This is Michele Edwards. Or Michele Ballarin. Or Michele Golden. Or Amira Ballarin.

screengrab via Kveikur

Remember back in December when #ItalyDidIt trended for like ten minutes, and the wingers got tingly in their pink bits at the thought that they were finally going to be able to nail the Dems for election cheating and return their Dear Leader to the Oval Office? Even White House chief of staff Mark Meadows got in on the action, pressuring acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to look into it. All they had to do was prove Barack Obama used $40 million in cash — possibly cadged from the money returned to Iran under the dreaded nuclear deal! — to set up a base of operations in the US embassy in Rome to disrupt the vote tally by means of Italian military satellites. It all just makes too much sense ... if you've been huddled under the blankets with your winger friends inhaling each other's farts for so long that your brain has turned to tapioca.

The Washington Post and Talking Points Memo did some digging into the misfits and charlatans behind the Italygate conspiracy theory, and what they found is so, so nuts. Friends, meet Michele Roosevelt Edwards, AKA Michele Ballarin, AKA Michele Golden, AKA Amira Ballarin. Edwards, who is currently styling herself as part of the horse country aristocracy in Northern Virginia, is affiliated with two companies flogging the Italy nonsense: USAerospace Partners and the Institute for Good Governance, which supplied a letter written by an Italian lawyer supposedly claiming a hacker had admitted to the whole plot.


The Post reporters had only to check their own archives to turn up this amazing profile on Edwards from 2013, when she was LARPing as a CIA agent negotiating for the release of American hostages in Somalia. Her negotiations don't appear to have led to anything, and in fact WikiLeaks released a cable from the Somali foreign minister to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complaining that Edwards's grandstanding "incite[d] the pirates to the groundless increase of the ransom sum offered by the owner of the vessel, thus creating an obstacle for the positive solution of this issue."

Edwards nevertheless claimed credit for the subsequent release of hostages, and went on to outline her great plans to White Savior the sub-Saharan African country into peace and prosperity, a plan she labeled "Amira's Organic Solution for Somalia." ("Amira" is the Arabic word for "princess.")

"They call me the 'Mother of Somalia,'" she told reporter Keith Kloor, adding later that the entire country clamored for her. "It's like when you leave your 2-year-old in the day-care center, and he wants you to come back. I have 9 million children."

In 2007, she reportedly sent the CIA an unsolicited letter offering to "track and eliminate Al Qaia'da terrorist networks" in Africa, touting connections that would "enable successful mission outcome without fingerprint, footprint or flag, and provide total deniability." Princess Amira was undaunted by the Agency's firm NO THANK YOU and reminder that extraterritorial assassinations violate American and international law. Later, one of her many companies did receive some kind of contract in Africa from the Pentagon, but it was terminated for non-performance.

"This is what you need to understand. There is the seen and unseen. Not all things are as they seem," Edwards told Kloor.

Last year she popped up as the buyer of WOW air, the defunct low-cost Icelandic carrier, promising to get it flying again in the first quarter of 2021. Spoiler Alert: Nope.

After her bid to take over Icelandair was rejected in 2020, she gave an absolutely batshit interview with Icelandic media outlet Kveikur during which she claimed to have invented the question mark to own part of Icelandair through third parties.

"There are entities that hold shares, that we're connected to, is the best way to answer that," she told reporter Ingólfur Bjarni Sigfússon. Kveikur seems to have conclusively disproven this with thirty seconds Googling. Ditto for the claim that Edwards owned and lived at the 22-room mansion in North Wales, Virginia, where the interview was conducted.

You can tell it's really "her" mansion with three professional kitchens by the CVS bag and the box of coffee "her" chef is using to serve reporters. Screengrab Kveikur

"She's in my house," the owner said to Post reporters when shown the video of Edwards's interview. "How is she in my house?"

Edwards holds a real estate license, so we guess that's how she was able to gain access to the estate, which is on the market.

So far, so crazy. But wait, there's more!

TPM did some digging in to Maria Strollo Zack, a Republican operative working in Florida and Georgia who formed a PAC in 2016 to back Ted Cruz's presidential run. But now Zack is full MAGA and claims to have gotten friendly with the Trump family via Marla Maples and Tiffany Trump.

Zack's non-profit, Nations In Action, can be found at italy-did-it.com. (Hello, IRS???) Zack has been flogging the supposed affidavit that Meadows pushed on the DOJ, and claims she told then-President Trump about it on Christmas Eve at a Mar-a-Lago gala.

"This is gonna be the best Christmas you've ever had, and the best Christmas gift, because the whistleblower who switched the data for the vote counts across America is going to be providing an affidavit," she said, describing their interaction.

Zack was back in DC on January 6, broadcasting to her followers from the back of a moving car during the insurrection and promising great things "if they regain control of the Capitol." TPM notes that infamous vote suppressor Hans von Spakovsky, late of Trump's disbanded election security panel, was on the board of Zack's non-profit until January 8, when he resigned. So good luck trying to distance yourself from that shit, Hans!

In summary and in conclusion, these people are all fucking crazy. And it's TERRIFYING how close they got to succeeding.

[WaPo / WaPo / Kveikur / TPM]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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