After months of pressing their case with various elected officials in Montana, several people who have raised questions and allegations about the state’s 2020 election met last month with Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s staff.
Spokesperson Emilee Cantrell told Montana Free Press via email this week that members of Knudsen’s staff, whom she did not identify, met Nov. 10 at the attorney general’s office with Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Stevensville, and an unspecified number of “guests” including MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. MTFP first learned about the meeting from a Facebook video posted by the organization Richland County Republicans. The video, recorded during a Nov. 15 “election security symposium” held at the Richland County Extension Office, features Rep. Bob Phalen, R-Glendive, informing the gathering that Manzella and Lindell had presented Knudsen with information they claim supports their allegations of election fraud in the 2020 election. Phalen mentioned that Douglas Frank, an Ohio mathematician who spoke at a similar symposium in Ravalli County in late September, was also at the meeting.
Cantrell did not confirm whether Knudsen attended the Nov. 10 meeting, which has not been previously reported, and did not respond to a follow-up email requesting additional information about what topics were discussed. In an email to MTFP Thursday, Manzella said she facilitated the meeting between Knudsen and others including Frank, Lindell, Lindell attorney Kurt Olsen, and an unnamed member of the Florida-based firm Cyber Ninjas, which conducted a review of 2020 ballots in Maricopa County on behalf of the Arizona Senate this year. Manzella said Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, also attended.
“The purpose of the meeting was to present evidence of election irregularities and vulnerabilities to the AG for consideration, with the goal of having him sign on in support of the lawsuit Lindell intended to drop on Nov. 23rd,” Manzella wrote. “Ultimately, he did not sign onto the lawsuit.”
According to multiple national news stories, Lindell spent much of November attempting to garner support from state attorneys general for a lawsuit challenging the 2020 presidential election results before the U.S. Supreme Court. In September, Lindell vowed publicly to file the complaint before Thanksgiving as part of his ongoing effort to reinstall Donald Trump in the White House. But no attorneys general signed on to the lawsuit, prompting a rebuke from Lindell ahead of the holiday weekend. Lindell has not filed a lawsuit with the court.
In a livestream video on Nov. 22, Lindell accused Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, of pressuring attorneys general not to support his complaint.
“How dare the RNC try and stop this case from getting to the Supreme Court,” Lindell said. “Shame on you, RNC.”
Despite claims made by Lindell, Frank and others, the broad consensus among political scientists, researchers and election officials across the United States is that there is no evidence of substantial, widespread voter fraud of the sort suggested by Trump and his supporters.
Republican lawmakers recently requested a special committee to probe election integrity in Montana. What’s driving the voter fraud narrative? MTFP talks to political scientists and psychologists at MIT, Harvard and the University of Montana to learn more about the causes and consequences of Donald Trump’s “Big Lie.”
Even so, allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 election continues to attract attention. This week, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson received a flood of more than 1,000 emails over Thanksgiving weekend demanding that he support election fraud claims. Ferguson wrote on Twitter that the form emails included links to an 82-page legal complaint and “appear to be associated with Mike Lindell.”
“The complaint includes a blank space where I can add my signature in my official capacity as Washington Attorney General,” Ferguson continued. “I will not be doing that. Instead I will continue fighting to defend our democracy.”
MTFP has reached out to leadership at the Montana Legislature for an update on the October request by 86 Republican lawmakers, for a special select committee to investigate the state’s 2020 election. Majority spokesperson Kyle Schmauch replied that Senate President Mark Blasdel has “spoken with Sen. Manzella and others several times” to discuss options.
“Sen. Manzella is still looking into those options,” Schmauch wrote. “There’s currently no firm timeline on any decisions or next course of action as those discussions are ongoing.”
This story was updated Dec. 3, 2021, to include a post-publication comment from state Sen. Theresa Manzella.
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