President Donald Trump’s efforts to cling to power took a dark turn this weekend as he brought QAnon conspiracies, and those spreading them, into the White House.
On Friday night Trump met in the Oval Office with Sidney Powell, the lawyer who was recently fired by the Trump team after she held an unhinged press conference where she boosted multiple QAnon conspiracy theories.
In that meeting, Trump discussed the possibility of appointing Powell as White House Special Counsel to oversee an investigation into the baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in last month’s election — as well as the possibility of giving her a security clearance to pursue her work.
Also present on Friday night was Powell’s most famous client, Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security advisor who Trump recently pardoned.
Flynn is a prominent QAnon supporter and on Thursday, during an interview on the rabidly pro-Trump news channel Newsmax, he had called on Trump to impose martial law so the president could “re-run” the election — which is a favorite narrative in QAnon circles online. Trump raised the plan during the Oval Office meeting.
All the senior Trump advisers present at the meeting denounced the possibility of appointing Powell as legally unsound, and rejected Flynn’s martial law plan as highly dangerous, according to sources speaking the New York Times.
And yet, on Sunday night, Powell was back in the White House for further discussions, this time pitching the idea of an executive order on seizing voting machines to examine them for fraud — a possibility that Rudy Giuliani was also boosting this weekend.
Trump’s total embrace of Powell and Flynn, and the QAnon conspiracies they have been pushing, is the culmination of six weeks of increasingly wild and dangerous claims from Trump and his allies as they try to overturn last month’s election, which President-elect Joe Biden won decisively.
The radical shift in Trump’s tone in recent days has led many senior aides within the White House to sound the alarm — even though they have facilitated Trump’s radicalization for the last four years.
Biden won the election by over 7 million votes, and two weeks ago the states confirmed his Electoral College victory by a margin of 306-232.
And yet Trump will not concede and instead spends his days hunkered down inside the White House, watching highly partisan news channels like One America News Network and Newsmax, both of which facilitate his delusions by refusing to say Trump has lost.
Trump has also increasingly relied on Twitter to vent his anger at his loss, retweeting supporters who are still backing his thoroughly debunked claims. On Sunday, he retweeted at least 11 QAnon accounts that were sharing conspiracy theories, while also boosting an account linked to the militia group known as the 3 Percenters.
On Sunday night, while she was in discussions with White House officials — though not Trump this time — Powell also found time to boost some QAnon accounts on her Twitter account.
Powell became infamous after she participated in the Trump legal team press conference in which Giuliani’s hair dye dripped down the sides of his face. During the event, Powell made a series of unhinged claims about conspiracies involving Venezuela and China interfering in the vote.
At the time, the claims were too wild even for the Trump campaign, and she was ousted from the official legal team. Yet she continued to fight on Trump’s behalf, filing four so-called “Kraken lawsuits” alleging election malfeasance in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Arizona — all of which were laughed out of court.
The typo- and error-strewn lawsuits were filled with claims from unreliable sources, including Ron Watkins, the man who, until recently, ran the website where the person or people posing as QAnon’s anonymous leader post messages.
As Trump’s legal avenues to challenge the election results have dwindled, he has increasingly come to rely on QAnon-linked individuals — including Watkins — to allow him continue the charade of pretending he won the election.
By doing so, Trump has brought fringe ideas and conspiracy theories into the mainstream, a process some experts have called the “mass radicalization” of the American people, and one that has led to deep divisions within the Republican party.
“It seems like the constant fight in the Republican Party is trying to stop the lunatics from taking over the asylum,” out-going Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman from Virginia, told the New York Times on Sunday.