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Sidney Powell, foreground right, and Jenna Ellis

On January 21, Politico published a December 2020 draft executive order under which Donald Trump authorized a number of chilling actions, beginning with this military seizure of voting machines:

“Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain, and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records … “

The draft order, which would have then also called for “federalization of appropriate National Guard support,” would have placed a series of Trump officials in charge of these machines, which would have remained under the supervision of the assistant secretary of defense, with a Trump-appointed “Special Counsel” to bring criminal charges against those deemed to have been involved in election fraud.

This unvarnished attempt at employing the military in his coup d'etat—like all the other features of Trump’s attempted destruction of American democracy—has not received one one-thousandth the media attention it deserves. But in particular, there’s been a tendency to overlook the order’s opening paragraph; the one that makes it clear that all of this was based on false claims from Trump attorney Sidney Powell, and that the whole cause for overthrowing the government was a completely debunked claim created by his own legal team.

Rather than predicating the order on some kind of broad claim of electoral issues, Trump’s military takeover directly references one specific instance of supposed fraud.

“I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, find that the forensic report of the Antrim County, Michigan voting machines, released Dec. 13, 2020, and other evidence submitted to me in support of this order, provide probable cause sufficient to require action under the authorities cited above because of evidence of international and foreign interference in the Nov. 3, 2020 election.”

The problem with this “forensic report” was that it was a lie. In fact, it was a lie easily disproven weeks before the events of January 6.

Antrim County, Michigan first entered the national limelight because results immediately following poll closing showed Joe Biden ahead in this reliably Republican county. However, within an hour of the initially reported numbers, county officials — all of them Republican — determined that an error had been made, not in total numbers, but in reporting those numbers to the state. The totals were corrected and Trump won the county by 3,700 votes. A hand recount of ballots showed that the machine-generated results were accurate.

But almost immediately Trump supporters built this incident into “proof” of problems with voting machines in the county—even though those machines had always reported the correct values. To support this they seized on a 23-page “Antrim County report” filed as part of a lawsuit that—and this is real—was filed as a challenge against the successful attempt to allow retail sales of marijuana in the county.

Even though the challenge to the vote on marijuana actually turned on whether to count three partially mangled ballots, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Lin Wood directed attention to this “forensic audit” (spoiler: it wasn’t a forensic audit) because it made assertions about the reliability of Dominion voting machines.

When the contents of the report were made public, as The Detroit News reported at the time, the state attorney general labeled efforts to turn this report into some kind of broad proof of voting fraud “another in a long stream of misguided, vague and dubious assertions designed to erode public confidence in the November presidential election." The authors of the section of the report cited by Powell and Wood in their court filings turned out to be an organization called Allied Security Operations Group. That organization also claimed that a number of districts in Michigan had “over 100 percent turnout”—a claim that turned out to be provably false.

“According to the document, there was a precinct in North Muskegon with 781% turnout and a precinct in Muskegon with 205% turnout. The certified and publicly posted results in Muskegon County clearly refute [this claim].”

On November 25, Wood and Powell brought the case to the Sixth District Court in Michigan, with the Antrim County report acting as “Exhibit A.” On December 7, the court ruled against them, stating that both the county and the state had already certified the results before Trump’s team bothered to file an objection and that—since actual analysis failed to find any difference between machine and hand-counted results—“plaintiffs failed to establish an injury sufficient to meet standing requirements.” In other words, none of the evidence they brought actually showed the fraud they claimed. The next day they appealed.

A week after that, this same report was before the Supreme Court of the United States as “Exhibit A” in a filing represented by Powell and Wood that sought to annul the results in six states, allowing Republican state legislators to select the slate of electors. The Detroit Free Press reminded readers that the exaggerated claims in the report had already been disproven.

That same report was then again used as the main supporting document for Trump’s executive order. And all the time everything in it that suggested problems with Dominion Voting Systems had already been explained as human error and disproven by a hand count of votes. The reference here to this debunked, never-serious report, shows just how close all of the efforts going on in Trump’s coup really were. It was not a series of uncoordinated flailings, but a single unified effort to justify overturning the election.

Currently, that same report is a key element in a “Strategic Communications Plan” created by Giuliani and his team as a defense for Trump officials subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 commission. Republicans are still treating it as if it contains actual information.

In the months following the coup attempt, the Michigan attorney general has taken action to sanction the attorneys who pressed on with this report, despite knowing that it had no evidentiary value. The former elections commissioner issued a 10-point rebuttal of the claims in the report. And a federal judge has taken Powell and others to task before eventually issuing sanctions.

As Judge Parker stated, Trump’s attorneys “filed this lawsuit in bad faith and for improper purpose.”

But there’s another part of the original filing from Powell and Wood that the Detroit Free Press picked up in Dec. 2020.

At one point, the filing states: "On Dec. 14, 2020, the Republican majority State legislatures of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin exercised their plenary authority under the U.S. Constitution’s Electors Clause by permitting the full slate of Republican nominees to cast their electoral votes for President Donald J. Trump on a contingent basis."
In another portion, the filing states: "Republican slates of electors have received the endorsement of the Republican-majority legislatures in each of these States, as reflected in the decision for them to cast (or attempting to cast) their slate of electoral votes."
None of this is true.

Powell’s lawsuit encapsulates two cornerstones of Trump’s attempted coup: the effort to create the impression that there was some reason to suspect election fraud, and the effort to make it seem as if the slates of electoral candidates were in dispute. And what may be most amazing is how thin and easily debunked their supposed evidence really was.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

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