General Flynn’s Magical History Tour

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We’re Tired Too, Don.

The former president had to experience some average human things during jury selection for his criminal trial this week and handled it with about as much grace and dignity as one might expect. Things like, being cold: “I am sitting here for days now, from morning until night in that freezing room,” he complained to reporters Thursday. “Everybody was freezing in there! And all for this. This is your result. It is very unfair.” Also, being tired: he’s full-on fallen asleep at least twice now during proceedings, and even let out a few snores on Friday, according to reporters in the room. 

But perhaps the most human experience forced upon the wealthy (is he still?) real-estate mogul and former president this week was having to listen to people talk for once. He’s had the burden of having to listen and, crucially, not interrupt, as average men and women who are being processed as potential jurors share what they think about him. It’s been a rare turning-of-the-tables for the former president who, at every other hour of the day, has a platform to spew his grievances into Americans’ consciousness, either through the media or from behind his Truth Social screen. 

TPM reporter Josh Kovensky has been observing the disheveled Trump in person from the courtroom. Head to TPM for his latest dispatches

Here’s what else TPM has on tap this weekend:

  • Kate Riga previews what to expect ahead of the SCOTUS ruling on Donald Trump’s attempt to knock out the whole Jan. 6 case on the basis of his supposed presidential immunity, coming next week.
  • TPM reporter Khaya Himmelman attended a livestream of the Constitutional Sheriff movement’s latest elections event — focused on how exactly they intend to disrupt things in 2024 — so you didn’t have to. 
  • Hunter Walker checks in on Michael Flynn during his “Deep State Wall” tour.
  • After the former Italian prime minister was mentioned by a prospective Trump trial juror this week, TPM’s publisher Joe Ragazzo explains why “Loro,” an Italian film about Silvio Berlusconi, explains the Trump approach to politics better than any American media.

Let’s dig in. 

— Nicole Lafond

General Flynn’s Magical History Tour

Mike Flynn would like you to handle his “truth”  — for $19.99 on Apple TV or $24.27 on Amazon. 
The retired Army general who spent about three weeks as former President Trump’s first White House national security adviser before resigning amid backlash over his contacts with the Russian ambassador is currently touring the country to promote a documentary about his own life. Based on the trailer, Flynn who infamously seemed to pledge allegiance to QAnon, seems to have a new series of conspiracy theories about his own downfall, which included pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his Kremlin contacts before seeking to withdraw his plea and ultimately being pardoned by Trump. Naturally, the movie casts Flynn as a “lone voice” courageously battling the deep state — and it does so with the help of other MAGAworld influencers including Tucker Carlson and Devin Nunes, the ex-congressman turned chief executive at Trump’s shambolic social media company.\

Flynn’s latest star turn is an extension of a longer journey through the far right. The former general was a leading figure in the “Stop The Steal” protests against Trump’s loss in the 2020 election and he notably declined to answer when House investigators pressed him on whether he felt the eruption of that movement in the Jan. 6 attack was justified. Following the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, Flynn embarked on a “ReAwaken” tour designed to recruit a Christian nationalist “Army of God.”

The Flynn documentary is much more than a film. It’s an immersive experience complete with a 35 city bus tour. At the various stops, Flynn fans can spend $35 to watch the film or pony up $200 for a “VIP ticket” that includes merch, a “photo op” with Flynn, and a “collector coin.” The screenings so far have featured special guests who were also key figures in the events of Jan. 6 including Roger Stone, Ivan Raiklin, the longtime Flynn associate who wrote the “Pence card” memo that outlined a plan to overturn the election results, and Bianca Gracia, the Trump booster who was present for the infamous meeting between the leaders of the Proud Boys and Oathkeeper militia groups on the day before the attack. Along with these authoritarian luminaries, the screenings have apparently featured a physical conspiracy wall with photos laid out to illustrate purported nefarious connections between elements of the government.

“​​Attendees get a master class briefing of the Deep State before watching the Movie,” Raiklin wrote in a tweet that included a picture of him walking people through the exhibit, which looked like something out of a meme making fun of unhinged conspiracies.

Behind the scenes, the movie’s website attributes it to a company called “Aquidneck Island Productions LLC.” Corporate records indicate that business is managed by Victor Mellor, a Florida man who has built a compound called “The Hollow,” which has been dubbed a “playground for the far right.” The website for the complex, which Mellor reportedly funded with proceeds from a construction business, bills it as “a uniting force to assist in connecting freedom loving Patriot groups.” Along with political events, the compound has a facility billed as “The Hollow 4 Kids” where the exciting activities include something described simply as “cave.”

The Flynnsperience is a perfect example of how right wing influencers — including those who played key roles in Jan. 6 — are still working together and keeping their fans engaged ahead of the coming election. They also are not shying away from militant rhetoric. Flynn’s site for his documentary also features an upcoming book, “The Citizen’s Guide To Fifth Generation Warfare” that purports to “prepare Americans and freedom loving people everywhere for our current global wartime reality that few understand.” Flynn’s tour is also an example of how these influencers are monetizing this combustible cocktail of rage and paranoia. Alongside his DVD’s, tickets, and books, Flynn is selling all manner of merchandise emblazoned with his face and name including “FLYNN” branded yoga pants and Airpods cases. This grift is apparently a lucrative one. According to the site, ten stops on the tour are “sold out.” Meanwhile, Amazon is currently sold out of its stock of Flynn DVD’s.

In a clip filmed at one of the tour stops, Flynn described himself as “freaked” by his own crowd. 

“It was just ridiculous,” Flynn said. 

As he marveled at the absurd presence of his own fans, Flynn was wearing a t-shirt with a massive picture of his own face.

— Hunter Walker

Finally, Supreme Court Will Weigh In On Big Trump Case

Four months after rejecting special prosecutor Jack Smith’s request to decide the question, the Supreme Court will consider Donald Trump’s attempt to knock out the whole Jan. 6 case on the basis of his supposed presidential immunity next week. 

So far, the justices have done just what Trump wants — refused to intercede at an earlier date, which would have sped up the trial, and ultimately planned its own arguments at a plodding pace. It seems unlikely that the case, considered by many to be the most important given the gravity of the (alleged) crimes, will wrap up before the November election. 

Still, even many who are clear-eyed about the partisan, activist nature of this Court find it hard to believe that the majority will accede to Trump’s ultimate demand: that the case be tossed on the basis that presidents can do, more or less, whatever they want without repercussion.  

If that’s indeed how the ruling comes down, the right-wing majority can comfort itself that it did yeoman’s work in ensuring that the American people don’t have a definitive answer on Trump’s culpability for the insurrection before deciding whether to select him as their president. And that’s half the battle.

— Kate Riga

Constitutional Sheriffs Are Back And Ready To Do Trump’s Election Disruption Bidding

Earlier this week, The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a far-right movement that maintains that sheriffs hold supreme law enforcement authority in the country, held a conference, previewing which parts of the voting process they’ll be focused on disrupting this fall. 

The group featured a cadre of election deniers, including the MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, spoke about the dangers of electronic voting machines and repeated debunked claims about the 2020 election. The conference also focused heavily on something we flagged last week— an emerging Republican fixation on the baseless idea that undocumented immigrants are casting illegal ballots in favor of the Democratic party. Just last week Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson announced some new legislation to make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to vote. That is already illegal and extremely rare. 

But as expected, many of the speakers at Tuesday’s events took a cue from Trump and focused on this particular false narrative, sharing guides on how to stop the “expected flood” of alleged noncitizen voters from casting votes in November.

Experts told TPM that it’s fair to assume that the group could be gearing up for election disruption in the fall.

“You would anticipate, I think, that there is some kind of planning going on for scenarios that might take place after November in which they would want their organizational capacity to be ready to go,” noted Jacob Ware, research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, focusing on domestic and international terrorism and counterterrorism. 
The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association has previously been involved in various election interference efforts including: encouraging sheriffs to increase surveillance of ballot drop box locations, infiltration of ballot tabulators as well as a push to intervene in election administration, increasing the risk of voter intimidation.

— Khaya Himmelman

Bunga Bunga

A prospective juror asked to be removed from the Donald Trump hush money trial this week because he felt, after finding himself in the courtroom with Trump, that he could not be impartial. He had often heard comparisons in the media between Trump and Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, he explained. This potential juror was born and raised in Italy and, he suggested, has very strong feelings — presumably negative — about the former politician and media tycoon. 

This episode was a windfall for me personally as I’ve been looking for a news peg to explain why the movie I think most explains the Trump approach to politics is actually an Italian film about Berlusconi called “Loro. Berlusconi doesn’t even appear until about the 45 minute mark, but when he does (played by the magnificent Toni Servillo) it’s a 15-minute smorgasbord of authoritarian philosophy and behavior, all of which should sound familiar.

Berlusconi is talking to his grandson on his Sardignian estate. He points out a volcano off in the distance abutting a bay and explains that, once, Putin sailed in by that volcano with multiple warships and it was “a real spectacle.” His grandson doesn’t believe him. 

The grandson then says 12 kids in his class say that his grandfather is going to prison. 

Is that about 30 percent of your class? Berlusconi replies. Sounds about right. 

He explains that people say he is guilty of all sorts of crimes, but he isn’t. Actually, everyone else is. Especially the judges.

Then Berlusconi walks away and steps in shit. His grandon says, hey you stepped in shit. Berlusconi says, no, I didn’t. Then he teaches his grandson an important lesson:

“Do you know what the great English scientist Isaac Newton once said? ‘Appearances only deceive mediocre minds.’ You are not mediocre, so you have to see that that’s not what happened. Your grandfather has never stepped in poop his whole life and never will. The gardeners tilled the soil which makes little balls of dirt come up which have a texture very similar to that of poop. Do you understand now?”

“Yes, Grandpa. It looks like poop. But it’s not.”

“Bravo. What have you just learned?”

“The soil is a lot like poop.”

“No. You have learned that truth is the result of the tone of voice and the conviction with which we speak.”

“So maybe it really was poop?”

“And maybe Newton never said that. Does it matter? No. The only thing that matters is that you believe me.”

Over the next 10 minutes, Berlusconi tells a musician friend that he owes his entire career to him. Then he meets with a soccer star he’s trying to bring to his soccer club, AC Milan, and asks him, “Does it seem right to you that I am still in the opposition? It doesn’t to me.”

Finally, in perhaps maybe the most Trumpian act, he emasculates a former political ally who had been jockeying to be his successor behind his back. “Listen carefully, Santino,” he says. “Whoever is not with me is against me. They’ll be kicked out of the party and beheaded politically. You basked in the sun but now you’ll step into the shadows, eventually ending up in a dark room….Here in Italy, the only one self-made man is me. You, on the other hand, are a vulgar political parasite and you’ve broken my balls.”

Berlusconi was the third richest man in Italy and the Guardian once called him the most powerful man ever in a Western democracy. He dominated Italy’s media and was prime minister four separate times. Whereas Trump wants to be a strong man, Berlusconi was. But Trump has one key advantage: He’s not dead yet. 

We should learn from his idols, and this movie, Loro, helps.

— Joe Ragazzo

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