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Staffers to former President Donald Trump, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, were told by the White House Counsel’s Office that a plan to use an alternate slate of electors to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election was not legally sound, according to an aide.
Trump and his supporters apparently forged ahead with the idea anyway.
In testimony to the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson said she had sat in meetings where the idea of alternate electors was discussed.
She put the timing at early-to-mid-December 2020 ― several weeks after the election had been called for Joe Biden.
Her testimony was included in a trove of court documents filed Friday by the committee, which argued that a federal court should compel Meadows to cooperate with the wide-ranging investigation in light of the details they’ve already uncovered.
As early as Nov. 18, 2020, according to reporting by The New York Times, lawyers for Trump were working to concoct a strategy whereby alternate electors could be appointed in crucial swing states ― essentially, the alternates would swoop in and overturn the will of the voters through the Electoral College so Trump came out on top.
Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff at the time, was there when members of the White House Counsel’s Office discouraged the idea, Hutchinson said. So was Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and aide to Trump who helped push lies about the election. Other meetings included Trump’s allies in Congress, such as Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.
Trump appeared hellbent on winning another term, and latched onto the idea that Vice President Mike Pence could help him. (Hutchinson said she also knew some in the White House were discussing martial law to secure Trump’s victory ― a shockingly extreme possibility that has been previously reported.) The legal memos reported by The New York Times claim that Pence, charged with overseeing Congress’ official certification of the presidential election, could intervene in the selection of electors.
Gohmert filed a lawsuit in late December that argued Pence had the power to choose which slates of electors should officially count, but a judge threw it out.
Trump’s pressure campaign against his vice president culminated in the violence that erupted Jan. 6, 2021.