Around 5 in the afternoon on Christmas Day in 2020, as many Americans were celebrating with family, President Donald J. Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., on the phone with a little-known conservative lawyer who was encouraging his attempts to overturn the election, according to a memo the lawyer later wrote documenting the call.
The lawyer, William J. Olson, was promoting several extreme ideas to the president. Mr. Olson later conceded some of them could be regarded as tantamount to declaring “martial law” and could even invite comparisons with Watergate. The plan included tampering with the Justice Department and firing the acting attorney general, according to the Dec. 28 memo by Mr. Olson, titled “Preserving Constitutional Order,” describing their discussions.
“Our little band of lawyers is working on a memorandum that explains exactly what you can do,” Mr. Olson wrote in his memo, obtained by The New York Times, which he marked “privileged and confidential” and sent to the president. “The media will call this martial law,” he wrote, adding that “that is ‘fake news.’”
The document highlights the previously unreported role of Mr. Olson in advising Mr. Trump as the president was increasingly turning to extreme, far-right figures outside the White House to pursue options that many of his official advisers had told him were impossible or unlawful, in an effort to cling to power.
The involvement of a person like Mr. Olson, who now represents the conspiracy theorist and MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, underscores how the system that would normally insulate a president from rogue actors operating outside of official channels had broken down within weeks after the 2020 election. [Continue reading…]