It was a meeting in the Oval Office like no other.
According to Axios, then-President Donald Trump’s eleventh-hour desire to appoint attorney Sidney Powell as special counsel with a mandate to investigate allegations of voter fraud was the result of a dissonant, multiple-hour shout session that tried the patience of those involved and ended up with at least one person well-fed.
Former lieutenant general Michael Flynn was there and had Powell’s back—part of a four-person conspiracy theory coterie, described by journalists Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu as a “cabal” intent on swiping Dominion Voting System’s voting machines and finagling top-secret security clearances for themselves.
The modern day Birchers were plying Trump with a story that would become the stuff of obloquy and scorn in the coming days and weeks–and form the basis of a billion-dollar lawsuit in due time.
Powell and Flynn were joined by onetime U.S. Customs and Border Protection advisor Emily Newman and, for reasons still far from lucid to anyone involved in the meeting or construction of the original report, former Overstock dot com CEO Patrick Byrne, who left the company after playing a bit role in a 2018 Trump era scandal by dating alleged Russian spy Maria Butina and publicly pontificating on the existence of a permanent government bureaucracy that guides the U.S. regime despite elected leadership changes.
Over the course of six hours, give or take, the conspiracy theorists pushed their advantage with a generally receptive Trump who at least understood that the wild-eyed notions had the imprimatur of an idea; the notion of somehow taking charge of the narrative and maybe miraculously saving a swiftly-crumbling presidency.
From that report [emphasis in original]:
Byrne, wearing jeans, a hoodie and a neck gaiter, piped up with his own conspiracy: “I know how this works. I bribed Hillary Clinton $18 million on behalf of the FBI for a sting operation.”
Byrne brought up the bizarre Clinton bribery claim several more times during the meeting to the astonishment of White House lawyers.
Trump, for his part, also seemed perplexed by Byrne. But he was not entirely convinced the ideas Powell was presenting were insane.
He asked: You guys are offering me nothing. These guys are at least offering me a chance. They’re saying they have the evidence. Why not try this? The president seemed truly to believe the election was stolen, and his overriding sentiment was, let’s give this a shot.
“You’re quitting! You’re a quitter! You’re not fighting!” the recently-pardoned Flynn told then-White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann—a former Trump-Ukraine impeachment lawyer—before swiveling his attention to his political patron. “Sir, we need fighters.”
Herschmann reportedly ignored Flynn and other outbursts for awhile—generally targeting Powell and her ideas that Dominion had changed votes from Trump to Joe Biden as “part of an international communist plot to steal the election for the Democrats.”
“All you do is promise, but never deliver,” Herschmann told Powell.
That apparently set Flynn off again, who reportedly began “ranting” because he was “infuriated about anyone challenging Powell” who had distinguished herself in Trumpworld by serving the retired lieutenant general and fired national security advisor well in a longstanding legal stalemate with U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan.
“Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me?” Herschmann said—finally directly addressing Flynn. “If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down.”
Diminished, Flynn reportedly sat down.
Herschmann was eventually joined with backup of his own in the form of then-White House staff secretary Derek Lyons and then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Powell’s legal acumen was reportedly called into question numerous times during the hectic battle of voices–but Trump still maintained interest in hearing her piece.
“At least she’s out there fighting,” the by-then lame duck president said.
At one point, Powell reportedly cited a particular county in Georgia as having fallen prey to the never-proven but wildly alleged Dominion vote-flipping scheme. Herschmann pointed out that Trump actually won that county. Powell reportedly didn’t have an answer there.
Lyons took aim at Powell and her entourage over an incident that received healthy amounts of media coverage: “You somehow managed to misspell the word ‘District’ three different ways in your suits,” he told the hard-charging “Kraken” attorney.
Powell, Flynn and Byrne reportedly accused the White House staffer of sweating the small stuff and being disloyal. But the 45th president was keen to the importance of optics and aesthetics.
“No, no, he’s right,” Trump said. “That was very embarrassing. That shouldn’t have happened.”
As the meeting dragged on from the night and into the early hours of the morning, the physical location shifted and even more players took part. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was on his way. So was his then-chief of staff Mark Meadows.
In the end, the Trump camp cut Powell loose and she was not made special counsel of anything after all.
But at least someone got to eat.
“Herschmann, Cipollone and Lyons left the Oval Office, but soon discovered that the Powell entourage had made their way to the president’s residence,” the report goes on. “They followed them upstairs, to the Yellow Oval Room, Trump’s living room, where they were joined by Giuliani and Meadows. Trump sat beside Powell in armchairs facing the door, separated by a round, wooden antique table. Giuliani sat in an armchair to the right of them, while Byrne and Meadows sat on a couch. Byrne wolfed down pigs in a blanket and little meatballs on toothpicks that staff had set on the coffee table.”
[image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images; Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images]
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