Wednesday, 3 Mar 2021

Trump Discussed Naming Campaign Lawyer as Special Counsel on Election Fraud

President Trump on Friday discussed making Sidney Powell, who as a lawyer for his campaign team unleashed a series of conspiracy theories about a Venezuelan plot to rig voting machines in the United States, a special counsel investigating voter fraud, according to two people briefed on the discussion.

It was unclear if Mr. Trump will move ahead with such a plan.

Most of his advisers opposed the idea, two of the people briefed on the discussion said, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who in recent days sought to have the Department of Homeland Security join the campaign’s efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in the election.

Mr. Giuliani joined the discussion by phone, while Ms. Powell was at the White House for a meeting that became raucous at times, according to one of the people briefed on what took place. Other administration officials drifted in and out of the meeting, two of the people briefed said, and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, pushed back on the ideas being proposed.

Ms. Powell accused other Trump advisers of being quitters, according to the people briefed.

But the idea that Mr. Trump would try to install Ms. Powell in a position to investigate the outcome sent shock waves through the president’s circle. She has repeatedly claimed there was widespread fraud, but several lawsuits she filed related to election fraud have been tossed out of court.

Mr. Trump has been in contact with Ms. Powell in recent days, despite the fact that the campaign last month sought to distance itself from her as she aired wild and baseless claims about Dominion Voting Systems machines, which were used in some states, somehow being connected to a Venezuelan plot to control the election.

Dominion officials have demanded that Ms. Powell retract her claims.

Since the election, Mr. Trump had pushed the outgoing attorney general, William P. Barr, to appoint a special counsel to look into election fraud, as well as one to investigate Hunter Biden, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son. Mr. Barr, people briefed on the matter, has been unwilling to do what Mr. Trump wanted.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani have been pushing for data as evidence of widespread election fraud, a claim that Mr. Barr rejected publicly weeks ago.

Part of the White House meeting on Friday night was a discussion about an executive order to take control of voting machines to examine them, according to one of the people briefed.

Mr. Giuliani has separately pressed the Department of Homeland Security to seize possession of voting machines as part of a push to overturn the results of the election, three people familiar with the discussion said. Mr. Giuliani was told the department does not have the authority to do such a thing.

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