Trump sought to tap Sidney Powell as special counsel for election fraud

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President Donald Trump told advisers Friday night he wanted to name attorney Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate his loss in the 2020 election, and to consider seizing voting machines Trump has falsely suggested were manipulated to rig the election against him.

A source familiar with the Oval Office meeting said it included Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, as well as former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has suggested in recent days that the president could invoke martial law as he seeks to pursue baseless allegations of voter fraud. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushed back against the idea of a special counsel.

The meeting was first reported by the New York Times.

Powell, a conservative firebrand who represented Flynn in his long-running fight against a criminal for lying to the FBI, also has amplified calls for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act. Since early November, she has spearheaded a wide-ranging legal campaign to overturn the 2020 election results that has been sharply rejected in courts across the country.

According to the person familiar with Friday’s meeting, the animated gathering featured yelling and screaming, with the lawyers often accusing each other of failing to sufficiently support the president’s efforts. Flynn and Powell both said they needed the Trump administration to do more to support their efforts to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Giuliani and Powell also turned their ire on each other. The source said National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, a successor to Flynn, participated by phone.

Powell was briefly a formal adviser to Trump’s campaign in the aftermath of the election but was cut from the official team early in the legal push. Powell, Giuliani and Meadows did not respond to requests for comment.

Appointing a special counsel through the Justice Department under current regulations would require the concurrence of the attorney general. Amid some tension with Trump over election-related issues, Attorney General William Barr has announced plans to step down effective Wednesday. After that, the task would fall to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

In an interview last week, Rosen declined to say whether he had plans to name any special counsels during the waning days of the administration, but he portrayed a business-as-usual atmosphere that seems at odds with him taking such a dramatic move.

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether any department personnel were involved in the Friday talks at the White House.

Trump could name Powell or someone else as a special counsel without Justice Department buy-in, but that person would lack the powerful tools federal prosecutors have to demand evidence and compel testimony through grand juries and other legal mechanisms available only to formally appointed Justice Department attorneys.

Senior U.S. Army officials said Friday, in response to Flynn’s recent calls, that the military would have “no role” in determining the outcome of the U.S. election.

Alex Isenstadt and Lara Seligman contributed.

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