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Jan. 6 panel is investigating a Trump administration plan to seize voting machines

Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection testifies before the House Rules Committee in December.
J. Scott Applewhite
Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection testifies before the House Rules Committee in December.

The House panel looking into last January's attack on the Capitol is investigating a plan that would have directed the secretary of defense to seize voting machines in battleground states, the chairperson of the Jan. 6 committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told Face the Nation on Sunday.

"If you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines ... the public needs to know," Thompson said.

Politico reported Friday that an executive order was drafted in December 2020 citing conspiracy theories about election fraud and foreign ownership of Dominion voting machines.

The order, complete with a dotted line ready for Trump's signature, would have directed the secretary of defense to "seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention" under a law that relates to preserving election records.

The draft order provided seven days for the secretary of defense to issue an initial assessment, and 60 days for a final assessment, to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It then ordered that the assessment and supporting information be disseminated throughout the executive branch.

In his comments Sunday, Thompson backed up that reporting.

"We have information that between the Department of Justice, a plan was put forward to potentially seize voting machines in the country and utilize Department of Defense assets to make that happen," he said.

The committee has already had conversations about the draft order with former Attorney General Bill Barr and various Defense Department officials, Thompson said.

Thompson said the committee was also aware of a plan to appoint a new attorney general, who would then tell certain states that the election had been fraudulent and direct them not to produce certified documents.

The committee's job, Thompson said, "is to get to the facts and circumstances of how far did they go" in implementing that plan. The committee plans to have a series of public hearings "showing the use of federal assets, Department of Justice, Department of Defense and other agencies to actually stop the duly election of a president," he said.

Last week, the committee moved its investigation to Trump's inner circle by asking Ivanka Trump, the former president's daughter, to voluntarily cooperate and by requesting phone records for Trump's son Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is engaged to Donald Trump Jr.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").
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