After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal from Donald Trump this week, the National Archives started providing materials to congressional investigators investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Though the former president obviously did not want lawmakers to see the documents, it was an open question as to just how provocative the materials would be.
That question now appears to have an unsubtle answer. Politico reported this afternoon:
Among the records that Donald Trump’s lawyers tried to shield from Jan. 6 investigators are a draft executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines and a document titled “Remarks on National Healing.”
To appreciate the significance of the draft executive order, it's important to acknowledge the timeline. Shortly before Christmas 2020, Trump was so desperate to cling to power, despite his defeat, that he assembled a radical team of fringe figures with radical ideas to advise him. The New York Times described one "raucous" discussion from the time in which the outgoing president broached the subject of an executive order that would seize control of voting machines.
It now appears this went beyond idle chatter. As NBC News reported today, there was an actual draft executive order prepared for Trump in which the Republican would've authorized the secretary of defense to send National Guard troops to "seize, collect, retain and analyze" voting machines around the country.
The same draft calls on the Pentagon chief to release an assessment 60 days after the action started. In case this isn't obvious, that's notable because the draft executive order is dated Dec. 16, 2020 — and Trump was set to leave office 35 days later.
We know, of course, that this order was never issued. But the fact that such a document was written is itself extraordinary, and a reminder of the dangerous tactics Trump and his advisers were willing to consider.
While we don't know who wrote the draft order — a key detail, to be sure — the document parroted discredited nonsense peddled by Powell and disgraced former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
It was, in other words, bonkers. Liza Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice told Politico, "The order doesn’t even make the basic finding of an 'unusual and extraordinary threat' that would be necessary to trigger any action under [federal emergency powers law]. It’s the legal equivalent of a kid scrawling on the wall with crayons."
As for the document titled “Remarks on National Healing,” Politico's report described draft remarks in which Trump would've sharply criticized the Jan. 6 attack and the rioters who launched the assault on the Capitol.
They were, for all intents and purposes, the kind of remarks the public would expect to hear from a normal American president.
But on Jan. 6, Trump instead issued a video in which he professed his "love" for the rioters and sympathized with their motivations.
I don't imagine this will be the last we hear about revelations from the materials Trump fought so hard to keep from the bipartisan House select committee.