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Rudy Giuliani speaks at an election hearing in Lansing, Mich., on Dec. 2. Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani called Ken Cuccinelli, second in command at the Department of Homeland Security, on Thursday night and asked him whether DHS could seize voting machines, a source familiar with the call confirmed to Axios.

The state of play: Cuccinelli responded that DHS does not have that authority, the source said.

Why it matters: The call, first reported by the New York Times' Maggie Haberman, is another manifestation of President Trump's increasingly extreme efforts to contest an election that was called for President-elect Joe Biden six weeks ago.

On Friday night, as first reported by The New York Times, Trump discussed commandeering voting machines and appointing conspiracy-minded election lawyer Sidney Powell as special counsel to inspect the machines.

  • Axios reported Saturday afternoon that senior Trump administration officials are increasingly alarmed at what Trump might do to unleash the power of government to try to overturn the clear result of the election.

The backstory: Giuliani is part of a dwindling remnant of Trump loyalists who is trying to act on his continued protests about the election. On Saturday, he tweeted again that Biden "didn't win."

  • Giuliani, who was briefly hospitalized for COVID-19 earlier this month, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper

The week the Trump show ended

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Donald Trump was eclipsed in media attention last week by President Biden for the first time since Trump took office, according to viewership data on the internet, on social media and on cable news.

Why it matters: After Trump crowded out nearly every other news figure and topic for five years, momentum of the new administration took hold last week and the former president retreated, partly by choice and partly by being forced off the big platforms.

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.