A conspiratorial PowerPoint presentation that offered suggestions for how the Trump administration could move to overturn the 2020 election results is getting new attention after former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows submitted similar slides to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
The exact origins of the 36-page PowerPoint document are unknown. It appears to have first surfaced online in full in early January. Ahead of Jan. 6 — when a mob of pro-Trump supporters tried to disrupt the electoral vote count formalizing Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election before a joint session of Congress — the presentation was one of a handful of documents that outlined a rationale for overturning the election or disregarding the results that were written and circulated by allies of President Donald Trump or by people sympathetic to his baseless claims of fraud.
The PowerPoint presentation and its allegations and assertions were promoted by ardent supporters of Trump who have repeatedly spread falsehoods about the election.
Here's what we know — and what we don't know — about the presentation, its contributors and who may have seen it.
There are two PowerPoints?
Most likely yes, but the material appears similar.
In a letter to Meadows on Wednesday, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chair of the Jan. 6 committee, referred to an email on Jan. 5 about a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled "Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for JAN 6."
That PowerPoint document is two pages longer than the 36-page version circulating online. A committee aide said that the 38-page version isn't page for page what the committee received and that the presentation is unlikely to be a major focus for the committee. Still, the titles of the presentations are the same.
Meadows' lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, told The New York Times and The Washington Post that Meadows submitted the document to the committee because "it was not privileged." He said Meadows had received the document in an email and did nothing with it. Terwilliger didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
It's not yet clear who sent the email to Meadows.
Meadows initially cooperated with the committee but said later that he would no longer engage with it. The House is expected to vote as soon as Tuesday on whether to ask the Justice Department to prosecute Meadows over his refusal to answer questions about the attack.
What's in the PowerPoint?
The presentation includes baseless assertions that China and Venezuela took control of the U.S. electoral system and that there was widespread voter fraud in eight states.
It calls for the Trump administration to "declare electronic voting in all states invalid," as well as to declare a national emergency and seize ballots.
More relevant to Jan. 6 — the date the Constitution sets out for the official counting of Electoral College votes, a step that affirms a president-elect's victory — the document called for then-Vice President Mike Pence to seat alternate electors from swing states Trump lost, reject electors from those states or delay the formal count.
Constitutional scholars have said there was no legal basis for Pence to intervene, while a number of ballot recounts and the courts have repeatedly affirmed Biden's win last fall and haven't turned up any evidence of widespread fraud.
Who is behind the 36-page presentation?
Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel who said he visited the White House multiple times after the election, has acknowledged having played a role as one of the document's contributors. He told The Washington Post that he was part of a team that briefed lawmakers about the presentation, adding that he focused on claims of foreign vote manipulation.
Waldron was featured in a film by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a lead proponent and financial backer of false election fraud claims.
Waldron said by email that he "did multiple hours of interviews" about the presentation "and released the slides publicly" in January. He didn't respond to a follow-up asking him where the interviews and the release took place. (Fox News personality Lara Logan tweeted a link to the slide deck on Jan. 5.)
Jovan H. Pulitzer, who has an outsize presence in the election denial community, was linked to the document, too — but he said in an email that he didn't contribute to it. The presentation floated retired astronaut Sidney Gutierrez as someone to lead a national investigation into election fraud. Gutierrez couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Some paragraphs in the presentation were part of a Nov. 24, 2020, blog post by a leading election denier, Patrick Byrne, the founder and former CEO of Overstock.com.
Who saw the presentation?
It's not yet clear, although those involved in the efforts to circulate the scheme say members of Congress were briefed, as well as Trump administration officials and other allies.
Waldron told The Times that members of his team — whom he didn't identify — spoke to a group of senators about the allegations in the PowerPoint document on Jan. 4. Waldron told The Post that he once briefed Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the White House.
Asked about that, Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, said in an email, "Graham voted to certify the election."
Waldron also told The Post that he briefed Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and his staff ahead of a Dec. 16 hearing the Senate Homeland Security Committee was holding about election fraud. At the time, Republicans controlled the Senate and Johnson chaired the committee.
In a statement obtained by NBC News, Johnson said: "The slides had not been seen by my staff prior to the Washington Post forwarding" it as part of its recent reporting.
"My staff took meetings from many who could offer their expertise on election security and to hear from those who had concerns about irregularities ahead of my December 16, 2020 hearing," he said.
Waldron told The Post that he personally briefed some House members about it on Jan. 5.
Meanwhile, Waldron told The Times and The Post that he communicated to Meadows through former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was Trump's personal lawyer. Giuliani couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Waldron also told The Post that he attended an Oval Office meeting with Trump and Pennsylvania lawmakers on Nov. 25, 2020. It's not clear whether the meeting involved any version of the PowerPoint briefing or its contents.