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Donald Trump fought with White House lawyers over plan to ‘seize vote machines’

A terrible idea. That’s not how we do things in the United States,’ president’s counsel warned 

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Former US president Donald Trump. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Former US president Donald Trump. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Former US president Donald Trump. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

In a heated and “unhinged” row, Donald Trump fought objections from his White House lawyers to a plan, later abandoned, to seize states’ voting machines, the US House of Representatives January 6 committee has heard.

Then, in a last-ditch effort to salvage his presidency, he summoned supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington DC on January 6 last year for what turned into a deadly riot.

In another disclosure, raising the question of witness tampering, the panel’s vice-chair said Mr Trump tried to contact a person who was talking to the committee about potential testimony.

Still more new information revealed he was so intent on making a showing at the Capitol that his aides secretly planned for a second rally stage there on the day of the attack.

Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice-chair, said it had told the Justice Department that Mr Trump had contacted the witness, who has yet to appear in public.

“We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously,” she said.

A spokesperson for Mr Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley declined to comment.

The hearing was the seventh for the January 6 committee, which is portraying the defeated Mr Trump as “detached from reality”, clinging to false claims of voter fraud and working feverishly to reverse his election defeat.

It all led to his “be there, will be wild” tweet summoning supporters to Washington.

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The panel delved into a critical three weeks of secret planning in the run-up to the Capitol attack and heard remorseful testimony from an Ohio father who believed Mr Trump’s election lies and answered the defeated US president’s tweet to come to Washington.

Members also heard from a former spokesman for the extremist Oath Keepers, who warned of the far-right group’s ability for violence.

“What it was going to be was an armed revolution,” Jason Van Tatenhove said. “I mean, people died that day.”

The session focused in part on December 2020, a time when many Republicans were moving on from the November election Mr Trump lost to Joe Biden.

Testimony brought out details of a late-night December 18 White House meeting with Mr Trump’s private lawyers suggesting he order the US military to seize state voting machines in an unprecedented effort to pursue his false claims of voter fraud.

In video testimony, Pat Cipollone, who was Mr Trump’s White House counsel at the time, recalled the explosive meeting when Mr Trump’s outside legal team brought a draft executive order to seize the voting machines.

“A terrible idea,” Mr Cipollone said. “That’s not how we do things in the United States.”

Another former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, called the meeting “unhinged” in separate video testimony.

As morning came, Mr Trump tweeted his call for supporters to come to Washington on January 6 when Congress would be tallying the electoral college results. “Be there. Will be wild,” he wrote.

Representative Jamie Raskin told the January 6 committee: “The problem of politicians whipping up mob violence to destroy fair elections is the oldest domestic enemy of constitutional democracy.”

The hearings continue.


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