US election: Donald Trump suggests Sidney Powell as special counsel to investigate fraud

US President Donald Trump has floated naming lawyer Sidney Powell, who was booted from his campaign’s legal team after pushing unfounded conspiracy theories, as a special counsel investigating allegations of voter fraud.

Last month the Trump legal team effectively dumped Powell in a statement that said she was “not a member of the legal team” and instead “practising law on her own”. Powell had earlier appeared at a number of news conferences with the rest of Trump’s legal team and Trump himself earlier cited Powell as spearheading the “legal effort”.

Trump proposed appointing Powell special counsel during a Friday meeting at the White House, which went as far as discussing getting Powell security clearance, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

It is unclear whether Trump intends to move forward with the effort. Under federal law, the US attorney general, not the president, is responsible for appointing special counsels.

And numerous Republicans, from outgoing Attorney General William Barr to governors and state election officials, have said again and again that there is no evidence of the kind of mass voter fraud Trump has been alleging since he lost the November 3 election to Democrat Joe Biden.

That Trump is even entertaining the idea of installing Powell underscores the increasingly desperate steps he has been weighing as he tries to reverse the results of the election and remain in power. Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone voiced their objections to the proposal.

Powell’s role in the President’s legal team ended after she made a series of outlandish claims of election fraud, including an assertion that election software was created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez” — the Venezuelan president who died in 2013.

In interviews and appearances, Powell continued to make misleading statements about the voting process, unfurled unsupported and complex conspiracy theories involving communist regimes and vowed to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.

Trump has increasingly entertained conspiracy theories and outlandish ways to stay in office, egged on by allies like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.

Indeed, at the meeting, Giuliani pushed Trump to seize voting machines, which the Department of Homeland Security made clear it had no authority to do. It is also unclear what that would accomplish, given that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have both looked into the issue. Paper ballots are also retained under federal law.

Flynn, whom Trump recently pardoned for lying to the FBI, went even further, discussing the idea of imposing martial law and using the military to re-run the election.

“Within the swing states, if he wanted to, [Trump] could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states and basically rerun an election in each of those states,” Flynn said.

Bill Banks, a professor at Syracuse University who specialises in constitutional and national security law, dismissed Flynn’s proposal as “preposterous”.

“Apart from the fact that state and now federal investigators have found no evidence of election fraud that would change the election outcome, martial law has no place in the United States absent a complete breakdown of civil governing mechanisms,” Banks told Military Times.

Since parting ways with the campaign, Powell has continued to file litigation on Trump’s behalf, teaming up with conservative attorney L Lin Wood in Georgia.

Powell and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

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