On Jan. 21, President Biden had just been inaugurated. That, combined with the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and litigation threats, caused many of those who promoted baseless theories about voting-machine fraud to back down. But MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell wasn’t going anywhere.

When Lindell appeared on former Donald Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s podcast that day, Bannon challenged him. He noted that fellow purveyors of the claims about Dominion Voting Systems machines had suddenly fallen silent in the face of lawsuits. Lindell, though, said he welcomed a lawsuit, as he had in previous days. What better way to prove his theory, he reasoned, than through the discovery process?

Lindell has now gotten his wish. He might soon wish he had never made it.

Dominion’s new lawsuit against Lindell is not the first to be filed against those who promoted such baseless and debunked theories. But relative to those previously sued by Dominion and another company, Smartmatic, he seems to have waltzed into especially dicey legal territory. Legal experts clearly saw legal liability, but Lindell made a very different calculation, running headlong into the breach.

While cable channels ran disclaimers or removed content from their websites and stopped talking about it, Lindell has continued pressing the theories even as recently as last week. He bought hours of time on One America News this month to run a documentary called “Absolute Proof.” Newsmax in early February momentarily tried to prevent him from talking about voting machines — with one anchor walking off the set when Lindell wouldn’t yield — but Lindell appeared on the channel later to promote his documentary. OAN, despite running Lindell’s documentary, adorned it with a disclaimer distancing itself from his claims.

But unlike most others now facing litigation, Lindell didn’t couch his election comments as merely raising questions. He claimed there was a massive, historic fraud and laid it directly at the feet of Dominion. He also continued to do so despite multiple legal threats.

I ran through some of the most far-fetched claims about voting machine fraud a few weeks back, when Smartmatic sued Fox News and three of its hosts. A day later, a leading purveyor of the theories, Lou Dobbs, was ousted at Fox Business Network. (Fox and its hosts have sought to dismiss the suit.)

As I noted in the piece, Dobbs and the two other hosts who were sued, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, treated the conspiracy theory somewhat differently. While Bartiromo and Pirro certainly gave voice and legitimacy to it on their shows, Dobbs came closer to actually endorsing it. He suggested it was akin to alleged fraud in Venezuela and called it “a cyberattack on our election — those voting machines and software.”

If Dobbs embraced the conspiracy theory, Lindell was arguably its most devoted and consistent purveyor.

His favored theory, which has been debunked repeatedly in multiple states and courts, is that the voting machines were programmed to give Biden around 1.2 votes (the number has varied) for every actual vote cast, while it gave Trump just 0.8 votes. He has claimed, though, that Trump got so many votes that it “broke” the algorithm and forced the machines to shut down.

Here’s a brief timeline, comparing Lindell’s comments to legal threats and others backing off the claims (the latter in bold):

  • Dec. 12: “The technology of these Dominion machines … it’s all going to be exposed in the future.”
  • Dec. 17: “They realized that all the algorithms broke in all those Dominion machines and that Donald Trump was going to win the election despite all of the cheating. … This election was stolen. … It was stolen at 11:15 on election night. … This is a complete fraud, and Donald Trump will be our president.”
  • Dec. 18-20: Facing legal threats, Fox and Fox Business run segments acknowledging a lack of evidence for voting machine fraud.
  • Dec. 19: Newsmax runs a segment acknowledging a similar lack of evidence.
  • Dec. 21: “Millions of votes were stolen by dominion machines! The biggest crime ever!!”
  • Dec. 21: “The biggest fraud is the Dominion machines.”
  • Dec. 23: “This is the biggest crime ever committed in election history against our country and the world. … I know all the fraud that’s there. It’s 100 percent the Dominion machines that flipped millions of votes, millions upon millions.”
  • Dec. 23: Dominion sends a letter to Lindell demanding he stop making false claims about it.
  • Jan. 5: “There were nine silos of fraud. … The biggest silo was the machines, the Dominion machines.”
  • Jan. 6: “These Dominion Machines, the most corrupt thing in human history.”
  • Jan. 8: Dominion sends another retraction letter to Lindell.
  • Jan. 16: “When a person wins 79 million to 68 million, and you flip that. … These machines, they are corrupt. They built them to cheat.”
  • Jan. 18: “Because these things are embedded in the machines, but they were built to cheat. They were built to steal elections.”
  • Jan. 21: Reports indicate OAN, which had resisted clarifying or correcting its reporting on voting machines, quietly removed several articles about Dominion from its website.
  • Jan. 23: “New evidence came out about machine-voter fraud by Dominion.”
  • Feb. 2: Newsmax anchors attempt to prevent Lindell from promoting his theories about voting machines, with an anchor walking off.
  • Later Feb. 2: Lindell returns to Newsmax and cites his upcoming documentary, saying he has “something coming out on Friday that is going to really help, a documentary I have put together.”
  • Feb. 4: A radio program airing Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s show runs a disclaimer distancing itself from claims made on the show, which Giuliani then calls “insulting.”
  • Feb. 4: Dominion sends another letter to Lindell detailing its objections to the data analysis he has used.
  • Feb. 5: “We’re going to have 100 percent — you’re going to see all this evidence … these machines were used to steal our election by other countries, including China. … The biggest cyberattack ever. … The biggest thing against humanity and our country is this attack through these machines.”
  • Feb. 10: “These machines getting found out, it’s an attack on our country. … We have the absolute proof, and the absolute truth will come out. … They suppressed the machine vote or the machine so much, it’s just coming out now. … I have 100 percent proof. … It was the biggest crime against humanity and the world.”

What’s particularly notable about Dominion’s lawsuit is that it doesn’t just allege defamation by Lindell; it also heavily suggests that he was repeatedly given such platforms because of business ties. At one point, it cites reporting that MyPillow was responsible for more than one-third of advertising for Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show in early 2020. When it brings up the viral Feb. 2 Newsmax segment, it notes that Lindell was welcomed back later that day, with a host emphasizing the “good relationship” between the two. Over and over again, it emphasizes how Lindell’s conspiracy theories came alongside pitches to buy his products, often with discount codes. It notes Trump’s repeated endorsements of Lindell and his products.

In other words, the implication is that Lindell was allowed to keep spouting these things — even as the likes of Giuliani, Dobbs and former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell were sidelined — because of money.

Lindell will now find out just how good an investment it all was.