President Trump‘s proposal to appoint conservative attorney Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate voting fraud in the 2020 election culminated in a profane screaming match between Trump loyalists and White House advisers who opposed the plan, witnesses told the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday.
Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone was shown in video testimony saying he was “vehemently opposed” to having Ms. Powell appointed to any position in the White House.
The committee unveiled a draft presidential order to the Pentagon in its Tuesday hearing, a document that would have directed the Defense Secretary to allow the federal government to seize voting machines and have Ms. Powell lead the effort.
“Under the order, President Trump would appoint a special counsel with the power to seize machines and then charge people with crimes with all resources necessary to carry out her duties,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat, who held up the order.
Ms. Powell was one of Mr. Trump‘s fiercest proponents in helping to spread his false claims of mass election fraud taking place in the 2020 election.
Mr. Cipollone particularly zeroed in on his opposition to Mr. Trump‘s plan to seize voting machines across the country.
“That’s not how we do things in the United States,” Mr. Cipollone testified. “The idea that the federal government would come in and seize election machines … I don’t understand why we have to tell you why that’s a bad idea. It’s a terrible idea.”
Ms. Powell consistently spread claims that China and Venezuela were behind stealing the U.S. presidential election in favor of President Biden.
The issue came to a head in a marathon White House meeting on Dec. 18, 2020. On one side supporting Mr. Trump‘s claims of election fraud were Ms. Powell, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. On the other side were Mr. Cipollone, White House lawyer Eric Herschmann and other White House staffers.
The debate raged for six hours, witnesses said, and included expletives and near-physical confrontations. The president and his supporters accused the White House aides of being weak, Mr. Giuliani said, adding that he called the White House advisers “a bunch of p-ssies.”
Mr. Raskin called it a “heated and profane clash.”
When the meeting finally ended, Ms. Powell thought she had received her presidential appointment. But Mr. Cipollone said he and other White House advisers were determined not to allow her to exercise any such authority.
Ms. Powell said if she were president, “I would have them [White House aides] all fired that night and escorted out of the building.”
Shortly after the meeting broke up, Mr. Trump went on Twitter and summoned supporters to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, for a large protest of the election results. He promised the gathering “will be wild.”
Committee members said that tweet was directly responsible for armed Trump supporters coming to the Capitol on Jan. 6 bent on violence to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.