As the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection continues to uncover the efforts made by the administration of Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, new evidence has come to light that demonstrates the lengths that some people close to the Trump campaign were willing to go to illegally keep Trump in the White House. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that some of Trump’s political supporters made an effort to obtain authority to hire armed private contractors who would then seize voting machines and the data that they contain for “inspection,” presumably by people looking to invalidate the legitimate results that those machines contained.
The newspaper managed to get a hold of a previously unknown “authorizing letter” and the emails that accompanied it that it believes are already in the possession of the House Committee. The letter — sent on November 21, 2020 — seems to be an earlier version of the draft executive order brought to the White House by then-Trump attorney Sidney Powell, disgraced former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn, and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the earlier authorizing letter:
“includes placeholder text at the top for an introduction conveying the document came from the president. The letter would have granted authority to three third-party companies to seize all election machines and election data at will, and given the companies and their subcontractors the authority to research, obtain and store offsite ‘all data and/or code regarding US election fraud, election manipulation, voter fraud, election interference, voter eligibility, and election systems wherever it resides.’”
“The directive also would have allowed the companies to inspect and analyze any records or equipment related to the election, as well as details about who had contact with them and when. In addition, the letter specified that the U.S. Marshals would assist the effort and the employees of private companies authorized to perform the work would be ‘granted the authority to be armed when conducting these investigations since most of the operations would be conducted under hostile conditions,'” The LA Times reports.
Out of the three companies mentioned in the letter, two were headed by people who were deeply involved in the Trump campaign’s attempts to muster evidence of election fraud in the weeks after Trump’s loss became obvious: Russell Ramsland from the Dallas-based Allied Security Operations Group, a company that eventually managed to conduct an audit of results in a Michigan election district that the Trump campaign bandied about as proof of fraud; and retired Army Col. Phil Waldron of Rising Tide LLC, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who worked to convince state legislators and congressional Republicans to audit the election results.
Not exactly an unbiased group of people to take possession of the ballot data and voting machines, to be sure.
Patrick Byrne told The Los Angeles Times that Waldron and Powell discussed the concept of voting machine seizures with then-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani who “shot them down immediately,” but it appears as if the two military men in the group, General Flynn and Col. Waldron, continued to push forms of the idea throughout December of 2020.
Elizabeth Goitein, a legal expert who is co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told the newspaper that the original version of the “authorizing letter” wouldn’t have passed the legal muster of White House lawyers, much less Giuliani.
“You can’t say, ‘Because this is in an executive order I therefore have the authority in the executive order,’” Goitein told The Los Angeles Times. “This appears to be sort of the fever dream of someone who either isn’t a lawyer or someone who didn’t do very well in law school.”
Even a former official within the Trump administration, Christopher Krebs — the former U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director whom Trump fired after Krebs announced that no significant election fraud had marred the 2020 elections — found the attempt to bring in private contractors to gain control of the voting machines was “chilling” and amateurish.
“You’re talking about issuing letters of marque effectively to a private sector organization to go do some sort of activity on behalf of that executive office of the President,” Krebs said. “A private sector organization has no authority to go and seize state government equipment. The federal government doesn’t even have that authority, particularly in the context of administering elections. And we are looking at a document that says that’s OK.”
Expect even more chilling stories to emerge as the House Select Committee prepares for televised hearings on the events leading to the January 6th insurrection in the month ahead.