Trump Had Role in Exploring Multiple Avenues to Seize Election Machines

New accounts show that Trump was more involved than previously known in exploring efforts for various agencies to take control of election machines.

Six weeks after Election Day, Trump ordered his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to call the Department of Homeland Security to ask if there was a legal path to seize control of voting machines in key swing states.

When Giuliani made the call, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary at DHS, said he lacked the authority to audit or impound those machines.

Trump and his advisors had also explored the idea of the Pentagon seizing control of the machines, but the suggestion was rejected.

Trump had also met with Attorney General Bill Barr in the Oval Office to ask if the Justice Department could seize the machines.

The existence of proposals to use at least three federal departments to assist Mr. Trump’s attempt to stay in power has been publicly known. The proposals involving the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security were codified by advisers in the form of draft executive orders.

But the new accounts provide fresh insight into how the former president considered and to some degree pushed the plans, which would have taken the United States into uncharted territory by using federal authority to seize control of the voting systems run by states on baseless grounds of widespread voting fraud.

The new information points to a key role played by a retired Army colonel named Phil Waldron.

Retired Army colonel Phil Waldron, at his Dripping Springs, Texas, distillery

Waldron was known for distributing a 38-page Power Point presentation with extreme plans to overturn the election.

Waldron came up with the idea of a federal agency like the military or DHS to seize voting machines due to “irregularities,” and first proposed his ideas to Mike Flynn whom he knew from previous service in the Defense Intelligence Agency. This was shortly after the election.

Those plans were among those discussed by Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn, and other Trump lawyers and allies, who found themselves at odds with Giuliani and his associate Bernard Kerik, and White House lawyer Pat Cipollone and team.

Trump brought up the idea of the DOJ seizing machines in mid- to late-November, telling Barr that his lawyers had told him the DOJ had the power to do so. Trump mentioned a specific state with a Dominion voting machine that his lawyers believed had been fraudulent. Barr told him there was no evidence a crime had been committed.

When several early options were eliminated, it was Waldron who pitched the idea of using other government agencies to seize machines to Trump, Giuliani, Powell, Flynn, and Patrick Byrne, a business executive who funded many efforts to challenge the election.

On December 18, 2020, Flynn, Powell and Byrne presented Trump with a draft executive order for the military to seize voting machines during a meeting in the Oval Office. Instead of being met by Mark Meadows for entry to the Oval Office, the group was escorted into the office by Garrett Ziegler, a young aide to another Trump adviser, Peter Navarro, according to Mr. Ziegler’s account.

Giuliani was vehemently opposed to the military to seize machines, and told Trump that the military could only be used if a foreign adversary had interfered with the election.

It was Sidney Powell who had spent the better part of a month filing lawsuits that claimed that China had hacked into voting machines.

Giuliani convinced Trump that using the military was not a good idea, predicting that it would get Trump impeached.

Shortly after the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Waldron amended the draft executive order, suggesting that if the Defense Department could not oversee the seizure of machines then the Department of Homeland Security could.

New York Times