Yes it was bad, but — as was often the case with Trump — things could have been so much worse.
The deeper Congress’s bipartisan committee exploring the Jan. 6 insurrection and its antecedents gets into its investigation, the more clear the full picture of just how close the United States came to full-blown crisis, thanks to outgoing President Donald Trump’s fanatical obsession with remaining in power, becomes.
On Friday, Politico obtained several of the documents given to the congressional committee, including a draft executive order that would have seen the Defense Department — then under the control of acting secretary and Trump loyalist Chris Miller — federalize local National Guard units as part of an operation to seize voting machines in an effort “to determine the interdiction of national critical infrastructure supporting federal elections.”
It also ordered “the appointment of a special counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate based on the evidence collected and provide all resources necessary to carry out her duties consistent with federal laws and the Constitution.”
In other words, the draft order was a call for the military to unilaterally grab voting machines, predicated on the demonstratively false claim of a stolen election — in this instance, in Michigan specifically — and then use that operation as a jumping-off point for a special counsel investigation that would have presumably been used to throw the electoral results baselessly into doubt, thereby extending Trump’s time in office.
As one expert noted to Politico, the language of the draft order — particularly the legal memorandi cited therein — suggest that whoever authored the document was in a position to know of secret national security orders previously hidden from the public.
Reports that Trump had entertained seizing voting machines have been circulating for nearly a year, since almost immediately after now-President Joe Biden was sworn into office. In December 2020, a quartet of Trump’s most seditionist advisers, including disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and “Kraken” laughingstock Sydney Powell, allegedly briefed the outgoing president on essentially doing exactly what the draft obtained by Politico outlined. (Flynn also floated the idea of having the military “rerun” elections in swing states.) While the author of the unsigned executive order remains unknown, the fact that it hews so closely to Powell, Flynn, and the rest’s pressure on Trump raises the possibility that they were, in some form, a part of its drafting.
Notably — if only as an exercise in the road not traveled — Politico also obtained the draft of a speech entitled “Remarks on National Healing” which, had it been delivered, would have seen Trump condemn the insurrection attempt on Jan. 6 and claim that he’d been “outraged and sickened by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.”
As we now know, Trump’s decision to neither deliver that speech, nor sign the executive order that stands as its essential polar opposite, left the country in a wounded, confused state wherein power was ultimately transferred relatively peacefully a few weeks after the attack on the Capitol — but with the conspiracy theories Trump refused to denounce continuing to fester in the body politic to this day.