The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot provided another important revelation during its hearings on Tuesday: It turns out it’s stressful trying to stage a coup with a group of bumbling lawyers and the CEO of an internet retailer.
As they made the argument connecting Trump’s actions directly to the attack on the Capitol on January 6, lawmakers on the committee called forth witnesses who described a White House meeting on December 18, 2020. In attendance was the conspiratorial all-star team of Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn, and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne.
During the six-hour summit, this group considered several ways to overturn the election despite the mountain of evidence that showed there was no widespread fraud on Election Day. One of the plans was for the federal government to take the unprecedented step of seizing voting machines from the states. They also considered appointing Sidney Powell — who reportedly believed the bogus idea that Trump’s CIA director was captured in Germany trying to find evidence that would prove their claims of election fraud — as special counsel to find the nonexistent irregularities in battleground-state vote counts.
Eventually, during the long meeting, lawyers in the office of the White House counsel heard who was in the room unsupervised with the president and rushed to get in there. Powell told the committee that White House counsel Pat Cipollone “set a land-speed record” getting to the Oval Office. Once the more grounded lawyers arrived, it became a “screaming match” as the two sides argued about the efforts to contest the election, Trump’s attorney Eric Herschmann testified. The “screaming was completely out there,” he said, explaining that he thought “it was nuts” and at one point told the conspiracy-minded group to “shut the ‘F’ up.” He added: “Flynn screamed at me that I was a quitter, kept on standing up and standing around screaming at me. At a certain point, I had it with him, so I yelled back: ‘Either come over or sit your effin’ ass back down.’”
Cipollone told the committee that seizing voting machines would be “a terrible idea for the country” and that there’s “no legal authority to do that.” Cipollone also said he told Trump not to give Powell a vaguely defined authority as special counsel, informing the president he would ignore her appointment. Trump then said, “You see what I deal with? And I deal with this all the time,” according to Powell. Rudy Giuliani testified that he told Cipollone and Herschmann: “You’re a bunch of pussies.”
After the meeting, Cassidy Hutchinson — the aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has testified that Trump approved of hanging Mike Pence — texted someone that “the West Wing is unhinged.”
Later that night, Trump tweeted to supporters inviting them to D.C. for January 6. “Be there, will be wild,” he said. The committee then showed examples of how the president’s far-right supporters took that message as an incitement for violence, including a one pro-Trump YouTuber exclaiming that the event would be like the “red wedding” massacre in Game of Thrones: