Draft Trump order told defense chief to seize swing-state voting machines




  • In Politics
  • 2022-01-21 20:54:48Z
  • By The Guardian
Photograph: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images
Photograph: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images  

In the heady days between Donald Trump's defeat in November 2020 and the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol, an executive order was prepared. It commanded the defense secretary to seize voting machines in battleground states, as part of Trump's "big lie" that the vote was rigged.

The draft executive order, obtained and published by Politico, was never sent and its author is unknown. It was part of a cache of documents handed over to the House committee investigating the 6 January violence, after the supreme court ruled this week that Trump could not shield himself from oversight on grounds of executive privilege.

The disclosure of the draft order adds to evidence of the lengths to which Trump and his close advisers were prepared to go to keep him in the White House, against the will of the American people. Under the draft order, the defense secretary would have been required to carry out an assessment of the voting machines "no later than 60 days from commencement of operations".

That would have pushed the chaos that Trump assiduously attempted to sow around Joe Biden's legitimate victory well beyond the handover of power at the inauguration on 20 January.

The publication of the document will provoke intense speculation as to who wrote it. Politico pointed out that at the time the draft order was dated, 16 December 2020, the idea of seizing voting machines in key states was being vigorously promoted by Sidney Powell, a controversial lawyer who had Trump's ear at the time.

The document outlines the seizure of voting machines by the Pentagon under federal emergency powers. That would in itself have been incendiary, as it would have amounted to a dramatic display of federal over state power of the sort normally fiercely resisted by Republicans.

The author of the draft order seeks to justify such a contentious move by regurgitating conspiracy theories. For example, pointing to voting machines, the document says there is "evidence of international and foreign interference in the November 3, 2020, election".

It names Dominion Voting Systems, a leading provider of voting machines that has become the target of rightwing conspiracy theorists and big lie merchants. Dominion has sued several purveyors of false claims that its products were used to swing the election from Trump to Biden.

"Dominion Voting Systems and related companies are owned or heavily controlled and influenced by foreign agents, countries, and interests," the draft order falsely claims.

The draft also singles out Antrim county, Michigan. Claims that voting machines in that county were compromised have been thoroughly rebutted, including by state election authorities.

A second document was also leaked to Politico from the new mountain of paperwork received by the 6 January committee. Titled Remarks on National Healing, it appears to be the text of a speech Trump never delivered.

The tone of the speech is striking because it stands in stark contrast to the approach Trump actually adopted in the wake of the Capitol violence. Still president for two weeks, he attempted to belittle the significance of the day.

Had this alternative speech been given, Trump would have sent out a very different message. It describes 6 January as a "heinous attack" that left him "outraged and sickened by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem".

The text added: "The Demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy."

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