The federal grand jury seated by special counsel Jack Smith has reportedly heard additional testimony from former Homeland Security officials about Donald Trump’s efforts to seize voting machines following the 2020 election. CNN reports that both former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and former Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli testified that Trump went ahead with plans to seize the machines even though they repeatedly told him that he did not have this authority.
A report in January revealed that Trump had drafted at least two versions of an executive order in December 2020, directing the military to seize voting machines after discussions with convicted former national security advisor Michael Flynn and retired Col. Phil Waldron. Waldron was also the author of an extensive presentation in which he claimed that the voting machines had been tampered with by foreign governments. He urged Trump to declare a national emergency and use U.S. marshals and National Guard troops to manage a “secure” election. Trump and Waldron reportedly had multiple meetings with Trump and took his “how to overthrow democracy” slideshow around Washington, where it was played for Republican members of Congress, who were eager to participate.
The latest testimony apparently focused on Wolf and Cuccinelli telling the jury that Trump continued in these efforts even though they told him repeatedly he did not have the authority to seize the machines. Additional testimony on the subject came from former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, but this was reportedly given to investigators in a closed-door meeting, not to the jury.
All of this testimony shows that Smith’s investigation is focusing heavily on Trump’s efforts to overturn the election that extended beyond the specific scheme on Jan. 6.
As CBS notes, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Trump could not shield former staff members from testifying before the grand jury under claims of executive privilege. That ruling is likely to mean that Cuccinelli, Wolf, and O’Brien will spend more time with the grand jury. It will also mean that Mark Meadows and others who have previously avoided such testimony are likely out of options.
Much of this testimony appears to be new information not heard in either Trump’s impeachment trial or previous investigations.
The House Select Committee did have one of the drafts of Trump’s executive order, one that ordered the Department of Defense to take charge of the voting machines. That order contained a vast collection of improbable and unsupportable claims, including that the voting machines had been altered by “a massive cyber-attack by foreign interests,” that the machines “intentionally generated high number of errors,” and that voter databases could not be trusted because they had been “hacked by Iran.” It also leans heavily on a “forensic analysis,” which actually confused counties in Michigan and Minnesota. The order ended by instructing officials to take seven steps, starting with:
“Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records...”
That the jury is hearing this testimony means that Smith is interpreting his writ beyond the narrow confines of just how Trump’s actions contributed to violence on Jan. 6 but all the ways that Trump sought to undermine the election. It’s also unlikely that the jury would be hearing this testimony unless Smith thought there was a good possibility that it would support criminal charges.
Now that the appeals court has removed another layer of doubt around whether or not Trump could halt some testimony—no, he can’t—Cipollone and O’Brien are also likely to be asked about an infamous Oval Office meeting in mid-December. That was the “rancorous meeting” at which Trump, Flynn, attorney Sidney Powell, and others launched so deeply into sedition that even Mark Meadows reportedly turned away. Cipollone and O’Brien were reportedly first-hand witnesses to that event.
Between Waldron’s military coup presentation, attorney John Eastman’s plan for declaring Trump the winner on Jan. 6, the Jeffrey Clark plan to replace the attorney general and declare the vote invalid in several states, the scheme laid out for Pence to simply ignore the vote in seven states, and straight out calls for violence and threats on Jan. 6, Trump tested the waters on just about every illegal option he could use to make himself dictator. Smith has plenty to look at.
All that came after every possible legal remedy, including requests for recounts, were rejected, and it’s not even considering the efforts Trump made in deliberately leaning on local officials in Georgia.
If a federal grand jury is hearing testimony, it’s because Jack Smith thinks they need to hear it. They’re likely to hear a lot more.