It would be strange if she were barred from seeing Trump considering that she’s *not* barred from visiting the White House. She was there on Sunday night, meeting not with the president but with … someone. Who?
And who inside the building would dare try to stop Trump from seeing someone he wants to see? If Mark Meadows gave the president a “her or me” ultimatum, I fear he might not like the answer.
Take a few minutes to watch this interview with Karl Rove on Fox, which is striking and not just because of the statement from Powell that Roberts reads. Rove is clearly trying to reach Trump on the assumption that he’s watching, stressing how ill-served the president has been by Powell. That’s true, but it conveniently places Trump in the role of victim rather than enabler. The reason she’s gained in influence lately, alarming aides like Meadows and Pat Cipollone, is because the president sounds ready to bust some norms that even MAGA insiders never thought he’d mess with. Watch, then read on.
Rove’s warnings about Powell and her team of “experts” is part of an effort by establishment and quasi-establishment Republicans to steer Trump away from her. Even Rudy Giuliani reportedly discouraged the president from naming Powell as special counsel to investigate voter fraud in the meeting on Friday attended by Powell and Mike Flynn. Why Rudy has turned against her is unclear — maybe having QAnoners influencing the president is a bridge too far even for him — but Rove, Meadows, Cipollone, and the entire Republican Senate caucus, I’m sure, fear that Powell’s going to talk him into doing something nutty that’ll damage the country on his way to the exit. In fact, Rove’s segment today (and Bill Barr’s press conference yesterday) reads to me like a warning that if Trump gives Powell some sort of official position within the government then some Republican figures will give Biden cover to fire Powell once he takes office.
Which may be why, according to the Daily Beast, the president informed her yesterday that she won’t be named special counsel after all:
Donald Trump informed the conspiracy-theory-driven MAGA attorney Sidney Powell on Monday that he does not intend to appoint her “special counsel” to investigate “election fraud,” according to two people with knowledge of the matter and another source close to the White House…
Trump has now buckled at the prospect of giving her such a formal portfolio for pursuing her conspiracy theories around voter irregularities and fraud, which include a supposed Venezuelan plot to rig the election. Asked whether Trump told Powell that she wouldn’t be “special counsel,” Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani—who leads the president’s post-election legal team—told The Daily Beast on Tuesday: “Yes,” adding, “she is no longer part of [our] team. She is on her own.”
[V]arious officials and advisers close to the president—including Giuliani, who is no stranger to promulgating 2020-related conspiracy theories on Trump’s behalf—have been insistent in recent conversations with Trump that Powell is making empty promises and that he should focus on other paths for overturning the election results.
I can imagine the conversations: “Don’t listen to Sidney’s fantasies about preventing Biden’s inauguration, Mr. President. Listen to my fantasies instead.”
Everyone involved seems to have a red line beyond which they won’t condone acting but the red line differs from person to person. For Mike Flynn, “limited” martial law to re-run the election in swing states is okay but full martial law might not be. (Hopefully?) It’s unclear where Powell stands on martial law but she and Rudy seem okay with an executive order to seize state voting machines for inspection. For Jenna Ellis, sending troops to seize voting machines would be over the line:
The Insurrection Act of 1807 is a federal law that gives the president the authority, under very specific circumstances, to deploy the U.S. armed forces to quell civil disorder, rebellion, or insurrection. As explained by Ellis, in this case it would involve the president taking “the military and going to seize assets in state sovereignties,” for example the Dominion Voting Systems machines.
“Certainly, I would not advise that the American people want that” because of the “precedent that it would set,” said Ellis.
“We have a constitutional process for a reason, and we have the judicial branch that really does need to step in,” she told “The Water Cooler” host David Brody. “I think that the Supreme Court absolutely let the American people down by refusing to take up the Texas case.”
The mere fact that the people around Trump right now are kicking around ideas about how far the military could and couldn’t reasonably intervene is proof enough that we’re in a bad place. A man to watch will be Jeffrey Rosen, who’ll become acting AG on Thursday following Bill Barr’s departure. Barr made it clear at yesterday’s press conference that there are certain moves he won’t make despite pressure from the president, starting with appointing a special counsel to investigate voter fraud and Hunter Biden. Will Rosen be similarly resolute?
5. …ranging from appointing special counsels for Hunter Biden or election fraud, to giving a legal ok for seizing voting machines or for various types of Insurrection Act-type moves by the president. Can one be confident Barr's successor as AG, Jeffrey Rosen, will also say no?
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 22, 2020
7. In the past, Rosen has been allied with some in the White House counsel's office and others elsewhere in the White House who've been for going whole hog for Trump, as a friend put it. They've run up against resistance from Barr but also from WH Counsel Pat Cipollone.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 22, 2020
I don’t know. Is the “very ambitious Rosen” likely to torch his professional reputation by complying with gonzo orders when he has all of 27 days left on the job?
Kristol also claims to have heard that “senior military officials in the Pentagon are more, not less, alarmed than they were a few weeks ago when Mark Esper was fired,” not sure of what the new acting SecDef and his recently installed civilian deputies might be up to. Are they there to make sure that legal, anodyne orders are carried out, like withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan? Or are they there to try to minimize resistance to any explosive illegal orders that might come down the pike? Kristol *does* have some corroboration about growing alarm within the military about what Trump might resort to during the last few weeks before the inauguration in order to cling to power. I’ll leave you with Barbara Starr’s report on CNN for more about that.
— New Day (@NewDay) December 22, 2020