Donald Trump’s MAGA followers were in full meltdown mode this week after the news broke Tuesday that the FBI had seized the cell phone of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the leading figures and financiers of the Trumpist election-denialism movement. Within hours, a number of leading Trump defenders—including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson—were denouncing what they all claimed was a sure sign of the Biden administration’s persecution of conservatives.
The phone was seized when Lindell pulled in to order food at a Hardee’s restaurant in Mankato, Minnesota. The warrant served by the FBI stipulates that it is related to their ongoing investigation into election data breaches in Colorado.
Lindell promptly posted a video for his followers on Facebook complaining about the seizure, claiming that the FBI had become politicized.
“The FBI came after me and took my phone,” he said. “They surrounded me in a Hardee’s and took my phone that I run all my business, everything with. What they’ve done is weaponize—the FBI, it’s disgusting. I don’t have a computer. Everything I do [is] off that phone. Everything was on there. And they told me not to tell anybody. Here’s an order: ‘Don’t tell anybody!’ ‘OK, I won’t!’ Well, I am.”
Lindell described the seizure scene to his followers: "We pull ahead and a car comes perpendicular and parks a little ways in front of us, and I've been around the block, and I said to my buddy, I said, 'uh that's either a bad guy, or it's FBI."
After ranting at length about the FBI, he still complimented the agents: "I want to say this for the record, they were pretty nice guys. None of them had an attitude," Lindell said.
He later told Kelly Weill of The Daily Beast that the agents were seeking data related to a fellow election-fraud conspiracy theorist. “They are looking for the terabytes from Dennis Montgomery,” Lindell said. “I hope they lift the gag order.”
The language of the warrant—which Lindell put onscreen in his Facebook video—seems to indicate a different set of players in the data-breach investigation. It requests “all records and information on the LINDELL CELLPHONE that constitute fruits, evidence, or instrumentalities of violations” relating either to identity theft or intentional damage to a protected computer, or conspiracy to commit either crime. The warrant cites violations “involving Tina Peters, Conan James Hayes, Belinda Knisley, Sandra Brown, Sherronna Bishop, Michael Lindell, and/or Douglas Frank, among other co-conspirators known and unknown to the government.”
The warrant specifies that it is seeking data on Lindell’s phone related to damage to Dominion voting machines, as well as any information regarding an incident in which Hayes allegedly impersonated a tech worker. It also seeks data regarding the phone’s internet activity, geographical location, and information about remote control of the phone via malicious software.
Those are all references to the FBI’s investigation of the clerk of Colorado’s Mesa County, Republican Tina Peters, who was accused in August 2021 of helping to leak voting-systems passwords to a right-wing blog that then published them. Peters briefly enjoyed the spotlight in MAGA country, appearing onstage with Lindell at his conspiracy-laden "cyber-symposium," where the pillow magnate promised but failed to produce evidence of election-rigging. When the FBI began circling and raided her home, Peters briefly went into hiding with assistance from Lindell.
The FBI also raided the Garfield County home of Bishop, who at the time was the campaign manager for Congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado. Bishop was a prominent ally of Peters, publicly stoking unfounded allegations of voting machine irregularities. The FBI also began investigating a Lindell-related data breach in Ohio around the same time, but there is no indication that case is related to Tuesday’s warrant.
Just last week, Peters entered not guilty pleas to three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, one count of identity theft, first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state.
Lindell’s MAGA supporters, however, promptly cast the phone seizure in the context of the FBI’s recent search of Trump’s Mar-A-Lago mansion in Florida—which inspired a deluge of threatening rhetoric from his supporters, culminating in an attempt to attack an FBI office in Cincinnati. For his fellow election denialists, it was all just further proof of the “weaponization” of the FBI by the Biden administration.
On Wednesday, Lindell went on the podcast of former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon and told the audience that as he spoke with the FBI agents serving the warrant, they said to him: “Mike, we’re just doing our jobs.”
That inspired a rant from Bannon: “That phrase is not going to save you. That’s what the Waffen-SS said. That’s what the Gestapo said to save themselves after 1945.”
Trump himself ranted about the phone seizure on his Truth Social platform. “Breaking News: Mike Lindell, ‘THE Pillow Guy,’ was just raided by the FBI. We are now officially living in a Weaponized Police State, Rigged Elections, and all,” the ex-president wrote.
He added: “Our Country is a laughing stock all over the World. The majesty of the United States is gone. Can’t let this happen. TAKE BACK AMERICA!”
Tucker Carlson leapt to denounce the FBI on his Tuesday evening program on Fox News in a “news alert”:
We told you last night that the Biden administration has politicized law enforcement to the point where it feels Soviet. And we’re not overstating it. The FBI has just raided the guy who sells pillows on this channel—not because the pillows are bad, but because we don’t like who he voted for.
On social media, Trumpist “thought leaders” became hysterical. “At this rate they'll be arresting Trump next,” wrote Lindell associate “Millennial” Millie Weaver, a former Infowars correspondent, on Twitter. She followed that with a bizarre attempt to invoke the famous Holocaust-era poem by Martin Niemöller with a tweet beginning, “First they came for Trump, I wasn’t Trump so I didn’t do anything.”
Other election denialists struck a similarly apocalyptic tone. “Joe Biden’s DOJ is now going after Mike Lindell. This is one of the darkest days in American history,” tweeted Trumpist author Nick Adams to his 362,000 followers.
“Mike Lindell is a patriot,” tweeted pro-Trump CEO Alex Bruesewitz, who boasts 215,000 followers. “It’s an absolute disgrace that the Biden regime would STEAL his cell phone just because he’s been critical of Fascist Joe Biden. Corrupt THUGS!”
Trump-supporting comedians The Hodge Twins tweeted to their 1 million followers: “Wow, the feds tracked down Mike Lindell and seized his cell phone. Anyone who had Trumps back around the 2020 election is being targeted by these rogue agencies under the Biden admin. This shit is what happens in communist countries…wake up.”
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