What Happened on Dec. 18 at ‘the Craziest Meeting of the Trump Presidency’?

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Digging into the aftermath of the 2020 election, members of the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday focused on a meeting between former President Donald J. Trump and outside advisers that devolved into what they described as a chaotic confrontation over a desperate attempt to overturn the election.

Drawing from testimony from former Attorney General William P. Barr and others, the committee described in detail a hastily organized meeting in which advisers proposed an executive order to have the military seize voting machines in crucial states Mr. Trump had lost.

“On Friday, Dec. 18, his team of outside advisers paid him a surprise visit in the White House that would quickly become the stuff of legend,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “The meeting has been called unhinged, not normal, and the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency.”

According to the panel, in the weeks before the meeting in December, several of Mr. Trump’s advisers including Mr. Barr and Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel, had publicly and privately dismissed the possibility of wide-scale voter fraud, and urged Mr. Trump to concede. Mr. Barr made a public announcement on Dec. 1 to affirm that he had not found significant evidence of fraud.

Just four days before the meeting, on Dec. 14, the Electoral College met to certify the election results, which in a taped interview Mr. Barr told the committee “should have been the end of the matter.”

But on the evening of Dec. 18, several of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers, including Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, came to Mr. Trump to urge him to consider the plan to seize voting machines.

As the meeting grew heated, Mr. Cipollone told the committee that other plans were discussed, including to grant Ms. Powell a security clearance and name her special counsel, putting her in charge of Mr. Trump’s legal effort to contest the election results.

The meeting lasted hours, moving from the Oval Office to other areas of the West Wing before ending in the presidential residence, according to the committee. And arguments broke out throughout the evening, including “challenges to physically fight,” Mr. Raskin said.

In a taped interview presented on Tuesday, Derek Lyons, a former White House staff secretary, said, “At times, there were people shouting at each other, hurling insults at each other — it wasn’t just sort of people sitting around on a couch like chit-chatting.”

The panel showed evidence suggesting that the meeting ended around midnight, without agreement among participants on how to proceed.

But committee members used the hearing on Tuesday to suggest that as Mr. Trump apparently grew frustrated with the lack of options to contest the election results during the meeting in December, it was in that moment that he turned to his supporters, inviting them to Washington on Jan 6.

Just over an hour after the meeting was said to have ended, Mr. Trump tweeted at 1:42 a.m. on Dec. 19 that it was “statistically impossible” for him to have lost the election. In the tweet, he also urged supporters to come to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Be there, will be wild,” the tweet said.

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