For more than a year, reports have trickled out detailing one of the most brazen proposals in Donald Trump’s attempt to steal a second term in the White House: An effort to seize voting machines in states across the country.
Talk of voting machine seizures reached national headlines after an insane Dec. 18 meeting in the White House, in which various Trump confidantes and hangers-on were said to have pitched the idea. Since then, more detailed reporting and a draft executive order — now in the possession of the congressional Jan. 6 Committee — have bolstered the initial stories.
But new reports from The New York Times and CNN on Monday night show just how deeply involved Trump himself was in the proposal.
New Details Of Trump Involvement
Whereas early reporting on the proposal to seize voting machines painted Trump as the passive recipient of his advisers’ ideas, the new reports show he was personally in the mix, giving orders.
Six weeks after Election Day, Trump directed his then-attorney Rudy Giuliani to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally seize voting machines in key swing states, the Times reported, citing three unnamed people familiar with the matter. The man filling in as deputy DHS secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, said he didn’t have the authority to do that, both outlets reported.
That inquiry came after Trump rejected a suggestion to have the Defense Department seize voting machines, the Times reported.
Before that, in November 2020, then-Attorney General Bill Barr reportedly also shot down the suggestion that the Justice Department could seize voting machines. Trump also unsuccessfully tried to persuade law enforcement agencies in Michigan and Pennsylvania to take control of voting machines, the Times reported.
Both the Times and CNN reported that the proposals to have the Pentagon and DHS seize voting machines were actually written into draft executive orders, the former of which was previously reported as having been turned over to the Jan. 6 Committee. It’s unclear who drafted the orders, and neither was issued.
Who Is Phil Waldron?
Both outlets also pointed to the influence of a retired Army colonel, Phil Waldron, on the proposals.
Waldron pitched the idea of seizing the machines using federal personnel to Giuliani, Flynn and others, including Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, the Times reported.
Waldron is well-known on the Big Lie circuit, beginning with the outlandish claims he made about voting machines during Rudy Giuliani’s theatrical “hearings” in 2020, including that voting machines used in American elections had been compromised by foreign communists.
Waldron, a member of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s posse, reportedly claimed to have met with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and members of Congress multiple times in the days before Jan. 6. He also created a PowerPoint presentation on “Options for 6 JAN” that proposed having then-Vice President Mike Pence reject the results for several states. He was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 Committee in December.
Last month, the Twitter user “Trapezoid of Discovery” noted that language in the draft executive order to have the Defense Department seize voting machines echoed language used in a written statement seemingly authored by Waldron. Politico subsequently reported that Bernard Kerik — the Trump pardon recipient and former New York City police commissioner — told the Jan. 6 Committee that Waldron had come up with the idea to issue an executive order to seize voting machines.
The Dec. 18 White House Meeting
The prospect of seizing election machines came to a head on Dec. 18, during an infamous White House meeting in which Flynn and Powell presented Trump with the draft executive order to have Defense Department personnel seize the voting machines.
Axios and other outlets subsequently detailed the meeting in depth, including the rancorous fights between Flynn, Powell and others who advocated seizing voting machines, and those in the White House who opposed the idea.
At a press conference three days after the meeting, on Dec. 21, Barr told reporters that there was “no basis” for seizing voting machines.
The Times, Axios, and Associated Press reported the day following the meeting that Giuliani was somehow involved in the idea to seize voting machines.
But The Times reported Monday that Giuliani opposed the idea. And Giuliani’s attorney Robert Costello told CNN, “as soon as he heard about this idea, he was vehemently against it, as was White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and then-President Trump.”
After the meeting, Waldron reportedly suggested using DHS personnel to seize the machines instead. It was then that Trump had Giuliani contact Cuccinelli, then the senior official performing the duties of the deputy DHS secretary, about the idea.