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The spectacular implosion of Mike Lindell

Founder and CEO of MyPillow Mike Lindell gives an interview with Right Side Broadcasting Network in February. (Sam Thomas/AP)

On Tuesday, my colleague Philip Bump wrote about the three-day symposium being put on by stolen-election fantasist and Trump ally Mike Lindell, with the apt headline, “The con is winding down.”

It might now be more apt to say the con has imploded spectacularly.

Lindell has pushed many false, baseless and crazy theories about voter fraud, but the symposium was billed as focusing on one in particular: “irrefutable” proof that hackers backed by China stole the election for Joe Biden. Lindell had the data, and he was going to show it to you over 72 hours. What’s more, his website promised to give $5 million to anybody who could “prove that Mike’s cyber data … is not valid.”

Well, someone has stepped forward to debunk the data — or at least the claims Lindell is making about it. And it’s none other than the cyberexpert Lindell himself hired.

Josh Merritt, also known as “Spider” or “Spyder” and who was hired by Lindell for his “red team,” told the Washington Times on Wednesday at the symposium that, effectively, Lindell has sold his adherents a bill of goods. Lindell claimed that intercepted network data obtained by other hackers, also known as “packet captures,” could be unencrypted to reveal evidence of vote-switching by the Chinese-backed hackers.

But Merritt has now said that’s just not true.

“So our team said we’re not going to say that this is legitimate if we don’t have confidence in the information,” Merritt said. And it apparently turns out it was not legitimate.

Dominion Voting Systems on Feb. 22 filed a defamation lawsuit against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for promoting baseless theories about its voting machines. (Video: Reuters)

Merritt did still claim that the data provide evidence of manipulated votes, but he made clear it’s not really all it’s cracked up to be.

“We were handed a turd,” he said. “And I had to take that turd and turn it into a diamond. And that’s what I think we did.”

Perhaps an equally damning revelation Wednesday came in something else Merritt said. He confirmed the source of the cyber-data as Dennis Montgomery. It has been suspected that Montgomery was the source, given graphics similar to the ones Lindell has used have appeared on Montgomery’s website, but Merritt confirmed it.

Why is that important? Because Montgomery has, to put it kindly, a spotty history with this kind of thing.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that the U.S. government was trying to keep secret the details of an arrangement in which Montgomery promised to provide technology to catch terrorists. Montgomery claimed he could decode secret al-Qaeda messages embedded in Al Jazeera broadcasts. He received more than $20 million in government contracts.

But his own former lawyer indicated the government was clamming up because the technology was bogus and wanted to avoid embarrassment. He also called him a “con man.” French officials reviewed Montgomery’s work after being wrapped up in the consequences of it — the Bush administration actually grounded certain international flights because of it in 2003 — and came to a similar conclusion. Current and former intelligence officials told PBS in 2014 that it was one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in U.S. history.

More recently, Montgomery got then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to pay him $100,000 in money from the sheriff’s office to pursue a theory involving a federal government conspiracy against Arpaio. Arpaio later acknowledged the theory was baseless.

Lindell’s presentation has also frustrated his fellow voter fraud true-believers, according to the Washington Times and other reports, in large part because he has failed to make good on his promise to share the data with them.

J. Kirk Wiebe, a former National Security Agency analyst who has pushed claims of voter fraud, became alienated by Lindell not producing the goods — it turned out because he didn’t actually have them, the Washington Times reports:

He said the scrolling text was likely meant to resemble what the packet captures would look like in the data set but were not actual packet captures, which are vital to prove the claims.
Several cyber experts at the symposium became frustrated late into the first day with not being provided with packet captures.
Mr. Merritt and Mr. Wiebe said the missing packet captures could be a result of either the format the data was sent in or they were withheld by the source of the information, Dennis L. Montgomery.
But the data Mr. Montgomery sent contains no packet captures and cannot be used to validate Mr. Lindell’s marquee theory, which he planned to unveil at the symposium, said the two experts [Wiebe and Merritt].

Adding insult to injury, those two experts would seem to be in line for a hefty payday — $5 million! — for revealing that Lindell’s data isn’t valid. But Merritt said the offer is no longer on the table.

Update: Lindell’s lawyer has now said that the $5 million offer, which still appears on Lindell’s website, has not been rescinded.