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Inside the Mind of Mike Lindell
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Inside the Mind of Mike Lindell

The public face of the Stop the Steal remnant is a happy warrior for discredited conspiracies.

Before November 2020, most Americans who’d seen Mike Lindell on television had encountered either an infomercial for MyPillow or a newsmagazine profile of the company he founded in 2004. Since then he’s been hard to avoid, popping up on Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, late night talk shows, and even his own social media platform as the face of former President Donald Trump’s ongoing effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. 

Lindell has used many of his appearances to tout four documentaries he’s released that purport to reveal evidence of voter fraud and foreign interference via hacking and flipped votes. He’s being sued by Dominion Voting Systems for $1.3 billion, most of his claims have been debunked repeatedly, and none of his efforts have yielded any real evidence that would overturn the election. And yet he persists. 

In fact, he announced earlier this month that in August he will be hosting a “cyber forensic symposium” in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where a panel of experts will review his latest batch of evidence and, he believes, go on to persuade the Supreme Court to vote to overturn the election.

“I feel right now, we’re in the biggest revival in history to bring our country back to God,” Lindell tells me. “I know when we get through this, it’s going to be a great uniting of our country to get back to one nation under God. And I really truly believe that.”

To understand what makes Lindell so driven and so confident in his beliefs, we have to go back to 2015.

That was the year, Lindell says, that a lot of “divine things” happened. At a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Lindell said he was one of 12 people chosen to pray with Ben Carson. He was told by someone at the event that certain attendees would “change the course of history,” which he says felt like another divine moment.  

In the summer of 2016, Lindell said Trump reached out to him and asked to meet at Trump Tower in New York City, where they spoke about bringing “the manufacturing back to the country” and Trump’s plan to stop “drugs from pouring in,” among other things. “I’m very good at reading people, and I’m going, this guy only has one agenda, and that is he loves his country and loves people,” he said. 

Trump’s message touched on two issues close to Lindell’s heart. 

Lindell, a born-again Christian, founded MyPillow in 2004 while battling a crack addiction. He had a dream about a pillow one night and came up with the name MyPillow and an idea for a pillow factory. A year and a half later, while still using drugs, Lindell invented the pillow he still sells today day. By 2008, Lindell said, his addiction had gotten so bad that his drug dealer staged an intervention and refused to sell to him. By 2009, he was clean. 

As of 2018, according to Hollywood Reporter, Lindell was worth $300 million. He’s still at the helm of the company, but he estimates that he spends 90 percent of his 17-hour workdays on the voter fraud campaign. Most days he wakes up at around 6:30 a.m., and before he begins running through the list of media interviews lined up for the morning, he gets on the phone with his prayer group to, as he says, thank the Lord for all the great things he has. Lindell believes the things that are yet to come will be great too. 

To him, it all seems very simple: The 2020 presidential election was stolen, we’ll soon have new evidence to prove it, the Supreme Court will overturn the election, and Trump will once again be president. And with Trump back in office, and a fraudulent election finally made right, the country can begin moving closer to God. And, that, according to Lindell, means the future is very bright. 

“When he has something set in his mind, he’s going to go to the very end,” said Joe Schmieg, a high school classmate of Lindell’s who works for MyPillow and supports Lindell’s effort. “He knows he’s not going to give up or surrender.”

According to Schmieg, there’s something divine about what Lindell is doing. Schmieg doesn’t know why this task has fallen on Lindell’s shoulders, but says that maybe Lindell is the only one who has enough courage. 

The subjects of Lindell’s theories are less impressed. Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos has called him a liar who has “undermined trust in American democracy and tarnished the hard work of local election officials.”

Lindell has remained undaunted even as the court challenges he endorsed failed, and even as his videos have been removed from mainstream streaming platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. (They can be viewed on Lindell’s recently launched “social media platform,” Frank.)  After Dominion Voting Systems sued him for $1.3 billion in February, Lindell filed a countersuit against Dominion for $1.6 billion in April, claiming the suit interfered with free speech. In June, Lindell filed another suit in federal court in Minnesota against Dominion and Smartmatic, another company that provides voter technology.

Lindell’s videos have been fact checked repeatedly by The Dispatch Fact Check and other outlets. I wondered how he would respond to direct questions about the claims he continues to make even after they’ve been debunked. We spoke on the phone four times for a total of about two and a half hours. I had questions about Absolute Proof, Absolute Interference, and Absolute 9-0, the three documentaries I’ve fact checked, but we also talked about other topics, including his relationship with Donald Trump. 

In Absolute Proof, Lindell and his expert claim that votes in Antrim County, Michigan, were switched from Trump to Biden. It’s a claim we have fact checked before. The conspiracy holds that Antrim County misreported unofficial voter results. But the mistake, which election officials have said was the result of “human error,” was quickly corrected and did not affect the final vote tally, according to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Benson further explained the incident last year, noting that there was not a software issue in Antrim County, but rather “the clerk accidentally did not update the software used to collect voting machine data and report unofficial results.” She also noted that there was no scenario in which such a mistake would not have been corrected before results were finalized: “Even if the error in the reported unofficial results had not been quickly noticed, it would have been identified during the county canvass. Boards of County Canvassers, which are composed of two Democrats and two Republicans, review the printed totals tape from each tabulator during the canvass to verify the reported vote totals are correct.”

In her testimony before a Michigan legislative committee in November, Antrim County clerk Sheryl Guy, a Republican, said that “human errors did occur that led to incorrect election night reporting.” She emphasized that the “human error did not in any shape or form affect the official election results of Antrim County.” 

Why use this claim as an example of fraud after it’d been so easily debunked? Lindell never answered that question directly, but did respond with the following:

“[Jocelyn Benson] is corrupt. I don’t say that about too many people, but I do tell you, I only tell you facts. She is corrupt. She’s compromised and she’s lying. In Antrim County, Michigan, 7,000 votes were flipped when they did that audit … She threw away parts they needed and she even admitted that she did it. The FBI was brought in and she still wasn’t arrested. Nobody knows why, but that secretary of state in Michigan, one of the most corrupt ladies I’ve ever known. And what she did … we proved a hundred percent that just shy of 7,000 votes were flipped. And they said, ‘Oh, it was a mistake, an error.’ No, it wasn’t an error. It matches the PCAP I have perfectly.”

Later, I asked Lindell about Melissa Carone, a Dominion Voting System contractor and self-described whistleblower who appears in Absolute Proof. Carone, who went viral earlier this year when she testified before a Michigan election fraud hearing next to Rudy Giuliani, claims to have witnessed workers scanning the same ballots multiple times, but there was no corroborating evidence to substantiate her claims. Lindell said her allegations were “organic fraud” and that “it matches what the deviation would be because Michigan in the middle of the night counted a hundred and some thousand votes for Biden.” 

I followed up by asking him what he made of the fact that the Wayne County circuit judge Timothy M. Kenny described Carone’s allegations as “simply not credible.” Lindell clearly had no idea who I was talking about. “You’re telling me stuff I don’t know,” he told me. “My stuff is cyber evidence from the machine hacks, and now you’re going to start talking about evidence that I consider organic.”

He was not entirely clear about what he meant by “organic,” but he was adamant that this type of cheating falls into its own distinctive category. On the topic of Carone and “organic cheating”, Lindell also added:

“Anybody that said they had a good election, either was completely delusional, or they were compromised. They were completely delusional or compromised because this all happened. You don’t get 106,000 votes for Biden. You stop the election. Arizona takes a week to count 2 percent, but Michigan downloads 106,000 votes with three fobs. Now, I can sit here and tell you all the evidence that everybody has. I call it organic cheating, and that’s what they had to do because Donald Trump was gonna win the election anyway in spite of the algorithm.”

In his latest documentary, Absolute 9-0, Lindell focuses heavily on allegations of electronic cheating, and in particular, alleged “packet captures” that he claims reveal vote-switching. As a source explained in our fact check, PCAP, or packet capture, is a standard networking way to view traffic over the internet. “Traffic over the internet is sent as packets of information. They aren’t encrypted, necessarily, but they are encoded, because they don’t need to be human-readable while they’re in transit.”

The basic premise in Absolute 9-0 is that Lindell has data—PCAPs that he intercepted—that allegedly show exactly how many votes were stolen. This allegation, too, simply doesn’t hold up. Douglas Jones, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, told The Dispatch Fact Check that “the only way to capture packets addressed to and from all those different election offices around the country would be to have the resources of the [National Security Agency].” He added: “If his data is real and not entirely fictional, the only source would be someone inside the NSA providing it. This would be a felony violation of U.S. law—actually a compound felony.”

I told Lindell that I reported that the PCAPs, which appear in the film as illegible data moving across the screen, weren’t PCAPs at all, but were actually Pennsylvania voter information. If the PCAPs show with “100 percent certainty” that the election was stolen, why didn’t he share them in the film? Lindell laughs, as if it’s absurd to suggest he share the PCAPs on camera. He tells me the data was just B-roll, and of course it’s not the PCAPs because “there’s a big danger to do that.”

“I’m not going to show the PCAPs on national TV,” he said. “If people find out the IP addresses and computer ID’s,” they might destroy the evidence. “Dominion Voting Systems,” he said, “is destroying a lot of the evidence.”

Eight months after the election, Lindell has not slowed his efforts at showing the election was stolen. And Donald Trump is still making similar claims, at rallies and in public statements. But Lindell says they don’t talk regularly—maybe once a month, he said, and when they do, they don’t discuss the work Lindell is doing. The last time they spoke, according to Lindell, Trump told him his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in April was “courageous.”

In an email, Jones, the Iowa computer science professor, described Lindell as a “salesman.” In his view, Lindell really believes the things he says. “The best salesmen really believe in their products, and my impression is that he really does believe what he is saying about the election,” said Jones. “That doesn’t in any way imply what he is saying is true, because I also suspect that he’s fairly gullible. Truthiness may be sufficient to convince him of truth.” Jones also mentioned that he was “highly suspicious” of the  “experts” Lindell depends on. “I strongly suspect that many of them are knowingly fabricating nonsense,” he said. 

But Lindell has his believers, and he has his faith. The gravity of this effort seems to weigh heavily on him. “Everything depends on it,” he said.

That’s what Lindell is hoping to prove—finally—with his latest project. 

Lindell’s working on a “cyber forensic election symposium,” where says he’ll finally reveal the evidence that will change everything, including the PCAPs, which will be reviewed by eight experts. He says the “proof” he has will persuade the Supreme Court to unanimously vote to reinstate Trump. 

The “experts,” he explained, are there to make sure there is absolutely no room for doubt. “I want to make 100 percent sure that it’s not even 1 million to 1 percent that something could be inaccurate.”

Lindell says he will also invite “cyber forensic experts” from all over the country as long as, at a minimum, they have Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credentials, to ask questions and examine the “evidence” for themselves. He says it’ll be like having DNA experts, “renowned people from around the country and even some from five other countries,” he said. 

The three-day event, scheduled for August 10-12 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will be filmed live for the entire world to see, he said. Lindell is inviting the media, but also governors, secretaries of state, and attorneys general. He’s hoping Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who Lindell describes as “crooked,” are seated front and center, so that they can finally explain “why they stopped the truth from coming out.”

The symposium will also have mock elections, he said. There will be voting system machines from Dominion and Smartmatic, among others, where attendees can line up and vote just like a regular election, he explained. Then participants can tell a white hat hacker to hack a machine by flipping a specific number of votes. The goal, he explained, is to show how easy it is to hack these machines. The white hat hacker will then “pull the PCAP and show everybody ‘here’s the PCAP for that moment in time, where it was hacked.’” PCAPS, Lindell said, are forever preserved and cannot be changed. 

When Lindell talks about the symposium he bounces around from detail to detail, often forgetting to finish his thoughts, and more than once incorrectly referring to packet captures as “packet captions” or “cyber captions.”

Finally I asked him the question that seemed to me to be the most obvious—if Absolute Proof and Absolute Interference both prove with “100 percent certainty” that the election was stolen, why did Lindell need to make Absolutely 9-0?

“It’s all a media thing,” he replied. The films “get legs and then they die.” He said he was “so afraid to get to the Supreme Court and they wouldn’t look at [the evidence].” He thought his last film would get more traction than it did, and when it didn’t, he decided instead to bring evidence directly “to the people.”

In Lindell’s view, once the evidence is revealed, and all nine Supreme Court justices vote to overturn the election, they will be heroes. Not only them, but all the “people” (unidentified by Lindell) who unsuccessfully attempted to bring the fraud to light before Lindell, will be heroes too. “These people are going to go down as the heroes of this country to save us.”

On July 26, Lindell was a guest on Steve Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” podcast, where he explained that right after the upcoming symposium, as early as the night of the 12th or the morning of the 13th, it’ll be so abundantly clear that Trump won the election that Biden and Harris might just resign. “Maybe Biden and Harris will say, ‘Hey, we’re here to protect the country and resign,” he said. If that were to happen, of course, the new president would not be Trump, but current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Lindell doesn’t seem to be too hung up on the logistics, though. He’s confident that things will play out as they should, so in the meantime, Lindell will soldier on with his work. He can’t stop now because, for him, there’s simply too much on the line. “I will spend every dime I have to save this country,” he said. “Our future is at stake for this country, so, no, I will never back down.” 

Khaya Himmelman is a fact checker for The Dispatch. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Barnard College.