The idea of using the federal government to access voting machines in states that Trump lost was the brainchild of retired Col. Phil Waldron and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, the sources said. Both Army veterans spread misinformation about the election being stolen from Trump.
While advisers publicly floated the idea at the time, revelations that two draft executive orders were actually drawn up for different agencies to carry out the job underscores the extent to which the former President’s allies wanted to weaponize the powers of his lame-duck administration to overturn the election.
Any operation for the military or federal agents to seize voting equipment for political purposes would have been unprecedented in US history.
CNN has reported the existence of a draft order tasking the Pentagon with seizing voting machines. That document has been handed over by the National Archives to the House select committee, which is investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Multiple sources now tell CNN that a second version of the document, instructing DHS to carry out the same task, also exists.
It’s unclear who drafted the executive orders, and neither was issued.
But Flynn and Trump’s former attorney Sidney Powell advocated for the idea during a now-infamous Oval Office meeting in mid-December 2020. The meeting devolved into screaming matches as some of the President’s advisers pushed back on various proposals, including invoking martial law and naming Powell special counsel to investigate voter fraud claims, CNN reported at the time.
The House select committee is now looking into the effort to draft an executive order and how it began, including the roles of Flynn, Waldron and Powell as well as another Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Bernie Kerik, who worked alongside Giuliani after the election to find any evidence of voter fraud.
Kerik recently testified to the committee about the effort, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN. And a log detailing documents that he believes are covered by attorney-client privilege refers to a memo about seizing voting machines.
After the Pentagon draft document came to light recently, committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren said in an interview with CNN: “It’s an extraordinary document, and we have a lot of questions about it.”
“We’ve got no evidence at this point that there were steps taken in the Department of Defense to implement that memo but … it’s a lawless document and really breathtaking in its approach,” the California Democrat added.
CNN previously reported that Giuliani had approached Ken Cuccinelli, who was second in command at Homeland Security at the time, about seizing voting machines after the election, and Cuccinelli told him the department didn’t have that authority.
Reached earlier this month, Cuccinelli said his discussion with Giuliani “never developed to the point of talking about an executive order including such action that I recall.”
When asked about the executive order involving the military, Giuliani’s attorney, Robert Costello, said his client also shut that idea down when he became aware of it.
“As soon as he heard about this idea, he was vehemently against it, as was White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and then-President Trump,” Costello said.
But Giuliani and his team did continue to pursue other avenues for overturning the election based on the same conspiracies about election fraud cited in the draft executive order to justify the seizure of voting machines.
Trump also continued to entertain some of the same core elements of those executive orders, including the idea of installing a special counsel to investigate election fraud.
Nearly two weeks after White House aides pushed back on the suggestion of naming Powell to such a role, Trump raised the idea again during another Oval Office meeting, but this time floated Cuccinelli as a possible candidate, according to testimony provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee by former senior Justice Department officials who were present.
Meanwhile, Flynn remained adamant that election equipment was going to be seized and personally reached out to at least one senior defense official in mid-December attempting to enlist their help with his cause, according to a source familiar with the outreach.
He also promoted the idea during a Newsmax interview on December 17.
”He could immediately on his order seize every single one of these machines around the country on his order. He could also order, within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. It’s not unprecedented,” Flynn said at the time.
Flynn, Powell and Waldron could not be reached for comment Monday.