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January 6 committee obtains draft executive order for Trump that directed the Pentagon to 'seize' voting machines

Jan 22, 2022, 03:57 IST
Business Insider
Former President Donald Trump's team distanced itself from Sidney Powell in November 2020.Getty Images
  • A draft executive order made in the Trump administration told the Pentagon to seize voting machines.
  • It sought to appoint a special counsel to oversee the process and legal proceedings related to it.
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The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection has obtained a draft executive order written in the weeks after the 2020 election that would have directed the secretary of defense to "seize" voting machines and appoint a special counsel to investigate voter fraud.

It's unclear who wrote the draft, but it echoes ideas pushed by far-right figures in Trump's orbit, including his former national security advisor Michael Flynn and the controversial lawyer Sidney Powell.

The draft order was obtained by the House committee after the Supreme Court earlier this week rejected former President Donald Trump's request to shield a tranche of executive-branch documents from the committee.

The document, which was first published by Politico on Friday, is dated December 16, 2020, and outlines a plan for the Pentagon to take the machines and for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to conduct an assessment of the machines within 60 days of their seizure.

"Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention," the draft order said.

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The existence of the draft and Trump's plan to appoint a special counsel were first reported in December 2020.

In addition to floating a federal takeover of voting machines, the order repeats conspiracy theories about hacked voting machines that were pushed by Flynn and Powell.

Powell, a conspiracy-theory-promoting conservative lawyer, lobbied to have herself appointed as the special counsel investigating allegations of voter fraud, The New York Times reported in December 2020.

"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 draft order said.

Contrary to Trump's claims of widespread voter and election fraud, nonpartisan and bipartisan election and cybersecurity experts concluded that the 2020 US election was the safest and most secure in US history.

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Attorney General William Barr publicly said in December 2020 that the Justice Department had seen no evidence of fraud on a scale large enough to tilt the results of the race. All 50 states certified their election results on December 14, 2020, and Trump and his Republican allies lost nearly every lawsuit they filed challenging the election results, while the handful they were successful in did not materially change the results in any state.

The draft order specifically focused on Georgia's election results and on Dominion's ballot-marking devices in the state as the basis for seizing voting machines. On such machines, voters mark their ballots on a touch screen. The machine then prints out a paper ballot with a QR code that is then scanned by a ballot scanner.

Both a full statewide hand recount and a statewide machine recount of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia showed that Joe Biden defeated Trump by nearly 12,000 votes.

The Trump campaign dropped its remaining legal cases challenging the results on January 7, 2021.

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