This past Wednesday, a group of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee presented an amendment calling for an investigation into alleged misconduct on the parts of Hillary Clinton and James Comey. It was a way to frustrate Democrats, but, more than that, it provided an opportunity to publicly discuss their very favorite thing: the many bygone misdeeds of Crooked Hillary. The amendment may sound to some readers like it’s been ripped out of a conspiracy forum, because that’s exactly what happened.
Sponsored by first-term Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), the amendment itself sought to hijack what began as a resolution from Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) asking for information about Comey’s firing. In response to Jayapal’s proposal, Gaetz and a few fellow Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee effectively replaced the Democrats’ resolution with one of their own. The new amendment (which you can read in its entirety here) asks for an investigation into things like “the propriety and consequence of immunity deals given to possible Hillary Clinton co-conspirators” and “James B. Comey’s refusal to investigate then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding” a number of matters, including many of which may have come directly from r/The_Donald.
Thursday night, three Twitter users discovered that a staffer for one of the resolution’s sponsors attempted to crowdsource a number of the resolution’s salient points from r/The_Donald, a subreddit notorious for playing host to unfounded conspiracy theories and anti-Islam tendencies. In other words, not a conventional source of legislative inspiration.
“If the purpose of oversight investigations is to get to the truth,” one longtime legislative staffer explained, “then using baseless conspiracies as your starting point is completely counterproductive to a direct investigation.”
Three Twitter users—@regress_ceej, @espressoself, and @TrashWeightlift—first identified the possibility that a staffer was using Reddit for legislative CliffsNotes, after Reddit user and frequent r/The_Donald visitor Devinm666’s unique comment history caught their attention. Though the account has since been deleted, it included threads like this one:
The insider references to subpoenas, the legislative process, and working in Congress (as well as allusions to taking down Crooked H) prompted some additional digging. The three Reddit sleuths then saw that Devinm666 had actively solicited other r/The_Donald members for assistance with the upcoming amendment. Representative Gaetz has confirmed that that Devinm666 is in fact legislative aide Devin Murphy.
“Yes, Devin is a staffer in our office,” Gaetz wrote in an email to WIRED. “It is the responsibility of our staff to gather as much information as possible when researching a subject and provide that information for consideration. We pride ourselves on seeking as much citizen input as possible.”
Publicly identifying one of its users is generally seen as a strict taboo on Reddit. But Murphy is a public official, and in this case was using the platform for public business. He also made little effort to hide his identity, at one point even posting his congressional ID badge, albeit with his name and face obscured.
While the original Reddit post calling for information has since been deleted, several versions survive, both in Google’s cache and on the internet archive service archive.is.
Though Devinm666 never explicitly said which congressman he worked for, his comment history left several clear indicators for @regress_ceej, @espressoself, and @TrashWeightlift. Not only is Gaetz the amendment’s sponsor but Devinm666 mentions him more than any other politician, and generally refers to him as “Based Gaetz” (a term of reverence). A quick Google search was all it took for them to find that Gaetz has a legislative assistant with the same name.
“It really wasn’t that hard once we found it,” one of the users who uncovered Devinm666 explained. “He talked about how much he liked Representative Gaetz. He posted his House credentials. He talked about the bill. He sourced information. His Reddit username is his name. From there, it was just a matter of getting everything together.”
At around 11 pm Thursday night, Devinm666 began deleting comments, unsurprising considering the frequency and detail with which he bragged about his government job. At this point, all of them are gone. In one since-deleted post, Devinm666 explicitly claimed to have had a hand in crafting Gaetz’s amendment.
Thursday he wrote again, “I did ask for stuff, and I helped draft this amendment.” Even when not directly talking about his job, he would often allude to his position. In one comment thread responding to a question about how “normal” this sort of legislation was, Devinm666 wrote, “Actually quite abnormal within this Congress. Cucks abound, and they have not been defending the president. Hopefully that stops now.”
Devinm666’s internet history isn’t limited to Reddit. He also has a YouTube account in which his “liked” videos include the House Judiciary Committee hearing, from last Wednesday, that introduced Gaetz’s amendment. Additionally, an Imgur account with the same username uploaded this GIF the day before Trump’s inauguration:
He’s also frequently defended the House of Representatives over the Senate. For instance, several days ago he wrote on Reddit, “It’s easy to dump on Congress, but it’s not all of Congress — it’s the Senate. The House has been pretty good in passing bills that support Trump’s agenda; over 200 House-passed bills are waiting in the cuck-filled Senate. A large part of the House’s effectiveness is due to Scalise, as majority whip. Get well soon!” That post, too, has since been deleted, though you can see a screenshot of it here.
Also deleted was this post from a few weeks ago, in which Devinm666 mentions his job yet again:
In March, after Trump tweeted that “we should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!,” Devinm666 posted that “I work in Congress, and someone in the office shouted ‘oh fuck, check out Trump’s twitter!’ when this was posted. This is the best timeline ever!” It is also since deleted, and also preserved here.
Devinm666 even let r/The_Donald in on his first day on Capitol Hill, posting a photo of his ID badge and what appears to be onboarding paperwork.
In addition to talking about his job on the Hill, Devinm666 also shared some controversial views with the members of r/The_Donald. About seven months ago (prior to taking his current job), he referred to Barack Obama as “Barry o’Islama”:
In other posts, he refers to Obama as a “Kenyan Muslim,” and refugees in Germany as “raping savages.” And just about a month ago, he celebrated the fact that “recess appointments are the fast track, without Cuck Schumer holding up every judge.”
That Murphy sought out legislative advice from r/The_Donald, specifically, is all the more troubling given its history. Even though the forum officially condemns anti-Semitism and racism, racist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Islam tendencies have permeated the community since its inception.
r/The_Donald has also provided a breeding ground for a number of unfounded conspiracies. Most recently, it helped promote the Seth Rich murder conspiracy theory, which eventually found its way to Sean Hannity. Before that, r/The_Donald also acted as an incubator for the Pizzagate subreddit, which ultimately led to a man firing a rifle inside of a crowded restaurant. Devinm666 apparently sought to give that same community a platform in Congress.
As far as Devinm666’s call for research assistance on July 25 goes, he claims to have been specifically tasked with coming up “with a list of Clinton/Obama/election scandals” in “the next few hours.” He noted several times that he was in a time crunch. The resulting suggestions made by r/The_Donald are mirrored in roughly two-thirds of the total finished amendment.
One section of the amendment calls for a special counsel to look into “James B. Comey’s refusal to investigate then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding (A) selling access to the U.S. State Department through Clinton Foundation donations” In the Reddit post soliciting information, one user asked, “What about Bill’s $1million birthday gift from Qatar?” The comment linked to this Reuters article reporting that the “Clinton Foundation has confirmed it accepted a $1 million gift from Qatar while Hillary Clinton was U.S. secretary of state without informing the State Department.”
One redditor, speaking more generally, offered an extensive list that appears to have been used in its entirety.
The amendment also asks whether Comey had any knowledge of “the role that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice played in the unmasking of these individuals” on Donald Trump’s campaign team. This would correspond to bigkr88’s “susan rice unamsking [sic].” “Lynch obstruction” can be found in the amendment’s first point, which asks that a special counsel investigate “then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch directing James B. Comey to mislead the American people.” “Falsifying/manufacturing evidence for FISA warrants” would fall under the amendment’s description of “efforts made by any Federal agency(i) to monitor communications of then-candidate Donald Trump.”
And, finally, bigkr88’s ultimate suggestion: “Fusion GPS working with the Russian government to manufacture the pissgate dossier” as well as “the pissgate dossier and how it was spread in general.” The amendment itself asks that a prosecutor look into Fusion GPS, the intelligence company that investigated Trump during the campaign, and the “creation of a ‘dossier’ of information about Mr. Donald Trump” as well as “that dossier’s commission and dissemination.”
The amendment hasn’t yet been scheduled for a vote, and it’s unclear what kind of chance it has of passing. In the meantime, the users of r/The_Donald, at least, seem delighted by the results.