More stories are emerging detailing the chaotic final days of Donald Trump’s presidency but, insurrection instigating aside, none sound as wild as a new Axios report detailing a heated confrontation between conspiracy-obsessed lawyer Sidney Powell and a group of White House advisers seemingly defending our democracy.
In their “Off The Rails” series, Axios has been chronicling the last month of Trump’s reign, one that included a second impeachment hearing and a MAGA-supporting mob storming Capitol Hill at the behest of the president himself. Outwardly, operations within the administration certainly seemed disorganized, but a recent account of a contentious meeting between top Trump aides paints an even more disturbing picture of what was going on in the Oval Office during those last weeks — and much of it centers around Powell. A newly ordained member of Trump’s “legal strike force” at the time, Powell crafted some truly bizarre conspiracy theories following Trump’s loss in the presidential election — ones that suggested foreign agents working for the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez had tampered with voting machines in Georgia and other states.
Powell of course has presented no proof of voter fraud, which is why Dominion — the tech company who owns the machines in question — is now suing her for $1.3 billion. But in mid-December of 2020, she was still adamant about foreign interference and she, along with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, and former Trump administration official, Emily Newman, met with Trump to convince him her claims were true. Now we’re learning just how insane that meeting actually was.
According to Axios, while Powell, Flynn, and Byrne called Trump’s staff “quitters” and “disloyal,” senior advisers to the president like Eric Herschmann and White House staff secretary Derek Lyons were trying desperately to convince Trump not to give Powell top-secret security clearance and invoke National Emergency powers to overturn the election. At one point, things between Flynn and Herschmann got so tense that Herschann told the pardoned criminal, “Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me. If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down.”
The meeting went on for hours as Powell reportedly told Trump that her co-counsel, Rudy Giuliani, hadn’t “understood what this case is about” when he chose to focus on Democrats’ involvement in alleged voter fraud instead of her Chavez theory. When Giuliani finally showed up to the White House to try to calm both parties down, Herschmann dragged Powell for throwing Rudy under the bus.
Herschmann, Cipollone and Lyons left the Oval Office, but soon discovered that the Powell entourage had made their way to the president’s residence. They followed them upstairs, to the Yellow Oval Room, Trump’s living room, where they were joined by Giuliani and Meadows.
Trump sat beside Powell in armchairs facing the door, separated by a round, wooden antique table. Giuliani sat in an armchair to the right of them, while Byrne and Meadows sat on a couch. Byrne wolfed down pigs in a blanket and little meatballs on toothpicks that staff had set on the coffee table.
Herschmann was primed to brawl and ready to dump on Powell. It had been a long day.
“Rudy,” he said, turning to Giuliani, “Sidney was just in the Oval telling the president you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. Right, Sidney?” He turned to Powell: “Why don’t you tell Rudy to his face?”
“Eric, really it’s not appropriate,” Trump replied curtly.
“What’s not appropriate?” Herschmann shot back. Turning to Powell, he said, “Why don’t you repeat to Rudy what you just told the president in the Oval Office — that he has no idea about the case and that he only just began to understand it a few hours ago.”
Three days later, Giuliani would publicly distance himself from Powell, telling Newsmax that Powell did not represent the president, and that “whatever she’s talking about, it’s her own opinions.”
As things devolved into a late-night screaming match between Powell’s conspiracy-peddling crew and Trump loyalist trying to keep their sinking ship afloat, Trump “wandered to his dining room,” and seemed desperate to find ways to overturn the election results any way he could.
The whole saga is a fascinating read but this line sums up pretty much everything you need to know about the tumultuous talk: “When Rudy’s the voice of reason, you know the meeting’s not going well.”