President Donald J. Trump says he wants a lawyer to probe “election theft,” but the president’s leading candidate, Sidney Powell, says she has been barred from the White House by the president’s own chief of staff.
While Powell and the president discussed the role last Friday in a contentious four-and-a-half-hour Oval Office meeting, she says, insiders opposed her appointment, sometimes shouting defiantly at the president. Powell’s on-the-record account reveals a White House riven by internal feuding, and a growing divide between the president’s most senior staff and his most devoted outside supporters.
By Saturday morning, Powell says, the president’s most senior aides had declined to give her a Secret Service-issued pass to come and go from the West Wing. “I’ve been blocked from speaking to or communicating with the president since I left the Oval Office on Friday night,” she says, “by apparently everyone around him.”
During the Zenger interview, conducted on video in a 7th-floor suite at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, Powell said she has had no contact with Trump since the Dec. 18 meeting.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany declined to comment on the record about whether any senior officials, including Chief of Staff Mark R. Meadows, National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien and White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone, have intervened to keep Powell out of the White House. All three participated in Friday’s meeting, which devolved into chaos and finger-pointing about who was—or was not—serving Trump’s interests. Powell confirmed that former National Security Advisor Gen. Michael T. Flynn accompanied her to the Oval Office.
O’Brien and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph S. Giuliani participated via telephone. Other aides walked in and out of the Oval Office periodically; they could not be identified by Zenger’s reporting. A message to Giuliani seeking comment was not returned. Asked to confirm Giuliani took part, his attorney Bob Costello said, “I don’t know the answer to that.”
Trump said Tuesday in a videotaped statement that he would “pursue every legal and constitutional option available to stop the theft of the presidential election.” He tweeted Wednesday, “I disagree with anyone that thinks a strong, fast, and fair Special Counsel is not needed, IMMEDIATELY. This was the most corrupt election in the history of our Country, and it must be closely examined!” Only the U.S. attorney general can appoint a special counsel, but the president can appoint a special White House counsel who would have more limited powers and protections.
After seeing the massive Voter Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election, I disagree with anyone that thinks a strong, fast, and fair Special Counsel is not needed, IMMEDIATELY. This was the most corrupt election in the history of our Country, and it must be closely examined!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
Does Sidney Powell have that job? “That is a good question!” she told Zenger News, laughing. She says she was verbally offered the job, but that senior officials from the Office of White House Counsel have prevented her from presenting the president with paperwork to make it official.
Meanwhile, she says, Meadows and others have blocked permission for her to visit the executive mansion or its nearby buildings. Senior officials have “thrown sand in the gears” of actions the president asked her to carry out, she says.
Powell challenged the accuracy of the anonymous accounts that appeared in major news outlets. There was no talk of “martial law,” or sending soldiers to seize ballot machines, she said, or holding a second round of elections in swing states. “I can tell you for sure,” she said, “that was not discussed in the Oval Office Friday night.”
Flynn said his recollection of the meeting matches Powell’s. “No one talked about martial law, no matter what some of the news reports say,” he told Zenger.
While not considered for a special counsel role, Powell said the president wanted to appoint her to something less ambitious: a “special” role inside the same Office of White House Counsel that was running interference. “I am not a Robert Mueller-style special counsel,” she says, but “there was a discussion about me being a special White House counsel.”
Such an appointment would hand Powell a top-level security clearance and 24-hour access to the White House, and likely put her in the same office suite as the White House Counsel—privileges she says some of the men who work closest to the Oval Office do not want her to have.
“It has not come to pass,” Powell says, “because it seems it was blocked after Friday night, or undone, or I’m not sure what you’d call it” by senior White House staff including, she suggested, Meadows and Cipollone.
Cipollone, Meadows and O’Brien argued strenuously against hiring Powell, she says, and warned of sharply negative reactions among the Washington-based press corps, and among members of Congress whose support Trump would need in the coming weeks if he had any hope of reversing the November 3 election results that made former Vice President Joseph R. Biden his successor-in-waiting.
Powell said intramural feuding squanders time that could be spent on investigations and court filings. “Sidney is a fantastic advocate,” Flynn said. “You know how POTUS says you should never give up no matter what? That’s Sidney. And that’s fantastic. We need more like her.”
Powell says her small team of privately funded attorneys are “still collecting evidence through firehoses,” and that “thousands and thousands of people have stepped forward and given sworn statements” about irregularities they say they witnessed on Election Day. Powell declined to provide any new evidence of voter fraud, instead referring to previously published claims in a binder of material her staff provided to Zenger News two hours before Wednesday’s interview. (You can read it here.)