It’s tempting to dismiss Mike Lindell as a silly sideshow. The MyPillow CEO has earned a reputation as a clownish figure in Donald Trump’s orbit, pushing strange conspiracy theories and making outlandish claims about the former president’s imminent reinstatement. In general, Lindell is more likely to generate eye-rolling than outrage.
But when it comes to the investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, there are serious questions about Lindell’s efforts that can’t be laughed off.
Indeed, let’s not forget that Trump welcomed the pillow guy into his political fold in the wake of Election Day 2020, and Lindell was seen at the White House after the Jan. 6 attack with a paper with the words “insurrection act” and “martial law if necessary” on it. When the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 subpoenaed Lindell’s records, no one was especially surprised.
As it turns out, congressional investigators aren’t the only ones interested in his perspective. The Associated Press reported overnight that Lindell claimed late yesterday that federal agents seized his cellphone.
Lindell was approached in the drive-thru of a Hardee’s fast-food restaurant in Mankato, Minnesota, by several FBI agents, he said on his podcast, “The Lindell Report.” The agents questioned him about Dominion Voting Systems, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and his connection to Doug Frank, an Ohio educator who claims voting machines have been manipulated, he said. The agents then told Lindell they had a warrant to seize his cellphone and ordered him to turn it over, he said. On a video version of his podcast, Lindell displayed a letter signed by an assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado that said prosecutors were conducting an “official criminal investigation of a suspected felony” and noted the use of a federal grand jury.
Given the circumstances, I suppose some caution is in order. Lindell says all sorts of weird things, and as a rule, it’s best not to accept his assertions at face value.
That said, the FBI confirmed that it really did serve Lindell with a search warrant.
According to a New York Times report, he was asked not to tell anyone about the investigation, but he did the opposite, not only displaying the FBI’s letter on camera as part of an online broadcast, but also literally reading portions of it out loud. “Although the law does not require nondisclosure unless a court order is issued, we believe that the impact of any disclosure could be detrimental to the investigation,” read the letter, signed by Aaron Teitelbaum, an assistant U.S. attorney.
As for the larger context, the fact that the FBI took Lindell’s phone got me thinking about how common this has become of late.
Former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok put together a list of everyone from Trump World who’s had their phones confiscated, based on public reporting:
- Rudy Giuliani
- Victoria Toensing
- Michael McDonald
- Rep. Scott Perry
- John Eastman
- Jeffrey Clark
- Boris Epshteyn
- Mike Roman
- Mike Lindell
What’s more, as Strzok noted, in order for the FBI to take any of these phones, they’d need probable cause that the phones contain evidence of a crime.