Uncovered: A draft Trump executive order to seize voting machines from contested states

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The House panel looking into the attack on the U.S. Capitol has investigated tens of thousands of government documents, but one stands out.

Uncovered: A draft Trump executive order to seize voting machines from contested states
© Provided by National Post Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, January 6, 2021.

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It is a draft executive order from then-president Donald Trump that would have directed the U.S. secretary of defence to seize voting machines in battleground states.

That draft order is dated Dec. 16, 2020 — two days before Trump met in the Oval Office with lawyer Sidney Powell, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump administration lawyer Emily Newman and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, Politico says in its exclusive report on the discovery of the order.

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It was more than a month after Joe Biden had been declared victor in the presidential election.

The full text of the unsigned order is available on the Politico website .

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Axios reported last February that Trump’s private schedule for that day hadn’t included appointments with Powell, Flynn, Newman and Byrne, but they had come to the White House to convince the president — in a meeting that took four hours — that he could take extreme measures to keep fighting the loss they all rejected.

The seemingly irrational Powell told Trump that Dominion Voting Systems had rigged its machines to flip votes from Trump to Biden, and she proposed declaring a national security emergency and using the federal government to seize Dominion’s machines. Powell argued that no judge would enforce any subpoena to hand over the machines because all judges were corrupt.

Uncovered: A draft Trump executive order to seize voting machines from contested states
© Reuters file U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson at the U.S. Capitol building, Dec. 14, 2021.

Trump occasionally expressed skepticism about Powell’s theories, Axios states, but was pleased that “at least she’s out there fighting.”

Powell had wanted Trump to name her a special counsel at the Justice Department, to look into the election fraud. This would have given her top secret security clearance and access to confidential voter information. She is instead facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion.

Rep. Bennie Thompson , D-Miss., chair of the House’s Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday that his panel knew there was a plan to appoint a new attorney general who would then inform the battleground states the election had been fraudulent and direct them not to produce certified documents.

The committee’s job, Thompson told the show host, “is to get to the facts and circumstances of how far did they go” in implementing that plan. The committee plans to hold public hearings “showing the use of federal assets, Department of Justice, Department of Defense and other agencies to actually stop the duly election of a president.”

The committee has, by the end of 2021, interviewed more than 300 witnesses and obtained at least 35,000 documents.

It has learned, the Washington Post reports, that:

  • The president and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark schemed to have the Justice Department invalidate the election;
  • Seven states put forth fake slates of electors;
  • Trump was reportedly in contact with a team led by Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Steve Bannon, who set up a post at the Willard hotel working to delay certification of electoral votes;
  • Republican members of Congress sent texts to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows concerning the plan to engage the Justice Department or to prevent Congress from counting the electoral votes.

Politico reported on Friday that the Trump executive order referenced conspiracy theories about election fraud and foreign ownership of Dominion, which it said was a Toronto-based company. Dominion was founded in Toronto, but had moved its head office to the U.S. in 2010 and had 90 per cent of its customers based in the U.S. by 2017.

Liza Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice, told Politico that “the order doesn’t even make the basic finding of an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ that would be necessary to trigger any action… It’s the legal equivalent of a kid scrawling on the wall with crayons.”

Uncovered: A draft Trump executive order to seize voting machines from contested states
© Getty Images file Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller, who was fired three months after accepting the position, via a tweet from Donald Trump.

The order would have directed the secretary of defence — Christopher Miller at the time — to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention.”

The draft order gave Miller a week to issue an initial assessment of the election and 60 days for a final assessment, to be sent to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Politico suggests it could have been a ploy to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February 2021.

The order cites two classified documents: National Security Presidential Memoranda 13 and 21. The second is an update on the first and the two are considered a set. The existence of the second has not been previously reported, Politico said, adding that whomever wrote the executive order and the document had to have had access to highly secret government information.

Politico also referenced a document titled Remarks on National Healing, which was essentially the speech given by Trump the day after the riots.

In the speech, given in part by Trump on Jan. 7, he was to say, uncharacteristically, “I would like to begin today by addressing the heinous attack that took place yesterday at the United States Capitol. Like all Americans, I was outraged and sickened by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is, and must always be, a nation of law and order.”

Defense Secretary Miller, however, has denied under oath that he ever received orders for the National Guard.

  • Dominion’s lawsuits against Trump allies to move forward after judge rejects pleas to throw suit out
  • Judge rules supporters of ‘fantastical’ election claims against Facebook, Dominion must pay up

The National Healing draft continued:

“The Demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American Democracy. I am directing the Department of Justice to ensure all lawbreakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must send a message — not with mercy but with justice.”

The document follows with a pointed note to rioters: “To those who engaged in acts of violence and destruction, I want to be very clear: you do not represent me. You do not represent our movement. You do not represent our country. And if you broke the law, you belong in jail.

“We must renew the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family,” it adds.

More than a year later, the issue of who knew what when, who did what, and why there were no prominent whistleblowers, is still top of mind for many.

The Select Committee’s Thompson said on Face the Nation that “if you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines … the public needs to know.”

A final report, which could inform new legislation, might not be published until summer.

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