Trump Trial Self-Immolator Posted Dizzying Manifesto Online

Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/St. Augustine Police Department
Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/St. Augustine Police Department

The man who doused himself with accelerant and set himself ablaze outside Donald Trump’s Manhattan trial on Friday published an online manifesto, declaring that he self-immolated to warn the world about an “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

The self-immolating conspiracy theorist was identified by cops as Max Azzarello, a 37-year-old from St. Augustine, Florida, who was in critical condition on Friday afternoon. He declared online that his act was an “extreme act of protest ... to draw attention to an urgent and important discovery.”

His Substack manifesto is a dizzying document that rails against cryptocurrency, New York University, the Clintons, and the world’s governments—warning readers that they are “victims of a totalitarian con” akin to a massive Ponzi scheme.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, the NYPD said that around 1:35 p.m., Azzarello removed multiple pamphlets and an alcohol-based accelerant from his book bag. He then doused himself in the accelerant and set himself ablaze, falling onto a police barrier and collapsing to the ground, engulfed in flames.

“The true history of the world: haunted carnival edition,” one of the pamphlets he possessed read. “Our only goal is to replace our criminal government and replace it with one that serves all.”

“NYU is a mob front,” another pamphlet claimed.

Associates of Azzarello told The Daily Beast that he’d “gone a little haywire” in recent years, with his posts to Facebook growing more and more unhinged.

The Trump Trial Self-Immolation Is Part of a Startling Trend

“[He is] a very personable guy, not an idiot when you’re sitting around talking with him, but over the course of the last few years he’s become more and more involved with the thought process that everything is a conspiracy against the common person,” his former landlord, Larry Altman, told The Daily Beast. “Authority is not doing anything to help you.”

Despite him showing signs of going off the rails, Altman added that Azzarello gave no indication he might do something as radical as setting himself ablaze.

“I would find it difficult to believe he was burning himself because he didn’t like Trump,” Altman said. “He might be burning himself because he doesn’t like authority in general and maybe he was feeling the trial was a show trial .. I don’t know. I can’t even imagine him going that far.”

“He has been unwell,” said one family friend, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation. They said Azzarello was living in St. Augustine and working as a consultant but previously lived in New York. “He was very intelligent and a very strong-willed person who was extremely kind. He was a kind guy. He had a big heart. He just battled with some mental illness.”

John-Martin McGhee, who grew up with Azzarello, told The Daily Beast that he’d most recently seen Azzarello two months prior. He said his look was “hobo chic,” but that he acted like his normal self.

“He seemed fine, we were all at a wake [but] there wasn’t an odd amount of emotion,” he said.

A LinkedIn for Azzarello showed he worked on the campaign of Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) in 2014. Bera emailed a statement to The Daily Beast, saying, “I recall that Max worked on one of my early campaigns. This is tragic news and my thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”

The page also showed he had stints at OpenTent, Eigen X, Goliath Technologies LP, and Strong Towns, though his employment there could not be immediately confirmed.

Social media for Azzarello was filled with talk of conspiracy, including on his Instagram page—where he posted a story that merely said “I love you” a dozen times on Friday afternoon. Also on that page was a photo of him and Newt Gingrich from 2015, in which he was wearing a Bernie Sanders “eat the rich” shirt. Other posts appeared more normal, including him showing off different trips to Oakland, California.

Azzarello’s Facebook listed his job as being an “independent researcher” who works at “The Ponzi Papers,” which is the name of his Substack account. His last post to Facebook was on March 20, when he shared photos of conspiracy pamphlets with the caption, “If you’re wondering what the future’s history books will say, it’s this! What a time to be alive.”

Azzarello was arrested in St. Augustine three times between Aug. 19 and Aug. 24, 2023. One of those arrests was for allegedly throwing a glass of wine at the wall where an autograph from Bill Clinton was in the lobby of the Casa Monica Resort & Spa. The hotel estimated that caused between $400 and $500 worth of damage. His second arrest also came at the hotel, where Azzarello was cursing loudly and removing his clothes, police alleged.

His third arrest was for allegedly defacing different signs in St. Augustine, including one for a construction site and a “Little Free Library.”

In a mugshot taken by Florida cops, Azzarello is seen sticking his tongue out and closing his left eye.

Max Azzarello sticks his tongue out and closes one eye in a mugshot.

Max Azzarello sticks his tongue out and closes one eye in a 2023 mugshot.

St. Augustine Police Department

Records show Azzarello also filed a federal lawsuit against the Clinton Foundation last April that included Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Sam Bankman-Fried, and over a dozen others as c0-defendants. He alleged they’d each participated and benefited financially from a decades-long fraudulent scheme. The lawsuit fizzled out after Azzarello failed to show cause for why a court should take up the suit, which was officially dismissed in October.

His Substack manifesto frequently mentioned the Clintons and the Clinton Global Initiative, linking them to Jeffrey Epstein and sex trafficking. He also parroted the popular QAnon conspiracy that all politicians—on both sides of the aisle—work together to maintain a world order that keeps them in power.

“What does this revelation tell us? That our government is conning us completely,” he wrote. “That Bill Clinton was secretly on (former CIA Director) George H.W. Bush’s side, and that the Democrat vs. Republican division has been entirely manufactured ever since: Clinton is with Bush; Gore is with Bush; Trump is with Hillary, and so on. When they present themselves in public, they are acting as characters that are against one another, practicing kayfabe as wrestlers do.”

The manifesto mentions Trump on only four occasions, including the above. The other three instances were in its headline, first sentence, and when discussing “Trump associates” “Josh” Kushner and Anthony Scaramucci’s ties to cryptocurrency.

Multiple reporters, including those speaking on a CNN live broadcast, said the stench of the flames lingered for several minutes after Azzarello set himself ablaze in Collect Pond Park. Azzarello was rushed to the hospital at 1:41 p.m., the New York City Fire Department said.

In horrifying footage, Azzarello was seen in a seated position, engulfed by flames. Moments later, his body appeared to twitch on the ground as first responders rushed over with fire extinguishers. Onlookers also jumped in to help, scrambling to put out the flames with their coats, police said. Others screamed and ran out of the park, which is across from the Manhattan courthouse where the final jurors in Trump’s criminal hush-money trial had just been chosen Friday afternoon.

Even minutes after the blaze was put out, smoke was still rising from the cement. Ash and white material also littered the street.

The incident happened right before court proceedings broke for lunch. Trump has posted multiple times since the incident on Truth Social, but has yet to address Azzarello.

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