Since Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, Lindell has been a fervent champion of the utterly baseless claim that the election was somehow stolen from Trump. Lindell has repeatedly appeared on far-right “news” programs to insist that he has evidence that Trump actually won the election, a claim for which no credible evidence has ever emerged. As recently as Thursday, he posted on his Facebook page a claim that Trump would be president for “4 more years.”
On Friday, he may again have had the chance to see that desk. At about 3 p.m., he was escorted into the West Wing where he reportedly met briefly with Trump. The subject of his visit? If notes Lindell was holding while he waited to enter were any indication, he wanted to discuss his thoughts on how Trump might finagle those “4 more years” Lindell had promised his Facebook followers.
The Washington Post’s Jabin Botsford captured an image of the notes Lindell was carrying with him as he went to meet with Trump. Only half of the page can be seen, but even that tells a lot.
Here’s our best attempt to capture what’s written on the page.
… BE TAKEN IMMEDIATELY TO SAVE THE...THE CONSTITUTION...Colon NOW as Acting National Security...him with getting the evidence of ALL the...in the election and all information regarding...using people he knows who already have security...done massive research on these issues...at Fort Mead [sic]. He is an attorney with cyber-...expertise and is up to speed on election issues....Insurrection Act now as a result of the assault on the...martial law if necessary upon the first hint of any[STRIKETHROUGH]...Sidney Powell, Bill Olsen, Kurt Olsen,...DOD. Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting....on Foreign Interference in the election. Trigger...powers. Make clear this is China/Iran...also used domestic actors. Instruct Frank...evidence on...the more broad...likely amount......line...evidence
At the bottom, the text is obscured by Lindell’s coffee cup.
But you get the gist: The CEO of MyPillow has a strategy for shuffling around administration staffers to gather up the evidence of electoral fraud he thinks exists — and to use military resources in an effort to keep Trump in power, or, as he apparently puts it, to protect the Constitution.
It’s hard to characterize how bizarre and outrageous this is. From Lindell having a platform in any media to hype his allegations to his being invited into the inner sanctum of American power to apparently argue to the president or his team that there’s a path to rejecting the legitimate election of President-elect Joe Biden? There aren’t sufficient adjectives to explore how far from normal — or reality — this is.
So what’s Lindell actually proposing? We get some hints.
“ … Insurrection Act now as a result of the assault on the … martial law if necessary upon the first hint of any … ” Lindell appears to be arguing that, in response to the violence at the Capitol, the president should invoke the Insurrection Act, which would allow him to deploy military resources. The idea of using the military in response to his losing the election has been fairly common, with advocates including former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Some, including Flynn, speculate that the military could somehow call for a new election.
Lindell’s document doesn’t say that, as far as we can tell, but he may be advocating for somehow stalling the transition of power by declaring martial law.
“Sidney Powell.” Powell is the attorney whose unfounded allegations about the manipulation of votes by electronic voting machines captured Trump’s attention — and also were quickly exposed as both baseless and deranged. She embarrassed the Trump team’s efforts to undermine his election loss so much that she was removed from his legal team, but has reportedly maintained a relationship with the president.
“Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting.” Kash Patel is currently the chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, a position he was shifted over to after Trump lost his reelection bid. He’s in charge of the transition effort and has been criticized for obstructing Biden’s team. He was formerly a staffer for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and was instrumental in Nunes’s efforts to undercut the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. What value he would have at the CIA is not clear, though, as the New York Times notes, it might allow him to declassify documents related to the Russia probe that some have sought to release.
“Make clear this is China/Iran … also used domestic actors …” Lindell’s document appears to claim that the election might somehow have been influenced by China and Iran, a claim for which, again, there’s no credible evidence. In fact, the administration’s own cybersecurity team has already ruled out this possibility.
Update: Lindell provided a document to Post reporter Josh Dawsey outlining this false claim.
The strikethrough. A section of the document which is blacked out with marker reportedly mentioned firing White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Some individuals named in the document on Lindell’s hand are harder to pin down. An attorney named William Olsen filed an amicus brief in support of the state of Texas’s attempt to overturn the presidential election results in four states. Kurt Olsen is another attorney involved in that effort, as reported earlier this month. A lawyer from Fort Meade named Frank Colon spoke with New York magazine, expressing surprise that he might have been included in Lindell’s document.
Regardless, Lindell seems to have immersed himself instead in the universe of conspiracy theories, something reinforced by a tweet he sent out early in the morning on Jan. 5. In it, he linked to a document hosted at the website 8kun describing an imminent war for America. 8kun is a message-board site, which serves as the new preferred stomping ground for QAnon conspiracy theorists, among others.
About 24 hours later, conspiracy theorists and Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol.
Even if Trump or his team were simply humoring Lindell, there’s no value in suggesting to a team already obviously searching for a mechanism by which to maintain power that there was a rocky, disruptive path to do precisely that. In normal times, this would not be someone granted access to the West Wing for a private meeting. Now, though, it’s almost predictable.
Perhaps in the future, we will find it grimly amusing that a pillow salesman tried to pitch the president’s team on a strategy for lying to the public and using the military to subvert the democratic election of his successor.
It is not currently amusing.
This article has been updated. Thanks to readers who helped track down some of those mentioned in the document, including Gavin Sherlock.