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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.

Go deeper

Jan 25, 2021 - Podcasts
How It Happened

Trump's Last Stand Part II: The Legal Team

In this episode of How It Happened: Trump's Last Stand, national political correspondent Jonathan Swan traces how Donald Trump's strategy to dispute the result of the 2020 election evolved from targeted lawsuits to embracing — and amplifying — conspiracy theories.

  • Starting with the Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference and digging into subsequent meetings, Swan offers new reporting on how Rudy Guliani and Sidney Powell became the faces of Trump's legal strategy.
  • Swan's reporting takes listeners behind closed doors, where President Trump's inner circle and a group of conspiracy theorists clashed over how best to advise the president.

Note: This episode contains some explicit language.

Credits: This show is produced by Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin and Alice Wilder. Dan Bobkoff is the executive producer. Additional reporting and fact checking by Zach Basu. Margaret Talev is managing editor of politics. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’s executive editor. Sound design by Alex Sugiura and theme music by Michael Hanf.

About this series: The reporting in this series is based on multiple interviews with current and former White House, campaign, government and congressional officials as well as direct eyewitnesses and people close to President Trump. Sources have been granted anonymity to share sensitive observations or details they would not be formally authorized to disclose. President Trump and other officials to whom quotes and actions have been attributed by others were provided the opportunity to confirm, deny or respond to reporting elements prior to publication.

This series was reported by White House reporter Jonathan Swan, with writing, reporting and research assistance by Zach Basu.

Jan 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: 85% diversity on Biden people team

President Joe Biden conducts a virtual swearing-in ceremony for members of his new administration. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration will announce a slate of political appointees to the Office of Personnel Management on Monday, and more than 85% of them identify as people of color, women or LGBTQ, according to a copy of the list obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: President Biden has pledged a diverse Cabinet and government, and his gatekeepers to it reflect that promise through their own ranks.

1 hour ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.