President Trump had spent quite a weekend with his most trusted advisors in the White House. On Friday night, Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani and that weird overstock guy Patrick Byrne all came to the Oval Office to help Trump plan his next steps. Was the My Pillow at a Christmas party or something?
Options discussed include declaring martial law, seizing voting machines, and appointing Powell as special counsel to investigate her allegations of rampant fraud. Or, as it is called colloquially, a coup.
But coupling is difficult. First of all, you have all those pesky Deep State advisors telling you things like, “Sir, this is totally against the law.” As reported by the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, White House attorney Pat Cipollone and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushed back during the loud and controversial meeting.
Mr Cipollone told Mr Trump there was no constitutional authority over what was being discussed, said one of the people briefed on the meeting. Other White House and Trump campaign advisors conveyed the same message throughout the meeting, which spanned a long period of time.
I heard Pat Cipollone, General Counsel of the White House, was fired tonight. After my hours with the guy on Friday night, that would be the smartest thing Trump could have done. Scheming Wurm worried about his next job and which socialite parties he might be invited to.
– Patrick Byrne (@PatrickByrne) December 21, 2020
Even Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official who performs the duties of Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, told Giuliani that the DHS had no authority to intervene and unilaterally seize voting machines for Powell’s discredited witnesses in search of evidence of hacking. Yes, the same Ken Cuccinelli who tried to ban oral and anal sex as Virginia’s attorney general. If this guy says the government doesn’t have the power to do something, you can bet it’s pretty far outside the Overton window.
But aside from the apparent illegality of snapping voting machines via fiat or perhaps executive order, it is only a minor matter how the president and his allies believe this could work.
Are you planning to send the army in? Because Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff James McConville have just issued a statement confirming that “the US military has no role in determining the outcome of an American election.”
Homeland Security probably has the manpower, but Cucinelli has already said they aren’t there.
So who exactly is going to go to hundreds of counties in Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada – because you know they don’t care about the machines in Mississippi or Maryland – and grab the table gear?
And after the dragnet, where will they put thousands of units of bulky equipment to maintain a chain of custody?
But even if Trump manages to pull off this complicated maneuver … then what? Who will examine the machines and when? And after dusting the machines for Hugo Chavez’s fingerprints, what exactly are they looking for? How will the tabulation machines prove anything if there are no actual paper votes?
And not in vain, but the weekend between Christmas and New Years is not an ideal time to start a big bureaucratic company. But there are probably a federal judge or two ready to pause their fig pudding to sign an injunction, and what the heck, nationwide, right? Because it’s Christmas and we all feel generous.
Even Bill Barr.
Outgoing Attorney General Bill Barr buries Trump’s proposed order to seize voting machines:
“I currently see no basis for the confiscation of machines by the federal government and the confiscation of machines by the federal government in wholesale” pic.twitter.com/7c8dO1ZS2o
– Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) December 21, 2020
Oh, there will be a mean tweet in the stocking of the AG! In fact, the president’s elite constitutional attorney has already made a special delivery.
It’s the best time of the year! And luckily, that terrible year is almost over.
Trump considered naming election conspiracy theorists as special advisers [NYT]
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore, where she writes on law and politics.