September 23, 2023


Equality opinion

Lawyer urged Trump to overturn loss in ways that would be called ‘martial law’ -memo posted by NYTimes

Former US President Donald Trump displayed on a screen during a hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S. June 21, 2022. Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS

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WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) – A lawyer pushing the baseless claim of massive fraud in the 2020 election urged former President Donald Trump to overturn his loss through steps that would be viewed as “martial law,” according to a memo published online on Saturday by the New York Times.

Measures that attorney William Olson proposed Trump take included replacing the acting attorney general if he refused to contest the vote in the U.S. Supreme Court and naming a new White House counsel to identify powers that Trump could use “to ensure a fair election count,” the memo showed.

Olson appeared to suggest those powers included ordering “sampling from lists of registered voters,” the memo showed.

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“Our little band of lawyers is working on a memorandum that explains exactly what you can do,” Olson wrote to Trump in the memo, which was dated Dec. 28, 2020. “The media will call this martial law, but … that is ‘fake news’ — a concept with which you are well familiar.”

The memo obtained by the Times revealed for the first time Olson’s role in efforts by right-wing actors outside the White House to convince Trump to overturn the victory of his Democratic foe, Joe Biden, that were opposed by Justice Department leaders and White House lawyers.

Olson, whose office is in a Virginia suburb of Washington, joined the legal team of one of those outside actors, Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, after Trump left office. Olson did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Times reported that a person familiar with the work of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol said the panel was aware of Olson’s memo and was exploring his role in efforts to overturn the 2020 vote.

The panel did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Olson sent his memo 10 days after a six-hour heated White House meeting in which, according to Jan. 6 committee testimony, top aides vied to influence Trump against Lindell, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell as they peddled conspiracy theories about the election. read more

Even though Trump’s aides persuaded him during the meeting to reject a recommendation to order the seizure of voting machines and other measures, Olson’s memo indicated that Trump remained receptive to extreme proposals aimed at keeping him in office.

“While time to act was short when we spoke on Christmas Day,” Olson wrote to Trump, “time is about to run out.”

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Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.