Dec 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Officials increasingly alarmed about Trump’s power grab

White House
Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senior Trump administration officials are increasingly alarmed that President Trump might unleash — and abuse — the power of government in an effort to overturn the clear result of the election.

Why it matters: These officials tell me that Trump is spending too much time with people they consider crackpots or conspiracy theorists and flirting with blatant abuses of power.

  • There are 32 days until President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The big picture: Their fears include Trump's interest in former national security adviser Michael Flynn's wild talk of martial law; an idea floated of an executive order to commandeer voting machines; and the specter of Sidney Powell, the conspiracy-spewing election lawyer, obtaining governmental power and a top-level security clearance.

A senior administration official said that when Trump is "retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends."

  • "People who are concerned and nervous aren’t the weak-kneed bureaucrats that we loathe," the official added. "These are people who have endured arguably more insanity and mayhem than any administration officials in history."

At Friday's meeting, first reported by The New York Times, Trump discussed making Powell a special counsel for election fraud.

  • The ideas included commandeering voting machines, with Powell as a special counsel to inspect the machines, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone and chief of staff Mark Meadows "pushed back strenuously and repeatedly against the ideas put forth by Sidney Powell,” the source said.
  • The meeting included Flynn, who was pardoned by Trump in November and is a celebrity with election-denying Trump supporters.
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