forum?” Trump himself has used the site’s work to bolster way-out claims, including his references to Clinton’s alleged poor health and his false assertion that “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims were celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey. Trump appeared on Jones’ internet-based talk show in December 2015 and told him, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.” Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser and a conspiracy theorist who claims LBJ killed JFK, has often appeared on Infowars, and he held joint events with Jones at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. At that convention, Jones had “special guest” credentials.

Following the election, Jones claimed that Trump called to thank him and his listeners “for fighting so hard for Americans, and for Americanism.” A spokeswoman for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

The Trump relationship to Jones and Infowars is one of the weirdest aspects of the 2016 election. Jones’ Infowars site offers up a steady stream of red meat for the conspiratorial far right. It claims that the US government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks and that the Sandy Hook massacre was “completely fake.” (It claims those children weren’t killed, and the whole thing was a ruse to make it easier for the government to push gun control.) On Monday, the site promoted Jones’ theory that the Stein recount is a means for Democratic donors to make Trump “illegitimate to cause a civil war in this country.” Another post titled “HUGE #PIZZAGATE NEWS COMING” hyped a discredited story about a Washington, DC-based pedophilia ring connected to Clinton operating out of a pizzeria. A third story maintained that Clinton has a plan to overturn Trump’s win.

Put simply, the president-elect is calling into doubt the election because of a conspiracy theory website known for pushing the most outlandish claims. Trump’s connection to Jones did not gather much attention during the campaign. But with this latest tweetstorm, Trump has indicated that he is still hobnobbing with these dark and paranoid forces—one sign that the conspiracy peddlers of Infowars will require close watching in the Trump years ahead.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate