A Republican Senate candidate alleged over the weekend that Michael Flynn, the retired general and former national security adviser, has sought damaging information on elected officials in a number of states, with the apparent goal of blackmailing them into supporting conspiratorial election audits meant to reinforce Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
Everett Stern, a businessman who owns a private intelligence firm called Tactical Rabbit and is running for the open U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, held a press conference Saturday to share his purported findings, later tweeting out a link to the video of his remarks titled, "Everett Stern Releases New Evidence of Ongoing Domestic Terror Threat Links to General Michael T. Flynn."
"I'm here today not as a candidate running for U.S. Senate, I'm here as a citizen who is genuinely concerned about our country, sincerely concerned about the undermining of our democracy," Stern said in the opening moments of his statement. He also claimed to be in touch with federal law enforcement about the situation.
Stern claims that at least two people representing a Flynn-linked group called "Patriot Caucus" approached him earlier this year after a public speech, offering to hire his firm to gather "dirt" on officials and recruit others to assist in the plot. One of the men allegedly told Stern that they had retained the services of active intelligence officials "both domestic and foreign."
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"They wanted to gather intelligence on senators, judges, congressmen, state reps, to move them towards the audit," Stern said. "The word 'move' was emphasized tremendously. It was clear to me what they wanted was not traditional opposition research — what they wanted was to extort and to literally move people towards the audit with dirt."
Stern claimed he was targeted because of his political ties in Pennsylvania, a key swing state targeted by election conspiracy theorists who longed to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory there. Patriot Caucus apparently wanted Stern to focus on two Republican state officials in particular: Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. (Toomey is retiring, and Stern is now a candidate for his seat).
"He said to me, 'PA GOP better move towards the audit, or we will crush them,'" Stern said, alleging that he feigned interest in order to gather documents and audio recordings that could be used to expose the group.
Beyond the goals that Patriot Caucus was chasing, Stern claimed, it was the methods Flynn's group encouraged Stern that made him uncomfortable.
He claims that he was told to "accomplish the mission even if you have to use domestic terrorism."
"I believe that Gen. Flynn has committed treason against the United States," Stern said on Saturday. "Based on what I have seen and witnessed, I truly believe that's the case."
Stern said he was moved to expose Flynn's alleged plot out of a moral imperative — something he said he was also familiar with as a corporate whistleblower at HSBC, where he exposed the bank's billion-dollar money laundering scheme. The case ended with a $1.92 billion fine against HSBC.
This is just the latest controversy around Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who once headed the Defense Intelligence Agency and was later pardoned by Trump after his conviction on charges of lying to the FBI. He was pictured last summer purportedly swearing allegiance to QAnon, the conspiracy theory positing that a group of cannibalistic, pedophile Satanic elites control much of the U.S. the government. (Flynn's family later denied the video in question had anything to do with QAnon.)
He also appeared to advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, saying that a military coup like the one in Myanmar-style coup "should" happen here following Trump's loss to Joe Biden last November. (Flynn later claimed he had been misunderstood.)
Flynn did not respond to Salon's request for comment.
Watch Stern's full remarks here via YouTube:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained information about Patriot Caucus that Salon was unable to independently verify and has since removed. The story is now updated.