- President Donald Trump in a White House meeting Friday touted the idea of imposing martial law to overturn the election result, reported The New York Times and Axios.
- The idea had first been touted by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, who was reportedly present in the meeting.
- John Bolton, a former national security advisor to Trump, in a CNN interview described the suggestion as “appalling” and “unprecedented.”
- Trump dismissed the reports as ‘fake news.”
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President Donald Trump, in a White House meeting, raised the possibility of imposing martial law in a bid to overturn the result of the presidential election, according to reports Saturday.
In a raucous meeting Friday with top aides about his ongoing attempts to overturn the election, Trump was joined by General Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor, reported The New York Times.
A few days earlier on the conservative Newsmax network, Flynn had called for the president to impose martial law, and “rerun an election” in swing states that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden in November.
In the meeting, according to the Times, Trump asked about the idea.
According to the report, it wasn’t the only last-ditch plan to subvert the election discussed in the meeting, with Trump also proposing appointing conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell as a special counsel to probe election fraud claims. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, touted the idea of ordering the Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines.
Axios confirmed key details of the meeting, reporting that Trump had expressed interest in Flynn’s plan, and that White House officials are concerned Trump is “spending too much time with people they consider crackpots or conspiracy theorists and flirting with blatant abuses of power.”
Shouting matches broke out in the meeting as other officials pushed back against Flynn’s and Powell’s proposals, reported CNN, whose source said it was unclear if Trump had endorsed the notion. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and counsel Pat Cipollone were among the officials who pushed back against the ideas, according to the report.
In a tweet Saturday, Trump responded to the reports, dismissing them as “fake news.”
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2020
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.
The president has broad powers to suspend normal legal constraints on his authority in response to a “national emergency,” such as a natural disaster or terror attack, including deploying troops within the US to subdue unrest and assist law enforcement officers.
However, Joseph Nunn, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, in October, wrote that the legal precedents for a president imposing martial law are vague, with no clear Constitutional principles or Supreme Court rulings governing its use. He wrote that under current law, “the president lacks any authority to declare martial law.”
In an interview on CNN Saturday night, John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, described Flynn’s plan to impose martial law as “appalling.”
“Look, this is appalling,” he continued. ‘There’s no other way to describe it. It’s unbelievable, almost certainly completely without precedent.”
Trump has previously been accused of seeking to violate norms against deploying the military against US citizens. The president planned to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy troops to quell anti-racism protests over the summer.
On Twitter, former White House ethics counsel Richard Painter responded to Trump discussing invoking martial law with a one-word message: “Treason.”
On Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, in a joint statement reported by Task and Purpose, responded to Flynn’s call for martial law to be imposed, reiterating the US military’s policy of having no involvement in domestic elections.
They said that that there “is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.”