Remember, back in 2020, when Donald Trump held a truly off-the-rails meeting in the Oval Office in which seizing voting machines and invoking martial law were discussed as part of a desperate, unhinged attempt to stay in power? Special counsel Jack Smith apparently does. And he’s asking lots of pointed questions about it as part of his criminal investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and the insurrection that followed—which, like Smith’s documents investigation, could result in another federal indictment for the ex-president.
CNN reports that Smith’s team “has signaled a continued interest in a chaotic Oval Office meeting that took place in the final days of the Trump administration, during which the former president considered some of the most desperate proposals to keep him in power over objections from his White House counsel.” According to multiple sources, federal investigators have asked a number of witnesses—both during interviews and in front of a grand jury—about the meeting at the White House, which took place on December 18, 2020. Some were quizzed about the sit-down “months ago…others have faced questions about it more recently, including Rudy Giuliani.”
As we know from contemporaneous reporting, topics discussed during the Oval Office meeting included not just using the military to size voting machines and invoking martial law*—the latter of which Flynn had pushed for on TV, saying they should “rerun” the election— but making Powell a special counsel to investigate voter fraud. US The New York Times reported, “White House counsel, Pat A. Cipolloneand the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, repeatedly and aggressively pushed back on the idea being proposed, which went beyond the special counsel idea, those briefed at the meeting said. Mr. Cipollone told Mr. Trump there was no constitutional authority for what was being discussed, one of the people briefed at the meeting said. Other advisers from the White House and the Trump campaign delivered the same message throughout the meeting, which stretched on for a long period of time.” As CNN notes, “shouting and insults ensued” and “the night ended with Trump tweeting that a coming gathering in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, to protest the election results ‘will be wild.’”
In addition to Giuliani, Smith’s team has reportedly also questioned former national security adviser Robert O’Brien. Also said to be of interest to investigators is December 14, 2020, the day a slate of fake GOP electors signed certificates falsely claiming Trump had won the election; investigators have reportedly focused on “efforts to recruit the illegitimate electors, have them sign certificates falsely asserting Trump had won, and then use them as a pretense to pressure then vice president Mike Pence to delay certification of Biden’s Electoral College win on January 6.”
According to CNN, while Smith’s team is still gathering evidence and scheduling interviews with witnesses, the special counsel “appears to be nearing charging decisions in the investigation.” Should he ultimately charge Trump, it would be the second federal indictment against the ex-president—and the third overall, following an April indictment from the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Trump is also facing the possibility of an indictment from the Fulton County district attorney’s office for his attempt to overturn the election in Georgia.