By Marshall Cohen and Zachary Cohen | CNN
A draft executive order that then-President Donald Trump was considering signing in December 2020 would have ordered the Pentagon to seize voting machines in key states and search for evidence of fraud, according to a draft published by Politico. .
Trump never signed the executive order. But it would have ordered the Secretary of Defense to “seize, collect, preserve and analyze all machinery, equipment, electronically stored information and material documents” related to Trump’s false claims of an international vote-rigging conspiracy to deprive him of his a second term in the White House, according to the project.
It’s unclear who drafted the draft executive order, which is replete with legal terms asserting presidential powers to seize election materials and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
The draft also said the Secretary of Defense could identify National Guard units to federalize to help with the effort. Any operation allowing the military or federal agents to seize voting materials for political purposes would have been unprecedented in US history and would amount to a coup.
The draft appears to be one of the documents Trump fought to block from the Jan. 6 select committee, which is investigating his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. In a court filing last year, the National Archives said that Trump had asserted executive privilege on “a draft executive order on the subject of election integrity” that ran to four pages.
A source interviewed by the Jan. 6 committee told CNN they were asked about the existence of a draft memo outlining plans to seize voting machines. But the source could not confirm that the questions were specifically about the draft published by Politico.
A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment.
CNN was unable to independently verify the documents.
The draft executive order was dated Dec. 16, 2020, according to the document published by Politico. It was two days after the Electoral College met in state capitals to formalize President Joe Biden’s victory, dealing a blow to Trump’s attempts to void the election.
The idea was initially floated at a highly controversial White House meeting in December 2020, which included discussions of declaring martial law, appointing a special counsel to hunt voter fraud, and order. federal agents to seize election materials, according to previous CNN reports.
These extreme ideas were promoted by former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and his right-wing lawyer Sidney Powell. CNN also reported that Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, asked a senior Department of Homeland Security official if the department could seize voting materials in certain states so they could be examined for evidence of widespread fraud.
CNN previously reported that some attorneys and senior White House officials, including Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, have strongly opposed Flynn’s backed idea of declaring a state of emergency so that the federal government can seize voting materials in key states.
The Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Giuliani, Flynn and Powell — three stalwart Trump allies who waged a disinformation campaign about the 2020 election and accused voting machine companies of participating in a global conspiracy to push the ballots from Biden to Trump. According to Politico, many of their debunked theories were mentioned in the draft executive order.
In subpoena letters to Giuliani and Powell, the committee cited testimony and news reports alleging that they “urged President Trump to order the seizure of voting machines nationwide after being informed that the Department of Homeland Security had no legal authority to do so,” CNN reported. They broadly deny wrongdoing related to the 2020 election.