The History of Proof

A regularly updated catalogue of key events in the history of this digital media outlet.

October 30, 2017: Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie graciously asks me to create a newsletter on his new platform. Overwhelmed by my work on Twitter covering the Trump-Russia scandal, I stupidly don’t reply to Hamish’s email.

September 25, 2020: The podcast that gives this website its name and logo—Proof: A Pre-election Special—is launched. A ten-episode limited series intended to summarize some key revelations in the sprawling, 2,500-page Proof trilogy, the podcast becomes a Top 10 Government podcast on Apple Podcasts in 31 nations, reaching #2 in America. The podcast is produced by Pablo Salzman of Connect3, a division of Cineflix Media, with former Vice contributing editor Thomas Morton as co-host.

January 6, 2021: Incited by then-president Donald Trump, thousands of pro-Trump irregulars violently assault the United States Capitol. Nearly 1,000 breach the building itself. Five people die and more than 130 police officers are injured. The ensuing effort to impeach Trump a second time, something that had never before happened in U.S. history, achieves its end on January 13, 2021—giving birth to Proof the following day.

January 9, 2021: Less than 120 hours before the founding of ProofGavin McInnes, the founder of the white supremacist Proud Boys, threatens to sue me on Parler over false claims that my research on the Proud Boys’ role in the January 6 attack was inaccurate as to the garb worn by a key contingent of Proud Boys at the Capitol: “blaze-orange” hats. This research—first posted on Twitter, and then, thereafter, a centerpiece of two early articles at the Proof Substack—is very quickly vindicated and duplicated by media outlets across the United States, with Gavin McInnes’ threat serving as one of several inspirations for Proof focusing intently on revealing the truth about what happened in Washington on January 6.

January 14, 2021: The Proof Substack is founded. At its founding, it has a simultaneous “News,” “Politics,” and “Culture” categorization under Substack’s subject-area rubric. For ranking purposes, the site is initially categorized as “News” by Substack. America is just eight days from having watched—live—an armed insurrection on television.

January 25, 2021: The Proof email list grows by 1,997—its second-biggest one-day gain—and the website reaches 1,000 full subscribers, becoming one of the first 100 publications on Substack ever to do so.

January 26, 2021: Proof publishes its most-viewed article to date, “January 5 Meeting at Trump International Hotel Could Hold the Key to the January 6 Insurrection.” All told, the article receives nearly half a million views worldwide.

January 26, 2021: The Alabama Political Reporter credits Proof with being the first media outlet to report on the secretive, now-infamous January 5, 2021 meeting of Donald Trump advisers, donors, and family members inside the former president’s private residence at Trump International Hotel. The reporting in Proof provokes a response on the record by a Trump ally in the U.S. Senate, Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). The Birmingham News and City Watch Los Angeles likewise credit Proof with breaking this critical national news story.

January 28, 2021: The Proof email list grows by 2,440—its biggest one-day gain ever.

January 29, 2021: Proof reaches #2 nationally on Substack’s “Top 25” in the “News” category. The website had hit #10 on January 22, #8 on January 24, #6 on January 25 (and #5 later in the day on January 25), and #4 on January 27.

January 29, 2021: Roger Stone, longtime Donald Trump friend and adviser, publicly threatens to sue Proof over its coverage of his role in the January 6 insurrection. Nearly four weeks later, the New York Times, Washington Post, and NBC News issue their first “breaking news” reports on the very same topic, including in their coverage much of the information that had previously been published at Proof.

January 29, 2021: Proof reaches 2,000 full subscribers.

February 4, 2021: Proof reaches 3,000 full subscribers.

February 5, 2021: Proof is recategorized as a “Politics” website by Substack’s editors, immediately debuting at #20 nationally in Substack’s “Top 25” in that category.

February 8, 2021: The Proof email list reaches 25,000 members.

February 11, 2021: Former Donald Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, by and through his attorney Jesse R. Binnall at Harvey & Binnall PLLC, threatens to sue Proof for reporting on Trump donor and Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles W. Herbster’s Facebook claim that Flynn attended a January 5, 2021 meeting at Trump International Hotel—an event occurring just hours before Insurrection Day, during which Trump loyalists launched an armed assault on the United States Capitol.

February 11, 2021: Proof is mentioned by major media for the first time, in Columbia Journalism Review. The website credits the author of Proof with being “meticulous about sourcing.”

February 16, 2021: Proof publishes its 50th article (“Twelve Things You Need to Know About Metajournalism”).

February 17, 2021: Charles Euchner, former director of the Rappaport Institute at Harvard University and a current writing faculty member at Columbia University, credits Proof—and its associated Twitter feed—with “gather[ing] all of the great scoops and revelations from all the amazing reporters [domestically and internationally] and bring[ing] them together into a single compelling narrative.”

February 17, 2021: The Washington Post credits Proof with offering “commentary in response to…news stor[ies] that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.”

February 23, 2021: The Donald J. Trump for President Committee signs up for the Proof email list under the email address “press-info+fuckyou@donaldjtrump.com.”

February 25, 2021: The AMA Archive of “Ask Me Anything” Instagram Live sessions debuts at Proof, with thirteen episodes totaling over sixteen hours of video content.

February 25, 2021: Proof is recategorized as a “Culture” website by Substack’s editors, immediately debuting at #2 nationally in Substack’s “Top 25” in that category.

February 28, 2021: The internal podcast at Proof, “Adventures in Metajournalism,” debuts.

March 3, 2021: Proof publishes its most-popular subscriber-only content ever, a long annotation of the Congressional testimony of William J. Walker, Commander of the D.C. National Guard. The article is viewed well over 25,000 times by Proof subscribers.

March 6, 2021: Diário do Centro do Mundo (DCM), one of the leading media outlets in Brazil—with millions of readers monthly—credits Proof with breaking the story of Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro meeting with Trump allies in D.C. just before the January 6 insurrection. Per DCM, “American journalist Seth Abramson alleges that Eduardo Bolsonaro attended a meeting that conspired against American democracy the day before the [January 6] invasion [of the U.S. Capitol]. The exclusive article lists ten connections between Eduardo and the [insurrection]. Brazilian taxpayers now have several questions: What did Eduardo Bolsonaro do in D.C. at the beginning of [2021]? What was the subject of his meeting with [Trump adviser] Michael Lindell? Did he attend a meeting at Trump International Hotel?” Similar credit was given by Brazilian publications Congress Em Foco (link), Revista Forum (link), Brasil 247 (link), Ler Agora (link), DCI Digital (link), GGN: O Jornal de Todos os Brasis (link), Poliarquia (link), Farol da Bahia (link), Brasil Independente (link), MBL News (link), Pensar Piauí (link), BNC Amazonas (link), and via several follow-ups in Diário do Centro do Mundo (see, e.g., here).

March 7, 2021: March 2021 high for new daily website visitors to Proof (23,692).

March 8, 2021: According to a report by German public state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, on this date Brazilian Senator Jaques Wagner (PT-BA) “submitted a request demanding clarification from the [Brazilian] Foreign Ministry about the deputy’s [Rep. Eduardo Bolsonaro’s early January 2021] trip to Washington and his possible connection with [the January 5 Trump International Hotel] meeting, raised by American journalist Seth Abramson on the Proof website.”

March 10, 2021: Proof reaches 4,000 full subscribers.

March 12, 2021: Muck Rack—the nation’s premier database of American journalists—updates its entry for Seth Abramson to acknowledge Proof as a primary media outlet.

March 25, 2021: The Proof email list hits 30,000 members and 4,500 full subscribers.

April 10, 2021: In the wake of a new report at Proof linking Donald Trump to the ring of federal criminal probes surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Proof reaches 5,000 full subscribers and establishes an April 2021 high for new daily website visitors (11,736).