Trump suggested naming Sidney Powell as special counsel on election in Oval Office meeting, reports say

During a White House meeting Friday, President Donald Trump floated the idea of naming conservative attorney Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, according to multiple media reports. 

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In the Oval Office meeting, which was first reported by The New York Times, Trump discussed with his advisers the possibility of appointing Powell to investigate election fraud claims and potentially seizing voting machines that Trump has claimed were rigged against him.

Most of the advisers at the White House meeting, which included Powell, were opposed to the ideas. According to the Times, among those objecting to the suggestion of Powell as special counsel were Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani – who joined by phone – White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

© Jacquelyn Martin, AP Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, left, listens to Sidney Powell, both lawyers for President Donald Trump, during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.

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According to Politico, the debate grew heated and voices were raised. 

The White House did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

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Powell was previously working with the campaign to challenge the election results in several key states, including Michigan. But Giuliani and Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis eventually distanced the campaign from Powell after she publicly made several outlandish and unfounded claims of election fraud.

“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,” Giuliani and Ellis said in a statement last month. “She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”

Powell baselessly claimed there had been a conspiracy to rig voting machines against Trump that involved a range of players including “thousands” of poll workers, deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the CIA and Chinese communists.

Citing two people present at the meeting, the Times reported that Trump raised the possibility of Powell being granted security clearances to investigate her suspicions. 

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Trump has continued to claim he won the election, making baseless voter fraud claims and trying to overturn the results. Powell, along with other staunch supporters and allies of the president, has encouraged and echoed his allegations of fraud.

The appointment of a special counsel would have to be carried out by the attorney general or an act of Congress. But The Associated Press reported that Trump recently asked his team of lawyers, including Giuliani about whether the president has the power to appoint one himself. 

The idea of appointing Powell as a special counsel comes after Attorney General William Barr announced his resignation. The president has said Barr, who declared the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, will leave his post on Dec. 23. 

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was also in attendance at the White House on Friday, where Trump asked him about the idea of invoking martial law, according to the Times. The Wall Street Journal and CNN also reported that the idea of martial law was discussed, but did not specify who raised it or how Trump viewed it. All the reports agree that the suggestion was rejected. 

Trump denied the reports about the discussion of martial law in a tweet early Sunday, but he did not dispute any other aspects of the reports about the meeting.

That tweet came immediately after one in which he insulted his former national security adviser John Bolton, who told CNN he found it “appalling” martial law had been considered. 

“What would Bolton, one of the dumbest people in Washington, know?” Trump tweeted. 

During an interview with Newsmax on Thursday, Flynn said, by implementing martial law, Trump “could immediately on his order seize every single one of these machines around the country,” referring to the voting machines Trump claims were rigged against him. 

Flynn also said Trump could, “if he wanted to,” use “military capabilities” to “basically rerun an election in each of those states” that were narrowly won by Biden.

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Flynn was recently pardoned by Trump after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI. He was represented by Powell in his efforts to reverse his guilty plea. 

During Friday’s Oval Office meeting, both Powell and Flynn reportedly pushed for Trump and the administration to do more to overturn the election results and Biden’s win.

In response to Flynn’s calls to invoke martial law, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville issued a joint statement saying there “is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.” 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump suggested naming Sidney Powell as special counsel on election in Oval Office meeting, reports say

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