By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Long knives, short tempers — and ridiculous theories about the election

Gen. Michael Flynn. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

On Monday, The New York Times published the results of a massive investigation into Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the election.

Today comes the tragicomic conclusion: a report by Axios on an insane meeting that took place at the White House on Dec. 18 at which the conspiracy-addled lawyer Sidney Powell tried to get herself named a special counsel to investigate Dominion voting machines while Gen. Michael Flynn (he of the two guilty pleas) and the White House staff screamed profanities at each other.

The reporters are Jonathan Swan, who conducted a hard-hitting interview of Trump last year, and Zachary Basu. The whole thing is so crazy that it’s hard to pick any one excerpt, but this will do. Below, Byrne is Patrick Byrne, the chief executive of and a Trump backer. Herschmann is Eric Herschmann, a White House senior adviser. Patrick Cipollone was the White House counsel. Swain and Basu write:

At one point, with Flynn shouting, Byrne raised his hand to talk. He stood up and turned around to face Herschmann. “You’re a quitter,” he said. “You’ve been interfering with everything. You’ve been cutting us off.”

“Do you even know who the fuck I am, you idiot?” Herschmann snapped back.

“Yeah, you’re Patrick Cipollone,” Byrne said.

“Wrong! Wrong, you idiot!”

Herschmann and others who were at least partly tethered to reality were afraid that Trump was going to go along with Powell and unleash her upon state and local election officials. As Swain and Basu write, “Trump expressed skepticism at various points about Powell’s theories, but he said, ‘At least she’s out there fighting.'”

In the end, though, Trump was somehow coaxed into listening to reason. How bad was it? Toward the end, we see that Rudy Giuliani actually had a calming effect on the situation, which is surely the first time anyone has said that about him in many years.

Correction: I originally misspelled Jonathan Swan’s name.

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  1. I wonder about sourcing here. Must it have been someone in the room? Seems like a very small number of people. I like Pierce’s analysis here:

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Got to be Herschmann. He didn’t even seem to be trying that hard to hide his identity.

      • Steve Ross

        Makes sense to me… although not much in Trump White House was sensible. If humanity survives the next few decades, what will it say about 74 million people who voted for this to continue?

  2. Deborah Nam-Krane

    Huh…I guess I’m more amazed that there were people surrounding Trump who *weren’t* as insane as Powell, and that someone was able to talk Trump out of martial law.

    And please tell me I’m not the only one who pictured Trump presiding over that meeting the same way he did The Apprentice “boardroom”.

  3. Steve Ross

    Rudy will talk to anyone but he can’t really remember anything. Nope, not the source.

  4. A side issue here – how good is Axios as a news source?

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