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Mike Lindell can't back down now.

The pillow salesman and the Minnesota company he built are on the edge of ruin as he continues to chase unproven election conspiracies. Admitting even a shred of doubt in his rigged-election narrative, however, could mean victory for the voting machine companies suing him for more than a billion dollars.

So Lindell continues to seek vindication, even if it bankrupts him and costs his employees their livelihoods.

"I would never settle in any lawsuit," Lindell said in an interview. "You don't settle for something where you've done nothing wrong."

Lindell has little left to give even if he were to settle the defamation lawsuits he and his company are both defending.

He says he has run out of money to pay his lawyers and a Minneapolis law firm says he owes them millions. MyPillow auctioned off thousands of pieces of equipment and subleased manufacturing space as business is declining. Lindell has a MyPillow store on Amazon, and state records show the online retailer placed a lien on his company's inventory and other assets in April. Lindell has said publicly that American Express has tightened MyPillow's credit, a sign the lender doubts the company can pay down a large balance.

"The outlook is both legally and financially cataclysmic," said Marshall Tanick, a Minneapolis defamation attorney who's been following the litigation. Declaring bankruptcy, Tanick says, would suspend the defamation cases against him and is one of only a handful of options left for Lindell.

And yet the self-professed evangelical Christian, staunch defender of Donald Trump, recovered addict and savvy marketer will not accept defeat.

Mike Lindell spoke to reporters while waiting for former President Donald Trump to speak at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., in June.
Mike Lindell spoke to reporters while waiting for former President Donald Trump to speak at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., in June.

Mary Altaffer, Associated Press, Star Tribune

Going for broke

If Lindell cannot find new attorneys to represent him, the defamation cases could go into default and judgment proceedings. Lindell could end up owing billions — or an apology.

If new attorneys do agree to represent Lindell, there is a massive, and expensive, workload awaiting them as the defamation cases inch toward trial over the next year. In the Smartmatic case alone, more than 6 million documents have been produced. Lawyers for that voting machine company said they would press on with their case even if Lindell ends up representing himself in an eventual trial.

If Lindell is already out of money to pay for his legal defense, as he claims, then one option could be filing for bankruptcy protection, and soon. It's a process that could take months or years to sort through, depending on what assets Lindell and MyPillow have left.

"A bankruptcy discharges the defamation claims unless the claimant can prove that the conduct was willful and malicious," Tanick said. "A defamation claim can still exist — it's not dead, it's just suspended."

Another legal expert who spoke to the Star Tribune said if Lindell does file for bankruptcy, it is more likely he does so before any defamation judgments come down, so that he can avoid the negative publicity of losing. Bankruptcy could also help avoid a judgment or settlement that might force him to recant his election conspiracies or prevent him from speaking out about voting machine companies in the future.

No matter the benefit, such a move would likely mean liquidating MyPillow. It's uncertain if a buyer would try to take over the business and run it or sell it for parts in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Lindell says he has tried to look after his employees, whose jobs may be at risk. He's hopeful a new coolant technology in his MyPillow 2.0, bedding and mattress toppers could revive sagging sales of his flagship product.

For now, Lindell said, he has no plans to declare bankruptcy.

"I'm going to fight these criminals until we win, put it that way."

'Fishing expedition'

Lindell's fortunes have always been closely linked to his public persona.

Struggling with a gambling and drug addiction, Lindell started his company after he said the idea came to him in a dream. He starred in his own commercials, which were a hit on Fox News and opened the door for him to become a prominent figure in conservative politics. After the 2020 election, Lindell was one of the chief promoters of a quickly debunked theory of widespread fraud caused by voting machines, handing the election to Joe Biden instead of Trump.

Soon after, large retailers such as Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart started taking his products off their shelves, citing decreased demand for his pillows. Then the voting machine companies lawyered up.

First came the defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems, a voting software company, in February 2021 seeking $1.3 billion. Smartmatic launched a similar lawsuit in January 2022 with no set amount sought. Several months later came a suit from Eric Coomer, a former Dominion employee who said he has received death threats after Lindell publicly attacked him.

On national television, Lindell has accused the election companies of trying to silence him, and said that the integrity of America's elections is in his hands.

"They just want me to not talk anymore about elections, that's what the whole purpose of this: silence Mike Lindell," he said in an interview.

Behind the scenes in legal proceedings, Lindell has gone to extraordinary lengths to find any evidence of voting machine irregularities, filing new federal cases around the country to enforce subpoenas and compel testimony.

Lawyers for the clerk of Michigan's Kent County called one such case an "arbitrary fishing expedition" during a court hearing last year.

Lindell is "hoping that if he sends enough subpoenas to enough counties that use Dominion software where President Biden won, that he'll find some evidence somewhere to get out from under this defamation lawsuit," attorney Madelaine Lane said at the Michigan hearing.

Those filings have incurred a big legal tab as his lawyers hunt for the kind of evidence Lindell needs to prove his defense. Lawyers for Lindell and MyPillow said earlier this month they were owed millions and are seeking to quit the defamation cases to protect their own finances.

At a court hearing Wednesday in downtown St. Paul, Lindell's attorneys continued to argue for evidence they say is being withheld right up to the moment a judge granted their withdrawal request in one of three defamation cases.

"In all the years I've appeared before this court ... I've never had to bring a motion like this," attorney Andrew Parker said at the hearing. "It is difficult for myself and my firm."

But Lindell is simply unable to pay as MyPillow's business continues to decline, Parker said.

"The numbers are staggering in terms of the losses, I now have learned," Parker said.

'Rotten, horrible lawyers'

Voting machine companies say it has never been about election security — that Lindell uses the publicity to drive sales for MyPillow.

"Mr. Lindell intentionally stoked the fires of xenophobia and party-divide for the noble purpose of selling his pillows," attorneys for Smartmatic wrote in an updated complaint filed this spring.

Special to the Star Tribune
Video (00:21) The legal defense in defamation cases against him hinges on sticking with his debunked election claims.

During a March 2023 deposition, which was made public in the Coomer defamation case last month, Lindell banged his hands on the table and lashed out at the idea he was only promoting the election conspiracies for profit.

"Rotten, horrible lawyers like you, and the media, saying, 'Oh, Mike Lindell is trying to save this country just to make money,'" Lindell said in a deposition video, which went viral on social media. "I've lost everything I've had so far, you've got it?"

He was equally defensive in an interview with the Star Tribune, saying he still has more than 1,000 employees and most have stayed on despite the lawsuits.

"Don't you think if this was a marketing plan, after I lost retailers and lost hundreds of millions of dollars, that I would go, 'Oh, this is a bad marketing plan, I should change gears?'" he said.

Lindell continues to promote the unfounded idea of an insecure election system. In an email sent to supporters earlier this month after his lawyers said they would back out of the case, Lindell asked for help paying for his quest.

"We have lost hundreds of millions of dollars and now, to stay in this fight for our elections, we need your immediate help," read the email from his FrankSpeech platform. "So close to victory and also at the mercy of the resources we desperately need."

It's not clear if former President Trump will offer to help Lindell with his legal woes. Trump held a fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani's legal bills last month. An email and phone call to Trump's 2024 campaign were not immediately returned.

Lindell has poured much of his effort lately into his new Wireless Monitoring Devices, a Wi-Fi detector strapped to a drone he unveiled at his latest Election Summit in Springfield, Mo., in August. The device was created to find Wi-Fi connections near polling places, which Lindell hopes will prove a debunked theory that voting machines are connected to the internet, leaving them vulnerable to hacking.

Lindell said he's spent tens of millions of dollars on his election efforts and now has only a pickup truck and home to his name. He was in Florida attending a meeting about his wireless monitoring devices Wednesday while his attorneys appeared before a judge to withdraw from the case.

"I'll do whatever it takes," Lindell said. "I don't have a choice."