Speed Reads


Meatballs, f-bombs, vote fraud conspiracies: A Trump Oval Office meeting so insane, Giuliani was 'the voice of reason'

Reports of a contentious Dec. 18 meeting in the Oval Office involving former President Donald Trump, Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, and disapproving White House officials were outlined in the news media almost immediately. But Axios provided a detailed recounting of the six-hour meeting Tuesday morning, and the early reports do not do it justice. Former senior White House adviser Eric Herschmann is quoted extensively, frequently reacting incredulously to some voter fraud conspiracy theory put forward by Powell or yelling profanities at Byrne or Flynn.

For example, Axios' Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu report:

Flynn was ranting, seemingly infuriated about anyone challenging Powell. ...

Finally Herschmann had enough. "Why the f--k do you keep standing up and screaming at me?" he shot back at Flynn. "If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down." Flynn sat back down. [Axios]

Byrne, in his first face-to-face meeting with Trump, started yelling at Herschmann, too, Axios reports:

"Do you even know who the f--k I am, you idiot?" Herschmann snapped back.

"Yeah, you're Patrick Cipollone," Byrne said.

"Wrong! Wrong, you idiot!" [Axios]

Herschmann had called Cipollone, the White House counsel, into the meeting when it became clear Trump was taking seriously Powell's suggestion he claim emergency powers and seize voting machines. When Cipollone walked into the Oval Office, Axios reports, "he looked at Byrne and said, 'Who are you?'" Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was dialed in on speakerphone. As the meeting crept past three hours, Axios says, "the arguments became so heated that even Giuliani — still on the phone — at one point told everyone to calm down. One participant later recalled: 'When Rudy's the voice of reason, you know the meeting's not going well.'"

After the Oval Office meeting finally broke up, Herschmann and Cipollone "soon discovered that the Powell entourage had made their way to the president's residence," and "they followed them upstairs," Axios reports. "Byrne wolfed down pigs in a blanket and little meatballs on toothpicks that staff had set on the coffee table. It didn't take long for the yelling to start up again. They were now in hour four of a meeting unprecedented even by the deranged standards of the final days of the Trump presidency."

The meeting finally broke up after midnight, with nobody sure what Trump would do. Read more details at Axios.