A draft of a presidential order to seize voting machines appears to be largely based on blatantly false theories espoused by one of former president Donald Trump’s attorneys in the days following his 2020 election loss.
The three-page document, dated 16 December 2020, would have ordered the Secretary of Defense to “seize, collect, retain and analyze” voting equipment and electronic records and gave the secretary “discretion to determine the interdiction of national critical infrastructure supporting federal election”.
The draft “presidential finding,” the contents of which were first reported by Politico, is one of the more than 750 documents that the National Archives and Records Administration turned over to the House select committee investigating the 6 January insurrection after the Supreme Court rejected Mr Trump’s last-ditch appeal to block their release.
It claims a debunked “forensic report” alleging that a clerical error which caused unofficial results of balloting Antrim County, Michigan to briefly appear as if President Joe Biden won the heavily Republican county was actually deliberate fraud, as well as “other evidence” gave Mr Trump “probable cause sufficient to require action ... because of evidence of international and foreign interference in the November 4, 2020, election”.
The draft document goes on to repeat false allegations about voting machine manufacturers, singling out “Dominion Voting Systems and related companies” as being “owned or heavily controlled and influenced by foreign agents, countries, and interests” and alleging that the company’s machines are “intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results”.
Continuing, it claims that machines made by “Smartmatic, Electronic Systems & Softwware, Hart Inter Civic, Clarity Election Night Reporting, Edison Research, Sequoia, Scytl, and similar or related entities, agents or assigns” are rife with “the same flaws and were subject to foreign interference in the 2020 election in the United States”.
Such claims were widely promoted by Sidney Powell, one of the Trump attorneys who along with ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani led unsuccessful efforts to have courts throw out election results in several states in the weeks between Mr Trump’s loss and the 6 January attack on the Capitol.
At a 19 November 2020 press conference held at Republican National Committee headquarters, Ms Powell claimed Mr Biden’s victory was the result of “the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States”.
She further alleged that voting machines made by Dominion and a competitor, Smartmatic, “were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election” and had the capacity to “set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to President Biden”.
Ms Powell has never provided any evidence to back up such claims, and both she and Mr Giuliani are currently facing billion-dollar defamation lawsuits from Dominion and Smartmatic.
The draft order also directed “the appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate based on the evidence collected and provided all resources necessary to carry out her duties consistent with federal laws and the Constitution”.
The “her” referred to in the order is very likely Ms Powell herself, as Mr Trump reportedly discussed naming her to such a position during an 18 December Oval Office meeting that also included ex-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mr Flynn also reportedly pushed a top Defense Department official to take actions based on the premise that Mr Trump would be signing the order.
In Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl reports that Mr Flynn, a retired three-star general who was ousted from his role as former president Donald Trump’s top national security aide after less than a month for lying to the FBI and then-Vice President Mike Pence, made the outlandish request just before Thanksgiving in November 2020, weeks after it was clear that Mr Trump had lost the election.
Mr Flynn reportedly placed a frantic phone call to Ezra Cohen, a former National Security Council official who’d been appointed acting undersecretary of defence for intelligence just a few weeks before, urging him to return to Washington from an official trip.
“We need you,” Mr Flynn reportedly said before telling Mr Cohen that he would need to obtain signed orders to seize ballots and take “extraordinary measures … to stop Democrats from stealing the election”.
Though the order was never signed due to opposition from then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and other members of Mr Trump’s senior White House staff, the draft document shows just how far Mr Trump and his allies considered going in their efforts to install Mr Trump for a second term against the wishes of American voters.
The actions laid out in the draft order are similar to those recommended in a now-infamous Powerpoint deck which former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows turned over to the select committee late last year.
Several slides in the 36-page presentation lay out a scenario under which ballots in all 50 states would have been seized by the US Marshals Service and held for a 50-state hand recount conducted by “select federalized National Guard units” under supervision of a “trusted lead counter” to be appointed by Mr Trump.
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