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Leaked Memo Shows How Trump Planned to Seize Voting Machines in Coup Attempt

Leaked Memo Shows How Trump Planned to Seize Voting Machines in Coup Attempt
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

More than a year after former President Donald Trump began falsely insisting the 2020 election was "stolen" from him, Trump's own efforts to steal the election are coming into sharper focus.

It's already public knowledge that Trump and his allies pressured local election officials—such as Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—to deliver him a victory at odds with the election results. And Trump unceasingly spouted fantasies of election fraud to sow doubt in the legitimacy of American democracy—disinformation that would culminate in a deadly failed insurrection against the United States Capitol.

But recent revelations signal that Trump's and his allies' efforts were much further reaching than originally thought. Forged elector certificates in a number of swing states Trump lost were sent to the National Archives by local Republicans in hopes of persuading then-Vice President Mike Pence that there were dueling slates of electors, and that he had the authority to throw out these votes and deliver a victory to Trump. The Michigan Republican Party co-chair, who signed one of these forged certificates, said at a public event that the Trump campaign was behind that effort.

Now, one of the documents Trump's lawyers failed to shield from the House Committee investigating the insurrection revealed a plot to seize voting machines through executive order and appoint a special counsel to investigate the 2020 election.

Betty Woodruff Swan of Politico, who first reported the story, detailed that the order is in line with calls from pro-Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, whose deranged claims that election software companies smuggled in fake ballots have resulted in multiple defamation lawsuits. Powell sought to be the special counsel investigating the election and also urged Trump to seize voting machines.

The order not only would've given the Defense Secretary the power to seize voting machines, but would've given him 60 days to deliver a report on the security and validity of the 2020 election. Because the letter is dated December 16, this almost certainly would've resulted in an effort to keep Trump in power for weeks past the constitutionally mandated transfer of power on January 20.

Swan's report includes a reaction from Liza Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice, who described the effort as "the legal equivalent of a kid scrawling on the wall with crayons."

Social media users agreed, but the absurdity of the order didn't diminish the threat it represented.

It laid bare the hypocrisy of the GOP's support for Trump.

The trove of documents delivered from the National Archives to the January 6 Committee remains under review.