On December 18, as then-President Donald Trump continued his frenzied fight to somehow hold onto the presidency after losing the election, the then-commander-in-chief met in the White House with four supporters of the idea that he was the rightful winner of the election and should stay in power. As Axios explains in a new report, this meeting — which included attorney Sidney Powell, former Trump official Michael Flynn, fellow former administration official Emily Newman, and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne on the side of the conspiracies — promptly became unhinged. Throughout the hours in which these four individuals interacted with the then-president and a rotating cast of his top officials, tensions seriously flared.
In short, during the meeting, Powell and her allies attempted to get Trump onboard with their idea that he could use emergency powers to accomplish the needed steps to stay in office. Their proposal, of course, constituted a usurpation of American democracy, which would have been essentially replaced — to an even greater extent — with the dictatorial whims of Donald Trump. It is not an exaggeration to say that serious suggestions of imposing dictatorial rule in the U.S. emerged from Trump allies between his election loss and Biden’s inauguration. As Axios summarizes, Powell and those who thought like her wanted Trump to “invoke emergency national security powers, seize voting machines and disable the primary levers of American democracy.”
Axios revealed a broader version of the attempt to get Trump to invoke emergency powers than was previously publicly known. At the hours-long White House meeting on December 18, White House officials who were at some point involved included senior adviser Eric Herschmann, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, and others. As Axios summarizes, as the meeting got underway, Powell reiterated her delusional claim that Dominion Voting Systems — a voting machine company — “rigged their machines to flip votes from Trump to Biden,” adding that this effort was supposedly “part of an international communist plot to steal the election for the Democrats.” Specifically, she implicated Venezuelan leaders — including the long dead dictator Hugo Chavez — in the imaginary election fraud scheme led by Dominion.
No legitimate supporting evidence for Powell’s theories ever emerged at any point anywhere in the country or world, and no court accepted the claims. Nevertheless, Powell “proposed declaring a national security emergency, granting her and her cabal top-secret security clearances and using the U.S. government to seize Dominion’s voting machines,” as Axios summarizes. At one point, Powell cited a particular county in Georgia where she could supposedly prove the existence of Dominion’s imaginary scheme… but Trump won that county. At another point, Trump himself acknowledged at least one issue with Trump’s antics, calling her repeated spelling errors in court filings “embarrassing.”
Amidst the tumult, “people were yelling and cursing,” Axios explains, with White House staff members frustratedly pushing back against the nonsense. At one point, Flynn apparently got into it with Herschmann, who he angrily called a “quitter.” Herschmann angrily replied:
‘Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me? If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down.’
Meanwhile, Byrne — the former CEO — provided some of the more odd details of the meeting. Besides apparently wearing a neck gaiter, he misidentified Herschmann as Cipollone, delusionally claimed to have “bribed Hillary Clinton $18 million on behalf of the FBI for a sting operation,” and “wolfed down pigs in a blanket and little meatballs on toothpicks” once the meeting moved into the presidential residence, Axios says. This unhinged chaos covered a point when the Trump administration got stunningly close to steamrolling fundamental tenets of democracy.