Trump Wanted to Seize Voting Machines

Drip. Drip. Drip.

A report in the New York Times by Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt and Luke Broadwater contends former President “Trump Had Role in Weighing Proposals to Seize Voting Machines.”

Six weeks after Election Day, with his hold on power slipping, President Donald J. Trump directed his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to make a remarkable call. Mr. Trump wanted him to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states, three people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Giuliani did so, calling the department’s acting deputy secretary, who said he lacked the authority to audit or impound the machines.

Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Giuliani to make that inquiry after rejecting a separate effort by his outside advisers to have the Pentagon take control of the machines. And the outreach to the Department of Homeland Security came not long after Mr. Trump, in an Oval Office meeting with Attorney General William P. Barr, raised the possibility of whether the Justice Department could seize the machines, a previously undisclosed suggestion that Mr. Barr immediately shot down.

The new accounts show that Mr. Trump was more directly involved than previously known in exploring proposals to use his national security agencies to seize voting machines as he grasped unsuccessfully for evidence of fraud that would help him reverse his defeat in the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the episodes.

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 people familiar with the matter were briefed on the events by participants or had firsthand knowledge of them.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake declares “Trump makes the coup-deniers look silly again.”

Key members of the Republican Party have spent the better part of six years pretending Donald Trump wasn’t really doing that. This is often followed by Trump himself confirming that’s precisely what he was doing.

Such is now the case with the plot to get Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally overturn the 2020 election.

Trump released a statement Sunday night asserting not only that Pence could have overturned the election himself but that he should have. The former president did so in the context of some Republicans pushing for a law that would clarify that the vice president doesn’t, in fact, have this power.

Citing Sen. Susan Collins’s (R-Maine) support for the push to overhaul the Electoral Count Act, Trump maintained the effort itself betrayed Pence’s actual authority.

“Actually, what they are saying is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away,” Trump said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”

Let’s set aside the dodgy logic here; Congress often passes bills to clarify the law, and this one would seem a good target for some clarity, given the stakes and what happened in 2020. The idea was the Electoral Count Act did indeed prevent Pence from doing this, but that the act would somehow simply be declared unconstitutional.

This is precisely the thing Republicans and even Trump’s own lawyers have assured us wasn’t the real goal on Jan. 6 last year — or was even “crazy” or, in Pence’s own words, “un-American.” That’s despite plenty of evidence that it was indeed an option Trump pushed for, and now we have this confirmation.

I continue to believe it incredibly likely Trump will ever face criminal charges for his role in this. Not being a legal expert, I’m not even quite sure any of this is even technically a crime, much less enough that the Justice Department would take the extraordinary and explosive step of indicting a former President of the United States.

Still, week by week, more evidence emerges of just how far Trump went in trying to steal the election.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    I think you mean “never” in the penultimate paragraph.

    4
  2. Arm The Homeless says:

    Drip. Drip. Drip.

    But enough about Trump’s clap…

    The fact that Trump and the remoras in his orbit are walking around free to continue to coup is an indictment of American democracy.

    We should collectively hang out heads in shame that people like Flynn and Rudy aren’t already enjoying toilet wine in one of our least hospitable federal prisons.

    16
  3. Chris says:

    When, if ever, will Republicans seek to get their integrity back and stop supporting Trump and his minions? He is a man with no moral center and blight on everything he touches. I am a Democrat who has voted for many Republicans when I thought they were better people than their opponents, had better ideas than their opponents, and were committed to improving our democratic republic. Where are those Republicans today? There seems to be only a handful of them, but they are few and far between these days. God help the United States of America.

    7
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Key members of the Republican Party have spent the better part of six years pretending Donald Trump wasn’t really doing that.

    Another way of saying, “Lying their asses off about what trump was doing.” Today’s GOP is a carbuncle on the ass end of America.

    9
  5. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: My souring on the Republican Party as a who,e started in the Reagan administration. One of the things that turned me off was the way Republicans lie right to your face. They know they are lying, you know they are lying but they take such juvenile delight in doing it anyway. Ex: “We are only doing this to protect the health of the woman.” “We are only seeking to make voting more fair.” “It’s just a coincidence that we kicked off our campaign in Philadelphia, MS talking about states rights.”

    10
  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    For political reasons,TFG may never face federal charges, but he very well could be indicted in Fulton Cty for violating GA law. Then there is the matter of the tax case in NY. If he were indicted or the Princess were indited for tax fraud in NY, it would be difficult for the IRS to ignore that.

    If TFG were to be charged, it wouldn’t be incitement, but conspiracy.

    5
  7. senyordave says:

    @Arm The Homeless: Flynn and Rudy aren’t already enjoying toilet wine
    This comment alone brightens up my day.

    3
  8. Kathy says:

    @Arm The Homeless:

    It’s like Mike Duncan said in his podcast of the English Civil War: do you dare to execute the king?

    1
  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    Interesting echoes of Watergate – the original gate – and one I watched close-up living in DC. There was the action, the reporting, the hearings and then a period of standing around checking our watches while the wheels of justice ground slowly on. Then, boom! SCOTUS ruled against Nixon on the tapes and we knew it was all over.

    The difference being that in those days Republicans weren’t generally traitors to democracy.

    11
  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Chris:

    When, if ever, will Republicans seek to get their integrity back and stop supporting Trump and his minions?

    Only when it stops working. And when Trump fades from the scene, nothing will change except Trump’s absence. I can picture Moscow Mitch and Chuckles Koch in Chuckles’ hidden lair, “Integrity or power? Integrity or power? Bwhahahahaha.”

    3
  11. Modulo Myself says:

    And had Trump seized the machines, it would have been shocking for a day, and then there would be an anti-anti-coup backlash by moderates (“we don’t support this but isn’t it time to unite and move on?”), and the Supreme Court would rule 5-4 that you’re basically allowed to steal elections because it would be unfair to those who stole it to call them thieves. They literally could have done it, and the system would have allowed it, and deemed it reasonable.

    Their real weakness was that had no plan. Also, tasking Rudy with the action was probably not a great idea.

    9
  12. ptfe says:

    @gVOR08: Yeah, I think Democrats benefit from having Trump to point to as a role player in the Republican Party. Once he’s gone, it’s back to the Bush-era Republican status quo of trickle down economics, thugs, and us vs them.

    It’s quite the tightrope for both sides, though. As far as Democrats are concerned, Trump is obviously dangerous to everyone, but the more broad his base is, the more apparent it is that arguments coming from the Right are in bad faith. For Republicans, he always says the quiet part loud, which makes normal obfuscation much harder – but he commands enough attention from the totally messed up 30% that he still represents a majority of the party.

    1
  13. mattbernius says:

    @Chris:

    When, if ever, will Republicans seek to get their integrity back and stop supporting Trump and his minions?

    So long as they think that at the end of the day, while bad, he’s better for the country (or at least them) than literally ANY Democrat, never.

    That’s before we get to all of the actual leaders that know that he is that dangerous but keep convincing themselves they can keep things under control if they play along. Or are just too scared of his supporters (both in and outside of government) to want to risk their individual careers (or possibly more).

    2
  14. Jay L Gischer says:

    Well, there were quite a few Republican election officials who did their duty in the last election with good faith and loyalty to the process. Which makes me disinclined to tar Republicans in general with this particular brush.

    I do wonder, though, why so many of them voted for Trump over Biden. They didn’t have to vote for a Democrat, I get that’s a tough bridge to cross. But they could vote for a Libertarian, or just not vote on that slot at all. I’ve done that before on the D side. I’ve seen candidates that I think just were not good enough to earn my vote.

    I suppose they were still thinking that he’s bad, but not that bad. It’s all talk.

    But it wasn’t all talk, as we see now. These charges are considerably more than “he considered seizing election machines” No, he tried to do it. He gave people orders to go out and do it, it just didn’t get anywhere. He tried to get Pence to overturn the election, as well. From the horse’s mouth.

    (It’s amazing how he can both navigate tricky legal situations and make it a “clean call” or avoid saying things that would be a clear incitement charge, and yet go shooting off his mouth like this.)

    6
  15. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Well, there were quite a few Republican election officials who did their duty in the last election with good faith and loyalty to the process. Which makes me disinclined to tar Republicans in general with this particular brush.

    How many of them will still be in office in 2024 after the purge finishes?

    4
  16. CSK says:

    Just announced this morning: Trump wants Congress to investigate Mike Pence for Pence’s refusal to overturn the election results.

    2
  17. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @mattbernius: This is why they have to keep the outrage machine on 10 all the time. As long as they run against Evil to their voters..their is no choice.

    The problem is…eventually the mob starts thinking its a good idea to just get rid of the evil instead of just voting against it.

    All the more reason Democrats should challenge their uncontested messaging in rural spaces. They’d only have to improve their image to “bot evil”

    4
  18. Scott says:
  19. Gustopher says:

    @CSK:

    Just announced this morning: Trump wants Congress to investigate Mike Pence for Pence’s refusal to overturn the election results.

    I think the January 6th Committee should get on this. Seriously. I think it would really open up a lot of issues for the American People.

    I’m even willing to say that the Committee should welcome special guest star Jim Jordan to lead some of the questioning.

    1
  20. Gustopher says:

    I remember there were a lot of questions during the George W. Bush administration about the President’s authority to declare American citizens enemy combatants, and order drone strikes, or holding them out of the country and subjecting them to enhanced interrogation and military tribunals.

    Did that ever get resolved? Do we need a good test case?

  21. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: Yes, SCOTUS ruled against Bush multiple times on that front. Hamden and Boumediene being the main cases.

    Ironically, it was Obama who killed two American citizens in drone strikes. SCOTUS never ruled on the matter and I was squeamish as hell about it but believe he made the right call under reasonable rules of engagement. But I don’t love that a lesser President will have that precedent one day.

  22. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    How many of them will still be in office in 2024?

    A fair question, but another fair question is how many of them are going to push back at being pushed out, and how hard can they push?

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Also, too, the GOP officials who did their duty were afraid of breaking the law. Now they’re learning they can brazen it out.

  24. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    eventually the mob starts thinking its a good idea to just get rid of the evil instead of just voting against it

    I’ve told people that when (not if) the revolution comes, they’re going to wind up using entrails because they ran out of rope. My less intelligent RW friends/family members tell me that’s not funny, and look blank when I say, “no, that’s freaking hysterical!”

    ** And I honestly expect to be strung up, no matter which side is revolting.

  25. Ken_L says:

    Trump’s crime was to betray his oath of office. The appropriate remedy was to impeach him, remove him from office, and prohibit him from ever again running for election. Republicans shied away from that obvious course of action, meaning Trump would pay no price for his treachery. We are witnessing the consequences now, as he becomes ever more brazen in demonstrating his lawlessness, confident that he will never face any consequences.

  26. mattbernius says:

    Current reporting is that it was actually Guiliani who convinced Trump not to ask the Pentagon to do this (though G. would later press Homeland Security to do it). Some things were apparently a step too far even for him.