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MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell Met with Trump to Discuss More Election Fraud Conspiracy Theories

Esquire logo Esquire 1/16/2021 Abigail Covington

Despite promising a peaceful transition of power during his post-insurrection mea culpa last week, it’s clear Donald Trump is still searching for ways to stay in office. On Friday, the outgoing president met with pal Michael Lindell, the CEO of Fox News’s favorite advertiser MyPillow, to discuss quaint strategies for overturning the election results like implementing martial law.

The meeting wasn’t on the president’s official schedule, but news of it leaked thanks to Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford. Botsford shared a photo he had snapped earlier in the afternoon of Lindell heading to the West Wing with a pile of loose-leaf notes. Those notes were quickly analyzed by thousands on social media who seemed to both revel in and be revolted by the idea of the sitting president of the United States taking political advice from a man who hawks phony orthopedic pillows on infomercials for a living.

Among other things, Lindell’s notes suggest that in response to the attack on the Capitol, Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act, and “martial law if necessary.” For those unfamiliar, The Insurrection Act is a federal law that allows the president to use military resources to “suppress civil disorder, insurrection, or rebellion.” Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has also suggested the president use the Insurrection Act to somehow orchestrate a new election.

Lindell’s notes also called for Trump loyalist Kash Patel, the current chief of staff to the secretary of defense, to replace Gina Haspel as the director of the CIA. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said doing so might benefit Trump because it would allow him to more easily declassify documents related to the Russia investigation which Trump has consistently characterized as a political hitjob.

Lindell told multiple outlets that two of the pages in his now infamous stack of notes were from a lawyer that he was working with to try and overturn the 2020 election. Speaking to Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, Lindell described himself as a messenger for the lawyer he refused to identify, telling Haberman “The attorney said, ‘can you bring these to him.’ It was stuff to help the American people.”

The rest of the pages were devoted to the discussion of election conspiracy theories, specifically one that claims international actors like China and Iran are responsible for stealing the election from Trump. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Lindell said that articles claiming China was involved in hacking the election were “all over the internet” but had been “suppressed by Big Tech.” Lindell included one such article from conspiracy theory website The American Report in his notes. That article, which is currently offline but available on the web archive, attempts to use a nonsensical analysis of IP addresses to prove that China hacked the 2020 presidential election.

Thankfully, Trump, or at least his few remaining staffers, don’t appear to have taken Lindell’s claims very seriously. After meeting with Lindell for 10 minutes, Trump directed him upstairs and instructed him to share his notes with White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone and national security adviser Robert O’Brien. Lindell told multiple outlets that both of them seemed completely uninterested in what he had to say but promised to look into the claims. Lindell was then quickly rushed out of the White house and denied a second meeting with the president.

Although it's tempting to consider Lindell's dismissal a major victory in the pursuit of truth, doing so spares us from having to reckon with just how unprepared we are to fight the war on disinformation. The conspiracy theories will not magically disappear the day Trump leaves office. Nothing is going to change the minds of the millions of people who think the election is fraudulent and social media platforms will continue to serve those individuals content that only strengthens their belief. Amazon can shut down Parler, and Twitter can give Trump the boot, but as the many documents Lindell carried into the White House show, there are still plenty of places where disinformation can thrive.

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