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The White House on Dec. 11, 2020.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Group of 'political misfits' gains influence inside White House

The only people with the outgoing president's ear are fringe voices telling him there's no such thing as going too far.


By any fair measure, Rudy Giuliani has spent the post-election period pushing some pretty nutty ideas. So when Giuliani makes the case that Sidney Powell is a little too ridiculous for his standards, it provides some important context.

Powell, of course, was a member of Donald Trump's hapless legal operation until she was fired -- exactly one month ago today -- for pushing conspiracy theories considered so hysterically ridiculous that the president's other attorneys showed her the door.

Yesterday, Giuliani took new steps to put some distance between Team Trump and Powell, telling Newsmax that Powell "does not speak" for the administration in any capacity. Giuliani added that Powell's crackpot ideas exceed "the bounds of rationality."

But for Giuliani's client in the Oval Office, rational thought isn't especially important.

Indeed, Powell has reportedly made three visits to the White House since Friday, and Axios added that among Trump aides, there's a "consensus" that the president is "listening to Sidney Powell more than just about anyone who is on his payroll, certainly more than his own White House Counsel."

At a distance, it seems as if Powell exasperated Team Trump's other lawyers with utterly bananas tactics, leading to her ouster. She apparently then made an end run around Giuliani & Co., reaching out to Trump on her own, and filling the president's head with even-more-bonkers ideas than his actual attorneys.

And she's not the only extremist gaining undue influence in the West Wing. The Washington Post reported overnight:

With his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud rejected by dozens of judges and GOP leaders, President Trump has turned to a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss.

The article added that there have been officials who've tried to level with Trump, suggesting he acknowledge reality, but the president "sidelines" those who tell him the truth, instead embracing fringe figures with radical ideas about seizing illegitimate political power.

The result has been White House discussions with the likes of Powell, former foreign agent Michael Flynn, and a group of right-wing Republican lawmakers who are reportedly eager to plot with Trump about nullifying the results of the election. The Post's report added, "Trump's unofficial election advisory council now includes a pardoned felon, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a White House trade adviser and a Russian agent's former lover."

The resulting conversations have included references to martial law, special counsel appointments, executive orders, the seizure of voting machines, and congressional schemes to overturn election results the far-right doesn't like.

Remember when Trump promised voters in 2016 he would surround himself "only with the best and most serious people"? It's among the most tragic of his broken promises.

Axios published a related report, noting that Trump "is turning bitterly on virtually every person around him, griping about anyone who refuses to indulge conspiracy theories or hopeless bids to overturn the election."

Targets of his outrage include Vice President Pence, chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Secretary of State Pompeo and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.... Trump thinks everyone around him is weak, stupid or disloyal — and increasingly seeks comfort only in people who egg him on to overturn the election results. We cannot stress enough how unnerved Trump officials are by the conversations unfolding inside the White House.

That last point is of particular interest. White House officials appear increasingly and genuinely afraid of just how far Trump might be willing to go to hold onto power he did not earn.

And it seems the only people with the outgoing president's ear are fringe voices telling him there's no such thing as going too far.

Inauguration Day is 29 days away.