Photo raises alarms about a Trump ally still pushing election conspiracies at the White House

Photo raises alarms about a Trump ally still pushing election conspiracies at the White House
President Donald J. Trump walks from the Oval Office to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2021, en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md. to begin his trip to Georgia. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell arrived at the White House on Friday for an apparent meeting with President Donald Trump, raising alarms after a press photographer shared a close-up shot of the visitor's notes.

While the image wasn't entirely clear — the paper was folded in half, and some of the text was blurry due to the distance at which the photo was taken — it strongly indicated that Lindell planned to bring up with Trump widely debunked conspiracy fictions about the 2020 election. The notes even suggested he would push for personnel changes, the invocation of the Insurrection Act, and the possible declaration of martial law.

This troubling meeting occurred, of course, under the dark shadow of the previous week's disaster at the U.S. Capitol, where supporters riled up by the president violently overtook the building in order to stop the affirmation of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College win. Those events led the House of Representatives to call for Trump's immediate removal and to impeach him on the charge of inciting and insurrection. Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, both made clear that neither would use their respective powers to facilitate Trump's removal before his official last day in office, Jan. 20.

The fact that Trump appears to be meeting with someone still pursuing the idea that the election result was illegitimate and perhaps could still be overturned shows the danger of leaving him in office, even if he has released statements that seem to acknowledge Biden will be president by next week.

Jabin Botsford, a staff photographer with the Washington Post, shared the photo in question on Twitter:

Here's what appears to be visible on the document:

  • The title includes the words "...taken immediately to save the... the Constitution"
  • A suggestion for someone to be appointed "NOW as Acting National Security ..."
  • A reference to "getting the evidence of all the... the election and information regarding..."
  • A reference to "[In]surrection Act now as a result of the assault on the... [m]artial law if necessary upon the first hint of any..."
  • A direct reference to "Sidney Powell," a lawyer who has promoted some of the wildest conspiracy theories about the election
  • The suggestion to "Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting" (Patel is a close Trump ally who has been on the periphery of several of his schemes)
  • A reference to "Foreign Interference in the election. Trigger... powers. Make clear this is China/Iran ... domestic [a]ctors.
Altogether, the visible information looks like a continuation of the election disinformation and false conspiracy theories that have been repeatedly debunked and that flopped in court. It also seems that Lindell has suggestions for how Trump should respond to this information using his remaining days as president, though the outline of the scheme is unclear. How seriously Lindell is taking these ideas is also not certain, though he has been a fervent and erratic defender of the president, and Trump's reception to the ideas is unknown.

In light of everything that has happened, however, the meeting is highly alarming.

"It won't happen, of course, but still a gentle reminder that the president is still completely batshit insane, heavily invested in his own conspiracy theories, and is going to spend his remaining hours listening to sycophants tell him how to burn various institutions down," said national security commentator Matt Tait on Twitter. "Protip for impeachment managers is to print this out in really big and point at it with a telescopic pointer to remind senators that *one week* after the failed Capitol attack the president was having meetings with sycophants to talk about the 'insurrection act' and 'marshal law.'"

According to the White House press pool, the Marine who typically guards the Oval Office while the president is inside was not at the post around 2:45 p.m., suggesting the president was elsewhere in the complex. Lindell arrived around 3 p.m., and the Marine was outside the Oval Office. Five minutes later, the Marine let Lindell inside.

"I'm sure you'll write something nice," told the pool when asked what he was doing there, declining to answer further.

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