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The sycophantic inner circle egging on Trump – and fueling his big lie

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The sycophantic inner circle egging on Trump – and fueling his big lie

2021-06-18 05:54:05

By Dwaipayan

On 7 November 2020, after several days of vote-counting, Donald Trump lost the US presidential election. More than 60 unsuccessful lawsuits and one insurrection later, Trump has still lost the election, but the former president refuses to accept defeat.

Egged on by a group of sycophants and fantasists, including a small-time Pennsylvania politician, a host on a far-right news network, and the CEO of a pillow company, Trump now plans to hold rallies at the end of June where he is likely to continue his fraudulent claims of a stolen election.

Despite the election having been repeatedly investigated and declared “the most secure in American history” by a group of experts, the former president is said to be convinced the election result will be overturned.

Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and a Trump confidant who claims to have evidence that shows voting machines were hacked by China, told the Guardian Trump would be returned to office by August or – at the latest – September.

“With me they just keep saying: ‘It’s a conspiracy, Mike Lindell – he’s crazy, blah blah blah,’ all this stuff,” Lindell said. “But I think it gives the whole country hope because they know me and they know I wouldn’t be out there if I wasn’t 100%.”

Lindell, who is being sued for $1.3bn by the voting machine manufacturer Dominion over his repeatedly stated conspiracy theory that the company distorted the results of the election, might not be giving the whole country hope, but Trump and the 53% of Republicans who believe he won the election are certainly receiving a boost.

Trump’s aspirations are also being bolstered by Doug Mastriano, a failed Republican candidate for Congress in 2018 who now represents one of the 50 state senate districts in Pennsylvania, and Christina Bobb, a host at One America News Network, a rightwing channel that has faithfully propagated claims of election meddling, despite no evidence of any widespread fraud.

A lack of evidence has apparently not prevented Trump from believing the hype. The Washington Post reported this month that Trump is enthralled by a politically charged vote recount in Arizona, while according to the New York Times the 45th president, egged on by the likes of Lindell, does indeed believe he will be back in the White House this summer.

“His main focus is on Maricopa county and all the audits that are actually going on in the country here,” said Lindell, whose friendship with Trump grew over the last four years and blossomed when the pillow connoisseur became one of the loudest voices crying voter fraud.

“I think that gives him the most hope because everyone can see that,” Lindell said. Republicans have pushed for audits in several key states, despite previous audits having found no evidence of wrongdoing in any state in the country.

While Trump is concentrating on his audits, Lindell has focused his energies on a mysterious batch of data he says he was given – he won’t reveal who handed it to him – on 9 January.

Lindell claims that the data shows that Dominion and Smartmatic machines were hacked into by China, which changed votes from Trump to Biden. The results, he claims, are conclusive.

“If you were at a crime scene, and you had a DNA of blood and you had a movie of who did it, this is kind of what you have here, only better,” Lindell said.

The US government’s cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency disagrees. In a statement addressing “election security rumor vs reality”, the agency said voting system safeguards prevent exactly the thing Lindell is attempting to prove.

Last November, top cybersecurity experts from inside and outside the government issued a joint statement saying the election was “the most secure in American history”. They added: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

None of that has deterred Lindell, who said he has spent more than $12m of his own money on his bid to overturn the election. “I’ve had private investigators, I’ve had lawyers, I’ve put money into my own social media platform, I just every waking moment is on my efforts to get this out there,” he said.

As Lindell barrages his way across the post-election conspiracy theory landscape, the other main attempt to overturn the election is happening at the local level.

Republicans’ main hopes seem to rest on Arizona, where the Republican-controlled state senate is performing its own audit of the election result in Maricopa county, despite multiple audits having already affirmed the election results.

The firm hired to conduct the audit, Cyber Ninjas, has little experience in elections, its CEO has promoted conspiracy theories that the election was fraudulent, and the audit has been funded, at least in part, by Trump-aligned figures, suggesting it may not be an entirely neutral effort. But it has excited many on the right.

Bobb, the OANN host, has been a repeated visitor to the audit. “Why Christina Bobb’s OAN ‘coverage’ of the Arizona audit is deceptive - and dangerous,” read one headline in the Arizona Republic newspaper this week. Bobb has discussed the effort with Trump and his team, the Washington Post reported. While nominally acting as a reporter on the audit, Bobb has also been fundraising for the venture.

Bobb interviewed Mastriano as the state senator visited the Maricopa county in early June and declared the goings on there as “the first forensic audit in the world”.

The pair share more than just a passion for spurious election fraud claims. Like Bobb, Mastriano is said to have been whispering in Trump’s ear, and he has called for a Maricopa-style audit in Pennsylvania. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, the far-right member of Congress, has backed a similar audit in her state of Georgia, where multiple recounts have already confirmed Joe Biden’s win. There is also a push for an audit in Michigan.

There is no direct way for the supreme court to overturn the election – “in the same way sharks can’t grow legs on command and stroll on to land”, as Business Insider put it – but people like Lindell, Mastriano and Bobb will keep pushing. And in any case, shilling for Trump does have its benefits.

Mastriano, unknown until recently, has seen a once scarcely imaginable rise in his fame and is expected to run for Pennsylvania governor next year. Trump has promised to campaign on his behalf, Mastriano told a local radio station, while Rudy Giuliani headlined a Mastriano event in May. Bobb has seen her profile inexorably increase and become a star in rightwing circles.

Lindell, hunkered down with his secret data and his cybersecurity experts, seems unlikely to see any benefit, however.

He was being mentioned as a candidate for Minnesota governor before his immersion in the election fraud conspiracy, which has cost him both credibility and the ability to sell his pillows at Bed Bath and Beyond, Kohl’s and other big-name stores.

Nevertheless, Lindell will keep going on his lonely march. His next step, he said, would be to hold a “symposium” in July, where cybersecurity experts and journalists can examine his data. He hasn’t chosen a state yet, or a date, or sent out any invites, but he has high hopes.

Once people had seen his information, Lindell said, he would petition the supreme court and ask it to overturn the presidential election and reinstate Trump.

“Just because it hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean that, when a crime of this magnitude has been committed, you don’t look at it and you don’t take care of it,” Lindell said.

“I think they’re gonna move very fast. It could be August, it could be off by a month or so.”

He added: “It’ll be this year. I don’t see what other choice they have.”

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