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Then-U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a July 30, 2020 White House press conference in Washington, D.C. after tweeting about postponing the November 2020 general election over baseless allegations of fraud. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Draft Order Shows Trump Considered Using Military to Seize Voting Machines

"This was part of the records that Trump was fighting to keep from the January 6th committee," one government watchdog noted.

Brett Wilkins

One of the pieces of evidence that Donald Trump unsuccessfully fought to keep out of the hands of the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol shows that the former Republican president considered ordering soldiers to seize voting machines across the nation following his 2020 election loss, a document published Friday by Politico revealed.

"Every single Trump seditionist must be prosecuted."

The document—a draft executive order that Trump ultimately did not sign—"credulously cites conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia and Michigan, as well as debunked notions about Dominion voting machines," explains Politico's Betsy Woodruff Swan.

Woodruff Swan reports it is not clear who authored the draft order. However, its contents are consistent with proposals made by Sidney Powell, a former Trump attorney and purveyor of the "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen.

"This draft order represents not only an abuse of emergency powers, but a total misunderstanding of them," Liza Goitein, co-director of the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told Politico. "The order doesn't even make the basic finding of an 'unusual and extraordinary threat' that would be necessary to trigger any action... It's the legal equivalent of a kid scrawling on the wall with crayons."

Woodruff Swan writes:

The order empowers the defense secretary to "seize, collect, retain, and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under" a U.S. law that relates to the preservation of election records. It also cites a lawsuit filed in 2017 against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Additionally, the draft order would have given the defense secretary 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election. That suggests it could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021.

The government accountability watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) notes that the draft order "was part of the records that Trump was fighting to keep from the January 6th committee," a reference to the bipartisan House select panel investigating the attack.

Trump had sought to prevent the January 6 committee from obtaining more than 700 documents, which were held by the National Archives. However, the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 8-1 on Thursday sided with the committee, which wants to know what was happening in the Trump White House during the deadly assault on the Capitol by supporters of the defeated president as Congress was meeting to certify President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

In response to the revelations Friday, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) tweeted that "every single Trump seditionist must be prosecuted."

In a Washington Post analysis of the draft order, national correspondent Philip Bump writes that "the main predicate President Donald Trump cited as his rationale for having federal officials seize every voting machine in the nation as part of his doomed effort to prove that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him was that Sheryl Guy had forgotten to update something on her computer."

Guy, the clerk of Antrim County, Michigan, was alerted by staffers to an error that occurred when she added a candidate to the county ballot at the last minute on Election Day. During the process of adding the candidate for village trustee to the ballot, Guy failed to properly update the counting machines with new parameters. Slightly over 2,000 Trump votes were subsequently—and erroneously—shifted to Biden. While rushing to correct this mistake, employees double-counted some more votes.

Trump won Antrim County by nearly 3,800 votes. Biden won Michigan by more than 300,000 votes.

However, Bump writes: 

A right-wing media ecosystem primed by Trump to look for evidence of 'fraud' decided that fraud was precisely what had happened in Antrim County. Despite the fact that the results didn't effect the state outcome. Despite the fact that the error was explained. Despite the fact that it was a Republican county that Trump had won. Antrim County became a shorthand for 'fraud committed via electronic voting machines.'

In June 2021 a Republican-run state legislative committee published a report on Michigan's 2020 elections process. It found no evidence of wrongdoing. Addressing Antrim County in particular, the committee declared that "all compelling theories that sprang forth from the rumors surrounding Antrim County are diminished so significantly as for it to be a complete waste of time to consider them further."

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