Jan. 6 panel unearths draft order from Trump to seize voting machines

The never-issued executive order cites allegations about Michigan’s Antrim Co.

By: - January 24, 2022 1:07 pm

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on October 09, 2021 in Des Moines, Iowa. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

A never-issued executive order from President Donald Trump’s chaotic final weeks in office would have seized voting machines in a bid to probe the 2020 election, citing false conclusions made about Antrim County’s machines, congressional investigators have found.

On Friday, the full text of a Dec. 16, 2020, draft executive order was published by Politico for the first time in its entirety. It’s part of the U.S. House investigation in to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and events surrounding it.

The order would have directed the Secretary of Defense to immediately “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records” used for federal elections.

It also repeats unfounded allegations of widespread fraud and conspiracy theories related to Dominion Voting Systems, and finds that a report on Antrim County’s voting machines and “other evidence” provided “probable cause” for the order.

A pervasive (and debunked) right-wing myth continues to center around Antrim County being ground zero for Democrats fixing the vote for President Joe Biden after unofficial returns briefly showed Biden leading. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office has also exhaustively debunked the claims. Trump won Antrim County, as is reflected in certified election returns, but Biden won the state by more than 154,000 votes.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a press conference announcing Democrats’ voting rights bill package, Nov. 3, 2021, at the Ingham County Courthouse | Laina G. Stebbins

Benson, a Democrat, reacted to a story about the draft executive order on Twitter, writing Friday: “Buckle up folks. We are only beginning to see how far the former president and his team were — and are — willing to go to block your vote, silent your voice, and undo democracy. Grateful to all those committed to ensuring truth, accountability & justice.”

The never-issued order was just one element of a larger plot by Trump and his allies to subvert the results of the 2020 election, the congressional select committee on Jan. 6 has found. The directive also would have appointed a special counsel to probe the 2020 election.

Trump officials also reportedly coordinated with attorney Rudy Giuliani and state GOP figures to carry out illegitimate elector schemes in several key states, including Michigan.

Last week, Michigan Republican Party Chair Meshawn Maddock boasted at an event that Trump’s campaign directed them to seat the fake slate of electors.

“We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that,” Maddock said.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).