WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested that he appoint attorney Sidney Powell, who was expelled from his campaign’s legal team after defending unfounded conspiracy theories, as a special attorney who investigates allegations of electoral fraud while trying to stay in power.
During a Friday meeting at the White House, Trump even discussed securing Powell’s security clearance, according to two people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
The fact that Trump even considered the idea of installing Powell underscores the increasingly desperate steps he has been taking as he tries to reverse the results of the November 3 election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump has fueled conspiracy theories and bizarre schemes to try to stay in office, instigated by allies like ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.
It is unclear whether Trump intends to try to move forward with the effort to install Powell. Under federal law, the United States attorney general, not the president, is responsible for appointing special advisers. And countless Republicans, from outgoing Attorney General William Barr to state governors and election officials, have said repeatedly that there is no evidence of the type of mass electoral fraud that Trump has been alleging without foundation in the weeks since he lost. Friday’s meeting was first reported by The New York Times.
In addition to losing the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, Trump decisively lost the Electoral College to Biden, 306 electoral votes to 232.
The Trump campaign and its allies have filed about 50 lawsuits alleging widespread electoral fraud and almost all have been dismissed or withdrawn. Trump lost to judges from both political parties, including some he nominated, and some of the strongest rebukes came from conservative Republicans. The Supreme Court also refused to accept two cases – decisions that Trump despised.
Without more sustainable legal resources, Trump has been smoking and instigating allies in search of options, as he refuses to accept his loss.
That includes Giuliani, who during Friday’s meeting urged Trump to confiscate electronic voting machines in his search for evidence of fraud. The Department of Homeland Security made it clear, however, that it had no authority to do so. It is also unclear what this would result.
Barr told the Associated Press in an interview earlier this month that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have analyzed claims that the polls “were essentially programmed to distort election results … and so far, we have seen nothing to prove this. . ” Paper ballots are also maintained under federal law and have been used to verify the results, including in Georgia, which conducted two vote count audits using backup copies of paper ballots.
Flynn, whom Trump recently forgave for lying to the FBI, went even further, suggesting that Trump could impose martial law and use the military to redo the election. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and White House lawyer Pat Cipollone, have voiced their objections, people familiar with the meeting said.
Powell was initially part of the president’s legal campaign team, but was expelled after a bizarre press conference with Giuliani, in which she made a series of bizarre allegations of electoral fraud, including a claim that electoral software was created in Venezuela “under the leadership of Hugo Chávez “- the Venezuelan president who died in 2013.
In interviews and appearances, Powell continued to make misleading statements about the voting process, rolled out complex and unsupported conspiracy theories involving communist regimes and vowed to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” lawsuit.
Trump’s team soon announced that they had severed relations with Powell. “She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the president in her personal capacity,” said Giuliani and another Trump lawyer, Jenna Ellis, in a statement.
Dominion Voting Systems, a private target for Powell, also demanded that she withdraw the “wild” and “known to be unfounded” claims she made about the electronic voting machine and threatened a defamation suit.
Since leaving the campaign, Powell has continued to file lawsuits on Trump’s behalf, joining conservative lawyer L. Lin Wood in Georgia.
Powell and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
Lemire reported from New York. The Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.