The case has caused palpable unease at the Fox News Channel, said several people there, who would speak only anonymously. Anchors and executives have been preparing for depositions and have been forced to hand over months of private emails and text messages to Dominion, which is hoping to prove that network employees knew that wild accusations of ballot rigging in the 2020 election were false. The hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who either have been deposed or will be this month.

Dominion is trying to build a case that aims straight at the top of the Fox media empire and the Murdochs. In court filings and depositions, Dominion lawyers have laid out how they plan to show that senior Fox executives hatched a plan after the election to lure back viewers who had switched to rival hard-right networks, which were initially more sympathetic than Fox was to Mr. Trump’s voter-fraud claims.

Libel law doesn’t protect lies. But it does leave room for the media to cover newsworthy figures who tell them. And Fox is arguing, in part, that’s what shields it from liability. Asked about Dominion’s strategy to place the Murdochs front and center in the case, a Fox Corporation spokesman said it would be a “fruitless fishing expedition.” A spokeswoman for Fox News said it was “ridiculous” to claim, as Dominion does in the suit, that the network was chasing viewers from the far-right fringe.

Fox is expected to dispute Dominion’s estimated self-valuation of $1 billion and argue that $1.6 billion is an excessively high amount for damages, as it has in a similar defamation case filed by another voting machine company, Smartmatic.

A spokesman for Dominion declined to comment. In its initial complaint, the company’s lawyers wrote that “The truth matters,” adding, “Lies have consequences.”

denied a motion from Fox that would have excluded the parent Fox Corporation from the case — a much larger target than Fox News itself. That business encompasses the most profitable parts of the Murdoch American media portfolio and is run directly by Rupert Murdoch, 91, who serves as chairman, and his elder son, Lachlan, the chief executive.

Soon after, Fox replaced its outside legal team on the case and hired one of the country’s most prominent trial lawyers — a sign that executives believe that the chances the case is headed to trial have increased.

Dominion’s lawyers have focused some of their questioning in depositions on the decision-making hierarchy at Fox News, according to one person with direct knowledge of the case, showing a particular interest in what happened on election night inside the network in the hours after it projected Mr. Trump would lose Arizona. That call short-circuited the president’s plan to prematurely declare victory, enraging him and his loyalists and precipitating a temporary ratings crash for Fox.

These questions have had a singular focus, this person said: to place Lachlan Murdoch in the room when the decisions about election coverage were being made. This person added that while testimony so far suggests the younger Murdoch did not try to pressure anyone at Fox News to reverse the call — as Mr. Trump and his campaign aides demanded the network do — he did ask detailed questions about the process that Fox’s election analysts had used after the call became so contentious.

The case was settled in 2017.

But Fox has also been searching for evidence that could, in effect, prove the Dominion conspiracy theories weren’t really conspiracy theories. Behind the scenes, Fox’s lawyers have pursued documents that would support numerous unfounded claims about Dominion, including its supposed connections to Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013, and software features that were ostensibly designed to make vote manipulation easier.

According to court filings, the words and phrases that Fox has asked Dominion to search for in internal communications going back more than a decade include “Chavez” and “Hugo,” along with “tampered,” “backdoor,” “stolen” and “Trump.”

Eric Munchel of Tennessee, in which he is brandishing a shotgun, with Mr. Trump on a television in the background. The television is tuned to Fox Business.

But the hurdle Dominion must clear is whether it can persuade a jury to believe that people at Fox knew they were spreading lies.

“Disseminating ‘The Big Lie’ isn’t enough,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. “It has to be a knowing lie.”

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Word of Trump Media Deal Is Said to Have Leaked Months in Advance

Months before former President Donald J. Trump’s social media company unveiled an agreement to raise hundreds of millions of dollars last fall, word of the deal leaked to an obscure Miami investment firm, whose executives began plotting ways to make money off the imminent transaction, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The deal — in which a so-called special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would merge with Mr. Trump’s fledgling media business — was announced in October. It sent shares of the SPAC soaring.

Employees at the Miami investment firm, Rocket One Capital, had learned of the pending deal over the summer, long before it was announced, according to three people familiar with the firm’s internal discussions. Two of the people said that Rocket One officials at the time talked about ways to profit off the soon-to-be-announced transaction with Trump Media & Technology Group by investing in the SPAC, Digital World Acquisition Corporation.

a surge in trading in a type of security known as warrants, which entitled investors to buy shares of Digital World at a preset price in the future.

Federal prosecutors and regulators are now investigating the merger between Digital World and Trump Media, including the frenzied trading in the SPAC’s warrants, according to people familiar with the investigation and public disclosures. Digital World said in a recent regulatory filing that a federal grand jury in Manhattan had issued subpoenas seeking information about Rocket One, among other things.

The exact scope of the federal investigations remains unclear. Authorities have not accused anyone of wrongdoing, and representatives of Mr. Garelick and others denied doing anything improper.

A lawyer for Rocket One and its founder, Michael Shvartsman, denied that they had any advance knowledge of the merger between Digital World and Trump Media. He added that “any assertion otherwise is untrue.”

a recent news release that neither Mr. Trump nor Devin Nunes, the former California congressman who is the company’s chief executive, received grand jury subpoenas. (The release identified the men only by their job titles.)

The investigation into unusual trading in Digital World securities is the latest blow to Mr. Trump’s social media venture, which has struggled with technological problems and slow user growth.

Federal authorities are also investigating whether Digital World’s disclosures about the merger talks with Trump Media violated rules governing SPACs. And the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering whether to block the merger, according to regulatory filings by Digital World. If the deal doesn’t go through, it would deprive Trump Media of $1.3 billion.

There is scant public information about Rocket One, which has fewer than 10 employees and has made about 20 early-stage investments over the past decade, according to a review of archived web pages and an analysis by PitchBook, a data company. Rocket One disabled its website soon after its name appeared in a Digital World regulatory filing.

Two of the people familiar with Rocket One’s internal discussions said Mr. Garelick, a former Boston hedge fund manager who is now Rocket One’s chief strategy officer, mentioned the possible deal with Trump Media to some employees last summer. Around that time, a Rocket One employee was told to conduct a financial analysis of Digital World, including its warrants, one of the people said.

investigate whether the leaders of Digital World and Trump Media started negotiating a potential merger before Digital World sold shares through an initial public offering in September. At the time of Digital World’s initial public offering, the company said in public filings that it had not yet identified a merger target. But The New York Times previously reported that talks between Mr. Orlando and Trump Media officials were already underway.

previously reported that they were involved in some of the early talks with Mr. Orlando.

Mr. Moss and Mr. Litinsky, who at one time were senior executives with Trump Media, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Litinsky no longer works for Trump Media; Mr. Moss’s job status is unclear.

Securities regulators also have asked for information from Digital World about the role played by the SPAC’s financial adviser, Shanghai-based ARC Group, according to regulatory filings. Federal regulators previously have reprimanded ARC. In 2017, the S.E.C. stopped ARC’s executives from listing shares of three companies, citing “material misstatements” in their securities filings and a lack of cooperation from the executives.

Ben Protess contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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Trump’s Truth Social Is Poised to Join a Crowded Field

For months, former President Donald J. Trump has promoted Truth Social, the soon-to-be-released flagship app of his fledging social media company, as a platform where free speech can thrive without the constraints imposed by Big Tech.

At least seven other social media companies have promised to do the same.

Gettr, a right-wing alternative to Twitter founded last year by a former adviser to Mr. Trump, bills itself as a haven from censorship. That’s similar to Parler — essentially another Twitter clone backed by Rebekah Mercer, a big donor to the Republican Party. MeWe and CloutHub are similar to Facebook, but with the pitch that they promote speech without restraint.

Truth Social was supposed to go live on Presidents’ Day, but the start date was recently pushed to March, though a limited test version was unveiled recently. A full rollout could be hampered by a regulatory investigation into a proposed merger of its parent company, the Trump Media & Technology Group, with a publicly traded blank-check company.

If and when it does open its doors, Mr. Trump’s app will be the newest — and most conspicuous — entrant in the tightly packed universe of social media companies that have cropped up in recent years, promising to build a parallel internet after Twitter, Facebook, Google and other mainstream platforms began to crack down on hate speech.

211 million daily active users on Twitter who see ads.

Many people who claim to crave a social network that caters to their political cause often aren’t ready to abandon Twitter or Facebook, said Weiai Xu, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. So the big platforms remain important vehicles for “partisan users” to get their messages out, Mr. Xu said.

Gettr, Parler and Rumble have relied on Twitter to announce the signing of a new right-wing personality or influencer. Parler, for instance, used Twitter to post a link to an announcement that Melania Trump, the former first lady, was making its platform her “social media home.”

Alternative social media companies mainly thrive off politics, said Mark Weinstein, the founder of MeWe, a platform with 20 million registered users that has positioned itself as an option to Facebook.

certain subscription services. His start-up has raised $24 million from 100 investors.

But since political causes drive the most engagement for alternative social media, most other platforms are quick to embrace such opportunities. This month, CloutHub, which has just four million registered users, said its platform could be used to raise money for the protesting truckers of Ottawa.

Mr. Trump wasn’t far behind. “Facebook and Big Tech are seeking to destroy the Freedom Convoy of Truckers,” he said in a statement. (Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said it removed several groups associated with the convoy for violating their rules.)

Trump Media, Mr. Trump added, would let the truckers “communicate freely on Truth Social when we launch — coming very soon!”

Of all the alt-tech sites, Mr. Trump’s venture may have the best chance of success if it launches, not just because of the former president’s star power but also because of its financial heft. In September, Trump Media agreed to merge with Digital World Acquisition, a blank-check or special purpose acquisition company that raised $300 million. The two entities have raised $1 billion from 36 investors in a private placement.

But none of that money can be tapped until regulators wrap up their inquiry into whether Digital World flouted securities regulations in planning its merger with Trump Media. In the meantime, Trump Media, currently valued at more than $10 billion based on Digital World’s stock price, is trying to hire people to build its platform.

Trump supporter, and the venture fund of Mr. Thiel’s protégé J.D. Vance, who is running for a Senate seat from Ohio.

Rumble is also planning to go public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company. SPACs are shell companies created solely for the purpose of merging with an operating entity. The deal, arranged by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, will give Rumble $400 million in cash and a $2.1 billion valuation.

The site said in January that it had 39 million monthly active users, up from two million two years ago. It has struck various content deals, including one to provide video and streaming services to Truth Social. Representatives for Rumble did not respond to requests for comment.

removed it from their app stores and Amazon cut off web services after the riot, according to SensorTower, a digital analytics company.

John Matze, one of its founders, from his position as chief executive. Mr. Matze has said he was dismissed after a dispute with Ms. Mercer — the daughter of a wealthy hedge fund executive who is Parler’s main backer — over how to deal with extreme content posted on the platform.

Christina Cravens, a spokeswoman for Parler, said the company had always “prohibited violent and inciting content” and had invested in “content moderation best practices.”

Moderating content will also be a challenge for Truth Social, whose main star, Mr. Trump, has not been able to post messages since early 2021, when Twitter and Facebook kicked him off their platforms for inciting violence tied to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

With Mr. Trump as its main poster, it was unclear if Truth Social would grow past subscribers who sign up simply to read the former president’s missives, Mr. Matze said.

“Trump is building a community that will fight for something or whatever he stands for that day,” he said. “This is not social media for friends and family to share pictures.”

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Peter Thiel, the Right’s Would-Be Kingmaker

Mr. Thiel has attracted the most attention for two $10 million donations to the Senate candidates Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Like Mr. Thiel, the men are tech investors with pedigrees from elite universities who cast themselves as antagonists to the establishment. They have also worked for the billionaire and been financially dependent on him. Mr. Masters, the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, the investor’s family office, has promised to leave that job before Arizona’s August primary.

Mr. Thiel, who declined to comment for this article, announced last week that he would leave the board of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, which conservatives have accused of censorship. One reason for the change: He plans to focus more on politics.

Born in West Germany and raised in South Africa and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mr. Thiel showed his provocative side at Stanford in the late 1980s. Classmates recalled Mr. Thiel, who studied philosophy and law, describing South Africa’s apartheid as a sound economic system. (A spokesman for Mr. Thiel has denied that he supported apartheid.)

Mr. Thiel also helped found The Stanford Review, a conservative campus paper that sought to provide “alternative views” to what he deemed left-wing orthodoxy.

In 1995, he co-wrote a book, “The Diversity Myth,” arguing that “the extreme focus on racism” had caused greater societal tension and acrimony. Rape, he and his co-author, David Sacks, wrote, sometimes included “seductions that are later regretted.” (Mr. Thiel has apologized for the book.)

In 1998, Mr. Thiel helped create what would become the digital payments company PayPal. He became Facebook’s first outside investor in 2004 and established the venture capital firm Founders Fund a year later. Forbes puts his fortune at $2.6 billion.

one 2009 piece, Mr. Thiel, who called himself a libertarian, wrote that he had come to “no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” arguing that American politics would always be hostile to free-market ideals, and that politics was about interfering with other people’s lives without their consent. Since then, he has hosted and attended events with white nationalists and alt-right figures.

His political giving evolved with those views. He donated lavishly to Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns before turning to candidates who were more extreme than the Republican establishment.

In 2013, Curtis Yarvin, an entrepreneur who has voiced racist beliefs and said democracy was a destructive system of government, emailed Mr. Thiel. Mr. Yarvin wrote that Mr. Cruz, then a newly elected senator, “needs to purge every single traitor” from the Republican Party. In the email, which The Times obtained, Mr. Yarvin argued that it didn’t matter if those candidates lost general elections or cost the party control in Congress.

Mr. Thiel, who had donated to Mr. Cruz’s 2012 campaign, replied, “It’s relatively safe to support Cruz (for me) because he threatens the Republican establishment.”

Mr. Thiel used his money to fund other causes. In 2016, he was revealed as the secret funder of a lawsuit that targeted Gawker Media, which had reported he was gay. Gawker declared bankruptcy, partly from the costs of fighting the lawsuit.

proud to be a gay Republican supporting Mr. Trump. He later donated $1.25 million to the candidate.

After Mr. Trump won, Mr. Thiel was named to the president-elect’s executive transition team. At a meeting with tech leaders at Trump Tower in Manhattan in December 2016, Mr. Trump told Mr. Thiel, “You’re a very special guy.”

A month later, Mr. Thiel, a naturalized American, was revealed to have also obtained citizenship in New Zealand. That prompted a furor, especially after Mr. Trump had urged people to pledge “total allegiance to the United States.”

During Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Thiel became frustrated with the administration. “There are all these ways that things have fallen short,” he told The Times in 2018.

In 2020, he stayed on the sidelines. His only notable federal election donation was to Kris Kobach, a Trump ally and former secretary of state of Kansas known for his hard-line views on immigration. (Mr. Kobach lost his primary bid for the Senate.)

Mr. Thiel’s personal priorities also changed. In 2016, he announced that he was moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The next year, he married a longtime boyfriend, Matt Danzeisen; they have two children.

Mr. Thiel reduced his business commitments and started pondering leaving Meta’s board, which he had joined in 2005, two of the people with knowledge of his thinking said. At an October event held by a conservative tech group in Miami, he alluded to his frustration with Facebook, which was increasingly removing certain kinds of speech and had barred Mr. Trump.

a $13 million mansion in Washington from Wilbur Ross, Mr. Trump’s commerce secretary. In October, he spoke at the event for the Federalist Society at Stanford and at the National Conservatism Conference.

He also rebuilt his relationship with Mr. Trump. Since the 2020 election, they have met at least three times in New York and at Mar-a-Lago, sometimes with Mr. Masters or Mr. Vance. And Mr. Thiel invested in Mr. McEntee’s company, which is building a dating app for conservatives called the RightStuff.

Mr. McEntee declined to answer questions about his app and said Mr. Thiel was “a great guy.” Mr. Trump’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Thiel’s political giving ramped up last spring with his $10 million checks to PACs supporting Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters. The sums were his biggest and the largest ever one-time contributions to a PAC backing a single candidate, according to OpenSecrets.

Like Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters lack experience in politics. Mr. Vance, the venture capitalist who wrote the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” met Mr. Thiel a decade ago when the billionaire delivered a lecture at Yale Law School, where Mr. Vance was a student.

Zero to One.” In 2020, Mr. Masters reported more than $1.1 million in salary from Thiel Capital and book royalties.

Mr. Vance, Mr. Masters and their campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

Both candidates have repeated the Trumpian lie of election fraud, with Mr. Masters stating in a November campaign ad, “I think Trump won in 2020.” They have also made Mr. Thiel a selling point in their campaigns.

In November, Mr. Vance wrote on Twitter that anyone who donated $10,800 to his campaign could attend a small group dinner with him and Mr. Thiel. Mr. Masters offered the same opportunity for a meal with Mr. Thiel and raised $550,000 by selling nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, of “Zero to One” digital art that would give holders “access to parties with me and Peter.”

a 20-minute speech at the National Conservatism Conference in October, he said nationalism was “a corrective” to the “brain-dead, one-world state” of globalism. He also blasted the Biden administration.

“We have the zombie retreads just busy rearranging the deck chairs,” he said. “We need dissident voices more than ever.”

Cade Metz contributed reporting. Rachel Shorey and Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Where Fox News and Donald Trump Took Us

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, a caravan of journalists chased her up the East Coast during a six-day trip from Washington to New Hampshire, believing she might use the occasion to announce that she would run against Mr. Obama. The trip also included a dinnertime stop at Trump Tower, where she and its most famous resident stepped out in front of the paparazzi on their way to get pizza.

She wouldn’t reveal her intentions until later that year, in October. And when she did, she broke the news on Mark Levin’s radio show — not on Fox News. It was a slight that infuriated Mr. Ailes, who had been paying her $1 million a year with the expectation that it would pay off with the buzz and big ratings that kind of announcement could generate.

There were signs at the time that Mr. Trump was starting to fill the void in Fox’s coverage — and in conservative politics — that would exist without Ms. Palin center stage. He had been getting a considerable amount of coverage from the network lately for his fixation on wild rumors about Mr. Obama’s background.

One interview in March 2011 on “Fox & Friends” — the show known inside the network to be such a close reflection of Mr. Ailes’s favorite story lines that staff called it “Roger’s daybook” — was typical of how Mr. Trump used his media platform to endear himself to the hard right. He spent an entire segment that morning talking about ways that the president could be lying about being born in the United States. “It’s turning out to be a very big deal because people now are calling me from all over saying, ‘Please don’t give up on this issue,’” Mr. Trump boasted.

Three days after that interview, the network announced a new segment on “Fox & Friends”: “Mondays With Trump.” A promo teased that it would be “Bold, brash and never bashful.” And it was on “Fox & Friends” where Mr. Trump appeared after his pizza outing with Ms. Palin in the spring, talking up his prospects as a contender for the White House over hers.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Ailes were, at first, seemingly well matched.

Though he had financial motivations for promoting sensational but misleading stories, Mr. Ailes also seemed to be a true believer in some of the darkest and most bizarre political conspiracy theories.

In 2013, Mr. Obama himself raised the issue with Michael Clemente, the Fox News executive vice president for news, asking him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner whether Mr. Ailes was fully bought-in on the conspiracies over the president’s birthplace. “Does Roger really believe this stuff?” Mr. Obama asked. Mr. Clemente answered, “He does.”

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Fox News Hosts Sent Texts to Meadows Urging Trump to Act as Jan. 6 Attack Unfolded

Three prominent Fox News anchors sent concerned text messages on Jan. 6 to Mark Meadows, the last chief of staff for President Donald J. Trump, urging him to persuade the president to take the riot seriously and to make an effort to stop it.

The texts were made public on Monday, shortly before the House committee scrutinizing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol voted 9-0 in favor of recommending that Mr. Meadows be charged with contempt of Congress. Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, read the text messages aloud.

The texts, part of a trove of 9,000 documents that Mr. Meadows had turned over before he stopped cooperating with the inquiry, were sent to the former White House chief of staff by Laura Ingraham, the host of the nighttime show “The Ingraham Angle”; Sean Hannity, a longtime prime-time host who once appeared onstage with Mr. Trump at a campaign rally; and Brian Kilmeade, a host of the morning show “Fox & Friends.”

“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Ms. Ingraham wrote. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”

the false theory that members of antifa were involved.

“From a chaotic Washington tonight, earlier today the Capitol was under siege by people who can only be described as antithetical to the MAGA movement,” Ms. Ingraham said on the Jan. 6 episode. “Now, they were likely not all Trump supporters, and there are some reports that antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd.”

Ms. Ingraham went on to cite “legitimate concerns about how these elections were conducted,” while adding that any dissatisfaction with the vote should not have resulted in violence.

Mr. Hannity, a onetime informal adviser to Mr. Trump, condemned the attack, saying at the top of his Jan. 6 show, “Today’s perpetrators must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” He also said that the nation must do more to protect law enforcement and political representatives.

 Mr. Trump to keep personal records secret and the indictment of Stephen K. Bannon for contempt of Congress, here’s a breakdown of executive privilege:

Last month, Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host with the largest audience, produced a three-part documentary, “Patriot Purge,” for the Fox Nation streaming platform that contained the false claim that the Jan. 6 attack was a “false flag” operation meant to demonize the political right.

More than 500 people have been arrested in relation to the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol. Mr. Carlson falsely claimed in the documentary that “Jan. 6 is being used as a pretext to strip millions of Americans — disfavored Americans — of their core constitutional rights.”

Chris Wallace, the longtime anchor, resigned from Fox News on Sunday after 18 years to take a job at CNN. Before his abrupt exit, he expressed concern about the documentary in talks with management.

Two longtime Fox News contributors, the conservative commentators Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, quit last month in protest of the Carlson special, calling it “totally outrageous” and saying that it “will lead to violence.”

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Trump’s Media Company Investigated Over SPAC Deal

That month, a small investment bank, Kingswood Capital Markets, which has frequently teamed up with ARC, made a presentation to Benessere’s board members. Marked “strictly private and confidential,” the presentation, reviewed by The Times, listed about a half-dozen possible acquisition targets. One was Trump Media. Kingswood, now called EF Hutton, estimated that Trump Media was worth $1.5 billion and that within a few years it could generate $2.3 billion in annual revenue.

Sergio Camarero, a managing partner at ARC, told Benessere officials that Trump Media was their preferred target. Some Benessere officials, however, balked because they didn’t want to have anything to do with Mr. Trump, two people familiar with the discussions said.

Mr. Camarero did not respond to requests for comment.

ARC quickly turned to Digital World, its other SPAC, as a potential vehicle to merge with the Trump company. ARC had recently installed Mr. Orlando as Digital World’s chief executive, after its previous C.E.O. failed to raise enough money to get it off the ground, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said.

The videoconference call involving ARC, Mr. Orlando, Mr. Veloso and members of the Trump team took place in early April. At the time, Digital World had not yet filed with the S.E.C. to sell its shares to the public. It did so seven weeks later, on May 26.

“We have not selected any specific business combination target and we have not, nor has anyone on our behalf, initiated any substantive discussions, directly or indirectly, with any business combination target,” Digital World said in its initial filing.

The disclosure was important. Because regulators allow blank-check companies to sell their shares to the public with minimal financial disclosures, the companies are not allowed to have merger partners in mind before their I.P.O.s. The thinking is that they otherwise would serve as a backdoor channel for companies to go public while escaping rigorous public scrutiny.

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Tucker Carlson’s ‘Patriot Purge’ Special Leads Two Fox News Contributors to Quit

For his part, Mr. Goldberg said he has been thinking about William F. Buckley, the late founder of National Review, who saw as part of his mission “imposing seriousness on conservative arguments” and purging some extreme fringe groups, including the John Birch Society, from the right.

“Whether it’s ‘Patriot Purge’ or anti-vax stuff, I don’t want it in my name, and I want to call it out and criticize it,” Mr. Goldberg said. “I don’t want to feel like I am betraying a trust that I had by being a Fox News contributor. And I also don’t want to be accused of not really pulling the punches. And then this was just an untenable tension for me.”

Now, their views have put them outside the current Republican mainstream, or at least outside what mainstream right-wing institutions and politicians are willing to say out loud. But while in recent years both appeared occasionally on the evening show “Special Report” and on “Fox News Sunday,” which the network classifies as news, it’s been years since they were welcome on Fox’s prime time, and Mr. Goldberg clashed bitterly with the prime-time host Sean Hannity in 2016. (Mr. Hayes and Mr. Goldberg emailed their readers Sunday to announce their departure.)

Despite the former contributors’ hopes, Fox’s programming has hewed to Mr. Trump’s line, as have its personnel moves. The network, for instance, fired the veteran political editor who accurately projected Mr. Biden’s victory in the key state of Arizona on election night, and has hired the former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Mr. Hayes and Mr. Goldberg are the first members of Fox’s payroll to resign over “Patriot Purge,” but others have signaled their unhappiness. Geraldo Rivera, a Fox News correspondent since 2001, captured the difficulty of internal dissent at the network when he voiced cautious criticism of Mr. Carlson and “Patriot Purge” to my colleague Michael Grynbaum. “I worry that — and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this — but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate,” he said.

On air, two programs with smaller audiences than Mr. Carlson’s scrambled after his special to rebut the false theories presented in “Patriot Purge.” “Special Report” called in a former C.I.A. officer on Oct. 29 to debunk “false flag” theories. And on “Fox News Sunday,” Chris Wallace turned the same question over to one of Mr. Trump’s few foes in the Republican congressional delegation, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

Mr. Carlson called Mr. Hayes’s and Mr. Goldberg’s resignations “great news” in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Our viewers will be grateful.”

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