Sex, Lies, and Audiotape: Eavesdropping on Trump’s “Team Crazy” (Exclusive)

In an explosive hour-long phone call, attorney Lin Wood and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne dished on Mike Flynn, Kyle Rittenhouse and lusty “Jezebel” Sidney Powell

It was an event at the center of the January 6 hearings, one that a White House advisor would later describe as “unhinged.”

On Dec. 18, 2020, some of President Trump’s most rabid advisors gathered in the Oval Office to pitch him a last-ditch plan to overturn the 2020 election results. There was General Mike Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national security advisor, who was fired for lying to the FBI after two weeks on the job. Next to him was former CEO Patrick Byrne, a wealthy bachelor who’d spent millions bankrolling several fruitless audits of the election and famously dated Russian spy Maria Butina. Center stage was Sidney Powell, the 67-year-old Dallas attorney who spun out an endless stream of conspiracy theories to rapt viewers of Newsmax and Fox News. 

A month earlier, Flynn, Byrne, and a dozen of their like-minded associates had spent Thanksgiving at the sprawling South Carolina plantation home of attorney Lin Wood—best known for defending the accused Olympic bomber, Richard Jewell, and the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey—who had recently become a crusading evangelist and fervent Trump supporter. The tight-knit crew spent weeks at Wood’s property strategizing a way to overturn the election. 

Then, on Dec. 18, they finally had a chance to present it to the president in the notorious unscheduled Oval Office meeting. Joined by Rudy Giuliani, they urged Trump to order the military to seize voting machines across the country and to appoint Powell as a special counsel to head up an election improprieties probe. Alarmed by this presentation, some of the president’s more seasoned advisors pushed back, dismissing the scheme as crazy and illegal. For the next several hours, the two sides angrily squared off, yelling and belittling one another. 

Ultimately, more sober hands prevailed. The true believers left the White House vowing vengeance on the Republicans In Name Only who had let the president down. Instead, just a year later, they found themselves embroiled in their own ugly civil war.

Attorney Sidney Powell speaks to the press about various lawsuits related to the 2020 election, inside the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By September 2021, Flynn’s associates were publicly denouncing Lin Wood as a racist who neglected his clients for his own financial gain. Outraged, Wood accused Flynn of being a backstabbing “deep state” Judas who was fleecing the Trump faithful of their hard-earned cash. And Byrne, in an explosive phone conversation not reported until now, was privately denouncing Powell as a  thirsty jezebel right out of The Devil Wears Prada, who had falsely accused him of date-raping her. 

Tensions between the crew boiled over in November 2021, after Wood was hired to lead the defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, the vigilante teen who fatally shot two men and wounded another during a night of social unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In a surprise appearance on Fox News on the night of his acquittal, Rittenhouse accused Wood of leaving him in jail in order to boost fundraising for the foundation Wood had set up to accept donations for his defense. Soon after, Marjorie Taylor Greene, alt-right activist Jack Posobiec, and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka joined in the attacks on the attorney. 

Stung by the refusal of his erstwhile allies to publicly defend him, Wood lashed out. He took to messaging platform Telegram to attack Flynn as “the General of the Deep State” and claimed that the Stop the Steal movement was “a Deep State organization to raise money for purposes other than to FIX 2020.”   

Eager to quell the hostilities, Byrne, a close Flynn ally, called Wood a few weeks later to offer an olive branch. Their remarkable, almost hour-long conversation was apparently taped by Wood without Byrne’s knowledge and posted on Telegram shortly afterward. It’s a cacophonous and sometimes comedic soundtrack. In it, Byrne, who was apparently ill, frequently collapsed into loud and alarming hacking coughs, while Wood’s dogs, desperate to escape the house, plaintively squealed and howled. 

The call went south from the very start. 

“I know you’re mad at me,” Wood said as he picked up the phone. 

“I’m not angry at you—I think you’re a little kooky,” Byrne lightheartedly replied. 

The attorney was not amused. “Hold on a second, Patrick,” Wood shot back. “‘Kooky’ is a word that would fit you! Don’t insult me. It doesn’t fit me. Did you call to talk to me or did you call to insult me?” 

Wood pointedly reminded Byrne of the Southern hospitality he had shown the general and his allies following the election, and blasted Flynn for not returning his calls when things got rough. “Mike Flynn wrote me all these nice notes telling me how he’d go to war with me and take a bullet from a firing squad with me,” Wood said. “And then . . . when Kyle Rittenhouse came after me, ol’ Mike Flynn got out of the foxhole and ran.” 

He went on to criticize Flynn over the appearance fees that he claimed the general demanded for his MAGA events, which he said ran as high as $50,000.

But while the two men clashed over Flynn, they bonded over their shared contempt for Powell. A year earlier, they had pressed Trump to appoint the Dallas lawyer as a special counsel. Now, Byrne was portraying her as a lusty drunk who was chasing him around in a futile attempt to “bed” him while actively mismanaging millions of dollars in small-donor contributions to her foundation. 

“She was acting so batty,” Bryne sniped. “She was acting like a menopausal woman, but she’s too old for that. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada, working with her was that movie squared.” He added, “Sidney was trying to bed me, and I said no, and she became a scorned woman.”  

“There’s one thing I do know about,” Wood replied sympathetically, “and that’s a woman scorned. I’ve had four divorces. It’s not good.” 

Lin Wood speaks to members of the media while they arrive at US District Court, Central District of California in Los Angeles. (Photo by Apu Gomes/Getty Images)

Wood, a devout evangelical, seemed shocked to then learn that Powell drank. “She told me she loves Jesus,” he said sadly. 

 “This whole evangelical thing—that’s just for your crowd!” Byrne replied. 

But the Overstock Guy wasn’t done. He went on to suggest that Powell may have been dipping into donations Trump supporters had sent to her nonprofit election-fraud fund, Defending the Republic. He estimated that Powell may have raised as much as $70 million in the wake of the election, a windfall that he traced to her December 2020 appearance on The Rush Limbaugh Show.  

“[After that], people started sending her postcards with a dollar taped to it—or a quarter taped to it—and letters and everything. Five-, ten-dollar checks,” Byrne says. “But those were all sent to just ‘Sidney Powell, Dallas, Texas.’ Some were to ‘Sidney Powell, law firm’; some were to ‘Sydney Powell home.’” 

 “If somebody sent me $30 million collectively, I’d wanna make damn sure I knew exactly where it came from,” Wood replied, adding that he had his own doubts about Powell. “Sidney signed my name to certain lawsuits without my knowledge or permission,” he said. “And she hasn’t been honest about that. It’s gotten me in a lot of unnecessary entanglements with bar grievance committees. I’m not happy.” 

In Byrne’s telling, after he raised questions about her financial dealings, Powell began bad-mouthing him all over town. “I heard that I drugged and date-raped her,” Byrne told Wood. “I’ve heard crazy stuff. She’s just batshit. That’s all I can say.” 

 “I’m flabbergasted!” Wood replied. 

In September, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. issued a grand jury subpoena demanding records of Powell’s group’s finances.

Their conversation lasts for 56 awkward minutes. At the end of the call, an exhausted sounding Byrne dangled an offer to “hire” Wood to represent him, even though Wood was facing disbarment in several states. After Wood politely spurned the offer, the two men finally hung up.  

Wood released the recording of their conversation the next day.  

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