A draft executive order that would have allowed former President Donald Trump to seize voting machines in the wake of the 2020 election was published in full for the first time on Friday, showing the lengths the Trump administration considered going to in their campaign to overturn the vote.
The draft order was turned over to the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection last week after the Supreme Court dismissed former President Trump’s last-ditch attempt to block the committee’s requests for documents. It was first published by Politico on Friday.
The three-page draft order, dated Dec. 16, 2020, would have ordered the secretary of defense to “seize, collect, retain, and analyze” voting equipment and electronic records and gave the secretary “discretion to determine the interdiction of national critical infrastructure supporting federal election.”
The draft order cites a number of the well-trodden and thoroughly debunked election fraud conspiracies that Trump and his allies promoted in the weeks after the election. These included claims of foreign interference and claims that voting machines are “intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results.”
These were all lies that Powell herself was promoting at the time.
Over the weekend, one open-source researcher, who publishes election fraud disinformation reports on the Trapezoid of Discovery newsletter, immediately spotted some similarities with another document he’d seen recently.
“I was immediately reminded of a document I discovered a couple of months ago that was posted to Sidney Powell’s website,” he wrote in a post on his website. The researcher, whom VICE News has spoken to in order to confirm his identity, prefers to remain anonymous in order to protect his privacy.
That document, an unsigned 22-page memo titled “SUMMARY FOREIGN INTERFERENCE DRAFT 12.22.2020”, sets out to justify government action to overturn the election. To back this up, the document repeats most of the debunked and bogus claims of widespread election fraud, which Powell and other Trump allies had spread in the weeks after President Joe Biden won the election.
The two documents had a lot in common, and according to CopyLeak, a tool used by organizations like the UN and the BBC to identify plagiarism, 67.2% of the draft executive order matched the 22-page foreign interference memo.
And in some cases the similarities were very obvious, including one sentence that matched word-for-word, though it is possible that someone else used the contents of the memo to create the draft order.
Another key indicator that the documents were authored by the same person is the mention of two National Security Presidential Memoranda, the existence of one of which had not been known publicly.
The executive order would also approve “the appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate based on the evidence collected,” according to the draft order.
And in the final lines of the document, there was another clue suggesting Powell’s involvement: The draft order concludes by referring to the special counsel carrying out “her duties.”
The possibility that Powell wrote the draft executive order won’t come as a surprise to those who’ve been closely tracking what was happening inside the White House in the weeks following the election.
By December, Powell had become a central figure in the effort to undermine the validity of the vote, and together with a group of other pro-Trump lawyers, filed what became known as the “Kraken” lawsuits, conspiracy-filled documents designed to overturn election results in half a dozen states. Of the 62 lawsuits made during this period, 61 were thrown out of court instantly. The single victory was a minor one in Pennsylvania, where a judge ruled that voters who did not provide proper identification within three days of the election could not go back and fix errors on their ballots.
But in the middle of December 2020, Powell still held a lot of sway within the administration and on Dec. 18, two days after the date on the executive order, Powell was in an Oval Office meeting with disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne.
During that meeting, according to Axios, Powell reportedly urged Trump to seize voting machines and to appoint her as a special counsel to investigate the election.
Powell, who is facing several billion-dollar lawsuits and the threat of having her law license revoked, has been subpoenaed to appear before the Jan. 6 committee. She did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment, sent to her lawyer.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.