Demands for audits, accusations of satanism, “kookiness” and back-stabbing: Over the last month, the country’s most prominent QAnon promoters and election fraud boosters have, perhaps inevitably, turned their rhetorical tools against each other. And it’s a big, public mess.
A year ago, they were pro-Trump conspiracy theorists at the top of their game. In early December 2020, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell addressed a packed crowd in Georgia together. Wood modeled a “General Flynn” ballcap and promised to “fight like a Flynn,” a tribute to Powell’s client Michael Flynn, who Wood likened to George Washington. The day prior, Flynn and Wood both endorsed martial law and a national re-vote.
A couple weeks after that, Flynn, Powell, and Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com, were in the Oval Office, speaking directly to Trump. For several hours, they went over the so-called “evidence” that the crew argued justified a second Trump term.
Now, that’s all in the past. The knives are out. And, strangely enough, it started with… Kyle Rittenhouse, who was recently found not guilty of homicide. After his innocence was decided, Rittenhouse took aim in an interview at the man who’d earlier set up a defense fund for him that raised $2 million for bail money: Lin Wood.
Wood’s “Fight Back” fund for Rittenhouse had long been the subject of criticism from Rittenhouse’s mother, who’s said Wood and attorney John Pierce had taken advantage of her son’s situation. Rittenhouse, in an interview with Tucker Carlson aired after the trial, said Wood was “trying to raise money so they could take it for their own benefit” as Rittenhouse sat in jail, a claim Wood denies. Rittenhouse’s trial lawyer called Wood an “idiot.”
Wood was not going down without a fight.
‘I Don’t Respond To People Slighting Me’
With the MAGA-world spotlight shining down on him, Wood began lashing out on the public messaging app Telegram, especially at prominent Trump supporters who called him out over Rittenhouse’s allegations, including former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke (“Deep State shill,” Wood said), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) (“Commie in Disguise”), Fox News personality Dan Bongino (“Bongo, Bongo, Bongo”), and former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka (“Fake accent and wears medals for his show”).
Mike Rothschild, a researcher who’s tracked conspiracy theorists for years, said he thought the dispute came down to money.
“[Wood] raised a lot of money for Kyle Rittenhouse’s bail, and then Rittenhouse went on Tucker Carlson and took a giant crap on Lin Wood, because Rittenhouse had fired him as a lawyer,” Rothschild said. “This to me feels like a scorched earth campaign against anybody who is on the side of this particular group of people who he is against.”
“I’m 69 years old, I don’t respond to people slighting me,” Wood told TPM in a phone call Thursday. “That’s something immature people do.”
Nonetheless, the slights have continued for weeks. One notable target was Carlson himself: Wood published a screenshot of what he suggested was a 2014 email between Carlson and Hunter Biden, in which Carlson thanked the then-vice president’s son for writing his son a college recommendation letter. Fox News did not respond to TPM’s questions about the authenticity of the email, but the exchange between Carlson and Biden had been previously reported by Politico journalist Ben Schreckinger.
Wood was clearly stung most of all, though, by what he thought was a cold shoulder from his former allies Powell (“Crickets,” he said) and Michael Flynn, the latter of whom had once called Wood “one of the greatest patriots of our time.”
So, in a Nov. 23 Telegram post, Wood started airing dirty laundry.
“Hey, Sidney, is Defend the Republic.org under investigation by federal authorities related to its finances?” Wood wrote in the first explosive post. “Hey, Sidney, are you in a multi-million dollar dispute with General Flynn?”
Perhaps he knew something: The Washington Post reported a week after the Telegram callout that a federal grand jury had demanded records from multiple organizations launched by Powell, including Defending the Republic.
And The Daily Beast reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources, that Flynn has privately expressed unease amid allegations that Powell had used Defending the Republic money for her own legal expenses. (Powell faces a $1.3 billion defamation suit from voting machine maker Dominion, among other pricey battles.)
Flynn was next. Wood began swiping at the general, including by demanding an explanation for an “occult prayer” that some internet conspiracy theorists claim Flynn performed in October.
By now, Powell responded — with a meme about being stabbed in the back. “It’s not the stab in the back that kills you,” an image in her Telegram channel read. “It’s when you turn around and see who’s holding the knife.”
“I turned around slowly over the past few months and I documented who was holding the knife, Sidney,” Wood replied.
‘Errors May Have Been Made’
Next, Wood aimed at Byrne, whose group “The America Project” raised millions for the sham “audit” of Maricopa County, Arizona’s 2020 election results. Referencing a rumor he’d heard that Byrne sought to raise money for Rittenhouse through the group, Wood called for an audit of The America Project’s finances.
“Errors may have been made or God forbid, something worse may be at play,” he wrote.
Byrne responded in a jittery, 30-minute video that started with him denying Wood’s Telegram posts as “kookiness.” A little later, he pointed his middle finger at the camera — a gesture addressed to Flynn’s detractors — before dismissing the “occult” charge Wood had leveled at Flynn.
“That’s all kookie, too,” Byrne said. “You have to understand, we’re all not secretly in that world, okay? When Mike Flynn and I talk, we’re not secretly burying satanic messages in our communications.”
The whole word-twisting ordeal, Byrne added, reminded him of a teenage break-up conversation. He’d earlier alluded to a “rift” in the movement between Evangelical Christians and “the Flynns and me” — who he said were raised Catholic.
Wood responded by publishing a recording of a phone call between him and Byrne, blowing up the crew even further. “It shouldn’t be called ‘Defending the Republic,’ it should be called ‘Defending the Sidney Powell,’” Byrne can be heard saying on the recording. Notably, Byrne briefly served as chairman and CEO of the organization, with Michael Flynn and his brother Joe among the group’s directors.
Separately, the recording shows Byrne comparing working with Powell to the film “The Devil Wears Prada.”
In a follow-up Telegram post, Wood called Byrne “Patdick.”
‘A Disinformation Campaign’
Then, it was Flynn’s turn again: He posted a Telegram message addressing “this nonsense” and expressing confusion at Wood’s list of allegations about him. “If I’ve said prayers, they’re meant for good purposes, nothing more nothing less,” he said, seemingly addressing the claim of “occult” practices.
Wood then released a recording of an old phone call he’d had with Flynn, which made headlines. You may have heard about it: The recording captured Flynn — who’s made a career out of the public perception that he supports the QAnon conspiracy theory movement — calling QAnon “total nonsense” and “a disinformation campaign that the CIA created.”
Rothschild, who researches QAnon and follows this crew closely, noted that while conspiracy theorists lie “constantly,” Wood’s recent actions were a bit different.
“The stuff that he’s been posting is real,” he said. “The phone calls are real. These emails are real. People have trusted him with their confidence, and he’s burning them left and right.”
“These people lie, except the times when it befits them to tell the truth, and usually that time is when there’s some kind of financial stake in it for them,” he added.
Wood, asked Thursday by TPM if he planned on releasing any more recorded phone calls, wouldn’t say.
“That’s for me to know,” he said. “And hopefully you’ll never have to find out — other than that I have this one recorded.”