Douglass Mackey Sentenced to 7 Months for Conspiring to Violate 18 USC 241

Douglass Mackey, the right wing troll prosecuted early this year for conspiring to trick Hillary voters into throwing away their votes, was just sentenced to 7 months in prison (the government had asked for 6-12 months).

Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Ann M. Donnelly: Sentencing held on 10/18/2023 for Douglass Mackey (1). Appearances by AUSA Erik Paulsen, AUSA Frank Turner Buford, and AUSA William Gullotta. Andrew Frisch counsel for defendant Mackey (present on bond). Probation Officer Erica Vest, present. Case called. Statement from defense counsel, and the government heard. The defendant is sentence on the sole count of the indictment to seven months imprisonment, two years supervised release, $100 special assessment, and a $15,000 fine. Defendant informed of right to appeal. For the reasons stated on the record the defendants request to stay sentencing pending appeal is denied. (Court Reporter Sophie Nolan.) (DG) (Entered: 10/18/2023)

Yesterday, Judge Ann Donnelly denied Mackey’s bid for acquittal or a new trial and today, she denied his request for a stay pending appeal. This post describes how Mackey and his co-conspirator Microchip set out to “infect everything” during the 2016 election.

This is charge, 18 USC 241, is the third charge with which Trump was charged in his January 6 indictment, so Donnelly’s ruling and any appeal Mackey makes may serve as important precedent in that case too.

Prosecutorial Discretion in the Age of Shitlords and “Psychological loldongs Terrorism”

I’m working on one more post integrating materials from the Douglass Mackey trial.

But first I want to comment about some investigative and prosecutorial details about the case.

I’ve made a timeline showing what got introduced in the troll chatrooms as evidence, other known activities of Mackey and the cooperating witness Microchip, and investigative details here. The timeline includes the following DM threads that were treated as part of the conspiracy for which Mackey was convicted:

In addition, this exhibit, which was introduced under a different evidentiary rule (largely, but not entirely, Mackey’s comments, rather than those of the conspiracy), consists in part of conversations elsewhere sourced to FedFreeHateChat from earlier in 2015-2016, along with a number of two-person DMs involving Mackey or unindicted co-conspirators 1080p or Microchip.

As you read the threads, remember a few things about them. First, they’ve been extensively sanitized of the racist and misogynist language used in the threads. Anything that wasn’t directly relevant to proving either the means and goals of Mackey’s trolling, a conspiracy between the thread participants, or their intent in sending out false tweets to depress the turnout of Black and Latino Hillary supporters was excluded as prejudicial.

You can read some of what was excluded — and the very important debate about where Mackey’s free speech ended and where an attempt to impair the votes of Black and Latino Hillary supporters began — in these court filings:

  • January 30, 2023: Mackey’s effort to exclude pre-September 2016 language and commentary from when he was banned by Twitter and inflammatory speech
  • January 30, 2023: The government’s effort to get the contents of the four chatrooms, above, admitted
  • February 24, 2023: Mackey’s response to the government’s motion
  • February 24, 2023: The government’s response to Mackey
  • February 28, 2023: The government’s reply to Mackey
  • February 28, 2023: Mackey’s reply
  • March 7, 2023: Mackey letter after meet-and-confer that details objections, revealing content of some excluded files
  • March 7, 2023: Government memo after meet-and-confer
  • March 10, 2023: Judge Nicholas Garaufis order laying out admissible exhibits
  • March 11, 2023: Mackey letter seeking to exclude bigoted speech and FBI agent testimony
  • March 13, 2023: Mackey letter seeking to exclude comment about women voting
  • March 13, 2023: Government letter responding regarding bigoted speech
  • March 19, 2023: Mackey letter objecting to specific inflammatory language and memes showing Trump in violent conquest

The outlines of this dispute will be critical to the inevitable appeal of Mackey’s guilty verdict.

These Twitter DM groups weren’t the only places these trolls organized, as portrayed by trial evidence. After one of Mackey’s bannings, he authenticated his new Twitter ID on Facebook and continued to work with others on Discord. The government did not introduce any of the related threads from TheDonald or 4chan with which — as a tweet from Microchip made clear — their efforts on Twitter were sometimes coordinated.

The exclusion of related 4chan activity is significant. At trial, Mackey took the stand and claimed he had gotten the text-to-vote meme for which he was charged from widely available 4chan threads, not from these DM groups, one of which he did not rejoin after being banned by Twitter on October 5. Mackey similarly claimed not to know the key players in workshopping this meme in the War Room twitter group beyond their user name.

The claim was pretty unconvincing; it may have been an attempt to deny forming a conspiracy with the others, or an effort to protect his online friends.

I’m interested in the picture of the conspiracy provided by these threads for several related reasons.

For starters, I’m interested in the troll — prosecutors referred to the account using a female pronoun — who first created a text-to-vote meme like the one that Mackey was convicted of. On October 27, 2016 on the War Room thread (which Mackey had rejoined after being banned), HalleyBorderCol (HBC) suggested, “let’s depress illegal voter turnout with a nice hoax ;).” Someone using the moniker P0TUSTrump argued they should hold off so the hoax would not get debunked before actually suppressing the vote. HBC responded by addressing him as “Donald” and explaining — using a British spelling for rumor — how rumors work, especially on social media:

people aren’t rational. a significant proportion of people who hear the rumour will NOT hear that the rumour has been debunked.

Then, two days later, HBC posted the first of the vote-by-text (as opposed to vote-by-hashtag) memes using the text number that allowed DOJ to track the reach of those that Mackey would send on November 2.

As far as is public, prosecutors never charged HBC, in spite of her key role in planning a “hoax” to suppress turnout, but perhaps that’s because she lives in a place where they spell “rumor” with a “u.”

In fact, DOJ didn’t even identify HBC as an unindicted co-conspirator in the complaint against Mackey, though it does describe her actions. The complaint names Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet as CC#1 (compare ¶17 of the complaint with this DM), Microchip as CC#2 (compare ¶25 of the complaint with this DM), a troll named NIA4_Trump who got temporarily suspended along with Mackey in November 2016 as CC#3, and a thus far unidentified troll named 1080p who was instrumental in tweaking the memes to more closely mimic Hillary’s graphics as CC#4 (compare ¶22a in the complaint with this DM).

By the time DOJ described the co-conspirators in a footnote to their February 24 filing, however, HBC was first on their list.

As was noted in the government’s initial motion in limine, the government alleges that individuals who posted, shared, or strategized over how to optimize the deceptive images or the messages therein are co-conspirators, and that the statements of those individuals are admissible as co-conspirator statements. These co-conspirators include the Twitter users identified in the Government’s Motion in Limine: @Halleybordercol, @WDFx2EU7, @UnityActivist, @Nia4_Trump, @1080p, @bakedalaska, @jakekass, @jeffytee, @curveme, 794213340545433604 and @Urpochan, the latter of which was described but not specifically identified as a co-conspirator in that submission. The materials provided to defense counsel on September 23, 2023 [sic] include statements from the following additional users which are of a similar character and admissible as co-conspirator statements: @WDFx2EU8, @MrCharlieCoker, @Donnyjbismarck, @unspectateur and 2506288844.

Note this footnote treats a second Microchip account as separate rather than identifying that it knew Microchip was behind both accounts using the same naming convention, “@WDFx2EU#.” This was the period after DOJ had informed Mackey, on February 13, which Twitter handles its cooperating witness had used but before DOJ had publicly revealed that it had a cooperating witness.

When it came to cross-examining Mackey on his claims to know nothing about these people, however, AUSA Erik Paulson prioritized HBC.

Q I’d like to ask you about some of people in that room.

A Okay.

Q Who is HalleyBorderCol?

A That’s someone I just know as HalleyBorderCol. I don’t know anything more about that person.

Q Nothing more?

A Yes.


Mr. Mackey, do you remember this page?

A Yes.

Q HalleyBorderCol says: Let’s did depress illegal voter turnout with a nice hoax.

A Yes.

Q POTUSTrump says: I like that idea Haley, but I think we should wait for the day before or the day of, that way they don’t have time to debunk the rumor. Needs to be earlier than that.

The government’s identification of HBC in the complaint, or not, doesn’t matter legally. What mattered legally for the purpose of the trial was that Judge Ann Donnelly ruled the government had presented sufficient evidence of a conspiracy to treat HBC as one for the purposes of hearsay exception rules; Donnelly ruled that all the accounts listed above were.

But DOJ’s decision to charge Mackey alone, and to make Microchip plead guilty after a series of proffers as part of a cooperation agreement, suggests DOJ exercized discretion to treat HBC and a few other key players differently, even while both at trial and in the development of the offending meme she had a larger role.

She certainly had a larger role in the text-to-vote meme itself than Baked Alaska, for example.

Baked Alaska is all over the trolling effort. He congratulates Mackey for being named the 107th most influential political tweeter of 2016, as everyone else did too, in March 2016. He warns against “roast[ing]” Bernie supporters, “cuz the more hatred they have for hillary the more likely they will join us in national or not vote at all,” in the same April 20, 2016 chat where he discusses the “new smart team” Trump has hired. On April 23, 2016, Baked Alaska asked Mackey via DM if he wanted to join the “Trump HQ Slack for more coordinated efforts?”

In May, Mackey asks for his help making #InTrumpsAmerica go viral. Baked Alaska boasts on July 24 that “we are controlling the narrative this is amazing.” In October, Gionet reminds other trolls to “make [minorities] hate hillary.”

At least as exhibited in the trial evidence, Baked Alaska’s sole overt act in the deceptive tweet involves instructing 1080p to “make a text message version of” the Tweet calling to vote remotely (it’s unclear whether Gionet calls 1080p or jeffytee “Gabe”). The tweets for which Mackey was convicted may have been his idea, but others executed the idea.

But it was enough for others to credit him with some responsibility for Trump’s win on November 9, 2016. “Tonight we meme’d reality,” Baked Alaska said after the win.

One more person’s role is of interest. Andrew Auernheimer — better known as Weev — was all over the earlier FedFreeHateChat, which came in for Mackey’s direct comments rather than as statements of co-conspirators. Weev seems to have spent the end of 2015 helping Mackey fine-tune his trolling skills. “Thanks to weev I am i[m]proving my rhetoric,” Mackey said in FFHC on November 19, 2015. “I just hope all this shitlording goes real life.”

Weev’s involvement is of particular interest because he was helping to run the Daily Stormer in pro-Russian territories. He was always one of the most obvious potential ties between Trump’s trolls and Russia. That’s one reason this paragraph, from the government’s motion in limine, reads very differently if you know “the Twitter user” in question is Weev.

On or about December 22, 2015, the defendant communicated with others in a Twitter direct-message group about sharing memes that would suggest certain voters were hiding their desire to vote for the defendant’s preferred Presidential candidate. The defendant stated, “it’s actually a great meme to spread, make all these shitlibs think they’re [sic] friends are secretly voting for Trump.” Several weeks later, on or about January 9, 2016, the defendant and another Twitter user discussed their Twitter methodologies. After the defendant stated that “Images work better than words,” the user stated “we should collaboratively work on a guide / like, step by step, each major aspect of the ideological disruption toolkit . . . ricky you could outline your methods of commentary / we could churn out a book like this, divide profits / and hand people a fucking manual for psychological loldongs terrorism.” The defendant responded “Yes… I think that would be good / I could do another chapter on methodologies from the ads industry– shit like my twitter ads stuff was very much the result of careful targeting, nobody’s managed to replicate it properly since.” Shortly thereafter, the Twitter user stated, “honestly at this point i’ve hand [sic] converted so many shitlibs that like, i am absolutely sure we can get anyone to do or believe anything as long as we come up with the right rhetorical formula and have people actually try to apply it consistently.” The defendant responded, “I think you’re right.”2 These statements, and those like them, are admissible and relevant to show, among other things, that the defendant’s intent in spreading memes was to influence people.

But Weev doesn’t appear, at least under the handle Rabite, after he celebrated the efficacy of the trolling on the day Trump sealed the nomination.

it’s fucking astonishing how much reach our little group here has between us, and it’ll solidify and grow after the general

“This is where it all started,” Mackey responded. But for Weev, that’s where his appearance in the trial evidence, under the moniker Rabite, at least, ended.

Weev’s absence — under his Rabite moniker, anyway — is all the more striking given that per a bench conference at trial, the search warrant specified that the specific meme Mackey ultimately sent out came from The Daily Stormer.

The search warrant also noted that the one that the defendant sent out was available on the Daily Stormer website, the American Nazi newspaper, as early as October 29, which is a couple days before the defendant did.

That is, Weev may have played a direct role in creating the meme in question. But unless he was posting under the moniker 1080p (who may have been referred to as “Gabe” by others), he was not credited with doing so in evidence presented at trial.

That differential treatment — and the changed focus on HBC in the trial as compared to the complaint — is one reason, but in no way the only reason, I’m interested in some other investigative details:

  • Details about Microchip’s discussions with the government
  • The timing of interviews with Hillary Clinton staffers and its disclosure to Mackey
  • The decision not to call an investigative agent to the stand

According to a motion in limine dispute, an FBI agent named Jamie Dvorsky attempted to interview Mackey in Florida after his identity was disclosed in April 2018, which is when the FBI opened the case. Mackey first raised this issue on March 11 after he received materials on potential witnesses.

According to reports of FBI Special Agent Jamie Dvorsky, marked by the government as 3500-JAD-2 and 3500-JAD-17 (submitted under seal herewith), she and another agent traveled to Florida in 2018 and met Mr. Mackey at a Panera Bread in Boynton Beach. Mr. Mackey told her that he would be happy to speak to the agents if they would first contact his attorney, Richard Lubin. Mr. Lubin thereafter contacted Agent Dvorsky and said that Mr. Mackey would “100% cooperate and talk to the FBI.” Thereafter, Mr. Lubin did not contact the FBI nor return multiple calls.

When the government responded two days later, they described planning to call Dvorsky to explain how and when the FBI first opened the investigation.

As discussed with defense counsel, the government is calling Special Agent Dvorsky to testify as to when the government learned that the defendant was the user of the accounts that distributed the deceptive images and the initial investigative steps that were taken in the wake of that revelation. The chronology matters. As noted above, to the extent the defendant claims or suggests that the prosecution was somehow politically motivated, the fact that the government first identified the defendant in 2018 and began its investigation at that point is relevant in that regard. The government does not intend to elicit from Special Agent Dvorsky testimony that the defendant offered to cooperate with the FBI, but never followed through on the offer. Rather, to the extent that Agent Dvorsky will communicate the defendant’s statements at all, her testimony will be limited to the defendant’s telling her that he worked with Paul Nehlen.4 Accordingly, the limited testimony the government does intend to elicit is simply not prejudicial and does not warrant preclusion

They never did call her, though.

The FBI contacted Microchip, now their cooperating witness, around December 17, 2018 about a perceived threat he had made online in July 2018, but that may have been about a different case. Microchip then contacted Baked Alaska to inform him about the FBI visit, suggesting he has or had resilient ties to Baked Alaska.

Megan Rees, the FBI agent who ultimately obtained the arrest affidavit, was one of two FBI agents who visited Microchip’s home in December 2020, this time in conjunction with the Mackey case. When she wrote up that affidavit, she named Microchip, like Baked Alaska and 1080p, only as an unindicted co-conspirator.

But after Microchip saw that complaint, he reached out to the FBI via his lawyer.

Q Sir, my question to you is this: On February 4, 2021, did you reach out to Agent Rees and tell her that you had become aware that the person you knew as Ricky Vaughn had been arrested, and you believed you had information that would be useful to the FBI. Did you say that to Agent Rees?


Q My first question is: When you reached out to Agent Rees on February 4, 2021, did you tell her that you had learned the person you knew as Ricky Vaughn had been arrested recently? Did you say that?

A Yes.

Q And in addition, did you tell her that you believed you had information that would be useful to the FBI?

A Correct.

Per his testimony on cross-examination, Microchip made a formal proffer around April 22, 2021.

At it, he claimed that the intent wasn’t so much to dissuade people from voting but just to push out as many messages as possible. He also claimed the chatrooms weren’t all that organized.

Q Sir, I’m going to ask you a question. Forgive the profanity in advance, but have you ever heard the term “shit posting”?

A Yes.

Q Do you recall telling the Government at this meeting that the focus was not on one message, it was on pushing out as many — as much content as possible?


Q Do you recall telling the Government at that meeting that the participants in the chats were not as organized as many people believed?

A Yes, I remember saying that.

Q Do you recall telling the Government that there was no grand plan around stopping people from voting?

After several continuances and a revised memory of how organized things were, Microchip pled guilty on April 14, 2022. He had a meeting in advance of the disclosure of a cooperating witness on February 23, 2023. This post describes how Microchip testified to wanting to “infect” everything.

The timing of Microchip’s proffer is important, though, because it might explain any change in focus between the complaint and the evidence as presented at trial. That is, it might explain why prosecutors focused much more closely on HBC than Baked Alaska at trial.

But it also might explain any new investigative direction that DOJ took after first speaking with Microchip.

Mackey’s lawyer, Andrew Frisch (who has also represented VDARE), several times expressed curiosity about why the government used a summary FBI agent largely uninvolved in the case to introduce all the Twitter evidence, rather than putting the FBI agent who led the investigation, Megan Rees, on the stand.

MR. FRISCH: Can I put something on the record, unrelated to our prior conference. I intended at the close of the Government’s place to put a placeholder. But because of the way it worked, the jury was here, I couldn’t do it. I have been concerned as the trial has gone on that no case agent has testified. Maegan Rees didn’t testify, my friend Agent Granberg didn’t testify, and ultimately Agent Dvorsky did not testify. At one time or another. The key agent I’m concerned with is Agent Rees.


MR. FRISCH: I’m mostly concerned about why no case agent testified and specifically whether there’s a reason, a bad reason, why Agent Rees’s 3500 has not been provided, obviously apart from when she attended Microchip interviews and things like that. I just wanted to put a placeholder, I’ll discuss it with the Government, I don’t want to hold things up. I wanted to register an objection at my earliest opportunity so if I can come back to it, if necessary.


MR. FRISCH: I don’t know what she has, I don’t know what she said, I don’t know what’s in the reports. It’s just in my experience, it’s highly unusual that a trial happens without the case agent testifying, without any case agent testifying.

He’s not wrong, really, to question why the government didn’t use a case agent. Often, the government does so to keep someone who knows information inconvenient to the prosecution off the stand. For example, Durham may have used a paralegal in the Michael Sussmann case because the case agents had discovered some of Durham’s claims about the Alfa Bank anomaly were bullshit by the time of trial. Mueller used an agent focused on the obstruction part of the investigation in the Stone trial, who thereby could honestly say she didn’t know some of what DOJ subsequently discovered about Roger Stone’s actual ties to Russia when asked.

But it’s often (as it was in the Mueller investigation), done to hide parts of an ongoing investigation — something that a movement lawyer would surely have some interest in.

In this case, there are two obvious reasons to keep case agents off the stand.

The first is — as was revealed to Frisch after his opening argument — EDNY had a series of 18 interviews with Hillary’s campaign, between March 2021 and January 2023.

As Frisch laid out in a letter to the judge, after he opened, the government revealed those interviews, which, he claimed, he should have obtained.

The government’s second witness was Jess Morales Rocketto. On March 10, 2023, the Friday before the start of jury selection, the government first identified Ms. Rocketto as a witness. Thereafter, during jury selection, the government disclosed a report of the government’s then-recent interview of Ms. Rocketto, without disclosing any of eighteen reports of the government’s interviews of seventeen other representatives of the Clinton Campaign, conducted between March 2021 and January 2023. Ms. Rocketto testified that she was the Clinton Campaign’s digital organizing director; learned of vote-by-text memes using fake graphics during the final days of the campaign; found the memes’ misappropriation of the Clinton Campaign’s graphics and hashtag “#imwithher” to be such a “big deal” and so “jarring” that “you have to make a decision about what to do about something like this.” T 76, 78, 84-85, 90-92. See T 86 (The Court: “If you can avoid asking like terribly open-ended questions to this witness . . . . she has a lot to say, which is fine, but we’re never going to finish.”). On defense counsel’s subsequent cross-examination of Lloyd Cotler (a representative of the Clinton Campaign called principally to testify to steps to remediate the memes’ reference to a short code), defense counsel confirmed an unelaborated statement in the government’s report of Mr. Cotler’s interview that a Clinton Campaign worker named Amy Karr monitored social media, including 4chan [T 103], on which Mr. Mackey had seen the memes that he then shared.

The following morning, the government provided defense counsel with two reports of its interviews of Ms. Karr. At the lunch break, defense counsel requested that the government provide reports of all the government’s interviews of representatives of the Clinton Campaign. Highlights of the reports, summarized in the draft stipulation, contradicted the testimony and inferences elicited by the government from Ms. Rocketto and Mr. McNees. For example, Alexandria Witt, Senior Social Media Strategist, told the government that she referred vote-by-text memes to executive staff, but the general response was lackluster as though – – directly contradicting the very words used by Ms. Rocketto – – “this was no big deal.” Diana Al Ayoubi-Monett, another Senior Social Medical Strategist, said that she was mocked for taking “text-to-vote” memes seriously. Timothy Lu Hu Ball, a senior security expert, said that senior officials of the Clinton Campaign did not take the vote-by-texts seriously. Ms. Witt and Ms. Karr both were aware of and monitored “shit-posters” on social media supporting Clinton’s opponent. Memes containing misinformation about voting began to appear about three months before Election Day; there was no single influencer behind them; and senor staff, including campaign chair John Podesta, did not take concerns about the memes seriously. According to Matthew Compton, Deputy Digital Director (possibly Ms. Rocketto’s principal underling), the “#imwithher” hashtag had been somewhat commandeered with “unbelievable” amounts of irrelevant information, rendering it not “particularly useful.” Multiple witnesses told the government about records created by the campaign to track misinformation on social media (about which Mr. Mackey had been unaware and never attempted to subpoena or investigate). [my emphasis]

There’s no reason to believe these interviews were primarily pre-trial preparation. As the government explained in a bench conference, the government only handed them over after hearing what Mackey’s defense was in Frisch’s opening.

MR. PAULSEN: Your Honor, part of the reason we provided the 302s we did, is that we heard his opening argument, at the same time everyone did, and he made something like that argument. We turned them over at that point because it seemed like he was interested in that.

But even assuming Frisch’s description is accurate, what the Clinton campaign thought about Mackey’s trolling doesn’t change Mackey’s intent.

Which is what Judge Ann Donnelly ruled in the bench conference: this wasn’t Brady material, and besides, Frisch at that point still had several remedies available to him, such as calling the Hillary intern who identified some of the disinformation targeting Hillary on the dark web much earlier than anyone else.

THE COURT: Let me stop you there. I think I understand what you’re saying.

With respect to the issue — the e-mail telling people they could text to vote was not a big deal to the Clinton campaign. Why is that Brady material what their opinion of it is?

MR. FRISCH: Because they called Ms. Rocketto to essentially testify how horrible this was. How something had to be done right away. How she recognized this as a problem. That it specifically, in her view, was either targeted to or designed to affect or had the affect of effecting Latin American and African American voters. She was a terrific — she’s very charismatic and had a lot to say, that’s fine —

THE COURT: Why is someone —

MR. FRISCH: But I couldn’t cross-examine her with this information.

THE COURT: But you opened on it.

MR. FRISCH: But I didn’t know that the Clinton campaign agreed with my defense.

THE COURT: But who cares what their opinion is. The Clinton campaign can’t testify in court about what they think about something, any more than they can come — you didn’t object to it, she did say something was sneaky, I think I stopped her at some point. A particular person’s opinion of what the case is, I don’t understand how that is Brady material.


[I]t’s the Court’s view that it’s not Brady material because it amounts to really, the essence is what the Clinton campaign thought about it, and that’s just not relevant. In fact, their opinion of it is no more valid than their opinion would be about whether Mr. Mackey is guilty or not. That’s not relevant, to the extent that’s the claim.

In his letter demanding an acquittal because of all this, Frisch explained that rather than calling any of these people as witnesses, he drafted a stipulation that the government rejected, which he then just emailed to Chambers.

Defense counsel emailed it to the Court (rather than electronically file it with a letter) when an issue unexpectedly arose early on the morning of the last day of trial about the government’s timely receipt of the draft stipulation; exigencies of the imminent trial day made preparation and filing of a letter impractical. But it would otherwise have been electronically filed to show that Mr. Mackey’s attempt at a mid-trial remedy for the government’s violation of Rule 5(f) and Brady had been rejected (though the government agreed to stipulate to a narrow portion thereof), thereby filling in the record and helping to show the consequent irreparable prejudice.

The letter mostly seems like a bid by a movement lawyer to turn the Mackey prosecution into the second coming of the Durham trial, an opportunity to investigate the victim of a bunch of malicious crimes in the 2016 election, in part to distract from the heinous things that Trump and his allies were doing.

All these interviews took place after the indictment and most presumably took place after Microchip first met with the government in April 2021.

Frisch seems uninterested in the obvious question presented by the revelation of 18 interviews with the Clinton campaign about disinformation targeting her 2016 campaign that went viral after being drafted on the dark web: Why EDNY was conducting these interviews, continuing well after any 5 year statute of limitations would have expired.

I don’t know the answer to that, but I bet the case agents do, which might be a good reason to keep them off the stand.

The other obvious reason to keep case agents off the stand has to do with knowledge of Microchip’s ongoing cooperation, which as the original motion revealing his cooperation describes, is something “beyond the scope” of this case.

In addition, since entering into the cooperation agreement, the CW has provided assistance to the FBI in other criminal investigations beyond the scope of this case. The CW is presently involved in multiple, ongoing investigations and other activities in which he or she is using assumed internet names and “handles” that do not reveal his or her true identity. The CW has not interacted with any witness, subject, or target in these investigations and activities on a face-to-face basis, and the government has no reason to think that the CW’s true identity has been compromised as a result of this work.

There’s no evidence that the ongoing interviews with the Clinton campaign about disinformation the dark web has to do with Microchip’s ongoing cooperation. There’s not even any evidence that the case agents in Mackey’s case are the ones he worked with subsequently; on the stand, he suggested he had not met with Agent Rees since his guilty plea.

Frisch’s job is to claim all this is about Douglass Mackey and it also likely serves his interests to drum up a false scandal about Hillary by publicly releasing these 302s.

But there’s a whole bunch of tangentially related issues that didn’t show up in this trial. There’s a bunch of this that isn’t about Douglass Mackey.

“I wanted to infect everything:” The Curiously Expert Pathologies of FBI Informant, Microchip

I’ve now read the substantive transcripts in the trial of Douglass Mackey, the far right troll who was convicted last month of conspiring to violate the voting rights of Hillary voters in the 2016 election.

As I noted in my first write-up of the verdict, the case has lessons that remain quite pressing, as loud boys on, who own, and claim to be interested in regulating Twitter attempt to make the site more welcoming to far right election disinformation. I plan to write that up.

Before I do, though, I want to talk about Microchip, the cooperating witness who pled guilty to the same conspiracy as part of a cooperation agreement in 2022.

We first learned the FBI had a cooperating witness on March 8 of this year, when Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the government to unseal its request to keep its informant’s identity secret. The filings in that discussion did not describe much about the timing or scope of his cooperation, other than that those he is targeting have the technical skills that might lead to him being hacked if he were discovered.

The fact of the CW’s cooperation is sure to be seen by many in that community as a profound betrayal, with the result that, at a minimum, online harassment is bound to follow the CW should his or her identity become a matter of public record. That harassment can have negative consequences in and of itself. In addition, to claim that intense online attacks do not endanger a person’s physical safety is to ignore the reality of our current world, as evinced in common newspaper headlines. See, e.g., Sheera Frenkel, The Storming of Capitol Hill Was Organized on Social Media, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 6, 2021, available at; Eric Lipton, Man Motivated by “Pizzagate” Conspiracy Theory Arrested in Washington Gunfire, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 5, 2016, available at It is simply (and regrettably) a fact of the times that many acts of politically motivated violence in current society arise from campaigns of online harassment.

Beyond the risk to the CW, the potential consequences include the disruption of the CW’s ongoing work with the FBI. It is certainly true that the nature of this work is online and anonymous, but, if the CW’s name and location were to become known, the CW would become a target for all who believe that they might be under investigation (whether they are or not). Given the technical proficiency of those with whom the CW associates, it is not difficult to envision multiple scenarios in which the CW’s online work could be jeopardized by way of a cyberattack (at a minimum).

Microchip’s identity can’t be that well protected. As soon as this pre-trial discussion was posted, Mackey’s lawyer, Andrew Frisch, contacted the government to tell them he had learned of the informant’s real identity independently (possibly via Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet) and at least one researcher I’ve spoken with since seems to have a plausible theory as to his real identity.

But I assumed, based on those filings, that Microchip had flipped in advance of Mackey’s arrest.

The actual details are more complicated — and a bit unpersuasive, as AUSA William Gullotta got Microchip to explain in his testimony on March 23.

The thing I find most unbelievable is Microchip’s claim that he only joined Twitter — in any capacity — in July 2015, just months before he started playing a central and expert role in expanding the reach of anti-Hillary trolling.

Q When did you start using Twitter?

A Back in around July of 2015.

Q When did you start using the alias Microchip on Twitter?

A Anywhere from November 2015 through March 2016, somewhere around there.

I find this claim so surprising because, in his description of his trolling, Microchip described the kind of Twitter expertise that normally takes years to build. And two 2017 articles celebrating Microchip’s expertise (Buzzfeed, Politico) describe that he exhibited expertise from the start of his identity in November 2015.

For example, Microchip described how — the implication is all of his engagement was Microchip — he used various levels of operational security to succeed in creating new accounts anonymously, from the start.

Q When you would set up your accounts, did you set them up anonymously?

A I did.

Q How do you go about doing that?

A Using virtual private networks or proxy IP address services.

Q What’s a virtual private network?

A It’s, basically, somebody who sets up servers across the world in different locations and then you can tie into that service so you appear as if you are at that location and then they feed the internet through that.

Q So it would mask your true location from Twitter?

A That’s right.

Q What other information did you need to provide to Twitter to set up a new account?

A Yes, you need an email address or a phone number or both.

Q So would you just set up anonymous email addresses —

A Oh, yeah, through Google, Gmail, you set up a account and then you set up a Google Voice account and then if you need to change a phone number on that, you pay ten bucks and you get a new phone Number.

His description of various means to exploit Twitter to inject extremist views into the mainstream come off as pathological … but extremely savvy.

Q And why would you want it to be on a trending list?

A Because I wanted our message to move from Twitter into regular society and part of that would be — well it’s based on the idea that, you know, back then maybe — I don’t know, 10 to 30 percent of the US population was on Twitter, but I wanted everybody to see it, so I had figured out that back then, news agencies, other journalists would look at that trending list and then develop stories based on it.

Q What does it mean to hijack a hashtag?

A So I guess I can give you an example, is the easiest way. It’s like if you have a hashtag — back then like a Hillary Clinton hashtag called “I’m with her,” then what that would be is I would say, okay, let’s take “I’m with her” hashtag, because that’s what Hillary Clinton voters are going to be looking at, because that’s their hashtag, and then I would tweet out thousands of — of tweets of — well, for example, old videos of Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton talking about, you know, immigration policy for back in the ’90s where they said: You know, we should shut down borders, kick out people from the USA. Anything that was disparaging of Hillary Clinton would be injected into that — into those tweets with that hashtag, so that would overflow to her voters and they’d see it and be shocked by it.

Q Is it safe to say that most of your followers were Trump supporters?

A Oh, yeah.

Q And so by hijacking, in the example you just gave a Hillary Clinton hashtag, “I am with her,” you’re getting your message out of your silo and in front of other people who might not ordinarily see it if you just posted the tweet?

A Yeah, I wanted to infect everything.

Q Was there a certain time of day that you believed tweeting would have a maximum impact?

A Yeah, so I had figured out that early morning eastern time that — well, it first started out with New York Times. I would see that they would — they would publish stories in the morning, so the people could catch that when they woke up. And some of the stories were absolutely ridiculous — sorry. Some of the stories were absolutely ridiculous that they would post that, you know, had really no relevance to what was going on in the world, but they would still end up on trending hashtags, right? And so, I thought about that and thought, you know, is there a way that I could do the same thing.

And so what I would do is before the New York Times would publish their — their information, I would spend the very early morning or evening seeding information into random hashtags, or a hashtag we created, so that by the time the morning came around, we had already had thousands of tweets in that tag that people would see because there wasn’t much activity on Twitter, so you could easily create a hashtag that would end up on the trending list by the time morning came around.

Perhaps most chilling is his description of how participants in this anti-Hillary trolling knew there was nothing to the John Podesta emails they made the focus of their October 2016 trolling.

It didn’t matter. They didn’t care.

They were aiming to cause chaos to hurt Hillary’s chances of winning.

Q What was it about Podesta’s emails that you were sharing?

A That’s a good question.

So Podesta ‘s emails didn’t, in my opinion, have anything in particularly weird or strange about them, but my talent is to make things weird and strange so that there is a controversy. So I would take those emails and spin off other stories about the emails for the sole purpose of disparaging Hillary Clinton.

T[y]ing John Podesta to those emails, coming up with stories that had nothing to do with the emails but, you know, maybe had something to do with conspiracies of the day, and then his reputation would bleed over to Hillary Clinton, and then, because he was working for a campaign, Hillary Clinton would be disparaged.

Q So you’re essentially creating the appearance of some controversy or conspiracy associated with his emails and sharing that far and wide.

A That’s right.

Q Did you believe that what you were tweeting was true?

A No, and I didn’t care.

Q Did you fact- check any of it?

A No.

Q And so what was the ultimate purpose of that? What was your goal?

A To cause as much chaos as possible so that that would bleed over to Hillary Clinton and diminish her chance of winning.

Microchip was actually one of the people who, on October 30, 2016, brought the idea of getting Hillary voters to vote from home from 4Chan to the War Room where anti-Hillary trolls workshopped ways to make it more realistic and ensure that Trump voters wouldn’t also fall for the meme.

Text telling Hillary voters to tweet Hillary on November 8.

And, as he described it, during 2016, Microchip was paying up to $500 a month, between two services, to use bots to expand the reach of right wing trolling.

A Yeah, so one of the first services to kind of seed the followers was a service called Add Me Fast, A-D-D, M-E, F-A-S-T, and that service is kind of like a peer networking service where I would insert the tweet into that service, somebody else would insert a tweet and then, we would retweet each other’s information, right? And you could gain points doing that and, if you accumulate points, you can then expend those on likes, followers, retweets. So that service, I would spend sometimes $300 a month on it. That would give you around a thousand to three thousand retweets, likes, or follows.


Another step is using Fast Followerz and that’s F-A-S-T and then F-O-L-L – – Q O-W-E-R-S? A Yeah, but it’s with a “Z,” it’s with a Z at the end. .com, yeah. And that service you spends like, a monthly fee of, you know, a hundred to two hundred, sometimes three hundred bucks a month. And they have control of all the bots, so you don’t actually retweet anything, but you put in your Twitter handle or you put in a tweet that you want to get retweeted, and the service that I would use would be 50 to a hundred followers, something like that, a day, and then those followers would also retweet or “like” my tweets anywhere from three to five times.

No one explained where Microchip came up with $500 a month to make anti-Hillary trolling go viral.

On cross-examination, however, Mackey’s lawyer, Frisch, did get Microchip to admit that when he started cooperating with the FBI on this case in 2021, he had both IRS and bankruptcy debts.

Also on cross, Microchip described that he’s not paid for any of the assistance he provides to the FBI — though as he prepared for the trial in February, he described liking the “structure” working with the FBI provided his life.

Q Without telling us what you’re doing, how often do you do this work for the FBI?

A As often as needed, essentially.

Q You’re not getting paid for it; right?

A That’s right.

Q In fact — in fact, you met with the FBI on or about February 23, 2023, earlier, about a month ago; do you remember that? Mr. Paulson was there, Mr. Gullotta was there. All three prosecutors were there.

A Yeah, I think that was here in Brooklyn.

Q And you asked — you said — you said — do you recall saying that you wanted to keep working with the FBI because the FBI provided a structure that was valuable to you?

[Frisch refreshes his memory with his 302]

Q And that’s what you said; right?

A Yes.

While the trial showed that Mackey was important to the effort to suppress the votes of Black and Latino Hillary voters because he had so much reach, particularly among the more general public in 2016, Microchip — who claims to have been a newB Twitter user in July 2015 — seems to have played a more important role in professionalizing all aspects of the anti-Hillary campaign.

Mackey made these memes popular; Microchip made them work.

Which makes the timeline more curious. By all appearances, the FBI knew of Microchip long before they charged Mackey, starting in 2018 (about eight months after Mackey was first IDed). That’s when he first offered to cooperate with the FBI.

A No. I talked to the FBI about being useful to them when they came and actually talked to me the first time. I discussed with the FBI in the car at my residence at the time. We actually sat in the car outside of my home, and I talked to them about my use of technology and how it could possibly be useful to whatever they might be working on.

They seem to have paid him a visit, as well, as they prepared to charge Mackey in December 2020. But even in spite of the fact that his key role in preparing anti-Hillary memes would have been readily obvious in warrants served on Twitter in advance of charging Mackey, the FBI didn’t charge Microchip along with Mackey in January 2021.

And only as they looked closer after he reached out did they decide they needed him to plead guilty.


July 2015: Microchip joins Twitter

November 2015: Microchip starts to create his persona

April 5, 2017: Buzzfeed article quoting Microchip claiming, “it’s all us, not Russians” describing he turned to Twitter in response to November 2015 terror attacks in Paris

August 9, 2017: Politico article describing Microchip as an “early player” in hard-right Twitter chatrooms starting in November 2015

December 17, 2018: FBI questions Microchip about July 2018 online threat

December 15, 2020: Second contacts with FBI, including Megan Rees (about which Microchip tells Baked Alaska), Microchip lawyers up

January 27, 2021: Mackey arrest

February 4, 2021: Microchip’s lawyer reaches out to FBI, broaches cooperation

April 22, 2021: Formal proffer with government

June 2021: First of several agreements to toll statutes of limitation

April 14, 2022: Guilty plea