Trump goes full-on dictator; Fulton County DA impanels grand jury in Trump probe
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With mere weeks left in his term in office, former President Donald Trump mounted yet another attempt to overturn the election. According to the New York Times, Trump “directed” Rudy Giuliani to “ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states.” He further asked former Attorney General Bill Barr if the Justice Department could seize the machines, which Barr reportedly shot down “immediately.”
Mr. Barr, who had been briefed extensively at that point by federal law enforcement officials about how the theories being pushed by Mr. Trump’s legal team about the Dominion machines were unfounded, told Mr. Trump that the Justice Department had no basis for seizing the machines because there was no probable cause to believe a crime had been committed…
Around the same time that Mr. Trump brought up the possibility of having the Justice Department seize the voting machines, for example, he also tried to persuade state lawmakers in contested states like Michigan and Pennsylvania to use local law enforcement agencies to take control of them, people familiar with the matter said. The state lawmakers refused to go along with the plan.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and retired Army colonel Phil Waldron played a key role in Trump’s scheme, both advocating for the Pentagon to confiscate voting machines after the election to “preserve evidence” of irregularities.
Mr. Giuliani was vehemently opposed to the idea of the military taking part in the seizure of machines, according to two people familiar with the matter. The conflict between him and his legal team, and Mr. Flynn, Ms. Powell and Mr. Byrne came to a dramatic head on Dec. 18, 2020, during a meeting with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. At the meeting, Mr. Flynn and Ms. Powell presented Mr. Trump with a copy of the draft executive order authorizing the military to oversee the seizure of machines…
Mr. Giuliani was adamant that the military should not be mobilized, the person said, and Mr. Trump ultimately heeded his advice. Shortly after the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Waldron amended the draft executive order, suggesting that if the Defense Department could not oversee the seizure of machines then the Department of Homeland Security could, the person said.
This second executive order, to use DHS to seize voting machines, was previously unknown.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis received permission from the Superior Court to impanel a special grand jury for her investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s election results. The grand jury, which will first convene in May, can issue subpoenas for documents and testimony—something witnesses like Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger require in order to cooperate.
Meanwhile, Willis requested the FBI’s protection after Trump targeted her office during his Saturday night rally.
“These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They’re racists and they’re very sick — they’re mentally sick. They’re going after me without any protection of my rights from the Supreme Court or most other courts. In reality, they’re not after me, they’re after you and I just happen to be the person that’s in the way,” he said (clip).
In a letter to J.C. Hacker, FBI special agent in charge of the Atlanta field office, Willis asked for a risk assessment of buildings surrounding her office and the courthouse where the grand jury will sit. She also asked for FBI agents to provide security, saying “security concerns were escalated this weekend” by Trump’s rhetoric. Willis said her office had already received communications from people unhappy with the investigation before Trump’s rally.
Trump then told his supporters to assault the rule of law in order to keep him from being indicted (clip):
“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington DC, in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed information from the General Services Administration for information about Trump’s D.C. hotel. In 2013, the GSA leased the property to the Trump Organization for $3 million a year. The hotel became the center of controversy after Trump won the presidency, sparking concerns that foreign powers spent money there in order to influence the administration.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s report, obtained exclusively by NBC News, found that the General Services Administration did not track foreign government payments to the hotel or identify the origins of more than $75 million in loans made by Trump and his family to shore up its troubled finances.
The GSA “washed its hands of any responsibility” to review whether the emoluments clauses of the Constitution were being followed, the report said, including by trying to ensure that profits from foreign governments didn’t benefit Trump. The agency did not take any steps to identify expenditures by foreign or domestic government officials and implemented “zero checks and balances” to make sure the hotel’s calculations of such payments were “fair, complete and accurate,” the committee found.
James is investigating whether Trump provided false information to the GSA or other entities with a financial interest in the property.