It’s time to Break It Down!
As with many people I know, it would have been hard for me to have envisioned our country finding itself enmeshed in the degree of national civil discord that we find ourselves today. But, on the short odds that we’d find ourselves here, arriving at this unenviable space, largely via the courtesy of a President of the United States would have been simply unfathomable. At least, it would have been before 2016.
Now before keying another word, let me say, emphatically, Donald Trump is not the root cause of our national internal strife and rancor. It has always been with us. Having stipulated that, Mr. Trump has elevated matters in a distinctly next level way.
From disparaging Mexicans before descending down that escalator in 2015, to nauseating Birtherism claims, to boasting he could shoot someone on 5th Ave. and not lose any voters, to initiating lock her up chants, to at first, refusing to disavow David Duke, to rolling out the Muslim ban, to the good people on both sides assertion, to the s-hole countries comment, to siding with Putin over his own Intelligence community, to 30,500+ false and misleading statements, to 2 months of patently false claims about election fraud, culminating in a high-octane pre Capitol riot speech, he has increasingly stirred disunity and fanned the already sizzling embers of rage into white hot flames of tumult. America mourns.
In the August 5th Edition, I wrote about Jonathan Swan’s (Axios) Donald Trump interview, aired by HBO, when Trump discussed his antipathy toward the late Congressman John Lewis, also known as the “It is what it is” interview. Well, Swan has delivered on another epic storyline. This time, as part of an eight-episode series, entitled Off the rails, plus a bonus piece co-written Swan and Zachary Basu; called, Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency. The story is linked below, for your edification. To give you a sense of the internal acrimony, as Trump’s term wound down, here are a number of the more compelling quotes for you:
“How the hell did Sidney get in the building?” White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann grumbled from the outer Oval Office as Sidney Powell and her entourage strutted by to visit the president.
“Hold on a minute, Sidney,” Herschmann interrupted from the back of the Oval. “You’re part of the Rudy team, right? Is your theory that the Democrats got together and changed the rules, or is it that there was foreign interference in our election?”
“It’s foreign interference,” Powell insisted, then added: “Rudy hasn’t understood what this case is about until just now.”
But Powell, fixing on Trump, continued to elaborate on a fantastical election narrative involving Venezuela, Iran, China and others. She named a county in Georgia where she claimed she could prove that Dominion had illegally flipped the vote.
Herschmann interrupted to point out that Trump had actually won the Georgia county in question: “So your theory is that Dominion intentionally flipped the votes so we could win that county?”
As for Powell’s larger claims, he demanded she provide evidence for what — if true — would amount to the greatest national security breach in American history. They needed to dial in one of the campaign’s lawyers, Herschmann said, and Trump campaign lawyer Matt Morgan was patched in via speakerphone.
By now, people were yelling and cursing.
Flynn went berserk.
“You’re quitting! You’re a quitter! You’re not fighting!” he exploded at the senior adviser. Flynn then turned to the president, and implored: “Sir, we need fighters.”
Herschmann ignored Flynn at first and continued to probe Powell’s pitch with questions about the underlying evidence.
Flynn was ranting, seemingly infuriated about anyone challenging Powell, who had represented him in his recent legal battles.
Finally, Herschmann had enough. “Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me?” he shot back at Flynn. “If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down.” Flynn sat back down.
The meeting had come entirely off the rails.
This was a remarkable level of personal familiarity, given it was the first time Byrne had met the president. All the stanchions and buffers between the White House and the outside world had crumbled.
Byrne kept attacking the senior White House staff in front of Trump. “They’ve already abandoned you,” he told the president aggressively. Periodically during the meeting Flynn or Byrne challenged Trump’s top staff — portraying them as disloyal: So, do you think the president won or not?
At one point, with Flynn shouting, Byrne raised his hand to talk. He stood up and turned around to face Herschmann. “You’re a quitter,” he said. “You’ve been interfering with everything. You’ve been cutting us off.”
“Do you even know who the fuck I am, you idiot?” Herschmann snapped back.
“Yeah, you’re Patrick Cipollone,” Byrne said.
“Wrong! Wrong, you idiot!”
The usually mild-mannered Lyons blasted the Powell set: “You’ve brought 60 cases. And you’ve lost every case you’ve had!”
Trump came back into the Oval Office from the dining room to rejoin the meeting. Lyons pointed out to Powell that their incompetence went beyond their lawsuits being thrown out for standing. “You somehow managed to misspell the word ‘District’ three different ways in your suits,” he said pointedly.
In a Georgia case, the Powell team had misidentified the court on the first page of their filing as “THE UNITED STATES DISTRICCT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRCOICT OF GEORGIA.” And they had identified the Michigan court as the “EASTERN DISTRCT OF MICHIGAN.”
These were sloppy spelling errors. But given that these lawsuits aimed to overturn a presidential election, the court nomenclature should have been pristine.
Powell, Flynn and Byrne began attacking Lyons as they renewed their argument to Trump: There they go again, they want to focus on the insignificant details instead of fighting for you.
Trump replied, “No, no, he’s right. That was very embarrassing. That shouldn’t have happened.”
The Powell team needed to regroup. They shifted to a new grievance to turn the conversation away from their embarrassing errors.
Every judge is corrupt, she claimed. We can’t rely on them. The White House lawyers couldn’t believe what they were hearing. “That’s your argument?” a stunned Herschmann said. “Even the judges we appointed? Are you out of your fucking mind?”
Powell had more to say. She and Flynn began trashing the FBI as well, and the Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr, telling Trump that neither could be trusted. Both institutions, they said, were corrupt, and Trump needed to fire the leadership and get in new people he could trust.
Byrne, wearing jeans, a hoodie and a neck gaiter, piped up with his own conspiracy: “I know how this works. I bribed Hillary Clinton $18 million on behalf of the FBI for a sting operation.”
Herschmann stared at the eccentric millionaire. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would you say something like that?” Byrne brought up the bizarre Clinton bribery claim several more times during the meeting to the astonishment of White House lawyers.
Trump, for his part, also seemed perplexed by Byrne. But he was not entirely convinced the ideas Powell was presenting were insane.
He asked: You guys are offering me nothing. These guys are at least offering me a chance. They’re saying they have the evidence. Why not try this? The president seemed truly to believe the election was stolen, and his overriding sentiment was, let’s give this a shot.
The words “martial law” were never spoken during the meeting.
But this was a distinction without much of a difference. What Flynn and Powell were proposing amounted to suspending normal laws and mobilizing the U.S. government to seize Dominion voting machines around the country.
Powell was arguing that they couldn’t get a judge to enforce any subpoena to hand over the voting machines because all the judges were corrupt. She and her group repeatedly referred to the National Emergencies Act and a Trump executive order from 2018 that was designed to clear the way for the government to sanction foreign actors interfering in U.S. elections.
These laws were, in the view of Powell, Flynn and the others, the key to unlocking extraordinary powers for Trump to stay in office beyond Jan. 20.
“How exactly are you going to do this?” an exasperated Herschmann asked again, later in the conversation.
Newman again cited the 2018 executive order, which prompted Herschmann to question out loud whether she was even a lawyer.
Then Byrne chimed in: “There are guys with big guns and badges who can get these things.” Herschmann couldn’t believe it. “What are you, three years old?” he asked.
Lyons, the staff secretary, told the president that the executive order Powell and Flynn were citing did not give him the authority they claimed it did to seize voting machines. Morgan, the campaign lawyer, also expressed skepticism about their idea of invoking national security emergency powers.
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?”
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.”
It didn’t take long for the yelling to start up again. They were now in hour four of a meeting unprecedented even by the deranged standards of the final days of the Trump presidency.
Now it was Meadows’ turn, blasting Flynn for trashing him and accusing him of being a quitter. “Don’t you dare challenge me about whether I’m being supportive of the president and working hard,” Meadows shouted, reminding Flynn that he’d defended him during his legal troubles.
Powell at one point turned to Lyons and demanded, “Why are you speaking? Are you still employed here?” The staff secretary, who had already resigned, laughed and joked, “Well I guess I’m here until midnight.”
It was after midnight by the time the White House officials had finally said their piece. They left that night fully prepared for the mad possibility Trump might still name Sidney Powell special counsel. You have our advice, they told the president before walking out. You decide who to listen to.
Yeah, that was one crazy day. Meanwhile, We are “Mourning in America!”
I’m done; holla back!
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