A jaw-dropping scoop from Axios’ Jonathan Swan tells of a shocking meeting at the White House on December 18, weeks after Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the presidential election and four days after the Electoral College had made it official.
As Swan tells it, the meeting pitted the Powell faction against a saner group of White House advisers, including senior advisor Eric Herschmann, who seems to have been a major source for the story. There were numerous heated confrontations, including this one:
Flynn went berserk. The former three-star general, whom Trump had fired as his first national security adviser after he was caught lying to the FBI (and later pardoned), stood up and turned from the Resolute Desk to face Herschmann.
"You're quitting! You're a quitter! You're not fighting!” he exploded at the senior adviser. Flynn then turned to the president, and implored: "Sir, we need fighters."
Finally Herschmann had enough. "Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me?" he shot back at Flynn. "If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down." Flynn sat back down.
What Powell and Flynn were proposing was, for all intents and purposes, Martial Law, Swan explains. Powell wanted to be appointed special counsel to investigate voter fraud, a top security clearance and access to confidential voter information.
At its essence, the Powell crew's argument to the president was this: We have the real information. These people — your White House staff — don't believe in the truth. They're liars and quitters. They're not willing to fight for you because they don't want to get their hands dirty. Put us in charge. Let us take control of everything. We'll prove to you that what we're saying is right. We won't quit, we'll fight. We're willing to fight for the presidency.
What’s even more terrifying is how narrowly the U.S. escaped this fate. Despite the skepticism Trump reportedly expressed at times, the plan appealed to his vanity.
But Trump was not entirely convinced the ideas Powell was presenting were insane.
He asked [his White House advisors]: You guys are offering me nothing. These guys are at least offering me a chance. They’re saying they have the evidence. Why not try this? The president seemed truly to believe the election was stolen, and his overriding sentiment was, let's give this a shot.
It was after midnight by the time the White House officials had finally said their piece. They left that night fully prepared for the mad possibility Trump might still name Sidney Powell special counsel. You have our advice, they told the president before walking out. You decide who to listen to.
It’s a glimpse of the cliff the country might easily have gone over.