Washington (AFP) – A White House lawyer described the late-night meeting in the Oval Office as “nuts.” A presidential aide said it was “unhinged.”
President Donald Trump was huddled with three outside advisers proposing outlandish schemes to overturn the results of the 2020 election and keep him in power.
The House panel probing the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters has unearthed stunning new details about what committee member Jamie Raskin called the “craziest meeting of the Trump presidency.”
Participants in the December 18, 2020 strategy session at the White House were Trump, Sidney Powell, a campaign attorney actively pushing conspiracy theories, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Patrick Byrne, the former chief executive of Overstock.com.
According to the committee, they arrived with a draft Executive Order for Trump to sign that would authorize the defense secretary to seize voting machines and for Powell to be appointed a special counsel to investigate the November election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
After Powell, Flynn and Byrne were let into the executive mansion by a junior staffer, White House lawyers were alerted to their unscheduled presence.
Powell said the group were alone with the president for 10 to 15 minutes before White House counsel Pat Cipollone rushed over to the Oval Office, setting a new “land speed record.”
“I didn’t understand how they had gotten in,” Cipollone told the committee. “I was not happy to see the people who were in the Oval Office.
“I don’t think any of these people were providing the president with good advice.”
Cipollone said he was “vehemently opposed” to Powell being named special counsel, and that seizing voting machines was a “terrible idea.”
Raskin said there was a “heated and profane clash” between Cipollone, other White House staffers and the outside advisers lasting more than six hours.
The group was joined at one point by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, who had been energetically pushing discredited theories of electoral fraud for weeks.
“It was not a casual meeting,” White House staff secretary Derek Lyons said. “There were people shouting at each other, throwing insults at each other.”
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, could hear the commotion in the Oval Office and texted to another staffer that the West Wing is “UNHINGED.”
Cipollone, the chief White House counsel, said the outside advisers were “attacking me verbally” for not showing loyalty to Trump by investigating claims of election fraud.
“We were pushing back and we were asking one simple question as a general matter: ‘Where is the evidence?'” he said.
Eric Herschmann, another White House lawyer who was there, said Flynn at one point sought to demonstrate alleged election irregularities with diagrams showing “Nest thermostats being hooked up to the internet.”
“It got to a point where the screaming was completely, completely out there,” Herschmann said. “It was late at night. It had been a long day and what they were proposing I thought was nuts.”
Herschmann said he pointed out that all of Trump’s legal challenges to the election results had been tossed out of court, to which Powell replied: “Well the judges are corrupt.”
“And I say ‘Every one?'” Herschmann said. “Every one of them is corrupt? Even the ones we appointed?”
Herschmann said at one point that Flynn, a retired general, “screamed at me that I was a quitter.”
“So, I yelled back: ‘Either come over, or sit your effing ass back down,'” he said.
Lyons said the meeting ended after midnight having “landed where we started.”
“Which was Sidney Powell was fighting, Mike Flynn was fighting — they were looking for avenues that would enable, that would result in President Trump remaining President Trump for a second term.”
Shortly after the meeting broke up, Trump sent a tweet urging his millions of followers to attend a rally in Washington on January 6, promising it “will be wild.”